They can have a deep effect on the family, especially on the parents, if
they have not faced what they did and if they have not grieved. Parents and
aborted children need to look at each other and open their hearts again. The
aborted child needs a place in the parents' hearts. When this has happened,
guilt can come to an end after some time.
Like other severe afflictions, people suffering
from anorexia may be connected to family members that had severe fates. The
anorexic person may feel they want to die, in place of another family member.
They may carry the guilt of the father.
When the perpetrator owns his guilt and sees the suffering of his victims,
healing for all, including his anorexic child, can begin.
When trauma in a family was too heavy, grieving becomes unbearable. So,
survivors may not be able to express their grief. The children of the survivors
will often carry the grief with severe bodily or emotional symptoms. The
resolution will first see whom the anorexic person is identified with, in
sympathy with whom she suffers. Then the grief will be expressed, and the
family members reunite on the level of the soul. The surviving person honours
the dead, telling them how much they are missed. The dead are told they have a
place in the heart and live on with the living.
In this way, the gap
between the living and the dead is not so great any more, and the living hear
that the dead want them to live, and live well.
Bert talks about blind love.
This blind love even joins family members that may have never met. The father who
never saw the child. The grandmother who died giving birth to the child's
mother. The uncle who was locked away in a mental institution and died.
the love of the family that exists deep down, even where there is no conscious
love, or a lot rejection. But the unconscious love finds its ways, no matter what, expressed in an
unconscious, archaic, mythic way. It is what a young child does that is left to
its own devices.
The child says: "I see you suffer. So, because I am
faithful to you, I will suffer, too." -or: " I see life is hard for you. I don't
know the way out. So I will be by your side and do as you do."
-or: "I see you don't
want to live. I will go for you so you can stay."
-or: "I am not allowed to love
you. But I will show you my loyalty by becoming like you."
This blind love is the entangled way of loyalty. It brings great suffering to
the child, it doesn't heal
the absent person, and it does not create direct communication, contact with
them. It does not, even though it is the unconscious attempt to, make love flow
again. And this is the necessity for the family soul. There is a lack of peace
and well-being until the flow of love is restored in its life giving expression.
This is what family - constellations work towards. The constellation give the
image of what needs to be done and how.
Career or motherhood
if we (have to choose) choose, for example career at the exclusion of
motherhood, it helps to honour motherhood so we carry that in us as well. As
always the method is to take our hearts towards greater inclusiveness.
In this work we are required to have compassion for all.
We cannot make judgments, or else we stop the process. If we remain
on the level of lower loyalties, we will only see the problems, not the
In order to do this work you have to be almost a-moral, leaving your ideas
of good and bad behind.
Then you can trust that the higher truth of the family field will show the
way to reconciliation. There has to be compassion for all involved, even
If there is any priority for compassion, it needs to go to the excluded,
whoever they are, as healing the exclusion will be of benefit for
all. And there is an order of compassion where it goes first to the
suffering child. On another level, a person from an earlier generation can
also experience their family from the child perspective.
Constellations, types of
There are some basic types of constellation, but
any of them may change into another form. The therapist first gets into a rapport
with the person presenting their issues, and then chooses which people are
These may be just two people, p. e. a
parent and a child,or the key members of the family of origin,or the present family with partner and children.
As the constellation progresses it becomes apparent who else needs to be
Some constellations grow into the representation of warring groups, groups of
perpetrators and victims.
Bert insists that any work starts with an individual and an issue, or some
family members or partners who come together with an issue.
He says the work must look at concrete, real people. The representatives are
representing real people, alive or dead.
Curiosity is seen as not useful to this
process of soul healing. This work is a growth process, not a technical repair
job. Details distract, and the other participants - and most of all the
therapist - need to show respect to the client by leaving the process with the
person to whom it belongs, and trusting their souls. They need not add,
especially not from their intellect, from their convictions, from their belief
systems. Straight after a constellation, the therapist might ask the
representatives what they felt, staying very close to their immediate
perceptions, thereby giving the soul of the client information, completing the
The representatives and other members of the group are also asked to respect the
space someone is in after a constellation and leave them to it, so the images
and gestures can be integrated. They are asked to look carefully at their
motives before they speak to someone after their constellation even at a later
The therapists will also show no curiosity later. If a client wishes to tell
them something at a later stage, they may do so, but basically the soul of the
client is back in charge.
In our culture we tend to look at death as a catastrophe,
something final, the end of existence. From this point of view, death is particularly disastrous.
If we can come to see it as the end of one form of existence, and the beginning
of another, things may feel a little different. We are still faced with the
loss, with shock about premature and painful death. But we may not have to think
any more that the dead are still suffering, or cheated about their share
of living. If we all come from the same ground and return to it, the difference
between the living and the dying is not so great, and we might find it easier to
say yes to living and yes to moving elsewhere- at the appointed time, whenever
Death and impersonality
Death can be seen beyond guilt or innocence.
Representatives in constellations who have stood
for dead people describe the experience that death is something great and
something peaceful, and even after a death through murder the dead may
experience being dead as something quite impersonal. Bert says a murderer is in
a way the instrument of death- and therefore, fully responsible- but the
murderer is not the real cause of death. Constellations show that the victims
are waiting for the murderer to join them. For the dead fate and guilt are in
greater hands who do not work according to our ideas, and fate and guilt are
greater than our grief and our desire for revenge. When we can see the greater picture
in death and feel more in harmony with the great forces, it is more comforting
for the living and the dead.
