The Hidden Dynamics of Life, of Love and of Leadership
The articles on this page are designed to illuminate the hidden dynamics that can entangle us, limiting our capacity to live, love or lead. The insights offered are an expression of the patterns and dynamics which are seen time and time again in systemic constellations, facilitated in multiple locations and contexts. Within each article there are examples of the special sentences, the uniquely tailored, co-created sets of words often heard in constellations. These are designed to name what is, illuminate hidden loyalties, re-include who and what has been excluded and then offer fresh paths to lasting resolutions.
Life can offer great joy but also many challenges. Many of these can be illuminated and softened by understanding the unconscious dynamics and loyalties that underpin them. This knowledge provides a powerful resource when exploring specific situations and circumstances on the journey from life to death that include:
There are a wide variety of experiences in adoption – for those who are adopted, for the birth parents and the adoptive family system. For some the experience leaves them feeling empowered and strengthened by two sets of parents.
For others it can be an experience of abandonment, of not being able to find where they belong, feeling not good enough or fearing that someone else will leave, not choose them, or give them away. This creates a challenging existential tension that affects their life, intimate relationships and work.
This article explores the complex dynamics around adoption and offers ways of restoring balance and a sense of place for everyone.
Understandably many people try and ‘forgive and forget’ but some are left with unresolved hurt, hidden anger or feel privately entangled and resentful. It seems that, despite all the books, advice and religious practices based on the idea of forgiveness it rarely has the desired impact and those involved remain caught in painful, often repeating patterns.
This article explores an alternative perspective on forgiveness and offers a fresh path to resolution and growth.
Individuals who describe themselves or are described by others as perfectionist may be expressing a natural innate personalty preference that has become exaggerated due to stress. They may also however be caught in a systemic dynamic that began long before them.
This short article explores the roots of these kind of dynamics and offers insights into their resolution.
Nobody escapes some childhood wounding and everybody experiences some kind of trauma, usually multiple traumas, as a child.
Traumas are held in the body as the mind splits off the unbearable pain and so the embodied effects can reverberate for many years causing chronic pain and health conditions that limit the flow of life, of love and of leadership.
This short article offers an introduction to this large subject.
Relationship to money
Our relationship with money is often complex and confusing.
Could it be that we get money confused with other things, even people in our family system?
Constellations show us that the meaning we project onto money is often linked to our relationship with authority, power and love.
This article will illuminate the many patterns, projections and dynamics in our relationship to money and explore ways of allowing the resource of money and the benefits of abundance into our lives, without guilt or confusion.
The article will be published in June, but a workshop on the subject is being offered at the end of May 2017. Please see this page.
Happier than parents
Many dynamics that limit success or happiness have their roots in the family-of-origin. It’s difficult, for example, for a woman to be happier than her mother and it’s challenging for a man to become more successful than was possible for his father.
Enjoying the richness of life, of intimate relationships and work that motivates and nourishes, is difficult if it was not possible in your parents’ and/or ancestors’ lives. Attracting and retaining money to resource yourself is challenging if your parents or ancestors struggled to do so.
To live life fully, to allow ourselves to be happy, successful and enjoy abundance of every kind, we must first return to our forebears what’s theirs to carry and respectfully soften our hidden loyalty to them.
This article will explore this area and will be published in July 2017.
One of the challenging stages in life is taking care of your parents as they become elderly and need both emotional and practical support. Doing this without becoming ‘bigger’ than them, as their child, is the delicate balance that most people have to face at some time in their lives.
This article will explore this subject in more depth.
Death of a child
There can be few more painful human experiences than to lose your own child, your own flesh and blood. In contemporary life the number of children that die has reduced dramatically in developed countries compared to the trauma of loss familiar to our ancestors.
The dynamics around the death of a child and the way these are processed and resolved can be key to healing from this deep grief.
This article explores the dynamics around early death and offers some thoughts on ways to integrate the grief in the couple and the wider family system.
Coming from a line of successful, celebrated or infamous ancestors can be a deep resource and strength, or it can be experienced as a complex and confusing burden.
Those who are born to parents who are either very successful in a particular field or famous for a single major achievement, can find that flow in life, intimate relationships and work is hard to achieve. Building a clear sense of personal identity, distinct from family-of-origin, is a challenge for every human being, but of particular importance for those from legacy families.
