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Family Constellations - Hellingerīs Approach

What's Hellingerīs Therapy ?

The Orders of Love

"WHEN WE UNDERSTAND the systemic laws that allow love to unfold, we may be able to help suffering families and individuals to find solutions. It's profoundly moving to observe clients approach the Order of Love and spontaneously melt into soft and intimate love, even after a lifetime of hate, anger and abuse"
Quote from 'Love's Hidden Symmetry'

Love's Hidden Symmetry: What Makes Love Work in Relationships

  What is the Order of Love? 

It was in his systemic therapy work that Bert discovered that the family system, just like any other system, has its own natural order and when that order is disrupted, the effects are felt by subsequent generations as the system tries to right itself. There appear to be certain natural laws operating to maintain that order and permit the free flow of love between family members. 

According to Bert Hellinger's systemic therapy, the solution to life in
family occurs when each of it members takes his/her appropriate and actual
place, takes upon his/her roles in life, taking care of himself/herself
and avoiding intervening in other's destiny.

Most personal difficulties, as well as problems in relationship are results
of confusions in families' systems.

That confusion happens when, without being aware of that and without
wanting, we incorporate in our life the destiny of another person from our
own family, despite the fact that such person lived in a distant past. That
makes us repeat the family members' destiny who were excluded, forgotten or
not recognised at their belonging place. We try to live that destiny for
them or create misfortune to diminish our guilt. 

The main laws operating seem to be: 

  • everyone has an equal right to belong to their family system
  • there is a hierarchy in terms of birth order - those born first come first 
    parents give and children receive
  • the male takes up first position in the family, but he works in the service
    of the female 


These laws can be broken unwittingly in many different ways: 

  • when babies are aborted or stillborn and not mourned or talked about
  • when children or young adults die and are not mourned 
  • when children are given away for adoption and no longer talked about 
  • when adoptive parents do not acknowledge the natural parents of their children 
  • when previous partners or important relationships are not acknowledged and
    honoured between couples 
  • when extra-marital relationships are kept secret 
  • when the experiences of war are not remembered and the dead honoured 
  • when there are family secrets 
  • many many others ...

When any of the above occur the effects are felt by subsequent generations, sometimes 2 or 3 generations later. These effects are manifested by such things as: suicide, depression, childlessness, mental or physical illness, and addictions often without any conscious awareness of what has occurred in previous generations. 

The disruption to the natural order of the system causes entanglements and
children begin to become like the parents, involving themselves in their parents' business, trying to make them feel better by suffering themselves.
As they grow up, they often feel anger and some try rejecting their families in an attempt to build a new, separate life. Sometimes they move to the other side of the world to disentangle themselves but it doesn't work. When they remain tied to their families in this way, they are not free to go forward in their lives and when they form relationships with partners, they can never be fully available because they are still caught up with their parents. 

What happens in a workshop? 

The participant choosing to work on their family is asked what their
heart's desire is. They are then asked for the facts about their family - either their family of origin or their current family, whichever seems more appropriate at the time. The facts are such things as unusual deaths, previous or extra-marital relationships, abortions, stillbirths etc.
Stories about Uncle Tom who was said to be very selfish or cruel are not wanted as it often turns out that the feelings experienced by the participants completely contradict these stories. So only actual events are asked about. 

Group members are then chosen to represent family members and are positioned intuitively by the participant. As if stepping into the energy field of that particular family, these representatives then begin to feel in their bodies the actual feelings of those family members they are representing. By looking at how people are positioned and asking them how they feel, the therapist can begin to get some idea of where the system may be out of order. He or she then experiments with moving people around and bringing in possible missing people until the heart opens. This then uncovers the hidden dynamics which have led to the disruption of the order.  When the heart opens in this way, the whole group feels it as a very deep and moving experience. It is as if the soul finally comes home. Healing sentences are spoken to honour the missing members and allow love to flow freely once more. It is not always possible to get to a resolution. 
Sometimes there are secrets we do not appear to have permission to know.
But the effects seem to be felt in the family anyway; sometimes even more
powerfully than if a resolution were found. 

Does it work? 

Sometimes the effects are very dramatic - children given away for adoption
get in touch, infertile couples become pregnant, banished members of the
family suddenly ring up. More often, there is a gradual change in relationships, a more peaceful feeling inside, greater acceptance of parents and other family members. And occasionally, there is no change at all. For some people, healing requires a level of inner change they are not able to make. Yet, when these changes are felt, it's as if we are once more in tune with the movement of our souls and can begin to feel at peace with ourselves. This is not happiness. This is experienced as deep joy. 

"Joy develops out of the soul as soon as we are in tune with the movements
of the soul. Whatever the path is we are led by the soul. If we are in tune
we feel connected to something great and this is joy. Joy has a quality of
fullness and completeness which comes from this connection. This joy is
quiet, has weight, shines. In the presence of people who experience this
joy we become quiet. This joy has no purpose, no wishes, no intent. It is a
very deep contentment" 

Quote from Bert Hellinger at a London workshop April 2000. 


The Order of Love—Family Systems Psychotherapy
by Barbara Morgan


When I attended my first workshop on the Order of Love run by the Founder, Bert Hellinger I wondered how it would be sitting in an audience of about 200 people for 3 days watching other people set up their family constellations. 

I was completely gripped from the first moment and was deeply moved by what I witnessed and experienced during those 3 days. I watched him move with the greatest of ease to put the system back in order. I listened in awe as he spoke a level of truth which in some cases caused uproar in the audience without flinching. I saw him line up 18 people to represent the members of the family of a Polish woman who had all perished in the holocaust and ask her to walk in front of them and bow to each one. The atmosphere in the hall was electric with a deeply respectful silence. As I stood as representative in other people's family constellations, I was astounded that I could feel feelings which I knew not to be my own. German born Bert is now in his mid 70s and still travelling the world running these workshops. He was a Roman Catholic priest for 20 years and worked as a missionary with the Zulus in South Africa. He later went into psychoanalysis, primal therapy and finally systems therapy. 


Described as the ultimate empiricist, Bert Hellinger acknowledges several important influences on his life and work:  his parents, whose faith immunized him against accepting Hitler's National Socialism; his 20 years as a priest, particularly as a missionary to the Zulu; and his participation in interracial, ecumenical training in group dynamics led by Anglican clergy. After leaving the priesthood, he studied psychoanalysis, and eventually developed an interest in Gestalt Therapy and Transactional Analysis. It was Hellinger's later training in family therapy that he first encountered the therapeutic work - an approach to which he has added new levels of meaning and possibility. Hellinger, who lives in Germany, is an immensely popular figure in Europe. His best-selling books and videos, as well as his workshops, have generated a spirited dialog among members of the international therapy community and have propelled him to the forefront of contemporary family therapy. 


Order of Love is a form of group psychotherapy and it leans on the fact
that many of our life problems (health, marriage, problems of materialistic nature, business, problems with children, diseases from dependence) have connections with a family in which we live, with a family in which we grew up as well as family from which our parents derived. We receive from our ancestors not only the color of our hair or tendency toward epilepsy, but also a variety of psychological stresses, traumas and pains among which many are on the level of secrecy. Since long ago people have experienced one feeling, which they transformed into saying "when grandpas eat sour grapes the grandson's teeth turn numb"(Serbian saying).

Order of Love is one specific form of family's systematic therapy whose author is a German therapist Bert Hellinger. It is an eclectic psychotherapy, which means that it combines the elements of many other psychotherapies and that is why it is difficult to define it and group into one category.

Therapy begins and lasts in such a way that the problem, which takes place, is treated over the research of family constellation, in other words the family field to which the individual (on whose problem we work) belongs. The secret levels of family's relationships are being inquired until we come out with something that creates the problem.

This is a group therapy. The patient, whose work is being in process, picks up several people from the group where each picked member represents someone from his family system and also the same patient picks up someone who will represent himself. After creating the initial order of the members of his family, patient sits aside and observes the following happenings.

Each representative who is involved in the work is asked to tell the group what they experience on the level of physical sense.

Something that starts to reveal in front of the patient's eyes and the group is the network of feelings, emotions, various states, secrets and barriers, blockades, coalitions and counter-coalitions, in fact - everything that creates the hidden dynamic of that family.

Families also have numerous levels on which they exist and on which they function in the same way as each of us individually. There is a difference between the visible (so called manifesting) level of family's relationship and the level of hidden feelings, games and positions (so called latent level). The pathological balance frequently exists on exactly this hidden level, which, after long-term stagnation of energy, creates sickness or pathological process to that family or to their members.

Today we are aware of the fact that any serious emotional trauma that happened in the past to you (or your parents) can have a significant affect on the continual state of your health.

People can strongly suffer from emotional trauma inherited from parents who lived with hidden and unsolved rejection, with concentration camp or refugee drama or ancient separation during birth. All this pervades the descendents and brings them in an emotional state, which they don't remember experiencing at all. We can frequently see how, in families, children reflect their parents, as if they are looking in the mirror. The characteristics that they have taken from their parents or some distant ancestor include the tendency toward depression, fear, self-criticism, lack of conscience, self-rejection, etc.

It is therefore very clear that the emotional trauma is the main reason for bad health. This psychotherapeutic understanding has found its materialization in the therapy known as "Order of Love".

By this therapy we search for locations, where the mutual relationships and energetic flows had become so much mixed up that nowadays they link to itself a large amount of life energy and survive as "unfinished business". We work further on finding the part that is missing so that this unfinished business can be emotionally solved. When we reach this point we have come to an end.

During work process, therapist carefully observes the family process that is covered (latent) and which, as a river sinking into subterranean passage, flows underneath the outside visible and manifesting level of family's relationship. The basic questions that therapist asks himself are: "What's missing to this family's constellation so that love, that is in the basis of every family, can start flowing again? What actually happened to this family long ago and blocked the natural flow of love?

We search for unfinished businesses within our family that blocks and takes away the energy. These can be various family secrets about family's conflicts, murders, war sufferings, rapes, religious intolerances, adultery, frauds, plunders, betrays, etc.

By finishing the unfinished business a lot of life energy is being released for the family and for the patient. Because of this the work on secrets and lies within the family is very important, because the secrets, hidden thoughts and feelings are those that produce the unfinished business and knots. Very often almost whole family energy is spent to keep some secret on the safe place, so the members of the family hardly have strength for anything else in life. The main idea of the therapy is to recover those unfinished businesses which are of systematic sort and which block the natural flow of love and energy that, in undisturbed occasions, go from ancestors toward descendants. Order of Love is the therapy that is primarily concerned about that part of our being which we call the soul.

That is a part of us, which connects our body (material aspect of our existence) and our spirit (our connection with spiritual). Soul is a part of us that is connected to emotions and in this way it knows all truths from the beginning to the end. It is not like mind which analyses, interprets, judges, synthesizes and babbles, babbles, babbles, etc It's medium is not a word but a picture. That is why in this therapy there is little of talk involved. That is why there is no interpretation. And that is why our objective, through the work on the problem, is to create the differentiation and step forward in the picture between the beginning and finishing constellation. It is being considered that the new, optimal picture is something that the Soul will receive as the further truth and information and by this it will create its reactions and reality.

A lot of things that determine our lives, happiness and health belong to those latent levels and it processes beyond the level of our consciousness.

Not only does there exist a large subconscious part of us connected to our individual lives from the beginning until present moment, but also there exist a large part in that subconscious that is filled with various important elements from the whole evolution, from prehistoric human until today. As in some unimaginably big computer, tidily in our subconscious we have sorted files that possess all the emotionally important information from the prehistoric days until today. This is known as collective subconscious.

Beside individual and collective subconscious, in subconscious part of us there exist one more "sector" in which are placed files that possess something that is called familiar subconscious. This is something that we inherit from our ancestors through our genetics. These are furthermore those "programs" in our lives that are often, automatically and unconsciously happening and determining our destiny. Therefore we, beside the color of our eyes or tendency toward epilepsy, inherit various kinds of feelings, tragedies, traumas, tempers, stresses, also the pain of midwife whose children are dying while giving them birth, the misfortune of their mother to whom they forbid to marry the love of her life, we also inherit the terror and fear of living in poverty (nevertheless of our temporary status).

The first man who spoke about inherited and trans-generational affection is Leopold Zondi, the Swiss psychiatrist of Hungarian background. He had, within his theory about nature and action of familiarly unconscious on the life of men, much examined the hereditary influence making analyses of genealogy branches and finally managed to prove that between individually subconscious and collectively subconscious there exists one field of familiarly subconscious whose contents are received by birth through something that doctors call latent, recessive genes.

After Zondi's discovery, the family psychiatrists created a concept of multi-generational process of transmission by which is, in fact, described the flow of emotional process through the generation of one family.

The founder of transactional analyses, Eric Bern also spoke about familiarly subconscious calling it Episcriptom. This is that type of the life's scenario that is being cast over, like "hot potato", from one generation to another. That is why we often notice within family, for example, five generations of lawyers or seven generations of doctors or four generations of alcoholics, suicides, shisofrenics, divorces, etc. Therapy work on the Family order is, in fact, the work on revealing and solving exactly those experiences and massages that come into life from familiarly subconscious and exist today in our lives.

In that sense this therapy is concerned about processes that are neither new nor unknown to psychologists and psychiatrists. The one thing that is new is the creative and elastic way by which the up-to-now knowledge are connected and has become concretely applicable.

This psychotherapeutic method works on very serious and deep levels and as such asks for directivity from therapist and from members of the group and all the participants in work - seriousness and discipline. It is very necessary to approach to everything that is going on and is being revealed during the session with maximum respect.

This technique asks from us to widen the extent of the usual experiencing, thinking and the perspective from which we look at the world. This widening of our borders can shake us a bit if we are not psychologically and physically consolidated, so I can work this therapy only with emotionally and physically healthy people. For those who don't fulfill this condition but would like to get help in this way, can be arranged to work together with a close member of their family who would work for them through the Order of Love.

As I have emphasized, this is very serious and deep working technique so it is not appropriate to involve people below eighteen years of age and therefore it is forbidden for them. If the children are the ones whose problems are involved, then the adequate people who should work for them in the therapy are their parents or very close relatives.

Work on the Family order leads us to a fact that the closest ones in family have the advantage. That means that elder have advantage upon younger, for instance parents upon children, elder children upon younger and similar. At the same time there are no differentiations in term of importance between family members, but instead the importance in family order is related to various rights and obligations that are related to the position of each member of the family.

In this way the advantage has the member that is responsible for the safety of the family. That particular member is most often man, after him comes woman and then children ordered by age. Generally speaking, this would be the optimal order in one family. In reality this order, because of various reasons, isn't such and then it leads to confusion, entanglement and the need for pathological balance. The aim of our therapeutic research is to reveal what creates such disorder.

At the end we reach the family constellation (so called final order), which continues to work over the ending picture. Sometimes it takes several years for healing process to begin under the influence of this final resolving order. But, in most cases, this process begins much earlier.

Therapist doesn't create the solution but, instead, searches for it. During his search he pays special attention on finding those solutions that are excluded, forgotten, disgraced, isolated or hidden. According to everything mentioned it is clear how important must secrets and denials, delusions and concealment be in this process of work and research. What consequences must they leave on the family field and why is the work on them so important if we wish to work on healing the family branch and on healing our souls and ourselves.


Hellinger's Therapy 6 book(s)
Love's Own Truths: Bonding and Balancing in Intimate Relationships

Touching Love: A Teaching Seminar With Bert Hellinger and Hunter Beaumont

Supporting Love : How Love Works in Couple Relationships

On Life & Other Paradoxes: Aphorisms and Little Stories from Bert Hellinger

Love's Hidden Symmetry: What Makes Love Work in Relationships

Acknowledging What Is: Conversations With Bert Hellinger



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