Family Constellation -Looking Systemically at the Life Script, Timisoara 2008


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workshop presented at 2008 ARAT Conference in Timisoara, Romania

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Family Constellation -Looking Systemically at the Life Script, Timisoara 2008

  1. 1. Family Constellations Looking Systemically at Life Scripts Alexandra Piotrowska Timisoara TA Conference (2008)
  2. 2. Workshop Structure <ul><li>Intro </li></ul><ul><li>Our Contracts for today , Confidentiality, </li></ul><ul><li>Responsibility for your own wellbeing </li></ul><ul><li>Before Break:, Gain Understanding of Systems, Explore Family Definitions </li></ul><ul><li>Family Structure, Functional Balance </li></ul><ul><li>After Break: Learn Family Constellation Process, make links with TA </li></ul>
  4. 4. Family Systems Principles <ul><li>Families are Systems of interconnected and interdependent individuals. </li></ul><ul><li>To understand the individual, we must understand the family system of that person. </li></ul><ul><li>People cannot be understood in isolation from one another. </li></ul><ul><li>Understanding those who seek us out for help requires that we inquire into their connections and disconnections . </li></ul><ul><li>Transactional patterns of the family shape the behaviour of family members </li></ul>
  5. 5. Definition of a System <ul><li>Systems are: * Predictable * Consistent * Responsive to Environment Bertalanfy </li></ul>A set of objects or entities that interrelate with one another to form a whole. Littlejohn, 1996
  6. 6. • Wholeness focus <ul><li>change in one part of the system influences every other part of the system </li></ul><ul><li>The system is constantly changing, acting and reacting to input of various kinds </li></ul><ul><li>There is interdependence </li></ul>
  7. 7. All Systems Have . . . <ul><li>PURPOSE </li></ul><ul><li>Primary purpose of Family is Survival and Care for transmission of life </li></ul><ul><li>STRUCTURE -WHAT </li></ul><ul><li>Hierarchy and Patterns in Relationships </li></ul><ul><li>Boundaries : “ invisible lines of separation that individuals or groups give themselves in terms of communication and physical space </li></ul><ul><li>Boundaries :• Open • Closed • Enmeshment </li></ul><ul><li>” Subsystems </li></ul><ul><li>Roles : “ set of defined expectations ” </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>RULES about HOW to KEEP BALANCE </li></ul><ul><li>Between giving and taking </li></ul><ul><li>Rules (covert and overt): “ the values of the system as well as the behaviors expected of each person in the group </li></ul><ul><li>These rules are communicated through not only what they SAY, but also what they DO. </li></ul><ul><li>Rules :• Explicit • Implicit </li></ul><ul><li>Homeostasis: “ the tendency of any system to try to maintain itself in a state of equilibrium or balance ” </li></ul><ul><li>Feedback loops : “ interactions that occur among family members ” </li></ul>
  9. 9. Family definitions <ul><li>Sociological </li></ul><ul><li>a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head :   household </li></ul><ul><li>Biological </li></ul><ul><li>a group of persons of common ancestry :   clan </li></ul>
  10. 10. Sociological definition <ul><li>Relationship </li></ul><ul><li>of care </li></ul><ul><li>under one roof </li></ul><ul><li>____ </li></ul><ul><li>Sharing physical </li></ul><ul><li>and emotional space </li></ul><ul><li>Takes into account </li></ul><ul><li>diversity of modern life. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Structural Analysis of Family System <ul><li>Parental subsystem </li></ul><ul><li>Internal boundary </li></ul><ul><li>Division of care </li></ul><ul><li>Siblings Subsystem </li></ul>
  12. 12. Boundaries <ul><li>The &quot; invisible lines of separation&quot; that indicate who is in and who is out of a system. In all families, there are invisible </li></ul><ul><li>barriers that surround and to an extent insulate all individuals and subsystems . </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Boundaries can be set in terms of communication and physical space </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Boundaries also represent the point of contact between the system and other systems. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Boundaries vary in degree of permeability, Ability to enter and exit the system, Degree to which the system is Open/Closed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>he degree to which they control the flow between systems. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>. Boundaries:. </li></ul><ul><li>1. Clear: firm yet flexible - - - - - - </li></ul><ul><li>2. Rigid: disengagement within and between systems _________ </li></ul><ul><li>3. Diffuse: enmeshed relationships - ------------ </li></ul>
