A Hidden History RevealedFamily Constellation & Psychic Reading
Session summaries shared with permission (all names have been changed) illustrating ancestral origins of problems and how a family constellation can bring resolution.
Presenting Issue: Distressing Mystery in a Family Archive
Myself and Jane use constellations to explore items from a family archive. She has a diary belonging to her deceased mother, it contains many pages describing a lamp post nearby her house. The maintenance cover is broken exposing the inner wiring; Jane’s mother worries repeatedly that a dog might wee on the lamp post and be electrocuted. She details fruitless letters to the council and others in authority seeking its repair.
For Jane, reading the diary presents a perplexing and distressing window, into the mental health problems suffered by her mother.
I use a psychic scanning of the diary as a way to gain insight into the content. The first thing I see is an elderly lady – not Janes mother whom I would recognise. She says clearly “that is mine, I will take it back please” and I am initially confused about why someone else seems to think the diary is hers.
However I also know from family constellations theory – thoughts which seem crazy are often simply out of context. In the family tree, we might find a person with whom the apparently “crazy” thoughts make total sense – when dropped back into context. I wonder who the elderly lady is is, and whether the obsessive thoughts of Jane’s mother will make sense if we find that out?
Family Constellation: a Mystery Untangled
Next in the constellation phase, we see a triangular relationship between the Jane’s mother and grandmother, along with the grandmothers brother. This great uncle of Jane’s had severe mental health problems and was committed to a psychiatric institution in the 1950’s. I intuitively realise the great uncle received ECT – electric shock therapy – in this place he never left once he had gone in. I also see his sister knows and is very distressed about this, but conceals the knowledge from her daughter.
Some further research post session reveals even more disturbing historical detail. In the early 1950’s electric shock therapy was prevalent in UK psychiatric units. It had grown massively in fact (twenty fold) during this time, and it was administered unmodified. This meant without muscle relaxant or anaesthesia: the treatment would lead to painful convulsions strong enough to fracture bones.
It was openly used to control patients as much as intended for their benefit. In some institutions its use was inhumanely profligate. Take St James Hospital, Portsmouth, for instance, where William Liddell Milligan gave patients ECT up to four times daily. His stated aim was:
to reduce the patient to the infantile level, in which he is completely helpless and doubly incontinent
History of ECT in the UK – Wikipedia
One of the main proponents and developers of ECT – Ugo Cerletti – predominantly conducted his research into ECT for epilepsy by inducing seizures in dogs. I find a curious correlation between this fact and the predominant fear of Jane’s grandmother – that of a dog being electrocuted.
Family Constellation: Understanding Brings Relief
It becomes easy to see the context in which the “crazy” thoughts of Jane’s mother could make sense. It is conceivable Jane’s grandmother visited the great uncle in hospital and was aware of his treatment. The historical detail gives some perspective on how distressing this treatment might have been. Systemic theory says things hidden – particularly the traumas of previous generations – will surface to be dealt with in future generations. The stigma attached to mental health problems means they were routinely hidden.
The distressed diary entries and the repeated letters to the council suggest Jane’s mother unconsciousy carried and expressed the memory of her great uncle and his fate. Her words could be read as saying something like the following:
I am terrified this poor creature will be hurt by an electric shock, the people in authority won’t do anything to stop it, I must appeal endlessly to them for this to end
Myself and Jane conclude the woman trying to take the diary back was her own grandmother. In systemic terms she was taking back what was hers – the pain of the knoweldge of her brothers distress – that her daughter had carried and expressed through the lens of her own mental health problems. We create sentences to return the whole story back to its right place in the family line, and bring to rest the conundrum of the dog and the landpost.
Jane later expresses a great deal of relief to have some way of understanding the contents of her mothers diary. She feels moved by the greater knoweldge of her great Uncles stay in hospital. But more so there is a msyterious settling – as often happens through Family Constellations Therapy – and she is able to put the diary away, finally at peace with its contents.