This is a translation (by Henry D. Cooke) of the FOREWORDof my book: "Chaos, Angst und Ordnung. Wie wir unsere Lebenswelt gestalten" (engl.: Chaos, Fear and Order. How we Shape our Existence), which is published in October 1997 by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen.


With this book I would like to invite the reader to join me on a long journey. The route will take us through all those different areas of our "Lebenswelt" (life world or world of lived experience) which are influenced by the interplay of chaos and order.

Our journey will begin from the personal point of reference of the individual, who, to be sure, is never entirely alone in this world. This first stage will be devoted to heightening our awareness of the choices we make regarding our constantly changing position in the field of tension between chaos and order, a position which must always be found somewhere between the creative, unique and unpredictable, and thus startling and frightening, on the one hand, and the recurring, predictable, safe and familiar, and thus boring and rigidly regulated on the other hand.

Here I consider it important both to show respect for the efforts which are necessary to wrest a comprehensible order from incomprehensible chaos and to point out the danger of this order easily taking on compulsive forms. This danger is particularly great when we try to achieve order solely by means of control, instead of also trusting in that order which is forever unfolding naturally. Such trust does not come easily, although we see ourselves - even in the narrow framework of rational discourse - as part of an evolutionary process, a process in which a miraculous creative force appeared and developed over millions of years without any assistance from mankind whatsoever.

By undertaking a change of perspective, away from the individual point of reference to that of the rules and systems of order in social relationships, we arrive in a second area, in whose center we find the creative power of chaos as a means of reviving rigid, encrusted relationships (including those to oneself). The governing theme "control rather than trust" is also all too often encountered in interpersonal relationships and systems-oriented psychotherapy involving individuals, couples and families is devoted in particular to this problem.

The determining of one's position in the field of tension between chaos and order, both individually and socially, takes place within the context of more general concepts. For our society the models produced by three hundred years of western science are of particular importance. When we turn to this area the same basic pattern becomes clear: the legitimate need of the human being for security has been distorted by science in its attempts to achieve this security solely by means of the greatest possible control. However, the limits and the "side effects" of progress, in the shape of its enormous destructive potential, are becoming ever more apparent. And the necessary rethinking of our understanding of "progress" requires us to ask ourselves to what degree the fear-removing, trust-building stance of (holistic) psychotherapy can show the way even in scientific endeavor.

Our excursion would be unsatisfactory for me if it did not also take us to the limits of our knowledge of chaos and order. This is the area under discussion in the last chapter. In this case "limits" is to be understood both as fascinating, challenging "frontiers" and as a humble admission of our "limitations".