Skeptic's Dictionary on Family Constellation Therapy
It is written by Robert Todd Carroll, a scientist and a brilliant man who wittily and wryly out-logics and reasons the delusions and beliefs of many pseudo-scientific beliefs.The article below can be found here: http://skepdic.com/hellinger.html
Bert Hellinger and family constellations
A group of participants (10-30), led by a trained facilitator, sit in a circle. One participant (client or seeker) is selected to work on a personal issue. The others either serve as “representatives” or actively contribute by observing with concentration.
The facilitator asks, “What is your issue?” The issue may be extreme: “Two years ago my husband and child were killed in an accident. I’m trying to learn how to live with that.” It may appear to be more commonplace, such as a college student who reports, “I’m 21 years old and have been diagnosed with clinical depression.”
Then the sessions get a bit weird. The client stands behind and puts his hands on the shoulders of each representative in turn. Then, the client sits down. Nobody says anything for awhile. The representatives supposedly tune in the resonance of the family field. The facilitator asks the representatives what they're feeling. Supposedly, "what emerges is that someone in the current family is unconsciously identified with a deceased family member from a previous generation. If this connection is to an excluded person, or one who had a difficult fate, the living family member can be drawn to repeat this fate or compensate for what occurred in the past."*
The constantly surprising findings particularly in quantum physics brings science ever closer to spirituality, i.e. the consciousness of our deep interconnectedness and of love being our original quality and our essence. Quantum physics and spirituality are teaching us that we are deeply connected ("entangled" in quantum language) to all and everything: what happens to others happens equally to us in a very concrete and by [sic] times even measurable way.
In setting up a family constellation at a workshop, a client chooses workshop attendees to represent members of his or her family, then places them in relationship to each other, without comment, based on how it "felt" to be in the family. Despite not knowing each other or having much information about the family members or their relationships to each other, the representatives become a living model of the original family system.*
In individual work, the "representatives" may be small figures moved about on a tabletop, sheets of paper or footprints placed on the floor, the therapist standing in for family members, or the client him- or herself moving from place to place. The constellation may also be done in the form of a guided visualization that the client experiences with eyes closed or in the form of a story told by the facilitator.*
We are inflicting on ourselves what we reject, fight, and destroy. And the practice of compassion, loving kindness, and perceiving the human being in the opponent are the intelligent expression of our very own self-interest.
As an observing, though skeptical journalist, I also agreed to enter several constellations during the workshop. Some of the feelings that I had during those constellations were not my own, and I cannot explain their origin. It felt as if you could tune on a TV set and watch your deepest family relations unfold, with the therapist holding the remote control.
How this knowing field comes to exist has always been a secret (even to me) and its existence has never been scientifically proven. Experts say that the concept of “knowing fields” has most likely developed out of tribal rituals in South Africa, where Mr. Bert Hellinger, the German founder of the therapy movement, spent some time as a Catholic missionary.
Homosexuality often results because a boy must assume the feelings of a deceased sister when there are no female siblings in the family to do it. (Hellinger expresses pride at having "cured" a client of the disease of homosexuality.)
Rape and incest create a bond; the perpetrator must receive "due respect" before the victim can bond with another.
"Now about incest. If you are confronted with cases of incest, a very common dynamic is that the wife withdraws from her husband, she refuses a sexual relationship. Then, as a kind of compensation, a daughter takes her place. This is an unconscious movement, not a conscious one. But you see, with incest there are two perpetrators, one in the background and one in the open. You cannot resolve that unless this hidden perpetrator is brought in. There are very strange sentences that come to light. The daughter can tell her mother, "I do it for you." And she can tell her father, "I do it for mother."
Two sometimes worrying aspects of the method are the incredible power of the therapist and the method’s reliance on the so-called “Orders of Love”, a set of guidelines for healthy family constellations, which are largely based on ancient notions from the Old Testament. Two such rules that troubled me, during my research and in interviews with practitioners, are that the wife should succumb to the husband and that the first-born child has preference over any other child. For example, if a family constellation reveals the sexual abuse of a child, the guilt is put on the mother in the family in some cases, presuming that she had not given enough love to her husband. In other cases, the child simply has to accept the rape as fact, despite the huge emotional burden.
Some people consider you to be inhuman, as if anyone ever deserved that qualification. I look upon you as I look upon myself: namely as a human being with a father and a mother, and with an extraordinary fate. Does that make you any greater? Or smaller? Are you better or worse? Because if you are greater, then so am I. And if you are smaller, then so am I. If you are better or worse, then so am I. For I am a human being like you. If I respect you, then I respect myself. And if I loathe you, then I loathe myself.
I'm embarrassed to say I've been in a family constellation workshop. It cost a few thousand rand (I think it was about two thousand rand [$275], about two years ago) for a single day workshop. Not only was it not helpful, it was also damaging because it said a lot of negative things about my family that have no basis in reality, and I believed them at the time. Which is not to say there's no validity in understanding how family structure and history can influence people, but the workshops are way beyond that, based on a set of so-called "universal laws".
Ochre offers ways of working with individuals and organisations to enhance relationships, development and change. Ochre specialises in family and organisation constellations based on the work of Bert Hellinger.