Arny i Amy Mindell o metodzie Hellingera

II. Supportive And Critical Ideas About Constellation Work
(Written after the 01 conference, in June of 2002 for an intended book on constellation work.)

We wish again to thank Brigitte and Albrecht Mahr for the opportunity to speak about our ideas concerning constellation work. We are happy about this in part because we support the further development of the psychodrama work of Jacob Moreno. Also, we are happy about this opportunity because we have certain reservations concerning the practical application of this development as seen in particular in some of Bert Hellinger’s spoken and written comments.

The following includes several points categorized under the headings, A. Agreements and B. Disagreements.
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A.AGREEMENTS

1. Movement Work

In the early part of the last century, the Viennese therapist, Jacob Moreno invented or discovered psychodrama, a method of acting out given figures in a client’s story.1 When applied to social issues, Moreno called his method socio-drama. By adding an essentially non-verbal movement channel to the psycho-dramatic techniques of Jacob Moreno, Bert Hellinger added a needed channel of expression to the meaning of “acting out” an experience. Movement is a welcome addition to otherwise strongly verbal psychotherapy techniques developed by Freud, Adler, Jung, Perls, and others.

The movement “channel” enables “actors” to gain access to what we call the “dreaming background” to the stories, family constellations, issues, and events. Using movement gives the actor access to altered states of consciousness, and with awareness of subtle movements, to shamanistic elements as well. Actors truly “shape-shift” from their ordinary selves into dream-like figures and often into the non-dualistic or essence level of experiences.2


2. “Ghosts”

In addition to gaining general access to the dreaming process through movement, following body experiences non-verbally brings out background issues. Hellinger’s adding trans-generational spirits, ghosts of people who have died or who are not present, to the overall “play” conforms in the most general way to our basic idea of what worldwork calls, “Ghost roles.”3 Working with ghosts (such as the “thief” in the previous examples) is important because it adds the “missing” feature completing and contributing to resolving scenes and conflicts.


B.DISAGREEMENTS

Our disagreements are limited to the actual work of Bert Hellinger that we have witnessed and to parts of Love's Hidden Symmetry: What Makes Love Work in Relationships and his Acknowledging What Is: Conversations With Bert Hellinger.4 What we say may not apply to the work of other family constellation therapists whose work we have not seen but who may be different than their founder. Hopefully what we say can be added to (or is already incorporated in) constellation work.

1. Lack of Multidimensionality

Our own passionate interest in social issues and our particular style emphasizes the multidimensional enactment of all kinds of issues in personal life, relationships and world situations. As stated earlier, any given political, social, family, or relationship problem has a consensus reality (CR) level which deals with facts and figures, as well as the dreaming levels with ghosts and subtle feelings. We are interested in following all the levels:

a)The CR level of a problem involves the conscious mind of the participants and relevant descriptions of the situation. We prefer hearing all the details of people’s concerns, problems, facts and figures, as well as historical elements and other relevant material.

b) At the same time we are interested in incorporating unintentional body signals, dreams, and dream-like states of consciousness that appear during slow movement, but also during spontaneous auditory and visual experiences.

c) As stated earlier, the non-dualistic quality of a problem is important to us; it is the common ground, beyond the conflicts involved.

All three levels are crucial not just because of the principle and philosophy of deep democracy – which claims that interest in diversity requires equal representations of individuals as well as all levels of consciousness-- but because if one level is neglected, the overall process tends to get blocked.

For example, while we may have dream-like acting out experiences in which we make breakthroughs, without the conscious mind being involved the breakthroughs tend to be short lived. In our experience, working on the hesitations of the conscious mind is as important as making breakthroughs in a trance-like state.

Furthermore, in the work we have seen, Bert Hellinger sometimes follows the people when they are ready to make these breakthroughs, but sometimes he creates these breakthroughs by rearranging the “actors” on stage himself. While there may be relief from rearrangements, especially if they go along with an individual’s process, rearranging the actors means that individual clients need to eventually make these changes with their own conscious minds. This active participation of individuals in their own constellations is not supported enough as far as we can see. We understand that many things can happen in altered states, but they eventually need support in everyday consciousness.

