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Healing from betrayal

A family constellation session

Medicine stories

Session summaries shared with permission (all names have been changed) illustrating ancestral origins of problems and how a family constellation can bring resolution.

Presenting themes – betrayal and revenge

Previous sessions with Lisa have focused on her desire to create community, taking us first into her maternal line who laboured in cotton mills, a workforce known also as the white slaves of England. This session opens with a new theme: a desire for “healing from betrayal”.

Funds intended for Lisa were commandeered by someone senior to her during a phase when Lisa was unable to work. Now in a stronger place, Lisa is questioning the legality of this action and seeking redress. She says betrayal and revenge are themes that surfaces often in her life.

We explore this topic and the immanent arrival of her Father from Jamaica and one phrase leaps out at me. She recollects with great warmth “I love the spirit of the Jamaican people”- I see this recollection land like a balm in an otherwise tumultuous opening narrative.

The family constellation: healing from betrayal

We are using ‘inner vision’ on Skype, a process where people turn their attention inwardly to images that arise. The immanent arrival of her Father in the UK combined with a newly presenting – healing from betrayal – points to exploring her paternal line for the first time. She begins opening out their stories.

We spend some time meandering through an ancestral world populated by murder, betrayal, revenge and chaos feels never far from the surface. We go back to her Grandparents, the first generation born emancipated from the terrible ravages of slavery. Full freedom for her ancestors was not gained until 1838, even then frequent crises interspersed slowly unfolding improvement until the establishment of The Jamaica Constitution in 1962.

At first, the stories that open out find no place to land. Every systemic sentence I try (the usual way we would begin to weave order) seems to find no purchase. For some time I simply hang out and breathe with Lisa, bearing witness to a heritage so traumatised by the history of slavery. We need to find a resource though – “somewhere for all this to land and take root” I keep thinking. The phrase which shone through at the beginning of the session – the spirit of the Jamaican people – finally returns to me.

In family constellation work, one common healing movement is to reconnect people with a land their ancestors left behind. So I ask her to picture a place that she knows and loves from the natural landscape of Jamaica. Once she has done this I ask her to feel, greet and allow herself to fill with “the spirit of Jamaica”. She begins to populate this place one by one with her ancestors, whom she sees standing behind her.

Eventually I invite her to stand up, turn around, and take a deep bow to all she has seen and felt. She does this very slowly and is visibly moved by the ritual. In family constellations, the bow is a way we can contact a deep sense of reverence for the spark of life that flows to us from our ancestors. Whatever has happened along the way – however traumatic – just by virtue of being alive the gift of life has still been passed on.

Eventually Lisa turns back to face me and her visage is much lightened. She dances and moves around enjoying the spirit of Jamaica flowing through her, she appears both soft and fierce at the same time. I recall her first intention to cultivate soft feminine power in place of the fierce warrior fire she is more familiar with. As I watch her dance I feel that what she has achieved actually is to unite the two – softness and fierce strength – together.

We may not have disentangled individual ancestors stories, but as in her maternal line, we have found a movement through which she might experience the continuity of roots as an inner resource to return to.

Session post script

The decision to draw on a landscape to encapsulate the spirit of Jamaica was an entirely intuitive one. I didn’t realise till doing some post session research, the significance this landscape held in regards to the history of slavery:

… runaway and rebellious slaves were resisting the European colonial system in this rugged and isolated region by creating a network of hiding places, trails, and settlements, which made up the Nanny Town Heritage Route. The mountains and the forests gave the Maroons all they needed for their survival … They developed strong spiritual connections with the mountains, still manifest through the intangible cultural legacy of, for example, religious rites, traditional medicine and dances. 

Blue and John Crow Mountains>>

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