What are family constellations?

Nowadays, when we talk about “Family Constellations,” we talk both about a process of therapeutic intervention and a philosophical trend that German therapist and philosopher Bert Hellinger developed since the 1980s.

Family Constellations are part of systemic therapy. People —and their problems— are addressed considering their huge network of relationships and fundamental bonds. They are not seen in isolation. This network does not include only parents and siblings, but also the members of previous generations and all those persons who favored or harmed the family system. Thus, through Family Constellations we can see that our difficulties to embrace plenitude or success have their origins in events, illnesses, or emotions experienced by people who lived many years before, whom we didn’t even meet.

When the seeker experiences a Constellation, they get an image of the state of the hidden bonds and dynamics through which we lose our health, tranquility, peace, or plenitude.

Why Is this Name Related to the Stars?

The original name in German for Family Constellations is “Familienaufstellung,” or “Family Line-Up.” It is in its translation to English, Spanish, and other languages that the name “Family Constellations” comes about because each member of a family is placed in relation to all other members and, together, they form a community of destiny. A “star constellation” is a group of stars that occupy certain positions in the sky and appear to be close to each other. Ancient astronomers linked these stars together through imaginary lines that grouped them forming an image that facilitated locating and recognizing them in the night sky.

How Are the Constellations Like?

The set up of a Constellation is quite simple. During the workshop, the seeker presents the issue they want to address in the Constellation and the facilitator asks this person to choose among the participants those who will represent the family members indicated by the therapist. The seeker places these representatives in the space where the Constellation will take place, considering the relationship the various family members hold in relation to each other.

Once this is done, the representatives will move freely and, when prompted by the therapist, they will talk about the bodily sensations and the emotions they are experiencing. Thus, the hidden dynamics that move the system and make the person to place themselves in a certain way in life become evident.

However, it is difficult to describe the profound healing process that comes about through this simple initial line-up made by the seeker. The difficulty to convey this through a description is like the one we would face if we tried to describe the unique taste of honey to someone who has never tasted anything sweet. What is recommended is to take part in a workshop in order to offer a testimony of these processes.

How Does a Constellation Work?

The Constellation acts both within the soul of the family and the soul of the seeker. It is there where a solution that takes into consideration the wellness of all family members is achieved. Often, this solution has to do with honoring our bonds with our parents, siblings, and ancestors. But it is also related to the recognition of the unique and unrepeatable place we occupy within the family and to saying yes to our destiny and our life just as it is.

Do People Act Roles? How Do I Choose a “Good” Representative?

It is impossible to make a mistake while choosing representatives. They do not have to have special abilities. Any person has what it takes to perceive and report the emotions experienced in relation to the other representatives.

It is astounding to see how the constellating person recognizes a relative’s attitudes in what the representatives report even though they haven’t met the person they represent. Therefore, this is not a performance, but a perception that arises from where we are placed.

How Is It Helpful in Relation to the Issue?

As any other therapeutic path, Constellations are not helpful for everyone, nor are they helpful in relation to all human issues. However, the range of problems, illnesses, and issues that can be addressed through Family Constellations is a very broad one —from issues related to the difficulties we experience in our love relationships or our original families, to work and health-related problems, to the obstacles we find as we grow, to the repetition of illnesses, tragedies or behavioral patterns that travel from one generation to the next, or even finding our call or bringing order to our company or family. Through a Constellation, our family system can be untangled and, thus, love is allowed to flow freely and we can recover the strength the conflict had stopped.

Who Develop It?

Family Constellations were developed by German therapist and philosopher Bert Hellinger, who was born during the first quarter of the 20th century and became a member of a missionary order in which he served for 16 years in Africa, among the Zulu. Later, he studied Psychoanalisis, Group Dynamics, Primal Therapy, Transactional Analysis, and various Hypnotherapy methods. Finally, he developed a philosophy upon which he organized the new systemic and transgenerational approach we call today Family Constellations and which is widely renowned and respected throughout the world and applied to a wide diversity of fields, not exclusively psychotherapy. Family Constellations have proven their usefulness for medicine, pedagogy, businesses, organizations, and many others.

Transgenerational Therapy, Is It the Same as Systemic Therapy?

Yes, it is. The term Systemic & Transgenerational Therapy is used to refer to a therapeutic approach that regards the person as being part of a vast network of relationships and fundamental bonds, rather than as an isolated entity. This network does not only include parents and siblings, but also members of previous generations.

If I Want to Work with Family Constellations Is this Form of Therapy a Continuation or Should It Happen Prior to Other Therapies?

In our Institution, we work with seekers without the need for them to undergo previous therapy. Our therapeutic approach regards them as a part of a network of bonds that touch them and have an influence on their health or illness. In many cases, this entails working on several issues throughout a process and the therapists at Consultoría Luz Sistémica offer a continuity for it whenever the seeker wishes to do so.

How Can I Know Which Is the Fundamental Issue or the Most Relevant One to Work in the Constellation?

Before a Constellation work, it is highly recommendable to have a private appointment with the therapist in order to clarify the issue that should be prioritized and the best way to deal with that personal matter.

Why Is It Said that It Is Faster than Going to a Psychologist?

Family Constellations deal directly with the hidden dynamics that operate within the family soul. In many cases, this entails immediate effects that signal that a person is walking by themselves towards a solution.

Can I Do It Privately or Is It Always Done in Public?

Family Constellations can be done in a workshop, with a group of people, or in a private consultation. In this latter case, the therapist will use figures, traces, or inner images in order to do the consultation with the seeker.

What Is the Right Age for a Constellation?

Constellation consultations are recommended from 14 years of age onwards. However, issues or difficulties experienced by children —such as attention deficit, violence, school bullying, underachievement, etc.— can be worked through a Constellation done by the child’s parents.

Does My Whole Family Have to Come?

No. However, to have enough resources to go through with a Constellations Workshop we ask the seeker to come to the Constellation accompanied by two persons they trust —family members or not— in order to have enough people in the group.

How Many Times Can I Do Constellations? How Often?

The frequency will be determined by the therapist in a case-by-case basis. Although it is not advised to do a second Constellation before 3 months have passed after the first one, the therapist may suggest otherwise on a case-by-case basis.

If I Want to Work on the Relationship with Someone Who Passed, Can I Do It?

Yes. It is possible to address our relationship with everyone who is a part of our family system, regardless of them being alive or having passed away.

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