Trauma is big news these days.
Mainstream media is full of stories about the dramatic improvements allowing science to see more clearly how trauma affects our bodies, minds and even our genes.
What is Trauma?
A trauma is an injury of the physical body, the psyche and the soul, and social relations.
A Trauma is “….A vital experience of discrepancy between threatening situational factors and the individual’s coping capacities, that is associated with feelings of hopelessness and the lack of any protection, thus creating a permanent instability of the self concept and the perception of the world.” Fischer and Riedesser, 1999.
A lot of the coverage speaks of the scientific connection between trauma and illness as a breakthrough for modern medicine.
The next breakthrough will be how trauma is affecting our offspring.
The Academy of Pediatrics reports that the way genes work in our bodies determines neuroendocrine structure and is strongly influenced by experience. [Neuroendocrine cells help the nervous and endocrine (hormonal) system work together to produce substances such as adrenaline (the hormone associated with the fight or flight response.] Trauma experienced by earlier generations can influence the structure of our genes, making them more likely to “switch on” negative responses to stress and trauma.
Never before in the history of medicine have we had better insight into the factors that determine the health of an individual from infancy to adulthood, which is part of the life course perspective—a way of looking at life not as disconnected stages but as integrated across time.
Trans-Generational Effects of Traumas
- Children of traumatized parents live in an environment of trauma.
- Children bond to the traumatized parts of their parents, especially their mothers.
- They cannot distinguish between their own feelings and those of their parents.
- Symptoms of mental illnesses are often the expressions of traumatizations of former generations.
The science of Epigenetics, literally “above the gene,” proposes that we pass along more than DNA in our genes; it suggests that our genes can carry memories of trauma experienced by our ancestors and can influence how we react to trauma and stress.
We are not controlled by our genes,
like computer programmes controlled by code.
This is a fallacy from Science for almost two decades.
Genes are a biological tendency for expression.
Changing our state of consciousness can influence,
Or even change completely the tendency for expression.
When we do this our ‘code’ can actually be rewritten,
And a different manifestation can be expressed.
WE ARE NOT THE CODE
WE ARE THE WRITERS OF THE CODE.
Epigenetics is beginning to uncover scientific proof that intergenerational trauma is real. Historical trauma, therefore, can be seen as a contributing cause in the development of illnesses such as PTSD, depression and type 2 diabetes.
In traumatic stress, our nervous system is affected and reacts in a way that is beyond our control. Unless we reach to that level of the body where the energy charge is tied up and can step by step become unfrozen and integrated, no lasting healing is possible.
Family constellations (Source Constellations) go beyond the concept of a purely personal experience of trauma to include trauma that has been the fate of others, primarily those we are bound to in empathy and blind love and in a kind of unconscious attempt to balance and compensate. This, too, extends beyond the limits of present time and space.
NEW Family (Source) Constellations is widely recognised as a profound and empowering healing process for bringing to light transgenerational entanglements, the root cause of various individual, family, group or organisational challenges as well as deeper conflicts or transformations of the self and the collective.
With Constellation Work, we will focus on integrating and healing unresolved trauma in our personal lives and from our family systems and ancestors.
A family constellation can work with the impact and effects of traumas from a previous generation, by helping:-
1. A person to see, and be freed from, the form of her/his traumatising entanglement with the past.
2. To open the way to, and facilitate the honouring of ancestors who suffered.
3. A re-connection with support and affirmation to live more freely.
As a Master Facilitator and Trainer for many years, I experience this resourcing work as strengthening connections between everyone and everything and believe it has a harmonising effect on the wider society and the environment.
The inter-action between representatives placed in a constellation can quickly reveal underlying conflicts within a relationship system — for example within the family of a client. Perhaps the most unique aspect of this process in a constellation is that the client hardly speaks. In most cases, after representatives for family members have been placed, a client is only an observer. The representatives are moved by the morphogenic energy field of the family system, which is connected to a deeper layer of the mind not ordinarily accessible and bypasses linear thinking.
“By helping a client experience that he is part of a much bigger collective system and inviting him to fall in tune with these vaster forces of life, the facilitator supports a client come to a point where he can say ‘yes‘ to life as it is. This ’yes‘ to life should not be misunderstood as saying ’yes‘ to other people, or to every life situation. Essentially, it is a ‘yes‘ to oneself and to one’s own individuality, and in this way can be considered to be a spiritual dimension of life.
In difficult or challenging life situations, such as shock or trauma, this ability to say ’yes‘ to life is often impaired. A person becomes either disconnected from the flow of life, or develops negative attitudes towards life and other people. Instead, the life of this person may focus on the fear of experiencing such a traumatic event again and on avoiding anything resembling the original situation. On the other hand, there can also be an urge to resolve the effects of a trauma, which can result in people being drawn to situations that have a certain similarity to the original event.
In general, we can say that therapy is an effort to bring unresolved trauma and blocked energy to a completion, and in this way restore a person’s capacity to be in a flow with life, reconnecting with other people and looking towards the future rather than at the past. This is the type of ’yes‘ a client experiences when therapy is successful. In Family Constellation one can see that this ‘yes‘ is closely connected to one’s ability to say ‘yes‘ to one‘s parents and to receive them in one’s heart. It is not a grudging or reluctant gesture, in the sense that a client accepts his parents because he has no choice, but should rather have a quality of rejoicing and gratitude.
