Family Constellations

The human’s fate in the mirror of Family Constellations

Family Constellation turned into being the mirror of looking closely: we have (re)discovered the soul of the family, that occurs in all these destinies that no one can escape from. It connects all of us. When feeling heaviness and pain when watching the chaos of the late days of war in 1945 in movies like“ The March of Familie-A-historisch-1-lMillions“ (Die Flucht), it shows our sympathy with the fate of the ancestors. We are connected with them, the magical NOW of the soul takes effect, in a way as if it all would happen again in our mind.Bert Hellinger, being the key developer of Family Constellations, has pointed out the basic dynamics and effects of the family-soul. As an accurate observer of the human’s interactions he has raised the question of guilt and the conscience once more and enabled us to get valuable insights.

After 20 years of Family Constellation and an experience of more than 10.000 constellations I, a student of the first generation, would like to venture a review and forecast. We will come across the term fate over and over again. How is it possible that we are pretending to seek happiness and peace but still choose suffering, illness, loss and death and with that imitate the lives of our parents and ancestors? Here he is, the young man, who loses everything because of his addiction to gambling and there is his grandfather, who lost his house in a card game and the family hushed up about his existence.

The misery of the world is the misery of the individual. Even though some countries in the EU haven`t had war since 1945, fates of the people are evidence of despair and pain. Suffering is mostly quiet.

The family history – The family tree
To understand a person in his or her thinking, feeling and acting the history of the whole family has to be looked at carefully. Bert Hellinger has observed that the essential basic need of man is the need for binding and belonging to the family and the clan. We are born into our family and are completely at their mercy.

Family tree example

As a child I see the parents and embrace life, as it flows into me. Children love their parents absolutely and are deeply and devotedly loyal. Here we are encountering the family of origin. Belonging to it, according to the family tree in the sense of entanglement, are :
– Siblings, as well as still born children and miscarriages after the 4th month of pregnancy, also children that have been given away (foster care and adoption)
– Half-siblings, that are children, who one parent has with a different partner
– father and mother
– previous relationships (solid bonds) of parents
– uncles and aunts (siblings of parents)
– grandparents

Usually less impact:
– siblings of grandparents
– previous partners of grandparents
– great-grandparents
– People, whose leaving or death brought advantage to the family
not part are:
– step-siblings (children that have been brought into the relationship of earlier or later partners of parents)
– cousins and their spouses and children
– furthermore spouses of uncle, aunt, great uncle and great aunt or from own siblings

It is advisable to draw a family tree to clear up the own family situation.
When looking at the family members, oneself included, we are asking about meaningful events that have happened to them. It doesn’t matter whether the father was dominant or weak. Essential is if he was physically handicapped or an alcohol addict or lost his father in his early childhood. In this sense meaningful are:
– major illnesses, disabilities, addictions
– Being saved from a life threatening situation (for example drowning, burial in bomb attacking)
– Early death of father, mother, siblings, half-siblings, previous partners of parents and the cause of their death: accident, illness, drowning, burning, killing, suicide
– Did a woman (mother) die while giving birth?
– children that were given away (adoption)
– accidents (without deadly ending)
– adoption
– entering a convent
– priesthood(catholic)
– Emigration overseas
– incest, sexual violation (abuse)
– crimes (especially war crimes, even the mere observation of war crimes, especially SS units)
– culpable involvements (also through causing an accident)
– Misappropriation of inheritance
– Suicide
– murder
– home-loss (fate of refugees)
Are the parents from different countries?
– Does anyone live as an outsider
for example homosexual, gambler, seriously ill?
This list does not claim to be complete. Hints to supplement are welcome.


Review by Andrew Solomon

From his 2001 book: „The Noonday Demon – An Atlas of Depression“

“Of the group therapies I studied, the one that seemed to me most subtle and nurturing, the one that brought people closest to resolution, was based on the work of Bert Hellinger in Germany. Hellinger, a former priest who was once a missionary to the Zulu, has a large and devoted following for his Gestalt-style work. One of Hellinger’s disciples, Reinhard Lier, came to the United States in 1998 and conducted an intensive treatment, in which I participated, my natural skepticism giving way to respect for the process as I became more richly enmeshed in it. Lier’s treatment had some effect on me, and I saw that it had enormous effect on others in the group. Like EMDR, Hellinger-style work is probably most effective for people who are dealing with traumas; but for Lier’s purposes, the traumatic thing can be a basic fact „my mother hated me,“ for example – rather than a single event bounded by time.

A group of about twenty of us came together and established trust through some basic exercises. Then each of us was asked to construct a narrative of the thing that was most painful in his or her life. We shared our narratives in basic form and were asked to choose people from the group to represent the other figures in our narratives. Reinhard Lier then choreographed a kind of elaborate dance using these people as physical markers, placing one in front of the other, moving the subject around, and retelling the story toward a better resolution. He called these formations „family constellations.“ I chose to work on my mother’s death as the point of origin of my depression. Someone played my mother, someone else my father, someone else my brother. Lier said he wanted my grandparents there as well, the one I had known and the three I had not known. As he shifted us around, I was asked to direct speech to these various figures. „What do you have to say to your mother’s father, who died when your mother was still quite young?“ he asked.

Of all the work I did on depression, this was perhaps the treatment most contingent on a charismatic leader. Lier was able to arouse a great deal of force in each of us, and by the time I had done twenty minutes of his dance and of saying certain things, I did feel as though I were speaking to my own mother again, and I told her some things I thought or felt. Then the spell broke and I was in a seminar room in a conference center in New Jersey – but I left that day with a feeling of calm, as though something had been resolved. Maybe it was just the very fact of addressing words to these forces to which I never speak, these vanished grandparents and my lost mother, but I was moved by the process and thought it had something sacrosanct in it. It wouldn’t cure depression, but it could bring some measure of peace.

The most compelling of our group was a man of German extraction who had found out that his parents had worked in a concentration camp. Unable to process this horror, he had become severely depressed. During his speeches to all the different members of his family, who were being physically positioned closer to him and farther away by Reinhard Lier, the man wept and wept and wept. „This is your mother,“ Lier said at one point. „She did terrible things. She also loved and protected you when you were a child. Tell her that she betrayed you, and then tell her that you will always love her. Do not try to forgive her.“ It sounds contrived, but it was in fact sweetly powerful.”

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