What you see, is what there is?

By Katia del Rivero

Versión en español aquí

When we speak about constellations, we regularly refer to the constellations based on the work of Bert Hellinger. In fact, they are the constellations developed by Jan Jacob Stam in the organizational framework and practically the ones that everyone knows.

It is said that the basis of the work of these constellations is a phenomenological work. But what the heck does this mean?

So the first thing we can analyze is what does phenomenology mean?

What is phenomenology?

If we look into the etymological origin of the word, “phenomenology” means the study of the phenomenon. If we go to the etymological origin of the word “phenomenon”, we find that it comes from the Latin phaenomënon, which means appearance. And if we go a little deeper, it comes from the ancient Greek word phaineim, which refers to showing or shining. Therefore, when we talk about a phenomenon it is something that appears, emerges, is shown, and that it is possible to be seen, considered, influenced and experienced by all those who notice it.

Within the framework of phenomenology there have been different orientations and currents, some philosophical, others more scientific.

The word “appearance” comes from the Latin aparientia and it is translated as appearance and what it means is that it becomes visible in any of the different ways in which this can happen. It can be visible ocularly, that is, I can be look at it with my eyes, it can also be visible as to the sensation I perceive when having this phenomenon in front, it can be auditory and even, it can be kinesthetic in the frame that the phenomenon exerts pressure on my skin.

The interesting question that emerges, at least from my perspective is, do all phenomena emerge in a similar way and mean the same thing to everyone?

The alleged universal phenomena

From the perspective of the phenomenological constellations, according to Bert Hellinger and Stam, it seems that universal phenomena arise and are similar for all.

For example, if someone is looking at the floor, it means that he is looking at a dead person, if a person is placed (within the constellation conformation), in the place corresponding to the father or the mother, it means that he is usurping the place of the father or mother. The interesting thing for me is to ask ourselves if this is whats happen every time.

In the history of phenomenology we have gone through many authors who have explored different perspectives of the subject. Thus, we have seen an evolution from universal phenomena that occurs regardless of whether someone looks at them or not. We have also moved to the phenomenon that only makes sense in the eyes of those who observe it and whose value of experimentation it is related with the observer, with whom the appearance or phenomenon is referenced.

The phenomenon from the Blumenstein perspective

If we analyze this issue from the Blumenstein Theory, the phenomenon is not necessarily linked to a construction of the unique reality.

So let’s get in to it step by step. The first question that we could ask ourselves is we all see the same phenomenon in a constellation?

And my blunt answer would be no. Each one sees the phenomenon that wants to observe and we observe the phenomenon that we want to observe according to our history, which means that the facilitator has an important impact in the framework of which phenomenon is observed in a constellation, especially if it works in the framework of phenomenology, in which it is considered that the observable object is observable for everyone. From my perspective, the facilitator may mistakenly assume that what he observes is what there is.

In fact that is the phrase used by most of the Hellingerian constellators, what you see is what there is.

The other possibility is that we assume that we all see a similar phenomenon in a constellation, does this phenomenon common to all observers have the same meaning for all? And the answer again would be no.

This phenomenon, assuming that it was really common to every person in the constellation, can have completely different meanings for each of the people who observe the phenomenon. This means that in a constellation, this idea that “what you see is what there is” (which in the Hellingerian proposal and obviously, from its value framework in the interpretation of phenomena), is far from the real possibility to accompany the client, from his need in terms of what he wants to see and build. In this sense, you can show the customer something he does not see and the question is, what meaning will have to the client?

There is no pure phenomenology

The client needs to discover for himself what he has not seen before and will only be able to look at what he has not seen before, when the phenomenon that happens in the constellation really represents a phenomenon for himself. Otherwise, his brain will respond with the natural mechanism of all our brains which is to seek it which is known to him, what he feels secure in and what he feels competent and capable of surviving.

From my perspective and also of some other authors, pure phenomenology does not exist and is not a tool that is purely applicable to the space of a constellation. It is actually a part of the process that can be used as a reference to invite the client to share constructions of reality, in other words, observations of phenomena in the process, in the intention of accompanying him to look at alternatives that he has not seen before that can be useful to serve the purpose that he wants to achieve with that work.

From this view the facilitator is not a phenomenological observer, it is only a facilitator of the form, that is, the structure that facilitates the client to observe these phenomena with his own eyes and mean them for himself.

If you want to know more about it I invite you to participate with us in our next constellators’ training. You may be surprised at the distinction of how phenomena are viewed from the Blumenstein perspective in a constellation.