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C o p y r i g h t © 1 9 9 8 by Bert Hellinger, Gunthard Weber, and Hunter Beaumont.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Hellinger, Bert L o v e ' s h i d d e n s y m m e t r y : w h a t m a k e s love work in relationships / by H e r t Hellinger with G u n t h a r d Weber and H u n t e r B e a u m o n t , p. cm. T r a n s l a t i o n a n d r e w o r k i n g of: Z w e i e r l e i G l u c k . ISBN 1-891944-00-2 1. Family psychotherapy. I. Weber, G u n t h a r d . II. B e a u m o n t , H u n t e r . III. Zweierlei Gluck. IV. Title. 616.89 156—dc21 98-13152 CIP

Manufactured in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6

CONTENTS
Acknowledgments Foreword by Gunthard Weber Introduction by Hunter Beaumont PART O N E T h e P h e n o m e n o l o g y o f Intimate Relationship Systems C h a p t e r O n e Guilt, I n n o c e n c e , and the Limits of C o n s c i e n c e C h a p t e r Two M a n a n d W o m a n : T h e F o u n d a t i o n o f Family C h a p t e r T h r e e Parents and C h i l d r e n C h a p t e r F o u r T h e C o n s c i e n c e o f the Family G r o u p C h a p t e r F i v e Love and the G r e a t e r Soul PART T W O Psychotherapeutic Considerations C h a p t e r S i x T h e T h e r a p e u t i c Posture C h a p t e r S e v e n S o m e Helpful Interventions C h a p t e r E i g h t Specific T h e m e s in Systemic Psychotherapy Appendix Influences on t h e D e v e l o p m e n t of Hellinger's Work 327 1 3 31 92 150 190 203 205 251 302 iv v ix

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
M a n y people have c o n t r i b u t e d generously to this effort. To J o h n B. C o b b for teaching me to think a b o u t process—holistically and systemically. To K. E. a n d H. A. for p r e p a r i n g the g r o u n d . To J o h n H o b b s for his generous gift of time a n d skill in correcting my g r a m m a r a n d style and for s u p p o r t i n g my t e n u o u s relationship t o the c o m m o n c o m m a . To D e b B u s m a n for courageous a n d caring criticism that helped. To Colleen, my wife, with w h o m I have learned m o s t of w h a t I k n o w a b o u t relationships, a n d for the space, confrontation, love, a n d criticism. To Erik a n d Jesse, my children, for m a k i n g my life very worthwhile. To my p a r e n t s for m a k i n g everything possible. To m a n y u n n a m e d others—friends, relatives, s t u d e n t s , colleagues, critics—who have c o n t r i b u t e d directly and indirectly. To Bert Hellinger for the work, and for the a b u n d a n c e of s u p p o r t a n d care. M y heartfelt gratitude, Hunter Beaumont

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FOREWORD
by GUNTHARD WEBER

I n his p o e m , " L e g e n d s o f t h e O r i g i n s o f t h e B o o k T a o t e C h i n g d u r ing L a o - t z u ' s E m i g r a t i o n , " Bertolt B r e c h t d e s c r i b e s h o w a c u s t o m s official got L a o - t z u to declare his k n o w l e d g e before he w i t h d r e w to the m o u n t a i n s : On their fourth day among the boulders A customs man blocked their way: "Valuables to declare?"—"None." And the boy who led the oxen, spoke: "He has been teaching." And so his knowledge was declared. The man, in his excitement Asked: "What! Did he make a profit from it?" Said the boy: "He gained knowledge that soft water, Moving over time, defeats the mighty stone. You understand, that the hard is weak." I later l e a r n e d t h a t L a o - t z u ' s b o o k is also i m p o r t a n t to B e r t H e l l inger. F o r m a n y years, I have r e g r e t t e d t h a t a l m o s t n o t h i n g h a s b e e n written a b o u t B e r t Hellinger's work, a n d m a n y o t h e r s have told m e that they feel t h e s a m e way. Still, I c a n well u n d e r s t a n d his c a u t i o n i n c o m m i t t i n g t o writing s o m e t h i n g that o t h e r s m i g h t treat either a s a revelation of t r u t h or as c o n f i r m a t i o n of their p r e j u d i c e s . " T h e spirit m o v e s like w i n d , " he h a s said. W h a t is w r i t t e n loses its c o n nection to real life so easily, loses its vitality, a n d b e c o m e s o v e r s i m v

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plified, uncritically generalized, a n d r e n d e r e d i n t o f i x e d p a t t e r n s and empty sentences. B e r t Hellinger: " T h e best c a n ' t b e said. T h e n e x t b e s t will b e m i s u n d e r s t o o d . " M y d o u b t s t h a t writing i s a suitable m e d i u m t o c o m m u n i c a t e w h a t B e r t Hellinger h a s d e v e l o p e d w e r e gradually a s s u a g e d by my r e p e a t e d e x p e r i e n c e of t h e value of his ideas—for m e personally, a n d also for m y clients i n m y p s y c h o t h e r a p e u t i c work. H i s i n t e n t i o n t o r e t i r e — h e b e c a m e 7 2 i n 1 9 9 7 — s t r e n g t h e n e d b o t h m y interest i n w a t c h i n g h i m a t w o r k o n c e m o r e a n d m y resolve to m a k e his t e a c h i n g s available to o t h e r s . I asked h i m in 1990 if he w o u l d p e r m i t m e t o b e a " c u s t o m s official," a n d h e agreed. M y f i r s t p l a n was t o v i d e o t a p e o n e o f his s e m i n a r s , a n d t h e n t o p u b l i s h t h e t r a n s c r i p t s . After I h a d t a p e d t h e s e c o n d s e m i n a r a n d h e h a d given m e copies o f his lectures " T h e O r d e r s o f L o v e " a n d " T h e L i m i t s of C o n s c i e n c e , " as well as o t h e r m a t e r i a l , it b e c a m e clear t h a t this p l a n was n o t a d e q u a t e . T h e p r e s e n t v o l u m e i s t h e result o f an a t t e m p t to i n t e g r a t e his ideas a b o u t family relationships a n d syst e m i c p s y c h o t h e r a p y a n d to give an overall i m p r e s s i o n of his work. In this I have a t t e m p t e d to allow B e r t H e l l i n g e r to speak his o w n w o r d s , a n d w h e r e v e r possible, I have i n c l u d e d t r a n s c r i p t s of his s e m i n a r s . I have w i t h h e l d critical c o m m e n t a r y w h e r e my views differ from his, h o p i n g t h a t e a c h r e a d e r will c o m e to grips with t h e text in his o r h e r o w n way. W h y did I c h o o s e to d e s c r i b e t h e systemic p s y c h o t h e r a p y of B e r t Hellinger? In my career, I have p a r t i c i p a t e d in m a n y different w o r k s h o p s a n d t r a i n i n g s e m i n a r s from a great variety of p s y c h o t h e r a p e u tic schools a n d o r i e n t a t i o n s a n d with a variety of t e a c h e r s . T h e t h r e e s e m i n a r s I d i d w i t h B e r t H e l l i n g e r in t h e 1970s r e m a i n indelible in my m e m o r y . In every s e m i n a r , I e x p e r i e n c e d s o m e t h i n g that c o n t i n u e d t o m o v e m e years later, t o w o r k i n m e , b r i n g i n g m e b a c k i n t o b a l a n c e , g u i d i n g me b a c k to myself w h e n I b e c a m e confused. I was i m p r e s s e d by t h e precision of his way of s e e i n g — I still t h i n k of h i m as a "seer." I k n o w no o t h e r t h e r a p i s t w h o is able to recognize p r o b lematic p a t t e r n s so quickly, to i n t e r r u p t t h e m so effectively, a n d to r e o p e n the possibility of c h a n g e in areas of t h e soul t h a t are s e l d o m a d d r e s s e d i n p s y c h o t h e r a p y w i t h s u c h i m p e c c a b l e t i m i n g a n d loving humor. As a p a r t i c i p a n t , I lacked t h e n e c e s s a r y d i s t a n c e to discover h o w h e d o e s w h a t h e d o e s ; for e x a m p l e , h o w h e a w a k e n s t h e " g o o d t h a t i s p r e s e n t i n t h e t r a n s i t o r y m o m e n t , " h o w his stories are c o n -

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structed, h o w h e m a n a g e s t o r e d u c e a n d c o n c e n t r a t e t h e family constellations so t h a t they b e c o m e powerful t h e r a p e u t i c i n t e r v e n tions. At first, I f o u n d his ideas a b o u t t h e b a c k g r o u n d of tragic f a m iy e n t a n g l e m e n t s alien, a n d I felt resistance to his style of c o m m u n i c a t i o n w i t h o u t u n d e r s t a n d i n g w h a t h e really m e a n t . P a r t i c i p a n t s in his w o r k s h o p s are p r e s e n t e d with a m e e t i n g t h a t is clear, challenging, o r i e n t i n g , a n d e n c o u r a g i n g , a n d , a t t h e s a m e m e , free o f p e r s o n a l i n v e s t m e n t i n a p a r t i c u l a r o u t c o m e . H e i s separate a n d i n t i m a t e s i m u l t a n e o u s l y , t h u s avoiding p o w e r conflicts. X i t h every t h e m e t h a t p e o p l e b r i n g , h e m o v e s t h e e x p l o r a t i o n inexorably t o w a r d the d e p t h o f h u m a n n a t u r e a n d t o t h e existential d i m e n s i o n of o u r lives—themes s u c h as b e l o n g i n g , b o n d i n g , love, t i e success a n d failure o f relationships, s u r r e n d e r i n g t o t h e u n a v o i d a b l e , mortality, a n d d e a t h . F o r this r e a s o n , p e o p l e are deeply m o v e d , a n d also b e c a u s e t h e p o e t r y o f his w o r d s allows h i m t o a d d r e s s t h e soul directly. A l t h o u g h w h a t h e says often a p p e a r s t o relate t o t h e past, ± r o u g h his feelings a n d i n t u i t i o n he is always s c a n n i n g t h e h o r i z o n for resolutions t h a t set free possibilities for a t t a i n i n g u n r e a l i z e d good. T h e family constellations develop their d e e p n a t u r a l force for dealing b e c a u s e i n f o r m a t i o n is accessed t h a t is n o n v e r b a l , as in a drninal state of a rite of p a s s a g e . T h e old, w h i c h m u s t be left b e h i n d , i n d the new, w h i c h i s t o c o m e , m e e t a n d are o n e . T h e c o n t e n t o f this b o o k i s s u s c e p t i b l e t o b e i n g m i s u n d e r s t o o d a d t o skeptical o r infuriated r e j e c t i o n . T h o s e easily swayed will b e t e m p t e d t o i n t e r p r e t w h a t t h e y r e a d a s u n i v e r s a l t r u t h . H e often f o r m u l a t e s w h a t he says as if it w e r e an e t e r n a l or a b s o l u t e t r u t h , r u t careful o b s e r v a t i o n o f his w o r k reveals t h a t his t h e r a p e u t i c i n t e r v e n t i o n s are d i r e c t e d to a specific i n d i v i d u a l in a specific t h e r a p e u t i c c o n t e x t . I f y o u t r y t o m a k e t h e s e specific s t a t e m e n t s n t o g e n e r a l t r u t h s a n d r u l e s for b e h a v i o r , t h e n y o u k e e p t h e peel m d t h r o w away t h e fruit. After s e t t i n g u p a family c o n s t e l l a t i o n , d e often r e c o m m e n d s n o t d o i n g a n y t h i n g different a t all, b u t t o let die c o n s t e l l a t i o n c o n t i n u e t o w o r k i n t h e soul u n t i l t h e n e c e s s a r y m d a p p r o p r i a t e a c t i o n h a s b e c o m e clear. O n r e a d i n g t h e t r a n s c r i p t s , i t will b e c o m e o b v i o u s h o w quickly Bert H e l l i n g e r pulls b a c k w h e n s o m e o n e tries t o generalize u n c r i t i cally. H e also g u a r d s against his t h o u g h t s a n d o b s e r v a t i o n s b e i n g p o u r e d i n t o specific theoretical m o l d s . " T o o m u c h t h e o r y interferes with p r a c t i c e . " I have followed his lead in this. He sees his w o r k as

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being phenomenological. For him, what needs to be d o n e emerges from really seeing w h a t is h a p p e n i n g . "I o p e n myself to a situation i n d a r k n e s s , n o t k n o w i n g w h a t i s going o n . T h e q u e s t i o n is: H o w d o I get to a t r u t h c o n c e a l e d in darkness? I dive i n t o a flowing field; I b e c o m e p a r t o f it, a n d i t r e a c h e s o u t b e y o n d m e . T h i n g s m o v e i n t h e field, s o m e i n t o areas of light, revealing s o m e t h i n g of w h a t e v e r I S . I o p e n myself t o t h a t a n d wait for s o m e t h i n g t o c o m e t o m e . A n i m a g e for this p r o c e s s is: I feel my way in d a r k n e s s a l o n g t h e walls until I find a d o o r . W h e n I find a p l a c e of light, I try to d e s c r i b e w h a t is i l l u m i n a t i n g me with a w o r d t h a t is full a n d r i p e . W h e n t h e right w o r d is f o u n d , t h o s e for w h o m it c a m e g r a s p it at a level b e y o n d rational t h o u g h t . T h e right w o r d t o u c h e s a n d m o v e s t h e m , even w h e n t h e y d o n ' t u n d e r s t a n d how." I will be pleased if this b o o k is a " r i g h t w o r d " t h a t t o u c h e s y o u .

INTRODUCTION
by HUNTER BEAUMONT

T h e family t h e r a p i s t B e r t Hellinger h a s a k n a c k for g e t t i n g y o u r a t t e n t i o n , rattling p r e c o n c e p t i o n s , a n d e n c o u r a g i n g clear t h o u g h t . " T h e w h o l e p u r p o s e o f b e i n g male i s t o serve t h e f e m i n i n e " — t o a m a n c o n c e r n e d t h a t his wife m i g h t n o t have e n o u g h t i m e for h i m if she were to go b a c k to s c h o o l . "You know, m o s t families actually function b e t t e r w h e n t h e w o m a n follows t h e m a n " — t o a w o m a n c o n c e r n e d with t h e injustice o f h a v i n g t o c h a n g e jobs b e c a u s e h e r h u s b a n d w a s t r a n s f e r r e d . T h e y b o t h h i t t h e ceiling. T h e m a n w a s c o n v i n c e d t h a t H e l l i n g e r is a feminist a n d the w o m a n t h a t he's a chauvinist, a n d it t o o k t h e m a while to g r a s p w h a t he was getting at. Hellinger is u n w a v e r i n g in his calm c o m p a s s i o n while w o r k i n g with families facing t h e m o s t difficult p r o b l e m s — s e r i o u s illness a n d death, suicide, infidelity, s e p a r a t i o n a n d divorce, incest, a b o r t i o n — always on t h e l o o k o u t for solutions, for possibilities t h a t will r e s t o r e love. A n d it's a s t o n i s h i n g h o w often h e helps p e o p l e t o find h o p e and c o n s t r u c t i v e a c t i o n a m i d their suffering. Yet he c a n be gruff in his defense of t h e defenseless a n d t h e e x c l u d e d . M a n y of his o b s e r vations are startling a n d provocative: "A lot of male chauvinists are dependent on some woman, and a lot of militant feminists are hung up on some man." "Guilt and innocence aren't the same as good and evil. Religious and political atrocities, for example, are usually committed in all good conscience." He says, " W h e n I say w h a t I observe w i t h o u t fear, even if it shocks p e o p l e , t h e n they have t o wake u p a n d t h i n k a b o u t w h e r e they s t a n d , a b o u t h o w they see things. T h e a u t h o r i t y t h a t ' s g o o d t o ix

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follow is in y o u r o w n soul." Waking up is t h e b e s t p r o t e c t i o n against m a n i p u l a t i o n . H e l p i n g p e o p l e t o c o n s u l t their o w n e x p e r i e n c e h o n estly is far b e t t e r t h a n getting their m i n d l e s s a g r e e m e n t . L i s t e n i n g to H e l l i n g e r on tape for t h e first t i m e o n e evening after a p s y c h o t h e r a p y t r a i n i n g g r o u p I was l e a d i n g , I vacillated b e t w e e n o u t r a g e a n d fascination. I t h o u g h t , " H o w c a n a p s y c h o t h e r a p i s t say s u c h d o g m a t i c a n d moralistic t h i n g s ? " B u t t h e n t h e d e e p e r m e a n i n g of his w o r d s c a u g h t my a t t e n t i o n . After t h e initial flashes of o u t r a g e , I b e c a m e fascinated a n d realized: " H e ' s n o t m o r a l i z i n g , he's d e s c r i b i n g . H e ' s d e s c r i b i n g t h e inside of things I've so often seen m y clients d o i n g — a n d have d o n e myself. H e ' s d e s c r i b i n g h o w i t really is." T h e n e x t day, instead of r e t u r n i n g t h e b o r r o w e d cassette, I listened to it again. It was a t a p e of t h e l e c t u r e by B e r t H e l l i n g e r called " T h e O r d e r s o f L o v e . " D u r i n g t h e n e x t t w o y e a r s , w h e n e v e r I listened to t h e t a p e w i t h friends a n d w i t h p a r t i c i p a n t s i n m y p s y c h o t h e r a p y t r a i n i n g g r o u p s , m a n y h a d t h e allergic r e a c t i o n that I h a d h a d , at first believing t h a t h e was s p e a k i n g w i t h false authority: " L e t m e tell you w h a t t h e t r u t h is." Yet, as we listened a n d discussed his o b s e r v a t i o n s , it b e c a m e clear that H e l l i n g e r has an e x t r a o r d i n a r y ability to d i s c e r n a n d d e s c r i b e t h e h i d d e n p a t t e r n s that allow love to flow in families. W h a t he's really saying is, " T h i s is w h a t I've o b s e r v e d . It's h e l p e d m a n y p e o p l e to free up love. I offer my e x p e r i e n c e to y o u , b u t d o n ' t take w h a t I say on faith. C o n f i r m it yourselves." After a while, we d i d n ' t n e e d to take his w o r d for it—we c o u l d see w h a t he d e s c r i b e s h a p p e n i n g i n o u r o w n w o r k — b u t w e h a d t o give u p a lot o f o u r p r e conceived beliefs. B e r t Hellinger h a s rediscovered s o m e t h i n g a b o u t love in i n t i m a t e relationships t h a t grasps p e o p l e a n d c h a n g e s their lives. W h a t he's f o u n d is this: If you w a n t love to f l o u r i s h , y o u n e e d to do w h a t it d e m a n d s a n d t o refrain from d o i n g w h a t h a r m s it. L o v e follows the h i d d e n o r d e r o f t h e G r e a t e r Soul. T h e t h e r a p e u t i c w o r k d o c u m e n t e d i n this b o o k shows w h a t h a p p e n s w h e n w e injure love o r i g n o r e w h a t it r e q u i r e s . It also shows t h e h e a l i n g t h a t h a p p e n s w h e n o u r i n t i m a t e relationships are restored to o r d e r . It reveals h o w child r e n ' s i n n o c e n t love blindly p e r p e t u a t e s w h a t ' s h a r m f u l , a n d h o w injuries to t h e O r d e r of L o v e by earlier m e m b e r s of a family affect the lives of later m e m b e r s , just as the waves a n d ripples in a river c a u s e d by a s u b m e r g e d b o u l d e r u p s t r e a m still twist a n d swell far downstream.

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T h e systemic O r d e r s o f Love influence u s a s m u c h a s its e n v i r o n m e n t influences a t r e e . If a tree is able to align itself b e t w e e n t h e force of gravity a n d t h e pull of t h e s u n , it n a t u r a l l y g r o w s vertically, w i t h its b r a n c h e s equally b a l a n c e d . In this f o r m , it is m o s t stable. If, however, t h e tree is u n a b l e to align itself in t h e u s u a l way, p e r h a p s b e c a u s e it is g r o w i n g on a c a n y o n wall, it will a d a p t , g r o w i n g as straight as t h e systemic interplay of w i n d , soil, gravity, a n d s u n allows. S u c h a tree is n o t less g o o d t h a n a m o r e vertical t r e e , b u t it may be less stable a n d n o t as tall as its c o u s i n in t h e valley. B o t h trees are subject to t h e s a m e laws of n a t u r e , yet t h e d y n a m i c s of their h a b i t a t s exert differing p r e s s u r e s on t h e m , a n d e a c h finds a systemic e q u i l i b r i u m in t h e b e s t way it c a n . Or we m a y c o m p a r e t h e systemic laws of r e l a t i o n s h i p s to a w h i r l w i n d — w e c a n ' t see it u n t i l it g r a s p s t h e d e s e r t s a n d s or fallen leaves and t h r o w s t h e m swirling i n t o t h e air. We k n o w t h e w h i r l w i n d only b y its effect o n t h e visible w o r l d . T h e O r d e r s o f L o v e a r e d y n a m i c , systemic forces b l o w i n g a n d whirling i n o u r families a n d i n t i m a t e relationships. W e k n o w t h e d i s o r d e r c a u s e d b y t h e i r t u r b u l e n c e — a s leaves k n o w t h e w h i r l w i n d — i n o u r suffering a n d illness. C o n v e r s e l y , we k n o w t h e i r h a r m o n i o u s flow as a sense of w e l l - b e i n g in t h e world. N o t all suffering a n d illness are c a u s e d b y d i s t u r b a n c e s i n o u r relationships, o f c o u r s e , b u t since w e often c a n d o s o m e t h i n g a b o u t the suffering t h a t d o e s arise o u t of s u c h systemic t u r b u l e n c e , it is of special c o n c e r n i n o u r work. W h e n w e u n d e r s t a n d t h e systemic laws that allow love to u n f o l d , we m a y be able to h e l p suffering families and individuals to find solutions a n d to c h a n g e t h e i r p s y c h o l o g i c a l habitats. It's p r o f o u n d l y m o v i n g t o o b s e r v e clients a p p r o a c h t h e O r d e r s o f Love a n d s p o n t a n e o u s l y m e l t i n t o soft a n d i n t i m a t e love, even after a lifetime of h a t e a n d a n g e r a n d a b u s e . Yet striving w i t h willpower a l o n e c a n ' t create t h e systemic e q u i l i b r i u m in a r e l a t i o n ship t h a t allows love to thrive. As B e r t H e l l i n g e r says, " T o gain insight i n t o t h e O r d e r s of Love is w i s d o m . To follow t h e m w i t h love is humility." B e c a u s e t h e systemic forces t h a t c o n s t r a i n love in i n t i m a t e relat i o n s h i p s are invisible t o t h e n a k e d eye—like t h e b e a u t y o f S a t u r n ' s rings or t h e m o v e m e n t of a single cell—we n e e d to amplify o u r powers o f p e r c e p t i o n i n o r d e r t o s t u d y t h e m . T h e i n s t r u m e n t B e r t Hellinger u s e s t o m a k e visible t h e n o r m a l l y h i d d e n d y n a m i c s o p e r ating in r e l a t i o n s h i p systems is t h e family c o n s t e l l a t i o n .

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In setting up a family constellation, a p a r t i c i p a n t c h o o s e s o t h e r g r o u p m e m b e r s t o r e p r e s e n t t h e m e m b e r s o f his o r h e r family a n d m o v e s t h e m i n t h e r o o m until their p o s i t i o n s relative t o o n e a n o t h e r "feel" like they felt in t h e family. T h e representatives b e c o m e a living m o d e l o f t h e original family relationship system. T h e incredible thing is t h a t , if you set up y o u r family authentically, t h e r e p r e s e n t a tives b e g i n to have feelings a n d t h o u g h t s very close to t h o s e the family m e m b e r s felt— without prior knowledge. We d o n ' t k n o w h o w it's possible for the representatives to feel strangers' s y m p t o m s , a n d Bert Hellinger refuses to speculate a b o u t it, saying, " I ' m u n a b l e to explain this p h e n o m e n o n , b u t I see that it's so, a n d I use it." Skeptics have a h a r d t i m e believing that p e o p l e r e p r e senting others w h o m they d o n ' t k n o w c a n experience i n their o w n bodies w h a t t h o s e p e r s o n s felt, w h a t they n e e d e d , a n d w h a t will help. T h e r e are m a n y examples of this p h e n o m e n o n in the transcripts a n d case r e p o r t s that follow, b u t if you are a dedicated skeptic, you w o n ' t be convinced until you have an o p p o r t u n i t y to experience the p h e n o m e n o n yourself. Still, you w o n ' t u n d e r s t a n d t h e material that follows unless you r e m a i n o p e n to t h e possibility t h a t h i d d e n systemic d y n a m i c s c a n set representatives' feelings in m o t i o n in a family c o n stellation as a whirlwind sets the fallen leaves in m o t i o n . T h e r a p i s t s of m a n y different schools have u s e d family constellations for over t h r e e d e c a d e s t o b r i n g t h e h i d d e n d y n a m i c s o p e r a t i n g in i n t i m a t e relationship systems to light. B e r t H e l l i n g e r d i d n ' t invent t h e m e t h o d , b u t h e did discover h o w i t c a n b e e x t e n d e d b e y o n d m a k i n g d e s t r u c t i v e d y n a m i c s visible. H e f o u n d o u t h o w t h e s a m e m e t h o d c a n b e u s e d t o h e l p p e o p l e identify w h a t c a n b e d o n e a n d h o w t o u s e t h e r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s ' r e a c t i o n s t o modify t h e family d y n a m i c s o t h a t t h e h i d d e n , systemic o r d e r s t h a t love r e q u i r e s c a n be reestablished, allowing love to flow freely. Again, it's h a r d to believe, b u t s o m e t i m e s t h e b e h a v i o r s o f family m e m b e r s w h o were not even present c h a n g e for the b e t t e r after a family constellation h a s b e e n b r o u g h t to a g o o d r e s o l u t i o n A l t h o u g h this b o o k is a r e p o r t of empirically o b s e r v e d p h e n o m e n a , it goes b e y o n d t h e c u s t o m a r y c o n v e n t i o n s of scientific literat u r e . T h e l a n g u a g e o f science d e m a n d s a precision t h a t d o e s n ' t
1

Bert Hellinger, Gunthard Weber, and their associates at the Heidelberg Institute for Systemic Research are collecting a large archive of video documentation of this work, and are conducting both process and outcome research.

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persuade t h e soul. Poetry and stories, on the o t h e r h a n d , filled as they are with m e t a p h o r , engage the soul in the play of exploring meaning, b u t are o p e n to m a n y different interpretations. Scientific investigation succeeds by p i n n i n g things d o w n so that there's only one thing on which everyone can agree, b u t a good p o e m has m a n y different m e a n i n g s . Hellinger's love of language; his interest in philosophy, stories, and p o e m s ; a n d his ability to cut t h r o u g h to the existential t h e m e s hidden in people's everyday complaints give the b o o k a n o n s c i e n tific immediacy. His language is hot; it wants to t o u c h a n d m o v e , not just to inform. In this sense, it's literature or practical philosophy, a b o o k for everyone interested in intimate relationships. Bert Hellinger also refuses to accept the separation of spirituality from science a n d literature. In contrast with the psychotherapeutic m a i n s t r e a m , he freely uses t h e words " s o u l " a n d " h e a r t , " b u t in a very specific way. F o r h i m , soul is e m b o d i e d in experience; it's felt as real. Soul is distinct from m i n d a n d from body, yet it is at h o m e between t h e m . L o n g i n g and yearning, for example, are n o t just thoughts, b u t are things we feel as an ache, a w r e n c h i n g , or a b u r n ing. Yet they're n o t identical with the b o d y pain of a b u r n , a cut, or a bruise. T h e y ' r e something in between. Soul knows things like loneliness, h o p e , longing, closeness to others, a n d loyalty. If we listen to it carefully, it tells us what it n e e d s a n d loves. T h e h e a r t b e a t of this work is helping people learn to distinguish w h a t the soul loves a n d n e e d s from t h e blind pressures of social conditioning, religious prejudice, a n d political ideology. Bert Hellinger's spirituality is close to the e a r t h , e m b o d i e d , p a s sionate, life affirming. It e m b r a c e s the everyday lives of average people struggling with their suffering a n d with their greatness. It draws us into life rather t h a n seeking to lift us above it. It celebrates the simple a n d t h e ordinary, speaking to everyone w h o is wrestling with whatever limits t h e soul's longing to reach its potential in t h e world. T h i s b o o k is a b o u t r e m e m b e r i n g h o w to listen to your soul and to t h e Soul of t h e G r e a t e r W h o l e . T h e b o o k b e g a n w h e n G u n t h a r d Weber, a p r o m i n e n t G e r m a n psychiatrist a n d family systems psychotherapist, offered to record and edit s o m e of Bert Hellinger's workshops. At that t i m e , very little had b e e n published on Hellinger's work. Weber's original idea was to m a k e t h e material available to a small circle of professional psy-

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c h o t h e r a p i s t s . T o everyone's s u r p r i s e , t h e G e r m a n edition o f Zweieerlei Gluck [Capricious Good Fortune] b e c a m e a best-seller a n d was received w i t h n a t i o n a l a c c l a i m — a n d controversy. B e r t H e l l i n g e r a n d I s t a r t e d p r e p a r i n g this English version by translating Weber's G e r m a n book, and then we began a three-year p r o c e s s of r e c r e a t i n g it for t h e general r e a d e r . As a result of o u r dialogue, we completely rethought, rewrote, and reorganized the material. W e also a d d e d n e w m a t e r i a l , a n d e x p a n d e d s o m e p o i n t s a n d clarified o r o m i t t e d o t h e r s . T o r e m i n d t h e r e a d e r t h a t w e ' r e d e s c r i b ing real p e o p l e living in real r e l a t i o n s h i p s , we a d d e d s o m e t r a n scripts of t h e r a p e u t i c work. As it n o w s t a n d s , it's a collaborative effort. G u n t h a r d W e b e r a n d I have assisted in organizing, a d a p t i n g , clarifying, a n d developing Hellinger's w o r k in a w r i t t e n f o r m a t , b u t the original i n t e g r a t i o n is Hellinger's o w n .
2

T h e r e are five different kinds of m a t e r i a l in this b o o k . T h e t e x t . T h e text i s b a s e d p r i m a r i l y o n B e r t Hellinger's lectures. H i s l a n g u a g e in these lectures is d e n s e , p o e t i c , h y p n o t i c , a l m o s t p r o p h e t i c — h i s i n t e n t i o n b e i n g t o a d d r e s s t h e soul m o r e t h a n t h e m i n d . M a t e r i a l has b e e n o m i t t e d , b u t n o t h i n g h a s b e e n i n v e n t e d . T h e y are d r a w n from b o t h Hellinger's a n d m y p s y c h o t h e r a p e u t i c practices. T h e s t o r i e s a n d p o e m s . All o f t h e stories a n d p o e m s , unless o t h e r w i s e i n d i c a t e d are B e r t Hellinger's original w o r k , a l t h o u g h the r e a d e r will recognize s o m e w e l l - k n o w n stories, b u t with s u r p r i s i n g n e w twists. Q u e s t i o n s a n d a n s w e r s . T h e questions and Bert Hellinger's answers have b e e n d r a w n from m a n y s o u r c e s — f r o m q u e s t i o n s asked i n his w o r k s h o p s , s e m i n a r s , p u b l i c lectures, a n d interviews a n d from private c o n v e r s a t i o n s , a n d have b e e n e d i t e d with a n eye t o t h e w r i t t e n w o r d . In s o m e cases, I've even asked q u e s t i o n s t h a t I felt n e e d e d to be a n s w e r e d for the sake of clarity. A l t h o u g h his answers are no l o n g e r exactly w h a t he said in t h e w o r k s h o p s , they clearly
Many different influences have been integrated into Hellinger's work during his long career, and the reader will recognize many familiar psychotherapeutic concepts and techniques, some in surprising forms. Rather than trying to note them in the text as we go along, we refer you to the Appendix for a brief history of Bert Hellinger's professional life, including the major influences on the development of his work.
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reflect his style a n d t h o u g h t . T h e y also c a p t u r e t h e flavor of t h e lively g i v e - a n d - t a k e characteristic of his s e m i n a r s . T r a n s c r i p t s o f v i d e o t a p e s . T h e s e are a c c u r a t e r e c o r d s o f a c t u a l clinical work. T h e y ' v e b e e n e d i t e d for clarity a n d e x t r a n e o u s m a t e m i h a s b e e n o m i t t e d , b u t a s far a s possible, t h e y p r e s e n t " w h a t really h a p p e n e d . " A s w i t h any t r a n s c r i p t i o n , B e r t H e l l i n g e r ' s i m p e c cable t i m i n g a n d his w a r m t h , h u m o r , a n d p r e s e n c e c o u l d b e c o n veyed only partially. M a n y p e o p l e have told u s t h a t w a t c h i n g t h e videos greatly a i d e d their u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f t h e m a t e r i a l . S o m e w e r e surprised a t h o w gentle H e l l i n g e r i s . We've a d d e d relevant q u e s tions a n d answers from o t h e r sources a t t h e e n d o f s o m e t r a n s c r i p t s , and these are clearly i n d i c a t e d . We've u s e d simple d i a g r a m s to give a n i m p r e s s i o n o f the m o v e m e n t a n d spatial relations o f t h e r e p r e sentatives d u r i n g t h e constellations. S o m e o f t h e r e a d e r s have t o l d u s that t h e y take s o m e g e t t i n g u s e d t o , b u t therapists find t h e m u s e ful in l e a r n i n g a b o u t the work. T h e y ' r e the b e s t s o l u t i o n w e ' v e f o u n d . S o m e r e a d e r s just skip t h e m . I n r e a d i n g t h e t r a n s c r i p t s , k e e p i n m i n d t h a t m o s t o f t h e p a r t i c i p a n t s are n o t professional p s y c h o therapists, b u t are average p e o p l e dealing with t h e issues t h a t arise in their lives.
3

A d d i t i o n a l c o n s i d e r a t i o n s . S o m e o f Hellinger's r e m a r k s have b e e n controversial a n d m i s u n d e r s t o o d . I've a d d e d m y o w n c o n c e r n s a t several p o i n t s . A l t h o u g h h e d o e s n ' t always s h a r e m y c o n c e r n s , w e b o t h h o p e t h a t these a d d i t i o n a l c o n s i d e r a t i o n s will b e o f u s e t o t h e reader. In r e a d i n g t h e m a t e r i a l , it's useful to r e m i n d yourself periodically that w h e n H e l l i n g e r describes Love's Hidden Symmetry, he d e s c r i b e s w h a t p e o p l e e x p e r i e n c e i n t h e family constellations. H e ' s d e s c r i b i n g w h a t b r i n g s t h e p r o f o u n d " s o u l feeling" t h a t says, " T h i s is w h a t ' s right for m e ! " H e ' s n o t d e s c r i b i n g ethical principles t h a t w e s h o u l d force ourselves to follow, n o r is he a d d r e s s i n g t h e s u p e r e g o w i t h m e s s a g e s of " y o u m u s t " a n d " y o u m u s t n o t . " H i s voice seeks a different o r g a n of p e r c e p t i o n in t h e soul, an " e a r " t h a t listens for t h e r e s o n a n c e of t h e n a t u r a l o r d e r of things. S o m e r e a d e r s w h o live i n n o n t r a d i t i o n a l relationships have w o n d e r e d a b o u t t h e relevance of t h e m a t e r i a l for t h e m . We are family
Video documentation in English of Bert Hellinger at work is available through Zeig, Tucker & Co., 1935 East Aurelius, Phoenix, Arizona 85020.
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t h e r a p i s t s , a n d o u r w o r k i s p r i m a r i l y c o n c e r n e d w i t h traditional families a n d m a l e - f e m a l e relationships. N e v e r t h e l e s s , m a n y single persons and many couples without children—both heterosexual and h o m o s e x u a l — h a v e b e e n p r o f o u n d l y t o u c h e d b y t h e perspective w e offer. T h e simple fact t h a t t h e r e are m a n y single p e o p l e a n d couples w i t h o u t c h i l d r e n l e a d i n g h a p p y , loving, m e a n i n g f u l lives is p r o o f t h a t t h e r e are O r d e r s of Love s u p p o r t i n g these f o r m s of relationship. T h e y share m a n y c o m m o n relationship issues with t h o s e i n traditional families, b u t they also have s o m e different issues to resolve in o r d e r for their love to thrive. T h e p o i n t is n o t t h a t you m u s t have a t r a d i t i o n a l family in o r d e r to be h a p p y , b u t if y o u w a n t y o u r love to flourish, you m u s t identify t h e O r d e r s of Love t h a t c o n strain a n d s u p p o r t love in y o u r p a r t i c u l a r life s i t u a t i o n , a n d you m u s t follow t h e m with love. Hellinger's o b s e r v a t i o n s have b e e n m a d e p r i m a r i l y w i t h families socialized in E u r o p e a n cultures. We have g a t h e r e d s o m e p r e l i m i n a r y e x p e r i e n c e w i t h m e m b e r s o f Asian, I s l a m i c , a n d African c u l t u r e s . I t seems possible t h a t love follows t h e s a m e systemic laws in t h e s e cult u r e s as well, even w h e n t h e specific roles a n d c u s t o m s vary widely. T h i s is an i n t r i g u i n g possibility t h a t m u s t await m o r e careful observation for verification. Rivers c a n be u s e d as m e t a p h o r s for c o m p l e x s y s t e m s , a n d in this b o o k you'll find m a n y rivers flowing t h r o u g h t h e stories a n d cases. W h e n we sit on t h e b a n k of a river a n d allow its c u r r e n t to grasp o u r m i n d s , we are r e m i n d e d of a p e r m a n e n c e in c h a n g e a n d of t h e great cycle of r e t u r n — c l o u d s , rain, river, o c e a n , a n d c l o u d s are all p h a s e s o f o n e vast system. T h e following story w a s i n s p i r e d b y B e r t Hellinger, a n d I d e d i c a t e it to h i m in g r a t i t u d e for all t h a t he has given. It's also an invitation to y o u , t h e r e a d e r , to dive in a n d swim. The Source

A young man man sat by a river watching it ripple and whirl, feeling the current's gentle pull on his mind, and wondered, "Where does the river come from?" And he set out to find the river's source. He followed the river until he found one branch that was longer than the rest. Before he could celebrate his discovery, it started to rain, and there were little rivers everywhere. He scurried here and there until he found the little river that was longer than the others. As he began to celebrate he saw a bird sitting in a tree, water dripping

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from its b e a k a n d tail. H e s t o p p e d , stood b a c k , a n d looked very carefully—the b i r d ' s b e a k w a s just a little h i g h e r t h a n its tail. T h e n he h u r r i e d b a c k to tell of his final discovery. O n c e he was h o m e , p e o p l e asked h i m again a n d again to tell of his j o u r n e y a n d of his discovery, a n d each t i m e he told t h e m , t h e y were astonished a n d a d m i r e d his a c h i e v e m e n t . I n t i m e , h e b e c a m e s o fascinated with telling his story t h a t he no longer w e n t to t h e river. A n old m a n w h o loved h i m recognized t h e d a n g e r h e w a s i n a n d h u r r i e d to his aid. In a voice t h a t was clear a n d g e n t l e , he said, "I w o n d e r w h e r e the rain c o m e s from." T h e y o u n g m a n d e s p a i r e d , " W h e r e c a n I get a l a d d e r to c l i m b into the sky a n d m e a s u r e so m a n y d r o p s of rain, a n d h o w shall I follow c l o u d s ? " H e t u r n e d away, a n d t o h i d e his s h a m e , h e j u m p e d into t h e river a n d let it carry h i m away. T h e old m a n t h o u g h t , " T h a t ' s a g o o d answer, my son. Dive in, feel the c u r r e n t , let the river carry you. It's longing to go h o m e , flowing to its s o u r c e . "

PART

ONE

The Phenomenology of Intimate Relationship Systems

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Guilt, Innocence, and the Limits of Conscience
We are led to believe a lie when we see not thro the Eye Which was Born in a Night to perish in a Night when the Soul Slept in Beams of Light. —William Blake

If we carefully observe w h a t p e o p l e do in o r d e r to have a clear or a guilty c o n s c i e n c e , we see t h a t c o n s c i e n c e is n o t w h a t we are led to believe. We see t h a t : • A clear or a guilty c o n s c i e n c e h a s little to do w i t h g o o d a n d evil; t h e w o r s t atrocities a n d injustices are c o m m i t t e d w i t h a clear c o n s c i e n c e , a n d we feel quite guilty d o i n g g o o d w h e n it deviates from w h a t o t h e r s e x p e c t of u s . We call t h e c o n s c i e n c e t h a t we feel as guilt or i n n o c e n c e a p e r s o n a l c o n s c i e n c e . O u r p e r s o n a l c o n s c i e n c e has m a n y different s t a n d a r d s , o n e for e a c h of o u r different relationships: o n e s t a n d a r d for o u r relationship t o o u r father, a n o t h e r for t h a t w i t h o u r m o t h e r , o n e for t h e c h u r c h , a n o t h e r for t h e w o r k p l a c e , t h a t is, o n e for each group to which we belong. In a d d i t i o n to p e r s o n a l c o n s c i e n c e , we are also subject to a systemic c o n s c i e n c e . We n e i t h e r feel n o r h e a r this c o n s c i e n c e , 3

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b u t w e e x p e r i e n c e its effects w h e n h a r m i s p a s s e d f r o m o n e g e n e r a t i o n t o t h e n e x t . T h i s invisible s y s t e m i c c o n s c i e n c e , i t s dynamics and the orders of Love's Hidden Symmetry, is the p r i m a r y subject of this book. • F u r t h e r , i n a d d i t i o n t o p e r s o n a l c o n s c i e n c e , w h i c h w e feel a n d to systemic conscience, which works through us although w e d o n o t feel it, t h e r e i s a t h i r d c o n s c i e n c e t h a t g u i d e s u s t o w a r d t h e greater whole. Following this third conscience r e q u i r e s g r e a t effort, p e r h a p s e v e n a s p i r i t u a l effort, b e c a u s e i t t e a r s u s a w a y f r o m o b e d i e n c e t o t h e d i c t a t e s o f o u r family, religion, c u l t u r e , p e r s o n a l identity. It d e m a n d s of u s , if we love it, t h a t w e l e a v e b e h i n d w h a t w e h a v e k n o w n a n d follow t h e C o n s c i e n c e o f t h e G r e a t e r W h o l e . T h i s c o n s c i e n c e i s ineffable a n d m y s t e r i o u s a n d i t d o e s n o t follow t h e l a w s o f p e r s o n a l a n d systemic conscience, which we k n o w m o r e intimately. The Question

We k n o w o u r conscience as a horse knows the riders w h o ride it and as a h e l m s m a n knows the stars by which he sets his c o u r s e . B u t m a n y riders ride the h o r s e — a n d m a n y h e l m s m e n steer t h e ship, each guided by a different star. T h e question b e c o m e s : W h o shall c o m m a n d the riders a n d which course shall the captain choose? The Answer A disciple asked of his teacher, "Tell me what freedom is." " W h i c h freedom?" asked the teacher. " T h e first freedom is foolishness. T h a t ' s like a horse that throws its rider with a t r i u m p h a n t whinny, only to feel the saddle girth pulled tighter. " T h e second freedom is r e m o r s e . R e m o r s e is like the h e l m s m a n w h o goes d o w n with the ship, after he has sailed it o n t o a reef, rather t h a n seek safety in the lifeboat with the others. " T h e third freedom is u n d e r s t a n d i n g . U n d e r s t a n d i n g c o m e s , alas, only after foolishness a n d r e m o r s e . It's like a shaft of wheat that b e n d s in the w i n d , a n d because it b e n d s where it's weak, endures." T h e disciple asked, "Is that all?" T h e teacher said, " M a n y think they're seeking t h e t r u t h of their o w n soul, b u t it's t h e G r e a t e r Soul that is thinking a n d seeking in t h e m . Like n a t u r e , it allows great variety, b u t replaces with ease those w h o try to cheat. B u t to those w h o allow it to think in t h e m , it allows, in t u r n , a little freedom, helping t h e m like a river helps a swimmer

Guilt, Innocence, and the Limits of Conscience cross to the other shore if she surrenders to the current and allows herself to be swept along."

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PERSONAL CONSCIENCE A N D OUR FEELINGS OF GUILT A N D INNOCENCE
IN all o u r various relationships, f u n d a m e n t a l n e e d s interact in a c o m p l e x way: 1. 2. T h e n e e d t o b e l o n g , t h a t is, for b o n d i n g .
1

T h e n e e d t o m a i n t a i n a b a l a n c e o f giving a n d t a k i n g , t h a t is, for e q u i l i b r i u m . T h e n e e d for t h e safety o f social c o n v e n t i o n a n d p r e d i c t a b i l ity, t h a t is, for order.

2

3.

We feel t h e s e t h r e e different n e e d s w i t h t h e u r g e n c y of drives a n d instinctual r e a c t i o n s , a n d they subject us to forces that challenge us and d e m a n d c o m p l i a n c e , t h a t c o e r c e a n d c o n t r o l u s . T h e y limit o u r choices a n d c o m m i t u s , w h e t h e r we like it or n o t , to objectives t h a t conflict w i t h o u r p e r s o n a l wishes a n d p l e a s u r e s . T h e s e n e e d s c o n s t r a i n o u r r e l a t i o n s h i p s , a n d also m a k e t h e m possible, b e c a u s e t h e y b o t h reflect a n d e n a b l e o u r f u n d a m e n t a l h u m a n n e e d t o relate intimately t o o t h e r s . O u r relationships s u c ceed w h e n w e are able t o f i l l these n e e d s a n d t o b a l a n c e t h e m w i t h o n e a n o t h e r , a n d t h e y b e c o m e dysfunctional a n d d e s t r u c t i v e w h e n we c a n ' t . W i t h every a c t i o n we take t h a t affects o t h e r s , we feel guilty or i n n o c e n t . J u s t as t h e eye d i s c r i m i n a t e s continually b e t w e e n light and dark, so too an inner organ continually discriminates between w h a t serves a n d w h a t h i n d e r s o u r relationships.
Konrad Lorenz described the phenomenon of imprinting among animals. John Bowlby and his students have described the bonding that occurs between a mother and her children. Bert Hellinger has recognized the importance of the bonding between sexual partners, which ties them together quite independently of the love they may feel for each other. However the bonding referred to here is primarily a social bond that ties an individual to his or her group of reference. The importance of balanced giving and taking in family dynamics, as well as the importance of the hidden bonds and loyalties operating in family systems, has been described by Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy.
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W h e n o u r a c t i o n s e n d a n g e r o r d a m a g e o u r r e l a t i o n s h i p s , w e feel guilt, a n d we feel f r e e d o m from guilt, or innocence, w h e n o u r actions serve t h e m . We call o u r e x p e r i e n c e of guilt a n d i n n o c e n c e — t h a t is, o u r sense o f w h a t serves o r e n d a n g e r s o u r relationships— personal conscience. T h u s , o u r feelings of guilt a n d i n n o c e n c e are primarily social p h e n o m e n a that d o n o t necessarily o r i e n t u s t o w a r d higher m o r a l values. O n t h e contrary, b y b i n d i n g u s s o firmly t o t h e g r o u p s t h a t are n e c e s s a r y for o u r survival, our feelings of guilt and innocence often blind us to what is good and evil.

DIFFERENT N E E D S REQUIRE DIFFERENT BEHAVIORS
O u r n e e d s for b e l o n g i n g , t h e e q u i l i b r i u m o f giving a n d taking, a n d social c o n v e n t i o n w o r k t o g e t h e r t o m a i n t a i n t h e social g r o u p s t o w h i c h we b e l o n g , b u t e a c h n e e d strives t o w a r d its o w n goals with its o w n p a r t i c u l a r feelings of guilt a n d i n n o c e n c e , a n d so we experience guilt a n d i n n o c e n c e differently a c c o r d i n g t o t h e n e e d a n d t h e goal b e i n g served. • G u i l t feels like exclusion a n d alienation w h e n o u r b e l o n g i n g is e n d a n g e r e d . W h e n it is well served, we feel i n n o c e n c e as intim a t e inclusion a n d closeness. G u i l t feels like i n d e b t e d n e s s a n d obligation w h e n o u r giving a n d taking are n o t b a l a n c e d . W h e n t h e y are well served, w e feel i n n o c e n c e as e n t i t l e m e n t a n d f r e e d o m . G u i l t feels like transgression a n d as fear of c o n s e q u e n c e s or p u n i s h m e n t when we deviate from a social o r d e r . We feel i n n o c e n c e w i t h r e s p e c t t o social o r d e r a s c o n s c i e n t i o u s n e s s

C o n s c i e n c e d e m a n d s i n t h e service o f o n e n e e d w h a t i t forbids i n t h e service of a n o t h e r , a n d it m a y allow us in t h e service of o n e w h a t it forbids in the service of t h e o t h e r s . F o r e x a m p l e : Love and Order

A mother told her son to play alone for an hour because he had broken a family rule. If she had allowed him to remain in his room for the whole hour, the need for social order would have been served,

Guilt, Innocence, and the Limits of Conscience but he would have felt justifiably lonely because love and belonging would have been neglected. For this reason, the mother, like many parents, released her child from a portion of the punishment. Although she neglected the full requirements of social order and was guilty in that respect, she served love with innocence.

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C o n s c i e n c e serves all t h e s e n e e d s e v e n w h e n t h e y conflict w i t h o n e a n o t h e r , a n d w e e x p e r i e n c e t h e conflicts b e t w e e n t h e m a s conflicts o f c o n s c i e n c e . W h o e v e r r e a c h e s t o w a r d i n n o c e n c e w i t h respect t o o n e n e e d s i m u l t a n e o u s l y r e a c h e s t o w a r d guilt w i t h respect t o a n o t h e r ; w h o e v e r r e n t s o u t a r o o m i n t h e h o u s e o f i n n o cence s o o n discovers t h a t h e o r s h e h a s s u b l e t t o guilt a s well. N o m a t t e r h o w w e s t r u g g l e t o follow o u r c o n s c i e n c e , w e always feel both guilt a n d i n n o c e n c e — i n n o c e n c e - w i t h r e s p e c t . t o o n e n e e d a n d guilt w i t h r e s p e c t - t o a n o t h e r . T h e d r e a m o f i n n o c e n c e w i t h o u t guilt is an illusion.

How Conscience Guards Bonding
Acting i n t h e service o f o u r n e e d t o b e l o n g , c o n s c i e n c e b o n d s u s t o the p e r s o n s a n d g r o u p s necessary for o u r survival regardless of t h e conditions t h e y set for o u r b e l o n g i n g . A l t h o u g h a n o a k t r e e d o e s n ' t choose t h e g r o u n d in w h i c h it g r o w s , its e n v i r o n m e n t affects it a n d it develops differently in an o p e n field, in a d e e p forest, in a p r o tected valley, or high on a w i n d y hill. In t h e s a m e way, c h i l d r e n a c c o m m o d a t e w i t h o u t q u e s t i o n t o t h e g r o u p s i n t o w h i c h t h e y are b o r n , a n d t h e y b o n d to t h o s e g r o u p s w i t h a tenacity r e m i n i s c e n t of i m p r i n t i n g . Y o u n g children e x p e r i e n c e their b o n d i n g t o their family love a n d g o o d f o r t u n e , n o m a t t e r h o w t h e family n o u r i s h e s o r n e g l e c t s t h e m , a n d they e x p e r i e n c e their family's values a n d h a b i t s as g o o d , no m a t t e r w h a t the family believes or d o e s . In t h e service of b e l o n g i n g , c o n s c i e n c e reacts to e v e r y t h i n g t h a t e n h a n c e s o r e n d a n g e r s o u r b o n d i n g . O u r c o n s c i e n c e i s clear w h e n w e act s o t h a t o u r c o n t i n u e d b e l o n g i n g t o o u r g r o u p i s a s s u r e d , a n d we have a guilty c o n s c i e n c e w h e n we deviate from t h e n o r m s of o u r g r o u p a n d m u s t fear t h a t o u r right t o b e l o n g i s j e o p a r d i z e d o r d a m aged. Like an a p p l e on a stick h e l d before t h e p o n y ' s n o s e a n d a whip i n t h e driver's h a n d , guilt a n d i n n o c e n c e have t h e s a m e goal. T h e y entice u s a n d drive u s i n t h e s a m e d i r e c t i o n , jealously g u a r d ing o u r c o n n e c t i o n t o o u r family a n d i n t i m a t e c o m m u n i t y .

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T h e conscience that guards o u r b o n d i n g does not stand above t h e false beliefs a n d s u p e r s t i t i o n s o f t h e g r o u p s t o w h i c h w e b e l o n g , g u i d i n g u s t o a g r e a t e r t r u t h . I n s t e a d , i t serves a n d m a i n t a i n s t h o s e beliefs, m a k i n g i t difficult for u s t o see a n d k n o w a n d r e m e m b e r w h a t e v e r i t forbids. T h e b o n d i n g a n d b e l o n g i n g s o n e c e s s a r y for o u r survival a n d w e l l - b e i n g also d i c t a t e w h a t w e m a y p e r c e i v e , believe, and know. Conscientiously Denying the Obvious

A doctor told a group how his sister had called one morning and asked him to visit her as she wasn't feeling well and wanted his medical opinion. He visited as she asked, and they talked for an hour without coming to any clear conclusion. He recommended that she visit a gynecologist. She did and was delivered of a healthy son that same evening. T h e doctor had not perceived that his sister was pregnant, nor had she been aware of her pregnancy, although she, too, was a physician. In their family, children weren't allowed to know about pregnancy, and all their medical studies h a d n ' t enabled either of them to remove the perceptual block.

We Have a Different Standard for Each Group
T h e only criteria followed by c o n s c i e n c e a c t i n g in t h e service of b o n d i n g a r e t h e values o f t h e g r o u p t o w h i c h w e b e l o n g . F o r this r e a s o n , p e r s o n s w h o c o m e from different g r o u p s h a v e different valu e s , a n d p e r s o n s w h o b e l o n g t o several g r o u p s act differently i n e a c h g r o u p . W h e n o u r social c o n t e x t c h a n g e s , c o n s c i e n c e c h a n g e s its c o l o r s like a c h a m e l e o n i n o r d e r t o p r o t e c t u s i n o u r n e w s i t u a tion. We have o n e conscience with o u r m o t h e r and a n o t h e r with o u r f a t h e r ; o n e for t h e family a n d a n o t h e r for t h e w o r k p l a c e ; o n e for c h u r c h , a n o t h e r for a n e v e n i n g o u t . I n e a c h o f t h e s e different s i t u a t i o n s , c o n s c i e n c e strives t o g u a r d o u r b e l o n g i n g a n d t o p r o t e c t u s f r o m a b a n d o n m e n t a n d loss. I t h o l d s u s t o o u r g r o u p like a s h e e p dog holds the sheep together in a herd, barking and nipping at our heels until we move together with the others. B u t w h a t leaves u s i n n o c e n t i n o n e r e l a t i o n s h i p m a y m a k e u s very guilty i n a n o t h e r . I n a g r o u p o f t h i e v e s , m e m b e r s m u s t steal, a n d t h e y d o s o w i t h a clear c o n s c i e n c e . I n a n o t h e r g r o u p , s t e a l i n g i s forb i d d e n . In b o t h cases, m e m b e r s experience the s a m e sensations of

Guilt, Innocence, and the Limits of Conscience

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guilt o r i n n o c e n c e a s t h e p e n a l t y for violating t h e i r g r o u p ' s c o n d i tions o f m e m b e r s h i p . W h a t serves o n e r e l a t i o n s h i p m a y d a m a g e a n o t h e r . F o r e x a m p l e , sexuality is t h e fulfillment of o n e r e l a t i o n s h i p a n d a v i o l a t i o n of another. But what happens when our belonging in one relationship collides w i t h o u r b e l o n g i n g i n a n o t h e r ? W h e n w h a t m a k e s u s guilty in one relationship is d e m a n d e d of us in the other? T h e n we stand b e f o r e different j u d g e s for t h e s a m e a c t , a n d o n e m a y find u s guilty while t h e o t h e r m a y d e c l a r e u s i n n o c e n t .

D e p e n d e n c y Strengthens Bonding
C o n s c i e n c e ties u s m o s t firmly t o o u r g r o u p w h e n w e a r e m o s t p o w erless a n d v u l n e r a b l e . A s w e g a i n p o w e r i n a g r o u p a n d i n d e p e n d e n c e , b o t h b o n d i n g a n d c o n s c i e n c e relax, b u t i f w e r e m a i n w e a k a n d d e p e n d e n t , w e also r e m a i n o b e d i e n t a n d loyal. I n families, child r e n o c c u p y this p o s i t i o n ; i n a c o m p a n y , t h e l o w e r e m p l o y e e s ; i n a n a r m y , t h e e n l i s t e d s o l d i e r s ; in a c h u r c h , t h e faithful c o n g r e g a t i o n . F o r t h e g o o d o f t h e s t r o n g e r i n t h e g r o u p , t h e y all c o n s c i e n t i o u s l y risk h e a l t h , h a p p i n e s s , a n d life a n d m a k e t h e m s e l v e s g u i l t y — e v e n w h e n t h e i r l e a d e r s , for w h a t i s called " h i g h e r p u r p o s e s , " u n s c r u p u lously m i s u s e t h e m . T h e s e are t h e m e e k w h o stick o u t t h e i r n e c k s for t h e s t r o n g e r , t h e h a n g m e n d o i n g o t h e r s ' d i r t y w o r k , u n s u n g h e r o e s h o l d i n g t h e i r p o s i t i o n s t o t h e last, s h e e p faithfully following their s h e p h e r d t o t h e s l a u g h t e r , v i c t i m s p a y i n g r e s t i t u t i o n . T h e s e a r e t h e c h i l d r e n w h o l e a p i n t o t h e fray for t h e i r p a r e n t s a n d relatives, w h o c a r r y o u t t h a t w h i c h t h e y d i d n ' t p l a n , a t o n e for w h a t t h e y didn't d o , a n d bear b u r d e n s they didn't create. No Room

An old man approaching the end of his life sought out a friend to help him find peace. As a young father, he had once mildly reprimanded his son and the boy had hanged himself that night. T h e son's reaction was out of all proportion to the father's admonishment, and the old m a n had never recovered from the great weight of his loss and guilt. In talking with his friend, he suddenly remembered a conversation with his son a few days before the suicide. His wife had mentioned during dinner that she was going to have another child. T h e son, quite beside himself, had cried out, " O h my God! We haven't got enough room."

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As he r e m e m b e r e d this conversation, the old m a n u n d e r s t o o d this tragedy in a larger context: His son h a d hanged himself to take on some of t h e b u r d e n of his p a r e n t s ' poverty, a n d to m a k e r o o m for a n o t h e r — n o t just as a reaction to the mild p u n i s h m e n t . T h e old m a n , u n d e r s t a n d i n g t h a t his son h a d loved too, found m e a n i n g . He said, " I ' m at p e a c e at last, as if I were sitting by a quiet m o u n t a i n lake."

B e l o n g i n g D e m a n d s the Exclusion o f T h o s e W h o A r e Different
W h e r e v e r conscience acting in the service of b e l o n g i n g b i n d s us to o n e a n o t h e r i n a g r o u p , i t also drives u s t o e x c l u d e t h o s e w h o a r e different a n d to deny t h e m the right to the m e m b e r s h i p that we claim for o u r s e l v e s . T h e n w e b e c o m e f r i g h t e n i n g for t h e m . T h e c o n s c i e n c e g u a r d i n g o u r b e l o n g i n g g u i d e s u s t o d o t o t h o s e w h o a r e different w h a t w e m o s t fear a s t h e w o r s t c o n s e q u e n c e o f g u i l t — w e e x c l u d e them. But as we treat t h e m badly in good conscience, so do they in t u r n treat us in the n a m e of the conscience of their group. T h e cons c i e n c e t h a t g u a r d s b e l o n g i n g i n h i b i t s evil w i t h i n t h e g r o u p , b u t lifts this i n h i b i t i o n i n r e g a r d t o t h o s e o u t s i d e t h e g r o u p . W e t h e n d o t o o t h e r s in good conscience w h a t o u r c o n s c i e n c e f o r b i d s us to do to m e m b e r s o f o u r o w n g r o u p . I n the context o f religious, racial, a n d n a t i o n a l conflicts, s u s p e n d i n g t h e i n h i b i t i o n s t h a t c o n s c i e n c e i m p o s e s o n evil w i t h i n a g r o u p allows m e m b e r s o f t h a t g r o u p t o c o m m i t , i n g o o d conscience, atrocities a n d m u r d e r against others w h o b e l o n g to different g r o u p s . T h u s , guilt and innocence are not the same as good and evil. We do d e s t r u c t i v e a n d evil t h i n g s w i t h a c l e a r c o n s c i e n c e w h e n t h e y s e r v e t h e g r o u p s t h a t a r e n e c e s s a r y for o u r s u r v i v a l , a n d w e t a k e c o n s t r u c tive a c t i o n w i t h a g u i l t y c o n s c i e n c e w h e n t h e s e a c t s j e o p a r d i z e o u r membership in these same groups. Additional Considerations

T h e testimony of former m e m b e r s of the S o u t h African secret police before t h e T r u t h a n d Reconciliation C o m m i s s i o n gained international attention a n d it is an excellent illustration of the p h e n o m e n o n we are describing here. T h e decision of Nelson M a n d e l a ' s governm e n t to g r a n t a m n e s t y to m e m b e r s of the former secret police w h o were willing to testify publicly about their former activities created an a t m o s p h e r e in which the effect of m e m b e r s h i p in social groups on

Guilt, Innocence, and the Limits of Conscience the perception of good and evil is clear. In the context of their membership in the secret police during the apartheid government, they tortured and murdered, believing they were doing good, acting in defense of their endangered nation. Now, in a different political context, having been granted amnesty, many view their former activities differently, reporting genuine and deep remorse. [H.B.]

11

The Appearances of Guilt and Innocence Can Be Deceiving
G u i l t a n d i n n o c e n c e often e x c h a n g e their g a r b s o t h a t guilt a p p e a r s as i n n o c e n c e a n d i n n o c e n c e as guilt. A p p e a r a n c e s deceive, a n d it's only b y t h e final o u t c o m e t h a t w e k n o w t h e t r u t h .

The

Players

They declare themselves Opponents. Face to face They play On one common board With many figures, And complex rules, Move for move, The ancient Game of Kings. Each sacrifices Many pieces In their game, And seeks advantage Until there are no moves to make And then their match is done. Then, changing sides And colors, They begin another round Of that same Game of Kings. But whoever plays And often wins enough

12

Love's

Hidden

Symmetry

And often loses Becomes a master —Of both sides.

J u s t a s a p p e a r a n c e s o f guilt a n d i n n o c e n c e m a y d e c e i v e , t h e c o n s c i e n c e o f t h e g r o u p also g r a d u a l l y s h a p e s t h e child's e x p e r i e n c e o f the world. It colors the child's perception of w h a t is with the family's beliefs. Learning to Be Good

A child goes into the yard and feels amazement at the growing things. M o t h e r says, "Look, how beautiful." N o w the child must attend to words; looking and hearing are interrupted, her direct engagement with what exists is replaced by value judgments. T h e child can no longer trust her own experience of being enthralled by what is, but m u s t defer to an external authority, who defines what is beautiful and good

C o n s c i e n c e t h e n b e c o m e s t h e g r e a t p r e t e n d e r , s e t t i n g feelings o f guilt a n d i n n o c e n c e i n t h e p l a c e o f k n o w l e d g e o f g o o d a n d evil. T h e g o o d t h a t b r i n g s r e c o n c i l i a t i o n m u s t o v e r c o m e t h e false a p p e a r ances created by virtue of our belonging to various groups. C o n s c i e n c e t a l k s ; t h e w o r l d is.

C O N S C I E N C E A N D BALANCE IN GIVING A N D TAKING
O u r r e l a t i o n s h i p s — a n d o u r e x p e r i e n c e s o f guilt a n d i n n o c e n c e — b e g i n w i t h g i v i n g a n d t a k i n g . W e feel e n t i t l e d w h e n w e give a n d w e feel o b l i g a t e d w h e n w e t a k e . T h e oscillation b e t w e e n e n t i t l e m e n t a n d o b l i g a t i o n i s t h e s e c o n d f u n d a m e n t a l d y n a m i c o f guilt a n d i n n o c e n c e i n e v e r y r e l a t i o n s h i p . I t serves all o u r r e l a t i o n s h i p s , s i n c e b o t h giver a n d t a k e r k n o w p e a c e o n l y w h e n b o t h h a v e given a n d t a k e n equally. A Gift of Love

A missionary in Africa was transferred to a new area. On the m o r n ing of his departure, he was visited by a man who had walked several hours to give him a small a m o u n t of money as a going-away gift. T h e

Guilt, Innocence, and the Limits of Conscience value of the money was about 30 cents. It was clear to the missionary that the man was thanking him, because when the m a n was ill, the missionary had been concerned and had visited him several times. He understood that 30 cents was a huge sum of money for this man. He was tempted to give the money back, perhaps even to add a bit to it, but upon reflection, he accepted the money and thanked the man. Having given in love, he was obliged to take in love as well.

13

W h e n w e receive s o m e t h i n g from s o m e o n e , w e lose o u r i n n o c e n c e a n d o u r i n d e p e n d e n c e . W h e n w e t a k e , w e feel i n d e b t e d a n d b e h o l d e n to t h e giver. We feel this obligation as d i s c o m f o r t a n d p r e s s u r e , a n d w e t r y t o o v e r c o m e i t b y giving s o m e t h i n g b a c k . W e c a n ' t truly take a n y t h i n g w i t h o u t feeling t h e n e e d to give. T a k i n g is a f o r m of guilt. I n n o c e n c e in the service of this e x c h a n g e b e c o m e s m a n i f e s t as t h e c o m f o r t a b l e feeling o f e n t i t l e m e n t t h a t c o m e s w h e n w e take fully a n d w h e n we give a little m o r e in r e t u r n t h a n we have t a k e n . We feel i n n o c e n t l y carefree a n d l i g h t h e a r t e d w h e n w e ' v e t a k e n fully a n d o u r n e e d s have b e e n satisfied, a n d w h e n we've also given fully in return. T h e r e are t h r e e typical p a t t e r n s p e o p l e a d o p t for a c h i e v i n g a n d m a i n t a i n i n g i n n o c e n c e w i t h respect t o e x c h a n g e i n r e l a t i o n s h i p s : fasting, h e l p i n g , a n d full e x c h a n g e .

Fasting
S o m e p e o p l e cling to the illusion of i n n o c e n c e by m i n i m i z i n g their p a r t i c i p a t i o n in life. R a t h e r t h a n taking fully w h a t they n e e d a n d feeling b e h o l d e n , they close themselves off a n d w i t h d r a w from life a n d n e e d . T h e y feel free from n e e d a n d obligation, a n d b e c a u s e they d o n ' t feel n e e d , t h e y n e e d n o t take. A l t h o u g h they feel b e h o l d e n t o n o o n e a n d i n n o c e n t , theirs i s t h e i n n o c e n c e o f t h e u n i n v o l v e d observer. T h e y d o n ' t get their h a n d s dirty, s o t h e y often c o n s i d e r t h e m s e l v e s to be s u p e r i o r or special. N e v e r t h e l e s s , their e n j o y m e n t of life is limited by t h e shallowness of their i n v o l v e m e n t , a n d t h e y feel c o r r e s p o n d i n g l y e m p t y a n d dissatisfied. T h i s p o s t u r e c a n b e o b s e r v e d i n m a n y p e o p l e w h o struggle w i t h d e p r e s s i o n . T h e i r refusal to w e l c o m e w h a t life offers develops first in t h e relationship with o n e or b o t h of their p a r e n t s , a n d later is carried over to o t h e r relationships a n d to the g o o d t h i n g s of t h e w o r l d .

14

Love's

Hidden

Symmetry

S o m e people justify their refusal to take with t h e complaint that what they were given w a s n ' t e n o u g h or was n o t t h e right thing. O t h ers justify n o t taking by p o i n t i n g to the errors a n d limitations of t h e giver, b u t the result is the same—they r e m a i n passive a n d empty. F o r example, people w h o reject or judge their parents—regardless of what their parents m a y have done—typically feel incomplete a n d lost. We observe the opposite in people w h o have s u c c e e d e d in taking their parents as they are, a n d in taking from t h e m everything that was given. T h e y experience this taking as a c o n t i n u o u s flow of strength a n d n o u r i s h m e n t that enables t h e m to enter o t h e r relationships in which they, too, can take and give richly—even if their p a r ents treated t h e m badly.

Helping
O t h e r people try to maintain innocence by denying their n e e d until after they've given e n o u g h to feel entitled. Giving before taking allows a fleeting sense of entitlement that dissolves as soon as we've taken what we need. Persons w h o prefer to m a i n t a i n their feeling of entitlement rather t h a n to allow others to give to t h e m freely say, in effect, "It's better for you to feel obligated to me t h a n for me to feel obligated to you." M a n y idealists hold this p o s t u r e , a n d it's widely k n o w n as the "helper s y n d r o m e . " S u c h self-centered striving for freedom from n e e d is f u n d a m e n tally hostile to relationships. Whoever wants only to give w i t h o u t taking clings to an illusion of superiority, rejects the b o u n t y of life, a n d denies equality to his or h e r partner. O t h e r s soon w a n t n o t h i n g from those w h o refuse to take, and b e c o m e resentful a n d withdraw from t h e m . F o r this reason, chronic helpers often are lonely a n d eventually b e c o m e bitter.

Full Exchange
T h e third and m o s t beautiful p a t h to i n n o c e n c e in giving and taking is t h e c o n t e n t m e n t that follows a plentiful exchange of giving a n d taking, w h e n we have b o t h given and taken fully. T h i s exchange is the h e a r t of relationship: T h e giver takes, the taker gives. B o t h are giver a n d taker equally.

Guilt, Innocence, and the Limits of Conscience

15

N o t only is t h e b a l a n c e of giving a n d taking i m p o r t a n t to this i n n o c e n c e , b u t so also is t h e v o l u m e . A tiny v o l u m e of giving a n d taking b r i n g s no profit; a high v o l u m e m a k e s us wealthy. H i g h v o l u m e giving a n d taking b r i n g with t h e m a feeling of a b u n d a n c e and happiness. Increasing Volume

A man loves his wife and wants to give her something. Because she loves him, she accepts his gift gratefully, and, as a result, feels a need to give. Obedient to her need, she gives to her husband in return, and just to be on the safe side, she gives a little more than she has taken. Because she has given in love, he desires to take what she offers and also reciprocates with a little more. In this way, conscience maintains a dynamic imbalance and the couple's loving relationship continues with an increasing volume of giving and taking. S u c h joy d o e s n ' t just fall into o u r laps, b u t is t h e c o n s e q u e n c e of o u r willingness to increase love by n e e d i n g a n d taking in i n t i m a t e relationship. W i t h s u c h h i g h - v o l u m e e x c h a n g e s , we feel light a n d free, just a n d c o n t e n t . Of all the ways of k n o w i n g i n n o c e n c e in giving a n d taking, this is by far the m o s t deeply satisfying.

Balancing Impossible

Giving

and

Taking

When

Reciprocity

Is

I n s o m e r e l a t i o n s h i p s , t h e discrepancy b e t w e e n giver a n d t a k e r i s i n s u r m o u n t a b l e ; for e x a m p l e , t h a t b e t w e e n p a r e n t s a n d c h i l d r e n o r b e t w e e n t e a c h e r s a n d s t u d e n t s . P a r e n t s a n d t e a c h e r s are p r i m a r i l y givers; c h i l d r e n a n d s t u d e n t s are takers. O f c o u r s e , p a r e n t s t a k e from their c h i l d r e n a n d teachers from their s t u d e n t s . H o w e v e r , this only r e d u c e s t h e discrepancy, it d o e s n ' t nullify it. In all situations in w h i c h b a l a n c e c a n n o t b e attained b y reciprocal giving, e q u i l i b r i u m a n d c o n t e n t m e n t m u s t b e a c q u i r e d b y different m e a n s . P a r e n t s w e r e o n c e themselves children a n d t e a c h e r s w e r e s t u d e n t s . T h e y achieve a b a l a n c e of giving a n d taking w h e n they give to the n e x t g e n e r a t i o n w h a t they t o o k from t h e earlier g e n e r a t i o n . Children and students may do the same. Borries v o n M i i n c h h a u s e n describes this beautifully in t h e following p o e m

16

Love's The

Hidden Golden

Symmetry Ball

For the love my father gave to me I did not give him due. As child, I didn't know the value of the gift. As man, became too hard, too like a man. My son grows to manhood now, loved with passion, as no other, present in his father's heart. I give of that which I once took, to one from whom it did not come, nor is it given back. When he becomes a man, thinking as a man, he will, as I, follow his own path. I'll watch, with longing free from envy as he gives on to his own son the love I gave to him. My gaze follows the game of life deep through the halls of time— each smilingly throws the golden ball, and no one throws it back to him from whom it came. What's appropriate between parents and children and between t e a c h e r s a n d s t u d e n t s c a n also b e applied w h e r e v e r a n e q u i l i b r i u m o f giving a n d taking c a n n o t b e achieved t h r o u g h giving i n r e t u r n a n d full e x c h a n g e . In all s u c h situations—for e x a m p l e , p e o p l e w i t h o u t c h i l d r e n — w e still m a y relieve ourselves of obligation by giving t o o t h e r s w h a t w e have t a k e n .

Expressing Gratitude
E x p r e s s i n g g e n u i n e g r a t i t u d e is a n o t h e r way to b a l a n c e giving a n d taking for t h o s e w h o m u s t take m o r e t h a n t h e y c a n r e c i p r o c a t e . W e m u s t n ' t m i s u s e t h e expression of g r a t i t u d e to avoid giving o t h e r things w h e n it's possible a n d a p p r o p r i a t e , b u t s o m e t i m e s it's t h e only a d e q u a t e r e s p o n s e ; for e x a m p l e , for h a n d i c a p p e d p e r s o n s , for t h e seriously ill, for t h e d y i n g , a n d s o m e t i m e s for lovers. In s u c h s i t u a t i o n s , in a d d i t i o n to t h e n e e d for e q u i l i b r i u m , an e l e m e n t a r y love c o m e s into play t h a t attracts t h e m e m b e r s of a social system t o o n e a n o t h e r a n d h o l d s t h e m t o g e t h e r a s gravity

Guilt,

Innocence,

and

the

Limits

of Conscience

17

h o l d s t h e p l a n e t s a n d s t a r s . T h i s love a c c o m p a n i e s g i v i n g a n d t a k i n g and it b e c o m e s manifest as gratitude. W h o e v e r feels g e n u i n e g r a t i t u d e affirms, " Y o u g i v e w i t h o u t r e g a r d a s t o w h e t h e r o r n o t I c a n r e p a y , a n d I t a k e y o u r gift w i t h love." W h o e v e r a c c e p t s s u c h g r a t i t u d e affirms, " Y o u r love a n d r e c o g n i t i o n o f m y gift a r e m o r e v a l u a b l e t o m e t h a n a n y t h i n g else y o u m i g h t give t o m e . " W i t h o u r g r a t i t u d e , w e affirm n o t o n l y w h a t w e g i v e t o o n e a n o t h e r , b u t a l s o w h a t w e a r e for o n e a n o t h e r .

Gratitude

Worthy

of God

A m a n o n c e felt he owed G o d a great debt b e c a u s e he h a d b e e n saved from life-threatening danger. He asked a friend what he should do to express his gratitude in a way worthy of G o d . His friend told h i m a story: A m a n loved a w o m a n with all his h e a r t a n d asked her to m a r r y h i m . She told h i m she wouldn't m a r r y h i m b e c a u s e she h a d other plans. O n e day, as they were crossing the street together, the w o m a n stepped in front of a car and would have b e e n r u n over if the m a n h a d n ' t pulled her back. T h e n she t u r n e d to h i m a n d said, " N o w I'll m a r r y you!" " H o w d o you think that m a n felt?" asked the friend. T h e m a n grim a c e d , b u t d i d n ' t answer. "You see," said t h e friend, " p e r h a p s G o d feels t h e s a m e way a b o u t you." We tend to experience unearned good fortune as threatening, s o m e t h i n g t h a t creates anxiety, secretly believing t h a t o u r h a p p i n e s s will a r o u s e t h e e n v y o f o t h e r s o r o f fate. W e all t e n d t o feel t h a t h a p p i n e s s b r e a k s a t a b o o a n d m a k e s u s guilty, a s i f b y b e i n g h a p p y w e p u t ourselves in danger. G e n u i n e gratitude r e d u c e s this anxiety. N e v e r t h e l e s s , a f f i r m i n g g o o d f o r t u n e i n t h e face o f a n o t h e r ' s m i s f o r t u n e r e q u i r e s h u m i l i t y a s well a s c o u r a g e .

Home from

the

War

C h i l d h o o d friends were sent off to war where they experienced i n d e scribable dangers, and, although many were killed or w o u n d e d , two came home unharmed. O n e of t h e two h a d b e c o m e very calm a n d was at peace within himself. He k n e w he h a d been saved by the w h i m of destiny a n d he accepted his life as a gift, as an act of grace.

18

Love's

Hidden

Symmetry

T h e other got into the habit of drinking with other veterans and reliving the past. He loved to brag about the dangers he had escaped and about his heroic acts. It was as if, for him, the whole experience had been in vain.

Giving and Taking Constrain and Are Constrained by Love
G i v i n g a n d taking in i n t i m a t e relationships are r e g u l a t e d by a m u t u a l n e e d for e q u i l i b r i u m , b u t n o meaningful e x c h a n g e develops b e t w e e n p a r t n e r s w i t h o u t t h e willingness o f b o t h t o e x p e r i e n c e p e r i odic i m b a l a n c e . It's similar to walking—we s t a n d still w h e n we m a i n t a i n static e q u i l i b r i u m , a n d w e fall a n d r e m a i n lying d o w n w h e n w e lose mobility completely. B u t b y r h y t h m i c a l l y losing o u r b a l a n c e a n d regaining it, we m o v e forward. As s o o n as e q u i l i b r i u m is achieved, t h e relationship either c a n be c o n c l u d e d or it c a n be r e n e w e d a n d c o n t i n u e d b y n e w giving a n d taking. P a r t n e r s in i n t i m a t e relationships are e q u a l — a l t h o u g h differe n t — i n their e x c h a n g e , a n d their love s u c c e e d s a n d c o n t i n u e s w h e n their giving a n d taking are b a l a n c e d in t h e negative, as well as in t h e positive. T h e i r e x c h a n g e e n d s w h e n t h e y achieve a static equilibr i u m . W h e n o n e takes w i t h o u t giving, t h e o t h e r s o o n loses t h e desire t o give m o r e . W h e n o n e gives w i t h o u t taking, t h e o t h e r s o o n d o e s n ' t w a n t t o take any m o r e . P a r t n e r s h i p s also e n d w h e n o n e gives m o r e t h a n t h e o t h e r is able or willing to r e c i p r o c a t e . L o v e limits giving a c c o r d i n g to t h e taker's capacity to take, just as it limits taking a c c o r d i n g t o t h e giver's ability t o give. T h a t m e a n s t h a t t h e n e e d for a b a l a n c e of giving a n d taking b e t w e e n p a r t n e r s s i m u l t a n e o u s l y limits their love a n d their p a r t n e r s h i p . In t h a t way, o u r n e e d for e q u i l i b r i u m c o n s t r a i n s a n d limits love. B u t love also c o n s t r a i n s e q u i l i b r i u m . W h e n o n e p a r t n e r d o e s s o m e t h i n g t h a t causes p a i n o r injury t o t h e o t h e r , t h e n t h e injured p e r s o n m u s t r e t u r n s o m e t h i n g t h a t causes a similar p a i n a n d difficulty in o r d e r to m a i n t a i n a b a l a n c e of giving a n d t a k i n g — b u t in s u c h a w a y t h a t love is n o t destroyed. W h e n t h e injured p e r s o n feels t o o s u p e r i o r t o s t o o p t o t h e a p p r o p r i a t e r e t r i b u t i o n love r e q u i r e s , t h e n e q u i l i b r i u m is i m p o s s i b l e a n d t h e relationship is e n d a n g e r e d . F o r e x a m p l e , o n e of t h e difficult situations c o u p l e s m a y face arises w h e n o n e of t h e m h a s an affair. Reconciliation is i m p o s s i b l e after an

Guilt, Innocence, and the Limits of Conscience

19

affair if o n e p a r t n e r s t u b b o r n l y clings to i n n o c e n c e , polarizing guilt and innocence. O n t h e o t h e r h a n d , i f the injured p a r t n e r i s willing t o m a k e h i m self or herself also guilty by r e t u r n i n g a p o r t i o n of t h e h u r t , t h e n it m a y be possible for t h e m to r e s u m e their relationship. B u t if the injured p e r s o n loves his o r h e r p a r t n e r a n d w a n t s t h e p a r t n e r s h i p t o c o n t i n u e , t h e h u r t r e t u r n e d m u s t n o t b e exactly a s m u c h a s received b e c a u s e t h e n n o i n e q u i t y r e m a i n s t o tie t h e m together. N o r m a y i t b e m o r e , b e c a u s e t h e w r o n g d o e r t h e n b e c o m e s injured a n d feels justified in seeking retaliation, a n d the cycle of h a r m escalates. T h e h u r t r e t u r n e d m u s t b e a little less t h a n was originally given. T h e n b o t h love a n d fairness receive their d u e , a n d t h e e x c h a n g e c a n b e r e s u m e d a n d c o n t i n u e d . In this way, love c o n s t r a i n s e q u i l i b r i u m . S o m e p e o p l e find it u n c o m f o r t a b l e to realize t h a t , in s u c h situat i o n s , t h e reconciliation t h a t allows love to flow a b u n d a n t l y isn't possible u n l e s s t h e i n n o c e n t b e c o m e guilty b y d e m a n d i n g just c o m p e n s a t i o n . N e v e r t h e l e s s , a s w e k n o w t h e tree b y its fruit, w e n e e d only t o c o m p a r e c o u p l e s w h o t r y t h e o n e a p p r o a c h w i t h t h o s e w h o live t h e o t h e r to recognize w h a t is truly g o o d a n d w h a t is h a r m f u l for i n t i m a c y a n d love. The Way Out A man told his friend that his wife had been resentful for 20 years. He said that a few days after their marriage, his parents had asked him to go on a six-week vacation with them because they needed him to drive their new car. He had gone with them and had left her behind. All of his attempts to explain his actions and to apologize had not achieved resolution. His friend suggested, "Tell her that she can choose something or do something for herself that costs you as much as what you did cost her." T h e man beamed. He recognized the key to unlocking the solution to their problem. It sometimes happens that b o t h partners cause increasing h u r t to each o t h e r a n d act as if w h a t injures their love were g o o d . T h e n their e x c h a n g e in t h e negative increases a n d this e x c h a n g e b i n d s t h e m tightly to e a c h o t h e r in their u n h a p p i n e s s . T h e y m a i n t a i n a b a l a n c e of giving a n d t a k i n g , b u t n o t in love. We c a n r e c o g n i z e t h e quality of a relationship by t h e v o l u m e of giving a n d t a k i n g , a n d by w h e t h e r e q u i l i b r i u m i s usually achieved i n g o o d o r i n h a r m . T h a t

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also points to how we can restore a weakened partnership and make it satisfying; partners move from exchange in harm to exchange in good, and increase it with love.

False H e l p l e s s n e s s
When someone is wronged, he or she suffers helplessly. The greater the helplessness of the victim, the harsher we judge the wrongdoer. But injured partners seldom remain completely helpless once the harm is past. They usually have possibilities in action, either to end their partnership if the injuries have been too great, or to demand just atonement from their partners, and by doing so, to put an end to guilt and to enable a new beginning. When victims don't take advantage of a possibility to act, then others act for them—with the difference that the damage and injustice done by those acting on their behalf are often much worse than if the victims had acted themselves. In human relationship systems, repressed resentments emerge later in those who are least able to defend themselves; most often, it's the children and grandchildren who experience an earlier anger as if it were their own.
False Martyr

A m a t u r e married couple attended a seminar together, a n d on t h e first evening, t h e w o m a n took their car and left, reappearing again t h e next day just in time for the workshop. She placed herself squarely in front of her h u s b a n d a n d a n n o u n c e d in front of the whole g r o u p in a very provocative way that she had just c o m e from h e r lover. W h e n this w o m a n was with others in the g r o u p , she was as nice as h e r h u s b a n d was: attentive, empathic, sensitive. But w h e n she was with h i m , she was as m e a n to h i m as she was kind to t h e others. T h e others c o u l d n ' t u n d e r s t a n d what could possibly be going on, e s p e cially i n a s m u c h as h e r h u s b a n d d i d n ' t defend himself. It t u r n e d out that as a child this w o m a n , with her m o t h e r a n d h e r siblings, was sent to the country d u r i n g the s u m m e r while h e r father stayed in the city with his mistress. He a n d his mistress w o u l d visit from time to time, and his wife was always friendly a n d waited on t h e m b o t h as if nothing were wrong. But inwardly, she was furious. She repressed her anger a n d h e r pain, but the children noticed it anyway.

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W e m i g h t b e t e m p t e d t o call the m o t h e r ' s b e h a v i o r c o m m e n d able, b u t it w a s false i n n o c e n c e a n d its effect w a s d e s t r u c t i v e . T h e d a u g h t e r avenged t h e injustice d o n e t o h e r m o t h e r b y p u n i s h i n g h e r h u s b a n d for h e r father's d e e d , b u t she also d e m o n s t r a t e d h e r love for h e r father by acting exactly as he h a d a c t e d — s h e t r e a t e d h e r h u s b a n d a s h e r father h a d t r e a t e d h e r m o t h e r . T h e b e t t e r r e s o l u t i o n w o u l d have b e e n for t h e m o t h e r o f this w o m a n t o have c o n f r o n t e d h e r h u s b a n d with h e r anger. T h e n h e w o u l d have h a d t o m a k e a decision, a n d they c o u l d have either c o m e to a m u t u a l a g r e e m e n t or m a d e a clean s e p a r a t i o n . W h e n e v e r t h e i n n o c e n t c o n t i n u e suffering a l t h o u g h a p p r o p r i a t e action is possible, m o r e i n n o c e n t victims a n d guilty victimizers s o o n follow. It's an illusion to believe t h a t we avoid p a r t i c i p a t i n g in evil b y clinging t o i n n o c e n c e i n s t e a d o f d o i n g w h a t w e c a n t o c o n f r o n t w r o n g d o i n g — e v e n w h e n w e ourselves t h e n d o w r o n g a s well. I f o n e p a r t n e r insists o n a m o n o p o l y o n i n n o c e n c e , t h e r e ' s n o e n d t o t h e o t h e r ' s guilt, a n d their love withers. N o t only d o t h o s e w h o i g n o r e or passively s u b m i t to evil fail to preserve i n n o c e n c e , b u t t h e y sow injustice. L o v e requires t h e c o u r a g e t o b e c o m e guilty appropriately.

Premature Forgiveness
Similarly, p r e m a t u r e forgiveness p r o h i b i t s c o n s t r u c t i v e dialog w h e n it covers up or p o s t p o n e s a conflict a n d leaves t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s to be dealt w i t h by o t h e r s in t h e family. T h i s is especially d e s t r u c t i v e w h e n t h e o n e w h o was w r o n g e d tries t o release t h e w r o n g d o e r from his or h e r guilt, as if victims h a d t h a t authority. If reconciliation is desired, t h e n t h e o n e w r o n g e d n o t only h a s t h e right t o d e m a n d r e s titution a n d a t o n e m e n t , b u t also t h e obligation t o d o so. A n d t h e w r o n g d o e r n o t only h a s t h e obligation t o c a r r y t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s o f his or h e r a c t i o n s , b u t also t h e right to do so. The Second Time Around

A man and a woman who were married to other partners fell in love. When the woman became pregnant, they divorced their respective partners and married. T h e woman had previously been childless. T h e man had a daughter from his first marriage, whom he left with her mother. T h e man and his new wife both felt guilty about the man's first wife and their dream was that she would forgive them. In fact,

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she was very resentful of t h e m , because she a n d her d a u g h t e r were paying the price for the couple's happiness. W h e n they spoke to a friend about their wish to be forgiven, he asked t h e m to imagine what would h a p p e n if their wish were fulfilled a n d the ex-wife really forgave them. W h e n they did so, they b o t h realized that they had avoided feeling the full weight of their guilt a n d t h a t their wish for forgiveness d i d n ' t do justice to the dignity a n d n e e d s of the m a n ' s first wife. T h e y decided to admit to his first wife a n d to his child that they h a d d e m a n d e d a great sacrifice for their own happiness, a n d that they would meet all just d e m a n d s from the two who h a d b e e n injured. T h e y t h e n stood by their decision. Love is well served when the victim's demands for compensation remain appropriate.

F o r g i v e n e s s a n d Reconciliation
Forgiveness that is truly healing preserves the dignity of the guilty p e r s o n as well as that of the victim. T h i s forgiveness requires that victims n o t go to extremes in what they d e m a n d , a n d that they accept the appropriate compensation a n d a t o n e m e n t offered by the perpetrator. W i t h o u t the forgiveness that acknowledges genuine r e m o r s e a n d accepts appropriate atonement there's no reconciliation. An "Aha" Experience

A w o m a n divorced her h u s b a n d in order to be with h e r lover. After m a n y years, the w o m a n b e g a n to regret her decision. She discovered that she still loved her ex-husband and w a n t e d to be m a r r i e d to h i m again, especially as he h a d remained single. W h e n she spoke to h i m a b o u t her feelings, he avoided answering, either positively or negatively, b u t agreed to talk the matter over with a counselor. T h e c o u n selor asked the m a n what he h o p e d to get from t h e meeting. He laughed halfheartedly and said, " A n aha! experience!" T h e counselor asked the w o m a n what she h a d to offer that would make her former h u s b a n d interested in living with her again. She said that she h a d n ' t really t h o u g h t about what she h a d to offer, and was u n a b l e to answer convincingly. N o t surprisingly, the m a n r e m a i n e d cautious a n d u n c o m m i t t e d . T h e counselor suggested that she m u s t , first of all, recognize that she h a d caused her ex-husband pain, and t h e n give h i m cause to

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believe that she was prepared to make reparations. T h e w o m a n t h o u g h t it over for a while, and then looked directly at h e r former h u s b a n d , a n d said convincingly, " I ' m truly sorry for what I did to you. I want to be your wife again, and I will love you a n d care for you so that you will be h a p p y a n d so that you can trust m e . " T h e m a n r e m a i n e d n o n c o m m i t t a l . T h e counselor said t o h i m , "It m u s t have h u r t you a lot a n d you d o n ' t want to risk a repeat." T h e m a n h a d tears in his eyes a n d the counselor continued, "A p e r s o n like you, to w h o m something painful was d o n e , often feels morally superior a n d assumes the right to reject the other;" He a d d e d , "Against s u c h innocence, a guilty p e r s o n has no c h a n c e . " T h e m a n smiled and t u r n e d to his former wife. " T h a t was your " a h a " experience. Pay me my fee," said the c o u n selor, " a n d what you make out of your " a h a " is up to you. I d o n ' t even want to know."

W h e n We M u s t C a u s e P a i n
When one partner's action in an intimate relationship results in separation, we tend to believe that he or she made a free and independent choice. But it's often the case that, had that partner not acted, he or she would have suffered some injury. Then the roles would have been reversed, the guilt and consequences exchanged. Perhaps the separation was necessary because the soul required, more space to grow, and the one who left was already suffering. In such situations, suffering is unavoidable. Our choices are limited to acting so that something constructive emerges out of the unavoidable pain we must cause or suffer. Often partners stay in a painful situation until they have suffered enough to compensate for the pain their leaving will cause the other. When partners separate, it isn't only the one who goes who has a new chance. The one who is left often also has a chance to make a new beginning. But when one partner stays stuck in pain and rejects the constructive possibilities presented by the separation, he or she makes it difficult for the partner who left to start a new life. Then they remain tightly tied to each other in spite of their separation. On the other hand, when the one who was left manages to accept the opportunity for something better, then he or she also grants the former partner freedom and relief. Making something truly good out of misfortune is probably the most constructive form of forgive- I

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ness in such situations because it reconciles even when the separation remains.

S u b m i t t i n g to Fate
People sometimes feel guilty when they gain some advantage at another's expense—even when they can do nothing to stop it or change it. Here are two examples.
My ' Advantage at Your Expense ,

A boy was b o r n , b u t his m o t h e r died. No one t h o u g h t of holding the boy responsible for his mother's death, b u t his knowledge of his i n n o cence d i d n ' t assuage his feeling of guilt. Because fate h a d tied his b i r t h to his mother's death, the pressure of guilt r e m a i n e d inexorable, a n d h e unconsciously c r e a t e d f a i l u r e i n h i s l i f e i n a v a i n a t t e m p t t o atone for something he h a d n ' t d o n e . Blowout A m a n ' s car h a d a blowout, went into a skid, a n d crashed into a n o t h e r car. T h e driver of the second car was killed, b u t the first m a n lived. Although he h a d been driving safely, his life r e m a i n e d tied to the d e a t h of the other m a n and he c o u l d n ' t escape his feelings of guilt. He was u n a b l e to enjoy his success until he c a m e to see that the deceased m a n was d e m e a n e d by his misery, n o t h o n o r e d .

We're helpless against such guilt and innocence at the hands of chance and happenstance. If we were guilty or we deserved a reward because of our freely chosen actions, we would retain power and influence. But in these situations, we recognize that we're subject to forces we can't control, forces that decide whether we live or die, are saved or perish, thrive or decline—independently of our actions for good or evil. Such vulnerability to happenstance is so frightening to many people that they prefer to spoil their unearned good fortune and to repudiate the bounty of life rather than to accept it gracefully. They often attempt to create personal guilt or to accumulate good deeds after the fact in order to escape the vulnerability to unearned rescue or undeserved suffering. It's common for persons who have an advantage at the cost of another to try to limit their advantage by committing suicide,

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b e c o m i n g ill, or by doing s o m e t h i n g to m a k e themselves truly guilty, and t h e n suffering the consequences. All such solutions are c o n n e c t e d to magical thinking a n d they are a childlike form of dealing with u n e a r n e d good fortune. T h e y actually increase guilt rather t h a n diminish it. F o r example, w h e n a child—as in the e x a m p l e above—whose m o t h e r died at t h e child's birth later limits his or h e r happiness or c o m m i t s suicide, t h e n the mother's sacrifice was for n o t h i n g , and she's implicitly m a d e responsible for the d e a t h of h e r child as well. If t h e child could have said, " M o t h e r , your d e a t h shall n o t have b e e n in vain. I will m a k e s o m e t h i n g out of my life in m e m o r y of you, because I know its value," t h e n the pressure of guilt at the h a n d of fate could have b e c o m e a force for good, allowing the child to reach goals impossible for others. T h e n the m o t h e r ' s d e a t h would have had a good effect and could have b r o u g h t the child peace for a long time. H e r e , too, everyone involved is subject to a pressure toward e q u i librium—whoever has received something from fate w a n t s to give back in kind, or w h e n that's n o t possible, then at least to c o m p e n sate with failure. But these r e m a i n vain a t t e m p t s , as destiny is utterly indifferent to o u r d e m a n d s a n d attempts at c o m p e n s a t i o n s and restitution.

Humility in the Face of Fate
It is o u r i n n o c e n c e that m a k e s o u r suffering at t h e h a n d s of h a p p e n s t a n c e so difficult to bear. If we were guilty b e c a u s e of o u r o w n actions a n d were p u n i s h e d , or if we were i n n o c e n t of w r o n g d o i n g a n d were s p a r e d as a result, we c o u l d a s s u m e t h a t t h e c o n d i t i o n of c i r c u m s t a n c e follows a m o r a l o r d e r a n d the rules of justice a n d fair play. We could believe t h a t we control guilt a n d i n n o c e n c e with o u r g o o d behavior. B u t w h e n w e ' r e spared regardless of o u r p e r s o n a l guilt or i n n o c e n c e while others p e r i s h w i t h o u t regard for their w o r t h i n e s s or u n w o r t h i n e s s , t h e n we k n o w t h a t w e ' r e completely vulnerable to t h e forces of c h a n c e a n d w e ' r e u n a v o i d ably c o n f r o n t e d with the c a p r i c i o u s n e s s of guilt a n d i n n o c e n c e . W h e n guilt a n d d a m a g e r e a c h tragic d i m e n s i o n s a n d b e c o m e o u r fate, reconciliation is only possible if we relinquish c o m p e n s a t i o n completely.

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T h e o n l y possibility t h e n o p e n t o u s i s s u b m i s s i o n , t o c h o o s e t o s u r r e n d e r to t h e inexorable force of destiny, to either o u r a d v a n t a g e o r o u r d i s a d v a n t a g e . W e m a y call t h e i n n e r a t t i t u d e t h a t m a k e s i t possible to s u r r e n d e r in this way humility; t h a t is, a h u m b l e forgiveness a n d s u b m i s s i o n t o t r u e helplessness. I n s u c h s i t u a t i o n s , w h e n b o t h t h e w r o n g d o e r a n d t h e o n e w r o n g e d s u b m i t t o t h e i r inevitable fate w i t h humility, they p u t a n e n d t o guilt a n d c o m p e n s a t i o n . I t allows t h e m to enjoy life a n d h a p p i n e s s — a s l o n g as they l a s t — i n d e p e n d e n t l y of t h e p r i c e o t h e r s have p a i d . It allows t h e m to consent to their o w n d e a t h s a n d to t h e difficulties life p r e s e n t s regardless of p e r s o n a l guilt a n d i n n o c e n c e . Where's My Grandson?

A young man who had just learned to drive had an accident. His grandmother, who was a passenger, was fatally injured. As she came to consciousness in the hospital just before she died, she asked, "Where's my grandson?" As he was brought to her, she said, " D o n ' t blame yourself. It's my time to die." Unbidden, the thought welled up in him with the tears, "I submit to carrying the weight of being the instrument of your passing. When the time comes, I will do something good in your memory." And one day he did. T h i s h u m i l i t y l e n d s u s s e r i o u s n e s s a n d weight. W h e n w e feel t r u e humility, w e realize t h a t i t i s n ' t just w e w h o d e t e r m i n e o u r fate, b u t also t h a t it is o u r fate t h a t d e t e r m i n e s u s . H a p p e n s t a n c e acts to o u r benefit o r h a r m a c c o r d i n g t o laws w h o s e secrets w e c a n n o t — a n d m u s t n o t — f a t h o m . H u m i l i t y i s the a p p r o p r i a t e a n s w e r t o guilt a n d g o o d f o r t u n e at t h e h a n d s of fate. It p u t s us on a level w i t h t h e less fortunate, enabling us to honor t h e m — n o t by diminishing or disreg a r d i n g t h e a d v a n t a g e w e have a t their e x p e n s e , b u t b y g r a t e f u l l y t a k i n g it in spite of the high price they p a i d , a n d by seeing to it t h a t o t h e r s profit from it as well.

CONSCIENCE IN THE SERVICE OF SOCIAL ORDER
T h e t h i r d necessity for t h e success of love in i n t i m a t e r e l a t i o n s h i p s is o r d e r . " O r d e r " refers, first of all, to t h e rules a n d social c o n v e n -

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t i o n s t h a t c o n s t r a i n t h e c o m m u n a l life o f a s o c i a l g r o u p . All e n d u r ing relationships develop n o r m s , rules, beliefs, a n d t a b o o s that are b i n d i n g o n their m e m b e r s . I n this way, relationships b e c o m e relationship systems with o r d e r a n d s t r u c t u r e . T h e s e social c o n v e n t i o n s c o n s t i t u t e t h e s u r f a c e c o n v e n t i o n t o w h i c h all g r o u p m e m b e r s c o n sent, b u t w h i c h vary widely from g r o u p to g r o u p . S u c h orders set the boundaries of membership: Those who conform belong and t h o s e w h o d o n ' t follow t h e c o n v e n t i o n s o f t h e g r o u p s o o n l e a v e . W e c a n s e e t h i s s y s t e m i c d y n a m i c clearly w h e n w a t c h i n g a flock o f b i r d s i n f l i g h t . W i t h i n t h e f l o c k , e v e r y b i r d f l i e s its i n d i v i d u a l p a t h , b u t w h e n it deviates too widely from the flight of t h e others, we see it leave t h e f l o c k . S o c i a l o r d e r s c o n s t r a i n o u r b e h a v i o r w i t h i n o u r g r o u p a n d give f o r m t o o u r r o l e s a n d f u n c t i o n s , b u t w e d o n ' t feel s u c h d e e p guilt at violating t h e m as w h e n we injure b o n d i n g or the balance of giving a n d taking.

Additional

Considerations

In earlier times, the consequences of being excluded from one's g r o u p or family m u s t have b e e n m u c h m o r e serious t h a n today (although such exclusion still carries p r o f o u n d c o n s e q u e n c e s in some rural areas). We live in a time of rapidly changing social o r d e r s , a n d while this social evolution increases flexibility, mobility, and personal freedom of choice, it also simultaneously increases alienation, disorientation, the loss of roots, and may limit the sense of well-being that .naturally c o m e s with clear belonging. M a n y of t h e individual a n d family p r o b l e m s that people bring to therapy are t h e result of t h e b r e a k d o w n of old social a n d family orders a n d the difficulty of developing new orders that both stand the test of time a n d serve love. For example, the traditional orders that defined the roles a n d division of labor b e t w e e n m e n a n d w o m e n are changing so rapidly that m a n y couples m u s t expend e n o r m o u s effort to develop n e w ones a p p r o p r i ate to their situations. We frequently observe h o w u n p r e d i c t a b l e the long-term effects of these new orders are on their children a n d on their love, a n d that their efforts are not always rewarded with success. T h e y work very hard to achieve an order in their togetherness that once was freely given by the n o r m s of their c o m m u n i t y . M a n y have b e e n pleased to discover that they can maintain b o n d i n g a n d balance of giving a n d taking within their family even w h e n they deviate from t h e traditional social orders of their g r o u p or c o m m u n i t y . [H.B.]

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Symmetry

THE SYSTEMIC CONSCIENCE OF THE GREATER WHOLE
In addition to the feelings of guilt a n d i n n o c e n c e that we c o n sciously feel in the service of b o n d i n g , the balance of giving and taking, a n d social convention, there's also a h i d d e n conscience operating in o u r relationships that we do n o t feel. It's a systemic conscience that has priority over o u r personal feelings of guilt a n d innocence and w h i c h serves other orders. T h e s e orders are the hidd e n natural laws that shape and constrain the behavior of h u m a n relationship systems. T h e y are, in p a r t , t h e natural forces of biology and evolution; in p a r t , the general dynamics of complex systems b e c o m i n g manifest in o u r intimacy; a n d in p a r t , the forces of Love's H i d d e n S y m m e t r y operating within the soul. A l t h o u g h we are n o t directly aware of it, we can recognize t h e orders of this h i d d e n conscience by their effect, by the suffering that results from their b e i n g violated, and by t h e rich and stable love they s u p p o r t . We often violate t h e O r d e r s of Love w h e n we follow o u r personal conscience. Tragedies in families a n d in intimate relationships—as we will see in the following chapters—are often associated with conflicts b e t w e e n t h e conscience guarding b o n d i n g , giving a n d taking, a n d social convention and the h i d d e n conscience guarding t h e family system. But love flourishes w h e n personal c o n science a n d social convention s u b m i t to the o r d e r s and h i d d e n symm e t r y of love.

