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– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Family Constellations (a subset application of Systemic Constellations) is an experiential process that aims to release and resolve profound tensions within and between people. The development of the process can be traced through a lineage of philosophers and therapists including 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 Bert Hellinger. In the past decade, further advancements in the use of the process have been innovated by practitioners throughout the world. These include psychiatrists (Gunthard Weber and Albrecht Mahr, Germany; Chris Walsh, Australia), and psychologists (Hunter Beaumont, Germany; Marta Thorsheim, Norway; Edward Lynch and Dan Booth Cohen, USA; Judith Hemming, UK;, as well as many alternative care providers. The term “Family Constellations” was first used by Alfred dler in a somewhat different context to refer to the phenomenon that each individual belongs to and is bonded in relationship to other members of his or her family system.
- A group (workshop participants) is led by a facilitator. In turn, members of the group can explore an urgent personal issue. Generally, several members will be given an opportunity to set up a Constellation in each session.
- After a brief interview, the facilitator suggests who will be represented in the Constellation. These are usually a representative for the seeker, one or more family members, and sometimes abstract concepts such as “depression” or a country.
- The person presenting the issue (seeker or client) asks people from the group to be representatives. He or she arranges the representatives according to what feels right in the moment. The seeker then sits down and observes.
- Several minutes elapse with the representatives standing still and silent in their places. Unlike psychodrama the representatives do not act, pose or role play.
- Emphasis is placed on intuition in placing the representatives and in subsequent steps of the procedure. The aim is to tap into what the psychiatrist Albrecht Mahr describes as the Knowing Field(Mahr 1999). The Knowing Field is claimed to guide participants to perceive and articulate feelings and sensation that mirror those of the real family members they represent. The mechanisms behind this representative perception is not fully understood. The representatives have little or no factual knowledge about those they represent. Nevertheless, the representatives usually experience feelings or physical sensations which inform the process.
- The facilitator may ask each representative to describe how it feels to be placed in relation to the others. At this point, the facilitator, seeker, and group members may perceive something in the spacial relationships and feelings held by the representatives that is informative regarding an underlying dynamic that relates to the presenting personal issue.
- A healing resolution for the issue generally involves the repositioning the representatives and for the facilitator to suggest one or two sentences to be spoken aloud. If the representatives do not feel better in their new position or sentence, they can move again or try a different sentence. Sometimes the process ends before a full resolution is achieved.
- A healing resolution is achieved when every representative feels right in his or her place and the other representatives agree. This is claimed to represent, in an abstract way, a possible resolution of the issues faced by the subject of the session.
- Along the way to finding this healing resolution, particular attention is paid by the practitioner to configurations of the group that do not feel right or which generate negative feelings or physical sensations. It is claimed that such configurations may represent systemic entanglements between the seeker’s family members. Systemic entanglements are said to occur when unresolved trauma has afflicted a family through an event such as murder, suicide, death of a mother in childbirth, early death of a parent or sibling, war, natural disaster, emigration, or abuse. Proponents claim that the negative legacy from such events can be passed down to succeeding generations, even if those affected now are unaware of the original event in the past. The psychiatrist Iván Böszörményi-Nagy referred to this phenomenon as Invisible Loyalties (Böszörményi-Nagy & Spark 1973)
Familly Contellations can be undertaken in a group, but some people prefer to present their problem in an individual atmosphere, as they feel safer, so consultations can be made privately.