Working with Body, Head and Heart
Family Constellations was originally developed by Bert Hellinger as a process that unfolds within a workshop setting. Hellinger lived as a Roman Catholic priest in South Africa for 16 years in the 1950s and 1960s. During these years, he became fluent in the Zulu language, participated in Zulu rituals, and gained an appreciation for the Zulu worldview. Of particular importance is the difference between traditional Zulu attitudes toward parents and ancestors and those typically held by Europeans. The connection with ancestors is a central feature of the Constellation process
In a single session, a Family Constellation attempts to reveal an unrecognized dynamic that spans multiple generations in a given family and to resolve the deleterious effects of that dynamic by encouraging the subject, through representatives, to encounter and accept the factual reality of the past.
Practitioners claim that present-day problems and difficulties may be influenced by traumas suffered in previous generations of the family, even if those affected are unaware of the original event. Hellinger referred to the relation between present and past problems that are not caused by direct personal experience as systemic entanglements, said to occur when unresolved trauma has afflicted a family through an event such as murder, suicide, death of a mother in childbirth, early death of a parent or sibling, war, natural disaster, emigration, or abuse
Over the years, the process has moved into other types of settings that includes, individual, one-on-one constellation. Using the Family Constellations modality, we can open a space to explore whatever it is that is keeping you from living a full life.
How is Family Constellations different from the other therapies that are already available?
Firstly, there is less talking about the issue and less re-telling of the ‘story’ that is behind the discomfort being experienced. You the client and I the facilitator will approach the issue in a different way – we will work in a still space, outside the linear time that we experience in our daily life. We will also explore the wider, generational system that you are part of, and how the patterns and events of the past may be impacting your present life and the lives of your partner and children.
How does an individual family constellations session work?
As in a workshop setting, the individual family constellation session begins with you the client setting up a 3-dimensional representation of your ‘inner image’, your internal picture of your family. The family members or elements belonging to the issue that you bring to the session are represented by small figures or placement cards. In fact any object may be used as a stand-in to take the place of what is in a workshop setting with a live representative.
Guided by the underlying principles of family constellations
In this individual setting we do not have the voices of live representatives; however, we are still guided by the same underlying principles of family constellations:
Belonging – who belongs (in this family, in this group), who is excluded Order – who comes first (in the sibling birth order; order of parents/partners, orders of the wider system)
Balance – is there balance between giving and taking (the giving of parents to the child and the taking of the child from parents)
You the client are guided by a ‘felt sense’, a felt experience of what changes each time one of the elements of your inner image (externalized by the 3-dimensional picture) moves, or when a new element or person is introduced into the constellation image. Working with this externalized image also allows you some distance, enabling you to have a meta-view of your issue. This can allow you more easily to move away from being stuck in the story of the problem. The hidden knowledge that lies underneath ‘the story’ is what can be accessed through trusting the responses of your body during the constellation process. The uncovering of what has been unseen allows a new movement, a new way of telling your story. This, in turn, opens up the possibility of telling a new story that can carry a new meaning and new ways of acting and being in your world.
This is the power of using the Family Constellations modality – stepping away from story and words, and working with what is hidden in our family systems, using the deep wisdom of our bodies. Working with this modality also allows us to access the wisdoms and support from others, that we often feel cut off from when we are in crisis.