Firstly, you don’t need to have a ‘problematic’ or ‘strained’ relationship with your family, children, current or former partner or spouse to benefit from this work.
So let’s start by letting go of any images and feelings that the word ‘family’ may conjure up. Let us instead think of the word ‘origins’. When we hear, see and feel the word ‘origins’, we then instantly know that we have leapt beyond Mum and Dad. Each of us have our origins and we are born into a particular ‘nest’ that has a history and with that history comes belief systems, responses and reactions to events, family stories and a legacy. So now think of the word ‘constellations’ and replace it with words like ‘connections’, ‘influences’ or even ‘input’. When you imagine, feel or hear the words ‘connections’ and ‘influences’ you begin to see, feel and hear how none of us are islands in separation, but part of a greater more extended ‘origin’ that spans generations. Each member of our family, whether they be our grandfathers and grandmothers, uncles, aunts, siblings and parents has had their input into the family – both spoken and unspoken. These influences are a result of their beliefs, traumas and the significant events in their lives.
In Family Constellations work we often refer to the ‘Orders of Love’ a term originating with its founder, Bert Hellinger. What do we mean by the ‘Orders of Love’?
In an ideal world when a child comes into the world the child is taken into merging love by one or both parents, or by its care givers – be those care givers grandparents, aunts, uncles, father, mother or even adoptive parents. However, for so many of us being taken into merging love with a care giver simply does not happen or does not happen sufficiently enough to give us a solid sense of self and our place in the world. Is it that our care givers are not good enough or had mal intent. Whilst in some cases that can certainly be true, but in the majority cases it is simply because the care givers themselves were also not taken into merging love with their own parents or caregivers.
With Family Constellations we are not looking at whose ‘fault’ it was that we carry certain limiting beliefs or self negating feelings, we simply work with interruptions to the flow of natural bonding love between parent and child. When a care giver fully bonds with a child, unhindered in their ability to reach out to the child and bring the child into merging love, then the child gains a clear sense not only of its worth and lovability, but also of its self. When this does not happen, the pure and essential innocence of the child can be corrupted into believing that somehow something is wrong or even worse, that somehow it is bad.
So what can cause an interruption to the ‘Orders of Love’? The Orders of Love are Trans-Generational in nature and span countless generations, the interruptions we feel the results of are more often than not within the scope of two to four generations, most within a generation or two. Interruptions are caused by trauma and in every family traumas exist. So how do traumas interrupt the Orders of Love? How can they influence the ability of a parent to take a child into merging love?
When we experience trauma we more often than not dissociate from the event, especially when it is overwhelming. In that dissociation we invariably create a dissociated part within ourselves – and herein lay the problem. As we dissociate from a part of ourselves, we literally dissociate from being fully present in the world and in our relationships and this includes parenting. We may not even be aware that we are dissociated or that we are not as present with our loved ones as we could be. It is important here also to understand that ‘trauma’ does not necessarily need to be a large single event such as the death of a parent or sibling, childhood illness or accident. Trauma can be felt when it is ‘drip fed’ over a much longer period such as when as children we were denied privacy or we felt invaded by the words and actions of others. This can lead to us dissociating from parts of ourselves that become hidden away in shame or fear.
In generations gone by there have been many tragedies, personal and global. These tragedies include wars, internment in prisoner of war camps, fathers not returning from the front lines, the early death of children and parents, stillbirths, epidemics and tragic losses. These are just some of the events that can leave a deep residual footprint on the psyche of an entire family – and often to such an extent that this footprint can be felt, albeit often not consciously, two or three generations later. Along with trauma also come limiting belief systems, again, often subconscious. These beliefs may range from ‘There’s not enough’ to ‘The world is not safe’ or ‘Everyone is an enemy until they prove otherwise’.
With Family Constellation work we can begin to address and resolve a number of levels of personal healing. Firstly we can identify what beliefs and influences we are carrying as a result of generational trauma and events and resolve those beliefs, impulses and reactions to the world. Additionally, we can begin to resolve our personal wound of not having been brought into merging love, the wound of not having received enough. It is not anyone’s fault that these things happened, they simply are. Imagine for a moment that a grandmother, pregnant and waiting for her husband to return from war receives news of his death. Every breath her child takes reminds her of him. She in turn can either want to take distance from the child or smother the child, wanting the child to also replace her husband. When this child grows up he or she emerges into adulthood either not having received enough or with an aversion to deeper contact as it threatens his or her sense of self and individuation. As this child becomes a parent this response will have a deep influence on his or ability to take their own child into merging love or to know the boundaries of ‘too much’ and respect their child’s process of individuation. And it is in this way that trans-generational trauma has a very far reach, it is also through Family Constellation work that we can reach far back to heal the source of the interruptions to the ‘Orders of Love’.
So what do we mean by individuation? When the ‘orders of love’ flow unhindered by trauma from parent to child, we are first taken into merging love and then from this solid foundation we gain a sense of our self worth and find a place within ourselves where we dwell – feeling safe, knowing who we are and where external validation of our value is required much less. As we individuate we no longer need co-dependent relationships to fulfil needs that others humans cannot really meet, but instead feel more complete and able to meet our partners as equals – a balance comes into existence between giving and taking in all of our relationships.
There are many tools and modalities available to us in order to resolve some of our negative belief patterns, self sabotage and other limiting life circumstances. However, it is my belief that no single modality can resolve all issues and additionally it is my experience that Family Constellation work is fundamental to all healing processes.
Each of us longs for the innocence of childhood and to be taken up into merging love. Whilst we are now adults this merging love can be experienced internally, giving us a deeper sense of ourselves, our worth and our place in the world.
In order to benefit from Family Constellation work we do not need to know the details of our family’s history, it is all contained within our psyche and in what has been called the ‘family soul’. What his work underlies more than anything is that we are not the islands we suppose ourselves to be. We are far more connected to our family that any of us ever thought possible and for generations.
The Benefits of Family Constellation Work
It has been observed that whatever the parents have not been able to process, deal with, digest or resolve from their past will pass onto their children, and we are all children no matter our age. It takes courageous children to allow themselves to be happier than their parents. We may prosper more financially than the previous generation, however, our ability to allow happiness and love to flow in our lives and within our relationship can be severely hindered by hidden loyalties or the burdens of family history. Family Constellation work is solutions orientated and you can experience simple but powerful processes:
– To free yourself from life limiting patterns
– Self Sabotaging belief systems and self perception
– Find relief from burdensome relationships
– Uncover and resolve why your work, relationships and finances just never seem to be as you want them to be