Family Constellations - Hellinger´s Approach

The Orders of Love

“When we understand the systemic laws that allow love to unfold, we may be able to help suffering families and individuals to find solutions. It's profoundly moving to observe clients approach the Order of Love and spontaneously melt into soft and intimate love, even after a lifetime of hate, anger and abuse”

Quote from ‘Love's Hidden Symmetry’.

It was in his systemic therapy work that Bert discovered that the family system, just like any other system, has its own natural order and when that order is disrupted; the effects are felt by subsequent generations as the system tries to right itself. There appear to be certain natural laws operating to maintain that order and permit the free flow of love between family members.

According to Bert Hellinger's systemic therapy, the solution to life in family occurs when each of it members takes his/her appropriate and actual place, takes upon his/her roles in life, taking care of himself/herself and avoiding intervening in other's destiny.

Most personal difficulties, as well as problems in relationship are results of confusions in families' systems. That confusion happens when, without being aware of that and without wanting, we incorporate in our life the destiny of another person from our own family, despite the fact that such person lived in a distant past. That makes us repeat the family members' destiny who were excluded, forgotten or not recognised at their belonging place. We try to live that destiny for them or create misfortune to diminish our guilt.

The main laws operating seem to be:

  • everyone has an equal right to belong to their family system;
  • there is a hierarchy in terms of birth order - those born first come first parents give and children receive;
  • the male takes up first position in the family, but he works in the service of the female.

These laws can be broken unwittingly in many different ways:

  • when babies are aborted or stillborn and not mourned or talked about
  • when children or young adults die and are not mourned;
  • when children are given away for adoption and no longer talked about;
  • when adoptive parents do not acknowledge the natural parents of their children;
  • when previous partners or important relationships are not acknowledged and honoured between couples;
  • when extra-marital relationships are kept secret;
  • when the experiences of war are not remembered and the dead honored;
  • when there are family secrets;
  • many many others ...

When any of the above occur the effects are felt by subsequent generations, sometimes 2 or 3 generations later. These effects are manifested by such things as: suicide, depression, childlessness, mental or physical illness, and addictions often without any conscious awareness of what has occurred in previous generations.

The disruption to the natural order of the system causes entanglements and children begin to become like the parents, involving themselves in their parents' business, trying to make them feel better by suffering themselves. As they grow up, they often feel anger and some try rejecting their families in an attempt to build a new, separate life. Sometimes they move to the other side of the world to disentangle themselves but it doesn't work. When they remain tied to their families in this way, they are not free to go forward in their lives and when they form relationships with partners, they can never be fully available because they are still caught up with their parents.

What happens in a workshop?

The participant choosing to work on their family is asked what their heart's desire is. They are then asked for the facts about their family - either their family of origin or their current family, whichever seems more appropriate at the time. The facts are such things as unusual deaths, previous or extra-marital relationships, abortions, stillbirths etc. Stories about Uncle Tom who was said to be very selfish or cruel are not wanted as it often turns out that the feelings experienced by the participants completely contradict these stories. So only actual events are asked about.

Group members are then chosen to represent family members and are positioned intuitively by the participant. As if stepping into the energy field of that particular family, these representatives then begin to feel in their bodies the actual feelings of those family members they are representing. By looking at how people are positioned and asking them how they feel, the therapist can begin to get some idea of where the system may be out of order. He or she then experiments with moving people around and bringing in possible missing people until the heart opens. This then uncovers the hidden dynamics which have led to the disruption of the order. When the heart opens in this way, the whole group feels it as a very deep and moving experience. It is as if the soul finally comes home. Healing sentences are spoken to honour the missing members and allow love to flow freely once more. It is not always possible to get to a resolution. Sometimes there are secrets we do not appear to have permission to know. But the effects seem to be felt in the family anyway; sometimes even more powerfully than if a resolution were found.

“Joy develops out of the soul as soon as we are in tune with the movements of the soul. Whatever the path is we are led by the soul. If we are in tune we feel connected to something great and this is joy. Joy has a quality of fullness and completeness which comes from this connection. This joy is quiet, has weight, shines. In the presence of people who experience thisjoy we become quiet. This joy has no purpose, no wishes, no intent. It is a very deep contentment.”

Quote from Bert Hellinger at a London workshop April 2000.