I was speaking with someone recently about the importance of “taking their place”. This systemic phrase regarding placement can appear in different ways ranging from one’s place in the birth order to owning your place as the creator of a program.
The person’s reaction when I shared this phrase was …unexpected. Their strong response served as feedback and I stepped back and thought more about the discussion and what I was attempting to convey. Ultimately, a conversation with a friend revealed how the phrasing could be mis-understood. However, having studied systemic work for many years and having seen numerous examples, the importance and impact of a person taking their place was crystal clear to me.
What is meant by taking your place? Consider some examples:
- A child is born after two miscarriages but is considered by their family to be the eldest child. They tend to gravitate towards interests that are considered more aligned with those of a third child but feel they should want to act as the eldest. What would happen if they consciously re-considered themselves to be the third child and thought about their desires and interests from that perspective (their correct place)?
- The members of a project team are rewarded for the number of client hours they bill. The goal is 100% or 40 hours per week but there is an incentive bonus for each individual who achieves 120% or 48 hours. The team leader is driven to achieve that extra bonus and does that by taking on tasks that other team members are more qualified to complete. How will the other team members feel when someone steps in and “takes their place”?
I remember my own challenges when studying family and organizational constellations, finding it difficult to stand in my place as the fourth child. The feeling of not accepting my place shifted once I acknowledged that I was also the eldest daughter.
The sense of finding your true place was further highlighted during a group exercises with my teacher, Judy Wilkins-Smith. We had to line up in a row based on our birth order. All the first born were in the first row, the second in the second row, and so on. Then she had us shift. All of those who were first born, stepped into being the second born; second born into the place of the third born. While some felt more at ease not being in their birth order, most felt out of place.
In organizations, our place may change over time. The creator of a family business transitions ownership to the next generation or the creator of a product transfers usage rights to someone else. This shift of place can be done in a way that honors the creator and allows the next owner to flourish and grow.
A fun example of how you can acknowledge “the place” for both the originator and the receiver is found at Disney. Judy Wilkins-Smith shared a story during our training about when Disney replaced Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The transition is acknowledged inside the new ride with an image of Mr. Toad handing over the deed. A visual reminder of a powerful step that acknowledges the place of both Disney characters.
Are you feeling out of place, caretaking for your boss, or giving credit for your creation to someone else? When you stand into your true birth order, let the boss take ownership, or acknowledge your role as a creator, you step into an alignment that is true for you. If you are feeling out of place or find yourself stuck, please contact me for a complimentary coaching conversation to see how systemic constellation work can support you.
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