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moving with spirit
aboriginal australia
family questions
bewegungen der seele
inner exercises
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Reconciliation is central to the purpose of Bert's work. 
This may be within one person or a family, between warring parties,
 and finally with our relationship to life and divinity.

"Reconciliation only comes about through the pain, 
not through any commemorations and admonitions and accusations."
Bert's talk about peace at the Würzburg conference 2003

If you find this statement difficult, ponder on it. 
It is well worth allowing it to touch you.
Deep down, we may find the parts in us that set a limit to what we are willing to embrace.
Are we able to apply "for they know not what they are doing" in all situations?
Where we feel we can't, what is still unredeemed inside us? 
Which pain do we still carry, and what are our motives for doing so? 
Who is asking to be acknowledged through us?

In "exercises" you'll find a few of Bert's images that further deep reconciliation, and so, open the way for peace.

As Bert works in many countries, war- and conflict- torn, the problems of the people show a background of the most painful wrongs that human beings have inflicted upon others. 

In these situations, the client may be a descendant of a perpetrator or of a victim, or even both. What they often have in common is a problem to even live. Some of their siblings or children may be dead already, very prematurely, or their lives may be in danger. They carry immense sadness and often nearly a sense of guilt even to be alive. 
There is a longing to be with the victims, in both the victims' and the perpetrators' children. These children need to turn to the dead. They need to feel the sadness again whilst looking at them, honouring them. Then they can feel the support of the dead and come to an acceptance of the will of fate. With the goodwill of the dead, life can go on doing something good as well.

The dead often share with their descendants the most heartfelt expression of their mutual love.  Amazingly, they also open their hearts to the perpetrators' children. To both they have the same message:  "Thank you for thinking of us, thank you for acting as reminders, but what we really need now is peace with the true perpetrators. We need them to come here and to regret what they have done. They need to feel the pain that you are feeling. And concerning you we want you to go and live- happily."
The children of either perpetrators or victims may find this hard to accept at first. They may feel the guilt feelings of disloyalty. But the dead say: "The greater loyalty to us is to carry life on and to lead a good life." These children can now do something good, in honour of the dead. The dead are glad when they  that life has gone on.
It can be seen that the real victims are further burdened by the suffering of those who come after them. 

The real victims only want to be seen by the offspring, to be honoured and included.
The real victims cannot be redeemed through the suffering of people who were not the perpetrators. These can only serve to remind others about the victims' fate.

Only the real perpetrators can redeem the suffering of the victims, together with their own. When the perpetrators look at the victims, face what they have done and feel the deepest sadness and regret, then reconciliation is on the way.

In these constellations, when the entanglements become visible, Bert brings in representatives for the victims and for the perpetrators. Often, children of victims as well as children of perpetrators break down and cry (remember, all these people are only the representatives) and want to be with the dead.
When the dead see this grief in the living they are touched by their love, but then saddened by their suffering which does not make their own less, but rather burdens them. 

What helps the children on either side to let go is when in the constellation the perpetrator begins to show regret and can move closer to the dead. When the perpetrators actually lie down beside the dead with their hearts open again, there is often gentle touching and embracing, and the victims may then close their eyes to be at peace.
Then the children can say: " I leave this with you now, and now I will turn towards my life. I'll do something good with it, giving you a place in my heart and honouring you."
The weight is much reduced, the love flows, and strength and goodwill pours forth  from the honoured ancestors.

In many situations, to get to the phase of reconciliation, 
a number of obstacles need to be overcome. Out there, on the personality level of humanity, they appear huge. The entanglements are so dense, the suffering is reinforced so strongly that there is only little space to get out. 
In this context, we will need to grasp Bert's understandings of the different aspects and functions of conscience (see also in "topics").

The understanding of the role of "conscience" is crucial in this. 
Reconciliation requires a shift in the conscience 
to which we give allegiance, a difficult process.
 Clarity on this is essential for Bert's work. 

For deep reconciliation to occur, the perpetrators need to feel the pain about what they did and grieve for the victim. 
This allows the victim to also return to the grief, and now they stand, not so far apart. Feeling the pain allows the perpetrator to return into his heart. When he does this, the victim no longer perceives him as a feared and abhorred perpetrator, but as someone who also suffered.
When a perpetrator cannot feel pain about his actions, his heart is still too closed. The help that he needs is simple: it is love.

