How problems and illnesses are created in the family
Real new insights about what causes illnesses and problems are rare. Right now, the systemic approach of Bert Hellinger is really gaining ground in Germany. With this approach, our understanding of the human psyche will be greatly enlarged.
Let us look at the problems of Monika, Robert and Marita, modeled after cases that frequently come up in seminars:
Monika has been suffering from times of depression and life sickness that have kept coming back for years now. During those weeks, she even considers suicide. She also seems to transfer these feelings onto her family as she has been noticing similar symptoms with her ten-year-old daughter by now.
Robert is frequently being plagued by feelings of guilt occuring for the smallest reasons in his everyday life. He cannot fight them and all his thinking does not reveal the causes for these feelings.
Marita is not getting lucky in love. She is very successful with men at first, but unfortunately this doesn't ever develop into a longer, stable relationship. She looks on her former schoolmates with envy; they have found their partner and founded a family long ago. Will the man of her dreams ever step into her life ?
Whoever is being plagued by a problem will search for the causes. He looks for an explanation by looking at traumatic experiences in the presence and in the past - starting from present unemployment going to bad experiences in childhood. Frequently, an answer can be found, sometimes no answer evolves. Neither Monika nor Robert or Marita have found an answer in the circumstances of their own life. They have been growing up the same way as any other kid their age, and they are living in the same environment now. Where does their personal misfortune come from ? Could it be in their genes ?
Hellinger's approach looks beyond personal history. Hellinger opens the door to a new area, the area of family history. Integrating decades of therapeutic experiences Hellinger has discovered amazing links between past and presence. The roots of many problems can be traced back into earlier generations. The whole family including ourselves is being connected - frequently without us knowing about this or feeling it. Suffering and guilt are being passed on from generation to generation. This is about death, about injustice, about blows of fate and about love and relationships. In the area of family history, different orders and laws are being applied. Any family member that has been forgotten or excluded, for example, will be represented by one of the later born. His or her destiny will be repeated.
The word that Hellinger uses for these unconscious parts that we are being connected by is the word. The soul will ensure that values, behavior and the destinies of the predecessors will continue to work in ourselves, they will reverberate and strive for actualization. This loyalty is one of the highest values. Everyone will take on the role necessary for the family system. Out of this link, a deep inner satisfaction arises.
Thus, death has an enormous influence. Especially death that is being experienced as a shock. This will happen whenever death touches a child or a young person prematurely or when death follows an act of violence.
In her family, Monika has two brothers and sisters who have died early. When Monika had been three years old, her five-year-old brother had died in an accident. Through her exploration, she also finds out that her parents' first child, a girl, had been born dead. This sister has never been mentioned; she actually seems to have been forgotten.
When children die, this will always exert strong influence on parents, brothers and sisters. Sometimes, especially in the case of a first child, the parents do not cope with the loss efficiently, but lock their grievances up in their hearts. The brothers and sisters feel shocked and guilty just as well. They are still living while their brother or sister had to die. Frequently, they are now themselves being pulled towards death, because they want to be where their brothers and sisters are. "I will follow you." This sentence expresses this yearning for death that is not being experienced consciously, however.
For Monika, this suction expresses itself through depression, life sickness and suicidal thoughts. The effect develops although Monika doesn't even know the dead-born sister and has never consciously heard about her. But such a death will leave deep emotional scars with the parents. With their fine sensitivity, children pick up such reverberations and react on them.
This suction towards death can frequently explain severe illnesses. The will to live is being weakened, the body reacts with diseases. Others are being pulled towards death, they are taking the road of leading an excessive life or taking drugs. Another person might love life-endangering sports activities and will thus expose himself to death. Many a fast car-driver racing into his own death might have fallen for this suction of "I will follow you."
This tendency reaches back further into past generations. Children feel it with their parents. In the children, another sentence will then arise: "Rather me than you." The child wants to die for his mother or father. Some kind of magic faith in their own ability to take the hard destiny off their parents animates the children. Monika's daughter wants to take her mother's suffering and death off her; thus, she grows depressive herself.