  13. 13. Parental subsystem Division of care Siblings Subsystem
  14. 14. Hierarchies – power <ul><li>A role- and generation-sensitive description of the organization of a family, especially in regard to the expression of love, authority, and caretaking </li></ul><ul><li>One Up/ One Down - Superior/ Inferior   </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Captain first mate” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Captain makes decisions and first mate carries them out </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Egalitarian </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Both partners maintain or attempt to maintain an equal relationship </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Difficult to maintain, if focus is on total equality, in every way </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Biological definition <ul><li>My– Ancestry - Bonds of blood biological / genetical/ heritage </li></ul>To study a family process is to study a what has happened , is happening and may happen Spray J . 1999
  16. 16. Biological material - necessary for survival of the species <ul><li>Mother XX Father XY </li></ul>
  17. 17. <ul><li>Who belongs in the family system? </li></ul><ul><li>All members of the client ’ s family in the primary lineage. </li></ul><ul><li>This includes </li></ul><ul><li>children (siblings and half siblings of the client, as well as any children who died young, or were stillborn or aborted. </li></ul><ul><li>parents, their siblings and half siblings aunts and uncles (but not their children) </li></ul><ul><li>grandparents , and perhaps the great grandparents </li></ul><ul><li>There are also people who are not relatives but who have forged a strong connection, binding them to the family, on basis of loss or gain e.g. former love partners of the parents, as their opened up a place for their partners Bert Hellinger </li></ul>
  18. 18. Bonding Process <ul><li>The force that holds together a group to produce, contain and promote life is primarily a bond of personal love. </li></ul><ul><li>It is elemental force that serves the group survival , even before we think about it. These bonds of love consider individuals only in terms of their function for the survival of the group. We are bound to our primary group in deep mostly unconscious way by conception, birth and inability to survive and grow without the group. </li></ul>
  19. 19. The bonding process <ul><li>is focused to limited people, </li></ul><ul><li>is exclusive, </li></ul><ul><li>is based on emotions, </li></ul><ul><li>is meant to last, </li></ul><ul><li>is the basis for being a member of other bonding systems, </li></ul><ul><li>is the basis for group identity and individualisation. </li></ul><ul><li>The most important bonding relationships </li></ul><ul><li>mother-child, father-child </li></ul><ul><li>woman-man </li></ul><ul><li>child-child </li></ul><ul><li>perpetrator-victim </li></ul>
  20. 20. Looking at the bonds of love At the level of the family every person is embedded in a complex system of bonding relations that includes a minimum of four generations. Standing in the line of ancestors
  21. 21. Invisible Loyalties – Family Accountancy Nagy and Spark (1986) <ul><li>give and take of family life, </li></ul><ul><li>“ balance sheet of credits and debits” or what is due to us or what we owe to others. </li></ul><ul><li>We carry around in our heads some form of this balance sheet that shapes our sense of justice or fairness. </li></ul><ul><li>The child loyalty is an attempt to pay back some of the Invisible loyalties indebtedness . However because some of these debts are hidden they may lead to dysfunction. </li></ul><ul><li>The debt cannot be repaid because the child buys into a expectation which is endless and the payment takes over the priority over any other human concern Motivating force for self destructive behaviour 1986 .p161 </li></ul>
  22. 22. Life Script <ul><li>‘ life script is the ongoing process of a self-defining and sometimes self-limiting psychological construction of reality. Script formation is the process by which the individual attempts to make sense of family and social environments, to establish meaning in life, and to predict and manage life's problems in the hope of realizing one's dreams and desires’ (Cornell, 1998, p.281 ). </li></ul>
  23. 23. Life Script Matrix Berne / Clarkson “ Script “pre-conscious life plan that governs the way life is lived out. Berne 1965 postulated that people make decisions in childhood that shape the rest of their life . The individual is subjected to injunctions both of external expectations and internalized obligations. . . . The parent—mother or father—in us”. Unconscious communication Counterinjunctions P -P Programme A- A Injunctions C-C
