I have spent a lot of time wondering why the concept of systemic consciousness is so difficult for a lot of people to take on board. Many facilitators and trainers still do not grasp it fully. They talk about offering two levels of attendance at workshops, with those wanting to do a constellation paying more than those wishing to be representatives. This implies that the role of representative carries less weight than that of client. This is not the case and sometimes a representation can offer you more than your own constellation. simply because you are less invested in the outcome.
And those who go with expectations that they will do their own constellation may, in any case, be disappointed at the end. We cannot know ahead of time how long each constellation will take, unless we do not work phenomenologically. If the facilitator takes a list ahead of time of those wishing to do a constellation, how does this fit with the right-brain, body-based experience of doing constellation work? How does it fit with the all-important need for presence, for being in the moment?
I recall a client who came regularly to my workshops and each time she had a clear idea of what she wanted to work on. On one occasion she sat down in the client’s seat and said she had no idea why she had come or what she wanted. So I suggested she just set up her family of origin and we see what transpired. The whole constellation happened in silence. During the process, I had my own hypothesis about what was happening. She also had her own ideas, but what transpired over the next few days showed a picture which was neither mine nor hers, but something completely new! She uncovered a secret of a missing sibling. Her mother had given birth to her and put her up for adoption in another country.
At my next workshop, we set up a constellation to include her missing sister who had come to the workshop in person. Suddenly, my client burst into tears when she realized that her sister was standing exactly where her representative had been standing at the previous workshop.
This is a right-brain approach. It is present-centred and the outcome on this occasion was very surprising. If participants spend their time feeling anxious about whether or not they will get to do their own constellation, they will be less present, gain much less from their attendance there, be less likely to be chosen as representative and less visible generally. This affects the whole group field and the container will be less strong.
A decision made ahead of time is a left-brain decision because the right brain does not operate in this way. As a participant, you may have a strong intuition that the time is right for you to do a constellation, but unless you wait till the actual moment, the intuition is not present-centred.
It all works paradoxically. The more relaxed we are, the more present we are, the more we are seen and the greater the likelihood we will be chosen as representative. I could give many examples of this process in action. I recall one person who was very eager to do a constellation from the start. I choose intuitively and this person seemed somewhat over-eager so I didn’t pick her initially. She told me afterwards she had become very angry with me and withdrew. The interesting thing was that for two days, I literally didn’t see her in the circle. Apparently, she worked through her anger for herself and returned on the following day (it was a 5 day intensive) feeling much more centred. I saw her immediately and she was chosen to do her constellation.
If we track our representations over time, we can get a picture of our own development and see that each representation is a gift for us. And what an amazing gift! When representing, we are less invested in the outcome so we can often receive gifts, as it were from ‘left field’ when we least expect them. We and the person we are representing are not separate and if we spend time, wondering: is this me or the representation, we have left presence and gone into our thoughts.
Closely connected to this is the idea of having to de-role after a representation.
Why do we deem this necessary? Some people say they have been left with difficult feelings afterwards. For me, this is a gift. If we are left with something after we sit down, then the likelihood is, there is something we haven’t yet processed for ourselves. Often, what influences this need to de-role is the judgements we have about a particular representation. If, for example, we have represented a perpetrator, we worry that people will identify us as that and this, of course, implies that perpetrators are ‘bad’ and victims ‘good’, instead of seeing that both perpetrator and victim are bonded and it is fate or chance as to which side of the fence we end up. This does not mean that the perpetrator doesn’t have to face the consequences of his or her actions, but the duality of good and bad, right and wrong etc. does not exist when you look through a systemic lens.
The other possibility is that the feelings we are left with are painful or difficult, but how can we hope for joy, if we are not prepared to dip down into those painful places?
We are very conditioned into thinking of ourselves as individuals and this was not always the case. Some say it came in at the same time as bartering and prior to that we operated as groups, much as many animals do. Still today, some tribes live in this way and if one member of the tribe is sick for instance, they may leave them to die rather than risk the survival of the tribe. This helps explain the underlying orders which exist in constellation work, whereby the systemic pull is for balance so when there are exclusions, certain individuals will be nominated to leave the system in order to re-gain the balance. This process is outside human suffering and morals about what is right or wrong. It’s just balancing. Because we are also individuals with personal consciences, we can sometimes influence this pull and find our natural place once again but at other times, the unconscious pull of the system is greater.
This really is a beautiful way to look at the world. Social traumatologist Anngwyn St. Just offers many examples in her various books (www.acst-international.com) of large-scale wars, disasters, killings in one generation being repeated in the same place and on the same date in another generation but with victim being perpetrator and vice versa. So when you view the world in this way, you see ultimately there is no duality; we are all moving together as one, just like the murmurations of starlings. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eakKfY5aHmY)
Linked to this is the idea of field phenomena. Again, many facilitators and trainers do not take much notice of the field. They work alone with each individual. This seems difficult for me to understand, as the field is such a rich resource for us as facilitators and trainers. It supports us, confirms to us something we may be feeling ourselves and not quite trusting, or something completely new emerges from the field that we hadn’t contemplated at all. Sometimes a noise or a voice from outside the room offers us something we were missing in the constellation. Once you start looking at the world this way, you see the Universe as this amazingly generous benefactor offering us abundance and gifts all the time. Sadly, for many, they just pass us by.
In one of the houses I lived in, the house next door changed hands three times; each time it was purchased by a midwife – none of them knew each other. Isn’t that amazing? Mostly when I run workshops, I see a theme gradually emerging from the people who have come. Themes such as: abortions, early death of a parent; dead siblings, marital difficulties etc. This is field phenomena at work.
I haven’t researched it but I wonder whether we are talking about the difference between male and female energy in terms of what we focus on.
If we see the archetypal female as keeping the hearth, gathering their family around them, she has to have her awareness all around her, just like horses. As the hunter, the male has to go after his ‘target’ without regard to what may be around him. The target is the sole focus.
Let’s take herds of horses as a very good example of this – the dominant horse in the herd is the stallion. He is the dominant member, and protector of the herd. Horses are herd animals and they are prey animals rather than predators, so they need to take care of each other as a herd, even if geographically they are far apart. They have survived with this system for 65 million years and have something like 350-degree vision. However, for leadership, the herd turns to the oldest mare – keeper of the hearth. (Knaapen in TKF issue 26 www.theknowingfield.com)
Translated into human terms, this would mean the male energy is the one who looks after his family, keeps them safe and provided for, acts as boundary between them and the outside world, whilst the female looks after the home and children.
Of course, with modern ways of working and being, these boundaries have become completely eroded. Nothing wrong with that of course, it is just a movement but it is a very interesting one and one which will take us in a very different direction in the future as a species. Some hypotheses are that we will become a bunch of ‘aspies’, people with little emotionality. (Odent 2014).
One poignant example which will stay with me is when I ran a workshop where unusually there was an equal number of men and women in the group. Also, interestingly the whole weekend seemed to be focused on fathers. However, the last constellation of the weekend was with someone who had been to many workshops before and she had reached the place where she wished to connect to her line of female ancestors and I invited the 7 women in the group to lie down with each of their heads resting on the womb of the woman behind them. As these women lay there I had an image of a womb with these women coming through the cervix in a long line, as if re-birthing themselves. The men were all sitting very still and very upright, like warriors evenly spread around the womb. It was a very touching image for me, particularly when immediately after this workshop I found a message from my brother saying that my father was dying… he died the next day.
Family Constellations Practitioner, Trainer & Supervisor