In family constellations, our painful
entanglements with the family are resolved through restoring love
and dignity and giving everyone a good and right place.
These resolutions are sometimes difficult to accept at first, as we feel they
create more distance. This is so, as our painful identifications with others
resolve. But it increases our individuality and allows love to flow in freedom.
Now, we have a greater distance that is based on the well-being of all. Guilt is
removed, and love is free.
This is the term used to describe all the unconscious, semi- conscious,
or even conscious, but still inescapable mechanisms that tie people in painful
ways to others of their family and larger group, and their victims and
perpetrators. Family constellations can help bring these ancient and painful
connections to light and providing a space in which the soul can begin to heal
members, dead and living
In family constellations we bring family members
together that are in need of communication, reconciliation and other changes of
heart that help bring about peace for all. In our culture, we do not relate to
the dead directly, but here we do. The dead have many insights for us,
unreleased blessings for the living. Turning to the dead, speaking to them
and letting them speak is the way to heal our grief
that may be incomplete and the expression of deep entanglement. The descendants
of victims and perpetrators find comfort and encouragement from the dead when
they turn to them. The entanglement, if not resolved, will continue to effect
the descendants for generations. They may feel, even totally unconsciously, that they
have to go to the dead, which means dying, suffer for them and with them, keep vengeance and hatred
going as modes of loyalty, and so forth. But the dead do not desire this
suffering and atonement. They want the living to be happy, and only those who
were the true perpetrators, to join them in respect and regret.
The question, where are the dead. It can be seen that the dead are still having
effects on the living.
As they are fully honoured, related
with to in a loving direct way, they can gently fade a little into the background,
remaining a source of blessing and comfort.
different types of
Different qualities of feelings show themselves in
the work. One task of this therapy is to bring the unredeemed feelings back into
the flow of love, so they can contribute to the healing.
Primary feelings are those that are truly expressive of the situation, of its
intensity and severity. The primary feeling gives connection to the other(s).
The eyes open, connecting with the other person, too. The primary feelings erupt without control, and express themselves intensely,
not lasting very long though if fully faced. It is a breakthrough with a strong discharge.
During this process the eyes are open.
Primary feelings may erupt by themselves at any time, but this is more the
exception. More often, they are very deeply suppressed aspects of our lives where skilled therapy may
be required and helpful- if deep down we can say yes to releasing something of
Often, it is the trust in another person's true presence and support that will
help the release.
In family constellations it is not uncommon for a representative to go through
the client's primal feelings. This process then can be beneficial for both, it
may bring out something similar to what the representative was carrying as well.
We can carry the primal trauma of family members in us, too, not just our own.
The secondary feelings are experienced as burdensome by those who carry them.
Those people around often feel uncomfortable, and even manipulated.
Secondary feelings, in therapy, happen often with eyes closed.
They are replacement
feelings, not really connecting to the real person. Secondary feelings are often
defence mechanisms against the underlying pain. They maintain the resistance of
the individual to enter into the healing flow. Many feelings exist in a
secondary and in a primary form. Secondary feelings also have this somewhat autistic
quality, there is no real connecting to the lost or missed person. They spin
around in themselves, with eyes closed. Take grief. The secondary grief can have
qualities of long term depression, severe illnesses, and premature death.
Secondary feelings can take on more complex and remote
qualities which in fact prevent healing in the person and prevent reconciliation
on a larger scale.
Then there are the assumed feelings, adopted feelings which we see in
constellations all the
time. A person carries them vicariously for someone else, or parallel with
someone else in the family. Assumed feelings, though originating in loyalty,
bring no healing, and little help, but much burden or even tragedy to those who
took them on, and their families. Again, these need to be resolved, through direct
loving contact with their "real owners".
Then, on a higher level, we have the meta- feelings. These meta-feelings
are pure energy. They are devoid of emotion, but full of power. They come from
love, strength, and clarity. From these pure feelings, gestures, images, statements of healing, of resolve, of love,
of dignity pour forth.
Sometimes, when a client has very strong emotions, Bert tell them to breathe
without sound or words. And then he should speak without emotions, with a
perfectly normal voice. Then there is much power in the process. Bert says:
"Go into your strength. Remain in your strength."
In reconciliation, I will say more about feelings.
There is a beautiful sentence in Rilke's writing:
"The grief of the bereaved disturbs the movements of
the soul of those who have gone." The Buddhists say the same, and probably
Of course, this is the incomplete, suppressed grief. The ungrieved grief
and also the incomplete grief is a cause of disturbance to the living and the
dead, far more often than we commonly assume. And deep down, whenever we grieve,
we grieve over much
more than what we consciously acknowledge.
So, bringing grief to completion by
really looking at the dead, going through the layers of feelings until love
flows freely again is an aspect of constellation work.
