Aktualisiert am 28. März 2017

The ethical imperative: Act always so as to increase the number of choices.

Heinz von Foerster (1973), On Constructing a Reality, p. 1

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Johannes Herwig-Lempp

Systemic Social Worker, Dipl.-Socialpedagogue, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor for Sciences of Social Work/Systemic Social Work at the University of Applied Sciences in Merseburg/Germany (Merseburg is near Halle and Leipzig). Supervisor and Trainer. Author. Born in 1957, two adult children. Living in Halle/Germany (about 170 km by car south of Berlin).

Systemic means: we always have choices.

 

Toolkit: Useful Suppositions for Systemic Social Work

… on the subject of „reality“

  • Everything said is said by someone.
  • Objectivity is the self-deception of a subject.
  • The environment we perceive is our invention.

… on the subject of change

  • Problems are matters of opinion.
  • It could just as well be otherwise.
  • There are always at least seven possibilities.
  • Everything is fluid. Change is constant. There is always progress, never regress.
  • Small changes lead to further changes .

… on the subject of people

  • All people are „eigensinnig“ (have the ownership of their perspectives) and autonomous (have the ownership of their decisions).
  • People always do as they please.
  • Mixed feelings are quite normal.
  • People always have good reasons for acting as they do.
  • Instructive interaction is not possible.
  • All people want to cooperate at all times.
  • All people are alike with respect to these assumptions.

… on the subject of systems and theories

  • Systems exist. Right? Wrong!
  • Theories are tools.
  • Suppositions/assumptions are not fact, but might prove to be useful.

The absolute („all“, „always“, „is“) nature of the wording in the statements does not imply that they are true, rather it conveys the idea that we are dealing with an assumption, a definition that can (not must) be applied in all circumstances.

 

Quotations

I have never seen a problem in my life.
I have only seen talks about problems.

Insoo Kim Berg, quoted by Plamen A. Panayotov, Bulgaria

That in the beginning when the world was young there were a great many thoughts but no such thing as a truth. Man made the truths himself and each truth was a composite of a great many vague thoughts. All about the world were the truths and they were beautiful. […] And the people came along. Each as he appeared snatched up one of the truths and some who were quite strong snatched up a dozen of them.
It was the truths that made the people grotesques. The old man had quite an elaborate theory concerning the matter. It was his notion that the moment one of the people took one of the truths to himself, called it his truth, and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque and the truth he embraced became a falsehood.

Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio - The Book of Grotesque, in: The Portable Sherwood Anderson (1985). Edited by Horace Gregory, Revistied Edition, Harmondsworth (Penguin Books), p. 45

Here’s one example of the utter wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely talk about this sort of natural, basic selfcenteredness, because it’s so socially repulsive, but it’s pretty much the same for all of us, deep down. It is our default-setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: There is no experience you’ve had that you were not at the absolute center of.

David Foster Wallace (2005), This Is Water

If you fall on your face, at least you are heading in the right direction.

Milton Erickson

Having guts always works out.

Stefan Sagmeister

Objectivity is a subject’s delusion that observing can be done without him. Invoking objectivity is abrogating responsibility, hence its popularity.

Glasersfeld, Ernst von (1992): Declaration of the American Society for Cybernetics, in: In: C.V. Negiota (Ed.), Cybernetics and applied systems. New York: Marcel Decker, 1–5, 1992, p 3

Only those questions that are in principle undecidable, we can decide.

Heinz von Foerster (1995), Cybernetics and Circularity

The system now means, not a thing, but a list of variables. This list can be varied, and the experimenter’s commonest task is hat of varying the list („taking other variables into account“) until he finds a set of variables that gives the required singleness.

William Ross Ashby (1958), An Introduction to Cybernetics, 3rd impr., New York (John Wiley & Sons Inc.), p. 40 (first in 1956)

… an explanatory principle – like ‘gravity’ or ‘instinct’ – really explains nothing. It’s a sort of conventional agreement between scientists to stop trying to explain things at a certain point.

Gregory Bateson (1972). Steps to an Ecology of Mind. New York: Chandler, 38-58

Everything said is said by some observer with a particular intent.

Humberto Maturana

We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.

