Family Constellations workshops should carry a health warning

In the belief that cancer may have at its root cause mental and emotional reasons, I explored a lot of psycho-spiritual forms of healing.


Family Constellations holds that illness has its root cause in ancestral traumas – we are all interconnected

One of these was Family Constellations therapy.  This post is a health warning for anyone new to Family Constellations therapy – it can be a psychologically-damaging form of therapy in the hands of the wrong practitioner.

The founder of Family Constellations is Bert Heilinger who was a priest and psychologist.  He believed that when unresolved trauma has afflicted a family in previous generations, this can give rise to present or past problems.  These include issues such as murder, abortion, suicide, death of a mother in childbirth, early death of a parent or sibling, war, natural disaster, emigration, or abuse.

During a Family Constellations workshop, each member explores a personal issue.  The facilitator selects a member of the group to represent the issue.  Other members of the group may be chosen to represent family members or abstractions such as Life and Death.  The member whose issue is being worked on, orients these representatives in relation to each other, according to what feels right to him.  He then sits down and watches what unfolds between each representative.

What unfolds is a most bizarre and magical experience – often the representatives will re-orient themselves physically, or interact with each other in a way that reveals hidden aspects of the issue, or the dynamics between the members.  Sometimes they will move or say or feel things that can only have been felt by someone who was part of the family whose issue is being worked on.

Healing is achieved when each member’s needs and places in the family hierarchy are acknowledged, either through re-positioning, or verbal phrases.

My father had died of colon cancer, and I wondered how much of the energetic of cancer could be inherited through trauma incurred in previous generations.

The first few constellations dealt with my father – I was always close to him, and the family constellations seemed to imply that I wanted to be with him.  In yet another, I had a kind of ceremony with a representative of the Life Force – I found that very healing.  I also had sessions in which I dealt with mother-daughter issues, and grandmother relationship  as well as family wartime atrocities.  So as you can see, I went deeply into Family Constellations, and so this review is not based on a one-off, but accumulated experiences.

I would say that Family Constellations can be very profound and transforming.  But it is also very tiring – I found that I took to it very easily and had a talent for it.  But the week after I was physically and mentally bone tired – I didn’t have sufficient boundaries to filter out the energies of the other people I was working with.  For example, I had to represent a mother who died in a concentration camp.  For me, while it wasn’t a full death experience, I did feel the deep love for the son I had left behind, and the feeling of not being able to breathe properly – it turned out the mother had died of a respiratory illness.

And Family Constellations did not cure me of the emotional or spiritual or karmic causes of cancer.

So if you are seeking a cure, don’t expect Family Constellation work to be a magic wand.  It will throw up more issues than you started out with especially if you are dealing with life-and-death issues.

And finally, Family Constellations can be a dangerous tool.

I attended a workshop run by Judith Hemming.  It was the most damaging Family Constellation workshop I’ve ever participated in.

In it, I was shown that no matter what method I used, whether allopathic or complementary, the impetus was towards death.  Worse, the constellations was ended at that point by the facilitator who then proceeded to discuss my issue in front of the whole group:  “Look at George Best … he was given a new liver, yet he chose to drink himself to death. Look at your father … he was given six months to live and died.  You cannot interfere with the path of the soul.”

You can imagine how devastated and suicidal I was by that one workshop.   I had participants coming up to me and virtually willing me towards death by their condolences.  I had others who said that I shouldn’t take any notice of what the facilitator had said.  I was left feeling I had no hope of living, that no matter what I did, I was doomed to die of cancer.  I was left to go home in a state of extreme distress and doubt and failure.  I wonder why I didn’t throw myself under a train that evening.  It took me over six months of counselling to get over that one workshop, run by an irresponsible and insensitive facilitator – I wonder how she would have felt, had she had cancer and been given the same prognosis.

There are too many therapists out there with God complexes and when you are vulnerable, it is easy to place yourself in their hands, in the hope of a cure.  Only God knows whether you will live or die.  No human should have the permission to do so.

As cancer patients, we are already battered and bruised by the diagnosis and treatments.  We should therefore learn to take care of ourselves, and beware of the BS that’s out there, people who think they have the answers, who think they know better than us and who try to make us doubt our inner selves.  Their job should be to strengthen, not to weaken!  If in any doubt:  ask yourself the question – is this treatment/practitioner strengthening me or weakening me?

For this reason, if you are fragile, vulnerable and open to suggestion, do not go to Family Constellation workshops – they should carry a health warning that they can be hazardous to life.