Entering Inner Images - Eva Madelung - E-Book

Entering Inner Images E-Book

Eva Madelung



Neuro-imaginative gestalting (NIG) is a systemic method, developed for individual therapy by Eva Madelung, that can be used in counselling, self-help and group work. The novel integration of techniques from art therapy into the systemic process encourages therapeutic creativity and individual self-exploration. In a practical section, Barbara Innecken describes the therapeutic aspects of the method and uses case studies to elaborate her points. This material can be applied immediately by the experienced systemic therapist, but therapists-in-training and those of other theoretical orientations will find step-by-step instructions for practical use in individual therapy. Instructions for self-help complement the presentation. In the theoretical section of the book, points of contact and possibilities for mutual exchange and enrichment from constructivist oriented methods, such as NLP, De Shazer short-term therapy and Heidelberger family therapy, as well as the phenomenological-oriented family constellation therapy of Bert Hellinger, are described. In short, the book combines proven therapeutic practice with extensive theoretical background and contributes to the integration of family constellation therapy within other therapeutic methods.

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Entering Inner Images

Eva Madelung/Barbara Innecken

A Creative Use of Constellations in Individual Therapy, Counseling, Groups and Self-Help

Translated by Colleen Beaumont

eBook Edition, 2018

Published by Carl-Auer Verlag


For further information please contact us:

[email protected]

Cover Design: Uwe Göbel

Cover Image: Uwe Göbel

All rights reserved


ISBN 978-3-8497-8113-2 (PDF)

ISBN 978-3-8497-8114-9 (ePUB)

© 2018 by Carl-Auer-Systeme Verlag, Heidelberg

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced by any process whatsoever without the written permission of the copyright owner.

Title of the original edition:

„Wenn ich die Augen schließe, kann ich dich sehen“

© 2002 by Carl-Auer-Systeme, Heidelberg

Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek.

Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data available on the Internet http://dnb.d-nb.de.




Bert Hellinger’s Phenomenological Stance: A New Dimension

Neuro-Imaginative Gestalting as “Open Method”

Prerequisite Knowledge

The Emergence of This Book

Barbara Innecken: How I Came to This Book

Eva Madelung: How This Book Came to Me

2.Neuro-Imaginative Gestalting (NIG)


The Development of NIG from Practice

NIG as Systemic Therapy

The Reciprocal Effects of Perception, Inner Images, Feeling, Representation, Action, and Environment

Incorporating Family Constellations

NIG as an Integration of Constructivist and Phenomenological Approaches

The Element of Art Therapy

Distinguishing NIG from Art Therapy

The Element of Body Therapy

3.Basic Principles and Assumptions


“Entering the Image”: Thinking in Images Between Awareness and Movement

Gestalting Instead of Programming

Reality of Reciprocal Effects as a Metaphor of Context Orientation

Reciprocal Effects of Past, Present, and Future in Life Paths and Re-Imprinting

Reality of Reciprocal Effects of the NIG Elements “Two Sides”

Reciprocity Between the Biographical Level and the Level of the Orders of Relationship

The Model of Interactive Levels as a Basic Metaphor of NIG

The Inner and External Family

The Model of Levels: Supporting the Client’s Understanding

A Change of Viewpoint

Resolution and Resource Orientation

Goals and Resolutions

The Concept of the Goal as a Basic Internal Image

Context Orientation of a Concept of Goals

Achievement of Goals Is Not Really in Our Hands

Goals Are “Attractors” (Robert Dilts)

The Path as the Goal

The State of Needing No More Advice (de Shazer)

Other Resources

Resources, Deficits, and Traumas

Systemic Bond Trauma (Franz Ruppert)

Causes Are Convictions, Not Facts (Robert Dilts)

Psycho-Aesthetics and Psycho-Geography (Robert Dilts)

Messages to the Unconscious

Indirect Suggestion and Dialogue with the Unconscious

The Image is the Message

Real or Unreal?

