Creating communityFamily constellations and other methods
Session summaries shared with permission (all names have been changed) illustrating ancestral origins of problems and how a family constellation can bring resolution.
Presenting theme: creating community
The theme of creating community is present again for Lisa and we spend some time getting clearer what that means for her. She is not nourished by environments that have supported her in the past and is looking for something new, she comes up with a memory that expresses what she desires. It was a moment when a culturally diverse community of outsiders exploded in lively co-creation in a cafe in Greece. It began when a plate was deliberately smashed and this erupted into a free form whirl of dance and creative expression: she recalled “for once I felt completely free to express myself” – we begin the constellation here.
The family constellation: the “white slaves of England”
We are constellating on Skype using Lisa’s inner vision with my guidance. Additionally I have used my intuition to lay out a group of constellation figures for reference. The dolls form a group of children lying down with women looking on as if a tragedy has taken place – “an explosion perhaps” I think. I hold this lightly in the background, waiting to see if it has any relevance to what Lisa brings forward.
I am aware there is a history of suicide attempts and mental illness in her mothers line. With north west of England working class origins, many of Lisa’s ancestors toiled in cotton mills. We drop into her inner vision: she finds herself hovering outside a large building and feels a great deal of fear about entering, I ask if she is willing to go in. She travels through many rooms – there are horses in the basement, men tending furnaces, large sleeping areas with crisp white cotton beds and “no way to escape from the atmosphere of work”. She is a cotton mill such as her ancestors worked in, reading about them later I discover:
Arkwright built cottages for his workers, but they were built so close to the factories that … if a worker had any time off, he or she would not be in a position to get away from the environment in which they worked
She comes to rest in a room full of machines and women begin to file in. They begin working around her but she finds herself rigid and still, a fire of rage burning within. This builds till she imagines gathering some materials and setting them on fire. Other women stop work and add more material, then they file out gathering horses and men along the way. Outside and cheering, they watch as the mill burns to a pile of ashes and charred old beams*. This moment reminds me of where we began in the session: through deliberately smashing a plate, an apparently destructive act unfreezes and liberates a community spirit.
* This style of visualisation is more akin to shamanic journeying or energy work, than it is to family constellations practice.
It’s interesting to note that the mills were known fire traps, the perfect storm of tinder and spark. Lanark in Scotland for instance: of four mills built there three burnt to the ground. Additionally “a second mill using Cartwright’s machinery, opened in Manchester in 1790 but was burned to the ground by hand loom weavers within two years” Wikipedia – Cotton Mill
I return the constellation to her immediate family. The vision feels liberating and “the fire of rage” is a familliar route for her to generate energy for change. However she is presenting with the issue of burning out and needing to forge new ways to be. I am also aware we need to address issues in her family that are closer to the present: she carries a large burden of responsibility as a carer for her family and oscillates between holding and putting this down.
We try out systemic sentences testing what is true now – “I carry this burden for you” or “I am ready to put this burden down”? She moves into a discussion about her need to continue on whilst people are suffering and the statement “the burden of seeing and raging at the injustice, is mine to carry” feels like the true one for her for now. I wonder about the children I have laid down in the constellation of figures set up at the beginning. There is a well known history of child labour in the mills, they carried huge burdens way beyond their age. The workforce was known as the “white slaves of England” and there is a well documented history of struggle and rebellion. ‘A burden too big for a child to carry’ and ‘a history of struggle and rebellion’ all equally apply to Lisa’s life past and present.
More constellating can wait till another session: for now we need to find something that will support her in what is currently a very challenging time. She has previously found movement very helpful so I call up the following practice.
An embodiment intervention: moving beyond the duality
I accept her inner wisdom about keeping the burden. I look if there is another way to frame it that might support her at this time. Recalling a “beyond the duality dance” practice from neotantra practice, I invite her into a dance beginning with her two hands. One hand dances as an expression of ‘joyous creative self expression’. The other hand dances as ‘entrapment raged against’. We dance each hand in turn, moving freely back and forth between the two, allowing the dance to ripple the energy and feeling of each state through her whole body.
I invite her deeper and deeper into her body, feeling the different qualities of joy and entrapment. I invite her to notice that she can move freely back and forth between them, something which brings a palpable feeling of relief. In the end we bring this movement of hands to a still place in the universal gesture of prayer. When we bring our hands into a traditional prayer position, thumbs rest at the heart centre. The heart is a good place to rest in witnessing presence, offering the resource of a still point from which we can move out in all directions. Lisa is very drawn to shamanic and spiritual narratives, so for now the movement brings the session to a peaceful end point, so needed to support Lisa at this time.
God turns you from one feeling to another and teaches by means of opposites so that you will have two wings to fly with, not one