07. 04. 2022

On Phenomenological Therapy


Between courage and humbleness.

Bhagat writes about the attitude behind constellation work

Phenomenological therapy is an attitude, rather than a method of therapy. If you want to open up to constellation work, you will have to open up to this attitude. 

The phenomenological attitude is at the heart of constellation work. In it, you face the moment openly, without intention, and wait what this moment will bring. The power, the movement to work comes from reality itself, not from the knowledge of the therapist. It comes more from his courage to face the not-knowing. The therapist has to retreat to his empty center, and look at the client and his system from there. One doesn´t make a picture from the client, analyse him, one simply looks and waits, staying in contact with the soul of the client. One takes what comes, and one acts trusting it, often without understanding. Insight often appears only later, and one gets feedback for one´s interventions from their consequences. This requires courage and humbleness.

Courage is needed because the therapist says what he sees, hears, feels from the constellation, without trying to save the client or make it easier for him, not knowing whether it is helpful or not. Courage is also needed to simply look at the situation, without the intention to help, without having a certain goal. Working with an intention tries to change the reality according to the wishes of the therapist or the client, it easily contains a subtle denial of reality, a wish to change reality according to one´s preferences. This type of work lacks power because it doesn´t lead the client to meet the deep inner primary feelings, which generate energy, strength, peace when they are met and taken.

Humbleness is needed, because the therapist needs to perceive all impulses from without and from within, and wait. Wait and be with the perceptions, let go of one´s own standards and ideals, till the relevant impulses crystallize. Courage and humbleness also are needed to work without personal love. This means of course not working without love. It means working with a love that is not selectively directed at the client, intending to help the client reach a better position or feeling in the system. It means working with a love that is directed at the whole system, towards all members of the system. Courage and humbleness are needed to look at everybody, perpetrators and victims, without fear, without judgment, without intention, without taking party, without getting pulled into the story of the client.

What we also meet here is the question of knowledge versus not-knowing. If you work in this way, you always risk, because you never have any assurance. Our personal knowledge gives us security, but a security which is based on the past, which we transfer on the present. We feel safe, but we are never fully present to the moment then. When we don´t know, we are exposed, and in the now. We have no security, we have only the moment. But there is a criteria, the results of the actions. They show whether some intervention was helpful or not. In this way this work is a dialogue, a dialogue with the soul of the client, and with the system of the client.

Some people believe that phenomenological work is professional experience, knowledge, plus trust into one´s own intuition, plus openness for new things. All these are good attitudes, that contribute to what makes a good therapist, but they are not what constitutes phenomenological work. Phenomenological work means to allow oneself to be exposed to what shows itself in the moment. This means that one doesn´t work based on one´s knowledge, combined with analysing, diagnosis etc, but that one dares to be guided by what the constellation shows. One is exposed to the system, not looking at it from the outside, analysing from knowledge.

So what is the difference between knowledge and knowing? Knowing is not an accumulated amount of information or experience from the past. Knowing exists around us, it is already there, and it is a question of us opening up to it. This means to get transparent, to get open for perceiving that which exists around us, we live in it! And it is about trusting that we will receive the right information if we are open enough and wait. All knowing which we need exists around us, like an energetic field, we come into contact with it in the moment, when we renounce our personal knowledge, and enter the space of not knowing. This doesn´t mean to deny our knowledge, or repress it, but it means that we don´t act based on our knowledge, but that we act from a space of not knowing, without using the past as a guideline to deal with the present. If my knowledge arises by itself it is of course ok, but this is a different thing than working based on it, because my personal knowledge is so small compared to the knowing around us, and it is always connected with the past, knowing is connected with the present. The representatives show this beautifully, the less they do and try to figure out, the more they are able to flow with the energy of their respective role in the system.

Phenomenological work is a completely unique way of working, allowing oneself to be guided by the field of the constellation. But in contrast to the representatives who are in resonance with a single person, or his soul, the therapist is in resonance with the whole field, the family soul, or the even bigger soul. Constellations bring something to light, but not in the sense that something is brought from the unconscious of the person to the conscious. No, something is brought to light from a different level of existence, hidden from our eyes.

When I work like that, I allow myself to face a new reality together with the client, and we don´t know what will be the outcome. The outcome is not in my hands, and not in his. Of course I am responsible for my work, but I cannot decide what belongs to the system of the client, which destinies, which influences. This is challenging a very widespread belief, that life, happyness, death, sickness or healing are in our hands. They are not. It is assumptious to believe they are. If one gives up this ssumptiousness, one is not weak and powerless. On the contrary, one receives power and strength, as we don´t fight with reality any more, we go with it. Then we do what we can do, and leave to existence what is not in our hands. This is what is meant by an old Sufi saying: „Tie your camel down with your own hands, and then trust into God“

Learning constellation work

Learning constellation work is much more an inner process than a study, where you aquire skills. Of course one needs understanding, and therapeutic skills, they are the tools. But we need to allow the knowing around us to guide us, and for that we need to be able to work from emptiness, this is the guidance. We are surrounded by knowing, we live in it! But we only are carried by that knowing when we give up all wanting to control it, to own it, to cling to it. This is only possible when you give up your personal knowledge, when you have the courage to go into the land of not-knowing, into emptiness.

Classical therapy versus Phenomenological therapy

Classical therapy focuses on the individual, and his desires and problems, which happen in a certain relationship or conflict with his surrounding or his behaviour. „Here am I, and this is my problem, and there is the other, or the world which brings me these problems. Help me to cope better“ This is legitimate of course, but limited.

Phenomenological work is a completey different approach. We look at the whole, the individual is not the focus. The individual is part of the whole, and gets attention as a part of the whole. This does not mean to ignore or disrespect the client, it means to guide the client from being focussed only on his problems to recognising the bigger orders, the hidden harmony. „Here am I as a part of the bigger whole, and of course influenced by and interacting with the bigger whole“.

Science looks at things from outside, analyses. This means science goes to the position of the bigger. This is the western thinking, dissecting, culminating in the materialism of the west, and the destruction of our environment. Bert Hellinger does not get tired to repeat, that we don´t have our soul in us, or own our soul, but that rather we live in the soul, the soul is the bigger, which is surrounding us. This means we cannot grasp or analyse the soul, „she is the big one, we are the small ones“.

Classical therapy focusses on the individual. This is not wrong, but not complete, it is half. The world looks different when we look from the whole, as opposed to looking from the individual. It gives us strength when we see ourselves and the whole, and we get weak when go against the whole. It is about saying yes to the current of the river, instead of fighting with it. When we go with the current, the current carries us.

Usually people come for therapy because they either want to get something which they don´t have, or want to get rid of something which they have and don´t want to have. This is exactly the western attitude, taking oneself to be the bigger, who can decide what to have and what not to have in one´s life. This attitude creates weakness. Constellations taken rightly are a process, where the client allows himself to be touched deeply in the soul, taking life with whatever belongs to it, finding respect, and strength to live one´s individuality. Ultimately it means bowing down to life itself, to the creation, to the universe, to existence.