For the perpetrators honouring the victims means fully facing the responsibility for their actions. Wrong remains with the perpetrators, they have to live and die with it. But now he is no longer isolated. 

In constellation work we can often witness the overcoming of the obstacles to reconciliation.
Political perpetrators see themselves as agents of a greater whole, as delivering  a task that was requested of them, and as having done something that, according to the conscience of their group, was no wrong, but was demanded of them. They may claim obedience as their motive.

The obedience of a child can be detected in many political perpetrators.
The task, the mission may be carried out even with a religious-like dedication, as we witness it again in the present world conflict. 
So, their way of coping with their actions was not owning them personally, not feeling them. Perpetrators of this type mostly need to deaden themselves, even before their actions, and certainly in the process of it. Otherwise, how could wars proceed?

As a Russian soldier put it in one of Guido Knopp's documentaries: " I said to my mother, to be part of this, you need to be insane, you have to become insane first, mother."

In a workshop a woman protested, when she saw the reconciliation of victim and perpetrator in a constellation. She said, she holds her dead uncle in her heart and will never forget what happened to him, and in his memory, the fighting has to go on. The workshop was held in her country, the situation concerned political murders, so one could expect that she expressed the feelings that others felt s well. So for her constellation people from her country were chosen, one for her, one for the perpetrator, one for the victim. They were told to follow the movements of their soul, silently. After an expression of grief and affection between the woman and her uncle, the two men, perpetrator and victim, moved closer to each other and embraced for a long time. The two had not known each other personally.

If the living, instead of allowing their feelings of grief and loss, focus their attention on their anger towards the perpetrators, a situation ensues where nothing can move, or only a repetition of retaliation. In this stagnation, people do not really turn towards the dead. The bereaved are elsewhere, not facing their grief fully, either, busy with other emotions. In this way, the dead find no peace, and neither do the living.

For resolution to occur, the perpetrators, too, need to be given a space where they, too, can mourn. Mourning together heals. Mourning is a real emotion, not a secondary one (you can read up on Bert's description of different types of emotions in "topics"). The deep real emotions bring together, (re-)create unity. Years ago a story went through the newspapers. A man had killed a little girl. The father wanted to get to know the man, wanted to know how someone could do such a thing. There was an uproar. Many people abused him, for not expressing hatred towards the man.
For the perpetrators honouring the victims means fully facing the responsibility for their actions. Severe wrong remains with the perpetrators, they have to live and die with it.  
If they can come to allow their feelings to return to them, they will feel their close connection to the dead.

With this, they pay true homage to the victims, and they release their children from having to carry the guilt, leaving their hearts free to embrace life again and to trust that reconciliation can come.

If we can ask the dead for advice as how to best love them, best serve their dignity, best meet their needs, the answer comes: "Love for us, and life and love for you."

Blind love or healing love, which one rules us? Great trauma makes it very hard to keep the hearts open. Keeping the hearts closed towards the perpetrators and those in any way related to them may be felt like a survival necessity by the victims, and as the highest moral duty of the victims' children, and even of the perpetrators' children.


A German goes to a holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. There, he is overcome by grief. If someone says: "You are German", he can't cry any more. He feels he has no right to grieve. It takes much courage for the perpetrators' children to allow the softness of  their hearts, and gently accept such a response as most understandable. The perseverance of love will work towards unity, and overcoming the obstacles has to be seen as part of the healing process. Much of it can be done internally, on the level of the souls. The souls are love, they favour unity, and they know what the deepest feelings are. 
Or Americans go to a Hiroshima memorial. Of cause, they cry. They came to pay homage to the dead and express that they are pained by what happened. If their sadness is not accepted, they cannot cry, and the freezing remains.

For as long as our sense of guilt over what fellow countrymen have done, keeps us frozen, our hearts' longing for reconciliation cannot be met, it cannot even be fully owned inside, and it certainly cannot be expressed. The dejection of the aggressors' children mirrors the dejection of the sufferers' children.

