From Haunting to Healing: Family Constellation TherapyJun 30, 2022 09:31AM ● By Cileimmar Oliveira
Every family is an intimately interrelated group. It is our first group, and the system where we learn rules, behaviors, attitudes and a collective way of seeing. If we allow for the possibility that some unexplained stressors, diseases, misunderstandings and destructive feelings may have links to one’s ancestors—who experienced far worse adversities—then family constellations may prove illuminating.
Social researcher and therapist Bert Hellinger conceived family constellation therapy while serving for 16 years as a missionary among the Zulu people. During that time, Hellinger observed a ritual of conflict resolution utilized by the tribe. When a community member experienced a difficulty, this was considered a problem for the entire tribe. No issues or pathologies existed in isolation. Everything, good or bad, was considered a communal responsibility.
After learning from the Zulu, Hellinger returned home to Germany. He acquired competence in various therapeutic techniques including psychoanalysis, Gestalt, transactional analysis, hypnosis and therapies relating to family systems. These are foundational to what Hellinger would develop and begin practicing by the mid-1990s as family constellation therapy.
The scars borne by ancestors that suffered profound trauma—suicide, violent death, incarceration, adoption, miscarriage, abuse, poverty, war, slavery, genocide or violence of any kind—can be passed from survivor to their descendants as addiction, depression, isolation, anger, eating disorders or other imbalances that prevent healing.
While creating family constellations, Hellinger established three laws with the power to influence both the individual and the family system. These laws, or “Orders of Love,” are belonging, hierarchy and balance between giving and receiving. Disregarding these laws may trigger imbalances and traumas unique to the family system. These manifest as financial difficulties, phobias, diseases and even self-destructive tendencies.
A family constellation typically unfolds as a session among a group of people who are unrelated. The group dynamic is a powerful component of the therapy functioning effectively in a therapist-client setting. The person seeking resolution for a problem is called the “seeker.” The seeker presents an issue that provides the theme for the session. The facilitator then asks for family background and assigns participants from the group to serve as stand-in family members or representatives.
Family constellation therapy utilizes psychodrama to explore specific issues and barriers. This process allows the seeker to recontextualize themselves within the family system.
Awakenings: Haunting to Healing
Practitioners of family constellation claim that anyone can benefit from exploring family dynamics. The seeker, the representatives and observers all report gaining insight and clarity into the links and patterns within family systems. Transformative results may emerge within weeks or even days after a session. Participants often describe seeing through a lens that spans generations, illuminating past traumas and providing a narrative which remains inaccessible in family stories.
As the seeker awakens, self-healing may begin. With the process of self-healing, we re-envision our ancestors as helpers; healers instead of haunts. Family constellation honors our ancestors and our families—past, present and future.
Cileimmar Oliveira, M.Ed., CAGS, is the founder of Quantum Healing Universe, a heart-centric healing facility, located at 999 Broadway, Ste. 303, Saugus, MA, that uses a combination of holistic modalities to work with the body’s natural healing capabilities. She is a practicing counselor with special training in family counseling, addiction recovery, anxiety and depression. For more information, call 781-558-1561 or visit QuantumHealingUniverse.com.