As an ancestral process, constellations can honour and acknowledges the sacred, the healer, the visionary and the artistic in us. The oracle and storytelling, the music and the dance. It takes us back to our lost traditions, our forsaken cosmology, our hidden traditions and ancestral beliefs.
I believe that the pulse of these traditions still resides in communities of African heritage in the Western diaspora and that we can beneficially harness some of those lost traditions through the constellations method. In my experience of running workshops with people of African heritage, there is an immediate and deep understanding of the method.
The Ancestral Constellations approach better fits the experience of those of African heritage whose family patterns over the last 400-500 years has been interrupted by the impact of slavery which divided families, interrupted the ancestral line and disallowed personal identities including names and knowledge of tribes and customs.
We do not Talk about Trauma
There are many issues that we know exist in our communities that we do not speak about, Often these conversations are suppressed and kept within our families and communities for fear of shame, guilt, judgement!! When we fear the taboo, the unspoken and the unknown and keep silent, there is a danger that others in the family or community may take them on and recreate the family patterns from the past.
My cousin told me a story about a young woman in America who entered her boyfriend’s house and looking at a picture on the wall enquired “why is my grandmother on your wall”.
We do not speak of this, the fear of incest because we have lost touch with our ancestral lines, the many missing brothers, sisters and others in the clan. These may be those that we have heard of but never met, those we do not know of yet and those that are known to us but forgotten or cast out of the family.
Young women from Africa and Asia are involved in skin bleaching, a hang-over from colonialism and issues of ‘shadism’ and colour favouritism still exists in many families and communities
Many families who come from communities that have migrated and raised second and third generations in their new homeland face other issues of identity, belonging and stigmatisation. The dis-ease of living with these stressors impact our families and communities.
A Healing Ritual with a Therapeutic Edge
When I work with people from African and Asian backgrounds, it is as though with constellations they are seeing something that resonates deep in the bones with a sense of remembering. So adapting family constellations for black people in the West means seeing through a multi-coloured lens that explores family and community dynamics in a way that is relevant to Caribbean diaspora/black/African heritage families and communities.
As I started working with the constellations method with clients, I became much clearer about how the inclusion of ritual and family orders spoke to an African heritage experience. And I saw the relevance of the embedded indigenous spiritual wisdom to working with black families in the African Diaspora.
The Wisdom of Elders
The wisdom of indigenous communities relates to their knowledge of the past and their commitment to continuity so that for the future the family line is rooted in the present and in the natural order of things. Hierarchy in families is respected and acknowledged. Thus everyone knows and takes their rightful place in the family; this is something that has often been forgotten in modern societies, but we see it in constellations work.
My own perspective is that, from an African heritage cultural perspective, family constellations could be adapted more clearly as ’a healing ritual with a therapeutic edge’. I have been interested in bringing a more ‘African-centred’ perspective to my work as a constellations facilitator because – for most of the people that I work with – these dynamics are either in the background of fully up-front in the issues that they want to address in their families and communities.
The Role of Ancestors
Many African cultures see ancestors as having a part-in and role to play within the wider family and community. Healing rituals are used to help manage conflict in the community and other health, social and family issues restore harmony to the ancestral line. From this perspective, there are similarities with the systemic constellations process, which views transgenerational patterns as repeating cycles of behaviour that will continue unless addressed.
Telling Ancestral Stories
This work can be viewed as an ancestral method for the of us who are in the diaspora who are both Western and African. This is a way of telling ancestral stories and reconnecting generations if you like a modern Griot approach – but reframing indigenous wisdom using systemic western language.
Middle Passage Work
It can be a therapeutic way of reconnecting to the pain, the shame and the feelings the anger that has created our family community stories. I see it as Middle Passage work that can help those of us from the African Diaspora journey back to reclaim, reconnect with and most importantly Remember our ancestral heritage and traditions. It unites the modern western within us and with the traditional indigenous.