Synaesthesia, Interactive Sensory Experience

The Physical Body as a Source of Intuition and as Sensor

Organization of the Self in Dialogue with the Unconscious

Feelings in NIG

Foreign Feelings in Individual Work

Positive Intentions and Primary Love


Unconscious, Co-Conscious, and the Greater Soul

Basic Natural Orders and Movements of the Soul

Empathy and Representatives’ Awareness

Constellations, Representations, and Imagining

Paradoxical Structures of the Soul

Life Gestalting


4.Tools of Neuro-Imaginative Gestalting

Spatial Anchors

Looking Through the Eyes of Another

Looking Through the Eyes of Another Family Member

Looking Through the Eyes of “The Old Person”

Looking Through the Eyes of the Child

Looking Through the Eyes of a Resource Person

Observing from the Meta-Position

Living Metaphors

Circular Questioning


Giving Back a Stone or Other Object

Bowing Down

The Line of Mothers or Fathers

Rituals in the Imagination

Spoken Sentences


Sentences of Resolution or Sentences of Power

The Attitude of the Therapist

Observing and Seeing

Using the Non-Dominant Hand

5.Practical Guide to NIG



Variations and Adaptations

Interview Questions


Working with the Sketches

Time Frames

Dealing with Strong Emotions

6.Description of Procedures

How to Use the Descriptions of Procedures


Structures: A Basis for Creative Processes

The Meta-Position

The View from Outside

Description of Procedure: Meta-Position

Interrupting Patterns

Behaviour Patterns: Problems and Exceptions

Description of Procedure: Basic Structure of Interrupting Patterns

Description of Procedures: Interrupting Pattern – Extended Version

Developing Skills

Positive Experiences as Anchors

Description of Procedures: Developing Skills

The Life Path

The Life Path: Finding Resources for the Next Step

The Basic Structure

When in the Therapeutic Process?

Criteria for an Appropriate Goal

Description of Procedures: Basic Structure: “Life Path”

Description of Procedures: “Life Path” – Extended Version

Family Image or Family Constellation as Complement to the Life Path

An Image of the Family

Seeing Family Relationships Through Other Eyes

Description of Procedures

Representation of the Family Image Combined with Other NIG Elements

Description of Procedures

Family Image – Extended Version

Family Constellations


At What Point in the Therapeutic Process

Typical Objections and Questions

What Information is Necessary?

Choice of People

Examples of Possible Applications

Description of Procedures: Family Constellations

A Family Constellation and Life Path: The Core of NIG


Re-Imprinting and Changing the View of Past Trauma

Description of Procedures: Basic Structure: Re-Imprinting

Basic Information about Re-Imprinting and Family Constellations

Case Example of Re-Imprinting and a Family Constellation

Description of Procedures: Re-Imprinting and Family Constellations

Additional Exercise: Healing the Inner Child

Two Sides

Ambivalence: The Inability to Make Decisions

Inner Divisions as Two Sides of the Same Coin

The Shadow

Dialogue between the Inner Divisions

Description of Procedure: Basic Structure: “Two Sides”

Description of Procedures: Two Sides – Extended Version

“Two Sides” as Phases on the Life Path

Inner Divisions in Systemic Terms

Allowing Polarities to Remain


Observing and Predicting


Continuing to Draw on Your Own

7.Applications of Neuro-Imaginative Gestalting

NIG in Individual Therapy and Counselling with Adults

NIG with Children

NIG in Couples Therapy

NIG as a Self-Help Tool

NIG in a Group Setting

Bringing In Various NIG Elements

Image of the Family

Description of Procedures: Basic Structure of the Family Image in a Group Setting

Extended Family Image

NIG in Supervision

8.Extending Applications to Other Methods

The Practice of Integration

NIG as a Way of Integrating Family Constellation with Other Methods

NIG as a Complement to Family Constellations

Example Kinesiology

Short Introduction to Kinesiology

A Model of the Five Levels of Healing

Reciprocal Effects of Kinesiology and NIG

Practical Example of the Complementary Use of NIG and Kinesiology

9.Case Examples

Case Examples: Barbara Innecken

The Meta-Position: Advice of the Wise Woman

Interrupting Patterns: The Rucksacks

The Life Path: All a Child Needs is Love

Two Sides: Something is Still Missing Here!

Positive Intentions of Symptoms: Stress as a Helper

Two Sides: “Solitude and Solidarity”, Using Representatives from the Group

Line of Resolutions: Everyone Belongs

Case Example: Eva Madelung: Line of Resolutions

The Client’s Report

The Therapist’s Report


10. The Existential Paradox

Two Kinds of Reality?

