Imagine lying on the Earth, looking up at the stars

Imagine lying on the Earth, looking up at the stars. Imagine sitting round a roaring campfire with others, chatting, singing, sharing, or simply sitting in reverent silence together with others who are on a very similar journey. Imagine chopping veg and cooking meals together, eating together under the stars. Imagine sitting with others in a round yurt, a space which has become sacred with the depth of healing work which is taking place for each of us with our families, as we each bare our souls to the group.

This is the setting for the first constellations camp to be held in Ireland on 23-27 June 2016 in Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow.

German Founder Bert Hellinger first developed family constellations in the early 1990s. Then it had all kinds of other names but the word ‘constellation’ slowly emerged as the most acceptable English word to convey what is happening.

It is becoming increasingly accepted in wider circles that we are deeply affected by the actions of our ancestors and transgenerational trauma is developing into a familiar term in therapeutic circles. But what do we mean by this? As far as constellation work is concerned we firstly need to move into the new paradigm of viewing the world through a different lens – seeing that all of us and all that is, are inextricably linked. Watching the murmurations of starlings, shoals of fish, swarms of bees etc. gives us a visual image of what we mean when we say that every individual forms part of a whole, which moves as one entity.

If we translate this into our families, then together with our ancestors we are moving in the same field, which exists outside time and space. Biologist Rupert Sheldrake calls this a morphic field, where there is a compulsion for actions and events to repeat themselves across generations without conscious awareness.

This is where constellation work differentiates itself from many other forms of therapy or bodywork. What emerges is generally unconscious and it is the constellation method, which helps bring the unconscious into conscious awareness.

The starting point for these unconscious processes is to see that the family system, just like any other system, has an order to it. Just as in nature, where a seed develops slowly into a plant and one season follows another, certain orders need to be followed. If we disrupt that order in any way, there are often serious consequences.

In families, the two main natural laws are:

  • Everyone who belongs has a right to belong to the family and this goes beyond right and wrong.
  • There is a hierarchy in terms of time.

Who belongs?

Siblings, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, siblings of parents, missing siblings (abortions, children given away, stillbirths and sometimes miscarriages), missing lovers either pre or during the current relationship. Due to the compulsion for repetition across generations there is seldom a need to go back further to uncover these dynamics.

Wider issues like: war, emigration, religion, colonialism and secrets have a strong influence. With issues of murder, extreme violence or perpetration, both victim and perpetrator belong.

If there any exclusions with respect to any of the above, places where we have closed our hearts and turned our backs, the consequences for those in subsequent generations may be manifested by:

  • Suicide or suicidal feelings
  • Addictions
  • Infertility
  • Mental and physical illness
  • Difficulty with intimate relationships
  • Fractured family relationships
  • A general failure to thrive in life

These are all indications that the flow of love and life is blocked in some way.

The second natural law follows the first. Those born first come first. This does not mean they are ‘better’ or ‘superior’ which are value judgements, rather than simple acceptance of what is. So parents give and children take and often when the first law is disrupted, we end up with children feeling bigger than their parents and acting out of blind love, thinking that they if they take on the suffering of their parents, the parents will be freed. Sometimes a younger sibling may behave like the eldest or people just don’t feel in the ‘right’ place in their family.

What happens? 

This work can be done individually with a facilitator using figurines, objects or mats on the floor where the representation comes from client, facilitator or both. 

In a group situation, the person with an issue sits with the facilitator. Together they look at what the deep longing is in their heart. Then they choose people to be representatives for certain members of their family and intuitively place them in the circle in spatial relationship to each other. After this they sit down and wait for the energy to begin to move within the field.

Mostly without any prior knowledge of the people they are representing, these individuals begin to feel emotions, sensations, an urge to move, which links to the energy in this particular family field. By looking at the shape of the constellation and the actions/expressions/movements of the representatives, it may become possible to see where the system is ‘out of order’ and experiment with bringing in missing people or aspects of the system.

We are looking to see where the heart closed and attempting to find ways to enable the heart to open again. This can lead to strong expressions of emotion at times. Sometimes it is impossible to shift the energy and what follows is a deep acceptance of what is. This can also be profound in its effect on both the individual and their family. 

What are the effects? 

What happens in the workshop often reverberates outside with family members who were not present being affected, sometimes deeply.

Examples of this might be:

  • The emergence of a long held secret within the family
  • The re-appearance of previously missing people (adoptees etc)
  • Pregnancies in thus far infertile couples.

Longer-term effects can be:

  • Greater openness leading to improvements in family and intimate relationships
  • The beginning of a new intimate relationship
  • Alleviation of addictive tendencies
  • Alleviation of illness, both mental and physical.

Where from here? 

This work is definitely at the cutting edge of science and radical in its approach, but it is not alone in the trend towards a re-think of how we operate as a species, so the future is exciting and the potential for both personal and global transformation is vast.

– Barbara Morgan