  24. 24. Life Script as a way of Bonding <ul><li>Life Script as a gesture of love towards the Parent </li></ul><ul><li>( or someone else in the system) </li></ul><ul><li>It is sign of deep loyalty to the fate and suffering of those who came before us </li></ul><ul><li>Children are able to withstand an enormous amount of suffering when it is their own, What is extremely difficult for children however is to deal with the pain of someone they love. Jacob Schneider </li></ul><ul><li>Dear Mum, dear Dad I am little and powerless , but when I grow up I can do something to alleviate your suffering . </li></ul><ul><li>For a child this decision is a great relief – </li></ul><ul><li>In this way the child starts to create their life script and follows his/ hers chosen injunction </li></ul><ul><li>Life Script for an adult person however becomes a pattern for constraining illusion. </li></ul>
  25. 25. <ul><li>Berne wrote, “The most intricate part of script analysis in clinical practice is tracing back the influences of the grandparents” ( (1974 p. 318). </li></ul><ul><li>Script’s ancestral influences: </li></ul><ul><li>What kind of life did your grandparents live? </li></ul><ul><li>He said that patients usually have three types of answers: </li></ul><ul><li>ancestral pride, </li></ul><ul><li>idealization, </li></ul><ul><li>rivalry </li></ul>
  26. 26. Sources for Systemic Problems unresolved grief <ul><li>Loss of a parent or sibling due to divorce, separation, adoption, death, surrogating, secrecy, </li></ul><ul><li>Inability to bond with parent due to: complications at birth, prolonged separation in early childhood or their emotional unavailability </li></ul><ul><li>Loss of child due to: abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth, death, secrecy, artificial insemination, surrogating </li></ul><ul><li>Tragic or sudden death, accident or serious illness of family members </li></ul><ul><li>Disrespect or exclusion of family members due to: divorce, separation, handicap, ill deed, sexual or religious preference, ethnicity </li></ul><ul><li>Participation in war, injustice or crime  ~  Separation from country of origin or land </li></ul>
  27. 27. Bert Hellinger German psychotherapist (b. 1925) Was enlisted as a young German soldier to Wold war II, was wounded After war become a missionary in Africa Lived 25 years with Zulus Studied psychotherapy in California Primal Integration, Gestalt, TA Became CTA in seventies In eighties developed Family Constellation in Germany
  28. 28. Basic Rules of Systems Orders Love <ul><li>Belonging’ Everybody who is part of a family has an equal right to be part of that family. , regardless of who they are, when they arrived, or what they did, has an equal claim to his place. </li></ul><ul><li>Precedence – chronological order </li></ul><ul><li>Within a family system, family members are ranked according to the time of their arrival. Those who came earlier have a ‘higher’ rank than those who came later. </li></ul><ul><li>Balance of giving and taking’ Any injustice done to a family member in a previous generation, or committed by a family member, must be balanced by acts of a later member of the same family. On a personal level, we are aware of the wish to balance something that happened to us, to return a favour or wound we have received. . Whatever negative acts have entered the family system in the past and have not been atoned, will ultimately manifest in later generations. ….The collective conscience passes the buck of retribution from generation to generation until it is ultimately addressed, claimed and cancelled out. </li></ul>
  29. 29. Entanglements <ul><li>What secures membership most of all? --If I act in a way that the family prospers through my deeds </li></ul><ul><li>I want to act that others of my family feel good. </li></ul><ul><li>I would act out of love, not even considering my own unscathedness or my own health. I would give my life for the life of someone else. </li></ul><ul><li>But because my love is blind, the tragedy begins. </li></ul><ul><li>  The aim of this work is to make the family bond visible by a constellation of representatives </li></ul>
  30. 30. Family Tree <ul><li>Adoptive Family </li></ul><ul><li>Roots are unseen but important </li></ul>
  31. 31. Family Constellations Process <ul><li>Dynamic pictures of a group of people (family, organisation) represented by non-group members </li></ul><ul><li>Representing inner realities of a person with the help of other people </li></ul><ul><li>Based on „ knowing field“ and „morphogenetic resonce“ </li></ul><ul><li>– Rupert Scheldrake </li></ul>
