Structural vs. Phenomenological Constellations

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I just returned from a wonderful weekend in New York city where I had the great fortune to have a working reunion with ten of my colleagues from the constellations facilitation training I took this summer. We laughed, cried, and shared information about how constellations are unfolding for us all. One of the things that struck me strongly from our work this past weekend is that I now have a brand new appreciation for structural constellations.

The whole point of a family constellation is to allow the Knowing Field to speak to us so that we can discern the hidden dynamics of the system we are looking at. We do this so that more love can flow in the system. This is accomplished in a number of ways. Being a shamanic practitioner, I naturally gravitate to the phenomenological approach: placing representatives to speak for the Field and then just letting things happen, that is, allowing the Field do its work without restriction in a phenomenological way. This works wonderfully and efficiently, and is very satisfying to me as a facilitator. It is always magic to watch and to facilitate. In the phenomenological approach, we plug right in to the magic.

Structural constellations, on the other hand, happen within a more strict framework of possibility; the facilitator has imposed a structure upon the way in which the phenomenology can emerge. A simple example of this is the "This or That" constellation, which helps us choose when we are on the horns of a dilemma. There is also the Tetralemma constellation, another choice constellation, which is set up to allow us to chose this, that, both, neither, or a wildcard answer. In both of these constellations, the choices are well-defined and do not morph or move in relation to one another.

At first, I thought that structural constellations were boring and unimaginative and unnecessarily confining. After working in several structural constellations this weekend, my thoughts have changed considerably. It has also spurred me on to wonder what is possible in the realm of structural constellations as applied to shamanic work. Funny, when I noticed what I had really done, the very first time I used a constellation within a shamanic ceremony at the urging of my Helping Spirits, it was a highly structural structural one.

This weekend, however, that phenomenology will seep into even the most structural of constellations! My colleague, Denise, was in the middle of retrieving Jesus (spiritual help) from the spiritual realm to bring into a certain part of her structural constellation in order to help a stranded ancestor who was still here in the Middle World, blocking a possibility for one of our participants. Right at that moment, church bells from about a block away began playing the tune, Veni, emmanuel ("O come, o come, Emmanuel"), the words of which are:

O come, O come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee,
O Israel.

Needless to say, we were stunned at the appropriateness of the wording based on what was happening at that moment in our very structural constellation.

Clearly, there are places for both types, and each type of constellation is powerful in its own right. The Field speaks, no matter the form of the constellation!

ConstellationsJeffrey Rich