Guilt and innocence
"Innocence", says Bert, looks at the lesser truth, and is only
possible from a child's perspective. For the higher truth
some guilt is unavoidable. Innocence is what the child is hoping for. Growing
up, we cannot avoid some degree of guilt, and having to work through guilt
Identification here always means a
subconscious process. It is not modeling after someone which has a degree of
choice in it. It is rather something
like living aspects of one's life in similarity to a family member, following someone one may not even know, or following someone whom one
certainly does not wish to follow, someone who is rejected, unacceptable.
In constellations we see that younger family
members are identified with older ones that
carried or carry some great burden. These
identifications come to light in the constellation as the two family members
both appear and show affinity with each other. The identification resolves through
the direct communication between the two. The younger one honours the one with
the burden, and the one with the burden gives the younger one their wish to lead
a happy life.
Often deep emotional connection is expressed. The love remains,
and the person who was a source of burden is now a source of strength.
Looking at each other shows the younger one what he overlooked all along: the
family member he is identified with, also loves, and does not want suffering to
go on. He only wants to be loved, included, honoured.
A child does not have to identify with a family member when love and respect are
flowing freely between them and towards them.
Identifications happen with those that are unwanted, ignored, fearfully
excluded. A child will not have to identify with a parent that it can freely
love and who freely loves the child back. Then the child is in a much better
position to choose the traits of the parent that it admires, and not be so affected
by the ones that it would rather not copy.
If however, the child is not permitted to love a parent, or that parent
does not love the child, the unconscious identification mechanism sets in. A typical situation
is where one parent
says with contempt: "The child is just like its father (or mother).
There is a more complex and often more tragic type of identification: the
identification with the aggressor.
When in a
system, -which may be a family or even a nationality- murder and other violence
has occurred, the soul of the system requires that the perpetrator needs to be
faced and given acknowledgement (see: perpetrator). Where a crime remains
ignored, hidden, disavowed, too terrifying to be faced, and in other ways unresolved, a member of
his family and/or of the victim group will unconsciously be identified with the
perpetrator, and will take on traits - and actions - of the perpetrator.
These types of
identifications may come into play in mental illness, they may account for some
tragic crimes and may play quite a role in the perpetuation of wars. I believe this to be a key factor in insanity, and wars are the essence of
Matters get even more complicated when
one person is identified both with the victim and with the aggressor. (see under
There is a notion that life is the highest good, that with life lost all
is lost. But life itself comes from something greater and goes back to something
greater. This mysterious force that receives and gives life is the great force.
A little child that is taken back to the source has not lost anything. Those who
live a 100 years also go back after a time. When we go back we become the same
again as those who went before.
Bert says, in principle, this work is very simple. You put together what has
been separated. That which frees and heals the soul deep down is the building of
connections, with healing words as one way. The therapist sees or hears these
words when he has his focused feelings in the situation.
When he really places
himself inside the situation, he stands within a force field from which the
knowledge comes to him. Being and moving inside this force field he has quite a
different perception to the one of the outer observer.
The therapist has to have a heart full of love for all involved. Within the
constellation you can rediscover the good heart in everyone.
The therapist works with this good heart.
This method works systemically. It aims at wholeness. It is important to see the
whole. In this process there may be some moves of the therapist that appear partial. When
the therapist looks at the whole family he sees who is missing, i.e., the dead,
the excluded. And with these, the heart of the therapist unites. But this is a
partiality in the service of the whole which brings reconnection of the
excluded. So all the members of this whole then need to go through a process of
reorientation which has for its aim the wholeness of the whole.This method requires certain attitudes in the therapist. The therapist must be
willing to renounce what would otherwise be an obstacle to the work, amongst
them are the "lower truths", the narrow moralities, the excluding
loyalties, the knowledge of good and bad, the "normal" processes of
thinking and feeling.
The work requires love and emptiness, surrender to that which is much greater.
At times, it happens that in families a child that
was miscarried, is not acknowledged and grieved. This child is usually a member
of the family soul, and giving it a "good place" in the heart will
further the harmony of the family.
Orders of love
There are certain laws operating in the family.
The first one is:
each member of the family, born
into it or connected to it through fate in some way, all have the same right to
belong fully, not more or less. Therefore, if one is excluded or forgotten, the
family soul tries to restore the completeness, by forcing a later member to
repeat the life or fate of someone who was forgotten. For example a stillborn
child who did not even get a name, a later child will have to take on the fate
of this family member. It may get ill or even die. In the higher order, it is very important that, all are respected and included.
The second law is:
there is in a family an urge to balance benefit and
someone is ill then someone needs to help. If this did not happen, the fate of
the less fortunate will have to be repeated.
In family constellation we look for
balance on a higher order. If someone acknowledges their good health and honours
the others who are less fortunate, they can keep their health if they look after the less
The third law deals with seniority. The older ones take preference over those who were born
later. The first born has preference. It means that those who come later have no
right to interfere in the lives of the earlier ones. A child must therefore not
atone through suffering or take on revenge. No one of a later generation can
successfully take this up, it must be done
by those whom it concerns. But on the enmeshed level often younger ones do,
and this will only increase unhappiness and bring no lasting peace.
higher order younger ones can express their sadness and sympathy to victims and
do something to honour them and to accept their blessings.
These are the three main orders of love.
