Family Constellations is a phenomenological-systemic process that promotes transformation and healing in individuals through the use of representatives who “stand-in” for the ancestors so that entanglements can be revealed and brought to resolution, thereby creating healing for the client. Family Constellations were created over 25 years ago by a former priest, German psychotherapist Bert Hellinger. Hellinger was inspired by his work as a missionary and educator with the Zulus of South Africa. He was especially inspired by the reverence with which the Zulus held the ancestors—something that has been lost or forgotten in Western cultures.
The main elements of Family Constellations are the Orders of Love and the Family Soul. Hellinger contends that each individual must follow his/her own fate, but that individuals often become entangled with the fate of an ancestor, resulting in dysfunction or unhappiness in the present. The Constellations process is devoted to recognizing and uncovering these entanglements, so that these issues with the ancestors are healing, bringing happiness and freedom to the individual in the present.
The central concepts of Family Constellations are based on Hellinger’s Orders of Love which describe the natural order that should occur in every family, including—those who were born first, come first, and each member of the family has a place in the family system, and even excluded family members belong. When these Orders of Love are ignored, entanglement with the past can occur, resulting in dysfunction in the present. Often “out of love,” an individual in the present becomes entangled with the fate of an ancestor, and rather than living his/her own fate, is stuck living the fate of an ancestor.
These entanglements result in unnecessary suffering—suffering that rightly belongs in the past. The individual in the present isn’t responding to his/her own experiences, but remains stuck “in service” to the past, in an attempt to bring peace to the soul of another. Conflicts arise in the family soul when opposing forces create a division within the individual or in relationship with others in the family or the environment. The individual continues to battle with the entanglement or suppresses it altogether, resulting in unnecessary suffering or grief or dysfunction in the present. The individual experiences him/herself as divided, torn, indecisive, or dissatisfied and operates under extreme stress which often feels like insanity.
Hellinger believes that each individual, alive or dead, has an equal right to his/her place within the family system, regardless of his/her fate in life. Constellations support reconciliation between victims and perpetrators and their families and descendants, regardless of the horrendous nature of their past transgressions. Even long excluded family members can be returned to the rightful place in the family system, which leads to peace in their hearts and the hearts of others.
Originally Family Constellations were concerned only with issues occurring within the family system and took place only in group settings. Over the years, Constellations have expanded and now include Systemic Constellations, Structural Constellations, etc. Individual Constellations can now take place in a therapist’s office using Playmobile Figures, or other symbols as representatives of the client’s family. Structural Constellations are used in business settings which demonstrate relationships between employees that are not in the service of the company. Some have incorporated indigenous practices and ceremony within Constellations, and now a number of facilitators are working specifically with trauma.
This amazing process is spreading throughout the globe The MIDWEST INSTITUTE FOR SYSTEMIC CONSTELLATIONS was formed to bring training for facilitators here in the Midwest and making the process available for all.
By Liz Jelinek