Understanding the ties that bind us and the path to freedom

by Svagito Liebermeister, 2006 (website ‘’)

Book review by     JOHN KAPP

22, Saxon Rd, Hove BN3 4LE, East Sussex   Tel: 01273 417997   21.6.07

This book is a masterpiece which brings family constellation therapy into the realm of scientific, evidence-based medicine. Because of the deep insights revealed, it will repay study not only by facilitators but by all therapists who use talking therapies, and academic psychologists wishing to understand the new paradigm of holism that is sweeping the world.

Svagito is a meditator who uses meditation techniques to deepen the experience of participants in his constellations. Standing on founder Bert Hellinger’s shoulders and with a meditator’s insight, this book is an objective synthesis of the warm, compassionate intuition of his heart and the cold, Teutonic, rigorous logic of his head. He is a physician who has healed himself, so has no need to be needed. He respects himself, so can respect everyone. He therefore honestly mirrors whatever truths the client, facilitator, or reader need to learn in order to understand themselves.

The book amply fulfils its promise on the back cover: ‘designed both for newcomers wishing to understand the basic concepts of Family Constellation and as a practical guide for those seeking to actively work with this approach.’ All terms and concepts are defined and explained simply and clearly, without sentimentality or judgement. They deserve to be integrated and incorporated into a new vocabulary and practice for talking therapies.

Such a vocabulary for talking therapies is much needed because the present one is a muddle of conflicting theories of little use to patients. This is because it is based on the narrow materialist, reductionist, mechanist paradigm (matter is the only reality, the whole is the sum of its parts, people are machines) which sees the individual as an island.

It is no use asking a patient what his issues are because, if he knew, he would not be a patient. Family Constellation shows that every client presents with the same unconscious issues – identification with excluded ancestors and broken laws of conscience. It also shows how significant healing can be started for every participant in a group by representing those excluded ancestors and restoring order and balance to his family system.

In the UK alone there are 6 million patients on anti-depressants, but the National Health Service has rightly warned that drug based therapy is counter-productive in the long term. These patients are presently untreated, and Family Constellation therapy could help them. It should be made widely available, as it now is in Germany and Spain.

The rigorous, scientific approach of Svagito’s book will help Family Constellation to become mainstream. To this end, I have compiled his definitions into a Glossary of terms in a new vocabulary for talking therapies, comprising 10 pages, attached or available from me, John Kapp, e-mail johnkapp@ 01273 417997
Also DVD recordings are available of Svagito’s recent trainings from

Glossary of terms in a new vocabulary for talking therapies
as defined by Svagito Liebermeister, compiled as extracts from his book The Roots of Love 2006 (referenced by page number) His website is ‘’.

1 In Family Constellation we learn that the individual is part of a collectivity, a family that forms him and explains much of his behaviour. In this way we are looking not only at an individual history, but at a bigger system, and seeing its effect on the client. In a sense he is his parents, but he is also something more – a unique human being with many dimensions. (p295)

2 Family Constellation is healing work. It consists of trying to reconfigure family relationships and bring an excluded family member back into the family portrait. We are trying to complete something that could not be completed at the time. All therapy work is completion work; it is an effort to finish an incomplete gestalt so that it doesn’t leave a psychological hangover. Any type of personal growth or individual development work depends on the same basic principle: whatever has been excluded or rejected needs to be addressed, accepted, given a place in one’s heart, and remembered with love (p39)

3 A constellation is a process of learning, not only for the client, but also for the representatives and facilitator. A representative standing in for a member of a family comes in touch with the feelings of that person, and may have an experience he never had before in his life. Likewise a facilitator may have new experiences when connecting to each person in a system through his openness and empathy.(p301)

4 Learning Family Constellation as a therapeutic tool brings a deeper understanding of the function of conscience, the ‘order of love’ that exists in every family and of the laws that rule a family system. (p301, namely the law of belonging, the law of hierarchical order, and the law of balance) If an individual is going to rise above the entanglements of family bonds, he first needs to understand and fall in tune with his family’s collective conscience. When balance has been restored, when old accounts have been settled, when everything and everyone is in rightful order, only then may he consider himself truly free to explore his individual preferences. (p31)

