“I feel very strongly that I am under the influence of things or questions which were left incomplete and unanswered by my parents and grandparents and more distant ancestors. It often seems as if there were an impersonal karma within a family, which is passed on from parents to children. It has always seemed to me that I had to…..complete, or perhaps continue, things which previous ages had left unfinished.”
Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections
The history you share with your family begins before you are even conceived. In your earliest biological form, as an unfertilized egg, you already share a cellular environment with your mother and grandmother.
When your grandmother was five months pregnant with your mother, the precursor cell of the egg you developed from was already present in your mother’s ovaries.
This means that before your mother was even born, your mother, your grandmother, and the earliest traces of you were all in the same body—three generations sharing the same biological environment. This isn’t a new idea: embryology textbooks have told us as much for more than a century.
Your inception can be similarly traced in your paternal line. The precursor cells of the sperm you developed from were present in your father when he was a fetus in his mother’s womb. With what we’re now learning, from the Yehuda studies and others, about the ways stress can be inherited, we can begin to map out how the biological residue of traumas your grandmother or grandfather experienced can be passed down, with far-reaching consequences.
Additionally the cell biologist Bruce Lipton shows that our DNA can be affected by both negative and positive thoughts, beliefs, and emotions.
Bert Hellinger, the father and founder of Systemic Constellations which we colloquially call Family Constellations, bases a lot of his work around three principles that are key in all our relationships; he has witnessed these principles working within human relationships during more than 50 years of work supporting and offering therapy to clients:
- Belonging – the need to belong, that is for bonding
- The need to maintain a balance of giving and taking, that is, for equilibrium
- The need for the safety of social convention and predictability, that is, for order
Also in order to belong in social groups and families, we must adhere to a set of rules, guidelines, beliefs and behaviors this means our behavior fits a certain order within that group, there is a predictability and this is important for safety and social survival.
Hellinger goes on to inform us that the three needs of Belonging, Equilibrium and Order, drive us in our daily life and so it was for our ancestors too. ‘These fundamental needs constrain our relationships and also make them thrive !
Our relationships thrive when we are able to fill these needs and balance them with one another and they become dysfunctional and destructive when we can’t.’
In Family Constellations Therapy we look for the source of patterns that repeats within families.
When you go to a Dr or many therapists you are working on present day issues in your life.
Not all presenting symptoms in a persons’ life are ‘present day’, sometimes they are linked to your family of origin.
When you are born, you are born as part of an existing family system, two in fact! your mothers and your fathers.
Who raised you does not replace the family you were born into.
In Family Constellations Therapy we look at what happened in these family systems i.e there may be secrets that affected a life or lives, there may be betrayal, lost or forbidden love, a person who was rejected and forgotten, someone may have gained financially and in life at another’s expense, there may be slavery, early deaths, miscarriages, someone may have gone to war and taken lives, people may have been killed in the Holocaust, or been a perpetrator – the list is endless and encompasses all of the human experience.
These actions that occurred in the past in a family system are held in future generations DNA, and can be played out in a person or persons life until they are seen, acknowledged, atoned or forgiven.
They may manifest in a person or persons as : unexplained illness, illness that appears at the same age in each generation, suicide, self-cutting, feeling unseen, rejecting family or being rejected by family, addiction, struggling to succeed in life or find ones life purpose, unexplained and out of character change to behavior at a certain age, unexplained large numbers of abortions or mis-carriages, cycles of poverty, struggling to hold onto money, lack of self-worth, dread of reaching a certain age and the list goes on.
Family Constellations Therapy works both in a private clinical setting 1:1 between the facilitator and the client and also in a group workshop setting.
In group work, the client sits with the facilitator and reveals what they are struggling with, or are seeking to change. The circle is held in deep respect and confidentiality for each client and their fate. When the facilitator has gauged ( felt into ), the key words / descriptors of the clients’ presenting issue and is clear about what changes they would like to see as a result of the work, they then decide who to set up from the clients family system.
More often than not, we start with Client, Mother, Father.
