Ancestral/transgenerational trauma is a part of the picture in all our chronic disease patients (see Tip of the Week # 2 — The Rain Barrel Analogy to understand how this can play into any and all physical/mental/emotional disease states). And the holiday season is a convenient time for many people to get a jump on healing these.
While there will one day be a more extensive set of blogs on healing epigenetic trauma via family constellations and genograms, this Tip of the Week is just information on what you can do at home in a typical situation, to start unraveling your own family's traumas, which will also help you be prepared for more in depth/specific constellation work, if it turns out that you do need that.
In brief, family constellations are a means of systematically identifying patterns of disharmony and manipulating the varied pieces of that pattern so that they move into a place of harmony. This is done by following certain rules of what makes dis/harmony, and while it's not the scope of this blog to detail all of them, we do want to point out one particular one: the rule of belonging.
According to constellation theory, everyone conceived in a family belongs to it, and disruption occurs when someone is forgotten, estranged, or otherwise not acknowledged and welcomed in. Common scenarios are the death of a child or of a miscarriage/abortion—scenarios either too painful or taboo to be discussed, remembered, or even admitted to; and the loss of knowledge about and active interest in elderly family members. Many people, for example, do not know their grandparents' full names, much less where they were born, where they moved or stayed and why, events that happened to them, how they lived their lives when younger, ideas that have guided them, the stories of love, beauty, and pain from their lives, etc. and this is a great loss.
The very first step of eliminating the pattern of disharmony related to "not belonging", and all the many problems that arise after it, is to consciously, deliberately acknowledge those family members that you can while they are alive by talking to them and asking them about their lives and memories, and acknowledging those who have passed through photos, records, and the stories of their living family members and ancestors.
Through your active interest (which is very different than the casual, passive acceptance/assumption that someone is a family member), something comes alive. This person's role as "someone who belongs" is confirmed in a deep, internal way, and so is yours. This branches out to bring in anyone that they discuss with you and who becomes alive in you, through your imagination of what their childhood looked like, their struggles, their personality and way of viewing the world, etc.
Some more detailed action steps:
1. Start a little informal family tree diagram, starting with your immediate family and going back to at least your grandparents. Use this as an outline to make sure you aren't forgetting to add anyone, and as a guide that you can fill in as you ask your family members and look at available resources (the genealogy that your aunt did, photos, etc.) to find out about each of them. As you get more into this, drawing more formal genograms makes sense, but this part is really just information gathering and you can play around with it. Also, be aware that genograms nearly always have to be drawn several times because of issues with organization and getting new information, so think of it as a rough draft—there's no need for it to be perfect and clean!
2. Make a point to sit down with or call up your family members (the holiday season is a great time for this, as you might, for example, find yourself in a room with these people, wondering what you can talk about and/or going down the same old conversation patterns) and ask them about themselves. There are a number of nice resources online with question prompts that you might not think of yourself. A few from a quick search:
37 Questions to Ask Your Grandparents (And Parents!), Jen Nelson
20 Questions Grandparents Never Get Sick of Hearing, Sarah Stevenson
Great Questions, StoryCorps
This acknowledgment and acceptance is the foundation of all familial work, and can heal a great deal just by itself.
Future blogs and resources will arrive on this site, detailing next steps. In the meantime, if you're ready to get moving with deeper work, please see our family constellations schedule, consider a private, 1-on-1 constellation with Dr. Sarah, and/or google for groups/practitioners doing constellation work in your area.
Photo credit to Matt McK at Unsplash