Ian and I underwent a Family Constellation on Thursday morning with Dr. Stern, just the three of us, no Chris involved. The premise of this Constellation was Chris’s early childhood and in utero period, what Ian and I were like at that stage, our feelings surrounding the pregnancy, etc. Dr. Stern already had “the dirt” on us since I had provided her early on with a family tree on both Ian’s and my sides of the family. She knows where all our skeletons are hanging.
Before we began the Constellation, we discussed the fact that I actually heard the pregnancy happen (yes, it was a “ping” sound) but after that I felt nothing more from Chris for ten months. It was like he froze. We discussed how Ian and I felt like we weren’t ready for parenthood. It took us a few weeks to welcome the idea, not without prior feelings of apprehension. Chris didn’t seem to want to be born, given the fact he was twenty-seven days past due (born in early January instead of early December) and frozen almost the entire time. We discussed Chris being as good as gold in childhood, never wanting to draw attention to himself, never stepping out of line to risk incurring our anger. There are other things that we discussed that had a bearing on the Family Constellation, which I feel are a bit too private to post.
Then it gets complicated, complicated in ways that emotional bonds in families are complicated. Dr. Stern took over and Ian and I drew straws as to who would place the shoes on the floor. I was the one and I quickly, without thinking, dropped the papers with the shoe outlines of Ian, me and baby Chris on the floor in the middle of the room. Ian noticed that I had put Chris on the other side of me, as if I was shielding him from his father. I was, in the sense that I often felt that Ian’s concern with safety issues was getting in the way of healthy childhood exploration. I noticed that the gap between Ian’s and my place on the floor was rather large. Ian’s shoes were pointed out, away from us. This intuitively made sense because Ian was focused on his career during the early years. Successfully married people grow together over the years. At the beginning,you are still finding your way.
Dr. Stern stepped into everybody’s shoes and expressed the emotions that she picked up from her own intuition, knowledge of our family, and the way in which the shoes were placed on the floor. She remarked that she couldn’t see Chris from Ian’s position on the floor. When she stepped into my shoes, she also noticed that she couldn’t see Chris behind her. When she stepped into Chris’s shoes, she felt that nobody saw her/him. Chris was blocked from seeing the world ahead of him. Why was this? she asked.
If you are interested in a Family Constellation and willing to suspend disbelief, this therapy is for you. Ian and I were intent on Dr. Stern’s message and joined in the speculation. It became apparent from the Constellation that we were protecting Chris, but from what? Dr. Stern then had an “idea” and shuffled through the file of our long dead family members and produced the shoes of my father’s older brother, who died, unnamed,in 1908, having lived from Dec. 9th to Dec. 11th. What was Chris’s due date, again? Dr. Stern asked. December 10th, I answered. I placed my great uncle’s tiny prints on the floor in front of me. That struck me as the more logical place to have put Chris. That was my quick intuitive response, and the unconscious mind knows best. Here was the dead baby looming large in front of us, in direct sight of me, Ian, and Chris. Yet, I never gave this unnamed baby a thought when I was growing up.
Dr. Stern then had another idea. She hauled out Ian’s father’s older brother, who died in 1926 around the age of four of leukemia. Ian’s father carried the identical name of his brother, as if he was the replacement for the dead brother. Ian placed the dead great uncle behind him.
Dr. Stern, through her acting out this particular Constellation, was hinting that early childhood separation of first born sons was a shadow that loomed over both sides of the family. Ian and I unconsciously passed a fear of early separation to Chris. In essence, Chris assumed the victims’ roles and assumed their spectral presence, perhaps staying close to home to fulfill our unmet needs. I reminded Dr. Stern that Chris has had a ghostly quality to him from childhood. He was pale and unobtrusive. He can (and still does) somewhat miraculously appear in a room, as if he had materialized out of thin air.
Dr. Stern then moved Chris’s footprints to the front and off to the side, where he could see his father, mother and great, great uncles. She stood in his shoes and looked at the Constellation for a long time, then slowly shook herself, noticing that her left arm was beginning to feel less heavy and mechanical. The left side of the body, she said, represents the mother. Her right arm (the father’s side) slowly started returning to life again. I feel quite good, I feel like I can make a new beginning, she announced. I am not very down-to-earth, though, she continued. I am lighter than that. If I do something with my life, what would it be? Ian and I waited patiently for her answer. She appeared perplexed. It wouldn’t be a businessman or a gardener, she felt sure about that. That is too earthbound for me. No, I am, more like a . . . . Well, I can’t quite put what I want to say in words, but it is almost like being a stewardess in an airplane, having a light touch in asking the passengers how I can be of help.
Family Constellation therapy doesn’t assume that there is one defining event that shapes families’ intergenerational emotional lives. There are many events that have a transgenerational impact. It is clear to me the goal of every Family Constellation session is to bring unity to the family members, both dead and alive. Dr. Stern didn’t leave us wondering. She closed the session on a note of hope. She literally stood in Chris’s shoes and said “I am going to be okay.” Ian and I will then go away relieved, with a burden lifted. We will not be passing on our worries to Chris, because these worries have been lifted. Chris, himself, will sense this.
We are following Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt’s advice. After a Family Constellation you walk away from it, you do not analyze it, and you wait for the magic to happen