For this reason, we usually talk more about ‘receiving‘ one‘s parents, rather than merely accepting them. In terms of the physical body, the successful resolution of trauma usually leads to a discharge of the stuck or suppressed energy. This means that abnormally heightened states of arousal within the nervous system disappear and a person returns to a normal movement between activation and relaxation that is within manageable limits.”
Excerpt, thanks to a colleague of mine, Svagito Liebermeister.
A key function of family constellation work is the enabling of a movement towards the inclusion and honouring of the excluded and forgotten, and thus the freeing of members of the current generation from entanglement with the fate of the former.
The family soul seeks balance.
Here are a couple of examples of this systemic process, and possible solutions:
1. A person may experience an inhibition towards living fully, because of the tragic death of a member of a previous generation. A healing movement in this case would be the remembering and honouring of the lost member, through the living member’s pursuing of a good life: A movement from blind, entangled love to an enlightened expression of love.
2. Where a family’s coffers have been enriched by the misappropriation of wealth via genocide or war, a member from a following generation may act in self-sabotaging ways rather than benefit from the misdeeds of her/his family. A constructive, balancing movement to free the person from his pattern of self-defeating behaviours could be the recognition of those who have been affected by the injustice, and the providing of appropriate restitution.
Some practical examples of what comes to light when constellations are set up:
Sometimes we don’t know why we suffer, why we are sick, angry, choose the ‘wrong’ partner, running out of money, not being able to find the right job, etc.
In the next examples we can see how we try to help our parents, siblings and/or ancestors. Unconsiously.
A young woman had several burn-outs and a deep feeling of guilt. She was part of a twin, her sibling didn’t make it and unconsciously she tries to live her siblings life as well. Meanwhile feeling guilty that she has survived.
A man is travelling around the world, but actually he would like to settle down. Unconsciously he is living his grandfathers dream, who wanted to travel, but had to work and earn money for his family.
A young boy is angry and aggressive; his uncle was put in prison and no one ever talked about him. When his father reunited with his brother in the constellation, the boy could let go of his anger.
A young girl has problems making friends, she cannot trust and suffers from nightmares. In the constellation we could see how she was connected with her great-grandmother who was part of the Resistance during the Second World War.
My personal experience and belief is that family constellation work, in addition to making a significant contribution towards the working through of transgenerational trauma, can aid appreciation of our interconnectedness and the ultimate unity of being; and the diminution of our alienation from the latter, through the uncovering and disentanglement of relationships between individual souls.
The following research concerning epigenetics and transgenerational trauma confirms what is shown in family constellations, and what we can sense in our souls when we engage with this dimension.
(Kellerman, 2013; See handout:Thompson, H. in The Guardian, 21 August 2015)
In this article it is important to also mention the ground breaking work of Trauma Constellations as developed by Professor Dr Franz Ruppert. Franz Ruppert began his study of trauma back in the late 1980s and developed a theory derived from his own personal research and work with clients. In the early 1990s he came across the work of the German therapist and philosopher Bert Hellinger, the work known as Family Constellations. The method employed in Family Constellations provided him with a research tool that he continues to use today, although today the method we use, The Sentence of Intention, has evolved considerably from the original as used by facilitators of Hellinger’s work. Ruppert’s theory of Identity-oriented Psychotrauma Therapy (IoPT) has evolved into a clear and elegant theory of psychological trauma that, while having roots in many earlier theories and thoughts, is in itself cohesive and complete. The foundations of this theory are:
1. A clear and distinctive definition of what trauma actually is.
2. An understanding of the psychological splitting that happens as a result of trauma.
3. A clear understanding of what surviving trauma involves.
4. An understanding of the role of pre-verbal and pre-birth trauma, including the trauma of failed attachment to the mother.
5. A clear concept of identity, and the trauma of identity that results from having to give up on oneself in order to have connection with the mother.
6. A concept of autonomy and symbiosis as lived every day in our life.
Trauma is an experience we are unable to psychologically metabolise and remains split off by boundaries in our psyche. It is likely to be a feature of all of our lives in some form. Often we have been affected by trauma that happened to our parents or grandparents, because the effects of trauma influence the availability of our parents to us as children. For most of us the trauma that we manage, every day, is from a time in our life that we may not remember in our minds. This is for two reasons: one is that the way humans generally deal with trauma is to split the experience off and relegate it to our unconscious, thereby erasing it from our memory. The second reason is that the traumas that probably have the most influence on us are from a time before we had developed the capacity for cognitive memory, perhaps even before we were born. But it is becoming clear from many different areas of research that we do have a memory before that time; it is held in the cells of our body. In fact everything we need to know in order to heal our trauma is within us when we are ready to access it.
Credit to Katherina Kavungu, for her contribution to this part of the article.
“We are born with amnesia so we can experience life. We cannot learn and grow by knowing all the answers from the start. Both matter and energy continues to always exist, sometimes they just assume another form. Discovering ourselves, our purpose, lessons and awakenings often involves every emotion known to mankind but the joy and beauty of that which we discover about ourselves and those around us can bring resolution, healing, understanding and ultimately peace and contentment.”
“Peace begins in the Soul”
– Bert Hellinger (Founder of Family Constellation Work)
Deep respect for one of my greatest teachers and trainer, Bert and Sophie Hellinger.
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