And it is in this situation where war memorials, commemorations, and polite moral speeches are simply not enough. They may even support the secondary feelings , those that prevent the real grief from arising. When the two sides remain in frozen accusations and in frozen guilt, political declarations cannot melt the hearts. The focus is on the evil deeds, with eyes closed towards those who suffered. 

Where feelings, real feelings, not defence feelings, can be embraced publicly, we can move forward.

Reconciliation between warring parties
Bert talked about this after a constellation of Republicans and Nationalists in Spain.
Experiences show that there is an interchange between the living and the dead. Sometimes the dead need something from the living so that something can be resolved. And sometimes the living need something from the dead, their blessings, so that they can live. The dead amongst these warring parties complete their dying when they all come together again. When this is accomplished amongst the dead,  the living can accomplish peace amongst themselves, too.
The descendants of the warring parties often try to resolve things, but often one lot thinks they are better than the other lot. So, they may not be successful. When there has been reconciliation amongst the dead, the living can leave them in peace and turn towards life.

In constellation work the perpetrators are brought face to face with their victims. For many of the perpetrators, this is enough to go through a melting process. 
At first, they stand there, not wanting to look, then as they look, not wanting to feel, not wanting to take responsibility. Sometimes, the more severe the atrocity, the greater the resistance. And while their descendants carried the feeling part for them, they could maintain an air of composure, even.  

But then, the pleading looks of those who feel for the victims, together with an atmosphere that is, in a deep human sense, accepting even towards the predicament of the perpetrator, too, often help to encourage the melting process.
Perpetrators with very strong emotional "deadness" may need more help to melt.  It is touching indeed to see in constellations how sometimes the perpetrator can only face the unbearable weight of his actions when he feels loved.

There is a constellation video, where the perpetrator remained stoic. The people who felt for the victims could not move him. But, in his past, before he became a perpetrator, there was one person for whom he felt love, a woman. In the constellation other representatives tried to keep this woman away from the perpetrator, and tried to make him face up to his action. Nothing moved until the woman managed to get close to him. At that moment the perpetrator looked at her and said: "She was the only one for whom I had human feelings". 
Then he looked at the victims again, broke down sobbing  and remained there, lying down with them. 
So, for many perhaps an uncomfortable suggestion, or at least an unexpected one.

We may feel we only have a choice of condoning or condemning. In fact, neither of them bring us closer to peace. Condoning does not return the guilt to the perpetrator, and neither does premature "forgiving". The guilt must fully return to the perpetrator.
Yet condemning, and its lighter forms, indignation, admonition, and only formal commemoration simply do not bring reconciliation of heart. They point at the perpetrators, not allowing  a change of heart in them. They do not help the deep pain to emerge. And only there, in the shared grief, with all its consequences, does the abyss shrink.

Those who identify with the side of the victim alone, without being one, feel superior. But they have not paid the price that the victims paid, not looked into the abyss of their own being. They have not been in the situation, for example, of the perpetrator, in his real situation as it was then and as it is now.
The indignant become angry, and they believe, they know better, understand better. Sometimes they can come close to mirroring perpetrators. Additionally, this attitude only hardens the perpetrators and does not allow their hearts to change. An approach to peace that expects  perpetrators to remain perpetrators can hardly be successful.

Only for the victims themselves, and their close ones is it appropriate that they go through the range of all their feelings. For those who want to be helpful it would be good to already be in those feelings that can bring resolve. People who can do this are the ones we instinctively recognize as great, even though they may have a hard time amongst the keen co- warriors.

If the friends of the victims could first honestly grieve with them, and then, from the victims' perspective, try to find out how the victims feel they would best be served, more helpful attitudes of heart might result.

Reconciliation can flow in what Bert describes as the "primary feelings" (see in "topics"). There is the primary grief, that flows from an open heart that is lovingly turned to the victim, and strong enough to handle the immense pain. 
This primary feeling, like all of them, has some amazing qualities. Like here, this primary grief is disarmed, and also disarming. It is so real that it cannot be far from peace. Others can feel empathy without feeling drawn into something. They can feel, and yet remain centred. Nobody feels threatened or pushed or violated. Primary feelings are feelings that go with freedom and clarity.

