A week ago, I attended my very first Family Constellations therapy group session at the Tree of Life Center with Dr Michaelene Ruhl PsyD. After months of convincing my mother to attend with me, it finally happened and I was so grateful she agreed to go.
Like many in my soul group who have never attended group therapy or worked on themselves - any type of group counseling or therapy can be very intimidating - yet it doesn't have to be. The beauty of this form of therapy is that the facilitator and the participants were very welcoming, creating a safe space that was comfortable for both me and for my mother who is new to therapy and any type of self-reflection work.
I have personally found Family Constellations to be most effective when family members are present and/or multiple people are participating on behalf of family members. This particular group last week included a small group of people ranging from novice participants to an expert participant from Germany who was skilled enough to teach Family Constellations.
Family Constellations is a forward-thinking ‘avant garde’ form of therapy that is relatively new to the traditional psychology community here in the states - yet its popularity in parts of Europe, (Germany, France and Great Britain) as well as in Northern California where it was first invented and rolled out by Bert Hellinger has made its way over to the states in recent years. Hellinger, the master teacher of Family Constellations, is a former minister from Germany who first invented it. The constellation approach is endorsed by Harvard Medical doctors, degreed psychologists and many other well-respected people in the field of medicine and psychology. Its effectiveness and ability to help families heal stems from pure awareness and empathy that come through the “energy field” - not talk- based solutions - making it a more palatable and compassionate way of resolving conflict without the continued exhaustion that comes from talking it out that takes place in traditional group therapy or conflict resolution counseling sessions. With its effectiveness and the “thumbs up” from both my mother and myself - I can only see this healing modality growing. I hope too, that as we continue to “peel back the layers” of my family’s soul group and lineage that both my birth family gets healed and my extended family members (4 different sets of families in conflict who don’t talk anymore). Yes - many who are estranged need this type of healing to manage rifts in their family and that includes almost everyone I know! Therefore, it is my hope by sharing this experience that others reading this bravely heal their wounds within their families too - for themselves and for their children’s future generations. In the wake of this weekend’s shootings in Orlando - this is so needed in our world! Not only within the family, but within the workplace too.
Family Constellations Is lead usually by an educated facilitator like Dr Michelene Ruhl who has studied with Jamy and Peter Faust - leaders on the east coast in Family Constellations.
HOW ITS STRUCTURED... During a group therapy session, participants in the therapy may be asked to “fill in” for a particular family - taking on the role of a person's family member. They have the option at this point to accept the assigned role or to decline. If taken, the person taking on the family member’s role will feel energetically the emotion of the person they are asked to be. Others participating may take on other family member roles, participate as a group observer only, and/or may star as the main subject (client) of the family constellation. Whatever role you take on, the energy is felt by everyone in the group and new understanding comes through by all the participants of the constellation.
What is great about this form of therapy.. is that it is not a "talk based" therapy or a solution based therapy - no words are necessary as it is a type of therapy that brings greater awareness /understanding and empathy to ALL INVOLVED in the soul group through pure feeling/sense of awareness that comes into the energy field.
When I experienced my first family constellation as the main client last week, I was still marinating on what happened (as the facilitator Dr Michaelene asked that we not talk about our personal constellations for 72 hours), yet a week later, I am able to fully digest some of the intense work that took place.
Our group conducted two family constellations that night and it took approximately 3 hours! Yet much was accomplished.
During my constellation, I was selected as the main client. Normally outgoing - I became shy and somewhat self-conscious like a deer in the headlights - not knowing what to expect, given that it was my first time having one done on my family. As I joke with friends and clients, I am so used to being the role of healer, and so happy when clients tell me they are happy and healed.. yet this is a form of healing that I needed personally - to delve in deeper to heal not only me, but my family and to blog about it so that I can help other families who need healing get better too. So here it goes..
