Family Constellations -
What's Hellinger´s Therapy ?
The Orders of Love
"WHEN WE UNDERSTAND the systemic laws that allow love to unfold, we may be able to help suffering families and individuals to find solutions. It's
profoundly moving to observe clients approach the Order of Love and spontaneously melt into soft and intimate love, even after a lifetime of hate, anger and abuse"
Quote from 'Love's Hidden Symmetry'
What is the Order of Love?
It was in his systemic therapy work that Bert discovered that the family system, just like any other system, has its own natural order and when that order is disrupted, the effects are felt by subsequent generations as the
system tries to right itself. There appear to be certain natural laws operating to maintain that order and permit the free flow of love between family members.
According to Bert Hellinger's systemic therapy, the solution to life in
family occurs when each of it members takes his/her appropriate and actual
place, takes upon his/her roles in life, taking care of himself/herself
and avoiding intervening in other's destiny.
Most personal difficulties, as well as problems in relationship are results
of confusions in families' systems.
That confusion happens when, without being aware of that and without
wanting, we incorporate in our life the destiny of another person from our
own family, despite the fact that such person lived in a distant past. That
makes us repeat the family members' destiny who were excluded, forgotten or
not recognised at their belonging place. We try to live that destiny for
them or create misfortune to diminish our guilt.
The main laws operating seem to be:
- everyone has an equal right to belong to their family system
- there is a hierarchy in terms of birth order - those born first come first
parents give and children receive
- the male takes up first position in the family, but he works in the service
of the female
These laws can be broken unwittingly in many different ways:
- when babies are aborted or stillborn and not mourned or talked about
- when children or young adults die and are not mourned
- when children are given away for adoption and no longer talked about
- when adoptive parents do not acknowledge the natural parents of their children
- when previous partners or important relationships are not acknowledged and
honoured between couples
- when extra-marital relationships are kept secret
- when the experiences of war are not remembered and the dead honoured
- when there are family secrets
- many many others ...
When any of the above occur the effects are felt by subsequent generations, sometimes 2 or 3 generations later. These effects are manifested by such things as: suicide, depression, childlessness, mental or physical illness,
and addictions often without any conscious awareness of what has occurred in previous generations.
The disruption to the natural order of the system causes entanglements and
children begin to become like the parents, involving themselves in their parents' business, trying to make them feel better by suffering themselves.
As they grow up, they often feel anger and some try rejecting their families in an attempt to build a new, separate life. Sometimes they move to the other side of the world to disentangle themselves but it doesn't
work. When they remain tied to their families in this way, they are not free to go forward in their lives and when they form relationships with partners, they can never be fully available because they are still caught
up with their parents.
What happens in a workshop?
The participant choosing to work on their family is asked what their
heart's desire is. They are then asked for the facts about their family -
either their family of origin or their current family, whichever seems more
appropriate at the time. The facts are such things as unusual deaths,
previous or extra-marital relationships, abortions, stillbirths etc.
Stories about Uncle Tom who was said to be very selfish or cruel are not
wanted as it often turns out that the feelings experienced by the
participants completely contradict these stories. So only actual events are
Group members are then chosen to represent family members and are
positioned intuitively by the participant. As if stepping into the energy
field of that particular family, these representatives then begin to feel
in their bodies the actual feelings of those family members they are
representing. By looking at how people are positioned and asking them how
they feel, the therapist can begin to get some idea of where the system may
be out of order. He or she then experiments with moving people around and
bringing in possible missing people until the heart opens. This then
uncovers the hidden dynamics which have led to the disruption of the order. When the heart opens in this way, the whole group feels it as a very deep
and moving experience. It is as if the soul finally comes home. Healing
sentences are spoken to honour the missing members and allow love to flow
freely once more. It is not always possible to get to a resolution.
Sometimes there are secrets we do not appear to have permission to know.
But the effects seem to be felt in the family anyway; sometimes even more
powerfully than if a resolution were found.
Does it work?
