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Systemic Structural Constellations with Doris Landauer

Political Constellations–A New Approach for Problem Solving

A new industrial estate would bring employment to the town, but opinion about the project, from the public and councillors alike, is divided. Some see it as a great opportunity while others see it as a disaster. How to go forward?
Play safe and decide against it or risk a great deal and decide to go ahead?

The local swimming pool needs improving. It will cost the town millions. There is a decline in the number of children in the community, who were the main users. Only three children were born last year. Soon the local school will have to close. What should they do? Renovate or not?

One of the parks has become the meeting point of the local youths experimenting with illegal drugs. What would help these teenagers? Can the council do anything to help them?

For these situations Political Constellations can be of great help. Political Constellations can bring things to light where reflection and debate can not. If agreement and compromise seem unimaginable, working with constellations offers a combination of two solutions and often initiates an understanding of the opposing position.

How Can Political Constellations or Systemic Structural Constellations Achieve That?

Systemic Structural Constellations work in a very pragmatic way in order to arrive at a solution of a problem. Neither the opinions of the different parties, nor the people involved, or the strength of their arguments is important in constellations work. Literally by placing the different groups, people or opinions (represented by group members) in the space of the room will show how they connect and relate to each other. In addition this can bring to light aspects of the situation not previously considered or even seen, for example, those people or groups within the community whose needs or interests are relevant and need to be included, but hadn’t previously been considered.
These insights that come to light through the constellation, can at times dramatically change the outcome of a situation such as election, shedding light on behaviour that interferes with our harmonious living together on our planet.

How Does It Work?

For example: A mayor wants to use the help of a Political Constellation to make a decision or to make sure he considers everything necessary for the implementation of a particular decision. Maybe there are some councillors or other members of staff involved. By including everybody (mayor, councillors, members of staff etc.) the important “systemic elements” of the situation are established. These “systemic elements” can be individuals or groups of people, who hold a particular position concerning the issue, like ‘a leading spokesperson’ or ‘the opposition’ etc. Equally, abstract elements can be used, if they are relevant or useful for a solution of a problem. For instance: ‘the protection of the environment’, ‘education’, ‘health’, or even ‘that, which is overlooked here’. The aim is to establish a complete picture of the system with as few ‘elements’ as possible, once that is achieved the constellation can begin. The client, lets say a mayor for example, chooses one person for each ‘systemic element’. Than, intuitively, he leads each person in turn to a place in the room, which seems, for whatever reason, at that moment the most appropriate one. In that way we have a starting position.

People standing in a particular place in the room will relate in a particular way to each other, looking at each other or not, and usually everybody feels somewhat different from how they felt before they were positioned. This is often the most difficult part. The mayor will sit in the front row and watch the constellation unfold following his own thoughts. He is not involved and will only be asked later if there is anything strange or familiar in what he sees and observes. At the end of the constellation he will be asked to absorb the picture of the solution with his whole being.

Each representative in the constellation is asked how he or she feels, particularly in relation to any changes that happened since being chosen and placed. Body sensations might have changed, new sensations may have appeared. The representative of one ‘systemic element’ might feel very drawn to or repelled from another, etc.

This beginning picture of the constellation is now worked with and changed in a very systematic way. Representatives may be asked to look at each other, or moved to another position in the room. They may be asked to say simple sentences. This continues until the majority of the representatives in the system feel better and more comfortable compared to how they felt at the beginning.

At this point the mayor may be asked to join the constellation. He can stand in the place of his own representative and perceive and feel the quality of the changed position. He can stand in the place of any of the other representatives, in order to perceive the experience of the opposition or feel the quality of a particular project.

He might see aspects of the project that had not been previously considered and voiced in public.

Councillors, members of staff, ordinary members of the community who are present can do the same as the mayor, i.e. change places with a representative and experience the quality of that particular place. Generally, people will start to come up with ideas of how to move forward, those who acted as representatives in the constellation will have a better understanding of the views and thinking of others people, not necessarily sharing the same opinion but more able to talk and listen to each other.

How else Can Systemic Structural Constellations Be Useful?

Systemic structural constellations work in an abstract way with problematic situations, therefore they can be used for any kind of problem, question, decision making process, etc. They can be helpful in clarifying organisational conflicts, distribution of resources and deciding whether the public should be included in certain situations or not. They cannot be a substitute for the necessary communication say between a councillor and a representative of the public for instance, but a constellation might prepare the way for a more successful dialogue. Conflicts which have escalated can often be eased by having all parties involved participate in a constellation. If a conflict has escalated too far and only anger and aggression governs behaviour, it is advisable to meet with the different parties separately first. However, systemic structural constellations can have a very positive effect on conflictual situations, easing and de-escalating it, as long as there is willingness from all parties involved to work together for a solution.

How Long Does such a Process Take?

The time that this a process takes depends on the following:

Political Constellations can last from a minimum of three to four hours to up to several days when more than 50 people are involved. A group of ten people with low conflict and a clear focus might only need a maximum of six hours for their constellation.

Doris Landauer is a Psychologist, systemic adviser and trainer in systemic structural constellations work.

Original German Version

„Politische Aufstellungen – ein neuer Problemlösungsansatz?“
KDZ Rundschau 2/2004

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