This statement is a summary of life really, for when we look back, it can help inform how to go forwards. And also, the past has so much to do with what shaped up to be who we are today and also informs how (easily) we can go forwards.
Without a doubt this statement summarizes any kind of therapeutic intervention too. The past is what shaped our present and future, and by understanding it in the mind, and working through its traces left in the body and nervous system, it gives momentum and understanding for going forward.
The past and the future go together. They aren’t separate. I like to say, “The past is the present until it’s made conscious.”
In traditional talk therapies, it’s known that one usually talks about the past. Getting an understanding can already change a lot, and for some the act of talking and being listened to is the healing that needs to take place. Working with a body-oriented therapy works with the words, but also with the unconscious imprints left in the body and the body's reactions while conducting a session. These are viewed as traces of the past showing up in responses.
Our body is the unconscious in a physical form. Our body is the past really, and this is why body-oriented therapies exist and are now getting more and more recognition. Understanding in the mind is helpful and important, but it doesn’t include what’s happened to and in the body as a result. Working with the mind alone will not heal the body, but they can both be considered to heal each other and to connect them again.
Some call a constellation a “brief therapy”, as it’s a specific subject that leads one to seek out a constellation. That constellation might be enough to go forward; it might inform your way forward, or it might show you the next step to take. Either way, we are looking back to be able to go forward. There is no other reason to do it. The question is, what grip does the past have on me that influences my present and my ability to go forward?
I don’t like to consider Constellations as therapy, although I can understand why some call it that. It’s therapeutic, but much different than therapy where the therapist uses their life experience, wisdom and professional training to guide a person, a Constellation is informed and led by the “Knowing Field,” and the therapist (referred to as a facilitator) facilitates the process. Therapy is often a linear process, starting form young life and working forward to the present, although this doesn’t always happen. This is just another way to say the past informs the way forward. A Constellation can go back several generations and go to your future self in one session. It’s as if time and space are condensed as I often say it. Another difference is that the relationship built between a client and their therapist is a critical element that relates to the success of therapy. Can trust be built where trust wasn’t there in the family of origin? Can the therapist lead a person forward despite the resistances that come up? There are many factors and many pages to talk about this topic. The purpose here is to delineate the similarities of the Constellation Path with that of therapy and a therapeutic alliance that is built.
While working with couples in a therapeutic setting, it’s not unusual that the first sessions and reason for seeking help is due to communication challenges. We speak the same language and are from the same country of origin, yet we just don’t speak the same language. Or, we come from different cultures and life experiences, yet we both speak English, so what is the challenge? Well… it’s a big subject in itself too. We are complex enough on our own, so when another complex person is added to the equation, without understanding or tools of how to work together, the situation might get more complex right away. This is especially the case when the honeymoon phase has worn off, or when the couple finally lives in the same city, or even more so, when they take that step to live together and create a new environment together.
The Systemic perspective that constellations gives is wonderful for working with couples. Systemic perspective in the sense that we are more than just ‘us’, we are part of a bigger (family) system and what happened there informs who and why I am the way I am today. It also lays out a framework for healthy relationships and healthy families. This has all to do with the Orders of Love:
1. Where is my rightful “Place” in the family? Am I the adult/parent or the child? Am I the oldest of my siblings or the youngest? Am I second wife or the first wife?
2. What about my sense of “Belonging” in the family? Have there been others in the family who no one talks about or who left out of will or being pushed out? What consequence could this have on me?
3. What about the “Balance of Exchange” in the relationships within my family system and how could that influence the same balance in my relationships today?
These are big questions in themselves, with roots in my branches of therapy and psychological inquiry. The beautiful and wonder of a constellation is that it can inform you right away about these dynamics, which might take months or years to uncover in therapy. And maybe that slow pace is necessary. It all depends on you, how willing and ready you are to dive in.
In terms of working with couples, the balance of exchange is really important to have a healthy and thriving relationship. In the relationship with parents and children, they aren’t equal. The parents are the big ones and the givers of life, therefore making it impossible for a child to pay that back. How does one pay back the gift of life? Yet within a couple’s relationship, it is a relationship between equals – two adults – so there can be a balance and there must be balance for the relation to thrive, yet so often there isn’t. And that often stems from early bonding with parents or other caretakers. This impacts your relationships today. It’s valuable and in fact essential to look back, to be able to look forward.
Another principle in constellation work is that in order for the new system (your family) to be able to move forward, the new family must take priority over the family of origin. When loyalty to the family of origin is stronger than the bond of the relationship (with the new family for example), the relationship struggles and can even fail.
Looking back to look forward... it allows you to move forward with greater trust, confidence and peace.