Variable and Immutable: Two Sides of One Coin

Belonging and Autonomy

The Aspects of Belonging and Autonomy in Therapeutic Approaches

Manifest Reality and Created Reality in Everyday Experiences

Existential Paradox and the Paradoxical Structure of the Soul

11. The Limited Value of Theoretical Considerations

The Brain: “Just” for Survival?


Underlying Metaphors as Theory for Family Constellations

NLP’s Grounding in Cognitive Science

Practical Value of Theory

12. Closing Discourse

Barbara Innecken: The Two Trees

Eva Madelung: A Short Personal History of Paradox

Looking Through Another’s Eyes

Time and Eternity: Epilogue Scene



When I first came to this book, I was already familiar with the systemic-constructivist model, work with constellations, and the solution orientation of Steve de Shazer’s approach. I knew somewhat less about Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). Neuro-Imaginative Gestalting (NIG) consists of an artful and harmonious blend of elements taken from these four approaches and creatively developed by Eva Madelung and, consequently, I was not expecting to find much that was new to me in this book by Eva Madelung and Barbara Innecken.

The book took me by surprise and I discovered otherwise. It confirmed again for me, that through a creative combining of known elements, it is possible to create something innovative and stimulating that is then receptive to further development.

This book is also proof that one can present complex procedures in a way that is clear and accessible to readers and practitioners. Particularly for those who rely on language as their primary medium in therapy and counselling, NIG offers a wide variety of visual methods and exercises. The reader finds himself eager to try them out immediately. Additionally, the attention to differentiated physical perceptions provides access to a more extensive experience of differences and relationships. This provides a broader, more diverse spectrum in one’s approach to clients.

It is a treat that the introduction to the theoretical bases is held within limits, without starting back at Adam and Eve. The basic premises behind the applied method are presented briefly, in meaningful relation to each other and to the applications in NIG, and differences and common features noted. Due to the condensed presentation of the theoretical background, it sometimes assumes the compressed outlines of a woodcutting, and complexities are, of course, simplified; however the more comprehensive literature is signposted.

Eva Madelung and Barbara Innecken rightfully concentrate on the part of the book with a practical orientation. This is the heart and core of the book and of the method. Didactically seen, the sequence moves from a general focus to particular exercises and procedures, and then back again to a more inclusive level at the end. It is a book that never bores, never preaches, and never drives the reader down one track only. The case examples and graphics consistently deepen and clarify one’s understanding of the written text.

One does not have a feeling of having stumbled into a jumbled collection of methods. It is much more the case that the reader can see flexible and varied ways in therapy and counselling to accompany and support a client in the direction of the goal, using various vehicles and various speeds. One can, metaphorically speaking, follow along as a client swims forward in a river, then changes to a car and takes a short cut, and finally, walking along a path and nearing the self-assigned goal, he perhaps pilots down the home stretch in a plane. We have the rewarding experience of seeing how, in this process, the client masters dams in the river, one-way streets, or bad weather fronts, as well as resources. The travellers generally seem to discover these ways themselves and independently open up paths and move closer to their goals.

Above all, one feels the resource- and solution-orientated attitude that respects the clients’ autonomy and a basic systemic orientation. To name a few main points, it includes the following: Context sensitivity, circularity of time perspectives, access to a neutral perspective, increasing and decreasing the breadth of focus, moving back and forth between problem and solution (thereby loosening up solutions), anticipating reciprocal effects in a system as a result of a behaviour change of one member, deconstruction, handling ambivalence, and so on.

In view of all the polemic discussion about family constellations, it is a relief to see that it is treated very naturally here as one basic method amongst others. Thereby, the work in family constellations, as developed by Bert Hellinger (Hellinger, Weber a. Beaumont 1998), can be positively enriched by other elements, such as constellations of inner parts of the self, systemic structure constellations (Varga v. Kibéd and Sparrer 2003, Sparrer 2004), or NLP.