Freeing yourself from the shadow of very well-known ancestors is sometimes the job of a lifetime but can be eased by the fresh understandings and perspectives that this systemic approach offers. Coming into a better relationship with your family dynasty and destiny also offers unique opportunities to create a fresh and lasting legacy.
This article will explore this subject and the dynamics around it, offering some fresh paths to resolution.
Finding and sustaining a loving partnership when relationship system dynamics are at play can make the search for lasting fulfilment challenging. The many hidden dynamics in intimate relationships come from several sources and can resource or limit the flow of love in particular contexts and situations which include:
Men and their mothers
Mothers are the source of life, of love and of leadership.
If a man’s mother was not available, or he rejects her, or gets recruited and becomes entangled, then he may find aspects of life, intimate relationships and leadership challenging.
This article explores some of the many dynamics that can develop between mother and son. It offers insight into those that limit the flow of life and work and suggests how the dynamics may be softened.
Women and their mothers
Women with secure and trustful relationship with their mother may find that life and love flow with ease and that intimate relationships with men and friendships with other women are nourishing and enjoyable.
Women who have not been so fortunate are likely to have more complex relationships with men and other women.
This article will explore the dynamics between daughters and their mothers and offer insights into the restoration of a better balance where that is desired.
Affairs of the heart
Relationships outside of a marriage or other bond of commitment are a consistent pattern through human evolution and have coloured the history books, politics and cultures of many civilisations.
Why do human beings find it hard to be faithful to a promise of fidelity? Are affairs really ‘of the heart’, or is something else going on?
What hidden dynamics may cause infidelity and the pain it so often produces? This article explores these complex questions, offering a systemic perspective.
Women and their fathers
The relationship a daughter has with her father is crucial in her development as a woman, as a lover and as a leader.
The flow of life can more easily be found when a woman is in inner contact with her father and his supportive, resourceful presence. Balance and flow can be found in Intimate relationships when a woman is grounded in his safe, benign gaze.
The flow of leadership and organisational health can also be more easily developed by a woman who is in healthy relationship with her father.
Mother is of course important too, but this article will explore the dynamics that limit and resource father and daughter relationships.
Men and their fathers
The relationship between son and father is central to the healthy development of a young man into adulthood.
Many men struggle with their relationship with their fathers and when they grow up to be parents themselves, their sons. The way that a man relates to his father has a profound impact on his relationship with his life, his partner and his work.
This article will explore the many dynamics that emerge between father and son and offers insight into those that limit the flow of life, of love and leadership.
In some people the search for a romantic relationship can repeat throughout their adult lives. This can be distracting and destructive but there are ways of illuminating and working on the underlying dynamics that soften their effect and release the individual to create different relationship patterns.
This article explores this complex subject through a systemic lens.
Many people would like to have a framework for finding, building and sustaining a successful partnership.
Building a relationship with an understanding of system dynamics can offer fresh insight and resources to couples, supporting the emergence, or reemergence, of respect, collaboration and love.
This article will illuminate this subject and offer a framework for understanding the limiting dynamics and many hidden resources in couple relationships.
Sex is a more powerful and potent force than love, despite rational or spiritual ideas to the contrary. When we can put sex back in its place, the most powerful force in nature and the human experience, we can find a new understanding of its power to bond and entangle as well as to create life.
The power and allure of sex sits behind many doctrines and dynamics, including the promise of endless sex for those who seek martyrdom. It permeates religious institutions where its banishment causes it to surface in painful ways, disguised as love but used as power.
The decision not to have sex, to elect for celibacy, a turning away from a primary force often has consequences for the individual and those that they connect with. This article will explore sex along this spectrum from celibacy, through abuse to profligacy.
It was a well known couple who made the phrase ‘conscious uncoupling’ famous when they separated from each other after a period of being married and having children. Separating with the whole system in mind and doing so respectfully is hard to achieve but vitally important if each are to partner again with ease and the children are able to live fully.
Bert Hellinger once said about this important and delicate area: ‘A separation works best when the partners can say to each other: “I have loved you very much, and everything I’ve given you, I’ve given gladly. You have given me a lot and I’ll hold that in a place of honour. I accept responsibility for my share of what has gone wrong between us, and I leave it to you to take responsibility for your share. Now, I leave you in peace.” ‘
This article will explore this area in more depth and provide some resources for healthy separations.
Many people believe that their first marriage or previous intimate partner was ‘bad’ or somehow ‘wrong’ and move on to another, hoping that things will be better the next time. They may tell negative stories about their previous partner, believing that will help them create distance and ‘forget’ them. In fact this usually has the opposite effect and deepens the bond.