Anaïs Nin

The truth is that there is no truth.

Isaac Bashevis Singer

I’ve always believed that if you’re going to fantasize about something you shouldn’t waste your imagination trying to make it realistic. If you want realism, you should be out doing it, not sitting there dreaming about it.

Wren

Power, meaning ‘ability, whether physical, mental, or moral, to act,’ has become an evil word, with overtones and undertones that suggest the sinister, the unhealthy, the Machiavellian. It suggests a phantasmagoria of the nether regions. The moment the word power is mentioned it is as though hell had been opened, excluding the stench of the devil’s cesspool of corruption. It evokes images of cruelty, dishonesty, selfishness, arrogance, dictatorship, and abject suffering. … Power, in our minds, has become almost synonymous with corruption and immorality. […] To know power and not to fear it is essential to its constructive use and control. In short, life without power is death; a world without power would be a ghostly wasteland, a dead planet!

Saul D. Alinsky (1989), Rules for Radicals. A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, New York (Vintage Books) (original 1971), p. 50ff

These rescuers in Rwanda, like the other courageous resisters, rejected culpability to injustice when they refused to pretend ignorance. They did not accept the common rationale that they were powerless to intervene to save others.

Kristina E. Thalhammer, Paula L. O’Laughlin, Myron Peretz Glazer, Penina Migdal Glazer, Sam McFarland, Sharon Toffey Shepela & Nathan Stolzfus (2007), Courageous Resistance. The Power of Ordinary People, New York NY: Palgrave, p. 87

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Attributed to Margret Mead (quoted in Thalhammer et al. 2007, p. 63 - see above)

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.

Yogi Berra

Each family, individual, or couple shows a unique way of attempting to cooperate, and the therapist’s job becomes, first, to describe that particular manner to himself that the family shows and, then, to cooperate with the client’s way and, thus to promote change.

Steve de Shazer

Three Rules: 1. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! … 2. Once you know what works, do more of it! … 3. If it doesn’t work, don’t do it again: do something different!

Insoo Kim Berg

Our job ist to make them shine.

Insoo Kim Berg

Problem talk creates problems, solution talk creates solutions.

Attributed to Steve de Shazer

 

International Presentations

“A Diversity of Possible Responses to Simple-Minded Remarks” Workshop on the Seventeenth International Conference on Diversity in Organizations, Communities & Nations, Toronto, Canada, July 26-28, 2017

„Simplify Your Research – Practitioners Can Go Science“ Workshop at the International Systemic Research Conference 2017, Heidelberg, Germany, March 8-11, 2017

„’Le Pouvoir est Mort! Vive le Pouvoir!’” Power as a Resource and Useful Metaphor“ Workshop at the SFBTA Annual Conference on Solution-Focused Practices, Halifax, Nova Scotia/Canada, November 2-5, 2016,

„Power as a Helpful Metaphor“ Workshop at the EFTA 2016 Conference „Origins and Originality in Family Therapy and Systemic Practice“, Athens/Greece, Sept 28 – Oct 1, 2016

„Problems exist. Right? Wrong!“ Presentation at the EFTA 2016 Conference „Origins and Originality in Family Therapy and Systemic Practice“, Athens/Greece, Sept 28 – Oct 1, 2016

„Peer-Team – Quick an Easy“ – Workshop (1 day) at the University of Stirling/Scotland, November 24, 2015

„Let’s talk about success: A Guideline – Workshop“ – SFBTA 2015 Conference on Solution-Focused Practices, Wilmington NC/USA, November 4-7, 2015

„Simplify Your Research“ – Workshop at the conference Linking Systemic Practice and Systemic Research in Therapy, Education and Organisational Development, Heidelberg/Germany, March 6-8, 2014

„Mind the Gap! Potential Space in Systemic Social Work // Acht auf den Abstand! Möglichkeitsräume in der Systemischen Sozialarbeit“ – 4. Merseburg conference on Systemic Social Work (bilingual), Merseburg/Germany, October 19, 2012 (organizer)