Bert says, between perpetrators and victims there
is an indissoluble connection in the case of the murderer and the victim. The
perpetrator has to leave his family and join the dead victim. Even if still
alive he has to behave like one who lost the right of belonging to his own
family and who lives as if he belongs to the dead. Then he can find peace. In
the constellation, he has to lie down next to the victim as someone who is facing the
consequences of his actions.
The perpetrator may have great fear of the victims. Only when he faces them and
lets them face him, can he bow to them and see himself as someone who cannot
escape his destiny. In death he can become one of them, and this is what needs
to happen for true reconciliation.
And the victims have no peace either until they can give him a place amongst
them, so that the ones who were separated through the crime can be united in
For the descendants of the murderers this means that they have to release the
murderer from their family and from their hearts and nothing of his must be
passed on to anyone. Here is the danger that an innocent offspring will want to
atone for the crime which may mean death for this family member. But this would not help the dead as it is not the right person.
The dead don't want revenge,
only healing. Such an offspring can experience this truth of the soul, if in his
inner image he lies down next to the dead and waits for their responses. He will
find that to honour them and to express sadness is healing, but he must
leave the space empty for the one who truly belongs there.
A good place
The place is very important in family
constellations. It appears in many forms.
The most obvious one is to restore the order in the family, when the orders
of love are reestablished, everybody has a good
place in it. Everyone who belongs is given a good place.
In honouring family members, a sentence and gesture is "I give you a place
in my heart". Often, people cannot find their place in life. This is
related to their place in the family. When the relationships are harmonized,
when love flows again, we feel we are in a good place, and this transfers to
many other aspects of our lives,
even to our religious or spiritual "place".
Even Psychoses respond to family
Psychoses can often be traced as complex and tragic
entanglements in events that took place in the past within
the family, and often connected to large- scale atrocities. The person suffering
from psychotic experiences is often identified with more than one family member,
and in a contradictory way.
There may be identification with victims and
perpetrators alike. There may be an identification with someone of the opposite
sex as well. Also, there is a sense of secrecy about, something is not known,
not supposed to be known, and yet, felt on a deeper level.
Often the person
showing psychotic symptoms does this for another family member who would
otherwise be psychotic. This can happen where a child lost its mother at
childbirth. A child of this child may then experience the terror. This child may
have also, in many ways, experienced motherlessness. When the dead mother and
her child can fully reunite, the child can then, in turn, share this love with
its own child. The nature of psychosis is having to fumble in
the dark, knowing full well there is something, but being left to fend for
oneself. This person feels a lot of things without knowing where they come from.
So there is terrible disorientation. Intense fear is amongst them, so there is a
desperate search for the causes. Opposing energies are felt, like those of
aggressor and victim, in one person. Some are too horrible to own, so they have
to go back outside. And they did not belong to the suffering person in the first
place. Often someone else was or is too afraid of owning a crime or an
overwhelming sense of guilt, or unbearable pain.
Out of this not consciously known double identification, a few severely disturbed
people may commit even murder, and even murder within the family. Then we also
see at work the double displacement: a perpetrator, who is not the real
perpetrator, is committing a crime against a victim who is not the real victim.
A past disaster, only dimly sensed, is reenacted. Blind loyalty to the past has
reached insanity. The insane acts were committed before. And looking away out of
too much fear perpetuates the problem.
I won't write any more here, but I may add a page on psychosis if people express
a wish to explore family dynamics in order to bring relief to a suffering family
If people who are concerned about family members
with mental illness would wish to answer - strictly confidentially - the family questions (see link above), keeping
the few comments in mind- and send them to me, I would gladly respond.
Relating to parents
In family constellations we can see how important
it is that love flows freely between parents and children. People experience the
difference, after a deep reconciliation, when they have their parents
"behind" them. On the soul level, where it matters the most, we can
return to them and say: "You may now take me as your child", "I
take you now as my mother/father".
In the service
of greater forces
Bert emphasizes the larger picture. He says we are
taken into service by forces that are immense. We cannot understand them. Each
one of us is in this service in some way. And
apparently, there are not only those forces which we call good. The forces of
what we call bad or even evil exist, too, and come into play through the humans
that they have taken into their service. Bert says, only on the ground of this
assumption that we are all taken into service, can he look at every situation
with an unbiased and truly open heart.
Obviously this does not excuse those who have
committed crimes. But it may reduce the need for hatred. If we can work towards
making our selves large enough to bow to the realities of this planet, we may be
able to move towards some capacity to choose.
Family constellations aim at restoring two basic
qualities: love and strength.
Bert says: "There is no point working with someone while they feel just as
a victim." This means people have to return to themselves a degree of
dignity and responsibility, a willingness to better their lives, before the soul
can communicate with them in a way that will allow change for the better. The
healing love grows from strength. It is strong love, love able to accept,
embrace, and walk upright in the face of it all.
A family is a system. In constellation work changes
towards reconciliation are made. If one part of a system changes, it will
have an effect on the system as a whole.
can be helpful in bringing to light the complications and sufferings that the
adopted children, the parents, and the adoptive parents may experience. They may
also reveal how the people involved can move closer to resolutions that
restore well-being and belonging. Much happens in our society that does not take
the deeper realities of human beings into account.
I believe, people involved in
adoptions deserve, and often need support, and the concept as such may need to
be corrected, to achieve the desired outcome for the people concerned.