Robert is repeatedly being plagued by feelings of guilt that he cannot explain. His feelings can also be explained by the bond connecting his family over the generations. Another law that governs families is: Important feelings that a family member has suppressed will be adopted and expressed by a later family member.
In order to illustrate this, here is an example by Hellinger: A couple participates in a group. Everyone notices how inappropriately aggressive the woman keeps acting toward her husband. Hellinger's question to her: "Which woman in your family has had good reasons for being angry at her husband ?" Her answer: "My grandmother would have had every right to be angry. Her husband, my grandfather, kept ill-treating and humiliating her. He has even pulled her through a restaurant by her hair in front of all the guests once." The grandmother had suppressed her anger. It seems as if the suppressed anger keeps spooking about in the family system searching for someone who will live it. The granddaughter takes on the suppressed wrath of the grandmother constantly feeling it. This wrath is being directed against her own innocent husband.
Robert is being asked: "Which man in your family would have had every reason to fell guilty of himself ?" Robert remembers that his father had abandoned his first wife during the war, with her dying as a result. Afterwards, he remarried and seemed to have forgotten his first wife. Robert discovers that he lives the feelings that his father has suppressed.
The order ruling in families ensures that injustice is being atoned. Thus, an important question is: Have there been injustice and feelings of guilt in the family ? Because injustice and guilt have fatal consequences for the following generation. In a farmers' family, for example, whenever the order of bequest is not being respected this is being experienced as a great injustice. Whenever not the oldest son, but his younger brother receives the farm. This farm will frequently bring about bad luck.
A family will become especially screwed up when one of their members has committed a murder. Such a deed cannot be forgotten, it must be amended. The culprit loses the right of belonging to his family and should leave it. Otherwise children and other later born members will be involved with the guilt. Further homicide or suicides in the following generation or the generation after will frequently result afterwards. In Germany, the guilt resulting from the Third Reich frequently affects families.
Another typical entanglement with the destiny of the family shows with Marita. In spite of her undeniable success with the other sex, all of her love affairs sooner or later end in an unhappy way. What is the reason ?
A partnership has a good chance for success when both partners are reliable and mature enough to be able to eventually found a family and assume the roles of father and mother. In other to achieve this, it is necessary that the mother figuratively "stands behind" the woman and that the father stands behind the man. Whenever this connection is being disturbed, the ability to establish a relationship and a bond will be disturbed as well.A systemic cause for this disturbance that can be found frequently can be traced to the parents' history. Mother or father have been seriously engaged once even before their marriage, through a great love, an engagement or another marriage. Such a first partner is also part of the system. Another law in families states that he who has made room for another person belongs to the system. If he is being forgotten, as happens in many families, he will be represented through a child.
Marita's father had been engaged before his marriage. His first bride had then left him because of another man. In the family, nobody talks about her, the subject is too delicate. Marita represents the former bride of his father without her knowing or realizing it. Because of this, she has always been her father's darling - as representative of his first love. With her mother, however, her relationship has always been difficult as her mother unconsciously feels the rivalry. As an effect, Marita is good at playing with men, being able to seduce them successfully. But when it comes to establishing a steady bondage, she will lack the mature female powers necessary as long as she stays trapped in this original field of tension between mother and father.
If you search deep enough for the roots of these connections, a deep and original love of children towards their parents will be brought to the surface. Children love blindly and unconditionally. They are not, as has been largely maintained in psychology so far, only in need and dependent on receiving love. They themselves love with a strong, unconscious love. For their whole lifetime they stay deeply connected to their parents and are even willing to give up their lives for their parents and family. Out of this loyalty, misfortune of their parents is also being taken on by the children. Take this couple living in an unhappy relationship. Their children will hardly find the courage or the strength to be happier in their own relationships. In their hearts, this would seem like treachery. This holds for all children. On the surface, the link from the children to their parents might seem to be disconnected; their relationship might even be a hostile one. But such children are still serving their family, carrying out duties that have been passed on from generation to generation.