„Inventing Hypotheses – Teaching Systemic Social Work“ – Seminar

„A Matter of Perspectives: Systemic Social Work“ – Seminar

„Die VIP-Karte [‚The VIP-Map]“ – Workshop, Int. Meeting SOZIALE DIAGNOSTIK – Stand der Entwicklung [Social Diagnostics – Stage of Development] –, Fachhochschule St. Pölten/Austria, May 8-9, 2008

„Ressourcen im Umfeld: Die VIP-Karte in Sozialarbeit und Unterricht [Resources in Context – The VIP-Map in Social Work and Education]“ – Workshop, Internationale Fachtagung Integration – Rehabilitation – (Re)Sozialisierung, veranstaltet von ASYS, VHS Ottakring und fh-campus Wien, Vienna/Austria, April 26-27, 2007

„Erzeugung und Konstruktion Systemischer Sozialarbeit [Creation and Construction of Systemic Social Work]“, Subplenum at the EFTA-Congress „Creating Futures – Systemic Dialogues across Europe“ Berlin/Germany, September 29 – October 2, 2004 (Moderation)

„Systemic Practice“, a three days workshop at the international Student Conference at the Babes-Bolyai-University Cluj-Napoca/Romania, May 6-8, 2003

„Let’s Talk About Success! – Six Arguments and a Guide How to Do It“, Workshop at the IV. European Family Therapy Congress, Budapest/Hungary, June 28, 2001

„Let’s Talk About Success! – Six Arguments and a Guide how to do it“, Workshop at the XII. World Family Therapy Congress, Oslo/Norway, June 15, 2000

„Social Systems Exist. Right? Wrong!“ – Presentation at the American Society for Cybernetics‘ European Conference, St. Gallen/Switzerland, March 15-19, 1987

 

Also Workshops and Seminars on…

„A Short Introduction to Systemic Social Work: Unusual Questions“

„Working voluntarily with involuntary clients – Systemic Social Work Applied“

„A Short Introduction to Systemic Social Work: Mind Sets“ – Seminar

„The Power of Social Work(ers)“

“How You Can Enjoy Your Work With Difficult Clients“

„Systemic Social Work: An Autonomy Based Approach to Social Work Practice“

„Relaying Systemics Systemically“

„Peer Supervision – Quick and Easy“

„Unsettling Power: The Systemic Approach“

„Systemic Social Work: A Resource Oriented Approach to Practice“

 

Documents

Johannes Herwig-Lempp (2014), Systemic-Constructivist Research Means To Me…, [English version of a contribution to the website http://www.systemisch-forschen.de/was_ist_systemische_forschung [systemic research – what is systemic research] from 2010/2014]

Johannes Herwig-Lempp (2013), Resource-Oriented Teamwork. A Systemic Approach to Collegial ConsultationGöttingen (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht)

Johannes Herwig-Lempp (2013), Catchword: Explanatory Principle, English version of: Stich-Wort: Erklärungsprinzip, in: KONTEXT Jg. 44, H. 2, S. 215-217 (pdf)

Johannes Herwig-Lempp (2013), At Least Seven Possibilities – Systemic Social Work in Germany, in: Walter Milowiz & Michaela Judy (ed.), STEP – Systemic Social Work Throughout Europe. Insights (download). Result of an Lifelong Learning Project, funded by the European Commission, p. 30-40

Johannes Herwig-Lempp (2008), Assuming We’d Like Our Team Meetings to be More Entertaining … [unpublished – translation of an article published in German]

Johannes Herwig-Lempp (2000), Let’s talk about success! Guidelines and 6 arguments why to talk about successful experiences [unpublished – translation of an article published in German]

Johannes Herwig-Lempp (1996), Drug Addiction, The Systemic Approach, and The Concept of „Acceptance“, in: Journal of Systemic Therapies Vol. 15, 2/96, p. 24-35, p. 67-68

Johannes Herwig-Lempp (1986) Sheldrake’s „Hypothesis“. Contribution to the Tarrytown Prize (unpublished)

List of all my publications

 

Links

The Merseburg Master Program Systemic Social Work (sorry, only in German)

Myriad Coloured Stones – Social Work – A Mosaic (2011). A documentary movie by Eva-Maria Kühling, 16 min.

STEP-Project: Systemic Social Work Throughout Europe (2011-2013). A LEONARDO Project

DBSH – German Professional Association of Social Work