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Family Constellations Healing Ancestral Trauma

Updated: Dec 22, 2023

Family Constellations are not about the stars in the sky! It is a system of healing all those who came before us and what unresolved trauma we unknowingly hold on behalf of them.

What are Family Constellations?

Family Constellations is a therapy that began with Bert Hellinger. He was a German missionary who came and lived in KwaZulu Natal (my home province), in South Africa for 16 years. He observed how the Zulu people looked to their ancestors for guidance and healing and, upon returning to Germany, combined his observations with other therapies to create Family Constellations.

Family Constellations is an experiential therapy that is felt and sensed somatically (soma- meaning body and somatic meaning relating to or affecting the body).

Family constellations can be done in groups or in one-on-one sessions with a trained therapist.

How do Family Constellations work?

A client comes in with an issue that they need to resolve. Here are a few examples of possible issues:

  • I feel suicidal or depressed, and I want to work on this as it is impacting my life

  • I feel anxiety/ fear, and I know it is irrational, but I can't stop myself

  • I have a health concern

  • We are trying to have a baby, but even though we have tried multiple rounds of IVF, we can't fall pregnant

  • I have issues with my mother/ father/ sibling

  • I can't make things work with my partner or in my marriage

  • I can't seem to make things work in my career, or I am at a crossroads in my career

  • I can't see my purpose, what I am meant to do in the world

The therapist asks the client for some basic details. We especially look for secrets that are kept, issues like affairs, abortions, stillbirths, incest, abuse, wars, famines, and many other factors as these all impact the family system and the generations that come after.

We use colored felts in the shapes of circles to represent females and squares to represent males, but someone may be drawn to use a square to represent a female or vice versa. Each of these felts has a V cut out in them, and they show us the direction in which the felts are facing. This is important information as it begins to tell us a story about the representatives in the family and what their dynamic is all about.

The therapist then works with the client to bring some resolution to the trauma, or unresolved issue.

" So if you have suffering in you and you don't know where this comes from, looking deeply you may see that this the suffering of your ancestors, handed down from one generation to another, because no one knew how to recognize, embrace, and heal it. It's not your fault, nor is it their fault."- Thich Nhat Hanh

Why should you do a Family Constellation?

An important concept in Family Constellations is belonging. Humans need to belong, and when someone is left out of our family systems, they hold an energy until they are acknowledged and included. Epigenetically, what was left unhealed or unresolved in the past affects the generations that come after and lives in our DNA. So not only do we inherit our family genes but we inherit their behavior patterns and belief systems and so we also inherit their unresolved stories. When we choose to do a Family constellation not only do we heal the traumas, and unresolved issues from our ancestors, but we also heal something within ourselves, our children, and the generations that are yet to come. Family Constellations work like frequencies or waves of energy, once they are set in motion they continue to vibrate through the universe. After all, one of the laws that govern the universe is the law of vibration.

Wherever we go we constellate our story” - Jung

What is the Field of Consciousness?

Hellinger noticed that there was a natural right order in family systems, the same as a natural divine order in the universe and everything follows this systematic order. There is what I call the Field of Consciousness and everything belongs to this field, in Family Constellations we observe how there is a natural movement from each representative to balance the imbalance in the field of consciousness. Rupert Sheldrake describes this as the Morphic Field.

When we bring balance to our family systems through Family Constellations, then there is flow again, and healing can occur. You are the catalyst for this change!

The Concept of Phenomenology:

One of the core ideas Hellinger worked with is the concept of phenomenology, which simply means being present with everything that is arising in your body and somatically sensing what is happening within it, in the field of consciousness or space around you. Hellinger termed this "acknowledging what is". We make space for everything that may be present for a client in the field of consciousness without judgments or assumptions. In this way, we allow space for whatever phenomena are expanding. This information is the backbone of a Family Constellation. As therapists, we cannot have an agenda for our clients, no matter how well-meaning we may be, we have to step out of the way and allow the field of consciousness to guide us.

When we can do this, then there is movement in the family system and balance is restored. Another core idea that Hellinger worked with is that of love. He said that love is the energy that heals our families, and even love has orders. When we acknowledge these orders, the balance is restored. He called them orders of love.

The three basic orders according to Hellinger are:

  • Order of belonging: Is not an either, or situation, you always belong. The moment someone is omitted or denied from a family, it creates chaos or disorder within that family system. Examples of someone being omitted are true in the cases of stillbirths, abortions, and adoptions.

  • Order of Hierarchy: There is a hierarchy of who comes first and then who follows afterward in order of seniority. So the eldest child comes first, then the second child, and then the third child, etc.

  • Order of balance: There has to be a balance of giving and receiving/taking. When someone takes too much and doesn't give back then the balance is disturbed. When something is left imbalanced, it creates unresolved resentment or other issues.

These are some of the many concepts that create balance and harmony in Family Constellation work. A misconception about Family Constellations is that it is only about families. Family Constellations can heal anything from health issues to relationship problems, unrequited love, or difficulties in friendships. It can help if we are at a crossroads in our careers or want changes in our career paths. Truthfully we can constellate anything that feels imbalanced or unresolved!

" This body is not yours alone. It is also the body of your ancestors. Your body is a collective product of your nation, of your people, of your culture, of your ancestors. So you are not strictly an individual. You are partly collective." - Thich Nhat Hanh

To book an appointment for a one-on-one session or to join any of these Family Constellations in a group, click on the links below.

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