  32. 32. What kind of systems can be set up ? <ul><li>Constellations can be set up with any kind of interconnected issues, for example: Family of origin: Father, mother, grandparents, sisters and brothers </li></ul><ul><li>Present Family: Man, woman, children, stepchildren... </li></ul><ul><li>Relationships: Man, woman, former partner, interfering relationships... </li></ul><ul><li>Work and business issues, Crisis and Conflicts, Separation, loss, illnesses, addictions..... </li></ul>
  33. 33. Family constellation questions <ul><li>1)To whom in the family the person is bound , </li></ul><ul><li>what entangles the fate of one family member to another and what might resolve this entanglement . </li></ul><ul><li>Where n the family constellation particular set of feelings and behaviour was appropriate and made sense </li></ul><ul><li>2) What is needed to support a free flow of love – </li></ul><ul><li>what kind of Redecision or a movement needs to happen. </li></ul>
  34. 34. Multigenerational Transmission Process <ul><li>Family Projection Process Murray Bowen </li></ul><ul><li>“ the process by which parents project part of their immaturity to one or more children” Particularly seen as a transmission if unprocessed trauma ,gives collective identity ( Bowen,1978,). </li></ul><ul><li>The child who is the most emotionally attached to parents is likely to be the object of parental projection and, as a result, have lower levels of differentiation </li></ul>
  35. 35. Script may be transmitted to subsequent generations . <ul><li>This occurs through some specific mechanisms based on a process of unconscious communication. </li></ul><ul><li>“ an apparently irrelevant episode that parallels another significant situation that the patient wants to express without realizing it” Novellino (1990) (p. 171). </li></ul><ul><li>English (1969) described the “hot‐potato” game ; the process of passing an episcript back and forth. </li></ul><ul><li>An episcript is the transmission of a hamartic script (individual, familiar, social, or cultural) from one person to another, a process in which the defence mechanism of </li></ul><ul><li>projective identification may be involved </li></ul>
  36. 36. T ransmission of Life Script Across Generations Gloria Noriega 2004 <ul><li>Unconscious communication (family secrets) </li></ul><ul><li>Ulterior transactions </li></ul><ul><li>Projective Identification Process . </li></ul><ul><li>Transference Psychodynamics. </li></ul><ul><li>Psychological Games </li></ul><ul><li>“ all psychological relational events are motivated by the double structure upon which they are built: the manifest behavioural structure and the hidden obligation structure” . </li></ul><ul><li>Ancelin Schützenberger 1988 (p. 27) </li></ul>
  37. 37. Transmission of favourite feelings
  38. 38. The Systemic Implication for Psychotherapy <ul><li>Place the presenting problems in multigenerational context </li></ul><ul><li>Complete a Genogram. </li></ul><ul><li>Look at Boundaries </li></ul><ul><li>Address inequality in relationships. </li></ul><ul><li>Define where there is entanglement </li></ul>
  39. 39. Final Thoughts and Conclusions - Small group: <ul><li>In your small group, identify at least one thing from family constellation theories that surprised you or confirmed something you already knew about how families operate. </li></ul><ul><li>Identify one concept that you believe you can apply to your own family life. </li></ul><ul><li>… or your practice? </li></ul>
  40. 40. Bibliography <ul><li>Bowen Murray ( 1978) Family therapy in clinical practice, : Jason Aronson Inc </li></ul><ul><li>Boszormenyi – Nagy Ivan and Spark (1973) “ Invisible loyalties” Contextual therapy intergenerational, relational ethics : Harper & Row, New York ISBN: 0061405213 </li></ul><ul><li>Hellinger, Bert And Gunthard Weber, Hunter Beaumont (1998)” Love's Hidden Symmetry: What Makes Love Work in Relationships : Zeig, Tucker & Theisen </li></ul><ul><li>Satir Virginia ,(1983),Conjoint Family Therapy, : Science Behavior@books Inc </li></ul><ul><li>Schutzenberger Anne (1998) “The Ancestor Syndrome: Transgenerational Psychotherapy and the Hidden Links in the Family Tree “London & New York, Routledge </li></ul>
  41. 41. <ul><li>Ruppert Franz, ( 2008)Trauma, Bonding & Family Constellations: Understanding and Healing Injuries of the Soul Green Balloon Books ISBN 978-0-9559683-0-3 </li></ul><ul><li>Schneider Jakob R.( 2007 ,) “Family Constellations &quot;Basic Principles and Procedures , ISBN 978-3-89670-594-5 </li></ul><ul><li>TA </li></ul><ul><li>Noriega Gloria (2004) “Codependence: A Transgenerational Script TAJ 2004, Number 4 </li></ul><ul><li>McQuillin Jane and Welford Enid (2006)” Healing History Transactions issue No 5 </li></ul>
  42. 42. Family Tree <ul><li>Roots are unseen </li></ul><ul><li>but important </li></ul><ul><li>and crucial part </li></ul>