My Systemic Background
At the same time, I was beginning my journey into family constellations. I had heard about constellations as I had completed a PG Dip in Systemic Management in 2000. Systemic theory looks at relationships in families and networks. This way of thinking looks at illness, not from the level of the personal psyche, rather it suggests that patterns and illness come out of relationships.
In early 2011 I attended a short workshop on family constellations. At the workshop, we were given an exercise, which was to choose a small toy animal, put our finger on it and see whether we received a message, or had a feeling that we could describe.
Great Grandmother Margaret
Straight away I heard the voice of my Great grandmother Margaret, she said ‘You should do this, it will be good for you and your family and you’ll make money”, I’m still waiting for the latter, but the former was spot on.
Since then I have been studying the method and started facilitating groups in 2015. It has been good for me with ancestral research into my family of origin and supported me in healing my relationship with my father and mother. And it has been useful in helping me to navigate my current relationship with my husband and daughter.
In 2015 I embarked on an ancestral journey that has taken me back to my parental homeland in Guyana and went on to gain citizenship in 2018. I have been struck by how many people from Caribbean Diaspora families are on a similar journey. Many people do not know much about their transgenerational history and starting to find out about your family line can become part of a longer ancestral journey.
I have travelled to Africa to find out more about my ancestral family roots. Would I have done this without family constellations, 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 within the generations in the family’ one of the principle aims of constellations work.
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. There is also the impact of migration and the desire to culturally assimilate which can create a toil on family life.
Family constellations can help you to look at these difficult issues from a different perspective. We like to think that we have moved on from the legacy of slavery and colonialism and in some ways we have. The patterns that were created still continue to impact later generations of family relationships.
Finding a Voice
It takes time to find a voice and to know how to use a method or technique. Especially a transgenerational method that is as complex and powerful as systemic constellations. When I first started on my family constellations journey I struggled with how much to raise my own issues.
I asked myself whether it was a safe enough therapeutic space to explore my struggles as a black woman. I wondered if would I be accepted. And I worried about letting my mask down and showing the more angry, emotional part of me, especially in a group setting.
Those questions are still around and I continue to ask myself “Why Family Constellations?” What does it offer and what can I bring to it? I have learnt that systemic constellations are a powerful method for helping to heal the wounds of personal and collective trauma. It is a powerful therapeutic technique which can be an addition, not a replacement for personal therapy, family therapy or other counselling and psychotherapy modalities.