Breaking the Magic Spell
W h o e v e r desires to solve the mystery of Love's H i d d e n S y m m e t r y enters a c o m p l e x labyrinth a n d m u s t carry m a n y balls of twine_to distinguish the paths that lead to daylight from those that lead deeper into the abyss. We are forced to feel o u r way in darkness, confronting the deceptions a n d illusions that weave themselves a r o u n d u s , dulling o u r senses a n d paralyzing o u r u n d e r s t a n d i n g as we try to unrave the secrets of t h e good b e y o n d guilt a n d i n n o cence. Children are led into this surreality w h e n they're told that babies are b r o u g h t by storks, a n d weary prisoners m u s t have felt it as well w h e n they read the sign above t h e gate of the d e a t h c a m p , "Work will m a k e you free."

Guilt, Innocence,

and the

Limits

of Conscience

29

Nevertheless, many have had the courage to enter the labyrinth, to peer into the darkness, and to break the spell of false belief. Then they are like the minstrel waiting quietly on the corner to play a countermelody to waken the spellbound children as the Pied Piper marches past. Or like the boy, upon watching a crowd cheering a demented dictator, exclaimed what others knew but were afraid to admit, "He's naked!"
The Emperor's New Clothes

At an academic symposium, a well-known professor of philosophy was m u c h applauded w h e n he eloquently defended the idea that the greatest personal freedom is achieved when an individual is no longer d e p e n d e n t on anyone else. As the t h u n d e r of applause died down, one of the participants stood and said, in a loud voice with childlike simplicity, " T h a t ' s not right!" A wave of shock and indignation swept through the r o o m . After the audience had calmed, the m a n added, "Everyone can see that at any m o m e n t we are dependent on many things—on the air we breathe, on the farmer who grows our food, on our friends and family. We are all parts of a greater whole, and we depend on it as it depends on us. What freedom is that when we refuse to see what is and are c o n d e m n e d to live in the illusion that things are different than they are? T h e freedom that I love comes when I acknowledge reality as it is and consent to it. T h e n I can pay in full measure what I owe and I am free from debt, and I can take in full measure what is given to me and I am free to need."

The intelligence of the systemic symmetry of love operating unseen in our relationships watches over love. It is easier to follow than to understand. We recognize it, if it is important to us, in the subtle movements of our inwardness and in the careful observation of our relationships. We recognize its laws only when we see the consequences of what we have done for ourselves and others— whether love increases or it is diminished. How we recognize the limits of personal conscience, where they help us as well as where we must overcome them, and how we may know the intelligence of the Greater Soul that supports love are described in the following chapters. It is the path of the knowledge of good and evil beyond feelings of guilt and innocence, and it serves love.

30

Love's

Hidden

Symmetry Revelations

Helping

A young m a n seeking further knowledge sets out on his bicycle into the countryside. He is driven by the joy of exploration and his e n t h u siasm knows no b o u n d s . Far b e y o n d his usual territory, he finds a n e w p a t h . H e r e there are no m o r e signs to guide h i m , a n d he m u s t rely on what his eye can see and what his pedaling legs can measure. N o w what was only an intuition b e c o m e s experience. His p a t h e n d s at a wide river a n d he gets off his bicycle. He sees that going on requires leaving everything he has on the riverbank, leaving the safety of solid g r o u n d , putting himself in the h a n d s of a force that is stronger t h a n he is, a n d allowing himself to be overpowered a n d swept along. He hesitates, and t h e n retreats. T h i s is his first revelation. Riding h o m e , he admits to himself that he u n d e r s t a n d s very little that could be helpful to o t h e r s , a n d even that little which he knows, he could scarcely c o m m u n i c a t e . He imagines himself to be following a n o t h e r bicycle rider whose fender is rattling. He imagines calling out, "Hey, your fender's rattling!" T h e other answers, " W h a t ? " H e imagines yelling louder, "Your fender's rattling!" T h e other answers, "I can't hear you. My fender's rattling." He realizes, " H e d i d n ' t need my help at all!" T h i s is his second revelation. A short time later, he asks an old teacher, " H o w do you m a n a g e to help other people? M a n y people come to you asking for advice, a n d they leave feeling better even t h o u g h you know little of their affairs." T h e teacher answers, " W h e n s o m e o n e loses courage a n d d o e s n ' t w a n t to go o n , t h e p r o b l e m is seldom lack of knowledge, b u t rather wanting safety w h e n courage is called for, and seeking freedom where necessity leaves no choice. A n d so he goes in circles. A teacher resists a p p e a r a n c e and illusion. He finds his center a n d waits for a helpful word, as a ship with sails raised waits to catch the wind. W h e n s o m e o n e c o m e s seeking help, the teacher is waiting where the visitor himself m u s t go, a n d if an answer c o m e s , it comes for b o t h of t h e m , for b o t h are listeners." A n d t h e n the teacher a d d s , "Waiting at the center is effortless."

C H A P T E R

T W O

Man and Woman: The Foundation of Family
T h e f o u n d a t i o n of family is t h e sexual a t t r a c t i o n b e t w e e n a m a n a n d a w o m a n . W h e n a m a n desires a w o m a n , he desires w h a t h e , as m a n , n e e d s a n d d o e s n o t have. W h e n a w o m a n desires a m a n , s h e , t o o , desires w h a t she, as w o m a n , is missing. M a l e a n d female f o r m a c o m p l e m e n t a r y p a i r o f p a r t n e r s w h o m u t u a l l y define a n d c o m p l e t e one another. Each is what the other needs, and each needs what the o t h e r is. If love is to s u c c e e d , we m u s t give w h a t we are and t a k e from o u r p a r t n e r w h a t w e n e e d . G i v i n g ourselves, t a k i n g a n d having our partner, we become m a n or woman, and with him or her, we become a couple. T h e e x p r e s s i o n o f love i n sexual i n t i m a c y , a n d s o m e t i m e s t h e a c t o f sexual i n t e r c o u r s e a l o n e , often b o n d s p a r t n e r s t o e a c h o t h e r w h e t h e r they w a n t i t o r n o t . I t i s n ' t i n t e n t i o n o r choice t h a t e s t a b lishes t h e b o n d , b u t t h e physical act itself. T h i s d y n a m i c c a n b e o b s e r v e d i n t h e sense o f protectiveness t h a t s o m e r a p e a n d incest victims feel t o w a r d t h e p e r p e t r a t o r s , a n d in t h o s e casual sexual e n c o u n t e r s t h a t leave lifelong traces. 31

32

Love's

Hidden

Symmetry

O u r shyness in naming and affirming this most intimate aspect of a couple's relationship is related to the fact that sexual passion is still regarded in some circles as being demeaning and undignified. Nevertheless, sexual consummation is the greatest possible human I act. No other human action is more in harmony with the order and the richness of life, expresses more fully our participation in the wholeness of the world, or brings with it such profound pleasure and, in its consequences, such loving suffering. No other act brings such rewards or entails greater risks, demands more from us, and makes us so wise, knowing, and human as when we take each other, know each other, and belong to each other in love. In comparison, all other human actions seem merely a prelude, an encore, a solace, or a consequence—an impoverished imitation. T h e sexual expression of love is also our most humble action. N o w h e r e else do we expose ourselves so completely, uncovering our deepest vulnerability. We don't guard anything else with such deep shame as this inner place where partners show each other their most intimate selves and give those selves into each other's keeping. T h r o u g h the sexual expression of love, both men and women leave their mothers and fathers and "cleave" to one another—as the Bible describes it—and they become one flesh. W h e t h e r we like it or not, the special and, in a very deep sense, indissoluble bond between partners arises out of, and is the result of, their sexual union. O n l y this act makes them a couple, and only this act can make them parents. F o r this reason, if their sexuality is limited in some way—for example, by inhibitions or by one partner's having been sterilized—the bond doesn't form completely, even if the couple desires it. T h i s is also true of platonic partnerships in which partners avoid the risks of sexuality and confront less guilt and responsibility if they separate. O n c e partners have established a bond by sharing sexual intimacy, separation without hurt and guilt is no longer possible. T h e y no longer can walk away as if their togetherness didn't exist. A l t h o u g h this bonding causes hardship for parents who separate, it also protects their children from capricious or self-centered separations. T h e crucial role that sexuality plays in a couple's bonding makes apparent the supremacy of the flesh over the spirit, as well as the wisdom of the flesh. We may be tempted to devalue the flesh in comparison with the spirit, as if that which is done out of physical need, desire, longing, and sexual love has less value than what

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w e g a i n t h r o u g h r e a s o n a n d m o r a l will. Physical d e s i r e n e v e r t h e less d e m o n s t r a t e s its p o w e r , a n d s o m e t i m e s its w i s d o m , a t t h e p o i n t a t w h i c h r e a s o n a n d m o r a l i t y r e a c h t h e i r limits a n d recoil D e s i r e still rises t o serve after r e a s o n ' s c o l d c o n s t r a i n t s have w e a ried o r g r o w n c a l l o u s . T h e h i g h e r r e a s o n a n d t h e d e e p e r m e a n i n g t h a t arise o u t o f o u r i n s t i n c t u a l physical u r g e s o v e r p o w e r a n d c o n trol r a t i o n a l i t y a n d will. T h e y are closer t o t h e h e a r t o f life a n d a r e more enduring.

The

Spirit

Is Willing,

the

Flesh

Is Wise

Some say that body in comparison to Spirit —is less. As if that done in longing and sexual desire —were less than that chosen out of Reason and by Moral Will. But desire displays courage and wisdom when Will and Reason cower and shrink and dare not to serve Life. In the Desire of the Flesh hides a higher reason and burns a deeper meaning outshining rationality and overpowering the will. Desire is closer to the Heart of life, more obedient, and more enduring. It is the flesh that rules the will. I say, The Spirit is willing, but The Flesh is Wise.

34

Love's Additional

Hidden

Symmetry Considerations

Hellinger's insistence on the creative and life-affirming n a t u r e of sexual desire contrasts sharply with the views of those w h o consider "desires of the flesh" to be a nuisance or even sinful, and also with the views of those w h o see sexuality merely as a pleasure u n c o n nected to p a r e n t h o o d . " M a l e " a n d "female" d e n o t e — a m o n g other things—the physiological specialization necessary for procreation. In this sense, male and female need one another, complement and complete one another, b u t it would be a grave error to reduce maleness a n d femaless to this biological dimension alone. Nevertheless, our psychotherapeutic work shows that people who downplay or ignore its i m p o r t a n c e regularly e n c o u n t e r difficulty in their intimate relationships. W h e n Hellinger speaks of the sexual expression of love b e t w e e n a m a n a n d a w o m a n , he isn't excluding or discounting other forms of loving, sexual relationships, b u t he is insisting on h o n o r i n g this inescapable aspect of p a r e n t h o o d . Increasing n u m b e r s of m e n and w o m e n are living in n o n t r a d i tional families. T h e r e are singles a n d couples who neither have n o r desire children, just as there are m e n who desire m e n a n d w o m e n w h o desire w o m e n . Faced with a population explosion, n a t u r e increasingly d e m a n d s a n d supports couples foregoing p a r e n t h o o d , providing t h e m with alternative expressions of h u m a n n e s s a n d love. Still, m a n y people with w h o m we have worked feel a painful loss at foregoing p a r e n t h o o d a n d work hard to accept their loss without minimizing it, to find lifestyles that bring m e a n i n g a n d the d e e p satisfaction of soul that c o m e automatically to parents in a healthy family. W h e n they succeed, they know that they serve a n d are s u p p o r t e d by life in what they do, a n d participate fully in its b o u n t y a n d mystery. Still, m a n y c o n t i n u e to look wistfully at families with children a n d do w o n d e r what it would have b e e n like to have b e e n parents. T h i s is especially true as they grow older and a p p r o a c h d e a t h . T h e i r loss—no matter h o w appropriate—is a heavy b u r d e n a n d deserves full acknowledgment a n d appreciation. H . B .

CARING FOR DESIRE
If the sexual desires of one of the partners aren't reciprocated, he or she is in a weak position because the other has the power to reject. Although the one who meets a desire needn't take any risks, he or she appears to be stronger. The one who desires appears to be needy and taking rather than generous and giving, and the one who meets

Man

and Woman: The Foundation

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35

the desire a l t h o u g h he or she m a y be loving, a p p e a r s to give a n d to help w i t h o u t taking. I n this d y n a m i c , t h e o n e w h o desires m u s t feel grateful, a s t h o u g h h e o r she h a d taken w i t h o u t h a v i n g given, a n d t h e o n e w h o w i t h h o l d s n e e d a n d m e e t s desire feels free, a n d p e r h a p s even superior, as t h o u g h his or h e r giving involved no taking. Some partners hold on to the power and superiority of being t h e giver, b u t t h e y d a m a g e their t o g e t h e r n e s s . F o r a r e l a t i o n s h i p t o s u c c e e d over t i m e , t h e risk of r e j e c t i o n , as well as t h e joys a n d p l e a s u r e s of giving, m u s t be s h a r e d . D e s i r i n g is still difficult for many w o m e n because they must break strong cultural taboos, and t h e y still m a y b e rejected o r feared a t f i r s t w h e n t h e y e x p o s e t h e i r d e s i r e . N e v e r t h e l e s s , i n t h e r a p y , s o m e t h i n g i n t e r e s t i n g often h a p p e n s w h e n a w o m a n tells h e r m o t h e r , " S o m e t i m e s I c a n h a r d l y w a i t to m a k e love w i t h my h u s b a n d " — e v e n if s h e says it only in her imagination. P a r t n e r s w h o care for desire c a n agree that w h e n the m o s t intim a t e self of o n e is o p e n a n d v u l n e r a b l e — a s it is w h e n desire is e x p o s e d — t h e n t h e o t h e r m u s t respect t h e desire, even if he or she d o e s n ' t fulfill it. We are especially v u l n e r a b l e w h e n we desire, so a p a r t n e r s h o u l d n ' t have to risk a h u m i l i a t i n g rejection w h e n he or she feels a n d expresses desire. If c o u p l e s h o n o r this, t h e y can risk desiring again, a n d their relationship c a n achieve d e p t h a n d intimacy. B o t h m u s t desire, a n d each m u s t t r e a t t h e o t h e r ' s desires w i t h respect a n d love. W h e n sexuality serves t h e relationship as well as b e i n g its goal, b o t h t h e sexuality a n d t h e loving p a r t n e r s h i p are d e e p e r , freer, a n d m o r e a u t h e n t i c . B e c a u s e b o t h m e n a n d w o m e n fear s u c h p r o f o u n d n e e d w i t h t h e n a k e d d e p e n d e n c y it implies a n d t h e d a n g e r of d e v a s t a t i n g rejection, m a n y p e o p l e seek t o develop the o p p o s i t e g e n d e r w i t h i n t h e m selves. M e n seek to b e c o m e like w o m e n , as if t h e y c o u l d be w o m e n , a n d w o m e n seek to b e c o m e like m e n , as if they c o u l d be m e n . If they s u c c e e d in this, t h e y no longer n e e d a p a r t n e r , a n d t h e i r relationship b e c o m e s essentially a m a t t e r of c o n v e n i e n c e . In o r d e r for a p a r t n e r s h i p b e t w e e n a m a n a n d a w o m a n to fulfill its p r o m i s e , t h e m a n m u s t b e a m a n a n d t h e w o m a n m u s t b e a w o m a n . In p a r t n e r s h i p s b e t w e e n a m a n a n d a w o m a n , she r e m a i n s i n t e r e s t e d in h i m only w h e n he is a m a n a n d r e m a i n s o n e , a n d t h e reverse is t r u e for h i m . T h i s m e a n s t h a t a m a n w h o desires to love a w o m a n a s his e q u a l p a r t n e r m u s t preserve his n e e d for h e r b y p r e serving his i n c o m p l e t e n e s s . I n s t e a d of d e v e l o p i n g t h e feminine in

36

Love's

Hidden

Symmetry

himself, he m u s t allow his p a r t n e r to offer it to h i m as a gift, a n d he m u s t take from h e r t h e feminine she offers. A w o m a n w h o desires to love a m a n m u s t also a c c e p t t h e m a s c u l i n e from h e r p a r t n e r . W h e n a m a n and a w o m a n both want and need what the other has, and have w h a t t h e o t h e r n e e d s a n d w a n t s , t h e n they are e q u a l i n t h e i r i n c o m p l e t e n e s s — a n d i n their ability t o give. W h e n b o t h r e s p e c t their limitations a n d p r e s e r v e their n e e d , their m u t u a l n e e d s c o m p l e m e n t a n d c o m p l e t e o n e a n o t h e r , a n d their giving a n d t a k i n g s t r e n g t h e n their b o n d . T h i s systemic view is exactly t h e o p p o s i t e of t h e p o p u l a r idea t h a t m e n s h o u l d develop t h e feminine i n themselves a n d t h a t w o m e n s h o u l d develop their m a s c u l i n e p o t e n t i a l . P e r s o n s w h o d o s o d o n ' t n e e d a p a r t n e r to give t h e m w h a t they're m i s s i n g , a n d t h e y often prefer to live alone. The Basso Continuo

A couple's relationship is conducted like a baroque concert: a variety of the most beautiful melodies rings in the upper register, and below, a basso continuo supports and leads the melodies and gives them weight and depth. In a couple's relationship, the basso continuo is: "I take you, I take you, I take you, I take you to be my wife, I take you to be my husband. I take you to myself and give myself to you with love."

LOVE BETWEEN PARTNERS
Love b e t w e e n p a r t n e r s requires t h e r e n u n c i a t i o n of o u r first a n d m o s t i n t i m a t e love, o u r love as a child for o u r p a r e n t s . O n l y w h e n a boy's a t t a c h m e n t — e i t h e r loving or resentful—to his m o t h e r is resolved c a n he give himself fully to his p a r t n e r a n d e n t e r m a n h o o d . A girl's a t t a c h m e n t to h e r father m u s t also be resolved before she c a n give herself to h e r p a r t n e r a n d be a w o m a n . Successful t o g e t h e r n e s s d e m a n d s the sacrifice a n d transformation of o u r earlier child b o n d to o u r p a r e n t s — t h e b o y to his m o t h e r a n d the girl to h e r father. A b o y lives his p r e n a t a l a n d early c h i l d h o o d years p r i m a r i l y w i t h i n his m o t h e r ' s s p h e r e of influence. If he r e m a i n s t h e r e , h e r influence floods his p s y c h e , a n d he experiences t h e feminine as all i m p o r t a n t a n d all powerful. U n d e r his m o t h e r ' s d o m i n a n c e , h e m a y well b e c o m e a skillful s e d u c e r a n d lover, b u t he d o e s n o t d e v e l o p i n t o a m a n w h o appreciates w o m e n a n d w h o c a n m a i n t a i n a l o n g -

Man

and Woman: The Foundation

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37

t e r m loving relationship. N o r d o e s h e b e c o m e a s t r o n g a n d d e d i cated father to his o w n children. To b e c o m e a m a n c a p a b l e of joining fully in a p a r t n e r s h i p of e q u a l s , he m u s t give up t h e first a n d m o s t i n t i m a t e love of his life—his m o t h e r — a n d m o v e i n t o his father's s p h e r e of influence. In earlier t i m e s , t h e process t h r o u g h w h i c h a b o y left his m o t h e r was socially s t r u c t u r e d a n d s u p p o r t e d b y rites o f initiation a n d p a s sage. H a v i n g p a s s e d t h r o u g h t h e s e rituals, a b o y h a d a firm p l a c e in his father's w o r l d a n d c o u l d n ' t r e t u r n to live in his m o t h e r ' s h o u s e as a child. In o u r c u l t u r e , the formal rituals t h a t o n c e s u p p o r t e d this process have d i s a p p e a r e d a n d t h e p r o c e s s of m o v i n g o u t of t h e m o t h e r ' s s p h e r e is often painfully difficult. E v e n t h e military service t h a t o n c e served t o h e l p boys leave their m o t h e r ' s s p h e r e a n d e n t e r their father's has lost its viability for m a n y y o u n g m e n . A girl also e n t e r s life within h e r m o t h e r ' s s p h e r e of influence, b u t she e x p e r i e n c e s the feminine a n d a t t r a c t i o n to t h e m a s c u l i n e differently from h e r b r o t h e r . H e r father h o l d s a fascination for h e r , a n d if all goes well, she c a n practice t h e a r t of a t t r a c t i n g m e n in the s t e a d y safety of his love. If however, she stays in h e r father's s p h e r e of influence, she b e c o m e s a " d a d d y ' s girl." S h e m a y b e c o m e s o m e o n e ' s lover, b u t she d o e s n ' t m a t u r e fully i n t o h e r w o m a n h o o d ; s h e h a s difficulty relating as an e q u a l p a r t n e r a n d b e c o m i n g a g e n e r o u s , giving m o t h e r t o h e r children. T o b e c o m e a w o m a n , it's n e c e s s a r y for a girl to leave t h e first m a n in h e r life—her f a t h e r — a n d to r e t u r n to stand by her mother.

Questions and Answers Question: C a n ' t a child have a n equally b a l a n c e d relationship with b o t h t h e father a n d t h e m o t h e r ?
O f c o u r s e . T h i s h a p p e n s w h e n b o y s m o v e into their father's s p h e r e of influence a n d girls r e t u r n to their m o t h e r ' s . If y o u look at real p e o p l e , you see t h a t a son w h o is c o n n e c t e d to his father has m o r e r e s p e c t a n d a p p r e c i a t i o n for his m o t h e r t h a n d o e s a s o n w h o r e m a i n s tied t o h e r — a n d the m o t h e r d o e s n ' t lose a n y t h i n g . Likewise, a d a u g h t e r w h o has m o v e d from h e r father's s p h e r e of influence b a c k t o h e r m o t h e r ' s d o e s n ' t lose h e r father, n o r d o e s h e lose her. Q u i t e t h e c o n t r a r y , she develops m o r e r e s p e c t a n d a p p r e ciation for h i m . E v e n m o r e i m p o r t a n t , t h e p a r e n t s ' relationship is

Hellinger:

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s t r o n g e r w h e n t h e s o n s are n e a r their father a n d t h e d a u g h t e r s are n e a r their m o t h e r . T h e n there's n o confusion i n t h e family. Question: H a v e I u n d e r s t o o d y o u correctly t h a t w h e n I affirm my m o t h e r ' s right t o w o m a n h o o d , I've t a k e n m y p r o p e r place n e x t t o her? Hellinger: N o . A n y d a u g h t e r w h o a s s u m e s she h a s t h e a u t h o r i t y t o affirm o r d e n y h e r m o t h e r ' s right t o w o m a n h o o d h a s set herself above h e r m o t h e r . Question: A n d if I simply a c c e p t her?

Hellinger: A c c e p t i n g h e r implies a s u p e r i o r generosity on y o u r p a r t . A c c e p t i n g a n d affirming y o u r w o m a n h o o d as a gift from h e r is humble. R a i n e r (group participant): It's s t r a n g e t h a t so m u c h h a s b e e n w r i t t e n a b o u t t h e m o t h e r - c h i l d relationship a n d s o little a b o u t t h e f a t h e r - c h i l d relationship. Hellinger: Rainer: Do y o u have a d a u g h t e r or a son? I have an eight-year-old d a u g h t e r .

Hellinger: T h e n it's a b o u t t i m e t h a t you let h e r g o b a c k t o h e r m o t h e r ' s s p h e r e of influence. Rainer: Yes, I've t h o u g h t a lot a b o u t the process of letting go of my d a u g h t e r , b u t at t h e s a m e t i m e , I k n o w t h a t there's n o t h i n g I c a n do to make it happen. Hellinger: Rainer: Hellinger: Rainer: O f c o u r s e t h e r e is. I m e a n t h a t I c a n ' t force it. I c a n ' t m a k e it h a p p e n . C e r t a i n l y you can! But that's not what I want.

H e l l i n g e r : Well, at least t h a t ' s a clear m e s s a g e . W h a t I've b e e n saying d o e s have definite implications for a c t i o n — o t h e r w i s e I'd save my breath. Rainer: So w h a t c o u l d I do?

Hellinger: Well, for o n e t h i n g , w h e n you look a t h e r , y o u c o u l d a d m i r e y o u r wife in her.

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T h a t ' s a great idea. I like it (laughing).

Hellinger: O r you m i g h t tell y o u r d a u g h t e r t h a t she's a l m o s t a s wonderful as h e r m o t h e r . Rainer: A n o t h e r t h i n g that's b o t h e r i n g m e i s . . .

Hellinger: (Interrupting him and speaking to the group) H e ' s c h a n g i n g t h e subject, b u t that's okay. H e ' s n o t i c e d that things are getting serious. H e ' s s t a r t i n g t o realize w h a t h e h a s t o deal with. S o m e t i m e s , w h e n a father h o l d s on to his d a u g h t e r , it's h a r d for h e r to r e t u r n to h e r m o t h e r ' s s p h e r e of influence. S h e feels i m p o r t a n t , believing t h a t she c o u l d fill his n e e d , b u t t h a t job's t o o big for a child. C o m p a r e d with a wife, a d a u g h t e r is a c o n s o l a t i o n prize. Question: L a s t n i g h t , after I w e n t to b e d , I k e p t t h i n k i n g a b o u t the " s p h e r e s of i n f l u e n c e " of the m o t h e r a n d father. You said that a m a c h o m a n i s o n e w h o h a s r e m a i n e d b o u n d t o his m o t h e r for t o o long. W h a t a b o u t a n effeminate m a n ? W o u l d y o u say t h a t this t e n d e n c y is a result of staying too l o n g in t h e father's s p h e r e of influence? H e l l i n g e r : N o . I n this respect, a m a c h o m a n a n d a n e f f e m i n a t e m a n are t h e s a m e — t h e y ' v e b o t h r e m a i n e d i n the m o t h e r ' s s p h e r e o f influence. A D o n J u a n is also a m o t h e r ' s s o n w h o h a s n ' t m a d e it to m a n h o o d . H e ' s h o p i n g that b y having m a n y w o m e n h e c a n c o n t i n u e to p a r t i c i p a t e in w o m a n h o o d forever. N e e d i n g to have a lot of p a r t n e r s is a quality of b e i n g stuck in m o t h e r ' s s p h e r e . A m a n w h o ' s m o v e d o u t of his m o t h e r ' s s p h e r e c a n t a k e w h a t he n e e d s f r o m , a p a r t n e r , a n d he c a n give himself a n d b e c o m e a p a r t n e r . B r a g g i n g , s t r u t t i n g , m a c h o types are m o t h e r s ' darlings. Question: influence? W o u l d y o u elaborate o n y o u r c o n c e p t o f s p h e r e o f

Hellinger: I ' m trying t o avoid defining c o n c e p t s . W h a t w e ' r e d i s cussing a r e n ' t c o n c e p t s that are t r u e or false. I ' m trying to d e s c r i b e difficult experiences in a way t h a t e n a b l e s us to deal with t h e m b e t ter a n d will b e m o r e helpful t o p e o p l e i n n e e d . T h e r e ' s n o t h i n g m o r e to it t h a n t h a t . As s o o n as we claim t h a t o u r d e s c r i p t i o n s are the " T r u t h , " t h e n t h e y ' r e a false t h e o r y a n d will i m m e d i a t e l y be d i s credited. W h a t I'm d e s c r i b i n g isn't absolutely " t r u e . " It's a p h e n o m enological description of certain d y n a m i c s I've o b s e r v e d in my w o r k

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w i t h c o u p l e s a n d families over t h e years. I w a n t to leave it at t h a t . Please d o n ' t m a k e m o r e o u t of w h a t I say t h a n I i n t e n d . So b e i n g in s o m e o n e ' s s p h e r e of influence simply describes b e i n g u n d e r the p e r s o n ' s influence. F o r e x a m p l e , w h e n it's especially i m p o r t a n t for a girl to please h e r father, t h e n she's in his s p h e r e of influence. O r , i n s o m e families, t h e m o t h e r a n d son c o l l u d e t o s c o r n a n d be c o n d e s c e n d i n g to t h e father. T h a t ' s basically all 1 m e a n . Question: A d a u g h t e r also experiences h e r first relationship w i t h h e r m o t h e r . I f she h a s t o r e t u r n t o h e r m o t h e r ' s s p h e r e o f influence, t h a t m e a n s t h a t she m u s t have already m o v e d away from h e r m o t h e r t o h e r father, a n d t h e n can g o b a c k again. Hellinger: Exactly! (Laughing) T h a t ' s the r e a s o n it's so easy for w o m e n — t h e y c a n go b a c k . A son experiences t h e f e m i n i n e as so allpowerful, attractive, a n d pervasively i m p o r t a n t that he feels t o o weak to give it u p . He c a n ' t q u i t e leave u n d e r his o w n p o w e r . If h e ' s to give up b e i n g a b o y a n d b e c o m e a m a n , he h a s to c o n n e c t to his father a n d g r a n d f a t h e r , a n d t o t h e world o f m e n . T h a t ' s w h e r e h e f i n d s t h e s t r e n g t h h e n e e d s t o move o u t o f his m o t h e r ' s s p h e r e . Question: D o e s n ' t a girl miss s o m e t h i n g if she just stays in h e r m o t h e r ' s s p h e r e of influence? I s n ' t it i m p o r t a n t for h e r to leave a n d then return? Hellinger: T h a t ' s right. First, she h a s t o m o v e t o h e r father, a n d t h e n b a c k t o h e r m o t h e r . I f she k n o w s only h e r m o t h e r ' s influence, she d o e s n ' t e x p e r i e n c e t h e a t t r a c t i o n o f t h e m a s c u l i n e w i t h h e r father. Question: You said t h a t a w o m a n h a s a difficult t i m e fully a c c e p t ing a m a n if she h a s n ' t r e l i n q u i s h e d h e r father. I k e e p t h i n k i n g about that. H e l l i n g e r : W h e n a w o m a n is still tied to h e r father, she often secretly believes t h a t s h e w o u l d be a b e t t e r p a r t n e r for h i m t h a n h e r m o t h e r is. T h a t ' s a child's belief. If she looks h o n e s t l y at t h e real c o n s e q u e n c e s for h e r of b e i n g his p a r t n e r , she p u t s t h a t child belief in an a d u l t c o n t e x t . T h e r e ' s a s e n t e n c e t h a t c a n h e l p h e r give up t h e u n h e a l t h y tie to h e r father. S h e c a n tell h i m , " M o t h e r ' s a little b e t t e r for y o u t h a n I a m . "

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Q u e s t i o n : W h a t ' s the masculine in a w o m a n a n d the feminine in a m a n ? W h a t are masculine a n d feminine at all? At least, what's your opinion? H e l l i n g e r : T h a t ' s something I haven't b e e n able to figure o u t yet (laughing). F o r a m a n , there's always s o m e t h i n g h i d d e n a b o u t w o m e n , a n d t h e other way a r o u n d . I d o n ' t even completely u n d e r stand the masculine yet. But what we're talking a b o u t d o e s n ' t have to do with c o n c e p t u a l u n d e r s t a n d i n g . I ' m n o t p r o p o s i n g a theory of masculinity a n d femininity. I ' m trying to describe w h a t people experience in t h e family constellations a n d in their relationships, a n d also to o p e n up a space for you to c o m e into c o n t a c t with certain things that can be k n o w n only by experiencing t h e m . T r y i n g intellectually to u n d e r s t a n d an experience is like trying to h o l d a fire. If you try to grasp such things intellectually, t h e n from the fire you've only got the ashes. Q u e s t i o n : It seems to me that what you're describing is just t h e old O e d i p u s stuff in a different language. I c a n ' t see the difference between w h a t you're describing a n d the psychoanalytic O e d i p u s complex. H e l l i n g e r : T h e r e ' s a basic m i s u n d e r s t a n d i n g of p h e n o m e n o l o g y implied in your question. W h e n you immediately place your experience here in the context of s o m e t h i n g you already know, you can't observe anything new. Of course, psychoanalysis has a deep u n d e r s t a n d i n g of w h a t h a p pens in p a r e n t - c h i l d relationships, b u t what I ' m describing isn't the same as the O e d i p u s complex. Psychoanalytic thinking is different from systemic thinking. As soon as you say " O e d i p u s complex," t h e p h e n o m e n o l o g y of the system d y n a m i c disappears and y o u ' r e left with the p s y c h o d y n a m i c construct you already know. You're m o v i n g in a different t h o u g h t world. I ' m n o t talking a b o u t h o w o n e thing causes a n o t h e r , n o r am I trying to describe u n c o n s c i o u s processes. I ' m describing w h a t I've actually seen people do. I ' m describing their actual feelings a n d behaviors a n d looking at h o w they are systemically associated with one another. No causality is implied, just systemic association. T h a t ' s a different level of abstraction t h a n psychoanalytic theory. If you're interested in observing the system dynamics of h u m a n relationships, you n e e d to focus your attention on w h a t p e o p l e actu-

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ally d o . T h a t ' s t h e p h e n o m e n o l o g i c a l m e t h o d . O t h e r w i s e , all y o u have are t h e w o r d s a n d c o n c e p t s dissociated from e x p e r i e n c e . T h a t ' s n o t e n o u g h t o b e o f real help t o a n y o n e .

RENEWING MALENESS A N D FEMALENESS
W h e n p a r t n e r s e n t e r a relationship, e a c h brings his or h e r i n d i v i d u ality to their t o g e t h e r n e s s , a n d in their t o g e t h e r n e s s , they lose it. A w o m a n confirms h e r h u s b a n d a s m a n , b u t she challenges his m a l e ness a n d takes it from h i m , a n d his m a l e n e s s decreases in t h e c o u r s e of their p a r t n e r s h i p . Likewise, a m a n confirms his wife's w o m a n h o o d , b u t h e also challenges h e r femaleness a n d takes i t from h e r , a n d she b e c o m e s less of a w o m a n . If t h e p a r t n e r s h i p is to r e m a i n exciting for b o t h , t h e y m u s t c o n s t a n t l y r e n e w their m a l e n e s s a n d femaleness. A m a n r e n e w s his m a l e n e s s in the c o m p a n y of m e n a n d a w o m a n h e r femaleness in t h e c o m p a n y of w o m e n , so t h e y m u s t leave their relationship from t i m e to time in o r d e r to refresh their m a l e n e s s a n d femaleness. T h e actual c o n t e n t o f t h e e x c h a n g e s a m o n g t h e m e n o r t h e w o m e n is u n i m p o r t a n t . It m i g h t be at a coffee klatch, t h e c o r n e r b a r , a c l u b , a consciousness-raising g r o u p , or on a s p o r t s t e a m . W h a t matters is being together with other m e n or with other w o m e n a n d d o i n g things m e n a n d w o m e n d o w h e n t h e y g a t h e r a m o n g themselves. If a couple d o e s this, t h e relationship r e t a i n s its creative t e n s i o n , a n d c a n c o n t i n u e t o develop a n d d e e p e n . T h i s elem e n t of relationship is. overlooked in the r o m a n t i c ideal of love, w h i c h envisions a loving c o u p l e giving e a c h o t h e r e v e r y t h i n g e a c h needs.

T H E B O N D BETWEEN PARTNERS
T h e b o n d b e t w e e n a m a n a n d a w o m a n requires that t h e m a n w a n t t h e w o m a n as woman a n d t h a t t h e w o m a n w a n t t h e m a n as man. T h e i r b o n d d o e s n ' t develop fully if t h e y w a n t e a c h o t h e r for o t h e r r e a s o n s : for e x a m p l e , for recreation or a d o r n m e n t , or as a p r o v i d e r ; or b e c a u s e o n e of t h e m is rich or p o o r , C a t h o l i c or P r o t e s t a n t , Jew or Muslim, H i n d u or Buddhist; or because one wants to conquer or p r o t e c t o r i m p r o v e o r save the o t h e r ; o r b e c a u s e o n e w a n t s t h e o t h e r p r i m a r i l y to be t h e father or m o t h e r of his or h e r c h i l d r e n . P a r t n e r s

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w h o c o m e t o g e t h e r for s u c h r e a s o n s d o n ' t develop t h e s t r e n g t h o f t o g e t h e r n e s s t h a t e n a b l e s t h e m t o w e a t h e r serious crises. If a m a n r e m a i n s a son looking for a m o t h e r , or if a w o m a n r e m a i n s a d a u g h t e r l o o k i n g for a father, their r e l a t i o n s h i p s , a l t h o u g h they m a y b e i n t e n s e a n d loving, a r e n ' t relationships o f a d u l t w o m e n a n d m e n . P e o p l e e n t e r i n g i n t o relationships w i t h t h e h o p e — a c k n o w l e d g e d o r n o t — t h a t they'll get s o m e t h i n g t h e y d i d n ' t get i n their relationships w i t h their m o t h e r s or fathers, are looking for pare n t s . T h e b e l o n g i n g t h a t t h e n develops i s that o f child a n d p a r e n t . I t s o m e t i m e s h a p p e n s t h a t a m a n looking for a m o t h e r finds s o m e o n e looking for a s o n , or t h a t a w o m a n seeking a father finds s o m e o n e h o p i n g for a d a u g h t e r . S u c h couples m a y be very h a p p y for a while, b u t s h o u l d t h e y have c h i l d r e n , they a n d their c h i l d r e n will e x p e r i e n c e difficulties as t h e y adjust their p a r t n e r s h i p . L o v e is limited in exactly t h e s a m e way w h e n o n e p a r t n e r acts t o w a r d t h e o t h e r w i t h t h e a u t h o r i t y of a p a r e n t , a n d a t t e m p t s to t e a c h , i m p r o v e , o r h e l p t h e other. Every a d u l t h a s already b e e n b r o u g h t u p a n d t a u g h t h o w t o b e h a v e , a n d all a t t e m p t s t o d o t h a t again are c e r t a i n t o d a m a g e love. It's n o w o n d e r t h a t t h e p a r t n e r w h o ' s b e i n g t r e a t e d like a child reacts by p u l l i n g o u t of t h e relations h i p — t h e way a child pulls away from t h e f a m i l y — a n d seeks relief o u t s i d e t h e relationship. M o s t p o w e r conflicts i n i n t i m a t e p a r t n e r ships o c c u r w h e n o n e p a r t n e r tries to treat t h e o t h e r as a child, m o t h e r , or father.

Bonding in Second Relationships
A s e c o n d loving p a r t n e r s h i p is different from t h e first b e c a u s e s e c o n d p a r t n e r s sense their p a r t n e r s ' f o r m e r b o n d s . W e see this i n t h e c a u t i o n w i t h w h i c h w e a p p r o a c h n e w p a r t n e r s , a n d also i n o u r slowness t o give ourselves a n d t o take a n d have o u r n e w p a r t n e r s a s freely as o u r earlier o n e s . B o t h p a r t n e r s e x p e r i e n c e their s e c o n d p a r t n e r s h i p in t h e s h a d o w of t h e first, even w h e n t h e first p a r t n e r is d e c e a s e d . F o r this r e a s o n , a s e c o n d love s u c c e e d s only w h e n t h e b o n d to the first is acknowledged and honored, when the new partners k n o w t h a t they follow t h e f i r s t a n d are i n d e b t e d t o t h e m . O u r s e c o n d t o g e t h e r n e s s d o e s n ' t have the s a m e s t r e n g t h o r q u a l ity as t h e first, a n d it isn't necessary. T h i s d o e s n ' t m e a n t h a t a s e c o n d relationship is a n y less h a p p y or loving. In fact, a s e c o n d

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partnership is often happier than the first, and a second love much more satisfying. Still, the density of the bond generally decreases with each successive relationship. That's the reason why the guilt and sense of responsibility resulting from a second divorce are generally less than from a first, and why a second divorce is usually easier and less painful than a first. We can gauge the strength of the bond by the amount of guilt, pain, and loss that accompanies a separation.

My

Second Wife

A m a n objected to the observation that b o n d i n g decreases with each relationship. He maintained that his b o n d i n g to his second wife was m u c h stronger t h a n his b o n d i n g to his first wife h a d been. Everyone could see that this m a n and his second wife were very h a p p y together a n d that their love was true and deep. He told h o w painful a n d d a m a g i n g his first marriage h a d b e e n , a n d it b e c a m e clear that he never again wanted to be so vulnerable as he h a d b e e n t h e n . He h a d stayed in his first marriage, in part, to be near his son. He a n d his second wife h a d no children. W h e n asked what would h a p p e n if his second marriage were to sour a n d b e c o m e as his first h a d b e e n , he r e s p o n d e d that, although he c o u l d n ' t imagine that h a p p e n i n g , he would leave before he would repeat what he h a d experienced before. T h e n he u n d e r s t o o d that, although he loved his second wife m o r e , he was b o u n d to h e r less tightly t h a n he was to his first wife.

Sweethearts A w o m a n from a small t o w n m a r r i e d her first sweetheart shortly after g r a d u a t i o n from high school. T h e y h a d four children and a n o r m a l life together. H e r h u s b a n d died in his late 50s, b u t she lived 25 m o r e years. She never looked at another m a n , a n d never considered a seco n d p a r t n e r s h i p . She said, "I can't imagine being with a n o t h e r m a n . We h a d always b e e n together." An 84-year-old w o m a n told h o w she had survived three h u s b a n d s . She h a d lost h e r first two h u s b a n d s in two different wars a n d the third to old age. She said, " T h e third was the nicest and I h a d h i m t h e longest, b u t I miss the first the most. We were so y o u n g t h e n , and so in love."

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Question: I asked my h u s b a n d a b o u t his first wife. It h u r t to h e a r h i m talk a b o u t h e r , b u t it was also g o o d for m e . Hellinger: N o t long ago, a m a n c a m e to a session w i t h his girlfriend. T h e y h a d d e c i d e d t o get m a r r i e d . H e ' d b e e n m a r r i e d before a n d h a d a s o n from t h a t m a r r i a g e . We set up the c o n s t e l l a t i o n , of his p r e s e n t family, w h i c h i n c l u d e d his first wife, his s o n , a n d his p r e s e n t girlfriend. W h e n I asked h i m w h o was missing, he said, " O h yes, I was m a r r i e d o n c e p r i o r to my last m a r r i a g e , b u t it w a s only a s t u d e n t love, a n d it w a s n ' t really i m p o r t a n t . " We b r o u g h t his first wife into t h e constellation, a n d it w a s i m m e d i a t e l y clear t h a t s h e w a s t h e decisive p e r s o n . S h e h a d n ' t b e e n a c k n o w l e d g e d o r h o n o r e d . A s t h e constellation d e v e l o p e d , i t b e c a m e very clear t o t h e w o m a n r e p r e s e n t i n g his s e c o n d wife that she h a d left h i m o u t of u n c o n s c i o u s solidarity w i t h his first wife. W h e n w e p u t the girlfriend a n d h e r h u s b a n d - t o - b e i n t o t h e constellation, she felt u n c o m f o r t a b l e s t a n d ing close to h i m , a n d b e t t e r w h e n she m o v e d away a b i t . T h a t ' s a typical p o s i t i o n for a s e c o n d or t h i r d wife. A s e c o n d wife d o e s n ' t c o m p l e t e l y t r u s t herself to t a k e h e r h u s b a n d in the s a m e way as a first wife d o e s . S h e h a s h i m , b u t t h e first wife a n d t h e p r e v i o u s children have given h i m u p . H e r feeling o f guilt is t h e p r i c e she pays. S t a n d i n g a p a r t from h i m , she c o u l d see that she was his third wife a n d t h a t she followed t h e o t h e r two. F r o m t h a t p o s i t i o n , it w a s easier for h e r to h o n o r their roles in t h e m a n ' s life. At o u r n e x t session, t h e girlfriend said she was feeling really d o w n . S h e said w h e n she t h o u g h t a b o u t t h e o t h e r wives, she felt that s h e really h a d no c h a n c e herself. I said to h e r , " T h e r e are t h r e e w o m e n w h o m u s t b e fully h o n o r e d , t h e f i r s t , t h e s e c o n d , and t h e third." Question: D o e s t h a t still apply if a c o u p l e m e e t s after t h e y have already d i v o r c e d their first p a r t n e r s ? Hellinger: It h a s to do w i t h t h e d i s c r e p a n c y of gain a n d loss for everyone, a n d it's i n d e p e n d e n t o f m o t i v a t i o n s , m o r a l s , o r p e r s o n a l histories. T h e f i r s t p a r t n e r s have lost their m a t e s , a n d t h e s e c o n d p a r t n e r s have g a i n e d t h e m . If t h e r e are children w h o have lost a p a r e n t , t h a t carries even m o r e weight. N e w p a r t n e r s t a k e t h e p l a c e of t h e earlier p a r t n e r s , b u t their systemic obligation to t h e earlier

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p a r t n e r s and their feelings of guilt prevent t h e m from taking their n e w p a r t n e r s as completely as they took their earlier p a r t n e r s . T h e situation improves if they a d m i t to themselves that their gain is t h e first partner's loss, and that they c o u l d n ' t have their n e w p a r t ners unless the earlier p a r t n e r s h a d given t h e m u p . H o n o r i n g all the others in the system is crucial to achieving systemic balance. A m a n a n d his second wife can then move closer together, b u t they still have an obligation to the first wife, a n d their relationship will never be the same as a first relationship. T h e same is naturally t r u e for a w o m a n who's gained her h u s b a n d at a n o t h e r w o m a n ' s expense. A n e w relationship has a better chance for success if the p a r t n e r s recognize their i n d e b t e d n e s s to the earlier p a r t n e r s , allow themselves to b e c o m e aware of their feelings of guilt, and acknowledge the guilt a n d i n d e b t e d n e s s that c o m e with their relationship. T h e i r relationship t h e n d e e p e n s , a n d they have fewer illusions.

BALANCING GIVING AND TAKING
Love flourishes b e t w e e n p a r t n e r s w h e n they are well m a t c h e d , balancing each other like h a n g i n g scales w h e n b o t h dishes are alternately filled with different things of equal weight. Like the scales, their relationship system tilts from side to side as t h e n e e d s or contributions of the o n e or the other temporarily b e c o m e m o r e i m p o r tant. If one is especially strong at o n e time, love requires the o t h e r to be equally strong at a n o t h e r time; if o n e has special potentials or liabilities, t h e n the o t h e r m u s t offer an equivalent. W h e n they're well m a t c h e d , their love m a y develop in a p a r t n e r s h i p of equals. Being well m a t c h e d m e a n s that p a r t n e r s give themselves to each o t h e r equally and take one a n o t h e r equally; that they n e e d a n d satisfy o n e a n o t h e r equally; and that each acknowledges a n d respects equally the functions and values of t h e other. A l t h o u g h they are equal, they are also different. Only t h e n can their relationship be a p a r t n e r s h i p of equals. Being well m a t c h e d allows p a r t n e r s to maintain a b a l a n c e of giving a n d taking in w h i c h each gives to the other what he or she has to offer a n d takes fully from t h e other w h a t is n e e d e d . T h e f u n d a m e n tal balance of giving and taking that love requires is t h r e a t e n e d w h e n o n e p a r t n e r habitually gives o r takes m o r e , o r w h e n what i s given in love is n o t taken in love.

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Overcoming Limiting Roles and Norms
B e c a u s e t h e roles a n d functions o f m e n a n d w o m e n d e p e n d , t o a large e x t e n t , o n t h e n o r m s o f c u l t u r e , class, a n d social g r o u p , t h e y vary widely from g r o u p t o g r o u p a n d from c u l t u r e t o c u l t u r e . B u t love follows n a t u r a l laws t h a t are m o r e f u n d a m e n t a l t h a n t h e h a b i t s and customs of culture, and it sometimes d e m a n d s of us what our family a n d o u r c u l t u r e forbid. P e r h a p s an i m a g e will help in y o u r u n d e r s t a n d i n g the difference b e t w e e n cultural h a b i t a n d w h a t love r e q u i r e s . I n every c o u n t r y , p e o p l e c o o k their food a c c o r d i n g to their p a r t i c u l a r recipes, w i t h c e r t a i n h e r b s a n d spices. C h i l d r e n raised i n t h a t c o u n t r y t h e n develop a taste for t h o s e foods. It m a y h a p p e n t h a t s o m e o n e w h o was raised on mild food c a n n o t eat food p r e p a r e d with t h e fiery spices o f a n o t h e r l a n d . T h e g r u b s o r oily f i s h p r i z e d b y s o m e m a y b e disgusting t o o t h e r s . W h a t recipes o n e follows a n d w h a t foods o n e likes are largely l e a r n e d choices. T h e intelligence o f n a t u r e , o n t h e o t h e r h a n d , dictates t h a t w e m u s t eat t o live, a n d m u s t n o t eat w h a t is p o i s o n . W h a t a n d h o w we eat are largely m a t t e r s of c o n v e n t i o n a n d t h e availability o f food, a n d m a y b e modified a s o p p o r t u n i t y a n d n e e d allow. M a l n u t r i t i o n , w h e t h e r c a u s e d b y f a m i n e o r b y overeating, results in illness, a n d eventually d e a t h . T h i s is a n a t u r a l law that i s u n c h a n g e a b l e . T h e social c u s t o m s t h a t g u i d e t h e roles a n d functions o f m e n a n d w o m e n vary greatly from g r o u p t o g r o u p , like recipes a n d spices. B u t across all c u l t u r e s , t h e r e are s o m e t h i n g s t h a t n o u r i s h love a n d o t h e r things that d a m a g e it. W h e n t w o p e o p l e join in a p a r t n e r s h i p , e a c h b r i n g s a m o d e l for p a r t n e r s h i p a n d for t h e roles a n d functions o f m e n a n d w o m e n b a s e d on t h e values of his or her family of origin, a n d they b o t h follow t h e s e r u l e s , p a t t e r n s , a n d n o r m s o u t o f h a b i t . T h e y feel g o o d w h e n t h e y follow these old p a t t e r n s even if t h e p a t t e r n s are d e s t r u c tive, a n d they feel guilty if they a b a n d o n t h e m for n e w o n e s , even if the n e w o n e s are b e t t e r . F o r love to s u c c e e d , it is often n e c e s s a r y for p a r t n e r s t o rise above t h e dictates o f the c o n s c i e n c e b i n d i n g t h e m to their reference g r o u p s . T h u s , the price of love is often guilt. Consenting to Guilt: 1

A young couple, very much in love, decided that they wanted their partnership to be based on equality. Rather than carefully attending to their sense of systemic balance, they followed a rigid concept of bal-

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ance a n d s c r u p u l o u s l y divided all of their tasks 5 0 / 5 0 b e t w e e n t h e m . T h i s a r r a n g e m e n t functioned w i t h o u t serious p r o b l e m s until they d e c i d e d to have children. T h e y eventually s o u g h t counseling in a state of u t t e r e x h a u s t i o n a n d frustration, on the verge of separation. T h e y gradually c a m e to u n d e r s t a n d that t h e only m e a s u r e of equality in a p a r t n e r s h i p is the m u t u a l feeling of b a l a n c e a n d satisfaction. U p o n dividing their tasks a n d responsibilities a c c o r d i n g to their inner sense of b a l a n c e r a t h e r t h a n their c o n c e p t of fairness, they s o o n recovered their h e a l t h , a n d love b e g a n to flow b e t w e e n t h e m o n c e again. Consenting to Guilt: 2

A n o t h e r y o u n g c o u p l e , also very m u c h in love, d e c i d e d that they w a n t e d to live their p a r t n e r s h i p a c c o r d i n g to t h e principles of their f u n d a m e n t a l i s t religion. T h e y divided t h e roles a n d functions o f m a n a n d w o m a n a c c o r d i n g t o t h e dictates o f their faith. T h e w o m a n stayed a t h o m e a n d did t h e things w o m e n i n that religion d o , while the m a n w o r k e d a n d did t h e things p r o p e r for a m a n in that system. U n l i k e m a n y o t h e r couples in that religion to w h o m this style of relationship b r o u g h t joy a n d t h e flowering of love, this y o u n g couple b e c a m e u n h a p p y . T h e wife, w h o h a d a professional e d u c a t i o n , discovered t h a t she missed h e r w o r k a n d the c o m p a n y of o t h e r professionals, while t h e m a n , w h o w a s affectionate a n d playful, missed having m o r e t i m e for his children. T h e y s o u g h t the h e l p of a friend a n d were able, in a long a n d painful p r o c e s s , to rise above their original c o n c e p t of bala n c e , to l e a r n to a t t e n d to the inner flow of their togetherness a n d , t h u s , to find a larger b a l a n c e t h a t did s u p p o r t their love. B o t h couples faced the s a m e systemic p r o b l e m a n d solved it by c o n s e n t i n g t o guilt. A l t h o u g h t h e specific r e q u i r e m e n t s o f t h e i r c o n sciences differed, e a c h h a d t o rise above t h e social beliefs t h e y h a d brought to their relationship a n d l e a r n t o feel t h e p r e s e n c e o r absence of a t r u e systemic balance. Two Styles of Love

A South American woman married a Northern European man. She longed for t h e stability his E u r o p e a n reserve p r o m i s e d , a n d he for t h e e m o t i o n a l w a r m t h a n d liveliness t h a t b u r n e d in her. N e v e r t h e l e s s , they b e g a n to have difficulties shortly after their first child was b o r n . T h e m a n was u s e d to keeping his distance a n d to respecting a w o m an's p e r s o n a l s p a c e . He feared excessive closeness. S h e felt his dist a n c e n o t a s respect, b u t a s a b a n d o n m e n t , a n d r e a c t e d with p a n i c a n d r e s e n t m e n t . H e w a s frightened b y h e r "irrational h e a t " a n d w i t h d r e w

Man and Woman: The Foundation of Family even more, resenting her demands and control. Both hoped that the other would adopt a different way of doing things. Their differences soon escalated until they were no longer able to talk to each other. T h e love they felt for each other and for their child was barely, adequate to contain the pain of their differences. They found a solution only when both were willing to surrender parts of their identities—their cultural and family habits and styles of communication— and could agree on a third way of being together.

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T h e systemic c o n s c i e n c e t h a t g u a r d s equality i n p a r t n e r s h i p s i s n ' t swayed b y g o o d i n t e n t i o n s o r wishful thinking. W h e t h e r o r n o t t h e roles a n d functions of p a r t n e r s in a relationship are in b a l a n c e c a n be s e e n only in t h e d e g r e e of their love a n d satisfaction a n d n o t i n w h a t t h e p a r t n e r s m a y claim o r believe. S o m e t i m e s u n b a l a n c e b e c o m e s clear only in t h e c o u r s e of t i m e . F o r a p a r t n e r s h i p to s u c c e e d , t h e p a r t n e r s n e e d to carefully reevaluate t h e values a n d the p a t t e r n s t h a t they've i n h e r i t e d from their families a n d e x c h a n g e s o m e o f t h e m for o n e s t h a t are b e t t e r for t h e p a r t n e r s h i p . W h i l e d o i n g this, b o t h families m u s t b e r e s p e c t e d even w h e n they d o n ' t m e e t t h e o t h e r ' s s t a n d a r d s . F o r e x a m p l e , i f they d o n o t b e l o n g t o t h e s a m e religion, it's m u c h easier t o d a y t h a n formerly for t h e m t o r e s p e c t b o t h families a n d t o c o m b i n e their confessions on a n e w level, p e r h a p s by joining a different faith or by b e c o m i n g active in a social service. A n i m a g e p o r t r a y s this p r o c e s s : T w o p e o p l e are s t a n d i n g o n o p p o s i t e b a n k s of a river. If they simply call o u t to o n e a n o t h e r , " T h i s i s m y p o s i t i o n , " n o t h i n g c h a n g e s , a n d the river c o n t i n u e s t o flow by, indifferent to their s h o u t s . If they w a n t to k n o w t h e love t h a t ' s possible t o equal p a r t n e r s , t h e y b o t h have t o get i n t o t h e river a n d allow t h e m s e l v e s t o b e c a r r i e d b y t h e c u r r e n t . O n l y t h e n c a n they c o m e t o g e t h e r , feel t h e river's force, a n d k n o w w h a t life offers and demands. W h e n p e o p l e have b e e n h u r t o r d a m a g e d i n their r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h their original family, they c a r r y t h a t h u r t a n d suspicion i n t o t h e n e w p a r t n e r s h i p . T h e y c a n ' t avoid b r i n g i n g their old s y s t e m i n t o t h e n e w o n e . I n fact, unresolved a t t a c h m e n t s t o t h e family o f origin are a m a j o r c a u s e of difficulty in relationships. My Husband, My Grandmother

A man and a women felt deeply connected to each other, yet they frequently had severe conflicts that they couldn't understand.

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Although they h a d three children, they separated for six m o n t h s . O n e day, as they met with a therapist, he noticed the w o m a n ' s expression changing, until she looked like an old w o m a n unreasonably berating her h u s b a n d . T h e therapist asked, " W h o is this old w o m a n ? " T h e w o m a n t h o u g h t a while and t h e n suddenly r e m e m b e r e d h o w her grandfather, w h o owned a bar, often pulled her g r a n d m o t h e r a r o u n d by the hair, humiliating her in front of the patrons. As she r e m e m b e r e d this, she recognized a similarity b e t w e e n the anger she often felt against her h u s b a n d a n d her g r a n d m o t h e r ' s toward her grandfather. W h e n she b e c a m e angry at her h u s b a n d , she saw h i m as her g r a n d m o t h e r had seen her grandfather, a n d n o w she could see her h u s b a n d as he really was. Sometimes people treat their partnership in the same way that they treat m e m b e r s h i p in a voluntarily chosen group. Instead of closely a t t e n d i n g to w h a t their sense of b e l o n g i n g r e q u i r e s , t h e y act as if t h e y c o u l d arbitrarily set t h e goals, d u r a t i o n , a n d s t r u c t u r e s of their relationship, a n d change t h e m as they wish. T h e y m a y recognize t o o late t h a t a loving p a r t n e r s h i p only flourishes w h e n t h e p a r t ners respect their b o n d a n d the constraints it imposes on t h e m . T h e i n t e r d e p e n d e n c e o f love a n d s y s t e m i c o r d e r i s i n e s c a p a b l e . Saint A u g u s t i n e ' s suggestion, "First love, a n d t h e n do as y o u w i l l , " i s d o o m e d t o fail. M a n y m i s t a k e n l y b e l i e v e t h a t love a l o n e i s e n o u g h , o r t h a t love c a n m a k e u p for w h a t e v e r else i s m i s s i n g f r o m a r e l a t i o n s h i p . T h e i l l u s i o n t h a t love a l o n e c a n b e e n o u g h p r e v e n t s us from perceiving the limits of w h a t we c a n a n d c a n n o t d o . My Love Will Change Him

A y o u n g w o m a n , against her p a r e n t s ' wishes, married a m a n w h o was f o n d of drink, gambling, and w o m e n . After many miserable years together, he died, leaving her destitute with four children, three of w h o m still n e e d e d her care. In talking with a friend, she realized that, as a young w o m a n , she h a d believed that if she loved her h u s b a n d e n o u g h , her love would change him. Rather t h a n admit to herself the error of her belief, she stayed with h i m , giving h i m m o r e a n d m o r e , a n d paid heavily for her hubris with suffering. She also came to realize that her m o t h e r h a d h o p e d to improve her father, w h o , like her h u s b a n d , h a d successfully resisted all efforts to be improved. B e c a u s e it's a n e m e r g e n t q u a l i t y o f s y s t e m i c o r d e r , love d e v e l o p s , flows, a n d blossoms only in an environment of systemic balance. A t t e m p t s t o c o m p e n s a t e a s y s t e m i c i m b a l a n c e b y i n c r e a s i n g love

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are b o u n d to fail. Like a seed in fertile g r o u n d , love d o e s n ' t try to c h a n g e t h e soil. Love develops b e t w e e n h u m a n s a n d is essential to u s , b u t it c a n ' t influence t h e larger system t h a t gave it b i r t h — a n d o u r love for o n e a n o t h e r plays only a m i n o r role in the larger u n i verse of galaxies a n d stars.

Hierarchy Between Parents
C e r t a i n d a n c e s , like the waltz a n d t a n g o , are m o s t beautiful w h e n p a r t n e r s are well m a t c h e d i n skill a n d style, a n d w h e n o n e leads a n d t h e o t h e r follows. Skillful d a n c e r s usually a g r e e t h a t they feel b e s t w h e n their respective skills m a k e it n a t u r a l for t h e m a n to lead a n d t h e w o m a n to follow. T i m e , weight, a n d function interact t o d e t e r m i n e w h o leads a n d w h o follows in i n t i m a t e relationships. S i n c e p a r t n e r s e n t e r a relat i o n s h i p s i m u l t a n e o u s l y , t h e t i m e factor i s n e u t r a l i z e d , b u t a m o n g siblings, t h e elder siblings take p r e c e d e n c e over t h e y o u n g e r o n e s . I n spite o f o u t w a r d a p p e a r a n c e s , i n relationships b e t w e e n p a r e n t s , t h e w o m a n a l m o s t always h a s greater weight. P e r h a p s b e c a u s e of t h e i m m e d i a c y of h e r b o d y ' s involvement in p r e g n a n c y , b i r t h , and nursing her children, her b o n d to t h e m is naturally intimate a n d powerful. T h r o u g h t h e m , she also is b o u n d to life a n d feels an i m p o r t a n c e h e r h u s b a n d m u s t w o r k h a r d t o achieve. S u c h a w o m a n is t h e c e n t e r a r o u n d w h i c h h e r family is o r g a n i z e d , a n d a l t h o u g h she m a y b e m o r e r e s t r i c t e d t h a n h e r h u s b a n d , she e x u d e s a s e c u r e c o n t e n t m e n t a n d confident f r e e d o m t h a t , paradoxically, are g r a n t e d b y h e r g r e a t e r weight. B u t c h i l d r e n w h o r e m a i n c e n t e r e d a r o u n d their m o t h e r t o o l o n g find it difficult to achieve a u t o n o m y , a n d t h e m a t u r e , p e r s o n a l love o f w e l l - m a t c h e d p a r t n e r s d o e s n o t develop w h e n o n e o r t h e o t h e r d o m i n a t e s . C o r r e s p o n d i n g l y , we observe r e p e a t e d l y in constellations t h a t all m e m b e r s of a family i m m e d i a t e l y feel b e t t e r w h e n t h e family's c e n t e r of gravity c a n a p p r o p r i a t e l y be shifted to t h e m a n ' s s p h e r e — c h i l d r e n feel t h e e x u b e r a n t security n e c e s s a r y to explore t h e w o r l d , a n d t h e c o u p l e ' s love rekindles a n d c o m e s to life. Love is usually well served w h e n a w o m a n follows h e r h u s b a n d i n t o his l a n g u a g e , his family, a n d his c u l t u r e , a n d w h e n she agrees t h a t their c h i l d r e n will follow h i m as well. S u c h following feels n a t u ral a n d g o o d t o w o m e n w h e n their h u s b a n d s lead with heartfelt

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c o n c e r n for t h e family's well-being, a n d w h e n t h e y u n d e r s t a n d t h e m y s t e r i o u s systemic law t h a t t h e m a s c u l i n e serves t h e f e m i n i n e . M e n a n d their families suffer grave c o n s e q u e n c e s w h e n this service is avoided, is d i s t o r t e d , or r e m a i n s unfulfilled. I n a d d i t i o n t o the hierarchy established b y t i m e a n d weight, t h e division of function also plays a role in d e t e r m i n i n g w h i c h p a r t n e r leads. A l t h o u g h this is c h a n g i n g in m a n y c o u n t r i e s , t h e families w i t h w h i c h w e w o r k still generally function b e t t e r w h e n the w o m a n carries t h e p r i m a r y responsibility for the family's i n t e r n a l well-being, a n d t h e m a n is responsible for t h e family's security in t h e w o r l d a n d is followed w h e r e he leads. Obviously, this traditional division of functions c a n n o t , a n d m u s t n o t , b e m a i n t a i n e d i n s o m e families. S o m e t i m e s m e n c a n ' t p r o t e c t their families b e c a u s e of c i r c u m s t a n c e s of w a r or loss of i n c o m e , or b e c a u s e they fall ill or b e c o m e disabled. S o m e m e n lack t h e s t r e n g t h to lead in a h e a l t h y way b e c a u s e they have n o t c o m p l e t e d the m o v e m e n t of leaving their m o t h e r s ' spheres of influence a n d c o n n e c t i n g t o their fathers, their g r a n d f a t h e r s , a n d t h e h e a l t h y world o f m e n . S o m e w o m e n refuse t o follow b e c a u s e t h e y r e m a i n b o u n d i n their fathers' spheres o f influence a n d have b e e n u n a b l e t o c o n n e c t t o their m o t h e r s , their g r a n d m o t h e r s , a n d t h e p r i m a l force o f w o m a n h o o d . O t h e r s c a n n o t follow b e c a u s e t h e y c o n t i n u e t o have an i m p o r t a n t function in their family of origin, p e r h a p s b e c a u s e of exceptionally difficult o r tragic h a p p e n s t a n c e . T h e n t h e w o m a n m u s t n o t follow h e r h u s b a n d , b u t she still m u s t a g r e e t h a t their child r e n follow h i m as he g u i d e s t h e m to t h e greater safety of his f a m i ly's s p h e r e of influence. At t i m e s t h e d a m a g e in t h e m a n ' s family is s o great t h a t t h e family c a n only find p e a c e a n d g o o d o r d e r w h e n h e a n d t h e c h i l d r e n move i n t o the w o m a n ' s s p h e r e , a n d h e m u s t follow h e r t h e r e . S u c h couples m u s t t h e n take extra care t o e n s u r e t h a t their giving a n d taking r e m a i n b a l a n c e d , a n d t h a t t h e w o m a n d o e s n ' t b e c o m e a s u b s t i t u t e for h e r h u s b a n d ' s m o t h e r or father. Example A participant in a workshop reacted with outrage to the idea that love flows most easily when men lead and women follow. She told with dignity how her first husband had become violent to her, how her second husband had begun to molest her daughter sexually, and how her third husband, although a good and loving man, had no ambition and was content with his modest earnings and simple life. She said,

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" A r e you telling m e I s h o u l d follow these m e n ? " T h e g r o u p leader p a u s e d , a n d a n s w e r e d , " O b v i o u s l y love w o u l d n o t have b e e n served h a d you followed. B u t i m a g i n e for a m o m e n t t h a t y o u r p r e s e n t p a r t n e r were to c h a n g e as you desire a n d a s s u m e full responsibility for you a n d y o u r family. H o w w o u l d you feel?" T h e w o m a n i m m e d i a t e l y b e a m e d , " T h e n I could relax at last." M a n y w o m e n a r e s u r p r i s e d t o d i s c o v e r t h e p r o f o u n d relief, t h e d e e p c o n t e n t m e n t , a n d t h e e a s e t h e y s p o n t a n e o u s l y feel w h e n a family s y s t e m is b r o u g h t into s y m m e t r y , a n d t h e y find t h e m s e l v e s n a t u r a l l y following a m a n w h o leads in t h e t r u e service of his family. And men often experience a strange transformation w h e n their service is acknowledged a n d appropriately valued.

Additional

Considerations

T h i s o b s e r v a t i o n b y Hellinger h a s c a u s e d c o n s i d e r a b l e controversy, a n d s o m e p e o p l e have wrongly u n d e r s t o o d h i m t o b e a d v o c a t i n g t h a t w o m e n r e t u r n t o traditional roles a n d functions. C e r t a i n l y these o b s e r v a t i o n s at first a p p e a r to challenge m u c h of t h e g o o d t h a t the w o m a n ' s m o v e m e n t h a s gained. A b o u t two-thirds o f the families with w h i c h we w o r k are h a p p i e r a n d function b e t t e r if they c a n find t h e h i d d e n s y m m e t r y t h a t allows t h e m a n t o lead well a n d the w o m a n a p p r o p r i a t e l y to follow. F a r from b e i n g a m o r a l p o s i t i o n , this describes a s p o n t a n e o u s l y felt b o d y reaction t h a t is clear to see in all family m e m b e r s if such a s y m m e t r y is f o u n d , especially t h e c h i l d r e n . As representatives in a constellation m a n y w o m e n have b e e n s u r p r i s e d ( a n d s o m e t i m e s a little e m b a r r a s s e d ) to feel the sense of " r i g h t n e s s " this h i d d e n systemic s y m m e t r y gives t h e m , a n d t o see h o w it frees t h e i r c h i l d r e n . T h e n e e d to p r o t e c t their family's well-being is o n e of t h e d e e p e s t feelings m e n n o r m a l l y have, a n d failure in this leaves d e e p w o u n d s . M a n y m e n have b e e n s u r p r i s e d ( a n d also a little e m b a r r a s s e d ) at t h e welling-up of dignity a n d e m o t i o n w h e n their efforts are " g o o d - e n o u g h , " a n d their service is recognized a n d valued. It's n o t clear w h e t h e r this is a m a t t e r of socialization a l o n e , or if e v o l u t i o n a r y factors are involved. W e m a y s p e c u l a t e t h a t , f r o m t h e p o i n t of view of evolution, o n c e fertilization h a s t a k e n p l a c e , t h e father i s m o r e e x p e n d a b l e t h a n t h e m o t h e r a n d child, a n d t h a t h e c o n t i n u e s to have a life-serving function w h e n he c o n t r i b u t e s to their survival a n d well-being. B e r t Hellinger d o e s n o t explain this p h e n o m e n o n , saying, "I do n o t k n o w why this is so, b u t I see t h a t it is a

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deep movement within the soul that has a powerful effect for good, especially on the children in a family, and I respect it." Some people confuse the term "follow" with being subservient or inferior, while others confuse domination and belligerence with "leading." Love, in contrast to evolution, requires both partners to be equally present and equally important throughout their partnership. Love requires the symmetry of their togetherness to be authentic and it isn't deceived by false assertions or good intentions. Each situation is unique, and the constellations are one means to determine who appropriately leads or follows in a specific family. [H.B.]

GROWING TOWARD D E A T H
T h e d e e p e r a relationship develops a n d t h e l o n g e r it e n d u r e s , t h e m o r e d e a t h e n t e r s a n d b e c o m e s a p a r t of it. We m a y e n t e r a p a r t n e r ship w i t h an e x p e c t a t i o n t h a t it will fulfill us a n d e n d o u r n e e d or loneliness. T h e reality is t h a t it ultimately leads to d e a t h . E v e n w h e n love thrives in a p a r t n e r s h i p , an i n c o m p l e t e n e s s of t h e soul r e m a i n s for e a c h p a r t n e r t h a t t h e p a r t n e r s h i p c a n n o t fill. D e a l i n g w i t h this p r o f o u n d a n d m o s t h u m a n i n c o m p l e t e n e s s leads u s t o t h e g r e a t e r mysteries of life, to t h e spiritual a n d religious d i m e n s i o n . As illusions fade a n d die, couples w h o s e love r e m a i n s vital i n t o old age c o n f r o n t b o t h t h e limits o f p a r t n e r s h i p a n d t h e s e g r e a t e r mysteries. Sacrificing t h e h o p e t h a t their p a r t n e r s will satisfy w h a t n o p a r t n e r c a n , t h e y b e g i n to look m o r e lovingly at e a c h o t h e r , releasing e a c h o t h e r from their earlier expectations a n d s u r r e n d e r i n g to a p r o c e s s whose outcome remains unseen. E v e r y i n t i m a t e relationship is c a r r i e d by t h e flow of t i m e , m o v i n g t o w a r d its o w n e n d a n d m a k i n g r o o m for w h a t c o m e s n e x t . F o r e x a m p l e , p a r e n t s lose f r e e d o m w h e n a child is b o r n , b u t t h e joy of h a v i n g a child a n d t h e sense of fulfillment in b e i n g p a r e n t s r e p l a c e w h a t they s u r r e n d e r . T h e p e a k intensity in a relationship b e t w e e n a m a n a n d a w o m a n usually o c c u r s w i t h t h e b i r t h of their first child. After t h a t , t h e relationship c h a n g e s o r i e n t a t i o n , t u r n i n g o u t w a r d ; o t h e r factors increasingly play a role; a n d gradually t h e intensity of t h e original t o g e t h e r n e s s decreases. T h e s e sacrifices of i n t i m a c y are a p p r o p r i a t e . T h e y b r i n g u s b a c k t o e a r t h , freed from naive e x p e c t a tions of w h a t a relationship c o u l d b e .

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E v e r y crisis e n a b l e s a c o u p l e to practice dying. It r e q u i r e s p a r t n e r s t o give u p s o m e t h i n g they have c h e r i s h e d , b u t their love c o n t i n u e s on a d e e p e r , m o r e e n d u r i n g level. As t h e coverings of unrealistic h o p e are p e e l e d away, p a r t n e r s are increasingly e x p o s e d a n d c a n b e seen a n d loved a s t h e y a r e — a n d see a n d love t h e i r p a r t n e r s . S u c h a love is b e y o n d illusion a n d abides in w h a t is. W i t h e a c h s u r r e n d e r a n d loss, t h e n e w t h a t e n t e r s t h e r e l a t i o n ship i s m o r e m o d e s t a n d m o r e relaxed. A t t h e s a m e t i m e , t h e i r love b e c o m e s m o r e n o u r i s h i n g for t h e soul t h a n t h e love of n e w l y w e d s . A s t h e c o u p l e ' s relationship moves b a c k d o w n t o e a r t h a n d b e c o m e s m o r e m o d e s t , t h e y g r o w close t o d e a t h a n d m u s t befriend it. T h u s , o n e c a n often see expressions of p r o f o u n d serenity on t h e faces of happily m a r r i e d o l d e r p e o p l e b e c a u s e they n o l o n g e r fear loss a n d death.

Fullness A youth asked an old man: "What is the difference between you, who are now almost part of what has been, and me, who is still becoming?'" The old man replied: "I have been more. "The dawning day seems greater than the one before because the day at dusk is mostly past. But the new day, although it's yet to come, can only be what it already is, and so, it too grows more by fading. "It climbs like yesterday steeply toward the noon, reaching zenith just before the greatest heat; rests a while on high, or so it seems, until, as if drawn by its own increasing weight, which grows with the advancing hour, it bows deeply to the night.

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And like the day that went before, it reaches its completion when it, too, is fully past. "But nothing that has been can ever really disappear. It remains because it has existed. Although it now is past, its effect continues and becomes still more through the new that follows. Like a round drop of rain falling from a passing cloud dissolves in an ocean, which remains. "Only what never could come into being because we dreamed of it but did not act, thought of it but failed to implement the thought— all that remains unknown to our experience, all that for which we feared to pay the price— all that is lost. "Experience unlived is lost forever. "Thus, the god of the right and fitting moment appears to us like a youth with a lock of hair in front and a bald patch behind. We grasp him by his curls in front and from behind we clutch at emptiness." The youth then asked: "What must I do to become what you have been?" The old man answered: "Be!"

QUESTIONS A N D ANSWERS REGARDING SPECIAL ISSUES Abortion and Its Effect on Partnership
Question: system? H o w d o e s a n a b o r t i o n o r m i s c a r r i a g e affect the family

Hellinger: M i s c a r r i a g e s d o n ' t usually affect t h e system at all, as long a s t h e m o t h e r ' s h e a l t h h a s n ' t b e e n j e o p a r d i z e d . M y o b s e r v a t i o n h a s b e e n t h a t a n a b o r t i o n d o e s n ' t usually affect t h e o t h e r c h i l d r e n

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in t h e family, b u t it d o e s affect the p a r e n t s ' relationship. It m a y be different in o t h e r c u l t u r e s , b u t in o u r c u l t u r e , a b o r t i o n h a s an effect d e e p i n t h e soul t h a t ' s q u i t e i n d e p e n d e n t o f w h a t e v e r t h e p a r e n t s m a y consciously believe a b o u t a b o r t i o n — a l t h o u g h this varies s o m e w h a t from family to family. T h e m a i n p r o b l e m with a b o r t i o n o c c u r s w h e n p e o p l e a p p r o a c h i t a s t h o u g h i t c o u l d u n d o s o m e t h i n g t h a t has already h a p p e n e d . I n fact, p a r t n e r s often find the b u r d e n of guilt a n d the c o n s e q u e n c e s of a n a b o r t i o n w o r s e t h a n the b u r d e n o f having the child. In s o m e situations, a b o r t i o n m a y be the least destructive of the available alternatives, b u t it's an option that carries a heavy price. I've w o r k e d with couples w h o s e decision to a b o r t I h o n o r a n d respect— they m a d e the decision consciously a n d they a c c e p t e d t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s of their choice with a sense of reverence for the child. T h e u n b o r n child a p p e a r e d before t h e m as a p e r s o n w h o n e e d e d a n d deserved to be seen. If the decision to a b o r t can be m a d e in the p r e s e n c e of the u n b o r n child, with all of the pain a n d guilt t h a t entails, a n d with a full awareness of w h a t ' s being asked of this child, t h e n the decision brings d e e p suffering. T h a t kind of a b o r t i o n h a s a very different quality t h a n an a b o r t i o n d o n e to avoid the c o n s e q u e n c e s of o u r o w n choices. It affects the p a r t n e r s for a long t i m e , b u t it also has the potential to d r a w t h e m closer together a n d to d e e p e n their love. O n e frequent consequence of an abortion is that the partnership is over, a n d t h e p a r e n t s have to start again if t h e y w a n t to stay together. I f t h e p a r t n e r s a r e n ' t m a r r i e d , they often drift a p a r t . W h e n an a b o r t i o n o c c u r s in a m a r r i a g e , t h e n the sexual r e l a t i o n s h i p often b e c o m e s difficult, or stops altogether. It isn't n e c e s s a r y t h a t this be so, a n d t h e r e are s o l u t i o n s , b u t if t h e p a r t n e r s t r y to avoid the c o n s e q u e n c e s of their actions a n d their feelings of g u i l t — p e r h a p s by m i n i m i z i n g t h e gravity o f w h a t they've d o n e , o r b y avoiding c o n fronting their u n b o r n child as a p e r s o n — t h e y p a y t h e p r i c e for their n e g l e c t s o m e w h e r e else. B o t h p a r e n t s have equal responsibility for an a b o r t i o n , just as t h e y have e q u a l responsibility for t h e p r e g n a n c y , a n d o n e p a r t n e r c a n ' t p u s h i t off o n t o t h e o t h e r w i t h o u t d a m a g i n g their r e l a t i o n s h i p or themselves. Question: I've b e e n t h i n k i n g a b o u t the i m p o r t a n c e o f family m e m b e r s w h o have b e e n e x c l u d e d . I ' m w o n d e r i n g i f i t i s n ' t i m p o r t a n t for siblings t o k n o w t h a t there's b e e n a n a b o r t i o n .

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H e l l i n g e r : It's n o n e of their b u s i n e s s . T h i s is s o m e t h i n g private b e t w e e n the p a r e n t s , a n d it s h o u l d r e m a i n t h e r e . I've rarely seen a case w h e r e it m a d e difficulties for t h e o t h e r children. Question: You said t h a t relationships are d i s r u p t e d after a n a b o r tion. Is t h a t t r u e even if t h e a b o r t i o n is a f o u r t h or fifth child? Hellinger: Question: woman? T h a t ' s b e e n m y o b s e r v a t i o n , yes. A n d i f t h e child was that o f a n o t h e r m a n o r a n o t h e r

H e l l i n g e r : In that case, the m a r r i a g e as it was is over. E v e n w h e n p a r t n e r s stay t o g e t h e r after t h e a b o r t i o n , their r e l a t i o n s h i p is c e r t a i n to be different from w h a t it was before. If t h e child w a s conceived with another person during the marriage, that's the start of a n e w system, a n d t h e old p a r t n e r s h i p is over anyway. S o m e p e o p l e t e n d to t r e a t a b o r t i o n as if it were h a r m l e s s , b u t if y o u w o r k w i t h m e n a n d w o m e n w h o have g o n e t h r o u g h it, you see t h a t i t often h a s c o n s e q u e n c e s m u c h m o r e serious t h a n they e x p e c t e d . Question: W h a t if t h e father d o e s n ' t k n o w a b o u t it?

H e l l i n g e r : If t h e m o t h e r d o e s n ' t tell h i m , their r e l a t i o n s h i p is already over. If he were to know, h e ' d have to take a p o s i t i o n . An a b o r t i o n is an e x t r e m e case of giving a n d taking b e c a u s e t h e child gives all a n d t h e p a r e n t s take all. F a t h e r s w h o k n o w n o t h i n g a b o u t an a b o r t i o n still gain an a d v a n t a g e from t h e child's d e a t h , a n d their actions still have c o n s e q u e n c e s . T h e y have t h e right t o k n o w a n d s h o u l d b e told. S o m e p e o p l e c o n d e m n themselves t o d e a t h following a n a b o r tion. T h e y actually c o n t r a c t a serious illness or c o m m i t suicide. S u c h decisions a r e n ' t m a d e m e r e l y o u t o f d e p r e s s i o n o r superficial feelings of guilt, a n d they deserve to be u n d e r s t o o d in their d e p t h a n d profundity. If an u n b o r n child is asked to give up life, t h e p a r ents have an obligation to see to it t h a t it w a s n ' t in vain. R a t h e r t h a n d y i n g , t h e y h o n o r t h e child b e t t e r by living fully. W h e n an a b o r t e d child is set up in a family constellation, that h a s an exceptional effect on t h e representatives of t h e p a r e n t s a n d t h e child. H o w w a s t h a t for you, C l a u d e ? (Claude had represented an aborted child in a constellation earlier in the workshop.) Claude: I felt c o m p l e t e l y a l o n e . I h a d no sense of life.

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H e l l i n g e r : T h a t ' s a typical reaction. T h e child feels alone, rejected, a b a n d o n e d , u n s e e n , a n d u n a c k n o w l e d g e d . T h e solution is for o n e or b o t h of the parents in the constellation to m a k e a c o n n e c tion with the child (it h a p p e n s symbolically t h r o u g h t o u c h ) , and to take the child into their hearts. T h e n the child can accept his or h e r fate. S u c h a solution is only possible if t h e p a r e n t s feel g e n u i n e grief a n d accept their pain. T h e i r willingness to e n d u r e their grief a n d pain h o n o r s their child a n d reconnects t h e m with the child. Young children have a basic willingness to die for their p a r e n t s . T h e y instinctively u n d e r s t a n d that d e a t h a n d life go together a n d c a n ' t be separated, so they d o n ' t feel the n e e d to hold on to life at any price. W h e n parents are able to recognize an a b o r t e d child as a p e r s o n a n d to acknowledge that this child has sacrificed life for t h e m , there's peace in the system. T h i s peace c o m e s only after t h e child has been acknowledged as a real " o t h e r " a n d has b e e n taken into the p a r e n t s ' hearts. In a constellation, a healing ritual can be performed by having the child's representative sit in front of t h e parents a n d lean against t h e m . T h e p a r e n t s can t h e n lay their h a n d s on the child's h e a d , a n d feel the c o n n e c t i o n with love and grief. T h a t often has a g o o d effect on the whole constellation, and there's a p r o f o u n d c h a n g e in t h e p a r e n t s if they succeed in allowing the child to b e c o m e a real p e r s o n to t h e m . W h e n b o t h parents allow themselves to feel the pain of their loss and of what they have asked from their child, there can be a d e e p a t o n e m e n t a n d reconciliation. T h e i r pain h o n o r s their child so that the child feels included, finds his or h e r place, and is at peace. By accepting their pain and guilt, t h e p a r e n t s b e c o m e whole, a n d their wholeness gives t h e m strength. T h e i r p a r t n e r s h i p can grow again, b u t it will be on a n e w level. If only o n e of the p a r t n e r s experiences t h e pain, the partnership is b r o k e n , a n d they usually separate. A n o t h e r healing exercise after an a b o r t i o n is for the p a r e n t s to imagine themselves taking the child by t h e h a n d a n d showing h i m or h e r good things of t h e world. Perhaps for a year or two, t h e p a r ents imagine showing the child the things they do and t h e places they visit, just as they would show a living child. After that, the child can really be d e a d and find peace. T h i s is an exercise that m u s t be carried o u t with great c a u t i o n a n d with u t m o s t respect. T h r o u g h suffering with full awareness a n d consent, a fullness is gained that's often n o t possible w h e n p e o p l e

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h i d e b e h i n d a f a c a d e o f joy a n d c h e e r f u l n e s s . T h a t fullness i s t h e p a r e n t s ' r e w a r d for c o n s e n t i n g t o t h e fullness o f t h e i r g u i l t a n d t h e i r loss. S o m e t h i n g g o o d o r s p e c i a l c a n also b e d o n e i n r e m e m b r a n c e of the child. It doesn't have to be anything big, b u t it s h o u l d be something that wouldn't otherwise have b e e n d o n e . W h e n the subject of abortion comes up in seminars, I do my best t o avoid it. I t ' s p r a c t i c a l l y i m p o s s i b l e t o k n o w w h a t t h e u l t i m a t e g a i n s a n d l o s s e s a r e i n s u c h s i t u a t i o n s , a n d s o it's v e r y difficult t o k n o w w h a t t h e b e s t solution is—or the least destructive. W h a t I've offered a r e a few g e n e r a l i z a t i o n s , b u t e a c h s i t u a t i o n i s d i f f e r e n t , a n d t h e r a p i s t s n e e d t o l o o k v e r y carefully a t t h e i n d i v i d u a l p e r s o n s i n actual situations. I've only b e e n r e p o r t i n g w h a t I've seen in my w o r k with families, a n d I d o n ' t w a n t t o say a n y t h i n g m o r e a b o u t it. I t ' s a v e r y difficult s u b j e c t . (Long silence) I'll tell y o u a m e d i t a t i v e s t o r y .

The

Guest

W h e r e the Wild West once was, a m a n with a backpack was w a n d e r ing t h r o u g h the lonely land. He h a d walked for h o u r s , the s u n was high in the sky, a n d his thirst was growing. He saw a farmhouse on the horizon a n d thought, " T h a n k G o d , at last a n o t h e r h u m a n being in all this loneliness. I'll stop there and ask for a drink, and p e r h a p s we'll sit on the p o r c h and talk a while before I set off again." A n d he imagined how nice it would be. But as he drew near to the h o u s e , he saw the farmer working in the garden, a n d he began to have second thoughts. " H e ' s probably very busy a n d doesn't have time, and if I b o t h e r h i m , he'll feel annoyed. He may think I ' m r u d e . " W h e n at last he reached the gard e n gate, he waved to the farmer a n d walked on. T h e farmer h a d seen h i m in the distance a n d felt pleased. " T h a n k G o d , " he h a d thought, "at last another h u m a n being in all this loneliness. I h o p e he comes here. We could drink something together, a n d perhaps sit on the p o r c h a n d talk a while before he goes on his way." T h e farmer went into the house and p r e p a r e d something cool to drink. But as the walker c a m e closer, the farmer began to think. " H e ' s most certainly in a hurry. If I speak to h i m , I'll p u t h i m in an awkward situation. He may feel that I ' m pushing myself on him. B u t perhaps he's thirsty a n d will c o m e over on his own. T h e best thing would be for me to go into the garden and act busy. Surely he'll see m e , a n d

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if he w a n t s a n y t h i n g , he'll ask m e . " W h e n the walker only w a v e d in passing, the f a r m e r t h o u g h t , " T o o b a d ! ' T h e walker walked o n a n d o n . T h e s u n was h o t a n d his thirst was growing. It was h o u r s before he saw a n o t h e r h o u s e on the h o r i z o n . He t h o u g h t to himself, " T h i s t i m e I will a p p r o a c h t h e f a r m e r , even if I ' m a n u i s a n c e to h i m . I am so thirsty t h a t I simply m u s t have s o m e thing to drink." As t h e f a r m e r saw the walker in the d i s t a n c e , he t h o u g h t to h i m self, " O h G o d ! Just w h a t I d o n ' t n e e d w h e n I have so m u c h to do. I c a n ' t take care of a n y o n e else right now." He c o n t i n u e d his work w i t h o u t looking u p . T h e walker w a t c h e d h i m g o o u t into t h e field a n d followed h i m a n d said, " I a m very thirsty. C o u l d you please give m e s o m e t h i n g t o d r i n k ? " T h e f a r m e r t h o u g h t , " I c a n ' t s e n d h i m away, i t w o u l d n ' t b e right." S o h e t o o k t h e stranger into the h o u s e a n d gave h i m s o m e t h i n g to drink. T h e s t r a n g e r said, " I saw your g a r d e n . It's clear t h a t s o m e o n e h a s w o r k e d h e r e w h o u n d e r s t a n d s g a r d e n i n g a n d loves p l a n t s . " T h e f a r m e r said, " S o you like g a r d e n i n g ? " T h e n they sat d o w n o n the p o r c h a n d talked for a long t i m e . Finally, t h e s t r a n g e r said, "I m u s t b e o n m y way now." T h e f a r m e r a n s w e r e d , " B u t t h e s u n i s getting low. Stay the n i g h t with m e . We'll breakfast early in the m o r n i n g a n d you c a n b e off t h e n . " T h e stranger agreed. A s evening c a m e , they sat o n t h e p o r c h a n d w a t c h e d t h e vastness of the w e s t e r n sky transfigured in the evening light. In the d a r k n e s s , t h e stranger talked a b o u t h o w his world h a d c h a n g e d w h e n h e h a d b e g u n to feel t h a t s o m e o n e was a c c o m p a n y i n g h i m step by step. At first, he said, he h a d refused to believe t h a t a n o t h e r was always t h e r e , a n d t h a t w h e n h e s t o p p e d , the o t h e r s t o p p e d , a n d w h e n h e w e n t o n , the o t h e r w e n t on as well. A n d it h a d t a k e n a while before he h a d u n d e r s t o o d w h o his c o m p a n i o n was. " M y c o n s t a n t c o m p a n i o n i s m y d e a t h , " he said. "I have g r o w n so a c c u s t o m e d to his p r e s e n c e t h a t I w o u l d miss h i m n o w if he w e r e n ' t there. He is my t r u e s t a n d best friend. W h e n I d o n ' t k n o w what's right or w h a t to d o , I s t o p a while a n d wait for his answer. I have a b a n d o n e d myself to h i m , a n d I k n o w h e ' s there a n d I am h e r e . W i t h o u t h a n g i n g on to my o w n desires, I wait for his m e s s a g e to c o m e to m e . W h e n I am c e n t e r e d a n d have c o u r a g e , a w o r d c o m e s from h i m to m e , a n d , like a lightning flash, illuminates t h e d a r k a n d I b e c o m e clear.' T h e f a r m e r f o u n d this talk strange, a n d gazed silently i n t o t h e night. After a l o n g t i m e , he saw his o w n d e a t h as his c o m p a n i o n . A n d h e b o w e d his h e a d t o h i m . A n d a s h e paid his respects t o his o w n d e a t h , it was as if the rest of his life were c h a n g e d . It b e c a m e

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precious as the love that anticipates a parting, and like such love, filled to overflowing. In the morning, they broke their fast together, and the farmer said, "Even though you are leaving, my friend remains." They went outside, shook hands, and said goodbye. T h e stranger went on his way and the farmer returned to his field. Examples from Seminars

Adrian: (Adrian had left his wife and children to live with Jennifer, who then became pregnant.) I just w a n t e d to say that Jennifer, my p a r t n e r , is p r o b a b l y h a v i n g an a b o r t i o n today, a n d I c a n ' t do anyt h i n g a b o u t it. (His voice drops.) I feel so confused a n d helpless. I wish t h e r e w e r e s o m e t h i n g I c o u l d d o , b u t h e r e I sit, 3 0 0 miles away. I just have to a c c e p t it. H e l l i n g e r : A d r i a n , if she goes t h r o u g h with it against y o u r wishes, you'll be t o u c h e d by d e a t h . A p a r t of you will die t o o (pause). T h a t will m e a n t h a t y o u r p a r t n e r s h i p with Jennifer is p r o b ably over. It's likely t h a t you'll lose Jennifer, b u t you'll lose y o u r first family for s u r e . You're free to c o n s e n t to t h a t , or n o t . If you c o n s e n t to this d y i n g , a n e w s t r e n g t h m a y develop in y o u . It c o m e s from t h e guilt t h a t you s h a r e , from t h e u n b o r n child's sacrifice, a n d from y o u r loss of y o u r family. If you c a n c o n s e n t to all of t h a t , a load will fall from y o u r s h o u l d e r s , b u t if y o u t r y to find t h e easy way o u t , you'll have a heavy b u r d e n to carry. (Adrian breathes deeply, and withdraws in a mood of self-pity.) H e l l i n g e r (to the group): W h a t he's d o i n g n o w is self-damaging. It has a quality of heaviness a n d self-centeredness t h a t ' s i n a p p r o p r i a t e ; his loss is certainly less t h a n t h e child's. A d r i a n (very softly): You're asking q u i t e a lot.

Hellinger: T h e h e a l i n g o p t i o n isn't always t h e easiest. (Pause) T h e r e ' s a d r a m a t i c quality to y o u r reaction that's i n a p p r o p r i a t e . It's c h a n n e l i n g y o u r energy into self-pity a n d away from effective a c t i o n . T h e r e ' s no a d v a n t a g e in that. So we'll let you c h e w on it for a while. June: I w a s deeply t o u c h e d by w h a t you said a b o u t a b o r t i o n . I feel a lot of p a i n a b o u t my a b o r t i o n (begins to cry) a n d a lot of anger.

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Hellinger: (After a long pause) T h a t k i n d of a n g e r is a d i s t r a c t i o n . It's an i n d i c a t i o n of t r y i n g to p u s h responsibility o n t o s o m e o n e else. You have to a c c e p t y o u r s h a r e of t h e responsibility, b e c a u s e , w i t h an a b o r t i o n , y o u r share o f t h e responsibility c a n ' t b e p u s h e d off o n t o y o u r p a r t n e r — o r a n y o n e else. June: I've b e e n t h i n k i n g a b o u t it, t r y i n g t o r e m e m b e r w h e n m y h u s b a n d a n d I started talking a b o u t separating. It's b e e n exactly a year a n d a half—shortly after t h e a b o r t i o n . T h a t w o u l d have b e e n o u r t h i r d child. Hellinger: (With reference to June's family constellation, in which she looked in a different direction, away from her husband) You w e r e looking at t h a t child, J u n e . (June starts to cry again, this time more sincerely) L e t t h e p a i n have all t h e r o o m in y o u t h a t it deserves. T h a t ' s a h e a l i n g p a i n t h a t h o n o r s t h e child. T h e p a i n will h e l p you see w h a t t o d o , s o t h a t y o u r u n b o r n child's sacrifice w o n ' t have b e e n i n vain. (Pause) A r e t h e r e any o t h e r q u e s t i o n s a b o u t this? Louis: C o u l d you say m o r e a b o u t t h e role o f m i s c a r r i a g e i n t h e family system? H e l l i n g e r : As I said before, miscarriages generally d o n ' t affect t h e family system, a n d s e l d o m affect t h e relationship b e t w e e n a m a n a n d a w o m a n . T h e y s h o u l d b e t r e a t e d a s things t h a t just h a p p e n a n d n o t a t t a c h e d t o any p e r s o n a l guilt. F o r e x a m p l e , a m o t h e r w h o h a s m i s c a r r i e d m a y feel guilty a n d ask, " W h a t have I d o n e to c a u s e this t o h a p p e n ? " T h a t ' s a n i n a p p r o p r i a t e q u e s t i o n . It's p r e s u m p t u o u s t o ask s u c h a t h i n g , a n d only creates craziness. If a t h e r a p i s t says, " Y o u ' v e h a d five miscarriages, so you m u s t be r e s p o n s i b l e in s o m e way," I'd c o n s i d e r t h a t a destructive i n t e r v e n t i o n . Louis: I w a s asking b e c a u s e of a client of m i n e . O n e of his d r e a m s m a d e m e s u s p e c t t h a t t h e r e h a d b e e n m i s c a r r i a g e s i n his family, w h i c h he t h e n c o n f i r m e d . T h a t ' s why I w a s w o n d e r i n g if t h a t c o u l d be important. Hellinger: Louis: Yes. W e r e they his siblings?

Hellinger: It s o u n d s as if he could be an e x c e p t i o n to w h a t I just said. It c o u l d be that they have i m p o r t a n c e for h i m . If so, t h e s o l u tion w o u l d b e for h i m t o h o n o r their fate a n d say t o t h e m , "You

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d i d n ' t c o m e i n t o t h e world. I did c o m e into t h e w o r l d . You're d e a d , I ' m alive." T h e n he'll have t o deal w i t h the guilt o f b e i n g t h e survivor, o f b e i n g alive w h e n t h e o t h e r s have died, even t h o u g h h e c o u l d do n o t h i n g a b o u t it. You already k n o w the m a g i c f o r m u l a : " Y o u ' r e d e a d . I will live a little while longer, a n d t h e n I, t o o , will d i e . " T h i s f o r m u l a r e c o n n e c t s t h e living a n d t h e d e a d , a n d t h e living n o longer n e e d to feel that they're s o m e h o w taking a d v a n t a g e of the d e a d . T h i s e x a m p l e of y o u r s shows h o w d a n g e r o u s it is to try to m a k e a c o m p r e h e n s i v e general t h e o r y from a limited o b s e r v a t i o n . I ' m giving y o u m y general o r i e n t a t i o n s , b u t d o n ' t let t h e m get i n t h e way o f y o u r seeing w h a t ' s actually t h e case w i t h the p e o p l e w i t h w h o m y o u work.

Artificial

Insemination

Question: W h a t a b o u t artificial i n s e m i n a t i o n ? I ' m w o r k i n g w i t h a c o u p l e w h o c a n ' t have children, a n d they're g o i n g t o great l e n g t h s t o m a k e artificial i n s e m i n a t i o n possible. W h a t are t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s for t h e m ? Hellinger: the m a n . Question: T h e r e s h o u l d n ' t b e a n y p r o b l e m i f t h e s e m e n i s from

N o , they w a n t t o u s e s e m e n from a s e m e n b a n k .

Hellinger: W h y o n e a r t h w o u l d they d o that? I f they u s e s e m e n from a n o t h e r m a n , they g o o u t s i d e t h e b o u n d a r i e s o f their p a r t n e r ship, a n d they'll b e i n d a n g e r o f splitting u p . T h e i r p a r t n e r s h i p m i g h t a l r e a d y be in j e o p a r d y anyway. I k n o w t h a t m a n y p e o p l e believe t h a t it d o e s n ' t m a t t e r , b u t my observations have b e e n different. W h e n p a r t n e r s are faced w i t h a particularly difficult fate, s u c h a s n o t b e i n g able t o have t h e c h i l d r e n they w a n t t o have, t h e y n e e d t o b e e x t r e m e l y careful a b o u t w h a t they d o t o t r y t o c h a n g e t h a t fate. It i s n ' t as easy to c h a n g e fate w i t h technological i n t e r v e n t i o n s as m a n y p e o p l e like to think, a n d t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s for t h e system are u n e x p e c t e d , a n d usually g r e a t e r t h a n they like t o a d m i t . F o r e x a m p l e , if a h u s b a n d c a n ' t have children a n d his wife sleeps w i t h a n o t h e r m a n or is artificially i n s e m i n a t e d in o r d e r to b e c o m e p r e g n a n t , she's n o t a c c e p t i n g h e r h u s b a n d as he is, a n d t h a t b o d e s ill for their p a r t n e r s h i p . If she desires to be in p a r t n e r s h i p w i t h h i m , t h e n she w o u l d be well advised to a c c e p t h i m as he is, i n c l u d i n g his limi-

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rations. O t h e r w i s e , she s h o u l d s e p a r a t e from h i m , w i t h all of t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s t h a t carries. I'm Going to Marry Him

A man who couldn't conceive children because of an illness he had had told his wife that she should find a man who was willing to inpregnate her and they would raise the child together as their own. She found a well-known actor who was willing, and she became pregnant and delivered a healthy baby girl. Shortly thereafter, the marriage collapsed. She met another man, became pregnant again, and married him. The first daughter thought that the mother's first husband was her father. But the strange thing is that whenever she saw the actor on television, the daughter would say, " I ' m going to marry him." T h e woman eventually told the child the truth.

The Couple Comes Before the Children
Question: I w o r k with a lot of families in w h i c h t h e p a r t n e r s p u t t h e children's n e e d s above everything else. I've t h e i m p r e s s i o n t h a t t h e c h i l d r e n d o n ' t feel safe w h e n they have t o o m u c h f r e e d o m o r t o o m u c h a t t e n t i o n . C o u l d you say s o m e t h i n g a b o u t t h e relationship b e t w e e n p a r e n t s a n d c h i l d r e n as y o u see it? Hellinger: T h e f u n d a m e n t a l relationship in a family is t h e relat i o n s h i p b e t w e e n the father a n d t h e m o t h e r . It's t h e f o u n d a t i o n o f p a r e n t h o o d . T h e s t r e n g t h n e c e s s a r y for g o o d p a r e n t i n g flows o u t o f the couple's relationship. As l o n g as that relationship is g o o d a n d is t h e f o u n d a t i o n of t h e family, the c h i l d r e n feel s e c u r e . C h i l d r e n feel b e s t w h e n their father h o n o r s a n d r e s p e c t s himself a n d his wife i n t h e m , a n d w h e n their m o t h e r also h o n o r s a n d respects herself a n d h e r h u s b a n d i n t h e m . T h e n t h e p a r e n t s ' relationship w i t h their children is a c o n t i n u a t i o n a n d a fulfillment of their relationship w i t h o n e a n o t h e r ; t h e children are t h e c r o w n i n g a n d the c o m p l e t i o n of their love for e a c h other. C h i l d r e n feel free w h e n their p a r e n t s love o n e a n o t h e r . C r u c i a l h e r e are t h e direction a n d t h e quality of t h e love. W h e n a father's love for his d a u g h t e r h a s a g o o d effect, it flows to h e r t h r o u g h his wife; it takes a d e t o u r t h r o u g h her. T h e s a m e is t r u e of a m o t h e r ' s love for h e r s o n s , w h i c h flows to t h e m via h e r h u s b a n d . W h e n p a r e n t s love their children in t h a t way, their love for t h e chil-

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d r e n brings t h e m closer together, a n d t h e c h i l d r e n feel free a n d secure. W h e n a m a n a n d a w o m a n join t o g e t h e r , t h e y are a c o u p l e first, a n d only later d o they b e c o m e p a r e n t s . T h e p a r t n e r relationship c o m e s before the p a r e n t relationship a n d takes p r e c e d e n c e . T h e i r t o g e t h e r n e s s b e c o m e s manifest i n their children, a n d their c h i l d r e n are an expression of their m a l e n e s s a n d femaleness. A m a n a n d a w o m a n are physically a n d visibly u n i t e d in their c h i l d r e n . A l t h o u g h t h e c o n t i n u a t i o n of life a n d of t h e species is t h e biological function of their coupling, t h e c o u p l e ' s relationship m a i n t a i n s systemic p r e c e d e n c e over the relationship w i t h their c h i l d r e n . T h e p a r e n t s ' love for their child s h o u l d be t h e c o n t i n u a t i o n a n d t h e c r o w n i n g of their love for each o t h e r as a c o u p l e . T h i s is so b e c a u s e their love as a c o u p l e c a m e first, a n d as the roots of a tree s u p p o r t a n d n o u r i s h its b r a n c h e s , that love s u p p o r t s a n d n o u r i s h e s t h e children. W h e n p a r e n t s in a family allow their love for t h e i r c h i l d r e n to b e c o m e m o r e i m p o r t a n t t h a n their love for e a c h o t h e r as a c o u p l e , t h e n t h e o r d e r of love is d i s t u r b e d a n d t h e family is in d a n g e r of b e c o m i n g dysfunctional. T h e solution is for t h e c o u p l e ' s relationship to be given priority over their relationship w i t h their c h i l d r e n . W h e n this h a p p e n s in a constellation, you c a n see it immediately. T h e c h i l d r e n e x p e r i e n c e their p a r e n t s as a c o u p l e , t h e y relax, a n d everyone feels b e t t e r . When Father Acts Like a Man A man and a woman married because he hoped to have needs met that remained unfulfilled from his childhood, and she wanted to love him as a mother loves a child. They were quite content until they had a child. T h e n the woman's love appropriately began to flow to her biological son. Her husband began to feel neglected and jealous, and to compete with his son for his wife's attention. T h e woman felt abandoned by her husband and felt a great longing for a partner who was her equal. The son was caught between his parents, was unable to relate appropriately to either, and fell into a deep depression. He was freed from his depression when his father assumed his appropriate place beside his wife as a man in a partnership with a woman, and as a father in relation to his son. T h e n the boy felt peace and could be a child at last.

