Bert Hellinger, the father of this work: "The individual is only himself when a place has been found within him for those who belong to him."
How does Constellation work help people?
Changing the perspective Constellation work invites a client to see at an issue, a symptom, with a different frame of reference. The work does not focus on the issue, rather the unseen force at the root of the issue. The root of the issue can always be reflected in the family system, as that is the root of each individual. Family Constellations can be a very effective tool for clients, and often, the work done in a Constellation ripples outward to allow for meaningful improvements in the client's life. Sometimes, the effects extend to other members of the family who are not present while the work takes place.
Family Field We don't know exactly why the work can affect other members of the family. One theory is that each individual has a unique way of expressing his or her Family Field. You could interpret the Family Field as the hidden intelligence that guides each lineage through space and time. Using this theory, the Field ultimately allows people to tap into a larger image of themselves and start to build a stronger connection to their rootedness. It is not a tangible object, however we can see things at work on behalf of it. For example, children take on characteristics of their grandparents whom they never knew or long-lost siblings meet by happenstance. More unfortunate examples include recurring tragedies such as many men in a family dying young unexpectedly or women of the same lineage having consecutive miscarriages. Just like Adam Smith's metaphor of how the Invisible Hand moves the free market economy, we can wonder if the Family Field drives patterns in it's members as a means of survival. The Field, or the unseen language of the system, often reveals itself during Constellations.
Personal Field nested within the Family Field If the Family Field manifests itself through the lives of it's members, than we also each emanate our own personal field within that. This personal field will have competing interests with the larger family field in the course of everyone's lifetime. These tough moments of conflict can actually empower us to acknowledge our capacity to live more freely than those in the past could, all the while still inherently belonging to our own Family Field. Family Constellations is a helpful tool in this negotiation. When a client goes to look at an issue in his or her life through the vehicle of Family Constellations, the client, the facilitator, and the group are collaboratively exploring what is taking place through this wider lens.
A trauma to the Family Field Within the Family Field, it is impossible for someone to be forgotten, even though families commit to this denial all the time in our current culture. When someone is forgotten, or not acknowledged, it lives as a trauma in the Family Field. Just like in an individual's system when trauma occurs, some part of them becomes stuck in time. Trauma begins to yield patterns that mimic the original trauma in our minds, body, and hearts. So, part of the person's consciousness lives on within the timeframe of the original wound until it can belong to them again in the present moment. Constellation work mirrors this concept in the Family Field on a larger scale. What is lost is repeated until it can be found again. Thus, the dynamics of any "de-membered" individual seem to live on in the lineage.
Time Travel The current dynamic a client brings to Constellations has been anchored by an earlier experience. So the work explores that which belongs to the present time as it relates to something earlier in time. Those earlier times may be in the client's personal history, or they may live historically with previous generations. Those earlier times may include war, needing to flee, divorce, poverty, abuse, and other dire situations. If a client is posed in the juxtaposition of living their life now and simultaneously feeling the gravity of the family's past situations, that person will of course have incredible difficulty finding solutions to personal problems. Through the frame of reference of the Family Field in Constellations, we can see a pattern of situations echo through time, and then discover tools to navigate life differently.
The Work The work starts when a client sits next to the facilitator and asks for help with their problem while a group listens. The facilitator and client will narrow down the parts of the problem until a unique and specific inquiry comes to light. The Constellation can then offer support to strengthen the client's personal system, as well as, connect them to what has been disconnected in the Family Field. From this newfound relationship, between the challenging aspect of someone's life and the place in the family history where it simultaneously resides, a new step in healing can begin. This new step of healing integrates something forgotten for the client, and subsequently ripples throughout the larger Family Field. Sometimes other members of the family can pick up on the positive shift.
Representation The Representation starts when the listening participants stand in place for parts of the issue, for family members, and for resources. The group members let the client's Family Field wash over them, and they gain insight from the perspective of the place they are holding for the client's system. As the facilitator guides the process, the representatives interact and move in relationship to each other. The movement and dialogue tell a story that relate the client's issue to what's rooted earlier in time in the family. The issue can then begin to unfold because the dynamics playing out through the representatives bring in valuable information that was otherwise unseen. Witnessing representatives move, speak, and relate deeply to each other brings about energetic, emotional, and often very practical shifts for the client. Representatives receive insights into their personal lives as well.
Everyone Belongs The work abides by the main principle that every being belongs. This concept can create confusion because in it is very common in our culture to find families with members who have been forgotten, unacknowledged, and disowned from the people considered to be part of the family. Often, the reason for the exclusion lies in protection for what's considered okay. For example, a man commits a crime that harms someone else, and the family leaves him behind as if to make the rule: "We do not harm people." This unsound rule creates something like a trauma to the Family Field as the person becomes more and more forgotten. Other examples that show the illusion of exclusion occur culturally, for example, in how often miscarriages and abortions do not induce the delivery of grief that these events deserve. Families move on as a means of protection and daily survival. However, as time goes on, someone in the family who is seemingly unassociated with the lost tribe member becomes wrapped up in that lack of remembrance. This person’s issues, rooted in the wider system, do not allow forward momentum. Constellation work can bring forth the bigger reality, that these lost members are truly part of the family. Then the backlog of energy, love, and other emotions can start to flow through the client. When clients can see and accept the next reality that their Family Field connects them into, the internal shifts give way to something more that the client is seeking.
