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Honoring the Dead and Facing DeathReview - Honoring the Dead and Facing Death
Bert Hellinger Videos Volume 2
by Bert Hellinger
Zeig, Tucker & Theisen, 1997
Review by Prem Dana Takada BBSC (Hons) MA Psych
Mar 4th 2001 (Volume 5, Issue 10)

Bert Hellinger is one of Europe's most innovative and provocative systemic therapists. Former priest and missionary Hellinger brings a lifetime of experience and wisdom to his therapeutic work. Acknowledging what is, with compassion, humor and honest directness he non-judgmentally describes what he sees in the families he works with. This video is part of the documentation of a demonstration workshop held near London in January, 1997. The participants are mental health professionals, their clients and interested layperson and similarly this video should appeal to anyone interested in family system, hidden messages and loyalties carried a down from generation to generation. Neuhauser and a small professional camera team, sensitively documents the steps participants take in their search for resolution. An introduction as well as a brief orientation to each "constellation" or family set up is provided by Hunter Beaumont.

On this tape three different participants are worked with, within the theme of mourning and death. His method is relatively simple one (to observe at least). Firstly he asks the person to select representatives of family members from the audience. Then with the simple instruction "Set it up" the process begins. Questions are kept brief; for example, "What happened in your family", "Now what's going on", as the approach is inherently a phenomenological one. He then gently maneuvers the family representatives to new positions, into what will ultimately be the healing constellation, an image /process that the participant takes away with them. The process is like a very quiet version of high drama, slowing unfolding, the truth revealing itself.

The first constellation is subtitled "This is my place, Here I'm at home". It is based on a family drama involving multiple deaths at Aulszwitch. Tears flow as the participant who has been observing the representatives, now views the Hellinger-guided healing structure and sees love in the family representatives eyes, indicating that a resolution has happened, that the orders of love are in balance. Hellinger's approach here is clear. Honor the dead but also remind oneself that," Life is going on, in a little while I will join you too"

The second constellation is extremely interesting, subtitled "Using victims to sustain hate". Hellinger clearly demonstrates that using victims (in this case of political murders) to perpetuate hate offers no real respect for the real victims in the child of this Protestant/Catholic marriage. It is powerfully clear within this constellation that the Victims of bygone days wish only for peace and the woman in question is given the healing phrase of "I have a Father and Mother, and in my soul they are indissolubly united". In the third constellation a famous psychologist, Skinner (who is happy to give his name in the hope of assisting others) is encouraged to face his approaching death, specifically by having someone represent "Death". This is clearly a difficult process but even in this situation where a man, obviously very ill to all but him, is given encouragement to follow the truth of his soul.

Showing that it is possible to find hope and meaning and restoration of love even in the most difficult of circumstances, this is a very powerful and moving documentary. The work shown on this tape shows both the kind of grief that creates problems as opposed to the kind of grief that keeps the heart open to love. Hellinger's ineffable qualities are almost impossible to explain. With his gentle and unflinching trust in the power of life and the Orders of Love, Hellinger indeed transforms psychotherapy into the care of souls. Highly recommended viewing for all, though of particular interest to those dealing with grief, loss, death and dying.

Prem Dana Takada, M.A.Psych. originally trained as a Clinical Psychologist in Melbourne, Australia, where she is also a registered Family Therapist. After leaving Australia, Prem Dana worked as a Principal Clinical Psychologist in West London, continuing to work with individuals, couples, families, and as a group therapist and further training as an Ericksonian Psychotherapist and Hypnotherapist in Oxford. She has travelled widely having also lived and worked in India, and has been in Japan for the last five years where runs the Psychotherapy and Healing Practice and is current President of International Mental Health Providers Japan (IMHPJ) -a professional organization established for therapists who service the international community in Japan.


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