Sometimes we bring in a key grandparent, or a symptom such as an illness or overbearing emotion, even a country/ culture. The client goes around the circle and chooses representatives from the attendees and asks them if they will represent the person or thing that is being set up. The client typically chooses someone to represent themselves also. This gives the client the opportunity to watch all of the movements that take place without being overwhelmed or re-triggered.
Now comes the part of Family Constellations therapy that has to be experienced to be grasped!
The feelings, emotions, life experiences and relevant information ( of the real life people being represented ), comes through to the representatives. People attending the workshop who you have never met will experience symptoms, emotions, and an awareness of events that they could not possibly have prior information about.
This is the Phenomenological part of the therapy.
Based on where representatives are placed and then move themselves to in relation to other representatives enables the client and the facilitator to see relationships emerging between the elements and people who have been placed on the floor e.g. A daughter who has been caring for her parents ( instead of the other way around ), may move behind her parents and put her hands on their shoulders, now we see who is out of order. The daughter is out of place and ‘bigger’ than the parents, she is carrying a heavy burden, a child should not have to look after their parent.
This may be manifesting in her life as Chronic Fatigue, or she may struggle to move forward with her own life, and may not know what she really wants from life.
At this point, she would bow to her fate and her parents, she may also take all the burden of caring for her parents and with love hand it back to the, saying, I am just the little one but I took care of you.
We would bring in many, many strong and healthy ancestors to support the parents, and the daughter would say, I leave your illness, or inability to manage on your own in life with you. She would take her place beside her parents or even with them behind her, supporting her.
She may say, look kindly on me as I turn to face my life an find who I am and how I want to live.
If she had Chronic fatigue we would address the symptom as well and thank it for the role it played in her life and how it has shown her that she has been carrying too much.
There can be much more to a constellation, for example we may explore what the parents needed in order to be adults and to parent their daughter.
We always complete a constellation with a reframed image.
The client often steps in and takes the place of the representative at the pivotal moment when we are creating the reframe.
In this instance we can see the parents supported by many generations of strong healthy ancestors, and the daughter in front, supported by her parents and the ancestors, but she is facing ahead to her own life and all its possibilities.
Family Constellations Therapy is profound in what it reveals and the healing movements that follow when the key orders of love are in balance.
In all my experiences I have never come across ancestors who were negative in anyway, all they ever want is for their descendants to prosper, be happy and be well; it then gives profound meaning to their own lives and struggles.
NOTE REGARDING THE ORIGINS AND PRECEPTS BEHIND FAMILY CONSTELLATIONS : Bert Hellinger worked as a missionary priest in Zulu land for many years and it was there that he discovered that if the ancient order of the families and tribe is maintained healthily, that each member of the group may be strong, healthy and present.
In most indigenous cultures ‘I’ is not recognised in the same way that we live by it in the west, instead it is ‘we’ whether in relation to human connection and the fundamental need to exist in a group / family for safety and the passing on of wisdom, or ‘we’ in terms of the connection between humans, our planet, flora and fauna. Ultimately we are all connected and when we loose this connection we suffer and falter, when we embrace our connection to others, we embrace life itself.
 Wolynn, Mark. It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle (p. 25). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
 John Bowlby and his students have described the bonding that occurs between a mother and her children as critical for the survival of the helpless baby, Bert Hellinger has recognised the importance of the bonding between sexual partners, which ties them together quite independently of the love they may or may not feel for each other, the bonding referred to here can be either of those or also social bonding, i.e. the social bond that ties an individual to his or her group/s.
 The balance of giving and taking is key to all relationships not just families, when one partner gives more than the other, there will come a point where they will leave or take something to balance the relationship, also the person doing the taking will carry guilt and this may manifest in their life as illness, or loss in some aspect of their life.
 There are several areas in our lives where order constrains our relationships: who comes first comes first: parents come before children, the first pregnancy comes before the second etc etc
 Page 5, Loves Hidden Symmetry 1998 – Bert Hellinger, Gunthard Weber, Hunter Beaumont Zeig, Tucker & Co Inc.
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