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Q u e s t i o n : I ' m single a n d I ' m n o w too old to b e a r a child. I feel excluded and devalued by what you're saying. Is there no place for people like me in t h e s y m m e t r y you describe? Hellinger: Single m e n a n d w o m e n a n d couples w i t h o u t children obviously are n o t excluded from finding love a n d m e a n i n g in their lives, b u t they have s o m e special issues to face a n d resolve. As you m u s t already k n o w from your o w n experience, facing loneliness a n d finding m e a n i n g in life can be especially painful for a single p e r s o n w h o has no children. T h a t can be a very difficult situation. My interest is in u n d e r s t a n d i n g what people in such circumstances can do to ensure that their potential for love and m e a n i n g c o m e s to fruition. In the constellations we've d o n e , you've seen that we all share in o u r family's fate a n d guilt. T h a t m e a n s that we share in suffering t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s of what others in o u r system do, just as w h a t we do affects t h e m . People w h o freely choose to be single also freely accept the consequences of their choice, a n d they d o n ' t usually seek therapy. However, m a n y people aren't single b e c a u s e they w a n t to b e , b u t because they're caught in a systemic e n t a n g l e m e n t , or are paying a d e b t they d i d n ' t incur. F o r example, a father abused his wife, a n d b e c a u s e she felt d e p e n d e n t on h i m , she e n d u r e d t h e abuse w i t h o u t leaving. T h e i r d a u g h t e r developed a lifelong distrust of m e n a n d of intimacy and r e m a i n e d single. Being single, in o r d e r to be happy, she m u s t organize her life very differently t h a n she w o u l d if she were m a r r i e d . In m a n y ways, she has m o r e freedom t h a n h e r m a r r i e d friends have, b u t she also pays a heavy price. S h e can't know the freedom that paradoxically comes from being b o n d e d to a p a r t n e r a n d from having to meet the d e m a n d s placed on a m o t h e r . I k n o w it's n o t in vogue to say it, b u t there are still families in which a w o m a n finds fulfillment a n d achieves h e r greatest p s y c h o logical weight a n d dignity by having m a n y children a n d a large, loving family. You can still see such w o m e n in the rural villages of s o m e countries. T h e r e ' s a look of p r o f o u n d serenity on their faces, a n d they radiate a quality of being at peace a n d g r o u n d e d in life. T h e i r s is a simple a n d completely natural greatness. T h i s also applies to their h u s b a n d s , although to a lesser degree. T h e d e m a n d s on such parents are e n o r m o u s ; they have h a d to learn to let go, a n d to be patient and take what life gives t h e m .

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T h e p a t h to finding fulfillment by having a large family has b e e n blocked in o u r culture for b o t h w o m e n a n d m e n , b u t that d o e s n ' t m e a n that we're free to d e m e a n it. Because this p r o f o u n d a n d n a t u ral h u m a n fulfillment is no longer possible, w o m e n m u s t seek o t h e r forms of fulfillment, primarily in a career. T h e r e ' s a culturally evolved illusion that helps t h e m in this—that a career is m o r e fulfilling for a w o m a n t h a n is being trapped at h o m e with children. I c a n ' t imagine that sitting in an office, staring at a c o m p u t e r all day, is intrinsically m o r e fulfilling t h a n being at h o m e with children. However, I do believe that the illusion is necessary so that w o m e n can do what's d e m a n d e d of t h e m by the evolution of culture a n d still experience satisfaction in their lives. W o m e n often d o n ' t even notice this loss of possibility, or they deny that it's a loss and discount it, as if it were u n i m p o r t a n t . W h e n they do that, they devalue what once was the greatest fulfillment of w o m a n h o o d , a n d scorn what's no longer possible. H a v i n g children is devalued, h o m e m a k i n g is devalued, a n d m e n are devalued. T h i s makes it possible for w o m e n to c o m m i t themselves to a career, b u t t h e price is that they lose the connection to a n d respect for an i m p o r t a n t aspect of being a w o m a n . T h a t ' s t h e way it is with everything—doing o n e thing m e a n s n o t doing s o m e t h i n g else. Everything we do is s u r r o u n d e d by the things we decide against, the n o t - c h o s e n potentials that r e m a i n unrealized. If what isn't chosen is scorned or d e m e a n e d , t h e n whatever has b e e n chosen loses value a n d i m p o r t a n c e . On the o t h e r h a n d , if we h o n o r a n d value all of the n o t - c h o s e n a n d unrealized possibilities, what has b e e n chosen is enriched. T h e r e are situations in which it's neither possible n o r desirable for people to have children or to live in a p a r t n e r s h i p . W o m e n w h o are fully aware of t h e value of what they've given up a n d w h o m a k e their choices consciously can rescue the feminine from this implicit devaluation a n d carry its fullness into their n e w lifestyle. A n d m e n can rescue the masculine in a similar way. H o n o r i n g what w a s n ' t chosen brings a different quality into their lives. S o m e t h i n g else is w o n with a conscious relinquishment of lost possibilities. If such a loss is acknowledged a n d a conscious decision is m a d e to forego family or p a r t n e r s h i p without devaluing them, t h e n w h a t isn't chosen adds s o m e t h i n g t o what has b e e n c h o s e n . T h e process of acknowledging loss works in the soul a n d can b r i n g s o m e t h i n g positive on a completely different level. Even t h o u g h it remains

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unrealized, w h a t ' s n o t c h o s e n goes o n w o r k i n g w h e n it's h o n o r e d a n d valued.

Getting Needs Met Isn't Enough for Love
Question: I've really b e c o m e aware o f m y n e e d for t e n d e r n e s s a n d for b e i n g h e l d . I fall in love a n d have t h e feeling for a while t h a t I've f o u n d t h e right p a r t n e r a n d t h a t all m y n e e d s will b e m e t . T h e n s o m e t h i n g c h a n g e s , a n d either he leaves me or I lose interest in h i m . Hellinger: M o s t p a r t n e r s h i p s actually start o u t t h a t way, with s o m e o n e looking for a p a r t n e r to fulfill his or h e r n e e d s a n d longings. T h e p r o b l e m is t h a t t h e o t h e r p e r s o n is usually l o o k i n g for t h e s a m e t h i n g . I suspect t h a t falling in love reactivates t h e n e e d s of o u r i n n e r child, a n d t h e p a r t n e r t e n d s to get p u t in t h e p o s i t i o n of a m o t h e r . W h e n m e n a n d w o m e n are o n t h e l o o k o u t for s o m e o n e t o fill their n e e d s , at the d e e p e s t level, t h e y ' r e all l o o k i n g for a m o t h e r , a n d t h a t necessarily leads t o d i s a p p o i n t m e n t . A p a r t n e r s h i p is a difficult u n d e r t a k i n g , a n d it's very different from an affair, even an e x t e n d e d o n e . A p a r t n e r s h i p , at least w h a t I m e a n by a p a r t n e r s h i p , has a c o m p l e t e l y different d e p t h . As you said, you m a y find a m a n for a few m o n t h s , b u t he d o e s n ' t take y o u seriously, in t h e s e n s e of w a n t i n g to m a k e his life with y o u . B e c a u s e you see h i m a s a n o p p o r t u n i t y t o get w h a t you w a n t , he'll see t h e relationship as a t e m p o r a r y o p p o r t u n i t y to get you to m e e t his n e e d s as well. T h a t vision is large e n o u g h for a love affair, b u t t o o small for an e n d u r i n g p a r t n e r s h i p . B u t if, in y o u r h e a r t , y o u allow a vision to g r o w that's w o r t h y of y o u r full dignity a n d t h e full p o w e r a n d d e p t h of y o u r w o m a n h o o d — a vision w o r t h y of y o u r full h u m a n p o t e n t i a l — t h e n a m a n m a y c o m e a l o n g w h o c a n offer you a w o r t h y r e s p o n s e . If love d e v e l o p s — a n d p e r h a p s even b e i n g in love a little t o o — t h a t ' s fine. Falling in love is b l i n d , b u t love is alert. L o v e truly accepts a n d w a n t s t h e o t h e r just a s h e o r she is. T h a t t o u c h e s s o m e t h i n g very d e e p a n d allows love to develop. T h a t ' s s o m e advice from a n old m a n t o a y o u n g w o m a n . Bruno: W h i l e w e ' r e on t h e subject of feelings, I've g o t a feeling I ' m trying to u n d e r s t a n d a n d w o u l d like to talk a b o u t it. I c a n ' t r e m e m b e r t h a t I've ever h a d this feeling before a n d I d o n ' t k n o w exactly h o w to deal w i t h it. T h e feeling is t h a t I've f o u n d t h e right

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w o m a n for m e . J u s t that. She's t h e right o n e . T h e r e ' s n o p a s s i o n o r desire, b u t only t h e feeling t h a t she's the right p e r s o n for m e . Hellinger: I'd be suspicious of t h a t s e n t e n c e . If t h e s e n t e n c e were " S h e ' s w o n d e r f u l , " i t w o u l d b e different, b u t w h e n you say " S h e ' s right," w i t h o u t p a s s i o n or desire, it s o u n d s as if y o u m e a n t h a t she's t h e p e r s o n w i t h w h o m you'll have t o c h a n g e the least. Bruno: C a u g h t ! (Laughter in the group) On t h e o t h e r h a n d , that's very nice, b e c a u s e I can be the way I a m . Hellinger: N o , it's n o t good, a n d it'll very quickly b e c o m e a b u r d e n . T h e feeling t h a t c h a n g e isn't necessary limits y o u r p a r t n e r s h i p in a way t h a t i s n ' t healthy. It's b e t t e r if s h e is simply " g o o d , " a n d you are too. Homosexual Couples

Q u e s t i o n : I ' m gay, a n d there d o e s n ' t s e e m t o b e any p l a c e for h o m o s e x u a l s i n y o u r a p p r o a c h . W h a t c a n i t m e a n for m e w h e n y o u say t h a t a m a n " b e c o m e s a m a n " in a relationship w i t h a w o m a n or t h a t a w o m a n b e c o m e s a w o m a n in a relationship w i t h a m a n ? T h a t m a k e s h e t e r o s e x u a l i t y t h e only way o f b e i n g h u m a n . H e l l i n g e r : F i r s t , I w a n t to say a c o u p l e of general things a b o u t t h e systemic view. E v e r y o n e is an integral p a r t of t h e relationship systems in w h i c h he or she lives, a n d e v e r y o n e h a s an e q u a l value in t h e f u n c t i o n i n g of t h o s e systems— everyone in t h e family system is essential t o t h e system. Differences in a social system a d d to its durability a n d stability. T h e c o n s c i e n c e t h a t seeks t o e x c l u d e individuals from t h e g r o u p b e c a u s e they are different operates on a different level t h a n d o e s t h e systemic c o n s c i e n c e t h a t seeks to b a l a n c e t h e system as a w h o l e by g u a r d i n g t h e right o f every m e m b e r t o b e l o n g t o t h e system. I t has very serious c o n s e q u e n c e s for t h e y o u n g e r m e m b e r s of a family syst e m w h e n s o m e o n e i s e x c l u d e d from t h e system b e c a u s e h e o r she is different. I've s e e n m a n y cases in w h i c h y o u n g e r p e r s o n s suffered terribly b e c a u s e t h e y h a d t o identify with a n o l d e r relative w h o was e x c l u d e d from t h e family b e c a u s e of his b e i n g h o m o s e x u a l . T h i s f u n d a m e n t a l c o m m i t m e n t to t h e intrinsic dignity a n d value of all p e r s o n s m a k e s it possible to view differences openly.

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H a v i n g said t h a t , there's an inescapable fact t h a t h o m o s e x u a l c o u p l e s face: T h e i r love c a n ' t lead to their h a v i n g c h i l d r e n t o g e t h e r . P r o c r e a t i o n ' s insistence o n heterosexuality h a s c o n s e q u e n c e s t h a t c a n ' t be i g n o r e d as if they d i d n ' t exist. In any p a r t n e r s h i p w i t h o u t c h i l d r e n , t h e p a r t n e r s c a n separate w i t h less g u i l t — t h e y only h u r t one another. But when parents separate, that has e n o r m o u s conseq u e n c e s for their children, a n d they m u s t b e very careful o r their c h i l d r e n will b e h a r m e d b y w h a t they d o . T h i s a d d e d guilt m a k e s i t m o r e difficult for p a r e n t s to separate, b u t , paradoxically, it also s u p p o r t s their p a r t n e r s h i p . C o u p l e s w i t h o u t c h i l d r e n — i n c l u d i n g h o m o sexual c o u p l e s — d o n ' t have the s u p p o r t of t h e s e c o n s e q u e n c e s to h o l d t h e m t o g e t h e r d u r i n g crises. H o m o s e x u a l c o u p l e s , like o t h e r childless c o u p l e s interested in l o n g - t e r m , loving p a r t n e r s h i p s , especially n e e d t o m a k e clear a n d c o n s c i o u s decisions a b o u t t h e p u r p o s e a n d goals o f their p a r t n e r ship. S o m e goals are m o r e conducive to l o n g - t e r m stability in relationships t h a n are o t h e r s . W a n t i n g to avoid loneliness or t h e feeling of e m p t i n e s s , for e x a m p l e , isn't a goal t h a t s u p p o r t s a l o n g - t e r m p a r t n e r s h i p of e q u a l s . E v e r y o n e h a s his or h e r o w n p a t h in life—part of it we c h o o s e , b u t p a r t of it just c o m e s with life a n d isn't really c h o s e n . T h a t ' s t h e p a r t that's h a r d t o deal with. T h e h o m o s e x u a l s w i t h w h o m I've w o r k e d — even t h o s e w h o m a i n t a i n that they chose their sexual o r i e n t a t i o n freely—have b e e n c a u g h t in systemic d y n a m i c s , e x p e r i e n c i n g in their lives t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s of w h a t others in their system did or suffered. T h e y ' v e b e e n i n d u c t e d into t h e service of t h e system, a n d as child r e n , they c o u l d n ' t defend themselves from t h e systemic pressures to w h i c h they were subjected. So that's t h e s e c o n d t h i n g they have to deal with, t h a t they're carrying s o m e t h i n g for t h e family. I've rarely w o r k e d with s o m e o n e w h o w a n t e d t o " g e t over" b e i n g homosexual. W h e n I work with homosexual persons, homosexuality isn't t h e p r i m a r y issue. I merely try to b r i n g to light any e n t a n g l e m e n t s that m i g h t be limiting the fullness of life, b u t I have no i n t e n tion of trying to c h a n g e s o m e o n e ' s sexual o r i e n t a t i o n . I've o b s e r v e d t h r e e p a t t e r n s of systemic e n t a n g l e m e n t s in c o n junction with homosexuality, but I don't know whether they're actually its c a u s e : • A child w a s p r e s s u r e d to r e p r e s e n t a p e r s o n of t h e o p p o s i t e sex in t h e system, b e c a u s e a child of the s a m e g e n d e r w a s n ' t

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available. F o r e x a m p l e , a b o y h a d to r e p r e s e n t o n e of his deceased older sisters, b e c a u s e n o n e of t h e other surviving children was female. Or a n o t h e r boy h a d to represent his f a t h e r ' s first f i a n c e e , w h o h a d b e e n t r e a t e d u n j u s t l y . T h i s i s t h e m o s t p a i n f u l a n d difficult o f t h e t h r e e p a t t e r n s I ' v e s e e n . • A child was p r e s s u r e d to represent s o m e o n e w h o h a d b e e n e x c l u d e d f r o m t h e f a m i l y s y s t e m — o r w h o h a d b e e n vilified b y t h e system—even t h o u g h that person was of the s a m e gender. H o m o s e x u a l s living i n t h i s p a t t e r n h a v e t h e p o s i t i o n o f b e i n g " o u t s i d e r s . " F o r e x a m p l e , a boy was systemically identified w i t h h i s m o t h e r ' s first f i a n c e , w h o c o n t r a c t e d s y p h i l i s a n d w i t h d r e w from t h e e n g a g e m e n t . A l t h o u g h t h e fiance h a d acted honorably, he was scorned a n d despised by the boy's m o t h e r . T h e b o y ' s feelings o f b e i n g s c o r n e d w e r e v e r y s i m i l a r to w h a t t h e m a n m u s t have felt—as if t h e y w e r e his o w n feelings. A child r e m a i n e d c a u g h t in the sphere of influence of the g e n der-opposite parent, and was not able to complete the psychological m o v e m e n t of taking the s a m e - g e n d e r parent. If It Would Have Helped, I Could Have Borne My Pain

In a training g r o u p for therapists, a w o m a n stood in a constellation of her family of origin and was visually confronted for the first time with what she h a d known but h a d not acknowledged—the extent of t h e loss, n e e d , a n d d a m a g e in her family system. N o w h e r e in three generations was an intact relationship to be seen. H e r p a r e n t s ' relationship was o n e of hate a n d disdain, and she was chosen to fill her father's emotional and sexual needs from the time she was eight years old until she was able to leave h o m e at the age of 18. T h e sexual acts were brutal a n d painful, a n d had occurred with her m o t h e r ' s knowledge a n d implicit consent. In her previous therapy, she h a d explored her rage, pain, a n d sense of betrayal, a n d had found relief, but no lasting resolution. As she stood before the representative of her father, the therapist suggested, "Tell h i m : 'It h u r t ! ' " As she did so, the deepest sobbing welled up and b u r s t forth, a n d she spontaneously a d d e d , " A n d it d i d n ' t help. I c o u l d n ' t take away your loneliness. I could have stood my pain, if only it had helped your terrible loneliness." She p u t h e r a r m s a r o u n d the m a n representing h e r father, who also was weeping openly, a n d they held each other tenderly for a long time. She consciously felt for

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the first time as an adult her child's love for her father and her secret willingness to sacrifice herself for the good of her parents. After a while, she told him, "I promise you that no more children will be hurt as I was. I'll pay the price. It will stop with me." When she then turned to the group and said, "I'm a lesbian," she did so with enormous simplicity and with the full human dignity commensurate to her situation. A year later, she still felt the freeing effects of her accepting the role that fate had given her, accepting as a conscious choice what she had previously unconsciously carried and could not change. Viewed in this way, h o m o s e x u a l i t y d e m a n d s a heavy p r i c e . T h o s e w h o m a n a g e to affirm their sexual o r i e n t a t i o n a n d c o n s t r u c t a h a p p y , loving, meaningful life have a very different i n n e r s u p p o r t t h a n d o t h o s e w h o fight against their destiny o r d e m e a n their l o s s — w h e t h e r or n o t they consciously c h o s e it, or w o u l d w a n t to c h a n g e it if they c o u l d .

Infidelity a n d T h r e e - W a y Relationships Question: M y h u s b a n d h a s b e e n having a n affair w i t h a n o t h e r w o m a n for m a n y years. At first, I h a d difficulty a c c e p t i n g it, b u t over t h e years, I've given u p t r y i n g t o c h a n g e h i m . W o u l d y o u say s o m e t h i n g a b o u t infidelity a n d e x t r a m a r i t a l relationships? Hellinger: W h e n a w o m a n treats h e r h u s b a n d like a child, t r y i n g to i m p r o v e his b e h a v i o r a n d acting as if she k n o w s w h a t ' s b e s t for h i m , he often takes a lover. H i s lover is t h e n his t r u e p a r t n e r . If he h a s a g o o d relationship w i t h his wife b u t still h a s a lover, t h e n t h e lover m o s t likely r e p r e s e n t s his m o t h e r . T h e s a m e i s p r o b a b l y t r u e for a w o m a n w h o takes a lover—either she's b e i n g t r e a t e d by h e r h u s b a n d as if she were a child, or she's seeking in h e r lover s o m e o n e t o r e p r e s e n t h e r father o r m o t h e r . As a r u l e , a w o m a n w h o is c o n t e n t to live in a t h r e e - w a y r e l a t i o n ship is h e r father's d a u g h t e r . If she were looking for a s o l u t i o n , she'd n e e d t o leave h e r father's s p h e r e o f influence a n d r e t u r n t o h e r m o t h e r ' s . A m a n w h o lives in a t h r e e - w a y relationship often is a m o t h e r ' s s o n , a n d t h e solution is for h i m to m o v e i n t o his father's sphere. A relationship o u t s i d e of a m a r r i a g e is often viewed as m o r a l l y u n a c c e p t a b l e . In s u c h a situation, t h e so-called i n n o c e n t p a r t n e r

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s o m e t i m e s behaves as if his or h e r claim on t h e o t h e r p a r t n e r were exclusive a n d p e r m a n e n t . T h a t ' s p r e s u m p t u o u s . T h e c o n s c i e n c e t h a t w a t c h e s over relationships isn't i m p r e s s e d by s u c h claims. It r e s p e c t s only t h e real quality of b o n d i n g a n d t h e ecology of give a n d t a k e . I n s t e a d o f w i n n i n g t h e p a r t n e r b a c k with love, t h e injured p a r t n e r often t o r m e n t s the o t h e r , as if s u c h d e m a n d s for exclusivity, w i t h o u t regard for t h e fulfillment o f n e e d a n d desire, w o u l d m a k e him or her want to return. I a r g u e for s o m e t h i n g m o r e realistic. I have a d e e p r e s p e c t for fidelity, b u t n o t t h e kind o f fidelity t h a t d e m a n d s , " I ' m t h e only p e r s o n w h o ' s allowed t o b e m e a n i n g f u l for you a n d from w h o m y o u ' r e allowed t o take w h a t y o u n e e d . " I t often h a p p e n s t h a t y o u m e e t s o m e o n e w h o b e c o m e s i m p o r t a n t t o you, a n d t h a t fact m u s t b e r e s p e c t e d , just as t h e feelings of h u r t a n d loss t h a t arise m u s t be r e s p e c t e d . S u c h a m e e t i n g c a n have a very positive effect on a p a r t n e r s h i p . No m a t t e r h o w it t u r n s o u t , a truly satisfactory r e s o l u t i o n is only possible with love.

Jealousy Q u e s t i o n : W o u l d y o u say s o m e t h i n g a b o u t jealousy? I have attacks of jealousy a n d i m a g i n e my p a r t n e r ' s d o i n g all k i n d s of things. Hellinger: T h e systemic n a t u r e o f jealousy can b e seen w h e n w e look carefully at w h a t it actually a c c o m p l i s h e s . Occasionally, jealo u s y b r i n g s a c o u p l e closer together. T h i s h a p p e n s , for e x a m p l e , w h e n a w o m a n ' s jealousy p r o t e c t s h e r children a n d h e r h u s b a n d from a capricious affair, or from a n o t h e r w o m a n ' s interference in h e r family. B u t usually jealousy a c c o m p l i s h e s the o p p o s i t e of w h a t it p u r p o r t s t o desire, driving t h e p a r t n e r s farther a p a r t . I f y o u have attacks of jealousy, look at t h e situation h o n e s t l y a n d you will p r o b ably discover a secret systemic p r e s s u r e p u s h i n g you away from y o u r p a r t n e r — t h e jealous p e r s o n u n c o n s c i o u s l y w a n t s t h e p a r t n e r t o leave. T h e r e are m a n y u n c o n s c i o u s systemic d y n a m i c s t h a t m a k e u s p u s h o u r p a r t n e r s t o go: • To confirm an earlier belief that we're n o t w o r t h y of love, for e x a m p l e , o r t h a t we'll c a u s e u n h a p p i n e s s . S o m e p e o p l e fear they'll b e a b a n d o n e d a n d u n c o n s c i o u s l y p u s h their p a r t n e r s

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o u t . T h e y create w h a t they fear, as if b e i n g a b a n d o n e d w e r e preferable to a c h o s e n separation. • To be loyal to t h e beliefs a n d e x a m p l e s of y o u r family. F o r e x a m p l e , to do as y o u r p a r e n t s did w h e n t h e y d i d n ' t fully take o n e a n o t h e r , w h e n they s e p a r a t e d , o r w h e n o n e o f t h e m d i e d early in their relationship; To fulfill an u n c o n s c i o u s identification w i t h a n o t h e r p e r s o n w h o ' s o w e d s o m e t h i n g b y t h e system. F o r e x a m p l e , a w o m a n d i d n ' t m a r r y b e c a u s e she was t a k i n g care o f h e r elderly p a r e n t s . H e r y o u n g e r niece u n c o n s c i o u s l y identified w i t h h e r a n d she also d i d n ' t m a r r y ; To c o m p e n s a t e for s o m e p e r s o n a l obligation. F o r e x a m p l e , a m a n a b a n d o n e d a n earlier family i n o r d e r t o e n t e r t h e p r e s e n t p a r t n e r s h i p . H i s s e c o n d wife b e c a m e very jealous o f h i m a n d w a n t e d to leave h i m . In t h e family constellation, it b e c a m e clear to h e r t h a t she felt a solidarity w i t h a n d an obligation to his first family.

Often w h e n o n e p a r t n e r is jealous, t h e p a r t n e r s h i p is already over, b u t t h e p a r t i c i p a n t s h a v e n ' t yet a d m i t t e d it, o r they d o n ' t w a n t to see it. If b o t h p a r t n e r s are willing, it's s o m e t i m e s possible to b r i n g a p a r t n e r s h i p b a c k into o r d e r after jealousy h a s b r o k e n o u t , b u t this r e q u i r e s t h e m t o confront the systemic p r e s s u r e s t h a t are p u s h i n g t h e m a p a r t . T h e y usually have t o face s o m e painful e x p e r i e n c e , p e r h a p s guilt, loneliness, or a fear of loss or i n a d e q u a c y . P a r t n e r s c a n say to e a c h o t h e r , " S o o n e r or later, I will lose y o u . " T h a t ' s a very painful s e n t e n c e to say authentically, b u t it c a n r e s t o r e o r d e r to the partnership. It's often n o t possible for p a r t n e r s to b r i n g a relationship b a c k into o r d e r after jealousy has surfaced. T h e n t h e y m u s t c h o o s e b e t w e e n t w o k i n d s of p a i n : the p a i n of s e p a r a t i o n a n d t h e p a i n of staying in an unsatisfying relationship. If t h e y c h o o s e to stay, it's b e t t e r for t h e m to c o n s e n t to c o n t i n u i n g their relationship t h e way it is a n d to give up their h o p e s a n d e x p e c t a t i o n s t h a t it will c h a n g e . T h e w o r s t c h o i c e they c a n m a k e is to stay in an unsatisfying relationship a n d k e e p o n h o p i n g that things will b e different. H o w e v e r , that's t h e c h o i c e m o s t couples prefer.

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A w o m a n told a therapy g r o u p h o w she t o r m e n t e d her h u s b a n d with jealousy and, although she saw her behavior as irrational, she could n o t stop. As she spoke about her jealousy, its systemic function b e c a m e clear to the g r o u p leader and he showed h e r a solution. He said, "You will lose your h u s b a n d sooner or later. Enjoy h i m while you've still got him." A few days later, the h u s b a n d called t h e leader a n d said, " T h a n k you. I have a wife again." H e r h u s b a n d h a d participated in a workshop led by the same g r o u p leader m a n y years earlier with a w o m a n with w h o m he h a d lived for seven years. D u r i n g the group, he had told the w o m a n he was with that he had a younger girlfriend, a n d was p l a n n i n g to m a r r y her. He a t t e n d e d a second workshop with his n e w p a r t n e r , w h o m he h a d married shortly after she b e c a m e pregnant. Outwardly, his new wife acted as if her h u s b a n d h a d no b o n d to his earlier p a r t n e r , a n d she sustained her claim on h i m through jealousy a n d public pressure. Secretly, she felt a b o n d between her h u s b a n d a n d his ex-wife a n d her own guilt for her p a r t in their separation. H e r jealousy was, t h e r e fore not the consequence of her h u s b a n d ' s actions, but rather her secret acknowledgment of her own indebtedness to his former p a r t ner. H e r jealousy resulted in an inner separation from her h u s b a n d a n d thus reflected his still-existing b o n d with his first p a r t n e r a n d expressed solidarity with her. In spite of this insight, she and the m a n separated several years later.

Love S e t s Limits o n F r e e d o m
Question: F r o m w h a t you're b e e n saying a b o u t systemic entanglements, it begins to s o u n d as if everything were predeterm i n e d . D o p a r t n e r s w h o w a n t t o live w h a t y o u call " a p a r t n e r s h i p of e q u a l s " have any p e r s o n a l f r e e d o m , or is e v e r y t h i n g set by t h e systemic constraints? Hellinger: I n e v e r y r e l a t i o n s h i p , t h e b o u n d a r i e s a r e s e t differently; s o m e are b r o a d e r a n d m o r e permissive a n d o t h e r s are m o r e restrictive. G u i l t begins as soon as y o u cross t h e b o u n d a r y of y o u r r e l a t i o n s h i p s y s t e m . Y o u feel free a n d i n n o c e n t w i t h i n t h e b o u n d aries, a n d there's no freedom or i n n o c e n c e w i t h o u t clear b o u n d a r i e s . T h i s p r o c e s s i s c l e a r i n s c h o o l c h i l d r e n , for e x a m p l e , w h o o f t e n b e c o m e d i s t r a u g h t if their t e a c h e r h a s n ' t set clear limits. W h e n t h e

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b o u n d a r i e s have b e e n tested a n d are clearly defined, t h e area of f r e e d o m is also clearly recognizable. Fulfillment a n d satisfaction are f o u n d w i t h i n t h e b o u n d a r i e s of a p a r t n e r s h i p . W h e n w e g o b e y o n d the b o u n d a r i e s , w e d a m a g e t h e relationship, s o m e t i m e s s o m u c h t h a t w e n o longer c a n r e t u r n t o it. F o r e x a m p l e , it s o m e t i m e s h a p p e n s in a c o u p l e ' s relationship t h a t t h e limits are t o o n a r r o w , a n d o n e p a r t n e r o r t h e o t h e r (or b o t h ) takes a lover to s t r e t c h the b o u n d a r i e s a n d create n e w free s p a c e . If the b o u n d a r i e s b e c o m e too loose a n d w h a t t h e p a r t n e r s h o l d i n c o m m o n t o o u n c l e a r , t h e relationship i s t h r e a t e n e d . T h e n t h e y m u s t t u r n b a c k a n d redefine their limits, o r s e p a r a t e . T h e i r b e l o n g i n g t o o n e a n o t h e r sets limits o n their f r e e d o m , a n d s u c h limits are an integral aspect of every r e l a t i o n s h i p system. T h e r e ' s a p o i n t at w h i c h o u r f r e e d o m of c h o i c e is limited by t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s t h a t o u r choices have for o u r sense of b e l o n g i n g . We m a y c h o o s e to go b e y o n d t h e set b o u n d a r i e s of a r e l a t i o n s h i p , b u t n o t w i t h o u t paying a price of guilt, n o t w i t h o u t c o n s e q u e n c e s for our own and our partner's happiness, and not without endangering o u r relationship. T h i s reflects a n a t u r a l law of s y s t e m s — t h a t there's a limit b e y o n d w h i c h a system c a n n o t c h a n g e w i t h o u t evolving i n t o a different system. Separation Question: I w o r k a lot w i t h couples in t h e p r o c e s s of separating. S o m e t i m e s it goes p r e t t y well, a n d s o m e t i m e s t h e r e are h o r r i b l e p r o b l e m s . A r e t h e r e a n y systemic d y n a m i c s t h a t influence that? Hellinger: P e o p l e often allow themselves to suffer a long t i m e before they feel free to leave a b a d situation b e c a u s e t h e y d o n ' t w a n t t o h u r t their p a r t n e r , o r b e c a u s e t h e y ' r e afraid o f w h a t o t h e r s m i g h t t h i n k or say. U s u a l l y o n e p e r s o n w a n t s a n e w a n d bigger s p a c e , a n d d o e s n ' t feel justified in taking steps to get it, b e c a u s e it will h u r t s o m e o n e . T h e p e r s o n acts as if his or h e r o w n suffering c o u l d n e u tralize the p a r t n e r ' s p a i n or justify t h e p e r s o n ' s a c t i o n in t h e eyes of o t h e r s . T h a t ' s o n e r e a s o n t h a t divorce p r o c e e d i n g s take s o long. W h e n a s e p a r a t i o n is finally a c c o m p l i s h e d , b o t h p a r t i e s have t h e o p p o r t u n i t i e s for a n d the risks of a n e w b e g i n n i n g . If o n e p a r t n e r rejects t h e o p p o r t u n i t y to m a k e a n e w b e g i n n i n g a n d ignores the c h a n c e to create s o m e t h i n g g o o d , a n d i n s t e a d clings tightly to his or h e r p a i n , t h e n it's difficult for t h e o t h e r p a r t n e r t o b e free. O n t h e

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o t h e r h a n d , i f b o t h a c c e p t the possibilities p r e s e n t e d a n d m a k e s o m e t h i n g o u t o f t h e m , t h e n b o t h p a r t n e r s are free a n d u n b u r d e n e d . Of all of t h e possibilities for forgiveness in situations of divorce a n d s e p a r a t i o n , this is t h e b e s t b e c a u s e it b r i n g s h a r m o n y even w h e n s e p a r a t i o n occurs. W h e n a s e p a r a t i o n d o e s n ' t go well, t h e r e ' s often a t e n d e n c y to look for s o m e o n e to b l a m e . T h o s e involved try to get o u t from u n d e r t h e weight of their fate by b l a m i n g s o m e o n e else. As a r u l e , a m a r r i a g e d o e s n ' t e n d b e c a u s e o n e p a r t n e r is at fault a n d t h e o t h e r is blameless, but because one or the other is entangled in the unresolved issues of his or h e r family of origin, or b e c a u s e they are b e i n g led in different directions. By b l a m i n g o n e p a r t n e r , an illusion is c r e a t e d t h a t s o m e t h i n g different c o u l d have b e e n d o n e , o r t h a t s o m e n e w b e h a v i o r c o u l d r e s c u e t h e m a r r i a g e . T h e n t h e gravity a n d the d e p t h o f t h e situation are ignored, a n d the p a r t n e r s b e g i n b l a m i n g a n d a c c u s i n g e a c h other. T h e solution t o o v e r c o m i n g this illusion a n d t h e d e s t r u c t i v e b l a m i n g i s for b o t h t o s u r r e n d e r t o t h e d e e p grief they e x p e r i e n c e b e c a u s e their p a r t n e r s h i p h a s c o m e t o a n e n d . T h i s grief d o e s n ' t last l o n g , b u t it goes very d e e p , a n d it's e x t r e m e l y painful. O n c e they've allowed themselves to go t h r o u g h their grieving, they c a n talk a b o u t w h a t n e e d s t o b e talked a b o u t a n d a r r a n g e t h e t h i n g s t h a t n e e d t o b e a r r a n g e d with clarity, r e a s o n , a n d m u t u a l respect. In a s e p a r a t i o n , anger a n d b l a m e are usually s u b s t i t u t e s for t h e p a i n of grieving. W h e n t w o p e o p l e c a n ' t m a n a g e t o s e p a r a t e cleanly, it's often b e c a u s e t h e y h a v e n ' t fully t a k e n from o n e a n o t h e r w h a t e v e r h a s b e e n given. T h e n o n e m u s t say t o t h e o t h e r , " I take t h e g o o d y o u ' v e given m e . It's a great deal a n d I t r e a s u r e it. All t h a t I've given to y o u , I have given gladly, a n d it's y o u r s to keep. I take responsibility for my p a r t in w h a t ' s g o n e w r o n g b e t w e e n u s , a n d I leave y o u r p a r t with y o u . I leave you n o w in p e a c e . " If they m a n a g e to say this to e a c h o t h e r authentically, they c a n s e p a r a t e in p e a c e . In s u c h situations, s o m e t i m e s telling a simple s t o r y is helpful. The End

Two people, backpacks fully packed, set out together. Their path leads through blooming gardens and meadows, and they're very happy. T h e n the path gets steep. Eventually, one of them runs out of provisions, and sits down. The other continues a little further and a little higher. T h e path gets rocky and more difficult, and eventually

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the second also eats the last of the food and sits down. Looking back at the glorious colors of the meadows below, the person begins to weep. P a r t n e r s often b e h a v e as if their p a r t i c i p a t i o n in t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p were like a c l u b m e m b e r s h i p t h a t h a s b e e n freely c h o s e n a n d c a n be freely t e r m i n a t e d . B u t t h e u n c o n s c i o u s a n d relentless c o n s c i e n c e g u a r d i n g love t e a c h e s otherwise. If we were free to t e r m i n a t e o u r p a r t n e r s h i p s , s e p a r a t i o n w o u l d b e less agonizing. F r e d e r i c h H o l d e r lin d e s c r i b e s this in a p o e m . The Lovers

Separate! It seemed so smart and good. Why are we so shocked now, as if we'd murdered love? Ah! We know so little of ourselves! There's a hidden god in us who rules. In a serious p a r t n e r s h i p of e q u a l s , we are b o u n d to o u r p a r t n e r s a n d c a n ' t s e p a r a t e w i t h o u t p a i n a n d guilt. T h e c o n s e q u e n c e s are invariably destructive w h e n p a r t n e r s s e p a r a t e irresponsibly. F o r e x a m p l e , i f o n e p a r t n e r says, " I ' m going t o d o s o m e t h i n g for myself and my development, and whatever happens to you is your p r o b l e m , " it's n o t infrequent t h a t a child will die or c o m m i t suicide following t h e s e p a r a t i o n . S u c h a s e p a r a t i o n is e x p e r i e n c e d by t h e child as a c r i m e t h a t r e q u i r e s a t o n e m e n t . B o n d i n g is b o t h t h e r e w a r d a n d t h e p r i c e of love. Mother, I Leave the Consequences of Your Going with You

A woman had frivolously separated from her husband, and her daughter became seriously ill shortly after the separation. In the family constellation, the representative of the mother felt best when she was placed outside the circle and the children were placed near their father. When her daughter said to her, "Mother, I leave the consequences of your going with you," she felt free, and everyone in the constellation felt a sense of harmony. Question: W h o d e c i d e s w h e t h e r a s e p a r a t i o n is irresponsible?

H e l l i n g e r : N o o n e d e c i d e s ; it's just felt. W h e n a s e p a r a t i o n occurs, everyone knows immediately whether it was irresponsible.

Transcript
ERNEST, A N D A CHILD'S SUICIDE
F o l l o w i n g a family constellation, E r n e s t reacts to t h e suggestion t h a t a p i c t u r e of a d e c e a s e d child be p u t up in t h e h o m e . Ernest: If I w e r e to p u t up a p i c t u r e of my s o n [who c o m m i t t e d s u i c i d e ] , t h e o t h e r c h i l d r e n w o u l d get very u p s e t . T h e y d o n ' t w a n t t o have a n y t h i n g t o d o w i t h their d e c e a s e d b r o t h e r , a n d t h e y d o n ' t w a n t t o b e r e m i n d e d o f his suicide. Hellinger: If that's t h e way they feel, t h e n t h e y ' r e in d a n g e r of b e c o m i n g suicidal, too. We c o u l d set up a constellation of y o u r f a m ily, a n d see w h a t ' s going o n . W o u l d you like to do that? Ernest: Yes.

Hellinger: Okay. We'll set u p your c u r r e n t family. H o w m a n y c h i l d r e n d o y o u have? Ernest: T h e r e are t w o m o r e .

Hellinger: A n d the b o y w h o killed himself, w h i c h p o s i t i o n i n t h e family d i d he have? Ernest: T h e youngest.

Hellinger: H a v e either you or your wife ever b e e n in a p r e v i o u s relationship? Ernest: No.

Hellinger: T h e n w e n e e d y o u , y o u r wife, a n d t h e t h r e e c h i l d r e n . G o a h e a d a n d set i t u p . You've seen h o w it's d o n e . S t a r t w i t h y o u r representative a n d lead h i m to his place. Stay c e n t e r e d in yourself. W h a t e v e r c o m e s from y o u r h e a d w o n ' t help u s . Feel y o u r way i n t o t h e situation a n d p u t everyone w h e r e it feels right. (Ernest places representatives with the exception of a representative for his wife.) A n d y o u r wife? 80

Man and Woman: The Foundation of Family Ernest: Hellinger: Ernest: I c a n ' t p u t h e r in. W h a t does that m e a n ? She d o e s n ' t w a n t to see it.

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H e l l i n g e r : T h e n move her t o the place where s o m e o n e w h o d o e s n ' t w a n t to see m u s t stand.

Hellinger:

W h a t ' s h a p p e n i n g for the father?

Ernest's Representative: I feel very tense in this confrontation, and I c a n ' t tell w h a t else is going o n . Hellinger: W h a t ' s h a p p e n i n g for the wife?

Wife: My throat feels like it's being choked, and my a r m s are paralyzed. Hellinger: First Child: W h a t ' s h a p p e n i n g with the eldest? I feel a great weight, a n d my h e a r t is p o u n d i n g .

T h i r d C h i l d : I ' m afraid of my youngest brother. It makes me u n h a p p y that there're all looking s o m e w h e r e , b u t no o n e looks anyone else in the eye.
*Legend: Husb—Ernest's representative; Wife—Ernest's wife's representative; 1—first child, a son; 3—third child, a son; +4—fourth child, a son, died in infancy.

82 Hellinger:

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H o w ' s the youngest feeling? I've got a p o u n d i n g h e a r t a n d I ' m shaking. N o

D e c e a s e d Child: air.

H e l l i n g e r (to deceased child):

Go out, a n d close the d o o r after you.

Hellinger:

W h a t does that change for the father? T h a t ' s a relief

Ernest's Representative: Hellinger: Wife:

F o r the mother?

Better (surprised). A n d for you?

H e l l i n g e r (to first child): First Child: Third Child: Worse.

T h a t ' s m u c h better. I can breathe m u c h m o r e easily.

H e l l i n g e r (to group): W h y does a child c o m m i t suicide? O u t of love. T h e representatives' reactions of relief show that this family n e e d e d s o m e o n e t o disappear. T h e question is: W h o really n e e d e d to go? (To Ernest): So, w h o really was u n d e r pressure to go? Ernest: T h e r e were so many. Even in my g r a n d p a r e n t s ' generation. So w h o all died?

Hellinger:

Man and Woman: The Foundation of Family Ernest: Hellinger: An uncle a n d my g r a n d m o t h e r , also by suicide. W h o s e b r o t h e r was the uncle?

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Ernest: H e was m y m o t h e r ' s brother. T h e g r a n d m o t h e r was m y father's m o t h e r . Hellinger: A n d they b o t h c o m m i t t e d suicide?

E r n e s t : Yes. A n d t h e n two of my b r o t h e r s died w h e n they were y o u n g , and a little daughter. Hellinger: Ernest: Your daughter? My daughter, very young (murmur of surprise in the group).

H e l l i n g e r (to group): Do you notice h o w forgotten persons are still present, even w h e n they're deceased? (Brings representative of youngest son back into constellation.) (To representative of youngest son): H o w did you feel o u t there? D e c e a s e d C h i l d : Better. Hellinger: C o m e b a c k in a n d take t h e exact place you h a d before you went out. D i d you hear that you have a y o u n g e r sister? D e c e a s e d Child: Yes. Was the d a u g h t e r w h o died the eldest?

H e l l i n g e r (to Ernest): Ernest:

She was the second.

Hellinger: P u t her in the constellation. (Ernest places her next to her deceased brother.) (To Ernest) G e t centered. W h e r e m u s t she go, exactly? L o o k at the whole constellation a n d feel where her place is. Ernest: H e r e (next to her brother), she's together with the d e a d . Over there (by the other brothers), she's with t h e living. H e l l i n g e r : T h a t ' s a t h o u g h t . T h a t ' s n o t a feeling. {To group:) W h e n people set up a constellation according to a c o n cept, it d o e s n ' t work. Ernest: H e r e , she's with the dead.

H e l l i n g e r : T h a t ' s only a theory you're stuck o n . (To Ernest's representative): W h e r e does she belong?

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Ernest's Representative: Hellinger: Where?

By her mother.

Ernest's Representative: indicated position.)

To h e r left.

(Representative moves to

H e l l i n g e r (to wife's representative): be for you? Wife:

Exactly w h e r e d o e s she n e e d to

I ' m s u d d e n l y icy cold. I c a n ' t see her. W h e r e d o e s she n e e d t o b e for you?

Hellinger: Wife:

I n front o f m e .

H e l l i n g e r (to wife): T a k e h e r in y o u r a r m s . B r e a t h e . (Mother and daughter hold each other tenderly.) (To Ernest): Of w h a t d i d she die? Ernest: S h e c o u l d n ' t b r e a t h e . H e r lungs were u n d e v e l o p e d . S h e c o u l d only b r e a t h e for t w o days. H e l l i n g e r (to Ernest's representative): Ernest's Representative: H e l l i n g e r (to youngest son): H o w are y o u d o i n g now?

M y h e a r t ' s very w a r m . H o w are y o u doing?

* Legend addition: +2—second child, a daughter, who died in infancy

Man and Woman: The Foundation of Family Deceased Child: I ' m m u c h better now.

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H e l l i n g e r (to group): W h e n she's there, he can stay. (To eldest son): A n d you? First Child: Third Child: to us. I ' m relieved. Me t o o , b u t I'd like it better if she'd c o m e over h e r e

H e l l i n g e r : We'll do that later. (To deceased daughter): H o w are you doing? Deceased Daughter: I ' m r e m e m b e r i n g that w h e n I was a little baby, I almost died. I c o u l d n ' t b r e a t h e and I was very often in a sanitarium with a s t h m a and bronchitis. H e l l i n g e r : T h a t ' s your personal m e m o r y . F o r now, just stay in the role. Obviously, E r n e s t d i d n ' t choose you by c h a n c e alone. B u t h o w is it for you to be by your m o t h e r ? Deceased Daughter: Hellinger: Wife: Good.

A n d how's the m o t h e r doing?

I feel calmer. It's also b e c o m e very w a r m in h e r e .

H e l l i n g e r (to group): N o w we can try to find an o r d e r for the family, that is, we'll look for what could be a good o r d e r for t h e m . (Hellinger moves the parents next to each other with the deceased daughter sitting on the floor in front of them, her back leaning against them. The other children are across from them.)

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H e l l i n g e r (to parents): Lay your h a n d s gently on t h e d e a d girl's h e a d or shoulder so that she's really together with you. L o o k at each other while you feel t h e presence of your child. {To deceased daughter): H o w do you feel there? Deceased Daughter: I feel threatened.

H e l l i n g e r : T h r e a t e n e d ? T h e n go over to your b r o t h e r s . . . close to t h e m . . . really in between t h e m , in y o u r place.

Hellinger:

H o w ' s that for you? Very protected.

Deceased Daughter: First Child: Third Child: Good!

Also good. N o t s o good. H o w are you doing?

D e c e a s e d Child:

H e l l i n g e r (to Ernest's representative): Ernest's Representative: Wife: Good.

I feel slightly c r a m p e d on my right side. Switch sides. Is t h a t better or worse?

H e l l i n g e r (to parents): Wife: Better.

Ernest's Representative:

Better.

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H e l l i n g e r (to youngest son): D e c e a s e d Child: was at the start. H e l l i n g e r (to Ernest): Ernest: Earlier? W h o died?

H o w are you d o i n g now?

M y heart's p o u n d i n g a n d I ' m shaking like I

O n c e m o r e , w h a t h a p p e n e d in your family?

Hellinger:

Ernest: M y father's m o t h e r ; then m y m o t h e r ' s brother, two very y o u n g b r o t h e r s of m i n e , and my father. Hellinger: So, we've still got a whole gallery of d e a d people. H o w old was your father w h e n he died? Ernest: Hellinger: Ernest: Hellinger: Fifty-five. H o w did your g r a n d m o t h e r die? She c o m m i t t e d suicide. H o w old was she?

Ernest: Thirty-four. (Hellinger asks the parents to switch places once again. Then representatives are added for Ernest's father, his younger brothers, and his paternal

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Symmetry tried, with the representatives'

grandmother. Several configurations are help, until correct positions are found.)

H e l l i n g e r (to Ernest's representative): see t h e m all? Ernest's strength. Representative: I feel

H o w do you feel w h e n you

good.

My

father

gives

me

H e l l i n g e r (to youngest son):

H o w do you feel n o w ?

D e c e a s e d Child: M u c h b e t t e r . B u t I n e e d t o b e able t o see m y g r a n d f a t h e r clearly. Hellinger: Okay, we'll slide t h e m over a bit. H e ' s t h e m o s t i m p o r t a n t for y o u . D e c e a s e d Child: better. As t h e g r a n d f a t h e r c a m e in, I i m m e d i a t e l y felt

H e l l i n g e r (to group): My h u n c h is that with so m a n y d e a t h s a n d suicides in this family, E r n e s t u n c o n s c i o u s l y w a n t e d to c o m m i t sui*Legend: +Brl—Ernest's brother, died young; +Br2—Ernest's brother, died young; Fa—Ernest's father, died at age of 55; +GrMo—Ernest's paternal grandmother, committed suicide at age of 34.

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cide, o r h a d t h e feeling t h a t h e n e e d e d t o die y o u n g i n o r d e r t o follow all of t h o s e w h o h a d g o n e before. H i s y o u n g e s t s o n did it in his place. T h a t ' s a d y n a m i c we often see in families t h a t have e x p e r i e n c e d serious illness, f r e q u e n t a c c i d e n t s , or suicide. It's called, " B e t t e r I go t h a n you, d e a r F a t h e r , o r d e a r M o t h e r . " T h a t ' s t h e case h e r e . T h e first constellation E r n e s t set up s h o w e d t h a t very clearly—the y o u n g e s t s o n w a s s t a n d i n g in front of his father to k e e p h i m from leaving. (To Ernest): W h a t shall we do w i t h you? P u t yourself in y o u r p l a c e in t h e constellation so t h a t you c a n feel h o w it is to be t h e r e . Ernest: I have a n o t h e r intuition.

Hellinger: P u t yourself into t h e constellation first. (Ernest takes his place in the constellation. Hellinger watches his reaction.) (To group): I d o n ' t t h i n k he'll be able to set t h a t right. H e ' s t o o old t o b e able t o really resolve t h a t d y n a m i c . W e n e e d t o r e s p e c t t h a t . T h e r e are limits t o w h a t w e c a n d o t h a t are set b y o u r age. I n p r i n ciple, t h e w o r s t h a s already h a p p e n e d . H i s y o u n g e s t s o n h a s a l r e a d y c o m m i t t e d suicide, a n d it's t o o late to save h i m . T h e q u e s t i o n i s w h e t h e r o r n o t w e c a n d o a n y t h i n g for t h e o t h e r sons. He c o u l d save t h e m if he w o u l d give his d e c e a s e d s o n a p l a c e in his h e a r t a n d say to h i m , "I k n o w t h a t y o u d i d it for m e , a n d I c a r r y you in my h e a r t so that you live on in m e . I'll do s o m e t h i n g good in m e m o r y of you"—whatever that might mean to him. A n d h e c a n say t o his o t h e r s o n s , " H e h a s a p l a c e i n m y h e a r t , a n d I ' m asking you to give h i m a place in y o u r h e a r t s t o o . Also, look at y o u r sister w h o i s s t a n d i n g b e t w e e n you a n d w h o b e l o n g s t o u s . " T h a t w o u l d b e a n O r d e r o f L o v e , a n d a r e s o l u t i o n t h r o u g h love. (To Ernest): Is t h a t clear e n o u g h for you? (Ernest nods,pause, representatives sit down.) (To group): A r e t h e r e any questions? Participant: My s o n c o n s t a n t l y p u t s his life in d a n g e r . M u s t I wait until it h a s h a p p e n e d ? H e l l i n g e r (looks at her for a long time, then gently): for you? Participant: I d o n ' t know. Is he d o i n g it

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H e l l i n g e r : H e ' s doing it for you. T h e r e was a gleam in your eyes as you told a b o u t it. T h e resolution lies with you. (Pause) D o e s anyo n e else have a question? Participant: I'd like to know m o r e a b o u t s o m e t h i n g you said earlier. You told E r n e s t that he's too old to find a resolution. Was that a provocation? You o p e n e d s o m e t h i n g up. Hellinger: He has already d o n e what n e e d e d to be done. It doesn't m a t t e r h o w that h a p p e n e d . L o o k at him, h o w he's b e a m i n g at m e .

Related Questions Q u e s t i o n : It seems to me that you ask a great deal from the clients. You said yourself that you go to the o u t e r m o s t limit. B u t I've also noticed that you suddenly stop at a certain point so that the work can c o n t i n u e on its own, so that it accumulates a certain power. C a n you explain h o w you u n d e r s t a n d that process? H e l l i n g e r : Together with the client, I survey the entire field of the c o n s e q u e n c e s of his or h e r actions and fate. I d o n ' t limit it to what's easy a n d pleasant. I go with clients to t h e limits of their systems, to t h e b o u n d a r i e s where their systems stop. In effect, that m e a n s that we eventually m e e t d e a t h , and with t h e m , I look at the possibility that they will die, or that something terrible will h a p p e n . I a c c o m p a n y t h e m , I go with t h e m to the outer limits, w i t h o u t fear, w i t h o u t hesitation. We look at everything that's t h e r e , up o n e side a n d d o w n the other. O n c e we've d o n e that, we've seen the entire field of reality that's operating in their system. We've explored the whole field and we know w h e r e the limits are. Only by going to the o u t e r limits can we k n o w what's possible, the good as well as t h e bad. T h a t gives clients strength, and with that strength, we can look for a resolution that's good for everyone. S o m e t i m e s t h e resolution is that we m u s t accept the inevitable, that we've reached the limit, a n d that n o t h i n g else is easier or p o s sible. B u t usually there's a n o t h e r possible solution. W h e n there is a n o t h e r possibility, it can be reached m o r e easily after we've already b e e n to t h e o u t e r limits. T h e client can see t h e reality of t h e situation a n d can t h e n choose the best a n d m o s t appropriate p a t h for himself or herself.

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Question: M u c h of what you say s o u n d s d o g m a t i c . Yet, I ' m surprised at h o w m u c h inner tranquillity a n d centeredness you m a i n tain in spite of the very heavy situations that p e o p l e repeatedly b r i n g a n d the rather hostile confrontations by people in the a u d i e n c e t h a t sometimes arise. I see, too, a gentleness of spirit in you that t o u c h e s me deeply. H o w do you maintain your centeredness a n d the clarity of y o u r perception? H e l l i n g e r : Tranquillity and clarity of p e r c e p t i o n are m a d e p o s sible by consenting to the world as it is w i t h o u t any intention to. change it. T h a t ' s fundamentally a religious a t t i t u d e , because it aligns me with a ^greater whole without separating me from it. I d o n ' t p r e t e n d to k n o w better or h o p e to achieve s o m e t h i n g b e t t e r t h a n w h a t t h e inner forces already at work in the system would do by themselves. W h e n I see something terrible, that, too, is an aspect of t h e world, a n d I c o n s e n t to it. W h e n I see s o m e t h i n g beautiful, I c o n s e n t to that also. I call this attitude " h u m i l i t y " — c o n s e n t i n g to t h e world as it is. Only this consent makes perception possible. W i t h o u t it, wishes, fears, j u d g m e n t s — m y constructs—interfere with my perception And there's a n o t h e r thing to consider. T h e O r d e r s of Love a r e n ' t rigid structures. T h e y ' r e always changing; they're different from m o m e n t to m o m e n t . T h e r e ' s something richly varied in t h e m , a p r o f o u n d a b u n d a n c e that we can glimpse for only a brief m o m e n t . T h a t ' s the reason why every family constellation is different, even w h e n the issues in t h e families are similar. W h e n I recognize that an order is a certain way, t h e n I say what I see. S o m e people w h o are a c c u s t o m e d to thinking in t e r m s of " t r u e a n d false" or "right a n d w r o n g " have a t e n d e n c y to hear what I say as a s t a t e m e n t a b o u t a general t r u t h . It's not! It's only a recognition of the t r u t h that could be glimpsed in a certain m o m e n t . It applies only to t h a t m o m e n t , a n d in that m o m e n t , it has its full t r u t h . If s o m e o n e isolates w h a t I've seen from its m o m e n t a r y context a n d makes a general principle o u t of it, t h e n it appears to be dogmatic. B u t others do that with what I say—I d o n ' t .

C H A P T E R T H R E E

Parents and Children
T h e love b e t w e e n p a r e n t s and children, like love in o t h e r relationships, is constrained by b o n d i n g , by giving a n d taking, a n d by dividing functions appropriately. Unlike other love, p a r e n t - c h i l d love succeeds w h e n a disparity of giving and taking is m a i n t a i n e d . T h e first systemic O r d e r o f Love between p a r e n t s a n d children is that p a r e n t s give a n d children take, T h e m o s t valuable thing that children receive from their pare n t s — n o m a t t e r w h o their parents are or w h a t they m a y have done—is t h e o p p o r t u n i t y to live. Receiving life from their p a r e n t s , children take their parents, and those p a r e n t s are t h e only possible ones for t h e m . Children c a n ' t a d d to, omit from, or reject anything in the life their p a r e n t s give, and it's also impossible for p a r e n t s to a d d or withhold anything w h e n they give themselves as p a r e n t s to their children. T h i s first giving a n d taking between p a r e n t s a n d children is different from the giving and taking of gifts a n d favors. W h e n children take life from their p a r e n t s , they take what their p a r e n t s previously have taken from their own parents. In a certain sense, children are their p a r e n t s a n d g r a n d p a r e n t s . Love succeeds w h e n children value the life they have b e e n given—when they take their p a r e n t s as parents as they are. Everything else that children n e e d in order to thrive can be given by s o m e o n e else, b u t only their p a r e n t s can give t h e m life. 92

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I'm Glad You Had Me During a workshop on family systems, a businessman told the group that his mother had given him away as a child so that she could live a free and unburdened life. He had grown up in a foster family and met his mother for the first time when he was 20 years old. At the time that he participated in the workshop, he was over 40 and had only seen his mother three or four times. T h e following day, he remembered that she lived not far from the course site, and that evening he visited her. He returned to the workshop the next day and related how he had gone to her house and had told her, "Mother, I'm glad you had me." T h e old woman beamed, and her heart knew peace. P a r e n t s k n o w d e e p satisfaction w h e n they are t a k e n b y their child r e n , w h e n they see t h e quick flash in a child's eye, or h e a r t h e joyful l a u g h t e r t h a t says: " I ' m glad you h a d m e . " C h i l d r e n k n o w p e a c e w h e n t h e y take their p a r e n t s — l i k e t h e m a n above d i d — a s they a r e . In a d d i t i o n to giving t h e m life, p a r e n t s also give their c h i l d r e n o t h e r t h i n g s . T h e y care for t h e m , a n d p r o v i d e t h e m w i t h a d v a n t a g e s , d i s a d v a n t a g e s , a n d o p p o r t u n i t i e s for g o o d or ill. C h i l d r e n are u n a b l e to b a l a n c e o u t the great disparity of giving a n d taking in their relationship w i t h their p a r e n t s , even w h e n they w a n t to. A n d so an irreconcilable disparity of giving a n d t a k i n g is t h e s e c o n d O r d e r o f L o v e w i t h w h i c h children m u s t c o n t e n d . T h e b o n d i n g love t h a t y o u n g children feel for their n a t u r a l p a r ents is b l i n d to t h e details of w h a t t h e p a r e n t s do or fail to d o . C h i l d r e n act as if love c o u l d tolerate no difference—as if o n l y b e i n g similar w o u l d b o n d t h e m t o g e t h e r a n d t h a t b e i n g different m u s t lead t o s e p a r a t i o n a n d loss. T h e i r actions b e a r witness t o t h e m a g i cal t h i n k i n g of t h e child's soul: " L i k e b o n d s to like." T h i s u n c o n s c i o u s a s s u m p t i o n a b o u t love gives rise to a child's instinctive u r g e t o b o n d t o the p a r e n t s b y b e i n g like t h e m . T h i s i s easily s e e n i n y o u n g children w h o openly imitate their p a r e n t s , b u t this a s p e c t of children's love c o n t i n u e s to o p e r a t e in t h e i n n e r lives of a d u l t s as well, playing an i m p o r t a n t role in family r e l a t i o n s h i p s . A c t i n g o u t of love, children follow their p a r e n t s even in suffering, a n d a l t h o u g h it's usually u n c o n s c i o u s , t h e y p e r p e t u a t e their p a r e n t s ' misfortunes by copying them.

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Good Girl

A 35 -year-old woman told the group that she was getting a divorce. She had been happily married and had three children. Although she could give no satisfactory reason for wanting to divorce, she was adamant and rejected out of hand all suggestions to reconsider. In a later session, the therapist asked her about her parents. Her father had died trying to rescue his companions on an aircraft carrier. T h e therapist asked how old her mother was at that time. She replied, \ "My mother lost my father when she was 3 5 . " T h e therapist then « asked, "Must a good girl in your family lose her husband at 3 5 ? " M o t i v a t e d b y b l i n d love, t h e d a u g h t e r did a s h e r m o t h e r h a d d o n e , s h a r i n g h e r loss as if a s e c o n d s e p a r a t i o n c o u l d equalize t h e first, as if h e r divorce d e m o n s t r a t e d loyalty. C h i l d r e n u n c o n s c i o u s l y aspire to e q u a l their p a r e n t s in suffering. T h e i r b o n d i n g love is so d e e p t h a t i t b l i n d s t h e m , a n d they c a n ' t resist t h e t e m p t a t i o n t o try t o care for their p a r e n t s b y taking o n their p a r e n t s ' suffering. A l t h o u g h a c t i n g o u t o f love a n d believing t h a t t h e y are d o i n g g o o d , t h e y b e g i n t o f u n c t i o n a s their p a r e n t s ' p a r e n t s , a n d t h e y live o u t t h e i r p a r e n t s ' greatest fears b y d a m a g i n g t h e m s e l v e s . T h e i r b l i n d love p r o t e c t s their b o n d i n g t o their p a r e n t s , b u t b y f u n c t i o n i n g a s p a r e n t s a n d trying t o give t o their p a r e n t s r a t h e r t h a n take from t h e m , t h e y reverse t h e flow of giving a n d taking a n d t h e y i n a d v e r t e n t l y p e r p e t u a t e suffering. L o v e b e t w e e n p a r e n t s a n d c h i l d r e n o b e y s a hierarchy w i t h i n t h e family t h a t d e m a n d s t h a t t h e y r e m a i n u n e q u a l p a r t n e r s , t h a t p a r e n t s give a n d c h i l d r e n take. T h u s , t h e t h i r d Order of Love is t h a t love s u c c e e d s b e s t w h e n c h i l d r e n are c h i l d r e n a n d p a r e n t s are p a r e n t s — t h a t is, w h e n t h e h i e r a r c h y w i t h i n t h e family a c c o r d i n g t o t i m e a n d function i s r e s p e c t e d .

GIVING A N D TAKING BETWEEN PARENTS A N D CHILDREN
B o t h p a r e n t s a n d c h i l d r e n are t e m p t e d t o give a n d t a k e w h a t d a m ages love. M i s u n d e r s t a n d i n g s a b o u t w h a t love allows a r e c o m m o n , a n d t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s are often painful. T h e fact t h a t t h e giving a n d taking b e t w e e n p a r e n t s a n d c h i l d r e n c a n ' t b e b a l a n c e d b y r e c i p r o c a l giving d e m a n d s t h a t t h e y look for o t h e r r e s o l u t i o n s . T h r e e c o m m o n p a t t e r n s o f giving a n d t a k i n g b e t w e e n p a r e n t s a n d c h i l d r e n are injurious to love:

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C h i l d r e n refuse to take their p a r e n t s as t h e y are. P a r e n t s t r y to give a n d children to t a k e w h a t is h a r m f u l . P a r e n t s t r y to take from children a n d c h i l d r e n t r y to give to parents.

Refusing to Take Parents as They Are
I n s t e a d of t a k i n g their p a r e n t s as they are, c h i l d r e n s o m e t i m e s p r e s u m e t o evaluate t h e m a s i f p a r e n t s h a d t o earn t h e right t o b e p a r ents. T h e y say, in effect, "I d o n ' t like this a b o u t y o u , so y o u ' r e n o t my father." O r , "You d i d n ' t give me w h a t I n e e d e d , so you c a n ' t be m y m o t h e r . " T h i s i s a n a b s u r d d i s t o r t i o n o f reality. P a r e n t s e n t e r p a r e n t h o o d t h r o u g h t h e events o f c o n c e p t i o n a n d b i r t h , a n d t h e s e acts a l o n e m a k e t h e m t h e child's p a r e n t s . C h i l d r e n are absolutely powerless to c h a n g e a n y t h i n g a b o u t this first giving a n d taking. C h i l d r e n e x p e r i e n c e i n n e r solidity a n d a clear sense of identity w h e n they find r e s o l u t i o n w i t h their p a r e n t s , w h e n t h e y take b o t h p a r e n t s a n d a c k n o w l e d g e t h e m a s they are. T h e y feel i n c o m p l e t e a n d e m p t y w h e n t h e y e x c l u d e o n e o r b o t h o f their p a r e n t s from their h e a r t s . T h e c o n s e q u e n c e of d e m e a n i n g or e x c l u d i n g a p a r e n t is always t h e s a m e — c h i l d r e n b e c o m e passive a n d feel e m p t y . T h i s is a c o m m o n cause of depression. C h i l d r e n , even w h e n they've b e e n h u r t b y their p a r e n t s , c a n still say: "Yes, y o u are my p a r e n t s . E v e r y t h i n g t h a t w a s in y o u is in me too. I a c k n o w l e d g e t h a t you are my p a r e n t s , a n d I a c c e p t t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s t h a t h a s for m e . I take t h e g o o d from w h a t y o u gave, a n d I t r u s t you to deal w i t h y o u r fate as you see fit." T h e n t h e y are free to set a b o u t t h e often difficult w o r k of m a k i n g t h e b e s t o u t of w h a t m a y be a very b a d situation. The Rest House

Cloaked in memory and loss, a man wanders the streets of the town where he was born. Many things that happened there remain hidden from him, and many doors are locked. He wishes he could put that past far behind him, but something holds him, as if he were wrestling with a demon whose blessing he must win before he can go. And so he feels caught between a desire to go forward and a need to stay, between leaving and remaining.

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He comes to a park and sits down on a b e n c h , leans back, breathes deeply. He closes his eyes. T r u s t i n g to an inner force, he allows his t u r m o i l just to be a n d feels himself growing calm and supple like reeds in the wind, in h a r m o n y with all diversity a n d with the spaciousness of time. He imagines himself as an o p e n house, and whoever wishes to may enter. All w h o come bring something, stay a while, and then leave. T h e r e ' s a perpetual c o m i n g in this h o u s e , a bringing, a staying, a leaving. Everyone newly c o m e brings something, grows old in staying, a n d leaves w h e n the time is ripe. M a n y w h o have been excluded or long forgotten enter his h o u s e . T h e y too bring something, stay a while, and leave. Even those w h o are unwelcome enter, and they too bring something, mingle with the o t h e r s , stay a while, and leave. W h o e v e r enters meets those w h o came before and those w h o will c o m e after, and because they are many, all m u s t share. Everyone who has a place has limits. W h o e v e r desires something m u s t also give. T h o s e w h o enter continue to grow as long as they stay. T h e y came after others had left, and will go when others need to c o m e . A n d so in this house of coming and going, there are time and space e n o u g h for everyone. Sitting there in this way, the m a n feels comfortable in his h o u s e . He feels at ease with all w h o have c o m e , are c o m i n g , a n d will c o m e ; with all they've brought, are bringing, and will bring; a n d with those w h o have stayed, are staying, or have left. It seems to h i m as if whatever had b e e n incomplete is n o w complete. He feels a long struggle c o m i n g to an end, and leaving is n o w possible. He waits until he feels t h a t the m o m e n t has c o m e , o p e n s his eyes, looks a r o u n d , stands u p , a n d goes. C h i l d r e n c o n t r i b u t e t o t h e i r p a r e n t s ' feelings o f g u i l t w h e n t h e y refuse to take t h e m as they are. If children r e m a i n u n h a p p y , caught i n a c y c l e o f failure a n d s u f f e r i n g b e c a u s e t h e i r p a r e n t s ' c a r e t a k i n g w a s deficient, then t h e p a r e n t s are guilty of causing h u r t to t h e child r e n t o w h o m t h e y g a v e life. I f c h i l d r e n a r e a b l e t o o v e r c o m e w h a t e v e r t h e y m a y h a v e s u f f e r e d i n c h i l d h o o d a n d l e a r n t o live h a p p y , satisfying lives, t h e n t h e i r p a r e n t s feel r e l i e v e d . B e c a u s e t h e y h a v e g o o d lives, t h e s e c h i l d r e n d o n ' t c l i n g t o t h e i r r e s e n t m e n t s a g a i n s t t h e i r p a r e n t s . R a t h e r , t h e y t a k e t h e life t h e y ' v e b e e n g i v e n a n d live i t a s fully a s t h e y c a n . Still, m a n y p e o p l e p r e f e r t o r e m a i n u n h a p p y r a t h e r t h a n t a k e life fully a n d a i d t h e i r p a r e n t s i n p u t t i n g o l d feelings of guilt to rest.

Parents and Children Refusing to Take Father as He Is: An Example

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P a r t i c i p a n t : I have a question a b o u t children h o n o r i n g their father. I've b e e n working intensively with a family for s o m e years. T h e p a r e n t s are divorced a n d the father lives in a n o t h e r city. T h e children reject their father with an intense h a t r e d b e c a u s e he repeatedly terrorized their m o t h e r . T h e y watched h i m b e a t her on several occasions. T h e children also found out that their father h a d sexually molested young schoolboys. H e ' s m a d e a g e n u i n e effort to change a n d has repeatedly tried to establish contact with t h e m , h o p i n g that s o m e form of reconciliation might be possible. H e ' s written t h e m letters a n d sent t h e m presents, b u t they refuse to have anything to do with h i m . T h e y even s h r e d d e d t h e family p h o t o a l b u m , tearing o u t all t h e pictures of h i m . Hellinger: H o w old are the children?

P a r t i c i p a n t : Ages 10 to 18. T h e y all live with their m o t h e r , a n d they say they d o n ' t ever want to see their father again. H e l l i n g e r : Okay. T h e first thing is that t h e hate that t h e children feel toward their father is m o s t likely their m o t h e r ' s , a n d n o t their own. It's just too intense to be merely children's h a t e . T h e fact of their taking on their m o t h e r ' s h a t e doesn't p r o t e c t t h e m from t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s of t h e h a t e . T h a t ' s very i m p o r t a n t to u n d e r s t a n d — whatever we do has c o n s e q u e n c e s , a n d it has c o n s e q u e n c e s for o u r children as well. H a v i n g a moral justification for d o i n g s o m e t h i n g destructive d o e s n ' t e x e m p t the action from its c o n s e q u e n c e s , a n d neither do good intentions r e d u c e the c o n s e q u e n c e s of harmful actions. It would be useful for the children to learn to allow their m o t h e r to deal with h e r own h a t e . O n e strategic intervention w o u l d be for t h e m to tell their m o t h e r , " A b o u t all this h a t e for D a d , we'll take care of it for you." You can suggest that to t h e m , b u t d o n ' t explain it. T h a t would be a first step to getting everyone thinking a b o u t what's going on. W h e n people are c a u g h t in other people's feelings, it's usually b e t t e r to work with t h e m indirectly. So, after you offer the sentence to t h e m , you could try a telling t h e m a long story with a surprise ending. F o r example, here's a story a b o u t s o m e t h i n g t h a t really happened.

98 Where

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Symmetry with Mother?

Do You

O n c e my wife and I were invited by the director of a psychosomatic hospital to work with some of the patients who were staying there. We worked very intensively for 14 days. T h e y all h a d a special p r o g r a m every m o r n i n g and Primal G r o u p T h e r a p y every afternoon. O n e w o m a n with w h o m I worked was extremely depressed. D u r ing a therapy session, she screamed with cold h a t r e d that she wished her father h a d died in t h e war. On the next day, I asked her what h a d h a p p e n e d to her father. She explained that he h a d suffered a head w o u n d , a n d often h a d outbreaks and did crazy things that were very difficult for her and her m o t h e r . T h e y c a m e to h a t e h i m , a n d to wish t h a t he h a d died. But judging by the way she talked, I suspected that t h e d a u g h t e r felt and expressed her mother's h a t e — n o t her own. At our next meeting, I asked her if she h a d children. She said, "I've got two sons." I said, " O n e of your sons will follow your father." She looked at m e , b u t d i d n ' t say anything. I asked her h o w her m a r riage was. She said that it wasn't very good. H e r h u s b a n d took good care of h e r and the children, which was why she stayed with h i m , b u t she d i d n ' t like h i m very m u c h . She was very depressed a n d agitated w h e n I next saw h e r a few days later. W h e n I asked her what the matter was, she said that she h a d received a letter from the h o m e for disturbed children where h e r youngest son lived. H e ' d had a suicidal episode there. A l t h o u g h she confirmed what I h a d said a few days earlier, she d i d n ' t see the connection, and I d i d n ' t say anything either. T h e n she said, "I love h i m so m u c h . " But the way she said it d i d n ' t seem genuine. So I told h e r that it d i d n ' t s o u n d m u c h like love, and that it upset me to hear her speak a b o u t h i m like that. She b e c a m e furious with me and sent me away. She was surprised w h e n I checked on her the next day. I asked her to experiment with imagining that her son was there a n d telling h i m , "I hate your father, b u t I love you." After she did it, I asked her, " H o w would your son respond if he heard you say t h a t ? " She said, "I d o n ' t know." I asked, "Would he be able to react at all?" She answered softly, " N o . " I said, " T h a t ' s what's making h i m crazy." In the same r o o m was a young m a n whose m o t h e r h a d left h i m in a hospital a n d disappeared. H e ' d been in a series of foster h o m e s a n d h a d suffered a great deal, but he accepted his fate openly. I said to her, " L o o k at him. H e ' s suffered a lot, b u t he d i d n ' t get psychotic. He knows where he stands with his mother." I f y o u tell t h e m a h o r r i b l e s t o r y like t h a t , p e r h a p s t h e y ' l l c a t c h o n to the h i d d e n d y n a m i c . B e c o m i n g a father a n d being o n e have n o t h -

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ing to do with w h e t h e r the father's good or b a d . B e c o m i n g a father or a m o t h e r is a process beyond good and evil. Conceiving a child fundamentally serves life, so it doesn't d e p e n d on m o r a l j u d g m e n t s for its honor. I'll give y o u a n o t h e r e x a m p l e . A d o c t o r o n c e told a g r o u p t h a t his father h a d b e e n a d o c t o r for t h e SS a n d h a d supervised m a n y h u m a n e x p e r i m e n t s i n t h e c o n c e n t r a t i o n c a m p s . After t h e war, h e was f o u n d guilty a n d given the d e a t h penalty, b u t s o m e h o w was freed a n d he d i s a p p e a r e d . T h e son's q u e s t i o n w a s , " W h a t shall I do a b o u t my father?" I said to h i m , " I n t h e m o m e n t y o u r father i m p r e g n a t e d y o u r m o t h e r , h e w a s n ' t acting a s a n S S officer. T h e two things are different, a n d you can a n d m u s t keep t h e m separate." Like this d o c t o r , it's possible for a child to acknowledge his or h e r father as a father without assuming responsibility for t h e father's actions. Children in such situations m u s t n o t minimize or excuse their father's actions, b u t they can say, " W h a t you did is y o u r , responsibility. StilL_you are my father. W h a t e v e r you have d o n e , we're related. I ' m glad t h a t you gave me life. Even w h e n what you did was horrible, I ' m your son, n o t your judge." W h a t o t h e r option is o p e n to a child in a situation like that? T h i s distinction is also very i m p o r t a n t for t h e children in y o u r case. W h a t their father did makes it necessary for t h e m to separate from h i m for a while, b u t they w o n ' t m a n a g e to separate as long as the h a t e is so strong. T h e hate binds t h e m to h i m . T h e y ' l l be free w h e n they honestly say, " W h a t you did was very h a r d for us, a n d we're n o t going to see you for a while, b u t y o u ' r e still o u r father, and we enjoy the life you gave us." M a y b e you c a n help the m o t h e r , as well. She's probably caught in an identification with s o m e o n e in her own system, a n d the exaggeration of h e r hate c o m e s from that identification. P e r h a p s she's taken on s o m e o n e ' s hate in t h e same way that h e r children are taking on h e r h a t e . If she's entangled, it'll be difficult for h e r to think clearly a b o u t what's h a p p e n i n g . It might help h e r if she can find o u t what was going on in her family. If she can find t h e p e r s o n to w h o m the h a t e belongs, she m a y be able to give it back. T h e n she'll only have to deal with her o w n h a t e and whatever else actually belongs between her a n d her former h u s b a n d . T h e r e ' s a d a n g e r that her children will later copy their father's behavior a n d b e c o m e like h i m . If she gets to t h e place w h e r e she's

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genuinely looking for a r e s o l u t i o n , t h e systemic s o l u t i o n w o u l d be for h e r to say, "I m a r r i e d y o u r father b e c a u s e I loved h i m , a n d w h e n I see y o u , I still love h i m . " If she could h o n e s t l y say t h a t , t h e child r e n w o u l d b e free. B u t you p r o b a b l y w o u l d n ' t d a r e t o p r o p o s e s o m e t h i n g like t h a t , w o u l d you? Participant: N o , I wouldn't!

Hellinger: T h a t w o u l d b e a n effective i n t e r v e n t i o n . O f c o u r s e , y o u ' d have to offer it to h e r w i t h conviction, w i t h t r u e c o m p a s s i o n . You c a n ' t say s o m e t h i n g like t h a t as a t e c h n i q u e . Participant: T h e c o u r t s are going t o d e c i d e w h e t h e r o r n o t t h e c h i l d r e n a n d t h e father c a n have c o n t a c t w i t h e a c h o t h e r . T h e m o t h e r is c o n t e s t i n g visitation rights. Hellinger: I ' d a g r e e w i t h h e r t h a t t h e r e s h o u l d b e n o c o n t a c t for now. I'd tell t h e father t h a t it's a p p r o p r i a t e for h i m t o give u p his r i g h t s t o visitation for t h e t i m e b e i n g . I f h e w e r e t o d o so, h e w o u l d b e a c c e p t i n g t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s o f his a c t i o n s , a n d t h a t w o u l d m a k e i t easier for t h e c h i l d r e n t o r e s p e c t h i m . T h e c o u r t s d e c i d e a c c o r d i n g t o legal criteria, b u t t h e y often d e c i d e w h a t ' s p s y c h o logically b e s t anyway. I w o u l d n ' t e n c o u r a g e h i s p r o t e s t i n g t h e decision.

Giving a n d Taking What Is Harmful A m o n g t h e things t h a t p a r e n t s m u s t n o t give t h e i r c h i l d r e n , a n d t h a t c h i l d r e n m u s t n o t take, are d e b t s , illnesses, obligations, b u r d e n s of c i r c u m s t a n c e , injustices suffered or c o m m i t t e d , a n d a n y privileges g a i n e d by p e r s o n a l a c h i e v e m e n t . T h e s e are all things t h a t p a r e n t s have e a r n e d o r suffered t h r o u g h p e r s o n a l effort o r c i r c u m s t a n c e . T h e y h a v e n ' t b e e n i n h e r i t e d from a p r e v i o u s g e n e r a t i o n in o r d e r to be p a s s e d to the n e x t as a g o o d b e q u e s t , so t h e y r e m a i n t h e p a r e n t s ' responsibility. It's t h e p a r e n t s ' job t o p r o t e c t their c h i l d r e n from t h e negative effect of s u c h t h i n g s , a n d c h i l d r e n m u s t t r u s t their p a r e n t s t o deal w i t h w h a t e v e r fate h a s m e t e d o u t — i n w h a t e v e r way t h e p a r e n t s c h o o s e . W h e n p a r e n t s give w h a t i s h a r m f u l , o r w h e n c h i l d r e n t a k e it, love is injured.

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T h e r e a r e n e g a t i v e c o n s e q u e n c e s of a different k i n d w h e n a y o u n g e r p e r s o n feels e n t i t l e d t o t h e r e w a r d s a n d privileges o f a n older person without having earned them. A Better Lawyer

A young lawyer took over his father's highly successful law practice. Because he was less experienced, and perhaps less gifted than his father, many of the more important clients soon left. Rather than accepting this loss of income and reduced standard of living, he acted as if he had the right to the same success as his father—even though he had not earned it with his own efforts. He began to accept well-paid but illegal work. His actions were soon exposed and he was barred from legal practice for some years. My Mother the Actress

Fate smiled generously on a well-known actress, giving her both talent and luck. Fate was less generous with her daughter. However, the daughter felt entitled to the same success as her mother and became depressed and suicidal when she could not achieve it. She began to hate her mother, as if her mother could have given her luck and talent, as well as life. Eventually, the daughter found a life of her own in a different p r o fession, and enjoyed modest success, a happy family life, and a good friendship with her mother. C h i l d r e n m u s t differentiate t h e m s e l v e s f r o m t h e i r p a r e n t s a n d r e c o g n i z e t h e limits o f t h e i r r i g h t s a n d r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s . T h i s t o o s h o w s r e s p e c t a n d love for t h e i r p a r e n t s . Children have advantages or disadvantages according to their p a r e n t s ' c i r c u m s t a n c e s . F r o m w h a t t h e y ' r e given i n this way, child r e n c r e a t e a n e w t h e i r o w n a d v a n t a g e s a n d d e b t s . B u t love i s i n j u r e d w h e n c h i l d r e n feel e n t i t l e d a n d d e m a n d t o t a k e w h a t t h e i r p a r e n t s h a v e a c q u i r e d t h r o u g h p e r s o n a l efforts o r suffering. F o r e x a m p l e , b i t t e r q u a r r e l s t h a t split families a n d d e s t r o y love m a y result w h e n children expect or d e m a n d an inheritance. An i n h e r i t a n c e is a gift f r o m p a r e n t s to t h e i r c h i l d r e n , a n d like a n y gift, i t m a y b e given h o w e v e r t h e giver w i s h e s . E v e n i f o n e c h i l d gets everything a n d the others n o t h i n g , r e s e n t m e n t has no g o o d effect. A n i n h e r i t a n c e i s always u n e a r n e d , a n d c o m p l a i n i n g a b o u t g e t t i n g less t h a n s o m e o n e else i s i n a p p r o p r i a t e . H o w e v e r , t h o s e w h o

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have received m o r e m a y freely give a fair share to t h o s e w h o have b e e n given less, a n d t h e r e b y assure p e a c e a n d h a r m o n y i n t h e syst e m . W h e n e v e r t h o s e w h o have received less are dissatisfied a n d d e m a n d m o r e — a s if an i n h e r i t a n c e were a r i g h t — t u r b u l e n c e develops in t h e flow of love. S o m e t i m e s c h i l d r e n t a k e s o m e t h i n g h a r m f u l f r o m their p a r e n t s , a n d s o m e t i m e s p a r e n t s t r y t o give t o their c h i l d r e n a n obligation, r e s e n t m e n t , or d e b t , as if t h a t were a g o o d i n h e r i t a n c e . F a t e brings a d v a n t a g e a n d m i s f o r t u n e i n different m e a s u r e s . I n d i v i d u a l s m a y b e able t o t u r n m i s f o r t u n e aside o r escape its c o n s e q u e n c e s , b u t s o m e t i m e s they c a n n o t a n d so m u s t suffer the c o n s e q u e n c e s of fortune's whimsy. S u c h u n a v o i d a b l e blows of fate, however, also give s t r e n g t h and wisdom to those who understand and surrender to them. T h e g o o d qualities e a r n e d i n this way m a y t h e n b e p a s s e d o n t o others w i t h o u t t h e p r i c e t h a t ' s already b e e n p a i d . P a s s i n g o n w i s d o m e a r n e d t h r o u g h suffering is possible only if t h e o t h e r m e m b e r s of t h e system have t h e c o u r a g e , r e s p e c t , a n d w i s d o m n o t t o interfere. F o r e x a m p l e , g r a n d p a r e n t s w h o have a c c e p t e d w i t h g r a c e w h a t e v e r u n a v o i d a b l e suffering a n d loss fate h a s given give freely to their g r a n d c h i l d r e n , a n d are loved b y t h e m . B u t w h e n e v e r y o u n g e r p e r s o n s — e v e n if m o t i v a t e d by love—take on b u r d e n s or obligations from o l d e r p e r s o n s , t h e y i n t r u d e into t h e m o s t p e r s o n a l s p h e r e o f t h o s e o l d e r p e r s o n s a n d r o b t h e m a n d their suffering o f t h e p o w e r for g o o d . T h e o r d e r of giving a n d taking in a family is t u r n e d u p s i d e d o w n w h e n p a r e n t s h a v e n ' t t a k e n e n o u g h from their o w n p a r e n t s , o r w h e n they h a v e n ' t t a k e n a n d given e n o u g h t o e a c h o t h e r i n their p a r t n e r s h i p . T h e n they w a n t their e m o t i o n a l n e e d s t o b e m e t b y their c h i l d r e n , a n d their c h i l d r e n m a y feel r e s p o n s i b l e for m e e t i n g t h e m . P a r e n t s t h e n take like children, a n d c h i l d r e n give as if t h e y w e r e p a r e n t s . I n s t e a d of flowing from o l d e r to y o u n g e r , t h e giving a n d taking r u n against t h e f l o w o f gravity a n d t i m e . S u c h giving c a n ' t r e a c h its p r o p e r goal any m o r e t h a n a m o u n t a i n s t r e a m c a n f l o w from t h e valley u p t o t h e p e a k s . When Father Acts Like a Child

A young couple came to therapy with their six-year-old son seeking help in dealing with him, as he was very difficult. During an emotional outburst, the father held his son firmly, close to his body, and talked to him. T h e father spoke as if he were a child himself, talking

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about his own needs and feelings as if his son should understand him like a father, and the boy found no resolution. T h e therapist sat behind the father and said, "Imagine that I'm your father. Lean against me and speak to your son as a father speaks." He did so, and a resolution established itself at once. In the end he sat with his son, holding hands, and his wife sat with their two daughters, facing them. Father and son were at peace together, as were the mother and daughters. It was a beautiful picture. At the next session, the man lay on the floor playing with his son. They wrestled happily. Suddenly, the boy became angry and ran out of the room. T h e therapist, overhearing their conversation, noticed that the child had become angry when the father reverted to speaking as a child, and the order was disturbed again. W h e n p a r e n t s have u n m e t e m o t i o n a l n e e d s , it's a p p r o p r i a t e for t h e m t o t u r n t o e a c h o t h e r o r t o their o w n p a r e n t s . W h e n t h e y t u r n t o their c h i l d r e n w i t h d e m a n d s t o b e c o m f o r t e d o r r e a s s u r e d , t h e roles a n d functions in t h e family are reversed. T h a t ' s parentification—children a s s u m i n g t h e position of a p a r e n t t o w a r d their o w n p a r e n t s . C h i l d r e n c a n ' t p r o t e c t themselves against this p r o c e s s . E v e r y o n e suffers w h e n families are c a u g h t in t h e p a t t e r n of c h i l d r e n feeling r e s p o n s i b l e for their p a r e n t s a n d p a r e n t s e x p e c t i n g their c h i l d r e n t o b e h a v e a s a d u l t p a r t n e r s . T h e c h i l d r e n take o n a n exaggerated a n d i n a p p r o p r i a t e i m p o r t a n c e in t h e family, and they're d o o m e d to fail, for no child c a n satisfy his or h e r p a r e n t s ' e m o t i o n a l n e e d s a n d e m p t i n e s s . A n d t h e p a r e n t s c a n ' t p r o t e c t themselves from d o i n g t o their c h i l d r e n w h a t t h e y d o n ' t wish t o d o . M o r a l a r g u m e n t s a n d logical justifications d o n ' t c o u n t at all, only t h e a c t u a l e x p e r i e n c e of love. T h e flow of love c a n be felt, b u t n o t legislated: C h i l d r e n k n o w w h e t h e r o r n o t t h e y are o p e n w i t h t h e i r p a r e n t s .

Questions and Answers from Seminars
Q u e s t i o n : Is it parentification w h e n a d a u g h t e r feels as t h o u g h she's t h e m o t h e r o f h e r m o t h e r o r t h e m o t h e r o f h e r father? Hellinger: M y definition was m o r e precise: Parentification i s w h e n a child a s s u m e s the p o s i t i o n of the p a r e n t . T h a t h a s m o r e scope b e c a u s e w e ' r e n o t just looking a t a n individual child a n d w h a t that child m a y feel, b u t at t h e d y n a m i c s of t h e family system as a

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w h o l e , w h e r e y o u c a n see p a t t e r n s across several g e n e r a t i o n s . F o r e x a m p l e , o n e m o t h e r h a d s t r o n g irrational feelings o f r e s e n t m e n t t o w a r d h e r d a u g h t e r . L o o k i n g i n t o t h e family system, she r e m e m b e r e d h o w she h a d r e s e n t e d h e r o w n m o t h e r , a n d she discovered that t h e r e s e n t m e n t she h a d for h e r d a u g h t e r felt exactly t h e s a m e . T h e e n t a n g l e d love for h e r m o t h e r e n t a n g l e d t h e love w i t h h e r d a u g h t e r . T h a t ' s parentification as a family d y n a m i c . It's m o r e t h a n just an individual's feelings, so you've got to try to see w h a t ' s going on in t h e w h o l e family. D o t h e c h i l d r e n h o l d t h e m s e l v e s r e s p o n s i b l e for a p a r e n t ' s i n n e r c o n d i t i o n ? D o t h e y t r y t o give w h a t a p a r e n t o r p a r t n e r m a y give, b u t w h a t a child m a y n o t give? F o r e x a m p l e , d o t h e y t h i n k o r feel, " I f I do t h i s , my m o t h e r will get ill," or, "If I d o n ' t do t h a t , my father will leave u s " ? Parentification is i m m e d i a t e l y clear in t h e family c o n s t e l l a t i o n s . O f t e n t h e p e r s o n r e p r e s e n t i n g s u c h a child will s t a r t t o feel n e r v o u s a n d fidgety. I f t h e p e r s o n w i t h w h o m t h a t p e r s o n is identified is b r o u g h t i n t o t h e s y s t e m — f o r i n s t a n c e , t h e m i s s i n g g r a n d m o t h e r o r p a r t n e r — t h e child i m m e d i a t e l y b e c o m e s calm. Question: You said t h a t children separate from their p a r e n t s b y taking t h e m . I t s e e m s t o m e t h a t c h i l d r e n s e p a r a t e from their p a r ents b y d r a w i n g a clear b o u n d a r y b e t w e e n t h e m . W o u l d y o u c o m m e n t o n that? Hellinger: W h e n a child c o m p l a i n s t o his o r h e r p a r e n t s , " W h a t you gave m e w a s n ' t e n o u g h o r i t was the w r o n g t h i n g , a n d you still owe m e a lot," t h e n t h e child c a n ' t s e p a r a t e from t h e m . T h e s e d e m a n d s b i n d c h i l d r e n to their p a r e n t s in s u c h a w a y t h a t t h e y c a n ' t take a n y t h i n g . If t h e y w e r e to take their p a r e n t s as t h e y are, a n d also t h e g o o d things t h a t t h e y gave, t h e n their taking w o u l d dissolve their d e m a n d a n d m a k e it s e e m foolish. As it is, they r e m a i n b o u n d to their p a r e n t s , a n d c a n n e i t h e r take n o r s e p a r a t e . T a k i n g o n e ' s p a r e n t s h a s a strange effect—it s e p a r a t e s . It's n o t s o m e t h i n g d o n e against t h e p a r e n t s , b u t s o m e t h i n g t h a t c o m p l e t e s a n d r o u n d s o u t the relationship with t h e m . T a k i n g y o u r p a r e n t s m e a n s , "I take w h a t e v e r y o u ' v e given m e . It's a lot a n d it's e n o u g h . W h a t e v e r else I n e e d , I'll take care of myself or get from s o m e o n e else, a n d n o w I'll leave y o u in p e a c e . " It m e a n s , "I take w h a t I've b e e n given, a n d a l t h o u g h I m a y t h e n leave my p a r e n t s , I have my p a r e n t s a n d m y p a r e n t s have m e . "

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In a g r o u p , a very successful d o c t o r asked, " W h a t shall I do? My p a r e n t s m e d d l e in my business all t h e t i m e . " I t o l d h i m , " Y o u r p a r ents h a v e t h e right t o b u t t into y o u r life w h e n e v e r t h e y w a n t to! A n d you have t h e right to go a h e a d a n d do w h a t e v e r you t h i n k is right for yourself anyway." C h i l d r e n w h o d o n ' t t a k e their p a r e n t s m u s t try t o c o m p e n s a t e for t h e deficit. Often the search for self-realization a n d e n l i g h t e n m e n t is, in reality, t h e search for the n o t - y e t - t a k e n father a n d t h e n o t - y e t t a k e n m o t h e r . T h e s e a r c h for G o d often stops o r b e c o m e s different w h e n t h e father a n d m o t h e r are t a k e n . M a n y p e o p l e have discovered t h a t their so-called "midlife crisis" was resolved as s o o n as t h e y successfully t o o k a previously rejected p a r e n t . Q u e s t i o n : As I u n d e r s t a n d w h a t y o u ' v e said, it's i m p o r t a n t for m e t o p o s i t i o n myself n e x t t o m y m o t h e r , t o take h e r . T o b e h o n e s t , I have to a d m i t t h a t I h a v e n ' t d o n e t h a t , n o t as a child, as an a d o lescent, or as a g r o w n w o m a n . Is there a n y t h i n g I c a n do n o w ? H e l l i n g e r : Yes, t h e r e is. S t a n d n e x t to h e r a n d look at h e r w i t h a d a u g h t e r ' s love. T a k i n g y o u r m o t h e r is really an i n n e r p r o c e s s . Question: W h a t i f t h e r e ' s n o c u r r e n t i n p u t from her? M y m o t h e r h a s n e v e r m a n a g e d to feel that she's w o r t h y of b e i n g an e q u a l p a r t n e r to a m a n , so she's lived all h e r m a r r i e d life in my father's shadow. She's t h e perfect e x a m p l e of a w o m a n w h o ' s always believed t h a t a wife s h o u l d be s u b s e r v i e n t to h e r h u s b a n d . If I m o v e i n t o h e r s p h e r e of influence, w h a t then? Hellinger: O u r p a r e n t s give u s life, a n d t h e y ' r e t h e only o n e s w h o c a n do that. O t h e r s c a n give us w h a t else we n e e d in a d d i t i o n to that. Strictly s p e a k i n g , we d o n ' t get life from o u r p a r e n t s — i t c o m e s t o u s t h r o u g h t h e m from far away. T h e y ' r e o u r c o n n e c t i o n with t h e s o u r c e of life, w i t h w h a t is b e y o n d w h a t e v e r s h o r t c o m i n g s t h e y m a y have. W h e n w e c o n n e c t t o t h e m , w e access t h a t d e e p e r s o u r c e , a n d i t h o l d s m a n y surprises a n d mysteries. S o m e t h i n g beautiful h a p p e n s w h e n p e o p l e look at their p a r e n t s a n d recognize t h e s o u r c e of life. Love d e m a n d s t h a t t h e receiver h o n o r b o t h t h e gift a n d t h e giver. W h o e v e r loves a n d h o n o r s life implicitly loves a n d h o n o r s t h e givers of life. W h o e v e r disdains or devalues life, a n d d o e s n ' t r e s p e c t it, dish o n o r s t h e givers o f life. W h e n p e o p l e take a n d h o n o r b o t h gift a n d giver, t h e y h o l d the gift up to t h e light u n t i l it s h i n e s , a n d a l t h o u g h

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t h e gift f l o w s t h r o u g h t h e m t o t h o s e w h o follow, t h e g i v e r i s i l l u m i n a t e d b y its glow.

Additional

Considerations

W h e n we have the feeling that we're missing s o m e t h i n g from o u r m o t h e r or father, we have an image of w h a t should have b e e n . T h a t ' s the image of the good p a r e n t . Taking o u r p a r e n t s is a q u e s tion of giving those good images a place in o u r h e a r t s a n d letting t h e m d o s o m e g o o d work there. T h a t ' s a n o p t i o n that remains o p e n to m o s t people even w h e n they were h u r t by their p a r e n t s . Taking one's p a r e n t s d o e s n ' t d e m a n d denying what was negative, b u t it p e r m i t s children to t o u c h the d e p t h s of all p a r e n t s ' h e a r t s w h e r e they suffer bitterly w h e n they see their children caught in the s a m e p a t t e r n in which they were caught. W h e n people succeed in seeing their p a r e n t s in that d e p t h , they're c h a n g e d — a n d so are their parents. Hellinger describes a possibility of looking at o u r parents so that we see t h e m in the context of their fate. We see their failures, we see their suffering a n d disappointments, we trust t h e m to deal with their fate as best they can, a n d we r e m e m b e r our own position as children in the family hierarchy. Beyond that, we see past t h e m to the larger mystery of life that flows to us through t h e m . Obviously, it's easier if our actual father a n d m o t h e r displayed some of this goodness, and almost every parent does at times. In o u r therapy g r o u p s , participants are sometimes invited to do an experim e n t . T h e y imagine that their own son or d a u g h t e r has grown up a n d is suffering from family problems that have been passed on. T h i s is invariably a painful image for people, even for persons who have no children. T h e n they're invited to imagine that their children m a n a g e to accept a n d to rise above the problem. T h e y imagine that they s u c ceeded in taking what was good and in leaving b e h i n d what was b u r d e n s o m e . T h a t ' s a great relief for parents. Hellinger is describing an actual m o v e m e n t , an action that real people do with o t h e r real people. T h i s m e a n s taking the actual father a n d m o t h e r a n d seeing t h e m t h r o u g h t h e eyes of an a d u l t s t a n d i n g in the O r d e r of Love, n o t t h r o u g h a distressed child's eyes. M a n y p e o p l e have b e e n able to p u t their relationships with their p a r e n t s in o r d e r so that love r e t u r n s to their family system in spite of terrible things that have h a p p e n e d to t h e m . W h e n they succeed, everyone in the system feels it—the p a r e n t s , themselves, their child r e n . [H.B.]

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THE HIERARCHY BETWEEN PARENTS AND CHILDREN
Healthy, h a p p y children a n d loving p a r e n t s can be found in all cultures, religions, a n d social classes. T h i s m e a n s that there are m a n y successful ways to rear children, a n d that they differ from, a n d m a y even contradict, o n e another. Nevertheless, love d e m a n d s b o n d i n g , a balance of giving and taking, a n d appropriate social orders in all cultures, b u t it leaves us great latitude in h o w we achieve t h e m . Love flows smoothly w h e n all m e m b e r s of a family system follow the hierarchy. As we've seen earlier, the family hierarchy m u s t m e e t three criteria: time, weight, a n d function. W i t h respect to t i m e , the family hierarchy flows d o w n from above and from earlier to later. Like t i m e , it can't be s t o p p e d or reversed in its direction—children always c o m e after their p a r e n t s , a n d t h e younger always follow the older. K o n r a d F e r d i n a n d M e y e r describes this m o v e m e n t from above to below in his p o e m " T h e Roman Fountain." A gush of water rises, falling fills a marble bowl which veils itself in overflow into a second bowl below. The second floods its wealth into yet a third and each takes and gives, is still and lives. T h e relationship between father and m o t h e r exists before they b e c o m e p a r e n t s ; there are adults w i t h o u t children, b u t no children without biological parents. Love succeeds w h e n p a r e n t s care well for their y o u n g children, b u t n o t t h e other way a r o u n d . T h u s , t h e relationship between h u s b a n d and wife takes priority in a family. T h e priority according to time also applies to siblings. T h o s e w h o are closest to the b e g i n n i n g of life take from those w h o have lived longer. T h e older give to the younger, and t h e younger take from the older. T h e first child gives to t h e second a n d the third, the second takes from the first a n d gives to the third, a n d babies take from all of t h e others. T h e eldest child gives m o r e , a n d the youngest child

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takes m o r e . F o r this reason, t h e eldest often has c o m p e n s a t i n g privileges a n d the youngest child often takes m o r e responsibility for caring for their p a r e n t s in their old age. N e w relationship systems also have a systemic priority over older systems. T h i s is the opposite of t h e dynamic of p r e c e d e n c e within a system w h e r e t h e older m e m b e r s have p r e c e d e n c e over those w h o c o m e later. T h e couple's relationship takes priority over the relationship with t h e family of origin in the same way that a second m a r r i a g e has p r e c e d e n c e over the first. Relationships suffer w h e n this principle isn't h o n o r e d — w h e n parents r e m a i n m o r e i m p o r t a n t t h a n p a r t n e r s a n d children, a n d first p a r t n e r s m o r e i m p o r t a n t t h a n n e w ones. W i t h respect to weight, t h e m o s t i m p o r t a n t relationship in the family is that between the father and the m o t h e r ; t h e n c o m e the p a r e n t - c h i l d relationships, the relationships with the e x t e n d e d family, a n d , finally, those with other, freely chosen g r o u p s . C e r t a i n individuals w h o carry an unusually heavy fate m a y have e n o u g h systemic weight so that the n o r m a l sequence according to time m u s t b e adjusted.

