by Alemka Dauskardt
Published in the issue 31 of the Systemic Constellations Journal “The Knowing Field”
(as a response to the article “Ethics” by Steve Vinay Gunther, issue 30 TKF)
I am thankful to Steve Vinay for making an effort to explore, examine and summarise ‘the ethics issue’ of Constellation Work, considering eloquently so many related aspects.
Not an easy job. Many interconnected issues come under this one umbrella and, on the whole, the constellation community has been struggling for some time with which stance to take. The subject has largely been ignored, but it lurks behind many discussions on many a forum. We certainly haven’t come to any formal general agreement and often don’t have a shared understanding of what we are really talking about under this heading.
Along with many other facilitators, I have often pondered this question and have been challenged to find my own place on this slippery ground. I have been genuinely interested in the implications for us as facilitators, individually and collectively, of taking this or that position. I was part of the ISCA working group on ethics years ago at the annual Intensive in Bernried, Germany. Also, at last year’s ISCA’s gathering, one of the working groups was devoted to these issues on my initiative. Reading Steve’s article allowed me to re-visit and clarify my own position. I have been coming to this place for many years and now I can say my personal belief is that there is no place for ethics in Constellation Work! At least not in the framework we currently use for this term.
In this very personal response to his article (but not necessarily to his contentions only), I do not want to engage in further discussion about any particular aspect of ethics, but will use this opportunity to briefly explain what brought me to adopt the above position on this theme.
Ethics or moralistic thinking is a branch of philosophy that involves systematising, defending, and recommending concepts of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ conduct. It is an expression of the belief that there is a universal conscience, which helps us to distinguish ‘right’ from ‘wrong’ – one of the central beliefs our Western civilisation rests upon. The most prominent promoter of this belief is the Church with its teachings about conscience as ‘the voice of God’. This belief is also behind wars, judgement, calls for punishment and/ or annihilation of the ‘bad/wrong’ ones. ‘Professional ethics’ is this attitude and this morality applied to a particular field, in which there is always a group of people defining what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ practice and sanctioning accordingly.
As expressed by Bert Hellinger himself, his most important insight underpinning SCW, is that there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’. This is connected to the insights on conscience, the workings of which, also according to him, are not understood by most constellators and form the backdrop of most of the opposition to Hellinger, in the mainstream as well as among therapists. In my opinion, it is also the main reason why SCW is not more widely accepted.
Our insistence that we know what is right or wrong (either generally or in relation to a particular practice or profession) is bound to fail. We only need ethics in the moral world, and thankfully, the world of constellations is anything but that!
This has nothing to do with relativism and unaccountability. It relates to the systemic and spiritual nature of our world, with our ability to turn to everyone with equal love, in facilitation and in life, with full awareness that our conscience is a poor guide and, much against the advice of Pinocchio’s Jiminy Cricket, should not be followed.
Much of what is written about the issue of ethics among constellators, clearly follows the conscience of the professional field of Psychotherapy. It is understandable, considering the historical development of CW, but this is history. So is Psychotherapy, as we know it.
Constellations are a method of insight and development for the new world, not only post-modern but also postmaterialistic, which bears little resemblance to the old. Psychotherapy is part of that old world; it belongs to that old paradigm of our absolute trust in science and knowledge, which can be reached by scientific methods only, and is governed by that conscience.
However, the major paradigm shift has already occurred, and is expressed through much new theory and research on consciousness (see references below). It is shaking some fundamental beliefs we have about our world, especially in the areas of physics, biology, genetics and psychology. We also know it each time we enter a constellation space.
Despite being a Psychologist by education and working as a Psychotherapist for many years, I do not call myself that any more. Through my own practice I have come to full agreement with Hellinger’s position that Constellations are NOT Psychotherapy.
Many facilitators want to embrace ‘the new’ through their practice of constellations, while at the same time ensuring that their ‘psychological practices’ remain accountable, as cited in Steve’s article. Accountable to whom? To the old master, the scientific discipline of psychology and the ensuing practice of psychotherapy.
Opposition to Hellinger and his constellation work often comes from psychotherapists who think this way. Wanting to embrace the new, not wanting to give up the old. This is equivalent to trying to row to the middle of a lake, while making sure you are still fully attached to the shore.
But there is only so far we can stretch the rope before it breaks; only so much change we can introduce to the old before admitting that there is something new now and different rules apply. There is great resistance. There is an inbuilt desire for survival in every system – systems want to keep existing. Those who challenge their boundaries by introducing too much change, are punished and/or excluded. Many psychotherapists in Germany and elsewhere defended their established professional system through vicious attacks on Bert Hellinger and SCW, thereby managing to keep any threat towards mainstream psychotherapy at bay. The ‘ethical considerations’ were always cited as the legitimate concerns justifying these attacks.
