For the Family Constellation I booked three three-hour appointments for the whole family, spanning a little over one week in July 2006, as Dr. Stern was leaving on vacation shortly after that. I had done all the groundwork by creating a family tree, starting with Chris, Alex, and Taylor and working back four generations on both sides of the family, up to and including Ian’s and my grandparents. I wrote a short paragraph for Dr. Stern on what I knew about the lives of each of our ancestors, focusing on the disappointments or tragedies of the individuals. Where I felt I did not have enough information, I asked other members of my family for help.
I had faith that Family Constellation Therapy was the missing link for which I had been searching. I truly felt that if magic was going to happen for Chris, then this therapy would make it happen. I took Dr. Klinghardt’s and others observations to heart, that schizophrenia was a manifestation of a magical belief system. This belief system may come in part from beliefs that have been passed from generation to generation within the family. This belief system could also be thought of as the family energy field. The traumas of the present generation merely reflect the beliefs of the previous generations. In the specific context of schizophrenia, it is thought that the person with schizophrenia is particularly susceptible to feeling an ancestral burden.
In Family Constellation Therapy it is helpful to know the broad picture of the members of the family tree going back four or five generations: who died young and/or tragically; who might have benefited at someone else’s expense; who stepped aside so that others could join the family (e.g. a previous husband or wife,) who went to prison; who was the black sheep, and so on. Include as family members all known miscarriages, stillbirths, abortions, and first wives or husbands. This is no time to be shy or to try to hide the truth. An experienced psychiatrist will sense if something in the constellation is hidden.
Ian’s and my family tree included paternal uncles who died early, one two days after birth in 1903 or 1908 and one who died at the age of three in 1924. I was struck by the fact that my father’s brother was buried in the family plot along with his parents who died years later, but he was unnamed and one of the dates on his grave appeared to be wrong. According to the gravestone, he was either five years old or two days old when he died. We knew it to be two days, so one of the numbers on the gravestone was wrong or else just eroded over time. In Family Constellation terms, not naming a baby and having the wrong death date on the gravestone denies the baby his rightful place in the family memory. On Ian’s side of the family, Ian’s father was given the same name as an older brother who died, as if the older brother was replaced by the younger one. What impact, I wondered, would that have on the family energy field?
My father’s father died when my father was eight years old. Ian’s paternal grandfather fought in World War I and came home with injuries, later developing an alcoholism that left a mark on the family. Ian’s maternal grandparents were divorced, which precipitated a flood of divorces in the generations that followed.
My maternal grandmother died in 1923 when my mother was four. She was my grandfather’s second wife, so I included the first wife (who ceded her position to my grandmother by dying) in the tree as well.
The past impinging on the present is an observation that is not new (ask any writer), but to me, who never gave it much thought in the context of my own family, it was breaking new territory. Looked at from the perspective of the dashed plans and hopes of previous generations, the feeling of sadness was overwhelming.