Putting Children Before Partners: Examples from Seminars
L o u i s : M y m o t h e r once told m e that she h a d stayed with m y father because of m e . I d o n ' t t h m k I've h o n o r e d that e n o u g h . H e l l i n g e r : N o r should you, at least n o t in that sense. W h e n your m o t h e r says that you're the reason she stayed with your father, she's n o t telling you the whole the t r u t h . If you think t h a t she stayed with h i m b e c a u s e of you, you m a k e yourself too i m p o r t a n t . S h e stayed with y o u r father because she accepted the c o n s e q u e n c e s of her actions. She did it for herself a n d for h i m . T h a t ' s s o m e t h i n g c o m pletely different. You d i d n ' t participate in their decisions a n d agreem e n t s , so you can h o n o r h e r for being willing to accept the c o n s e q u e n c e s of her o w n actions, b u t n o t because she did it for you. If you look at it as being s o m e t h i n g she did for you, you distort the t r u t h . On t h e other h a n d , if you see that she willingly accepted the c o n s e q u e n c e s of her actions, you h o n o r b o t h your m o t h e r and your father. By formulating it that way, you focus on t h e intimacy

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b e t w e e n y o u r father a n d y o u r m o t h e r . By saying it t h e o t h e r way, you focus o n t h e i n t i m a c y b e t w e e n y o u r m o t h e r a n d y o u . T h e dynamic is the same when the parents marry because of a p r e g n a n c y . T h e y d o n ' t get m a r r i e d for t h e child, b u t r a t h e r b e c a u s e they a c c e p t t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s o f their actions. T h e child h a d n o active p a r t i n t h e a g r e e m e n t b e t w e e n t h e p a r e n t s , b u t h e o r s h e often feels r e s p o n s i b l e , especially if t h e m a r r i a g e is u n h a p p y . S u c h children are c o m p l e t e l y w i t h o u t b l a m e a n d there's n o n e e d for t h e m t o feel r e s p o n s i b l e . N e v e r t h e l e s s , m a n y c h i l d r e n d o s o anyway a n d they t h e n feel t o o i m p o r t a n t . H o w was y o u r p a r e n t s ' marriage? Louis: Partly, very close. I often saw my m o t h e r sitting on my father's lap, b u t a p p a r e n t l y t h e r e were sexual difficulties. S h e refused h i m o n c e , a n d t h e n she c o m p l a i n e d t o m e later t h a t h e d i d n ' t w a n t h e r sexually a n y m o r e . Hellinger: I w a n t to tell you s o m e t h i n g a b o u t b e i n g d r a w n i n t o confidences b e t w e e n y o u r m o t h e r a n d father. W h a t e v e r h a p p e n e d b e t w e e n y o u r p a r e n t s i s n o n e o f y o u r business! T h e c o r r e c t t h e r a p e u t i c p r o c e d u r e is to forget w h a t e v e r she told y o u as quickly as y o u can! C l e a n s e y o u r h e a r t a n d soul o f t h e m a t t e r . M a s t e r i n g t h e skill of forgetting is a h e a l i n g r e s o u r c e . T h a t kind of forgetting is a spiritual discipline. (Louis immediately nods confirmation.) T h a t was t o o quick. A " t o o - q u i c k " n o d is a s u b s t i t u t e for a real a g r e e m e n t . Question: Is t h a t t r u e for a child of any age?

H e l l i n g e r : Yes, it's possible to get e n t a n g l e d in things t h a t are n o n e of y o u r b u s i n e s s at any age. A m o t h e r , for e x a m p l e , s h o u l d n ' t tell a child t h e i n t i m a t e details of h e r sexual life w i t h t h e child's father. It's injurious w h e n o n e p a r e n t speaks disparagingly a b o u t s u c h i n t i m a c y t o t h e c h i l d r e n — o r t o o t h e r s . O u r sexual i n t i m a c y i s a p o i n t on w h i c h w e ' r e all very v u l n e r a b l e , a n d if t h a t isn't r e s p e c t e d b e t w e e n p a r t n e r s , t h a t ' s t h e e n d o f t h e i r relationship. T h e p a r e n t s ' i n t i m a t e life is n o n e of t h e children's b u s i n e s s , a n d t h e y s h o u l d n ' t b e d r a w n i n t o it. T h e y c a n ' t p r o t e c t themselves against getting s u c k e d in, b u t later o n , they c a n forget w h a t t h e y ' v e h e a r d ! T h e n i t causes n o h a r m . I f they forget w i t h g o o d i n n e r j u d g m e n t a n d love, i t can b e truly forgotten.

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Question: W h a t a b o u t w h e n m y m o t h e r tells m e i n t i m a t e things a b o u t h e r relationship w i t h h e r f i r s t h u s b a n d ? H e l l i n g e r : It's exactly t h e s a m e . You c a n tell h e r , "I only care about Papa. I don't want to know what happened between you and your first husband, and I don't want to know what happens between y o u a n d P a p a either." Question: W h a t a b o u t telling a n e w p a r t n e r a b o u t intimacies from a p r e v i o u s relationship? H e l l i n g e r : T h a t ' s also a violation of t r u s t . W h a t w a s private between you and your former partner should be protected a n d kept as a secret. If you expose t h e i n t i m a t e details of y o u r earlier relations h i p , y o u r n e w p a r t n e r will have difficulty t r u s t i n g y o u . Question: W h e n p a r e n t s have affairs, i s t h a t also n o n e o f t h e child r e n ' s business? Hellinger: Question: ship? T h a t ' s right, n o n e of their b u s i n e s s at all! W h a t if t h e r e are children from t h e s e c o n d relation-

H e l l i n g e r : In t h a t case, it's n o t a secret, a n d it t o u c h e s t h e m directly. T h e y ' r e entitled to k n o w a b o u t it. Question: I k n o w of p a r e n t s w h o have allowed their c h i l d r e n to r e a d their old love letters. Hellinger: I f t h e y were m y p a r e n t s , I w o u l d n ' t r e a d t h e m .

Question: I w o r k e d w i t h a family in w h i c h t h e father b r o u g h t his m i s t r e s s h o m e , a n d t h e m o t h e r w a s t o o w e a k t o s t o p h i m . C o u l d t h e s o n s i n t e r v e n e a n d tell h i m t o leave his w o m e n o u t s i d e their h o m e ? Hellinger: I ' m very c a u t i o u s a b o u t a n s w e r i n g s p e c u l a t i v e q u e s tions or making generalizations. Nevertheless, they probably w o u l d b e well advised t o a s s u m e t h a t their m o t h e r i s i n a g r e e m e n t w i t h t h e s i t u a t i o n — a t least, t h a t she's c h o o s i n g t h e least b a d o f t h e n o t - t o o - g o o d options open to her. It would be reasonable and a p p r o p r i a t e for t h e s o n s t o leave h o m e a s s o o n a s p o s s i b l e . It's always difficult w h e n c h i l d r e n b e c o m e involved i n t h e i r p a r e n t s ' relationship.

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Question: M y ex-wife c o n s t a n t l y p u t s m e d o w n i n front o f o u r d a u g h t e r s . It's clear t o m e that I c a n ' t d o a n y t h i n g a b o u t m y ex-wife's b e h a v i o r , b u t is t h e r e s o m e t h i n g I c a n do for my daughters? H e l l i n g e r : N o t h i n g , absolutely n o t h i n g . P e r h a p s s o m e d a y y o u c a n tell t h e m a story a b o u t h o w p e o p l e l e a r n to forget.

Systemic

Entanglements

W h e n e v e r p a r e n t s o u t w a r d l y act against t h e b e s t interests of their c h i l d r e n , o n e m a y a s s u m e t h a t t h e y ' r e c a u g h t i n s o m e earlier syst e m i c violation of t h e O r d e r s of L o v e . P a r e n t s n a t u r a l l y desire t h a t their c h i l d r e n b e s p a r e d whatever they themselves have suffered, a n d t h e y suffer w h e n their children suffer; they k n o w d i s c o u r a g e m e n t a n d defeat w h e n their children k n o w t h e m . W h e n p a r e n t s ' suffering is b a l a n c e d o u t blindly by their c h i l d r e n ' s suffering, it passes from p e r s o n t o p e r s o n , from g e n e r a t i o n t o g e n e r a t i o n , a n d k n o w s n o e n d . T h e w o r k w i t h family constellations frequently reveals r e p e a t i n g p a t t e r n s o f h a r m a n d suffering crossing g e n e r a t i o n s within families. C h i l d r e n are b o u n d l e s s in love b u t limited in life e x p e r i e n c e , so it's a great t e m p t a t i o n for t h e m to u n i t e w i t h their p a r e n t s in suffering. If a m o t h e r is d e p r e s s e d , h e r children feel t e m p t e d to be d e p r e s s e d as well. If a father d r i n k s too m u c h , his c h i l d r e n c o m e u n d e r p r e s s u r e t o find s o m e way t o e m u l a t e his suffering, p e r h a p s by failing to be successful in life. B u t m a t u r i n g love d e m a n d s t h a t children g r a d u a l l y give up the b l i n d love of c h i l d h o o d a n d l e a r n to love as a d u l t s . I n s t e a d of r e p e a t i n g w h a t is h a r m f u l , m a t u r e love d e m a n d s t h a t t h e y free themselves from t h e family e n t a n g l e m e n t s . T h e n t h e y fulfill their p a r e n t s ' d e e p e r e x p e c t a t i o n s a n d h o p e s for their c h i l d r e n . T h e b e t t e r t h e c h i l d r e n a r e , t h e b e t t e r are t h e parents. C h i l d r e n d i s e n t a n g l e themselves from t h e negative effects of t h e blind love b y recognizing a n d obeying their p a r e n t s ' t r u e w i s h e s — that t h e c h i l d r e n be h a p p y a n d fulfilled. It takes g r e a t c o u r a g e for children to see their p a r e n t s suffer a n d yet still o b e y t h e g r e a t e r love, to see to it t h a t t h e y themselves s u c c e e d in life a n d fulfill t h e desires of their p a r e n t s ' h e a r t s .

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E v e n t h o u g h c h i l d r e n w a n t to be like their p a r e n t s , t h e y also fear their fate. F o r this r e a s o n , c h i l d r e n m a y o u t w a r d l y reject their parents a n d strive to be different from t h e m even while t h e y secretly e m u l a t e t h e m . S u c h c h i l d r e n , a l t h o u g h they m a k e a great s h o w of b e i n g different from their p a r e n t s , still u n c o n s c i o u s l y do as their p a r e n t s have d o n e , a n d a t t r a c t — o r react to—life situations i n which they e x p e r i e n c e a p p r o x i m a t e l y w h a t their p a r e n t s have e x p e r i e n c e d . W h e n c h i l d r e n say to their p a r e n t s , " U n d e r no c i r c u m s t a n c e s will I ever be like y o u , " they still love their p a r e n t s blindly a n d are b o u n d tightly to t h e m . In spite of t h e m s e l v e s , they c o m m i t themselves to following their p a r e n t s ' e x a m p l e , a n d t h e y b e c o m e exactly like t h e m . W h e n c h i l d r e n fear b e c o m i n g like their p a r e n t s , they c o n stantly w a t c h their p a r e n t s , b e c a u s e w h a t e v e r t h e y d o n ' t wish t o b e like they m u s t continually o b s e r v e . It's n o w o n d e r t h e n t h a t they b e c o m e exactly like their p a r e n t s . A m a n b r i n g s t h e values a n d t r a d i t i o n s of his family i n t o a p a r t n e r s h i p , a n d a w o m a n d o e s t h e s a m e . Yet their values a n d traditions are often q u i t e different. C h i l d r e n o u t w a r d l y follow t h e m o r e d o m i n a n t p a r e n t , b u t i n w a r d l y they follow t h e o t h e r p a r e n t . F o r e x a m p l e , if t h e father's values d o m i n a t e , t h e n t h e c o u p l e ' s c h i l d r e n t e n d to follow his values o u t w a r d l y while inwardly they a d h e r e to t h e m o t h er's values. It's m o r e c o m m o n for t h e m o t h e r ' s values t o d o m i n a t e a n d t o b e o u t w a r d l y followed b y the c h i l d r e n , w i t h t h e result t h a t , a l t h o u g h they o u t w a r d l y reject their father, t h e y secretly e m u l a t e h i m — u s u a l l y w i t h o u t noticing w h a t t h e y ' r e d o i n g . In deviating from o n e p a r e n t ' s values, a child is generally following t h e value s y s t e m of the o t h e r p a r e n t . F o r this r e a s o n , disobedie n c e to o n e p a r e n t is often a kind of loyalty a n d o b e d i e n c e to the other. If c h i l d r e n get t h e direct or indirect m e s s a g e from o n e p a r e n t , " D o n ' t b e c o m e like y o u r f a t h e r / m o t h e r , " t h e n their loyalty d e m a n d s o f t h e m t h a t t h e y b e c o m e like t h e f o r b i d d e n p a r e n t . I'll Consent If You Become Like Your Father A woman divorced her alcoholic husband and was awarded custody of their son. She was worried that he would become like her former husband. H e r therapist told her that her son had the freedom to choose to follow his father, and that, if she wanted to relieve him of the systemic necessity to become like his father, she could say to her son, "You may take all that I give to you, and you may take all that your father gives you. You may become like me and you may become

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like your father." She objected, "But what if he b e c o m e s an alcoholic?" T h e therapist answered, "Exactly, even then! T h e n tell him. 'I will consent if y o u b e c o m e like your father.' That's the test."

T h e effect of this kind of permission a n d respect for t h e d i m i n ished p a r e n t is that the son can t h e n h o n o r his love for his father by taking h i m as he is w i t h o u t also having to take his e n t a n g l e m e n t s . If the m o t h e r h a d said, " D o n ' t you dare b e c o m e like your father," t h e n t h e son would have c o m e u n d e r systemic pressure to do so to h o n o r his b o n d to his father, and he would have b e e n u n a b l e to p r o tect himself. By m a i n t a i n i n g loyalty to one p a r e n t outwardly and loyalty to the other p a r e n t inwardly, children are able to hold t h e family together, b u t the system d o e s n ' t achieve the kind of balance that m e m b e r s experience as natural a n d effortless love. F o r this reason, o n e p a r e n t can never really t r i u m p h over t h e other. F o r example, children secretly e m u l a t e the p a r e n t w h o comes out worse in a divorce, s o m e t i m e s with destructive c o n s e q u e n c e s . In adoptions that d o n ' t t u r n o u t well, a n d w h e n stepparents have difficulties with their stepchildren, it's frequently the case that the adoptive parents or stepparents wish to replace t h e n a t u r a l p a r e n t s rather t h a n c o m p l e m e n t t h e m . T h e n the loyalty t o t h e natural p a r ent p u t s the child u n d e r pressure to u n d e r m i n e the n e w family.

DIFFICULT ISSUES IN PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIPS Child Custody Question: I d o a lot of work for the c o u r t s , trying to d e t e r m i n e w h o should get custody of the children. S o m e t i m e s the divorces get very ugly, a n d it's very difficult to m a k e a r e c o m m e n d a t i o n . C a n you say s o m e t h i n g a b o u t this problem?
Hellinger: T h e question of w h o gets custody of the children after a divorce is actually n o t as difficult to resolve as you m i g h t think. T h e r e are two systemic principles that can guide you in m a k i n g t h e decision: (1) T h e children should go to t h e p a r e n t w h o m o s t values the o t h e r p a r e n t in t h e m , and (2) W h o e v e r a b a n d o n s t h e relationship s h o u l d n ' t be rewarded with custody of the children.

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I n a c t u a l e x p e r i e n c e , m o s t often it's t h e father w h o values the m o t h e r m o r e i n their c h i l d r e n t h a n t h e o t h e r way a r o u n d . E v e n w h e n t h a t ' s t h e case, i f t h e w o m a n w a n t s c u s t o d y , she e a r n s t h e right to have their c h i l d r e n by l e a r n i n g to value t h e qualities of h e r f o r m e r h u s b a n d i n t h e m . O t h e r w i s e , she h a r m s t h e c h i l d r e n b y w a n t i n g a n d valuing only half o f t h e m . Question: H o w d o y o u tell w h i c h p a r e n t values t h e o t h e r m o s t i n t h e children? Hellinger: You see it immediately, a n d t h e y also k n o w it, if they are h o n e s t w i t h themselves. You only have to look at t h e p a r e n t s a n d you k n o w right away w h i c h o n e it is. Question: equally? B u t c o u l d n ' t i t h a p p e n t h a t they value e a c h o t h e r

H e l l i n g e r : T h a t ' s a h y p o t h e t i c a l objection. If they valued e a c h o t h e r equally, t h e y w o u l d n ' t n e e d t o d i v o r c e — o r a t least they w o u l d n ' t b e fighting a b o u t child custody. Question: T h e r e are t w o principles: " T h e p a r e n t w h o m o s t valu e s t h e o t h e r i n t h e c h i l d r e n s h o u l d get c u s t o d y " a n d " W h o e v e r a b a n d o n s t h e relationship s h o u l d n ' t b e r e w a r d e d w i t h c u s t o d y o f t h e c h i l d r e n . " A r e t h e y t h e same? H e l l i n g e r : W h a t ' s i m p o r t a n t is to look closely at the actual p e o p l e w i t h w h o m y o u ' r e working. T h e r a p e u t i c principles have a h e a l i n g effect w h e n t h e y serve t h e n e e d s of y o u r clients, b u t you m u s t n ' t r e s h a p e t h e p e o p l e t o fit t h e principles. T h e complexity o f t h e issues c a n ' t be c a p t u r e d in two s e n t e n c e s ; t h e y ' r e just helpful guidelines. Ultimately, t h e p a r e n t s m u s t d e c i d e w h o gets c u s t o d y o f t h e child r e n , n o t t h e t h e r a p i s t . P a r e n t s also d e c i d e w h e t h e r t o r e m a r r y o r stay single. F o r e x a m p l e , if a divorced m a n h a s c u s t o d y of his child r e n a n d h e w a n t s t o r e m a r r y , it's n o t a p p r o p r i a t e for h i m t o m a k e his decision d e p e n d e n t o n his children's a g r e e m e n t . H e h a s t o d o w h a t ' s r i g h t for h i m , a n d t h e children have t o a c c e p t that. C h i l d r e n a r e n ' t e q u a l p a r t n e r s a n d s h o u l d n ' t be c o n s u l t e d in s u c h things as if they w e r e . H o w e v e r , t h e y ' r e certainly n o t obliged t o love t h e n e w partner. Question: B u t t h e c o u r t s ask the c h i l d r e n a b o u t custody.

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H e l l i n g e r : I know. Legal thinking a n d systemic thinking are s o m e t i m e s different. I ' m speaking here a b o u t psychological d y n a m ics, a b o u t what's best for the children. W h e n the p a r e n t s decide a b o u t custody amicably b e t w e e n t h e m selves, t h e n the children are spared the difficult decision of choosing o n e or t h e other. Parents often have the idea that t h e o n e w h o was given custody is taking the children away from t h e other. B u t that's impossible. Even if the children are living with only o n e p a r e n t , they will always r e m a i n the children of b o t h parents. However the parents p r o c e e d , it m u s t remain clear to the children t h a t b o t h p a r e n t s remain their p a r e n t s , even t h o u g h they're no longer a couple.

Adoption Question: I ' m a social worker in an a d o p t i o n agency. We're often called on to m a k e r e c o m m e n d a t i o n s a b o u t w h e t h e r children should be a d o p t e d or placed in a foster h o m e . A n d we're also confronted with a d o p t i o n s that go w r o n g . Are there any systemic guidelines that might be of help to us? H e l l i n g e r : W h e n children can't be raised by their own p a r e n t s , t h e n t h e best alternative is probably the g r a n d p a r e n t s . T h e y usually have the closest c o n n e c t i o n to the children. If they c a n take t h e children, t h e children are generally well taken care of—and t h e way back to t h e p a r e n t s is easier if the situation should change. If there a r e n ' t any living g r a n d p a r e n t s , or if the g r a n d p a r e n t s c a n ' t take t h e children, t h e n t h e next best choice is usually an a u n t or an uncle. A d o p t i o n is a last resort a n d should be considered only if no o n e in the family is available. J u d g i n g from my experience in working with families, the crucial factor is t h e adoptive p a r e n t s ' intentions. If they're truly acting in the best interests of the child, t h e n the adoption has a good chance of t u r n i n g o u t well. Adoptive parents often d o n ' t really consider the child's interests, b u t rather their own. Typically, they c a n ' t have a child a n d are rebelling against t h e limits n a t u r e h a s set for t h e m . T h e y ' r e implicitly asking the child to protect t h e m from their disapp o i n t m e n t . W h e n that's the case, t h e n the f u n d a m e n t a l flow of giving a n d taking a n d t h e order of the relationships are disturbed before they start, a n d the parents can expect to suffer the consequences of their actions, or that t h e child will suffer.

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W h e n p a r t n e r s a d o p t a child out of their o w n n e e d s a n d n o t out of c o n c e r n for t h e well-being of the child, they effectively take a child from his or h e r natural parents in o r d e r to m e e t their personal n e e d s . It's the systemic equivalent of t h e theft of a child, so it has serious negative c o n s e q u e n c e s within a family system. It doesn't really m a t t e r what motivated the natural p a r e n t s to p u t t h e b a b y up for a d o p t i o n ; the adoptive parents very often pay with s o m e t h i n g of equal value. F o r example, it frequently h a p p e n s that couples divorce after a d o p t i n g a child for t h e w r o n g reasons. Sacrificing a p a r t n e r is the c o m p e n s a t i o n for r o b b i n g the natural p a r e n t s of their child. In families with which I've worked, the c o n s e q u e n c e s of a d o p t i n g child r e n for inappropriate reasons have included divorce, illness, abortion, and d e a t h . In its m o s t destructive form, this d y n a m i c has expressed itself in the illness or suicide of o n e of t h e couple's n a t u ral children. It's also n o t u n c o m m o n for a d o p t e d children to resent their adoptive p a r e n t s a n d n o t to appreciate what's b e e n given to t h e m . In such families, it's often the case that the adoptive p a r e n t s secretly consider themselves superior to the biological p a r e n t s , a n d the child, p e r h a p s unconsciously, d e m o n s t r a t e s a solidarity with his or her natural parents. S o m e t i m e s t h e biological p a r e n t s have given their child up for a d o p t i o n w h e n it w a s n ' t absolutely necessary. T h e n t h e child feels legitimate r e s e n t m e n t t o w a r d t h e p a r e n t s , b u t it's t h e adoptive p a r e n t s w h o b e c o m e t h e targets. It's w o r s e for t h e m if they've a s s u m e d t h e position of t h e n a t u r a l p a r e n t s . If t h e adoptive parents are clear t h a t t h e y ' r e only acting in loco parentis for t h e n a t u r a l p a r e n t s , t h e n t h e negative feelings r e m a i n t a r g e t e d o n t h e n a t u r a l p a r e n t s , a n d t h e adoptive p a r e n t s get t h e a p p r e c i a t i o n they deserve. T h a t ' s a great relief for adoptive p a r e n t s , a n d also for a d o p t e d children. W h e n adoptive p a r e n t s or foster p a r e n t s are acting in t h e interests of t h e child, t h e n they have t h e i n n e r sense t h a t they're s u b stitutes for or representatives of the biological p a r e n t s a n d n o t their r e p l a c e m e n t s — t h a t t h e y ' r e h e l p i n g t h e real p a r e n t s b y c o m pleting w h a t t h o s e p a r e n t s c o u l d n ' t d o . T h e y have a n i m p o r t a n t function, b u t as adoptive p a r e n t s , they c o m e after t h e biological p a r e n t s , n o m a t t e r w h o they are a n d w h a t they have d o n e . I f this o r d e r is r e s p e c t e d , t h e n t h e child can a c c e p t a n d respect adoptive parents.

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A m a n in a g r o u p h a d s e p a r a t e d from his wife a n d w a s c o n c e r n e d a b o u t t h e c u s t o d y of their a d o p t e d child. In t h e family constellation, he p l a c e d t h e child b e t w e e n himself a n d his wife. I asked " W h o w a n t e d the a d o p t i o n ? " He said t h a t his wife h a d . I told h i m , "Yes, a n d she sacrificed h e r h u s b a n d for it." T h e m a n r e p r e s e n t i n g t h e b o y in t h e constellation s u d d e n l y felt weak a n d said t h a t he felt like falling to his knees. I told h i m to do so, a n d he knelt while his n a t u ral m o t h e r was p o s i t i o n e d b e h i n d h i m . A s h e t h e n t u r n e d t o w a r d h e r , he said t h a t he felt a great relief. I p l a c e d t h e representatives of t h e adoptive p a r e n t s b e h i n d h i m s o t h a t t h e y c o u l d look o n a s h e knelt before his n a t u r a l m o t h e r . As they w a t c h e d , they felt t h e m selves b e c o m i n g a c o u p l e . W h e n c h i l d r e n are a d o p t e d , it's helpful t o m a k e clear distinctions b e t w e e n the n a m e s of t h e p a r e n t s . It's clearer for an a d o p t e d child to u s e different n a m e s for the n a t u r a l a n d t h e a d o p t i v e p a r e n t s , for example, "Father and M o t h e r " and " D a d and M o m . " Adoptive parents s h o u l d n ' t identify a n a d o p t e d child a s " m y s o n " o r " m y d a u g h ter." T h e m e s s a g e t h e y c o m m u n i c a t e t o t h e child s h o u l d b e m o r e like, " T h i s is t h e child we've b e e n given to care for as r e p r e s e n t a tives of t h e n a t u r a l p a r e n t s . " T h i s m e s s a g e h a s a very different quality. T h e r e ' s n o set solution for every situation. T h e m a i n p o i n t i s t h a t t h e adoptive p a r e n t s retain a d e e p r e s p e c t for t h e n a t u r a l p a r e n t s , a n d t h a t they m a k e this respect clear t o t h e c h i l d r e n . I n m a n y cases, it's b e t t e r for t h e a d o p t e d child to k e e p his or h e r original n a m e so t h a t it r e m a i n s clear t h a t this is an a d o p t i o n . Question: W h a t i f t h e child w a n t s - t o take t h e n a m e o f t h e s t e p father or of t h e a d o p t i v e p a r e n t s ? H e l l i n g e r : I advise c a u t i o n . C h i l d r e n feel intuitively w h a t t h e adoptive p a r e n t s w a n t , a n d act as if t h e y w a n t it too. T h e a d o p t i v e p a r e n t s m u s t look very carefully to see w h a t ' s g o o d for t h e child a n d t h e n d o it, a n d n o t let themselves b e d i s t r a c t e d b y their o w n n e e d s . T h e y also m u s t n ' t allow t h e child to be t h e voice of their n e e d s , as if their n e e d s were t h e child's o w n . W h e n p a r e n t s discover w h a t ' s truly g o o d for their child, t h e n t h e child will naturally w a n t t h a t as well. T h e issue w i t h a stepfather in a s e c o n d m a r r i a g e is clear: If t h e m o t h e r respects a n d h o n o r s t h e n a t u r a l father, t h e r e will b e n o p r o b l e m for t h e child. T h e s a m e h o l d s t r u e for a s t e p m o t h e r .

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Question: W h e n o n e p a r t n e r brings a child from a previous m a r riage i n t o a n e w m a r r i a g e , s h o u l d the n e w p a r t n e r a d o p t t h e child? Hellinger: Generally, I advise against it. It isn't g o o d b e c a u s e t h e child t h e n h a s to d e n y his or h e r o w n father or m o t h e r . B u t look at t h e child, a n d you'll k n o w w h a t ' s best. It's very difficult for a child to have to d e n y a p a r e n t . I'll give you a n o t h e r e x a m p l e , A w o m a n called me in despair. H e r adoptive father w a s dying a n d s h e was u n a b l e t o resolve h e r a m b i v a l e n c e t o w a r d h i m . S h e w a n t e d t o b e n e a r h i m a t his d e a t h , b u t she c o u l d n ' t b r i n g herself t o a p p r o a c h h i m . S h e explained that h e r m o t h e r h a d divorced h e r father m a n y years ago t o m a r r y this m a n , a n d t h a t h e h a d a d o p t e d her. I s u g g e s t e d t h a t she rescind t h e a d o p t i o n . S h e h e s i t a t e d , t h a n k e d m e , a n d h u n g u p . S o m e t i m e later, she called again t o say t h a t she h a d d o n e it. T h e situation h a d c h a n g e d i m m e d i a t e l y , a n d s h e h a d b e e n able t o b e with h e r adoptive father i n his dying process. H e h a d d i e d shortly before t h e s e c o n d p h o n e call, a n d she w a s feeling a t p e a c e with h i m a n d t h e situation. I t h a d b e c o m e very clear t o h e r , she said, t h a t she h a d b r o u g h t s o m e t h i n g b a c k i n t o o r d e r , a n d h a d r e g a i n e d h e r p r o p e r p l a c e in her family. Question: I k n o w of t w o children w h o s e p a r e n t s a n d g r a n d p a r ents w e r e killed i n a n a u t o m o b i l e accident. A n u n c l e a n d a n a u n t each is willing to care for o n e of the c h i l d r e n . Is it m o r e i m p o r t a n t t h a t t h e c h i l d r e n stay w i t h relatives, w h i c h m e a n s b e i n g s e p a r a t e d , or t h a t t h e y stay t o g e t h e r in a foster h o m e ? Hellinger: T h a t ' s difficult t o say w i t h o u t k n o w i n g t h e c h i l d r e n a n d t h e a u n t a n d t h e u n c l e . W e d o n ' t k n o w w h y the a u n t a n d t h e u n c l e e a c h is p r e p a r e d to care for only o n e of t h e c h i l d r e n , b u t it suggests t o m e t h a t t h e y ' r e n o t primarily i n t e r e s t e d i n t h e c h i l d r e n ' s well-being. M a y b e t h e y feel obligated. O t h e r w i s e , o n e o r t h e o t h e r w o u l d do w h a t is n e c e s s a r y to care for b o t h of t h e c h i l d r e n . U n l e s s there are clearly e x t e n u a t i n g c i r c u m s t a n c e s , I s u s p e c t t h a t t h e child r e n m i g h t feel h a p p i e r in a foster family w h e r e they c a n live together. I've often o b s e r v e d t h a t p e o p l e w h o , as c h i l d r e n , lived in a foster h o m e (or w h o were a d o p t e d ) have a desire to care for foster child r e n or to a d o p t c h i l d r e n . C h i l d r e n in n e e d are well t a k e n care of by

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s u c h foster p a r e n t s , b e c a u s e t h e foster p a r e n t s are p a s s i n g o n w h a t they t h e m s e l v e s received. T h a t ' s a n excellent d y n a m i c . T h o m a s : A c o u p l e in t h e t o w n w h e r e I live have no c h i l d r e n of their o w n . T h e y flew to a developing n a t i o n several t i m e s a n d p a i d h u g e a m o u n t s of m o n e y to a d o p t a child. As s o o n as they got t h e child h o m e , t h e m a n h a d a n e r v o u s b r e a k d o w n a n d w a s h o s p i t a l ized for t h r e e m o n t h s . As s o o n as he was released, they a d o p t e d a s e c o n d child. I t h i n k w h a t ' s h a p p e n i n g t h e r e is really terrible. Hellinger: W h o knows? L o o k a t t h e children a n d think, " T h e y ' l l m a k e it s o m e h o w . " Thomas: I have a n o t h e r q u e s t i o n . F r i e n d s of m i n e . . . N o , n o , n o ! W h a t d i d I just say?

H e l l i n g e r (Interrupting): Thomas:

T h e c h i l d r e n will m a k e i t s o m e h o w .

H e l l i n g e r : Yes, b u t before t h a t , I said, " L o o k at t h e c h i l d r e n . " W h o were y o u looking at? Thomas: Y o u ' r e right. I was looking at t h e p a r e n t s .

Hellinger: T h e y d o n ' t deserve any b e t t e r t h a n w h a t t h e y ' r e getting. T h e y ' r e aware o f their actions. It's a m a z i n g w h a t p e o p l e d o . E i g h t e e n years or so ago, I w o r k e d w i t h a m a n n a m e d Peter. W h e n h e w a s t w o years old, his m o t h e r h a d h a d a s c h i z o p h r e n i c e p i s o d e a n d h a d t h r o w n h i m against a wall. H i s father t o o k t h e m t o a d o c t o r . After they d e t e r m i n e d t h a t Peter's injuries w e r e n ' t s e r i o u s , t h e p a r e n t s a n d t h e d o c t o r d i s a p p e a r e d i n t o t h e n e x t r o o m a n d left h i m a l o n e in t h e waiting r o o m . After a while, t h e d o o r o p e n e d , a n d t h e d o c t o r l o o k e d in. P e t e r said t h a t h e still r e m e m b e r e d t h a t d o c tor's look. It w a s as if t h e look h a d said, "You'll m a k e it." T h a t w a s all. T h a t w a s t h e a n c h o r t h a t h e h a d u s e d t o h o l d himself s t e a d y t h r o u g h o u t his life. You see, t h e d o c t o r did just t h e right t h i n g . H e looked at t h e child. Question: M y n e p h e w , m y b r o t h e r ' s s o n , w a s a d o p t e d b y his stepfather. H e n o w h a s his stepfather's n a m e , a n d t h e n e w family has b r o k e n off all c o n t a c t with my b r o t h e r a n d o u r family. Is t h e r e is a n y t h i n g I c a n do for t h e boy? Hellinger: N o t really. W h e n you c o n s i d e r w h a t y o u c a n d o for h i m , there's love in y o u r h e a r t . If y o u allow t h a t feeling to w o r k in

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y o u r h e a r t , a n d a t t h e s a m e t i m e resist t h e t e m p t a t i o n t o d o s o m e t h i n g until a g o o d o p p o r t u n i t y arises, t h e n y o u ' r e d o i n g s o m e t h i n g g o o d for the boy. It m a y take years for a g o o d o p p o r t u n i t y to p r e s e n t itself.

Raising Children
Question: I n o u r clinic, w e w o r k with m a n y families t h a t are having t r o u b l e w i t h their children. E a c h of t h e p a r e n t s tells t h e children s o m e t h i n g different, a n d t h e c h i l d r e n are really c o n f u s e d a b o u t t h e right t h i n g t o d o . H e l l i n g e r : W h e n p a r e n t s are h a v i n g t r o u b l e raising their child r e n , it's often t h e case t h a t they d o n ' t have a h a r m o n i z e d system of values, goals, a n d priorities. T h e solution in s u c h cases is for t h e m to agree on a c o m m o n system in w h i c h t h e values of b o t h of their families of origin are r e p r e s e n t e d fairly. T h i s m u t u a l system is m o r e inclusive t h a n either of t h e original systems, a n d , in a c e r t a i n sense, b o t h p a r t n e r s have to relinquish their f o r m e r family values. T h i s is difficult to do b e c a u s e b o t h t h e n feel guilty r e g a r d i n g their o w n families. T h e belief t h a t o n e value system is r i g h t a n d t h e o t h e r w r o n g m a k e s t h e p r o c e s s m u c h m o r e difficult. W h e n p a r e n t s are u n i t e d in o n e value system, they have a sense of solidarity w i t h e a c h o t h e r w h e n t h e y face their children, a n d t h e c h i l d r e n feel secure in their c o m m o n value system a n d follow i t willingly. W h e n p a r e n t s a r e n ' t u n i t e d , their c h i l d r e n m u s t live in two different belief systems o r value systems a t t h e s a m e t i m e a n d i n t h e s a m e h o u s e . T h a t ' s confusing. A father a n d a m o t h e r asked me w h a t they s h o u l d do a b o u t their d a u g h t e r ' s behavior. T h e m o t h e r felt responsible for setting limits for t h e girl, b u t d i d n ' t feel s u p p o r t e d in this by h e r h u s b a n d . I suggested t h r e e principles to c o n s i d e r w h e n raising children: 1. A father a n d a m o t h e r have different ideas a b o u t w h a t ' s g o o d for their c h i l d r e n a c c o r d i n g to whatever t h e y e x p e r i e n c e d as i m p o r t a n t or missing in their o w n families. A child a c c e p t s as right a n d follows w h a t e v e r both p a r e n t s believe is either i m p o r t a n t or missing.

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W h e n o n e p a r e n t overrules the values of the other in raising t h e children, the children automatically ally themselves with t h e o n e w h o was overruled.

I t h e n asked t h e m to notice where a n d h o w their d a u g h t e r loved t h e m . T h e y looked at each other, and their faces lit u p . I suggested to the father that he m i g h t occasionally let his d a u g h t e r k n o w h o w good it m a d e h i m feel w h e n she was good to h e r m o t h e r .

Illegitimacy Q u e s t i o n : You said that parents should n o t tell their children a b o u t intimate details of their lives. I work with several p a r e n t s w h o haven't told their children that they were conceived out of wedlock, or that they are illegitimate. I c a n ' t believe that's really g o o d for t h e children. H e l l i n g e r : T h e r e ' s a tendency in society to m a k e moral j u d g m e n t s about such things, and w h e n there's a negative judgment, the reluctance to speak a b o u t it is also understandable. W h e n you look at such a situation without moral judgment, as we do here, you often see that things t u r n out fine just the way they are. Quite often, something very good comes out of our sins, and that's beyond the grasp of the m o r alists. You can't talk about deep issues in the presence of s o m e o n e w h o judges you a n d looks to see if what you do is right or wrong. Thomas: I ' m an illegitimate child and I grew up with my m o t h e r . Five years ago, I found my father, b u t I d o n ' t k n o w his o t h e r s o n s , and my father is reluctant to tell t h e m a b o u t m e . H e l l i n g e r : A w o m a n in a previous w o r k s h o p was in a similar situation. S h e was illegitimate, and h e r father h a d also m a r r i e d a n d h a d sons, a n d was reluctant to show h e r to t h e m . I c o u l d n ' t see any reason why she s h o u l d n ' t look the sons up a n d i n t r o d u c e herself as their sister. Later, she called to tell me h o w things h a d worked out. S h e said that she h a d b e e n invited to a party and that h e r father was t h e r e , as well as h e r half b r o t h e r s . At the end of t h e party, it h a p p e n e d t h a t everyone h a d left except for her, her father, a n d t h e boys, and they were able to talk. If I were you, T h o m a s , I'd look t h e m u p . But if you do it, there's a d a n g e r that you'll give up your profession as a pastor.

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Hellinger: A c o m m o n m o t i v a t i o n for t h e search for G o d is t h a t t h e s e a r c h e r d o e s n ' t have a father a n d is looking for h i m . If the father is f o u n d , t h e search for G o d isn't so i m p o r t a n t a n y m o r e — o r it's different. T h e w h o l e t h i n g s t a r t e d with Jesus. As far as we know, h e , t o o , g r e w up w i t h o u t a father. I'll share a p o e m with y o u .

The

Way

A son went to his aged father and asked, "Father, bless me before you go." His father answered: "My blessing is that I will accompany you a while along the path to knowledge." They met at sunrise at the appointed place, climbed the mountain up out of the shadows of their narrow valley. As they reached the top, although it was the end of day, they could see in all directions stretching to the sky —the land bathed in light. The sun sank, taking with it its radiant glow. It was night, yet in the darkness of the night they saw, revealed, a multitude of —twinkling, distant stars.

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Q u e s t i o n : M y p a r e n t s are getting older, and m o r e a n d m o r e they'll be n e e d i n g me to take care of t h e m . I've also got a family a n d a job. H o w do I balance the responsibility to give to my wife a n d children a n d my responsibility to them? Hellinger: C h i l d r e n have a responsibility to care for their elderly parents. Nevertheless, m a n y children fear w h a t awaits t h e m as their parents grow old. T h a t ' s because they imagine that they m u s t care for their parents in whatever way their parents wish. W h e n they feel so compelled, their worry is justified. T h e solution is for children to tell their p a r e n t s , "We will do what's right by you." T h a t ' s a c o m pletely different situation, b u t what's truly right m a y be different from w h a t either t h e p a r e n t s or children first imagine. T h e r e ' s a specific d y n a m i c behind this p r o b l e m : C h i l d r e n c a n ' t see their parents as they are. Regardless of their actual age, as soon as they m e e t their p a r e n t s , children have a strong t e n d e n c y to feel a n d act like five- or six-year-olds. A n d parents see their children as five- or six-year-olds, regardless of their children's actual ages, and treat t h e m accordingly. T h e only exception to this general rule I've ever c o m e across was a psychiatrist in a seminar w h o insisted that she a n d h e r d a u g h t e r were truly equals. Later, over coffee, she kept talking a b o u t her "little Snookie," until s o m e o n e asked her w h o Snookie was. She answered, " M y d a u g h t e r ! " Snookie was a b o u t 35 years old. (Laughter) So that's the only exception I've found. Whatever is truly n e e d e d can usually be arranged. D u r i n g a w o r k s h o p , a very successful b u s i n e s s w o m a n said she n e e d e d to call her m o t h e r , w h o was hospitalized. T h e m o t h e r very m u c h w a n t e d h e r d a u g h t e r to take her into h e r h o m e a n d care for her. T h e w o m a n felt she c o u l d n ' t do it because of h e r business obligations. I said to her, "Your m o t h e r has priority. First care for your m o t h e r a n d t h e n for your business." She p r o t e s t e d that it was impossible. I told her, "Just sit with it a while. You k n o w it has priority and you know what's i m p o r t a n t . Just let it w o r k in you." As is so often the case w h e n s o m e o n e is p r e p a r e d to do the right thing, the solution was u n e x p e c t e d . She got a call from a highly skilled practical n u r s e w h o was looking for a job caring for an older p e r s o n . T h e n u r s e was expensive, b u t the w o m a n h a d a d e q u a t e m o n e y a n d was m o r e t h a n h a p p y to pay. T h a t was t h e solution.

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W h e n children freely accept this responsibility right from the beginning, p a r e n t s find it easier to let t h e m go b e c a u s e they know they will be there for t h e m w h e n they n e e d t h e m — a n d children feel freer to separate w h e n they know they're n o t a b a n d o n i n g their parents. C h i l d r e n feel relief w h e n at last it's appropriate for t h e m to give s o m e t h i n g to their elderly parents.

Incest Q u e s t i o n : You've said that p r o b l e m s in families are usually a t t e m p t s to love that have gone wrong. Is that t r u e of incest as well? C a n you say s o m e t h i n g a b o u t h o w you view incest? H e l l i n g e r : Incest is complex, a n d it comes in m a n y different forms, so we n e e d to be careful about generalizations. S o m e t i m e s the violence a n d abuse are so d a m a g i n g that the sexual aspect b e c o m e s secondary. T h e n it's altogether different from incest that's primarily sexual. B u t yes, I've seen that incest is often an a t t e m p t to love that's g o n e w r o n g . In t h e usual way of looking at incest, therapists d o n ' t see t h e family as a whole. Rather, they see two individuals: the perpetrator, w h o is usually a m a n , a n d the victim, usually his d a u g h t e r or s t e p d a u g h ter. S o m e therapists t e n d to see the p e r p e t r a t o r as an i n h u m a n beast w h o forced t h e victim to m e e t his or her uncontrollable sexual desires or e m o t i o n a l needs. T h e y d o n ' t see the larger context of the family system. I ask, " D o e s the v i c t i m - p e r p e t r a t o r m o d e l of looking at incest really help the child?" T h a t ' s t h e crucial question. In the vast majority of cases with which I've worked, it d o e s n ' t seem to help at all. T h e f u n d a m e n t a l principle of systemic psychotherapy is that we always look at the children a n d listen to t h e m in the context of the whole family relationship system. We ask: W h a t ' s going on in this family, a n d what's best for the child? W h a t does she or he n e e d to find peace? If we're n o t careful, o u r images of p e r p e t r a t o r a n d victim prevent us from seeing the individuals involved, a n d they also m a y prevent us from seeing the whole family context. T h e solution for each child is different, so therapists n e e d to stay alert. It's always better to sacrifice a preconceived belief t h a n a child. If you look at the family as a whole, you usually see that t h e p a r ents have a p r o b l e m , and that the child was recruited to h e l p t h e m

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solve it. Incest, m o r e often t h a n n o t , is a family p r o b l e m , a n d is p o s sible only w h e n t h e p a r e n t s collaborate. I'll say it in t h a t provocative way; t h a t is, b o t h p a r e n t s p a r t i c i p a t e — t h e m a n i n t h e f o r e g r o u n d a n d t h e m o t h e r i n t h e b a c k g r o u n d — a n d they s h a r e t h e r e s p o n s i b i l ity. W h e n incest is a family p r o b l e m , r e s o l u t i o n b e c o m e s possible only w h e n t h e c o m p l e x i t y of t h e family situation as a w h o l e is clearly seen. I n t h o s e situations, children n e e d t o have t h e c o u r a g e to hold both parents responsible. I n o n e c o m m o n f o r m , incest i s a n a t t e m p t t o c o m p e n s a t e a n i m b a l a n c e o f giving a n d t a k i n g i n t h e family—usually, b u t n o t always, b e t w e e n t h e p a r e n t s . W h e n t h a t ' s t h e c a s e , t h e p e r p e t r a t o r h a s b e e n d e n i e d s o m e t h i n g ; for e x a m p l e , w h a t t h e p e r s o n d o e s for t h e family i s n ' t sufficiently a p p r e c i a t e d . In this f o r m , t h e i n c e s t is a n a t t e m p t t o c o r r e c t t h e i m b a l a n c e o f giving a n d t a k i n g i n t h e family. O f c o u r s e , t h e r e are m a n y o t h e r f o r m s o f i n c e s t , b u t o n e c o m m o n p a t t e r n is t h a t a m o t h e r w i t h a d a u g h t e r m a r r i e s a m a n w h o h a s n o c h i l d r e n . A l t h o u g h h e r n e w h u s b a n d p r o v i d e s for h e r a n d h e r d a u g h t e r a n d c o n c e r n s h i m s e l f w i t h t h e i r welfare, his efforts a n d n e e d s a r e d i s c o u n t e d , u n a p p r e c i a t e d , i g n o r e d , a n d s o m e t i m e s even b e l i t t l e d o r r i d i c u l e d . A n i m b a l a n c e o f giving a n d t a k i n g d e v e l o p s b e t w e e n t h e p a r t n e r s i n w h i c h t h e m a n gives m o r e a n d t h e w o m a n takes m o r e . A w o m a n i n t h a t s i t u a t i o n m i g h t still b e able t o b a l a n c e t h e giving a n d t a k i n g i f she w e r e t o c o m m u n i cate g e n u i n e g r a t i t u d e t o h e r n e w h u s b a n d , "Yes, it's t r u e t h a t y o u give a n d I t a k e , a n d I d e e p l y a p p r e c i a t e w h a t y o u d o . " T h e n c o r r e c t i n g t h e i m b a l a n c e m i g h t n o t have t o d e s c e n d t o s u c h a d e s t r u c t i v e level. H o w e v e r , w h e n t h e r e ' s an additional deficit in t h e e x c h a n g e b e t w e e n the p a r t n e r s — f o r e x a m p l e , i n their sexuality o r their e m o tional n e e d s — a n i m b a l a n c e develops i n t h e w h o l e s y s t e m . T h e w o m a n a t t e m p t s t o b a l a n c e t h e sexual deficit i n t h o s e situations b y offering h e r d a u g h t e r to the m a n (I've w o r k e d with families in w h i c h t h e m o t h e r even d i d s o consciously), o r b y a b a n d o n i n g h e r d a u g h t e r to h i m in s u c h a way t h a t he is actually d r a w n i n t o a c o m p e n s a t o r y relationship w i t h her. I've even w o r k e d with a few f a m i lies in w h i c h t h e d a u g h t e r offered herself to h e r father or stepfather in o r d e r to h e l p h e r m o t h e r a n d to k e e p h i m from leaving. A less c o m m o n f o r m o f incest involves the b o y w h o h e l p s t o redress a n i m b a l a n c e in t h e family.

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Q u e s t i o n : E v e r y t h i n g i n m e resists t h e idea t h a t t h e m o t h e r s h o u l d take t h e b l a m e . H e l l i n g e r : T h a t ' s especially t r u e a s l o n g a s y o u ' r e m o r e interested in y o u r ideals t h a n in t h e p e o p l e involved. You're looking for t h e o n e t o b l a m e . I ' m n o t i n t e r e s t e d i n b l a m i n g a n y o n e . I ' m looking for a solution. In o r d e r to find a solution, I n e e d to see t h e p e o p l e in their s i t u a t i o n , a n d I n e e d to u n d e r s t a n d t h e d y n a m i c s of t h e family. My goals are always very specific: I look for a s o l u t i o n for t h e p e r s o n w h o ' s c o m e t o m e , a n d I resist t h e t e m p t a t i o n t o g o b e y o n d that. T h e solutions are different for every m e m b e r of t h e family. E v e r y o n e i n t h e family—the m a n , t h e w o m a n , a n d the child— k n o w s , at least u n c o n s c i o u s l y , that t h e family h a s a p r o b l e m , so we n e e d to look for a solution that allows e v e r y o n e in t h e system to a c c e p t his o r h e r s h a r e o f t h e responsibility a n d t o m a i n t a i n dignity. F o r a child w h o has b e e n i n d u c e d to help w i t h an i m b a l a n c e of giving a n d t a k i n g , a n d s o m e o t h e r f o r m s of incest as well, the solution is to get to t h e p l a c e w h e r e she h o n e s t l y c a n say, " M a m a , I c o n sent to do this for y o u , " a n d to h e r father, " D a d d y , I did it for M a m a . " S o m e t i m e s , w h e n t h e m a n i s actually p r e s e n t , I've h a d t h e child say, " I ' m d o i n g it for M a m a , a n d I a g r e e to do it for her." S o m e p e o p l e object t o t h e w o r d " a g r e e , " b u t t h e victims confirm t h a t it's i m p o r t a n t . T h e s e s e n t e n c e s n a m e t h e d y n a m i c already operating in t h e f a m ily, and they bring the child's love to light. A child w h o a u t h e n t i c a l l y speaks t h e s e s e n t e n c e s gives voice t o t h e a r c h a i c b e a u t y a n d p o w e r of h e r i n n o c e n t love for h e r p a r e n t s . S h e reveals a d e p t h of t h e soul w h e r e c h i l d r e n willingly, a l t h o u g h often u n c o n s c i o u s l y , m a k e t h e m o s t painful a n d d e s t r u c t i v e sacrifices for their p a r e n t s . S y s t e m i cally viewed, the child is sacrificed to r e d r e s s an i m b a l a n c e in the family, a n d , at least unconsciously, she agrees o u t of love. T h e solution for h e r i s t o speak t h e t r u t h , t o n a m e t h e system d y n a m i c a n d to declare h e r love openly. By openly n a m i n g the m o t h e r ' s p a r t in t h e incest d y n a m i c , t h e child extracts herself from h e r u n c o n s c i o u s a g r e e m e n t t o h e l p solve h e r p a r e n t s ' p r o b l e m . T h e s e n t e n c e n a m e s h e r m o t h e r ' s complicity i n w h a t h a p p e n e d , b u t i t d o e s n ' t release h e r father from his guilt. T h e effect of h a v i n g this i n t i m a t e love seen a n d a c k n o w l e d g e d is healing. T h e s e n t e n c e s r e m i n d c h i l d r e n t h a t they w e r e trying t o d o s o m e t h i n g g o o d , even if it w e n t w r o n g . W h e n t h e y consciously feel

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their love a n d we confirm it, they know t h a t t h e y ' r e g o o d . T h a t ' s a great relief. W h e n victims m a n a g e to say t h e w o r d s authentically, they're released from their e n t a n g l e m e n t i n their p a r e n t s ' p r o b l e m . T h e y d o n ' t have t o wait for their p a r e n t s t o c h a n g e before they c a n do this. T h e y ' r e free to go on their way regardless of w h a t their p a r ents d o , w h e t h e r o r n o t they a d m i t responsibility a n d feel r e m o r s e . Q u e s t i o n : B u t t h a t ' s n o t t h e way t h e girl feels. S h e feels as t h o u g h she's d o i n g it unwillingly, like she's t h e victim, a n d s h e ' d resist saying t h o s e s e n t e n c e s . Hellinger: A victim by definition is a p e r s o n w h o c o u l d n ' t p r e vent w h a t h a p p e n e d . I f victims w a n t t o c h a n g e a n y t h i n g , t h e y ' v e got to get in t o u c h with their a u t h e n t i c power. C h i l d r e n ' s p o w e r is t h e i r love. T h a t ' s w h a t t h e s e n t e n c e s d o : T h e y reveal t h e child's love. T h e y m a k e clear t o everyone i n the system w h a t t h e child h a s d o n e to t r y to solve t h e family's p r o b l e m . W h e n y o u offer s e n t e n c e s like t h e s e , y o u m u s t listen very sensitively to h e a r t h e s e n t e n c e s t h e child's soul is already speaking. W h e n y o u ' v e f o u n d t h e m , you cautiously offer h e r a gift, w o r d s t h a t express w h a t she's secretly b e e n feeling b u t c o u l d n ' t a r t i c u l a t e . I f you listen d e e p l y e n o u g h a n d f i n d t h e w o r d s t h a t are just right, h e r soul u n d e r s t a n d s t h e m e s s a g e : "You a c t e d o u t of love. You d i d t h e b e s t y o u c o u l d , b u t n o w it's okay t o give t h e p r o b l e m b a c k t o t h e a d u l t s . It's their p r o b l e m , a n d they c a n h a n d l e it." T h e m e s s a g e i s usually s o m e t h i n g like that. I t requires c o u r a g e , b u t m a n y girls have f o u n d release by saying a l o u d w h a t they've secretly b e e n feeling all along. T h e p r o o f a s t o w h e t h e r o r n o t y o u ' v e f o u n d t h e right s e n t e n c e s is their effectiveness. If you've found t h e right f o r m u l a t i o n , a girl, or a n a d u l t w o m a n , e x p e r i m e n t s with t h e s e n t e n c e s , a n d all a t o n c e she feels a c h a n g e in h e r b o d y a n d k n o w s herself to be g o o d . It's really a d r a m a t i c a n d beautiful p r o c e s s to see. S h e feels relieved b e c a u s e t h e s e n t e n c e s d e m o n s t r a t e h e r love a n d h e r d e p e n d e n c e , a n d t h e r e f o r e , h e r i n n o c e n c e . It's o f a b s o l u t e i m p o r t a n c e t h a t t h e child be h e l p e d to find a way b a c k to self-worth a n d dignity, a n d that h e r love b e a c k n o w l e d g e d a n d affirmed. Question: B u t w h a t h a p p e n s if y o u ' r e w o r k i n g with a 15-year-old girl, for e x a m p l e , w h o ' s still in t h e situation?

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Hellinger: T h e s e n t e n c e s are m o s t effective t h e n . A child is in the weakest p o s i t i o n in a family, so she's limited as to w h a t she c a n do to get t h e incest to stop. H e r best c h a n c e of g e t t i n g it to s t o p is w h e n w e n a m e t h e h i d d e n d y n a m i c o p e r a t i n g i n t h e family a n d b r i n g everyone's responsibility into t h e o p e n . Question: W h a t d o the s e n t e n c e s d o t o t h e father? I n this f o r m u lation, h e ' s r e d u c e d to a passive p a r t i c i p a n t . H e ' s also a p e r s o n w h o a c t e d , w h o violated his f a t h e r h o o d a n d m i s u s e d his o w n child. W h a t c a n h e do? Hellinger: If he's seriously i n t e r e s t e d in d o i n g s o m e t h i n g to r e s t o r e s o m e o r d e r t o the system, t h e r e are s o m e general principles he m u s t follow, b u t t h e details will vary. First, h e ' s g o t to a c c e p t fully the c o n s e q u e n c e s of his actions. If h e w a s c h a r g e d a n d convicted, h e m u s t feel a g r e e m e n t with t h e verdict a n d t h e penalty. T h e n h e has t o face his d a u g h t e r a n d really see h e r , see t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s for h e r o f w h a t h e has d o n e . H e m u s t genuinely tell h e r t h a t he carries the full responsibility a n d b e a r s t h e full c o n s e q u e n c e s for his a c t i o n s , a n d t h a t he'll w i t h d r a w from h e r a n d leave h e r in p e a c e . S i n c e t h e r e ' s n o way t o u n d o w h a t ' s b e e n d o n e , h e m u s t see t o i t t h a t s o m e t h i n g g o o d c o m e s o u t of it. G u i l t gradually fades away w h e n it a c c o m p l i s h e s its p u r p o s e — c h a n g e for the b e t t e r . O n e s t e p father u n d e r w e n t intensive p e r s o n a l p s y c h o t h e r a p y , a n d t h e n did t r a i n i n g a n d b e c a m e a therapist w o r k i n g w i t h o t h e r m e n . H i s relat i o n s h i p w i t h his s t e p d a u g h t e r is distant, b u t cordial. S h e can r e s p e c t h i m , a n d it's easier for h e r to r e s p e c t herself. Question: I've always w o n d e r e d w h y c o u r t decisions against t h e p e r p e t r a t o r in t h e s e cases so s e l d o m b r i n g a s o l u t i o n for the child. Hellinger: P u n i s h i n g the p e r p e t r a t o r isn't e n o u g h t o b r i n g r e s o l u t i o n for t h e child. T h e r e ' s an i m p o r t a n t law of systemic b e h a v i o r t h a t n e e d s to be r e s p e c t e d : A system is d i s r u p t e d w h e n o n e of its m e m b e r s is rejected or e x c l u d e d from t h e system. R e s o l u t i o n requires t h a t t h e w h o l e n e s s o f t h e system b e r e s p e c t e d , t h a t t h e e x c l u d e d p e r s o n b e taken b a c k into t h e system, a n d t h a t everyone a c c e p t his or h e r a p p r o p r i a t e share of the responsibility. W h e n y o u w o r k systemically, even t h o u g h y o u ' r e w o r k i n g t o find a r e s o l u t i o n for t h e client, y o u m u s t serve a n d p r o t e c t t h e w h o l e n e s s o f t h e system. T h e r e f o r e , y o u have t o c o n n e c t yourself t o t h o s e w h o

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are e x c l u d e d . U n l e s s y o u are able to give t h e p e r p e t r a t o r s a p l a c e in y o u r h e a r t , y o u c a n ' t w o r k with t h e w h o l e system. You gradually c o m e to view w h a t h a p p e n s in the c o n t e x t of larger systemic d y n a m i c s , a n d t h a t larger perspective o p e n s m o r e o p t i o n s for h e a l ing. T h a t ' s w h y I regularly ally myself w i t h t h e e x c l u d e d a n d t h e hated. Question: A r e you saying that everyone i n t h e system p a r t i c i p a t e s i n w h a t h a p p e n s — t h e m o t h e r , t h e stepfather, a n d t h e child? T h a t t h e y ' r e all a c t i n g u n d e r t h e p r e s s u r e o f systemic d y n a m i c s , a n d t h a t a t h e r a p i s t w h o polarizes the victim a n d t h e p e r p e t r a t o r actually contributes to the problem? H e l l i n g e r : E v e r y o n e is involved w h e n t h e incest is an a t t e m p t to solve a systemic p r o b l e m . It's a c o m m o n pitfall for the t h e r a p i s t to join t h e m o t h e r i n a b a t t l e against the father; t h e w r o n g h e h a s d o n e is easy to see. T h e r a p i s t s s o m e t i m e s get p r e t t y e m o t i o n a l a b o u t his perversity, b u t t h a t only splits t h e family m o r e . I w o n d e r w h e r e all this affect in therapists c o m e s from. W h y n o t stay c a l m a n d s t u d y the p h e n o m e n o l o g y until we find a g o o d r e s o l u t i o n for t h e child? S u c h intensity of affect in therapists m a k e s me wary. S o m e t h i n g ' s going on or else t h e therapist's feelings w o u l d n ' t be so s t r o n g . S o m e t h i n g ' s b e i n g given t o o m u c h i m p o r t a n c e . T h e r a p i s t s w h o ally themselves w i t h the victim h e l p t o e x c l u d e t h e p e r p e t r a t o r from t h e system, overlook the m o t h e r ' s s h a r e o f t h e responsibility, a n d d o n ' t a c k n o w l e d g e t h e d e p t h of t h e child's love for a n d loyalty to both p a r ents. T h a t m a k e s t h e situation w o r s e for t h e victim. I'll tell you h o w I c a m e to u n d e r s t a n d this. Standing by the Villain

In a group, a psychiatrist told about a client who'd been raped by her own father. T h e psychiatrist was horrified by the wrong done to her client and emphasized what a base creature the father was. I invited her to do a constellation of the situation and then to take her place in the family as therapist. She stood next to her client. Everyone in the constellation was immediately angry with her, including the representative of her client. The whole system was restless, and nobody trusted her. T h e n I moved her to a position next to the father, and everyone immediately became calm and trusting. Since then I've often observed that standing next to the villain is a very good position for a therapist.

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Victim a n d p e r p e t r a t o r are systemically c o n n e c t e d , b u t often you d o n ' t k n o w i n w h a t way. W h e n the c o n n e c t i o n b e c o m e s clear, t h e n you c a n u n d e r s t a n d w h a t n e e d s t o h a p p e n t o b r i n g t h e system back i n t o b a l a n c e . W h e n I w o r k with a p e r p e t r a t o r , I c o n f r o n t h i m with his guilt. T h a t goes w i t h o u t saying. B u t p e o p l e often m a k e the a s s u m p t i o n that s o m e t h i n g will c h a n g e for t h e victim if t h e p e r p e t r a t o r a c c e p t s his guilt or is p u n i s h e d . In actual p r a c t i c e , n o t h i n g c h a n g e s . O n c e t h e y ' r e o u t o f the situation, incest victims c a n act o n their o w n to free themselves of t h e e n t a n g l e m e n t s i n d e p e n d e n t l y of t h e a c t i o n s o f t h e p e r p e t r a t o r s , b u t they d o n e e d t o b e willing t o give up t h e idea of revenge. Question: D o e s t h a t m e a n that incest victims s h o u l d b e e n c o u r a g e d to forgive their p a r e n t s ? Hellinger: I've seen t h a t it's i n a p p r o p r i a t e a n d i m p o s s i b l e for a child to forgive h e r p a r e n t s for incest. S h e c a n say, " W h a t you did w a s b a d for me a n d I ' m leaving you w i t h the c o n s e q u e n c e s . I'll m a k e s o m e t h i n g o u t of my life in spite of w h a t h a p p e n e d . " Or she c a n say, "You've d o n e me a great w r o n g a n d I m u s t n o t forgive it. I have n o right t o d o t h a t . " S h e c a n confront b o t h o f h e r p a r e n t s a t t h e s a m e t i m e a n d tell t h e m , "You're at fault, n o t I. A n d you m u s t take t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s , n o t I." I n d o i n g this, she shifts t h e guilt b a c k to h e r p a r e n t s w h e r e it belongs a n d distances herself from their responsibility. It i s n ' t necessary for t h e child to m a k e massive accusations against h e r p a r e n t s . It's e n o u g h if there's a clarity b e t w e e n t h e m t h a t sets h e r free. Similarly, a father c a n ' t ask his d a u g h t e r for forgiveness after he's c o m m i t t e d incest w i t h h e r . If he d o e s , he asks h e r for s o m e t h i n g t h a t goes b e y o n d h e r right a n d d u t y to give. By asking her to limit t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s of his a c t i o n s , he effectively m i s u s e s h e r again. He c a n say s o m e t h i n g like "I regret w h a t I d i d " or "I a c k n o w l e d g e t h a t I've w r o n g e d y o u . " B u t he still m u s t k e e p the full responsibility for his a c t i o n s , a n d suffer t h e full c o n s e q u e n c e s . H o w e v e r , h e m u s t n o t g o b e y o n d that, o r h e i m p o s e s a n a d d i t i o n a l b u r d e n o n t h e child. Question: T h a t m e a n s t h a t w h e n c h i l d r e n are b r o u g h t t o u s a n d we discover that sexual a b u s e is going o n , we c a n p r o t e c t t h e child r e n , p e r h a p s h e l p t h e m get away from t h e p a r e n t s , b u t w e s h o u l d n ' t initiate p r o c e e d i n g s against the p a r e n t s .

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Hellinger: As far as t h e solution for the child is c o n c e r n e d , t h a t ' s m y e x p e r i e n c e . You s h o u l d n ' t even talk disparagingly a b o u t t h e p a r ents in front of t h e child, a l t h o u g h y o u m u s t h e l p t h e child to see the p a r e n t s ' responsibility a n d to feel i n n o c e n t of a n y w r o n g d o i n g . T h e r e m a y be cases in w h i c h it's n e c e s s a r y to initiate p r o c e e d i n g s against the p a r e n t s ; nevertheless, m y e x p e r i e n c e h a s b e e n t h a t c h i l d r e n ' s suffering increases w h e n they m u s t testify against their parents. Q u e s t i o n : In a systemic p r o b l e m , there's a circle of c a u s e a n d effect, yet y o u often c h o o s e t h e w o m a n a s t h e s t a r t i n g p o i n t . W h a t ever t h e m a n did t o c a u s e the w o m a n t o act as,she d i d d o e s n ' t s e e m t o interest y o u m u c h . H e l l i n g e r : Yes, I often do that. T h e r e are several r e a s o n s . O n e r e a s o n is to redress a bias right at t h e b e g i n n i n g . R e m e m b e r , in syst e m i c w o r k , w e ' r e n o t making moral judgements a b o u t people. W e ' r e looking for ways to h e l p t h e family c o m e b a c k i n t o b a l a n c e so t h a t t h e v i c t i m s — t h e c h i l d r e n — a r e free to live healthy, fulfilling lives, a n d so are freed of the systemic p r e s s u r e to do u n t o o t h e r s w h a t w a s d o n e u n t o t h e m . Systemic b a l a n c e c a n only b e achieved w h e n w e c a n identify everyone's p a r t in t h e d y n a m i c . Since t h e p e r p e t r a t o r is generally a m a n , his responsibility is usually already clear. W h a t ' s usually n o t so clear is t h e w o m a n ' s p a r t in t h e w h o l e t h i n g . So I often s t a r t b y looking for that. I ' m n o t b l a m i n g t h e w o m a n , b u t t o u n d e r s t a n d t h e family as a w h o l e , I n e e d to find o u t w h a t was g o i n g on in the background. Question: B u t t h e child, especially a very y o u n g child, is left w i t h a d e e p w o u n d . At least I c a n ' t i m a g i n e any o t h e r possibility. Hellinger: You n e e d t o g u a r d against o v e r d r a m a t i z a t i o n . W h e n we really see t h e victims, t h e y d e s c r i b e a variety of e x p e r i e n c e s . S o m e t i m e s t h e e x p e r i e n c e was violent a n d h u m i l i a t i n g a n d s o m e t i m e s it was a m o r e t e n d e r , p e r h a p s even loving, relationship. In s o m e cases, it w a s t h e k i n d of incest in w h i c h sexual c o n t a c t never actually o c c u r s , b u t w h i c h causes s t u b b o r n difficulties in later relat i o n s h i p s . T h a t kind of incest i s n ' t even r e c o g n i z e d by law. It is often t h e case t h a t incest victims feel guilty for w h a t h a p p e n e d . I'll give you an e x a m p l e .

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A w o m a n in a workshop h a d been abused by her father a n d her uncle. She'd been seriously disturbed for m a n y years, was filled with self-hatred, a n d h a d m a d e multiple suicide attempts. She h a d the delusion that w h e n she was in a g r o u p , everyone could see that she was evil, and that they w a n t e d to kill her. I asked her to explore the feeling of being evil, which she did. She sat in the g r o u p , looking d o w n , feeling evil. She suddenly r e m e m bered her uncle, a n d imagined him lying at her feet. She r e m e m b e r e d that he h a d c o m m i t t e d suicide. As she continued to look at him in her imagination, her face b e c a m e hard and old. It took on an expression that wasn't her own, so I asked her, " W h o looks d o w n at h i m so hatefully a n d t r i u m p h a n t ? " She answered that it was her m o t h e r . As the work continued, she gradually pieced together her m e m o r i e s , a n d it emerged that her m o t h e r h a d b e c o m e p r e g n a n t d u r i n g an affair with her h u s b a n d ' s brother. So the m a n she had t h o u g h t was h e r uncle was in fact her father, a n d the m a n she h a d t h o u g h t was her father was her uncle. H e r m o t h e r h a d felt relieved w h e n the child's biological father c o m m i t t e d suicide, b u t the child felt responsible for his death, as if he h a d killed himself because of her, as if she were his m u r d e r e r . H e r self-hatred and suicide attempts were expressions of her feelings of guilt. B e c a u s e o f s u c h g u i l t y feelings, m a n y s e x u a l l y a b u s e d girls s u b s e quently take up a victim profession. M a n y prostitutes were abused as children, continuing as adults what they experienced as children. I've m e t n u n s w h o were victims of incest a n d a b u s e , apparently e n t e r i n g t h e c l o i s t e r s a s a n a t t e m p t t o a t o n e for t h e w r o n g t h e y felt t h e y h a d d o n e . O t h e r v i c t i m s b e c o m e m e n t a l l y ill, p a y i n g for w h a t t h e y a l r e a d y suffered w i t h m o r e s y m p t o m s a n d s u f f e r i n g . S o m e c o m m i t suicide. S o m e defend the perpetrators to the e n d , continui n g t o a l l o w t h e m s e l v e s t o b e a b u s e d i n v a r i o u s w a y s , a s i f t o say, " Y o u d o n ' t n e e d t o h a v e a g u i l t y c o n s c i e n c e for w h a t h a p p e n e d , b e c a u s e I really am a worthless p e r s o n . " S o m e b e c o m e p e r p e t r a t o r s themselves. T h e r e ' s a n a d d i t i o n a l p r o b l e m for t h e c h i l d : T h e first s e x u a l experience, even an incestuous one, normally establishes an especially i n t e n s i v e b o n d i n g . C h i l d r e n w h o h a v e b o n d e d t o s o m e o n e t h r o u g h a n e a r l y s e x u a l e n c o u n t e r h a v e difficulty i n l a t e r s e x u a l

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relationships unless they b e c o m e aware of the b o n d i n g a n d deal w i t h i t b y a c k n o w l e d g i n g t h e love i n v o l v e d . Paying My Mother's Debt

A w o m a n in a workshop told of her sexual difficulty. She h a d b e e n m a r r i e d for almost 30 years, had adult children, a n d was still in love with her h u s b a n d . T r y as she might, she was u n a b l e to s u r r e n d e r to sexual passion with h i m as she wanted to. As she explored her experience, she r e m e m b e r e d h e r early sexual experiences with an adult friend of the family. In a family constellation, she r e m e m b e r e d that he h a d entered the army at the age of 17 in order to impress her m o t h e r , to w h o m he was engaged; h a d survived seven years of heavy c o m b a t ; and h a d spent an additional six years in a prisoner-of-war c a m p u n d e r terrible conditions. While he was in prison, her m o t h e r h a d a b a n d o n e d h i m to m a r r y her father. H e r m o t h e r later sent her to live with the m a n d u r i n g s u m m e r vacations. As she stood before his representative in the constellation, she was critical and hateful toward him. She r e m e m b e r e d that her m o t h e r later charged the m a n with child abuse and that he h a d gone to jail. T h e n she suddenly b u r s t , i n t o tears and threw her a r m s a r o u n d his representative, weeping freely. She was flooded with m e m o r i e s of h o w m u c h she h a d loved h i m ; h o w he was t h e only p e r s o n w h o h a d u n d e r s t o o d her, talking to her for h o u r s ; a n d h o w deeply she h a d b e e n t o u c h e d by his loneliness and pain. She recognized that she h a d willingly given her b o d y to h i m even t h o u g h she was very young; that she had enjoyed his gentleness a n d was p r o u d of h e r ability to soothe his pain. She felt in her b o d y a d e e p connection to h i m , a n d n e e d e d assurance from the g r o u p that her feelings were n o r m a l . She radiated freshness a n d joy as she r e m e m b e r e d this first love, a n d still she was able to tell h i m lovingly that she h a d b e e n too young for such an experience. After several m o n t h s , she wrote a letter to the therapist telling h o w she felt released to give her h u s b a n d and herself the passion a n d the pleasure they b o t h had waited for so patiently. Question: C a n c h i l d r e n really e x p e r i e n c e p l e a s u r e i n i n c e s t ?

Hellinger: I know that m a n y people think that's terrible, b u t s o m e children have found their incest experiences pleasurable, even beautiful. Children in such situations m u s t be allowed to a d m i t that t h e y a l s o e x p e r i e n c e d p l e a s u r e . P e o p l e o f t e n tell t h e m t h a t s o m e thing b a d h a p p e n e d , and they need assurance that they're inno-

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cent—especially if t h e e x p e r i e n c e was p l e a s u r a b l e . In s u c h cases, c h i l d r e n m u s t b e allowed t o a c k n o w l e d g e their e x p e r i e n c e — t h a t sexuality c a n be fascinating—in spite of w h a t o t h e r s m a y t h i n k . It's c o m p l e t e l y a p p r o p r i a t e for a child to be c u r i o u s a b o u t sex a n d to w a n t to experience s o m e t h i n g s h e finds fascinating. If the child's curiosity isn't recognized a s b e i n g n o r m a l a n d healthy, h e r sexuality is p u t in a terrible light. At t h e risk of saying s o m e t h i n g else t h a t ' s controversial, sexuality isn't evil or d i r t y — e v e n w h e n it's incest. W h e n t h e child c a n h e a r t h a t , she feels relieved. Question: I've u n d e r s t o o d you t o say t h a t p e r h a p s the child was b e i n g s e d u c t i v e , a n d that it's very i m p o r t a n t for h e r t o u n d e r s t a n d t h a t t h a t d o e s n ' t m a k e h e r guilty. H e l l i n g e r : It's perfectly n o r m a l for a child to be seductive at t i m e s . T h a t m u s t n ' t b e a criticism o f h e r . W h y s h o u l d n ' t she b e allowed to be seductive? If she's b e i n g seductive w i t h h e r father, it d o e s n ' t m e a n t h a t she w a n t s sex like an a d u l t ; she's just p r a c t i c i n g a n d l e a r n i n g a b o u t b e i n g a w o m a n . It's his responsibility t o u n d e r s t a n d t h a t difference a n d to keep t h e b o u n d a r i e s clear. It's his job to provide h e r with p r o t e c t i o n . It's n o t h e r s t o m e e t his n e e d s . Question: I feel very a m b i v a l e n t a b o u t y o u r s t a t e m e n t t h a t child r e n enjoy incest. We saw a film last w e e k in t h e clinic w h e r e I w o r k a n d t h e girls in t h e film d e s c r i b e d it very differently. Hellinger: I f we're going t o c o m m u n i c a t e with o n e a n o t h e r , y o u m u s t resist t h e t e m p t a t i o n to c h a n g e w h a t I said into w h a t you t h i n k I said. I did n o t say t h a t " c h i l d r e n enjoy i n c e s t " — a n d n e i t h e r do you get t h e objective t r u t h a b o u t w h a t goes on in a family from a film. E v e r y film h a s a p o i n t to m a k e . You m u s t n ' t a s s u m e t h a t y o u r client e x p e r i e n c e d the s a m e t h i n g as the girls in t h e film d i d . Question: I k n o w t h a t , b u t it's n o t a g o o d idea to m a k e a s s u m p tions a b o u t t h e child's enjoying it. H e l l i n g e r : T h a t ' s exactly m y p o i n t . L o o k carefully a t t h e child, a n d listen t o her! T h e n you'll know. D o n ' t d e c i d e a b o u t y o u r client on t h e basis of w h a t you saw in a film or r e a d in a b o o k . E v e r y child is different. T h e child m u s t be allowed to a c k n o w l e d g e t h a t it was p l e a s u r a b l e , if it was pleasurable. A n d if it was, y o u ' v e got to be willing t o see that, too. T h e n you c a n r e a s s u r e h e r t h a t she's i n n o c e n t , even if s h e was fascinated by t h e sex or c u r i o u s a b o u t it. If it w a s

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painful or h u m i l i a t i n g , she m u s t be allowed to a c k n o w l e d g e t h a t as well. It's absolutely clear that t h e responsibility for incest lies c o m pletely w i t h t h e a d u l t s , b u t it's t h e child w h o pays t h e p r i c e . T h a t ' s h o w family systems work. Question: violent? D o e s it m a k e a difference if t h e p e r p e t r a t o r w a s

Hellinger: V i o l e n c e dramatically increases t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s for b o t h t h e child a n d the p e r p e t r a t o r . Still, I g u a r d against a n y t h i n g t h a t inhibits m y ability t o help t h e victim a n d t h e p e r p e t r a t o r . T h e p o w e r of t h e soul to affirm life after t r a g e d y is m i r a c u l o u s , so even in cases of g r e a t d a m a g e , there's still h o p e .

Transcript
LESLIE: A CHILD GIVEN UP FOR A D O P T I O N
Leslie w a s a p a r t i c i p a n t in a large w o r k s h o p for a d o p t e d c h i l d r e n , a d o p t i v e p a r e n t s , a n d p a r e n t s w h o h a d given a child u p for a d o p t i o n . H e r w o r k m a k e s clear s o m e o f t h e u n e x p e c t e d complexities t h a t a d o p t i o n p r e s e n t s a n d p o i n t s t h e way t o w a r d g o o d r e s o l u t i o n s for difficult situations. Hellinger: H o w m a y w e b e o f h e l p t o you?

L e s l i e : I have difficulties in relationships a n d I get sick all t h e t i m e . I have t h e feeling that's c o n n e c t e d to my c o n s t a n t l o n g i n g to feel like I ' m at h o m e s o m e w h e r e . I was p i c k e d up from t h e hospital by my a d o p t i v e p a r e n t s w h e n I was 14 days old. I guess I ' m still trying to find that original c o n t a c t . Hellinger: W h a t kind o f illnesses d o you have?

L e s l i e : As a child, I c o n s t a n t l y h a d tonsillitis. N o w I've got vario u s p s y c h o s o m a t i c illnesses t h a t I call "losing myself". Hellinger: W h a t w o u l d y o u like m e t o do?

Leslie: I r e a d y o u r b o o k , a n d as I p u t it d o w n , I t h o u g h t , " T h a t ' s it! T h a t ' s w h a t I w a n t to d o . " So n o w I ' m sitting h e r e w i t h h i g h h o p e s t h a t I c a n get clear a b o u t this, or at least get a n e w p e r s p e c tive. Hellinger: Leslie: Are you married?

Yes, b u t I ' m s e p a r a t e d from m y h u s b a n d . D o y o u have children?

Hellinger: Leslie:

We have a 13-year-old s o n . W h o i s h e living with?

Hellinger: Leslie:

H a l f a n d half. I t d e p e n d s . 136

Parents and Children Hellinger: W h a t do you know about your biological parents?

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L e s l i e : Absolutely nothing. I know their n a m e s . It probably would have b e e n possible for me to have found o u t their addresses, b u t I d i d n ' t w a n t to do that. Hellinger: W h a t were you told a b o u t the adoption? W h o p u t you up for adoption? L e s l i e : As far as my adoptive parents know, it was my m o t h e r w h o did, because of her poverty. Hellinger: Leslie: A n d your father?

I d o n ' t know. T h a t ' s just what I've b e e n told.

H e l l i n g e r : We'll just go ahead a n d set up this system: your father, your m o t h e r , you, and your adoptive parents. H a v e you seen h o w it's done? Leslie: Sort of. I ' m pretty confused just now.

H e l l i n g e r : You choose people—anyone you w a n t — t o represent your father, your m o t h e r , yourself, and your adoptive p a r e n t s . By the way, did your adoptive parents have their own children? Leslie: N o , they c o u l d n ' t have any. (She chooses representatives.)

H e l l i n g e r (to Leslie): Okay, n o w take the representatives by the shoulders and p u t t h e m in their places in relation to o n e a n o t h e r . Collect yourself and do it with the feeling of being completely collected. T h e constellation will emerge all by itself as you begin to move the representatives. (To representatives): A n d you stay collected in yourselves as well, a n d pay attention to h o w y o u r feelings a n d sensations change as she moves you a r o u n d . H e l l i n g e r (to representatives): N o w , I'll ask you what's h a p p e n i n g for you, a n d you tell me as exactly as you can w h a t your experience is. W h a t ' s h a p p e n i n g for the m o t h e r ? Mother: I feel the father moving out of the constellation a n d I ' m being pulled to follow. I first t h o u g h t the d a u g h t e r w o u l d c o m e closer, b u t she stopped. Hellinger: A n d the father?

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Father: I feel e x t r e m e l y sad. I've got a h u g e k n o t in my s t o m a c h . I feel lost h e r e a n d very sad. Hellinger child? (to Leslie's representative): What's h a p p e n i n g for t h e

Leslie's Representative: I feel m u c h b e t t e r since t h e a d o p t i v e p a r e n t s c a m e in. I ' m still very confused. Hellinger: W h a t ' s h a p p e n i n g for the adoptive m o t h e r ?

Adoptive Mother: M y h e a r t was t h u m p i n g before I w a s p l a c e d h e r e . I feel s e c u r e h e r e a n d t h a t I c a n see t h e child. I also feel t h e d i s t a n c e b e t w e e n u s . I ' m u n e a s y t h a t t h e a d o p t i v e father i s also h e r e , a l t h o u g h I c a n ' t see h i m . I c a n ' t see h i m at all just now. Hellinger: You m e a n y o u r h u s b a n d ? Yes.

Adoptive Mother: Hellinger:

W h a t ' s h a p p e n i n g for t h e a d o p t i v e father?

Adoptive Father: I feel a bit alone h e r e , a n d a little sad as well. I d o n ' t have m u c h c o n t a c t with my family. I ' m in a c o r n e r , w h i c h gives me a little sense of security, b u t I ' m a l o n e . (Hellinger moves the adoptive mother next to her husband.)

* Legend: Fa—natural father; Mo—natural mother; AdFa—adoptive AdMo—adoptive mother; AdC—adopted child

father;

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Hellinger:

H o w ' s that? T h a t ' s better.

Adoptive Mother:

Adoptive Father: T h e u n p l e a s a n t feeling o f isolation a n d l o n e liness is g o n e . It's b e t t e r now. I feel s o m e t h i n g like h e l p or support. H e l l i n g e r (to Leslie's representative): W h a t ' s c h a n g e d for you?

Leslie's R e p r e s e n t a t i v e : It's m o r e difficult now. T h e r e was so m u c h emptiness to my left a n d to my right. T h a t was better after the adoptive p a r e n t s c a m e , b u t n o w it's e m p t y again. (Hellinger turns her to face everyone)

Hellinger:

H o w ' s that now?

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L e s l i e ' s R e p r e s e n t a t i v e : T h a t ' s better. I d i d n ' t feel anything at all for my p a r e n t s , b u t n o w I can see t h e m at least. H e l l i n g e r (to mother): W h a t changed for the m o t h e r ?

M o t h e r : T h e longer I stand here, the m o r e I notice that I want to t u r n to face t h e child, a n d look at her. She's m o r e in view now, b u t farther away. I w a n t to move closer to her, a n d I w a n t to t u r n around. Hellinger: (To father): Father: me. T u r n a r o u n d so that it feels right for you. H o w ' s that for the father?

I feel a h u g e heaviness and I feel like everyone has left

Hellinger:

T u r n a r o u n d a n d stand next t o the m o t h e r .

H e l l i n g e r (to Leslie's representative):

H o w ' s that? I w a n t to go to her.

L e s l i e ' s R e p r e s e n t a t i v e (deeply moved):

Hellinger: Go a h e a d . (Leslie's representative goes to the mother, embraces her, and sobs deeply.) H e l l i n g e r (waits for them to finish embrace): I'll p u t Leslie in her place now. (To Leslie): Go to y o u r m o t h e r . (Leslie quickly goes to the mother and holds her tightly.) (To the father as the mother and Leslie embrace): W h a t ' s h a p p e n i n g for you?

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Father: I still feel alone a n d lost. T h e best would be for me to go. I d o n ' t feel as if I b e l o n g here. Hellinger: T h e n t u r n away and move a step away.

H e l l i n g e r (to the father): Father:

H o w ' s that?

I feel lighter here. Look

H e l l i n g e r (to Leslie as she slowly moves back from the mother): your m o t h e r in t h e eyes a n d call her " M a m a " . L e s l i e (choking back tears): Hellinger: Leslie: Mama.

" M a m a , please."

M a m a , please.

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W h a t ' s h a p p e n i n g for t h e m o t h e r ?

M o t h e r : I d o n ' t u n d e r s t a n d anything. It's all h a p p e n i n g so fast, b u t I c a n let h e r in. I ' m o v e r w h e l m e d . Hellinger: Mother: Tell her, " I ' m sorry." I ' m sorry. Say to her, " P l e a s e look on me as your

H e l l i n g e r (to Leslie): daughter." Leslie:

Please look o n m e a s y o u r d a u g h t e r . "Please, M a m a . "

Hellinger:

Leslie: Please, M a m a . (Mother and daughter embrace tightly. Leslie sobs loudly.) Hellinger: Leslie: " P l e a s e , M a m a , please."

Please.

H e l l i n g e r (to Leslie as she becomes calmer): B r e a t h e deeply. It's like taking y o u r m o t h e r i n t o y o u r h e a r t . D e e p l y a n d calmly. (To adoptive mother): H o w ' s t h a t for t h e adoptive m o t h e r ? Adoptive Mother: At first I felt as t h o u g h I w a n t e d to take my adoptive d a u g h t e r in my a r m s a n d h o l d her. I felt so p u l l e d t o w a r d h e r , b u t I c o u l d n ' t m o v e b e c a u s e she was s t a n d i n g at a n o t h e r place. At t h e s a m e t i m e , I felt my h u s b a n d ' s light t o u c h . T h a t was very r e a s s u r i n g . T h e n I realized t h a t my a d o p t i v e d a u g h t e r h a d really f o u n d h e r n a t u r a l m o t h e r a n d I saw h o w h a p p y t h a t m a d e her. T h a t m a d e m e very h a p p y t o o . Hellinger: A n d t h e adoptive father?

Adoptive Father: It's gratifying to see that s o m e t h i n g ' s slipped i n t o p l a c e . T h a t t o u c h e s m e deeply. I ' m also feeling s o m e t h i n g t o w a r d h e r father t h a t ' s n o t clear. I feel as if I ' m c a r r y i n g s o m e t h i n g , s o m e responsibility, that's n o t m i n e . Hellinger: Mother: How's the mother doing now? I ' m d o i n g great. L o o k at h e r a n d tell

H e l l i n g e r (to Leslie as she releases her mother): h e r , " I take y o u a s m y m o t h e r . "

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Leslie: I take you as my m o t h e r . (Mother and daughter embrace again, naturally and simply.) H e l l i n g e r (to mother): N o w you can take h e r by the h a n d a n d lead h e r to t h e adoptive parents. Bow d o w n in front of t h e m , h o w ever you feel is right for you, a n d tell t h e m , " T h a n k you."

M o t h e r (bowing deeply): Hellinger: Mother: Hellinger: Mother: Hellinger: Mother:

T h a n k you.

" T h a n k you for taking care of my d a u g h t e r . " T h a n k you for taking in my d a u g h t e r . " A n d for giving h e r what she n e e d e d . " A n d for giving her what she n e e d e d . "I hold you in high regard for d o i n g that." I hold you in high regard for that. H o w ' s that for you?

H e l l i n g e r (to Leslie): Leslie:

Wonderful. T h e y really gave me a lot. L o o k a t t h e m , a n d tell t h e m " t h a n k s " too. bowing deeply before her adoptive parents):

Hellinger:

L e s l i e (spontaneously T h a n k you.

H e l l i n g e r (to adoptive mother):

H o w ' s that for you?

A d o p t i v e M o t h e r : G o o d . B u t I still w a n t to take my adoptive d a u g h t e r in my a r m s a n d h u g her.

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H e l l i n g e r : I c a n ' t think of anyuiiii^ *"'s s t a n d i n g in t h e way. (Leslie and the adoptive mother hold one a her tenderly. Leslie then also embraces the adoptive father.) H e l l i n g e r (to father as Leslie embraces the adoptive father): you doing? H o w are

Father: I ' m n o t doing so good. I still feel a t r e m e n d o u s weight on my shoulders, a n d that knot in my s t o m a c h . I d o n ' t have any connection to t h e others. Hellinger: T u r n a r o u n d a n d face t h e m . (Hellinger places Leslie next to her adoptive mother and places her mother at a distance to the left.)

H e l l i n g e r (to Leslie): L o o k at your father and try telling him, "I take you as my father." Leslie: T h a t d o e s n ' t feel right.

H e l l i n g e r : It's a first step. Give it a try. L o o k at h i m , and tell him, "I take you as my father." (The adoptive mother strokes her back to show encouragement.) L e s l i e (choking back tears, as the father bows his head): my father. Hellinger: Leslie: I take you as

"Please give me your blessing as your daughter."

Please give me your blessing. H o w is that for the father?

Hellinger:

Parents and Children Father: I wanf to r u n away. I c a n ' t s t a n d it.

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H e l l i n g e r (to Leslie): as my father." Leslie:

T r y r e p e a t i n g it o n e m o r e t i m e , "I take y o u

I take you as my father. " A n d I h o l d in h o n o r w h a t I have from y o u . "

Hellinger: Leslie:

A n d I h o l d in h o n o r w h a t I have from you. " A n d I let you go y o u r way with love."

Hellinger:

Leslie: A n d I let y o u go y o u r way w i t h love. (Leslie begins to weep; the father hangs his head and cries as well.) Hellinger: Go to him. (Leslie goes to her father, and they hold one another. The father sobs.)

H e l l i n g e r (To father): B r e a t h e deeply a n d t h e p a i n c a n flow away. B r e a t h e in a n d o u t , deeply. (To Leslie): H o w do y o u feel w i t h y o u r father? Leslie: I feel as if I have to be t h e stronger o n e h e r e .

Hellinger: Yes. T h a t ' s t h e way i t is. G o b a c k t o y o u r p l a c e b y y o u r a d o p t i v e m o t h e r . (She moves beside the adoptive mother and they hold hands.) H e l l i n g e r (to father): Take Leslie's m o t h e r by t h e h a n d , t h e n go w i t h h e r to t h e a d o p t i v e p a r e n t s a n d s t a n d facing t h e m . (To biologi-

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cal parents): Bow d o w n before t h e m , a n d t h a n k t h e m . (Both bow with respect, and then look at adoptive parents.)

Mother: Father: Hellinger:

T h a n k you. T h a n k you. H o w is that for the adoptive parents? T h a t ' s better for m e . I can accept their grati-

Adoptive Father: tude.

Adoptive Mother: It's good for m e too. I ' m glad that m y a d o p tive d a u g h t e r is close to m e . H e l l i n g e r (to Leslie): Leslie: H o w are you doing now?

I ' m looking for my brothers and sisters.

Hellinger: T h a t ' s the next step. You can look for t h e m , a n d all the others w h o belong to y o u r family—your g r a n d p a r e n t s , for instance. Do you think that your adoptive m o t h e r would s u p p o r t you if you did that? Leslie: N o t completely, b u t she'd try. Tell her, "You're allowed to do it."

H e l l i n g e r (to adoptive mother): Adoptive Mother: Hellinger:

You're allowed to do it.

" A n d I'll help you." A n d I'll help you do it.

Adoptive Mother:

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H e l l i n g e r (to group): A child can't do s o m e t h i n g like that w i t h o u t permission. T h e child n e e d s the permission a n d s u p p o r t of the adoptive parents. (Leslie and representatives take seats.) Hellinger: In that constellation, we could clearly see t h e power of the love operating in families, and h o w h i d d e n it s o m e t i m e s is. You could see w h a t kind of resolutions are possible a n d what healing energy is set free w h e n that love is b r o u g h t to light—and h o w easy it can be is to b r i n g that love to light. If we look at a family like this o n e , w h o shall we blame? W h o would dare to b l a m e any of the five? T h e y ' r e all entangled in s o m e way. In listening to t h e feedback from the representatives, it seems that the initiative for p u t t i n g the child up for a d o p t i o n c a m e from the father. He was the o n e w h o felt m o s t guilty, a n d w h o m o s t w a n t e d to leave as c o m p e n s a t i o n . T h a t ' s why it was easier for t h e child to move toward h e r m o t h e r . We saw that clearly. W h e n s o m e o n e sets up a constellation with such concentration as Leslie did, it seems safe to me to a s s u m e that the representatives' reactions are giving us information a b o u t the actual situation in t h e family. T h e representatives seem actually to feel w h a t the people felt. Obviously, that's n o t something that can be verified scientifically, b u t we could clearly see h o w the representatives' reactions led the way toward a good resolution. Leslie n o w has a very different image of her natural p a r e n t s that she carries with her, as well as of her adoptive parents a n d of herself. Because she n o w has that n e w image of t h e m in h e r h e a r t , she is a changed p e r s o n . A n d there's a very strange thing: If she meets any of those p e o p l e , she will see t h a t her adoptive p a r e n t s , a n d h e r natural parents (if she finds t h e m ) , will be c h a n g e d as well. It's a family system, a n d w h e n we change one p a r t t o b e c o m e m o r e loving, the whole t h i n g changes. O t h e r m e m b e r s of the system are affected. Question: C o u l d you explain the role of the biological father? I c o u l d n ' t hear all that was said, a n d things h a p p e n e d so fast anyway. I didn't understand. Hellinger: In watching t h e reaction of the father's representative in the constellation, I h a d the impression that he d i d n ' t want to be involved at all; I suppose it was because he felt guilty. T h a t ' s why he kept w a n t i n g to get away. Wanting to have n o t h i n g to do with t h e child h a d serious c o n s e q u e n c e s for his position in t h e constellation.

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To be h o n e s t , I h a d already given up on h i m , as if he h a d t h r o w n away his rights as a father. W h e n a p e r s o n gives a child away, t h e p e r s o n usually also gives up any rights as a father or a m o t h e r . B u t even t h e n , t h e r e ' s s o m e t i m e s a r e s o l u t i o n . E v e n t h e m o t h e r h a d difficulty in facing the child, b e c a u s e she felt guilty as well. Participant: T h a t w e n t s o fast.

H e l l i n g e r : In situations like this, it c a n ' t go fast e n o u g h . It was only w h e n t h e child said, " I take you a s m y m o t h e r , " t h a t the m o t h e r felt a c k n o w l e d g e d as a m o t h e r a n d c o u l d o v e r c o m e h e r guilty feelings to face h e r d a u g h t e r . I d i d n ' t t h i n k it was going to w o r k with t h e father, b u t w h e n she asked for his blessing, his h e a r t m e l t e d a n d the c o n t a c t w a s p o s sible. W h e n e v e r love flows, t h e destructive p o w e r of guilt is dissolved. T h e n she c o u l d g o t o h i m , a n d h e c o u l d m o v e t o w a r d her. T h a t ' s t h e d y n a m i c b e h i n d w h a t w e saw. Question: I have a n o t h e r q u e s t i o n c o n c e r n i n g t h e father. You said t h a t he m a y have t u r n e d away b e c a u s e of his guilty feelings a b o u t h a v i n g given t h e child up for a d o p t i o n . B u t isn't it also possible that h e t u r n e d away b e c a u s e h e felt b o n d e d t o his family o f origin, a n d t h a t t h e child m u s t a c c e p t that fact? I s n ' t it m o r e nearly t h e reality o f t h e situation, t h a t i n t h e e n d h e w o u l d t u r n away? D o e s n ' t t h e child actually d e n y t h e reality w h e n h e s t a n d s b y h e r r a t h e r t h a n seeing t h a t he is involved in o t h e r things a n d w a n t s to leave? Hellinger: I only look at w h a t ' s in the f o r e g r o u n d . Regardless of w h a t e v e r e n t a n g l e m e n t s a n d involvements h e m i g h t have h a d , h e m u s t c a r r y t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s o f his actions. E n t a n g l e m e n t s d o n o t release his actions from their c o n s e q u e n c e s . H i s o t h e r involvement m a y help u s t o u n d e r s t a n d his a c t i o n s , b u t they c a n n o t r e m o v e the results of w h a t he did. In a situation like this, we m u s t n ' t act as if he c o u l d n ' t face t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s o f his actions. T h a t w o u l d d e m e a n h i m . He already w a s a c t i n g e n o u g h like a child, even t h o u g h he h a d m a n a g e d t o i m p r e g n a t e t h e w o m a n . H i s feelings w e r e the feelings o f a child. N e v e r t h e l e s s , he is t h e child's father a n d reality is n o t served if we p r e t e n d o t h e r w i s e in o r d e r to go easy on h i m . If he were t h e client, t h e n , of c o u r s e , we c o u l d explore his e n t a n g l e m e n t , b u t i f we'd d o n e t h a t today, w e w o u l d have b e e n dist r a c t e d from Leslie, w h o w a s the m a i n p e r s o n . H e w o u l d have taken

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c e n t e r stage, a n d t h e child w h o was looking for a r e s o l u t i o n w o u l d have b e e n p u s h e d t o t h e sidelines. W e have t o b e clear a b o u t w h o ' s w o r k i n g , a n d m a i n t a i n that hierarchy. Participant: I d i d n ' t m e a n t o suggest that w e w o r k w i t h his f a m ily of origin h e r e , b e c a u s e he obviously w a s n ' t t h e client. It just s e e m s m o r e realistic t o accept t h e fact that h e t u r n e d away b e c a u s e he c o u l d n ' t fulfill his role a n d carry his responsibility as father. T h a t s e e m s m o r e realistic t h a n b r i n g i n g h i m into t h e p i c t u r e as a g o o d force, as you d i d . Hellinger: L e t m e ask you a q u e s t i o n i n r e t u r n . W h o h a s t h e b e t ter p l a c e i n y o u r h e a r t — t h e father o r t h e d a u g h t e r ? T h a t ' s a n i m p o r t a n t q u e s t i o n . It's i m p o r t a n t for t h e t h e r a p y t h a t p e r s o n s w h o are m o s t affected by a situation have a g o o d place in my h e a r t . A n d t h a t ' s usually t h e c h i l d r e n . I give t h e c h i l d r e n a p l a c e in my h e a r t , a n d I h o l d t h e a d u l t s a c c o u n t a b l e for their a c t i o n s . I t r u s t t h e father to act as a father in spite of his e n t a n g l e m e n t , a n d I t r u s t t h e m o t h e r to act as a m o t h e r in spite of h e r e n t a n g l e m e n t . T h e r a p i s t s a n d social workers s o m e t i m e s are very c o n c e r n e d a b o u t t h e a d u l t s . T h e y ask, " W h o i s t h e p o o r m o t h e r ? H o w c a n w e help her? T h e p o o r m o t h e r , h o w c a n she possibly raise t h e c h i l d ? " T h e n they t r e a t t h e m o t h e r as if she w e r e a child, a n d t h e child as if he or she were an object to be d i s p o s e d of. I go a b o u t it differently. I s t a n d by t h e child a n d h o l d e v e r y o n e else a c c o u n t a b l e for t h e responsibility he or she h a s as a result of his or h e r a c t i o n s . I ' m looking for a s o l u t i o n t h a t p u t s t h e responsibility b a c k o n t h e a d u l t s a n d relieves t h e child. T o o often, it's t h e c h i l d r e n w h o have t o c a r r y t h e consequences of w h a t a d u l t s have d o n e . P a r t i c i p a n t : T h e p o i n t y o u ' r e m a k i n g is clear. P e r h a p s I d i d n ' t express myself clearly. I ' m also c o n c e r n e d a b o u t t h e child. T o r e f o r m u l a t e my q u e s t i o n : W o u l d n ' t it be b e t t e r for t h e child to see t h e reality t h a t h e r father t u r n e d away from h e r a n d t o a c c e p t t h a t a s fact? T h a t ' s t h e reality with w h i c h she has to live. Hellinger: N o . T h a t t u r n s t h e child i n t o a p a r e n t . T h e n t h e child m u s t u n d e r s t a n d a n d m u s t act like the bigger p e r s o n , a n d t h e father gets to act like a child, as if his actions h a d no c o n s e q u e n c e s . We all saw w h a t c a n h a p p e n w h e n w e t r u s t p a r e n t s t o act like p a r e n t s .

C H A P T E R

F O U R

The Conscience of the Family Group
In addition to being children, partners, and perhaps parents, we also share a c o m m o n destiny w i t h o u r m o r e distant relations— w h a t e v e r is d o n e by or h a p p e n s to a m e m b e r of o u r family g r o u p , w h e t h e r for g o o d o r for ill, t o u c h e s u s , a n d a l s o all t h e o t h e r s . T o g e t h e r w i t h o u r family, w e f o r m a f e l l o w s h i p s h a r i n g a c o m m o n fate. The Wind of Fate

In a g r o u p , a m a n told how, as a boy, he h a d sat on a high hill and watched his village being attacked and destroyed by neighbors who belonged to a n o t h e r religion. He described his h a t r e d toward those m e n , s o m e of w h o m he h a d known and liked. He told h o w a thought had c o m e u n b i d d e n as he watched: W h a t would I feel if I h a d b e e n b o r n into one of those families? W h a t if a wind h a d blown my soul a few h u n d r e d m e t e r s off course, a n d I had entered the belly of one of those m o t h e r s , instead of my own mother? T h e n I would feel victory and p r i d e , as they do, a n d not grief and rage, as I d o — a n d I would hate us a n d love t h e m . T h e c o u r s e o f t h i s b o y ' s life w a s i n f l u e n c e d b y t h e w i n d s o f f a t e , n o t b e c a u s e o f a n y t h i n g h e h a d d o n e o r failed t o d o , b u t m e r e l y b y virtue of his b e l o n g i n g to o n e family a n d n o t to a n o t h e r . 150

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T h e b o n d s c o n n e c t i n g the m e m b e r s of a family g r o u p also extend t h r o u g h time a n d across distances, so that m e m b e r s of the f a m i l y a r e l i n k e d t o o t h e r m e m b e r s l o n g d e c e a s e d o r far away. Release My Grandmother

A 42-year-old w o m a n told h o w she h a d been a b a n d o n e d by her m o t h e r a n d raised by her grandparents. As a result of her work in the g r o u p , she felt a deep inner connection to her m o t h e r for the first time in her life. T h a t night after the g r o u p m e t , her m o t h e r called to tell her that her g r a n d m o t h e r h a d died unexpectedly at a b o u t the same time as she h a d worked in the g r o u p . T h e w o m a n was convinced that establishing an inner connection to her own m o t h e r released her g r a n d m o t h e r to die peacefully. Systemic psychotherapy a b o u n d s with similar anecdotes of events related in time—even w h e n the m e c h a n i s m s connecting t h e m elude our explanation. I'm Your Son

A young father lost his wife and child in a tragic accident. S o m e years later, a second w o m a n b e c a m e p r e g n a n t by h i m , and in a panic that s o m e t h i n g similar might h a p p e n to her and the child, he a b a n d o n e d t h e m . Eleven years later, working in a g r o u p , he said that he felt d e e p r e m o r s e a n d the desire to contact his child. T h e g r o u p leader counseled patience, and he took no overt action. A week later, the m a n received a letter: " D e a r Ray, My n a m e is Daniel. I ' m your son. I ' m 11 years old. I like skateboarding a n d football. I'd like to m e e t you soon." T h e s y s t e m i c o r d e r s t h a t a l l o w love t o t h r i v e i n f a m i l i e s a r e v e r y difficult t o d e f i n e p r e c i s e l y . T h e y h a v e far g r e a t e r flexibility t h a n social o r m o r a l l a w s t h a t h a v e b e e n i n v e n t e d b y s o c i e t i e s o r i n d i viduals a n d t h a t m u s t be obeyed to the letter. T h e y are also different from the rules of a g a m e that can be modified to suit t h e c i r c u m stances or a c c o r d i n g to w h i m . T h e o r d e r s are simply there. Love r e q u i r e s w h a t i t r e q u i r e s , a n d it's i m m u n e t o i n d i v i d u a l s ' w i s h i n g t h a t its r e q u i r e m e n t s w e r e different. Y o u c a n ' t b r e a k t h e o r d e r a s y o u b r e a k a law, b u t t h e O r d e r s o f L o v e c a n , a n d d o , b r e a k i n d i v i d u a l s w h o i n s i s t o n i g n o r i n g t h e m . I f y o u d o n ' t a c t a s love requires, it simply withers a n d dies, b u t it often d e m a n d s restitution for s u c h n e g l e c t .