Hellinger’s Constellation Work challenges not only psychotherapy, but also many of the established and cherished notions that our materialistic, dualistic and, above all, moral world rests upon. This is bound to be defended mightily. Constellators join in with this defence. The calls for ethical standards are the calls for SCW to abide by the rules of the psychotherapy profession, attempting to put it back into the familiar box of our materialistic, scientific and moralistic world.
There is also a very practical issue at play here, as the livelihood of many constellators depends on their agreement to abide by the rules and regulations proscribed by their respective professions. Therefore, much is at stake.
Systemic knowledge tells us that the only option for the carrier of the new (if he/she manages to stay alive) is to form an essentially new system. I also contend that if we want Constellations to survive as a distinct new modality, we have to jump into that boat and cut our ties to the shore. Otherwise, it will be stripped of its uniqueness. It will lose that special quality we all feel so attracted to, and which makes it so effective, and will become diluted until it can be safely absorbed into the widely accepted, more established disciplines. We are already witnessing this happening within the Field of SCW.
And finally, just one more point I want to pick up on from the article: its call towards “having more debates, challenging assumptions and questioning sacred cows.” (p 40, Steve Vinay’s article, issue 30, june 2017)
I would agree and suggest that one of the first cows whose eyes we need to look at should be the belief that we have the freedom and the right to question everything under the sun and to ‘critically examine’ everything. This practice has high value among constellators, I noticed, and is not easily challenged.
Another cow, which looks more like a dog(ma), is our right to express our opinion of what we think is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, and indeed to insist on these distinctions. Among constellators, the value of “speaking up” or “standing against the bad, backward, oppressive, abusive, right wing, patriarchal… whatever” is considered desirable and called for. Political correctness is finding its way into the Constellating world too and is interfering with systemic insights.
If there is any need for ethics in the world of constellations, it would have to be a very different, new ‘constellation ethics’, following a different conscience. Such ethics would perhaps dictate that we deeply respect our teachers, that we follow systemic authority and orders or for example, that we do not gossip or ‘critically dissect’ the work of other constellators, certainly not on public forums. And this not because someone prohibits it, but because we receive such guidance upon asking ourselves the question: “What effect does this have on my soul?”
I also want to propose that the belief in the “importance of ethical standards” is just another cow. It is all part of a certain conscience, but we don’t see it like this, because we are right in the middle of it.
I just had this colourful image of many poor cows being sucked away by a cyclone in an upward centrifugal motion. But, not to worry – sacred cows are safe in the eye of the storm!
- Monthly letters 2011 February http://www.hellinger.com
- International Systemic Constellation Association. Established in 2007 at the Congress in Koln in Germany, ISCA sees as its mission to ‘serve as a hub and holder of system constellation work in all its settings and applications for present and future generations of constellation’s. With a recent change of direction in 2015, reflected by changes in its Charter, it has broadened its focus to include more general issues affecting constellation practitioners around the world. (see http://www.isca-network.org)
- ISCA Working Group on Ethics, ISCA Meeting, Bernried, Germany, 2010
- Working Groups, ISCA Gathering, Zagreb, Croatia, 2016
- Dauskardt, Alemka. Psychotherapy without Psychotherapists: How do Constellations help? Presentation at the International Conference ‘Ethics & Psychotherapy’, Croatia 2015.
Bert Hellinger, Monthly Letters, 2011, February, http://www.hellinger.com
Dauskardt, Alemka Psychotherapy without Psychotherapists: How do Constellations help? Presentation at the International Conference on ‘Ethics & Psychotherapy’, Croatia 2015
Hillman, James & Ventura, Michael (1993): We’ve had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy and the World’s Getting Worse. Harper Collins,
Mark Hubble, Scott Miller: How Psychotherapy Lost Its Magic. Psychotherapy Networker, March/April 2017 issue.
Bobby Azarian: Neuroscience’s New Consciousness Theory Is Spiritual. The Huffington Post, 21.9.2015, http://www.huffingtonpost. com/bobby-azarian/post_10079_b_8160914.html
Siegel, Daniel (2017) New Psychotherapy & Belonging. 6.14.2017 Psychotherapy Networker.
Dauskardt, Alemka. Psychotherapy without Psychotherapists: How do Constellations help? Presentation at the International Conference ‘Ethics & Psychotherapy’, Croatia 2015.
Hellinger, Bert (2008) Rising in Love – A Philosophy of Being. Hellinger Publications, Germany.
Laszlo, Ervin (2004) Science and the Akashic Field. Inner Traditions, Rochester, Vermont, USA.
Lipton, Bruce (2008) Biology of Belief – Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles. Hay House Publishing.
Sheldrake,Rupert (2004) The Sense of Being Stared at and Other Aspects of the Extended Mind. Arrow books, London, UK.
Sheldrake, Rupert. The Science Delusion. http://www.sheldrake.org
Sheldrake, Rupert (2012) Science Set Free. Deepak Chopra Books.
Miller, Scott (2017) How Psychotherapy Lost Its Magic’, March/April issue, Psychotherapy Networker.