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Family Constellation Therapy is all about relationships. It’s a type of counseling based on the idea that there is a group conscience in every family that affects all of its members, across generations, and across time. 

The relationships within a family and each family member’s trauma can pass down through the generations and might be creating problems for someone in their life in the present moment. 

I’ll give you a real-life example from my life. 

Since I was born in 1984 until last year, 2022, I was carrying something like a curse that was passed down to me through my dad. It was a curse of moving homes, cities, or usually countries, every 4 years. It happened like clockwork. 

I was born in Bangladesh, and just before I turned 4, my mum and I moved to England. We stayed for about a year and then moved back when I was almost 5. Four years later, we moved again, this time to India. Four years after that, I moved again to Quebec, Canada at age 13. Four years later, I moved to Toronto at age 17. At 18, I moved to Waterloo, Ontario. Four years later, I moved back to Toronto. 1 year after this, I moved to New York City. Four years went by and suddenly I found myself moving again, to London, UK. After almost 3 years of living in the one city that felt most like home, I had to move again to Manly, Australia. I lasted a year there and found myself back in Toronto. This time, I spent 3 years there before I moved again to Zürich, Switzerland.

I’ve been here for 5 years now as I write this in 2023. 

And I only broke free of this curse during a Family Constellation Therapy session. 

You see, my dad experienced a refugee situation during the war in Bangladesh in 1971. He was a young man, maybe 18 or 19 years old when he had to leave his home and everything behind and flee to India with his family because his hometown was under attack. If he hadn’t run, he would have been killed. 

This trauma and this fear of not being safe at home unless you’re always on the move was passed down to me unknown to my dad and unknown to me.

I call this a curse because as a 4-year-old and a 9-year-old and a 13-year-old, I did not choose to move. The moving around happened to me.  

I was stuck in the trauma that my dad experienced, living it over and over and over again, without any awareness of why it happened, and clueless about what to do about it. 

Only after I became conscious of this pattern during a constellation, could I give this burden back to my dad. 

For the first time in my entire life, I have now lived in the same house, town, and country for 5 years straight. 

This is a historic event for me. The curse is finally lifted!

There are 3 key principles of Family Constellation Therapy that I work with. 

  1. Belonging to family and clan
  2. Respect for those born earlier
  3. Balancing give and take

Belonging To Family And Clan

The need to belong is a natural and necessary drive in human beings. When a newborn baby is not accepted into the family and rejected, it could potentially die. Back in our caveman days, that was exactly how it was. Not belonging meant a lack of protection and eventual death. 

In a whole and healthy Family System, no one can be excluded regardless of their characteristics, difficulties, or personal virtues. Each person is important to the System.

Questions to ask yourself:

Where is my place in the family?  Am I representing someone else?  Who do my feelings match?  Am I in the right place in the sibling line?

Respect For Those Born Earlier

In our rush to grow up and become confident adults, we tend to put down our parents and place ourselves higher than them. We want to believe that we know what’s better for our elders than they know for themselves. We judge our grandparents or uncles and aunts for making mistakes that we tell ourselves we would never make under any circumstance. How could they be so stupid? How could they be so unaware? 

These judgments rob those in our family who came before us of their dignity. They also put unbearable and impossible pressure on us to be better. 

When we think we can do it better, we put such high expectations on ourselves that we start to warp under our own pressure.

Returning respect and dignity to our ancestors releases this pressure and takes the load off us so that we can go and live our own lives instead of trying to prove our elders wrong. 

Questions to ask yourself: 

Which person born earlier do I want to save or even avenge?  Does it feel like my mother or father is my child?  Or am I the father’s (better…) partner?

Balancing Give And Take

This is the simplest principle in Family Constellation and relationships in general and the one that gets ignored by us the most. 

We feel good when we give something and so, have a right to receive something in return. When we don’t get anything back despite giving, it starts to feel bad. 

On the flip side, we feel bad when we have taken something and have not given back equally in return. There’s a debt created and the group consciousness that Family Constellation theory is based on doesn’t let us rest until that debt is repaid. 

Sometimes when we are too scared to admit to the other person that we feel like we took too much from them, we try to repay this debt by subconsciously doing bad things to ourselves. We self-sabotage, self-punish, and act destructively. 

Conversely, when we give and give and don’t get anything back in return it starts to create a vacuum in our hearts and it starts to hurt. This can lead to emotional and physical pain and illness.

Questions to ask yourself: 

As a child, could I take from my parents or did I have to give? Is there a balance in my relationship with my partner?  Do I feel obligated to give (e.g. to elderly parents)?

Family Constellation Therapy is often used to address a wide range of issues, including relationship problems, anxiety, depression, and addiction. It can be particularly helpful for individuals struggling with longstanding issues that have to do with feelings of guilt and regret, irrational fears and anxiety, and anger. To explore these feelings further and trace their roots within your personal Family System, use this free quiz by coauthor Ritu Riedweg: 

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