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It is an act of h u m i l i t y to s u b m i t to t h e O r d e r s of L o v e in a relat i o n s h i p . C o n t r a r y to b e i n g a limitation, this s u b m i s s i o n s u p p o r t s f r e e d o m a n d life. It's like s w i m m i n g in a river t h a t carries you along: If y o u swim w i t h t h e c u r r e n t , y o u ' r e free to m a n e u v e r from side to side. Regardless of w h e t h e r or n o t they are still alive, t h e following b e l o n g to a family system. • • • the children t h e p a r e n t s a n d their siblings t h e g r a n d p a r e n t s , a n d s o m e t i m e s o n e or m o r e of t h e greatgrandparents any o t h e r s w h o have m o v e d aside to m a k e a p l a c e for s o m e o n e in t h e system; for e x a m p l e , a f o r m e r p a r t n e r or lover of a p a r e n t or g r a n d p a r e n t — e v e n if s e p a r a t e d , d i v o r c e d , or d e c e a s e d — o r s o m e o n e from w h o m a family m e m b e r gained s o m e a d v a n t a g e b y loss, m i s f o r t u n e , d e p a r t u r e , o r d e a t h The Grocery Store

A woman was having difficulties getting her life in order. In the family constellation, it emerged that her parents had bought a small grocery store from an older couple. The older couple had wanted to give the store to their son, but he had been killed. Even though he was unrelated to the woman, he belonged to her family system since she indirectly gained from his death. Although she had never met him, she was beholden to him. When he was included in the constellation, she became calm. Acknowledging the importance of his death had a positive effect on her, and she soon began to make some of the changes in her life she had long desired.

THE ORGANIZATION OF FAMILY GROUPS
As we have seen, love s u c c e e d s in o u r relationships w h e n b e l o n g i n g , a b a l a n c e of giving a n d taking, a n d a g o o d o r d e r c a n be m a i n t a i n e d . T h i s is also t r u e for t h e e x t e n d e d family, b u t five a d d i t i o n a l d y n a m ics c o n s t r a i n t h e success of love in family systems: (1) h o n o r i n g t h e right to m e m b e r s h i p , (2) m a i n t a i n i n g the c o m p l e t e n e s s of t h e syst e m , (3) p r o t e c t i n g t h e hierarchy a c c o r d i n g to t i m e , (4) following

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the order of precedence between systems, and (5) accepting the limitations of time.

Honoring the Right to Membership
Individuals m a y c o n t i n u e to affect t h e o t h e r m e m b e r s even w h e n they are s h u n n e d by their family, excluded from participation, a n d p e r h a p s even forgotten. As long as they have an influence on any other m e m b e r of the g r o u p , even unconsciously, they are m e m b e r s of the family system, a n d anyone w h o has no visible or h i d d e n effect on any o t h e r m e m b e r is no longer a m e m b e r of t h e system. M e m bership d o e s n ' t d e p e n d on the family's decisions or beliefs, only on effect. Everyone in the system has an equal right to belong, a n d no m e m b e r can deny a n o t h e r his or her place. A family system is disr u p t e d w h e n one m e m b e r c o m m u n i c a t e s t o a n o t h e r , " I have t h e right to belong, b u t you d o n ' t . " T h i s h a p p e n s , for example, w h e n m e m b e r s shut out of m e m o r y s o m e o n e w h o suffered, or was sacrificed, or did s o m e w r o n g — p e r h a p s a sister w h o died in childhood or an uncle w h o b e c a m e insane. M e m b e r s of a family are naturally t e m p t e d to exclude those w h o have c o m m i t t e d a c r i m e , b r o u g h t s h a m e on the family, or violated the family values, b u t the exclusion of any m e m b e r is destructive for those w h o c o m e later in the syst e m , no m a t t e r what t h e original justification was. T h e family constellations of people with serious psychological a n d physical illnesses often reveal such acts of exclusion. A l t h o u g h those suffering such illnesses are u n a w a r e of t h e c o n n e c t i o n s , they reenact in their own lives the fate of t h e excluded or forgotten p e r son. M e m b e r s m a y forget those w h o have b e e n excluded, b u t t h e system " r e - m e m b e r s " its own. Exclusion of persons w h o have a right to m e m b e r s h i p is the m o s t c o m m o n d y n a m i c disrupting a family system.

Maintaining Completeness
M e m b e r s of an extended family experience themselves as whole a n d c o m p l e t e w h e n everyone belonging to the family circle has an h o n o r e d and respected place in their hearts. Persons w h o are c o n c e r n e d only with themselves and with their personal h a p p i n e s s

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d o n ' t feel w h o l e . W h e n e v e r a m e m b e r of t h e family s u c c e e d s in " r e m e m b e r i n g " a n e x c l u d e d m e m b e r i n his o r h e r h e a r t , t h e difference is i m m e d i a t e l y felt. T h e i n t e r n a l images of family a n d self b e c o m e m o r e c o m p l e t e , a n d he or she actually feels m o r e w h o l e . My Mother's Lover

All of the representatives reported discomfort and irritation when a woman set up the constellation of her family. Her mother's first lover, who had died very young, then was added to the constellation, as well as her father's first wife, whom he had left when he began an affair with the woman's mother. With the addition of these two persons, the representatives immediately became calm. As the woman took her place in the constellation, she described a sensation of "opening" in her chest and a deep and profound sense of "rightness." In the days that followed, she described a shift in her experience of herself, as if she were becoming larger and more at peace. H e r s e n s a t i o n of " o p e n i n g " in t h e b o d y is typical of p e o p l e w h o are " r e - m e m b e r i n g " p e r s o n s previously e x c l u d e d from t h e family circle. O u r sense-of-self c h a n g e s w h e n e x c l u d e d m e m b e r s o f t h e system are b r o u g h t b a c k i n t o awareness. S y s t e m s are w h o l e s , a n d individuals in a relationship system only feel w h o l e w h e n t h e w h o l e system is r e p r e s e n t e d in t h e m .

Protecting the Hierarchy Within a System
T h e self-evident a n d n a t u r a l laws o f b e i n g a n d t i m e also a p p l y t o family systems. Being is qualified by t i m e : Earlier o c c u r s before later. T i m e gives b e i n g s e q u e n c e a n d s t r u c t u r e . I n relationship syst e m s , this m e a n s that w h o e v e r e n t e r s t h e system first h a s a c e r t a i n p r e c e d e n c e over t h o s e w h o c o m e later. P a r e n t s e n t e r t h e family before their c h i l d r e n , t h e firstborn before the s e c o n d , a n d s o o n . T i m e establishes a n a t u r a l h i e r a r c h y w i t h i n t h e family t h a t m u s t b e respected. In dysfunctional families, a y o u n g e r p e r s o n often d i s r u p t s t h e h i e r a r c h y of t h e family by a s s u m i n g t h e responsibility, function, privilege, or guilt that b e l o n g s to an o l d e r p e r s o n . An e x a m p l e is a son w h o is suffering for his father's w r o n g d o i n g s , or is t r y i n g to be a b e t t e r h u s b a n d for his m o t h e r t h a n his father is. Y o u n g e r p e r s o n s

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w h o injure t h e h i e r a r c h y o f t i m e b y a s s u m i n g t h e f u n c t i o n s a n d r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s of earlier p e r s o n s often u n c o n s c i o u s l y r e a c t w i t h a t e n d e n c y t o s e l f - d e s t r u c t i o n a n d failure. B e c a u s e v i o l a t i o n s o f t h e o r d e r o f p r e c e d e n c e a r e m o t i v a t e d b y love, t h o s e c a u g h t i n this d y n a m i c d o n ' t r e c o g n i z e t h e i r guilt. S u c h v i o l a t i o n s a r e often i m p o r t a n t c o n t r i b u t i n g factors w h e n e v e n t s i n a family t u r n o u t tragically—for e x a m p l e , i n cases o f s u i c i d e o r p s y c h o g e n i c m e n t a l illness, o r w h e n a later p e r s o n t u r n s t o c r i m e . T h e o r d e r s o f p r e c e d e n c e a c c o r d i n g t o t i m e t h a t s u p p o r t love i n a family a r e m o r e c o m p l i c a t e d w h e n t w o existing families a r e c o m bined. W h e n partners bring children from their previous marriages i n t o a n e w r e l a t i o n s h i p , t h e i r love for e a c h o t h e r d o e s n ' t p r e c e d e t h e i r love for t h e i r c h i l d r e n . I n t h e s e families, successful love u s u a l l y r e q u i r e s t h a t t h e earlier b o n d i n g b e t w e e n t h e p a r t n e r s a n d t h e i r c h i l d r e n t a k e p r e c e d e n c e over t h e i r y o u n g e r love for e a c h o t h e r ; next comes their togetherness as m a n a n d w o m a n in a partnership o f e q u a l s ; a n d , finally, t h e b o n d i n g t o a n y c h i l d r e n t h e y h a v e together. O n e m u s t n o t a p p l y this a s rigid d o g m a , b u t m a n y p r o b l e m s i n s e c o n d m a r r i a g e s o c c u r w h e n o n e o f t h e n e w p a r t n e r s feels j e a l o u s o f t h e o t h e r p a r t n e r ' s earlier c h i l d r e n ; t h a t is, w h e n h e o r s h e w i s h e s t h a t t h e n e w love w o u l d h a v e p r i o r i t y o v e r t h e earlier love b e t w e e n the children a n d their parent.

Love You for Being

Faithful

to Your Daughter

A couple decided to divorce and their daughter stayed with her mother. T h e m a n didn't want any more children, and subsequently married a woman who also did not want children. After some years, the man's first wife died suddenly, and the child came to live with her father and stepmother. T h e child and her stepmother were not fond of one another. Both felt a claim on the man's love and constantly competed for precedence. T h e m a n felt t o r n between his love for his child and that for his wife. One day, after a quarrel in which the couple considered separation, the w o m a n visited a friend who helped her to understand the systemic implications of the situation. T h a t evening, she said to her husband, " W h e n I see your love for your daughter and your first wife, I see how faithful you are. I love you more for that."

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A w o m a n w i t h a child said a b o u t b e g i n n i n g a s e c o n d r e l a t i o n ship, "I c o u l d n ' t love a m a n w h o d i d n ' t r e s p e c t my love for my child."

Maintaining Precedence Between Different Systems
T h e o r d e r of p r e c e d e n c e b e t w e e n two relationship systems is differe n t from t h e o r d e r of p r e c e d e n c e w i t h i n a relationship system. H e r e t h e n e w system h a s priority over t h e old system. F o r e x a m p l e , w h e n a c o u p l e starts a family, t h e n e w family system takes p r e c e d e n c e over their families of origin, just as a s e c o n d m a r r i a g e a s s u m e s p r e c e d e n c e over a first. E x p e r i e n c e shows t h a t w h e n families d o n ' t follow t h e o r d e r o f p r e c e d e n c e b e t w e e n systems, they e n c o u n t e r difficulties. F o r e x a m p l e , if a y o u n g c o u p l e ' s love for their p a r e n t s c o n t i n u e s to take p r i o r i t y over their love for e a c h o t h e r , t h e r e ' s a d i s t u r b a n c e in t h e o r d e r of p r e c e d e n c e t h a t m u s t be dealt with if their r e l a t i o n s h i p is to succeed. S e c o n d p a r t n e r s h i p s p r e s e n t special c o m p l i c a t i o n s . T h e n e w syst e m m u s t have p r e c e d e n c e over t h e f i r s t i n o r d e r for t h e n e w family to s u c c e e d , b u t if o n e of t h e n e w p a r t n e r s b r i n g s a child from a p r e vious relationship i n t o t h e n e w o n e , t h e n t h e b o n d i n g t o a n d love for t h e child m u s t m a i n t a i n p r e c e d e n c e over t h e b o n d i n g t o a n d love for t h e n e w p a r t n e r . C o u p l e s have p r o b l e m s w h e n t h e n e w p a r t n e r d e m a n d s p r e c e d e n c e over a child from a p r e v i o u s p a r t n e r ship, o r w h e n t h e n e w p a r t n e r d e m a n d s from t h e child t h e love t h a t b e l o n g s t o t h e child's n a t u r a l p a r e n t . W h e n a p e r s o n h a s a child d u r i n g a p a r t n e r s h i p w i t h s o m e o n e o t h e r t h a n his o r h e r p a r t n e r , t h e p a r t n e r s h i p i s usually over. T h a t m e a n s t h a t if a w o m a n h a s a child w i t h a n o t h e r m a n d u r i n g h e r m a r r i a g e , she forms a n e w system w i t h h i m . As a r u l e , she m u s t leave h e r first family a n d go to h e r n e w p a r t n e r . If she c h o o s e s to stay w i t h h e r h u s b a n d , t h e only safe place for t h e child is w i t h t h e n a t u r a l father. T h e p r e c e d e n c e of a n e w system over a p r e v i o u s o n e also r e q u i r e s t h a t a m a n w h o has a child with a n o t h e r w o m a n d u r i n g his m a r r i a g e leave his family a n d g o t o t h e n e w w o m a n a n d child. N e v ertheless, h e m u s t c o n t i n u e t o s u p p o r t his f i r s t wife a n d child. I n situations like this, t h e f o r m e r p a r t n e r s a n d c h i l d r e n p a y a very

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h e a v y p r i c e , b u t e x p e r i e n c e s h o w s t h a t all o t h e r s o l u t i o n s r e s u l t i n g r e a t e r p a i n for all c o n c e r n e d . Family systems react profoundly to the birth of a child.

A c c e p t i n g the L i m i t a t i o n s o f T i m e
A l t h o u g h it's n e c e s s a r y for all m e m b e r s o f a f a m i l y t o h a v e t h e i r p l a c e s a n d t o b e " r e - m e m b e r e d , " families m u s t b e a l l o w e d t o f o r g e t w h a t i s p a s t after a n a p p r o p r i a t e t i m e . The Polar Bear

A polar bear lived in a circus. He lived in a very small cage and c o u l d n ' t even t u r n a r o u n d — h e could only walk two steps forward, a n d t h e n two steps back. T h e owner of the circus gave h i m to a zoo, where the polar bear h a d an o p e n space in which to roam. Still, he walked two steps forward a n d t h e n two steps back. O n e of the other bears asked him, " W h y do you do that?" He answered, "Because I had to live in a cage for so long." D e a t h a n d life a r e i n s e p a r a b l e , a s a r e r e m e m b e r i n g a n d f o r g e t t i n g a n d p a s t a n d f u t u r e . T h e r e c o g n i t i o n t h a t all life s o o n e r o r l a t e r c o m e s to an e n d helps m e m b e r s of a family to recognize w h a t m u s t a n d m u s t n o t b e d o n e i n every situation. T h e r e i s a s t r o n g t e n d e n c y i n families t o t r y t o h o l d o n t o t h i n g s that are p a s t — m e m o r i e s of b o t h good a n d hurtful experiences. W h e n m e m b e r s of a family g r o u p hold on to s o m e t h i n g t h a t s h o u l d b e over, t h e p a s t h o l d s t h e m captive a n d c o n t i n u e s t o w o r k i n a p p r o priately in t h e p r e s e n t . B e c a u s e the old t h e n c a n n o t fade away, t h e n e w h a s difficulty i n e s t a b l i s h i n g itself. I t r e q u i r e s g r e a t d i s c i p l i n e t o extract yourself from such systemic e n t a n g l e m e n t s , a n d to release e v e r y t h i n g t h a t d e s e r v e s t o b e f i n i s h e d . All m e m b e r s o f a f a m i l y g r o u p m u s t let g o o f t h i n g s , b o t h p o s i t i v e a n d n e g a t i v e , a s s o o n a s t h e i r effect for g o o d i s p a s t .

How

a

Widow

Made

Her

Children

Curious

A w o m a n was widowed while she was still young. She had loved her h u s b a n d a n d could n o t allow h i m to rest in peace. She decided n o t to seek a n e w partnership, b u t did not enjoy life after h e r h u s b a n d died.

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She lived with her children until they left h o m e , and t h e n withdrew into the h o u s e she h a d shared with her h u s b a n d a n d t h o u g h t a b o u t h i m day a n d night. She b e c a m e bitter and depressed. A p a r t from her children, she h a d no life of her own. H e r children found no joy w h e n visiting her, b u t they felt guilty w h e n they d i d n ' t . C a u g h t b e t w e e n the joylessness of visiting her a n d the guilt of leaving her alone, they c a m e to resent her and began to stay away. H e r loneliness and bitterness increased. W i t h t h e help of a friend, she came to u n d e r s t a n d that her holding on to the past was d a m a g i n g the love between herself a n d her children. She entered a retirement community, found n e w friends a n d interests, a n d increasingly allowed her past to b e c o m e past. F o r a while, she almost forgot a b o u t her adult children. T h e y grew curious a b o u t her life, and soon were u n a b l e to resist their curiosity a n d the pull to visit. T h e r e is grace in letting bygones be bygones a n d allowing the f u t u r e t o c o m e a s i t will. All t h e l e a v e s o n a t r e e a r e s h a p e d a c c o r d i n g t o t h e s a m e p a t t e r n , b u t e a c h leaf i s different. E v e r y a u t u m n , t h e y t u r n y e l l o w , r e d , o r g o l d , a n d t h e n fall. E v e r y s p r i n g , different leaves s h a p e d w i t h the s a m e basic p a t t e r n e m e r g e in vibrant, t e n d e r shades of green. T h a t ' s the secret of this systemic d y n a m i c . C h a n g e is c o n s t a n t ; individual leaves w i t h e r a n d d i e , yet t h e tree r e m a i n s . T h e tree also dies, yet t h e forest r e m a i n s . H o l d ing tight to w i t h e r e d leaves m a y s o o t h e m e m o r y , b u t it d o e s n ' t h e l p the tree. S o , too, m e m b e r s o f families are b o r n a n d die, a n d holding on to w h a t was once good or b a d inhibits the natural flow of life.

The Man Who

Didn't Realize

the War Was

Over

In t h e terrible years after t h e T h i r t y Y e a r s ' W a r , p e o p l e slowly c a m e o u t of t h e forests w h e r e they h a d h i d d e n , a n d b e g a n to rebuild their farms a n d h o m e s . T h e y p l a n t e d their fields again a n d cared for t h e few animals t h a t h a d survived. A year later, they h a d their first harvest in p e a c e — t h e animals h a d multiplied, a n d t h e p e o p l e celebrated. At the edge of the village, there was a house that was b o a r d e d u p . S o m e t i m e s , w h e n the people passed by, they t h o u g h t that they h e a r d something inside, b u t they h a d so m u c h to do that they d i d n ' t care to look into it.

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Conscience

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Family

Group

159

O n e night, a little injured dog sat w h i m p e r i n g by the front d o o r of the closed-up h o u s e . A piece of the m o r t a r fell away and a stone fell out. A h a n d reached through the small hole, picked up the little d o g , a n d lifted it inside. T h e r e really was s o m e o n e inside w h o h a d not yet realized that peace h a d r e t u r n e d to the outside world. T h e p e r s o n held the little d o g a n d felt flooded by its soothing w a r m t h . T h e little d o g fell asleep. T h e person peeked out at the world t h r o u g h t h e small o p e n i n g , saw t h e distant stars in the heavens, and b r e a t h e d t h e fresh night air. S o o n the first light of day began to glow on the eastern horizon, a rooster crowed, and the little d o g awoke. T h e p e r s o n saw that the little dog belonged with its c o m p a n i o n s , let it crawl out t h r o u g h the opening in t h e wall, a n d watched it r u n h o m e . As the s u n rose in the sky, some children came by, one of t h e m holding a juicy red apple. T h e y saw the opening a n d , peering in, saw the m a n sleeping peacefully. F o r h i m , o n e glimpse of freedom had b e e n enough. Just as h o l d i n g on to the past can limit freedom, so, too, can trying to control the future. We c a n intuitively sense h o w the larger systemic orders function, b u t the resolutions are often surprising a n d different from w h a t w e contrive o r wish. F o r this r e a s o n , a s m e m bers of families, we delude ourselves w h e n we think t h a t we can d e t e r m i n e t h e c o u r s e o f fate. N o m a t t e r w h a t w e m a y b e l i e v e t o t h e c o n t r a r y , w e m u s t s u b m i t t o t h e f u t u r e a s i t c o m e s , for a l t h o u g h w e s o m e t i m e s c a n i n f l u e n c e it, w e c a n n o t d e t e r m i n e it. The Verdict

A wealthy m a n died a n d knocked on the pearly gates. Saint Peter o p e n e d the d o o r a n d asked h i m what he desired. T h e rich m a n said, "I would like a first-class room with a g o o d view of the earth, my favorite foods every day, and also the daily paper." Saint Peter hesitated, but the rich m a n was a d a m a n t . Saint Peter shrugged his shoulders and gave h i m a first-class r o o m with a g o o d view of the e a r t h , a n d brought h i m his favorite foods a n d the daily paper. He said, "Well, here's what you w a n t e d . I'll be back in a t h o u sand years." T h e n he left and locked the door. After the t h o u s a n d years h a d passed, he r e t u r n e d a n d looked into the r o o m t h r o u g h the peephole. " T h e r e you are at last," cried the rich m a n . " T h i s heaven is terrible." Saint Peter shook his h e a d sadly. "You're mistaken," he said. "You've chosen hell."

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E N T A N G L E M E N T S I N FAMILY G R O U P S
F a m i l y m e m b e r s d o n ' t experience injuries t o the h i d d e n o r d e r s o f t h e f a m i l y g r o u p a s g u i l t y feelings i n t h e i r p e r s o n a l c o n s c i e n c e . Injuries b e c o m e o b v i o u s only in t h e suffering they b r i n g , especially t o c h i l d r e n , w h o o f t e n suffer t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s o f t h i n g s t h e y t h e m selves d i d n ' t d o . T h e d y n a m i c s o f a f a m i l y b i n d all m e m b e r s i n full p a r t i c i p a t i o n . O n e b i r d i n flight m a y t u r n i n m a n y d i r e c t i o n s , y e t w e w a t c h t h e flock t u r n a s a w h o l e . E v e r y b i r d s u b m i t s t o t h e g r e a t e r w h o l e o f t h e flock, a n d t h r o u g h t h i s s u b m i s s i o n , m a i n t a i n s its m e m bership in the group. In a similar way, t h e family w h o l e b i n d s e a c h m e m b e r so firmly t h a t t h e o b l i g a t i o n s a n d sufferings o f o n e m e m b e r a r e e x p e r i e n c e d by o t h e r m e m b e r s as d e b t s a n d obligations. In this way, any family m e m b e r can b e c o m e blindly entangled in other m e m b e r s ' debts a n d privileges; in their t h o u g h t s , cares, a n d feelings; a n d in their conflicts or goals. Individual h a p p i n e s s a n d suffering are limited in t h e i n t e r e s t s o f t h e family, j u s t a s a w h o l e c o n s t r a i n s its p a r t s .

How

Can We

Know Peace?

In a television d o c u m e n t a r y , a young m a n was filmed beside a cave. M a n y t h o u s a n d s of bodies h a d been found in the cave, lying in three layers. T h e bodies in the first layer were those of adherents to a p a r ticular political persuasion w h o h a d b e e n m u r d e r e d by a d h e r e n t s to a n o t h e r group in retribution for injustices d o n e . T h e bodies in t h e second layer were those of m e m b e r s of the second party m u r d e r e d in retribution some years later by m e m b e r s of the first. T h e tide of power in that c o u n t r y h a d shifted again, and the third layer again contained bodies of m e m b e r s of the first party m u r d e r e d , in retribution, by their enemies. T h e young man, middle layer killed would be an end to of our m o t h e r s , a n d we know peace? We whose relatives were a m o n g the bodies in the almost 50 years previously, was asked if there the killing. He replied, " W h e n we hear the cries see their tears for their m u r d e r e d sons, h o w can m u s t avenge their loss."

T h e m a n i n t h i s d o c u m e n t a r y b e l i e v e d h e w a s a c t i n g freely, b u t he was n o t . B e c a u s e he loved blindly, he was c a u g h t in a w e b of tragedy that h a d b e g u n long before he was b o r n , d e m a n d e d his o b e d i e n c e , a n d , tragically, will n o t e n d u n t i l l o n g after h i s d e a t h .

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W h e n t h e love that binds together the individual m e m b e r s of a family operates blindly, it d e m a n d s blind o b e d i e n c e , a n d unless individual m e m b e r s gain insight into its d y n a m i c a n d transform it, they unknowingly s u b m i t to the laws of b l i n d systemic justice—an eye for eye a n d a tooth for a tooth. T h e n the d a m a g e is passed from o n e generation to the next, and the e x t e n d e d family finds no p e a c e . T h e systemic laws operating within the family d o n ' t r e s p o n d to a child's love. T h e drive for balance working in t h e family g r o u p is m o r e f u n d a m e n t a l t h a n love, and it readily sacrifices individual love and h a p p i n e s s to maintain the larger family equilibrium. T h e struggle of love against the dynamics of family systems is t h e b e g i n n i n g a n d the end of the greatest tragedies. Extracting oneself from this battlefield requires insight into the O r d e r s of Love, a n d a willingness to follow t h e m with love. Insight into Love's H i d d e n S y m m e t r y is w i s d o m ; following it with love is humility. T h a t requires giving up an inflated sense of self-importance a n d r e t u r n i n g to one's designated place in the family order, while those w h o have c o m e before regain their higher place in the hierarchy. T h e y o u n g m a n standing at the m o u t h of t h e cave loves, b u t his love is a child's love, a n d it seduces h i m into a s s u m i n g a responsibility i n a p p r o p r i a t e to his position. His child love seeks balance in revenge blindly, as if m o r e deaths could heal t h e emptiness left by past deaths. Peace will n o t r e t u r n to his family clan until he m a n ages to listen to t h e "cries of o u r m o t h e r s , " to see their tears, a n d to say to t h e m with love, "Yours is a great loss. I pay h o m a g e to your suffering. Because I love you, I will n o t take up this sword, a n d I do you t h e greatest h o n o r by entrusting your suffering to you. W i t h you, your suffering is in better h a n d s t h a n with m e . " In h e r h e a r t , every g r a n d m o t h e r prefers that h e r g r a n d c h i l d r e n live in p e a c e . T h e n t h e deaths of those w h o have gone before have a g o o d effect on those w h o c o m e after. T h a t is t h e greater love.

Recognizing Entanglement
Question: H o w do you recognize w h e n systemic e n t a n g l e m e n t is operating? Are there characteristic signs or signals, anything we c a n get a grip on? H e l l i n g e r : Unfinished situations from t h e past express t h e m selves in later relationships in the form of impulsive inappropriate

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a c t i o n s a n d i n a p p r o p r i a t e l y i n t e n s e feelings. A n i d e n t i f i c a t i o n w i t h a n o t h e r p e r s o n h a s t h e feeling q u a l i t y o f " n o t b e i n g q u i t e myself," or " s o m e t h i n g just got into m e . " W h e n e v e r a p e r s o n displays u n u s u ally i n t e n s e e m o t i o n s o r b e h a v i o r s t h a t a r e n ' t u n d e r s t a n d a b l e i n t e r m s o f t h e c u r r e n t s i t u a t i o n , y o u c a n s u s p e c t t h a t t h e r e ' s a syst e m i c e n t a n g l e m e n t o f s o m e kind. T h i s also i s t r u e w h e n o n e p e r s o n h a s u n e x p l a i n e d difficulty i n t a l k i n g w i t h a n o t h e r , o r r e a c t s i n a n inexplicable w a y — a s if he or she w e r e influenced by invisible c o n flicts a n d anxieties. People w h o are fanatic a b o u t b e i n g right are often entangled. W h e n they "fight" with exaggerated bitterness a n d v e h e m e n c e , t h e y m a y well b e r e p r e s e n t i n g s o m e o n e else i n t h e s y s t e m . I f t h e r e ' s a s c a p e g o a t i n t h e p r e s e n t family, it's o f t e n t h e c a s e t h a t t h e r e w a s a s c a p e g o a t i n a p r e v i o u s g e n e r a t i o n , a n d it's u s e f u l t o l o o k for i t carefully. A n y r e a c t i o n o r e m o t i o n t h a t s e e m s e x a g g e r ated, or i n a p p r o p r i a t e , or amplified m a y be an identification. Y o u d e v e l o p a s e n s e for t h e c u e s t h a t h i n t a t e n t a n g l e m e n t s . Y o u r s e n s e will i m p r o v e w i t h p r a c t i c e , j u s t a s y o u r e a r for m u s i c d e v e l o p s w i t h p r a c t i c e . A s a b e g i n n e r , y o u o n l y h e a r t h e m o s t b l a t a n t differences, b u t with experience, the subtle nuances begin to be detecta b l e . L e t m e give y o u a n e x a m p l e . Hitting the Wrong Target in the Family

A y o u n g m a n had strong suicidal compulsions that he c o u l d n ' t u n d e r s t a n d . In other respects, his life seemed to h i m to be okay. Exploring these urges, he told a g r o u p that, as a little child, he h a d said to his m o t h e r ' s father, " W h e n will you die and go?" His g r a n d father h a d laughed, b u t the question c o n t i n u e d to b o t h e r the little boy. T h i s sentence was loose in the system. I said, " T h i s sentence belongs to s o m e o n e else in the system, b u t it c o m e s o u t of the m o u t h of the weakest m e m b e r of the system and it hit the w r o n g target. We need to find the real sender and the real target." We t h e n found out that the little boy's other grandfather h a d h a d a long affair with his secretary, a n d that during this t i m e , his wife h a d contracted tuberculosis. T h e sentence belonged to the paternal grandfather. It was easy to imagine h o w he m u s t have felt toward his wife: " W h y d o n ' t you die and make room for somebody else?" T h e grandfather's wish was fulfilled and his wife died. But t h e n the next generations innocently took u p o n themselves the task of atoning for his guilt. First, one of his sons prevented the grandfather from enjoying the benefits of his wife's d e a t h — h e eloped with t h e secretary. T h e n the g r a n d s o n (the client) took up that o m i -

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163

nous sentence, but spoke it to his other grandfather, and then turned it against himself. T h a t was his suicidal compulsion. Question: A r e t h e r e indicators in a constellation as to w h e n e m o tions have b e e n t a k e n o n from s o m e o n e else a n d w h e n t h e y actually b e l o n g to t h e individuals themselves? H e l l i n g e r : N o , n o t always. S o m e t i m e s they e m e r g e d u r i n g t h e constellation. P e r h a p s s o m e o n e feels s o m e t h i n g at t h e b e g i n n i n g that d o e s n ' t m a k e sense i n t h e situation. I t m i g h t b e possible t h a t it's a transferred feeling. T h e n I s e n d up a test b a l l o o n to test t h e h y p o t h e s i s . T h e reactions of t h e representatives are usually a reliable i n d i c a t i o n as to w h e t h e r there's s o m e identification.

Identification.
O n e i m p o r t a n t aspect of resolving e n t a n g l e m e n t s is to find o u t w h o ' s m i s s i n g from t h e family, w h o has b e e n e x c l u d e d , a n d t h e n t o b r i n g t h a t p e r s o n into awareness a n d s o c o m p l e t e t h e family u n i t . As a r u l e , an e x c l u d e d p e r s o n is s o m e o n e w h o h a s suffered or h a s b e e n t h e victim of s o m e injustice. In the eyes of the o t h e r family m e m b e r s , t h a t p e r s o n was often seen a s b a d , a n d w a s e x c l u d e d from t h e family system with m o r a l justification or r i g h t e o u s n e s s . T h o s e r e m a i n i n g t h e n feel morally superior. T h e central d y n a m i c i s that s o m e o n e in t h e system uses a m o r a l justification to claim a systemically unjustified privilege, to say, "I have m o r e right to b e l o n g than you do." T h e p r e s s u r e of a g r o u p to " r e - m e m b e r " all of its m e m b e r s , to m a i n t a i n its w h o l e n e s s , d e m a n d s t h a t a later p e r s o n t h e n r e p r e s e n t the e x c l u d e d p e r s o n . T h e w h o l e n e s s o f t h e g r o u p i s frequently m a i n t a i n e d by identification—a y o u n g e r p e r s o n u n c o n s c i o u s l y a s s u m e s t h e roles, t h e functions, a n d often t h e feelings of an earlier, excluded person. Question: A b o u t a year ago, I f o u n d o u t t h a t I have a half sister. T h e n e w s c a m e o u t after my father died. It h a d b e e n a family secret b e t w e e n my p a r e n t s . I was s h o c k e d at t h e r e a c t i o n s of t h e o t h e r s in the family. I w a s t h e only o n e w h o called her. I d i d n ' t m e e t h e r t h o u g h , a n d n o w I've lost c o n t a c t w i t h her.

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Hellinger: You s e e m t o b e identified w i t h h e r . Y o u ' v e got h e r feelings—for e x a m p l e , t h e feeling of n o t b e i n g entitled to b e l o n g . (The questioner suddenly begins to cry bitterly.) Yes, t h a t ' s h e r feeling. Question: D o you m e a n that t h e feeling isn't m i n e ?

H e l l i n g e r : Well, it's y o u r s w h e n y o u feel it, b u t it s e e m s as t h o u g h y o u ' r e feeling s o m e t h i n g t h a t ' s c o n n e c t e d t o w h a t y o u r sister m u s t have felt. You c a n c h a n g e it by i m a g i n i n g yourself sitting n e x t t o h e r a n d telling h e r : " Y o u ' r e m y sister, a n d I ' m y o u r sister." Your grief h o n o r s her. (Her mood shifts immediately. She beams through her tears.) T h e family g r o u p " r e - m e m b e r s " the e x c l u d e d , t h e i g n o r e d , t h e f o r g o t t e n , the u n r e c o g n i z e d , t h e d e a d . W h e n a legitimate m e m b e r of t h e g r o u p is s h u t o u t , s o m e o n e in a later g e n e r a t i o n m u s t c o m p e n sate for this injustice by suffering a similar injustice. T h e p e r s o n s drafted, for this service d o n ' t c h o o s e their fate. In fact, they usually d o n ' t even n o t i c e w h a t ' s h a p p e n i n g a n d c a n ' t d e f e n d themselves against it. T h e y relive t h e fate of t h e e x c l u d e d p e r s o n , a n d r e c r e a t e t h a t p e r s o n ' s e x p e r i e n c e , c o m p l e t e with t h e guilt, t h e i n n o c e n c e , a n d all of t h e o t h e r feelings that b e l o n g to t h a t e x p e r i e n c e . Cross-Gender Identification with a Missing Person

Carla came into the group with the complaint that she felt unable to make use of her knowledge and life experience. She had the belief that she was forbidden to know or understand what was going on in her family. This excerpt from the work begins during a constellation. Here, a possible identification with a missing person is sought. Hellinger: Carla: W a s s o m e o n e e x c l u d e d from y o u r family system?

My mother had a fiance.

Hellinger: H e m a y b e a n e x c l u d e d p e r s o n . L e t ' s p u t h i m in. (When a representative for the mother's fiance is placed in the constellation, the improvement for the others is seen immediately.) Carla: I just r e m e m b e r e d — m y m o t h e r gave me all of t h e p a i n t ings he h a d p a i n t e d for her. I've k e p t t h e m all. I h a v e n ' t t h o u g h t a b o u t t h e m for a while, b u t I've always loved t h e m . T h e y ' r e special for m e .

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Hellinger: C a r l a , you s e e m t o b e identified w i t h y o u r m o t h e r ' s f o r m e r fiance. If t h a t ' s t r u e , t h e n it w o u l d have b e e n difficult for you to have a g o o d relationship with y o u r father, since y o u w e r e r e p r e senting his rival. T h e b o n d i n g t o y o u r m o t h e r w o u l d also have b e e n difficult since y o u n o t only were t h e d a u g h t e r , b u t also r e p r e s e n t e d h e r lover for her. In a d d i t i o n , it w o u l d have b e e n difficult for y o u to develop a clear s e n s e of yourself as a w o m a n , since you w e r e i d e n tified w i t h a m a n . T h e solution w o u l d be for y o u to say to y o u r m o t h e r ' s ex-fiance while p o i n t i n g to y o u r father, " H e is t h e right o n e for m e . " A n d t h e n t o say t o y o u r father, "You are t h e right o n e for m e , a n d I'll have n o t h i n g m o r e t o d o w i t h t h a t o t h e r m a n . " T h e n you c o u l d r e t u r n to t h e position of a child w i t h t w o p a r e n t s , a n d you c o u l d s e p a r a t e from t h e fiance, a n d t h e n the p r e s s u r e to relive his fate c o u l d dissolve. (This was then done in the constellation.) C a r l a (after the constellation): learn? T h a t was m y q u e s t i o n . B u t w h a t c a n I do to be able to

Hellinger: Give yourself a little t i m e . It c a n take as long as a year o r t w o for i n t e r n a l i m a g e s t o c o m p l e t e their t r a n s f o r m a t i o n a n d fully take effect. T h e r e ' s also a loss to be dealt w i t h in giving up y o u r identification with a m a n your m o t h e r s e e m s to have loved very m u c h . It's a very decisive step to r e t u r n to t h e m o r e a p p r o p r i a t e , b u t less i m p o r t a n t , p o s i t i o n in t h e system. C a r l a (relieved): Yes, I am the child!

Hellinger: Exactly! T h a t ' s t h e first n e w l e a r n i n g . Identification is a s t r a n g e , a l m o s t u n c a n n y p h e n o m e n o n . T h e syst e m i c d y n a m i c of c o m p l e t e n e s s in the family g r o u p d e f e n d s t h e rights o f a n y earlier p e r s o n w h o h a s b e e n e x c l u d e d , a n d i t i s n ' t c o n c e r n e d w i t h t h e rights of t h o s e w h o c o m e later. T h e r e ' s a c r u d e j u s rice for t h e earlier p e r s o n at t h e price of injustice for t h e o t h e r s , a n d the injustice is p a s s e d on from g e n e r a t i o n to g e n e r a t i o n . Unquenchable Yearning

A young woman suffered from an unquenchable yearning that she couldn't explain. In exploring this strange feeling in a family constellation, it became clear to her that what she was feeling wasn't her own longing, but something that seemed to belong to her older half sister. Her father had divorced his first wife and remarried, but his daughter from his first marriage wasn't allowed to see him again. T h e

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client traced the half sister to Australia, m a d e contact with her, and sent her a ticket to visit the client in Germany. But destiny wasn't to be changed. On her way to the airport, the half sister disappeared and couldn't be traced again. I d e n t i f i c a t i o n is like a s y s t e m i c r e p e t i t i o n c o m p u l s i o n . It a t t e m p t s t o r e c r e a t e a n d r e p r o d u c e t h e p a s t i n o r d e r t o b r i n g justice t o a n e x c l u d e d p e r s o n . B u t s u c h justice i s p r i m i t i v e a n d b l i n d , a n d i t b r i n g s n o r e s o l u t i o n . I n this d y n a m i c , later p e r s o n s b e c o m e e n t a n g l e d i n t h e d e s t i n y o f a n earlier p e r s o n . E v e n i f t h e i r a c t i o n s a r e m o t i v a t e d b y love, t h e y t a k e u p o n t h e m s e l v e s a n i n a p p r o p r i a t e responsibility. A later p e r s o n c a n ' t set s o m e t h i n g in o r d e r for an e a r lier p e r s o n after t h e fact. S u c h a r e t r o a c t i v e justice o n l y c o n t i n u e s t h e s y s t e m i c i m b a l a n c e indefinitely. Whom Is She Trying to Wash? A therapist told her supervision group about a woman with a h a n d washing compulsion. T h e supervisor asked her, "Which woman in her system is she trying to wash?" T h a t became clear when the therapist asked her client. After the war, her father's sister had turned to prostitution to earn money to feed the family, and she contracted syphilis. Although she had acted to help the family and had significantly contributed to their well-being, she was rejected by them and died alone. A n o t h e r ' s guilt a n d t r a g e d y often a p p e a r easier t o m a s t e r t h a n o n e ' s o w n , b u t t a k i n g o n s o m e o n e else's t r a g e d y c r e a t e s n o lifeaffirming energy. If m i s f o r t u n e is to be useful in d e v e l o p i n g strength, it m u s t be returned to the person to w h o m it belongs, and h e o r s h e m u s t b e t r u s t e d t o e n d u r e it. Question: H o w d o t h e p e o p l e w h o are identified w i t h e x c l u d e d p e r s o n s get their information? W h a t are the channels? Hellinger: I d o n ' t k n o w h o w i t w o r k s . It's just a p h e n o m e n o n t h a t c a n b e o b s e r v e d i n t h e family c o n s t e l l a t i o n s a n d i n families. I d o n ' t u n d e r s t a n d it, b u t , f o r t u n a t e l y , i t i s n ' t n e c e s s a r y t o k n o w h o w it w o r k s to find a s o l u t i o n . I t r y to avoid t h e o r e t i c a l e x p l a n a t i o n s . T h e t h i n g s I say are w h a t I've o b s e r v e d , a n d I ' m n o t m a k i n g a n y o t h e r c l a i m . I like to k e e p t h i n g s s m a l l . Question: W h e n s o m e o n e i n t h e s y s t e m i s identified w i t h a n e x c l u d e d p e r s o n , will t h a t c o n t i n u e i n t o l a t e r g e n e r a t i o n s ?

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Hellinger: T h e r e s e e m s to be a t i m e limit. T h e effect of t h e i d e n tifications d i m i n i s h e s as t i m e goes o n , a n d after a while, they no longer have any effect. F o r e x a m p l e , if a g r a n d c h i l d is identified with the grandfather—for whatever reason—and that grandchild h a s c h i l d r e n of his or h e r o w n , the c h i l d r e n a r e n ' t likely to have an identification w i t h t h e g r e a t - g r a n d f a t h e r . At least, I've rarely seen it. Question: C a n t h e r e be an identification w i t h t h e siblings of a grandparent? H e l l i n g e r : T h a t ' s r a r e , a n d it s e e m s to o c c u r only in cases of e x t r e m e tragedy. I've seen it p e r h a p s t w o or t h r e e t i m e s . Question: I n systemic t h e r a p y a n d h y p n o t h e r a p y , t h e here a n d now are very i m p o r t a n t . H o w d o y o u u n d e r s t a n d t h e i m p o r t a n c e o f t h e p a s t i n y o u r work? Hellinger: It. s e e m s t o m e t h a t t h e p r e s e n t a n d t h e p a s t f o r m a polarity that c a n ' t be s e p a r a t e d , so I w o r k with b o t h . Question: W o u l d you explain w h a t y o u m e a n w h e n y o u u s e t h e t e r m " d o u b l e shift"? H e l l i n g e r : W h a t e v e r has b e e n r e p r e s s e d in a family t e n d s to r e a p p e a r in t h o s e w h o possess t h e least ability to defend themselves. In a family, t h a t ' s the children a n d g r a n d c h i l d r e n . T h e double shift is a s u b t y p e of identification. T h e first shift o c c u r s w h e n a later p e r s o n takes o n t h e feelings o f a n earlier p e r s o n via identification. T h e s e c o n d shift o c c u r s w h e n the feelings from the e x c l u d e d p e r s o n are expressed, n o t to a guilty p a r t y , b u t , t h r o u g h a further shift, to an i n n o c e n t p e r s o n . A great m a n y p r o b l e m s in relationships exhibit this d y n a m i c , i n c l u d i n g situations in w h i c h t h e victim was so w e a k t h a t h e o r she c o u l d n ' t take a p p r o p r i a t e action. P r o b l e m s like t h a t d o n ' t b e l o n g t o t h e individuals a l o n e , b u t t o t h e w h o l e family, a n d a n y o n e in t h e family c a n be called on to c o m p e n s a t e for t h e w r o n g d o i n g of s o m e o n e else in t h e family. The Murderer in My Family A 40-year-old man came to psychotherapy because he was afraid that he might become violent and strangle someone, or that he himself could be strangled. No explanation could be found in the analysis of his character or behavior. He was asked: "Is there a murderer in your family?"

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F u r t h e r exploration revealed that his uncle, his m o t h e r ' s brother, was a m u r d e r e r . He h a d had an employee w h o was also his lover. O n e day, he showed her a picture of a w o m a n and told her to get her hair cut and dyed to look exactly like the w o m a n in the picture. After his lover h a d w o r n her hair that way for a while, the m a n traveled abroad with her, m u r d e r e d her, and r e t u r n e d with the w o m a n in the picture, who b e c a m e his n e w employee and lover. He was caught, however, a n d is still serving a life sentence in prison. T h e therapist asked for additional information a b o u t the uncle's family, especially the g r a n d p a r e n t s , and questioned where the drive for such an act might have come from. T h e patient knew nothing a b o u t the grandfather, b u t the g r a n d m o t h e r was said to be a pious a n d respected w o m a n . He later inquired into the family history a n d discovered the following. D u r i n g the T h i r d Reich, this pious w o m a n , acting with the help of her brother, had accused her h u s b a n d of being a homosexual. As a result, he h a d b e e n arrested and p u t into a concentration c a m p , where he was m u r d e r e d . T h e p i o u s g r a n d m o t h e r w a s t h e real m u r d e r e r , a n d t h e i m p u l s e t o w a r d v i o l e n c e s t e m m e d f r o m h e r — a t l e a s t a s far a s w e c o u l d t r a c e it. T h e c l i e n t ' s u n c l e w a s r e c r u i t e d b y t h e c o n s c i e n c e o f t h e f a m i l y system to act on his d e c e a s e d father's behalf. T h e u n c l e s p a r e d his m o t h e r a n d u n c o n s c i o u s l y c o m p e n s a t e d for t h e i n j u s t i c e d o n e t o his father by m u r d e r i n g a w o m a n he loved. He r e p e a t e d w h a t b o t h his p a r e n t s h a d d o n e a n d d e m o n s t r a t e d his solidarity w i t h b o t h o f t h e m : with his m o t h e r t h r o u g h the m u r d e r a n d with his father t h r o u g h t h e i m p r i s o n m e n t . T h e c l i e n t h i m s e l f felt t h e s y s t e m i c t u r b u l e n c e o f t h i s c h a i n o f i n j u s t i c e a s a fear o f c o m m i t t i n g v i o l e n c e . T h e d o u b l e shift a l s o w o r k s i n t h e p o s i t i v e . H e r e i s a n e x a m p l e .

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Love

A m o n g the attendees at a workshop were a m a n a n d a w o m a n who h a d three children, the youngest of w h o m was a three-year-old daughter. T h e m a n h a d such a deep feeling for his d a u g h t e r that it d i d n ' t seem like a f a t h e r - d a u g h t e r connection. T h e r e was something so intimate a n d sweet between t h e m that it was touching to see, b u t their intimacy s o m e h o w wasn't appropriate. It wasn't incestuous, b u t it just d i d n ' t seem like the n o r m a l feeling between a father a n d daughter. S o m e t h i n g wasn't right. W h a t emerged was that the man's father—the child's grandfather— h a d a twin sister w h o h a d died very young. T h e m a n ' s feelings for his

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daughter reflected those of his father toward his twin sister. T h e feelings had been transferred. T h e man wrote a letter about a month after the workshop ended. He said that they were all very happy. He had the clear feeling that he was exactly the right father for his daughter. He said that it had suddenly dawned on him that although his daughter's name was Claudia, they had always called her Deedee. Deedee was the name of the deceased twin, but no one had noticed. T h a t was a n e n t a n g l e m e n t , b u t n o t a s destructive a s many. I t w a s also a s o l u t i o n . Question: If I ' m identified with s o m e o n e , h o w do I get out?

Hellinger: A n identification c a n b e resolved w h e n y o u n g e r p e r sons w h o are r e p e a t i n g the fate of earlier p e r s o n s realize w h a t t h e p r o b l e m is. T h e n they can look a t t h e s h u t - o u t p e r s o n , o r s t a n d b y that p e r s o n a n d give h i m or h e r a loving place in their h e a r t s . T h i s love creates a relationship a n d t h e n the e x c l u d e d p e r s o n b e c o m e s a friend, a g u a r d i a n angel, a s o u r c e of s u p p o r t . An identification is, after all, the o p p o s i t e of a relationship. W h e n I ' m identified w i t h s o m e o n e , I feel a n d act as t h a t p e r s o n d o e s , b u t I c a n ' t love t h e p e r son b e c a u s e I d o n ' t e x p e r i e n c e h i m or h e r as different from m e . I can only love s o m e o n e I e x p e r i e n c e as separate from m e . W h e n I love a p e r s o n as separate from m e , my love dissolves a n y identification I m i g h t have. T h e identified p e r s o n c a n t h e n r e t u r n t o his o r h e r a p p r o p r i a t e place in t h e family, a n d t h e e q u i l i b r i u m of t h e syst e m is reestablished. ^ B e c a u s e identifications a r e n ' t e x p e r i e n c e d consciously, following feelings d o e s n ' t provide helpful guidelines for their r e s o l u t i o n , a n d l e a r n i n g to express feelings d o e s n ' t resolve the identification either. T h a t m e a n s t h a t w h e n t h e p r o b l e m i s related t o a n identification o r i m b a l a n c e i n t h e family, t h e t h e r a p i s t c a n ' t e x p e c t t h e client t o b e able to find a resolution on his or h e r o w n ; s u c h r e s o l u t i o n s c a n only b e f o u n d t h r o u g h c o n s c i o u s insight into t h e g r o u p d y n a m i c s . T h e r e is a parallel p h e n o m e n o n in t h e physical body. T h e r e are m a n y d a n g e r o u s c o n d i t i o n s o f w h i c h w e ' r e n o t a w a r e , b u t they still do d a m a g e o u t s i d e of a w a r e n e s s — a t o m i c r a d i a t i o n , for e x a m p l e . In spite of t h e m i s l e a d i n g feeling t h a t everything is going well, tragic things often h a p p e n i n relationship systems. It's u p t o t h e t h e r a p i s t t o u n d e r s t a n d t h e systemic processes t h a t m i g h t h e l p t h e client f i n d a solution. A solution brings w i t h it a feeling of b e i n g u n b u r d e n e d ,

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o f p e a c e a n d c o n t e n t m e n t . I n a family c o n s t e l l a t i o n , o n e c a n a c t u ally see a family s y s t e m c h a n g e a n d t h e family find t r a n q u i l l i t y w h e n a n e x c l u d e d m e m b e r i s r e t u r n e d t o a r e s p e c t e d p l a c e i n t h e family, a n d o r d e r a n d full m e m b e r s h i p a r e a c h i e v e d . H o w e v e r , y o u m u s t also b e w a r y o f relying o n t h e o r e t i c a l k n o w l e d g e a b o u t family s y s t e m s , b e c a u s e t h e r e a r e always n e w a n d novel v a r i a t i o n s o n t h e c o m m o n t h e m e s , a n d e a c h family i s different. T h e w o r k i s always trial a n d e r r o r ; y o u ' v e g o t t o e x p e r i m e n t w i t h v a r i o u s possibilities u n t i l y o u find o n e t h a t w o r k s . I f t h e r e ' s n o relief, y o u h a v e n ' t f o u n d t h e s o l u t i o n , r e g a r d l e s s o f w h a t y o u r t h e o r y tells y o u . T h e t e n d e n c y o f a family t o b a l a n c e itself b y m a t c h i n g t r a g e d y a t one point with tragedy at another can be avoided w h e n m e m b e r s a r e willing t o s e e k b a l a n c e a t a h i g h e r level—for e x a m p l e , b y h o n o r ing the excluded m e m b e r s instead of repeating their mistakes. T h i s i s p o s s i b l e i f t h e y o u n g e r m e m b e r s take from earlier m e m b e r s w h a t t h e y give, a n d i f t h e y r e s p e c t t h e earlier m e m b e r s , r e g a r d l e s s o f t h e i r actions. At some point, the past, whether good or tragic, m u s t be allowed t o b e p a s t i n o r d e r for t h e s y s t e m t o find p e a c e . E x c l u d e d m e m b e r s b e c o m e a source of blessing rather t h a n intimidation w h e n they're reinstated as guests in the soul. W h e n everyone w h o belongs to the system has a proper place in the hearts of the other m e m b e r s , all o f t h o s e i n t h e s y s t e m feel w h o l e a n d a t p e a c e . H e r e ' s a s t o r y t h a t c r e a t e s w h a t it d e s c r i b e s — i f y o u let it. The Return

1

Here is an invitation to go on a journey into the past, to visit a place where things happened many years ago, like old soldiers years after the truce walking across the battlefields on which they were tested. N o w all danger is past and all difficulties overcome. T h e scars of the earth are hidden. Grass has long since grown again, meadow flowers bloom, raspberry bushes are heavy and their fruit scents the air. It may even be difficult to recognize this place; it looks so different from what we remember, and we need help to find our way. It's curious as to the many different ways in which we cope with danger. A child freezes in terror at the sight of a large dog. M o t h e r comes, picks the child up, and holds him or her in her arms. T h e tension goes, sobs break loose. And soon, from the safety of that lofty perch, the child looks back calmly at the dog. Sometimes we can't stand the sight of our own blood, but if we look away, we scarcely feel the pain. What a relief to look away—each sense working independently of the others, no longer all focused on that one event. T h e n we

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no longer feel overwhelmed and we can see what is, a n d hear what is, and feel what is, and know what is i n d e p e n d e n t of o u r fears. T h i s journey allows each of u s , according to individual desire, to see all, b u t not all at once; to experience all, b u t not without p r o t e c tion. T h a t way, what's i m p o r t a n t can be distinguished from what is not. A n d whoever prefers may send another in his or her stead, like a d r e a m e r sitting comfortably at h o m e in a favorite chair, watching with closed eyes. T h e d r e a m e r makes the journey, a n d can m e e t all that needs to be resolved, and still be safe at h o m e asleep. T h e journey takes us to a city that was once rich a n d famous and is now a ghost t o w n filled with emptiness. T h e shafts where gold was m i n e d are in ruins, e m p t y houses are standing still intact, the opera house in good repair, waiting for the audience. But everything has b e e n a b a n d o n e d a n d there's nothing left b u t m e m o r i e s . W h o e v e r travels there seeks a n d finds a guide, a n d following this lead, reaches the place where m e m o r i e s awaken. T h i s is the place where, long ago, painful things occurred. But n o w t h e s u n is shining, w a r m i n g the a b a n d o n e d town. T h e streets, which o n c e buzzed with life, are calm. T h e traveler wanders up and down the streets a n d finds the rem e m b e r e d h o u s e , but hesitates to enter. T h e guide enters the h o u s e alone to see if it's safe, and to d e t e r m i n e what has b e e n left from what was there before. Waiting outside, the traveler looks a r o u n d the e m p t y street, rem e m b e r i n g neighbors and old friends, r e m e m b e r i n g the times of laughter, the lighthearted mischief of a child bursting with the joy of life, curious to try n e w things, pushing toward adventure into the great u n k n o w n , toward t h e thrill of fear defied. T h u s time passes. T h e guide waves. T h e traveler goes into the entry of the house and knows which people could have helped that child to overcome the difficulties of that past time—people who were strong, a n d loving, and knowing. It's as if those people were now present, as if their voices could be heard, their supporting strength felt. T h e guide takes the traveler by the h a n d , and together they move on. H o l d i n g tightly to t h e guiding h a n d , the traveler looks calmly at the r o o m , seeing first o n e thing, t h e n another, a n d finally everything exactly as it h a p p e n e d . Strange how different it all seems w h e n looked at from a centered place, in the c o m p a n y of the guide. M e m o ries long shut out r e t u r n safely, a n d many fragments find their place within the whole. T h e traveler waits patiently until he u n d e r s t a n d s . W i t h the m e m o r i e s , old emotions well up, a n d with the pain, one feels one's love. It's like returning h o m e , knowing what e n d u r e s beyond revenge a n d right or w r o n g , trusting destiny to take its

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c o u r s e , humility t o heal, a n d gentleness o f spirit t o b r i n g p e a c e . T h e traveler b r e a t h e s deeply, releasing tensions long h e l d t h a t n o w flow away like w a t e r into t h e desert s a n d . T h e g u i d e t h e n t u r n s a n d says, " P e r h a p s you c a r r i e d s o m e t h i n g away from h e r e t h a t d i d n ' t b e l o n g to you. P e r h a p s a guilt from s o m e o n e , or an illness, or a belief, or a feeling t h a t isn't y o u r s . P e r h a p s it's a decision you t h e n m a d e t h a t c a u s e d you h a r m . All these y o u m u s t leave h e r e w h e r e they b e l o n g . " T h e w o r d s take effect. L e t t i n g o u t a great sigh, t h e traveler feels relief, at last laying d o w n a heavy b u r d e n . T h e g u i d e speaks o n c e again: " M a y b e t h e n you a b a n d o n e d s o m e t h i n g t h a t you s h o u l d have t a k e n with you. It m a y have b e e n s o m e ability or desire, s o m e guilt or i n n o c e n c e , p e r h a p s s o m e m e m o r y o r h o p e , o r the c o u r a g e t o engage life fully. G a t h e r up w h a t you lost, or left, a n d take it with you into your future." T h e s e w o r d s , t o o , take their effect. Reviewing w h a t was given away a n d reclaiming w h a t longs to be r e c l a i m e d , t h e traveler feels the e a r t h u n d e r f o o t a n d t h e swelling weight of p e r s o n a l s u b s t a n c e . T h e g u i d e leads the traveler still further, until they r e a c h a h i d d e n d o o r . T h e y o p e n it, a n d at last find w h a t reconciles. N o w there is n o t h i n g m o r e to be resolved in this old place. Feeling ready, t h e traveler t h a n k s t h e g u i d e , t u r n s , a n d b e g i n s the j o u r n e y b a c k . A t h o m e again, h e takes the t i m e h e n e e d s t o c o m e t o t e r m s w i t h this newly f o u n d freedom a n d s t r e n g t h . B u t secretly h e already p l a n s t h e n e x t j o u r n e y — t h i s time into s o m e n e w a n d u n k n o w n land.

Transcript
BONDING IN THE FAMILY OF ORIGIN I
T h e following case is transcribed from a video of a training workshop for professional systemic therapists. M o r e t h a n 20 people with life-threatening illnesses, together with their physicians or p s y c h o therapists, were invited to participate in the inner circle, while a larger g r o u p of m e n t a l health professionals observed t h e work. T h e presence of each patient's physician or psychotherapist provided continuity to the t r e a t m e n t . T h e following family constellation was the first of the two-day seminar. A brief i n t r o d u c t i o n a n d four s h o r t conversations with "mini-interventions' have b e e n o m i t t e d from this transcript. Irene is in her m i d - 3 0 s . Hellinger: Irene: Hello. W h a t ' s your n a m e , and w h a t brings you here?

I ' m Irene. I have cancer. W h a t kind of cancer?

Hellinger: Irene:

C a n c e r of the lymph glands. H o w long have you h a d it?

Hellinger:

I r e n e : A b o u t a year. Before that, I h a d b l a d d e r cancer. I h a d to have my b l a d d e r removed, and n o w I've got metastases to t h e lymph glands. H e l l i n g e r : C o m e over h e r e a n d sit next to m e . I'll ask you a couple of questions a b o u t your family, a n d t h e n we'll set up your family constellation. Are you married? Irene: Yes. D o you have children?

Hellinger: Irene:

Yes, two boys.

Hellinger: Have either you or your h u s b a n d b e e n in a n o t h e r significant relationship? 173

174 Irene: No.

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Hellinger: Irene:

H a s a child in either of your families died?

Yes, in my family. Who?

Hellinger: Irene:

M y b r o t h e r . H e was 1 4 m o n t h s old. O f w h a t d i d h e die?

Hellinger: Irene:

H e h a d t h r e e - d a y measles a n d d i d n ' t survive. Was y o u r b r o t h e r o l d e r o r y o u n g e r t h a n you?

Hellinger: Irene:

He was a year y o u n g e r t h a n I.

Hellinger: We'll set up y o u r family of origin first. T h a t i n c l u d e s y o u r father, y o u r m o t h e r , y o u , a n d your b r o t h e r . I s t h e r e a n y o n e else w h o b e l o n g s there? Irene: I have two o t h e r b r o t h e r s . T h e y ' r e still living.

Hellinger: H a v e you ever d o n e a family constellation before? Do you k n o w h o w it works? Irene: Yes.

Hellinger: Okay, g o a h e a d . C h o o s e s o m e o n e t o r e p r e s e n t y o u r father. (Irene hesitates) Go a h e a d , it i s n ' t t o o i m p o r t a n t w h o m y o u c h o o s e . T h e n c h o o s e representatives for the o t h e r m e m b e r s o f t h e family. We'll leave y o u r d e c e a s e d b r o t h e r o u t at first. J u s t get t h e m collected h e r e in t h e m i d d l e of t h e circle. (Irene assembles the representatives in the center of the circle.) Okay, n o w p o s i t i o n t h e m in relation t o o n e a n o t h e r — w i t h o u t talking. Take t h e m b y t h e h a n d , o n e a t a t i m e , a n d lead t h e m to their places. Do it t h e way y o u feel it. T h i n k i n g a b o u t it d o e s n ' t help. (To representatives): A n d you n e e d n ' t talk either. J u s t stay c e n t e r e d a n d pay a t t e n t i o n t o h o w y o u r s e n s a tions c h a n g e as she g u i d e s you to y o u r places. (To Irene, after she is f i n i s h e d ) : N o w , g o a r o u n d the o u t s i d e . Stay very c e n t e r e d a n d collected a n d c h e c k t h a t y o u r constellation i s right, a n d c h a n g e a n y t h i n g t h a t n e e d s t o b e c h a n g e d . Slowly. N o w c h o o s e s o m e o n e t o

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r e p r e s e n t y o u r d e c e a s e d b r o t h e r a n d place h i m i n t h e constellation. T h e n take a seat w h e r e y o u can see.

Hellinger: Father: Hellinger: feel?

H o w is t h e father feeling? G o o d , very relaxed. S t r a n g e , you d o n ' t look it. (To Mother): H o w do y o u

Mother: M y h e a r t ' s p o u n d i n g . T h e children are s o far a p a r t . I d o n ' t feel g o o d . H e l l i n g e r (to Irene's representative): H o w are you feeling?

Irene's Representative: I ' m very d i s t a n t from m y m o t h e r a n d I feel g o o d n e x t to my b r o t h e r . Third Child: T h a t goes for m e too. I ' m glad t h a t m y sister i s t h e r e . I've n o idea w h a t m y o t h e r b r o t h e r i s d o i n g . H e l l i n g e r (to fourth child): H o w do y o u feel?

Fourth Child: I d o n ' t have a n y c o n n e c t i o n t o m y family. T h e only o n e I c a n even see is my d e a d b r o t h e r , a n d I w a n t to get o u t of h e r e . I've got a h e a d a c h e . H e l l i n g e r (to deceased brother): A n d h o w are you feeling?

*Legend: Fa—Father; Mo—Mother; 1—Irene's representative; +2—2nd child, boy, died at 14 months; 3—third child, a boy; 4—fourth child, a boy.

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Deceased Brother: I've no idea w h o these other people are. I ' m facing in the opposite direction. I d o n ' t feel particularly good (laughs). Hellinger: I can well imagine. (To Irene): W h a t h a p p e n e d in your father's family that might be significant? I r e n e : His father died early, w h e n my father was in t h e fourth grade. He really suffered from his father's death. He w a s n ' t able to learn a profession as he h a d w a n t e d to because his m o t h e r was a very weak person a n d never m a n a g e d to get it together again. H e l l i n g e r : T h a t d o e s n ' t help u s . It's a description of s o m e o n e ' s character. W h a t ' s useful are things that actually h a p p e n e d . For example, it's useful to know that his father died early. C h o o s e s o m e one to represent your father's father and p u t h i m into the constellation. (To Irene as she places paternal grandfather): I r e n e , be careful! You weren't respectful e n o u g h w h e n you first set up the constellation. I almost h a d to break off the work because you w e r e n ' t taking it seriously e n o u g h . You weren't gathered in yourself. You know, that h a p p e n s quite often with people w h o have cancer; they a r e n ' t collected within themselves. S o m e t i m e s they actually try to avoid finding a resolution. T h e y unconsciously believe it's easier for t h e m to die. I let you c o n t i n u e even t h o u g h you weren't placing t h e representatives with the appropriate respect because I k n o w p e o p l e with cancer have that difficulty. So where does your father's father belong? G o o n a n d p u t h i m in. Irene: T h e p r o b l e m is that I c a n ' t feel where I should p u t him.

Hellinger: Yes, you're cut off from your own soul—that's t h e part of you that senses what's right for you. (To father's representative): W h e n you imagine w h e r e your father would s t a n d , w h e r e would that be? (To group): D i d you notice? He immediately showed me with his gaze w h e r e his father should stand. He would stand here (moves the grandfather). H e l l i n g e r (to deceased brother): father standing there? Deceased Brother: H o w do you feel with your g r a n d -

A bit better t h a n before.

H e l l i n g e r : Yes, I can see it in your face. (To group): T h e therapist always watches t h e effect that any moves have on t h e constellation.

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T h e representatives' s p o n t a n e o u s reactions give the m o s t useful information. (To youngest brother): H o w are you doing? Fourth Child: M u c h better. A n d you?

H e l l i n g e r (to father): Father: Better.

H e l l i n g e r (to group): I have a hypothesis a b o u t the d y n a m i c in this family. My suspicion is that t h e father in this family wants to follow his o w n father . . . I'll show you. (Places the father behind the grandfather.) (To Irene's brothers 2 and 4, deceased brother and youngest brother): N o w you two, t u r n a r o u n d and face your family.

* Legend addition: +PGFa—paternal grandfather, died when Irene's father was 10 years old

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H e l l i n g e r (to group): A h , did you notice the m o t h e r ' s i m m e d i a t e reaction? (To mother): H o w are you feeling now? Mother: I feel better (deep sigh of relief).

H e l l i n g e r (to youngest brother, whose face has begun to shine): Yes, that's clear. (To deceased brother, whose face also is beaming): You too! (To Irene's representative): So, h o w are you feeling now? Irene's Representative: brother. Hellinger: A bit funny w h e n I look at my d e a d

H o w ' s the relationship with y o u r father? I t d o e s n ' t b o t h e r m e w h e n he's there.

Irene's Representative: H e l l i n g e r (to Irene):

So what shall we do with this family?

Irene: Bring t h e m together so that everyone isn't facing in different directions. H e l l i n g e r : Do you really believe it's as simple as that? T h a t we c a n just p u s h t h e m a r o u n d however w e w a n t a n d expect i t t o have a positive effect? C o m e h e r e a n d take y o u r place in the constellation so t h a t I c a n work with you directly. (To Irene's representative): You c a n sit d o w n now. T h a n k you very m u c h . (Irene assumes the position). Hellinger: H o w ' s the grandfather feeling?

P a t e r n a l G r a n d f a t h e r : N o t very well. I d o n ' t know w h a t h a p p e n e d to the p e o p l e behind me after I died. H e l l i n g e r (to father): Father: Hellinger: H o w are you feeling, better or worse?

S o m e w h a t better, b u t I c a n ' t see my father's face. I'll t u r n h i m a r o u n d n o w a n d p u t you beside h i m . H o w ' s that for you?

H e l l i n g e r (to father's father):

P a t e r n a l G r a n d f a t h e r : Finally, I've got an overview of t h e whole situation. It's a mess!

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Father: larger.

I ' m feeling better t h a n before. My angle of vision is

H e l l i n g e r (to mother): H o w ' s that for you? Mother: Hellinger: It's good.

N o w you can see y o u r h u s b a n d again.

G o and stand next t o him.

Mother:

T h a t ' s better!

H e l l i n g e r (to group): T h a t ' s essentially t h e s a m e position as before (she's again standing next to her husband), b u t n o w t h e deceased grandfather is present. You can see w h a t a difference it makes w h e n s o m e o n e w h o died early is r e t u r n e d to t h e system. (To Irene): H o w are you doing now?

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I r e n e : Before I h a d the feeling that everyone was just watching out for themselves, b u t now it's a little better. I feel a special togetherness. H e l l i n g e r : H o w was it with your deceased brother? Was he r e m e m b e r e d in the family, or forgotten? I r e n e : N o , h e was r e m e m b e r e d . N o t too often, b u t w e t h o u g h t a b o u t h i m every n o w and again. (Hellinger places the grandfather a little to one side and the children across from the parents, in birth order.)

H e l l i n g e r (to Irene): Irene: c u t off.

H o w ' s that for you here?

Quite g o o d . I can't really feel m u c h . My feelings are a bit

H e l l i n g e r : T r y t u r n i n g a r o u n d . (Hellinger turns her away from family and a little to one side.)

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H e l l i n g e r (to father): W h a t changes for you with her standing there? Is it better or worse? Father: Mother: N o t a s good. Worse. F o r you?

H e l l i n g e r (to deceased brother): Deceased Brother: Third Child: Fourth Child:

Also worse.

F o r m e too. Worse. H o w ' s that for you?

H e l l i n g e r (to Irene): Irene:

I feel g o o d here by myself. (Surprised murmur in group.)

H e l l i n g e r (to deceased brother): I want to do a little e x p e r i m e n t with you. C o m e over here a n d stand in front of your sister a n d look at her.

Diagram 8

H e l l i n g e r (to Irene after a long pause): Irene:

W h a t ' s happening?

I almost have to cry. I d o n ' t u n d e r s t a n d why. H o w do you feel?

H e l l i n g e r (to deceased brother): Deceased Brother: she is.

I d o n ' t know exactly. I can feel h o w moved

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Hellinger: worse?

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H o w d o you feel w h e n she's s o m o v e d , b e t t e r o r

Deceased Brother: Hellinger:

B e t t e r o r worse? Better, I s u p p o s e .

W h a t ' s really h a p p e n i n g ?

D e c e a s e d B r o t h e r (laughing): Actually, I ' m also very m o v e d , b u t I c a n ' t a n s w e r " b e t t e r " or " w o r s e . " H e l l i n g e r (to Irene): Go b a c k to y o u r p r e v i o u s p l a c e now. (To deceased brother): A n d y o u can take a place in front of y o u r p a r e n t s w i t h y o u r b a c k l e a n i n g against t h e m . (To parents): L a y a h a n d on his s h o u l d e r , very tenderly.

H e l l i n g e r (to group): T h i s child is s h u t o u t of t h e family. C a n you see that? D o y o u see h o w deeply t o u c h e d h e i s w h e n he's p e r m i t t e d to m o v e to his p a r e n t s ? H i s p a r e n t s m u s t have s h u t h i m o u t . (To Irene): W h a t ' s h a p p e n i n g w i t h you now? Irene: My feelings are c u t off again, so c u t off t h a t I c a n ' t even tell w h a t ' s h a p p e n i n g . I c a n ' t even think. It's like I ' m in an e m p t y room. H e l l i n g e r (to group): T h o s e are, in a m a n n e r of s p e a k i n g , t h e feelings of a d e a d p e r s o n . A n d w h o ' s d e a d in t h e family? T h e brother. Deceased Brother: I was really e m o t i o n a l before.

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H e l l i n g e r (to group): I d o n ' t k n o w what's appropriate to do with t h e m . F r o m t h e last constellation a n d from w h a t we've experim e n t e d with, I a s s u m e that Irene is unconsciously trying to follow her b r o t h e r into d e a t h , and that's o n e of the factors in h e r illness— she wants to follow h i m , to be with him. (Long pause) I d o n ' t believe there's anything I can do to stop her. (To Irene): W h o could stop you? Irene: Myself?

Hellinger: Do you really think its possible to lift yourself by pulling on your o w n hair? Irene: I d o n ' t know. Who? I know s o m e o n e .

Hellinger: Irene:

Yes? (Begins to sob.)

Hellinger: Breathe, o p e n your eyes. (Very gently) C o m e with m e . (Takes her by the arm and leads her in front of her deceased brother.)

H e l l i n g e r (to Irene): P u t your a r m s a r o u n d h i m . (Brother's representative hesitates.) Go ahead a n d hold her, it's okay. (To Irene, who is still sobbing deeply): Breathe deeply, keep your m o u t h o p e n . W h a t was your brother's n a m e ? Irene: Peter. Say to h i m , " D e a r Peter."

Hellinger: Irene:

D e a r Peter.

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Hellinger: Tell h i m , " I ' m c o m i n g t o o . " (Irene hesitates. To her, gently) It's okay to tell h i m that. Irene: I'm coming too. B r e a t h e . M o u t h o p e n . Say, " I ' m c o m i n g t o o . " I'm coming too. I'm

Hellinger:

I r e n e (Breathes deeply, and then between sobs): coming too. Hellinger: ing t o o . "

B r e a t h e deeply a n d allow it to flow freely: " I ' m c o m -

Irene: I ' m c o m i n g t o o . (Sobs for a long time, gradually becoming calm. Brother's representative is tenderly holding her.) H e l l i n g e r (to deceased brother): that? Deceased Brother: Hellinger: H o w do you feel w h e n s h e says

I w a n t t o c o m f o r t her.

O f c o u r s e . Tell h e r , " I r e n e , stay." I r e n e , stay.

Deceased Brother: Hellinger:

Tell her, " I t ' s e n o u g h if y o u c o m e later." It's e n o u g h if you c o m e later. (Irene begins to

Deceased Brother: weep again.)

H e l l i n g e r (After a long pause, Irene is calm.): Irene, I think that's e n o u g h for now. Is t h a t okay? (She nods confirmation.) G o o d . (To representatives):Thank y o u for y o u r help. You can sit d o w n now. (To group): S e r i o u s illnesses, suicides or suicide a t t e m p t s , or a c c i d e n t s are s o m e of t h e things we often see in p s y c h o t h e r a p y t h a t are m o t i v a t e d by l o v e — t h e love of a small child. Small children love a c c o r d ing to a m a g i c a l belief system. F o r t h e small child, love m e a n s : " W h e r e v e r y o u lead, I will follow. W h a t e v e r you d o , I'll d o , " or "I love y o u so m u c h t h a t I w a n t to be with you always." T h a t is: "I'll follow y o u in y o u r illness" a n d "I'll follow you in y o u r d e a t h . " W h e n e v e r s o m e o n e loves in this way, he or she naturally is v u l n e r able to b e c o m i n g seriously ill. B u t h o w m u s t the p e r s o n feel w h o ' s loved in this way? H o w m u s t he or she feel u p o n seeing that his or h e r illness or d e a t h is causing a child to b e c o m e ill? (To representative of deceased brother): H o w m u s t

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they feel? B a d , right? Exactly! You showed that clearly in your r e a c tions. (To group): In t h e constellations, we invariably observe that t h e deceased, the ill, a n d t h o s e w h o have suffered a difficult fate wish t h e survivors well. O n e d e a t h or misfortune is sufficient. T h e d e a d are well disposed toward the living. It's n o t only t h e child w h o loves, b u t also those w h o ' v e suffered or died. In o r d e r for t h e systemic healing to succeed, Irene m u s t recognize h e r deceased b r o t h e r ' s love a n d h o n o r his fate. (To Irene): Your b r o t h e r ' s g o o d wishes for you could heal you. T h a t w o u l d be a resolution. Is that okay w i t h you? Irene: M o r e t h a n okay.

Hellinger: G o o d . You've d o n e very well. T a k e h i m i n t o y o u r s o u l — t h e p o w e r of his love. Okay? Irene: Yes.

Hellinger: G o o d ! (To group): Well, that w a s o u r first constellation. You c o u l d see h o w it's s o m e t i m e s possible to b r i n g a h i d d e n family d y n a m i c t o light—a d y n a m i c t h a t m a y b e t h e c a u s e , o r a t least a c o n t r i b u t i n g c a u s e , of an illness. B u t y o u c o u l d also see h o w the family d y n a m i c suggests a direction in w h i c h to look for r e s o l u tions t h a t have a g o o d effect. A r e t h e r e q u e s t i o n s ? Irene: I ' m n o t clear w h a t you m e a n w h e n y o u say, " r e c o g n i z e his love a n d h o n o r his fate." Hellinger: W h e n a child dies, the o t h e r m e m b e r s of t h e family t e n d t o b e c o m e afraid—in p a r t b e c a u s e they also, p e r h a p s u n c o n sciously, feel t h e k i n d of love that m a k e s t h e m w a n t to follow t h e child. I n o r d e r t o c o n t a i n their fear, they d e a d e n their feelings. T h e y effectively s h u t the child o u t o f their h e a r t s a n d souls. T h e y m a y talk a b o u t t h e child, b u t they've c u t off their feelings. T h e n , even t h o u g h t h e child is d e a d , he or she is still h a v i n g a d e a d e n i n g effect on t h e family system, a d e a d e n i n g of feeling. F o r love to s u c c e e d , t h e child m u s t have a place in t h e family, just as if he or she w e r e living. T h e surviving m e m b e r s of t h e family m u s t live their feelings for t h e child a n d their grief. T h e y m i g h t p u t up a p i c t u r e of t h e child, or p l a n t a tree i n t h e child's m e m o r y . B u t t h e m o s t i m p o r t a n t t h i n g i s t h a t t h e survivors take t h e d e c e a s e d w i t h t h e m i n t o life, a n d allow their love for t h e child to live. (To Irene): You c o u l d s h o w y o u r c h i l d r e n to y o u r d e c e a s e d b r o t h e r , for e x a m p l e . (To group): A lot of p e o p l e act as if t h e d e a d were g o n e . B u t w h e r e c a n t h e y go? Obviously, t h e y ' r e

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physically a b s e n t , b u t t h e y ' r e also p r e s e n t in their c o n t i n u i n g effect on t h e living. W h e n they have their a p p r o p r i a t e p l a c e in t h e family, d e c e a s e d p e r s o n s have a friendly effect. O t h e r w i s e , t h e y c a u s e a n x i ety. W h e n t h e y get their p r o p e r p l a c e , t h e y s u p p o r t t h e living in living i n s t e a d of s u p p o r t i n g t h e m in t h e illusion t h a t t h e y s h o u l d die.

Related Questions
Question: W h e n I was in the role, I felt feelings a n d h a d t h o u g h t s t h a t really were foreign to m e . It was as if I w e r e s o m e o n e else, as if I really h a d b e c o m e t h e p e r s o n I was r e p r e s e n t i n g . W h y d o e s t h a t h a p p e n ? C a n y o u say s o m e t h i n g a b o u t this p h e n o m e n o n ? Hellinger: D r a m a t i c isn't it? I d o n ' t k n o w why it h a p p e n s . I just see t h a t it is so, a n d I u s e it. O b s e r v e r s s o m e t i m e s c a n ' t believe t h e p o w e r of t h e p h e n o m e n o n until they actually have h a d a c h a n c e to b e representatives themselves. W h e n t h e representatives are e s p e cially willing to s u r r e n d e r themselves to t h e role, t h e i n f o r m a t i o n t h a t b e c o m e s available c a n b o r d e r o n t h e u n c a n n y . O n c e a w o m a n , a d o c t o r , was r e p r e s e n t i n g a m o t h e r in a c o n s t e l lation, a n d she s u d d e n l y felt a s h a r p p a i n in h e r chest a n d left a r m a n d b r o k e o u t in a cold sweat. S h e briefly b e c a m e c o n c e r n e d t h a t she m i g h t b e h a v i n g a h e a r t attack. I t t u r n e d o u t t h a t t h e m o t h e r she was r e p r e s e n t i n g h a d suffered a massive h e a r t attack six weeks previously. A n o t h e r representative b e g a n t o have t h e s y m p t o m s o f a n epileptic seizure a n d w e f o u n d o u t t h a t t h e m a n h e w a s r e p r e s e n t i n g w a s an epileptic. T h i n g s like t h a t h a p p e n all t h e t i m e . I c a n ' t explain t h e m , a n d I d o n ' t even try. I like to stick to w h a t I actually c a n see, so I avoid s p e c u l a t i o n , b u t I've l e a r n e d t h r o u g h e x p e r i e n c e t o t r u s t w h a t e v e r e m e r g e s i n t h e constellations. T h e r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s ' s p o n t a n e o u s b o d y r e a c t i o n s p r o v i d e useful i n f o r m a t i o n a b o u t t h e effect t h e system is having on its m e m b e r s . Question: B u t d o n ' t t h e representatives project their o w n m a t e rial into t h e role? H o w d o you k n o w t h a t w h a t t h e y say h a s t o d o w i t h t h e role? H e l l i n g e r : Yes, s o m e t i m e s it b e c o m e s clear that representatives are b r i n g i n g their o w n m a t e r i a l into t h e constellation, a n d t h e n t h e t h e r a p i s t m u s t take t h e m o u t a n d p u t i n s o m e o n e else. S o m e t i m e s t h e roles are so b a d t h a t t h e representatives c a n ' t be left in t h e m

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very long, as w h e n they represent a m u r d e r e r or a child abuser or s o m e o n e like that. T h e n the negative effect of the role can be t o o strong. But with these exceptions, I always treat what c o m e s as being a function of the role, and of the role alone. T h i s orientation m a i n t a i n s hygiene in t h e work. If working on your personal material is mixed with your experience in the role, you can b e c o m e very c o n fused, a n d therapists lose their overview. I s o m e t i m e s have h a d the feeling that people were projecting their own material into a role a n d I've taken t h e m out, only to have the r e p l a c e m e n t p e r s o n react in exactly the s a m e way. My experience is that it's almost always safe to trust the representatives, to trust that they're providing useful information a b o u t the system. Question: S o m e t i m e s w h e n you moved people just t h e slightest a m o u n t , I felt a dramatic change in my body. T h e n , at the e n d , there was a feeling in my b o d y of complete relaxation, a physical sense of " n o w it's right." C a n you say s o m e t h i n g a b o u t that feeling of right ness a n d relaxation? Hellinger: W h e n that relaxation occurs for everyone in a constellation, I a s s u m e that the system is a p p r o a c h i n g b a l a n c e , a n d that everyone in t h e system has his or her a p p r o p r i a t e place a n d function. I call t h e systemic laws operating in those constellations that s u p p o r t the bodily sensation of relaxation and rightness "Love's H i d d e n Symmetry." Love's H i d d e n S y m m e t r y is whatever is required to allow t h e bodily feeling of " r i g h t n e s s " you describe. It s u p p o r t s healing a n d c o m m u n i c a t i o n in a family. L e a r n i n g h o w to help families find it is the whole task of this workshop. You could see h o w easily a n d h o w profoundly love flows as a system approaches its order. Even t h e representatives feel touched by what they experience. T h e physical sense of " t h a t ' s r i g h t " is what makes this a p p r o a c h p h e n o m e n o l o g i cal a n d n o t merely a n o t h e r theory a b o u t h o w families function. We experiment a n d observe carefully until we see t h a t reaction. In this work, we're always looking for resolutions, for t h e systemic c o n t i n gencies that s u p p o r t the free flow of love and m e a n i n g . Q u e s t i o n : You say h e r brother's love could heal her, b u t he was an infant w h e n he died. W h a t was set up here isn't h o w it really was for h e r in her family. H o w do we know a baby really loves his sister at all?

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H e l l i n g e r (to group): I only deal with w h a t I can actually see h a p p e n i n g . At t h e e n d of this constellation, everyone p r e s e n t felt a n d saw s o m e t h i n g very powerful h a p p e n as I r e n e c o n f r o n t e d h e r b r o t h e r . We all felt t h e g o o d n e s s a n d love. W h a t we saw a n d felt was t h e effect of h e r b r o t h e r ' s love. T h a t ' s a descriptive m e t a p h o r for w h a t she felt s t a n d i n g in front of h e r b r o t h e r ' s representative—for w h a t we all felt. It's a n a m e for t h e g o o d d y n a m i c we all w i t n e s s e d . T h a t g o o d d y n a m i c is w h a t ' s real at this m o m e n t . It b r i n g s h o p e . W h a t e v e r t h e o u t c o m e for her, it will be b e t t e r for h e r if she has m o r e of this g o o d d y n a m i c a n d less of whatever was o p e r a t i n g in h e r family before. Question: We c o u l d all see t h a t t h e r e was an a m a z i n g m o v e m e n t , a n d I t h i n k everyone h e r e was p r o f o u n d l y t o u c h e d , b u t w h a t d o e s t h e w o r k m e a n i n t e r m s o f the o u t c o m e t h a t I r e n e c a n expect? I s h e r c a n c e r c u r e d ? Is t h e r e any research a b o u t t h e l o n g - t e r m effects of s u c h work? Hellinger: I w o n ' t answer y o u r q u e s t i o n directly. It's i n a p p r o p r i ate at this t i m e . I'll explain. As you said, we all felt a powerful d y n a m i c u n f o l d i n g , a n d t h e final o u t c o m e i s n o t u n d e r o u r c o n t r o l . A n y benefit t h a t c o m e s will c o m e from w h a t I called " h e r b r o t h e r ' s love." T h a t ' s a n e w d y n a m i c in h e r system, a n d we m u s t resist every t e m p t a t i o n that distracts h e r (or us) from feeling t h a t d y n a m i c . If y o u ' r e p a y i n g close a t t e n t i o n to t h e d y n a m i c of love w o r k i n g in you, y o u ' r e in a different state of m i n d t h a n w h e n you t h i n k a b o u t o u t c o m e . I f y o u start t h i n k i n g a b o u t o u t c o m e , you'll quickly distract yourself a n d s t o p t h e g o o d effect of t h e love. T h a t ' s t h e r e a s o n why, w h e n I ' m w o r k i n g as t h e r a p i s t , I never t h i n k a b o u t o u t c o m e . I d o n ' t even w a n t to know. If I s t a r t to t h i n k a b o u t t h e o u t c o m e , I c a n ' t see w h a t ' s h a p p e n i n g w i t h t h e p e o p l e s t a n d i n g in front of m e . My a t t e n t i o n w a n d e r s into t h e future, a n d I t r y t o m a k e things h a p p e n t h a t are i n m y interest, b u t n o t n e c e s s a r ily in t h e client's. T h e n t h e kind of love we saw a n d felt just n o w c a n ' t h a p p e n . In a situation like this, any h e a l i n g t h a t o c c u r s d o e s so exclusively t h r o u g h t h e love within t h e family system, a n d t h e o u t c o m e is n o n e of my b u s i n e s s . I m a y be p e r m i t t e d to h e l p t h e family find a resolution t h a t allows m e m b e r s ' love to b e c o m e visible a n d to flow, b u t t h e n my service is finished, a n d I m u s t w i t h d r a w a n d t r u s t t h e g o o d effect of t h e i r love.

The

Conscience

of the Family

Group

189

After w o r k like t h i s , I forget t h e p e o p l e i n v o l v e d , s o t h a t t h e y a r e left i n p e a c e t o finish t h e i r w o r k i n w h a t e v e r w a y t h e y find a p p r o p r i a t e . I t r u s t t o t h e g o o d p o w e r o f t h e i r love, a n d b e c a u s e o f t h a t t r u s t , I m u s t leave t h e i r f r e e d o m i n t a c t — I l e a v e t h e m i n t h e f r e e d o m either to change or not to change. M o r e c a n n o t be d o n e w i t h o u t v i o l a t i n g o r d i s r e s p e c t i n g love. I m a k e no claims that these experiences are any m o r e t h a n what you saw h a p p e n here, a n d I ' m certainly n o t claiming to cure cancer. I ' m doing a smaller thing—simpler and m o r e modest: I ' m just tryi n g t o h e l p p e o p l e find g o o d d y n a m i c s i n t h e i r f a m i l y s y s t e m s , " t o h e l p t h e m o n t h e i r w a y . " I f t h e r e ' s a s u r p r i s i n g c u r e , I'll b e v e r y h a p p y f o r t h e m , b u t I d o n ' t w a n t t o k n o w a b o u t it. F o r m e , t h e l o v e w e all c o u l d feel w o r k i n g i s e n o u g h . Additional Considerations

Irene's therapist reported that she was free of s y m p t o m s for seven m o n t h s following this constellation. H e r life with her family was serene a n d filled with joy. She then entered t h e hospital because she wasn't feeling well. H e r doctors found no further metastases, a n d she was released after a few days without further treatment. She spent the next three m o n t h s peacefully at h o m e with her family a n d died a few days after entering the hospital one final time [H.B.].

C H A P T E R

F I V E

Love and the Greater Soul
In addition to o u r personal relationships and t h e social systems to which we b e l o n g , we are also m e m b e r s of larger relationship systems. T h e various O r d e r s of Love that s u p p o r t us in o u r intimate relationships are n o t applicable to other relationship systems. If we are dealing with larger wholes a n d meta-systems, for e x a m p l e , with G o d — o r whatever we n a m e the mystery b e h i n d t h e w o r l d — o r fate, or with the wholeness of the world, t h e n those s a m e orders and principles no longer apply. A t t e m p t s to apply t h e m lead to a b s u r d consequences. R e m e m b e r i n g o u r experiences a s children, w e m a y r e a c h o u t t o G o d , o r t h e m y s t e r y b e h i n d t h e world, like children r e a c h i n g o u t to their p a r e n t s , a n d seek a g o o d father or a g o o d m o t h e r . T h e n we believe like children, h o p e like children, t r u s t like children, love like c h i l d r e n — a n d , like children, we m a y fear w h a t is b e y o n d our experience. O r r e m e m b e r i n g o u r experiences a s m e m b e r s o f o u r e x t e n d e d family, we m a y relate to fate or the mystery b e h i n d t h e w o r l d as we do to m e m b e r s of o u r families, as if we were b l o o d b r o t h e r s in a c o m p a n y of saints. B u t t h e n , as in a family, we m a y be selected or rejected a c c o r d i n g to a rigid law we n e i t h e r can k n o w n o r influence. 190

Love and the Greater Soul

191

O r r e m e m b e r i n g o u r e x p e r i e n c e a s m e m b e r s o f freely c h o s e n g r o u p s , we m a y relate to t h e m y s t e r y of t h e world as if we were its business associates, b e h a v i n g like its representatives or s p o k e s p e r s o n s , m a k i n g c o v e n a n t s a n d a g r e e m e n t s , as if life w o u l d allow us to regulate m u t u a l giving a n d taking a n d t o c o n t r o l o u r m u t u a l b e n efits a n d loss. Or we m a y a p p r o a c h t h e m y s t e r y b e h i n d t h e w o r l d as if we were e n t e r i n g an i n t i m a t e relationship in w h i c h t h e r e are a lover a n d a beloved, a b r i d e a n d a b r i d e g r o o m . Or we m a y relate to the m y s t e r y like p a r e n t s to their c h i l d r e n , d a r i n g t o tell i t w h a t w e c o n s i d e r w r o n g w i t h its w o r l d a n d d e m a n d ing i m p r o v e m e n t s . A n d n o t b e i n g satisfied with this world as it is, we a t t e m p t to save ourselves a n d o t h e r s from it. B u t t h e r e is a n o t h e r way. W h e n we relate to t h e m y s t e r y of t h e world, we c a n forget w h a t applied to the relationships we know, just as w h e n we are s w i m m i n g in t h e o c e a n , we forget t h e rivers flowing i n t o it, a n d w h e n w e are a t o u r goal, w e forget t h e p a t h .

Absence

and

Presence

A monk, out seeking the Absolute, approached a merchant in the marketplace and asked for sustenance. The merchant glanced at him and paused. As he handed him what he could spare, he addressed him with a question. "What can it mean that you request of me what you require for your sustenance and yet feel free to think of me and of my trade as something low compared with you and yours?" The monk replied: "Matched with the Absolute the rest seems low indeed."

that I pursue,

The merchant was not satisfied and tried him with a second question.

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"If such an Absolute exists, it extends beyond our reach. So how can anyone presume to seek it as if it could be found lying at the end of some long road? How can anyone take possession of it or claim a greater share of it than others? And how, conversely, if this Absolute exists, can anyone stray far from it and be excluded from its will and care?" The monk replied: "Only those prepared to leave all that is closest to them now and willingly forego what is chained to Here and Now will ever reach the Absolute." Still unconvinced, the merchant tested him with yet another thought. "Assuming that an Absolute exists, it must be close to everyone, although concealed in the apparent and enduring, just as Absence is concealed in Presence, and Past and Future in the Here and Now. "Compared with what is Present and appears to us as limited and fleeting, the Absent seems unlimited in space and time, as do the Past and Future compared with the Here and Now. "Yet what is Absent is revealed to us only in the Present just as the Past and Future are revealed only in the Here and Now. Like night and death the Absent holds, unknown to us, something that is yet to come.

Love and the Greater Soul But there are moments when, in the twinkling of an eye, the Absloute suddenly illuminates the Present, as a flash of lightning illuminates the night. "Thus, too, the Absolute draws close to us at present Here and illuminates the Now." The monk then addressed the merchant with a question of his own. "If what you say is true, what, then, remains for me and you?" The merchant said: "To us there still remains, but for a little while, the Earth."

193

LEAVING A LESSER FAITH FOR A GREATER ONE
T h e father of a g r o u p participant was a former priest w h o h a d left t h e religious order, started a family, and h a d several children with his wife. In t h e constellation, he w o u n d up standing b e t w e e n t h e religious o r d e r a n d his family. H e l l i n g e r : W h e n you look at this constellation, you can see that it would have b e e n easier for the father to have stayed in t h e m o n astery. T h a t ' s often the case, a n d that's why I m e n t i o n it. W h e n s o m e o n e has once belonged to G o d , or should have, a n d t h e n leaves the c h u r c h or religious order, it's very c o m m o n for h i m or h e r to live an even m o r e restricted life t h a n if he or she h a d stayed. T h a t ' s m o r e p r o n o u n c e d with Catholics t h a n with Protestants b e c a u s e t h e restrictions are greater (celibacy). T h e y succeed in leaving t h e c h u r c h only w h e n they go t h e whole way; that m e a n s leaving b e h i n d a lesser faith, a n d stretching o u t toward a greater o n e .

194

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Symmetry

Faith is destructive w h e n it teaches that you can belong to G o d in a special way, and that G o d is angry and vengeful w h e n you act in a way that's in h a r m o n y with creation. Belief and disbelief, like guilt a n d i n n o c e n c e , are inextricably b o u n d together in t h e soul, and just as we continually swing between guilt and i n n o c e n c e , so do we swing b e t w e e n belief and disbelief. T h e r e ' s a kind of religious belief that teaches us that t h e world is evil. If I follow that belief, I m u s t divorce myself from creation as it is a n d , implicitly, from its Creator. In o r d e r to do that, I m u s t t u r n away from everything I see a n d experience, and I m u s t t u r n toward a n o t h e r god a b o u t w h o m I've only heard what others r e p o r t they believe he revealed to t h e m . T h a t ' s all I k n o w a b o u t that god. I have no personal experience of h i m , only what others have said. So the belief in that god, actually, is a belief in s o m e other p e r s o n ' s r e p o r t , whose witness t h e n is binding for m e . If I wish to worship a n d to follow that god, I m u s t forsake a n d deny what I experience a n d see, a n d I m u s t believe what others claim has b e e n revealed to t h e m . T h a t kind of religion is passed on by culture and family tradition. People follow that kind of religion primarily because their family follows it. F o r t h e m , r e n o u n c i n g such a faith m e a n s r e n o u n c i n g their family. T h i s explains why everyone w h o t u r n s away from religions of this kind have identical feelings of guilt, w h e t h e r M u s l i m , Catholic, Jew, P r o t e s t a n t , or B u d d h i s t . T h i s kind of faith, therefore, is quite i n d e p e n d e n t of the c o n t e n t of the Catholic faith, t h e P r o t estant faith, Islam, or B u d d h i s m . It's a m a t t e r of loyalty or disloyalty to their families—not actual experience of G o d or of the G r e a t e r Soul. Religion a n d faith based on consenting to the world as it is unites h u m a n k i n d , whereas the faith of a particular confession or g r o u p builds walls b e t w e e n people. T h e religious experience that e n c o m passes a n d loves t h e world as it is recognizes no b o r d e r s . T h o s e w h o accept and love the earth as it is can't r e m a i n within t h e confines of a single group. T h e y go beyond the limits of their particular g r o u p a n d e m b r a c e the wholeness of the world as it is. T h i s love of the e a r t h a n d the m o v e m e n t such lovers m a k e — r e a c h ing b e y o n d their g r o u p toward the larger wholeness of t h e world— have a quality that is very different from the belief that fears a n d hates a n d divides. T h i s love e m b r a c e s , holds, a n d cherishes the diversity in the unity of life.

Love

and the The

Greater Soul Disciples

195

A m a n is b o r n into his country, into his culture, into his family. Even as a child, stories enchant him a b o u t the one who was their p r o p h e t and lord, and he deeply longs to b e c o m e like his ideal. He enters a long period of training until he is fully identified with his ideal, until he thinks and speaks and acts like him. B u t o n e last thing, he thinks, is missing. A n d so he sets out on a long journey into the most secluded loneliness where he h o p e s to cross the final barrier. On his way, he passes old gardens, long a b a n d o n e d . Wild roses still b l o o m u n s e e n , and the fruit that tall trees bear each year falls unnoticed to the earth. No one is there to gather it. He walks on. He reaches the edge of the desert. S o o n he is s u r r o u n d e d by an u n k n o w n emptiness. He realizes t h a t in this desert he could choose any direction he might wish—the e m p tiness remains the same. He sees that the great loneliness of this place has emptied all illusions in his mind's eye that would have led h i m o n t o any particular p a t h . A n d so he wanders on just where chance takes h i m , until o n e day, long after he has stopped trusting his senses, he is surprised to see water bubbling out of the earth in front of him. He watches the desert sands quietly soak it up again, but as far as the water reaches, the desert blooms like Paradise. Still deep in wonder, he looks a r o u n d and sees afar two strangers drawing near. T h e y too have d o n e what he has d o n e . E a c h of t h e m h a d followed his prophet a n d lord until he h a d b e c o m e almost identical with him. T h e y too set out as he h a d d o n e into the desert wastes, h o p i n g to cross t h e final barrier. A n d they, too, at last h a d reached that spring. T h e n the three of t h e m b e n d d o w n together to drink the same water, and each feels his goal to be within his reach. T h e n they reveal their n a m e s : "I have b e c o m e one with my L o r d , G a u t a m a , t h e B u d dha." "I have b e c o m e one with my L o r d , Jesus, the Christ." "I have b e c o m e one with my Lord, M o h a m m e d , the P r o p h e t . " At last, the night d e s c e n d s u p o n t h e m . T h e y see t h e heavens fill with shining stars u n m o v i n g , silent, a n d utterly r e m o t e . T h e y fall into awe-filled silence b e n e a t h t h e vastness of this eternity, a n d o n e of t h e m senses for a m o m e n t h o w his lord m u s t have felt as he c a m e to k n o w this s a m e i m p o t e n c e , to k n o w the ultimate irrelevance of h u m a n design a n d t o s u b m i t t o t h a t i m m e n s i t y — a n d h e senses, t o o , h o w he m u s t have felt as he u n d e r s t o o d the inescapability of guilt.

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H e k n o w s t h a t h e h a s g o n e too far. S o h e waits for d a w n , t u r n s h o m e w a r d , a n d at last escapes the desert. O n c e again, he passes the a b a n d o n e d g a r d e n s , until at last he stops before t h e g a r d e n that he k n o w s to be his own. An old m a n is s t a n d i n g by t h e gate, as if awaiting h i m . He says, "If s o m e o n e has f o u n d his way h o m e from as far away as you have d o n e , he loves t h e moist a n d fertile e a r t h . He k n o w s t h a t all that grows will die, a n d in dying n o u r i s h w h a t lives" T h e w a n d e r e r replies, " N o w I s u b m i t t o e a r t h . " T h e n h e b e g i n s t o h u s b a n d his g a r d e n with t e n d e r care.

Transcript
GRACE: "IN MY HEART YOU ARE ALIVE"
Grace: I am a child of H o l o c a u s t survivors a n d I think this marks my life. T h e second thing that marks my life is that I grew up in G e r m a n y after the war. Hellinger: You grew up in G e r m a n y after the war?

G r a c e : Yes. T h e way I see it working in my life is in the total absence of relationships. Hellinger: H o w did your parents survive?

G r a c e : My p a r e n t s were Polish Jews w h o escaped to Asia. I was b o r n at the e n d of t h e war. After the war, they just got stuck as displaced persons in G e r m a n y , and I e n d e d up b e c o m i n g a G e r m a n by chance. Hellinger: Any relatives w h o died?

G r a c e : All of t h e m practically, except my parents a n d a sister of my father's. Hellinger: Grace: names. N o w just n a m e those w h o died.

I should n a m e them? I c o u l d n ' t . I d o n ' t know their

Hellinger: Grace:

I m e a n your grandfather, g r a n d p a r e n t s .

All the g r a n d p a r e n t s . T h e four g r a n d p a r e n t s died?

Hellinger: Grace: Yes.

Hellinger:

W h o else?

Grace: Everyone. My m o t h e r h a d four sisters a n d a brother, a n d they all perished. My father was one of seven children, a n d he saved his sister b u t everyone else perished. Both of my p a r e n t s were t h e 197

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y o u n g e s t i n t h e i r families, w h i c h m e a n s t h a t t h e r e s t o f t h e i r family m e m b e r s already h a d children. My parents weren't married w h e n t h e w a r b r o k e o u t . It's j u s t h u g e . I c a n ' t d i s t i n g u i s h a n y m o r e . Hellinger: I will select t h e r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s .

Grace: M a y b e I s h o u l d say o n e m o r e t h i n g . M y f a t h e r always t o l d m e , b o t h o f m y p a r e n t s t o l d m e , t h a t I look like o n e o f his sisters. Hellinger: You s h o u l d , actually. We'll c h o o s e r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s for y o u r g r a n d p a r e n t s a n d for all y o u r u n c l e s a n d a u n t s w h o p e r i s h e d . H a v e y o u b r o t h e r s a n d sisters? Grace: I h a v e a sister a n d t w o b r o t h e r s , b u t o n e b r o t h e r d i e d w h e n h e w a s j u s t a d a y o l d . I ' m t h e first, b u t I s h o u l d n ' t b e t h e first o n e . Actually, I ' m the second one. Hellinger: Grace: Yes. T h e first o n e d i e d ?

Hellinger: W e n e e d h i m t o o . C h o o s e r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s for all t h o s e w h o p e r i s h e d , y o u r father's family a n d y o u r m o t h e r ' s family. (Grace chooses representatives.)

*Legend: f 1—First child, a son, deceased; 2—Second child (Grace's representative); Mo—Mother; Fa—Father; MGFa—maternal grandfather; PGMo—paternal grandmother; MGMo—maternal grandmother; PGFa—paternal grandfather; M o S l — m o t h e r ' s first sister; FaBrl—father's first brother; MoS2—mother's second sister; FaBr2—father's second brother; MoS3—mother's third sister; FaBr3— father's third brother; MoS4—mother's fourth sister; FaS4—father's first sister; MoBr5—mother's brother; FaS5—father's second sister.

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H e l l i n g e r (to Grace): N o w look at t h e m , at each o n e of t h e m . (To father): N o w you take h e r by the h a n d and go with h e r to everybody in your family, and b o w in respect to each. (Grace and father bow deeply in front of paternal grandfather.) H e l l i n g e r (to Grace): T h e r e ' s no hurry, take the necessary time. (Long silence) L o o k at h i m and say, " D e a r G r a n d p a . . ." (Grace begins to weep.) Grace: Dear Grandpa . . . " L o o k at me . . ." L o o k at m e . . .

