Why do constellations work?
For Bert Hellinger, the question of why constellations work does not matter. It does, however, matter that they work. Detailed explanations do not contribute anything to practical work. During an interview with Gabriele ten Hövel, Hellinger said, ‘There is a depth that flows through everything and is far beyond the bounds of time (…). Sometimes there are situations in which one comes into contact with this depth, and the hidden orders of things become visible. This is contacting the greatness of the soul.’
Interestingly, the constellations also affect those family members who are unaware that they have occurred.
An English biologist, Rupert Sheldrake, developed a morphogenetic field theory according to which genes are inherited not only at the genetic level, but also in morphic fields. Thus, a collective conscience is created. Each field is enriched by every individual, and vice versa; every individual is ‘attached’ to a field. This theory can be used to explain why people who play the role of representatives in constellations get – through their perception – access to family memory knowledge.
Why is so little information needed in constellations?
The most important family data, such as how many siblings there are, who died prematurely, who was seriously ill, who was in a serious relationship before, and who had a particularly difficult life, will suffice. This information makes it easier for us to see the dynamics leading to entanglement, especially when it comes to specific events rather than personality trait description. It is a lot like the saying, ‘you can’t see the forest for the trees.’
For people responsible for constellations, it is better to receive less information. Otherwise, their perception will become weak due to excessive content. A good therapist is phenomenologically-oriented; a small amount of data is enough.
Why are constellations sometimes interrupted?
Basically, constellations can be interrupted when a solution is reached. This is the most powerful moment.
Sometimes, however, the therapist should do it much earlier. There are clients who refuse to cooperate with a therapist and do not want to accept a solution. Sometimes some relevant information is missing. In such cases a constellation is also terminated. This procedure is necessary for therapeutic reasons. Nevertheless, with the passing of time, it often brings important impulses leading to a solution.
Why do the departed also appear in constellations?
Everyone in the family has the same right of affiliation, hence the deceased also belong. Those who were not properly mourned or those who have been forgotten have an effect on future generations for they cause entanglements of individual members of the family. Often someone who is lower in the hierarchy can follow them into death. If the departed are given their due place, and tribute is paid them, then they cease to ‘haunt’ the family like unsaved ghosts. They can retreat and heal the whole family, as if they have become the sun shining from afar.
It is important not to begin the constellation with an introduction of representatives of the deceased. In practice, it is not infrequent that their later appearance shows changes in the feelings and perceptions of the representatives of the living.
A psychology professor from France, Anne Ancelin Schützenberger, claims that old traumatic experiences are often passed down through the generations unconsciously. In such cases, later generations often suffer from illnesses, accidents or suicide attempts that occur exactly at the same time as they occurred in the past. In patients with severe psychosomatic illnesses, ancestors were found who, during the French Revolution for instance, died in extremely difficult conditions and were not mourned by their relatives. When a last tribute was paid to them, the symptoms of illness in their descendants disappeared.
How effective are constellations?
Consider this excerpt from Bert Hellinger’s book, What Makes the Family Sick and What Heals It:
‘I perfectly understand the desire to see how a constellation works. However, if someone wants to asses it, they must first experience it themselves. Whoever acts in this way will get an answer and will be able to see what is helpful and what is not. The most important feedback is obtained directly after a constellation. You can immediately see what has changed in the feelings, in the views, the mood, the strength and what further actions can be taken. However, the therapist cannot be responsible for how one uses this experience. So, an assessment made after some time is not credible, because many other factors that can affect the whole cannot be considered. When, for example, a child’s faithfulness to parents is revealed in so far as the child is ready to die for them instead of accepting the solution, one might think that the therapy failed. However, that is not necessarily true. The patient remains free and can always act differently, regardless of the therapy’.
Which books present the best introduction to the method?
The classic book is the work called Double Happiness. Systemic Psychotherapy by Bert Hellinger. The book consists of lectures and descriptions of specific constellations, along with commentaries, sentences and parables. It introduces the way the author works and thinks to a wide range of readers. The book has been translated into many languages.
The Orders of Love, which was first published in 1994, is undoubtedly one of Hellinger’s primary works. It contains selected therapeutic courses recorded with great faithfulness. In addition, detailed descriptions of Hellinger’s therapeutic approach are provided, as well as a description of the path of cognition that led the author to create the orders presented in the book.
For those who have no experience in family constellation therapy and are not psychotherapists, I recommend Thomas Schaefer’s book What Makes the Soul Sick and What Heals It: Bert Hellinger’s Psychotherapeutic Work. The book was written in an extremely clear and transparent way. It covers all the issues that Hellinger dealt with, shows his points of view and therapeutic methods and refers to many specific practical examples.
Bertold Ulsamer’s book entitled You Can’t Have Wings If You Don’t Have Roots. Systemic Family Therapy by Bert Hellinger may also be a good introduction to the method.
Acknowledging What Is: Conversations with Bert Hellinger is a lodestar that shows how to accept what has already happened.