10 ways that relational neuroscience has made me a better facilitator of Family Constellations
By Katherine Revoir
Hooray for Family Constellations!
Entanglements are identified, family members are given their respected and honored place in the system, and the client ends up with a more expansive view of the family, with more room for choice about how to move.
A Family Constellations session is resolved when connections between family members are acknowledged and brought into balance, and missing people and pieces of information are reclaimed. At this point, at the end of the constellation, the client has a new opportunity to ask the question, “How will I now choose to relate to myself and others in healthy and loving ways?”
This question is one of my favorites that comes from constellation work, and is at the heart of my explorations into attachment and intimacy, which I will have the good fortune to be presenting at the North American Systemic Constellations Conference.
This direction is particularly supported by the new field of relational neuroscience. With the help of attachment theory, we get to examine how interruptions in the flow of love land us in romantic scenarios that we do not want, and how the ability to nurture intimate relationships can be learned.
It may be a surprise to find science at the core of relationship healing in constellation work, but once we begin to understand the leverage that an understanding of the relational brain can bring to internalizing warmth and understanding, everything starts to fall into place.
A resource that has been very important to me and is foundational to my work is the synthesis of relational neuroscience and constellations that Sarah Peyton has been bringing to constellation facilitation for the past five years. I mention this because some of this information is now available in her new book, Your Resonant Self: Guided Meditations and Exercises to Engage Your Brain's Capacity for Healing.
This is not a book about Family and Systemic Constellations, but since the material informs my work, am writing a short article about how it has been useful to me.
The field of relational neuroscience dovetails beautifully with constellations. Both areas encourage us to develop a relationship with our “true parent,” the parent we may not have had growing up due to missed emotional attunement, absence, mental illness, or non-availability on their part.
This true parent is our resonating self-witness, and it gives us continual access to our own self warmth and self understanding. We can develop it as a very rich and meaningful part of the healing process of constellation work.
“Your Resonant Self” encourages us to tap into our essence. Sarah’s work nurtures the tender humanity in us that reached out for belonging and emotional safety when we were infants, and continues to reach out our entire lives.
The resources and choice we gain from Family Constellations is soul work, and this book is a soothing salve for the soul. My life is more delightful and socially engaged because of it, and it is a precious gem in my mystical toolbox.
Here are 10 ways that nurturing my own resonant self has contributed to me as a constellation facilitator:
I recently took a workshop with Stephan Hausner, a master of facilitating medical constellations. He said, “In our culture, being strong is associated with not feeling. All the information you need is in the body, so when you work with a client who is closed down in the body it’s hard to get to their information.” This reminded me of the support that neuroscience gives us to reference our somatic experience. When I tune into what’s happening in my own body, it’s easier for me to sense the emotional nuances of my client. This is what guides my path through the facilitation process.
With a more resonant self, my own emotions are more easily managed, so I am less reactivated by my client’s story, behavior, and/or their emotional triggers. When I do get triggered, my resonant self often catches me, like a safety net, offering me warmth, empathy, and feelings and needs guesses that calm my nervous system.
A grounded and compassionate understanding of trauma helps me more easily put pieces of a family system together to find patterns of behavior and entanglements.
I have a wider window of welcome for my client’s emotional experience, so when they have intense feelings, my resonant self helps me stay connected and calm. Rather than the client feeling shame for their intense feelings, I notice that my warm resonant self creates a safe container of acceptance.
The more I nurture my resonant self, the more I build trust in my intuition. I have a heightened sensitivity for my client, as I’m imagining what it’s like to be him or her. I imagine myself in the role of a representative before I place them on the field. This helps me stay connected with my client and their intention.
When my resonant self is on line, I am organically empathic, which creates a container of attunement for my client, whose nervous system can relax because two of its most important needs are being met: feeling safe, and knowing that they matter. These needs are so important to our nervous system that our brain is scanning for them 40 x per second.
Sarah teaches a time travel process that I often use when a client is emotionally activated by a past trauma during a constellation. The process actually shifts how the brain holds the memory, moving it from the reactive amygdala (the part of the brain that sees past traumas as happening now) to the hippocampus (the part that can affirm that the trauma was difficult but it happened a long time ago). This brings release and relief to the client, allowing for trauma repair. The constellation then moves forward.
When I’m holding my clients with warmth and empathy, it’s easier for them to access the tender depths of their soul, and when it’s time for healing sentences in the constellation, they trust that I will hold them with great care. The meditations in the book help me to practice deep self-care and self-understanding, which are essential support for my facilitation work.
Each family system has a clear rulebook for belonging that teaches what is required for acceptance. How we relate to our parents, to ourselves, and to others is our attachment style. Constellations don’t change our attachment style, but when we understand how they work, we can contour them if we don’t resonate with what we were handed in our family system. We can’t change our attachment style until we’re aware of our entanglements, so constellations and understanding attachment styles go hand in hand as we navigate the complexities of a constellation.
I appreciate that each constellation facilitator brings their unique style to their work. Sarah’s style, as shown in her book, folds in the fields of attachment research, depth empathy, Non-violent Communication, and social neuroscience. As I study these fields, I am inspired to deepen relationships with those I love, and I see the world through more compassionate and accepting eyes. As I learn to be my own loving and empathic parent, I attract more people who want to work with me as a facilitator.
The entire field of relational neuroscience shows us how to literally re-wire our brain so that we experience more of what psychologists, attachment researchers, neuroscientists, and mindfulness teachers describe as qualities of a life well lived: empathy, adaptability, a sense of internal balance, the ability to see the whole picture, calmness, clear thinking, sound decision making, and regulated emotions, including taming our self-critical voice. This describes a regulated brain, and the information and meditations in Your Resonant Self helps us to get there.
I look forward to exploring the mysteries of attachment and intimacy at the North American Systemic Constellations Conference through constellation work that is grounded in our shared humanness, and adding a consciousness of the brain, while making room for the movement of love.
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