My particular constellation involved a mother's lineage constellation as our mothers are the ones who give birth to us and as Bert Hellinger reminds us - mothers are our portals to the world. They are the ones who carry us within their body and that we rely on. Whether we are close to our mothers or not, they are the one person who give us life. With constellations therapy too, often mothers lineage constellations - there is a repeat pattern where a mother is overly attentive or not giving enough -oftentimes the mother is neglectful, overwhelmed,controlling and/or depressed. Themes that often occur. In other instances, clients may feel resentment over a step-parent’s treatment and/or a parent's favoritism of one sibling over another. These are all repeat patterns/scenarios seen in this and other forms of energy healing and in my own practice. Healing this is important to our well-being and to find a way to see our mothers in a new light by seeing our mother’s lineage and our mother’s relationship with her own mother and to our own grandmothers and great-grandmothers too. To understand a mother’s feelings/ relationship to her own mother and what she was or was not capable of providing to us - allows us to realize emotions felt by these relationships and other sacrifices made - ie. my grandma working full-time in the 50s to support both her children and her family/soul group, and my mom feeling neglected and giving up on her own career to have a sense of family she felt she never had..and feeling what that entailed and empathy for not having the emotions/love in her own experiences to give back.. All these emotions came through that helped to develop empathy. Some at that moment.. yet more as the days passed.. (much like traditional energy healing)... While I felt a sense of comradery. and understanding with my grandma Rose who was also a career woman with much responsibilities - the closer I moved towards admiring and being more like my grandma Rose with the person who stepped in for her, the more my mom’s energy /connection to the constellation was severed from both of us. The man from Germany who stood in for the role of my mother explained - there was no connection there ( and my mom just confirmed that the feelings described were valid - as that was how my mom felt watching this constellation. She later validated this to the group during the debriefing process.
Please note: the ENERGY field is genderless - and regardless of a role you perform - it doesnt matter if the person asked to participate is of the same gender or not. Therefore, it was not a conscious choice to choose someone female to represent my mother - it was important to choose someone who could handle the role and the energy.
How can a “stand in” participant feel the energy of my mom observing this constellation? Anyone who has studied energy healing or sacred geometry may remember the Vesica Pisces - which is the sacred overlap - or intersection between two individual people’s energy fields. It is this field that allows for the transformation of consciousness to occur in the form of images and thoughts/and feelings of the person - whether they are dead or alive. With mothers lineage constellation both my mother who is very much alive and my late grandmother Rose's energy could be felt by everyone in the room- including those who participated on their behalf. When the lady who participated as my grandma Rose kept saying her stomach hurt her.. my mother and I immediately looked at each other - as my grandmother died of a very painful and slow stomach cancer. Though my constellation didn’t bring immediate answers or insight that night - it did validate why my mother was " checked out" and not into me having a career - and gave me more understanding on why my mother who felt rejected/neglected from her own mother, didn't know how to give more or show love -especially to someone in the working world.
The beauty of constellations is that again - there is no solution - only awareness and empathy that comes into the consciousness of those participating and into their extended families who feel the energy and increased awareness of the work done. For example, the next day, my father was so sweet and understanding and was singing. yet a few days later by Thursday of last week, he seemed agitated and irritated that something shifted causing my mom and I to get along with each other.. Yes, like traditional energy healing.. things shift when you do this work.. and it takes some adjustments! Like peeling an onion... this is only the start, as there is more work to be done!
The second family constellations involved a warm friendly lady with grown children who wanted to heal and forgive her deceased mother for years of emotional abuse growing up. This lady had two brothers and resented her mother for demeaning her and favoring her brothers over her. My mother was asked to play her deceased mother and the irony was that her mother was named Irene -the same name as the woman who raised me until I was ten years old. She was the most beautiful spirit in the world who raised me as a little girl until she passed away. Irene means “Peace” and Irene or “Reneey” as I called her, was a beautiful mix of African and Caucasian and was the sweetest most encouraging soul I had in my early years besides my grandparents and grandma Lucy who raised my mom and aunt. She was my biggest cheering section too when I performed songs for her as she provided the unconditional love and attention my parents were not capable of giving. Though she died when I was ten, - the irony of the name sparked tears to my eyes. I was touched deeply by this constellation and the way my mom became this lady's mother - stepping into the energy and becoming the deceased mother “Irene” to help this lady heal. Having gone through emotional abuse and neglect at the hands of a depressed mother too, who resented my close relationship with my father too - there were many parallels that striked a chord in my heart - something I could relate to. This second constellation was over the top miraculous because it allowed me to feel empathy ( via this Irene) for this lady, having endured up until this point in my life similar feelings of abuse/hurt. It also allowed me to experience the " human part" of my mom Carolyn - that by serving as the role of Irene, she showed she had and was capable of developing empathy and heart - something i so desperately needed to see in my mother, not feeling, seeing or connecting to it growing up. My mom in this moment became a " rock star" healer to me - as I saw and felt the " heartfelt compassion she showed this woman as her mother. Though it wasn't me - it made her treatment of me more palatable - seeing that she could show empathy to someone that suffered similar abuse and neglect. In this moment, I no longer saw my mom as the fire-breathing hollow dragon that couldn't feel heart or show empathy. This permanently changed my view and feelings towards my mother for the better. The observers too, felt the intense energy in the space of the work done between this woman survivor of emotional abuse and my mom's participation connecting to the energy of her deceased mother Irene. In my own mother's words afterwards: " I felt like I wanted to tell her I was sorry and hug her and tell her how unhappy I was and that it wasn't her fault" not my mom's words yet the energy she was connecting to consciously as Irene to help this lady heal and have closure during her constellation. In this moment I was so very proud of my mom for holding this intense space and for the work she did to help heal this lady and give her the closure she needed. My mom truly is a gifted healer in her own right.