To give an example: A child has asthma,
specifically a strong allergic reaction to horses. It turns out, the child's
grandfather belonged to a mounted special military unit that committed atrocities. In the
constellation the grandfather has to leave the family, that means he has to own his
actions. In the picture, he was sent outside. Outside, he then had the
symptoms, and the child was symptom
free.Then the grandfather has the task of deep regret before himself.
Our western culture has only very minor use for
bowing. In some other cultures, it plays a very important role. Bert uses
different types of bowing, to express different inner gestures. They give a
powerful and often unexpected experience. The more someone may resist bowing,
to their parents, the more powerful it is when they become able to do so.
Usually there is an association of
submitting, losing one's dignity, not being able to express one's righteous
grievances, honouring someone one does not want to honour...
But the effect is
very different, it is nothing but beneficial for all involved. Jack Kornfield writes beautifully about it describing his
experience as a Buddhist monk in Thailand. I don't want to
say more here, as I will give bowing and surrender an extra page.
Constellations often show these dynamics: Perpetrators
who do not own their guilt have children who try to atone for them. In severe
situation children want to die in place of the perpetrators, or even do so, or become seriously ill,
have accidents. Wives may do this, too. It is important for the family members
to leave the guilt where it belongs, honouring the fate of the perpetrator.
In the best scenario, the perpetrator faces his actions fully, realizes, that
means really feels what he has done, is very humble towards the victim, and bears the
consequences. Atoning should take on
the positive side of doing something good to honour his victims.
It is appropriate for the children of perpetrators to honour the victims, and to express the grief they feel. Children
of perpetrators feel related to the victims and their children, and suffer with them
like for members of their own family.
Conscience is a central concept to Bert's work.
There are different types of conscience, serving different ends. And in the
constellations, we can see how deeply we are shaped by what certain types of
conscience demand of us.
One type of conscience is perceived as necessary for survival. The child
needs to belong to its family. There are rules how to express loyalty. When the
child acts the way it is expected to according to family norms, it has a
"good" conscience, it feels "innocent". This means it feels
confident that it belongs.
When it has acted in a way that may endanger its
belonging to the family, it will have a "bad" conscience, it will feel
"guilty". "Guilty" of what? Simply of breaking the rules of
feeling guilty on the child level is just the fear of degrees of expulsion. It has nothing to do
with good or bad, right or wrong, only with what is named so in this particular
As children grow, other types of belonging become vital, such as
schools. Again, it is a matter of emotional and practical survival to accept the
rules as good. Later in life, the same structure really becomes a matter of life
When soldiers of a country, even mercenaries, do as they are told,
they feel, "not guilty". They have acted in line with the current definitions of
good and bad within their social group or political system. Belonging to the
group or the system, becomes the criterion of good or bad. (Luckily, through all
the complications and contradictions in the modern world, this is beginning to
break down a little bit.)
The more dependent a person is on a system, the more fiercely will the individual
try to meet the demands. The fiercer the system, the more brutally it sanctions
deviation, the more desperately will the individual try.
Under relatively free, secure, and caring circumstances, an individual has more
scope to think things through as to what kind of morals, or ethics come into
play. Then we
realize the different, often cruelly opposed standards.
For the people who are caught in them it is a matter of life and death, and
often there is no way out. Either way someone will call you guilty, and you will
be paying a high price.
Individuals who belong to warring families, opposing social groups, ethnic
groups, nationalities, warring parties, make this experience.
The more the conflict, the war rages, the higher the insecurity, the less space
do people have to withdraw into what they would like to do if only they could.
Even the space for feeling that, thinking that, is usually withdrawn.
I once had a visit from a charming, polite young man from Afghanistan. He told
me he had spent time in jail in Europe where his family had moved to. He had
done a lot of robbery, breaking into people's houses. This did not cause him any
distress, as it was not his home country. He had not broken any rule that was
important to his sense of belonging. The other thing he had done was stab a man,
who lost one eye through it. His father was Muslim, his mother orthodox Christian.
His father's morals demanded the action, and approved of the result. It was done
in revenge of an attack on a family member, which, one can safely assume, was
also some act of loyalty, done in good conscience. His orthodox Russian mother,
however, was pretty miserable. This saddened him a little. But he took his fate stoically.
And I, rather fitting into the category of a mother, felt perfectly safe with
him. As far as the two of us were concerned, luckily, our conscience systems met
where they allowed us to keep peace and respect between us.
It is easy to see how tragedies after tragedies result, small and large scale,
from this rule enforcement, called "conscience". It has deepest roots
Apart from the personal conscience that we feel as guilt or innocence,
there is another conscience,
the systemic conscience of
the greater family, the collective unconscious.
The effects of this conscience
come to light through family constellations. This conscience is a shared conscience, many are connected
in it or are moved through it as a family . It follows orders that are different
to the orders of the personal conscience. It is as if a larger entity guarding
over all members of a family has another set of rules by which the family as a
whole has to abide, or else, suffering continues.
Both these types of conscience belong together in so far as they keep the family
group, the old tribe, together, by conscious and largely unconscious means. If
other members of our family have suffered, we are not free to be well and happy,
until their belonging is fully restored.
