Sneh talks about Bert Hellinger

Bert Hellinger, founder of the extraordinary work of Family/Systemic Constellations and the Orders of Love died earlier this year. Just recently it was the anniversary of his birth and these thoughts from Sneh Schnabel seem valuable to share. Sneh will be on the Faculty for the Australasian Constellation Intensive in March 2020

When I got the message about Bert Hellinger’s passing, I knew I would need to come forward with something to honour my special relationship with this big man. For days now, I have been busy with what it is I want people to know, and how to put it into words. It is somehow more “content-heavy” than usual; the sentences are not easily flowing on paper, or through the keys; the words seem to need more time and space. Bert Hellinger died on 19. September. Or: “moved on”–which somehow sounds more friendly. But the fact remains: he no longer walks the earth.

I–and I believe many of us who came into contact with this powerful and deeply-healing method of constellation work through him–can only bow down to his life’s work with great gratitude. And by using the tools as carefully as possible and in our very own ways, we give him the honour he deserves.

Without his courage and his fearlessness to go public with what he perceived; I would not be where I am today with my work. So I “owe him big”. Mega-big! This also includes the fact that in my first years as a “young” facilitator, I was lucky enough to have his permission to give him a call, whenever I felt that I had reached my limits with a constellation. And he always took the time to help me–either by making me see something I had not considered before or by supporting the way I saw the situation. I experienced him as genuinely interested and supportive. And I certainly will never forget when he once told me–after I needed too many words to convey what my trouble was–“I am now getting unquiet.” That was convincing enough for me to dare start answering my own questions.

But, from the beginning, he was the one who encouraged me and many of my colleagues to start doing the work and later to go my own way.

I still remember a situation where Bertold Ulsamer (my old friend, and partner in our first public constellations in 1994) and I bumped into him at a break in one of the increasingly popular seminars in Germany, and happily told him about our first constellation groups together. His reply was: “If you work alone, you have more strength.”

Not that we dared to do that! In our humble beginnings, we were very glad to have each other to lean on and to talk each constellation through in our breaks. But after a fruitful time of working together, we offered our own constellation groups and trainings separately–and Bert’s statement proved to be pointing in the right direction.

Later, Bertold and I spent many years together in a peer-group–learning, experimenting, and always amazed and deeply affected by the truth and depth of the constellations. Within this peer-group, I made far-reaching progress in my work, and with my own themes. Because lots of fun and good food were always part of our meetings, we were nourished on many levels. The fact that the intensity of our work as peers–along with experimenting and often daring to use unconventional approaches that brought us several times to the brink of breaking apart–taught me a good lesson in humility. This lesson was important because constellation work at that time in Germany was at the height of an enormous wave, and most of us had very full groups in a very short time–an ego booster of no small proportion. It was a deeply valuable experience, though not always welcome, to learn that we too can stumble over our own feet, even in the presence of this fantastic tool of constellation work. Ultimately, however, it strengthened my experience of solidarity and union in this peer-group of mine.

This is also the reason why today, in all my further education and training courses, I “demand” and promote as best I can, continuous work in self-organized peer-groups. And the feedback proves me right: I keep hearing of some, which have been in existence for as much as 12 years and are still meeting regularly. The friendship and support that comes from being on the path together for a long time is an immeasurable gift. Sometimes I still cry a little for my own peer-group. We separated after a memorable supervision, to which we had invited Bert, and where we met Sofie, his future wife, for the first time.

For me, this farewell was also connected with my farewell to Bert’s new directions–with which I could not resonate.

If, ultimately, my own ways led me away from Bert’s later work, what has remained is that the core of the constellation work in its unequivocal “rightness”, inclusiveness, power and beauty still carries me today.

Adieu Bert, my gratitude comes from a wonderfully nourished mind and from a heart that has been touched in surprising ways many times over. Have a good journey! You were the right teacher at the right time for me.


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