I remember the first time that I was introduced to family constellations, it was March 2011. I was at a women’s conference and I was intrigued by a session that was being run as a workshop on Family Constellations. I had heard of family constellations somewhere in the far distant past, but I don’t know much about it and I was curious.
So I joined a group of 12 or 13 women sitting in a circle with the facilitator. The truth is that I can’t remember how the workshop started or how the facilitator described family constellations. What I do remember is that at one point, she took out a box of ‘toy play animals’ and we were given an exercise to do. “Choose a small toy animal and put your finger on it” she said, “See whether you receive any messages, or have a feeling that you could describe?
And Great Grandmother Margaret said…...
I picked a panther and closed my eyes, I breathed deeply and felt myself tune in to a voice in my head, I clearly heard the voice of my Great Grandmother Margaret, someone who I had never met but who my father had spoken about and not in glowing terms I might add. She said ‘You should do this work, it will be good for you and your family and you’ll make money”. I could hear her encouraging voice and I was surprised to be reconnecting with my paternal ancestors. To my surprise, it all seemed perfectly normal, not odd, just perfectly right.
This work resonates with me because it is accessible and combines a distinctly African tone within its Western methodology (and which I highlight in my approach). Family problems often involve relationships with other people, right, its a system! When relationships are not working effectively it’s a bit like the body, one ill part out of balance puts stress on all other parts of the body.
Out of Balance
When family relationships breakdown, there is a conflict between siblings or parents separate difficult feelings naturally surface. The result is often anxiety, depression, lack of emotional well-being for all family members affected.
The goal of Ancestral Constellations is to find the underlying dynamics that are impacting the family so that you can work with them to resolve and reconcile difficult issues. Often these difficulties arise from unresolved issues in past generational. The ‘vibrational family energy’ has been interrupted and the family tree is ill, its branches and roots may need tending to.
Since 2011 I have taken many training and workshops in the family constellations method and I have undertaken ancestral research into my family of origin to support me in healing my relationship with my father and mother. This way of working has also been useful in helping me to navigate my current relationship with my husband and daughter.
Systemic Journeys to Reconnect the Parts
In 2015 I embarked on an ancestral journey that has taken me back to my parental homelands in Guyana and I gained my Guyanese citizenship in 2018. I have travelled to Africa to find out more about my ancestral family roots and I have often wondered, “would I have done this without family constellations?” Well maybe, but I probably wouldn’t have understood, why the patterns in my family existed. Nor would I have known how to restore the flow of love down the generations to my current family.
When we look, we may not like what we find! I found some untold stories of family exclusion and secrets that have been kept for generations. Finding out about excluded relatives helped me fill in the gaps in knowledge that I was seeking. Another way of viewing this is that difficult things are painful and people do not often like to talk about loss, or grief or a difficult past, or problems in the family tree. So they say nothing and later the whole circumstances of the situation have been forgotten. Until the next generation.
Moving on from Past Legacies
We like to think that we have moved on from our past, for me, the legacy of slavery and colonialism. And in some ways we have. But if in the present, we forget the past, the issues that were created and remain unresolved can continue to impact later generations by……
- repeating patterns in different generations because we have forgotten what took place in the past
- the current family system can seek someone to take the place of the person who has been forgotten
- unconsciously we can create entanglements that mirror those of others who have gone before us
Issues that affect generations of Caribbeans, Africans and Asians, include taboo subjects like shadism and colourism. The impact of migration and splitting and separation of family members as parents leave children to start a new life abroad can be addressed. And hard questions like how to support elderly relatives when there is no ancestral home to return to can be explored. And there is the impact of immigration and the desire to culturally assimilate which can create a toil on family life.
We have a choice to turn and look back, confront what we see and deal with the issues raised. Or continue to look ahead, often knowing that what is in our past is following us. What do you choose?