The "Orders of Love", ( see topic) as Bert calls them, are the rules
on which the family conscience insists. This conscience sees to it, that if some
family members broke its rules this has to be atoned for by other family members. This
conscience acts largely behind the scenes. Bringing these mechanism to light is
central to family constellations. In family constellations, also the conflict
between the different types of consciences can be seen, and on the level of the
soul, the way to reconciliation is indicated.
The final stage of the healing is
within the greater conscience which we all share
as beings, all equally in the care of the One Great Soul
from which we come, to which we return, all equally.
the dead appears to be an ancient human response which we still have not
overcome fully. In our civilized cultures, all too often great effort goes into
"protecting" the bereaved from their dead.
If people have died tragically, and their family member cannot relate to them,
out of fears, and too much grief, it can be hard for the dead to find peace, and
for the living as well. To reconnect with the dead in love and respect frees all.
Then the fear of the dead is turned into the feeling of their blessings. The
old custom of requesting the blessing from a dying person is very much in tune
with what appears in family constellations.
No matter how the dead died, they are not appeased
by the suffering of the living, or by revenge. They are reconciled through
heartfelt sadness, through honouring, through expressions of love. And from the
perpetrators they need that they join them in death when the time has
come, in this way facing their responsibility, and expressing their deep sorrow and regret.
When asked about his theories of the divine plan,
concerning wars for example, Bert says he is simply awed by the size of it and
does not try to understand what he cannot understand. He does not touch what is
too big for him.
All he does is stand by the ones who are affected, in humbleness.
To face what is as it is, in love, respect and gentleness is the essential
religious attitude for him.
Wanting to go beyond that which is near means we
risk loosing our inner contact and balance. We look at the next step and stay
close to earth, humbly. The immediate next step we can perceive through our
inner contact. In the Bible, Job regains his dignity in the end through
not asking any more.
Family constellation, technique
Family constellation is a therapeutic method.
In a group the person concerned chooses representatives for members of their
family, alive ones and dead ones, from amongst the group members. In a collected
manner, the person places them in the empty space, in connection to each other.
As soon as the representatives are chosen and placed, they start feeling like
the real people in that family. We cannot explain this. For the living, this can
be checked out, no so for the dead, but the effects that come from the dead
suggest that in some way, they are there, too. They behave as if there was
something they still had to say to the living, as if in some way they
still needed something from the living, and as if the living needed something
The "knowing field"
There is a separate page on the "field", as it is
essential for the work. Therapist and participants meet in a "field",
the field of the client's family . To the degree in which therapists and
participants are experienced in the quality of the field, this field reveals its
knowing of the family. This concept is not a theory, but a way to describe the
experiences that people have in constellations. When you are a representative in
a constellation, you begin to feel things, on a physical level and in ways you
respond to others. More on the separate page.
Bert says forgiving is a dubious thing. 'What I
forgive, I put into my own backpack." Asking forgiveness of someone is
placing the burden on this other person, who may be a child or a victim of some
kind. It is the perpetrator who has to do the work, not the victim. A perpetrator may express serious regret and great sadness over what he
has done, but the weight of his actions remain with him. He cannot pass them on
and basically does not have the right to ask for forgiveness.
The ones who suffered from his action will feel relieved when they perceive the
perpetrators' sincere grief about the pain they have caused. And if
the perpetrator will do something good, make amends, this will be helpful. But
just to ask forgiveness can be a cheap and self-centred way to ease one's own
discomfort and to deny responsibility. Where the crime has been severe this
could amount to
dishonouring the victim.
A victim of course, can choose to forgive. If they can do this, with a sense of
grace and strength, gaining freedom, power, and dignity as they alone choose to
do so, this can have a very powerful effect on those who are connected to
victims and perpetrator alike. An deeply moving example can be found on the
homepage of a child holocaust survivor.
Growth of the soul
Doing only that which is essential, leaving the
constellation image at its highest point of energy, serves the client. The soul
finds its own way then. We are dealing with growth processes here. In the
constellation something begins to grow. Then the gardener does not interfere.
For the same reason we are asking that the people who have just been involved in
their own constellation be left to themselves, or more precisely, to the good
care of their own soul. This work gives strength back to the individual to heal what
can be healed, and to carry their fate in renewed dignity.
We are not doing repair work here, where every part has to be checked and fixed.
The images of the constellations continue communicating with the soul. The
clients can experience a long term growth process, going through many layers and
stages. Bert says up to two years is quite common.
It is essential to own one's actions and
wrongdoings if one wants healing. It is part of facing the kind of truth that
can bring healing. Giving all the responsibility to someone else when it is not
true cannot give healing. It is equally important to return the guilt feelings
that do belong elsewhere.
There is a lot of confusion and burdening about guilt feelings.
Family constellations help to work through guilt confusion as they reveal where
the feelings of guilt belong, and what other feelings may lie beneath it.
A child often has guilt feelings when it
has broken some family rules. But it has not done any harm to anybody. So the
guilt here is a way to force the child back into conformity through fear of not
Very often abused children carry guilt feelings. These have to be returned to
the person to whom they belong. Here the guilt feelings keep the child victim
trapped, and the perpetrator is not facing his actions.
But if we have done something whereby someone was hurt, intentionally or unintentionally, we may feel we are guilty of something. In this
situation, again, the guilt feelings change nothing for the better.