The particular strength of this book lies in the orientation towards practice which shows clearly, step-by-step, how, especially in counselling or therapy in an individual setting, various systemic methods and elements can be creatively combined, or used one after another in a series of sessions. These are applicable in the area of personal history, but also in systemically determined patterns. In this regard, this book is an excellent complement to the latest book by Ursula Franke (2003).

The authors themselves clearly state that NIG is not a complete method of psychotherapy in and of itself. When used by experienced practitioners, there is a light, almost playful quality to the descriptions. Anyone planning to use this method, however, should have a solid background and training in one of the acknowledged psychotherapeutic or counselling methods.

Although it may sound contradictory, I would say, at the same time, that readers can experiment themselves with many of the procedures described in this book and achieve positive results.

It is a stimulating and meaningful book that I hope finds many readers.

Gunthard WeberWiesloch, July 2003

1. Introduction

Dear Reader,

There is a widespread assumption among fiction writers that a reader participates in the creation of the book, and the form evolves out of a dialogue between the writer and the reader. Although that is mostly a concern of literary convention, the concept is valid in a broader sense. Anyone who has discussed a particular book with a friend is aware that for each person, what is drawn from the book or even read into the book is personal and individual.

In the case of this book, this means that by selecting the chapters that are most pertinent and intriguing to you, you can create a book to be read and used according to your particular preferences. In a comprehensive table of contents and cross-referenced text, we have attempted to create a tool that is workable from any point of entry. Those who lean towards theoretical issues, for example, could start with “The Existential Paradox” and the “Basic Foundation and Principles”. Those who are more interested in practical applications may want to look at the descriptions of the actual process, and return to the basic explanations later. Others might wish to begin with the chapter on “Neuro-Imaginative Gestalting”.

If you are one of those people, as we are, who wants to know who did what in a co-operative effort, Eva Madelung contributed the material that is primarily theoretically orientated, as well as one case study, and Barbara Innecken was responsible primarily for the explanations of process, the applications in practice, and the remaining case studies. There was, naturally, a constant dialogue between us and a reciprocal exchange of ideas and adaptation.

To spare the reader the cumbersome use of multiple pronouns to include males and females, in the discussions we have used masculine and feminine forms alternately. Any imbalance in one direction or the other is unintentional.


Bert Hellinger’s family constellations were developed as a group therapy form, and the resulting insights have found their way into individual therapy in various ways. This is understandable, since Hellinger’s phenomenological stance opens a new dimension in therapy and counselling that has a place in many different approaches.

Compared to the number of books about constellations in groups, by Hellinger himself as well as other colleagues, there has been relatively little written about the potential for this work in an individual setting (cf. Franke 2003; Schneider 1998). This does not correspond to the actual situation, since family constellations are increasingly being included in individual therapy in various forms. The approach and the procedures influence and are included in individual therapy in widely differing ways, and constellations may also be recommended as a complementary adjunct to the on-going therapy process.


Neuro-Imaginative Gestalting (NIG), a method developed by Eva Madelung and further developed by Barbara Innecken, combines elements of NLP, brief therapy according to de Shazer, and the Heidelberg School of family therapy, with the family constellation work of Bert Hellinger, and also includes aspects of art therapy and body work. It is a method appropriate to individual therapy and counselling.

NIG is an open rather than self-contained method. Just as it evolved out of the integration of various therapeutic approaches, it may develop further through the reciprocal effects of merging with other methods, thereby stimulating therapeutic creativity. It is only one of many ways of integrating a systemic approach into individual therapy.

In order to work competently, a therapist must have adequate training in another approach to therapy or counselling, sufficient practical experience, and personal awareness and experience. Knowledge of NIG alone is not enough to do therapy or counselling. Anyone choosing to use the NIG approach for their own personal development does so at their own risk.

It is beyond the scope of this book to present the complex approaches that have influenced NIG, as these have been described in detail in other literature. Therefore, we have restricted ourselves to a skeletal presentation of the basic principles and tools in individual therapy.


In order to use NIG in individual or group therapy, in counselling, or as a self-help procedure, a knowledge of NLP is helpful but not absolutely necessary, as the process and effects of working with individual aspects of NIG are described in detail. We consider an understanding of Bert Hellinger’s family constellation work important, but it is only absolutely essential as a prerequisite for the element of family constellations in NIG (see p. 86).

