When we feel pain we usually want it to go away, want to ‘get rid of it’. Paradoxically, this movement of pushing the pain away, refusing to embrace it and listen to it, is often the movement that causes more suffering.
Working with family constellations, we see that where there is suffering there is also a way to release the tight grip that suffering has on us.
There are two main dynamics of this movement out of suffering:
1) A family constellation opens up our minds to a bigger picture. It places the person in the context of their family – including past generations and their community. These sets of relationships are often referred to as a ‘system’. From this new, systemic, point of view, we can get a glimpse of where the pain or symptoms might have originated.
It is called ‘disentangling’: realising that our suffering today might have a link with our wider family system – perhaps with a family member who was excluded, or some very difficult and traumatic events in our own lifetime or in the history of the family, events which have never been fully integrated.
This is one of the functions of a constellation: it reveals the hidden dynamics of the wider family system. Bringing these to light helps release the tension and lessen the grip suffering may have on us. There is a healing power to truth, there is relief when things are where they belong, and when we can hear the voice of the suffering that has been silent till now.
2) Sometimes when we work on an issue in a Family Constellations, we see that nothing can really change – perhaps because the events are in the past, perhaps because they involve others who may be resistant to change. We can come to understand that part of our suffering may be caused by holding onto ideas about ourselves and by our refusal to accept reality.
Furthermore, if we keep pushing for resolution, or on the contrary, do everything we can to avoid the pain, we may be causing even greater suffering to ourselves, to others and to our wider family system. The reaction is similar to the body’s instinct to avoid physical pain. When you hurt your knee, you avoid putting weight on that side, causing imbalance in your spine and back pain possibly even greater than the original knee pain. It’s often like this in families: when something difficult happens, we pull away from it; we avoid talking about it, causing more tension and suffering.
What we can change about the unchangeable is our acceptance of things being as they are and we can come to terms with the fact that some things are beyond our control. In other words the constellation and the healing movements help us to relax our grip, so that the pain feels less painful, even when the outer circumstances don’t change. In the same way tightening up during labour increases the pain, relaxing and breathing deeply lessens it.
True change rarely comes about by pushing and trying, we change when we become reconciled with who we are, when we become willing to be present with ourselves in our worst moments – ‘the paradoxical theory of change’. This seems -strangely enough- to happen more easily and effortlessly in constellations, which is why they are such a wonderful tool to use on the healing journey.
This new picture, this ability to stop fighting and accept things as they are, isn’t completely ‘new’, it is already within us but hidden from view by the suffering. The family constellation acts like the photographer’s tray in which the negative used to be immersed to reveal the colours and shapes of the true picture, bringing to the surface the reality that was there all along. ‘We cannot attain an understanding by grasping for it for ourselves. It has already to be in us, and the task is to awaken it, or perhaps to unfold it – to bring it into being within us’. (Iain McGilchrist – The Master and His Emissary)
This change, ‘awakening’ and ‘bringing it into being within us’ is the beginning of healing.
by D H Lawrence
I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.
And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly, that I am ill.
I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep emotional self
And the wounds to the soul take a long, long time, only time can help