“Wherever the constellation work is taken, it will arrive in a place where people are dealing with the effects of collective trauma. And in each place, the local population tries to come to terms with what has happened and has to find a place for the victims and the perpetrators of the past. These will be given a place either openly in the light or they will be hidden in the shadow zones.” (Daan Van Kampenhout, excerpted with permission from Ancestral Blueprints: Revealing Invisible Truths in America’s Soul).
Embedded in the shadows of U.S. history lies an essential key to healing inherited collective traumas: the United States was formed out of disconnection from family. Through immigration from home countries, genocide of First Nations people and enslavement of African ancestors – disconnection from family runs through the American landscape.
This is a complicated history.
In combination with this context of disconnection from family, the favored American trauma identification is with the rescuer or victim role, never the perpetrator. Deeply rooted affiliation with the rescuer role has a profound effect in that it prevents unfreezing of perpetrator/victim trauma bonds. It is out of this group conscience that recent national political leaders have emerged, reminding us that what gets excluded becomes represented. Our blind love’s human challenge to acknowledge and claim the perpetrator role in lived American history has caught up with us as a collective.
This lived history needs no fixing or changing, as if that were even possible. Nor is it necessary to protect ourselves from or try to prevent the history that has already happened. These kinds of impulses are some of the markers of unhealed trauma.
Blindness to whiteness and identification with skin color as a surrogate source of belonging are also entwined with these histories. “Dismantling structures that were created out of dehumanizing ‘other’ requires expanding capacity for acknowledging the way in which we are in relationship with all that is without clinging to notions of goodness, innocence, judgement, and exclusion.” (Source: http://www.internalizedcolonizer.com )
There are many ways in which these historical contexts influence the development of the constellation work in the U.S. and North America. One of them is a lingering vulnerability of “longing to belong” for all who live on this soil. The feeling of belonging can be seductive. It’s important to see how this vulnerability influences the formation of our groups, including constellation workshops, training programs, NASC, conferences, and regional affiliations. “Our systems are enriched when we remember our human tendency to confuse “belonging” and “joining”. While the feeling of belonging is a wonderful thing, the essence of constellations reveals that our deepest belonging is rooted in family and ancestry. True belonging is beyond feeling. This belonging is infinite and irreplaceable. Joining and entrepreneurship is what we do in other aspects of life, including the work systems we create.”
So the degree to which the practice of constellations in the States has permission to flourish is informed in part by embodied recognition that constellation workshops and trainings are not the source of belonging. In this respect, all roads point to the ways in which prioritizing one’s family life promotes good foundation for the constellation work to grow well.
Our shared fate includes simple truths as we remember that our human family is nature itself: we are all descendants, each a daughter or son, granddaughter or grandson, each of us has ancestors. Some of us are parents, some are not, but we are all stewards of the web, making all of us future ancestors. In this spirit of shared humanity, all are invited to participate in the Ancestral Healing Summit, a free online event hosted by The Shift Network, from February 17-21, 2020. Presenters from our constellation field include Francesca Mason Boring, Mark Wolynn and me. This global gathering offers a synthesis of spirituality and shamanism, science and psychology, and ancient wisdom.
RSVP at no charge here:
Collective historical movements cannot, nor are meant to be, processed by the individual. These histories take place in the context of groups, and they require groups to unleash healing movements of truth and reconciliation. Reflections offered in this post are focused on the United States, my home country, which includes 573 federally recognized Indian Nations
While there may be shared collective movements in North American countries, each one in the continent also has its own history. The commonalities and differences are all important explorations. It's worth noting that while Canada, the United States, and Mexico combined compromise 80% of the land mass, North America is made up of 23 countries and 9 territories. (source: https://sciencetrends.com/heres-many-countries-north-america/)
Here’s to all of us being strengthened by the human experience and North American landscape as individuals and as a collective.
Lisa Iversen, MSW, LCSW, has been a facilitator of Systemic and Family Constellations for 21 years and psychotherapist for 27 years. Her work integrates ancestral prayers, shamanically infused indigenous wisdom, and western-based, systemic knowledge, weaving teaching into all aspects of her work.
Her book, Ancestral Blueprints: Revealing Invisible Truths in America’s Soul (2009), reflects on the relationship between ancestry, psychotherapy, colonialism, slavery, and democracy. A frequent conference presenter, her Tedx Talk (2015) promotes consciousness of inherited American individual-collective trauma and grief. Lisa’s programs include Family Matters, Whiteness Is Not an Ancestor, and BOB + BART, co-developed with organizational psychologist Kate Regan.
She is stewarding a collection of essays on whiteness, women, and lineage. Raised in a Midwestern farm family, she lives with her husband & daughter in the Pacific Northwest where she directs the Center for Ancestral Blueprints. http://www.ancestralblueprints.com.
Looking back and seeking signs: How Family Constellations show another way of knowing
"The experience was like a waking dream. Family Constellations are like a waking dream, too. They honor the difference between noticing and knowing, the space between. All I know is that when I searched for my ancestors, I found them.."
By Betsy Hostetler, Ph.D.
“Let’s keep looking. Maybe we’ll see a sign.”
That was my only hope, because we had no map and no directions. Lou Ann, my best buddy in high school, had accompanied me to Sugarcreek, Ohio, to look for the place where my great-grandparents had lived their lives and died. We found only a worn and deserted town.
“I see a sign,” I told her. “It’s the sign to the highway.”
We’d come a long way to get here, and we were both reluctant to leave. As we drove out of town and up the hill, Lou Ann asked, “Would you like to pull over, look back and at least take a picture?”
Welcome to our blog, which explores what people are doing with Family and Systemic Constellations here, there and everywhere throughout North America.