I have been noticing strong resistance to write about this particular modality of spiritual healing. Although one of my favourites, Family Constellation is perhaps the wackiest of all the practices I have experienced. Not in the way it works: in action, it is embodied and magical, but it is the hardest to capture in words.
In the summer 2009, I was on a dance retreat in Wales. The gorgeous settings of the venue with nearby lake, woods and mountains, opened my heart wide allowing the life-time of suppressed feelings to come to the surface. Dancing for five long days with an intimate group of people brought up every unhealthy pattern I had in relation to men. I felt overwhelmed by the intensity of feelings: one minute, I was drawn to someone on the dance floor; the next minute, I was running away and hiding in the woods. Trying to make sense of this roller-coaster, I talked to several people in the group about the pain I carried all my life. Abandoned at an early age, I have been seeking paternal love for many years, but, needless to say, the type of attention I got from men was not what I was after.
‘Do Family Constellation,’ several people in the group suggested in the course of the retreat.
‘What is it?’
‘Hmm, it’s hard to explain. Just do it,’ my room-mate said. ‘I’ve done one with someone who lives near Cambridge. Here are her details;’ she shoved a piece of paper into my hand.
As soon as I was back from the retreat, I made contact. I was told there was a workshop coming up in two weeks. Without the slightest idea of what was in store, I booked a B&B and rushed across England to take part in this workshop.
10 or 11 people were crammed in a fairly spacious living room of the facilitator. Instead of an explanation, she decided to do a demonstration. Without a single word, she chose several people to represent her family members and positioned them in the room.
‘You can move in any way you want,’ was her only instruction.
When I was placed in the room, I found myself experiencing emotions I did not understand. I, Gulara, was still in my body, but there was also knowledge of whatever went on for the person I was meant to represent. I did and said things which were not mine. It was as if my body was possessed by someone else, except I was fully present to changes and emotions that went on inside me.
When it was my turn to voice my issue, I explored the feeling of abandonment by my dad. I chose people to represent me, my dad and mum. I brought in my grandma and grandpa. Then, I sat and watched with a healthy dose of scepticism. OK, I did not know how my ‘dad’ was likely to act, but in my mind, no one could possibly replicate my grandma’s behaviour. I was wrong. The scene that unfolded was accurate to a fault. It gave me insights into parts of my life I had no other means of witnessing otherwise.
Since then I have attended many Family Constellation workshops. This practice has brought an enormous amount of healing and deep insights into my life, and it has an unmistakable imprint on my writing.
Here are a few highlights:
- We are all one. At a deeply unconscious level, we know things about each other, even if there may be no conscious knowing of intimate details of someone else’s life. Do you know that feeling when you can see through the person? They say something, and it just does not ring true. I firmly keep this learning in mind as a memoir writer: any attempt to fudge events in order to get a more compassionate response from the reader is likely to backfire.
- Through representing other people, I learnt a great deal of empathy. Each person is a universe in their own right. Each and every one of us has an amazing story to tell. When I write, I always keep this in mind. The experience of constellations helps me to put myself in other people’s shoes and have better understanding of what they might have felt during the events I write about. It makes the story rich and multi-dimensional.
- Last but not least, I learnt to trust the process. When I experienced Family Constellation for the first time in the living room of the facilitator, thinking and feeling as her mother was disconcerting. After doing it many-many times, trusting the process became second nature to me. So, when my writing wants to take a certain direction, or material I did not anticipate emerges, I stick with it. It is coming through for a reason, which I may not fully grasp right now. I still can resist from time to time, as I did with this post, but there comes a point when all resistance is futile and I feel a great relief at surrendering to the process.