We have made every effort to present the background and the procedures in such a way that those trained in the areas mentioned, or in other classical or humanistic methods, can apply this material and gain their own experience and understanding. Each person can then determine whether the information is sufficient or if further training of some kind would be useful.


Before we turn to the more serious contents of the book, we would like to share with you, our readers, how we found our way to this book, or, how we let ourselves be found.

Barbara Innecken: How I Came to This Book

It must have made quite a picture on a hot summer afternoon in southern Italy: A holiday house by the sea, two children playing on the beach with strict instructions not to go into the water nor into the house. Inside, the father, clad in a bathing suit, is reading aloud to the mother from a book. As the father reads, the mother is busy moving back and forth through the room with papers and pencils and a look of concentration.

What was going on? The book in this true story was Eva Madelung’s book on brief therapies, Kurztherapien. Neue Wege zur Lebensgestaltung [Brief Therapies. New Pathways to Life Gestalting], reading material suggested by Ilse Kutschera and Helmut Eichenmüller, my NLP and family constellations teachers at that time. Both of them were concerned with presenting systemic therapy in a broad context. I had packed the book in my suitcase and found time between beach and pasta to read it. I followed the presentation of the various brief therapies with interest, making a few notes and thinking a bit about it, when suddenly I was wide awake. Under the puzzling title Neuro-Imaginative Gestalting, I discovered precise instructions for an exercise that was called The Life Path (cf. p. 76). I have always found the long summer holiday, far from the obligations of everyday life, conducive to self-reflection, and this concept spoke to me immediately. I tried to read through the exercise and do it at the same time, which was only moderately successful. So I then asked my husband to lend his assistance, and he patiently accompanied me along the “life path” through an incredible amount of paper.

The Italian meeting with Neuro-Imaginative Gestalting has had a lasting effect. Later, at home, I began using the two exercises described in the brief therapy book in my peer group, in a supervision group, and in my practice. I experimented with ways of integrating them into existing treatment concepts in my psychotherapy and speech therapy practice. At that time, my methodology was based on the applications of kinesiology, systemic psychokinesiology, and, increasingly, family constellations. I quickly discovered that each session took its own particular course, which only partly followed the suggested exercises, an experience that aroused my curiosity. My colleagues, my clients, and myself all shared a similar enthusiasm for the work with NIG, and as far as I could tell in that short time, the effects were also very rewarding and often surprising.

I knew Eva Madelung from our systemic kinesiology group, and at some point I decided to contact her to find out how I could learn more about NIG. She suggested that I come into her practice and learn more NIG exercises through personal experience and supervision; an offer I was happy to accept. Eva was a calm and sensitive guide who never interfered, but also never wavered. In that setting, the personal and professional experience I developed went far beyond learning a few exercises. To give you an impression of my experience, I have described my first session in NIG, “the two trees”, in the last chapter of this book.

The end of the story is quickly told. At some point I asked Eva why she didn’t publish this practical and valuable method in a book. She said she didn’t want to write any more professional books. On the one hand, of course, I respected this position, but on the other hand, I couldn’t let go of the idea of a book about Neuro-Imaginative Gestalting. Since I had had some experience with writing myself, I cautiously asked Eva if she would consider writing this book with me. The answer to my question did not come for some months, but when it did, it was a firm yes.

The results of our co-operative efforts are now in your hands, dear reader, and we hope that you will discover something in it that serves as a stimulus for you, and perhaps accompanies you for a while on your own personal and professional path.

Eva Madelung: How This Book Came to Me

Years ago when I wrote the book Kurztherapien. Neue Wege zur Lebensgestaltung (Madelung 1996), I had intended to complete it with a practical book in which the abbreviated description of NIG would be described in detail. However, when the book was finished, this idea faded as other plans took its place. I didn’t really think any more about actually doing it, even though I got a lot of positive feedback from colleagues who learned the method in my training groups.

From time to time, various colleagues who were already working with NIG came to me asking for supervision. In fact, it was just such a request that brought Barbara Innecken to my practice. As she has described above, she had already been applying what was presented in the brief therapy book. Since I was no longer offering training by that time, she opted to learn more through personal experience and supervision.