5 Collective conscience is a much more powerful, hidden and insidious force than personal conscience. It works in an invisible way. It doesn’t announce its presence through feelings of guilt if we go against it; we are unaware of where it comes from, and it exists without our being able to identify it directly. Instead of inhabiting the mind of the individual and revealing itself by responding to his personal choices, the collective conscience operates from within the family as a whole without its members knowing about it. In much the same way that we can identify an electric current only by the effect it has on the light bulb, we can recognise the collective conscience only by the way in which it affects peoples’ behaviour. Our work in Family Constellation is to identify this collective conscience. When we understand the laws of this conscience we can bring them into the light of day, understand their implications and intentions, heal the imbalance to the family system and help the client to accept what has happened. (p24)

6 The prison of conscience Paradoxically, the moment one wants to go beyond the prison of conscience one cannot. The moment one feels ‘I want to leave behind the burdens of my family’ one is trapped by those burdens. To really attain liberation, one needs to accept and carry the destiny of one’s family. In other words, one has to leave behind the idea of wanting to get rid of whatever we may be carrying for our predecessors. When we agree to this, in the very same moment, the past loses power over us and we find ourselves blessed with a feeling of strength and freedom. Meditation offers the same experience. By approaching the centre of our being and dis-identifying with the personality, the same state of self-acceptance is achieved. The desire to change anything about ourselves is replaced by a profound acceptance of everything that life has given us. (p277)

7 ‘Order of love’ In every family the parents come first; without the parents there is no child. The first and foremost gift that parents make to their child is his or her life on earth. One is a parent simply because one has given birth to a child. That is the essence of being a parent. It is a complete package deal in which all parents are equal and equally good… Essentially a parent gives and a child receives…. This is a one-way flow in which the parent can give only the whole package and the child can receive only the whole package. (p49)

8 ‘Who belongs in the family system? All members of the client’s family in the primary lineage are subject to the collective conscience. This includes the parents, the children (siblings of the client) as well as any children who died young, or were stillborn or aborted. The grandparents, aunts and uncles (but not their children) and perhaps the great grandparents and great great grandparents. There are also people who are not relatives but who have forged a strong connection, binding them to the family, eg former love partners of the parents, those who mistreated or killed a family member in slavery, ethnic cleansing, civil war, war, or those who were mistreated or killed by a family member, former business partners who cheated, or was cheated of their dues. (p42)

9 ‘The Law of Belonging’ Everybody who is part of a family has an equal right to be part of that family. Every member of the family, regardless of who they are, when they arrived, or what they did, has an equal claim to his place. One child may be a gifted musician, another sick or handicapped, another may have anti-social behaviour problems – it makes no difference. Even in the extended family, if someone died young or committee suicide it changes nothing with regard to this basic right to belong. Everyone has to be included and respected equally. (p25)

10 ‘Exclusion’ covers many possibilities…. ’Early’ deaths, means that the client lost a parent, brother or sister in childhood. Other significant potentially excluding events include sickness, accidents, somebody leaving or being sent away, ‘black sheep’, somebody participating in a war, crimes of family members or them being victims of crime, early separation of the parents, earlier love partners of a parent, family secrets. (p242) …The relative may have been ignored, never talked about, never recognised as being of value, turned away because they were handicapped or mentally retarded, absent in hospital, sent to boarding school, banishment through deep moral judgement of their behaviour, or most significant of all, given for adoption. (p38)

11 ‘The Law of Hierarchy – the Sacred Order’ Within a family system, family members are ranked according to the time of their arrival. Those who came earlier have a ‘higher’ rank than those who came later. Older siblings have priority over younger ones; a first wife has to be remembered as being first, and so on. What comes first comes first, what comes later comes later – chronological order has absolute priority. This is not a man-made law or part of a set of moral beliefs. It is existential; it comes simply with being born into a family system. (p25) If family order is not respected, a disharmony appears and creates tension between family members, inevitably resulting in conflict. The moment we show deference to family order, as we do in this work, the way is open for harmony to be restored, and this is why we refer to it as the ‘sacred order’, not for any religious reasons, but simply to indicate its central importance as a means of restoring balance and harmony in any family system. (p51)

