How a non-judgmental stance helps when facilitating difficult conversations about diversity
By Harrison Snow
Trauma results when an individual or group suffers a natural or man-made catastrophe.
If the suffering is strong enough, a certain amount of associated feelings and memories are repressed as a survival strategy. Trauma and its repression can occur on an individual, family, organizational or social level. The strategy of denial, repression or addiction may provide some refuge from the pain. However, the price is steep and symptoms often occur as a silent call for help.
Facilitating a discussion about diversity often raises issues about race, class, gender and criminal justice, to name a few. These topics are hugely difficult to discuss in a group because of the intensity of feelings that may emerge. Feelings and judgments can spring not only from an individual’s personal history but also from unresolved family and social trauma that has been stored in the individual and collective subconscious.
We all grow up hearing and telling the stories of our family’s history and traditions. Those stories can carry on legacies that can be helpful to future generations, but also can perpetuate stories based in pain and misunderstanding.
Often the stories leave out the deeper truths about what happened allowing old patterns to be repeated in each generation. Siblings raised in the same household can have very different experiences of the same events, creating confusion and distortion that can fuel challenging emotions as the stories get repeated over and over.
Siblings often get entangled in their parent’s marriage, creating conflicts that do not belong to them. How do we live with and reconcile the stories we hear from and about our family, how do we find our proper place in the narrative, so that we can be rooted in the tradition in a healthy way?
Barry Krost, a Family and Systemic Constellations facilitator and chairperson of the board of the new non-profit North American Systemic Constellations, talks about Family Constellations, particularly in light of the intensity of the holiday season, as well as the flow of love, give and take, and the energetic connections of the family system.
You can listen to this discussion on the radio show Mind Body Spirit Living here.
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By Michael Reddy, Ph.D.
When we are working with Family and Systemic Constellations, let’s begin by suggesting that there are two sources of trauma: the threatening overwhelms that affect your nervous system personally and those that affected a parent or ancestor’s but were never dealt with.
After-effects of the second kind do show up in you or your clients, even though they never actually happened to you. What are we coming to understand about these? How are they similar or different?
Consider five foundational facts about trauma. The whole trauma response, often referred to as “fight/flight/freeze,” actually has not just three, but five stages. Think of them as “fight-or-flight, friends, freeze, and forget.” Easy to remember as the “5 F’s.”
Remember also – trauma is highly individual. One person’s experience of overwhelm is another person’s “so what” – or even triumph.
Fight? Or Flight?
The limbic midbrain, triggered by what psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk calls the “smoke detector” amygdala, sets in motion an array of autonomic responses. They prepare, more or less as needed, our whole organism for possibly extreme efforts to recreate safety. All processes not immediately relevant to that are slowed down or completely stopped. These include digestion, the immune system, more rationally oriented presence of mind, and more.
By Francesca Mason Boring
There are so many times that people seem baffled by how to describe Family and Systems (also known as Systemic) Constellations). I can honestly say that I don’t understand the hesitation.
From the beginning, when I co-facilitated constellations sessions with a colleague, we described it as a process though which one could step easily from the dark into the light.
Simple descriptions that many early facilitators used when describing Family Constellations included: “This work increases the flow of love in the family system,” and “This work has the capacity to reveal hidden dynamics within a family system which have interrupted the flow of love.”
Now the work has moved into better understanding of organizational systems, environmental and political discussions, and support for artists and artistic productions, as well as healing processes.
A paper was presented last year at an engineering conference in Germany, inviting the utilization of systems constellations to find solutions in engineering. I began to be more aware of the capacity this work has to literally shine a light on the subject – any subject – to illuminate that which is present but has previously been unseen. The application of the luminous tool of systems constellation appears to be unlimited.
Looking at the U.S. election through the deeper lens of a Constellation session
By Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP
Family Constellations help us take a look at the hidden dynamics within families so that we can resolve problems that plague our lives today. Systemic Constellations help us look at the dynamics at play in larger groups, including communities and nations.
Aware of the turmoil stirred during and after the 2016 presidential election in the United States, I decided to offer a healing group to address post-election feelings and the underlying systems that contribute to and sustain the dysfunction in our beloved country.
The group focused not on discussion or debate but on the body-based inquiry that is the hallmark of the constellation approach. In this approach, we put theory, opinions and intellectual debate aside and use mindfulness to focus on our moment-to-moment sensations and body experiences. In addition, we used elements of psychodrama including concretization, warm up and sharing.
We began with chairs set up in a circle. Behind the chair circle, more chairs were placed – two chairs side by side in each of the directions of north, south, east and west.
Welcome to our blog, which explores what people are doing with Family and Systemic Constellations here, there and everywhere throughout North America.