I was astounded when, after a time, she asked if I would write a book about this method. Following my initial refusal, she came back with the idea of writing a practical book co-operatively with her. Although I felt pleased about her offer and the recognition implicit in it, I still hesitated because I had plans for a different project. There was, however, some material from my training programme that I put at Barbara’s disposal. From this material she came up with a layout, and I was hooked.

I am now very thankful to Barbara for taking the initiative. Without her competent work this book would never have come to fruition. I hope that it provides a therapeutic stimulus for the readers and rouses a few new thoughts. It is a summary of my therapeutic work, and in the conclusion, I have included a few references to my own personal experience and the understanding I have reached through this work.

2. Neuro-Imaginative Gestalting (NIG)


In the early nineties, I attended many training seminars with Robert Dilts, who, together with Richard Bandler and John Grinder, belonged to the first generation of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). I learned some essentials with Dilts which later, from my own practice and in combination with other methods, I developed further into Neuro-Imaginative Gestalting.

The name “Neuro-Imaginative Gestalting” is an indication that this method is a variation of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. The word “neuro” refers to the fact that proceeding in this way with inner images has to do with neuro-psychologically conditioned effects, just as is true in NLP.

Substituting “imaginative” for “linguistic” was prompted because in NLP, a major consideration is the attention to language as the tool of expression, and here the attention is shifted to expression through the creation of images. In NLP, ideas are described in words. In NIG, in addition to the linguistic description, we have a pictorial representation. What the two methods have in common is an awareness of unconscious body signals. In NIG there is also a focus on the unconscious signals included in the pictorial representation (cf. p. 61).

Replacing the term “programming” with “gestalting” was particularly important for me, because I have never really felt comfortable with the programming metaphor, which in any case only represents a half-truth (cf. p. 27). It implies that the human brain is “conditioned” completely from the outside, and that a therapist can programme a client for health without the individual’s participation.

From what I have personally experienced and in my practice, the metaphor of an inner artist who uses inner and external conditions to permit the emergence of an appropriate pattern of living seems to me to be more suitable. Therefore, the term “life gestalting” was particularly close to my heart, as expressed in the sub-title of my book Kurztherapien. Neue Wege zur Lebensgestaltung. Additionally, I wanted to set myself apart from the emphasis on “personal power” that is so prominently represented by some NLP trainers and clients. That approach, in which a goal, independent of content and the effects of the environment, can supposedly be created when visualized in the proper way, is non-systemic in my opinion. Even when it is successful, which may happen in some cases, it does not generally lead to a lasting solution if other aspects are simply excluded.

I must add, however, that in no way are all NLP trainers proponents of this one-sided approach. With Robert Dilts, one can learn an NLP approach that in many ways relies on a context orientation.


As described in my brief therapy book, NIG was developed in several stages. The first experience was a therapy with a suicidal client for whom painting was the most important tool of expression and eventually became a resource.

Then the work with floor anchors with Robert Dilts was added. In this method, the images relevant to the therapy, such as the image of a goal, the image of the present with its problems, or the images of resources, are not only described verbally and anchored with touch, as is generally the case in NLP, but are described verbally and then with the help of sheets of typing paper they are laid out on the floor. In this way, the client can physically move back and forth between the images. In doing so, the body is incorporated as a “source of intuition” (cf. p. 40).

In my practice this quickly led to the use of symbols such as stones, seeds, and coloured felt squares instead of blank papers. In a demonstration of work with a “life path” in a group, sketches were added to the blank papers. This idea arose out of the situation at that time, and had positive effects that convinced me to adopt the self-creation of spatial anchors in my individual practice.

Laying out self-created images or coloured felt squares also proved useful in doing family constellations in individual therapy, whereas up to this time I had used pillows for this purpose. The concrete process of entering into the inner images and moving between them made a more authentic feedback possible, coupled with a precise awareness of physical reactions.


The essential characteristic of systemic therapies is the fact that here it is not the individual who commands attention in the foreground, but rather the relationship connections. A person is always seen as a part of his family or a general human relationship system. This is called “context orientation”.


A part of the systemic viewpoint comes from an observation of quantum physics that the observer and the observed have reciprocal effects, and therefore, there is no objective reality independent from the observer.

