“If we reveal and facilitate these dynamics in a conscious manner, without being entangled by polarization, it’s possible to mitigate the drive to unconsciously reenact past traumas, individually, in families, and collectively in our society.”
By Harrison Snow
The U.S. election is over. We have a new president. And yet not since the American Civil War, from 1860 to 1865, and the Vietnam War, about a hundred years later, has the United States been so polarized. This polarization includes the constructs of race, as well as gender, class, country of origin, ethnicity and religion, to name a few.
However, although our public discourse is divisive, there seems to be an emerging readiness to explore social territory that has long been ignored or avoided.
The program committee for the 2017 North American Systemic Constellations Conference, scheduled Oct. 5-8 in Virginia Beach, Va., believes the conference agenda should reflect this readiness in addition to giving attention to presentations on Family and Systemic Constellations and their innovations.
Therefore, we will be giving space “to reveal and explore the hidden dynamics that underlie the pressing issues affecting us individually and collectively.”.
The vision for the 2017 conference is "Bridging the Divide: Healing the Personal and Collective Soul." Visions are made real by focused action. The programming committee is certain that if we reveal and facilitate these dynamics in a conscious manner, without being entangled by polarization, it’s possible to mitigate the drive to unconsciously reenact past traumas, individually, in families, and collectively in our society.
If we reveal and facilitate these dynamics in a conscious manner, without being entangled by polarization, it’s possible to mitigate the drive to unconsciously reenact past traumas, individually, in families, and collectively in our society.
Addressing the underlying traumas of our social dysfunctions is darn hard to do. The history of the United States is clouded with slavery, ethnic cleansing, discrimination, oppression and exclusion. Our neighbors in Canada and Mexico have their own versions of the same. As we surface these collective traumas, there is always the possibility of being overwhelmed by unprocessed material and projections of the past or the present.
Our vision for the conference is aspirational. We should anticipate some bumps and even bruises in our efforts to look at and bear witness to our collective pain.
Quite frankly, constellation facilitators in North America are, for the most part, still learning how to do this skillfully. The wheels have come off as often as not. In making social justice constellations one of the tracks for the 2017 conference, along with family, organizational and nature constellations, we are treading on new ground.
There are plenty of pitfalls waiting for us. Some are known. Others may surprise even the most experienced and skilled among us. You may have seen, as I have, capable facilitators getting tripped up when the process went awry during a constellation session that focuses on a social justice issue.
Let’s consider some of those pitfalls before the conference and avoid them or be ready to mitigate their impact if they arise. We should be understanding and patient with ourselves and each other since difficult conversations can induce the survival reactions of flight, fight, freeze or forget. Until we expand our capacity and develop the competencies needed to hold the tensions and polarities that divide us addressing these issues may induce those reactions not only individually but also collectively.
Exploring social justice topics is inherently risky. People may feel insulted, judged or marginalized -- even if that is not intended -- or overwhelmed by the feelings of re-traumatization.
It’s regrettable, but we can’t avoid strong emotions when an emotional topic is raised. We can, however, create a safe space to hold and contain them if we stick to our systemic principles as outlined by Bert Hellinger and others.
Four principles are proposed below to help guide our social justice sessions:
The right use of representatives.
I have been in social justice constellation sessions where the roles have been predetermined and no one can de-role from them. You walked in the door as a victim or persecutor and you walked out the door as one without a choice in the matter. The constellation space requires that we voluntary accept a role and that we ensure everyone is de-roled at the end of the constellation. Assuming we can assign roles on a permanent basis goes beyond any facilitator’s mandate or skill set.
In an age of extremism, there is a tendency to find one’s affinity group and stay there. We don’t hear the others. We judge them. The space for relating and understanding is squeezed by the instinct to exclude or condemn.
Yet we know exclusion is not a solution. Given the liberal inclination of those organizing the conference would we be as welcoming to Trump supporters as we will be to any other group? How about member or the Alt-right? Can we represent them and their agenda in a constellation session? Can we connect them to their hidden sources of pain, confusion and support as we would any other individual or group?
We are all in this together.
A constellation session is engaging with and the holding of sacred space. In secular terms, that space is phenomenological, not partisan. We can only walk through the door to that space with a nonpartisan frame of mind. A constellation asks us to let go of own identity and agenda and step into the shoes of someone who might be completely the opposite of what we hold dear.
The key to noticing what you notice is non-judgment and openness. In this noticing we let of our own identity and experience phenomenologically the truth of another no matter how antithetical it may be to our own.
Meeting in the field beyond right or wrong.
Reality shifts when the unseen is seen and acknowledged or included. This is true on the personal level, family or the collective levels of reality. Consensus reality naturally differs for each social group because their life experiences differ. And their life experiences differ to a great degree because of the unseen dynamics of the past that are impacting the present.
Arguing about consensus reality rarely changes anyone’s point of view. We know that yet still insist on changing others, individually or collectively, through lecturing or criticizing them.
Constellations ask us to let go of the temptation to argue our side of consensus reality and meet the “other,” as Rumi said, in a field that is beyond right or wrong. Bearing witness together and grieving over the traumas of the past happens in that field. We can’t control or even know what will emerge in that shared space, yet we can be there to bear witness together to what shows up.
No doubt there are other pointers for working effectively with charged social topics and past traumas that are energetically very much alive in our collective field.
We hope the 2017 conference in Virginia Beach, Va., will add to the level of understanding and capacity within our community of constellation facilitators. Constellation facilitator and writer, Suzi Tucker, aptly put words to how the constellation community is called to respond the matrix of challenges we face today. According to Suzi;
"Constellations reveal, rather than create. As facilitators, we help gather what has not been seen -- subliminal dynamics, precipitating events, unnoticed resources -- shedding light on "the more" of our source and content in order to move toward "the more" in life. Bert Hellinger said, Peace begins in the soul. This is a profound moment on the planet. With every level of life at stake, every layer of healing is called forth."
We hope to present an article in The Knowing Field that will summarize lessons learned during the 2017 conference – one way we will follow up on this topic. Feel free to post your comments and suggestions about facilitating social justice constellations or other relevant topics on the constellation conference Facebook page or by commenting in the comment section under this article..
Join us for the 2017 North American Systemic Constellations Conference Oct. 5-8 in Virginia Beach, Va., for health professionals, educators, business and life coaches, consultants, clergy, community activists, change makers and others interested in alternative health and innovative practices. More info here. We'd love to have you subscribe to our e-letter here.
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