On The Applications for Systemic and Family Constellations

A client and former workshop participant called me this morning to ask if a Constellation might help to resolve a situation he is challenged by in his workplace. This simple question stimulated me to reflect upon the diverse applications and approaches to this powerful modality of Systemic and Family Constellations.

In my early training, following in the footsteps of Bert Hellinger, I was taught that Family Constellations are sacred events that should be created only a few times in one’s lifetime. The image that I held from that training was that too many constellations would muddy the energy field and that multiple constellations would lessen their individual impact. I certainly believe in the power of these events and their ability to modify our psychic imagery and can appreciate that too many constellations might be confusing and potentially disempowering. Nevertheless, my experience in this work has taught me that the rule about few constellations, as with many rules, can and should, at times, be broken.

Family Constellations frequently point us towards personal or familial trauma. While trauma in one’s ancestral past may lead to unproductive entanglements in our present life, they rarely hold the charge of a trauma in ones immediate personal history. Consequently, the affects of ancestral trauma on our personal lives may often be fully resolved through one family constellation. Personal trauma, however, must be addressed with even more delicacy.

During facilitation of a Constellation I must hold multiple attention. My consciousness must be with the well-being of the entire group, the “holding circle” of the field. I also need to be mindful of the representatives and the constellation that is being played out within our circle. Is everybody safe? Can they hold their space? Are they reliable representatives or do they bring too much of their own interpretation to the constellation?  Most importantly, however, I must be  responsive to and mindful of the client who is presenting the issue. In incidents involving personal trauma my endeavor, as always, is to keep the client safe. That means, at the very least, avoiding retraumatization.

How can I avoid retraumatization?  The best way is to maintain close attention to the client. Has her breathing changed? Are her eyes open or closed? In general, has her affect changed? These may all be clues that she is not able to stay centered and present with our work. And if this is the case, my first responsibility is to steady and stabilize her and perhaps terminate the constellation.

Does this mean that the constellation was a failure? Not in the least. This constellation has been an important first step in healing this issue. And our work can continue at another time,  perhaps in another constellation that may go further or perhaps, in an individual session. The important thing is that, unlike the precipitating incident(s), the client is in control of what happens and the timing of what is revealed.

Of course, not every issue is traumatic in nature. Sometimes we just need insight on or guidance as to how to proceed with something that is troubling. A constellation may be most helpful in moving towards resolution in a personal or professional relationship. Constellations can be applied to decision-making in many aspects of our lives providing a tool to look at all sides of a situation. In these cases, a simple constellation involving the systemic elements involved may be all that is required. And these constellations can be created more frequently than a large familial arrangement. In this case, multiple constellations can be created with good effect for the client and without risk to the overall healing effect.