Family Constellation: Recognize the unconscious influence of your family

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Family Constellation: Recognize the unconscious influence of your family

Is something always bothering you? Maybe you have the feeling that your streak of bad luck won't end and you just can't explain it? You constantly feel remorse or guilt? You think you may have had a bad childhood. Trauma experienced? A systemic family constellation can provide clarity and uncover relationship patterns in the family that have more influence on your behavior than you may realize. It paves the way for you to work specifically on the relationships in your family and to start a life that only influences you and not unconsciously adopted behavior patterns.

What is a systemic family constellation?

The family constellation is a well-known method in family therapy but also in systemic therapy. Individuals are positioned in the room, representing members of your family. They are all connected to each other in order to work out a visualization of the relationships between all family members involved.

This set-up does not always have to take place with people. It is also common to use a family board. There is room for figures on it that stand for your family members. But there are not only different possibilities of the family constellation, as far as the representation is concerned, but also the solution.

According to the approach of family therapist Virginia Satir, for example, the solution remains open and the client draws his own conclusions from the family constellation. Bert Hellinger's method, on the other hand, does provide solutions. What exactly it is about these two people and how they developed their approaches, we now look together.

A journey through history

First, let's turn our attention to the family therapist Virginia Satir, because it was she who initiated the beginnings of family constellations. So let's travel back to the 1960s. In the USA we meet Satir, who is currently working on how to make the relationships between individual family members visible.

This is where the idea of the family sculpture is born. It represents relationships through posture. The family members thus express their relationship to each other in the form of their posture, but in an exaggerated form. In this way, relationship patterns are to become particularly clear. The exchange about the feelings that results from this is the basis for further approaches to solutions.

But that is not Satir's only idea, of course. Another method comes from her pen, namely family reconstruction. This involves families reenacting small scenes that have had a lasting impact on them in their lives. In this way, everyone involved is supposed to build up a deep understanding of each other, see things from a different perspective, and possibly also Behavior Change.

The Family Constellation continued to develop in Germany

At this point we end our time travel to the USA of the 1960s and meet again in Germany. Virginia Satir inspired several psychiatrists in this country, including Thea Schönfeld. She developed Satir's family sculpture further and took sayings like "hanging on to someone" literally. This is exactly what she had her surrogates realistically portray. Clients were able to add other substitutes and thus visualize relationships.

The representatives then described how they are feeling in this constellation. This should give the clients a better understanding of the position of the persons they are representing. This is still a common method in family constellations today. By the way, Schönfelder is also considered a co-founder of the family board already mentioned.

Bert Hellinger made the family constellation popular

Now, as promised, let's move on to Bert Hellinger. He learned about the Family Constellation from Thea Schönfelder and contributed significantly to its growing popularity. Hellinger conducted family constellations in front of live audiences and inspired countless people for this method. Many therefore consider Hellinger to be the inventor of the Family Constellation - but as you know, this is not true.

But of course he did more than just raise its profile. Hellinger expanded the constellation and introduced the "orders of love". According to this, each family member occupies a very specific place in a ranking order. This depends, for example, on:

  • Insights from the multigenerational perspective
  • Give and take in the family
  • aspiration for membership

He also worked with substitutes who, however, knew absolutely nothing about the family. They were therefore able to describe quite objectively what feelings this constellation triggers. From this, Hellinger deduced where the order was probably disturbed and repositioned the representatives accordingly, so that they took their correct place again.

How does a family constellation work and how exactly does it proceed?

We've already given you little glimpses here and there of how a family constellation works. Now we'll take another look at it in more detail. Often the constellations take place in groups and some of the participants play the representatives for your family. If you prefer not to have strangers around you, then the family board is the better choice for you.

It makes sense to prepare for the family constellation. To do this, think in advance about concrete questions to which you are looking for answers, or problems that you would like to solve. You can, for example, consider certain Beliefs You may want to question your family's financial situation, examine a strained relationship with family members, or look for reasons for your current financial situation.

It is especially important to note down questions that concern interpersonal relationships in your family. Because they influence how you set up the representatives later. You are a bit unsure about the preparations? Many coaches and therapists offer preliminary talks, which you can take advantage of.

The procedure of the family constellation on site

No matter whether it is a question of people as representatives or small figures on the family board - you position them in such a way as you yourself experience their relationships with each other. To do this, you first define who all belongs to the family and who of them could be relevant to your current question. You also determine a representative for yourself. In this way you make the reality that you perceive internally visible externally.

