For all of us who have experienced family life and its impact, with all of its places of light and darkness, there is a wonderful group process that fosters present-day healing. It is called family constellation work and is a day-long workshop run by a trained facilitator.
Family constellation workshops were started by Dr. Bert Hellinger, a family therapist from Germany, and are now available worldwide. Participants target an area of their present life that needs clarity, resolution, or healing. It does not have to relate to family history, nor are the processes always related to the family of origin.
The first workshop in which I participated was with friends and strangers at a friend’s home. The facilitator, Randy Goldberg, was soft-spoken, intelligent, and sensitive, and I felt immediately comfortable with him. I felt an unspoken connection as he also reminded me of a dear old friend and a significant clinical supervisor and teacher in my life.
During the processes, this gentle yet strong group leader handled everyone with finesse, and my original impressions of his competency were validated. He ran the processes as I would have if I were leading the group. It was a mirror that confirmed my style as effective and skilled. As in all safe groups, we discussed confidentiality, ground rules, and the style of the work. Each person shared his or her precious vulnerability while seated in the group, then stood up to work. With minor verbalization we showed support as group members opened up and we stood in for them or significant others.
As the experience unfolded, we symbolically invited our siblings, parents, grandparents, and former generations from our families into the process. There was a subtly powerful energy exchange for those standing in for personal characteristics and family members. It was effortless for us empathize with each of the group members and their intergenerational ancestors. We physically and emotionally “held” for one another and created a new paradigm within the old or original one.
We opened ourselves as conduits of growth for ourselves and one another. We were privileged to witness genuine insight and catharsis, in an emotionally safe environment, the epitome of an ideal safe-family setting. It was truly rewriting the script, re-scripting loyalties to unspoken modeled traditions that may no longer serve, thus releasing old patterns and perceived obligations. In the process of seeing and shedding, we were free to fly forward!
Each person, doing our work, felt deeply and experienced real shifts. Placement, visual, and verbal cues prompted emotion and ‘aha’ moments to come to the surface. It was a safe and empowering place to explore personal desires, vulnerability, wounds, and unmet family needs with personal lessons learned for all.
The second time I participated in a workshop, it was with the same facilitator and a couple of my friends were present. This time all of the participants were women and it was held in my house, as we worked in a sofa circle as before. We shared introductions and ground rules, and then we moved into the work. We stood in our truths and courageously proceeded in the direction our souls took us in this day-long space.
My process was vastly different the second time around. During the second workshop, I experienced lightness and joy with no painful issues or emotional catharsis. I recall grinning and giggling throughout the entirety of my work. We all enjoyed this splendid lightness pouring from a creative wellspring. I felt like a giddy pre-teen, affirming and reconnecting to this part of myself. It was without strain or drain, and served as a support for my creative self-moving forward.
My process seemed to serve as a kind of reset and rebalancing tool. The first experience gave me helpful information about my parents, and the second one gently reawakened me to a part of my artistic younger self. Both were more than a worthwhile use of my time and energy. Because of this, I will continue to engage in family constellation work and may become trained to run groups in this enlightening healing system.