You too may have noticed that the term “systemic” is increasingly present in the news to talk about serious dysfunctions within an institution. Thus, the bishops of France, during their last Plenary Assembly, recognized the systemic responsibility of the Church in the sexual abuse perpetrated within it. Another example, the investigation report published recently following complaints of rape and aggravated violence filed by patients of a hospital gynecologist concluded that there were individual but also collective and systemic dysfunctions.
To better understand what it is, I immersed myself in the so-called systemic current of psychotherapies. What is a system? It is first of all two things: the elements that constitute it and the interactions between them. For example, an ecosystem is more than a set of animal and plant species, a hospital service is more than the numbers that make it up, the Church is not just the number of the baptized. It is then an end: the maintenance of life for the ecosystem, care for the hospital, the announcement of the resurrection of Christ for the Church.
According to the systemic approach developed by the Palo Alto School, two types of change can affect a system: type 1 change which occurs within the system, and type 2 change which modifies the system itself. . The first is of the order of adaptation. This is a correction which operates on such and such an element of the system but which does not change it as such. For example, modifying the number of deputies in the National Assembly under IVand Republic or give a bonus to exhausted nurses. Sometimes useful to meet a new need, this change by adjustment will show its limits if the context changes in depth.
Most conflicts would thus come from situations where change 1 is insufficient: the problem is denied, utopian or technocratic solutions are put forward, paradoxical situations are created, we look through the small end of the telescope, whereas it is the whole system that should be redefined. A type 2 change is then necessary. It is characterized by the fact that it is the system itself which is modified or which is modified; in our examples, instituting the Vand Republic or review the responsibilities and place of nurses in relation to the entire health system. What characterizes this type 2 is that it is not just about measures, working groups and action plans. It is above all about a reinterpretation of reality. Most often, it results from an event that is significant enough in the life of a group to generate a change in its vision of the world and in the relationships between the actors.
All this to share with you the questions I have about two human systems that are dear to me, the health system and the Church. First, what type of change do they each need to meet their goals: adaptation (type 1) or transformation (type 2)? I would go for the second, given the seriousness of the crises he is going through. Then, how not to fall into the trap of scoops and the illusion of seemingly common-sense solutions that would only maintain the system as it is? When I look at initiators of profound change (type 2) like Lech Walesa, Nelson Mandela or Francis of Assisi, what strikes me is that they did not proclaim themselves reformers and did not claim anything for them … Perhaps good criteria for discernment in the current hubbub.