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Medicine stories: session summaries shared with permission, illustrating the ancestral origins of problems and how family constellations brings resolution. All names have been changed.

Presenting themes – and a vanishing twin

Luciana brings a range of themes to her first session. When asked what successful outcome she would like, it would be to find a sense of inner spaciousness and peace, for her and her family. This is to become our guiding North Star for a series of sessions.

Her current experience is far from peaceful. She often experiences intense fear and overwhelm; my nervous system awareness radar picks up the potential for underlying PTSD. Indeed she lists a traumatic event that occurred at the age of 8, which we will most likely return to in later sessions.

Additionally she mentions several times having a “strange relationship with time”. Enquiring deeper she describes constantly “holding on” which she feels in her hands – and that to let go would have deeply catastrophic consequences.

I ask when was the earliest she can recall feeling this way and she goes back to feeling bewildered at nursery school. She is described that it goes so far back as she had assumed too, her experience to be a result of PTSD.

Now she realises it is “a thread she can trace all the way back and has always been with her” so we follow this thread for the constellation …

The family constellation

We are working on Skype using Luciana’s capacity to journey through her own inner vision. Additionally I guide her often to explore the sensations in her body and awareness of her breath.

She has provided me with a very detailed family tree prior to the session and there are many areas of interest. However one thing has leapt out at me, she has a lost twin sister as a result of vanishing twin syndrome>>.

I recall witnessing similar overwhelm and compression twice before in my practice. In one case there was a confirmed vanished twin, the second time there were still born siblings. In both cases (coincidently?) the clients were very gifted creatives – as is Luciana.

I ask her to feel and move deeply into “holding on” in her hands, having undertaken alot of therapy in the past, she finds this easy to do. Then to test my hypothesis, I ask her if she senses her sister with her – the questions holds a deep and instantaneous emotional traction for her.

We hang out for some time exploring how it might be to sense her sibling in the womb – as indivisible from ones own self perhaps? – only to then lose that presence. The sense of holding on in her hands becomes acute until she hears from her sister the words – “you can let go now”.

If this seems far fetched, consider that prenatal language learning and memory studies have shown that “the foetus can learn much more detailed information than we previously thought” and that “the memory traces are detectable after birth”.

The memory traces of this study relate to language and the third trimester, as a study could be created here that would offer a measurable result. Scientific understanding is evolving rapidly: what may prove to be true – but as yet unmeasurable – of our earliest experiences in the womb?

The whole session is a long movement of separation, recognising that she and her sister are separate beings. As with a previous case it seems that Luciana’s overwhelm originates – in part – through an attempt to live for two. If we are not only living our life but attempting to make up for the life that was lost, this is an impossible task.

I ask her to see if there is a place for her sister, her deceased maternal Grandfather steps forward to assist, a deep stillness visibly overtakes Luciana. Its possible of course, that more will need to be done before this becomes her day to day reality.

However touching these places through deep inner work can offer a string of beads, moments of peace in an otherwise tumultuous inner life.I think of these like the use of prayer beads, eventually forming into an unbroken chant, one seamlessly merging into the next.

Session postscript

I sat and drew (as I often do) Luciana’s family tree before her session. I use the liminal space of drawing to allow clues to arise from something beyond my rational mind. I went to draw three siblings in her mothers family but had to cross one out. Because when I looked back at the tree sent, it seemed I had made a ‘mistake’ and that her mother was one of only two children.

Luciana additionally advised me that her own birth was unplanned – she was the third and “unwanted” child. Luciana is one of three and I had intuitively gone to draw three siblings in her mothers family – the coincidence of this strikes me.

As a hunch at the very end of the call, I ask Luciana to check this out with her mother, was there another sibling who died? Hours later I receive this email:

You were right: my mother’s brother that died as a baby was called David …

Again and again I see this in constellations, hunches or information from representatives that turn out to be unknown but factually correct information. In this case the following systemic scenario presents itself:

The unacknowledged stillborn child, plays out in the next generation as an unwanted third child, Luciana. Luciana’s maternal Grandfather actually nick named her “titbit” – this was said to be a name for Comfrey, and because her Grandfather believed her to be the “healer’ of something un-named.

Additionally one half of her conception carries forward, but the other half does not and dies: like the memory of the still born sibling, half carried forward, half hidden – never fully grieved.

This session touched on one facet of Luciana’s experience, there is much more to investigate. She was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and describes living with the daily belief that “this may be the last day, and when it is, the good will become eternal, and the bad will perish”.

We leave this for the next time, but it provides an interesting seed of thought – how might our relationship with time be, when we lived everyday of our childhood believing it might be the last?