Can these misfortunate connections be cut or changed ? In order to achieve this, Bert Hellinger has developed family posting as an instrument of it's own kind.
With the help of the participants in a group, somebody is posting his family. Either the system of origin can be posted, the family where one has been raised with the parents, brothers and sisters and possibly even earlier generations. The present system can also be posted: one's own family with oneself as husband or wife, the partner and one's own children. The former partner also belongs here.
Each one of us is carrying a picture of an order for his family inside of him. With the postings, this picture is being brought to the outside and it is being invoked with life. For every living or dead member including oneself, the person chooses a representative. He then one by one assigns each person a free spot and a direction to face. Doing this, he neither assigns a specific posture nor a specific emotion.
In many postings, a great deal of subtle tension is visible and will be revealed by the representatives. When, for example, a child or a parent is being posted at the edge and doesn't face the others, the representative will experience this as troublesome. The spots each have their own power causing any person standing in this spot to have similar perceptions. Going beyond pure perception, the representatives will feel an amazing multiplicity of emotions and relationships in that specific family.
Whoever takes on the spot of a stranger will share the experienced tension of the role. This tension will dissolve when it is being revealed and it is being referred to. In the actual work, a number of sentences are being used that have a dissolving effect. The effect of a sentence on the people posted will decide whether a sentence feels right and can bring about a real change. Different possibilities for solving the problem can be tested out and checked.
Changing the spots and looking for a good order, an order in which everyone feels OK in his spot, is an important step. An frequent order in a family is when the parents are slightly turned towards each other facing their children. The children stand in some kind of half circle with the oldest being the first in line and the others following according to their age. For this, it is especially helpful when those that have been forgotten or excluded before also receive their spot.
In Monika's posting, meeting the representatives of the dead brother and sister is an important step. The dead-born child now also receives her spot close to her brothers and sisters at Monika's side. This feels for her as if a black hole in her inside is being filled. Monika's representative stands before this child, expressing her respect with a bow speaking the healing words: "Please, look at me in a friendly way."
For Robert who has been living the feelings of guilt that his father has been suppressing, different sentences are important. He stands in front of his father, saying: "It is your feeling of guilt that I have been carrying for such a long time. Please, take it back again."
In Marita's posting, it is especially important that the former bride of his father who has been excluded so far is being posted. Suddenly it becomes obvious whom the father's feelings are really being aimed at, and the daughter is relieved. Thus, she can go back to her role as daughter and, from this position, she can find new ways to get in touch with her mother.
At the end of the posting, the participant who has been posting will step in the spot of his representative. Up to this moment, he has been observing the history of his family from a distance for what could have been a time between fifteen minutes to an hour. Some things have been clarified for him. He now takes in the new picture and the new order with all his senses.
It is a useful prework to explore one's own family beforehand, to ask parents, uncles and aunts researching important events. The most important questions for clarifying influential facts in the past shall be given once again at this time: Has there been an untimely death in the family ? Among the brothers and sisters ? In the line of the father or the mother ? Has there been injustice and guilt ? Have there been blows of fate ? Have the mother or the father had a steady relationship before ?
The net connecting a family is being revealed in a family posting. Whatever happens out of love and is being maintained by it can only be dissolved in love. This atmosphere is the basis necessary to untangle old knots and misfortunate entanglements. A more mature form of love and belonging will be found; a new order in which everyone has a good spot becomes possible. Ancient tension that has been passed on through generations can dissolve and make room for an independent life in the future.
More Information about this Work:
Dr. Bertold Ulsamer
79102 Freiburg - Germany
Tel. 0049-761-70 64 18
Family Constellations According to Bert Hellinger
International Similarities and Differences in Family Structure and Family Problems