Constellations – the art and science of understanding the forces behind dysfunction or opportunity
The word Systemic Constellations or family Constellations was penned by those who have been trained by the German psychologist Bert Hellinger. Parallel to his work, but unknown to each other, Solihin Thom and his colleague Francois Reynolds, who was followed at a later date, by Alicia Thom, developed what we now call the Human Template Model. Both Hellinger’s work and ours are characterized by the use of constellations: the practice of using the ‘knowing field‘ to elicit a dialogue-response in participants to illustrate the dynamics of a particular set-up of participants who are constellated (like a star formation) around a particular ‘sun’. The sun may be, in Hellinger’s work, a principle person and his or her relationship, and/or the principle’s family dynamics. However, the approach taken by InnerDialogue, the constellated ‘sun’ will be a principle–the Divine, goal, mission, personal deity, the person, illness, business, or an idea propagated by human thought or enquiry–and the surrounding constellation will be the sum of parts involved.
Constellation work which is ontological in essence, looks at the root cause that created the original or consequent accidents that predisposed the disorganization of the entity called ‘human’. The premise or ontological map is that we humans are composed of elements that are known as the Great Chain of Being. That is, we are composed of our phylogenetic past, and contain evolutionary elements which predispose us to their influence. Thus a human is influenced by his:
- ancestral and own history and DNA (reflexive and reptilian self);
- his internal environment and sensory nature (feelings, emotions) and vegetative autonomic brain; or vegetal self;
- sexuality, habits, tribe, survival, movement–mammalian or rhinocephalic brain including the amygdala and hippocampus) or instinctual self;
- and beliefs, ideas, analytical and gestalt thoughts, theology (neocortical brain) or human self.
These different natures all contain mass. These elemental masses, when altered, affect us by dint of their mass transforming into a force relative to their rank or station. Each level of being exhibits a different force, which affect us in particular ways, upsetting our original hierarchical set of natures. In classical Islamic theology these selves or elements of mass are called the lower natures or nafs. In western culture, we may allude to these nafs as some base instinct or an emotional state; not putting too much emphasis on their hierarchy, but simply as an element of the human. We may say, ‘he’s sub-human’ or that someone acts as a ‘pig’, or indicate that someone who is not very proactive as a ‘couch potato’. Someone we cannot quite get hold of, as ’slippery as an eel, or ‘sly as a fox’. These terms elicit a metaphorical narrative; and allow us to convey the sense of the principle life force that the person operates from (at that present moment, or at the time of the story).
In a constellation the principle (person) lays out their ‘cards’ by using people to illustrate each level of being:“Here I am as my material self (the old self)–and I would place myself there, in relation to my father who I take after. In relation to this historical self my feelings are rather detached, separate, so I would place my feeling self here. My instincts are finely attuned, I’m a good businessman”, they might say, “and I place this part very near to me, the human part. However I do not have a relationship to a Higher Purpose so I would place myself to the left of this Noble aspect” Left: The initial arrangement of a constellation, where elements are placed instinctively or intuitively into their present position.
This would be their starter position. We use the act of surrender–or interior quietness to guide us in this process of constellation. We can call this a stop-motion process to facilitate the unraveling or unfolding of the constellation. The act of surrender to the Divine (a central tenet) allows us to be guided, as the participants act as elements of the principle, becoming the inner guide. They may articulate how they feel as if they resonate, or feel, or actually move or what vision, words or ideas, or even what they have ‘heard’. These signals occur whilst in their surrendered state. We try not to get the person to talk too much, knowing how easy it is for human’s to articulate through their own filters.
The facilitator guides the process, or equally, the participants can also guide their own process, by further surrendering to be guided into understanding more. On the whole, in practice the facilitator uses the feedback from the participant ‘elements’ to be guided. As we are able to access signals or information through the various elements of our physical body, we can be guided into understanding what each element is saying. This is complex and sophisticated work, and at some level demands an expert to help. On the otherhand we can extrapolate and be guided within our own reference and understanding, so this work can work either way.Left: The constellation now re-arranged according to the present state–the human element is actually entangled in (non-alive or dead) feelings which alters the person’s instincts, and all are influenced by an historical pattern from the father’s side.
A human body receives information from different parts of the organism. It is like the different wisdoms which we have inherited from the differing life forms which are phylogenetically within us, and we have the chance to listen to this collective orchestra. However, as an organism equipped with a neocortex, we have the possibility of constructing or creating reality–that is we can manufacture signals through our own needs, proclivities, immaturity and hubris. This is the nature of InnerListening– a sophisticated training that allows us to galvanize and develop all the differing elements within us to feed the human being with information pertinent to the situation, including that of Grace, which descends upon us, to give us an alternative reality when our own sensory guidance cannot ‘see’ or ‘hear, feel’ or ‘notice’ what needs to be accessed.
The facilitator re-arranges the constellation as per ‘picture’ or stop-frame, and then proceeds with further surrender or quiet to allow the participants to be guided further. This allows the constellation to evolve–actually to unfold like a spiral of creativity, a torus within a or THE whole. With the addition of further revealed qualities (again mirrored by participants acting out these elements or qualities) the narrative can unfold in many differing ways. The unfolding narrative may illustrate the distortion present, or elicit the force which has become dominant and holds the person ‘captive’ or disordered. It may lead us into finding new or missing resources that would augment changes in the person to shift their state. We can finish the constellation where all human parts or intact and present, or stop the constellation to illustrate the state. We can be as creative as we want, but always having the participant or person in mind, so that their constellation creates the bridge to change or restructuring of their internal order.