Hellinger:

G r a c e (Still weeping): Hellinger: Grace:

"Friendly."

Friendly. " I ' m still alive."

Hellinger: Grace:

I ' m still alive. A n d tell h i m , "I take my life as a special gift."

Hellinger: Grace:

I take my life as a special gift. " I n my h e a r t , you are alive." In my h e a r t , you are alive. (Grace and paternal grandfather

Hellinger: Grace: embrace.)

H e l l i n g e r (to Grace): Breathe deeply, (long pause) (to father): T h e n take h e r t o h e r g r a n d m o t h e r a n d d o the same. (Grace and father bow deeply in front of paternal grandmother.) Hellinger: Grace: Say, " D e a r G r a n d m o t h e r . . ."

D e a r G r a n d m o t h e r . . . (weeping) " I h o n o r you."

Hellinger: Grace:

I h o n o r you. "Please be friendly while I ' m alive a n d you are d e a d . "

Hellinger: Grace:

Please be friendly while I ' m alive and you are d e a d .

Hellinger: Go to her. (Grace and paternal grandmother embrace.) T h e n b o w in front of each of t h e m with respect a n d love. (Grace

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and her father bow deeply in front of each paternal uncle and aunt.) (To mother): N o w y o u take h e r b y t h e h a n d a n d g o t o y o u r p a r e n t s a n d b r o t h e r s a n d sisters. J u s t b o w deeply. (Grace and her mother bow deeply in front of the maternal grandfather. Grace and her grandfather embrace.) (To Grace): Ask h i m for his blessing. G r a c e (Sobbing quietly): Hellinger: Grace: Please bless m e .

Say, " I n my h e a r t y o u have a p l a c e . "

In my h e a r t y o u have a place. " I n m e you are still alive."

Hellinger: Grace:

I n m e y o u are still alive. N o w m o v e on to y o u r g r a n d m o t h e r .

H e l l i n g e r (to Grace):

(Grace and her maternal grandmother embrace, then Grace and the mother bow in front of, and embrace, each maternal aunt and uncle.) N o w embrace your brother. (She embraces her deceased brother.) N o w I'll p l a c e y o u b e t w e e n y o u r p a r e n t s .

Hellinger: y o u feeling?

L o o k a t y o u r father a n d look a t y o u r m o t h e r . H o w are

Grace: I feel s e c u r e now. I feel safe. I w a n t e d to say s o m e t h i n g to my brother. Hellinger: Yes, do.

Love and the Greater Soul G r a c e (to brother): H e l l i n g e r (to Grace): G r a c e (Tearfully): Hellinger: Grace: You took the easy way out. Tell h i m , "I missed you."

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I missed you.

"You are my big brother."

You are my big brother. " I ' m your small sister."

Hellinger: Grace:

I ' m your small sister. I just w a n t to ask you w h a t your

H e l l i n g e r (to representatives): experience was. Paternal Grandfather: a n d glad that she is alive.

Very sad a n d moved a n d yet very h a p p y

P a t e r n a l G r a n d m o t h e r : I was very h a p p y a n d felt, "You silly girl, go a n d live your life a n d d o n ' t worry a b o u t u s . " F a t h e r ' s E l d e s t B r o t h e r : I felt very sad a n d m o v e d a n d very w a r m toward her and wish her well. Father's S e c o n d Brother: o p e n to you. I felt very sad a n d I felt my h e a r t

Father's T h i r d Brother: I felt very sad a n d a lot of shivering all over, an engine moving. (Pause) T h e r e was a p o i n t w h e r e it felt like standing in front of a firing s q u a d as well. Father's Eldest Sister: I felt deeply moved and very glad to have the o p p o r t u n i t y to m e e t you, a n d to know that you are alive. Father's S e c o n d Sister: Maternal Grandfather: neously, and p r o u d . I felt very sad a n d w a n t e d you to live. Very moved, joy and sorrow simulta-

M a t e r n a l G r a n d m o t h e r : I felt very sad a n d t h e n very p r o u d , a n d t h e n very h o t w h e n we h u g g e d . Mother's Eldest Sister: m e n t at m e e t i n g you. Mother's S e c o n d Sister: very glad to e m b r a c e you. I felt very shivery, tingly, full of excite" My h e a r t really h u r t , a n d t h e n I was

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Mother's Third Sister: I felt very full-hearted a n d full of love a n d of h o p e for y o u to be truly alive. Mother's Fourth Sister: I felt sad a n d I w a n t e d to h o l d y o u .

Mother's Brother: I felt very sad n o t k n o w i n g w h e t h e r y o u k n e w w h e r e a n d w h e n exactly I d i e d , b u t very glad t h a t I c o u l d c o m e b a c k a n d see y o u a n d for you to see m e . Hellinger: H o w d o e s t h e father feel?

Father: I felt very full of love for my d a u g h t e r a n d g r a t i t u d e that she was able t o m e e t m y p a r e n t s , m y b r o t h e r s a n d sisters, a n d t h a t I c o u l d i n t r o d u c e h e r to t h e m p r o p e r l y for t h e first t i m e . It m e a n t a lot to m e . Hellinger: A n d the mother?

Mother: I felt, m o s t especially in t h e s e last few m i n u t e s , t h e light i n m y d a u g h t e r , a n d m y h e a r t h a s b e e n a c h i n g t o e m b r a c e t h a t light b e c a u s e I lost so m a n y p e o p l e a n d I t h o u g h t she w a s alive, this o n e . Hellinger: H e r brother?

Deceased Brother: At first I felt very d e t a c h e d , a n d t h e n I felt a c k n o w l e d g e d a n d n e e d e d , a n d t h e n I felt very b r o t h e r l y a n d p r o tective. Hellinger: All t h e best to you a n d p e a c e . T h a n k y o u all. (To audience, after a long silence): In G e r m a n y , we are told by m a n y p e o p l e t h a t w e s h o u l d n ' t forget—we s h o u l d r e m e m b e r w h a t h a p p e n e d . Very often, we are told accusingly, by p e o p l e who,feel s u p e r i o r , a n d t h a t has a b a d effect in t h e soul. T h e p r o p e r way of r e m e m b e r i n g is w h a t w e d i d h e r e , m o u r n i n g with t h e d e a d t o g e t h e r — j u s t b e i n g o n e w i t h t h e m . T h a t h a s a h e a l i n g effect on t h e soul; a n y t h i n g else h a s t h e o p p o s i t e effect. (Long silence.) I n e e d a little t i m e just to recollect myself. I h o p e you u n d e r s t a n d (long silence).

PART

TWO

Psychotherapeutic Considerations

The Therapeutic Posture
T h e m o s t i m p o r t a n t e l e m e n t i n successful w o r k w i t h systems i s t h e therapist's p o s t u r e . M o r e i m p o r t a n t t h a n l e a r n i n g t e c h n i q u e s a n d p r o c e d u r e s , t h o s e w i s h i n g t o w o r k systemically m u s t u n d e r s t a n d t h e basic o r i e n t a t i o n a n d t h e values that g u i d e t h e work. T h e r a p i s t s w o r k i n g in this way prefer to w o r k w i t h r e s o u r c e s r a t h e r t h a n w i t h w e a k n e s s e s , w i t h solutions r a t h e r t h a n w i t h p r o b l e m s , a n d w i t h t h e smallest i n t e r v e n t i o n s n e c e s s a r y for c h a n g e . Above all, t h e y look at w h a t e v e r is actually visible, r a t h e r t h a n allow t h e m s e l v e s to be g u i d e d by t h e o r y , belief, or ideology.

SEEING
Question: You often talk a b o u t seeing a p e r s o n . C a n you say m o r e about what you mean? H e l l i n g e r : I m a k e a distinction b e t w e e n " o b s e r v i n g " a n d " s e e ing." T h e w o r d " o b s e r v i n g " m e a n s o b s e r v i n g individual details a t t h e cost of t h e p e r c e p t i o n of t h e w h o l e . W h e n I observe s o m e o n e ' s b e h a v i o r , I o b s e r v e w h a t he or she d o e s , b u t the p e r s o n as a w h o l e escapes m e . W h e n I see p e r s o n s , I take t h e m in as a w h o l e . T h e n , a l t h o u g h m a n y of t h e details of w h a t t h e y do e s c a p e m e , I g r a s p with i m m e d i a c y ( a p p r e h e n d ) w h a t ' s essential a b o u t t h e m , a n d I d o this in service of t h a t p e r s o n as " O t h e r . " 205

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S e e i n g a n o t h e r p e r s o n in this way is only possible w h e n I t u r n t o w a r d h i m or h e r w i t h o u t ulterior motives. S e e i n g a p e r s o n in this way creates relationship. It calls a specific i n t i m a c y i n t o b e i n g that nevertheless requires p r o f o u n d respect for individual differences, a n d t h a t r e q u i r e s m a i n t a i n i n g a certain d i s t a n c e . In seeing, each p e r s o n is t r e a t e d as u n i q u e a n d no n o r m s are established t h a t later m u s t b e o v e r c o m e . J u d g i n g right o r w r o n g has n o p l a c e i n seeing, b u t only serving love a n d t h e q u e s t for resolutions. S e e i n g a n o t h e r p e r s o n also places m e u n d e r a n i m p e r a t i v e t o serve. I m a y i m a g i n e t h a t I ' m free to do w h a t e v e r I w a n t , b u t as s o o n as I see s o m e o n e in his or h e r situation a n d see w h a t he or she n e e d s , I ' m c o m p e l l e d to a d a p t myself to be as the s i t u a t i o n d e m a n d s of m e . In a t h e r a p e u t i c c o n t e x t , only seeing c a n serve t h e q u e s t for r e s o lution, a n d seeing is useful only t o w a r d t h a t e n d . Seeing d o e s n ' t h e l p to m a k e a diagnosis, or to m a k e empirical o b s e r v a t i o n s , unless t h e diagnosis a n d the observations themselves serve s o m e r e s o l u t i o n . Seeing finds r e s o l u t i o n a n d c o m p l e t i o n , n o t objective t r u t h . I t always h a s t o d o with t h e q u e s t i o n s : " W h a t d o e s t h e client's situation d e m a n d o f m e n o w ? " a n d " W h a t d o e s i t p e r m i t m e ? " A s a t h e r a p i s t , I ask myself these q u e s t i o n s a n d I offer myself in service of t h e o t h e r p e r s o n . W h e n a p e r s o n tells me s o m e t h i n g , I ask myself, " W h a t is a p p r o p r i a t e for him or her" If I s u c c e e d in t r u l y seeing t h e client, t h e n I ' m i n c o n t a c t with s o m e t h i n g g r e a t e r t h a n either o f u s alone. M y i m m e d i a t e goal c a n ' t even b e t o h e l p , b u t only t o see t h e client in t h e c o n t e x t of a larger o r d e r . T h a t ' s h o w seeing w o r k s , a n d i t allows t h e r a p e u t i c i n t e r v e n t i o n s t o r e m a i n respectful a n d loving, while at t h e s a m e t i m e b e i n g a force for healing. It's s t r a n g e h o w p e o p l e c h a n g e w h e n I tell t h e m w h a t I see. S e e ing is a creative p r o c e s s t h a t h a s an effect on t h o s e w h o are seen as well as on t h e o n e w h o sees. T h e r e , are secrets to seeing t h a t I d o n ' t u n d e r s t a n d , b u t they t o o c a n b e seen a n d u s e d . W h e n y o u have a n idea a b o u t w h a t ' s going o n w i t h a client a n d are w o n d e r i n g if you s h o u l d say it or n o t , try to see t h e p e r s o n . If you s u c c e e d , you'll see w h e t h e r your idea will h e l p or will w e a k e n . Seeing i s n ' t s o m e t h i n g t h a t y o u c a n m a k e h a p p e n . W h e n I o p e n myself to s o m e o n e , I ' m often totally s u r p r i s e d by w h a t I see. Often I see t h i n g s t h a t I never could have t h o u g h t u p . I often have a sense of fear a n d t r e m b l i n g a b o u t seeing, b u t if I shy away from w h a t I

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see, if I h o l d b a c k — e v e n o u t of t h e fear of h u r t i n g s o m e o n e — s o m e t h i n g closes d o w n in my soul, as if I'd a b u s e d s o m e t h i n g p r e c i o u s . Question: I s n ' t seeing t h e s a m e a s intuition?

Hellinger: I e x p e r i e n c e intuition differently, a n d seeing is m o r e t h a n i n t u i t i o n . I e x p e r i e n c e intuition as a flash of u n d e r s t a n d i n g t h a t shows m e w h e r e t o go, t h a t orients m e t o w a r d t h e future. I n t u ition c o m e s w i t h o u t my d o i n g a n y t h i n g , instantly. S e e i n g is different. Seeing m e a n s t h a t I o p e n myself c o m p l e t e l y to c o m p l e x c o n n e c t i o n s a n d allow t h e m t o work i n m e , t o affect m e . T h a t ' s h o w I c a m e to u n d e r s t a n d conscience. F o r a long t i m e , I c o u l d n ' t u n d e r s t a n d w h a t h a p p e n s w h e n people claim t o b e acting a c c o r d i n g to their conscience, or acting conscientiously. T h a t ' s a h u g e p h e n o m e n o n , a n d I still d o n ' t u n d e r s t a n d it completely. B u t b e c a u s e I c o u l d n ' t u n d e r s t a n d it, I tried to see w h a t was h a p p e n i n g . I just let it w o r k on m e , h o l d i n g it in my attention, o p e n i n g myself to it, b u t n o t actively trying to u n d e r s t a n d it. It took years, b u t all at o n c e , I saw w h a t conscience really is a n d h o w it works. C o n s c i e n c e is a p e r ceptual organ for systemic balance that helps us to know w h e t h e r or n o t we're in h a r m o n y with o u r reference system. It w a r n s us if w h a t we're a b o u t to do carries the c o n s e q u e n c e of b e i n g e x c l u d e d from t h e system or assures o u r c o n t i n u e d belonging to the system. I saw that a clear conscience only m e a n s that I feel entitled to c o n t i n u e to b e l o n g to my g r o u p . A n d a guilty conscience m e a n s only that I n e e d to w o r r y a b o u t w h e t h e r I'll still be allowed to c o n t i n u e to b e l o n g . S u d d e n l y , o u t of a complexity of p h e n o m e n a , t h e e s s e n c e of t h e t h i n g w a s clear. T h a t clarity h a d an e n o r m o u s effect on e v e r y t h i n g I did. I call this p r o c e s s t h e p h e n o m e n o l o g i c a l m e t h o d . It works only w h e n I ' m n o t i n t e n d i n g to achieve s o m e t h i n g — t o c o n f i r m a belief, for e x a m p l e , or to glorify a t r a d i t i o n . It's a very h u m b l e , s i m p l e , basic m e t h o d of k n o w i n g . Here is a p o e m t h a t p r e s e n t s w h a t I ' m d e s c r i b i n g . It d o e s so i n d i rectly, b u t it p o i n t s t h e way. T h e p o e m is an o u t l i n e of a p s y c h o t h e r a p e u t i c epistemology.

A

Double

Measure

An observer of detail asked a Seer: "How does a part

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recognize its place within the whole? "And how is knowledge of the part different from knowing the fullness of the Greater Whole?" The Seer answered: "The scattered parts become a whole by yielding to their center's pull, by allowing it to gather them. "Their wholeness makes them beautiful and real. Yet, for us, their wholeness is so obvious, a gentle nothing, an urge to join together hidden within enduring. "To know the whole, its many parts need not be known, or spoken, or grasped, or done, or shown. "I reach all that is in the city, by entering a single gate. I strike the gong, its one tone reverberates and sets the lesser bells achime. I pick one apple. I hold it in my hand. Though I know no details of its origin, I eat."

The Therapeutic Posture The Scholar objected: "Whoever desires the whole Truth must know all its parts as well." The Wise Man answered: "Only from what is past can all the parts be known. Truth springs out of the Void into Being. It is always new, concealing its goal within itself, as the seed conceals the tree. "Therefore, whoever hesitates to act, waiting to know more, misses what works, as if Becoming condoned temerity. He mistakes the coin for merchandise and manages only firewood from living trees." The Scholar thought: "There must be more to the answer of the Whole," and asked for what he thought still failed. The Seer said, "The Whole is like a keg of fresh cider, sweet and cloudy. It needs time to ferment and to clear. Then those foolish enough to drink, not sip, get drunk."

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PARTNERS IN DIALOG
Q u e s t i o n : T h e r e ' s a particular a t m o s p h e r e in your g r o u p s , a mix ture of o p e n n e s s , critical alertness, a n d trust. T h e r e ' s a strong sense of c o m m u n i t y , and yet everyone is here for himself or herself. I ' m also surprised at h o w frankly people sometimes r e s p o n d with their criticisms and d o u b t s . H e l l i n g e r : T h e r e ' s m u c h that can be said only in an a t m o s p h e r e in which people are alert, critical, a n d respectful. W h e n p e o p l e h a n g on my every word, I m u s t be very careful of what I say. On t h e o t h e r h a n d , w h e n I ' m certain that t h e participants will carefully check everything I say against their o w n inner experience a n d n o t just swallow it uncritically, t h e n I can risk a lot. W h e n the other is my p a r t n e r in investigating experience, a dialog b e t w e e n equals can emerge. My freedom to take risks is a function of my t r u s t in t h e other, a n d it brings us b o t h great rewards.

C o m m u n i t y in groups occurs only w h e n the individual m e m b e r s are collected in themselves a n aren't c e n t e r e d in themselves, their unconscious m i n d s are defense less against g r o u p dynamics that can alienate t h e m from themselves. T h e psychological m e c h a n i s m s that allow individual m e m b e r s to center in themselves and the g r o u p dynamics that c o n n e c t t h e m to the larger g r o u p are largely unconscious. T h e p r o c e s s of gathering or collecting in yourself a n d centering allows all of the individuals in a g r o u p to b e c o m e p a r t s of the larger whole w i t h o u t losing their individuality. G a t h e r i n g a n d centering are the foundation of a c o m m u n i t y of individuals. W h e n e v e r therapy takes place in a g r o u p of p e o p l e w h o are centered in themselves a n d c o n n e c t e d to one a n o t h e r at the s a m e t i m e , b o t h t h e client a n d the therapist feel the s u p p o r t of t h e larger g r o u p , a n d they feel safe to allow the work to reach an intensity that would be frightening in individual therapy.

HOLISTIC THINKING BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Q u e s t i o n : We've b e e n hearing a b o u t people's experiences, a n d s o m e of w h a t has h a p p e n e d to t h e m seems to me to be just plain evil. I m e a n w h e n people abuse their children a n d things like that, yet you d o n ' t seem to judge at all.

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H e l l i n g e r : W h e n I see people, I see t h e m in the contexts in which they live, in t h e context of larger wholes, in the g r o u p s a n d subcultures to which they belong. All relationship systems are such wholes. W h e n you see people in their larger contexts, y o u r perceptions of freedom of choice, personal responsibility, a n d good a n d evil change. You see that m o s t , perhaps all, evil isn't d o n e b e c a u s e people are personally evil, b u t because they're c a u g h t in s o m e t h i n g on a larger scale. Evil is mostly a function of systemic entanglem e n t s ; it's n o t really personal. G o o d and evil are systemically b o u n d to one another. If you w a n t to work with p e o p l e systemically, you m u s t find a position b e y o n d moral j u d g m e n t , a position that allows you to see larger systemic p h e n o m e n a and their effect on individuals. F o r instance, w h e n o n e m e m b e r of a system a s s u m e s a position of m o r a l superiority, he or she claims m o r e right to b e l o n g to t h e system t h a n the o n e judged a n d challenges t h e other's right to belong to the system. T h a t always has disastrous results. It makes no sense philosophically or theologically to think that p e o p l e no longer belong to the larger o r d e r of the universe because of their behavior. Individuals d o n ' t choose the roles fate gives t h e m to play, b u t their roles do have c o n s e q u e n c e s for t h e greater whole. F o r example, the students w h o were p a r t of t h e W h i t e R o s e * belonged to a very tightly knit g r o u p that was different from t h e m a i n s t r e a m g r o u p , a n d they were able to do w h a t they did b e c a u s e of their b o n d i n g to their group. T h e i r m e m b e r s h i p in their g r o u p helped t h e m to overcome the intimidation of the fear of d e a t h , a n d it m a d e it possible for t h e m to do what they did. If we c o m p a r e t h e students of t h e W h i t e Rose with the Nazis, it's clear that the two g r o u p s valued different things, and that w h a t they d e m a n d e d from their m e m b e r s a n d considered good behavior was very different. Nevertheless, t h e systemic dynamics constraining m e m b e r s h i p in the two g r o u p s are similar: If you do as the others d o , you can belong, and if you d o n ' t , you're out. T h e g r o u p s to w h i c h we b e l o n g d e t e r m i n e h o w we act, and, in m o s t cases, we d o n ' t choose those groups.

*The White Rose was a group of students in Munich, Germany, who actively opposed the Nazi regime. Most of them were arrested and executed for their activities.

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Systemically viewed, t h e major difference in individual beliefs a b o u t g o o d a n d evil i s arbitrary. N o g r o u p k n o w s w h a t ' s g o o d for o t h e r , larger g r o u p s . I f t h e N a z i s h a d w o n , w e w o u l d p r o b a b l y c o n sider t h e m e m b e r s o f t h e W h i t e R o s e t o b e c r i m i n a l s , b u t w e ' r e free t o view t h e m a s h e r o e s b e c a u s e t h e N a z i s w e r e defeated. M o s t p e o ple's beliefs a b o u t g o o d a n d evil are d e t e r m i n e d solely b y t h e n o r m s of t h e g r o u p s to w h i c h t h e y b e l o n g , a n d it's very difficult for a n y o n e t o g o b e y o n d t h a t limitation. G o i n g b e y o n d the limitations o f o n e g r o u p ' s m o r a l i t y r e q u i r e s identifying with a larger systemic o r d e r . T h a t ' s a truly m o r a l m o v e m e n t , a n d you n e e d t o b e willing a n d able t o e n d u r e the feeling o f guilt a n d alienation t h a t c o m e s w h e n you violate w h a t y o u r friends a n d family h o l d t o b e g o o d . In systemic p s y c h o t h e r a p y , it's simpler a n d m o r e useful to avoid moralistic j u d g m e n t s altogether, t o take t h e p o s i t i o n t h a t everyone i s basically g o o d , a n d t h a t they d o b a d things w h e n t h e y ' r e e n t a n g l e d . T h a t way, y o u r e m a i n free t o see t h e m a n d t o t r y t o u n d e r s t a n d h o w t h e y ' r e e n t a n g l e d , a n d w h a t n e e d s t o h a p p e n for t h e m t o get u n t a n g l e d . B e c a u s e y o u ' r e n o t c a u g h t u p i n feeling m o r a l l y s u p e r i o r t o t h e m , you c a n also p a y a t t e n t i o n t o h o w t h e y affect y o u a s y o u w o r k w i t h t h e m . T h u s , everyone m a i n t a i n s e q u a l ity a n d h u m a n dignity. It's g o o d i n any p s y c h o t h e r a p y t o k e e p y o u r d i s t a n c e from t h e idea of p e r s o n a l evil. N e v e r t h e l e s s , w h a t w e d o h a s c o n s e q u e n c e s , a n d w e all c a r r y t h e guilt a n d pay t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s for w h a t e v e r h a r m w e d o t o o t h e r s , even w h e n w e act b e c a u s e o f a n e n t a n g l e m e n t , o r b e c a u s e o f w h a t o u r g r o u p believes. Question: T h a t ' s s o m e t h i n g I like very m u c h a b o u t y o u r work, y o u r r e s p e c t . You r e s p e c t individual differences t h a t we usually t h i n k of as b e i n g g o o d or b a d . H e l l i n g e r : I'll tell y o u h o w I do it: I ' m always t h i n k i n g a b o u t w h a t a g o o d r e s o l u t i o n c o u l d b e . T h e r e ' s a saying in t h e Bible t h a t y o u k n o w the tree b y its fruit a n d t h e day b y its e n d . T h e i m p o r t a n t t h i n g is h o w it t u r n s o u t . If you really see, t h e n y o u see t h a t t h o s e w h o claim i n n o c e n c e d o n ' t really a c c o m p l i s h m u c h g o o d . Reality c o n t r a d i c t s o u r expectations constantly. T h e r e ' s a rule of t h u m b i n systemic t h e r a p y with respect t o g o o d a n d evil: It's usually t h e o p p o s i t e of w h a t p e o p l e tell y o u . I've s e l d o m seen an e x c e p t i o n . In t h e constellations in w h i c h t h e father is p r e s e n t e d as t h e b a d o n e , y o u a u t o m a t i c a l l y look for the m o t h e r ' s destructivity a n d e n t a n g l e -

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merit. W h e n the m o t h e r is presented as being t h e b a d o n e , you immediately begin to look at the father. Question: In G e r m a n y , during the N a z i period, the p e o p l e were completely without critical j u d g m e n t and suspicion. T h e y just w e n t along like sheep. I ' m n o t saying that I would have d o n e any b e t t e r u n d e r t h e same circumstances, b u t that's just w h a t makes it so h a r d for m e : H o w do I decide w h e n to trust s o m e authority a n d to go along, a n d w h e n to d o u b t and resist? H e l l i n g e r : I think there's a basic error in Western thinking. We think that individuals have the power to choose and shape their fates, b u t there are m a n y powerful forces influencing us that we c a n ' t control, forces that impinge on o u r individual freedom of choice—-historical forces, for example. T h i n k a b o u t the changes in the E a s t e r n bloc countries. N o single individual m a d e that h a p p e n , n o t even Gorbachev. It was a powerful historical process that swept up millions of people, and it changed their lives regardless of w h e t h e r they s u p p o r t e d it or opposed it. W h a t we u n d e r s t a n d to be destructive or evil is also such a force, catching people up and sweeping t h e m along. Evil serves s o m e t h i n g b e y o n d o u r grasp and control. Question: But what a b o u t personal responsibility? D o e s the force of destiny remove our personal responsibility? Hellinger: Are you asking psychotherapeutically or morally? W h e n you judge someone to be personally responsible, you imply that t h e p e r s o n should or could have d o n e s o m e t h i n g different, a n d that if he or she h a d , things would have t u r n e d out better. You imply t h a t you k n o w w h a t the p e r s o n should have d o n e . T h a t ' s a morally s u p e rior stance that has no therapeutic value. If you ask t h e q u e s t i o n therapeutically, t h e n it's better to help people find a resolution t h a t heals, or to p u t right what's gone wrong. If you ask the moralistic question, you focus your attention on the past, where there's no freedom of choice at all. T h e therapeutic question focuses attention on t h e present, where s o m e corrective action m a y still be possible. Question: So that m e a n s that we're controlled by fate a n d have no free choice a n d no responsibility at all. Hellinger: You argue a very extreme position. H a s that b e e n y o u r actual experience, or are you raising a hypothetical red herring?

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Obviously, we c a n influence h o w things t u r n o u t , a n d we are r e s p o n s i b l e for w h a t w e d o , even w h e n w e ' r e c a u g h t u p i n s o m e t h i n g we c a n ' t c o n t r o l . Still, we have f r e e d o m of choice only in t h e smaller t h i n g s . T h e c o n s e q u e n c e s o f o u r actions for o u r r e l a t i o n s h i p systems a n d t h e larger w h o l e r e m a i n o u r responsibility. T h a t ' s t h e responsibility t h a t really m a t t e r s . T h o s e c o n s e q u e n c e s r e m a i n w h e t h e r o r n o t w e feel p e r s o n a l guilt. T h e q u e s t i o n i s only w h e t h e r o r n o t w e have t h e c o u r a g e t o look h o n e s t l y a t w h a t w e d o a n d a t w h a t t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s really are. Q u e s t i o n : I t h i n k t h a t responsibility c a n only be p e r s o n a l l y defined, t h a t o n l y a n individual c a n b e r e s p o n s i b l e . You c a n ' t m a k e h i s t o r y or societies responsible for w h a t individuals d o . Hellinger: Yes, an individual is personally responsible w h e n he or she is free. B u t w h e n individuals are c a u g h t up in a great flow of events, t h e y a r e n ' t free. Individuals are personally r e s p o n s i b l e in t h e sense t h a t w h a t t h e y d o has c o n s e q u e n c e s — p e r h a p s m o r e for o t h e r s t h a n for t h e m s e l v e s — b u t free choice is often very limited. You c a r r y t h e systemic responsibility for t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s of w h a t y o u do even if y o u d i d n ' t freely c h o o s e y o u r actions.

ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES
Question: S o you w o u l d n ' t c o n d e m n t h e c o n c e n t r a t i o n c a m p g u a r d s — o r officers, for t h a t m a t t e r — w h o sent t h o u s a n d s of Jews to t h e gas c h a m b e r s ? Hellinger: O n the contrary! I d o c o n d e m n t h e m . T h e y c o m m i t t e d terrible c r i m e s against h u m a n i t y , a n d they m u s t a c c e p t t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s of t h e i r actions. N e v e r t h e l e s s , they w e r e e n t a n g l e d , c a u g h t u p i n s o m e t h i n g larger t h a n they w e r e . H o l d i n g t h e m r e s p o n s i b l e for their a c t i o n s , a n d , at the s a m e t i m e , seeing t h a t they were c a u g h t up in a far greater evil, is different from m o r a l l y j u d g ing t h e m t o b e evil p e r s o n s — a n d feeling morally s u p e r i o r t o t h e m . You m u s t d e c i d e w h e t h e r you are t h i n k i n g morally, legally, or systemically. All d e e d s of great evil are d o n e by p e o p l e w h o t h i n k t h a t they're b e t t e r t h a n t h e o t h e r s i n s o m e w a y — a n d b e c a u s e t h o s e w h o j u d g e t h e m also t h i n k t h a t they themselves are b e t t e r , they, t o o , are in d a n g e r of d o i n g evil. F o r e x a m p l e , t h e secret police in t h e f o r m e r E a s t G e r m a n y d i d terrible things. N o w t h e y ' r e b e i n g j u d g e d b y

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their victims, b u t t h e p e o p l e w h o are d e n o u n c i n g t h e m are i n great d a n g e r o f b e c o m i n g like t h e m . T h e spying c o n t i n u e s , a n d t h e s n o o p i n g a n d fear. It's just that o t h e r p e o p l e are d o i n g i t now. T h e p r e v i o u s victims are n o w t h e p e r p e t r a t o r s , a n d t h e y n o w t h i n k they k n o w better-—just like the secret police did earlier. T h e evil c o n t i n ues unabated. A s s u m i n g any position of m o r a l r i g h t e o u s n e s s a n d a c t i n g as if we k n o w w h a t ' s right for o t h e r s always causes injury to t h e larger systemic orders. Question: W h e n you w o r k e d w i t h B e n o , you said t h a t his father was a m u r d e r e r b e c a u s e he sent B e n o ' s r e t a r d e d b r o t h e r to an instit u t i o n d u r i n g t h e T h i r d R e i c h . If we follow w h a t y o u ' r e saying, it s e e m s t o m e t h a t B e n o ' s father w a s n ' t a m u r d e r e r . H e d i d n ' t kill t h e boy, the N a z i s d i d . He was a victim of c i r c u m s t a n c e — j u s t like t h e child. W h a t I m e a n is, in a certain historical s i t u a t i o n , he was c a u g h t up in a n d w e n t a l o n g with the cultural m o r a l s a n d p u t his s o n in a h o m e . T h a t ' s different from the way you d e s c r i b e d it—as m u r d e r . I t s e e m s i n c o n s i s t e n t to call it m u r d e r . H e l l i n g e r (to the group): Pay a t t e n t i o n to h o w this q u e s t i o n affects y o u . It's a w e a k e n i n g i n t e r v e n t i o n , b e c a u s e it r o b s t h e s i t u a t i o n of its s e r i o u s n e s s . H e ' s inviting us to d e b a t e ethical issues. W h e n I d e s c r i b e d t h e m a n as a m u r d e r e r , I was d e s c r i b i n g t h e effect his actions h a d on his family system. I w a s n ' t j u d g i n g h i m to be p e r s o n ally evil. Obviously, he was c a u g h t up in t h e t i m e s , b u t it m a k e s no difference for o u r w o r k w h a t his m o t i v a t i o n was. T h e child is d e a d . T h a t ' s w h a t w e ' r e c o n c e r n e d with, t h e effect o f his d e a t h o n B e n o . It's a m a t t e r of life a n d d e a t h . It h a s weight. T h e b o y w a s asked to give up his life in the interests of t h e family. T h a t ' s a great sacrifice. W h e n an injustice of that m a g n i t u d e h a p p e n s , t h e r e ' s a p r e s s u r e in the family for s o m e o n e else t o c o m p e n s a t e . T h a t ' s w h a t B e n o w a s d o i n g w i t h o u t k n o w i n g it. W h e n a father kills o n e of his c h i l d r e n , even if t h e r e are e x t e n u ating c i r c u m s t a n c e s , t h e child i s still d e a d . B o t h h e a n d t h e o t h e r m e m b e r s of t h e family have to live with t h a t fact a n d with its c o n s e q u e n c e s . R e c o g n i z i n g t h e father's e n t a n g l e m e n t s d o e s n ' t c h a n g e t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s . If that were t h e case, t h e victim w o u l d have to c a r r y all o f t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s o f t h e e n t a n g l e m e n t a n d t h e p e r p e t r a tor n o n e . T h a t ' s crazy! H o l d i n g p e o p l e r e s p o n s i b l e for their actions is not the same as judging them to be good or b a d people.

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UNDERSTANDING THE PRINCIPLES OF HELPING
Q u e s t i o n : W h e n s o m e o n e raises a large issue, s o m e t i m e s you answer with a single sentence and t h e n move on to s o m e o n e else. A n d t h e n you m a y c o m e back to the same t h e m e a couple of days later. H e l l i n g e r : Giving up wanting to help or to rescue people is essential if you sincerely respect t h e m . T h e r e ' s an i m p o r t a n t ancient discovery that helps us in this: O n e can act t h r o u g h deliberate " n o n a c t i n g . " Actively being present w i t h o u t intentionally acting creates a collected force acting t h r o u g h n o n a c t i o n . N o n a c t i o n isn't withdrawal or holding yourself back. H o l d i n g b a c k d o e s n ' t b r i n g anything good at all. Lao-tzu described the principle of n o n a c t i o n beautifully in " T a o te C h i n g . "

The

Teacher

Resting in action, not acting, Teaching, not talking, Before him, all beings are present. Not withholding, he gives himself to those who come, Not possessing them, he convinces, Not holding them, he touches them. Not remaining after his work is finished, He leaves them free. Not clinging to them, He is not abandoned. W h e n the therapist actively holds what he sees within himself w i t h o u t saying it, t h e n what the therapist sees will often occur to the client. S o m e t i m e s it's easier for a client to find resolution w h e n the therapist actively does nothing. N o n a c t i o n is very difficult to carry o u t actively, b u t it leaves the client free to discover. In any case, therapists have no control over what clients do with their interventions. I once got to thinking about the story of the rich y o u n g m a n w h o went away after talking to Jesus, a n d I c a m e to the conclusion that it's a good m o d e l for therapy. T h e therapist m u s t respect the client's freedom to leave w i t h o u t being c h a n g e d . It's a m a t t e r of having a

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f u n d a m e n t a l r e s p e c t for individual f r e e d o m — i n c l u d i n g t h e f r e e d o m t o fail a n d t h e f r e e d o m t o stay stuck. G o o d t h e r a p y has t h e quality o f b e i n g p r e s e n t i n relationships w i t h o u t i n t e n t i o n a n d w i t h o u t s p e cific goals. T h a t is, up to a certain p o i n t , we m u s t relinquish all o u r a t t e m p t s t o influence t h e client. T h a t k i n d o f p r e s e n c e creates t h e e m p t y s p a c e i n w h i c h healing c a n occur. E v e r y t h i n g b e y o n d t h e m i n i m u m n e c e s s a r y t o get c h a n g e m o v i n g w e a k e n s t h e client. I n therapy, less is usually m o r e . Petra: S o m e t i m e s I feel like I c a n do t h e r a p y until I d r o p d e a d , a n d n o t h i n g really h a p p e n s . Hellinger: Petra: . . . until y o u d r o p d e a d ?

Yes, a n d n o t h i n g really h a p p e n s . . . You're stuck in y o u r s e l f - i m p o r t a n c e .

H e l l i n g e r (Gently): Petra:

It's very i m p o r t a n t t o m e t o h e l p w h e n p e o p l e are i n p a i n .

H e l l i n g e r : I'll tell y o u a little story t h a t exposes w h a t ' s b e h i n d your feeling. B u t I n e e d to w a r n y o u t h a t t h e s t o r y has very serious c o n s e q u e n c e s if you really u n d e r s t a n d it. Belief A man told how he had overheard two people discussing how Jesus would have reacted if, after he told the sick man, "Rise up, take your bed and go home," the sick man had answered, "But I don't want to." One of the two then said, "Jesus probably would have been silent a while, then he would have turned to his disciples and said to them, ' H e does God a greater honor than I d o . ' " Question: M y b r o t h e r ' s children are all a d o p t e d . T h e y all c o m e from different families a n d o n e of t h e c h i l d r e n is n o t d o i n g well at all. H o w c a n I h e l p t h e m ? H e l l i n g e r : A t t h e m o m e n t , y o u c a n h e l p m o s t i f y o u leave t h e p r o b l e m w h e r e it is. T h e y ' l l find their o w n r e s o l u t i o n s w i t h o u t y o u r b e c o m i n g involved. Question: C a n ' t I m e d i a t e , I m e a n , if t h e t i m i n g ' s right?

Hellinger: A therapist in o n e of my w o r k s h o p s h a d a d a u g h t e r w h o m a r r i e d a s c h i z o p h r e n i c m a n in spite of h e r family's o b j e c t i o n s ,

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and the couple now have a number of children. At one time, the mother and her daughter were in constant conflict with each other, which is an especially difficult situation for a therapist. I suggested to her, "No contact for two years. Leave your daughter in peace for two years." I received a letter from this therapist two years later. She had just visited her daughter for the first time in two years, and they got along very well. Question: dren yet. I haven't said anything to my brother about the chil-

H e l l i n g e r : Some people just can't be stopped from throwing the torch of good deeds into the haystack of the world (laughter). A man told me a story of two friends. One became ill, and his friend kept watch the whole night long. In the morning, the one who was ill had recovered, but one who was watching died. If your brother's children need your help, they'll come to you, or they'll let you know in some way what they need. In the meantime, you can practice being present without acting. If you succeed, you'll have a completely different understanding of help. T h e most common error that would-be helpers make is that they do more than the others really want or can assimilate. Here's a story that may help you understand how to help them.
The Healing

In the land of Aram—where Syria is today—there once lived an old general who was known wide and far for his courage and strength in battle. One day, this old man became ill and could not have contact with any other people, not even his own wife. He had leprosy. He heard from a slave that there was a man in her land who could heal the illness. So the old general gathered a great column of his followers, 10 talents of silver, 6,000 pieces of gold, 10 ceremonial robes, and a letter of introduction personally written by the king, and set out to find this great healer. After a long journey and many adventures, he reached the house in which the healer lived and he called out to be let in. He stood there with all of his followers, with his treasures and with the letter of introduction written by his king, and he waited. But no one noticed him. He became impatient and somewhat nervous. A servant opened a little side door, approached him, and said, "My master instructed me to tell you to wash in the river Jordan and you will be healed."

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T h e general thought he was being made a fool of. "What?" he exclaimed. "That's supposed to be a healer? T h e very least he could have done was to come himself, call on his G o d , do a long and complex ritual, and then touch every sore on my body with his hand. T h a t might have helped me. But no, this quack tells me I'm supposed to bathe in the river Jordan." He turned away in rage and went home. N o w that's really the end of the story, but since it is a fairy tale, it has to have a good ending. So, . . . . As the old general was making his way h o m e , the slave came to him again and spoke soothingly to him, "Dearest Master, if the healer had required something extraordinary of you, you'd have done it. If he had required that you sail in a ship to far lands, that you worship strange gods, that you give up your wealth and go into contemplation for many years, you would certainly have done it. But he only asked of you that you do something ordinary." T h e general graciously allowed himself to be convinced by her. He m a d e his way to the river Jordan, still very cross indeed, and bathed sullenly in its waters, quite against his better judgment. Against his expectations, a miracle happened, and he was cured. When he arrived home again, his wife was amazed to see him healthy and wanted to know all about what had happened. " O h , " he said, " I ' m feeling pretty good, but other than that, nothing special happened."

WORKING WITH R E S O L U T I O N S INSTEAD OF PROBLEMS
Q u e s t i o n : Quite often when I work in groups and have clients set up the problem in a constellation, nothing happens. H e l l i n g e r : I can tell you why. You're not seeing. When you look at a problem as a problem, you've got a problem. Seeing only works when you search for a solution. When you say you have a client "set up a problem in a constellation," you're already caught in a definition of the problem, or in some diagnosis. Try asking yourself, "What needs to happen? Where does the client want to get to, and what does he or she need to do to get there?" Then you can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and you can swim with the current. You don't need a problem to find a resolution. Of course, it's an honored tradition in psychotherapy to treat problems as if understanding them could cause their solutions. But it's very easy to get stuck with the problem and ignore the solution.

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F r o m a systemic p o i n t of view, p r o b l e m s are unsuccessful a t t e m p t s t o love, a n d t h e love t h a t m a i n t a i n s t h e p r o b l e m c a n b e r e d i r e c t e d to resolve it. T h e t h e r a p e u t i c task is, first of all, to find t h e p o i n t at w h i c h t h e client loves. W h e n I've f o u n d t h a t p o i n t , t h e n I have t h e r a p e u t i c leverage. By helping t h e client find an a p p r o p r i a t e a n d m a t u r e way t o love, the p r o b l e m dissolves, a n d t h e s a m e love t h a t m a i n t a i n e d t h e p r o b l e m solves it. Question: I s i t jealousy w h e n a w o m a n c o m p l a i n s t h a t h e r h u s b a n d d o e s n ' t give himself c o m p l e t e l y i n t h e m a r r i a g e b e c a u s e h e h a s n ' t s e p a r a t e d from his m o t h e r ? H e l l i n g e r (long pause): W o u l d it h e l p if she said, 'I respect y o u r love for y o u r m o t h e r " ? (To the group) T h a t ' s a g o o d e x a m p l e of a switch of focus from a p r o b l e m to a r e s o l u t i o n . T h e creative force d o e s n ' t w o r k in relation to p r o b l e m s , b u t only in relation to resolutions. T h e m o v e m e n t t o w a r d a solution is love, a n d seeing only serves g o o d i n t e n t i o n s a n d love. W h e n I c o n f r o n t a p e r s o n w i t h a p r o b l e m or d e s c r i b e it to t h a t p e r s o n , I ' m in a o n e - u p position, b u t we search for r e s o l u t i o n t o g e t h e r as e q u a l s . A n o t h e r difficulty arises w h e n , after finding a solution, s o m e o n e also w a n t s to have a t h e o r y a b o u t it. You t e n d to lose t h e solution w h e n you t h e o r i z e a b o u t it. A t h e o r y is always less t h a n t h e e x p e r i e n c e it a t t e m p t s to explain, a n d it c a n ' t convey the w h o l e n e s s of the e x p e r i e n c e . W h e n s o m e t h i n g h a p p e n s a n d I t r y to explain it w i t h a theory, I w i n d up w i t h only t h e tip of the iceberg. T h a t ' s t h e r e a s o n I've slowly m o v e d to t h e position of trying to avoid theory. I n s t e a d of w o r k i n g w i t h a t h e o r y a b o u t h o w things are or s h o u l d b e , I have a large collection of experiences w i t h real p e o p l e , a n d I w o r k h a r d to d e s c r i b e accurately different k i n d s of a c t u a l situations a n d to a d d t h e m t o m y collection. T h a t way, I ' m always o p e n t o n e w exp e r i e n c e s . I d o n ' t n e e d t o w o r r y a b o u t seeing s o m e t h i n g t h a t c o n tradicts my t h e o r y , a n d I d o n ' t n e e d to limit my i n t e r v e n t i o n s a c c o r d i n g t o w h a t m y t h e o r y allows, t o prove t o myself t h a t t h e y ' r e right or w r o n g . I'm free to see w h e t h e r or n o t they help. If s o m e t h i n g n e w a n d u n e x p e c t e d h a p p e n s , t h e n I've got a n o t h e r e x p e r i e n c e for my collection. Question: I ' m i m p r e s s e d b y t h e way y o u listen very closely t o w h a t p e o p l e say, b u t you stop t h e m t h e m i n u t e y o u n o t i c e t h a t

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they're getting caught up in a description of their p r o b l e m . T h a t ' s very i m p o r t a n t . H e l l i n g e r : Yes. W h e n people describe a p r o b l e m , they w a n t to convince you to accept their world view. T h e i r world view justifies their p r o b l e m . T h a t ' s a powerful pull. T h a t ' s why you have to interr u p t t h e description of p r o b l e m s quickly. If you d o n ' t , you get sucked into their belief system. O n c e you're c a u g h t in their belief system, it's difficult to see anything outside of it, a n d t h e n you c a n ' t help t h e m to find a resolution. A w o m a n once asked m e , " D o you work with hypnosis?" I answered, " S o m e t i m e s . " She said, "I have a client h e r e w h o was treated by a psychiatrist w h o gave h e r a posthypnotic suggestion that is d a m a g i n g for her. S h e needs s o m e o n e to hypnotize h e r again in o r d e r to find o u t exactly what the posthypnotic suggestion was, and to give h e r a n o t h e r posthypnotic suggestion to i n t e r r u p t t h e first o n e . " I said, " T h a t ' s crazy. It's a delusion. I d o n ' t work that way." S t o p p i n g is m o s t i m p o r t a n t in situations like that. You've got to stop descriptions of p r o b l e m s at the p o i n t at which you feel a p r e s sure to accept a crazy picture of the world as if it were reality. If it were a correct description, the p r o b l e m would be solved. W h e n t h e p r o b l e m isn't resolved, t h e description is, by definition, w r o n g . As a rule, p r o b l e m s are described in such a way as to avoid a solution. T h a t ' s why I d o n ' t n e e d to hear all of the descriptions of p r o b l e m s from people in a g r o u p ; they're certainly false. If they h a d the correct description, they w o u l d n ' t be talking a b o u t their p r o b lems a n y m o r e . T h e correct description of a p r o b l e m contains t h e resolution to t h e p r o b l e m . Question: I often just d o n ' t trust myself to stop s o m e o n e .

H e l l i n g e r : W h e n you're working in a g r o u p , you can usually t r u s t the g r o u p to know whether what's being said is relevant or not. If t h e g r o u p gets restless, it's a sign that it's n o t relevant. T h e n I stop the p e r s o n . If you're working with individuals, you m i g h t try gently telling t h e m that you notice that you're beginning to lose interest, a n d ask t h e m if they also notice a change. See if they can get interested in their process. T h a t ' s a way of stopping t h e m that is a little less harsh.

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Question: I don't understand what you mean by "the correct description of a problem." I think that there are many alternative descriptions of a problem, different ways of understanding it, and that many of them might be helpful. Hellinger: What's fight isn't a matter of choice; it either works or it doesn't. T h e "correct description" is the first one that offers a solution. You only need one. But finding a g o o d solution doesn't mean that the client will implement it. It's important to understand that w h e n people go d o w n a certain path, for example, a path of suffering, they go down this path with love, even if their love is distorted or blind. You must not intervene without their permission.
The Wise Crack

Somewhere far in the South Seas, as dawn was breaking, a little monkey climbed to the top of a palm tree and, swinging a very heavy coconut in his hand, began to shout just as loud as loud could be. A camel, hearing the noise, came a little closer, looked up into the tree, and asked, "What's the matter?" "I'm waiting for the queen of the elephants. I'm going to crack this coconut over her head so she won't be able to see or think." The camel thought, "But what's really the matter?" At midday, a lion came by, heard the noise the little monkey was making, looked up at him, and asked, "Is there something you need?" "Yes," yelled the little monkey, "I need the queen of the elephants. I'm going to crack her on the head with this coconut and split her skull right open." The lion thought, "But what does he really need?" In the afternoon, a rhinoceros came by and became curious about the little monkey, and looked up and asked, "So what's your problem?" "I'm waiting for the queen of the elephants. I'm going to crack her on the head with this coconut until she can't see or hear." The rhino thought, "He really does have a problem." In the evening, the queen of the elephants herself came. She scratched her back on the palm. She reached up into the branches to pick a few leaves with her trunk. Above her, it was just as still as still could be. When she looked up and saw the little monkey, she asked: "Do you need anything?" The monkey replied, "No, nothing at all. It's true, I was yelling a little bit earlier today, but surely you didn't take that seriously, did you?" And the queen of the elephants thought, "He really does

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n e e d s o m e t h i n g . " T h e n she saw her herd in the distance and s t o m p e d off. T h e little m o n k e y thought quietly. After a while, he c l i m b e d d o w n with the c o c o n u t and cracked it on a rock until it broke o p e n . T h e n he drank the c o c o n u t milk and ate the c o c o n u t meat.

UNDERSTANDING "RESISTANCE" AS MISPLACED LOVE
Q u e s t i o n : You d o n ' t seem to interpret resistance at all. I was trained to try to identify the resistance as quickly as possible, b u t you d o n ' t seem to care. H e l l i n g e r : It's gradually b e c o m e clear to me t h a t clients have a s t r o n g t e n d e n c y to use their s t r e n g t h to h o l d on to their p r o b l e m s a n d to avoid solutions. T h a t has to do with t h e fact t h a t p s y c h o logical p r o b l e m s , u n h a p p i n e s s , or s y m p t o m s give us an i n n e r a s s u r a n c e t h a t we'll b e allowed t o c o n t i n u e t o b e l o n g t o o u r g r o u p . Suffering is t h e p r o o f o u r child soul n e e d s that we're n o t guilty with respect to o u r family. It secures a n d p r o t e c t s o u r right to b e l o n g to o u r family. Every u n h a p p i n e s s that's c a u s e d by systemic e n t a n g l e m e n t is a c c o m p a n i e d by the d e e p c o n t e n t m e n t of k n o w ing t h a t we b e l o n g . T h e r e f o r e , finding solutions to o u r p r o b l e m s is t h r e a t e n i n g a n d u n p l e a s a n t . It carries t h e i n h e r e n t fear of losing o u r belonging, of feelings of guilt a n d betrayal, of falling o u t of favor, of breaking faith with t h e g r o u p to which we belong. W h e n we strive for a solution, ' we imagine that we break the family rules that we've obeyed up until n o w a n d we feel guilty. Resolution and h a p p i n e s s seem d a n gerous b e c a u s e we believe they'll m a k e us lonely. P r o b l e m s a n d u n h a p p i n e s s , on the other h a n d , give a feeling of belonging. Often this kind of belonging is m o r e i m p o r t a n t to people t h a n h a p p i n e s s . Because of this dynamic, solutions are often a c c o m p a n i e d by guilt, a n d change requires t h e courage to face that guilt. W h e n therapists feel pity for that kind of suffering, they see only o n e side of t h e situation. It's very i m p o r t a n t for helpers to u n d e r s t a n d that systemically caused suffering is always a c c o m p a n i e d by feelings of security a n d i n n o c e n c e . Asking people to change is asking t h e m to give up i n n o c e n c e .

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DISTINGUISHING DIFFERENT KINDS OF FEELINGS
Question: I've always w o r k e d to get p e o p l e into their feelings m o r e , b u t y o u often stop p e o p l e from expressing w h a t t h e y ' r e feeling. W h e n y o u do t h a t , it usually h a s a very powerful effect, a n d t h e client m a k e s s o m e real m o v e m e n t . C a n y o u say s o m e t h i n g a b o u t w h a t ' s g o i n g on? Hellinger: I m a k e distinctions a m o n g four different kinds of feelings: p r i m a r y feelings, s e c o n d a r y feelings, systemic feelings, a n d meta-feelings. T h e m a i n difference b e t w e e n p r i m a r y a n d s e c o n d a r y feelings i s t h a t p r i m a r y feelings s u p p o r t c o n s t r u c t i v e action, while s e c o n d a r y feelings c o n s u m e , e n e r g y t h a t c o u l d otherwise s u p p o r t c h a n g e . F e e l ings t h a t p r o d u c e effective action s t r e n g t h e n p e o p l e , while feelings t h a t h i n d e r effective a c t i o n , or justify n o t acting, or s u b s t i t u t e for effective a c t i o n all w e a k e n p e o p l e . I call t h o s e feelings t h a t s u p p o r t c o n s t r u c t i v e a c t i o n primary feelings, while t h e o t h e r s are secondary feelings. P r i m a r y feelings are simple a n d d o n ' t r e q u i r e e l a b o r a t e d e s c r i p tions. T h e y ' r e i n t e n s e , w i t h o u t d r a m a , w i t h o u t exaggeration. F o r this r e a s o n , a l t h o u g h t h e y ' r e exciting a n d i n t e n s e , they b r i n g a sense o f a s s u r a n c e a n d c a l m . O f c o u r s e , t h e r e are really d r a m a t i c situations, a n d t h e n d r a m a t i c e m o t i o n s are a p p r o p r i a t e ; for e x a m p l e , t h e difference b e t w e e n t h e fear soldiers feel in a c o m b a t z o n e , a n d t h e fear we feel in a b a d d r e a m . M o s t feelings t h a t are dealt w i t h in t h e r a p y are s e c o n d a r y feelings. T h e i r p r i m a r y function i s t o convince o t h e r s t h a t o n e c a n ' t take effective a c t i o n , so they n e e d to be d r a m a t i c a n d exaggerated. W h e n y o u ' r e in t h e grip of s e c o n d a r y feelings, you feel weak, a n d t h e o t h e r s p r e s e n t feel a n e e d to h e l p . If t h e e m o t i o n s are d r a m a t i c e n o u g h , t h e w o u l d - b e h e l p e r s d o n ' t n o t i c e t h a t there's really n o t h ing t h a t c a n b e d o n e i n t h e situation. W h e n p e o p l e are clinging t o s e c o n d a r y feelings, t h e y m u s t avoid looking at reality. Reality interferes w i t h the i n n e r images n e c e s s a r y t o m a i n t a i n t h e s e c o n d a r y feelings a n d t o avoid c h a n g e . W h e n p e o p l e w h o are h o l d i n g o n t o s e c o n d a r y feelings ' w o r k ' i n t h e r a p y , t h e y often close their eyes a n d w i t h d r a w i n t o their private w o r l d s . T h e y a n s w e r different q u e s t i o n s t h a n the o n e s you ask, b u t usually

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d o n ' t notice that they do. It helps to r e m i n d t h e m to o p e n their eyes ami to look at the world. I tell t h e m , " L o o k h e r e . L o o k at m e . " If they can o p e n their eyes a n d really see, and still stay with t h e feeling they're having, t h e n it's usually a p r i m a r y feeling. B u t if they lose the feeling as soon as they o p e n their eyes and look, t h e n you know they were caught in secondary feelings. W h e n p r i m a r y feelings do emerge in therapy or in life, everyone p r e s e n t naturally feels compassion, b u t also feels free to r e s p o n d as is appropriate. A p e r s o n with p r i m a r y feelings r e m a i n s strong a n d capable of acting effectively. Because p r i m a r y feelings lead to a definite goal, they're n o t long lasting. T h e y c o m e , do their job, a n d t h e n go again. T h e y take no d e t o u r s . T h e y ' r e resolved by a p p r o p r i a t e expression and effective, appropriate action. S e c o n d a r y feelings, on the other h a n d , last longer and get worse, rather t h a n better, by being expressed. T h a t ' s the m a i n r e a s o n why therapies that encourage the expression of secondary feelings take so long. T h e r e ' s also another c o m m o n misconception a b o u t t h e loss of control that I want to correct. T h i s is something I learned from Primal T h e r a p y . M a n y people have the idea that, w h e n they give in to their n e e d or to an u r g e n t feeling, they lose control. B u t that isn't t r u e . W h e n you give in to a p r i m a r y feeling, for example, to t h e p r i m a r y p a i n of separation, justified rage, deep longing, or reaching out, a n d w h e n you completely trust the feeling, t h e n there's a n a t u ral control in the feeling a n d in the need itself. P r i m a r y feelings only go as far as is g o o d . You w o n ' t do anything shameful if you're feeling a p r i m a r y feeling, b e c a u s e t h e feeling itself has a very precise s h a m e b o u n d a r y . It's extremely rare that anyone is m o c k e d or s c o r n e d for displaying a p r i m a r y feeling. On t h e contrary, other people usually are profoundly m o v e d a n d e n t e r into t h e experience. T h a t ' s only t r u e of p r i m a r y feelings. S e c o n d a r y feelings d o n ' t have t h e s a m e s h a m e b o u n d a r y , and it's quite possible to m a k e a fool of yourself w h e n expressing secondary feelings. You c a n ' t trust s e c o n d a r y feelings to take care of you. S e c o n d a r y feelings do have a certain fascination. T h e y ' r e d r a m a t i c , exciting, and give an illusion of being alive. But t h e price of such aliveness is that p e o p l e m u s t stay weak and helpless. E x p l a n a t i o n s or i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s also distract a client. R a t h e r t h a n effectively leading p e o p l e toward their p r i m a r y feelings, they

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tend to keep t h e m caught in images that maintain the secondary feelings. Grief, for e x a m p l e , c a n be p r i m a r y or s e c o n d a r y . P r i m a r y grief is a powerful p a i n of s e p a r a t i o n . If we s u r r e n d e r to t h e p a i n , allowing it to do its w o r k , t h e grief eventually finds its o w n c o m p l e t i o n , a n d we are free to b e g i n anew. B u t often p e o p l e d o n ' t s u r r e n d e r to grief, shifting it instead to s e c o n d a r y grief, self-pity, or a t t e m p t s to get p i t y from o t h e r s . Such s e c o n d a r y grief c a n last an entire lifetime, p r o h i b i t i n g a clean a n d loving s e p a r a t i o n a n d d e n y i n g t h e fact of loss. It's a p o o r s u b s t i t u t e for p r i m a r y grief. P r i m a r y guilt leads to ameliorative action. If we a c c e p t o u r guilt, w e n a t u r a l l y d o w h a t ' s b o t h possible a n d n e c e s s a r y t o m a k e a m e n d s , t o p u t t h e situation right, a n d w e live with w h a t e v e r c a n n o t be c h a n g e d . S e c o n d a r y guilt feelings t r a n s f o r m a c t i o n into worry. T h e y d o n ' t m o t i v a t e effective a c t i o n for c h a n g e ; in fact, t h e y p r e v e n t c h a n g e . P e o p l e can w o r r y a g o o d p r o b l e m for years, like a d o g worries a b o n e , but nothing changes. T h e y t o r m e n t themselves and o t h e r s , b u t t h e r e ' s n o p r o d u c t i v e c h a n g e . P e o p l e w h o n e e d t o avoid positive c h a n g e for s o m e r e a s o n m u s t c o n v e r t their p r i m a r y guilt i n t o s e c o n d a r y guilty feelings. T h e desire for retaliation also c a n b e p r i m a r y o r s e c o n d a r y . P r i m a r y retaliation allows reconciliation, a n d it's a p p r o p r i a t e w h e n i t frees b o t h t h e w o u n d e d p a r t y a n d t h e w o u n d e r . S e c o n d a r y retaliation m a i n t a i n s t h e injury a n d systemic i m b a l a n c e a n d p r e v e n t s r e s o lution. A n e x a m p l e i s t h e clan feuds that have b e e n t a k e n o n from p r e v i o u s g e n e r a t i o n s . T h e avengers feel t h e n e e d t o avenge w r o n g s t h e y h a v e n ' t suffered themselves, a n d their actions often are a i m e d a t p e r s o n s w h o have d o n e n o w r o n g . A n g e r h a s p r i m a r y a n d s e c o n d a r y forms. P r i m a r y a n g e r cleanses a r e l a t i o n s h i p , a n d passes w i t h o u t leaving scars. S e c o n d a r y a n g e r at s o m e o n e often follows o u r having d o n e s o m e t h i n g t o t h a t p e r s o n , w h o t h e n h a s r e a s o n t o b e a n g r y w i t h us. B y b e i n g a n g r y a t h i m o r h e r , we preempt t h e p e r s o n ' s anger. S e c o n d a r y a n g e r , like s e c o n d ary guilt feelings, is often an excuse for n o t acting. In r e l a t i o n s h i p s , s e c o n d a r y a n g e r is s o m e t i m e s u s e d to avoid asking for w h a t o n e w a n t s , as in, "You never n o t i c e w h e n I n e e d s o m e t h i n g . " A n o t h e r e x a m p l e is t h e m a n w h o felt that h e ' d e a r n e d a raise, b u t d i d n ' t get o n e . I n s t e a d of going to t h e b o s s a n d n e g o t i a t i n g a raise, he w e n t h o m e a n d b e c a m e e n r a g e d a t his wife a n d c h i l d r e n .

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W h e n suffering i s p r i m a r y , clients e n d u r e w h a t n e e d s t o b e e n d u r e d , a n d t h e n they b e g i n t o p i c k u p t h e pieces o f their lives a n d b e g i n again. W h e n suffering i s s e c o n d a r y , t h e y s t a r t a n o t h e r r o u n d of suffering. C o m p l a i n i n g , a b o u t s o m e t h i n g is usually a s e c o n d a r y d i s t o r t i o n of c o n s e n t i n g to w h a t is. T h e d i s t i n c t i o n b e t w e e n w h a t s t r e n g t h e n s a n d w h a t w e a k e n s also applies t o m a n y o t h e r areas, t o k n o w l e d g e a n d i n f o r m a t i o n , for e x a m p l e . You c a n ask yourself, " D o e s this k n o w l e d g e lead to r e s o l u t i o n , or d o e s it p r e v e n t it? D o e s this i n f o r m a t i o n s u p p o r t a c t i o n , or h i n d e r it? D o e s w h a t ' s going o n s t r e n g t h e n p e o p l e o r w e a k e n t h e m , s u p p o r t effective action for g o o d c h a n g e or h i n d e r it?" I ' m less i n t e r e s t e d in h e l p i n g p e o p l e to " g e t their feelings o u t " t h a n I am in c o n s t r u c t i v e c h a n g e . G e t t i n g feelings o u t s o m e t i m e s h e l p s , b u t i t also often o b s t r u c t s c h a n g e . My r e c o m m e n d a t i o n is for therapists to t r y to avoid w o r k i n g w i t h s e c o n d a r y feelings entirely, to distract t h e client's a t t e n t i o n , p e r h a p s by telling an a p p r o p r i a t e joke or by shifting t h e client's focus of a t t e n t i o n . M y i n t e n t i o n i s n o t t o c h a n g e clients' e x p e r i e n c e s , b u t t o g u i d e their a t t e n t i o n t o w a r d their p r i m a r y feelings, w h i c h are t h e p r e r e q u i s i t e s for finding their o w n resolutions. Question: T h e distinction b e t w e e n feelings t h a t w e a k e n a n d feelings t h a t s t r e n g t h e n is n e w to m e , a n d it fascinates m e . It's so simple. B u t I d o n ' t k n o w h o w t o tell w h e t h e r m y c r y i n g w e a k e n s m e o r frees m e t o d o s o m e t h i n g else. Hellinger: S t r e n g t h is recognized in a c e r t a i n e m o t i o n a l c o n t i n e n c e . D o y o u k n o w w h a t c o n t i n e n c e is? Question: H o l d i n g tight.

Hellinger: N o t exactly. You k n o w w h a t incontinence is, so c o n t i n e n c e is w h e n y o u d o n ' t m e s s in y o u r p a n t s . It isn't exactly t h e s a m e as h o l d i n g ; it h a s a quality of c o m p e t e n c e a n d s t r e n g t h . You c a n w a t c h h o w I w o r k w i t h feelings t h a t w e a k e n . You c a n l e a r n to recognize t h e m . T h e y have s o m e t h i n g m a n i p u l a t i v e ; t h e y ' r e a t t e m p t s to get s o m e o n e to do s o m e t h i n g , as if o n e c o u l d n ' t do it oneself. T h e y serve as justifications for n o t acting a n d as rationalizations for h o l d i n g o n t o the p r o b l e m . T h a t ' s the r e a s o n why y o u u s u ally c a n ' t do any effective work w i t h a client as l o n g as he or she is stuck in a s e c o n d a r y feeling.

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T h e third category of feelings are feelings that have b e e n t a k e n on from t h e system; t h a t is, w h e n w h a t o n e feels as o n e ' s o w n feeling is actually s o m e o n e else's feeling. It's s t r a n g e for m o s t p e o p l e to t h i n k that w h a t t h e y ' r e feeling isn't their o w n feeling, b u t s o m e b o d y else's. N e v e r t h e l e s s , strange as it s e e m s , it h a p p e n s a lot in t h e c o n stellations, a n d it's usually very easy to recognize. O n c e y o u ' v e r e c ognized it t h e r e , y o u b e g i n to see it in o t h e r situations as well. I W h e n e v e r you feel a feeling that belongs to s o m e o n e else, t h e n you're caught up in something that's not of your own making. T h a t ' s w h y y o u r a t t e m p t s to c h a n g e it usually fail. Question: I ' m very interested in this idea of e m o t i o n s t h a t are t a k e n o n from t h e system, b e c a u s e I've often h a d t h a t e x p e r i e n c e . S o m e t i m e s I b e c o m e e n r a g e d . T h e r e ' s s o m e t h i n g a b o u t t h e feeling t h a t ' s exaggerated a n d i n a p p r o p r i a t e . Afterwards, I always feel terrible, as if it w a s n ' t me w h o was angry. H e l l i n g e r : Yes, t h a t k i n d of a n g e r a n d rage is often associated w i t h an exaggerated systemic n e e d for justice. T h e n e e d for revenge is often t a k e n on from t h e system; trying to achieve justice for s o m e o n e in t h e p a s t . Feelings like t h a t are usually m u c h less i n t e n s e w h e n t h e injustices have b e e n d i r e c t e d at y o u . It's as if the identific a t i o n w i t h s o m e o n e o u t of your p a s t actually intensifies t h e feelings, just as d r e a m s intensify certain feelings. Question: with. T h o s e are t h e m o s t difficult feelings for m e t o deal

Hellinger: T h a t ' s clear. I n o r d e r t o b e able t o deal a p p r o p r i a t e l y w i t h feelings like t h a t , y o u n e e d to go t h r o u g h a p r o c e s s of i n n e r clarification, or purification. You n e e d to purify yourself from t h e systemic c o n t a m i n a t i o n t h a t d o e s n ' t a p p r o p r i a t e l y b e l o n g t o you. Question: I often feel h u r t b y p e o p l e , especially b y m y h u s b a n d . T h e h u r t c o m e s really fast, a n d I c a n ' t s e e m t o d o a n y t h i n g t o s t o p it from h a p p e n i n g . I've b e e n t r y i n g to get it u n d e r c o n t r o l for y e a r s , b u t I ' m still very easily h u r t . C o u l d t h a t b e a n a s s u m e d emotion? Hellinger: We'd have t o set u p t h e constellation t o b e c e r t a i n , b u t j u d g i n g from t h e way in w h i c h you d e s c r i b e it, it c o u l d very well b e . P e r h a p s y o u are identified with s o m e o n e w h o really was injured.

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T h e r e ' s also a f o u r t h c a t e g o r y of feelings I call meta-feelings. T h e s e feelings have an entirely different quality. T h e y are feelings or sensations w i t h o u t e m o t i o n s . T h e y ' r e p u r e , c o n c e n t r a t e d energy. C o u r a g e , humility (the willingness to a c c e p t t h e world as it is), serenity, r e m o r s e , w i s d o m , a n d d e e p satisfaction are e x a m p l e s of meta-feelings. T h e r e ' s also meta-love a n d m e t a - a g g r e s s i o n . An e x a m p l e of m e t a - a g g r e s s i o n m i g h t be w h a t a loving s u r g e o n e x p e r i e n c e s while o p e r a t i n g , or w h a t a t h e r a p i s t occasionally feels. T h e discipline n e c e s s a r y for m a k i n g n o n a b u s i v e , strategic i n t e r v e n tions is m e t a - a g g r e s s i o n . Strategic i n t e r v e n t i o n s d e m a n d a b s o l u t e -self-discipline on t h e p a r t of the t h e r a p i s t if t h e y ' r e truly to serve t h e n e e d s a n d interests of t h e client, a n d n o t to d e g e n e r a t e into abusive m a n i p u l a t i o n s , a n d they cost e n o r m o u s energy. A u t h e n t i c r e m o r s e is a meta-feeling. W h e n r e m o r s e is a u t h e n t i c , p e o p l e are c e n t e r e d i n themselves, a n d they k n o w w h a t ' s a p p r o p r i ate for t h e m . W h a t they t h e n do is i m m e d i a t e l y possible, a p p r o p r i ate, a n d effective. W h e n p e o p l e feel b a d b e c a u s e they're a b o u t t o d o s o m e t h i n g i n a p p r o p r i a t e for their souls, that's a meta-feeling. We m i g h t call it a c o n s c i e n c e of a h i g h e r order. S o m e t i m e s it's t h e only t h i n g t h a t keeps u s from g o i n g a l o n g w h e n o u r g r o u p i s c a u g h t u p i n s o m e t h i n g destructive. Feeling w h a t ' s a p p r o p r i a t e for souls also keeps us from living o u t a script t h a t we've i n h e r i t e d from o u r system. T h e script h a s an effect; it influences w h a t we do a n d e x p e r i e n c e , w h a t we believe a n d perceive, b u t it d o e s n ' t lead to t h e fulfillment of o u r o w n i n d i v i d u ality. O n t h e o t h e r h a n d , w h e n awareness o f m e t a - c o n s c i e n c e h a s b e e n d e v e l o p e d , there's a criterion for j u d g i n g w h a t ' s truly a p p r o p r i a t e . T h e n the limitations i m p o s e d b y t h e systemic d y n a m i c s a n d scripts gradually d i s a p p e a r . T h e c r o w n of all of t h e meta-feelings is w i s d o m . W i s d o m is associated with c o u r a g e , humility, a n d t h e energy of life. It's a m e t a feeling t h a t helps u s t o distinguish b e t w e e n w h a t really c o u n t s a n d w h a t d o e s n ' t . W i s d o m d o e s n ' t m e a n t h a t I k n o w a lot, b u t r a t h e r that I ' m able t o d e t e r m i n e w h a t ' s a p p r o p r i a t e t o t h e i m m e d i a t e situation a n d w h a t ' s n o t . I t tells m e w h a t m y p e r s o n a l integrity r e q u i r e s of me in every situation. W i s d o m is always related to a c t i o n . T h e actions of a wise p e r s o n are n o t d e d u c e d from p r i n ciples, b u t w h a t is r e q u i r e d by t h e situation is perceived directly. T h a t ' s w h y the b e h a v i o r of t h e truly wise is often a s u r p r i s e .

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W h e n meta-feelings a p p e a r , they're e x p e r i e n c e d as gifts. You c a n ' t m a k e t h e m h a p p e n ; they c o m e o n their o w n a s blessings. T h e y ' r e t h e r e w a r d for life experience—like r i p e n e d fruit. M e t a - l o v e is a f u n d a m e n t a l p r o p e r t y of the b o u n t y o f life t h a t we can feel in all areas of o u r lives, especially in relationships. M e t a love, in a d d i t i o n to p r i m a r y love, gives relationships s t r e n g t h a n d security, a n d is t h e s o u r c e of t r u e responsibility, t r u s t w o r t h i n e s s , a n d faithfulness.

CHOSEN SUFFERING A N D SUFFERING AT THE HANDS OF FATE
Q u e s t i o n : I b e l o n g to Alcoholics A n o n y m o u s a n d I feel very deeply t o u c h e d b y t h e a t m o s p h e r e o f o p e n n e s s a n d t r u s t a t t h e m e e t i n g s . All of the m e m b e r s have suffered a great d e a l . My q u e s tion is: C a n t h a t k i n d of b e i n g t o u c h e d h a p p e n in a healthy, h a p p y , joyful s e n s e , or d o e s it r e q u i r e s o m e kind of suffering in o r d e r to create a sense of c o m m u n i t y a n d belonging? H e l l i n g e r : Your q u e s t i o n s e e m s to c o n t a i n t h e answer, so I s u p p o s e y o u ' r e asking m e a b o u t s o m e t h i n g you already u n d e r s t a n d . I t d o e s s e e m to me t h a t that kind of c o m m u n i t y is n o t possible w i t h o u t s o m e d e g r e e of suffering a n d guilt. Suffering a n d guilt are p o w erful forces that b i n d c o m m u n i t i e s together. Question: B u t isn't t h e r e a t e m p t a t i o n to stay s t u c k in suffering in o r d e r to k e e p the feeling of c o m m u n i t y ? Hellinger: O f c o u r s e , b u t i n t e n t i o n a l suffering d o e s n ' t create c o m m u n i t y . O n l y suffering at t h e h a n d s of fate has t h e effect of g r a n t i n g s t r e n g t h a n d w i s d o m to those w h o go t h r o u g h it. Selfi n d u c e d o r n e u r o t i c suffering b r i n g s n o g o o d . T h a t ' s a n i m p o r t a n t p a r t o f t h e A A p r o g r a m , the nonintentionality. N o o n e t h e r e i s trying to c h a n g e a n y o n e else.

WORKING WITH FACTS RATHER THAN OPINIONS
Question: I set up my family of origin in o n e of y o u r s e m i n a r s a b o u t four years a g o , b u t this t i m e I o b s e r v e d h o w you w o r k w i t h what's in the background. Something went wrong in my mother's

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family. S h e lost h e r p a r e n t s very early a n d w e n t to live w i t h a very strict sister of h e r m o t h e r ' s . H e l l i n g e r : I g u a r d against every disrespectful d e s c r i p t i o n , a g a i n s t every a t t r i b u t i o n o f negative q u a l i t i e s , s u c h a s y o u r w o r d " s t r i c t . " C h a r a c t e r d e s c r i p t i o n s are i r r e l e v a n t . That_ level of information is distracting and confusing. By omitting such descript i o n s , t h e a c t u a l events i n p e o p l e ' s lives regain t h e i r i m p o r t a n c e . It's o n e of t h e negative influences of p s y c h o a n a l y s i s in o u r c u l t u r e that we lend m o r e i m p o r t a n c e to the interpretation of the events t h a n t o t h e e v e n t s t h e m s e l v e s . T h a t ' s a b s u r d ! I'll give y o u a n e x a m p l e of w h a t I m e a n . Forgetting Father's Death

In a workshop for therapists, I asked the participants to relate the most important events from their childhood. One man described how his grandfather had placed his hand on his head. That had been very important for him. Then he described getting spanked, falling down, and so on, and that when he was five, his father died. I asked the group what the most important of these events was. They guessed all of them, except the death of the father. That's the distortion from psychoanalysis. Your m o t h e r w e n t t o live w i t h h e r a u n t , a n d h e r a u n t w a s p r e p a r e d t o look after h e r — p e r i o d . T h a t s h o r t e n s t h e w h o l e p r o c e s s e n o r m o u s l y . T h e descriptions o f p e o p l e ' s c h a r a c t e r m a k e n o differe n c e i n t h e constellations. W h a t helps u s are t h e simple e v e n t s , a n d the r e a c t i o n s of t h e p a r t i c i p a n t s in t h e constellation itself. S o , y o u c a n lighten t h e l o a d in y o u r h e a d , okay? Question: I feel a t t r a c t e d to the h u s b a n d of my m o t h e r ' s sister, a l t h o u g h I rarely see h i m . I only k n o w t h a t he h e l p e d us a lot in t h e refugee c a m p . O t h e r t h a n t h a t — a n d I p r o b a b l y s h o u l d n ' t say t h i s — h e was c o m p l e t e l y n u t s . H e l l i n g e r : (to the group): C a n you feel t h e effect of his f o r m u l a tion? B y e n d i n g his d e s c r i p t i o n o f w h a t h a p p e n e d b y saying " h e w a s c o m p l e t e l y n u t s , " he r e d u c e d his c h a n c e of r e s o l u t i o n . R e s o l u t i o n is always b o u n d u p with h o n o r a n d respect. H e said s o m e t h i n g t h a t deserves to be h o n o r e d , " H e h e l p e d us a lot in t h e refugee c a m p , " b u t h e followed i t w i t h s o m e t h i n g t h a t n e g a t e d t h e a p p r e c i a t i o n .

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C o v e r i n g g o o d things w i t h negative things i s n u t s . D o i n g n u t t y things like t h a t distorts reality. A n y t h i n g else? Question: O n the c o n t r a r y (laughing).

INTERPRETATIONS WORK ONLY IF THEY TOUCH THE CLIENT'S LOVE
Q u e s t i o n : I t s e e m s t o m e t h a t w h a t you d o i s r e i n t e r p r e t o r reframe in a positive way. Do you consciously u s e reframing? H e l l i n g e r : An i n t e r p r e t a t i o n is effective only w h e n it fits, a n d it also m u s t t o u c h t h e h e a r t . T h a t ' s the t h e r a p e u t i c p r i n c i p l e t h a t applies h e r e . I n t e r v e n t i o n s are only effective w h e n t h e y t o u c h t h e client's love, activate it, a n d affirm i t — a n d the client's r e a c t i o n is t h e c r i t e r i o n we u s e to d e t e r m i n e t h e fit of t h e i n t e r p r e t a t i o n . If y o u ' r e n o t careful, positively reframing a h a r m f u l situation c a n be a c a p r i c i o u s i n t e r v e n t i o n that trivializes t h e s e r i o u s n e s s of t h e s i t u a t i o n , a n d i t d o e s n ' t work. T h e k i n d o f i n t e r p r e t a t i o n a n d r e f r a m i n g t h a t d o e s w o r k arises o u t of seeing w h a t is. W i t h s u c h an i n t e r p r e t a t i o n , I offer w h a t I've seen to t h e client's a w a r e n e s s . I n t e r p r e t a t i o n s a n d reframing that are effective rest on t r u t h . T h e r e ' s a lot o f discussion a b o u t the w o r d " t r u t h . " T h e c o n s t r u c tivists d o n ' t like to use it, b u t I've f o u n d a definition I like. T r u t h is w h a t e v e r serves a n d e n h a n c e s life. If you p a y a t t e n t i o n , y o u c a n feel right away w h e t h e r or n o t a s t a t e m e n t is t r u e in this w a y — y o u r b o d y r e s p o n d s w i t h aliveness if it's t r u e , a n d w i t h a c o n t r a c t i o n , h a r d e n i n g , or a sense of going d e a d if it's n o t . W h e n an i n t e r p r e t a tion is t r u e , clients feel it i m m e d i a t e l y ; they feel a sense of relief in their b o d y , a distinct feeling of " t h a t ' s right." It's difficult to define t r u t h ^ b u t it's n o t difficult to feel it. I d o n ' t n e e d definitions a b o u t w h a t life requires of m e . If I ' m awake, I feel it. P e o p l e usually define c o n c e p t s a n d goals a c c o r d i n g t o w h a t they d o n ' t w a n t a n d t o w h a t d o e s n ' t c o n f o r m to t h e imperatives of life. W h e n therapists i n t e r p r e t events o r p e r s o n s , t h e y try t o take c o n trol of their clients' lives, a n d they act as if c o n t r o l w e r e possible. That's an inflation. D e s c r i b i n g w h a t I see is n o t t h e s a m e as interp r e t i n g it. W h e n I see t h a t an event has an a u t h e n t i c i m p o r t a n c e , I t r y to get b e h i n d it a n d follow wherever it leads m e — i t s l e a d i n g me r a t h e r t h a n me trying to c o n t r o l it. T h a t ' s a h u m b l e p o s t u r e , a n d it also p r o t e c t s a t h e r a p i s t against an inflated sense of s e l f - i m p o r t a n c e .

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AVOIDING OVERINTERPRETATION A N D INFLATED SELF-IMPORTANCE
Q u e s t i o n : About a year ago, my brother was diagnosed with epilepsy, and several years ago, my sister contracted cancer. I would like to set up my family of origin because I want to find out what's going on in my family so that I can put it back in order. H e l l i n g e r : That train of thought is very seductive. It seems to me that your attempt to explain these events systemically goes too far, and your implicit assumption that there's something that you can do to put it "back in order" is inflated self-importance. Whenever people ask, "What have I done wrong that caused me to get cancer?" or "What's the psychological dynamic behind my family's craziness?" so that they can "put it back in order," they're going too far. When they start with the belief that if they only could understand enough, they would be able to "put it back in order," they act as if they could control their illness or their family's destiny by correcting their behavior. They want to avoid confronting the fact that some things happen to us that we can't control. When we're dealing with things like that, we have to bend to fate and to bow down before our destiny.Trying to control destiny often has a negative effect on the soul because of its exaggerated self-importance A systemic therapist recently called me. She had a seriously infected toe and the infection was spreading to her knee. She wanted to go into therapy so that it would heal. I told her to see a doctor. There is such a thing as sickness. You simply can't connect everything to family dynamics. If you try, you make yourself crazy. You've got to look at a concrete person. Is she avoiding her fate and her illness, or is she facing up to them and trying to live with them as best she can? A participant once asked to do a constellation in order to see what false belief system his seriously ill sister had. I told him, "Death isn't impressed by belief systems." People are very tempted to deny the reality of their mortality. Q u e s t i o n : My sister told me that my father had been engaged to another woman before he married my mother. He was in a Russian prison camp for many years after the war, and no one knew whether or not he was alive, or whether he would come back. His fiancee waited a few years, and then married someone else. My father died

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a year a n d a half ago of a h e a r t attack, a l t h o u g h he was healthy, d i d n ' t s m o k e o r d r i n k , a n d regularly p a r t i c i p a t e d i n s p o r t s . T h e r e m u s t b e s o m e c o n n e c t i o n b e t w e e n his h a v i n g b e e n rejected b y his fiancee "and his s u d d e n d e a t h . H e l l i n g e r : T h a t ' s a g o o d e x a m p l e of w h a t I ' m talking a b o u t . T h e r e ' s a c o m m o n t e n d e n c y to look for psychological c o n n e c t i o n s b e t w e e n things in o r d e r to create t h e sense of o r d e r a n d c o n t r o l , as y o u ' r e d o i n g now. B u t the m o r e c o n n e c t i o n s you find, t h e crazier you get. W h e n y o u find all t h e c o n n e c t i o n s , y o u ' r e c o m p l e t e l y crazy. T h e b e s t p s y c h o t h e r a p y limits the c o n n e c t i o n s t h a t clients find a n d r e d u c e s t h e m to a m i n i m u m . Question: I ' m still w o n d e r i n g w h a t that all h a s t o d o w i t h m e .

Hellinger: W h a t you d e s c r i b e d has n o c o n n e c t i o n t o you a t all. Your father d i e d of a h e a r t attack. It h a p p e n s every day. E v e r y t h i n g else is m e a n i n g l e s s . W h a t d o e s it bring? H i s fiancee t h o u g h t he was d e a d a n d f o u n d a n o t h e r m a n . T h a t m a k e s sense. It's easy t o u n d e r s t a n d . T h o s e were very difficult t i m e s , a n d life m u s t g o o n . T h a t ' s just t h e way it is. You c o u l d find t h e c o m m o n s e n s e s o l u t i o n too. \ M a n y p e o p l e try to find an excuse for their lack of a c t i o n a n d their ; u n h a p p i n e s s , b u t it's also possible to just go a h e a d a n d do w h a t you t h i n k is b e s t . Question: Okay, b u t I still have the idea t h a t my difficulty in t r u s t i n g w o m e n c o u l d have s o m e t h i n g t o d o w i t h m y father's b e i n g a b a n d o n e d by his fiancee. I'd like to u n d e r s t a n d t h a t . Hellinger: T h e direct way i s best. D e a l directly w i t h t h e w o m a n . If love is t h e r e , you'll find a way to t r u s t her. W h e n y o u t h i n k a b o u t all t h e things t h a t c o u l d b e interfering, a n d a b o u t w h a t they m i g h t have t o d o w i t h y o u r father, y o u ' r e looking a t y o u r p r o b l e m s a n d you d o n ' t see t h e w o m a n . T h a t ' s y o u r p r o b l e m . I f y o u d o n ' t see her, she'll have t o a b a n d o n y o u . I t w o u l d b e a p p r o p r i a t e . Question: T h a t ' s clear.

AVOIDING OVERDRAMATIZATION
Question: I t b o t h e r s m e t h a t y o u s o often i n t e r r u p t p e o p l e before they've finished relating w h a t h a p p e n e d to t h e m . It's as if y o u d o n ' t respect what happened to them.

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H e l l i n g e r : M e m o r i e s are changeable a n d , therefore, suspect. W h e n s o m e o n e r e m e m b e r s something, the m e m o r y d o e s n ' t necessarily say anything a b o u t reality. T h e question is, " W h i c h m e m o r y has the p e r s o n chosen, and to what p u r p o s e ? " M e m o r i e s are often selected in the service of maintaining the victim position or a p r o b lem, and p s y c h o t h e r a p y often reinforces this tendency. T h i n k a b o u t everything that average p a r e n t s do for their children for 20 years or so. T h e n c o m p a r e t h e m with t h e m e m o r i e s that clients b r i n g into therapy. Mostly they choose the five or six really negative experiences they have h a d , and forget the rest. W h e n there was a t r a u m a , t h e m o s t i m p o r t a n t thing is usually forgotten—that the individual survived. T h a t ' s often n o t considered at all. O n e client r e m e m b e r e d that his m o t h e r w a n t e d to j u m p off a balcony carrying h i m i n her a r m s . H e r e m e m b e r e d h e r sobbing and wanting to j u m p , b u t he forgot that she t u r n e d b a c k and d i d n ' t do it. O r s o m e o n e says, " M y m o t h e r w a n t e d t o a b o r t m e ! " T h e m o r e i m p o r t a n t fact that she decided n o t to do it is forgotten, b u t that she was t e m p t e d to do it is r e m e m b e r e d . M e m o r i e s are often a m e n t a l a r m o r that help to maintain a certain position and to p r e vent change. We're m o r e interested in d i s a r m a m e n t here.

FALSE CURIOSITY DISTURBS

SEEING

Q u e s t i o n (Immediately after a deeply moving family constellation, in a challenging and doubting tone): D i d the constellation really change anything? D i d it really change anything a b o u t your pain? H e l l i n g e r (to questioner): Your question i n t r u d e s . You haven't even let h i m have time to digest his experience. (To the group) T h e question is a critique in disguise. If the client were to pay attention to it, it w o u l d distract h i m from the experience he just h a d . T h e question shows false curiosity and threatens the effectiveness of the work. Curiosity is destructive w h e n we w a n t to k n o w m o r e t h a n is necessary for effective action. W h a t he just experienced is m o r e t h a n e n o u g h for h i m . If he were to answer t h e question, he'd have to distance himself from his experience a n d switch into his rational m i n d to formulate an answer, a n d t h e effect of t h e work would be i n t e r r u p t e d . You can't even inquire a b o u t the l o n g - t e r m results w i t h o u t diminishing t h e effect of t h e work. Even trying to find o u t a b o u t t h e success or failure of an intervention in psycho-

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therapy spoils its potency, as in, "I'm curious about what happened after our work last time." Obviously, researching the effectiveness of certain approaches scientifically is essential, but that's different from curiosity during therapy. What I'm talking about is the inner attitude of the therapist. Sometimes therapists are tempted to ask questions like that when they're actually looking for an affirmation that they did good work. That attitude leads to a distortion in the therapists' perceptions and self-importance—if there was a positive change, the therapists think they caused it, when in fact they may have played only a minor role. If you're able to view the therapeutic situation as being part of a larger movement in which you meet someone, perhaps give the person something, and then go on with your life, then everyone is really free. T h e meeting is important, but not the "therapeutic outcome." That's very supportive for the work. Q u e s t i o n : I keep vacillating between curiosity and skepticism about your work. H e l l i n g e r : Neither curiosity nor skepticism is helpful. There are dynamics that lead to resolution, and dynamics that don't. We work with those that do. I'll tell you a story about curiosity.
The Man Who Wanted to Know Everything

T h e r e once was a very p o o r m a n whose wife suddenly died, leaving him alone with his many children and his m a n y worries—he h a d no job a n d d i d n ' t know how to feed t h e m all. As he was worrying one day, his friend told him about a h e r m i t w h o knew the secret of t u r n ing stones into gold. Perhaps he could help. T h e m a n decided to visit the hermit, gathered what he n e e d e d , a n d set out. W h e n he found the hermit, he asked, "Is it true that you know the secret of t u r n i n g stones into gold?" "Yes, I know it," answered the hermit. "Would you teach it to m e ? " "Yes, I will teach you. It isn't difficult. At the next full m o o n , go into the next valley to the n o r t h of here, gather five stones from the river there, a n d exactly one h o u r before midnight, lay t h e m in a ring on a b e d of pine boughs. T h e n sprinkle these five h e r b s — u n f o r t u nately, I've forgotten their n a m e s — a n d set the pyre on fire. At exactly midnight, your stones will be gold."

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T h e poor man was very happy. He set off on his way to do what he'd been told. As he was starting down into the valley, he thought, "That can't be all. He certainly forgot to tell me something very important." He looked at the sun in the sky, and saw that there was still time, and so he hurried back to the hermit. "There's more to it than you told me," he said. "You left out something important." "Yes, there is more," the hermit said, "and it is very important, but you don't want to know it." " O h yes, oh yes," said the man. "I want to know everything." "Very well," said the hermit. "There is one thing more. When you do as I have told you, you must be sure that you do not think of polar bears."

GIVING UP CONTROL
Question: I a m i m p r e s s e d w i t h t h e lightness w i t h w h i c h w e w o r k h e r e . It h a s m a d e it clear to me h o w m u c h I t e n d to work in a h e a v y a n d tragic m o o d . Hellinger: T h e tragic inflates us. E a s e a n d lightness are qualities o f t r u t h , a n d t h e y b r i n g u s further. W h e n s o m e t h i n g i s difficult a n d r e q u i r e s great c o n s c i o u s effort, it's m o s t l y useless. It's like a d o n k e y c a r r y i n g a heavy load d o w n a l o n g , d u s t y r o a d . He is tired a n d h u n gry a n d thirsty. T h e r e are g r e e n m e a d o w s w i t h s t r e a m s o f fresh w a t e r t o t h e right a n d t o t h e left o f the p a t h , b u t h e keeps o n , telling himself, " I ' m o n m y p a t h . " T h a t ' s effort. Lars: I ' m s e a r c h i n g for s o m e t h i n g in myself, b u t I d o n ' t k n o w exactly w h a t it is. M a y b e for s o m e t h i n g stable a n d t r u s t w o r t h y . I have t h e feeling t h a t everything in me is so fleeting. H e l l i n g e r (pauses a long while): burden. Lars: I've s u s p e c t e d a s m u c h . What one holds onto becomes a

H e l l i n g e r : Exactly! T h e r a p i s t s have to live w i t h the tragic fact t h a t t h e y so often c o m e after t h e h e a l i n g h a s already h a p p e n e d . T h e y often t h i n k t h e y ' r e saying s o m e t h i n g special, b u t w h e n t h e y say it, t h e y discover t h a t t h e client already k n o w s it. S o m e t i m e s t h e y even g o t it from the client w i t h o u t n o t i c i n g . T h e Spirit m o v e s like t h e w i n d . A n y t h i n g else, Lars?

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L a r s (moved): Yes, I ' m getting in t o u c h w i t h a feeling of g r a t i t u d e that I k n o w from before, b u t I always lose it. I w i s h I c o u l d h o l d on to it longer. H e l l i n g e r : G r a t i t u d e i s fleeting, a n d that's a p p r o p r i a t e . W h a t w o u l d it be like to be r u n n i n g a r o u n d all the t i m e w i t h t h e feeling of gratitude? Lars: I've b e e n t h i n k i n g a b o u t m y n e e d t o k e e p things u n d e r c o n trol, a b o u t letting go a n d giving in to t h e flow of t h i n g s . I ' m going b a c k a n d forth. Hellinger: I'll tell y o u a story a b o u t c o n t r o l . Don't Wait for Me
T h e r e o n c e w a s a w o m a n w h o c o m p l a i n e d to me a b o u t a horrible ritual at h e r h o u s e . Every Sunday, her h u s b a n d got up early, dressed the children, a n d m a d e breakfast, while she lay in b e d . W h e n breakfast w a s ready, her h u s b a n d and the children w o u l d call to her, "Breakfast is ready." She'd still be in b e d , or perhaps in the s h o w e r , and w o u l d call back, " D o n ' t wait for m e . Go a h e a d a n d start." B u t they d i d wait, and every Sunday, breakfast w a s c o l d w h e n she finally c a m e , and s h e got angry. Every S u n d a y w a s the s a m e . S h e said, " G o a h e a d and start w i t h o u t m e , " they waited until she c a m e , a n d t h e n she got angry.

T h a t was m a n y years ago, a n d I was still q u i t e n a i v e — I still, t h o u g h t p e o p l e w a n t e d solutions to their p r o b l e m s , so I offered h e r a simple solution. I told h e r to tell t h e m , " T h a n k s for waiting for m e . I t m a k e s m e feel g o o d . " S h e was s o a n g r y w i t h m e t h a t she d i d n ' t say a n y t h i n g to me for t h e n e x t t h r e e days. On t h e last day of t h e w o r k s h o p , I asked h e r w h a t a g o o d solution w o u l d be as far as she was c o n c e r n e d . S h e said t h a t w h e n she said, " D o n ' t wait for m e ! G o a h e a d a n d start," t h e y s h o u l d g o a h e a d a n d start. I tried to feel my way i n t o b o t h situations. If she said, " I ' m p l e a s e d t h a t you waited for m e , " s o m e t h i n g c h a n g e s for t h e b e t t e r i n h e r , i n h e r c h i l d r e n , a n d i n h e r husband—(but she gives u p c o n t r o l . B u t w h e n she says, " G o a h e a d a n d s t a r t " a n d t h e y d o w h a t she w a n t s , n o t h i n g c h a n g e s — b u t she keeps c o n t r o l . B u t c o n t r o l over w h a t ? Perfect c o n t r o l always t u r n s i n t o c o n t r o l of n o t h i n g . Sandra: T h i s a f t e r n o o n , I h a d a wonderfully t e n d e r feeling, b u t it's g o n e now.

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Hellinger: Feelings c a n stay as long as you leave t h e m a l o n e . As s o o n as y o u t r y to h o l d on to a feeling or m o o d , it d i s a p p e a r s . Life is like t h a t ; it always m o v e s o n , m o v i n g on to t h e n e x t t h i n g a n d t h e next. A n d w h e n you m o v e o n , i t m o v e s too. A s s o o n a s y o u s t a n d still, it s t a n d s still. T h a t ' s an i m a g e for w h a t y o u e x p e r i e n c e d . P e r h a p s it will be useful. S a n d r a : W h e n you asked m e t o e x p e r i m e n t w i t h i m a g i n i n g myself t a k i n g m y p a r e n t s b y t h e h a n d a n d l e a d i n g t h e m i n t o m y h e a r t , I felt resistance to d o i n g it w h o l e h e a r t e d l y . I w a n t e d t o , b u t I just c o u l d n ' t m a k e myself do it. Hellinger: M a n y p e o p l e have a d e e p fear of h a p p i n e s s , a fear of taking t h e decisive step t o w h e r e they c a n e x p e r i e n c e t h e d e p t h o f their love. D e e p love b r i n g s b o t h joy a n d p a i n . T h e y g o t o g e t h e r very p r o f o u n d l y a n d inseparably. We shy away from this d e p t h of love b e c a u s e w e fear t h e p a i n t h a t goes w i t h it. T h e h a p p i n e s s w e feel in this k i n d of love isn't e x u b e r a n t l y joyful, b u t r a t h e r full, a n d still, a n d d e e p . A l t h o u g h it's p r o f o u n d , s o m e t i m e s it crosses over into lightness, t h e Lightness of Being. S o m e t i m e s I t r y to h e l p a little bit, to give p e o p l e a little p u s h to cross t h e t h r e s h o l d of h a p p i n e s s . Question: T h e n it's merely h u m a n , after things have b e e n i n t e n s e for while, to w a n t to lighten u p , to tell a joke or s o m e t h i n g . H e l l i n g e r : It's like i n tragedy, w h e n t h e king dies, t h e clowns a p p e a r . K i n g s a n d fools g o together. It's p a r t o f t h e d r a m a t i c a r t .

T H E VALIDITY OF THERAPEUTIC STATEMENTS
Question: I really a p p r e c i a t e h o w efficiently y o u w o r k . You t o u c h a p r o f o u n d d e p t h , existential issues, a n d it has a powerful effect. It works. I n m y t h e r a p y , there's s o m u c h e x t r a n e o u s a n d u n n e c e s s a r y talk. I t h o u g h t a b o u t it, a n d I discovered t h a t I avoid m a k i n g s t a t e m e n t s like y o u do b e c a u s e I ' m afraid of giving t h e i m p r e s s i o n of knowing some absolute truth. Hellinger: I'll tell y o u a story a b o u t t h e p o w e r of t h e r a p e u t i c s t a t e m e n t s . T h e r e o n c e was a y o u n g w o m a n in a w o r k s h o p w h o w a s really a beautiful p e r s o n , b u t she h a d a n e e d to h e l p m e n , w h i c h I t h o u g h t w a s d a m a g i n g t o her. S h e ' d m o v e d i n w i t h a m a n w h o h a d b e e n m a r r i e d t h r e e o r four t i m e s , h a d t w o c h i l d r e n , a n d w a s a l m o s t

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4 0 years old w h e r e a s she was 2 3 o r 2 4 . S h e said t h a t she w a n t e d t o h e l p h i m , b u t I w a s c o n c e r n e d a b o u t h e r n e e d to h e l p , a n d so I told h e r t h a t she s h o u l d leave h i m . I received a letter from h e r a c o u p l e of m o n t h s ago. S h e w r o t e t h a t I'd b e e n c o r r e c t , t h a t h e w a s n ' t t h e right o n e for her! T h e relat i o n s h i p h a d t u r n e d sour, a n d so she'd left h i m , as I s u g g e s t e d . T h e n she realized t h a t she really loved h i m a n d m o v e d b a c k . N o w t h e y ' r e h a p p i l y m a r r i e d . S o m u c h for the a b s o l u t e t r u t h o f t h e r a p e u t i c s t a t e m e n t s . T h e y m a y s o u n d f i n a l , b u t w h a t p e o p l e d o with t h e m i s a n o t h e r thing. S o m e t i m e s p e o p l e say, " H o w d o you d a r e t o say s o m e t h i n g like t h a t ? " F o r i n s t a n c e , w h e n I told E d i e that she'd r u i n e d h e r c h a n c e s to have a g o o d relationship b e c a u s e she h a d h a d so m a n y a b o r t i o n s , t h a t s t a t e m e n t was c o m p l e t e l y o u t r a g e o u s . I c a n say things like t h a t b e c a u s e I have no i n t e n t i o n of controlling or c h a n g i n g a n y o n e . If I'd said s o m e t h i n g polite, she'd have g o n e a b o u t h e r b u s i n e s s as u s u a l . S h e w o u l d n ' t have found h e r o w n o r i e n t a t i o n . T h i s way, she m u s t t h i n k a b o u t w h e r e she s t a n d s , a b o u t w h a t ' s right for h e r . I d o n ' t w a n t t o k n o w a n y t h i n g m o r e a b o u t w h a t she d o e s , b e c a u s e it's n o n e of my b u s i n e s s . It's n o t even i m p o r t a n t . I p a i d h e r g r e a t r e s p e c t b y b e i n g a n " o t h e r " for her. T h e willingness t o b e fully " o t h e r " for s o m e o n e is a form of d e e p t r u s t a n d r e s p e c t . I t h i n k w h a t I say is right w h e n I say it, but I don't believe it. T h a t ' s a very i m p o r t a n t difference. It/s_ my m o m e n t a r y p e r c e p t i o n , to the very b e s t of my ability, b u t I certainly w o u l d n ' t risk my life for it. I say w h a t e v e r I see, a n d b e c a u s e I take it seriously, it c a n have an effect. C a l l i n g y o u r avoidance of saying w h a t you see " r e s p e c t for t h e o t h e r " is just a f o r m of cowardice. A g o o d t h e r a p i s t is like a g o o d leader: A g o o d l e a d e r sees w h a t t h e p e o p l e w a n t , a n d t h e n gives t h e m an o r d e r to do it. A g o o d t h e r a p i s t sees w h e r e clients' energy is p o i n t i n g , a n d t h e n r e c o m m e n d s t h e y m o v e t o w a r d w h e r e t h e y are going anyway. Q u e s t i o n : W h e n you give p e o p l e s e n t e n c e s t o say, y o u ' r e very directive. It's a l m o s t as if y o u ' r e telling p e o p l e w h a t to do. Hellinger: Yes, o n t h e surface, I ' m very directive. B u t t h e a c t u a l p r o c e s s i s m o r e c o m p l i c a t e d . I ' m c o n s t a n t l y w a t c h i n g , t r y i n g t o see w h e r e p e o p l e w a n t t o g o a n d w h e r e t h e y ' r e stuck. W h e n t h e r e ' s a systemic e n t a n g l e m e n t involved, clients c a n ' t f i n d t h e liberating s e n t e n c e s by t h e m s e l v e s — t h a t requires a k n o w l e d g e of t h e d y n a m i c s of
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systems that they d o n ' t usually have. If I find a s e n t e n c e that m i g h t be helpful, I send it up like a test balloon a n d w a t c h carefully to see what h a p p e n s . I can quickly see if I've offered a sentence t h a t helps, or if my offer was off target. If it's off target, t h e n I let the client lead me to another. It's trial a n d error. It's very clear to everyone w h e n we find the sentences that help. T h e client is directing m e , a n d I do my best to follow faithfully. Question: be a guru? D i d you know that some p e o p l e think you're trying to

H e l l i n g e r : Yes, I've b e e n told that before, b u t I d o n ' t w o r r y a b o u t it since I finally have found o u t w h a t a g u r u is. D u r i n g a w o r k s h o p , the g r o u p climbed a m o u n t a i n to celebrate at a restaurant t h e r e . W h e n they got ready to walk h o m e , it was p i t c h black outside, a n d they c o u l d n ' t find the p a t h d o w n . O n e of t h e m , w h o c o u l d n ' t see either, took another's h a n d , they m a d e a chain, a n d w h e n they got d o w n safely, they t h o u g h t he was a g u r u .

ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY VERSUS ASSUMING RESPONSIBILITY
Q u e s t i o n : I've been thinking a lot a b o u t the process of s u r r e n dering to fate, a b o u t letting go a n d going along with whatever h a p pens. It's especially i m p o r t a n t to me in c o n n e c t i o n with my feeling of responsibility to clients w h o c o m e to me for help. I feel a great emptiness w h e n I think a b o u t really letting go a n d e n t r u s t i n g t h e m to their own process. I practically panic. I ' m afraid that there'll be n o t h i n g there at all to s u p p o r t m e . Hellinger: W h e n you accept t h e responsibility that c o m e s from the client's system, you're s u p p o r t e d by the systemic d y n a m i c . B u t responsibilities that you take on yourself b e c a u s e of exaggerated self-importance have a negative effect for b o t h you and t h e client. Q u e s t i o n : B u t isn't the responsibility already given by t h e fact that I b e l o n g to a helping profession? D o n ' t I have a responsibility to help those in need? I d o n ' t grasp t h e distinction you're m a k i n g .