Unless we can respect our previous partners we will repeat the same patterns and dynamics. It’s only by turning back, with respect for what was shared, what was given and what was gained, that we can move forward. You cannot say hello until you have said goodbye with respect and acknowledgement.
This article will explore this issue in more depth.
Whether creating our own professional path or following another we find ourselves in complex relationship systems with their own dynamics. Finding place and authority can be easier if we see the invisible forces that act in systems. The hidden dynamics in professional and organisational systems arise in many contexts, including:
Founders require a great deal of energy to create and then sustain a business.
That energy is sometimes connected to their sense of place, or lack of it, in their family-of-origin.
This article explores that and other dynamics and patterns around founders that can emerge as a result of the innate drive to belong.
Working with founders
Working with founders is a complex but rewarding area because you are working with the ‘parent’ of the organisational system and so at the source. It is from this place that systemic change can be most effectively achieved and organisational health can emerge and endure.
When working with a founder or team of founding partners it can be important to have some insight into the many systemic dynamics that are available to resource them, but may also hold them back.
The journey from start up to grown up is a challenging one and founders need a particular kind of support from their coaches and consultants to travel on their personal and professional journeys to lasting success.
Organisational health emerges when the system is free to balance and align itself with the organising principles that sustain systems. All systems are attempting to achieve that alignment, however human actions that inadvertently ignore or violate the organising principles limit this balancing. As a result many leadership styles lead to complex and challenging organisational dynamics, cultures and behaviours that restrict the flow of leadership, the effectiveness of teams and individuals.
When the underpinning principles of systems are taken into account in the recruitment, retention, leadership and departure of individuals and teams, organisational health is possible and everyone can find their place, make their contribution.
This article will illuminate this subject and be published in the summer of 2017.
Joining and leaving
Social, organisational and professional systems are held, just like family systems, in delicate balance. The true culture is a product of all the people who have been members, their giving and taking, all the events in the history of the system and the way people join and leave.
Joining and leaving is an often overlooked area in social change, leadership and many coaching and organisational development interventions. However they are crucial moments to pay attention to in a system’s evolution and when not done with respect can entangle social groups, countries, organisations, teams and individuals in challenging and limiting dynamics for years.
This article will explore this important area.
Organisations are complex with many overlapping systems and subsystems. They can be particularly complex because each individual also brings their own family system patterns into the professional systems. That is true of all organisational systems but is often an unconscious process. In this way you could say that all business are family businesses. The family systems are implicit.
This article will explore working with organisational systems in which the family system is explicit – a family business.
Mergers and acquisitions
A crucially important ‘moment’ for organisational systems to attend to is when one takes over or merges with another. When done without an understanding of the organising principles of systems a merger or takeover can be very destructive and lead to deep and lasting de-motivation, loss of loyalty, burn out and commercial failure.
This article will explore this important area and offer suggestions on how mergers and acquisitions can be achieved with greater balance in the system.
An understanding of what sustains relationship systems is useful when leading a team. As teams are often caught in system dynamics or expressing something on behalf of the wider organisation this aspect is important in order to support enduring health and high performance.
Teams create a strong sense of ‘belonging’, so elicit all the hopes and fears of belonging in general – in family-of-origin, in educational and organisational systems, in society.
As a coach or consultant, you need permission to work with teams effectively. From the leader, from each member of the team and from the system. Coming alongside a team and all their belonging, hidden loyalties and interdependencies requires a sensitive and nuanced whole system approach.
It starts with acknowledgment of who and what is, just as they are. This article will illuminate this area and offer ways for leaders and coaches to support flow in teams.
Burnout is a well-documented phenomenon which is prevalent in many different cultures and contexts.
The understanding of burnout from a relationship system perspective offers an alternative to the linear thinking and logical explanations found elsewhere and these are offered in this article as additional possible sources of this common issue.
When a trauma happens in an organisation what is the effect and how can the damage be healed at both a personal and systemic level?
Organisational traumas include the death of an employee, the commercial collapse of a business, the loss of money through fraud and many other events and circumstances that affect the people, the system and those in contact with the system, including suppliers and customers.
This article will explore this subject.
If there is a particular area of life, of personal relationships or life at work that interests you and that you would like me to add to the growing list above please tell me here, in no more than twenty words, and I will endeavour to write and upload an article on each as time allows. John Whittington.