Foundations of Systemic Constellations
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Systemic constellations are a way of working with issues within human systems. Their initial and most common application is in relation to issues within your families or arising from your families. These are called family constellations. Their other main use is in relation to organizations such as businesses, clubs schools etc. These are called organizational constellations.
Although it is possible to do this work in a one to one session with a practitioner, it is usually done within a group of unrelated people. Members of the group are chosen to represent members or elements of the family or organization that is being addressed. In this process hidden and unexpected dynamics operating within the system are revealed and addressed in a way that aims to find a healthy and respectful place for all members of the system in question.
A number of these constellations are usually done within the same group over the duration of a workshop which may extend from one to several days. As well as addressing these issues participants experience a deeper empathy for and a broader perspective on a number of families and organizations within a workshop. This is partially responsible for the deeper sense of compassion and belonging that it engenders in workshop participants.
Through this process we can see and feel our shared strength and vulnerability with family members, with the rest of humanity and indeed with the rest of the planet. We feel the complex web of interconnection reaching into our present, from generations past, providing a springboard into the future. It is now commonplace to find books and documentaries referring to these ideas of interconnectedness. They are appearing in many fields including environmentalism, quantum physics, psychology and spirituality. It is however a rare jewel that allows us to experience this interconnectedness so directly. The systemic constellation process is such a rare jewel.
Systemic constellations reveal and to some extent clarify the functioning forces in living systems that are otherwise still very challenging to understand and use. There are hints of these same forces in nature when we see everyday mysteries such as the synchronized swooping of flocks of birds. (Sheldrake R. 2003) If the coordination was based on the birds perceiving each other through their normal senses as we understand them, then their change of direction would be staggered looking like dominoes falling. Instead they move as one entity with no delay. Systemic constellations also rely on modes of communication that we don't yet completely understand. This allows a family's dynamics to be revealed through the use of representatives.
Intellectually we may be able to understand complex systemic issues such as how a baby's still birth might cause a severe unresolved grief in the parents and affect their bonding with a subsequent daughter. That daughter's development may then be severely effected to the point where it interferes with her parenting of her own children. When her child comes into therapy it is almost impossible to address the effect of his still born uncle by classical psychotherapeutic interventions . It is very easy for the therapist and the client to become stuck in a resentment of the emotionally unavailable mother in such a situation.
However the systemic constellation process reveals a simple and memorable picture of the dynamic that allows the client to have a compassionate overview of the entire situation. This healing picture enables him to let go of taking his mother's emotional unavailability personally. He can then accept the gift of his life fully; free of the resentments which have hitherto poisoned his life.
Just as the natural forces that lie behind electricity have always been present in nature, just as the force of gravity holds together the different elements in our universe, the forces revealed in the systemic constellation process have always been with us. This process has become visible through a lineage of philosophers and therapists such as Edmund Husserl the father of phenomenology, Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy , the pioneer of transgenerational systemic thinking, Virginia Satir who developed family sculpture the precursor of systemic constellations and which Bert Hellinger observed and integrated with the phenomenological method .
Just as people like Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) , Alessandro Volta (1745-1827) and Thomas Edison (1847-1931) showed us how electricity could be understood, people like Bert Hellinger, Jakob Schneider, Gunthard Weber, Hunter Beaumont, and Albrecht Mahr have found ways of revealing and beginning to understand the mysterious forces that bind us together as groups of human beings. In both fields the newer personalities are part of a much longer lineage.
| Jakob Schneider
|| Gunthard Weber
||Albrecht Mahr |
So the systemic constellation process did not appear out of a vacuum. There have been hints of it in ancient cultures with Chinese ancestor worship, shamanistic traditions, first nation cosmologies such as the Aboriginal dreamtime and Africans calling for strength from their ancestors to mention but a few.
Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime Painting
The land owns us; we don't own the land.
The land owns us; we don't own the land.
We are part of the land.
From the time we are children we learn the songs and stories about the land.
For thousands of years, these songs and stories have been part of the people's oral tradition and beliefs.
The Aboriginal painting and poem above illustrate how first nation people understand humans as part of a much larger ecological system. Western philosophy and science has generally not acknowledged this fact until the advent of modern day biologists and environmentalists. Systemic constellations demonstrates that humans as part of families and then larger organisational systems expanding right out into the global ecological system.
However the modern European psychological tradition created the groundwork for this particularly effective and elegant process called the systemic constellation process. This series of articles explores these historic foundations of the systemic constellation process. There are many related areas not covered in these articles. Some related areas not yet included are:
• The interrupted reaching out movement
• The influences that shaped Bert Hellinger's individual evolution to the point that he was able to discover and develop the systemic constellation process .
• The connection with preexisting systems of understanding that may be dealing with the same energies
• The ongoing development and evolution of the Systemic Constellation Process including:
- Organisational constellations
- Structural constellations
Eventually we hope to have a wiki page so that more articles can be written and so that these articles can be added to and edited by membership.
This series of articles explores the origins and foundations of that lineage.
Sheldrake R. (2003) pp 113-116. The sense of being stared at and other aspects of the extended mind. Random House London