Secondary feelings serve the function of defence against the primary feelings. Because the pain may be so strong, people fear being totally overwhelmed by them, even dying if they felt them. So a whole array of avoidance feelings exist, probably as old as humanity, and who knows, aspects can be seen in animals as well. No wonder we struggle with it. The secondary feelings are all feelings that somehow seem more bearable- while in truth perpetuating the disaster.
The secondary feelings have something like a thought pattern attached to them, they have an element of "I should", "I owe it". They are not just feelings, they are culturally sanctioned response patterns.

Spontaneous anger when under attack is a primary feeling. Primary feelings are intense, but don't go on for ever. Afterwards, some emotional balance is restored, and a degree of thinking and decision making, based on direct relationship, rather than on churning feelings.
Hatred is not a primary feeling. It has at its core a primary feeling that has never been fully expressed, never resolved. Hatred perpetuates itself. It makes the bullets that fly back and forth.

Anger, even hatred towards the aggressor, supported by action like revenge are so deeply engrained that in most cultures they still have a certain moral value. 
This even occurs in a culture that officially pays allegiance to Christ's command of love, of loving one's enemy. It is difficult to get this love right. The love for the victim seems to dictate hatred for the aggressor as an expression of loyalty. 
So, we are also expecting the victim to hate the aggressor, and then we either hate the aggressor vicariously for, or supportively with the victim. Doing this, we may feel we have formed a powerful alliance, one that will make sure the brutal acts won't happen again. Alas, revenge is not far, and revenge of cause need to be revenged. And so, in the end, the sufferings of the victims are used to perpetuate suffering. 

We think we help the victims upholding indignation. But only the victims themselves can have the truthful feeling if indignation. It belongs to them. 

For the others, it is an assumed feeling, serving ulterior motives, along with the presumed loyalty. Identifying with the victim's cause- or the culturally permitted interpretation of it- helps the identified person to feel morally better and superior, without having paid any price, without having experienced the pain, the temptation, the failure. 

The indignant ones see themselves as the righteous ones. If they are indignant in a culturally permitted way, siding with the culturally appropriate subjects, they can assume aspects of vengeance as well, even publicly. So, the secondary feelings of the indignant ones have found an outlet. In it, they can cover and avoid their own primal pain.
Had they faced it, re-owned it, they may respond differently.  They might try to make time and space for them to find the answer from their hearts. 
And together, each one shouldering their own real pain, they might look at one another from their deepest feelings, and the path to a shared peace may open before them. 

In old stories the wise man lifts his eyes up to the mountain from which help cometh. 
He may even go up the mountain himself.  
The air is fresh and clear, and so is the view. 
From here, he can see it all, everything.
He sees the love of humans in its many forms, 
many of them sad, and dark, and confused, and ignorant, 
unsuccessful in the great task of letting love grow. 
Knowing it is all love, he takes heart and asks 
for blind love to be turned into the love of the seer.
He knows he has to leave behind all lesser allegiances 
when he is requesting to be taken into service by the Great Soul.
And with a heart full of awe and trembling, 
he asks the Great Soul for help.
The answer comes: "Remain in the Great Love!"
And the gift comes as he knows the full meaning of surrender. 


Bert Hellinger talks about peace at the Würzburg conference in 2003
Peace means:

that which stood on opposition, finds one another;
that which excluded one another, recognizes one another
that which fought, injured, was at war, and perhaps even wanted to destroy each other, unites in grief about the victims on both sides and the suffering that was inflicted on all.
The most important topics addressed here:
Peace begins in the individual soul
Peace continues on in the family
How can we support peace in other fields?
peace does not avoid conflict
Peace is never completed
Peace is threatened especially by groups
Peace between peoples
Peace between religions
What does peace accomplish?
Those who claimed superiority over others, considering them to be inferior or hostile, acknowledge one another as equal. They confirm the speciality that they have for each other, take from and give to one another.
The peace between them widens their personal bondaries, within these boundories it allows them the diversity and the respective peculiarity, and it permits joint actions.
This peace begins in the individual soul.
That which we have thrown away inside us, denied and regretted, may now take a place equal to that which we have been affirming. It will be acknowledged in its importance, in the consequences that it had, in what it contributed to our growth, and it will even be loved for it.
This expects from us that we take leave from the ideal if innocence, which neither demands nor imposes, which rather suffers than acts, which prefers in childhood to growth.
This peace continues in the Family.
Many families wish to remain innocent. For example, they place great importance to their reputation, and even keep secret, deny and dispose of that which they believe would destroy their ideal of innocence. In this way they become guilty in order to protect their image of innocence. They expel family members, are ashamed of them, and suppress the memory of them, because their burdened fate causes fear and because the memory of them is painful. In this way the family atrophies and isolates itself.
Peace in the family is not that which is simple and comfortable. Those who want peace here, face the burdens, the pain, the guilt. They give all family members a place in their soul, even if they are different, to what others would like or believe them to be . They face the challenge and the confrontation which in the end has the result of acknowledging others as equal and loving them
How can we bring about peace beyond this even in other fields?
First of all, perhaps only in samll circles, such as with neighbours or in the workplace, and later also where we carry greater responsibility, such as in an organisation or in politics.
Here we can only help peace if we honour the dignty of all involved, and their special qualities; that which they are and achieve and what they have contributed to the whole. This also makes it necessary that we honour their guilt and leave the responsibility for the consequences of their actions with them - for this also, belongs to a person's dignity.
Peace does not avoid conflict.
For in conflict, people show what is important to them and were they feel threatened. In conflict they bring up their own concerns until such time when they have to admit, where and to what extent the concerns of the others act as a limit to their own. Only then, balance and exchange between them come up as an option. This allows everyone to mature and to be enriched through the particularity of the others. In this way, conflict is a requirement for peace and prepares it.
Peace is never completed.
The eternal peace that many dream of would be a standstill. And yet, peace does bring completion to something: what exhausted powers in conflict before, can now step back, appeased. but we must allow conflict to recede, or else, it can be revived, even after solution. And what revives conflict? The memory of it! Therefore, what is in the past, must be permitted to be in the past.
Peace is threatened primarily through groups.
When we do not meet another human being from person to person any more, when we perceive ourselves primarily as a member of our group, and the other person as a memebr of his group, we become blind to the individual. As a part of a group we are easily alienated from ourselves- as if unconscious, and dissolve into the collective.
Now the question is: How can we further peace between groups? For against the collective forces the individuals are largely powerless, even if they remain collected. What kind of options are left then? They must wait for the right time, when the destruction has exhausted itself. But they can prepare the way for peace in smaller, more intimate circles.  This demands of them in the meantime that they endure the conflict, and even accept, and agree to it as unavoidable.
In my new book :"Peace begins in the Souls" I document with examples from the last two years, what perpares the peace in the souls. This concern  on the one hand the peace between peoples: for example between the Greeks and the Germans in relation to WW2, the peace between between the Armenians and the Turks after the persecution, the peace between Russia and Germany, between Japan and the USA and between Israel and its neighbours.
The book also talks about reconciliation between religions, such as Christianity and Islam, about the reconciliation between the conquerors and the subjugated, the reconciliation in the civil war in Columbia and the reconciliation between masters and slaves in Brasil and the USA.
Often the conflicts lie way back in history, but are still have their effects in  the souls of the offspring. With the help of family constellations, via representatives one can bring face to face those that were involved originally. Then, perhaps for the first time, they look into each other's eyes, see each other as human beings who are similiar, with the same rights, the same dignity. They come to see what they have done to others, what others have suffered through them, and begin, to mourn together, for all that is lost, they reconcile and find peace.
Only then are their offspring free to choose reconciliation, to give honour to the dead, and in memory of them they try to make up for past injustice, as far as that is possible. Then, finally, they can leave the past behind and take constructive actions in the present.
Beim Familien-Stellen beginnt das Werk der Versöhnung in der einzelnen Seele und in der Familie. Wenn dort die Versöhnung gelingt, breitet sie sich auch auf größere Gruppen aus. Daher bleiben wir beim Familien-Stellen bescheiden und sind uns unserer Grenzen bewusst. Der tiefe und bleibende Friede entzieht sich der Absicht. Wo er gelingt, erfahren wir ihn als geschenkt. In family constellations, the labour of reconciliation begins in the individual soul and in the family. When reconciliation succeeds there, it spreads to larger groups as well. Therefore, we remain modest in family constellations, aware of our limitations. The deep and lasting peace eschews our intentions and remains beyond them. Where it eventuates, we know that it has been given.