12 ‘The Law of Balance’ Any injustice done to a family member in a previous generation, or committed by a family member, must be balanced by acts of a later member of the same family. On a personal level, we are aware of the wish to balance something that happened to us, to return a favour or wound we have received. But there is a far more powerful force in play within a family system. This one compels us to pay, not for our own misdeeds, but for what our forefathers did. Whatever negative acts have entered the family system in the past and have not been atoned, will ultimately manifest in later generations. ….The collective conscience passes the buck of retribution from generation to generation until it is ultimately addressed, claimed and cancelled out. (p26)

13 ‘Taking responsibility for guilt’ If I hurt someone, I feel guilty until I have in some way paid for what I have done. Nagging guilty feelings show that I haven’t taken responsibility for my actions yet, nor restored a sense of personal balance. According to the law of balance, the best way to deal with this situation is to acknowledge what we have done, to agree to our ‘guilt’ to accept the consequences that result from our actions and do something that restores a sense of equilibrium. This we might call ‘taking responsibility’, eg for a man to take responsibility as a father, even though he did not choose to have a child with a woman who became pregnant by him.(p61)

14 Fixation on parents People who remain angry with their parents and want something different from them, live in a state of hope rather than acceptance, with an undercurrent of neediness and expectation. Essentially they see themselves as victims, which leaves them powerless and thereby denies the possibility of change. They are focussing on the love they failed to get, and cannot recognise the love they have already received. Nor can they receive the love that may still be available to them. In this way, by constantly hankering for something more from their parents, they remain fixated on them. (p55) A mother who lost her mother early in life remains angry with this parent as if her mother had betrayed her by dying. (p246)

15 Letting go of fixation We think we want to change it because it creates distress, but really it is our desire for change and our inability to do it that creates our distress. So we live in this unhappy double-bind; all our attention is on the thing we dislike, and we are unable to enjoy the things that we actually have. The child cannot separate from his parents, nor can he wholeheartedly receive them. On the other hand, the moment he says: ‘I thank you for what you have given me’ and means it, in that moment he can let go of the attachment and move on. Paradoxically, the moment he bows down to the parents and honours them, he introduces the possibility of being free from them. (p55) After facing and fully confronting her mother’s death, and feeling the pain of this loss, the client feels refreshed and is able to stand in front of her mother, face her and say that now she will be happy in her life out of respect ad love for her mother.(p246)

16 Honouring our parents is a spiritual act; it is saying ‘yes’ to life as it comes to us, without complaint, without any idea that things would have been better if our parents had been different. Instead we look beyond our parents at the life that comes to us through them. In this sense all parents are perfect; they all give life and are therefore equally ‘good’ and ‘right’. (p263)

17 Justification When we try to excuse or justify our actions, or to complain, or blame others, what we are really doing is making an effort to claim innocence and avoid responsibility. We want to rid ourselves of guilty feelings but without paying the price. The readiness to give up this false kind of innocence and become ‘guilty’ is an essential requirement for a person to grow up psychologically. (p61)

18 ‘Identification’ is a deeply unconscious and largely unrecognised process. When I am identified with someone, I cannot see that person with clarity, because I have become one with him or her. It is rather like having your nose pressed up against a television screen; you are too close, so you cannot actually make out any of the images playing there. (p79)

19 Childhood Identification The child cannot see the other as a separate person. It is an unsuccessful effort by the collective conscience to give the excluded person a place in the family – unsuccessful because the person still remains excluded even thought the child is representing him. (p41) A child identifies with an earlier family member without any idea that this is happening. He carries his relative’s feelings as if they were his own, and acts out the person’s life as if he was a replica. (p33)

20 Adult identification One can compare it (meditation) with sitting in a movie theatre and watching a film. On the screen, all kinds of things are happening and we are likely to become identified with one or more of the characters. We will find ourselves crying, or laughing, or anxiously waiting to see if the hero or heroine are going to survive whatever perilous situation they find themselves in. At the same time some part of our consciousness is aware that all this is just a drama; we are sitting in a chair, watching a story that has been fabricated for our entertainment, and which has nothing to do with us. The moment that we remember that we are not really involved with this drama, we can relax. But when we forget, we tend to become tense, involved, emotional and excited. (p273)