Such rearrangements can be momentarily satisfying, but leave the client alone with dealing with real life situations. These can turn up in everyday life not as inner figures, but as other people who disagree. What is not worked on inside, happens outside, in individuals and organizations.


2.Naïve Politics

Before speaking at the Hellinger Conference in 01, we read Love’s Hidden Symmetry and felt that some sections tend to pathologize, or patronize Gay or Lesbian sexual orientations. For example, in one place Lesbian and Gay people are pitied for not being able to have children. (Gays can of course, have children!)

We had very creative and fruitful discussions with several of Bert Hellinger’s collaborators about our criticism. Their openness was encouraging to us, and we gladly participated in the 2001 conference. After that conference however we read Acknowledging What Is, and once again felt that Hellinger looked down upon people; this time upon social activists, accusing them of propagating the same abuses they want to clear up. While we share his viewpoint about some activists, again, his statements are too general. In our opinion, they promote fatalism in politics.

Realizing that we easily misunderstand the written word, and can take an author’s ideas out of context, we checked back with our own experience of Bert’s work we saw at the conference. We remembered his tendency to make generalizations about people after having worked with individuals. For example, one of his comments about women seemed hurtful to us. After working with one of the client in a “constellation”, he said something to the effect that “a woman should follow her man to his home country.”

In spite of our warm reception by the people at the congress, we were so disturbed by (what we feel are) culturally one-sided statements, that we felt unable to take part in the 2003 conference. Again, we wish to emphasize that we do support those aspects of Hellinger’s work that help people feel better about themselves and their lives. However, for us, making generalizations about the human race from a given situations feels unjustified.

Furthermore, making such generalizations can be politically harmful to those groups already mentioned. Why? Therapy is a kind of politics. Therapists need to understand the political consequences of their work, as well as the spiritual and psychological nature of what they do.

Any statement by a therapist that is even slightly derogatory towards marginalized groups is grasped by some members of the public --which may already be homophobic and sexist -- as further reason to support the marginalization of gays, lesbians, and women.

While we support Bert Hellinger’s awareness of the Jewish issue in Germany, and are personally grateful for his efforts in that direction, we sincerely hope that awareness can be extended to all other marginal groups as well.

Naivety about politics in most of us therapists is due to stressing the world of dreams and spirituality while ignoring or even looking down on the importance of everyday reality and social action. Political naivety about the potential power of what we say is equivalent unconsciousness about the multidimensional nature of individual and group work. Spirituality is important but not enough. Social action is crucial too, but insufficient. In our opinion, we need to integrate the different domains of life.


3. Insufficient Feedback

Finally, we have seen constellation clients (and actors of their constellations) who occasionally did not respond well to Hellinger’s interventions on stage. For example, one woman did not go along with what he suggested. He reacted to her with comments about her being a bit stubborn or egotistical. He portrayed her as “resistant” instead of considering the possibility that he had not found the right intervention for her.

We understand his feelings. As therapists we have such feelings too. Whenever possible, we prefer however to give a client the feeling that we too, as well as the client may need more awareness.

We hope our critical comments are sufficiently detailed even in this short article to be constructive to the future of constellation work. We hope this potentially inspires future constellation workers to include some or all of the following:

a)Follow client’s feedback more completely
b)Be more aware of the political nature, and potential pain therapists can cause by making patronizing or pathologizing statements about marginalized peoples.
c)Learn to work with the multidimensional nature of events so that the dream-like layer of issues can be integrated with verbal discussion and debate.

Finally, it is our belief that both therapists and clients --and in group process, everyone who is present – must assume responsibility for facilitating. We are all participant-facilitators. In this way, power can be shared and greater democracy can occur. It’s not always easy. But as far as we can see, that’s the price of democracy. Facilitators need to follow and appreciate the wholeness of others as well as themselves.

It is our sincere hope that our disagreements with aspects of Hellinger’s work are actually misunderstandings on our part. As far as future developments of constellation work are concerned, we hope our present ideas prove to be unnecessary and inadequate.

Amy and Arny Mindell, Portland Oregon, June 2002.

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