Systemic family constellations are an experiential learning based group modality developed by German philosopher, former Catholic priest, and psychotherapist, Bert Hellinger. The constellation process reveals the influence of generational histories in ways that our Western-trained minds find challenging to access. It promotes visibility and consciousness of our shared humanity, including our tendencies to be constricted by unhealed loss and trauma experienced by our ancestors.
I’m deeply grateful for and inspired by my colleague Tanja Meyburgh, co-founder of REAL Academy. For a more in-depth exploration of Systemic Family Constellations, I encourage you to visit her website including Resource Library. Be sure to visit the section on the Zulu Roots of Constellation Work.
Love’s Own Truths
Families have an unconscious mind and soul that travel across generations and entangle those who follow in the fates of those who came before us. All members of a family are deeply bonded to each other in love and loyalty. This bonding love may cause us to invite disease, suffering, depression, relationship struggles, and even suicide, into our lives in an unconscious attempt to restore balance to our family systems. The dynamics of this larger family system lie beyond our awareness, yet their effect on our lives is profound.
We are deeply bonded to family members we may not have even known — for example, a parent’s early deceased sibling, or our grandparents’ previous partners, or an earlier family member’s stillborn, aborted, or miscarried child. “Orders of Love” is the term first used by Bert Hellinger, German psychotherapist and former priest. to name these powerful forces that guide and influence our lives. The guiding forces in our lives include:
- Parents give & children take
- Everyone belongs in the family
- Relationships require a balance of give & take
Many families operate in ways that violate these natural laws because of deeply unconscious patterns, loyalty to family secrets, and tragic losses that make grieving difficult. There are universal truths that connect all of us to one another, even while each family also has its own story that makes it unique. By restoring balance in our ancestral blueprints, personal suffering and unhappiness can be transformed into a force for healing.
Who Might Benefit
- Persons struggling with serious life issues, including health problems, depression or anxiety, chronic “survival mode,” painful relationship patterns, or career struggles
- Couples wanting to create healthy and satisfying relationships
- Those seeking to deal positively with severe illness and death of family members
- Professionals — physicians, therapists, body workers, religious leaders and spiritual based healers — wanting to enrich their practices with new insights about health and human behavior
- All those wanting more love, freedom, and clarity in their lives and relationships
The Workshop Experience
A sacred space is created where deeper, often unspoken truths about our families are acknowledged and honored. Participants describe the issue or problem they want to solve along with some factual information about their family. They choose workshop participants to represent family members, living or dead, and physically place them in relationship to each other according to their heartfelt image of their family system. In this constellation, an energy field is created where those involved experience physical sensations, emotions, and thoughts related to the family member they are representing.
The workshop leader facilitates an unfolding process where painful losses, family secrets, and harmful connections are revealed and honored. The constellation can then be restructured into a more balanced system where love and energy flow freely. Participants leave with a more nourishing family picture that inspires freedom, clarity, and love.
Circumstances or People Commonly Made Invisible in Family Life
Examples include but are not limited to:
- Previous partners (spouses, fiancées, deep first loves) of yours, your parents, your grandparents, or spouse
- Miscarriages, abortions, and stillbirths
- Adoptions and children viewed as a secret
- War experiences
- Immigrant home countries
- Indigenous First Nations’ ancestry
- Colonial genocide
- Family members who survived or perished in the Holocaust or pogroms
- Third Reich or Nazi military experience
- Ancestors who enslaved African American
- Experiences of enslavement, persecution, or genocide
- Ku Klux Klan membership or victimization
- Accidents, suicides, and murders
- Severe illness and sudden deaths
- Mental illness (diagnosed or undiagnosed)
- Severe financial hardship
- Unacknowledged hardship
- Prison experience (either unfairly punished or lack of consequences for criminal action)
- Unrecognized or shunned gay, lesbian, and other sexual minority family members
- Religious traditions that have been lost or excluded
- Other family members whose fates were in some way difficult
“When we look at our parents, then we see that behind them are their parents, and behind their parents are other parents, and so on through many generations. The same life flows through all of them until it reaches us.”Bert Hellinger
About Bert Hellinger
Bert Hellinger (1925 – 2019) was a renowned psychotherapist and best selling author. He credits many experiences as influencing him in his life and work. A native of Germany, he was raised in a family whose faith protected them from believing the Nazi rhetoric. As an adult, he served for 25 years as a priest, during which time he lived and worked with Zulu tribes for 16 years. After he left the priesthood, he became a trained psychoanalyst and psychotherapist.
The combination of these and other life influences positioned him to notice invisible family “blueprints” which he later named “orders of love”. His discovery and development of the family constellation phenomenon has made an invaluable contribution to the human family.
To learn more about Bert Hellinger, visit www.hellinger.com.