EUROPEAN FAMILY THERAPY ASSOCIATION
CONNECTING FAMILY THERAPISTS AND TRAINERS
Born in Germany, he fled with his family to Belgium before Kristallnacht
Born in Germany, he fled with his family to Belgium before Kristallnacht. In 1942, he was deported. After the war, he worked with children and trained as an educator. Very early in his career he became director of an institution. In 1955 he set up an avant-garde experiment in “film therapy”: creation, direction, and editing of short films by the children themselves. He created theater and pantomime workshops with the mime Marcel Marceau. He decided to devote himself to family therapy. Today, he works mainly with couples.
Reynaldo Perrone: Storytelling in therapy is an art, and the effect is remarkable: the client is fascinated and subjugated by the spell of the story. Clients look forward to the end of the story, like children when their mother tells them a story before entrusting them to the angels of the night.
Siegi Hirsch was an exceptional storyteller, an experienced magician, capable of transporting his interlocutor from tragedy to comedy, from tension to derision, through stories that were funny but also highly educational and always related to the client’s situation.
He was like that in therapy, but also in his teaching and in group and individual supervision.
I had supervision with him for years and we eventually became friends; sometimes we smoked cigars together. This wise veteran now lives in Brussels, radiating luminous modesty and always laughing at the arrogance of celebrity.
During a supervision session in 2000, I told him about the concern and confusion I felt about the lack of interest and commitment shown by some of the participants in the training groups. This behavior both annoyed me and made me feel insecure.
Siegi, who had been leading groups for decades, was certainly very familiar with the occasional phenomenon of certain members not adhering to the collective task.
After offering a few thoughts on the uncertain participation of members within a group, mainly due to personal contingencies, he told me an anecdote about his friend, a famous mime. When he was on stage, – he told me – the audience was delighted by his occurrences, which he conveyed with exquisite finesse and humor. However – Siegi- continued – he was tormented when a spectator in the front rows of the auditorium didn’t laugh like the others. This situation focused his attention to such an extent that it distorted his perception of his success. Sometimes he doubted his talent, when an audience member didn’t laugh…”. “I don’t care who laughs – he would say – I only care who doesn’t!”
“That one” – Siegi replied to his friend – “may be unwell, but he’s come to see you because he admires your work”…
I understand that they had discussed the subject more than once.
Siegi’s account of that day certainly had a lasting impact on the image of myself as a trainer that I’ve built up over the course of my practice. When someone refrains from taking part in a group, I say to myself that they are only offering me half of their presence, which is possible for them… so I say thank you and, while waiting for their precious commitment, I do my utmost to optimize contact with those who are available and interested in what I have to offer.