Sometimes the effects are very dramatic - children given away for adoption
get in touch, infertile couples become pregnant, banished members of the
family suddenly ring up. More often, there is a gradual change in
relationships, a more peaceful feeling inside, greater acceptance of
parents and other family members. And occasionally, there is no change at
all. For some people, healing requires a level of inner change they are not
able to make. Yet, when these changes are felt, it's as if we are once more
in tune with the movement of our souls and can begin to feel at peace with
ourselves. This is not happiness. This is experienced as deep joy.
"Joy develops out of the soul as soon as we are in tune with the movements
of the soul. Whatever the path is we are led by the soul. If we are in tune
we feel connected to something great and this is joy. Joy has a quality of
fullness and completeness which comes from this connection. This joy is
quiet, has weight, shines. In the presence of people who experience this
joy we become quiet. This joy has no purpose, no wishes, no intent. It is a
very deep contentment"
Quote from Bert Hellinger at a London workshop April 2000.
The Order of Love—Family Systems Psychotherapy
by Barbara Morgan
When I attended my first workshop on the Order of Love run by the Founder,
Bert Hellinger I wondered how it would be sitting in an audience of about
200 people for 3 days watching other people set up their family
I was completely gripped from the first moment and was deeply moved by what
I witnessed and experienced during those 3 days. I watched him move with
the greatest of ease to put the system back in order. I listened in awe as
he spoke a level of truth which in some cases caused uproar in the audience
without flinching. I saw him line up 18 people to represent the members of
the family of a Polish woman who had all perished in the holocaust and ask
her to walk in front of them and bow to each one. The atmosphere in the
hall was electric with a deeply respectful silence. As I stood as
representative in other people's family constellations, I was astounded
that I could feel feelings which I knew not to be my own. German born Bert
is now in his mid 70s and still travelling the world running these
workshops. He was a Roman Catholic priest for 20 years and worked as a
missionary with the Zulus in South Africa. He later went into
psychoanalysis, primal therapy and finally systems therapy.
Described as the ultimate empiricist, Bert Hellinger acknowledges several
important influences on his life and work: his parents, whose faith
immunized him against accepting Hitler's National Socialism; his 20 years
as a priest, particularly as a missionary to the Zulu; and his
participation in interracial, ecumenical training in group dynamics led by
Anglican clergy. After leaving the priesthood, he studied psychoanalysis,
and eventually developed an interest in Gestalt Therapy and Transactional
Analysis. It was Hellinger's later training in family therapy that he first
encountered the therapeutic work - an approach to which he has added new
levels of meaning and possibility. Hellinger, who lives in Germany, is an
immensely popular figure in Europe. His best-selling books and videos, as
well as his workshops, have generated a spirited dialog among members of
the international therapy community and have propelled him to the forefront
of contemporary family therapy.
ORDERS OF LOVE
Order of Love is a form of group psychotherapy and it leans on the fact
that many of our life problems (health, marriage, problems of materialistic
nature, business, problems with children, diseases from dependence) have
connections with a family in which we live, with a family in which we grew
up as well as family from which our parents derived. We receive from our
ancestors not only the color of our hair or tendency toward epilepsy, but
also a variety of psychological stresses, traumas and pains among which
many are on the level of secrecy. Since long ago people have experienced
one feeling, which they transformed into saying "when grandpas eat sour
grapes the grandson's teeth turn numb"(Serbian saying).
Order of Love is one specific form of family's systematic therapy whose
author is a German therapist Bert Hellinger. It is an eclectic
psychotherapy, which means that it combines the elements of many other
psychotherapies and that is why it is difficult to define it and group into
Therapy begins and lasts in such a way that the problem, which takes place,
is treated over the research of family constellation, in other words the
family field to which the individual (on whose problem we work) belongs.
The secret levels of family's relationships are being inquired until we
come out with something that creates the problem.
This is a group therapy. The patient, whose work is being in process, picks
up several people from the group where each picked member represents
someone from his family system and also the same patient picks up someone
who will represent himself. After creating the initial order of the members
of his family, patient sits aside and observes the following happenings.