While it is one week since we did the work - like my own style of energy healing one-on-one with clients, I noticed a shift in my family. My dad seems nicer at times, my brother is not bullying me this week and my dream time with my sister Lis was more loving/ understanding. My anger though was there for my sister Pam who sailed in the kitchen the next day declaring that she was “happy we were having this group talk therapy and that all her friends in Toronto are doing it..” . Again - her comments irritated me - especially coming from someone who has never sought out professional therapy of any kind in her life - who has no education in it, who discredits/downplays what I know and who I am, yet who thinks she knows what is right for everyone’s marriage /relationship - instead of looking in her own backyard and her own issues. Yes - these are the types of people who really need therapy the most.. Though I am not quite ready to have my sister Pam join us in a group family constellations therapy - even though there are layers of hurtful things she has done.. the beauty of this exchange is that my mom who would normally gang up on me to defend Pam stayed completely out of it when I told her to get educated on this topic before she had a conversation with me. - since she is an unwilling listener finishing my sentences for me. I was so happy that my mom didn't correct me and let me say my peace! So although I am not ready to deal with my sister quite yet.. if she ever did go for this therapy on her own- and heal patterns of meddling (like my dad) I’m sure I wouldn't be as irritated with her comments - as the empathy and awareness surface within the family without needing to say a word.
The other shift that occurred with my father - is that he was not particularly happy by Friday that my mom and I were getting along. For starters, he is used to the friction/conflict his entire life.. He also likes to “stir the pot” often for attention and to keep the focus on him... so this too may be examined/healed if needed in the future.
Though my mom and Pam still “excluded me” going to visit relatives of my late grandpa George (Poppies) and his twin brother Lewis - for a fashion party on Sunday - the beauty of this therapy is that i just didn't care!. whereas before I would have felt very hurt and excluded. I guess from years of being excluded and from this therapy I just don't care anymore.
Energy shifts in family relations/dynamics is quite normal .. and I've blogged about it before explaining examples of changes that occur within family relationships when you do energy work.
My mom and I both like Family Constellations therapy and found it effective so far, so we will continue to go monthly. The only drawback is that you need a group of participants and a really good facilitator like Dr Ruhl to conduct it. Each constellation is peeling back a layer or understanding to fully heal and better understand aspects of you and your family. What is most promising about the Family constellations approach is that where traditional therapy has failed many families and marriages - this approach has saved so many who were brave enough to connect to it. If only it was readily available to more families and relationships that needed healing - including the workplace where many family dynamics/scenarios repeat with your coworkers until we learn the individual lessons we need know. If we all knew as individuals what these lessons were - we wouldn't be here and we wouldn't incarnate - as like Bert Hellinger calls it - it's the" veil of forgetting" the covered up sub-conscious is lifted during this work so that we remember again our soul contracts with one another... Remembering elements of what we agreed to work on this time around and with who after picking our soul group including our parents, siblings, friends, spouses and other players we agreed to incarnate with this time around brings a sense of clarity to where there was fog. When family constellations group work is done - the veil of forgetting is lifted and we have an " aha" moment - remembering who we are... why we are here...and what we need to learn.. As well as the context/relations to those within our family/soul group.
As Hellinger, Metzer and Jamy and Peter Faust set out to help as pioneers in this approach it's important for everyone in the wake of the Orlando tragedies to develop more love/empathy in our world. The Family Constellations Approach can be the breakthrough remedy to do just that as healing is so needed in our world at this time. People need hope, faith, encouragement/support and love - and this healing modality can help - especially with what happened!
While this was my first group therapy trying it- both my mother and I recommend it and look forward to continuing our work " peeling back the layers" of areas within ourselves and our core family unit that need healing.
I also personally look forward to sharing more insight on this wonderful healing next month and with clients.
Have a wonderful summer and thoughts/prayers to all the families who need personal healing at this time - including those who lost loved ones this weekend in Orlando.