Guilt feelings mean you obsessively think about something and don't do anything.
If you feel true
guilt, you have to do something. Transforming true guilt into guilt feelings,
allows you to stay stuck forever. In reverse, you can own the guilt without guilt
feelings by taking the consequences constructively.
Bert says: "Innocence is week, guilt is strong."
While Bert has discovered many connections between
illnesses and family entanglements, and research continues, Bert's focus is on
the family. He searches for the forces that bring about illnesses and brings
them to light. He is looking for people who have been excluded.
When they are fully brought back into the family, they have a healing effect on
Bert says, his work is not about the physical illnesses. He leaves that to
the doctors. His part is helping the healing of the family soul. If the soul is
healing, many of its symptoms may not be needed any longer.
Bert brings his perception to a family system, and a field reveals itself. After
he has brought the healing energies to light, he retreats, leaving the family to
its "good soul". He says if he
remained involved, he would not be present with the energies of pure perception
where he is only in the service of greater powers. If he remained involved, like
someone who needs to do a success check, it would be as if he thought things
depended on him. But he emphasizes, it is important to trust the powers
which hold everybody involved in their hands.
Indignation is frequently an "assumed
feeling" (see feelings).
It is frequently taken on by those who wish to support victims. They may
feel, if the victim does not get indignant, they will do it for the victim, believing
they strengthen the victim in this way and restore the victim's
It is, like within a family, seen as an act of loyalty, and therefore, sometimes
defended by the indignant ones with the same fierceness as the loyalty itself.
In constellations the problems arising from assumed feelings can sometimes be seen. They
may prevent the underlying problems from rising to the surface and may
make the needed healing more difficult.
Bert sees his work in conjunction, and not instead of other medical treatments.
At times, though, a while after a constellation, it may be possible, to reduce
medication, in consultation with one's doctor.
Concerning psychiatric medication, Bert says: "I have much respect towards medication. Imagine how much suffering there would
be without medication. I see both ways as a present, medication and
psychotherapy. Sometimes psychotherapists disrespect psychiatry. After 4
weeks of work in psychiatry I have gained immense respect towards the
I still feel this way."
Movement of the soul and family constellation
I have dedicated another page to the movements of the soul because of
their central importance in Bert's work.
Movement of the soul is a deeper, more abstracted, more condensed
movement within the constellation work. It shows the soul at work even more
It shows where the souls are at, and this is usually different to what
the living think to be right or good or truthful .
But the soul being the soul
shows the way to peace.
"To rely on the movements of the soul is much harder and much more delicate.
Often it is easier and also better to work with constellation. Movement of the
soul means the therapist has to be without fear, without intention to heal. He
needs to own his clarity from his union with Soul. He has to be aware not to let a client take
him the wrong path. One can still make mistakes, but if we stay in union with
great soul, we can correct them.
Also you can only do it with representatives
that are willing to work without intent. This may need much patience. It can't
be done like a role-play.
One cannot try to work out
what to do when. Nothing special needs to happen."
of the soul, trusting the process
"I do not work with the individual clients, I work within a field that carries me
and that gives me hints as to what I may do and what not, it needs to be in
harmony with the field. Those clients come to me whose fate is important for
I tell you about the field. A client came and told me there was something important .
He had a female client who had lost all her symptoms. but her death wish remained.
Suddenly, in one of the
constellations, he knew what his client's problem was. The mother went totally
pale, and she told her daughter, that her aunt was pregnant, and then she died
from heart attack, but she had been to an angel maker. This was the missing link
for this client's soul. So, trust, that what happens here will serve all those in
the larger field."
The interrupted movement towards
Unfortunately, a more flowing for this very
important aspect has not been invented
yet. In many constellations one can see the disruption of the flow of love, and
the constellation can supprt its healing. In its most immediate form, it relates to the love between child and
mother. Where the love flows freely, you can see the image of the child, who
happily comes running into mother's arms, and equally turn there, without
hesitation, when it is troubled. When the flow is disrupted the child may
perceive insecurity, rejection, and the like. But constellations reveal where
the mother's own flow has been disrupted. When this is healed, she is so happy
to turn to her child fully. Now they are both healed from the illusion that love was
There are many touching examples on Bert's videos, as he supports the reuniting
of those who suffer from the distance them.
Bert talks about different kinds of pain.
An intense pain is the pain of separation. (And suddenly I think it must have an
instinctual base, necessary for the survival of the young and for herd and
family cohesion.) When partners separate or when one dies or when a child dies,
that brings very deep pain. If we can face this pain and allow it to enter heart
and body and soul in all its might, then this pain will subside after a
relatively short time, even though it seems endless in the beginning. If you
can walk through it, you can get through it.
So, when pain makes itself felt, we are fortunate when we have the resources and
the support to face it, actively. When it can emerge as a primary feeling, we have
strength in it, and it is a kind of achievement of the soul.
If we remain
passive, pain remains numb and drags on.
A common mechanism to avoid this pain is the search for who or what is to blame.
Often, there is immense anger towards the one who died. This is particularly
common with children who feel they have been abandoned.
Another mechanism is self pity. In self pity I don't even see the other person.
I am only looking at myself. These are ways in which we try to avoid pain.
