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Family Constellations is a phenomenological systemic group process that promotes transformation and healing in individuals through the use of representatives who “stand-in” for the ancestors so that entanglements can be revealed and brought to resolution, thereby creating healing for the client. Family Constellations were first introduced in the early 1990s by German psychotherapist and former priest, Bert Hellinger. Hellinger was inspired by his work as a missionary and educator with the Zulu peoples of South Africa, and the reverence with which the Zulus people held the ancestors—something he believes has been lost or forgotten in many Western cultures.

The main elements of Family Constellations are the Orders of Love that state (1) Everyone has an equal right to belong in his or her family system, (2) There is a natural hierarchy in birth order—he or she who was born first, comes first, and (3) Parents give and children take/receive. There are others but these three might be the most important to follow. When these Orders of Love are not honored, entanglements with the fate of an ancestor can occur, resulting in dysfunction for the individual in the present, as the individual carries the fate of the ancestor “out of love.” Rather than living freely in the present, following his or her own fate, the individual becomes stuck in the past, carrying the fate of the ancestor, sometimes with tragic consequences and unnecessary suffering. The Constellations process is devoted to recognizing and uncovering these entanglements, so that these issues with the ancestors are reconciled, thereby bringing happiness and freedom to the individual in the present.

An individual who has chosen, “out of love” to carry the fate of an ancestor, isn’t responding to his or her own experiences but remains stuck “in service” to th past—in a futile attempt to bring peace to the soul of an ancestor while living in turmoil him or herself. As a result, conflicts can arise in the family in the present as forces from the past create a division within the individual, in a relationship with another family member, or the surrounding environment. The individual may continue to battle with the entanglement, or may suppress it altogether, resulting in that individual experiencing him or herself as divided, torn, indecisive, or dissatisfied, and operating under extreme stress—stress that often feels like insanity. The goal of Constellations is to reconcile these entanglements and to bring healing and peace to all in the present.

Hellinger suggests that each individual, alive or dead, has an equal right to his or her place within the family system, regardless of his or her fate in life. Constellations support reconciliation between victims and perpetrators and their families and descendants, regardless of the horrendous nature of their past transgressions. Even long excluded family members can be returned to the rightful place in the family system, which leads to peace in their hearts and in the hearts of other members of the family.

In the beginning Family Constellations were concerned only with issues relating to the immediate family system of the individual asking for the constellation. Over the years Systemic Family Constellations have expanded and often address much broader issues in the individual’s life, including health, as well as issues—in the workplace and other systems. Whereas all constellations were done in workshop settings at first, but years ago, Jakob Schneider introduced the use of Playmobil™ Figures or other symbols to represent members of the client’s family system—in the facilitator’s office and Individual Constellations became common.

Constellations are also used in business settings to demonstrate and reconcile relationships within the organization that are not in the service of the company. More recently Nature Constellations have evolved with the purpose of connecting constellations work with the earth community. Today, a growing number of facilitators, including Dr. Liz, are working specifically with specifically with trauma.  This amazing process, known by a  variety of names, including Family Constellations, Systemic Constellations, Systemic Family Constellations, etc, with a wide variety of emphases are spreading rapidly around the globe and can now be found in every continent and many languages.