Written by therapist Annie Hutt
I am trained in family systems and I have learned to see individuals through the lens of their family, community and culture. None of us was born in a vacuum. We influence and are influenced by those around us. Some of us belong to one or more communities that may include some form of spiritual worship, exercise, work, social activist activities and many others. Our strongest community is our family and even when we have cut someone out of our lives, that person still affects us.
In the last few years I have been learning more and more about Family Constellations, a therapeutic method that draws on elements of family systems therapy. I’ve learned how Family Constellations can help us grow and change. We can find healing and support when we look back at our families and understand that perhaps there was love that was not always able to be shared.
What is a family constellation?
A Family Constellation can reveal unrecognized family dynamics that might span multiple generations, and through this recognition the negative effects of these dynamics can help us see the factual reality of the past.
In Family Constellations, which usually take place in a workshop, clients are guided to investigate family bonds and loyalties that are keeping them from fully living their lives. We are given a bigger picture of the family and how they affect us. We come to understand the unconscious promises we make to family members because we love them. As an example, a client may make an unconscious promise as a show of support to his grandfather, who was never able to provide for his family, that he won’t make much money either. He grows up and finds that he can’t hold down a job or save money, and he can’t understand why.
When we are born we step into the fate of the family and we suffer with them. There is a family soul that is filled with energy and supports us in many ways. It is like a huge net that encloses us and when there is a break in the net it causes us to suffer. Each person in the family has a unique role that is either limiting or filled with possibilities. A constellation honors the family members without suffering along with them. When memories and feelings are honored, family members are not grieved. There is much healing involved when we let go of feeling responsible for a relative.
Entering into a Family Constellation is entering into a sacred space. Generations have lived and suffered and now we enter into a space of love. There is no judgment in this space so family members who have been violent or abusive are not judged. They are given the responsibility and consequences of their actions but there is no shame or blame in this process. Within this family is a hierarchy from oldest to youngest, and that is honored also.
Family constellations theory
Recent studies show that the brain is wired to make social connections and collaborations. We understand “social resonance” where we are able to feel in our bodies what others are feeling. Rupert Sheldrake discusses this in his theory on “morphogenic fields,” which is a field of information around each of us, each of our cells and organs, our families, communities and nations. What we used to think of as genetic or instinct may in fact be a morphogenic field we tap into to learn what we are to do next. That is why ducks know to follow their mothers and birds know how to migrate.
The same principle applies to Family Constellations. There is an energy of information that clients tap into that provides insight into their family dynamics. Family Constellations can also utilize dolls, rocks or squares for participants to stand on. Simply seeing where a client places their family members offers a great deal of information. Not only are we able to see bonds we must loosen or break, but we see bonds that can strengthen us. We come from ancestors who struggled, did the best they could and in some way supported us, and sometimes that can be felt.
Annie Hutt, LPC, has been practicing for ten years. She holds a master’s in counseling/psychology from Regis University, conducted her internship and became certified with the Denver Family Institute. Annie sees teenagers, adults and seniors for a variety of mental health issues including substance abuse, depression, grief/loss, anxiety, parenting issues, Christian counseling, spiritual/religious issues and more. View her profile and schedule an appointment with Annie Hutt.