Then there is pain which is way beyond guilt and endeavors. This pain has to do
with fate. We are thrown into it and on to a level which is completely beyond
our wishes and imaginations. When we face up to this level of pain, we
experience a purging from the wishes and concepts and illusions that are
connected to it.
You can come face to face with a reality that is much greater than the
normal pursuit of happiness. (This does not denigrate ordinary happiness, they
are not in opposition.) Take for instance a couple with a disabled child that
will need lifelong attention and care from the parents. This changes the concept
of a fulfilled life in the ordinary way. But when the couple turns towards the
child and their fate with love and responsibility, then a depth of strength and fulfillment
can be reached which is beyond the ordinary.
In a way, the deepest reality is not the ordinary happiness, but the pain. It is
the final reality. Why, says Bert, he can't explain. But may be because this
pain allows for departure from that which is only temporary anyway. Living in
its totality is somehow provisional, temporary. Behind it we can sense the power
of something permanent, whatever it may be. And pain can turn our awareness towards
Bert calls the philosophical attitude behind his work phenomenology. There is a European
school of philosophy of this name, but the great source in this is expressed by
Lao Tse. It is a deeply spiritual method that transcends all outer religiousness.
It requires purification, refining, emptying of the mind.
occidental mysticism, St John of the Cross calls it the night of the soul.
It is the renouncing of knowledge and security.
Bert talks about the discipline of taking oneself back, which is
humility. The therapist has to submit to an ongoing training in this.
He loves Lao Tse's simple image of withdrawing into one's centre of
This is the essential dimension of the method. Out of this emptiness things can
arise, an image, a word, an insight. The space is clear to bring to light that
which was hidden. At the same time, the therapist has to be very attentive, very
To Bert, the deeper attitude is more essential to this healing work, than the method which is family
constellation. Family constellation works because it is carried by Emptiness.
Phenomenology means the willingness and capacity to perceive that which shows
itself, unprejudiced, without intention, without fear. Through this process, the
soul can speak. And the therapist receives more and more guidance as his trust
in the process grows.
When things arise from this empty space, in a therapeutic setting, they show at
the same time a next step of action. It is important to follow this, without
intellectual understanding. This reality which is beginning to show itself can
only be fully seen at the end, not at the beginning. This way, our normal ways
cannot interfere in the process, and we remain open to that which we can only
While the therapist remains in emptiness, things arise also for the
participants. Suddenly something becomes visible, or there is a movement which
nobody had made up. Deep resolutions come from this.
This is another most important aspect, and I will give it a separate page as
Reconciliation is the natural direction of the
soul, and very
often the result of family constellation. Wherever
movements of the soul appear, this becomes very obvious. Reconciliation is what
the individual soul longs for, what the family soul needs to reestablish. And of
course, we all know that the human family and the planet suffer dangerously from
the lack of it.
Renouncing the non-essential
The renouncing of everything that is not essential
is a very important principle of this work. It shows Bert's long and thorough spiritual
training. As the inner attitude of the therapist it means giving up every
attitude that is non-essential. It means greatest discipline in the work.
Bert only does and says what he sees as essential.
Comparing the work with painting, it is rather like a Zen painting. He is
careful to be aware when the painting is finished. Every stroke after that
spoils the picture, take strength and depth away.
In the same way, he only accepts the bare essentials of information. In his most
recent work, the representatives often represent, only knowing who they are, and
sometimes not even that. In this way the soul is not sidetracked, the intellect
and the opinion have nothing to feed on. The soul is free to follow its truth.
An aspect of renouncing in participants is to renounce their curiosity. More
and more, the work flows from the depth of the souls involved.
Soul of the family
Bert says, we do not have soul, but soul has us.
Soul directs us and unites us. This force transcends our own body and unites us
with other people. The family behaves as if it is directed by a soul of its own,
different to our personal soul. From experience we can say who belongs to a family soul
and who does not: the parents and their
children, the brothers and sisters of the parents, the grandparents, sometimes
the grandparents, and probably further back some others, especially those excluded
or those who had a very hard fate. These are the relatives. Then there are all those who
had to suffer that those in the family had an advantage, such as former partners
of parents, victims of family members and those who saved a life in an family.
Soul reaches far beyond the family as
well, will talk about this later.
Bert does not use the word surrender as such, but
to me it sums up the deep attitude and a range of therapeutic postures that he
works with, and that bring so much relief. There is an extra page on it.
In this work we are looking for a higher truth, the one that can
transcend the conflicting outer positions and that shows the deepest level of
loyalty. This is the truth of the family soul.
This work can only be done with the
permission of the client, and sometimes of the family system. A lesser truth may
be a personal or family guilt. Here the larger truth needs to confront the smaller truth.
To find healing we
have to be willing to let go of the smaller truth and merge into a larger truth.
A small truth is a truth not large enough to heal the problem, only
large enough to maintain the problem.
Often you can hear people say: "I know what the problem is, but that does
not change it." This is the lesser truth as yet, the personality truth,
with all its distortions and rationalizations.
The deep truth shows us the tangles of our soul. It shows us that we already did
what we did out of our concepts of love and loyalty. When we can clearly see
this, we have not far to go, to the truth that will set us free- through love and
with love, for all involved.