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No diagnosis, little story -- but rather, what gives person strength

Posted Feb 15 2010 8:04am
In many cultures -- including many Asian countries -- ancestors are honored and revered. In the United States, we might not even know the names of our grandparents. Feeling disconnected from our ancestors and our larger family system has implications for both our physical and emotional health.

Systemic Constellation Work, an unconventional method of healing which views the family system as an important component of our heath and ability to function in the world, is today's topic at Roots and Legends, 3209 Washington Ave., Racine, as we recognize the passing of our Valentine Day holiday and the start of Chinese New Year.
Systemic Constellation Work holds some very different outlooks from traditional mental health concepts. There is no theory. There is no pathology, at least not in the way we think of it according to the psychiatric Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. There are no diagnoses. There is even not very much story about the event that is encouraged.

What is of great interest is what (1) gives a person strength and (2) what allows love to flow within a family, even when it seems on a conscious level that there is no or little love.

Bert Hellinger, a German psychotherpist and former priest, originated Systemic Constellation Work. He started with the person who is wanting healing to arrange representatives of the self and the other people in the situation within a space in a room without any logic or story. Then he noticed what natural physical movements and words appeared to stimulate feelings of calm in a system or grouping of people where anxiety, threat and/or pain were originally present. These groups of people were not the actual people involved in the issue but representatives of the people, including the client.

"As long as our ancestors are still suffering within us, we cannot be truly happy. If we make a step with awareness...we do this for all the past and future generations. Then all arrive at the same moment we arrive and we all find peace at the same time." -- Thich Nhat Hahn

Through these observations, Hellinger came up with the standards of “orders of love,” which identified the importance of the family soul, which may also be described the energy of the family system, rather than the energy of one person.

Belonging. This is the strongest and has to do with our very survival. We often do whatever we must in order to continue to belong to a group, especially our family, even though it may not be best for us. These struggles to leave or stay within a group are often deeply felt. Our families are one "group" we cannot leave, and balancing the "rules" of our family of origin within our adult lives can be a source of a great deal of difficulty. Hidden and unconscious loyalties often govern our actions more than we realize.

Balancing give and take. When we receive or take from another, we feel a debt and some discomfort. When we give back we feel a freedom and a sense of innocence. If giving and taking are out of balance in some way, then we may feel guilt, and sometimes hiding that guilt, we feel anger or other emotions. This can be very apparent between couples and between parents and children.

Social order and place. That is, following the rules of the social group we belong to, the backbone of communal living. It also includes a sense of having a right place in the groups we belong to. This provides a sense of safety and stability. We know where we belong relative to the other members of our group. When this is not clear in a group a great deal of chaos can arise.

It is in telling the “soul” truth that there is love, even when there is pain, that people are able to feel the relief and find the calm and the peace within what appear to be logical contradictions when thinking or talking about it. A key point is that the truth is not some cookie-cutter kind of parroting of certain “ideas” but the individual truth that resonates deeply for that person and that system.

In the time that I have been acquainted with Constellation work -- starting in about 2001 or 2002 -- and in the past two years wheb I've been s studying advanced work in this method., I've seen great healing with this profound method and have experienced many sessions myself. I have been integrating Constellation into my work for some time. 

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