What happens in a Family Constellation?
An individual Family Constellation session takes place with you and me, either in person, via Zoom, or by phone. The only person in your family needed to be present to do this work is yourself.
A group Family Constellation session usually takes place with a group of individuals who are not related. It lasts somewhere between 1 to 3 hours.
Your participation in a group constellation can happen in one of 3 ways:
- As the seeker, who receives the constellation. As the seeker you bring an issue or pattern of behavior that you would like to experience differently, e.g., a desire to heal a personal relationship, a career difficulty, a financial issue, health problems, or anything for which you are seeking resolution.
- As a witness, who watches the constellation but does not participate. I have often gotten insights from watching other people’s constellations.
- As a representative, where you volunteer to represent a person, place, family member, emotion, blockage, or state of mind in the seeker’s constellation. Many times I have gained meaning and resolution to my own issues by representing in other people’s constellations because I am able to feel what it’s like to have the experience and perspective of others.
The constellation takes place on a “field” which can be anywhere. I see the field as the universal life force energy, and I believe this energy is everywhere. We simply name a place that we designate to be the field. It could be someone’s back yard, a conference room in an office, a tabletop with post-its, an online app with movable pieces in a Zoom video call, a place in the forest, etc. For my local groups, it’s the Oriental rug in my living room.
As the facilitator, I have a short interview with the seeker to get a few details about their intention – what they would like to heal, clarify, or resolve. I also learn a few things about their family patterns.
As we begin the constellation, either the seeker or I choose a representative – someone to represent a key person or element that is relevant to his or her intention. The seeker places that person on the field. Sometimes people sitting in the circle feel an intuitive directive energy or nudge that they are holding a body sensation of a key person’s energy, for example the seeker’s mom, or the seeker as a child. They are part of the constellation, even if they don’t choose to step onto the field.
When people step onto the field to represent, they let go of what it feels like to be them and their job is to simply be present and receptive. This is not theater and it’s not a role playing of what we think someone should say or act like. I like the metaphor of a representative being a hollow bone on the desert. Even though it may feel strange, anyone can do this, as it doesn’t require any skill other than to let go of being them and notice what happens in their body. There’s nothing to do!
As each representative stands on the field, they are moved by the energy of the field. They may notice physical sensations, e.g., excitement, tightness, sorrow, frustration, impatience, etc. Sometimes they want to change their location, or need to say something. As they take on the emotional elements of the constellation, representatives often behave in ways that are very uncharacteristic of their everyday selves.
Though the representatives don’t usually know the seeker, they can feel and experience the emotions of the person whose role they have taken on. Their actions, words, movements, and personalities have embodied the qualities of who or what they are representing. This is the part that some facilitators say is unexplainable. However, I see it as a mystical experience of simply allowing energy to move through us.
From the outside of the circle, as the seeker watches the actions and interchanges of the representatives, they can gain new perspective on their situation by untangling previously unconscious patterns of behavior. The process of making sense of their issue relative to their family history results in the seeker having more choice in moving forward. Even if an issue is not fully resolved by a constellation, the seeker may still gain insight into the big picture of their intention.
As a facilitator, I’m looking for places where the seeker has cut themselves off from their authentic selves in order to belong and be accepted. This often initially happens in their family system and then is carried forward. We make unconscious contracts to be poor, unseen, less successful, unlovable, unhealthy, etc., so that others may shine, or not be alone, or to honor our parents, or simply to survive in a chaotic environment that is or was untenable. As the seeker recognizes and releases these unconscious contracts, there is a lightening and sense of spaciousness as a result of not having to carry the weight of someone else’s pain.
One neurobiological result of this healing is that something that may have been an emotional trigger for the seeker’s whole life can move from the ever-reactive amygdala to the contextualizing hippocampus. When this happens, the seeker’s nervous system is less at the effect of past trauma or family pain.