21 ‘Dis-identification’ is putting distance between you, so that you can see them as separate from you…..When I consciously step back and look into the eyes of a person with whom I have been identified, everything changes. Direct eye contact with the person forces me top see that am different, it brings me into the present moment, into realty.. Such a gaze will bring me out of my identification, and make me recognise myself as separate from the other. (p79) The moment Max looks into the eyes of his grandfather with love and respect, the identification ends. The child comes back to his rightful place. Immediately the child-parent relationship is healed and nourished. Max can now tell his mother that he respects her father, respects her pain of losing him early in her life, and re-establish the love connection with her. …Often this is a great relief…The significant point is that by re-living the pain, the buried love usually comes to light and it is love that is the real healing. (p41)

22 Identification with family members creates pain and suffering…which tends to pre-occupy people, filling their lives and giving them a sense of purpose and motivation to find a way out of suffering. It also brings a feeling of self=importance and power. One of the therapist’s main tasks is to avoid supporting the client’s investment in this feeling of power and significance through suffering….Remaining centred and undisturbed – which doesn’t mean being cold and aloof – then in some way they have dethroned the client’s problem and taken away some of its power…. bringing the client in touch with deeper reality. (p 217)

23 Identification with a dead person A dead family member who is not remembered rightly has a strong influence on the whole family. The grandmother had not completed her mourning for her first child; maybe she couldn’t cope with the pain of losing her and unconsciously she wanted to follow her into death. In these situations, often a later child will say ‘I do it in your place’ as we can see in Rosella’s case. One of the consequences may be that Rosella behaves in life as if she is dead, not allowing herself to live fully.(p90) Another way of avoiding pan is to swing to the other extreme and cling to the memory of the person who died. This clinging can manifest as a decision to remain in an endless state of mourning (eg Queen Victoria) … When we feel responsible or guilty, we live under the impression that it was in our hands to have created a different outcome. Rather than accept the existential reality of what has occurred we torture ourselves with self-accusations. Rather than remembering her child with love and gratitude, the mother remains attached to her dead baby, fixated on her own suffering and self-reproach. If this continues, there may be other children, but she will not actually be available to them. If she stays in this state, her preoccupation will be with the child that died, rather than the ones who are alive and playing at her feet right now. (p92)

24 Identification with a country We discover that her obsession with being abandoned is a feeling she has been carrying for her grandparents, who had to abandon their home n Greece, and with whom she identified in order to get her father’s attention. (p83)

25 Projection When partners find themselves in miserable relationships but are unable to separate, it s mostly because they project a parental figure onto the other. ~When we feel that we cannot live without the other, we are feeling like a helpless, needy child relating to a parent, and we cannot see the love partner as an ordinary human being. Rather this partner is seen almost as a demon, or a god, with total power over us, something quite inappropriate for a relationship of equals. In a constellation session t s sometimes helpful to remind a person about the ordinary nature of an adult relationship, and to help them to come out of childhood projections by saying to the other partner: ‘I can live without you, and you can live without me.’ (p150)

26 ‘Identification with the role of therapist’ is perhaps one of the greatest difficulties facing a person who wants to be a good therapist, because she is likely to identify with the client’s suffering, categorise his problems and prescribe formula solutions, thus preventing her from seeing with fresh innocent eyes what is actually happening, here and now, with this cliet.. (p217)

27 ‘Rejection’ Whatever we reject will remain powerful as long as we continue to reject it. This is because the very act of rejecting it gives it power over us, gives it energy to pursue us. The ghost that you think is a ghost holds on to the power it needs to haunt you for as long as you think it is a ghost. When you see it’s a cobweb it ceases to frighten you. Once we say ‘yes’ and accept whatever we cannot bear to look at, something changes within us. It is a matter of opening to the ghosts we feared and finding a source of love for them within ourselves. (p39)

28 ‘Pain’ is a pivotal issue. All problems are created around the avoidance of pain. One of the mind’s compulsive functions is to try to save us from experiencing unease of any kind, and it does this by distracting us.(p40) …It is typical of clients who talk a lot that they are trying to avoid deep pain. (p243)

29 ‘Healing’ consists, first of all, in recognising that pain is part of life, and that psychological pain is just like any other pain. It cannot be avoided. (p40)

