Emotional Health Systems
John Dore Ph.D.
Emotional Health Systems
Tucson, AZ USA
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The principles guiding solutions in a constellation are called “orders of love.” Observing these orders allows love to flow in a family. Violating them causes suffering in future generations. Some examples of these orders of love are:
In constellation groups people volunteer to be clients, and they are asked to be clear in their own mind about the issue they want to resolve. The facilitator encourages the client to ask group members to represent the client and the issue (whatever that may be) and sometimes to represent the spirit of other family members. [The facilitator may add additional representatives (e.g., a resource, illness, corpse, guide, etc.] The client, by intuition about “how it was,’ places the representatives into the first scene in the field of family energy. This reveals the deeper family problem, and often the client’s unconscious block. The constellation works toward an image of resolution for the client.
Representatives are asked to relax and center themselves, to leave their own feelings behind and to open up to experiencing another’s inner reality. They almost always take on some of the feelings, behavior and images of those they represent, without knowing much about them. This is the great advantage of this work. As the scene unfolds, the entanglement is usually revealed, and the facilitator intervenes by changing the positions of representatives and offering them the “language of the soul” to say to one another.
A wife is angry but says little. Her teenage daughter rages out at people and becomes addicted – “I will express it for you, Mom.” A husband wants to leave the marriage but doesn’t. His adolescent son, to everyone’s surprise, commits suicide – “Better I go than you, Dad.” A woman suffers chest pain for no apparent reason. We find out in a constellation that her grandmother died of influenza (“coughing up her lungs”) when the woman’s own mother was a year old - “I will suffer with you, grandmother”. A man fails repeatedly to sustain the successful business he inherited from his father. We find out that the original business acquisition was a shady deal, taking unfair advantage of the prior owner – “I will make up for this injustice by suffering, father.”
These two examples come from constellation literature, and are NOT statements about treating addiction, suicide or depression directly. In these examples of suffering no one was aware of their “entanglements” with ancestors. Constellations identify such entanglements. The quoted words represent unconscious voices. These descriptions testify to the enormous power of the child’s love. It is a blind love based on an unconscious desire to “help” a parent or to suffer for a neglected ancestor. It is well known that children compensate for what parents neglect or avoid. The child within in us acts as if this suffering could atone for some injustice. And, indeed, constellations yield strong evidence that there is a “family conscience” -- a conscience operating across generations that balances the “justice” in family systems in surprising ways.
Family Constellations offer fairly new and relatively unique ways of healing our inner life. They reveal hidden dynamic connections; showing how blind love carries burdens for others. After a snapshot of the family conscience is exposed in a constellation, it provides healing by releasing unconscious conflicts that underlie problems.
Constellations activate the natural healing process of the loving heart in us. They reveal unconscious identifications with prior family members that “entangle” us. That is, we inherit not only physical traits but emotional patterns as well. We all carry within us a mental “blueprint” of our family history. We often “carry” the pain of those we love. And we are impacted by the lack of love in our family system.
It is as if, when an ancestor has been excluded (scapegoated, abandoned, forgotten, etc.), the “family conscience” demands justice. It presses a future child’s love into service, “haunting” the child’s mind, as it were. The child in us unwittingly identifies with a prior family member, becomes entangled and suffers for the sake of that ancestor.
Examples of this unconscious inheritance often relate to adoption, suicide, abortion, abandonment, crime, handicaps, prior loves of parents, early deaths, family secrets, and various lapses of love. In later generations, these events can cause illness, failure, addiction, anxiety, “accidents,” depression, guilt, conflicts in relationships, and a host of other problems.
Systems are greater than the sum of their parts. Family constellations are systemic: they address problems that exist across several generations. They are dynamic: they uncover hidden loyalties and unconscious forces. They are “energetic” in that they operate in an energy field of forces. The creator of family constellations considers this field to be “the family soul,” and he claims that “spirit-mind” governs these fields.
Family constellation work was created some years ago in Germany by the ex-priest and therapist Bert Hellinger (see www.Hellinger.com). He himself integrated several perspectives (family therapy and sculpting, psychoanalysis and psychodrama, gestalt and neurolinguistic programming, etc.), with other scientific work (morphogenetic fields in biology, trans-generational effects in families), and with spiritual traditions (unconventional Judeo-Christianity, ancestor-based religions, and mystical insights).
Phenomenology is the philosophical foundation of Hellinger’s family constellations. It demands rigorous attention to details, and it focuses on what is actually seen in the energetic field. It prefers careful observation to generalizations. The work is scrupulously experimental, constantly changing interventions and testing effects.
Constellations are at an interface of scientific knowledge and trust in the genetic “morphic fields” of family systems. Constellations tap into these fields, the collective unconscious family memory.
Beyond their basis in scientific principles and procedures, constellations approach the mystery of the “source of life” itself. Their profound “orders of love” heal the underlying conflicts that create human dilemmas. This work is a microcosm of the ancient human struggle to overcome darkness with love.
