Family Constellations


The  principles guiding solutions in a constellation are called “orders of  love.” Observing these orders allows love to flow in a family. Violating  them causes suffering in future generations. Some examples of these  orders of love are:

  • Everyone in the family has the right to belong, and needs to belong, and each one deserves positive bonding
  • Parents must bring equal “weight” to the relationship, so as to maintain a good balance of give and take
  • Precedence is honored: those who come later take from those who came earlier (whatever the price);
    ​parents give and children take
  • All must be honored and respected, and given their right place in the system
  • Events must be acknowledged, and family secrets must be eschewed
  • Guilt and merit belong with whoever earned them.

​In  constellation groups people volunteer to be clients, and they are asked  to be clear in their own mind about the issue they want to resolve. The  facilitator encourages the client to ask group members to represent the  client and the issue (whatever that may be) and sometimes to represent  the spirit of other family members. [The facilitator may add additional  representatives (e.g., a resource, illness, corpse, guide, etc.] The  client, by intuition about “how it was,’ places the representatives into  the first scene in the field of family energy. This reveals the deeper  family problem, and often the client’s unconscious block. The  constellation works toward an image of resolution for the client.

Representatives  are asked to relax and center themselves, to leave their own feelings  behind and to open up to experiencing another’s inner reality. They  almost always take on some of the feelings, behavior and images of those  they represent, without knowing much about them. This is the great  advantage of this work. As the scene unfolds, the entanglement is  usually revealed, and the facilitator intervenes by changing the  positions of representatives and offering them the “language of the  soul” to say to one another.

The Family Love That Wounds - "the unconcious voice" - within us

A wife is angry but says little. Her teenage daughter rages out at people and becomes addicted - "I will express it for you, Mom." A husband wants to leave the marriage but doesn't. His adolescent son, to everyone's surprise, commits suicide - "Better I go than you, Dad." A woman suffers chest pain for no apparent reason. We find out in a constellation that her grandmother died of influenza ("coughing up her lungs") when the woman's own mother was a year old - "I will suffer with you, grandmother". A man fails repeatedly to sustain the successful business he inherited from his father. We find out that the original business acquisition was a shady deal, taking unfair advantage of the prior owner - "I will make up for this injustice by suffering, father". These examples come from  constellation literature, and are NOT statements about treating  addiction, suicide or depression directly. In these examples of  suffering no one was aware of their “entanglements” with ancestors.  Constellations identify such entanglements.  The quoted words represent  unconscious voices. These descriptions testify to the enormous power of  the child’s love.  It is a blind love based on an unconscious desire to  “help” a parent or to suffer for a neglected ancestor. It is well known  that children compensate for what parents neglect or avoid. The child  within in us acts as if this suffering could atone for some injustice.  And, indeed, constellations yield strong evidence that there is a  “family conscience” -- a conscience operating across generations that  balances the “justice” in family systems in surprising ways.

Family  Constellations offer fairly new and relatively unique ways of healing  our inner life. They reveal hidden dynamic connections; showing how  blind love carries burdens for others. After a snapshot of the family  conscience is exposed in a constellation, it provides healing by  releasing unconscious conflicts that underlie problems.

Constellations Activate Natural Healing

Constellations  activate the natural healing process of the loving heart in us. They  reveal unconscious identifications with prior family members that  “entangle” us. That is, we inherit not only physical traits but  emotional patterns as well. We all carry within us a mental “blueprint”  of our family history. We often “carry” the pain of those we love.  And  we are impacted by the lack of love in our family system.

It  is as if, when an ancestor has been excluded (scapegoated, abandoned,  forgotten, etc.), the “family conscience” demands justice. It presses a  future child’s love into service, “haunting” the child’s mind, as it  were. The child in us unwittingly identifies with a prior family member,  becomes entangled and suffers for the sake of that ancestor.