30 ‘Sex’ is biological need, an animal energy and the foundation of life….and may be exploitation, when the other person is used to fulfil the biological needs of the body.(p181)

31 ‘Love’ is a psychological need and an experience of the qualities of the human heart, including care, sensitivity and gratitude towards the other. Without love we would feel alone and isolated…a give and take relationship to the other, not as an object but as a whole human being. It is conditional on the meeting of needs. (p182) Hot love has to do with passion and mutual attraction between men and women, or the bindng type of love that exists between parents and children, created by nature to keep the family together. (p213)

32 ‘Compassion’ ‘cool love’ is all giving and there is no expectation of getting anything in return. It is not a relationship but a state of being, an overflow of unconditional love for sharing. (p183)

33 ‘Presence’ is the quality of being available in the present moment and being alert to whatever is happening here and now, without being distracted by accumulated knowledge, theory, or by thinking about the past and the future. Many mystics have described this quality of ‘being present’ as a state of meditation. (p213)

34 ‘Blind’, ‘conscious’ and ‘honouring’ love. In his original, blind love, Max identified with his grandfather. Now that he has recognised his grandfather he no longer needs to identify with him. His love has become more conscious, and now in ‘conscious’ love he can simply honour the older man. It is this ‘honouring love’ that makes it impossible for Max to continue to represent his grandfather. Max also acted out of love for his mother. His need to belong to her drove him to do anything in the hope of relieving her pain and gaining her affection. We call this ‘blind’ or ‘bonded’ love. The child always feels, according to his personal conscience, that he is capable of doing whatever it takes to help his parents endure pain, and that he has a right to do these things. It s a kind of magical thinking that children have. Someone has to suffer, so if I suffer on my mother’s behalf she will suffer less. Of course it is not true; in reality the suffering is simply doubled. (p41)

35 ‘Moral judgements’ People who take a moral position have fixed ideas about how things ought to be, and are incapable of seeing events clearly because their pre-conceived attitudes get in the way. In fact, rather than helping, moralists are usually the very people who make it impossible for people to find genuine solutions to life’s difficulties, and this in turn contributes to further alienation, unhappiness and more unresolved problems…. If we want to be of assistance to clients we need to leave behind all moral attitudes, ideologies and belief systems, and abandon any notion of what is good and bad…. It is an entirely pragmatic approach, aimed at benefiting the client. (p187)

36 How the child develops into an adult For the boy it is a sigle movement away from the mother towards the father. For the girl, it’s a double movement; away from the mother to the father and then back again to the mother (p152)

37 How the boy becomes a man. In most tribal cultures the growth of a young boy from childhood into manhood is marked by significant rituals, and particularly at puberty when authority over him is transferred from the mother to the father. ~After such ceremonies, the boy is no longer allowed to sleep in the same area as his female relatives; he has given up his intimacy with his mother and he is been formally initiated into manhood and cannot go back. In our modern western society, rites of passage are less obvious but they still exist. A boy may imitate his father who chops wood, tinkers with motorbikes or cars or prepares fishing tackle. These are superficial activities that mirror inner change and are a way for the boy to take the father’s strength and energy into himself. (p150)

38 How the girl becomes a woman For a girl the process is different. The girl also starts close to her mother, but at a certain age, when she begins to mature, she moves towards the father whom she idealises and reveres. He becomes the focus of attention as the growing girl explores her awakening sexuality through her relationship with him. . There is no actual sexual connection between them, but he is the first man in her life, and it is natural that through him she will learn about male-female attraction. She even starts seducing the father, playing with male energy as embodied in him. Yet despite this attraction, at a certain age she needs to give up closeness to the father and move back towards her mother. It is a kind of surrender to the mother, a recognition that her mother is her father’s wife, and she must give up her childish love affair with him if she is to claim her own potential as a woman. She again honours the mother as the most important parent – this time in a new way. Through her mother she becomes grounded in her own feminine strength, receives feminine energy from her and embodies the essence of womanhood in her urge to seek a mate and become a mother herself. (p151)