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H e l l i n g e r : Just s u r r e n d e r to t h e feeling sensation that differentiates b e t w e e n a s s u m i n g a responsibility o u t of your n e e d to be i m p o r tant a n d accepting o n e that's given to you by the client's system. W h e n e v e r I reject a responsibility t h a t is given to m e , I feel s o m e t h i n g close up in my soul. I ' m a p a r t of a larger systemic w h o l e , a n d I c a n ' t act as if I ' m n o t . T h e only real f r e e d o m I have is to say, "Yes." If I c o n s e n t to t h e responsibility, I feel my soul o p e n up even more. O n t h e o t h e r h a n d , i f I ' m inflated w i t h s e l f - i m p o r t a n c e a n d seek o u t a responsibility t h a t h a s n ' t c o m e to m e , I ' m c u t off from t h e forces r e g u l a t i n g the system. Question: I've b e e n t h i n k i n g a lot a b o u t h u m i l i t y a n d a r r o g a n c e .

Hellinger: I w a n t to tell you a secret: You c a n be h u m b l y a r r o gant. T h a t ' s t h e e p i t o m e o f humility. O n e m u s t n ' t forget the c o u r age in humility. Every great decision m u s t be m a d e in fear and trembling a n d in humility. N e v e r t h e l e s s , every great decision a p p e a r s to be a r r o g a n t , b u t to avoid s u c h a decision w o u l d be c o w a r d i c e . T r u e h u m i l i t y also requires t h e c o u r a g e to risk greatness.

USING LANGUAGE THAT FITS
Question: You often i n t e r r u p t p e o p l e w h e n t h e y u s e a w o r d t h a t isn't right. S o m e t i m e s you seem a l m o s t rigid a b o u t it. Hellinger: T h e relationship of a definition to t h e t h i n g is like t h e relationship of t h e t a n g e n t to the circle—it t o u c h e s it, b u t it c a n ' t c o n t a i n it. Still, a w o r d like " e a r t h " h a s weight. W i t h w o r d s like " p a r e n t i f i c a t i o n " a n d "identification," o n t h e o t h e r h a n d , it's very i m p o r t a n t to k e e p the clinical p h e n o m e n a in m i n d . If we get stuck with the t a n g e n t , we d o n ' t g r a s p t h e circle. T h e circle is a m o v e m e n t . W h e n you s u r r e n d e r yourself t o w h a t ' s h a p p e n i n g , y o u d o n ' t n e e d to rely on t h e definitions, a n d y o u u n d e r s t a n d b e t t e r w h a t ' s going o n . L a n g u a g e fits w h e n y o u h e a r a w o r d a n d t h e n test it against reality: D o e s it fit exactly? By d o i n g this, y o u c o n t i n u a l l y expose y o u r self to reality until t h e w o r d c o m e s t h a t d o e s fit. You have to be willing to forget y o u r previous w o r d s , y o u r previous e x p l a n a t i o n s a n d i n t e n t i o n s , a n d b e c o m e a m i r r o r of reality. T h e n you reflect a light t h a t leads y o u t o t h e w o r d t h a t d o e s f i t .

Transcript
BONDING IN THE FAMILY OF ORIGIN II
T h e following is a transcript from a workshop in H e i d e l b e r g , G e r many, in 1994. Bert Hellinger worked with an inner circle of patients with serious illnesses, together with their physicians or psychotherapists, while a larger g r o u p of m e n t a l health professionals observed. He is working here with b o t h p a r e n t s of a child with a serious kidney disease. H e l l i n g e r (to parents): I invite you to c o m e over here, sit next to m e , and tell me w h a t it is that brings you here. F a t h e r : We're here because we found out, a b o u t n i n e m o n t h s ago, that o u r eight-year-old son has kidney disease. T h e d o c t o r s have told us there's n o t h i n g that they can do, b u t they said there's a chance for a s p o n t a n e o u s remission. We b o t h h o p e that setting up a family constellation m i g h t help us—at least a little. H e l l i n g e r (to mother): Do you agree with that?

M o t h e r : I agree with what my h u s b a n d said, a n d I h o p e we can find s o m e t h i n g that will help o u r son. H e l l i n g e r : We'll work with your present family. H o w m a n y child r e n do you have? F a t h e r : O u r eldest, the child w h o has kidney disease, is eight. O u r second is a girl, almost five, and the youngest is a boy, not quite three. Hellinger: H a v e either of you b e e n m a r r i e d before or in a signific a n t long-term relationship? Mother: N e i t h e r of us has b e e n m a r r i e d before a n d neither of us has b e e n in a long-term relationship with s o m e o n e else, b u t I just n o w r e m e m b e r e d that we had a stillbirth a b o u t 15 years ago. Hellinger: A stillbirth? W h a t was the child's r a n k in t h e family?

Mother: He was o u r first. He died on t h e day he was d u e , while he was still inside, a n d t h e n he was b o r n dead. 243

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H e l l i n g e r : T h a t ' s very i m p o r t a n t . We'll i n c l u d e t h a t child i n t h e constellation. Okay, let's set up y o u r p r e s e n t family. We'll let t h e father set up t h e first constellation, a n d t h e n t h e wife c a n c o r r e c t it. C h o o s e p e o p l e from this i n n e r circle to r e p r e s e n t t h e p e o p l e in y o u r family---that is, you a n d y o u r wife a n d y o u r t h r e e living child r e n . L a t e r we'll a d d t h e stillborn child. (To group): W h e n I w o r k w i t h c o u p l e s , I let b o t h t h e h u s b a n d a n d t h e wife set up t h e c o n s t e l lation, s o w e c a n c o m p a r e the two.

H e l l i n g e r (to representatives): N o w , w h e n I ask, tell me h o w you felt in t h e first constellation, a n d t h e n h o w y o u felt in t h e s e c o n d .

(To father's representative): H o w w a s it for you?
* Legend: Husb—husband's representative; Wife—wife's representative; 2—second child, an eight-year-old boy with kidney disease; 3—third child, a five-year-old girl; 4—fourth child, a three-year-old boy.

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Father: Right at t h e b e g i n n i n g , I felt a p r e s s u r e in my chest. It felt really tight It was even w o r s e for me w h e n t h e eldest child w a s a d d e d . I h a d t h e feeling t h a t I n e e d e d to h i d e , or get away. I c o u l d n ' t b r e a t h e . N o w , in t h e s e c o n d constellation, I've still got a tightness in my chest, b u t I feel better. Hellinger: H o w was it for t h e sick child?

Ill C h i l d ' s R e p r e s e n t a t i v e : I felt very weird in t h e first c o n s t e l lation. I really w a n t e d to d i s a p p e a r . I felt t h e closeness to my father very strongly, b u t it was too close a n d I g o t a h e a d a c h e . Hellinger: H o w was i t for t h e d a u g h t e r ?

Third Child: I was very lonely in t h e first constellation, a n d I felt a s t r o n g u r g e t o take m y oldest b r o t h e r a n d g o away. T h e o t h e r s w e r e relatively distant. N o w , in the s e c o n d c o n s t e l l a t i o n , I feel drawn to my mother.
\

Hellinger:

A n d h o w was i t for t h e y o u n g e s t son? at first, c o m p l e t e

Fourth Child: I was c o m p l e t e l y confused c h a o s . N o w I feel w o n d e r f u l . H e l l i n g e r (to mother): lation.

N o w a d d the d e c e a s e d child to t h e c o n s t e l -

Diagram 3*

Hellinger:

W h a t does t h a t c h a n g e for t h e ill child?

* Legend addition: +1—first child, a boy who died in utero.

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Ill C h i l d ' s R e p r e s e n t a t i v e : I i m m e d i a t e l y felt a p u l l i n g in my neck that drew me backwards, a n d there was a pressure in my head. Hellinger: Father: W h a t ' s c h a n g e d for t h e others?

T h e r e ' s s o m e t h i n g eerie for m e , s o m e t h i n g t h r e a t e n i n g . F o r you, Mother? I feel tears c o m i n g , a n d there's a b u r n i n g in my chest. W h a t about you, Daughter?

Hellinger: Mother: Hellinger:

Third Child: S o m e t h i n g ' s p u s h i n g m e away t o w a r d t h e right. I'd like to m o v e t o w a r d my ill b r o t h e r . Hellinger: H o w a b o u t for t h e youngest? I'm curious about what's coming.

Fourth Child: Hellinger:

H o w is it for t h e stillborn child? T h e r e ' s a p r e s s u r e forward, b u t also d o w n .

Stillborn Child: Hellinger:

I'll p u t y o u n e x t t o y o u r m o t h e r .

H e l l i n g e r (to representative of stillborn): Stillborn Child: Mother: Father:

H o w ' s that?

Better. I w a n t t o t u r n t o w a r d her.

It's b e t t e r for me t o o . I feel very sad, b u t b e t t e r . T h a t ' s lovely t o see.

The Therapeutic Posture Hellinger:

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Okay, I ' m going to m a k e a couple of changes now.

(Hellinger places the father next to the mother and asks the stillborn child to sit at their feet, leaning back against them. The remaining children are positioned opposite their parents. The representative of the father spontaneously places his hand on the head of the stillborn child.) H e l l i n g e r (to father's representative): Ah! So how's this fellow feeling now? (Father's representative laughs and looks lovingly at his wife.) Mother: Yes, better. G o o d ! Tears are welling up in my eyes. I feel like cry-

Stillborn Child: ing.

H e l l i n g e r (to ill child):

H o w are you now?

Ill C h i l d ' s R e p r e s e n t a t i v e : I ' m very h a p p y a n d I ' m all c h o k e d up with tears too. I d o n ' t n e e d to have any anxiety a n y m o r e . It's like a tightness is gone. Third Child: Fourth Child: I ' m protected a n d well cared for. Everything's in order.

H e l l i n g e r : It's amazing what changes w h e n an excluded child w h o has b e e n forgotten is b r o u g h t back into play. W h a t a force! (To the parents): N o w you can take your places in the constellation a n d feel for yourselves h o w it is. (The parents exchange places with their representatives. They place their hands tenderly on the head of the stillborn child and look at each other.)

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H e l l i n g e r (to the parents): t h e d e a t h of t h e child? Father: Mother: Hellinger: No. No.

D i d either of you b l a m e t h e o t h e r for

H o w did y o u deal w i t h it, t h e d e a t h o f the child? tell too the son

Father: I felt s o r r o w a n d I was w o r r i e d a b o u t my wife, b u t to t h e t r u t h , I w a s also a bit relieved; I h a d t h e feeling t h a t it w a s s o o n for us to have a child. We d i d n ' t even m a k e a grave for c h i l d — w e avoided (abruptly breaks into sobs) . . . giving . . . o u r . . . a place . . . a t least until now.

Mother: F o r m e , I grieved a lot at first after t h e b i r t h . T h e n I d e c i d e d to treat t h e p r e g n a n c y as a beautiful, simple, a n d h a p p y t i m e , only that it e n d e d w i t h o u t a child. After t h a t , I t o o k a lot of t i m e for myself, h a d a lot of n e w e x p e r i e n c e s , tried o u t a lot of n e w things. I h a d n ' t really t h o u g h t at all a b o u t t h a t child until o u r o t h e r s o n b e c a m e ill a n d I r e a d y o u r b o o k . Hellinger: It's difficult for b o t h p a r e n t s w h e n a child dies like t h a t . B u t if you c a n a c c e p t y o u r child's d e a t h as b e i n g p a r t of y o u r fate t o g e t h e r , t h e n his d e a t h has m e a n i n g a n d can give you s t r e n g t h . L o o k at each o t h e r n o w w i t h t h e feeling of willingness to c a r r y this b u r d e n t o g e t h e r — a n d give t h e child a place in y o u r h e a r t s . Your firstborn b o n d s you t o g e t h e r , a n d h e m a y c o n t i n u e t o d o s o i n t h e future as well. A n d with y o u r first s o n p r e s e n t in y o u r h e a r t s , look at y o u r ill s o n — w i t h t h e s a m e feeling. H e c a n k n o w a b o u t his o l d e r b r o t h e r , a n d you n e e d t o d o s o m e t h i n g for t h e d e c e a s e d child s o t h a t he h a s a g o o d place in y o u r family. D o e s t h a t feel right? Father: Mother: Hellinger: Yes. Yes. S o h o w d o t h e o t h e r children feel n o w ?

Ill C h i l d ' s R e p r e s e n t a t i v e : I ' m still really fighting b a c k t h e t e a r s , b u t t h e y ' r e g r a d u a l l y easing off. Third Child: Fourth Child: I ' m sad. Content.

The Therapeutic H e l l i n g e r (to representatives): down. T h a n k you.

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Okay, t h a t ' s all for now. You c a n sit

Questions Question: I'd like to ask w h a t actually m a k e s this t h e r a p y work? W h a t c a u s e s t h e c h a n g e i n t h e systemic d y n a m i c s a n d i n t h e i n d i viduals? I c a n see it h a p p e n , b u t w h y d o e s it work? Hellinger: W h e n we "dis-cover" an order, the correct order—I'll say it in t h a t provocative way—-then t h e o r d e r b r i n g s a b o u t s o m e t h i n g h e a l i n g or resolving in t h e system. O r d e r is s o m e t h i n g h i d d e n . F o r e x a m p l e , a tree g r o w s a c c o r d i n g to an o r d e r a n d c a n ' t deviate from it. If it did, it w o u l d n ' t be a t r e e a n y m o r e . H u m a n s a n d h u m a n relationship systems develop a c c o r d ing t o c e r t a i n o r d e r s . T h e t r u e o r d e r s o f h u m a n life a n d h u m a n relationships are h i d d e n a n d e m b e d d e d i n t h e p h e n o m e n a o f living. W e c a n ' t always find t h e m immediately, b u t it's m u c h w o r s e if we t r y to invent t h e m t o suit o u r wishes. I e x p e r i e n c e t h e p r o c e s s of finding an o r d e r as t u r n i n g i n w a r d while, at the s a m e t i m e , k e e p i n g e v e r y t h i n g in v i e w — w i t h o u t i n t e n tion, w i t h o u t fear o f c o n s e q u e n c e s . W h e n I ' m c o m p l e t e l y g a t h e r e d in myself in this way, I ' m in c o n t a c t with s o m e t h i n g I call t h e G r e a t e r S o u l . It's s o m e t h i n g secret, b u t there's a force t h a t p o u r s o u t of it. W h e n I ' m in c o n t a c t w i t h t h a t force, I c a n recognize t h e s t r u c t u r e s t h a t h e l p p e o p l e a n d that h i n d e r t h e m . You c a n l e a r n a b o u t these o r d e r s at a superficial level a n d t h e n apply t h e m in y o u r w o r k , or y o u c a n l e a r n a b o u t t h e m at a d e e p e r level. If s o m e o n e discovers an o r d e r a n d tells you a b o u t it, t h e n y o u can w o r k w i t h it intellectually. You d o n ' t w o r k from an i m m e d i a t e , p e r s o n a l r e c o g n i t i o n o f t h e o r d e r s , b u t you c a n apply y o u r h e a r s a y k n o w l e d g e mechanically. If I w a n t to achieve s o m e t h i n g at a greater d e p t h , I m u s t g a t h e r myself t o g e t h e r a r o u n d a m i d p o i n t of e m p t i n e s s . When I ' m c e n t e r e d i n t h a t e m p t i n e s s , I ' m i n c o n t a c t with s o m e t h i n g h e a l i n g t h a t I c a n ' t explain, b u t you can see its effect on p e o p l e . I i m m e d i a t e l y see in t h e p e r s o n ' s r e a c t i o n w h e t h e r or n o t I really was in c o n tact—if w h a t I say o p e n s a m o v e m e n t in h i m or her, or if it only s t i m u l a t e s curiosity, objections, or q u e s t i o n s . T h a t ' s h o w you tell if you w e r e in c o n t a c t w i t h an o r d e r .

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Q u e s t i o n : You've said that w h e n we lose love, o u r system comes into disorder, and w h e n we find love again, the system can r e t u r n to order. Have I u n d e r s t o o d that correctly? Hellinger: We hold valuable and meaningful whatever serves the unity a n d continuing growth of the systems in w h i c h we live. F o r that reason, order always precedes culturally relative values a n d has priority over t h e m . I c a n ' t change t h e natural orders with personal preferences, saying, "I believe that this is the highest value of all, so t h e natural orders of the world m u s t now change to c o n f o r m . " N o , it's t h e other way a r o u n d — p e r s o n a l values m u s t conform to the natural orders. A n d love, too, follows the natural o r d e r s a n d serves t h e m . T h e expression of love h a p p e n s w h e n I acknowledge that the o t h e r has just as m u c h right to belong to the greater whole as I have, a n d w h e n I treat h i m or her in the knowledge that I have as m u c h right to belong as he or she does. A d e e p feeling of c o m m u nity develops o u t of this reciprocal affirmation. T h a t ' s the love that reconciles. T h e r e are also other forms of love. F o r example, there is t h e love that c o m e s from b o n d i n g , as w h e n a child w h o d o e s n ' t yet u n d e r stand the greater connections of the world clings to t h e m o t h e r or father at all costs—even w h e n the p a r e n t is dead. T h a t ' s the source of the d y n a m i c , "I will follow you into death," or "I w a n t to be with you even in death." T h a t is, however, a d y n a m i c that's d a m a g i n g for a family system. It makes others want to follow s o m e o n e w h o has died instead of staying with the living. B u t , w h e n a child recognizes that the p a r e n t he or she w a n t e d to follow into d e a t h is still p r e s e n t and lives on a n d has a place in the child's soul, the p a r e n t is affirmed in his or her right of belonging even w h e n dead. T h e n t h e child, too, can claim t h e right to full m e m b e r s h i p with love. T h e child can say to the p a r e n t , " B e friendly with me w h e n I stay a while." T h a t ' s the difference b e t w e e n the smaller love a n d t h e greater love.

C H A P T E R S E V E N

Some Helpful Interventions
Family constellations are developed in three phases a n d create two different images of the family system: an image of the destructive dynamics and an image of resolution. T h e first p h a s e of t h e constellation presents t h e client's m e m o r i e s a n d internal images, and is a highly subjective a n d personal picture of the h i d d e n dynamics o p e r ating in the family. It furnishes a visual representation of the ways in which the family system continues to influence w h a t the client feels and does. T h i s first phase generates a working hypothesis a b o u t the systemic dynamics operating within the family. T h e representatives' reactions provide information that's supplementary to what the client says. T h e combination of their reactions with the visual images of the constellations and the client's information is a better basis for the search for resolutions than are the client's memories and internal images alone. After the h i d d e n d y n a m i c has b e c o m e clear, it's possible to look for a resolution. In t h e second p h a s e of t h e constellation, we begin a step-by-step, trial-and-error search for an image of systemic balance and resolution with love. T h i s n e w constellation allows t h e client to see a n d feel a possible healing option. T h e final p h a s e of the work is a constellation that's an image of what can be, Love's H i d d e n S y m m e t r y in which every m e m b e r of 251

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the e x t e n d e d family has an appropriate place a n d function. It's healing w h e n clients succeed in allowing this n e w image to work in t h e m , gradually modifying their old personal reality. S o m e t i m e s , the resolution constellations even affect other m e m b e r s of the family and t h e o t h e r g r o u p participants. Observers are often impressed by h o w quickly g r o u p s , even large g r o u p s , develop an a t m o s p h e r e of alert respect, lightness, a n d laughter. A n d conversely, the g r o u p a t m o s p h e r e contributes to the representatives' ability to i m m e r s e themselves in other people's fortunes a n d misfortunes so that each constellation of resolution is u n i q u e . T h e resolving constellations are frequently so powerful that they c o n t i n u e working change for several years.

SETTING UP A CONSTELLATION
T h e first step in setting up a constellation is to get an overview of t h e family. T h e task is to identify all of t h e p e r s o n s w h o b e l o n g to t h e system, t h a t is, all p e r s o n s w h o systemically affect t h e client. T h e therapist begins by asking a b o u t u n u s u a l events in the e x t e n d e d family, such as deaths, suicides, separations, divorces, accidents, h a n d i c a p s , serious illnesses, a n d absences. D e s c r i p t i o n s of character a n d evaluations of people are i n t e r r u p t e d b e c a u s e that information influences the representatives a n d interferes with their s p o n t a n e o u s reactions to the constellation.

The Conditions for Setting Up a Constellation
W h e n clients set up a constellation, their intention m u s t be serious a n d their p u r p o s e legitimate. Frivolous interest a n d idle curiosity d o n ' t p r o d u c e the sensitivity and alertness necessary to distinguish b e t w e e n personal projections and systemic effect. T h e effect of a constellation can go very deep. F o r this reason, a g r o u p a t m o s p h e r e of attentive cooperation is essential. Participants s h o u l d n ' t say anything while being set u p , n o r should t h e p e r s o n w h o is setting up the constellation. H e l l i n g e r (to representatives doing their first constellation): Center yourselves, collect yourselves. Forget your own p r o b l e m s , your intentions, your goals. Just notice the feelings a n d sensations that

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arise a s y o u ' r e m o v e d t o y o u r places, a n d n o t i c e w h a t e v e r c h a n g e s i n you w h e n o t h e r s are b r o u g h t i n t o t h e constellation. It's i m p o r t a n t n o t t o try t o figure o u t h o w y o u t h i n k y o u s h o u l d feel in this or t h a t place b a s e d on w h a t you see or believe. T r u s t y o u r b o d y r e a c t i o n s . W h e n you feel different t h a n e x p e c t e d , r e p o r t that neutrally, w i t h o u t j u d g m e n t . You m a y e x p e r i e n c e feelings t h a t are t a b o o a n d t h a t c a u s e anxiety o r e m b a r r a s s m e n t . F o r e x a m p l e , you m i g h t feel relieved w h e n s o m e o n e dies, or y o u m i g h t feel d r a w n t o w a r d an illicit or i n c e s t u o u s relationship. If you d o n ' t say it, t h e n i m p o r t a n t i n f o r m a t i o n d o e s n ' t c o m e into t h e o p e n . I t w o r k s b e s t w h e n y o u say w h a t you e x p e r i e n c e w i t h o u t c e n s o r i n g it, w i t h o u t leaving a n y t h i n g o u t or e l a b o r a t i n g on it in any way. W h a t e v e r you experience w h e n you're representing someone has to do with that p e r s o n , a n d n o t w i t h y o u r p e r s o n a l life. W h e n y o u set u p y o u r constellation, d o i t b y feel. Actually t o u c h the r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s , take t h e m b y a s h o u l d e r a n d m o v e t h e m t o their places so t h a t y o u c a n feel w h a t ' s right. You c a n forget w h a t y o u t h o u g h t before, b e c a u s e that's usually n o t helpful. D o n ' t w o r r y a b o u t g e s t u r e s a n d s e n t e n c e s , a n d i n w h i c h d i r e c t i o n p e o p l e are looking. J u s t find t h e place for e a c h to s t a n d t h a t feels right.

Choosing Representatives Question: Is it n e c e s s a r y t h a t t h e representatives b e of t h e s a m e gender as the persons they represent?
Yes, as a general r u l e , b u t s o m e t i m e s t h a t i s n ' t p o s sible. It usually works o u t okay w h e n s o m e o n e r e p r e s e n t s a p e r s o n of t h e o p p o s i t e sex in a m i n o r role. It is, however, a d i s t u r b a n c e . Still, w h e n t h e r e are too few p e o p l e , you've got t o m a k e d o . S o m e t i m e s , I even s t a n d in for s o m e o n e in a p e r i p h e r a l role.

Hellinger:

Question: I have t h e i m p r e s s i o n t h a t representatives are c h o s e n w h o fit their roles, a n d t h a t t h e y ' r e similar to t h e a c t u a l p e r s o n s .
W h e n p e o p l e are c h o o s i n g , they d o n ' t t u r n off t h e i r u n c o n s c i o u s . Obviously, t h e r e are similarities. H o w e v e r , if y o u allow yourself to feel the effect of the position, a n y o n e c a n r e p r e s e n t a n y o n e . I t isn't t o o i m p o r t a n t . I t s o m e t i m e s h a p p e n s t h a t t h e s a m e p e r son is r e p e a t e d l y c h o s e n to r e p r e s e n t certain p e r s o n s , for e x a m p l e , p e r s o n s w h o have c o m m i t t e d suicide. T h e t h e r a p i s t s h o u l d t h e n

Hellinger:

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work with the hypothesis that there's s o m e t h i n g in the p e r s o n ' s syst e m that could place that p e r s o n at risk and protect h i m or h e r from being chosen for such roles t o o often.

Ignoring Interpretations and Representatives' Personal Material
Question: W h e n you're feeling s o m e t h i n g d u r i n g a constellation, d o e s n ' t y o u r personal history c o m e into play? H e l l i n g e r : T h a t ' s a very i m p o r t a n t question. You c a n ' t do a family constellation if you have the idea that what you feel is personal. T h a t ' s too confusing. If you try to figure o u t w h e t h e r it's your feeling or p a r t of the system, you're already distracted from noticing h o w t h e position is affecting you. It's simpler to a s s u m e that what you feel is a function of the system and n o t your personal history. You enter into a foreign system w h e n you're a representative, a n d you have foreign feelings a n d sensations. Obviously, your personal m e m o r i e s a n d experiences can be t o u c h e d , b u t it has a destructive effect if you allow yourself to think a b o u t t h e m as long as y o u ' r e in the role. T h e n you're mixing personal and external things. F o r this reason, it's very i m p o r t a n t that you r e m a i n clear— although you let yourself get into t h e role fully, t h e feelings that c o m e a r e n ' t y o u r feelings a n d they d o n ' t apply to you. After you get o u t of the role, you can deal with y o u r feelings if you w a n t to. It's a little like b e i n g an actor w h o is playing an intense role. T h e feelings of Othello m a y t o u c h the actor's personal feelings, b u t he's going to go crazy if he tries to deal with his personal issues while he's identified with Othello. It's better to work on your issues in the context of your system. W h e n you've observed a n u m b e r of constellations, you see h o w the same p a r t i c i p a n t has different feelings in each different system, a n d you see h o w t h e feelings constantly change within one constellation. As an outsider, you c a n ' t always tell h o w s o m e o n e will react in a position.

Family Sculptures and Family Constellations
Hellinger: T h e r e ' s a n o t h e r distinction t h a t I m a k e : W h a t w e d o are family constellations, n o t family sculptures. By family s c u l p -

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t u r e s , I m e a n setting up t h e family with gestures a n d p o s t u r e s , t u r n i n g p e o p l e ' s h e a d s to look in a certain direction, a n d so o n . W h e n representatives are sculpted like that, their e x p e r i e n c e s are completely d e t e r m i n e d by their positions, a n d they a r e n ' t free to notice the c h a n g e s that o c c u r in t h e course of the work. If t h e r e p resentatives are simply p u t in their places, they can follow t h e c h a n g e s in their i n n e r sensations as the constellation develops. If I t u r n their h e a d s for t h e m or tell t h e m w h o m to look at, they c a n ' t allow t h e position to affect t h e m b e c a u s e I've defined their experience. G e s t u r e s and poses also m a k e it difficult to feel t h e effect of the family d y n a m i c . T h e very simple, almost plain constellations, on t h e other h a n d , allow us to get a m u c h better picture of the d y n a m i c of the family system, of h o w the system influences its m e m b e r s . If we just lead the representatives to a certain position in relation to the others a n d allow that to affect t h e m , they start to get s y m p t o m s , p e r h a p s weak knees, anger, silly ideas, or something like that. W h e n that h a p p e n s , we're getting information from a different level, n o t just from t h e protagonist's conscious concepts. Question: While I was in the constellation, my h a n d s felt terribly cold. I t h o u g h t it was just my anxiety at being in the role, b u t m a y b e it was a p a r t of the system. Hellinger: Yes, that would be i m p o r t a n t information. You n e e d to act as if t h e m o m e n t you step into the system, you're no longer yourself, b u t a n o t h e r whose feelings you feel. You m u s t n ' t apply to yourself w h a t you feel in the role. D o n ' t even think, " T h a t m i g h t be an indication that there's s o m e t h i n g similar in m e . " You n e e d a certain discipline. P a u l (referring to a specific constellation): W h e n I see the parents and children in such a confrontation with one another. . . . H e l l i n g e r (interrupting): T h a t ' s an interpretation. You're m a k i n g the interpretation that there's a confrontation b e c a u s e they were standing across from one a n o t h e r in the constellation. T h a t ' s a serious mistake. Paul: But that's h o w I sense it.

H e l l i n g e r : N o , that's n o t actually h o w you sense it. It's h o w you interpret it. In this work, absolute accuracy is essential. You only

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c o u l d sense it if y o u were actually s t a n d i n g in the constellation. T h e representatives d i d n ' t have a sense of c o n f r o n t a t i o n . T h a t ' s a very basic p r i n c i p l e of w o r k i n g with the constellations. You have to resist t h e t e m p t a t i o n to c o m e to conclusions a b o u t the system as a w h o l e on the basis of w h a t you think y o u w o u l d feel. Paul: D o e s t h a t m e a n that I have to place myself in t h e client's position in o r d e r to u n d e r s t a n d t h e client? H e l l i n g e r : N o , i t d o e s n ' t m e a n that. You c a n ' t actually m a k e a n e m p a t h i c c o n n e c t i o n with your clients if you identify w i t h t h e m completely. You n e e d alertness a n d a c e r t a i n d i s t a n c e to be truly e m p a t h i c . If you c o n t a c t a n o t h e r p e r s o n w i t h that k i n d of a l e r t n e s s , y o u c a n usually s e n s e w h a t he or she is e x p e r i e n c i n g . Especially, you c a n sense w h a t ' s r e q u i r e d for a solution. L o o k i n g for a s o l u t i o n r e q u i r e s a c o m p l e t e l y different alertness t h a n asking t h e q u e s t i o n , " W h a t ' s t h e p r o b l e m ? " Y o u c a n ' t e m p a t h i z e w h e n y o u ' r e looking for problems.

Working with the Minimum
Q u e s t i o n : W h e n p e o p l e start to tell y o u a b o u t their families, I n o t i c e t h a t you often i n t e r r u p t t h e m before they finish. W h y d o y o u d o that? Hellinger: P e o p l e setting u p their systems are often t e m p t e d t o give m u c h m o r e i n f o r m a t i o n t h a n i s necessary. W h e n they d o t h a t , they interfere w i t h t h e representatives' ability to e x p e r i e n c e directly h o w t h e system affects t h e m . T o o m u c h i n f o r m a t i o n confuses m o r e t h a n it h e l p s . E x p e r i e n c e d representatives will say w h a t ' s i m p o r t a n t . W h e n i n f o r m a t i o n c o m e s from t h e m o u t o f their e x p e r i e n c e i n t h e role, it h a s a different weight a n d effect. It's also t e m p t i n g t o set u p m o r e m e m b e r s o f t h e family t h a n are n e c e s s a r y for r e s o l u t i o n . Every u n n e c e s s a r y p e r s o n in t h e r e s o l u t i o n constellation d i m i n i s h e s the p o w e r of t h e i m a g e , so the t h e r a p i s t m u s t m a k e sure t h a t only those p e r s o n s are i n c l u d e d i n t h e c o n s t e l lation w h o are n e c e s s a r y for a r e s o l u t i o n . P e o p l e s o m e t i m e s say, " M y g r a n d m o t h e r was living w i t h u s , " o r " M y n a n n y was very i m p o r t a n t for me as a child." M e r e physical p r o x i m i t y isn't in itself an i n d i c a t i o n of m e m b e r s h i p in t h e system or of i m p o r t a n c e for a resolution.

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T h e fundamental principle is: Always work with the minimum necessary for resolution. People can be a d d e d to the system later as n e e d e d , b u t representatives w h o have no effect on the others m u s t be removed from the constellation. It's confusing w h e n too m a n y people are set u p , a n d it's disturbing to the representatives if you're constantly p u t t i n g people in and then having to take t h e m out again.

Family Therapy and Family Constellations Question: C a n you set up a family constellation with the m e m bers of the family itself? Hellinger: You d o n ' t n e e d your family to set up a family system. T h e constellations have a clearer effect w h e n representatives from the g r o u p are used instead of family m e m b e r s . If family m e m b e r s set up the other m e m b e r s , they can't avoid setting up their c o n scious relationships, what they think or feel a b o u t the others. T h a t ' s a very different level of information t h a n what we n e e d to find a resolution. Working like that can lead to good relationship clarification, b u t n o t work with the dynamics of the family system. I ' m cautious a b o u t doing therapy with the entire family. W h e n t h e entire family goes to a therapist, the children t e n d to lose s o m e of their respect for their parents. T h a t ' s a very high price to pay, especially for younger children, so I prefer to work with the parents. I do family therapy with the p a r e n t s , and the parents work with their children. T h e children d o n ' t even need to know what we discussed. S o m e t i m e s it works very well to have the family watching while o n e m e m b e r sets up the constellation with representatives from a g r o u p , b u t I use this option sparingly, primarily w h e n a child has a physical illness that m a y have a systemic c o m p o n e n t . T h e n o n e of the p a r e n t s can set up t h e family while the child watches. W h e n you set up a constellation of your family in a g r o u p , you carry away images of w h a t h a p p e n e d in the constellation, a n d those images can affect t h e whole system. T h a t ' s an elegant solution because no o n e n e e d s to know that a therapist was involved at all. T h e dignity a n d privacy of family m e m b e r s are n o t violated, t h e responsibility remains in the family, a n d the therapist r e m a i n s unobtrusive, h i d d e n in the b a c k g r o u n d . O n c e the p r o b l e m d y n a m i c in the family is clear, t h e n you can do family therapy in whatever way is appropriate to t h e family's situa-

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tion. T h e family constellations are useful w h e n t h e s y m p t o m s are k n o w n , b u t t h e u n d e r l y i n g systemic d y n a m i c isn't yet visible.

The Meaning of the Constellations
Hellinger: I w a n t to say o n e t h i n g m o r e a b o u t t h e constellations, just to avoid possible m i s u n d e r s t a n d i n g s . T h e constellations are images, like s n a p s h o t s of w h a t was a n d could b e . A n d , like s n a p shots, they d o n ' t show the w h o l e t r u t h of t h e situation, just certain aspects of it. T h e y are like scenic viewing p o i n t s along a highway. W h e n p e o p l e try to m a k e life decisions on t h e basis of s u c h c o n s t e l lations, they easily get it w r o n g . T h e best t h i n g to do following a c o n stellation is n o t to do anything at all, b u t just to allow the n e w i m a g e to take effect on its own. L e t yourself be surprised by w h a t h a p p e n s . T h e r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s ' feelings reveal a p a r t i a l t r u t h , b u t t h e y d o n ' t n e c e s s a r i l y tell u s w h a t actually h a p p e n e d i n t h e p a s t . T h e y h e l p t o identify forces o p e r a t i n g i n t h e s y s t e m t h a t a r e u n c o n scious. A n d t h e y h e l p t o find a r e s o l u t i o n . T h a t ' s all t h a t t h e c o n stellations d o . A m a n o n c e set up a constellation. He w a s n ' t getting a l o n g w i t h his wife. In t h e r e s o l u t i o n constellation, he was s e p a r a t e d from his wife, a n d t h e c h i l d r e n were with h i m . H e t h e n w e n t h o m e a n d said to his wife, " B e r t Hellinger said we m u s t get divorced, a n d t h a t I s h o u l d have c u s t o d y o f t h e c h i l d r e n . " T h a t ' s a b u s e , p u r e a n d s i m p l e . T h a t ' s a terrible m i s u s e of t h e exercise. It was very unfair to his wife, a n d it w a s unfair to t h e exercise. W h e n t h e s u n c o m e s u p , you c a n use t h e light. You allow t h e light to w o r k , h e l p i n g you to see clearly. After a while, you see w h a t y o u ' v e got to d o , or you see things differently, or you see a n e w p o s sibility. T h e n y o u d o w h a t n e e d s t o b e d o n e , b u t y o u d o n ' t n e e d t o talk m u c h a b o u t t h e s u n .

The Standard Resolution Constellation
Hellinger: W h e n y o u ' r e r e a d y to look for a r e s o l u t i o n constellation, w h a t y o u ' r e looking for is a constellation in w h i c h e v e r y o n e , especially t h e client, feels g o o d . You've seen t h e r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s ' r e a c t i o n s , w h e n they c o u l d s u d d e n l y feel, " T h a t ' s right!" You have to find it by trial a n d e r r o r , b u t there's a s t a n d a r d o r d e r you s h o u l d

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know. T h e r e are always exceptions, b u t t h e basic internal ordering principle of a family relationship system is this: 1. 2. 3. W h o e v e r was there first has priority. T h e direction of priority in a constellation is clockwise. Between a m a n a n d a w o m a n w h o entered t h e system at the s a m e t i m e , the m a n generally c o m e s first, a n d t h e n the w o m a n . (See C h a p t e r Two.) In the resolution constellations, t h e children usually c o m e next, the oldest closest to the m o t h e r ' s left. Q u i t e often, t h e constellation is m o r e relaxed w h e n the children are standing opposite their parents. (I've also h a d feedback from families that m e a l t i m e is m o r e relaxed w h e n the family sits at t h e table in this order.) Stillborn children usually stand with their siblings in their order of b i r t h . A b o r t e d children, if they're i m p o r t a n t to t h e system at all, usually feel good sitting in front of their parents, leaning against t h e m . W h e n they're in t h a t position, t h e other m e m b e r s of the constellation usually can relax, too. A b o r t e d children aren't c o u n t e d with t h e o t h e r s — t h e y affect their p a r e n t s , b u t n o t their siblings.

4.

5.

Q u e s t i o n : You said that the natural o r d e r of t h e family moves clockwise. W h a t a b o u t w h e n there's b e e n m o r e t h a n o n e marriage? H e l l i n g e r : T h e o r d e r is still clockwise: the first family, t h e n t h e second family, a n d t h e n the third family. F o r e x a m p l e , if t h e client is a m a n w h o was m a r r i e d three times, it starts with his first wife, with the children they h a d together to her left; t h e n t h e second wife a n d children; t h e n h e ; and, finally, his third wife with t h e children they h a d together on h e r left. S o m e t i m e s the o r d e r is different. D o n ' t get t h e idea that it always has to be the s a m e , b u t the resolution constellation very often will t u r n out to be a variant of this basic form. Actually, you c a n ' t set up s o m e constellations in their full complexity, b u t you can usually get close e n o u g h to find a good resolution. Question: Hellinger: Question: D o e s n ' t a complex family start with t h e client? N o , b u t the client's t h e m i d p o i n t . So it isn't set where the circle actually starts?

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H e l l i n g e r : N o . As a r u l e , t h e children from a divorce s t a n d b e t w e e n their p a r e n t s . T h e n a t u r a l o r d e r within a family is t h a t t h e o l d e r m e m b e r s e n t e r e d t h e system f i r s t a n d c o m e f i r s t , b u t b e t w e e n t w o systems, t h e n e w system m u s t have p r e c e d e n c e over t h e previo u s o n e s ; o t h e r w i s e , there's confusion a n d disarray. T h e p r e s e n t family h a s p r e c e d e n c e over the earlier families. T h a t ' s w h y p a r t n e r s have to leave their old families in o r d e r to e n t e r i n t o a n o t h e r . T h e r e are e x c e p t i o n s to this as well, for i n s t a n c e a w i d o w a n d h e r only child. Very often, s u c h a child has to integrate his or h e r m o t h e r into t h e n e w family if he or she m a r r i e s . W h e n a p e r s o n has m o r e t h a n o n e family, t h e n all of t h e families f o r m o n e very c o m p l e x relationship system. D i v o r c e d p e r s o n s are only s e p a r a t e d from their p a r t n e r s as p a r t n e r s , b u t as p a r e n t s t h e y ' r e still c o n n e c t e d . T h e r e f o r e , r e s o l u t i o n s are possible only if that's a c k n o w l e d g e d a n d the w h o l e system is brought into balance. Question: I ' m still confused a b o u t w h e n t h e m a n c o m e s first a n d w h e n t h e w o m a n h a s t h e lead position. H e l l i n g e r : T h e representatives' reactions are t h e only criterion. T r y it o u t b o t h ways if y o u ' r e n o t sure. T h e y usually a g r e e as to w h i c h way is b e t t e r . I'll r e p e a t my observations since it's a p o i n t t h a t ' s confusing t o m a n y p e o p l e . S i n c e t h e father a n d m o t h e r e n t e r a family s y s t e m at t h e s a m e t i m e , their r a n k i n g is d e t e r m i n e d by their function a n d by their psychological weight. T h e p e r s o n responsible for the family's e x t e r n a l security usually h a s t h e first position, a n d that's usually t h e m a n . T h e r e are situations i n w h i c h the w o m a n h a s priority even w h e n she i s n ' t responsible for t h e family security, for e x a m p l e , w h e n h e r f a m ily of origin h a s u n u s u a l weight b e c a u s e of its history. T h e n t h a t family's f o r t u n e o r m i s f o r t u n e outweighs t h e m a n ' s p r o t e c t i v e function. Feel free to e x p e r i m e n t with the constellation to see w h i c h o r d e r is b e t t e r for t h e p a r t i c i p a n t s . W h e n t h e m a n ' s p l a c e i s t o t h e left o f t h e w o m a n w i t h o u t t h e r e b e i n g a legitimate r e a s o n for it, he h a s a fool's f r e e d o m a n d he t e n d s to w a n d e r away from his family a n d avoid responsibility, a n d t h e w o m a n often feels very alone a n d u n s u p p o r t e d . As s o o n as he's s t a n d i n g o n t h e o t h e r side, h e feels responsible a n d t h e w o m a n feels protected and helped.

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Isn't that just the patriarchal order?

H e l l i n g e r : I don't know. The soul reacts as it does no matter what ideology you embrace. It isn't a matter of conscious choice. T h e constellations show clearly that whomever is responsible for the safety and living space for the family has priority, and he or she is also the one who comes first in the line of fire. It's not a question of human value, as if either men or women were more valuable. Additional Considerations

M a n y couples we've worked with have discovered that it's m u c h m o r e difficult to change their roles and functions t h a n they expected. S o m e say that's because the socialization of the roles of m e n a n d w o m e n is so entrenched, and others that there are biological or archetypal p a t t e r n s that resist change. We d o n ' t speculate about that. We observe that it generally works b e t t e r w h e n the fathers do their best to protect a n d serve their families, a n d w h e n the m o t h e r s s u p p o r t t h e m in that and follow their lead. B u t for many families, the traditional roles assigned to w o m e n a n d m e n are no longer appropriate. Sometimes these roles a n d functions may be reversed successfully, b u t when a m a n asserts his strength in a way that's contrary or oblivious to the needs a n d interests of his wife and children, or when wives a n d children claim the privileges of the lead position without truly accepting the responsibility a n d danger as well, the result is invariably destructive to love. W h e n partnerships a n d families are having difficulties, it's often t h e case that the actual dynamics of the family are different from w h a t the p a r t n e r s would like to believe. Love requires that the overall power, privilege, responsibility, a n d freedom in the family remain balanced a n d well m a t c h e d , and that the roles a n d functions of family m e m b e r s remain systemically appropriate. [H.B.]

T h e R e s o l u t i o n Constellation E m e r g e s f r o m t h e Process
Question: H o w do you go about looking for a resolution?

H e l l i n g e r : The resolution emerges during the constellation process. It's absolutely essential that you listen closely to the representatives' reports and allow them to lead you toward the resolution. There are some situations in which the therapist must trust his or her own

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perceptions m o r e t h a n the reports of the p a r t i c i p a n t s , especially w h e n their nonverbal behavior isn't c o n g r u e n t with w h a t they say, b u t , as a rule, t r u s t w h a t they say. Often there's missing information that makes the m o v e m e n t t o w a r d resolution difficult or even impossible. T h e n you've got to stop a n d wait until the information is available. Bear in m i n d t h a t y o u ' r e seeking a r e s o l u t i o n p r i m a r i l y for t h e client, a n d only secondarily for t h e o t h e r m e m b e r s of t h e system. It's m y intuitive conviction t h a t t h e e n d resolutions are pretty m u c h t h e s a m e for all m e m b e r s of t h e family. N e v e r t h e l e s s , the steps t a k e n a n d t h e p e r s o n s b r o u g h t into t h e system m a y well differ d e p e n d i n g o n w h o t h e p r o t a g o n i s t is, a n d w h e t h e r c h i l d h o o d was e x p e r i e n c e d as a b o y or as a girl. Seeking a r e s o l u t i o n for s o m e o n e is a service t h a t c a n only be d o n e w i t h humility. It isn't y o u r job to create a r e s o l u t i o n w h e n o n e d o e s n ' t e m e r g e on its o w n . You'll m a k e a m e s s if y o u try. T h e h u m i l ity I ' m talking a b o u t r e q u i r e s t h a t you c o n s e n t t o b e i n g stuck w h e n the c o n s t e l l a t i o n d o e s n ' t provide a r e s o l u t i o n , a n d t h a t you t r u s t t h e p r o c e s s t o c o n t i n u e o n its o w n . T h i s kind o f t h e r a p y isn't s o m e t h i n g the t h e r a p i s t d o e s to t h e client, a n d y o u r t r u s t in t h e p r o c e s s is a m o d e l for t h e client.

How the Resolution Constellation Works for Change
Question: H o w d o t h e e n d constellations actually work?

Hellinger: A r e s o l u t i o n constellation h a s its greatest p o w e r for c h a n g e w h e n clients see it, take it in, a n d give up t h e a t t e m p t to do a n y t h i n g actively. It's as if t h e resolution constellation were an u n c o n s c i o u s p i c t u r e t h a t c a n w o r k if you let it. You'll do b e t t e r if you just let t i m e p a s s . It's like a convalescence after a serious illness—it takes t i m e , b u t after a while, y o u ' r e h e a l t h y again. It m a y take several years for t h e healing p r o c e s s set in m o t i o n by t h e r e s o lution constellation t o c o m p l e t e itself. T h a t ' s n o t h i n g you c a n objectively m e a s u r e , b u t y o u definitely c a n see t h e results. T h e r e ' s a n o t h e r i m p o r t a n t issue. N o o n e else i n y o u r system h a s to c h a n g e in o r d e r for y o u to c h a n g e . You d o n ' t n e e d a n y o n e to a s s u m e a different function in t h e system. T h e entire shift in t h e family system o c c u r s as a result of a shift in y o u r i n n e r i m a g e . O c c a sionally, it's helpful to tell o t h e r m e m b e r s of t h e family a b o u t t h e constellation, b u t only w h e n it's a p p r o p r i a t e a n d y o u tell t h e m w i t h -

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out any interpretation. You only tell what happened and how that was for you. When parents get their image of the family in order it affects their children. It's not necessary to tell the children anything at all about what happened. The order of the system itself has the effect, and also your honoring it in your soul. It's a characteristic of a good resolution that everyone in the system has a good place. If the resolution constellation reveals that you still owe someone something, you've got to take care of it. Some people find it useful to draw or paint their constellation, or they may look at a videotape of the constellation after a while. Often the details of the resolution are completely forgotten, and only the effect remains. I remember a conversation I had that illustrates how the images work without actively doing anything.
I'll Pay for the Motorcycle

I was invited to lunch by a colleague. Her niece was living with her because she'd been thrown out at home. The niece, who was about 2 0 , had been a junkie living a junkie's street life, had attempted suicide a number of times, and finally had gotten herself together at her aunt's house. She was clean, had learned a trade, and had become a more or less normal young woman. My friend told how her niece had recently made a trip to Guatemala where she borrowed a motorcycle and wrecked it. She just left it lying there, and went on her way. I let the story work in me a while, then I said, "She'd better pay for the motorcycle, or she's in danger of slipping back into her old lifestyle." My friend had to go on a business trip right after our lunch and didn't have a chance to talk with her niece before she left. That night, her niece called her at her hotel and said, "I've been thinking. I'm going to pay for the motorcycle." That's how the inner pictures work. I can tell you many similar anecdotes. It's the effect of "nondoing." The good image makes things happen. When insight is present, then I only need to keep my strength collected while a new pattern emerges. When the new image is clearly formed, I can do what's necessary with a minimum of effort. I can tell you of another case.
Grandmother's Serenity

A lively young couple in a group who were in their late 20s had three daughters and a fourth child on the way. The second daughter had

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diabetes. W h e n w e set u p t h e constellation, t h e d a u g h t e r ' s r e p r e s e n tative was very n e r v o u s a n d c o u l d n ' t find a place w h e r e she felt g o o d . T h e n w e b r o u g h t t h e child's m a t e r n a l g r a n d m o t h e r a n d great g r a n d m o t h e r i n t o t h e constellation. T h e y b o t h h a d b a d r e p u t a t i o n s a n d were rejected a n d devalued by the client. As s o o n as they c a m e into t h e constellation, t h e little girl's representative b e c a m e c a l m . W h e n w e p u t t h e g r a n d m o t h e r b e h i n d her, she r a d i a t e d serenity. T h e p a r e n t s called h o m e that n i g h t from the w o r k s h o p a n d talked with their children. T h e y later related that the little girl h a d talked with t h e m a s never before. T h e y were completely s u r p r i s e d . A c o u p l e of m o n t h s later, the m a n ' s b r o t h e r p a r t i c i p a t e d in a g r o u p . H e c a m e u p t o m e a n d told m e t h a t t h e little girl's b l o o d sugar h a d d r o p p e d so dramatically after t h e constellation t h a t they s t o p p e d the insulin injections for three days. T h e n it w e n t b a c k u p , a n d t h e y h a d t o start insulin again. That seems to indicate that the good effect of the resolution c o n stellation was interrupted, but the story still shows the kind of change made possible by putting the inner system in order. T h e y hadn't told the child anything. Changes just happen w h e n the systemic images are in order. Here is a final example.

A

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Telephone

Call

A m a n in a g r o u p w h o was having serious t r o u b l e in his m a r r i a g e told h o w he h a d recently r e a d in t h e n e w s p a p e r that his illegitimate son h a d b e e n killed i n a n accident. H e ' d n e v e r seen t h e son a n d h a d never c o n c e r n e d himself with h i m . H e h a d m a r r i e d his p r e s e n t wife shortly after t h e boy's b i r t h , a n d t h e c o u p l e h a d t h r e e c h i l d r e n together. We set up t h e constellation, a n d after a s e q u e n c e of m o v e s , the m a n w o u n d u p s t a n d i n g n e x t t o his d e c e a s e d son. T h e n t h e son sat i n front o f his father, w h o p u t a h a n d o n his h e a d . T h e m a n b r o k e d o w n , s o b b i n g in d e e p grief a n d s h a m e . T h e n it was over. A l t h o u g h he was having serious p r o b l e m s with his wife, she telep h o n e d h i m a t the w o r k s h o p that night a n d talked t o h i m lovingly. T h e image had affected his wife in some way in spite of the distance. That kind of thing happens a lot, but I don't even speculate about h o w it works.

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Stopping as a Difficult but Necessary Intervention
Hellinger: It's n o t always possible to find a good resolution. After you've looked for a while without finding anything, t h e g r o u p starts to lose interest. W h e n you notice that h a p p e n i n g , it's time to quit. Usually there's information missing that you n e e d in o r d e r to uncover a resolution. T h e process of watching t h e constellation being set up has already provided plenty of useful insight for t h e client, a n d my general principle is that it's b e t t e r to quit while you're ahead. It's better to do too little t h a n to risk doing t o o m u c h . Interrupting a Constellation

T h e p r i m a r y issue to watch out for is h o w people go a b o u t setting up their constellations, w h e t h e r or n o t they have a confusing or a clear effect on the representatives. S o m e constellations are very clear and have an i m m e d i a t e effect on the representatives. O t h e r s are diffuse, and t h e representatives d o n ' t get a real sense of what's going o n , forget w h o m they're supposed to represent, and so o n . After you've h a d a bit of experience, you can see h o w deeply engaged a n d centered s o m e o n e is. W h e n clients are really collected in themselves, they move slowly, feeling their way into each m o v e m e n t . T h e y t e n d to take each r e p resentative tenderly by the a r m , as if physical t o u c h helps t h e m get the feel of what's "right." T h e y lead t h e p e r s o n to his or h e r place, m a k e fine a d j u s t m e n t s , a n d stay with the p e r s o n until it's just right. T h e n they go on to get the next person. W h e n clients w a n t to m a k e sure that they've got it right, they instinctively walk a r o u n d t h e periphery, looking at w h a t they've d o n e from t h e outside. I d o n ' t tell participants t o o m u c h a b o u t these things, because I w a n t to be able to see h o w they naturally go a b o u t it. W h e n a client d o e s n ' t set up the constellation with this kind of genuine respect, there's a difficult a n d subtle test for the therapist. Everyone unconsciously watches to see if t h e therapist is really in charge of the situation a n d notices the difference. If the therapist d o e s n ' t notice, he or she might as well go h o m e b e c a u s e real t r u s t c a n ' t develop. T h e r e ' s s o m e t h i n g in the soul that recognizes w h e t h e r the therapist truly respects life. If the therapist were to tolerate a careless or irreverent h a n d l i n g of issues of life a n d d e a t h , t h e n people would be foolish to show their real c o n c e r n s .

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I'll tell you a t r u e story that illustrates t h e p o i n t . I Lost Respect for the Saw Two years ago, a friend came to visit. While he was here, he told how his oldest son, who was learning to become a carpenter, had severely cut his leg with an electric saw and had to go to the hospital for surgery. After the operation was over and it had become clear that there wouldn't be permanent damage, he looked at his father and said, "I lost respect for the saw." W h e n I n o t i c e t h a t s o m e o n e is setting up t h e constellation a c c o r d i n g to a p l a n w o r k e d o u t a h e a d of t i m e , I usually s t o p t h e constellation a n d tell t h e p e r s o n t h a t I c a n ' t w o r k w i t h s u c h a c o n stellation. C o n s t e l l a t i o n s like these are m e n t a l c o n s t r u c t s , n o t images of w h a t really is h a p p e n i n g in t h e family. It's always m o r e effective n o t to have any m e n t a l images of y o u r constellation before you set it u p . I n t e r r u p t i n g a constellation is t h e m o s t difficult i n t e r v e n t i o n in systemic p s y c h o t h e r a p y , b u t it's also o n e of t h e m o s t effective. Also, w h e n p e o p l e ask if I w a n t t h e m to set up t h e families t h e way t h e y were or t h e way they are now, I stop. If they start o u t setting up their constellation by trying to do w h a t I w a n t , t h e y ' r e n o t r e s p e c t i n g the t r u t h of their o w n soul. Or if t h e y t r y to create images a c c o r d i n g to a c o n s c i o u s p l a n , they p r e v e n t t h e i m a g e s t h a t c o u l d help from e m e r g i n g spontaneously. It's always m o r e effective n o t to have any m e n t a l images of y o u r constellation before you set it u p .

Repeating Patterns in Constellations
Hellinger: T h e r a p i s t s w h o w o r k with constellations, o r p l a n t o d o so, are often i n t e r e s t e d in k n o w i n g w h e t h e r t h e r e are p a t t e r n s t h a t o c c u r i n t h e constellations that have special m e a n i n g s , o r w h e t h e r t h e r e are specific solutions t o specific d y n a m i c s . M y e x p e r i e n c e s u g gests t h a t this is, in fact, the case. H o w e v e r , t h e c u r r e n t state of t h e w o r k is s u c h t h a t these are only w o r k i n g h y p o t h e s e s . If I w e r e to list m y h u n c h e s , t h a t m i g h t lead t o m i s u n d e r s t a n d i n g s a n d t o t h e h y p o t h e s e s b e i n g t u r n e d into c o n c l u s i o n s . I w a n t to g u a r d against a n y t h i n g t h a t interferes w i t h p e o p l e l e a r n i n g to see for themselves w h a t ' s g o i n g o n . I ' m c o n v i n c e d that t h e b e s t l e a r n i n g c o m e s from personal experience.

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As a general rule of t h u m b , it's better for therapists to work on t h e a s s u m p t i o n that each constellation is u n i q u e a n d requires a u n i q u e resolution that can be discovered only in a sensitive dialogic process with the participants.

Constellations of Other Relationships
H e l l i n g e r : You sometimes can use constellations to try to u n d e r stand the h i d d e n dynamics in other relationship systems. G r o u p participants can be set up to represent m e m b e r s of an institution, of t h e firm w h e r e o n e works, of one's profession, or of other i m p o r t a n t areas of one's life. In one seminar, a participant w h o h a d a c o n s t a n t sense of heaviness was asked what was b u r d e n i n g h i m . He set up a constellation with himself, psychoanalysis, lightness, m e d i c i n e , a n d spirituality. T h e n he p u t t h e m in an o r d e r so that each h a d an appropriate place in his life. T h i s t e c h n i q u e can also be useful w h e n a p e r s o n has two professions, or w h e n the parents c o m e from two different countries or cultures. Setting up situations like this allows t h e i m p o r t a n c e of b o t h elements to be acknowledged, and still lets you find the a p p r o priate balance of t h e two. T h e constellations are an excellent m e t h od for seeing larger systemic wholes, for getting an overview.

Constellations with Couples
H e l l i n g e r : W h e n a couple at a seminar wants to work on their relationship, I first have one of t h e m , a n d t h e n the other, set up their relationship using the same representatives. T h e representatives stay s t a n d i n g , and after the first constellation, the o t h e r p a r t n e r moves t h e m to new positions. S o m e t i m e s you can see that o n e or the o t h e r is avoiding setting up t h e constellation so that the issues are clearly visible. In cases like that, t h e representatives' c o m parisons of h o w they felt in the two constellations are especially important. W h e n p a r t n e r s join together, each brings an internalized system. F o r example, if a w o m a n has internalized a distorted or dysfunctional family system, t h e n the m a n ' s perceptions of h e r will be dist o r t e d , as will be h e r perceptions of h i m . W h e n b o t h p a r t n e r s set up their relationship a n d the i m p o r t a n t m e m b e r s of their families of origin, they're confronted with a m o r e c o m p l e t e picture of their

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p a r t n e r a n d a m o r e objective reality. W h e n the internalized systems are b r o u g h t into order, t h e n their m u t u a l perceptions are also m o r e appropriate. T h a t has a very powerful effect on t h e relationship.

S u m m a r y of Things to Consider T h e following is a s u m m a r y of t h e basic points to be considered in setting up constellations and in seeking resolutions. Guidelines • for Protagonists

Set up a constellation only w h e n there's a b u r n i n g question a n d a t r u e need. Curiosity alone is n o t e n o u g h . As t h e representatives are chosen, it's useful to arrange t h e m in their natural order—parents first a n d t h e n the s e q u e n c e of the siblings. Before the constellation itself is b e g u n , it's useful to repeat everyone's role, to detect a n d avoid confusion. Avoid characterizations a n d i n f o r m a t i o n a b o u t h o w p e r s o n s a c t e d or t h o u g h t . F o r this work, only i n f o r m a t i o n a b o u t actual events is helpful—illnesses, physical h a n d i c a p s , s e p a rations, a n d deeds that h a d consequences for t h e p e r s o n ' s life. Characterizations of the m e m b e r s of your family interfere with the representatives' ability to sense the effect of the family dynamics. C e n t e r yourself a n d orient yourself toward the "feel" of t h e family. Your ideas a n d plans a b o u t h o w to set up the family interfere with sensing the information that helps. T h e constellation will e m e r g e only as you go t h r o u g h t h e process of setting it up. Allow yourself to be surprised by w h a t emerges. As you look for the right place for each representative, take the p e r s o n by the h a n d or a r m and go with t h e p e r s o n to his or h e r place so that you can "feel" where t h e p e r s o n belongs. M o v i n g h i m or h e r a few inches can m a k e a big difference. Search for t h e p r o p e r place, b u t d o n ' t sculpt gestures or m o v e m e n t s , or tell the p e r s o n w h e r e to look.

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After y o u ' v e set t h e m u p , go a r o u n d t h e o u t s i d e of t h e c o n stellation o n c e , m a k e fine a d j u s t m e n t s , a n d say, o n c e again, w h o m e v e r y o n e is r e p r e s e n t i n g . for Representatives

Guidelines •

G a t h e r yourself a n d c o n c e n t r a t e y o u r a t t e n t i o n o n y o u r r e a c tions to b e i n g in this place. Your job is to let t h e p o s i t i o n affect you a n d to r e p o r t t h a t as clearly a n d concisely as you possibly can. Avoid c o m i n g to c o n c l u s i o n s a b o u t w h a t y o u t h i n k you s h o u l d feel b a s e d on w h a t you see. If you feel n o t h i n g at all, t h e n say that. Say whatever you notice a b o u t h o w this place affects you, regardless of w h a t it m i g h t be—especially w h e n t h e feeling goes against your p e r s o n a l values a n d sense of right a n d w r o n g . D o n ' t w o r r y a b o u t w h e t h e r o r n o t t h e s e n s a t i o n s are y o u r p e r s o n a l r e a c t i o n or a r e s p o n s e to the situation. T h e t h e r a p i s t will sort t h a t o u t . R e p o r t w h a t y o u feel, b u t g u a r d against i n t e r p r e t i n g y o u r feelings. T r u s t t h e m a s they c o m e . D o n ' t have a n y i n t e n t i o n s o t h e r t h a n to r e p o r t a c c u r a t e l y h o w t h e p o s i t i o n affects you. T h i s m a y i n c l u d e c e r t a i n ideas or images t h a t o c c u r to you. W i t h e x p e r i e n c e , you'll develop a clear sense of w h a t n e e d s to be said a n d w h a t c a n be left o u t . for Therapists

Guidelines •

Your o r i e n t a t i o n is t o w a r d finding a r e s o l u t i o n . You m u s t seek it, b u t y o u c a n ' t create it. It's n o t y o u r job to create a r e s o l u tion, b u t to seek t h e o n e t h a t suggests itself from w h a t y o u actually see in the constellation. L o o k for t h o s e w h o have b e e n e x c l u d e d a n d f o r g o t t e n , b u t w h o still have an effect on t h e system. You m u s t s t a n d by all t h o s e in t h e system w h o have b e e n vilified, h a t e d , s c o r n e d , s h u t o u t . In cases of a b u s e , t h a t will often

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be the perpetrator. Resolution requires that the system be completely represented.

L o o k for those w h o w a n t to go, t h o s e w h o m u s t go, a n d t h o s e w h o m u s t b e allowed t o go. T r u s t t h e r e p o r t s of t h e representatives. T r u s t y o u r o w n p e r c e p t i o n s , even w h e n they are at v a r i a n c e w i t h t h o s e of the representatives. S t o p t h e constellation w h e n you n o t i c e that: t h e p r o t a g o n i s t isn't sufficiently serious; t h e p r o t a g o n i s t isn't c e n t e r e d a n d m a k i n g g o o d c o n t a c t w i t h each representative; t h e p r o t a g o n i s t isn't seeking t h e "feel" of t h e constellation; i m p o r t a n t i n f o r m a t i o n is missing; you c a n ' t see a resolution. K e e p it simple; u s e t h e m i n i m u m n u m b e r of p e r s o n s n e c e s sary to find resolution. Pay a t t e n t i o n to t h e m o o d of the g r o u p . It t h e g r o u p isn't serious and gathered, something is wrong. Seeking a Resolution

• •

Suggestions for •

W h o e v e r e n t e r e d t h e system first h a s p r e c e d e n c e over t h o s e w h o c a m e later. W a t c h the o r d e r o f p r e c e d e n c e . I t r u n s clockwise, t h e later p e r s o n s s t a n d i n g to t h e left of t h e earlier o n e . P a r e n t s have equal r a n k i n g , b u t w h i c h o f t h e m s t a n d s first varies from family to family a c c o r d i n g to their function in t h e family. B e t w e e n two systems, the later system has p r e c e d e n c e over t h e earlier o n e . T h u s , t h e p r e s e n t family h a s p r e c e d e n c e over t h e family o f o r i g i n , t h e s e c o n d m a r r i a g e h a s p r e c e d e n c e over t h e first, a n d so o n . W h e n a p e r s o n h a s a child w i t h a n o t h e r p e r s o n d u r i n g a m a r r i a g e , this s e c o n d r e l a t i o n s h i p h a s p r e c e d e n c e over t h e first. W h e n a m a n a n d a w o m a n are set up facing e a c h o t h e r , that's a n i n d i c a t i o n t h a t their sexual i n t i m a c y h a s b e e n d i s r u p t e d .

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W h e n a m o t h e r chooses a w o m a n to r e p r e s e n t h e r s o n , s u s p e c t systemic p r e s s u r e t o w a r d homosexuality. W h e n o n e of the p a r t i c i p a n t s has an u r g e to leave t h e r o o m or t h e constellation, s u s p e c t suicidal t e n d e n c i e s . W h e n o n e of t h e p a r e n t s h a d an earlier relationship w i t h firm b o n d i n g , t h e n e w p a r t n e r often n e e d s t o s t a n d b e t w e e n h i m o r h e r a n d the old p a r t n e r ; o t h e r w i s e , t h e r e ' s n o s e p a r a t i o n from t h e old relationship. T h i s c a n get c o m p l i c a t e d w h e n b o n d i n g h a s t a k e n place w i t h several p e r s o n s since t h e y all f o r m o n e large system. T h e r e are m a n y e x c e p t i o n s , especially w h e n t h e r e are c h i l d r e n i n o n e o r m o r e o f t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p s . W h e n all of t h e representatives are facing in t h e s a m e d i r e c t i o n , look for a m i s s i n g p e r s o n s t a n d i n g in front of t h e m . Additional Considerations

Participants in our groups who have come from tribal cultures in various parts of the world have commented that our use of these constellations is like reinventing the wheel. Native healers in many cultures have utilized related methods for making visible the hidden systemic dynamics operating in relationship systems. This feedback is gratifying. Obviously, the cosmologies and world views of many native cultures are more holistic and systemic than the linear causeand-effect thinking that has dominated Western thought for several centuries. If the therapeutic use of these constellations has the unexpected side effect of building bridges and increasing understanding among these various thought worlds, we will be very pleased indeed. [H.B.]

STORIES THAT HEAL
Question: T h e stories a n d a n e c d o t e s y o u tell are very beautiful. I often d o n ' t u n d e r s t a n d t h e m , b u t t h e y still have a powerful h y p n o t i c effect o n m e . Hellinger: W h e n I tell p e o p l e t h a t they s h o u l d d o this o r c a n ' t d o t h a t , t h e y owe it to their a u t o n o m y a n d sense of h o n o r to refuse. If I have m e t h o d s for indicating w h e r e c h a n g e is possible t h a t d o n ' t r e q u i r e t h e m t o give u p their a u t o n o m y , t h e n t h e y c a n listen t o m y offer a n d d e c i d e for themselves w h a t ' s a p p r o p r i a t e for t h e m . T h a t ' s

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what telling stories does. They can listen to the stories without committing themselves to change. They can then take from the story whatever they need and throw away the rest. They don't need to get into a conflict with me; in fact, they can forget me altogether. When we watch a film, we forget who's operating the projector. We just watch the film and then go home. Stories About Bed-Wetting

A father asked me what he could do to help his d a u g h t e r stop wetting the b e d . I told h i m he could tell her h o w glad he was to have m a r r i e d her m o t h e r — n o big deal, just a kind of throw away sentence in the context of another conversation. T h e n he should tell her a story she already knew well, b u t with some minor variations, for example, Little Red Riding H o o d . Little Red Riding H o o d went to h e r g r a n d m o t h e r ' s h o u s e , a n d as she got there, she noticed that the roof had a leak a n d the e n t r a n c e to the h o u s e was getting wet. So Little Red Riding H o o d went into the b a r n a n d got s o m e straw to stop up the hole so t h a t the e n t r a n c e w o u l d n ' t get wet. T h e n she went into the house with her basket of goodies. H e r g r a n d m o t h e r was very h a p p y to see her, a n d they h a d a wonderful party together. Or Snow W h i t e : O n e of the dwarfs came to Snow W h i t e a n d said, " T h e r e ' s a leak in my r o o m and the rain drips in." S n o w W h i t e told him not to worry, that she'd take care of it. She looked at the roof a n d saw that there was a loose shingle, up high where the very m u c h smaller dwarf c o u l d n ' t reach it. She stretched up on h e r tippy toes, higher t h a n he could reach, and p u t it back into place. T h e dwarf d i d n ' t even thank her because once everything was all right, he forgot all a b o u t it. Or a story a b o u t a water faucet that dripped a n d d r i p p e d until Snow White t u r n e d it off. Or, a little girl was sitting on the toilet w h e n a strange m a n o p e n e d the d o o r and looked in. W h e n he noticed her there, he quickly closed the d o o r and went away, a n d the little girl, w h o h a d b e e n holding her breath, let it out. Do you understand the hypnotherapeutic background of the intervention of the last story? When she imagines the strange man coming in, the little girl automatically constricts the sphincter muscle of her bladder. That's a well-known intervention from Milton Erickson. Six months later, the father reported in a supervision group what had happened. T h e intervention had been successful, but most

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interesting for h i m was his little d a u g h t e r ' s reaction to t h e deviations in t h e stories. Normally, like m a n y small children, she w o u l d have insisted that the stories be told exactly, b u t she d i d n ' t protest a b o u t these deviations. His experience tells us s o m e t h i n g i m p o r t a n t a b o u t p s y c h o t h e r a peutic interventions: Because he found a nonintrusive and respectful way to talk with her about wetting the bed by telling her the stories, his little d a u g h t e r felt his respect a n d d i d n ' t n e e d to guard against his intervention. T h e r e was no capitulation or loss of face for her. H e r father acted in a way compatible with his love, a n d in that space of nonintrusive trust, something could change w i t h o u t its being n e c e s sary to talk a b o u t it directly.

WORKING THROUGH IMAGES THAT BIND AND CREATING IMAGES THAT LIBERATE
H e l l i n g e r : In therapy, you often observe that people are living out certain inner images or p a t t e r n s . Transactional Analysis calls those images scripts. T h e images have two different origins: S o m e arise out of personal experiences and t r a u m a a n d some o u t of systemic e n t a n g l e m e n t s . W h e n a child has a t r a u m a t i c experience, it's often internalized a n d t h e n organizes t h e child's later experiences. M a n y fairy tales and m y t h s describe this kind of p a t t e r n ; for example, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, The Little Match Girl, Sleeping Beauty, and Rumpelstiltskin. Sleeping Beauty for example, describes a p a t t e r n in which a girl stays " a s l e e p " with the illusion that w h e n she wakens after a 100 years, she'll still be 15 years old. T h e story actually encourages h e r to keep on sleeping while waiting for her prince. W h e n it dawns on her that she's really getting older, she wakes up pretty quickly. W o m e n w h o choose Sleeping Beauty as their favorite fairy tale are often identified with their father's former p a r t n e r . After working with fairy tales for s o m e t i m e , I realized s o m e t h i n g strange: M a n y of t h e m contain images that limit us a n d t h e solutions they suggest are destructive illusions that serve to m a i n t a i n t h e status q u o . F o r m a n y years, I've asked people to tell their favorite fairy tale, o n e with which they identify, a n d t h e n to c o m p a r e t h e fairy tale with their own situation. I've m a d e s o m e interesting observations.

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W h e n a p e r s o n c h o o s e s a fairy tale a b o u t s o m e t h i n g a c h i l d c a n e x p e r i e n c e b e f o r e t h e age o f seven, t h e c l i e n t ' s p r o b l e m s a r e m o s t likely a c t u a l e x p e r i e n c e s . W h e n p e o p l e c h o o s e t h e s t o r y o f Rumpelstiltskin, for e x a m p l e , t h e i r p r o b l e m s u s u a l l y d o n ' t h a v e t o d o w i t h systemic entanglements, b u t with actual traumatic experiences. T h e m o t h e r i s m i s s i n g i n m a n y fairy t a l e s , b u t fairy tales a r e v e r y clever a n d t h e y d i s t r a c t u s from t h e essential m e s s a g e . I n Rumpelstiltskin, t h e d i v e r s i o n i s t h e s e n t e n c e , " L u c k y for m e t h a t n o o n e knew that Rumpelstiltskin is my n a m e . " For the people who chose it, Rumpelstiltskin w a s an i m a g e for t h e e x p e r i e n c e of b e i n g g i v e n away o r a b a n d o n e d ; for e x a m p l e , t h e e x p e r i e n c e o f a girl w h o w a s a b a n d o n e d b y h e r f a t h e r after h e r m o t h e r d i e d o r left, a n d w h o , i n h e r t u r n , a b a n d o n e d h e r o w n s o n . A few h a d a sibling w h o w a s given away. W h e n I s u s p e c t t h a t m i g h t be t h e c a s e , I tell a v a r i a t i o n o f t h e s t o r y t h a t gives t h e m a c h a n c e t o r e c o g n i z e t h e h i d d e n dynamic.

Rumpelstiltskin T h e queen sent messengers to the far corners of her realm to discover the n a m e of the little man. After searching day and night for many m o n t h s , a messenger returned just in time and told the queen that he had discovered what she requested. She wanted to know the name immediately, but he declined, saying that he could only tell her when the little m a n came for her child. At the appointed time, the little m a n came to get the child. He asked the queen, " D o you know my n a m e ? " T h e queen asked the messenger waiting at her side, "What's his n a m e ? " He said, "Rumpelstiltskin." "Rumpelstiltskin," said the queen. "But that's the n a m e of my handicapped brother who was given away!" T h e s e c o n d k i n d o f p a t t e r n reflected i n fairy tales arises o u t o f systemic entanglements rather t h a n from direct personal experie n c e . W h e n clients identify w i t h stories t h a t o n l y a d u l t s c a n e x p e r i e n c e , for i n s t a n c e , Othello or The Odyssey, my e x p e r i e n c e is t h a t t h e y ' r e m o s t likely identified w i t h s o m e o n e i n t h e i r family s y s t e m . T h e r e a r e m a n y f a m o u s stories a n d m y t h s o f this t y p e t h a t f a s c i n a t e c h i l d r e n a n d a d u l t s , a l t h o u g h t h e y c a n ' t say why. I believe t h e s t o ries h a v e t o d o w i t h a n o t h e r p e r s o n w h o p l a y e d a n i m p o r t a n t r o l e i n t h e life o f t h e family, s o m e o n e w h o suffered t r a g e d y o r m i s f o r t u n e ,

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who was shut out of the family, or who left to make place for someone else. Such stories are literary images of real-life events that have influence on the life of the family system. Telling the story allows the missing person to be present, even if only in representational form. In therapy, it's possible to identify the inner images that bind you and those that liberate you, regardless of whether they're related to personal experiences or to systemic dynamics. One method I developed to help clients to identify the script or the image that's important for them is to tell them the following story.
All the World Is a Stage O n c e u p o n a time, a m a n decided that the time h a d c o m e to retire. He h a d worked h a r d and it was time to do something good for h i m self. He left his h o m e and went somewhere else, w a n d e r e d a r o u n d a while, and came to a house with a sign in big letters: " T h e a t e r of the World." He t h o u g h t , " T h i s is the right place for m e , " a n d b o u g h t a ticket. It was a bit expensive, b u t he told himself it d i d n ' t matter. He went into the theater, sat down in a comfortable chair, leaned back, a n d waited. T h e lights went d o w n , the curtain o p e n e d , t h e performance began. As he watched, he thought, "I know this piece from literature. T h a t ' s absolutely nothing new at all." As he c o n t i n u e d to watch, he noticed that it was a play in which he h a d played the leading role. Ask yourself, " W h a t ' s the n a m e of the play?" It's a play that can be found in literature, a book, a play, a film, a story of s o m e o n e ' s life. W h e n you discover the n a m e of the piece, it's a bit of a surprise a n d a little embarrassing.

HEALING RITUALS
Rituals that heal arise out of love and are performed in the service of love. Rituals that seek to change reality for any other reason don't heal. Healing rituals involve movement and they're effective in therapeutic settings only when the sincerity of all participants supports the completion of the ritual movement. Therapeutic rituals of healing are offerings made to clients that, when properly performed, can change the systemic dynamics that shape their lives. That is, the rituals performed in the therapeutic situation can change the inner

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i m a g e s t h a t organize a client's e x p e r i e n c e of the w o r l d , a n d m a y also affect t h e client's situation at h o m e . C l i e n t s frequently r e p o r t t h a t after p e r f o r m i n g a healing ritual in a t h e r a p y g r o u p , t h e b e h a v i o r of t h e o t h e r m e m b e r s o f their family c h a n g e d . C o m p l e t i n g r e a c h i n g o u t , reliving b i r t h , a n d b o w i n g d o w n are t h r e e highly effective h e a l ing rituals.

Completing "Reaching Out" Toward an Appropriate Goal
Question: You often speak a b o u t " b r i n g i n g t h e r e a c h i n g o u t t o its goal." C a n y o u explain w h a t you m e a n b y that? Hellinger: T h e r e are two basic situations t h a t lead t o difficulties in relationships. O n e is an u n c o n s c i o u s identification w i t h s o m e o n e else in t h e system. T h e s e c o n d d y n a m i c is an i n t e r r u p t i o n of t h e natural movement of "reaching out toward." T h a t movement can't develop p r o p e r l y w h e n the n a t u r a l r e a c h i n g - o u t m o v e m e n t o f t h e y o u n g child t o w a r d s o m e o n e t h e child loves was i n t e r r u p t e d — t h r o u g h d e a t h , illness, c i r c u m s t a n c e s , o r o t h e r e x p e r i e n c e s . S u c h i n t e r r u p t i o n s are a c c o m p a n i e d by s t r o n g feelings of h u r t , rejection, despair, h a t e , resignation, a n d grief. T h e s e feelings overlay t h e p r i m a l love, b u t t h e y ' r e just the reverse side of love. W h e n y o u n g child r e n c a n ' t r e a c h t h e p e r s o n they love, t h e y have a s t r o n g t e n d e n c y to feel rejected, as if t h e r e were s o m e t h i n g w r o n g w i t h t h e m , a n d they s t o p p r a c t i c i n g t h e m o v e m e n t . W h e n e v e r s u c h p e r s o n s w a n t t o r e a c h o u t t o a n o t h e r p e r s o n later in life, their m e m o r i e s of h u r t u n c o n s c i o u s l y e m e r g e a n d i n t e r r u p t their m o v e m e n t , a n d t h e y react w i t h t h e s a m e h u r t a s before. T h a t ' s not a primary hurt that supports appropriate reaching out toward s o m e o n e w h o c o u l d give w h a t i s n e e d e d , b u t s e c o n d a r y feelings t h a t p r e v e n t t h e m o v e m e n t from developing a n d from r e a c h i n g its goal. S o m e t i m e s a n i n t e r r u p t e d r e a c h i n g - o u t m o v e m e n t manifests a s m u s c l e t e n s i o n , h e a d a c h e , or self-destructive b e h a v i o r s ; for exa m p l e , "I'll never s h o w w e a k n e s s , " o r " N o t h i n g really c a n h e l p m e . " I n s t e a d of c a r r y i n g on w i t h t h e m o v e m e n t until it r e a c h e s its goal, s u c h a p e r s o n draws b a c k or goes into a circular " a p p r o a c h / a v o i d a n c e " p a t t e r n . T h a t ' s t h e basis o f n e u r o t i c behavior. W h e n a p e r s o n becomes angry at the point at which the reaching-out movement gets i n t e r r u p t e d a n d t h e therapist e n c o u r a g e s t h e expression o f t h e

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a n g e r i n s t e a d of going b a c k to the basic love a n d t r u s t , t h e i n t e r r u p tion of t h e m o v e m e n t is reinforced. T h e expression o f e m o t i o n s t h a t cover a n d p r o t e c t t h e m o r e painful earlier o n e s d o e s n ' t b r i n g r e s o l u t i o n . R e s o l u t i o n c o m e s only w h e n t h e m o v e m e n t r e a c h e s its goal a n d is c o m p l e t e d . T h i s is p o s sible in a t h e r a p e u t i c setting by a c c o m p a n y i n g t h e p e r s o n b a c k to t h e p o i n t a t w h i c h the i n t e r r u p t i o n o c c u r r e d , a n d t h e n h e l p i n g t h e p e r s o n t o c o m p l e t e it. T h e therapist, o r a n o t h e r m e m b e r o f t h e g r o u p , c a n r e p r e s e n t t h e p a r e n t a n d t h e client t h e n actually p r a c tices a n d c o m p l e t e s t h e m o v e m e n t . W h e n h e o r she h a s m a d e a n e w experience of completing the movement, then other reaching-out m o v e m e n t s are also easier. Often t h e e n t i r e p r o c e s s lasts o n l y 15 to 20 minutes. A m o n g o t h e r t e c h n i q u e s for c o m p l e t i n g s u c h m o v e m e n t s are H y p n o t h e r a p y , H o l d i n g T h e r a p y , a n d s o m e forms o f b o d y o r m o v e m e n t w o r k . W h a t I do is a c o m b i n a t i o n of w h a t I l e a r n e d in P r i m a l Therapy Neuro-Linguistic Programming ( N L P ) , and H y p n o therapy. P r i m a l T h e r a p y involves w o r k i n g t h r o u g h t h e p r i m a l p a i n o f t h e p a r e n t s n o t b e i n g t h e r e i n s o m e way. T h e p r i m a l p a i n develops where the movement of reaching out is interrupted. T h e pain confirms that the reaching-out movement has been interrupted, b u t it solves n o t h i n g . I n s t e a d of c o n c e r n i n g myself w i t h facilitating t h e expression of t h e p a i n , I w o r k to b r i n g t h e r e a c h i n g - o u t m o v e m e n t to c o m p l e t i o n , a n d t h e n love s p o n t a n e o u s l y flows. Question: I ' m i n t e r e s t e d i n y o u r distinction b e t w e e n c o m p l e t i n g an unfinished situation from the p a s t by expressing t h e feelings of a n g e r t h a t a c c o m p a n i e d i t a n d c o m p l e t i n g t h e situation b y c o m p l e t ing t h e i n t e r r u p t e d m o v e m e n t o f r e a c h i n g o u t . C o u l d you say m o r e a b o u t t h a t , please? Hellinger: I m a k e a distinction, as we already d i s c u s s e d , b e t w e e n feelings t h a t originally w e r e a p p r o p r i a t e r e a c t i o n s t o s o m e s i t u a t i o n a n d feelings that distract o r m a i n t a i n a n i n c o m p l e t e s i t u a t i o n . W h e n s o m e o n e is a b u s e d or injured, t h e n saying t h a t it h u r t s is an a p p r o p r i a t e r e a c t i o n a n d m a y h e l p t o finish t h e situation. B u t m o s t o f t h e aggression t h a t c o m e s up in a t h e r a p y situation actually m a i n t a i n s t h e i n t e r r u p t i o n of the r e a c h i n g - o u t m o v e m e n t . If you look, y o u c a n see w h e t h e r or n o t the expression of an e m o t i o n facilitates r e s o l u tion. T h e l o n g - t e r m effect of expressing s e c o n d a r y a n g e r is d e s t r u c tive. R e s o l u t i o n i n relationships w i t h p a r e n t s o c c u r s only w h e n t h e

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p a r e n t s are t a k e n as they are, a n d that m e a n s m a s t e r i n g the r e a c h i n g out movement.

Reliving Birth Q u e s t i o n : You occasionally allow s o m e o n e to relive his or h e r b i r t h . W h e n d o y o u d o that? Hellinger: I do that w h e n the p r o b l e m c o n c e r n s a p e r s o n a l e x p e r i e n c e o r t r a u m a . F o r e x a m p l e , w h e n there's a b i r t h t r a u m a , t h e r e a c h i n g - o u t m o v e m e n t t o the m o t h e r i s already i n t e r r u p t e d a t b i r t h . T h e n it's a p p r o p r i a t e for clients to relive their b i r t h , to r e e s tablish a b o n d to t h e m o t h e r a n d father, a n d to recite a " T h a n k s g i v ing at t h e D a w n of Life." Reaching out to our mother and the experience of being accepted b y h e r i s t h e m o s t f u n d a m e n t a l a n d intensive e x p e r i e n c e o f relationship w e c a n have. E v e n w h e n t h e p r i m a r y b o n d i n g t o t h e m o t h e r d i d n ' t s u c c e e d in c h i l d h o o d , m a n y p e o p l e are still able to r e e s t a b lish b o n d i n g t h r o u g h a h e a l i n g ritual of reliving their b i r t h a n d t h e n b e i n g h e l d appropriately. Question: H o w d o y o u d o t h a t , exactly?

Hellinger: I use an integration of N L P and Primal Therapy, conn e c t i n g a g o o d e x p e r i e n c e to a negative o n e so t h a t they b a l a n c e o u t . It's actually very s i m p l e , b u t t h e t i m i n g is critical. W h e n y o u recognize t h e right m o m e n t for t h e client, you really d o n ' t have t o do m u c h at all. I just say, " G o b a c k slowly in t i m e t h r o u g h y o u r life, a n d w h e n you c o m e to a place w h e r e you s t o p , just stay t h e r e . " T h e n , after a m i n u t e or so, a client will s t a r t to sob or w e e p , a n d I ask, " H o w old are you now? W h a t ' s h a p p e n i n g ? " I f it's a p p r o p r i a t e for t h e client, he or she will lead y o u to t h e b i r t h e x p e r i e n c e . I h e l p t h e client to relive t h e e x p e r i e n c e in a g o o d way a n d I h o l d t h e p e r s o n securely (or have a n o t h e r m e m b e r o f t h e g r o u p d o so) s o t h a t h e o r s h e feels safe n o m a t t e r w h a t feelings c o m e u p . S o m e t i m e s , after this k i n d of work, I invite p e o p l e to look at t h e representative o f their m o t h e r o r father, a n d recite the " T h a n k s g i v i n g a t t h e D a w n of Life."

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Dear Mama/Mother I take everything that comes from you, all of it, with its full consequences. I take it at the full price it cost you and that it costs me. I will make out of it something good in memory of you— to thank and honor you. What you did must not have been in vain. I hold it close and in my heart, and if I am permitted, I will pass it on —as you have done. I take you as my and you may have (son, daughter) You are my only You are big , and You give, I take, I'm glad that you You both are the mother, me as your child mother and I am your child. I am little. dear Mama. took Daddy as your husband. right parents for me.

Dear Daddy/Father I take everything that comes from you, all of it, with its full consequences. I accept it at the full price it cost you and that it costs me. I will make out of it something good in memory of you— to thank and honor you. What you did must not have been in vain. I hold it close and in my heart, and if I am permitted, I will pass it on —as you have done. I take you as my father, and you may have me as your child (son, daughter) You are my only father and I am your child. You are big , and I am little. You give, I take, dear Daddy.

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I'm glad that you took Mama as your wife. You both are the right parents for me. T h e r e ' s n o b e t t e r feeling t h a n b e i n g a c c e p t e d after o n e ' s b i r t h , s o I h e l p clients find t h e best possible e x p e r i e n c e , t h e e x p e r i e n c e of b e i n g a c c e p t e d after b i r t h , a n d use t h a t a s a n a n c h o r t o h e l p t h e m t o deal w i t h w h a t e v e r t r a u m a t i c experiences they m a y have. After we establish t h e e x p e r i e n c e of b e i n g a c c e p t e d at b i r t h , I let t h e m r e t u r n t o t h e p r e s e n t t h r o u g h their m e m o r i e s , t h r o u g h all o f t h e t r a u m a s . I n this way, t h e negative experiences are c o n t a i n e d a n d t r a n s f o r m e d by t h e m o r e f u n d a m e n t a l positive o n e . All of t h e later childhood traumas can be worked through at one time in using t h e s e a n c h o r i n g c o m p e n s a t i o n s . I a c c o m p a n y t h e m i n t o their t r a u m a s a n d let t h e m look a t e a c h e x p e r i e n c e until t h e y ' r e f i n i s h e d . T h e n I m o v e on to t h e n e x t situation. S o m e t i m e s a lot of analytic h o u r s c a n b e c o n d e n s e d i n t o o n e session, b u t t h a t ' s individual t h e r a p y as o p p o s e d to systemic therapy. It's the s e c o n d a s p e c t of my w o r k t h a t c o m p l e m e n t s the systemic work.

Bowing D o w n and Standing Up T h e ritual o f b o w i n g d o w n before t h e a p p r o p r i a t e p e r s o n , p a y i n g h o m a g e , restores b a l a n c e a n d o r d e r . I n o u r c u l t u r e , this m o v e m e n t h a s b e c o m e difficult for m a n y p e o p l e ; b o w i n g d o w n as an act of r e s p e c t is easily confused with b o w i n g d o w n as an act of u n h e a l t h y submission. W h e n we bow down and pay obeisance to someone w h o deserves t o receive o u r h o n o r i n g g e s t u r e , t h e soul a n d t h e b o d y r e s p o n d with release a n d a sense of lightness. It feels g o o d a n d it h a s a g o o d effect. W h e n w e refuse t o pay o u r obeisance t o s o m e o n e w h o has a legitimate right to receive it, t h e b o d y a n d t h e soul r e s p o n d with c o n s t r i c t i o n , w i t h a sense of effort a n d heaviness. T h e r e a s o n s for o u r refusal are irrelevant. W h e n families d o n ' t follow t h e o r d e r s o f love, t h e c h i l d r e n m u s t l e a r n t o i g n o r e their o w n souls a n d later t h e y w o n ' t b e able t o r e c ognize w h a t ' s t r u e a n d right for t h e m . T h e y m a y refuse t o b o w d o w n before t h e p e r s o n s for w h o m it's a p p r o p r i a t e , a n d t h e y freq u e n t l y s t u b b o r n l y insist o n h o n o r i n g p e r s o n s i t isn't a p p r o p r i a t e for t h e m t o h o n o r .

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Like reaching out, bowing down is a movement of both soul and body. It can be completed most easily in a constellation in which the whole of the family system is represented. T h e completeness of the family system legitimatizes the movement. Fall on Your Knees A w o m a n at a workshop told of her difficult relationship with her father. She related m a n y horrible things he h a d d o n e to h e r a n d to her m o t h e r . As she prepared to set up the constellation of h e r family, the therapist asked if anyone in his family h a d died early. She answered, "Yes. He had seven brothers and a sister w h o died in the war. H i s parents also were killed. He was the only m e m b e r of t h e family w h o survived." As representatives for the deceased were placed in a semicircle b e h i n d the representative of her father a n d the weight of his fate b e c a m e visible for everyone, the w o m a n spontaneously broke into deep sobbing. She covered her face with her h a n d s a n d d r o p p e d her head o n t o her breast. After the intense sobbing h a d passed, t h e therapist directed her attention to the s p o n t a n e o u s m o v e m e n t of her h e a d , a n d suggested she complete it. She t u r n e d her attention inward, sensing the direction in which the m o v e m e n t wanted to go. She fell to her knees and placed her forehead on the floor b e t w e e n h e r u p t u r n e d h a n d s . She r e m a i n e d in that position for a long while, weeping. In the following g r o u p four m o n t h s later, she r e p o r t e d that, although she was in her m i d - 4 0 s , she unexpectedly h a d b e c o m e pregnant. T h e movement of bowing down isn't completed until the person stands up and goes on his or her way. Appropriate bowing down frees love to flow.

ROUNDS
Q u e s t i o n : You mostly do therapy in groups, yet your groups are different from anything I've experienced before. Can you say something about that? H e l l i n g e r : My groups differ from the usual psychodynamic group in that members are not encouraged to interpret and confront one another. To replace this interaction between members, I do rounds. In a round, each participant has an opportunity to

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r e p o r t w h a t h e o r she i s e x p e r i e n c i n g o r w o r k i n g o n , o n e after t h e o t h e r . I s e l d o m w o r k w i t h an individual in a r o u n d for m o r e t h a n 10 m i n u t e s , b u t t h e s e s h o r t interactions have continuity, b u i l d i n g o n o n e a n o t h e r over the c o u r s e of a s e m i n a r . T h e result is t h a t s o m e i n t e r v e n t i o n s w i t h p e o p l e last four or five days. I w o r k in small d o s e s t h a t leave a lot of t i m e in b e t w e e n for p e r s o n a l reflection so t h a t n o o n e i s overflooded a n d n o o n e i s u n d e r p r e s s u r e t o d o m o r e t h a n is possible at any m o m e n t . I n g r o u p d y n a m i c p s y c h o t h e r a p y , every p a r t i c i p a n t c a n i n t e r p r e t e v e r y o n e else. E v e r y o n e is e x p o s e d a n d v u l n e r a b l e to e v e r y o n e else. W h e n p a r t i c i p a n t s d o n o t have very s t r o n g personalities (or are n o t e x p e r i e n c e d i n g r o u p w o r k ) , they get c a u g h t u p i n g r o u p d y n a m i c s , w h i c h act as a collective defense, a n d c e r t a i n i m p o r t a n t t h e m e s systematically get s h u t o u t . G r o u p s have a s t r o n g t e n d e n c y to a d o p t c e r t a i n principles a n d to m a k e t h e m i n t o a g r o u p r u l e ; for e x a m p l e , " N o t h i n g can b e d o n e i n this g r o u p w i t h o u t the c o n s e n s u s of all m e m b e r s . " C o n s e n s u s is i m p o r t a n t in t h e life of a g r o u p , b u t w h e n it b e c o m e s an a b s o l u t e r u l e , it's d e s t r u c t i v e . T h e n t h e objections o f t h o s e p e o p l e w h o d o n ' t seriously desire to explore s o m e t h i n g in themselves i n t e r r u p t t h e p r o c e s s o f t h e w h o l e g r o u p a n d h i n d e r o t h e r s from d o i n g t h e w o r k t h e y c a m e t o d o . I f the p r i n c i p l e t h a t " d i s t u r b a n c e s have p r i o r i t y " becomes an absolute rule, then anyone can disrupt the group, no m a t t e r h o w trivial the " d i s t u r b a n c e . " T h e u s e o f t h e g r o u p r o u n d h a s the a d v a n t a g e t h a t i n t e r a c t i o n s b e t w e e n m e m b e r s o f t h e g r o u p are d i s c o u r a g e d . N o o n e c a n i n t e r fere w i t h s o m e o n e else's w o r k . N o o n e i s a t t a c k e d ; n o o n e c a n b e b l a m e d or p r a i s e d . (Praise is just as d a m a g i n g to g r o u p p r o c e s s as is b l a m e . I t directs t h e p a r t i c i p a n t s ' a t t e n t i o n away from t h e i r actual e x p e r i e n c e s a n d t o w a r d their effect o n t h e o t h e r m e m b e r s o f t h e g r o u p . ) T h e r o u n d m e t h o d allows everyone t o feel t r u s t i n t h e p r o cess w i t h i n t h e g r o u p , t o b e able t o p r e s e n t their t h e m e s , a n d t o w o r k w i t h t h o s e t h e m e s in a safe context. T h i s r e s p e c t for t h e individual a n d t h e loving a n d s u p p o r t i n g p o s t u r e establish a n u n c o n s c i o u s solidarity w i t h i n t h e g r o u p t h a t h a s a m o r e spiritual quality t h a n that w h i c h is possible w i t h i n a g r o u p - d y n a m i c - o r i e n t e d p s y c h o t h e r a p y . T h e r e is, of c o u r s e , also a c e r t a i n g r o u p d y n a m i c , b u t g r o u p resistance d o e s n ' t d e v e l o p a s strongly.

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T h e following is a partial transcript of a g r o u p r o u n d on t h e third m o r n i n g of a six-day seminar. Early in the r o u n d , a constellation was m a d e of the family of origin of o n e of the participants a n d m o s t of t h e c o m m e n t s having to do with that constellation have b e e n o m i t t e d . T h e transcript begins s o m e w h a t later i n t h e r o u n d . S a r a h : I h a d an experience during a walk yesterday. I walked along a stream and suddenly I h a d the feeling that I h a d d o n e s o m e thing wrong. It was a very intense feeling. I felt guilty. I climbed up the m o u n t a i n a n d c a m e out of the forest, and it was s u d d e n l y very bright. I felt lighter a n d lighter, and the evening fog b e g a n to rise from t h e m e a d o w s . (Pauses thoughtfully.) Hellinger: I want to say s o m e t h i n g a b o u t w h a t you experienced. If you recognize and accept personal guilt, you no longer feel it as guilt. It gets transformed into a powerful force for action. You still k n o w a b o u t y o u r guilt, b u t it d o e s n ' t oppress you as guilty feelings. Guilty feelings develop at t h e point at which you refuse to act responsibly with respect to your guilt. T h e n you're cut off from t h e p o w e r to act that the guilt gives you. W h e n you o p e n yourself fully to your personal guilt, t h e n you have a source of s u p p o r t for doing good. Your image beautifully portrays this. You let yourself feel y o u r guilt, you o p e n e d yourself to it, and you felt lighter. O n l y the s u p p o r t for d o i n g good remains. You can do things n o w that you w o u l d n ' t have b e e n able to do if you h a d blocked your guilt. W h e n e v e r I feel guilty a n d try to a t o n e for s o m e t h i n g I've d o n e , I feel tight a n d limited. W h e n I allow my guilt to e m p o w e r m e , t h e effect is totally different. F o r e x a m p l e , w h e n I do s o m e t h i n g t h a t reconciles victims a n d p e r p e t r a t o r s , or w h e n I do s o m e t h i n g t h a t helps s o m e o n e else, t h e n s o m e t h i n g c o m e s o u t of t h e victim's sacrifice. If this were n o t a training g r o u p , a n d if you were n o t a therapist, Sarah, I w o u l d n ' t say anything at all, because everything i m p o r t a n t has already h a p p e n e d . T h e r e ' s a famous story a b o u t the secrets a n d t h e w i s d o m of the world. It's told that they're all written in the sibylline books a n d are stored in a h i d d e n cave in Italy. If anyone were to find t h e way to the cave and o p e n it to learn t h e w i s d o m of t h e world, all the b o o k s

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w o u l d dissolve. W h a t e v e r is essential shies away from o u r curiosity, a n d t h e great secrets a n d mysteries o f B e i n g p r o t e c t themselves. Angela: I ' m still thinking a b o u t b e i n g c e n t e r e d . I r e m e m b e r a piece I o n c e r e a d a b o u t prayer, t h e five qualities of prayer: t r u s t , c e n t e r i n g , g r a t i t u d e , responsibility, a n d s o m e t h i n g else . . . faith. I really liked t h e article a n d the w o r d s , b u t I always have t h e s a m e q u e s t i o n : H o w do I recognize centering? I always have anxiety that. . . . H e l l i n g e r (interrupting): I'll tell you s o m e t h i n g a b o u t c e n t e r i n g . S o m e p e o p l e close their eyes in an a t t e m p t to e m p t y t h e m s e l v e s , a n d t h e y call t h a t c e n t e r i n g . I find t h a t s t r a n g e . C e n t e r i n g h a p p e n s w h e n I o p e n my eyes a n d ears a n d take in t h e r i c h n e s s of t h e w o r l d all a r o u n d m e , a n d allow it to o r d e r itself in m e . T h a t ' s g a t h e r i n g a n d c e n t e r i n g . A n y t h i n g else, Angela? Angela: Joseph: Ruth: N o , that's enough. I am filled w i t h t h o u g h t s a n d feelings, a n d I p a s s . I also. I ' m still t h i n k i n g a b o u t w h a t y o u said to S a r a h . (Looks

Steven: depressed.) Hellinger: Steven:

I d o n ' t q u i t e trust y o u , Steven. I ' m really n o t in a g o o d place at all. (Shrugs his shoulders.)

Hellinger: Right! You're leading us on a w i l d - g o o s e c h a s e . (Steven remains withdrawn, silent, thoughtful. Long pause.) W h a t are y o u r child r e n g o i n g to do if you do c o m m i t suicide? (Pause) You owe t h e living r e s o l u t i o n , Steven. (Silence) I'll tell y o u a story. Love Once upon a time, a man dreamed in the night that he heard the voice of God saying to him, "Rise up, take your son, your only and beloved son, and go with him to the top of the mountain I will show to you and make a sacrifice of him to me there." T h e next morning, the man arose, and looked at his son, his only and beloved son; looked at his wife, the mother of his son; and then he looked at his God. He took his son and went with him to the top of the mountain God showed to him and he built an altar there. There he heard another voice, and instead of his son, he sacrificed a sheep.

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H o w does t h e son look at his father? H o w the father his son? H o w the wife her h u s b a n d ? H o w the h u s b a n d his wife? H o w do they look at G o d ? A n d h o w does God—if there is a G o d — l o o k at them? A n o t h e r m a n d r e a m e d in the night that he heard the voice of G o d saying to h i m , "Rise u p , take your son, your only and beloved son, and go with h i m to the top of the m o u n t a i n I will show to you a n d m a k e a sacrifice of him to me there." T h e next m o r n i n g , the m a n arose and looked at his son, his only and beloved son; looked at his wife, the m o t h e r of his son; a n d then he looked at his G o d . He looked his G o d in the face a n d answered, "I will not do that." H o w does t h e son look at his father? H o w the father his son? H o w the wife her h u s b a n d ? H o w the h u s b a n d his wife? H o w do they look at God? A n d h o w does G o d — i f there is a G o d — l o o k at them? That's the end of the story, but I'll add a little more just for you, Steven. A n d a third m a n d r e a m e d in the night that he had heard the voice of G o d , and so on. He got u p , looked at his son, took h i m to the m o u n tain, built an altar, drew a knife, and killed him. A n d w h e n he got h o m e , he killed himself. My comment is: It's a pity about the boy. Suicide is a poor substitute for responsibility and guilt. That kind of atonement is just as nasty as the deed itself, and it's far easier than acting appropriately in the first place. So, Steven, I've read the riot act to you. Anything else? (Steven shakes his head.) Good. Irene, what's happening with you? I r e n e : During the meditation before the lunch break I remembered that I was given the name of a child of my grandmother's who had died very early. I have the feeling that I'm carrying something around with me.

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Hellinger: O h ! I w o n d e r w h e r e y o u got t h a t feeling from, b u t if it's i m p o r t a n t to you (pause), there's a m a g i c f o r m u l a for situations like this. O v e r t h e years, I've discovered several m a g i c f o r m u l a s for different situations. I d o n ' t u n d e r s t a n d t h e m , b u t they w o r k nevertheless. I e x p e r i e n c e it as a great gift w h e n o n e of t h e s e n t e n c e s is given t o m e . T h e f o r m u l a you c a n use is: " D e a r A u n t , y o u are dead " I r e n e (interrupting with amusement): . . . a n d I ' m alive!

Hellinger: N o . You have to be sincere if you w a n t to know, or I'll m o v e o n . (Long pause. Irene remains sarcastically amused and silent. He speaks to the group.) Okay, she's let t h e m o m e n t e s c a p e . I c a n ' t tell h e r now. We'll go o n . Lars: T h e last constellation t o u c h e d m e very m u c h , a n d I ' m still t h i n k i n g a b o u t it. O t h e r t h a n that, I've got a h e a d a c h e . Hellinger: Lars: You get w h a t y o u deserve.

W h a t d o you m e a n ?