Examples  of this unconscious inheritance often relate to adoption, suicide,  abortion, abandonment, crime, handicaps, prior loves of parents, early  deaths, family secrets, and various lapses of love. In later  generations, these events can cause illness, failure, addiction,  anxiety, “accidents,” depression, guilt, conflicts in relationships, and  a host of other problems.

Constellations Heal the Unconscious Mind

Systems  are greater than the sum of their parts. Family constellations are  systemic: they address problems that exist across several generations.   They are dynamic: they uncover hidden loyalties and unconscious forces.  They are “energetic” in that they operate in an energy field of forces.  The creator of family constellations considers this field to be “the  family soul,” and he claims that “spirit-mind” governs these fields.

Family constellation work was created some years ago in Germany by the ex-priest and therapist Bert Hellinger (see  He himself integrated several perspectives (family therapy and  sculpting, psychoanalysis and psychodrama, gestalt and neurolinguistic  programming, etc.), with other scientific work (morphogenetic fields in  biology, trans-generational effects in families), and with spiritual  traditions (unconventional Judeo-Christianity, ancestor-based religions,  and mystical insights).

Phenomenology is the philosophical  foundation of Hellinger’s family constellations. It demands rigorous  attention to details, and it focuses on what is actually seen in the  energetic field. It prefers careful observation to generalizations. The  work is scrupulously experimental, constantly changing interventions and  testing effects.

Constellations are at an interface of  scientific knowledge and trust in the genetic “morphic fields” of family  systems. Constellations tap into these fields, the collective  unconscious family memory.

Beyond their basis in scientific  principles and procedures, constellations approach the mystery of the  “source of life” itself. Their profound “orders of love” heal the  underlying conflicts that create human dilemmas. This work is a  microcosm of the ancient human struggle to overcome darkness with love.

How Family Constellations Work

Constellations  most often occur in groups. (The same principles work for individual  sessions as well.) In a group of motivated people some people volunteer  to be a client. The facilitator may ask clients to whisper to him alone  what troubles them most, or about unusual fates suffered, or family  dynamics. The client then selects people from the group to represent  his/her self and other members of her family, past or present. The  facilitator may select others to represent impersonal forces, such as an  the future, symptoms, resources, guides, etc.

Representatives are  asked to center themselves and to put aside their usual thoughts, as  they open themselves up to the forces in an unfamiliar family field.  They almost always begin to feel unusual sensations and take on the  feelings and behaviors of the people they represent. This is the  inexplicable power of that energy field that is new and unique and  effective in resolving blocks.

Typically, movements in the  constellation at first reveal difficulties in the family history.  Occasionally --  with enough time, trust and patience  --  representatives move silently and directly to a resolving step (such as a  parent-child embrace). The facilitator intervenes minimally: asking  representatives to express what they are feeling in non-verbal ways,  encouraging them to move, or offering them some language of the soul to  say to one another. After each intervention the facilitator checks how  the representatives and client are affected. The constellation ends when  everyone is more relaxed, and a resolving image has been achieved.

The  goal of any constellation is to replace an inner unconscious image that  has led to pain with a healthier image. First we see a dysfunctional  picture roughly connected to the client’s unconscious block. The  constellation works toward an image of resolution. Experiencing this,  clients can then allow a shift in their unconscious toward the new  healing image.

Why Family Constellations Work: "The Laws of Conscience"

We  are bound to our families in deep, mostly unconscious, ways through  conception, birth, survival and growth.  Personal love is an elemental  force serving the development of life.  We saw the strength of this  binding love in those blindly entangled in the fate of others.   Inescapable laws of relationships bind us.  These are regulated by  conscience.  In this context conscience means the capability to evaluate  our behavior according to the clan.

Conscience tells me what I  have to do to secure my belonging in the group; it tells me what I must  do to avoid punishment or exclusion. This is similar to notions like  “super-ego” and social control.  However, this sense of conscience is  not a moral issue. People do horrible things to other groups with a  clear conscience. At other times, a bad conscience may prevent us from  doing good. So this is not about good and evil.  Rather, conscience  measures behavior in terms of the needs and rules of belonging to one’s  group. We have a “good conscience” when we do things allowing us to  belong, to remain close to and respected by members of our group.  We  feel “bad” when we do something that excludes us from the group, when we  lose closeness or security.