Constellations most often occur in groups. (The same principles work for individual sessions as well.) In a group of motivated people some people volunteer to be a client. The facilitator may ask clients to whisper to him alone what troubles them most, or about unusual fates suffered, or family dynamics. The client then selects people from the group to represent his/her self and other members of her family, past or present. The facilitator may select others to represent impersonal forces, such as an the future, symptoms, resources, guides, etc.
Representatives are asked to center themselves and to put aside their usual thoughts, as they open themselves up to the forces in an unfamiliar family field. They almost always begin to feel unusual sensations and take on the feelings and behaviors of the people they represent. This is the inexplicable power of that energy field that is new and unique and effective in resolving blocks.
Typically, movements in the constellation at first reveal difficulties in the family history. Occasionally -- with enough time, trust and patience -- representatives move silently and directly to a resolving step (such as a parent-child embrace). The facilitator intervenes minimally: asking representatives to express what they are feeling in non-verbal ways, encouraging them to move, or offering them some language of the soul to say to one another. After each intervention the facilitator checks how the representatives and client are affected. The constellation ends when everyone is more relaxed, and a resolving image has been achieved.
The goal of any constellation is to replace an inner unconscious image that has led to pain with a healthier image. First we see a dysfunctional picture roughly connected to the client’s unconscious block. The constellation works toward an image of resolution. Experiencing this, clients can then allow a shift in their unconscious toward the new healing image.
We are bound to our families in deep, mostly unconscious, ways through conception, birth, survival and growth. Personal love is an elemental force serving the development of life. We saw the strength of this binding love in those blindly entangled in the fate of others. Inescapable laws of relationships bind us. These are regulated by conscience. In this context conscience means the capability to evaluate our behavior according to the clan.
Conscience tells me what I have to do to secure my belonging in the group; it tells me what I must do to avoid punishment or exclusion. This is similar to notions like “super-ego” and social control. However, this sense of conscience is not a moral issue. People do horrible things to other groups with a clear conscience. At other times, a bad conscience may prevent us from doing good. So this is not about good and evil. Rather, conscience measures behavior in terms of the needs and rules of belonging to one’s group. We have a “good conscience” when we do things allowing us to belong, to remain close to and respected by members of our group. We feel “bad” when we do something that excludes us from the group, when we lose closeness or security.
In terms of balance and group “justice,” we feel good when we give something and thus have a right to receive something in return. We begin to feel bad when we have taken something and then have to repay the debt. This “bad feeling” comes up when we have caused some imbalance or injustice that endangers the peace or well being of the group.
With regard to personal conscience, we also feel badly when we go against the order, hierarchy, truths, or taboos of the group. There is also a “group conscience” that supersedes personal conscience. Group conscience sees individuals only in terms of their functioning for the group. It privileges group needs over the individual.
At this point in time, like our own biology, we have little awareness of the workings of this archaic group conscience. But constellations reveal the effects of this clan consciousness. We can thus learn how to adjust to the demands of group conscience in serving our clients. Beyond group conscience there is a universal conscience that can guide us in a higher code of behavior, beyond the harm done by warring groups. Constellation work cultivates this awareness.
Family constellations heal a client’s unconscious blocks by aligning with “laws” of family relationships regulated by group conscience. Facilitators must remain aware of the forces of personal and universal conscience as well. These “laws” can be seen as orders of love. When they are observed, peace is served in the family system. When orders of love are violated, someone’s pain pays the debt.
The application of the principles of these orders of love in a constellation is varied and complex. Nevertheless, some of these orders of love can be succinctly stated.
The success of constellations depends upon the intensity and expression of the client’s need; the talent and training of the facilitator; the awareness and attitude of the group members; the willingness and ability of representatives; and the setting for the work. But, overall, the most important factor is the trust participants have in the guidance that comes from the mental energy of the family system. Following this mystery ingredient makes it all work.
Family Constellations are a fairly new and unique way to heal discomfort, to resolve conflicts, and to solve problems. It is one kind of systemic constellation. In our Tucson Wednesday Meetup group members take turns being clients and supportive representatives to have a family constellation, a constellation for a big dream, one for social justice issues, current events or for some big decision. Constellations release blocks in our unconscious mind that limit our health or growth or happiness.
A constellation is recommended as an effective solution for:
Constellations activate the natural healing process within us, and bring solutions into our awareness. They reveal negative images in our unconscious mind that causes us to suffer or stay stuck in a problem. We inherit and "carry" these images as unconscious blocks out of love for family members. For example, failure, illness, conflict and other problems are often revealed to be connected to past family events such as adoption, accidents, abortion, secrets, abuse, crime, early deaths, major crisis or trauma.
In constellation work two powerful forces operate – one is a group conscience and the other the love in the "child’s heart" within us. These forces combine and lead to personal problems and to their solutions. The group conscience in every family system operates like a memory that demands justice across generations. When an ancestor has been excluded (ignored, scapegoated, etc.) an "entanglement" often arises in a future family member. A child’s blind love unconsciously identifies with that ancestor and suffers for or with them, as if to atone for the exclusion. It is a more conscious love, revealed in a constellation, that leads to resolution.