The foundation of systemic phenomenological work


2 February 2022| Personal

This is the work I want to do

“This is the work I want to do, this is the work I can do, and this is the work I’m going to do,” is what I said in 1995 during my very first family constellation workshop. 

I didn’t exactly understand where those words came from, and even less how I felt the courage to actually say it. After all, I loved my job as a teacher. And still, the words turned out to be prophetic: five years later, I quit my job and became one of the founding partners of the Bert Hellinger Institute The Netherlands. 

It started as a real family business: Jan Jacob and I would be sitting at the kitchen table with our son and daughter, folding leaflets and putting them into envelopes. We started the workshops and trainings at a central location in the Netherlands. And the more well-known systemic work became, the more courage it gave us to move North, and in 2005 we built De Zeven Linden, 500m away from our house.

I believe that for me the concept of an institute became really concrete then, as an institute with a physical home.

Our accountant from Groningen, a down-to-earth man, often asked us what we were planning to do with the institute once we decided to retire. We would say: “Well, then it ends; we are the institute.” But that question did plant the seed for the idea of passing on systemic work to the next generation. Gradually, it dawned on us that people saw the institute as the source of systemic work in the Netherlands, closely linked to its source, Bert Hellinger. And when Barbara joined us, we also noticed that people were signing up for a BHI training, not for a person.

When Barbara became a partner, we deliberately stepped away from the idea that this was a family business. The way in which Barbara was able to an equal partner in addition to a couple was amazing! 

Jan Jacob, in particular, wanted to be free to develop new projects and to be less involved with long training programs, even though there was an increasing demand for training. We needed more trainers!

This resulted in the next generation of facilitators and affiliated trainers.

In 2020, Jan Jacob really decided to follow his impulses without the pressures of the institute.

I told Barbara: “I’ll always be by your side.” It felt right, we both found our new position, which proved to provide a solid foundation from which something new could grow. This new firm foundation allowed me to take a step back: I remain the owner, but am moving aside so that Marion, Sandra, Petra, Jochen and Yvonne can come into the partnership as new partners in addition to Barbara and me. 

“The new generation goes before the old,” is what Bert Hellinger once said, to everyone’s confusion. And this is exactly how I feel: I am the oldest and I wholeheartedly support the new generation who will develop it further. I am honoured that I am in this position, and gladly take on the role of ‘tribal elder’.

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About the Bert Hellinger Institute

People are constantly evolving. With each other, without each other. In families, in teams, in organizations. Systemic thinking makes us aware of the “why” of our being and doing. Organizational and family constellations create room for movement. The BHI provides courses, workshops and training programs in the field of systemic work, constellations, leadership and coaching. This is how we contribute to the development of people, organizations and society.

For up-and-coming and established leaders. An initiative of the Bert Hellinger Institute.