The Integrity of Love
Connie Donaldson, MA
For the last forty years, Bert Hellinger has practiced, taught, and written about Family Constellation
work. Now in his eighties, he continues to refine and deepen both his practice and understanding of
the theoretical base for constellations.
One of the seminal points of his life came in his fifties when he was a missionary to the Zulu in Africa.
While attending an interdenominational conference, he was profoundly moved by the question that
one of the lecturers posed, "What’s more important to you, your ideals or people? Which do you
sacrifice for the other?" His answer led him to leave the priesthood and pursue his study of
On a theoretical level, Bert’s work has its roots in the works of Jung, Adler, Boszormenyi-Nagy,
Moreno, Satir and Berne. And, much like his contemporary—groundbreaking theorist Joseph
Campbell—Bert chose the maverick’s approach to knowledge. Rather than pursuing a particular
school of thought or prescribed field of study, he studied what furthered his knowledge. He studied
Gestalt Therapy with Ruth Cohen and Hilarion Petzold, Family Therapy with Ruth McClendon and
Leslie Kadis. He also studied Janov’s Primal Scream, Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis,
Boszormenyi-Nagy’s theories of hidden family loyalties and Milton Erickson’s hypnosis.
On a personal level, he brought with him what he learned growing up Catholic in Nazi Germany, his
experiences as a priest, and his experience with the Zulu in Africa (including their profound respect for
their parents and the generations that came before them).
Finally, Bert based his work on a phenomenological approach to understanding families. As he
worked with the systemic theories that he learned, he stepped back and let the events that occurred
when he began to experiment with family sculpting guide his understanding. From this observational
stance—working with representatives of family members who were not present—he was able to see
patterns that repeated themselves through generations. And, by working with these patterns and the
energy behind them, he discovered ways of bringing life-altering insights to the clients.
For more information on Bert Hellinger: