Systemic family constellations can be of help in the solution of emotional manipulation, or narcissistic abuse, both for identifying the manipulator, man or woman, and for working on specific events.
It often happens that manipulators, cowards as they are, are hidden behind other people. They could wear a mask, or they could camouflage, or they could even mingle with the crowds.
Specific events, which have particularly upset or wounded us, need to be faced, accepted, understood, analyzed, and reappraised. Our mind may have magnified the problem. Returning it to a physical space, with our feet on the ground, focusing on emotions and bodily sensations, helps to reconnect with the reality of things and with ourselves.
Systemic constellations use a spatial language in order to bring to light the relationships and the dynamics of a social system. A family is a particular social system. Through this method, emotional, affective and cognitive learning is stimulated.
Family constellations were invented in the 1980s, in the United States, by a family therapist named Virginia Satir, who asked her patients to create a sculpture of their own family.
Modern systemic family constellations can be performed in the following three main ways, and always under the supervision and coordination of an expert facilitator.
- On a table, also on a floor or on a board, in individual form or in group, through the use and the relative positioning of blocks or figures of different color and size, which represent material entities, such as people and components of the family group, but also intangible items, such as emotions or problems. This technique produces a low emotional involvement.
- With external representatives, who are outside the family context and are not involved in the events. In this case, constellations can take place in an open form, that is people are aware of what they represent, or in a hidden form, that is people do not know which item they are representing. In the hidden form, they cause a medium emotional involvement, while in the open form there is a high emotional involvement.
- With the real members of the family that you want to analyze. In this situation, the emotional involvement is very high.
There are four basic ordered principles in family constellations:
- Everyone has the same right to be a member of the family system;
- An older child takes precedence over a younger child;
- The current family takes precedence over the family of origin;
- Anyone, who provides a greater contribution, takes precedence over a person with less contribution.
The first principle guarantees the existence of the family system. The second principle ensures growth and propagation. The third principle regulates the flow of energy, the immune strength and the health of the family system. The fourth principle relates to the maturity of the family members through an assessment of their individual skills.
The fact that the principles should be followed in the indicated order means that the existence of the family is the most important factor. For instance, if a family member is excluded, or is removed or is forgotten or, even, is abused, then the family itself is disintegrated. Its very existence is questioned and it makes no sense to consider the next principles.
You may need also to include absent individuals, or dead persons, in the family group and to remember that parents give while children take. Inverting these principles means to literally destroy a family.
Because of the empathy, which develops during a constellation, observers can feel a high emotional involvement too.
If there are animals, for instance dogs and cats, in the family group, they should be represented in the constellation. Moreover, the technique of the family constellation could be helpful in the understanding and in the solution of anomalous behaviors of pets. Family events transfer, and have consequences, also to them.
If you suffer, or have suffered, from emotional manipulation, or narcissistic abuse, reading these rules on the good health of a family group has surely helped you to clarify some of your personal situations, which remained obscure so far, and has provided you with the answers to many of your questions that were pending.
Treasure these principles and apply them to your new family.
Paola Morgese, PMP
Civil Hydraulic Engineer
M.S. Sanitary and Environmental Engineering
Huemann M., Eskerod P., Ringhofer C., 2016, Rethink! Project Stakeholder Management, Project Management Institute, USA
Translation of the Italian blog post: Paola Morgese, Le costellazioni familiari sistemiche