From phenomenological observation of the constellation process in family systems Bert Hellinger came to the understanding that the family system has a conscience which demands that the system be in order. He also discovered inherent principles which determine how this happens. The three main ones are:
It is important to understand that these principles in themselves are not the phenomenological method but rather have been discovered through the application of phenomenological observations.
1. Everyone has an equal right to belong to their family system
The family system includes:
• All children- including the still born, adopted children and half-siblings and some aborted and miscarried children.
• Parents and their siblings
• Former partners of parents
• Grandparents & former partners
• Great grandparents (sometimes)
• Those who bore a loss or reaped a life changing benefit in relation to the family system e.g. people whose land was stolen by an ancestor.
We can exclude members from our hearts in many ways. We can avoid mourning or simply forget those who died young. We can disavow abortions, children who have been adopted out, extra marital affairs or prior relationships. People can be excluded because of their sexual orientation or political beliefs or some other form of disgrace or rebellion. Then the consequences can be felt by individuals in subsequent generations without their having any awareness of why they feel the way they do. For example, a young boy may carry the burden of not belonging for a homosexual uncle who has been excluded from the family system.
2. There is a hierarchy in terms of time.
This hierarchy defines the energetic relationship between family members. Everyone in the group must take place according to their rank of belonging for the system and all its members to thrive.
Parents came before the children. So they have responsibility for the children. Sometimes when a parent is weakened a child tries to care for the parent. When this situation is entrenched it is called parentification of the child. This is not only harmful for the child concerned but also for the entire family system.
There is a similar but less intense hierarchy between siblings in the order of birth.
3. Each person in the system carries their own fate
We have discovered through phenomenological observation that one member of a family will often take over the feelings of another. These feelings can include pride, shame, guilt and grief. Usually a younger member will take over the feelings of an older one. This is an unconscious process for all concerned. When this is rectified in the family constellation process everyone relaxes and the person who has been carrying someone else's feelings is finally free to respond skilfully and effectively to life's trials and tribulations.
The insight about the orders of love was presaged by similar observations in systemic family therapy. For example the destructive effects of parentification of the child had been noted for some time before systemic constellations appeared.