Diagram: Model of the reality of reciprocal effects

My brief therapy book already includes this model of the reality of reciprocal effects in which the circular triad of perception, inner images, and feeling is the most important element, and is connected to a similarly reciprocal triad of representation, action, and environment (Madelung 1996).

This means: What people experience as real is not objective reality. A construct of reality always occurs in the reciprocal effects between various aspects. That is, it is always a co-construction in relationship with others from inside and outside the family. The systemic and constructivist viewpoints are closely related.

Using this model, you can also see which point in the reciprocal system you are working on therapeutically at any given moment. For example, if a sketch of an inner image is representative of communication, in the lower right hand corner, the process of sketching affects the inner image and at the same time alters the perception of the situation and possibly also the feeling state. According to the schema, regardless of where you intervene, the entire system of relationship is set in motion, with a resulting change in the whole.

From the underlying basis of this model, it is also clear that NIG is systemic in the multiple reciprocal effects of all components. By creating images and through the physical act of laying them out and stepping into them, the client experiences that certain images have an effect on feelings and her state of being. On the other hand, she experiences, through body awareness, the effects of the representation on the original image, which again has an effect on the feeling state and vice versa. In this way, in a circular interplay between the elements of reality, a psychic reality is constructed which can have a positive, lasting influence on her outlook on life and how she feels.


As mentioned above, NLP often pays little or no attention to relationship connections. Incorporating family constellations in NIG addresses this deficit. One learns not only to look at life’s circumstances from different angles in order to find resolutions, but also to look through the eyes of another (cf. p. 51). The dimension of the basic orders of relationships (cf. p. 45) is also brought into the process.


In NIG we assume that the systemic-constructivist approach and the systemic-phenomenological approach are both justifiable. Both correspond to our life experience of our own psychic reality (cf. p. 29). The created reality of the constructivist approach is complemented by the manifested reality of the phenomenological approach of Bert Hellinger. This weaves a metaphor of our experience of life and the world that corresponds more closely to reality than is the case when only one of these aspects is acknowledged. Therefore, a basic principle of NIG is to take both of these approaches into consideration.


The American ethnologist and philosopher, Gregory Bateson, suggested that artistic endeavours can provide a creative response to double bind situations (Bateson 1972). There are actually artists who, in psychotic like states, have been able to help themselves through their artistic expression.

In the sixties and seventies, as systemic therapy was being developed in the USA, there was also movement in the art scene. John Cage, for example, said, “Art is a kind of research laboratory in which you try out life. You don’t stop living while you’re busy creating art, and when you live … you don’t stop creating art.” (Cage 1991). Predominant at that time was a search for a direct connection between art and life. “(Art) is concerned with changes in the habits of hearing and seeing, and the mind”, said Cage (1991), and identified one of the most important instruments of systemic therapy, the change of viewpoint, that is, re-framing.

In Germany, Joseph Beuys repeatedly emphasized the life-shaping and therapeutic aspects of modern art. This was convincingly summarized and presented by Gertraud Schottenloher who, among other things, maintained that the “actual goal of therapy, the shaping of self and life, was closely connected to art in ancient times” (Schottenloher and Schnell 1994, p.17). Considering the direct connection to life modern art often strives for, it appears appropriate today to include artistic creation in therapeutic procedures. Along with art therapy, we have music therapy, dance therapy, creative writing, and so on. The question always comes up in discussion whether psychotherapy isn’t closer to an art than to a science, an idea I think is worthy of consideration.


NIG is a “psychotherapy with art components”, as Schottenloher rightfully distinguishes it from actual art therapy (Schottenloher and Schnell). “Working on a picture”, and the artistic process that plays a central role in art therapy, is replaced here with “working with the picture” in the systemic sense. This “working with the picture” includes a spatial arrangement of pictures, physical movement, and attention to body awareness in the therapeutic process.

NIG is a way for therapists who work systemically to enrich their work with creative elements, lending a particular quality of self-awareness. The client has to feel completely free from any artistic expectations. That also means that he is free to choose whether he completes a detailed sketch or just a symbol on the paper (for example, a letter, a number, or a word). He decides himself whether his sketch will be abstract, objective, or something else.