Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there – Rumi
The recent vote for the UK to leave the European Union was not just about the EU, but disaffection with the political system. This outcome arguably reflects that many feel out of touch with today’s leaders, and a broader breakdown of trust in politicians and business. Leaders in all walks of life are now being asked to respond with strong and agile leadership, reaching outwards to cultivate a culture of inclusiveness and diversity. More than ever, leaders are required to find clarity out of complexity and bring people together, not pull them apart. A new political leadership is seen to be part of the solution, taking action to address the issues raised during the referendum.
But there is a problem.
System dynamics don’t get resolved by clear goals or increased emotional intelligence. It’s too much for one way of leading, or one model to handle. While linear solutions to systemic issues may appear to work at first, the inertia or difficulty will return, often deepen and expand, until a system perspective and methodology are used to resolve it.
A system perspective, where the unseen psychological and energetic ties are revealed, illuminates an alternative approach that can liberate energy and fresh clarity across complex systems.
Renowned author of Systemic Coaching and Constellations, John Whittington argues that a systemic perspective that brings the hidden dynamics into plain sight and illuminates a less entangled picture, can be useful in resolving these issues and reconnecting people to resources and fresh solutions. He offers a practical and respectful approach that can creating lasting, positive change and can be applied to individuals, teams, groups, organisations and communities.
Constellations are a way of looking at the underlying hidden structure of a relationship system. They reveal and illuminate the invisible loyalties, the blocks and hidden resources, limiting dynamics and challenging behaviour, the source of resistance to change. They allow people to go beyond words and out of the head, accessing embodied tacit information that exists in all systems and reveals hidden resources and tests how best to introduce them.
The principles of time, place and exchange are products of the systemic conscience. The systemic conscience tries to maintain coherence and balance and, if violated, are the root of inertia and conflict. Indeed, when trying to find new solutions for the present and future, we must first look into the past.
When we acknowledge what is, just as it is, without any judgment, we see that everybody in a system has an equal right to belong. What emerges is an understanding of the interconnected nature of everything and everyone in systems. Changing something in one part of the system has an effect on the rest.
The part can never be well unless the whole is well – Plato
In a healthy system, there is no shame about difficult events in the past, and nobody who has made a contribution to the system is forgotten or excluded. People want to make a full contribution because they know that they’re doing something that will be valued and have an impact as part of a whole – a whole that can achieve things that are more than the sum of its parts.
But when health is absent, so are the people. Individuals who are unsure of their place, their role or their level of responsibility in the system cannot be fully present and so do not bring their best selves. They withhold something, unconsciously resisting a fuller contribution. Trust, loyalty and motivation are missing or unreliable.
As the UK prepares to enact Article 50, there is a warning for us all. Challenging exits that don’t respectfully honor the bonds that form through lost membership, and fail to acknowledge what was gained and what was lost, create ties and entanglements that can reach forward for many years, through many systems, leaving an entanglement of unresolved dynamics.
Leaving systems and joining others is a fundamentally important part of life, as it requires us to respectfully soften one set of loyalties and establish belonging in another system. To separate from a system and be free to move and grow you first have to acknowledge your belonging and what you gained from that. If you don’t feel ready or able to acknowledge what you received from that system in which you belonged, you may find yourself looking back with resentment or unsure of yourself, unable to fully join a new system.
“The soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him” – G K Chesterton
The way we leave a system is crucial to our ability to develop and grow into others. If you consciously decide that you don’t want to belong in a particular system, you don’t want to be like ‘them’, and you leave without acknowledgement for what you gained, you are likely to end up becoming just like them. After all, whatever we exclude, we attract, and what we judge, we become. The system finds a way to re-member.
So, whatever your views regarding the referendum, see if you can agree to everything just as it is. That doesn’t require you to agree with everything. Simply agree to everything as it is. The moral judgments of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ – take no account of systems. There is only ‘what is’, and looking at it all with compassion for belonging and an understanding of loyalty, changes the perspective. This is a part of the non-judgmental stance of systemic coaching and one that underpins Constellations work.
When our leaders can lead with belonging and hidden loyalties in mind, their leadership will have a very different quality to it with profound implications for society and politics.