What is a Constellation?

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What do we mean by “Family Constellation?” Constellations (not the starry kind) are a means of looking at the hidden dynamics of the energies of a system. They are the life’s work of Bert Hellinger, German psychotherapist who has been facilitating constellations for several decades. Family Constellations uncover the hidden dynamics of your family or relationship in an experiential way, so that the existing energy can be observed and undue stress is reduced or released in the system. This gentle and sensitive method allows family or relationship energy to reveal itself through representatives, so that a resolution can unfold. Each member of the system finds their rightful place in the group allowing the natural flow of love in the system to increase: constellations are all about increasing the flow of love in a family.

Constellations are an exciting and effective modality that is adjunctive to traditional counseling. They address the systemic components of issues and problems that show up in a system which other therapies don’t seem to make a dent in. The reason that other therapies may not be effective on a particular problem is that the problem is actually systemic in nature; it arises from pressures exerted by many parts of the system and is not localized to any one person. Constellations look at the system as a whole to find where these pressures and dysfunctions arise.

How does it work? We gather as a group with the intention to be in service to our families and to the families of those gathered. One person presents an issue to the facilitator who asks some simple questions about the family of origin: were there any big events in the family? Did anyone die in an unusual way or suffer a heavy fate? Were any children stillborn? Often the issue that the client is bringing stems from what is known as an ‘entanglement’, the intertwining of a person with the fate of an ancestor, even when we don’t know them or their stories. The family ‘soul’ wants everyone to be included, especially the forgotten, excluded, and marginalized. Sometimes the entanglement is the way of being remembered.

The facilitator then asks the client to choose persons to represent family members, one at a time. They gently guide the representative into the working space and place them in the layout that matches their inner knowing. The facilitator asks the representatives to follow the sensations that arise in their bodies; if they feel the need to move, then the representative moves into a new position in relationship with the others. Constellation language is very visual: observing these movements and hearing what representatives are experiencing brings new light to what is being experienced in the system.

When placed in a constellation, representatives are able to accurately report information from the information field of the family’s system. A skilled facilitator adds representatives for other family members or for concepts in order to localize the beginning of the dysfunction, and to bring understanding and resolution to the presenting issue. For instance, representatives for ‘Life’, ‘Love’, or ‘Death’ or even ‘Fate’ can be introduced to help clarify the issue and its effects on the family system. Participants in constellations often find immediate relief, although gradual lessening of family issues is also a norm.

Constellations, also known as Family and Systemic Constellation Work also has applications for business, as businesses are also systems which endure systemic pressures. Business constellations can be used to test new products on subsets of consumer markets, branding, pricing, and many other facets. Systemic and Family Constellation work is extremely effective and increasingly popular worldwide, and most of the extent literature has been written in other languages. It is only now being translated into English, and as a result, constellations are now beginning to gain a strong following in the US. Find out what it can do for you and your family or business!

Jeffrey Rich, LMT 656 is a Certified Constellations Facilitator. He owns and operates Shining Mountain Healing Center in Five-Points, and offers monthly constellation workshops.