I first explored Family Constellation therapy in Dubai almost three years ago now, while I was working with my partner. It really helped us to understand the present through our past, and how family relationships, behaviors and experiences can make their way into our new relationships – without us ever knowing it.
We learned that humans carry around seven generations of experiences and traumas in our body on a cellular level and with those layers come habits and ways of acting and being that we simply cannot shake off. Often we are unaware they’re even there.
Attitudes about money, behavior in relationships, fears — many of these things are deeply-rooted, passed on to us by those who came before us.
This is what the experts call the “morphogenic field”: an invisible space containing the memories and specific energies of a group such as a family or community. The most obvious examples are the trauma passed on from Jews who lived through the Holocaust or refugees displaced by violent wars. By understanding that this energy field contains all of the knowledge from the group, it can help us understand the sources of our issues, even if no one has told us the facts.
Rather than just owning them, family constellation therapy helps us better understand how the journey of our ancestors in linked to our present-day.
When I first worked with May-Britt Searty in Dubai, I filled out an extensive questionnaire and drew out a family tree, addressing everything from migration to how the women were treated to how they lived, what illnesses they suffered from, how they earned money and much more.
This exercise alone helped me understand why today I feel so happy as a wanderer, as both my maternal and paternal families migrated from religious persecution. It also made me understand that I was the first woman in my family to go to university, which I had never really acknowledged before.
It also explained why I have a deep rooted feeling of purpose in my life — that I’m here for a reason and through my work as a journalist, I love to use my pen to share the voices of others.
Recently I interviewed Laura Ghita, who is running a series of workshops at SEVA in Dubai, and attended one of her sessions. An MD (medical doctor) psychologist and a psychotherapist licensed in clinical hypnosis and Ericksonian therapy, she explains family constellation therapy can be used for a range of issues, from family dysfunction to eating disorders, addiction, grief and phobias.
“So much of what we go through in our lives stems back to our ancestors,” she said. “Not only to our parents, who are of course critical in how we are who we are, but much more than this.”
Our parents were our first role models, but they too were shaped by their parents and life experiences and often, we forget to empathize with that when we are judging our own relationships with them.
The concept of constellations came from German psychologist Bert Hellinger, who studied the Zulu tribes in South Africa, who used ancestral healing to maintain strong family ties. He learned the methodology of watching family members communicate through open channels unlike the more common individualistic ways of the West where conflict more often comes from silence than communication.
He combined this methodology with his background in psychology and it has become a growing modality globally ever since. Sessions are usually done in groups, with each member of the circle representing different family members, channeling the energies of that particular person and helping evoke feelings and expression from the participant reconnecting with them.
I have only done the one-to-one version of this where we used cards to represent members of the family, which is a more private way to experience the constellation, and a more intuitive process than work done in groups.
Joana Costa Pessoa is a facilitator in Abu Dhabi. She says the process is one of liberation, bringing us back to the feeling and certainty of being part of a family system while at the same time, freeing us from its constraints. She says it gives us a way to find “acceptance of the environment you were born in, showing you how much you have from your family members”, while allowing us the space to be ourselves.
Unlike conventional therapy, I personally find family constellation therapy far faster in delving into the roots of our ‘baggage’, enabling us to get into the issues more quickly and specifically. Joana says this is commonly found using the modality, and it makes for a perfect pairing with more conventional modes of therapy.
“In constellations you normally solve and figure out some issues that seemed unsolvable for years of therapy,” she says. “This is due to the origin and the much wider approach that family constellations bring into your therapeutic path.”
Not everyone is blessed with the blissful family life we all wish for, and this is a way to unravel the things we have taken on without even realizing, and releasing the prison of the past, to walk into the freedom of the present.
Melanie has been practicing yoga for 11 years and teaching for nearly six. She discovered the practice at a time when work life-balance was at its lowest, living a busy life in London working for national newspapers. She teaches at Fairmont The Palm and Zen Yoga Dubai Media City.