Each representative who is involved in the work is asked to tell the group
what they experience on the level of physical sense.
Something that starts to reveal in front of the patient's eyes and the
group is the network of feelings, emotions, various states, secrets and
barriers, blockades, coalitions and counter-coalitions, in fact -
everything that creates the hidden dynamic of that family.
Families also have numerous levels on which they exist and on which they
function in the same way as each of us individually. There is a difference
between the visible (so called manifesting) level of family's relationship
and the level of hidden feelings, games and positions (so called latent
level). The pathological balance frequently exists on exactly this hidden
level, which, after long-term stagnation of energy, creates sickness or
pathological process to that family or to their members.
Today we are aware of the fact that any serious emotional trauma that
happened in the past to you (or your parents) can have a significant affect
on the continual state of your health.
People can strongly suffer from emotional trauma inherited from parents who
lived with hidden and unsolved rejection, with concentration camp or
refugee drama or ancient separation during birth. All this pervades the
descendents and brings them in an emotional state, which they don't
remember experiencing at all. We can frequently see how, in families,
children reflect their parents, as if they are looking in the mirror. The
characteristics that they have taken from their parents or some distant
ancestor include the tendency toward depression, fear, self-criticism, lack
of conscience, self-rejection, etc.
It is therefore very clear that the emotional trauma is the main reason for
bad health. This psychotherapeutic understanding has found its
materialization in the therapy known as "Order of Love".
By this therapy we search for locations, where the mutual relationships and
energetic flows had become so much mixed up that nowadays they link to
itself a large amount of life energy and survive as "unfinished business".
We work further on finding the part that is missing so that this unfinished
business can be emotionally solved. When we reach this point we have come
to an end.
During work process, therapist carefully observes the family process that
is covered (latent) and which, as a river sinking into subterranean
passage, flows underneath the outside visible and manifesting level of
family's relationship. The basic questions that therapist asks himself are:
"What's missing to this family's constellation so that love, that is in the
basis of every family, can start flowing again? What actually happened to
this family long ago and blocked the natural flow of love?
We search for unfinished businesses within our family that blocks and takes
away the energy. These can be various family secrets about family's
conflicts, murders, war sufferings, rapes, religious intolerances,
adultery, frauds, plunders, betrays, etc.
By finishing the unfinished business a lot of life energy is being released
for the family and for the patient. Because of this the work on secrets and
lies within the family is very important, because the secrets, hidden
thoughts and feelings are those that produce the unfinished business and
knots. Very often almost whole family energy is spent to keep some secret
on the safe place, so the members of the family hardly have strength for
anything else in life. The main idea of the therapy is to recover those
unfinished businesses which are of systematic sort and which block the
natural flow of love and energy that, in undisturbed occasions, go from
ancestors toward descendants. Order of Love is the therapy that is
primarily concerned about that part of our being which we call the soul.
That is a part of us, which connects our body (material aspect of our
existence) and our spirit (our connection with spiritual). Soul is a part
of us that is connected to emotions and in this way it knows all truths
from the beginning to the end. It is not like mind which analyses,
interprets, judges, synthesizes and babbles, babbles, babbles, etc It's
medium is not a word but a picture. That is why in this therapy there is
little of talk involved. That is why there is no interpretation. And that
is why our objective, through the work on the problem, is to create the
differentiation and step forward in the picture between the beginning and
finishing constellation. It is being considered that the new, optimal
picture is something that the Soul will receive as the further truth and
information and by this it will create its reactions and reality.
A lot of things that determine our lives, happiness and health belong to
those latent levels and it processes beyond the level of our consciousness.
