VIII – FAMILY CONSTELLATIONS AND SYSTEMIC REPRESENTATIONS: AN INTRODUCTION
During the course of a Family Constellation or Systemic Representation, people having no connection with the client or knowledge about his family agree to represent the client and certain of his family members.
As surprising as it is immediate, they experience emotions, sensations, and sometimes movements in the same way as the living or deceased people being represented previously experienced or still experience them.
In order for this spontaneous and, we could almost say, natural phenomenon to take place, all the representatives need to do is to be sufficiently centered.
These sensations generally manifest spontaneously through an impulse to make a movement; the representative only has to follow this movement in order for a therapeutic field to be established that addresses the problem expressed by the client.
This field has a strong tendency to open the path toward the best possible solution, not only for the client but also for everyone who, from a systemic point of view, is connected to his problem.
As soon as the representative is placed, he centers himself and is attentive to the movement or impulse he is feeling. This impulse propels him, and he simply has to follow the movement, neither too quickly nor too slowly, and as genuinely and sincerely as possible, avoiding any voluntary, personal emotional movements.
The representative allows himself to completely follow the movement he is feeling; whether there is an inner emotion or not is unimportant. The essential thing is to let the movement happen and to follow it. But he must be attentive not to follow his very first impressions, which are still too superficial, waiting instead until the movement becomes nearly irresistible.
Never forget that the only goal of participating in family constellations is not to understand, but to help the people who express their problem and to help everyone with whom they are connected.
It is as if a Family Constellation or Systemic Representation were outside of time, or rather, as if time were condensed; the past, present, and future all merge together in the space created for the Family Constellation or Systemic Representation. We thus see living and dead people standing side-by-side, or a daughter beside her father, in front of her grandmother, great-grand-mother, or great-grandfather up to seven generations. They may all be gathered together here in the same space, in which time, as a linear phenomenon, is abolished. It is as if everyone were to come together in what Rupert Sheldrake has called a morphic field, and each person feels in him- or herself the morphic resonance of this field.
From a therapeutic point of view, our experience has shown us that this resonance is not limited to the present moment, but extends into the future in a harmonising and often healing way for everyone who is in connection with this particular field, and thus in connection with the problem presented by the client.
The client often asks us what he should do after a Family Constellation or Systemic Representation. Our advice is always that he should do nothing, should let things happen; wait and let things happen, in the spirit of the Dervishes, which is identical with the Taoist Wu-Wei or active non-acting.
It is incidentally this creative non-acting that “acts” in the Family Constellations and Systemic Representations, during which each representative “lets things happen.” He is attentive to the emotional, mental, and above all physical movements that manifest, and he “lets them happen.”
The only condition is for our ego (the personality we usually are) to step backward a little, making place for this inner movement that everyone is capable of feeling. This morphic resonance, field of force, or energy gently permeates the representatives, who are not in a hypnotic trance or medium-like state, but remain completely conscious of what is happening around them and talk about it just as normally.
It then becomes clear to us that we are encountering a reality, emotions, feelings, and sometimes even attitudes that are very different from our own usual emotions, feelings, and attitudes; at this moment at the latest, everyone who is participating realises that these forces, first considered to be mysterious, really exist.
I remember the comments of a university professor who, after participating in a representation, told me, “I felt in myself a fear and anger that were not my own, but were nevertheless there. It wasn’t my way of being afraid or angry.” Indeed, they belonged to the person he was representing; quite a mystery, especially for a university professor of chemistry!
It would seem that during the course of a Family Constellation or Systemic Representation, the representatives are in contact with a consciousness that goes far beyond their own personal consciousness. They are in contact with a much greater consciousness that includes the past and future, that includes their own thoughts and emotions in addition to the thoughts and emotions of the people they are representing; this consciousness is capable of representing any other soul (or human spirit), from any time period whatsoever.
But this space, this spirit or consciousness – are they not also the place we came from before we were born, to which we will return after death, and from which we are cut off during the course of our life? It seems that the Family Constellations and Systemic Representations teach this to whomever would listen, in a perfectly simple and natural way.
When we are in contact with these forces, we realise that we are dealing not only with the forces that cause us to be born and die, but also the forces that permit us to live – what we might call our destiny, and what in the East is known as karma.
This knowledge makes us very humble because we realise that if our birth was not determined by ourselves, our death will not be, either. Nevertheless, we imagine to ourselves that we can act freely in our lives; the Family Constellations and Systemic Representations teach us that our impression of freedom is simply an illusion when we become aware of the forces that are truly at work in our lives, and that are the causes of our relational problems, psychological troubles, physical illnesses, and accidents; the word “freedom” then takes on a completely different meaning, and the word “destiny” begins to take on true meaning.