Hellinger: G o e t h e said it beautifully, " E v e r y o n e is t h e s m i t h w h o forges his o w n m i s f o r t u n e . " (Laughter) Eric: I n o t i c e t h a t I have the desire to set up my family. I've always t r e a t e d t h e m as if t h e y were u n i m p o r t a n t , b u t n o w I see h o w i m p o r t a n t they really are. T h e e x c h a n g e w i t h Steven gave me a push. Hellinger: Okay. We'll do it later.

Fred: I have a q u e s t i o n a b o u t w o r k i n g with clients. T h e m o t h e r of o n e of my clients tried to kill h e r children. S h e d i d n ' t actually do it, b u t she did severely a b u s e t h e m . My q u e s t i o n is: Is t h e r e a way for this d a u g h t e r t o find s o m e reconciliation w i t h h e r m o t h e r ? A t p r e s e n t , she w a n t s n o t h i n g to do with her. S h e feels very intensely t h a t she's b e e n victimized by h e r o w n m o t h e r . It w o u l d be a great relief for h e r if she were to find s o m e p e a c e with h e r m o t h e r , b u t I a m very c a u t i o u s w h e n things like this have h a p p e n e d . H e l l i n g e r : T h e r e is a way. It's also a m a g i c f o r m u l a . W h e n she's r e a d y t o m a k e p e a c e w i t h h e r m o t h e r , she c a n say, " D e a r M a m a , I agree to it." (Silence)

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I think I u n d e r s t a n d , b u t will she?

H e l l i n g e r : N o , the sentence isn't exactly right yet, b u t it would go in that direction. M a y b e it would be better to say, " D e a r M a m a , if that's my fate, I agree to it." S o m e t h i n g along those lines. Fred: M e a n i n g that. . . .

H e l l i n g e r : N o ! N o m e a n i n g . A s soon a s you c o m m e n t o n one o f these formulas, they lose their power. W h a t was t h e sentence? Fred: " D e a r M a m a , if that's my fate, I agree to it."

H e l l i n g e r : A child d o e s n ' t have to forgive t h e parents. T h a t ' s a different thing altogether. An abused child can say, " T h a t was very b a d , " a n d t h e child can say, " I ' m n o t allowed to forgive you for it," b u t he or she d o e s n ' t have to be d a m a g e d a n d bitter a b o u t what h a p p e n e d . T h e child can say, "You have to carry t h e b u r d e n of w h a t you did." A b u s e d children usually take t h e guilt and the c o n s e q u e n c e s of t h e abuse o n t o themselves. It's m u c h m o r e difficult to leave t h e guilt a n d the c o n s e q u e n c e s with the p a r e n t s , and also t h e responsibility. B u t children cause themselves additional d a m a g e w h e n they feel that they have t h e right to get even with their p a r e n t s , in the sense of, "All right, n o w you're going to pay for what you did to m e . " T h a t has very d a m a g i n g consequences. W h e n children file a complaint or go to c o u r t against their p a r e n t s , they pay dearly for it, regardless of what the p a r e n t s did. S o m e t h i n g else, F r e d ? F r e d : Yes, I have a n o t h e r client whose father was a high-ranking officer in t h e S S . S h e never m e t h i m . H e r m o t h e r w e n t back to A u s tria. She s u d d e n l y developed a recurring idea to kill herself. Hellinger: Fred: W h o ? T h e client o r h e r mother?

T h e client. I've got the idea that. . . . W h a t h a p p e n e d t o t h e father?

Hellinger:

F r e d : He h a d a very strange story. He was missing in action, a n d they t h o u g h t he was d e a d , b u t it later c a m e o u t that he was a paraplegic a n d was living in n o r t h e r n G e r m a n y . He never c o n t a c t e d his family before he died.

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H e l l i n g e r (thoughtfully): A s e n t e n c e t h a t m i g h t h e l p h e r is s o m e t h i n g like, " D e a r F a t h e r , I leave y o u to rest in p e a c e . " You c a n h e l p h e r to get to t h e place w h e r e she can say it truthfully. It's also i m p o r t a n t for h e r n o t t o w a n t t o k n o w m o r e . S h e s h o u l d n ' t dig into his p a s t trying to find o u t exactly w h a t he did in t h e war. S h e c a n just say, "I a c c e p t y o u r fate a n d y o u r decision, a n d I leave you in p e a c e w i t h y o u r fate a n d y o u r decision a n d all t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s t h e y h a d for y o u . " Max: Nothing at the m o m e n t .

Vera: I ' m on a roller c o a s t e r of feelings. T h i s m o r n i n g t h e r e was real p a i n , n o w I ' m feeling g o o d . I'll leave it at that for now. Fred: I ' m e x p e r i e n c i n g this as c o m p l e t e l y fascinating. Brilliant. I feel m o r e c o n n e c t e d to p e o p l e t h a n ever before. T h i s r i c h n e s s is fantastic. Hellinger: Fred: T h a t ' s a m a n w h o c a n b e a m a z e d . T h a t ' s g o o d t o see.

Yes, really. I never t h o u g h t it could be so exciting.

H e l l i n g e r : H e l e n , y o u said t h a t s o m e t h i n g else c a m e t o you. W h a t d o you w a n t t o say? Helen: I've got a funny feeling t h a t my h u s b a n d , C a r l , p a i d you t h e s e m i n a r fee for b o t h of us. I w o u l d have liked to have given it to y o u myself. Hellinger: Do y o u k n o w w h a t t h a t is? We call t h a t a diversionary tactic. (Pause) W h o was t h e w o m a n ? (Laughter. Bert Hellinger is referring to an earlier intuition that her facial expressions sometimes mimicked someone else.) H e l e n (quietly and hesitant): Hellinger: Helen: My m o t h e r ?

G u e s s i n g d o e s n ' t help.

I d o n ' t know.

Hellinger: Okay, t h e n set up y o u r family of origin. (Helen sets up her family. It emerges that she identifies with first wife. She was Jewish and separated from Helen's father emigrating to the United States, where she later remarried. In sequence, a resolution is found. Bert Hellinger continues after pants are again seated.)

her father's in 1938, a moving all partici-

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Being Jewish is always i m p o r t a n t in G e r m a n y . T h a t always has an e n o r m o u s l y powerful effect on the family system. So, H e l e n , h o w are you doing? H e l e n (laughs): Hellinger: W h a t now? Helen: G o o d . I feel really good.

So it was an identification with your father's first wife.

T h a t makes a lot of things clear to m e .

Hellinger: Yes, you m u s t say to your father, "I have n o t h i n g to do with your first wife. I belong to my m o t h e r . Only she is right for m e . " N o w you're n o d d i n g already. D o you k n o w what p r e m a t u r e n o d d i n g means? Helen: No.

Hellinger: T h e r e ' s a famous saying in G o e t h e ' s Gotz von Berlichingen: "Tell your master, 'Kiss my ass.' " T h a t ' s the m o s t subtle form of defense. Do you notice h o w you're still defending? L o o k clearly at your father a n d say, " T h i s is my m o t h e r a n d I stand with her." T h a t makes you less i m p o r t a n t , b u t that's the price of happiness. You k n o w the saying, "Small is. beautiful." (Helen laughs) H e r e comes the other expression, do you notice it? (Helen nods affirmation.) Anything else? (Helen signals "No.") Alexis: I've h a d a really peaceful, w a r m feeling after b o t h of t h e last two constellations. It's beautiful. Hellinger: Yes, all of a s u d d e n everything was clear and at p e a c e .

F r e d : W h e n we look at what emerged in H e l e n ' s constellation, does it m e a n that her father has lost his right to have H e l e n ' s mother? H e l l i n g e r : N o , n o t at all. It m e a n s that h e r m o t h e r c a n ' t claim h i m fully, n o t at t h e price t h e first wife h a d to pay. H e r m o t h e r m u s t pull b a c k just a little a n d inwardly acknowledge h e r debt to t h e first wife. T h a t ' s a form of respect for the first wife's sacrifice, whatever that m e a n s in actual practice. (To Helen) But that's n o n e of y o u r business, H e l e n . You're already back in t h e old expression. It takes a while before an old face like that completely dissolves. (Bert Hellinger makes a couple of mildly off-color jokes to divert the group's attention.) Okay, let's take a break.

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I r e n e (before the break): I r e m e m b e r e d the sentence! I d o n ' t know it exactly, b u t I ' m not m a d at you any m o r e for confronting m e . Hellinger: sentence? Irene: Yes, that was an effective confrontation. W h a t is t h e

D e a r A u n t , you're dead. I ' m sorry. I'll stay a little while.

H e l l i n g e r : N o w I'll tell you t h e real sentence. " D e a r A u n t , you're dead. I'll live until my time c o m e s , then I'll die t o o . " T h a t ' s a sentence you can use in m a n y situations, although I ' m cautious to say it, because it could be u s e d like a vending m a c h i n e token a n d t h e n it would lose its effect. F o r example, a second wife could say to a first wife, "You lost your h u s b a n d , a n d I have h i m for a while before I t o o will lose h i m . " T h a t eliminates the superiority and a r r o g a n c e . It unites on a very deep h u m a n level, on a level where t h e passing away of everything has a right to exist. N o w we'll really take a break.

Transcript
BRINGING INTERRUPTED REACHING O U T TO ITS GOAL
Brigid is ings a n d has been from t h e a p a r t i c i p a n t in a six-day s e m i n a r . S h e d e m o n s t r a t e s feelr e a c t i o n s t h a t are typical o f p e r s o n s w h o s e r e a c h i n g o u t i n t e r r u p t e d . S o m e m i n o r interactions have b e e n o m i t t e d transcript.

Second Day, Morning
B r i g i d : Yesterday, I was feeling as if I were w e a r i n g a r m o r , b u t t o d a y I feel m o r e o p e n a n d t h e r e ' s s o m e t h i n g very fragile c o m i n g u p in m e . Hellinger: begins to cry your m o u t h breathe . . . d o e s n ' t it? Brigid: I'll be very careful w i t h y o u r fragility, Brigid. (She softly.) B r e a t h i n g h e l p s . B r e a t h e in, b r e a t h e o u t . O p e n so t h a t t h e b r e a t h m o v e s easily, so t h a t it flows . . . b r e a t h e . . . everything goes p r e t t y quickly w i t h y o u ,

N o t always.

Hellinger: Y o u ' r e n o t u s e d t o h a v i n g s o m e o n e t a k e t i m e for you? (Brigid begins to sob. Pause.) B r i n g y o u r chair a n d sit h e r e in front of m e . (Brigid moves closer to him. Hellinger takes tissues from his pocket and gives them to her.) I ' m p r e p a r e d for every e m e r g e n c y . C o m e a b i t closer . . . even closer . . . just a bit m o r e . . . (gently removes her glasses and holds her hands) . . . close y o u r eyes, o p e n y o u r m o u t h , a n d b r e a t h e easily a n d deeply, in a n d o u t . (He lightly touches the tips of the fingers of his right hand to the upper end of her breastbone.) Go as far b a c k as the feeling goes, far far back, until you c o m e to t h e place w h e r e it b e l o n g s a n d to t h e situation w h e r e it b e l o n g s . . . m o u t h o p e n , b r e a t h e . . . (Brigid continues breathing easily for about one minute.) A c c e p t it as it is, w h a t e v e r it is. . . . (After about two minutes more) W h a t ' s h a p p e n i n g ? H o w far b a c k are you?

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I ' m a b o u t six years old. W h a t ' s there?

Hellinger:

Brigid: I ' m traveling with my m o t h e r in a car. I w a n t to lie in h e r lap, b u t she w o n ' t let m e . She's very cross with m e . H e l l i n g e r : Okay, look a t t h e scene. W h a t did y o u call y o u r m o t h e r as a child? Brigid: Mama. Say, " M a m a , p l e a s e . " M a m a , please.

Hellinger:

B r i g i d (very softly):

H e l l i n g e r (after a long pause, to the group): So this is a situation of interrupted reaching out. C a n you notice how the scene continues to influence her? To Brigid: Go b a c k farther. (After a pause.) L o o k s like y o u ' v e g o n e a b o u t as far as y o u c a n now. (To group): S h e m a d e a decision early in t h e w o r k n o t to go too far, a n d she's k e e p i n g h e r w o r d to herself. (After a pause, he leans toward her and looks at her very gently.) O p e n y o u r eyes. W h a t shall we do w i t h you? (Brigid shrugs her shoulders, looks disappointed.) Close y o u r eyes again. Go w i t h y o u r o w n i n n e r m o v e m e n t , go w h e r e v e r it w a n t s to take y o u . W i t h d r a w inwardly from y o u r m o t h e r , f a r t h e r a n d farther from her. (Brigid makes a sudden movement, turning her head to the left. Hellinger waits, then very gently turns her head, as if encouraging her to look at what she was avoiding, to the right.) K e e p b r e a t h i n g , b r e a t h i n g o u t w i t h p o w e r , a little faster, n o t violently, just strongly. (Brigid starts to cough.) I n s t e a d o f c o u g h i n g , say s o m e t h i n g t o y o u r m o t h e r , w h a t e v e r n e e d s t o b e said. B r i g i d (softly): No more, no more.

Hellinger: Say t h a t again, a bit l o u d e r , " N o m o r e , n o m o r e . " (Hellinger reaches behind her with his right hand and, with a light touch of his fingertips, bends her upper body forward. She lays her head on his shoulder. He holds her as she sobs.) " N o m o r e , no m o r e . " (Hellinger suggests that she put her arms around him, which she does.) B r e a t h e deeply, k e e p y o u r m o u t h o p e n . . . a bit faster . . . still faster . . . b r e a t h e o u t deeply. It i s n ' t n e c e s sary to h o l d b a c k y o u r crying. (Breathing gradually slows.) (To

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group): Brigid h a s c h o s e n the smaller h a p p i n e s s . (To Brigid): H o w are y o u doing? Brigid: B e t t e r (pointing to her chest), . . . m o r e o p e n .

Hellinger: You got s t u c k halfway, b u t y o u still m a d e it f a r t h e r t h a n before. Brigid: Halfway back?

H e l l i n g e r : Halfway t o her. Like G o e t h e said, " E v e r y o n e creates their o w n u n h a p p i n e s s . " Brigid: I d o n ' t t h i n k t h a t ' s w h a t he said.

Hellinger: Oh no? (Both laugh.) Okay, g o o d . (Brigid stands up and returns to her seat.) T h a t was a situation in w h i c h t h e r e a c h i n g o u t was i n t e r r u p t e d , a n d w e c o u l d all see w h a t h a p p e n e d w h e n s h e r e a c h e d t h a t p o i n t . My o b s e r v a t i o n is t h a t a lot of n e u r o s i s starts at t h e p o i n t of an i n t e r r u p t e d r e a c h i n g - o u t m o v e m e n t . In fact, I see n e u r o s i s as a circular m o v e m e n t that always r e t u r n s to t h e p o i n t of i n t e r r u p t i o n i n s t e a d o n m o v i n g on. A s w e r e m e m b e r t h e interr u p t e d m o v e m e n t , feelings a n d m e m o r i e s c o m e u p , t h e decision w e learned as children comes up, and then instead of completing the r e a c h i n g o u t , w e t u r n b a c k t o the starting p o i n t a n d s t a r t all over again. T h a t ' s m e r r y - g o - r o u n d progress. W h a t do I do as a therapist with this kind of p a t t e r n ? (Pause) Brigid got s t u c k a n d c o u l d n ' t c o m p l e t e the i n t e r r r u p t e d m o v e m e n t . W e m u s t b e careful n o t t o p r e t e n d that t h e w o r k b r o u g h t m o r e t h a n i t did. B u t even t h o u g h she d i d n ' t m a n a g e t o c o m p l e t e h e r r e a c h i n g o u t , she did get a p e e k . N o w , I t u r n t h e w o r k over to h e r loving h e a r t . A g r e e d , Brigid? Brigid: Hellinger: Yes (smiling). A r e t h e r e any q u e s t i o n s a b o u t this work?

Participant: I d i d n ' t u n d e r s t a n d w h a t y o u m e a n t , " T u r n i t over t o h e r loving h e a r t . " H e l l i n g e r : You c a n ' t u n d e r s t a n d it, b u t she d i d . T r u s t i n g t h e h e a r t , t h e g o o d h e a r t , is always a g o o d m e t h o d . It's really a s t o n i s h ing h o w often clients find a way that no t h e r a p i s t c o u l d find. A n d secretly, w i t h o u t saying t h a t o u t loud h e r e , I also t u r n h e r over to h e r m o t h e r ' s loving h e a r t .

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Participant: First you suggested t o h e r t h a t she r e a c h o u t , a n d t h e n t h a t she withdraw. H e l l i n g e r : It doesn't matter in which direction people move, w h e t h e r t h e y r e a c h o u t o r pull back. T h e m a i n t h i n g i s that t h e y ' r e i n m o t i o n . W h e n r e a c h i n g o u t d o e s n ' t w o r k , t h e n t r y the o p p o s i t e . W h e n a p e r s o n starts to m o v e , t h e m o v e m e n t reverses itself s p o n t a neously. You go w i t h w h a t ' s t h e r e . S h e w i t h d r e w , a n d so I followed h e r n a t u r a l m o v e m e n t . W h e n she t u r n e d h e r h e a d t o t h e left, I h a d t h e i m a g e of h e r pulling away from h e r m o t h e r . W h e n I gently t u r n e d h e r h e a d to t h e right, feelings c a m e u p . I w a s following t h e m o v e m e n t as it e m e r g e d . Participant: T h a t was a correction?

H e l l i n g e r : N o , I d o n ' t " c o r r e c t " a n y t h i n g . It w a s m o r e nearly a s u p p o r t for t h e m o v e m e n t t h a t was already h a p p e n i n g . T h a t ' s w h e n the s e n t e n c e c a m e , " N o m o r e . " H e r m o t h e r was clearly p r e s e n t for her at that m o m e n t in the work. Participant: C a n you give t h o s e of us w h o have less e x p e r i e n c e w i t h b o d y w o r k s o m e suggestions o n h o w t o recognize w h e n a p e r s o n is i n t e r r u p t i n g a r e a c h i n g - o u t m o v e m e n t a n d w h e n he or she is not? Hellinger: N o t really. You do it w i t h careful o b s e r v a t i o n , w i t h seeing. P e r h a p s you'll get a c h a n c e to see o t h e r e x a m p l e s d u r i n g t h e s e m i n a r . W h e n you h o l d on to a theory, y o u m a k e it difficult for yourself t o see w h a t ' s t h e r e . Seeing i s m u c h m o r e i m p o r t a n t t h a n any specific rules. I t h i n k I've said e v e r y t h i n g i m p o r t a n t a b o u t it; m o r e w o u l d n ' t b e helpful.

Later, Same Morning
Brigid: I ' m taking i t all in. M y m o o d i s c h a n g i n g constantly. O n e m i n u t e I ' m h a v i n g a feeling of w a r m t h a n d c o m p a s s i o n — a l s o in my eyes (gets teary), a n d t h e n it switches. It's always c h a n g i n g , a n d when I reach out. . . . Hellinger: T h a t ' s very g o o d , Brigid, very g o o d . (To group): Do y o u see h o w h e r loving h e a r t is working? L e t y o u r g o o d h e a r t w o r k on it until it finds t h e solution.

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Afternoon, Same Day
B r i g i d : I'm completely present. D u r i n g the lunch break, I crawled into my b e d a n d pulled t h e covers u p . I tried to find a c o n n e c t i o n t o m y m o t h e r . T h a t was very p l e a s a n t .

Next Morning
Brigid: I w a s awake a lot last night. I kept t h i n k i n g a b o u t my family a n d my m o t h e r ' s family. Hellinger: W h a t h a p p e n e d i n y o u r m o t h e r ' s family?

Brigid: M y m o t h e r ' s sister d i e d o f t y p h u s , a n d six weeks before t h a t , h e r father d i e d . M y m o t h e r was 1 0 w h e n t h a t h a p p e n e d . Hellinger: W a s h e r sister y o u n g e r t h a n your m o t h e r ?

Brigid: S h e w a s older, t h e m i d d l e child. M y m o t h e r h a d a n o l d e r b r o t h e r , too. I k e e p t h i n k i n g a b o u t the a t m o s p h e r e in my family, a k i n d of deadly silence. T h e r e was a lot of silence a n d stiffness. I just t h o u g h t a b o u t s o m e t h i n g else: W h e n I visit my p a r e n t s w i t h my child r e n , t h a t a t m o s p h e r e i s g o n e . M y p a r e n t s love m y c h i l d r e n , a n d t h e c h i l d r e n fill t h e i r w h o l e h o u s e w i t h life. I r e m e m b e r s o m e t h i n g else, t o o , a b o u t sitting o n h e r lap. W h e n m y p a r e n t s c o m e t o visit u s , b o t h of t h e girls say, " S i t on lap, G r a n d p a . Sit on lap, G r a n d m a . " A n d they're allowed t o d o it. Hellinger: W h a t did y o u r m o t h e r ' s father die of?

Brigid: I t w a s s o m e kind o f b l a d d e r infection. H e w e n t i n t o t h e hospital a n d d i d n ' t c o m e o u t again. T h a t was i n 1 9 3 8 . Six weeks later, my m o t h e r ' s o l d e r sister died. Hellinger: T h a t ' s a s h o c k for s u c h a family.

B r i g i d : Yes. T h e r e ' s m o r e t o o . I o n c e did a constellation w i t h a n o t h e r t h e r a p i s t , a n d I set my m o t h e r up way o u t on o n e side, looking away. I c a n ' t really i m a g i n e w h a t all she m u s t have e x p e r i enced. Hellinger: S h e m a y b e following h e r sister a n d h e r father, b u t w e c a n set it up n o w a n d we'll see. (Brigid sets up her family. Additional

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information emerges that Brigid's father was the youngest of four children; his brother died in childhood and he has two living sisters.)

Hellinger:

S o , h o w ' s t h a t for t h e father?

Father: I d o n ' t have a n y c o n t a c t with my children, a n d my wife is just s o r t o f t h e r e . I ' m p r e t t y m u c h alone. Mother: I feel very m u c h alone. It's n o t g o o d to see t h e c h i l d r e n from b e h i n d . I c a n just barely feel my h u s b a n d . Brigid's Representative: I ' m in a d a z e a n d feel like leaving. There's something behind me, but I don't know what. H e l l i n g e r : T h e child w h o d i e d in y o u r father's family, w a s it a b o y or a girl? Brigid: I d o n ' t know. W h a t w o u l d b e y o u r guess?

Hellinger: Brigid:

A girl.

Brother: I d o n ' t have c o n t a c t w i t h a n y o n e . My legs are frozen c o m p l e t e l y stiff. H e l l i n g e r (to children): T u r n a r o u n d a n d face y o u r p a r e n t s . W h a t c h a n g e s w h e n y o u d o that? Brother: It's a b i t lighter now.

*Legend: Fa—father; Mo—mother; 1—first child, a boy; 2—Brigid's representative.

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Brigid's Representative: my head.

I find it comfortable a n d I ' m clearer in

F a t h e r : Yes, I feel b e t t e r toward my children, b u t there's still n o t h i n g going on with my wife. Mother: T h e same for m e . Exchange places a n d see if that's different.

H e l l i n g e r (to parents):

Father:

Yes, my d a u g h t e r is closer to m e . T h a t feels good. I'm feeling slightly excited about

Brigid's Representative: something. Hellinger: Father:

H o w is it between t h e p a r e n t s , better or worse?

Worse.

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I feel a little m o r e alive.

Hellinger: We'll b r i n g in the grandfather. (Brigid places her paternal grandfather beside her father. The father and grandfather then experiment and find the best position behind the father.)

Brigid: I forgot something. My m o t h e r ' s father also died y o u n g , w h e n my m o t h e r was eight years old. He h a d epilepsy after a war injury. He died from a seizure while he was working in the fields. Hellinger: P u t your m o t h e r ' s father b e h i n d her.

* Legend addition: +PGFa—paternal grandfather, died when Brigid's father was eight years old. ** Legend addition: +MGFa—maternal grandfather, died when mother was 10 years old.

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Mother: As my h u s b a n d ' s father c a m e in, I felt a s t r o n g n e e d to look. I w a s s u d d e n l y able t o see m y h u s b a n d . N o w t h a t m y father's t h e r e , t h e m o v e m e n t i s m o r e t o w a r d t h e left. C o u l d h e g o over t h e r e , w h e r e I c a n see h i m ? (Hellinger moves representative of mother's father to left.) T h a t ' s better. Father: wife. T h a t d o e s n ' t c h a n g e a n y t h i n g i n m y relationship w i t h m y

B r o t h e r : F o r m e , m y m o t h e r ' s father i s very interesting. Since he's t h e r e , I find myself looking at h i m all t h e t i m e . H e l l i n g e r (to Brigid): So t h a t looks like y o u r b r o t h e r ' s identificat i o n . H e ' s identified w i t h y o u r m o t h e r ' s father. (Asks the parents, with their fathers, to exchange sides.) B r i g i d ' s R e p r e s e n t a t i v e : T h a t ' s a distinct relief. I c a n exhale a n d relax. As my m o t h e r ' s father w a s s u d d e n l y s t a n d i n g t h e r e , I h a d t h e feeling t h a t I w a s s t a n d i n g across from so m a n y m e n , b u t I d i d n ' t have any c o n t a c t w i t h m y m o t h e r . T h e r e w a s n ' t a n y o t h e r w o m a n t h e r e . It's a little b e t t e r now. My feeling t o w a r d my father is m o r e relaxed. It's g o o d w h e n m y m o t h e r ' s father i s over t h e r e . W h e n h e w a s o n m y right, h e w a s t o o close. Hellinger: P u t y o u r m o t h e r ' s sister i n t h e system, t h e o n e w h o died. (Brigid places her deceased aunt behind her mother, to the right.) W h a t d o e s t h a t change? Mother: I ' m uneasy.

Brigid's Representative: I ' m looking m o r e a t h e r , a n d I c a n ' t see my father as well a n y m o r e . Mother's Sister: I ' m feeling a n u n e a s y pull t o m y sister, t o o . W h a t a b o u t that?

H e l l i n g e r (placing aunt beside mother): Mother: very nice.

I ' m g e t t i n g w a r m e r on this side (toward husband). Its (She moves closer to him, taking her sister with her.)

F a t h e r : T h i s p l a c e is ever so m u c h b e t t e r for m e . I actually feel closer to my d a u g h t e r , as well as to my wife. B r i g i d ' s R e p r e s e n t a t i v e : Yes, I c a n even see my m o t h e r , a n d I c a n see my father b e t t e r . It's a c o m p l e t e p i c t u r e , m u c h b e t t e r . Before, I w a s focused on my a u n t .

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Symmetry Stand over t h e r e n e x t to

H e l l i n g e r (to Brigid's representative): y o u r b r o t h e r . H o w ' s that?

Brother: I'd like to e x c h a n g e places w i t h my sister. (Brother and sister exchange places.) T h a t ' s better. (The father wants to move away a bit. Hellinger places his deceased sister next to him. All representatives make minor adjustments, until all have a sense of balance within the system. He then asks Brigid to take her place in the constellation.)

B r i g i d (Looks intently at the system, especially at her mother): t h i n g is p u l l i n g me over t h e r e (to the mother).

Some-

Hellinger: It's okay to go t h e r e . (Brigid slowly moves toward her mother and takes her in her arms.) Brigid, if y o u ' r e going to h u g h e r at all, t h e n h u g h e r g o o d a n d tight. (Brigid holds her mother's representative very tightly, starts to rock back and forth.) Calmly, calmly. Stay c a l m . Go slowly. B r e a t h e deeply, m o u t h o p e n . (Hellinger brings the mother's sister to them and she holds them both in her arms. Brigid starts to cry.) B r e a t h e deeply with y o u r m o u t h o p e n , deeply in a n d . . . d e e p l y o u t . . . inhaling is taking . . . no s o u n d , Brigid . . . s i m ply b r e a t h e in a n d b r e a t h e o u t , until y o u ' v e h a d e n o u g h . (Brigid starts to rush.) N o , n o , Brigid. T a k e y o u r t i m e . T a k e all t h e t i m e y o u n e e d . In . . . a n d o u t . . . the silent b r e a t h has m o r e p o w e r in it. (Brigid does this naturally. Her body relaxes visibly. After a while, she looks around the room, and is radiant.)
* Legend addition: +FaB—father's brother, died in childhood; +MoS—mother's sister, died when mother was 10 years old.

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Okay, y o u c a n g o b a c k t o y o u r place. T h a t ' s all, t h a n k y o u . (Everyone goes back to their seats.) Brigid: to learn. Hellinger: I ' m feeling great. I feel free a n d my h e a d is o p e n a n d able

T h a t was a beautiful m o v e m e n t . T h e r e ' s s o m e t h i n g m o v i n g h e r e , as

B r i g i d (pointing to her heart): if it w e r e o p e n i n g . Hellinger: Beautiful!

Brigid: Its g e t t i n g freer. D u r i n g t h e l u n c h b r e a k , I h a d s u c h a feeling of h o p e that t h e w o r k I did h e r e will h e l p me to feel m o r e m y age. Hellinger: Brigid: Hellinger: Surely! I d o n ' t w a n t t o say a n y t h i n g m o r e a b o u t w h a t h a p p e n e d . N o , t h a t isn't necessary.

C H A P T E R

E I G H T

Specific Themes in Systemic Psychotherapy
WORKING WITH Question: DREAMS

H o w d o you work with d r e a m s ?

Hellinger: I d o n ' t w o r k with d r e a m s m u c h , b u t w h e n I d o , I take a p h e n o m e n o l o g i c a l , process-oriented view. I resist mythologizing d r e a m s . S o m e therapists treat d r e a m s as if they were messages from G o d , b u t I ' m very sensitive to the distortion of reality that c a n o c c u r in d r e a m w o r k a n d in hypnosis, especially the issue of false m e m o r y . I r e m e m b e r o n e p a t i e n t w h o " d i s c o v e r e d " certain things in h y p n o t h e r a p e u t i c d r e a m w o r k with a r e p u t a b l e h y p n o t h e r a p i s t . As we r e e x a m i n e d t h e m a t e r i a l , i t b e c a m e clear t o u s b o t h t h a t w h a t h a d b e e n " d i s c o v e r e d " was actually invented, b u t it h a d already h a d a d a m a g i n g effect in his life. W h e n we r e w o r k e d t h e m a t e r i a l from a systemic p e r s p e c t i v e , w e f o u n d s o m e t h i n g practical t h a t h e c o u l d d o , a n d t h a t h a d a very positive effect on the quality of his life. M y t h o l o g i c a l d r e a m w o r k a n d hypnosis d o n ' t get t o t h a t k i n d o f practical a c t i o n unless there's a n u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f system d y n a m ics. If s o m e o n e is avoiding d o i n g w h a t n e e d s to be d o n e , t h e n talki n g a b o u t a d r e a m isn't going to help. D r e a m s are very a d a p t a b l e . T h e y a d a p t to the flow of e n e r g y in a p e r s o n ' s life. If y o u r energy is flowing i n t o avoiding decisions a n d 302

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effective action, o r i n t o m a i n t a i n i n g the status q u o , t h e n y o u r d r e a m s justify t h a t p o s t u r e . W h e n y o u ' r e using different t e c h n i q u e s t o p u t off d o i n g w h a t n e e d s t o b e d o n e a n d t o justify y o u r n o t acting, t h e n y o u r d r e a m s d o the s a m e . You can recognize t h a t k i n d o f d r e a m by t h e way p e o p l e tell it. If p e o p l e j u m p right into t h e telling o f their d r e a m s , w i t h o u t feeling, w i t h o u t r e s p e c t for t h e d r e a m , w i t h o u t a n a p p r o p r i a t e shyness a n d s h a m e , t h e n it's a l m o s t certainly o n e of those d r e a m s . I call t h o s e d r e a m s secondary dreams to go w i t h s e c o n d a r y feelings, a n d like s e c o n d a r y feelings, they serve to avoid w h a t e v e r really is going o n . B e c a u s e it's " o n l y a d r e a m , " p e o p l e t h i n k t h a t t h e y c a n afford n o t to do a n y t h i n g . If y o u take s u c h d r e a m s seriously, y o u only reinforce t h e p r o b l e m , a n d s o m e p a r t o f t h e d r e a m e r laughs a t you for falling i n t o t h e trap. It's similar w h e n s o m e o n e s t a r t s , "I d r e a m e d a b o u t y o u last night. You were. . . ." Usually, t h e p e r s o n just w a n t s to take a p o k e at you. I've g o t a great e x a m p l e of a s e c o n d a r y d r e a m . A m a n d r e a m e d that a h u n t i n g falcon saw a little b i r d , let it sing for a while, t h e n held it carefully, circled high over the little b i r d ' s nest, a n d let it d r o p gently i n t o t h e n e s t . H e t h o u g h t that was a w o n d e r f u l d r e a m . H i s a c t u a l situation at h o m e was t h a t his wife h a d left h i m to live w i t h a n o t h e r m a n . S h e c a m e b a c k t h r e e days a week t o b e w i t h t h e c h i l d r e n , a n d t h e n r e t u r n e d t o b e w i t h h e r friend for t h e o t h e r four days. A n d h e a c c e p t e d t h e situation, a l t h o u g h h e w a s deeply h u r t . T h e d r e a m d e s c r i b e d t h e m a n ' s situation perfectly. I n s t e a d o f d o i n g w h a t a falcon a p p r o p r i a t e l y d o e s , his d r e a m falcon c a r r i e d t h e little b i r d t e n d e r l y b a c k t o its nest a n d d r o p p e d i t neatly in. H e h a d surr e n d e r e d his wife to a n o t h e r , a n d she h a d fallen i n t o s o m e b o d y else's n e s t . T h e m a n t h o u g h t it was a wonderful d r e a m , a revelation. H e d i d n ' t even n o t i c e t h a t t h e d r e a m only d e s c r i b e d his situation. I t was a s e c o n d a r y d r e a m . S e c o n d a r y d r e a m s are like b a i t , testing to see if y o u ' r e g o i n g to b i t e . lt's so easy to gossip a b o u t things in t h e i m a g e s of d r e a m s , i n s t e a d of g e t t i n g to w o r k m a k i n g the n e c e s s a r y c h a n g e s in y o u r life. T h e r e ' s a n o t h e r kind of d r e a m t h a t I call a primary dream. P r i m a r y d r e a m s are c o d e d m e m o r i e s , a n d like p r i m a r y feelings, t h e y ' r e n o t d r a m a t i c a n d l o u d . D r e a m s o f water, for e x a m p l e , often carry t h e m e m o r y o f b i r t h . O n e w o m a n d r e a m e d t h a t she was skiing with h e r d a u g h t e r . A s they s t a r t e d d o w n t h e slope, she w a s h o l d i n g h e r little d a u g h t e r b e t w e e n h e r legs, a n d w h e n t h e y got t o t h e b o t t o m ,

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t h e d a u g h t e r fell into a lake. I asked h e r a b o u t h e r o w n b i r t h . S h e said t h a t she h a d arrived very s u d d e n l y while h e r m o t h e r was i n t h e bathtub. So, the d r e a m seems to be an example of a coded memory. I also distinguish shadow dreams. T h e s e d r e a m s s h o w us t h e side of ourselves t h a t we d o n ' t w a n t to look at. We usually d o n ' t relate t h e s e d r e a m s b e c a u s e w e a r e n ' t r e a d y t o deal w i t h w h a t t h e y tell u s . T h e y c a n , in fact, reveal a h i d d e n side of u s . W h e n y o u w a n t to w o r k w i t h s u c h d r e a m s , t h e n it's necessary t o take t h e m seriously, t o f i n d a p l a c e in y o u r h e a r t for whatever you fear in t h e d r e a m . T h a t ' s t h e m e t h o d of integration. T h e r e are also systemic dreams. T h e y d o n ' t have a n y t h i n g to do with the personal experience of the dreamer, b u t rather portray an u n r e s o l v e d s i t u a t i o n i n t h e family o r i n t h e e x t e n d e d family. T h e y bring something to consciousness that's i m p o r t a n t to deal with in t h e family s y s t e m . I f t h e d r e a m e r takes o n t h e task o f b a l a n c i n g t h e w h o l e family s y s t e m , t h e n t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s are u s u a l l y d i s a s trous. S y s t e m i c d r e a m s often have s o m e t h i n g b r u t a l a b o u t t h e m ; they deal with m u r d e r , suicide, o r d e a t h . T h e s h a d o w o f t h e system itself is often visible. W h e n y o u try to i n t e r p r e t t h e s e d r e a m s as if they w e r e s t a t e m e n t s a b o u t the p e r s o n , you a b u s e y o u r client, m a k i n g h i m o r h e r personally responsible for s o m e t h i n g t h a t ' s m u c h larger. Q u e s t i o n : W o u l d you give an e x a m p l e of a systemic d r e a m ? I d o n ' t get w h a t you are driving at. H e l l i n g e r : A m a n o n c e d r e a m e d that he f o u n d a b o d y in his b a s e m e n t t h a t w a s c u t u p into pieces. T h e n h e called t h e police. H e w a n t e d to go i n t o all of t h e details of t h e d r e a m , a b o u t his u n c o n scious m u r d e r o u s i m p u l s e s a n d all that, b u t I i n t e r r u p t e d h i m . I asked h i m w h o i n his family h a d b e e n m u r d e r e d . H e said t h a t h e d i d n ' t k n o w a n d called his father. H i s father said, "I c a n ' t tell you o n t h e t e l e p h o n e . " W h a t his father eventually told h i m w a s t h a t shortly after h e w a s b o r n , his m o t h e r b e c a m e p r e g n a n t again a n d c o m p l i c a t i o n s d e v e l o p e d . T h e hospital d i d n ' t have t h e p r o p e r facilities a n d t h e b a b y h a d t o b e killed a n d r e m o v e d b y dissecting i t i n t o pieces while it w a s still in h e r body. A l t h o u g h he d i d n ' t k n o w a b o u t t h e d e a t h o f his u n b o r n sibling until h e d r e a m e d this d r e a m , h e h a d b e e n u n c o n s c i o u s l y m a k i n g a place for h i m or h e r in his life. He h a d always h a d t w o of e v e r y t h i n g — t w o a p a r t m e n t s , t w o offices, t w o d e s k s , a n d s o o n . T h a t w a s t h e actual situation.

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T h e r e ' s a n o t h e r t h i n g t h a t ' s i n t e r e s t i n g a b o u t this d r e a m . L i k e m o s t d r e a m s , e v e r y t h i n g y o u n e e d i s i n t h e first c o u p l e o f s e n t e n c e s . T h e telling o f a d r e a m u s u a l l y r e a c h e s its p e a k after a b o u t t h e s e c o n d o r t h i r d s e n t e n c e . E v e r y t h i n g t h a t c o m e s after t h a t i s j u s t frosting o n t h e c a k e a n d d e t r a c t s f r o m t h e p o w e r o f t h e d r e a m . T h e p e r s o n r e l a t i n g a d r e a m t e n d s t o b e c o m e lost i n t h e details. If y o u get p e o p l e i n t o t h e h a b i t of telling d r e a m s in a very c o n c e n t r a t e d way a n d t o s t o p after t h e s e c o n d o r t h i r d s e n t e n c e , t h e n y o u have a b e t t e r c h a n c e of g e t t i n g a clear m e s s a g e w i t h which to work. T h e r e are d r e a m s t h a t d o h e l p , b u t t h e y ' r e m a i n l y helpful t o p e o p l e w h o are already w o r k i n g o n themselves. S u c h p e o p l e receive a d d i t i o n a l s u p p o r t from their o w n d e p t h . I call t h o s e d r e a m s metadreams. T h e d r e a m e r k n o w s i m m e d i a t e l y w h a t a m e t a - d r e a m is a b o u t a n d i t n e e d s n o further i n t e r p r e t a t i o n . S u c h d r e a m s b r i n g a solution into consciousness. Sometimes, w h e n I'm working on a p r o b l e m , m e t a - d r e a m s p r o v i d e a solution, o r they s h o w m e t h e n e x t s t e p , b u t only i f I ' m p r e p a r e d 'to d e m o n s t r a t e m y t r u s t i n t h e d r e a m b y m y s u b s e q u e n t actions. S o , if y o u w a n t to w o r k w i t h d r e a m s , it's very helpful to distinguish a m o n g t h e different types. Obviously, w h a t I've said isn't a c o m p r e h e n s i v e t h e o r y of d r e a m w o r k . It's just a collection of c e r t a i n o b s e r v a t i o n s t h a t m a y h e l p y o u t o avoid s o m e o f t h e m o r e c o m m o n t r a p s , a n d n o t set off in a n o n p r o d u c t i v e d i r e c t i o n . It's in no way i n t e n d e d t o replace o t h e r m e t h o d s o f u n d e r s t a n d i n g a n d w o r k i n g w i t h d r e a m s , b u t I do find it destructive w h e n all d r e a m s are t r e a t e d a s t r u t h . T h e r e ' s a C h i n e s e saying: " T h e wise m a n d o e s n ' t d r e a m . " H e d o e s n ' t n e e d d r e a m s any longer.

Short Transcripts of D r e a m Work
Miriam: I k e e p t h i n k i n g a b o u t a d r e a m I've h a d t h r e e or four t i m e s . In it, I always w o r r y a b o u t my y o u n g e s t son. Hellinger: S o , tell t h e d r e a m as if you w e r e d r e a m i n g it again.

Miriam: I ' m w i t h my y o u n g e s t s o n in a large p l a c e of b u s i n e s s , in t h e b u i l d i n g i n w h i c h m y sister w o r k s . I ' m b u s y w i t h m y sister. S u d d e n l y I h e a r my s o n calling. H e ' s very far away a n d I c a n ' t find h i m . W h e n I find h i m , he's c h o k i n g . He has b r o k e n i n t o a r o o m into

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which adults can't go, a n d I hear his voice getting fainter a n d fainter. H e l l i n g e r (interrupting): Your d r e a m , strangely, makes no i m p r e s sion on m e . H o w old is your son? Miriam: Hellinger: H e ' s 10 years old. D i d a child in your extended family system die?

Miriam: My g r a n d p a r e n t s both c a m e from large families with a lot of children. My g r a n d m o t h e r h a d 11 children herself. I d o n ' t k n o w w h e t h e r there was a stillbirth or something like that a m o n g all those kids. As far as I know, there was n o t (longpause). H e l l i n g e r : T h a t ' s strangely distant. It just d o e s n ' t t o u c h the h e a r t , in spite of the dramatic images. I c o u l d n ' t see you in the d r e a m as you were telling it. T h e r e was no m o v e m e n t , no sense of presence. T h e d r e a m leaves m e cold. M i r i a m : W h e n I woke u p , I immediately imagined my son in a good situation. H e l l i n g e r : T h e interpretation that the people in a d r e a m like this actually represent themselves is old-fashioned. It's a kind of Popular Romance interpretation. M i r i a m : It actually only partially corresponds to reality. I never worry a b o u t my elder son, even w h e n he d o e s n ' t c o m e h o m e at night. I ' m always sure he's okay. Hellinger: Miriam: Hellinger: tions? T h a t ' s a distraction. W h a t did I say? A Popular Romance interpretation. Do you worry a b o u t your younger son in o t h e r situa-

Miriam: Yes, very often. (Her mood shifts, she becomes thoughtful.) I just r e m e m b e r e d that my pregnancy with h i m was very difficult, a n d that I h a d to stay in b e d a lot. T h e n , after he was b o r n , he was ill. He h a d a very serious malfunction of his digestive system. It took a year and a half before it b e g a n to function properly. H e l l i n g e r : Let's go a h e a d a n d consider your d r e a m to be a m e m o r y . However, something's missing from the whole d r e a m

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gestalt. T h a t ' s the reason that it keeps trying to finish a n d d o e s n ' t leave you in p e a c e . First, let's look at the general situation. W h e n a t r a u m a is worked on in psychotherapy, the m o s t i m p o r t a n t thing is usually forgotten—that the person survived. Unless that's acknowledged, the gestalt w o n ' t close a n d there's no resolution. So take a m i n u t e now, get a picture of your son in y o u r m i n d , a n d let h i m feel h o w glad you are that everything t u r n e d out all right. Okay, M i r i a m ? (Miriam nods affirmation, and her work develops in a new direction.)

T h o m a s : I h a d a terrible d r e a m last night. I woke up in a cold sweat, a n d my h e a r t was p o u n d i n g . I have no idea w h a t it has to do with. Hellinger: Tell t h e d r e a m as if it were h a p p e n i n g right now.

T h o m a s : I am sitting with s o m e o n e in a bus. H e ' s driving the b u s . I know that he's my friend. T h e bus is completely full. We start to go up a steep m o u n t a i n . Hellinger: Thomas: G o o d . Start again. I am sitting or standing in a b u s , a n d a friend is driving.

H e l l i n g e r : G o o d ! T h a t ' s e n o u g h . T h a t ' s t h e p o i n t o f the d r e a m . (Pause) W h a t ' s t h e solution? Thomas: Hellinger: Thomas? I could drive myself. Okay. C h a n g e places with t h e driver. Anything else,

T h o m a s : Yes, s o m e t h i n g still b o t h e r s m e . My d r e a m s always have t h e same endings. T h e beginnings m a y b e different, b u t they e n d u p the same. T h a t bothers me. Hellinger: So, tell h o w they end.

Thomas: T h e y e n d u p with c h a s m s a n d cliffs, with anxiety a b o u t falling. T h e r e ' s always a fear of falling a n d of d e p t h . Hellinger: Okay. W h e n you have this d r e a m , s u p p o r t yourself by imagining yourself with your back leaning against your father.

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T h o m a s (after a pause): e n t feeling.

I d i d it just now. It's a c o m p l e t e l y differ-

Hellinger: Okay. T h a t ' s t h e r e s o l u t i o n . W h e n a child's in d a n g e r in a d r e a m , the p e r s o n w h o c a n h e l p is a l m o s t always the father. It d o e s n ' t m a t t e r w h e t h e r t h e child is a b o y or a girl. Of c o u r s e , t h e r e are e x c e p t i o n s , b u t especially w h e n t h e d a n g e r is suicide, or a t e n dency to pseudosuicidal accidents or to catastrophes, the person usually will feel safe n e x t to the father. S o m e t i m e s t h e g r a n d f a t h e r is n e e d e d , as well. It d o e s n ' t m a t t e r w h a t t h e father did or d i d n ' t d o , o r w h e t h e r o r n o t t h e child k n e w h i m . T h e r e ' s s t r e n g t h i n the masculine.

Joseph: I h a d a powerful d r e a m . My y o u n g e s t son goes i n t o t h e w a t e r , falls b a c k w a r d , a n d I ' m afraid he'll d r o w n . I g r a b for h i m . I feel t o r n b e c a u s e I d o n ' t have m u c h time to save h i m , a n d , at the s a m e t i m e , I have to w o r k slowly so t h a t I d o n ' t lose sight of h i m . I ' m afraid his clothes will rip. T h e n I get h i m b a c k a n d I ' m very h a p p y . H e ' s alive a n d he starts to b r e a t h e , b u t I w o r r y t h a t he m i g h t have s o m e d a m a g e . H e l l i n g e r : T h a t ' s a s e c o n d a r y d r e a m . It dramatically d e s c r i b e s t h e p r o b l e m w i t h o u t offering a s o l u t i o n . T h e solution is t h a t before he falls in t h e water, you h o l d h i m affectionately in y o u r a r m s . A g r e e d , Joseph?

R a l p h : I fell asleep d u r i n g t h e break, a n d I d r e a m e d t h a t I c l i m b e d a tall w a l n u t tree. I c l i m b e d b e y o n d t h e l a d d e r i n t o the h i g h e r b r a n c h e s s o I c o u l d shake t h e b r a n c h e s a n d m a k e t h e n u t s fall. (There's a quality of superficial boasting in his relating the dream.) Hellinger: Ralph: T h a t d r e a m w o n ' t h e l p you.

And then. . . . T h e d r e a m w o n ' t h e l p y o u . You d o n ' t r e s p e c t it.

Hellinger:

Ralph: I t w o n ' t help? After t h e d r e a m , I w o k e u p w i t h t h e feeling t h a t I really w a n t e d to crack t h e n u t s .

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Hellinger: Yes, after you woke, you w a n t e d to crack t h e n u t s . T h e image is violent, forcing things to h a p p e n . I d o n ' t work that way. I rarely w o r k with a h a m m e r . — Ralph: I really w a n t e d to work.

H e l l i n g e r : T h e r e ' s no energy in your telling of your d r e a m . If I stay with t h e d r e a m image, you're shaking, not harvesting. T h e solution m u s t c o m e from outside. Perhaps you think I should do t h e work for you? T h a t ' s a pretty p o o r basis for working together. R a l p h : N o , I was certain that I w a n t e d to crack t h e n u t s myself. My feeling was that. . . . H e l l i n g e r (interrupting): L e t go of the image of cracking n u t s . It d o e s n ' t help. M o s t d r e a m s only affirm the p r o b l e m , especially t h e d r e a m s people immediately want to tell. T h e y serve to rationalize failure. Ralph: I was so certain that I was ready to tackle t h e p r o b l e m .

H e l l i n g e r : T h a t ' s it. S o m e o n e w h o is s w i m m i n g a r o u n d in his or h e r misery, always feels certain. People w h o have m a d e t h e decision to keep their u n h a p p i n e s s a p p r o a c h the void with h e a d held high. T h e truly good m u s t b e a p p r o a c h e d with fear a n d t r e m b l i n g , with p r o f o u n d respect. You were closer to it yesterday.

L a r s : I h a d a d r e a m a couple of days ago. I can only r e m e m b e r a fragment, b u t I think it could be a systemic d r e a m . Hellinger: Okay, tell it as if it were h a p p e n i n g .

L a r s : I am lying in my b e d , a b o u t to go to sleep. T h e d o o r o p e n s and a w o m a n comes in. H e r face has a very e m o t i o n a l expression and she quickly moves toward m e . H e l l i n g e r : T h a t ' s e n o u g h . We can work with that m u c h . It feels like a p r i m a r y d r e a m that contains a m e m o r y . Lars: I've got the feeling that if it's a m e m o r y , it's really b a d . My whole h e a d is getting hot. H e l l i n g e r : L o o k at t h e eyes of the w o m a n . C a n you see t h e m ? Close your eyes and look at t h e w o m a n ' s eyes a n d at h e r m o u t h .

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I recognize t h e m o u t h , b u t n o t t h e eyes.

H e l l i n g e r : W h o s e m o u t h is it? Take y o u r t i m e . O b s e r v e carefully h o w t h e m o u t h m o v e s — a n d t h e eyes. T h o s e are t h e p o i n t s a t w h i c h m e m o r y is easiest. Lars: I t h i n k it is my m o t h e r ' s m o u t h , b u t I ' m n o t s u r e .

Hellinger: Okay. L e t ' s leave it there for now. P e r h a p s t h e d r e a m is a m e m o r y , b u t we d o n ' t w a n t to m a k e a n y t h i n g u p . L e t ' s just see if a n y t h i n g c o m e s to y o u in the n e x t few days. Next Day

Lars: D u r i n g t h e p a s t t h r e e o r four years, I've b e e n w o r k i n g o n m y relationship w i t h m y father, o n taking h i m , b u t I h a v e n ' t t a k e n my m o t h e r a n d I miss h e r , h e r energy. I w a n t to take a step now. Hellinger: I ' m t h i n k i n g a b o u t y o u r d r e a m yesterday. A s y o u w e r e s p e a k i n g , I saw t h e i m a g e from the d r e a m again. Were y o u in t h e h o s p i t a l as a child? Lars: Yes, I w a s often ill a n d I have the feeling t h a t I just m a n a g e d to escape w i t h my life. W h e n I w a s six m o n t h s old, I h a d an abscess, a n d m y m o t h e r h a d t o take m e t o the d o c t o r t o have t h e abscess d r a i n e d . T h a t m u s t have b e e n very painful. H e l l i n g e r : Yes, she c o m e s i n t o the r o o m a n d y o u k n o w w h a t ' s going to happen. Lars: I m u s t have really s c r e a m e d . A n o t h e r t i m e , I was in t h e h o s pital for. . . . H e l l i n g e r : N o t now, L a r s . W e already have s o m e t h i n g t o w o r k w i t h . It's e n o u g h . L e t ' s u s e it. We d o n ' t n e e d m o r e now. T h a t ' s a g o o d i n t e r p r e t a t i o n for y o u r d r e a m . C a n y o u i m a g i n e h o w a m o t h e r feels w h e n the d o c t o r expresses t h e b a b y ' s abscesses a n d h e starts t o s c r e a m ? A b a b y d o e s n ' t u n d e r s t a n d that at all. A w e l l - k n o w n p s y c h o t h e r a p i s t w h o specializes in r e p a r e n t i n g o n c e told a story a b o u t h e r 16-year-old s o n . He t o o k p a r t in a g r o u p she was r u n n i n g i n w h i c h the p a r t i c i p a n t s regressed a n d relived things from their c h i l d h o o d . H e r s o n s u d d e n l y said, " M o m , y o u tried t o starve m e . " S h e r e m e m b e r e d t h e situation. T h e b a b y h a d severe d i a r r h e a a n d t h e d o c t o r h a d o r d e r e d a 2 4 - h o u r fast.

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T h e b a b y recovered, b u t the m e m o r y r e m a i n e d a s a n a t t e m p t t o starve h i m . T h a t ' s what sometimes h a p p e n s to parents. A n o t h e r t i m e , a therapist told h o w he once looked very sharply at his y o u n g daughter. She t h e n went to her m o t h e r a n d said, " P a p a hit m e . " A n d that was w h a t r e m a i n e d in her m e m o r y . If you're willing to feel what your m o t h e r felt w h e n she took you, as a baby, to t h e doctor, you'll be able to resolve that image. It would have b e e n m u c h worse if she h a d left you in the hospital.

RESISTANCE
Bert Hellinger is a master at working with those p a t t e r n s of b e h a v ior we call "resistance." In observing h i m at work, it quickly b e c o m e s clear h o w skillfully he uses the short interactions d u r i n g the r o u n d to i n t e r r u p t those p a t t e r n s . He is extremely quick to recognize a p a t t e r n of avoidance, and he t h e n interrupts with an explanation to t h e g r o u p or with a story or an a n e c d o t e . He can afford to confront rather blatantly since the groups quickly recognize h o w m u c h love and respect are contained in his interventions, a n d h o w often a good resolution emerges in the end. [G.W.]

Wishful Thinking and Hypothetical Objections
L a r s (referring to a constellation in which he represented a mother's lover): Isn't it possible for the lover a n d the h u s b a n d to get together a n d be friendly? Or is that just wishful thinking? Hellinger: It's wishful thinking.

L a r s : Yes, b u t it's n o t impossible in real life. I k n o w p e o p l e w h o have d o n e it. H e l l i n g e r : T h e lover you represented and the h u s b a n d could m a k e peace if they w a n t e d to have a h o m o e r o t i c affair with each other by sharing the same w o m a n . If you look carefully at t h e actual people involved, you'll see the price that they and their children will have to pay in the long r u n . L a r s : Yes, b u t I still w o u l d n ' t w a n t to exclude it as a possible resolution.

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Hellinger: I w a n t to p o i n t o u t a basic p h e n o m e n o n : You c a n raise a h y p o t h e t i c a l objection to everything, even to w h a t ' s right. T h e effect of s u c h objections is that w h a t w a s previously effective s u d d e n l y h a s no effect at all. Raising h y p o t h e t i c a l objections in t h e r a p y cuts off t h e energy, d i s t u r b s a healing possibility, a n d is always a c h e a p s h o t b e c a u s e it's easier to c o m e up w i t h objections t h a n it is to find g o o d s o l u t i o n s . W h o e v e r raises objections usually d o e s n ' t have to take responsibility for their effects. It's very different w h e n s o m e o n e e n t e r s i n t o t h e s i t u a t i o n , a n d t h r o u g h his or h e r p e r s o n a l involvement, discovers a n e w variation. T h e n h e o r she c a n speak from p e r s o n a l e x p e r i e n c e a n d b r i n g insight to s u p p l e m e n t or correct w h a t w a s originally said. T h a t ' s a very g r e a t difference b e c a u s e m e n t a l effort a n d risk are r e q u i r e d to bring such a contribution. Criticizing a n d q u e s t i o n i n g everything w i t h h y p o t h e t i c a l p o s s i bilities is a g a m e you play at the university. B u t w h e n y o u ' r e w o r k ing w i t h real p e o p l e w i t h real suffering, you c a n ' t d o it. T h e c o n s e q u e n c e s are t o o great. I c a n q u e s t i o n e v e r y t h i n g , b u t w h a t d o e s i t a c c o m p l i s h ? W h a t d o you actually achieve w h e n y o u b r i n g u p s u c h objections, Lars? You can observe w h a t h a p p e n s h e r e , w h a t t h e effect of t h e i n t e r v e n t i o n s actually is. Or you c a n tell us a b o u t y o u r o w n experience—if you a n d y o u r wife's lover are g o o d friends. W h e n y o u m e r e l y raise hypothetical objections, t h e g o o d effect of t h e w o r k is b l o c k e d . Lars: I have a n o t h e r q u e s t i o n . . . .

Hellinger: N o t now. (To group) D i d y o u n o t i c e h o w quickly he m o v e d o n t o his n e x t t h o u g h t ? H e d i d n ' t really even c o n s i d e r w h a t w e w e r e discussing. T h e r e ' s s o m e t h i n g t h r e a t e n i n g a b o u t o b s e r v i n g a p r o c e s s t h a t leads to resolution—it s e l d o m leaves m u c h r o o m for choice. We have a lot of r o o m for c h o i c e w i t h t h e little t h i n g s , b u t w h e n w e ' r e i n t e r e s t e d in a g o o d r e s o l u t i o n , we usually only have o n e way to go, especially w h e n we are d e a l i n g w i t h o n e of life's big issues. W e ' r e only t o o h a p p y to escape t h e necessity of fitting o u r selves i n t o w h a t life d e m a n d s of u s , a n d raising t h e o r e t i c a l objections is a g o o d way to e s c a p e . We have t h e illusion of f r e e d o m , b u t at w h a t price? It's only an illusion. H y p o t h e t i c a l objections have t h e s a m e effect on r e s o l u t i o n s t h a t t h e scythe has o n w h e a t before it's r i p e n e d .

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L o u i s : I haven't m a n a g e d to m a k e very m u c h out of my life. I d i d n ' t finish my degree, I d o n ' t have a career. I've tried o u t lots of things, b u t I've never m a n a g e d to stick with anything for very long. Do you think it could be an identification with my father? He wasn't allowed to m a r r y his first girlfriend b e c a u s e he d i d n ' t have a job. H e l l i n g e r (after a long, thoughtful pause): Even if it were to t u r n o u t to be t r u e , y o u r m e t h o d of going a b o u t it is d o o m e d to fail. You're still looking for causes and explanations a n d excuses w h e n you already k n o w t h e solution. Louis: T h a t ' s all I have to do? Everything else d o e s n ' t matter? W h a t ' s the solution?

Hellinger: Louis:

T h e solution is that I pay my father obeisance.

Hellinger: A n d that you tell your m o t h e r in your heart, "I b e l o n g with my father. H e ' s right for m e . " T h e n you can forget all t h e other stuff. Louis: on? T h e n everything else is u n i m p o r t a n t , my sisters, and so T h a t ' s a case of a g r e e m e n t as a form of defense.

Hellinger: (Laughter.)

Lydia: Right now, I ' m feeling calm and strong. I h a d a d r e a m last night. It woke me and I cried a n d cried. I h a d very clear images. O n e was of a p e r s o n w h o h a d fallen into a rain barrel, a n d t h e n I saw my sister, b u t she w a s n ' t c o n n e c t e d to anything at all. Hellinger: Are those images from the d r e a m , or what?

Lydia: T h e y were images after the d r e a m , and there was a lot of tears in t h e m . Hellinger: I d o n ' t think they're very useful.

Lydia: G o o d , okay! B u t there is a c o n n e c t i o n with a conversation I h a d yesterday in which I. . . .

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H e l l i n g e r (interrupting): L y d i a , I d o n ' t t h i n k that'll h e l p a n y t h i n g . I d o n ' t w a n t to h e a r it just now. Lydia: Okay, okay. B u t I w a n t to tell y o u a b o u t it w h e t h e r y o u w a n t to h e a r it or n o t . Yesterday. . . . H e l l i n g e r : N o , Lydia. I w a n t t o analyze w h a t ' s g o i n g o n , w h a t y o u r p r o c e s s is. F i r s t , y o u h a d a n e x p e r i e n c e , a n d a f t e r w a r d s y o u s t a r t e d l o o k i n g for t h e e x p l a n a t i o n . N o m a t t e r w h a t e x p l a n a t i o n y o u find, you'll feel relief, b u t it's n o t likely to h e l p y o u c h a n g e w h a t e v e r y o u n e e d t o c h a n g e s o t h a t y o u r life c a n b e different i n t h e way y o u w a n t . Usually, w e seek e x p l a n a t i o n s for o u r o w n refusal to a c t , or for o u r u n h a p p i n e s s . As s o o n as w e ' v e f o u n d an e x p l a n a t i o n , w e s t o p t r y i n g t o u n d e r s t a n d o u r refusal o r o u r u n h a p p i n e s s , a n d the process that was started by the experience is interrupted. You c a n see s o m e t h i n g very similar w h e n you s t u d y t h e mystics: B u d d h i s t , M u s l i m , C h r i s t i a n , a n d Jewish mystics have all h a d e x p e riences t h a t are quite similar. T h e y just explain t h e m differently. T h e y t r y t o c o m m u n i c a t e w h a t they have e x p e r i e n c e d w i t h t h e tools they have available. B u t it's n o t possible to explain e x p e r i e n c e , a n d it r e q u i r e s great self-discipline to resist the t e m p t a t i o n to do so, a n d t o c o n c e n t r a t e o n e ' s a t t e n t i o n o n exploring t h e e x p e r i e n c e itself. You have to j u m p i n t o t h e river a n d swim with t h e c u r r e n t a n d see w h e r e it takes y o u . Is t h a t clear, Lydia? C a n you a c c e p t my interr u p t i o n if you look at it like that? Lydia: T h a n k you, but. . . .

Hellinger: I've failed again. (To group) If I as a t h e r a p i s t were to s t a r t to w o r k w i t h w h a t she is going to say, or w i t h h e r e x p l a n a t i o n s of h e r t e a r s , t h e n I w o u l d be c o o p e r a t i n g in i n t e r r u p t i n g the flow of t h e p r o c e s s , of t h e i m p o r t a n t experience itself. (Lydia begins to cry softly.) N o w y o u ' r e giving in to t h e e x p e r i e n c e . T a k e y o u r t i m e , Lydia. You've g o t lots of t i m e , all t h e t i m e y o u n e e d . (To the group, giving Lydia time) I o n c e c o n t e m p l a t e d p u r e t r u t h a n d h o w to deal w i t h it. T h e wise m a n deals with p u r e t r u t h like a c o w deals w i t h a b a r b e d - w i r e fence: As long as t h e cow has s o m e t h i n g to eat, she keeps away. O t h e r w i s e , she looks for a h o l e . (He looks around the group.) T h a t ' s a general m e t h o d for dealing with c e r t a i n a u t h o r i t i e s . (Work with Lydia resumes.)

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S t u b b o r n n e s s .and t h e Joy o f C o n t r a d i c t i n g Hilda: I n o t i c e d my o w n p a t t e r n yesterday—I always r e a c t first w i t h an objection. It's really difficult for me to go a l o n g with s o m e thing. I'm so stubborn. H e l l i n g e r : T h o s e are the p e o p l e w h o are easiest t o m a n i p u l a t e . You c a n always d e p e n d o n s t u b b o r n n e s s . T h e r e are t h r e e k i n d s o f p e o p l e : T h e first say " y e s " f i r s t , a n d t h e n t h i n k ; t h e s e c o n d say " n o " first, a n d t h e n t h i n k ; a n d t h e t h i r d t h i n k first. (Pause, to the group) D i d H i l d a u n d e r s t a n d w h a t I said? I d o n ' t t h i n k s h e c o u l d , b e c a u s e she d i d n ' t h e a r it. S h e w a s t o o b u s y saying " N o . " (Laughter)

Edie: M y h e a r t ' s p o u n d i n g . I ' m still feeling h u r t b y y o u r rejection this m o r n i n g . (Her eyes are closed and she's pouting.) H e l l i n g e r : Yes. You c a n h o l d on to it as l o n g as it d o e s y o u g o o d , b u t y o u c a n only h o l d on to it if you close y o u r eyes a n d d o n ' t look at m e as I a m . Edie: I d o n ' t w a n t to h o l d on to it at all, b u t I n o t i c e h o w quickly I get s t u b b o r n a n d . . . Hellinger: Pay a t t e n t i o n t o y o u r experience. I t w a s p l e a s u r a b l e . You s h o w e d t h e m . Edie: W h a t ? W h a t d o you m e a n ?

Hellinger: You really s h o w e d t h e m . O f c o u r s e , y o u lost; b u t y o u s h o w e d t h e m anyway. I'll tell y o u s o m e t h i n g a b o u t s t u b b o r n n e s s . S t u b b o r n n e s s is t h e inability t o t a k e . T h e d i l e m m a i s t h a t y o u have t o wait for s o m e o n e else to h e l p you get over it. B u t as s o o n as s o m e o n e tries to h e l p , y o u have t o reject t h e p e r s o n i n o r d e r t o keep y o u r s t u b b o r n n e s s . It's a vicious circle. I've c o n d u c t e d research on this p r o c e s s for m a n y years a n d I have discovered a c u r e for s t u b b o r n n e s s . Do y o u w a n t to k n o w ? (Edie nods.) Okay, I'll tell y o u . You p u t it off for five m i n u t e s .

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Do You Want Triumph or Success? Gwen: I w o k e u p this m o r n i n g a n d I h a d t h e feeling t h a t t h e r e were s o m a n y p e o p l e sitting a r o u n d m e , telling m e , "You m u s t , you s h o u l d . You m u s t s e p a r a t e from y o u r friend, y o u m u s t p a y h i m his full d u e before you s e p a r a t e , you s h o u l d n ' t b e a n g r y a t h i m . "
H e l l i n g e r : You must tell e a c h of t h e m , "I will, I will, I will." T h a t ' l l s h u t t h e m u p for a while, a n d t h e n y o u c a n d o w h a t y o u want. (Laughter) Gwen: B u t t h e r e are so m a n y of t h e m . T h e r e ' s o n e w h o says. . . .

Hellinger: Okay, okay. If you enjoy it so m u c h . I d i d n ' t m e a n to spoil y o u r fun. (Laughter) I was d e s c r i b i n g an i n n e r strategy, a n d I d e m o n s t r a t e d it. H o w e v e r , t h e strategy r e q u i r e s d i s c i p l i n e — t h e d i s cipline t h a t o n e n e e d s to apply all i n n e r strategies successfully is to forego; t r i u m p h . T h e r e are two m u t u a l l y exclusive things": t r i u m p h a n d s u c c e s s / Y o u c a n either have t r i u m p h a n d sacrifice success, o r y o u c a n have success a n d sacrifice t r i u m p h . T h a t ' s t h e discipline o f success, a n d it r e q u i r e s an e l e m e n t of h u m i l i t y — l a s t i n g success, I m e a n . S o m e t h i n g else, G w e n ? Gwen: I h a v e n ' t m a d e u p m y m i n d t o forego t r i u m p h .

H e l l i n g e r : Exactly. You still w a n t to have it. B u t a p u f f e d - u p . b r e a s t is only full of h o t air. You only h e a r d t h e w o r d s .

Irene: M y sister w a s w i d o w e d a n d she has r e m a r r i e d . H e r n e w h u s b a n d , also a w i d o w e r , h a s an a d u l t son from his p r e v i o u s m a r riage. T h i s s o n i s very difficult, a n d b o t h m y sister a n d h e r h u s b a n d suffer from his b e h a v i o r . U n f o r t u n a t e l y , he lives in t h e s a m e t o w n . M y sister basically u n d e r s t a n d s t h a t t h e y o u n g m a n i s h e r h u s b a n d ' s s o n , b u t she also sees h o w m u c h h e r h u s b a n d suffers from his relationship with h i m . A s a n o u t s i d e r , she sees w h e r e h e r h u s b a n d m a k e s m i s t a k e s , a n d she tries t o tell h i m t h a t from t i m e t o t i m e , b u t it d o e s n ' t h e l p at all. (Irene shows an expression of exasperation with her brother-in-law.) Hellinger: O b v i o u s l y n o t . H o w could it? S h e s h o u l d tell h e r h u s b a n d , " Y o u ' r e t h e b e s t father for y o u r s o n . "

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Irene: T h a t ' s an interesting possibility. (Her air of superiority softens briefly, then returns.) After y o u m e n t i o n e d . . . . H e l l i n g e r (to group): T h a t was a very skillful a v o i d a n c e . Irene) W h a t d i d I say? C a n y o u r e m e m b e r ? (To

Irene: You said t h a t she s h o u l d tell h e r h u s b a n d , " Y o u ' r e t h e b e s t father for y o u r s o n . " A n d I w a n t e d to . . . . H e l l i n g e r : Okay, I r e n e . You h e a r d t h e w o r d s , b u t y o u d i d n ' t u n d e r s t a n d t h e issue. Irene: Yes I did, b u t I d o n ' t t h i n k y o u are c o n s i d e r i n g . . . .

H e l l i n g e r : N o , it really d i d n ' t get t h r o u g h yet. I w a n t to leave it h e r e for now.

Wanting to Know More Than Is Necessary to Act Allen: I d o n ' t k n o w h o w I feel.

Hellinger: W h e n y o u d o n ' t k n o w h o w y o u feel, y o u feel g o o d . You'd k n o w it if y o u w e r e n ' t feeling g o o d . Allen: It d o e s n ' t m a k e me feel c o m p l e t e l y g o o d . I k e e p h a v i n g t h e feeling t h a t there's real m o v e m e n t i n m e a t c e r t a i n m o m e n t s , b u t t h e n it quickly slips away in s o m e c o r n e r a n d d i s a p p e a r s so t h a t I c a n ' t get to it. All t h a t ' s left is a diffuse fog t h a t c u t s me off f r o m reality. Hellinger: T h e r e are always g o o d c o r n e r s for m o v e m e n t s t o slip into to escape c h a n g e . I call t h a t t h e " w a n t i n g - t o - k n o w - m o r e - t h a n is-necessary s y n d r o m e . " T h a t ' s w h e n I always w a n t t o k n o w m o r e , r a t h e r t h a n staying with the m o v e m e n t a n d a c t i n g accordingly. T h e m i n u t e I s t a r t trying to u n d e r s t a n d , I no longer n e e d to act. U n d e r s t a n d i n g is t h e escape h a t c h t h e energy of c h a n g e slips into. Is t h e r e s o m e t h i n g m o r e , Allen? Allen: T h a t ' s e n o u g h for now. Did you understand?

Hellinger: Allen:

I ' m afraid I d i d .

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Hellinger: G o o d . T h a t ' s n o w t h e e x c e p t i o n t h a t proves t h e r u l e , t h e way in w h i c h it's g o o d to u n d e r s t a n d . (Laughter)

Robert: I t h i n k t o o m u c h , a n d I feel o v e r w h e l m e d . I have t h e feeling t h a t it's t i m e to do s o m e t h i n g a n d to stop talking a b o u t it. I ' m going t o call m y m o t h e r t o n i g h t after t h e s e m i n a r . Hellinger: S o m e p e o p l e like t o c o u n t t h e d r o p s o f w a t e r while t h e y are taking a shower. (Pause, to the group) He d i d n ' t get it. D i d you? I'll give a n o t h e r e x a m p l e of this p r o c e s s . In t h e U n i t e d States, t h e y have a m e t h o d for t e a c h i n g foreign l a n g u a g e s . It's q u i t e e x p e n sive, so t h e y m o s t l y u s e it to t e a c h spies, b u t it's very effective a n d m o s t p e o p l e c a n l e a r n to speak a l a n g u a g e fluently in a s h o r t t i m e . T h e m e t h o d is very simple. Six or seven t e a c h e r s all start talking to t h e s t u d e n t i n t h e foreign l a n g u a g e a t the s a m e t i m e until h e o r she doesn't u n d e r s t a n d anything at all—and then the student learns, b u t on a different level. T h a t ' s h o w c h i l d r e n l e a r n to speak; six or seven different p e o p l e all say things to t h e m t h a t t h e y d o n ' t understand.

Edie: I r e m e m b e r two d r e a m s from my c h i l d h o o d a n d I'd like to k n o w w h a t k i n d o f d r e a m s they are. Hellinger: Edie: Why? A r e y o u r c h a n c e s b e t t e r o r w o r s e i f y o u ask m e why? No!

Hellinger: Edie:

Worse.

Hellinger: Exactly. Your q u e s t i o n is an a t t e m p t to p u t me in a s u b o r d i n a t e d p o s i t i o n , to obey y o u r p r o g r a m . If y o u s u c c e e d in b e c o m i n g s u p e r i o r t o m e , w h y s h o u l d you t r u s t m e a s y o u r t h e r a pist? I n e e d at least to be y o u r equal. (To group) W h a t E d i e d i d was t o p u t o u t s o m e bait. T h e y o u n g a n d i n e x p e r i e n c e d f i s h will bite.

Eric: I w o k e up just before we s t a r t e d w i t h a d r e a m fragment. I c a n only r e m e m b e r t h e e n d .

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H e l l i n g e r (interrupting): Eric, I w a n t the beginning. H o w does the d r e a m start? Of course, only if you w a n t to tell m e . Eric: I d o n ' t know, I found the last scene of the d r e a m lovely. T h a t ' s very nice, b u t h o w could it

H e l l i n g e r (friendly teasing): have all begun? Eric:

W h a t spontaneously comes is the start of a pilgrimage.

Hellinger: T h a t ' s an interpretation of the d r e a m . Your i n t e r p r e t a tions of y o u r d r e a m d o n ' t count. W h a t did the d r e a m itself say? Eric: Okay. I am getting ready to leave for a strange city.

H e l l i n g e r : T h a t ' s a good sentence. Let's work with that. N o w you have to check o u t with yourself w h e t h e r or n o t it's a p p r o p r i a t e , w h e t h e r a good energy is leading you to s o m e t h i n g b e t t e r or a little devil is t e m p t i n g you to leave. E r i c (quietly): Hellinger: tricky. I think it is a good energy. I ' m guessing it's a devil. T h e little devils are very

Agreeing with Contrariness Katherine: I ' m still mulling over w h a t you said a b o u t feelings. In my relationships, I always automatically assume a c o n t r a r y position. No m a t t e r h o w m u c h I try to watch out, my habit is always faster. S n a p , a n d I ' m in it. W h e n it's a conversation a b o u t justice, for e x a m p l e , I ' m arguing the opposite position in a flash. Hellinger: A w o m a n once told me that h e r m o t h e r h a d told her, "You're a w h o r e . " She w a n t e d to know h o w to deal with it. She always argued with her m o t h e r , "I am not." I suggested that she tell h e r m o t h e r , "Well, actually, there m a y be s o m e t h i n g to it." So the next time you're t e m p t e d to argue in opposition, tell t h e o t h e r person, " T h e r e m a y be something to it." Katherine: T h a t ' s very simple.

H e l l i n g e r : T h e best p a r t is that, w h e n you u n d e r s t a n d h o w it works, you can really have a lot of fun with it.

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The Secret of the Path
Manuela: I hope that, sometime during this seminar, I'll get a chance to set up my family. I hope that it will work out, but I don't know if it will. Hellinger: it will not. Judging by how you say that, it seems more likely that

Manuela: G o o d , if you say so. That's too bad, but maybe it's better that way. (Begins to cry, looks at the floor.) Hellinger: I want to say something about the secret of the path. You make progress on the path by leaving behind everything from before, even your old insights. And there's something else about the path. You reach the goal with the last step. Everything before was only the preparation. I'll tell you a story. The Mule

A wealthy m a n b o u g h t a young m u l e a n d immediately began to train it for its new life. He packed it with the heaviest loads, m a d e it work long h o u r s , a n d gave it a m i n i m u m of food and drink. A n d so the little mule soon b e c a m e a real m u l e . W h e n his master c a m e , it b e n t its knee a n d bowed its h e a d a n d allowed itself to be piled with b u r dens to be carried, even w h e n it almost broke from the weight. Passersby saw a n d h a d pity. T h e y said, " S u c h a p o o r little m u l e , " and w a n t e d to help it. O n e wanted to give it a piece of sugar, a n o t h e r a piece of b r e a d , and a third even wanted to coax it to a green meadow. But, alas, the little mule only showed t h e m what a m u l e it really was: It bit the first in the h a n d , it kicked the second in the shin, and with the third, it was as s t u b b o r n as a m u l e . T h e n they said, " W h a t a m u l e , " a n d left it alone. Yet it ate gladly from its master's h a n d , even straw, a n d its master praised it everywhere, " T h a t ' s the best m u l e I've ever h a d . " Its m a s ter gave it a special n a m e , Mehtyoo. Later scholars were no longer sure h o w to p r o n o u n c e the n a m e , until one from Texas decided it should b e p r o n o u n c e d , " M e Too."

Distinguishing Weakness from Need
Anne
(speaking in a whiney voice): I have a lump in my throat and there are lots of things coming up for me now.

Specific Themes in Systemic Psychotherapy Hellinger: eyes? Anne: Yes. W h a t color are they?

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Hellinger: Anne:

Dark.

H e l l i n g e r (astonished): Dark? (To group) Do you notice the difference? She has m u c h m o r e strength n o w t h a t she's looking. W h e n people are weakening themselves, you can help t h e m to look clearly at s o m e t h i n g and they often get out of it. W h e n e v e r people m a k e themselves weak, they're filtering s o m e t h i n g o u t of their p e r c e p tions, a n d they can't see, or hear, or act appropriately. Everything that weakens people interferes with their d o i n g w h a t they w a n t to do. If we're interested in change, we might as well forget it. If a person really n e e d s to feel weak, t h e n we can tell h i m or h e r to go ahead a n d enjoy it from time to time, b u t to do it with full awareness. T h a t ' s different from doing therapy. Anne: Is there such a thing as a strong weakness? Yes, w h e n it's strategic.

H e l l i n g e r (after a thoughtful pause): Anne:

I ask b e c a u s e , for m e , weakness is an intrinsic p a r t of life.

Hellinger: N o , needs are a p a r t of life, a n d that's s o m e t h i n g different. It's very i m p o r t a n t to recognize a n d h o n o r o u r neediness, a n d to c o m m u n i c a t e in o u r relationships that we n e e d o u r p a r t n e r s , b u t w i t h o u t misusing t h e m . I n good p a r t n e r s h i p s , b o t h p a r t n e r s are needy, a n d that grants their relationship strength. W h e n o n e or the other no longer is needy, t h e n their relationship takes on a different quality. T h e r e are people w h o achieve their fullness, and t h e n no longer are n e e d y in the usual sense. T h e y give by overflowing, a n d others can t h e n take from t h e m . T h a t d o e s n ' t create a relationship in t h e usual sense, b e c a u s e they d o n ' t take. T h e y ' r e self-sufficient. In o u r ordinary intimate relationships, the other kind of give a n d take is necessary. Do you know h o w to deal with neediness? You ask for s o m e t h i n g very concrete. N o t like, "Please love me m o r e . " T h a t isn't concrete e n o u g h . Rather, ask, "Stay with me for half an h o u r a n d talk to m e . " T h a t would b e concrete e n o u g h . T h e n t h e o t h e r could decide w h e t h e r or n o t he or she w a n t e d to do so, a n d w h e n he or she did,

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the p e r s o n would know w h e n the request was fulfilled. W i t h the sentence, "Please love me m o r e , " he or she could never fulfill it a n d would feel resentful.

GRIEF AND SEPARATION
Martha: I think constantly a b o u t a colleague w h o was killed last s u m m e r in a car accident. I can't get him o u t of my m i n d . I've lost 10 p o u n d s since he died, a n d I've no idea what's going o n . I've cried a lot, b u t I have the feeling that what I ' m d o i n g is s o m e h o w exaggerated and inappropriate. Hellinger: D i d you refuse to take s o m e t h i n g he w a n t e d to give you, or did you devalue him in s o m e way? Do you owe h i m s o m e thing? Martha: Hellinger: Martha: I h a d a short affair with his brother. He d i d n ' t approve. D i d you have a relationship with him? N o , b u t a friend of mine was m a r r i e d to h i m .

H e l l i n g e r : I've given you a couple of hints a b o u t w h e r e you m i g h t look. Let's leave it h e r e for n o w and see if t h o s e hints have s o m e effect. I still have the image that you owe h i m s o m e t h i n g , or that you n e e d to take something from him. M y n e i g h b o r b e c a m e extremely distraught w h e n her h u s b a n d suddenly died of a h e a r t attack 10 years ago. She cried and cried, b u t n o t h i n g c h a n g e d . I suggested to her, as a n e i g h b o r sometimes can, that she could t u r n to me if she w a n t e d help. A b o u t a year later, she k n o c k e d at the d o o r and said, " M r . Hellinger, could you please help m e ? " I invited her to c o m e in, we sat d o w n , a n d I said to her, " P i c t u r e in your m i n d exactly h o w it was w h e n you m e t your h u s b a n d for the first time." She closed her eyes, a n d after a short time began to laugh. I said, "You can go h o m e now." She got up a n d left. Since t h e n , she has really b l o s s o m e d a n d has b e c o m e a very active a n d effective w o m a n . You know, good m e m o r i e s b e l o n g to every effective separation.

Specific Themes in Systemic Psychotherapy Getting B e y o n d the Desire to Help with Grief

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A d e l a i d e : H o w can you help people to get to the p o i n t at which they can live the answers to their problems? H e l l i n g e r : Let me ask you a very basic question. W h y do you w a n t to do that? Adelaide: people? Isn't that the whole p u r p o s e of doing therapy, to help

H e l l i n g e r : A therapist is s o m e o n e w h o limps along b e h i n d , a n d with great effort just barely m a n a g e s to keep up. People have a right to their own destinies, a n d we m u s t be very cautious w h e n intervening in m a t t e r s of destiny. Adelaide: I ' m working with a family with a r e t a r d e d son. Would you also say that to them? Is that t h e resolution, that the p a r e n t s agree to their fate? H e l l i n g e r : N o . In a case like that, s o m e t h i n g else is n e e d e d . W h e n people b e c o m e p a r e n t s , that has e n o r m o u s c o n s e q u e n c e s a n d entails risks that can last a lifetime. Procreation is t h e m o s t p r o foundly h u m a n act. It n e e d s to be properly respected a n d valued. T h a t ' s the first thing. W h e n they fully u n d e r s t a n d a n d value t h e m a g n i t u d e of p a r e n t h o o d , t h e n they can accept the consequences of their action. It's a question of h u m a n dignity. T h e y t h e n h o n o r a n d love the child, however that child is. T h a t ' s the attitude t h a t allows resolution. It's a h u m b l e attitude that expresses h u m a n dignity. W h e n p a r e n t s are able to affirm a child like that, something good a n d loving flows t h r o u g h t h e m that can't flow otherwise. Actually, that's h o w m o s t parents of retarded children feel. It's the outsiders w h o are m o s t b o t h e r e d . T h e parents usually accept a r e t a r d e d child w i t h o u t difficulty—unless the prejudicial attitude of s o m e therapist gets in their way. As a therapist, you m i g h t w o n d e r why they keep t h e child, or h o w they m a n a g e to love h i m , b u t your c o m p a s s i o n is missing. T h a t ' s why it's difficult for you, as a therapist, to truly affirm the child as he is. T h a t would be the first step, for the parents to affirm t h e child as he is. It's difficult for a therapist, a n d for o t h e r outsiders, to affirm

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s u c h a c h i l d — t r u l y a n d lovingly a n d w i t h o u t s o m e p h o n y " o h i s n ' t h e c u t e " act. I t requires t h a t you, a n d everyone else, k e e p y o u r n o s e o u t o f their business. I t s e e m s t o m e t h a t that's w h a t ' s a p p r o p r i a t e in situations like t h a t — t h e y love their child, a n d you k e e p y o u r n o s e o u t of their business. I'll give you an e x a m p l e . Several years ago, a w o m a n called me for s o m e advice. S h e w a s a m e m b e r of a m o t h e r - c h i l d g r o u p . O n e of the other mothers h a d a five-year-old daughter with terminal cancer. T h e w o m a n o n t h e t e l e p h o n e h a d g o n e t o visit t h e m t o d o s o m e " d e a t h a n d dying counseling." After she h a d b e e n t h e r e for a while, she h a d t h e feeling t h a t s o m e t h i n g was w r o n g . I asked h e r w h a t w a s going on as she arrived. S h e said t h a t t h e child was playing happily. I said, " T h a t ' s a p p r o p r i a t e . L e t t h e child play as l o n g as she c a n , a n d leave h e r t o h e r p a r e n t s . W h a t are you looking for there? J u s t stay o u t o f it." T h a t ' s w h a t she did, a n d the p a r e n t s d i d w h a t w a s right for t h e m a n d for t h e child. H e r e ' s a n o t h e r e x a m p l e . A therapist called me after o n e of h e r clients c o m m i t t e d suicide. S h e said she h a d t h e feeling t h a t s h e s h o u l d h e l p t h e relatives with their "grief w o r k " a n d w a n t e d t o k n o w if I t h o u g h t she s h o u l d go to t h e funeral. I told h e r , " D o n ' t do it. You've d o n e y o u r w o r k , a n d n o w they m u s t d o theirs. You m u s t n ' t i n t r u d e i n t o their family affairs." No t h e r a p i s t has t h e right to feel responsible for p r o t e c t i n g a family from life—and everything that b e l o n g s to it. T h e illusion t h a t t h e r a p y c a n c h a n g e the realities of life (or i m p r o v e life) is t h e s o u r c e of a lot of h u r t , especially in relationships. Life is t h e way it is, w i t h all its joys a n d sorrows. Adelaide: Hellinger: Adelaide: I'll t h i n k a b o u t w h a t y o u ' v e said. W h a t does that mean? I n e e d t i m e to t h i n k it over.

Hellinger: I t s o u n d s a s t h o u g h y o u ' r e g o i n g to.stick t o y o u r o p i n ion, b u t your reaction doesn't change anything about what's actually helpful to families in grief. Still, y o u r o p i n i o n s m i g h t interfere w i t h y o u r p e r c e p t i o n o f t h e effect o f w h a t y o u d o . T h e q u e s t i o n r e m a i n s : A r e w e talking a b o u t their n e e d for help o r y o u r n e e d t o b e a helper?

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When Grief Doesn't Stop
Barbara: I h a v e a n e i g h b o r w h o lost h e r 2 0 - y e a r - o l d s o n i n a n a u t o m o b i l e a c c i d e n t a b o u t 1 0 years ago. S h e ' s still g r i e v i n g for h i m , as if h e ' d j u s t d i e d last w e e k . Hellinger: M a y b e she's angry at him. W h e n a p e r s o n is angry at a d e c e a s e d p e r s o n , t h e grief d o e s n ' t s t o p . I f s h e w e r e i n t e r e s t e d i n a r e s o l u t i o n , s h e c o u l d say t o h i m , " I r e s p e c t a n d h o n o r y o u r life a n d y o u r d e a t h . " (Pause) I ' m telling y o u , b u t y o u c a n ' t tell h e r t h a t b e c a u s e i t w o u l d just h u r t h e r m o r e . W h e n h e w a s 3 1 y e a r s o l d , t h e p o e t R a i n e r M a r i a Rilke w r o t e a l e t t e r t o a friend, " G i v e u p l o o k i n g for t h e a n s w e r s . You w o u l d n ' t b e a b l e t o live t h e m i f y o u f o u n d t h e m . " T h a t ' s a n i m p o r t a n t p s y c h o t h e r a p e u t i c a x i o m : D o n ' t give a n y o n e a n a n s w e r t h a t h e o r s h e c a n ' t yet live.

Hellinger: O u r t i m e t o g e t h e r h a s c o m e t o a n e n d . It's b e e n a p l e a s u r e for m e t o b e h e r e w i t h y o u , a n d t o s h o w y o u s o m e o f t h e t h i n g s I've o b s e r v e d o p e r a t i n g i n families t h a t h e l p love t o f l o w a n d t o b e c o m e fulfilled. I'll b e p l e a s e d i f w h a t w e ' v e e x p e r i e n c e d h e r e i s o f u s e t o y o u i n y o u r lives a n d i n y o u r w o r k ; i f i t h e l p s y o u r i n t i m a t e r e l a t i o n s h i p s t o b r i n g t h e satisfaction a n d h a p p i n e s s y o u w i s h for; a n d especially i f i t h e l p s families w i t h c h i l d r e n t o feel m o r e a t p e a c e w i t h o n e a n o t h e r a n d t o b e m o r e loving. Before w e g o , I ' d like t o tell y o u o n e m o r e s t o r y — j u s t for t h e r o a d . Two Measures of Happiness

In the old days, when the gods still seemed close to h u m a n beings, two singers named Orpheus lived on the same island. O n e of them was Orpheus the Great—the one we know from legend. He was the inventor of the kithara, a precursor of the guitar, and when he plucked its strings and sang, Nature herself was moved by the beauty of his music. Wild animals lay peacefully at his feet, and the tallest trees bent near. Befitting his greatness, he was a companion to the most powerful of kings and dared to love Eurydice, the most beautiful of women. T h u s began his downfall. T h e beautiful Eurydice died just as their wedding celebration began, and his overflowing cup broke before it touched his lips. But Orpheus the Great refused to accept Eurydice's death as final. Call-

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ing u p o n his highest art, h e f o u n d the e n t r a n c e t o the U n d e r w o r l d a n d e n t e r e d t h e r e a l m of s h a d o w s . He crossed the River of F o r g e t ting, slipped p a s t the H o u n d of H e l l , a n d still alive, r e a c h e d t h e t h r o n e o f H a d e s , a n d there h e sang. T h e G o d o f D e a t h , m o v e d b y t h e b e a u t y o f his m u s i c , a g r e e d t o release t h e beautiful E u r y d i c e b u t only u n d e r o n e c o n d i t i o n — t h a t O r p h e u s n o t look b a c k at h e r until they were again in the world above. O r p h e u s was so overjoyed that he did n o t n o t i c e the malice c o n c e a l e d within this b o o n . Setting o u t for h o m e , he h e a r d b e h i n d h i m the footsteps of his beloved wife. T h e y safely passed t h e H o u n d of H e l l , crossed t h e River of F o r g e t t i n g , a n d b e g a n t h e long c l i m b u p . As they saw the light of d a y above, O r p h e u s h e a r d a c r y — E u r y d i c e h a d s t u m b l e d . In p a n i c , he t u r n e d to help a n d saw d e a t h ' s s h a d o w s , released by his loving fear, closing in a r o u n d her. He was alone. O v e r c o m e with grief, he sang his m o u r n i n g song: " S h e is d e a d — a l l h a p p i n e s s is g o n e forever." O r p h e u s m a n a g e d to r e t u r n to the r e a l m of light, b u t his s o j o u r n a m o n g t h e d e a d h a d w o u n d e d h i m , sickening his love of life. A g r o u p of d r u n k e n w o m e n , r e m e m b e r i n g the b e a u t y of his s o n g , tried to s e d u c e h i m i n t o a c c o m p a n y i n g t h e m t o t h e Festival o f t h e N e w W i n e . E n r a g e d by his refusal, they fell u p o n h i m a n d tore h i m to pieces. So great was his suffering, so futile w a s his high a r t — b u t he is k n o w n to all t h e world. T h e o t h e r O r p h e u s was O r p h e u s t h e Lesser. H e w a s a singer o f m o d e s t talent, singing for o r d i n a r y p e o p l e , a n d e n t e r t a i n i n g o n o r d i n a r y occasions, w h e r e h e enjoyed himself. Since h e could n o t s u p p o r t himself b y singing, h e l e a r n e d a n o r d i n a r y t r a d e , m a r r i e d a n average wife, h a d n o r m a l children, a n d c o m m i t t e d o r d i n a r y sins from t i m e to t i m e . He lived happily a n d died at a ripe old age, h a v i n g d r u n k his fill of life. 'So m o d e s t w e r e his gifts, so was great his satisfaction—but he is u n k n o w n in all t h e world, except to m e .

Appendix
INFLUENCES ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF HELLINGER'S WORK
Bert Hellinger considers his parents and his c h i l d h o o d h o m e to be the first major influence on his later work. T h e i r particuliar form of faith provided the entire family with an i m m u n i t y against believing the distortions of N a t i o n a l Socialism. Because of his r e p e a t e d absences from the required meetings of the Hitler Youth Organization and his participation in an illegal Catholic y o u t h organization, he was eventually classified by the G e s t a p o as " S u s p e c t e d of Being an E n e m y of the People." His escape from t h e G e s t a p o was p a r a doxically m a d e possible w h e n he got drafted. Just 17 years old, he b e c a m e a soldier and experienced t h e realities of c o m b a t , c a p t u r e , defeat, a n d life in a prisoner-of-war c a m p in Belgium with t h e allies. T h e s e c o n d major influence was certainly his childhood wish to b e c o m e a priest. At the age of 2 0 , immediately after getting o u t of the prisoner-of-war c a m p , he entered a Catholic religious order and b e g a n t h e long process of t h e purification of body, m i n d , a n d spirit in silence, study, c o n t e m p l a t i o n a n d meditation. His 16 years in South Africa as a missionary to the Z u l u also deeply s h a p e d his later work. T h e r e he directed a large school, taught, a n d acted as parish priest simultaneously. He tells with satisfaction that 13 p e r c e n t of all black Africans a t t e n d i n g the university in S o u t h Africa at that time h a d b e e n s t u d e n t s at this o n e mission school. He learned the Z u l u language well e n o u g h to teach a n d minister, b u t he tells amusing a n e c d o t e s a b o u t the c o u r t e o u s dignity of t h e Z u l u people w h e n he inadvertently said s o m e t h i n g r u d e rather t h a n w h a t he i n t e n d e d . W i t h t i m e , he c a m e to feel as m u c h at h o m e with t h e m as is possible for a E u r o p e a n . T h e process of leaving o n e culture to live in a n o t h e r s h a r p e n e d his awareness of the relativity of m a n y cultural values. His peculiar ability to perceive systems in relationships a n d his interest in the h u m a n c o m m o n a l t y underlying cultural diversity b e c a m e a p p a r e n t d u r i n g those years. H e saw that m a n y Z u l u rituals 327

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a n d c u s t o m s h a d a s t r u c t u r e a n d function similar to e l e m e n t s of t h e Catholic Mass, pointing to c o m m o n h u m a n experiences, and he e x p e r i m e n t e d w i t h integrating Z u l u m u s i c a n d rituals i n t o t h e M a s s . H e i s c o m m i t e d t o t h e g o o d n e s s o f cultural a n d h u m a n variety, a n d to t h e validity of d o i n g things in different ways. T h e S a c r e d is p r e s e n t everywhere. T h e n e x t m a j o r influence was his p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n a n interracial, e c u m e n i c a l t r a i n i n g i n g r o u p d y n a m i c s led b y A n g l i c a n clergy. T h e y h a d b r o u g h t from t h e U n i t e d States a f o r m of w o r k i n g with g r o u p s t h a t v a l u e d dialog, p h e n o m e n o l o g y , a n d individual h u m a n e x p e r i e n c e . He e x p e r i e n c e d , for t h e first t i m e , a n e w d i m e n s i o n of c a r i n g for souls. H e tells h o w o n e o f t h e trainers o n c e asked t h e g r o u p , " W h a t ' s m o r e i m p o r t a n t t o y o u , y o u r ideals o r people? W h i c h w o u l d y o u sacrifice for t h e o t h e r ? " A sleepless n i g h t followed, as t h e i m p l i c a t i o n s o f t h e q u e s t i o n were p r o f o u n d . H e l l i n g e r says, " I ' m very grateful to t h a t m i n i s t e r for asking t h a t . In a sense, the q u e s t i o n c h a n g e d m y life. T h a t f u n d a m e n t a l o r i e n t a t i o n t o w a r d p e o p l e h a s s h a p e d all my w o r k since. A g o o d q u e s t i o n is w o r t h a lot." H i s decision to leave t h e religious o r d e r after 25 years w a s a m i cable. H e d e s c r i b e s h o w h e gradually b e c a m e clear t h a t b e i n g a priest n o l o n g e r was a n a p p r o p r i a t e expression o f his i n n e r g r o w t h . W i t h characteristic impeccability a n d c o n s e q u e n t a c t i o n , h e gave u p t h e life he h a d k n o w n so long. He r e t u r n e d to G e r m a n y , b e g a n a p s y c h o a n a l y t i c training i n V i e n n a , m e t his future wife, H e r t a , a n d they m a r r i e d s o o n after. T h e y have n o c h i l d r e n . Psychoanalysis was to be the n e x t major influence. As w i t h everyt h i n g h e d i d , h e t h r e w himself into his p s y c h o a n a l y t i c t r a i n i n g , eventually r e a d i n g the c o m p l e t e works o f F r e u d , a n d m u c h o f t h e o t h e r relevant literature as well. B u t with an equally typical love of inquiry, w h e n his t r a i n i n g analyst gave h i m a copy of Janov's Primal Scream shortly before he c o m p l e t e d his t r a i n i n g , (a b o o k t h e t r a i n ing analyst h a d n o t himself r e a d ) , Hellinger i m m e d i a t e l y w a n t e d t o k n o w m o r e . H e visited J a n o v i n t h e U n i t e d States, eventually c o m p l e t i n g a n i n e - m o n t h t r a i n i n g w i t h h i m a n d his f o r m e r chief assist a n t i n L o s Angeles a n d D e n v e r . T h e p s y c h o a n a l y t i c c o m m u n i t y i n V i e n n a was less e n t h u s i a s t i c t h a n h e w a s a b o u t this way o f i n c l u d i n g b o d y - b a s e d e x p e r i e n c e i n t h e t h e r a p e u t i c p r o c e s s , a n d h e again c o n f r o n t e d t h e issue o f w h a t was m o r e i m p o r t a n t — l o y a l t y to a g r o u p or love of t r u t h a n d inquiry. L o v e of free i n q u i r y w o n out, a n d a s e p a r a t i o n from p s y -

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choanalysis b e c a m e unavoidable. His skill in b o d y - b a s e d p s y c h o therapy, however, r e m a i n e d an essential element in his work long after his association with Janov h a d ceased to be fruitful. Several other therapeutic schools have h a d a major influence on his work: in addition to the phenomenological/dialogical orientation of the g r o u p dynamics from the Anglicans, the f u n d a m e n t a l n e e d for h u m a n s to align themselves with the forces of n a t u r e that he learned from t h e Z u l u in S o u t h Africa, the psychoanalysis he learned in Vienna, a n d the b o d y work he learned in America. He developed an interest in Gestalt T h e r a p y t h r o u g h R u t h C o h e n a n d Hilarion Petzold and trained with t h e m b o t h . H e m e t Fanita English d u r i n g this period, and t h r o u g h h e r was i n t r o d u c e d to Transactional Analysis a n d the work of Eric B e r n . W i t h his wife, H e r t a , he integrated what he had already learned of g r o u p d y n a m ics a n d psychoanalysis with Gestalt T h e r a p y , Primal T h e r a p y , a n d Transactional Analysis. His work with t h e analysis of scripts led to the discovery that some scripts function across generations a n d in family relationship systems. T h e dynamics of identification also gradually b e c a m e clear during this period. Ivan BoszormenyiNagy's b o o k Invisible Bonds and his recognition of h i d d e n loyalties a n d the n e e d for a balance between giving and taking in families also were i m p o r t a n t . He trained in family therapy with R u t h M c C l e n d o n a n d Leslie K a d i s , w h e r e he first e n c o u n t e r e d family constellations. "I was very impressed by their work, b u t I c o u l d n ' t u n d e r s t a n d it. Nevertheless, I decided that I w a n t e d to work systemically. T h e n I got to thinking a b o u t t h e work I'd already been doing and realized, 'It's g o o d too. I ' m n o t going to give that up before I really u n d e r s t a n d systemic family therapy.' So I just kept on doing what I'd b e e n doing. After a year, I t h o u g h t a b o u t it again, and I was surprised to discover that I was working systemically." His reading of Jay Haley's article a b o u t the "perverse triangle" led to the discovery of the i m p o r t a n c e of hierarchy in families. Additional work in family therapy with T h e a Schonfelder followed, as did training in M i l t o n Erickson's H y p n o t h e r a p y a n d N e u r o - L i n guistic P r o g r a m m i n g ( N L P ) . F r a n k Farelly's Provocative T h e r a p y has b e e n an i m p o r t a n t influence, as has b e e n the H o l d i n g T h e r a p y developed b y Irena Precop. T h e m o s t i m p o r t a n t element h e took from N L P was its emphasis on working with resources r a t h e r t h a n with p r o b l e m s . His use of stories in therapy, of course, pays tribute

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Symmetry

t o M i l t o n E r i c k s o n . T h e first story h e told i n t h e r a p y w a s " T w o Measures of Happiness." T h o s e familiar with t h e full r a n g e of p s y c h o t h e r a p y will recognize that H e l l i n g e r ' s c o n t r i b u t i o n is his u n i q u e integration of diverse elem e n t s . H e m a k e s n o claim t h a t h e has discovered s o m e t h i n g n e w , b u t t h e r e ' s n o q u e s t i o n b u t t h a t h e has m a d e a n e w i n t e g r a t i o n . H e h a s t h e n a t u r a l ability to t h r o w himself i n t o a n e w situation, to i m m e r s e himself in it, a n d w h e n he h a s l e a r n e d w h a t t h e r e is to l e a r n , t o m o v e o n . Certainly, his early experiences t a u g h t h i m i n d e l ibly t h e i m p o r t a n c e a n d skill of listening to t h e a u t h o r i t y of o n e ' s o w n soul—for a l t h o u g h it isn't foolproof, it's the only real p r o t e c tion we have against s e d u c t i o n by false authorities. H i s insistence on seeing w h a t is as o p p o s e d to blindly a c c e p t i n g w h a t w e ' r e t o l d , c o m b i n e d w i t h t h e u n w a v e r i n g loyalty a n d t r u s t in o n e ' s o w n soul, is t h e f u n d a m e n t a l basis u p o n w h i c h this w o r k has b e e n built. In a sense, h e ' s t h e u l t i m a t e empiricist. T h r o u g h a l l o f this, his philosophical c o m p a n i o n h a s b e e n M a r tin H e i d e g g e r , himself no s t r a n g e r to t h e d a n g e r s of false a u t h o r i t y — a l t h o u g h H e i d e g g e r ' s p r o f o u n d q u e s t for the t r u e w o r d s t h a t r e s o n a t e i n t h e soul m u s t have c o m m o n a l i t y with t h o s e s e n t e n c e s clients s p e a k in t h e constellations h e r a l d i n g c h a n g e for t h e b e t t e r , signaling the r e n e w e d flow of love. O n e last influence—or p e r h a p s b e t t e r , c o m p a n i o n — m u s t b e m e n t i o n e d : Hellinger's archetypally G e r m a n love of m u s i c . Yes, o p e r a ; a n d yes again, especially Wagner.