A Look at the Family Constellations Process
The Family Constellations therapeutic approach as developed by Bert Hellinger, is a process by which we can access the deepest dynamics in our own family systems in order to reveal powerful, effective sources of healing and strength. We look at these dynamics to better understand the underlying forces at work that may not be known to our current members. This may include hidden loyalties, subliminal identifications and embedded patterns which were established long ago. Once these entanglements are revealed, they can be integrated into a solution that encompasses everyone and everything that belongs to the family, without judgment.
The following is a generalized description of how a constellation session progresses:
Most constellations are conducted in a group setting, but they can also be very effective one-on-one. It begins with the client stating his or her foremost emotional problem or concern. As the facilitator, I focus on the spot in the client’s narrative where there is enough energy to begin the constellation process. In a group setting, the client is often asked to select a number of people who may represent certain members of his or her family. For example, I might select certain group members to symbolize the mother and father, the siblings, or a brother who died at birth. Experience and intuition will be my guide.
At this point, the client is asked to position the representatives in relation to one another. This period cannot be rushed. But, what are we waiting for? We wait for the movements that emerge from a shared plane of existence – what some call the knowing field, or the morphogenic field.
As all the participants in the constellation, (the client, their representatives and engaged witnesses) tune into the family group, critically important feelings emerge and the representatives begin to “receive” and assume a deep understanding of those persons they represent.
The “bad marriage” of a client’s grandparent might have simply been a complicated but loving relationship. The unhappy relationship with a stern, distant father might actually conceal the survivor’s guilt he felt because his wife had committed suicide. Another client cannot understand why she’s always angry with her husband until she realizes that she cannot bear to be happier than her mother was. But when she sees her mother smiling as she stands beside her “husband,” she can look toward her own husband with new, more loving eyes.
And on and on.
What we experience in the constellations process is that our problems – physical, emotional and psychological – may be linked to actual events and real people not part of our contemporary experience. They may be connected to deeper need in your family system: a longing to be remembered, or acknowledged, or just being heard. Once we’re able to identify why and when the natural flow of love was diverted or blocked, (perhaps many generations back) we can listen, acknowledge the past and embrace our future.
This deep and humble movement may very well remove a mass of denial so that the whole family system can find balance. At the very least, you’ll find our own place within your family system and will experience the humility and power of being one of many, versus one alone.
About Bert Hellinger:
“A person’s greatness is that which makes him/her equal to others”
Widely regarded as one of the most influential and effective psychotherapists in the world today, Hellinger acknowledges several important influences on his life and work: his parents, whose faith immunized him against accepting Hitler’s National Socialism; his 20 years spent as a priest and missionary with the South African Zulus; and his participation in interracial, ecumenical training in group dynamics led by Anglican clergy. After leaving the priesthood, he immersed himself in the study of the major forms of psychotherapy, including Psychoanalysis, Gestalt Therapy, Primal Therapy, Transactional Analysis and Family Systems Therapy, out of which, the Family Constellation Work evolved. To learn more about Bert Hellinger, please visit http://www.hellinger.com
Order and Love Work Together
Identifying what he terms, “the Orders of Love,” Hellinger observed that certain governing principles must be respected for the love within a family to flow in a healthy way. And that when these orders are disturbed, for example, when a child tries to take on the fate of a parent, suffering and unhappiness ensue. Hellinger found that each member in our family holds a special place and has an equal right to belong to the family system. This applies equally to stillborn and aborted babies, as well as to the failures and perpetrators in our family who may have been rejected for reasons of immorality, criminal misconduct, or abuse. If any member of the family is disrespected, forgotten, excluded, or disregarded in some way, someone in a later generation may repeat his or her fate by sharing a similar misfortune. Only when we acknowledge and honor the difficult fates of those who’ve preceded us, can the “Orders of Love” be reestablished and the chain of tragic destinies be repaired.