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CureZone > Books > Love's Hidden Symmetry: What Makes Love Work in Relationships by Bert Hellinger

Love's Hidden Symmetry: What Makes Love Work in Relationships
by Bert Hellinger [edit]

Love's Hidden Symmetry: What Makes Love Work in Relationships
******* 7 Stars!
Price: US$ 26.60, Available worldwide on
Check Availability from: Canada or from United Kingdom
ISBN: 1891944002


Reviewer: bobconrad (see more about me) from Reno, NV USA
With the wisdom of a sage, Hellinger takes on psychotherapy, conventional beliefs about relationships and what is commonly accepted between family members and lovers in their relationships. Hellinger's message is one of humility in accepting what is, especially the natural order of relationships. For instance, rather than bemoaning an abusive father, Hellinger will stand by the victimizer and have the victim, a son or daughter, humbly acknowledge the father for being the father and to place the circumstances as secondary. In this action, the natural order of the relationship becomes untangled. Hellinger is more interested not in details but in finding what works in resolving problems. The past is past, he seems to say with each page's turn, and focusing on making things right is his intent.

From my personal work, I have seen how this work is indeed powerfully effective, and because of Hellinger's non-linear, often intangible approach, he is a controversial and immensely popular figure in psychotherapy. This review does not do this book or Hellinger's work justice. In reading Love's Hidden Symmetry, I found myself reading only a small section, then putting down the book to sit with whatever I had just read. Each section is worth more than the space on its page, in other words. It took some time to complete it, and a better understanding of what he says will probably only come in time and in multiple readings. Hellinger's work talks precisely about being humbled by each other and our processes and how things work as they do. Moreoever, through his readings and family constellations I have discovered how powerfully my lineage influences who I am. The brilliance of this work is in its systemic significance: how noted events, such as war or murder, can have lasting effects transgenerationally.

My only criticism his is limited inclusion about environmental factors and the role of civilization in contributing to individual psychological problems; this area is not seeming to be his focus. Instead, Hellinger, a master psychotherapist, appears more interested in redirecting our entangled relationships with each other. I leave my first reading of this book still intent on people finding healthier ways to live, rather than just necessarily focusing on their healing; at the same time, I am blown away by what Hellinger does for the individual and family end of things. It is simply unlike no other I have been exposed to before.

Bert Hellinger (Biography)

Bert Hellinger considers his parents and his childhood home to be the first major influence on his later work. Their particuliar form of faith provided the entire family with an immunity against believing the distortions of National Socialism. Because of his repeated absences from the required meetings of the Hitler Youth Organization and his participation in an illegal Catholic youth organization, he was eventually classified by the Gestapo as ‘Suspected of Being an Enemy of the People.’ His escape from the Gestapo was paradoxically made possible when he got drafted. Just 17 years old, he became a soldier, experienced the realities of combat, capture, defeat, and life in a prisoner of war camp in Belgium with the allies.

The second major influence is certainly his childhood wish to become a priest. At the age of 20, immediately after getting out of prisoner of war camp, he entered a Catholic religious order and began the long process of purification of body, mind and spirit in silence, study, contemplation and meditation.

His 16 years in South Africa as a missionary to the Zulu also deeply shaped his later work. There he directed a large school, taught, and was parish priest simultaneously. He tells with satisfaction that 13% of all black Africans attending university in South Africa at that time were students of this one mission school. He learned the Zulu language well enough to teach and minister, but he tells amusing anecdotes about the courteous dignity of the Zulu people when he inadvertently said something rude rather than what he intended. With time he came to feel as much at home with them as is possible for a European. The process of leaving one culture to live in another sharpened his awareness of the relativity of many cultural values.

His peculiar ability to perceive systems in relationships and his interest in the human commonalty underlying cultural diversity made itself apparent during those years–he saw that many of Zulu rituals and customs had a structure and function similar to elements of the Mass, pointing to common human experiences, and he experimented with integrating Zulu music and ritual form into the Mass. His commitment to the goodness of cultural and human variety is deep, and to the validity of doing things in different ways. The Sacred is present everywhere.

The next major influence was his participation in an inter-racial, ecumenical training in group dynamics led by Anglican clergymen. They had brought a form of working with groups from America that valued dialogue, phenomenology, and individual human experience. He experienced for the first time a new dimension of caring for souls. He tells how one of the trainers once asked the group, "What’s more important to you, your ideals or people? Which do you sacrifice for the other?" A sleepless night followed, for the implications of the question are profound. Hellinger says, "I’m very grateful to that minister for asking that. In a sense, the question changed my life. That fundamental orientation toward people has shaped all my work since. A good question’s worth a lot."

His decision to leave the religious order after 25 years was amicable. He describes how he gradually became clear that being a priest no longer was an appropriate expression of his inner growth. With characteristic impeccability and consequent action, he made his decision and gave up the life he had known so long. He returned to Germany, began a psychoanalytic training in Vienna, met his future wife, Herta, and they married soon after. They have no children.

Psychoanalysis was to be the next major influence. As with everything he did, he threw himself into his psychoanalytic training, eventually reading the complete works of Freud and much of the other relevant literature as well. But with an equally typical love of inquiry, when his training analyst gave him a copy of Janov’s Primal Scream shortly before he completed his training–a book the training analyst had 


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