In terms of balance and group  “justice,” we feel good when we give something and thus have a right to  receive something in return. We begin to feel bad when we have taken  something and then have to repay the debt. This “bad feeling” comes up  when we have caused some imbalance or injustice that endangers the peace  or well being of the group.

With regard to personal  conscience, we also feel badly when we go against the order, hierarchy,  truths, or taboos of the group. There is also a “group conscience” that  supersedes personal conscience. Group conscience sees individuals only  in terms of their functioning for the group.  It privileges group needs  over the individual.

At this point in time, like our own  biology, we have little awareness of the workings of this archaic group  conscience. But constellations reveal the effects of this clan  consciousness. We can thus learn how to adjust to the demands of group  conscience in serving our clients. Beyond group conscience there is a  universal conscience that can guide us in a higher code of behavior,  beyond the harm done by warring groups. Constellation work cultivates  this awareness.

Family constellations heal a client’s  unconscious blocks by aligning with “laws” of family relationships  regulated by group conscience.  Facilitators must remain aware of the  forces of personal and universal conscience as well. These “laws” can be  seen as orders of love. When they are observed, peace is served in the  family system. When orders of love are violated, someone’s pain pays the  debt.

The application of the principles of these orders of  love in a constellation is varied and complex. Nevertheless, some of  these orders of love can be succinctly stated.

  1. Everyone has the right to belong.  All are equal in dignity.
  2. The fate of all must be respected.  All must be accepted, without judgment if possible.
  3. The reality of ‘what already is’ must be seen and respected.
  4. There must be a balance of giving and taking between parents.
    But children take and parents give.
  5. Those who came first in the family take precedence over those coming later.  
  6. Unearned gain, or gain at another's expense, needs redress.
  7. We must accept our fate before we can create our destiny.

​The  success of constellations depends upon the intensity and expression of  the client’s need; the talent and training of the facilitator; the  awareness and attitude of the group members; the willingness and ability  of representatives; and the setting for the work. But, overall, the  most important factor is the trust participants have in the guidance  that comes from the mental energy of the family system. Following this  mystery ingredient makes it all work.  


Family  Constellations are a fairly new and unique way to heal discomfort, to  resolve conflicts, and to solve problems. It is one kind of systemic  constellation.  In our Tucson Wednesday Meetup group members take turns  being clients and supportive representatives to have a family  constellation, a constellation for a big dream, one for social justice  issues, current events or for some big decision.  Constellations release  blocks in our unconscious mind that limit  our health or growth or  happiness.

A constellation is recommended as an effective solution for:

  • patterns of stress or inner conflicts
  • physical pain unresolved by medical treatment
  • conflicts in relationships
  • failures in achieving goals
  • major personal or professional problems that remains unresolved.

Constellations  activate the natural healing process within us, and bring solutions  into our awareness.  They reveal  negative images in our unconscious  mind that causes us to suffer or stay stuck in a problem.   We inherit  and "carry" these images as  unconscious blocks out of love for family  members. For example, failure, illness, conflict and other problems are  often revealed to be connected to past family events such as adoption,  accidents, abortion, secrets, abuse, crime, early deaths,  major crisis  or trauma.

In constellation work two powerful forces operate –  one is a group conscience and the other the love in the "child’s heart"  within us. These forces combine and lead  to personal problems and to  their solutions. The group conscience in every family system operates  like a memory that demands justice across generations. When an ancestor  has been excluded (ignored, scapegoated, etc.) an "entanglement" often  arises in a future family member. A child’s blind love unconsciously  identifies with that ancestor and suffers for or with them, as if to  atone for the exclusion. It is a more conscious love, revealed in a  constellation, that leads to resolution.​

Copyright © 2015 John Dore. All rights reserved