Not only does there exist a large subconscious part of us connected to our
individual lives from the beginning until present moment, but also there
exist a large part in that subconscious that is filled with various
important elements from the whole evolution, from prehistoric human until
today. As in some unimaginably big computer, tidily in our subconscious we
have sorted files that possess all the emotionally important information
from the prehistoric days until today. This is known as collective
Beside individual and collective subconscious, in subconscious part of us
there exist one more "sector" in which are placed files that possess
something that is called familiar subconscious. This is something that we
inherit from our ancestors through our genetics. These are furthermore
those "programs" in our lives that are often, automatically and
unconsciously happening and determining our destiny. Therefore we, beside
the color of our eyes or tendency toward epilepsy, inherit various kinds of
feelings, tragedies, traumas, tempers, stresses, also the pain of midwife
whose children are dying while giving them birth, the misfortune of their
mother to whom they forbid to marry the love of her life, we also inherit
the terror and fear of living in poverty (nevertheless of our temporary
The first man who spoke about inherited and trans-generational affection is
Leopold Zondi, the Swiss psychiatrist of Hungarian background. He had,
within his theory about nature and action of familiarly unconscious on the
life of men, much examined the hereditary influence making analyses of
genealogy branches and finally managed to prove that between individually
subconscious and collectively subconscious there exists one field of
familiarly subconscious whose contents are received by birth through
something that doctors call latent, recessive genes.
After Zondi's discovery, the family psychiatrists created a concept of
multi-generational process of transmission by which is, in fact, described
the flow of emotional process through the generation of one family.
The founder of transactional analyses, Eric Bern also spoke about
familiarly subconscious calling it Episcriptom. This is that type of the
life's scenario that is being cast over, like "hot potato", from one
generation to another. That is why we often notice within family, for
example, five generations of lawyers or seven generations of doctors or
four generations of alcoholics, suicides, shisofrenics, divorces, etc.
Therapy work on the Family order is, in fact, the work on revealing and
solving exactly those experiences and massages that come into life from
familiarly subconscious and exist today in our lives.
In that sense this therapy is concerned about processes that are neither
new nor unknown to psychologists and psychiatrists. The one thing that is
new is the creative and elastic way by which the up-to-now knowledge are
connected and has become concretely applicable.
This psychotherapeutic method works on very serious and deep levels and as
such asks for directivity from therapist and from members of the group and
all the participants in work - seriousness and discipline. It is very
necessary to approach to everything that is going on and is being revealed
during the session with maximum respect.
This technique asks from us to widen the extent of the usual experiencing,
thinking and the perspective from which we look at the world. This widening
of our borders can shake us a bit if we are not psychologically and
physically consolidated, so I can work this therapy only with emotionally
and physically healthy people. For those who don't fulfill this condition
but would like to get help in this way, can be arranged to work together
with a close member of their family who would work for them through the
Order of Love.
As I have emphasized, this is very serious and deep working technique so it
is not appropriate to involve people below eighteen years of age and
therefore it is forbidden for them. If the children are the ones whose
problems are involved, then the adequate people who should work for them in
the therapy are their parents or very close relatives.
Work on the Family order leads us to a fact that the closest ones in family
have the advantage. That means that elder have advantage upon younger, for
instance parents upon children, elder children upon younger and similar. At
the same time there are no differentiations in term of importance between
family members, but instead the importance in family order is related to
various rights and obligations that are related to the position of each
member of the family.
In this way the advantage has the member that is responsible for the safety
of the family. That particular member is most often man, after him comes
woman and then children ordered by age. Generally speaking, this would be
the optimal order in one family. In reality this order, because of various
reasons, isn't such and then it leads to confusion, entanglement and the
need for pathological balance. The aim of our therapeutic research is to
reveal what creates such disorder.
At the end we reach the family constellation (so called final order), which
continues to work over the ending picture. Sometimes it takes several years
for healing process to begin under the influence of this final resolving
order. But, in most cases, this process begins much earlier.
Therapist doesn't create the solution but, instead, searches for it. During
his search he pays special attention on finding those solutions that are
excluded, forgotten, disgraced, isolated or hidden. According to everything
mentioned it is clear how important must secrets and denials, delusions and
concealment be in this process of work and research. What consequences must
they leave on the family field and why is the work on them so important if
we wish to work on healing the family branch and on healing our souls and