But let us return to the practice of Family Constellations and Systemic Representations. When the client has concisely expressed his problem and current situation, we ask him to center himself for a moment, and then tell him which important people from his family or relational system he is going to choose from the audience (who are generally strangers to him) in order to represent these family members or relatives. He invites them to take a place in the middle of the space or scenario. He simply tells each person whom he or she represents. The way the “representatives” are placed provides the mediator with a first clue, and he gathers a certain amount of information from this placement alone. At this moment what seems most mysterious, to the uninitiated, begins to take place; as soon as the representatives are positioned, they have the feeling that they are in contact with something that is not themselves – an emotion, for example, or a sensation that belongs to the person they are representing. The Dervishes say that it is the souls of the people represented that are manifesting themselves through the representatives’ sensations, emotions, feelings, and movements. These souls are present in order to help the Family Constellation or Systemic Representation, so that the client may find a better equilibrium and better solution in his life, or to help him surmount his problems, troubles, illnesses, or suffering.
Emotions, sensations, and movements that may manifest themselves in the representative include: sensations of cold or heat throughout the body or in a single part of it, shaking throughout the body or in the arms or legs, attraction toward the right, left, forward, backward, or toward the ground, rapid heartbeat, fear, anger, rage, fear, joy, peacefulness, feeling of being abandoned, pain in a particular part of the body, stifled or accelerated breathing, indifference, gazing out into the distance, crying, a tightening in the throat, and innumerable others.
Certain sensations, emotions, or movements may seem familiar to the representatives, while others are foreign to them; from the technical point of view and also from the standpoint of the Family Constellation or Systemic Representation, everything that manifests in them – whether known or unknown – is always considered to form part of the therapeutic field.
After expressing his problem, the client witnesses, watches, listens, observes what is happening outside him, what is taking place through the representatives; the first scenes often represent his life as it has been, with his difficult experiences of the past up to his current situation; when we allow the Family Constellation or Systemic Representation to unfold simply and naturally, we see that the force at work is euphonic, that is to say, harmonising, and seeks to reveal a better solution to the client’s problem. The client is then free to accept this solution or not. Nevertheless, what is most remarkable is the harmonising effect that extends far beyond the client’s consciousness to the people connected with his problem, for example the members of his family.
Sometimes the effects of these Family Constellations and Systemic Representations are immediate; at other times they make themselves known over the course of weeks, months, or even up to two years after the Family Constellation or Systemic Representation. It is not unusual for our clients to tell us, after a few weeks or months have passed, that their lives, and also the lives of the people for whom they participated in the Family Constellation or Systemic Representation, have become more harmonious, that their problems have begun to be resolved; sometimes even illnesses that had been diagnosed as incurable have begun to heal or have disappeared, or emotions that had seemed insurmountable have begun to be appeased.
It is important to understand that our work is not only individual and personal, but that the Family Constellations and Systemic Representations have an effect on the client’s entire system, on his family system and relational system as a whole. The harmonising effect unfolds freely in all directions, in a natural and biological way.
The client is advised not to decide on a course of action immediately after the Family Constellation or Systemic Representation, but to wait until what has been perceived (and implemented) takes effect.
Generally the participants and observers – particularly when they are witnessing this for the first time – are at once impressed, astonished, and sometimes a little frightened by the depth, force, and truth that emanate from these Family Constellations and Systemic Representations. At the same time, they are each a bit “stunned” by what is taking place before them, even if (and perhaps above all because) it takes place in slow motion, corresponding to the profound movement of the human psyche, which certain people would call the soul or spirit.
The participants look on as the dramas of human life, of families and people who love each other, unfold before them; they watch as everything is first destroyed, resulting in separation. And then they watch as everything, in one way or another, is reunited or reharmonised positively in a form of serenity, love, and peace. This is perhaps the greatest discovery of all: that all things may ultimately be reconciled. It would seem that the great active force in the universe, beyond all forms of conflict, separativity, wars, and hate, whether between people, families, or nations, the force that prevails, far beyond what man is capable of understanding, is a force of love and reconciliation. It is nonetheless understandable that until we have perceived this force, we only see life, or rather our life, from our narrow, limited point of view, in other words we are identified with all of our little problems and lose sight of what is far greater.
One of the greatest discoveries made by the participants in Family Constellations and Systemic Representations is that our individual destiny seems to be in the hand of forces that reach us through our ancestors. These forces seem to have a much greater influence on our lives than we can possibly imagine; one aspect of the work of Family Constellations and Systemic Representations consists in liberating ourselves from these energies that imprison us, enabling us to live our actual life without being at the mercy of the influence of our conditioning and instincts, but above all without being at the mercy of the energies and unresolved problems that originate in our ancestors.
VIII – FAMILY CONSTELLATIONS AND SYSTEMIC REPRESENTATIONS: AN INTRODUCTION