If you are working with living substitutes, it is their task to empathize with their position and to describe to you exactly what is going on inside them. In the process, small scenarios often arise that stimulate reflection. The coach then makes changes to your constellation and together you observe what effects they have. At first you look at everything from the outside and only at the end you take your active role in the constellation again.

How do you relate to people within your family?

Saying out loud certain solution sentences that express the relationship to all the people the representatives are currently representing can also be part of the family constellation. These are often very simple sentences like: "Dear ..., you are my brother and I am your sister." Of course you know about your family constellation, but are you really clear about how you relate to each other? These sentences are meant to help you with this and also support you in actually seeing the representatives as your family for this moment.

What is the purpose of a family constellation and what does it achieve?

What exactly is all this supposed to do for you, you ask? Family constellations open up completely different perspectives for you! Your attitude towards your life and the world is strongly influenced by your family. After all, you grow up among them and you learn the first rules and behaviors from them. Some of them have been in your family for generations and are passed on subconsciously.

"Subconscious" is an important keyword here, because often you are not aware of how much all this actually influences you. A family constellation makes exactly that clear and opens your eyes. It may even reveal things that you can't possibly know. Maybe one of your siblings has a difficult relationship with a parent and you never really noticed it, but nevertheless it has burdened you subconsciously?

So a family constellation can help you get clarity about the patterns in your family.

This does not only have to be about interpersonal issues. Certain behaviors that recur over and over again will also become visible. This may give you insight into why you react the way you do in certain situations. You may also learn why certain scenarios come back to haunt you and to what extent you provoke them with your behavior. All of this should help you to regain your inner balance and to fully shape your patterns and beliefs as you see fit.

What happens after the family constellation

Family constellations show you problems in Areas of life that you've never focused enough on before. This is exactly what it is time for now! Did you perhaps have professional problems and always thought it was due to your performance, but noticed in the family constellation that it was actually a conflict in the family that often slowed you down? Now you finally know where the problem really originates and can actively work on it.

The transformation of your patterns will not happen overnight. A family constellation often has to have an effect for a while. How long this takes varies greatly. After just a few days valuable strategies for solving problems can emerge, but sometimes it can also take a few weeks. Think of it as an energetic process within you that is allowed to mature and solidify. In this phase bring yourself in particular Patience against. 

You didn't get the big insight from your family constellation? That can happen. Then it is important to let the constellation have an even more intensive effect on you over the next few days and then work through the matter again with your coach.

Is any coach allowed to do a family constellation?

In a family constellation you give your coach deep insights into your private life and your psyche. The constellation can have profound effects and significantly change your future behavior. This makes it all the more important to have it done by an experienced coach.

Basically, anyone can use this method, because it is not protected. So it can happen that you come across a coach who attended a course of several days, but otherwise has no knowledge in this regard. Others, on the other hand, have completed an extra-occupational training over several months and are frequently systemic coachespsychologists, therapists or even social pedagogues.

During a family constellation, dynamics can quickly arise that inadequately trained coaches cannot handle professionally. Therefore, inform yourself well in advance about the person you have in mind for your constellation. After all, you want to get the most out of it and not be even more confused at the end of the day.

Critical voices

A family constellation is not only emotionally upsetting for you as a client, but also for the representatives present. Those who are deeply stuck in certain problems often also carry a great burden on their shoulders. Some people see a family constellation as a last resort, but it is not always the best choice for emotionally charged problems. Critics see here, among other things, the extremely high expectations that clients then place on the family constellation.

As we have already mentioned, insights do not always follow immediately. It can take a while until all the information has had a sufficient effect on you and you are ready to implement sustainable solutions. In the case of acute problems that you can no longer handle alone, you may need more intensive support. Family therapy often makes more sense then.

It is important that you are aware that a family constellation is not set in stone. It represents a snapshot. Even if it turns out that there are numerous conflicts hidden in your family that you have always swept under the carpet, this is no reason to despair. An experienced coach is always ready to rework and will not leave you alone even with extreme realizations that strongly gnaw at you. However, if you find yourself with a coach whose knowledge and experience are simply not enough to support you emotionally and to stand by your side, this can quickly become dangerous.

Greator Coach Training: Release entanglements within your family

Would you like to know more about why you keep getting into arguments with your father or mother about a certain topic? Or was there an event in your family that still affects you today? In the training to become a Greator coach we deal very intensively with our parents. In the respective father and mother units you are allowed to reflect: What did they model for me? Which Beliefs have I inherited from them? What am I grateful to my parents for?

Look forward to this journey into your childhood and youth. It will give you many insights and, if you are ready for it, bring peace into many an entanglement. If you would like to know more about our training as a Greator coach, then find out more about here.


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Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

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