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Family constellations - Movements of the Soul

The therapy of Bert Hellinger on the laws of love


With a family constellation according to Bert Hellinger allows you to gain insight into underlying family patterns. You can experience what solutions lead to a healthier relationship to your family. If the truth comes to light in a family constellation, it leads to peace and love may start flowing. It does not matter if you have close connections with your family or not, or whether your relatives are still alive or dead.

A family constellation is always about an important event in the past which have not yet been completed. In that respect, the term 'movements of the soul' is used, because the work is at the level of the soul. A constellation shows how incomplete events in the past - sometimes one or more generations back - continue to exercise influence on your present life.

If the situation provides permission, the event from the past will be completed. The result is that the love present in the system will flow again. By honouring everyone?s fate in the system and give the place he or she deserves, reconciliation may happen at a deep level.

Besides family constellations there are other types of constellations. The principles and the method are the same, but are then applied to another type of system. Examples of these are organisation constellations, theme constellations and constellations related to a disease. For convenience, we will further use the term family constellations.

For who are family constellations?

Actually, there are no themes that you can not approach with a constellation.
If you look around, you will see that our entire world consists of systems. At the same time there are themes in the family constellations practise having special attention: therapy for couples, adoption, trauma?s, (psychiatric) diseases and involvement in wars.

In general it is wise to gain cautiously information on important events in your family before putting up your first family constellation.

How does a family constellation work?

Usually the constellation work is done in groups. The therapist asks you first to clearly formulate the problem or issue. Furthermore, the therapist asks what important events have taken place in your family if known. This applies to the facts. Examples of such events may include: early deceased children, abortions, old lovers and other partners of parents. Involvement in wars or with murder are obviously very serious themes. Based on the issue you have brought in, the therapist decides which parts of your system will be put up. In a family constellation that can be your close relatives: father, mother, brother or sister and yourself.

From the group you then choose representatives for your family members who you one by one take at the shoulders and compose the constellation in the circle. You let yourself be guided by your intuition to determine the place and direction of the representatives. The representatives take time to observe what they experience at the location. The special thing of this method is that the representatives are able to experience the feelings, emotions and thoughts of your relatives. Very often the participants have very special experiences as a representative.

The therapist observes carefully the constellation itself, the posture of the representatives and where their attention is drawn to. To get more information, the therapist may ask the representatives what they experienced. Not rarely a representative is being added to the constellation to represent an important person or event, such as an aborted child, an early deceased child or a former fiancée of one of the parents.

In many cases, the family constellation -the system- starts moving by itself as representatives feel impulses and follow them. In doing so, unfinished issues from the past can be completed. Sometimes it is necessary that the therapist intervenes when a motion stops or is not being completed. The therapist can support the movements with so-called problem solving sentences pronounced by the representatives.

It is not always possible to obtain information from the family. In that case, a constellation often provides clues about what happened.

About Bert Hellinger

Bert Hellinger (1925) is a German psychotherapist who has worked a long time as a missionary in South Africa. During this period he learned from the Anglican clergy the importance of dialogues, 'phenomenology' and the importance of individual experience. In the '70 he returned to Germany and finished a psychoanalytic training.

He explored a whole row of different therapies and travelled to the United States to study primal therapy, gestalt therapy and transactional analysis. By analysing 'scripts' he discovered that patterns continue in families for generations. Important was the discovery of Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy?s hidden loyalties and the importance of balance in giving and taking.

Through family therapy Bert Hellinger came into contact with the first constellations.
Through an article on ?the perverse triangle' of Jay Haley, he discovered the importance of order in families. He studied hypnotherapy and neuro-linguïstic programming (NLP). Furthermore, provocative therapy and holding therapy influenced his work.

Today Bert Hellinger lives in Bavaria and he gives workshops in countries across all over the world.

The theory behind family constellations

The family constellation method is based on the system theory as described by Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy and others. Simply said, a system consists of system parts and relationships. The most important relationships we have are our family relationships and in a family constellation the system parts are the family members.

The basis of a family system is formed by a man and a woman. Children can be born out of their sexual relationship, who then in turn can create their own family. Besides man, woman and children (great-)grandparents, aunts and uncles play a role. Furthermore, other sexual partners belong to the system and also those who have obtained profit or have suffered loss in relation to the family.

According to the system theory within family systems exists three ?laws of love?.
Problems arise when one or more of these laws are not being obeyed. These laws are:
(1) The right to belong
When someone -such as a relative or an old lover- is excluded, this usually has serious consequences. In that case, the place is often occupied by another relative in the next generation.
(2) The order of love
The person who was born earlier has preference for the person who is born later. It means that in a healthy situation, the love flows from parents to children and from older children to younger children.
(3) Balance between giving and taking
The system searches for a balance. For example, if someone has been disadvantaged, then there will only be peace again when the 'guilt' has been balanced out. An exception is the parent-child relationship. In that relationship the parent gives and the child receives.

Further reading

There is a wide variety of books and videos on family constellations. Below you will find a few books that are recommended:

Love?s hidden symmetry by Bert Hellinger with Gunthard Weber and Hunter Beaumont.
Is a basic book on family constellations. The first chapter describes the basic theory which is quite difficult but the rest gives a lot of important insights from Bert Hellinger.

Ohne Wurzeln keine Flügel (German) by Berthold Ulsamer.
Easy to read, gives a very nice impression of the work. Berthold Ulsamer is in this book quite critical of Bert Hellinger. That is of course fine, but sometimes also somewhat exaggerated.

Images of the Soul by Daan van Kampenhout.
This book describes among other things, the similarities between family constellations and shamanistic rituals. Daan van Kampenhout had on this subject an extensive correspondence with Bert Hellinger, and his book was very well received.

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