Kath and I have just been on a 3-day workshop in an idyllic spot in Fife exploring a tool which is widely used in coaching aimed at understanding group dynamics and problem exploration. Picture us seated with 14 other intrigued beings, whom neither of us had ever met, in a baronial hall with a roaring log fire and a wonderful array of chairs from all corners of an ancient home. We were all there as people who ran businesses or organisations, coached people, or were exploring the multi-layered system in which we work and live. Some had explored this modality for 10-15 years and two had only heard about it within the last 24 hours.
I write this blog as a way of describing to myself what happened as we were led expertly through the process of Systemic Constellations by Sarah James Wright of the Whole Partnership. You can get definitive descriptions on TWP website, of course.
The core idea is that we can get a better understanding of a problem or a team challenge or a place that we might be in the world – if we get away from books, laptops, budgets, planning, worrying and dreaming and… just stand up. Take time to take yourself into the world where the issue sits – literally, viscerally, emotionally – and seek to understand the 3-dimensional relationship between you and the people, the problem, and the resources which might be available to you in understanding the system as a whole. For example, in a small business setting, if you think about the other members of your team, where do they stand in relation to you? How close are they to you? Are you all facing the same direction? What does it feel like as you approach a problem? What resources are nearby that could help? What if a new person were introduced into the dynamics of the system ? How does that make you feel? How might that make your colleague/s feel?
We were asked to create a starter question for our own 3-day journey. Mine was “How do I navigate uncertainty in a positive way?” and over the first session, working with an amazing buddy, also completely new to this work, we explored the resources I had, the possible blocks in my path, the people who are part of my journey, and indeed what might the destination/goal be for that journey. Within 30 minutes of using the tools for the first time I had sketched out my world as it is now, and where I might go, and what might be part of the process.
A key part of the process is to physicalise the world or system and then to invite strangers to represent elements of it in this 3-dimensional space. It’s all very well thinking about a person in life who is a block to progress, but what happens when you are standing next to a representation of that person. What does it feel like to be navigating this field of elements? And what does this stranger who is inhabiting the role of the block/problem feel about where they are positioned? This is where the magic happens. Where the inner senses and our extraordinary untapped consciousness, brains and bodies come into play. So often over the 3 days, watching and being part of other people’s fields and systems, I witnessed someone say something about their sense of what was happening to them in the space that turned out to be highly relevant, despite the fact that they knew nothing about the backstory of the problem or the character of the person/resource they had been asked to embody.
I was taught very early on as a coach never to worry if the question you ask a client doesn’t seem to make sense to you. Trust the process. Trust that the client will hear the right question and use it to shape a thought, answer, or maybe even an inspirational shift, which is right for them in this moment at this time. It doesn’t always happen. But it is amazing when a phrase resonates with the receiver of my odd coaching question.
Here the same thing seemed to be happening. By trusting that the flow of ideas, thoughts, feelings, sensations and energy around the system would cause someone to move, say, feel something that was much deeper and more apposite to the situation than they could ever know. Each enquiry was led by an external facilitator (one of us trying on the role for size). And each of us had a chance to be an element (or a blockage) in someone else’s story.
Over 3 days we explored the elements of the Constellation process, were introduced to an array of other learnings and modalities which fed into and connect with what the Whole Partnership and others have used.
I am delighted to feel very connected to an amazing array of previous strangers; to know more of their world challenges and questions; to have taken time away from the clicker-clacker of my keyboard to inhabit my world in a workshop setting, and to have had the chance to explore a new-to-me coaching tool which will, at the very least, remind me of the power of the tiny question or intervention which can change a person’s perspective on their own world or question. Keep practising Grady.
Isn’t it a magical thing Chris? I’ve experienced it in a short session at a Homeopathy conference and it was so powerful. Great you two got to do it together.