39 ‘Sexual abuse, incest’ There is the obvious perpetrator, the father, and behind the scenes there is the hidden perpetrator, the mother……who either has a tendency to leave her present family, or is not sexually available to her husband, or both. ….To balance this tendency she unconsciously offers her daughter instead….By way of resolving the situation, we need to bring to light how the child became involved out of love for the mother, and when this happens it usually re-establishes contact between mother and daughter. In this way, the daughter is relieved of her burden of replacing the mother, and she can again become a child. Usually at this point, the interest of the father in her as a sexual partner also subsides. After all, he really wanted the mother, and the daughter was serving as a substitute. (p188)

40 Homosexuality Family Constellation finds that there is often a particular family dynamic behind instances of homosexuality. A homosexual can be looked at in two ways; first as someone who has difficulty in identifying with his biological sex; second, as an outsider, since homosexuality lies outside the heterosexual norm. Hellinger describes the three main reasons for a child to become homosexual:
a) In the case of a gay man, the boy has to represent a female figure from his former family and because there is no girl in the family, the boy has to stand in for her and as a result becomes homosexual.
b) The mother does not allow her son to get close to the father; the father is then rejected, and the boy stays under the influence of his mother.
c) The child has to represent an earlier family member who was an outcast or an outsider, and by becoming homosexual he makes himself an outsider too. (p198)

41 ‘Anger, hurt, and guilt’ To remain angry will prevent any solution. First of all, anger is a very binding attachment between two people, and secondly it will prevent acknowledgement of the sexual bonding that happened with the father, making future sexual relations difficult. The first sexual connection creates a strong bond which needs to be acknowledged if later sexual relationships are gong to succeed. If an abused daughter stays locked in her negative attitude towards her father and continues to blame him, there can be no acknowledgement of their bond and no resolution. Ultimately this means that she will never get over the trauma and move to another partner. The solution in a constellation session may lie in inviting the daughter to tell her mother: ‘I did it out of love for you,’ and to tell the father: ‘I did it out of love for my mother.’ And then say to both parents: ‘I am only a child. I am innocent. I leave the responsibility and the guilt for what happened with you.’(p191)

42 ‘Victims and perpetrators’ Bringing to light the connection between victims and perpetrators show us that polar opposites are really part of one organic whole and exist because of each other; one cannot be a victim without a perpetrator, and vice versa. They mutually define each other. In fact these polar opposites also exist within each individual; one side is visible, while the other remains hidden and comes to light only when the opportunity arises. Victims often carry hidden violence within themselves, while murderers often experience themselves as victims. It is a tendency of the human mind to try to keep apart polar opposites which in fact belong together, but the more we try to pull them apart, the stronger becomes the force that pulls them back together. (p303)

43 The perpetrators are most often excluded It is hard, even now, for Germans to give the Nazis their place in the annals of German history and to accept that these people were also Germans, like themselves. The tendency is to drive them out of personal memory and pretend they never existed. Or rather, in the case of the Third Reich, it is not that Germans nowadays pretend that the Nazis never existed. They have been educated to say ‘We must always remember, so this will never happen again,’ which is a different way of not letting something be over.
For this reason Hellinger himself is a controversial figure in his native Germany, because he describes the nature of the collective conscience and its demand for belonging without reference to ‘good’ and ‘bad’, and without covering these basic constellation dynamics with socially acceptable cosmetics…..
In constellation sessions, we often see that the greatest healing force for a family system comes from the perpetrators, not the victims, as most often these are the excluded ones. The more we continue judging them, or denying their existence, the more we will re-create them again and again. The collective conscience won’t allow them to be forgotten, and we can see this in the rise of Neo-Nazi movements in modern Germany. Taking offence, or denial, is not the way to put to rest the conflicts and wars our forefathers were involved in.(p85)

