Confluences and controversies in systemic theory, research and practice

Relationships between people – families, work teams, communities, Nations – have undergone major changes in recent decades, also as a result or side-effect of cultural and scientific evolution.

On the one hand, disciplines such as physics, medicine, psychology, environmental and social sciences have made decisive contributions to the advancement of our knowledge. Distant galaxies have come closer to our cosmic vision, and our probes and rockets have reached the farthest edges of space-time. On the other hand, violence and barbarism destroy lives, property, and certainties on a daily basis, sparking vicious and often deadly clashes between individuals, communities, nations, and cultures.

In spite of these challenging realities, systemic therapists and practitioners are compelled to pursue their commitment to healing the resulting psychic and relational suffering and, above all, to rekindle hope, resilience and optimism for a better future.


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Thoughts on war...

1. Reflection from Umberta Telfener : As Social Justice and Systemic Thinking Task Force we met the first time at the NFTO in Sofia in June 2023, we created a whatsup group and exchanged some “fast” thoughts wondering what to deal with. Too many issues seemed important and focus was needed. Then life took over but right now we decided to start meeting and discussing again regularly. These words are just some reflections on the too many terrible and unjustified wars we are surrounded by.

Few days ago a client of mine posed this question: “Are we more violent compared to Medieval times?” I was stunned since I was questioning myself about the horrors of war in a time of enhanced consciousness: why does a civilized country become violent and destroy others? How can individuals de-humanize and do things that are despicable and they would judge as horrendous in times of peace? I started searching ….

2. Answer from Borislava Metcheva : I read the article carefully and so many thoughts are racing through my head… I am struggling a lot with the idea how we can make sense of what is going on globally so that the way we make sense of it help us see a path forward…
Here are some of my thoughts:
First of all, I am thinking about “conscious purpose” (Bateson) – for how long as societies we were enchanted by this premise and for how long this narrative of “achievement-improvement-more achievement-more ambition-and so on” organized our behavior at large scale…

3. Thoughts by Cinthe Lemmens : I read  both of your contributions, Umberta and Borislava, my systemic colleagues, friends. How good is it not to feel alone, to belong to a large systemic community. Connectivity and exchange as an antidote to apathy, indifference, desensitization, numbness, hopelessness…
Reading your thoughts brings up new thoughts, memories.
It takes me back to the presentation of Lucie Hornova in Sofia, Bulgaria, our latest NFTO-meeting. She (and we) talked about hope and hopelessness, quoting K. Weingarten who says: ‘Hoping is not just a feeling or a noun, hope is also a verb that we can practice. We Do Hope.

4. Thoughts by Petya Varcheva: The written by Umberta and Borislava is strongly resonating in me. Following the flow I feel, I would like to share some of my associations and reflections
I’m also struggling with the question – how we, as humans, have created such a context in which this terrifying violence became possible and so many of us became passive bystanders, supporting with their silence or openly justifying people killing people…

5. Thoughts by Charlie Azzopardi: On reflecting on contemporary history and the current world situation, and reading the interesting reflections of other colleagues, I could not stop myself from writing down some ideas about what is going on in terms of social justice. Of course having learned to think systemically I cannot but not view the contemporary complex political situation from this perspective and make sense of everything around me by connecting “everything to everything else” (Bateson).

When I started my career in care in 1986 I had chosen this career specifically because I believe that people are fundamentally good and I wanted to do ‘good’. I could only see ill and malaise from the perspective depicting hatred, ill, and malaise as mistakes in people’s attempted good intentions.  It was a philosophy based on Goethe’s and existential philosophy tapping on human potential, and therefore hope. I gradually and disappointingly realised that I undermined Freud’s idea of mortido and perhaps started questioning and reframing my moral atheism to think of good and evil. From believing good and evil to be social constructs and attributions to believing that good and evil are innate in people. Eric Fromm’s analysis was a turning point in my shift. He offered a wider perspective of the complex and multidimensional nature of evil and destructiveness highlighting the interplay between biological, psychological, social factors in shaping both destructive and constructive human tendencies.  The present reflections here are part of this inconclusive journey as I search for some ‘truths’ with which I can connect and hang on to for my sanity. Of course, the certainty I’m searching for will probably never be found. Yet I’m getting closer to concorde with Telfener when she wrote that “The spirit of evil dwells with everyone”. While everyone has the potential to be violent, the distinction between non-violent and violent people is that violent people commit it.

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Hello to everybody, I am Umberta Telfener, the new President of EFTA.

I am very honored to have received this assignment which I personally care very much about.

I am in EFTA since 1991, first as an individual and from 2010 representing the Milan Institute of Family Therapy (Luigi Boscolo and Gianfranco Cecchin). I become a member of the TIC Board in 2016 and from November 2020 I was its Chair. Now I will act as your President and intend to do my very best.

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Professor Zhao explained that the Chinese mentality is organized by Confucian familyism, that is a key to understand China and the Chinese. Individuation is rare in China, the patriarchal Society is based on families and on the worship of ancestors. He considers “family” the most flexible word in the Chinese vocabulary since families are an organization ordered by practical and utilitarian necessities: the highest form of life is to fulfill parents unfulfilled wishes and tasks.

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We remember exactly where we were on 24 February 2022. The Board of EFTA was gathered in Barcelona for its meeting. Just before sunrise, we were alarmed by the news that Putin had illegally invaded Ukraine. We could not know what would happen to the country or to Europe, and we still do not know. Now, entering the third year of this war, the tragedy seems stuck and negotiation for peace far away.

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Dear members, We decided to upload the “Assisi Manifesto” to let you know what is the latest choral effort of clinicians around the world reflecting on our specific work as systemic practitioners. As I think you know by now I am not keen on bringing everything back to families: I think that systemic thinking obliges […]

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