Family Constellation Work – Breaking bonds that bind

Family Constellation Work – Breaking bonds that bind

Annie Cariapa

Systemic Resolution Trainer and Coach


Family constellation work is a powerful method of accessing the underlying unconscious processes that interfere with the ‘here and now’ experiences of a person. The individual is seen, not as a ‘problem’ or that he/she has a ‘problem’, but how he/she play a part in bringing balance to the system within which they belong.

Bert Hellinger, the founder of family constellation work as we know it, describes the systemic view beautifully as ‘Love’s Hidden Symmetry’ (title of his first book).

Family Constellation Work helps reveal the hidden dynamics and loyalties in a family that keep us rooted in unhealthy or destructive patterns of behaviour. The methodology believes that the origin of many of our feelings and experiences may have roots in a time much before a person is born.

Addictions, illnesses, depression, anxiety, unhappy or stuck relationships and even financial challenges may be a part of this unconscious inheritance.Two typical cases help explain this better.

At one workshop, a young woman said she felt blocked in her life both at work and regarding finding a partner.  In the constellation what emerged was that the woman had lost two siblings.  Unconsciously, in her guilt of being the surviving one, she kept herself from moving into a successful life. There was a process of resolution in the constellation and within the next few months, she moved up in her career and within a year, she found a good life partner.

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In another case, a young man said that he often felt anxious around finances although there seemed to be no apparent reason.  What emerged while opening his constellation was that, in his ancestry, severe financial losses had occurred.   Nobody really spoke about this loss in his family, though his father would push the young man to perform very well in his academics and his work.  Again through the process of resolution in constellation, over the next few months, the young man realised that he did not feel the anxiety that he had felt before.

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is a key idea in family constellation work as we look through the systemic lens. Just as we know that the individual is much more than just having a mind and body, he is also seen in the larger context of his family, culture and the events and occurrences over generations.

Human beings are primarily relationship driven. The underpinning principles of relationship in Family Constellation work are in the aspects of Belonging, Balance & Order.

The principles of relationship

  1. Everyone in the system has an equal right to belong. The deep longing to belong resounds through all the individuals in the family. When people leave their families or are thrown out, or have been forgotten, or not seen, other younger members in the family, especially the children that come later, will ‘re-member’ the excluded in an unconscious process.
  1. Everyone in the system carries his own fate. We see the entanglements when one tries to interfere in the fate of the other; trying to bear the pain or anxiety of another person.
  1. Those who are born first precede those who come later. Here the place of parents and sibling order are significant. Sometimes children try to take the place of their parents, or they feel bigger than those who have come before. Eventually they feel the burden of what they carry.

While observing trans-generational dynamics, we see the entanglements, identifications and loyalties that play out within the individual and others in the family. We see how hearts close with repetitive wounding patterns that run through families.

The levels of Conscience

The principles of relationship are seen in context with three levels of conscience – the individual conscience, the group conscience and the spiritual conscience.

  • The individual conscience is a narrow conscience that deals with ‘good/ bad’, ‘right/wrong’ and ensures that everyone follows the rules of the family. The individual follows these rules for survival itself and also in order to belong. The child will do anything in order to survive and belong within the family. The individual conscience is felt very much at the level of the personality with its defenses and coping mechanisms.
  • The group conscience ensures the survival of the group itself. When there is an exclusion in the family or when something in the system is out of balance, the children in later generations are moved to ‘re-member’ and bring back the balance in the group. Illness, depression, suicidal tendencies, blocked relationships, blocked success etc. can be seen in this light. Here we see how the individual may be sacrificed for the survival of the group. These are unconscious processes that do not differentiate between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’/ ‘fair’ or ‘unfair’.
  • The spiritual conscience is one that the person cannot really tune into if he is caught up and entangled in intergenerational dynamics. The spiritual conscience requires a stance of being non-judgemental and the agreement to ‘everything’ with love. This ‘meta’ conscience is seen as movements of the soul.

The way Family Constellation work unfolds 

  1. Family Constellation work can take place in group or individual settings. Both ways of working have their own methodology and effects. The original work was done in groups, where the client chooses representatives from the circle to represent members of his family and the work unfolds to bring a resolution.This work is not linear in approach and is not about ‘fixing’ a problem. The movements and shifts are felt at deeply healing levels, unfolding over time in its own way. Organisations, educational institutions, family businesses etc can all benefit from this work. These shifts are often experienced  as ‘organic’ and lasting.
  1. Family Constellation work takes places within a ‘field’ – whether we work in group or individual setting. This phenomenon is explained by Rupert Sheldrake as the ‘morphogenetic field’ or ‘morphic field’. Working in this field is often seen by people as amazing or magical. The representatives are able to access feelings and symptoms of the persons that they represent, even if they don’t know them at all. Quantum physics also throws more light on this phenomenon.
  1. Family Constellation work promotes integration and wholeness. We see how, in our lineage, hearts had to close and how the wounds have repeatedly deepened and scarred over time. We see how people long for relationships and yet turn away from ‘love’.

In family constellation work, everyone and everything is seen and has a place. Just as even a small pebble dropping into a pond will create ripples and have its effect right through, there are far reaching effects to this work, even if it not seen in an obvious way.

This transpersonal work is experienced as deeply honouring and respectful of ourselves and others. I believe the transformation takes place at the level of the soul. Family constellations are uniquely suited to individuals, families and organisations that aspire to living life with freedom and at its full potential.

I have had the privilege to have received teaching from Bert Hellinger and continue to engage with international masters on the latest developments in constellation work.

Colette Green & I offer learning opportunities to students of Spanda/ Ochre courses and I also hold open workshops in family constellation work.

If Family Constellation work draws your interest, please visit for more information. Our next workshops are scheduled in September and November, 2017 at Bengaluru.

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