44 Mother dying in childbirth One of the strongest issues in a constellation is when a mother dies in childbirth. This can affect children over many generations. What happens is that the death of the mother is considered almost like a murder by the collective conscience, as if the man who made her pregnant had murdered her. In a sense this is true; by making love to her and making her pregnant, he brought about her death. Of course, it was not intentional, but nevertheless it was the result. In order to fulfil the demand for inclusion and balance by the collective conscience, a later child in the same family system may carry a sense of guilt, perhaps by refusing to have children or by rejecting men.
The solution is to bring to light the real facts, so that what actually happened can be consciously understood. In a constellation addressing this issue, the mother who died giving birth has to be honoured by being given a central place, and everyone needs to bow down to her. Including her and recognising her in this way means that we honour the risk that she took in giving birth, (especially in former generations, when childbirth could be a question of life or death) and that she wanted to do it. This gives her dignity.
Often this is not enough, as her husband remains excluded, since the collective conscience holds him responsible. When we bring him into the picture, later family members may not want to face him; they feel him as a threat. The solution is to let the man and woman who died face each other, bringing out the love between them. It is touching to see this. They acknowledge their loss to each other; she lost her life and he lost his wife and sometimes the child died as well. There was love, there was risk, and the fact is that the mother died. This has to be brought into the open. It gives strength to later members of the family, especially when they feel this love as the force which also created them. (p94)

45 Are the client’s family really here? The collective conscience does not make any distinction between the dead and the living. When we set up a constellation, we operate from the understanding that the stand-ins not only represent those who belong to this family system, alive or dead, but actually, according to the operation of the collective field, they somehow ‘become’ them. In some mysterious way they act as transmitters for these beings. They carry their pain, they sense the truth of their histories, they have the power to free the bonds between generations…. In this sense the representatives are the actual people. (p96)

46 The client’s story mostly is to avoid or confuse the therapist, - in other words, to avoid being guided towards discomfort or pain. So in Family Constellation, we ask people to stay connected to important happenings in the family and feel the impact of them, without giving any other comments. (p98)

47 Schizophrenia Hellinger discovered that in cases of schizophrenia there is mostly a hidden murder somewhere in the family, and the person has to simultaneously represent both the murderer and his victim, flipping from one identification to the other, creating the dual personality that the schizophrenic will often inhabit. The healing would be to bring this murder to light, helping the client out of the identification, and letting the two opposing sides meet. (p85)

48 Abortion In order to create resolution, Bert Helliger has suggested a simple byut powerful ritual to acknowledge what happens in the case of abortion. A representative for the aborted child is asked to sit in front of the mother and the mother looks at him, puts her hand on his head and says something like; ‘I am your mother, you are my child. I took everything, you gave everything. Now I give you a big place in my heart.’ Usually this brings the mother in touch with her grief, which most likely she has not felt before in a conscious and deliberate way. The father can also do the ritual. (p193)

49 MS, epilepsy, panic attacks are often the result of a repressed murderous impulse, which according to Hellinger indicates that there was a murder in the family. The client identifies with the excluded perpetrator, taking his energy upon herself, and the sickness can be seen as a manifestation of her effort to hold back this aggressive impulse. (p119)

50 Courage to face fear It requires courage to see what is happening n a constellation, to say it out loud and allow its consequences. Then nothing bad can happen because reality itself can never be bad. Only the fear of looking at reality can be bad, because in that moment something gets suppressed into the unconscious part of the mind and works against us from there. Clients are more resilient than we imagine and the therapist can trust them to deal with the situations as they really are.
Often it is the therapist who is afraid, not the client. Whenever the therapist can trust her intuition and say what she sees as true in a certain moment, even though it may seem hard on the client, it usually has a positive effect and often the client will thank the therapist for it afterwards. There is power in telling someone ‘you want to die’ if this is what the constellation reveals.
But not if the therapist tries to soften this message by saying, for example, ‘it looks as if you may want to die’ or by playing the saviour, or by helping the client to avoid doing what the constellation shows he really wants to do, eg lie down next to a dead father. Then the client cannot be helped or healed and the opportunity for change is lost.
Our work as Family Constellation therapists is to help clients face a certain reality; it is not our job to rescue people. It is reality that gives strength and grounding and the opportunity for the client to save himself. It is the truth of this moment that illuminates any constellation (p218).