Three Layers of Belonging Within the scope of the Constellation work, everyone belongs, and everyone belongs within a certain structure. All of us also have layers of membership in our Family Field depending on what takes place. These layers can be narrowed into three kinds: how a person fits into the family of origin, the landscape of the person's love life, and the moments in time or relationships that change the trajectory of each person's life. When these layers are brought into a natural alignment for the client, the awareness of an issue shifts so that enduring truths about the world and ourselves are brought to the forefront. The self-perpetuating dynamic can fade for the client, and each participant can learn tools for the future. Together, the group grows closer and accepts what's taken place in the past.
Mom(s), Dad(s), and Sibling(s) The closest layer is that everyone has at least two parents, and possibly siblings in a certain chronological order. We are our parents, and our patterns in life extrapolate what was at work in their relationship in one way or another. For example, if a father leaves and the mother disowns him, the child feels that half of them has been disowned. We can imagine how this shows up in a number of devastating ways as the child grows. Another example is a family that has had many miscarriages, and finally has one living male child. If the family cannot honor the loss of the previous family members, the boy identifies as being the only child, and in a way he is. However, in the context of natural alignment in the Family Field, he is one living child and his older siblings have crossed over. This can create a number of problems as the young man identifies with being an only child, and the world around him mirrors that he is the youngest in a family that has lost many children. The consequences of this could be that perhaps he never feels he is enough in relationships with peers. Or, he may feel guilty when he does well as he is living beyond his siblings. It's a possibility that he never asks for help because he feels that his parents have already experienced enough suffering.
Partnerships The landscape of a person's love life addresses the second layer of being a member in the Family Field. Intimate partnerships merge Family Fields together. Intimacy unifies one member's field with the other's field. In doing so, the field of past lovers weds to the current lover's field. The field of both people grows exponentially in who it considers part of the tribe. Issues in someone's life surrounding relationships often relates back to this abandoned truth. People exhibit repetitive patterns in their love life, and of course through the lens of individualism this relates to patterns in how a person seeks out intimacy. However, through a systemic lens, when someone does not respect the previous partner, they carry that previous partner's field into the next relationship disharmoniously. The intelligence of the Family Field re-members those who have been lost, so eventually repetition can bring forth grounded acknowledgment of what was. An immense amount of power for relational healing lies in acknowledging how a person espouses themselves into their partners' Family Field through intimacy. A person has access to all that the combined Field has to offer in this process of acknowledgment.
Fated Relationships The last layer of being in the Family Field recognizes people or events that change the trajectory of a person's life. These relationships can seem inescapable or preordained to happen. In a similar way to intimacy, the Family Fields merge as the fates of the individuals will never be the same after meeting. One example, is a car accident that results in a passenger of one of the vehicles being paralyzed. The Family Fields of the people in the accident coincide, so each person has a lot of new members to their tribe due to the severity of the crash. Also, each person's field now carries the loss of one person's ability to move, an immense grief that each person did not have as part of their field before the accident. These fated relationships can take on much larger collective themes, such as in colonization, war, and slavery. The members of the opposing groups unintentionally entwine their fields by engaging in violence or becoming victim to it. One group may consider the other separate, however, on a larger scale, the Family Fields unite them. Fated relationships also bring in a new language to the family system, and this can be in the form of an especially caring teacher that changed the outlook of their students or perhaps a therapist that reached their client who was in trouble. These relationships change the trajectory of a person's life, and sometimes, we are lucky to discover magic and freedom in these connections.
One more clue to resolution The issues that clients face and bring to work on in Constellations express a part of the piece missing in their awareness in terms of their Family Field. For example, the person with a disowned father would not know that their reliance on alcohol relates to the unspoken rule in the family that, "Dad does not belong." And, of course, through systemic thinking, someone would need to use alcohol as a resource to cope with the notion that half of their own presence was not welcomed in the family. Another instance is the young man who thinks of himself as an only child, when within the Family Field, he is the youngest and his older siblings have crossed over during miscarriages. The disruption in his life could be projected to a number of areas as he has unknowingly been embodying an unnatural place in his family of origin. The issue this client brings to work with could be surrounding work, friends, love, health, money, etc. With any one of these various issues, he can begin to find his path to resolution once he aligns with his position as the youngest. After the first layer to the Family Field comes into order, sorting through the intertwining of Family Fields that are not biologically related in the other two layers creates wonderful possibilities for strength and clarity.
Connecting to what belongs to us Clients bring these issues to find resolution, and the work sets up the space for them to connect to what's next in their belonging. The integration that occurs within the individual can rectify the apparent issues in the Family Field that they had been expressing. This process guides people to a greater coherence with the larger system of which they are a part. In a seemingly mysterious way, the Family Field seems to provide a reservoir of healing resources perfectly suited for that person.