51 ‘A solution sentence’ is a statement given to a representative or to the client, by the facilitator, to say to another person in the constellation (p xiii) Through these sentences more awareness of the basic entanglements is being introduced, and the client can begin to take responsibility for his behaviour. Eg ‘I feel angry that you left me’, ‘I miss you a lot’, ‘I miss my mother. She died very early’ (p252)

52 ‘Entanglement’ means the emotional involvement of a person in the life of another member of his family or social group. (p xiii) Entanglement occurs when a person identifies with an excluded member of the family system and takes on his or her feelings and attitudes. It is as if one ‘becomes’ the other person, identifying with him in an unconscious effort to maintain the memory of a forgotten family member by repeating that person’s suffering (p109) For example, the client who wants to follow his father into death is caught up in an entangled movement. Once he deeply experiences this and its implications, he may be ready to get up, bow to his dead parent, turn round and go forward into his own life. (p229)

53 Primary and secondary emotion Primary emotions are usually short, empowering and an appropriate response to a certain event. Secondary emotions are draining and apparently endless, never leading to completion. They usually help a person not to face a painful reality, and tend to cover up a deeper feeling. For example the client may become angry instead of feeling hurt, or he may start crying when he is really angry. Sometimes secondary emotions feel like a demand, in which case they are designed to manipulate another family member. Children frequently do this with their mother. (p265)

54 ‘Rapport’ is noticing a client’s body language and reflecting it back to him without judgement, thereby creating resonance and trust between the client and facilitator.(p216)

55 ‘Empathy’ Identification with a client can prevent resolution so it is important to distinguish between empathy with a client and identification with the client’s issues. Identification is where there is no distinction between the therapist and her client. Her pain is the therapist’s pain. Her anxieties are the therapist’s anxieties. Identification is largely unconscious and applies to whatever issue causes the therapist to invest a large amount of feeling or emotion in the constellation and its outcome.
Empathy, on the other hand is more like a conscious feeling, akin to sympathy but without the need to remake or change the client in some way. Empathy is a parallel feeling, in which the mind, heart and even the body can resonate with the pain of the client without the therapist believing it to be her own.
Identification is like an extra skin. Empathy is like a hat; the therapist can put it on and she can also take it off. (p221)

56 ‘Centring’ is watching one’s own internal processes, staying alert at critical moments when you may otherwise lose touch with yourself and get caught up in ‘helping’ or ‘saving’ the client, or assuming a personal point of view. Centring enables you to approach a situation without prejudice, expectations, or pre-conceived ideas, so that you do not get lost in the client and the client’s issues. (p217)

57 ‘Transference ‘ is the client’s love for the parent projected onto the therapist, and usually involves the client turning his therapist into the ideal parent… In Family Constellation we don’t replace the parents; instead we help the client connect directly with his real parents and as a result transference is minimal….The facilitator doesn’t need to treat her client as a child, and from the very beginning she leaves all responsibility for the client’s life in his own hands. (p223)

58 A facilitator needs to have worked on her own family system in some depth and gone beyond the limitations of her personal conscience. It would be difficult to imagine how a therapist can help a client overcome the consequences of a rape if she is still in rage against an ex-husband who was violent with her. This may seem obvious but I have often come across clients who are themselves working as therapists with Family Constellation, who fervently reject one or other of their parents. (p222)

59 ‘Respect’ is a conscious act of understanding that is not for or against anyone or anything. We realise our separate existence, which frees both parties, leaving behind a fragrance of love (p 307)

60 In meditation people don’t try to change or fix anything, but rather become aware of their inner being, their witnessing state of consciousness. The moment this happens, all fight and struggle ceases. (p275)
Regularly practicing meditation techniques helps us to become accustomed to noticing our inner world – the world of bodily sensations, thoughts, feelings, moods, - and therefore enhances the individual’s sensitivity. This in turn makes it easier and more accurate for representatives to notice changes in moods when standing in for family members. At the same time, the practice of witnessing and dis-identifying from personal attitudes and beliefs makes it easier for the client to let go of burdens that are being carried for earlier members of the family system. (p277)
Meditation is the realisation that we are something that lies altogether beyond the body-mind structure. In this sense one might describe meditation as the ultimate form of therapy, since only when we are rooted deeply in meditation can we truly be free from stress. The real solution is brought by the insight that we are neither the body nor the mind, that life’s drama is just an existential play, and the only difficulty is that we have forgotten that we are actors in it, and take it as real.(p295)

Compiled by John Kapp (Vivek) (johnkapp at
22, Saxon Rd Hove BN3 4LE Sussex, England 0044 (0) 1273 417997

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