Family Research a Systemic Lens

Start before it’s too Late!

We often only start family research later in our lives.  Maybe we take for granted the cultural traditions that we grew up around.  We may have embraced them or thought that they were old-fashioned and not worth paying attention to.

Later in life, as ageing parents come closer to the ‘transition’ we are forced to look at what is being left behind and how connected we are to our ancestral past.  Reconnecting to your family heritage, its ancestral heartland and cultural traditions can be a wonderful way to honour, those who have gone before us and those that we are still in a relationship with.

A Growing Desire for Knowledge

This aim to reconnect with family members across generations and within the wider community of which they are a part is a common and growing phenomenon.  It points to the part of our life or history that we know little about and makes us want to fill the gaps in our knowledge.

When there are family difficulties in the present, we increasingly look for what hasn’t been resolved in the past in order to create a better future.  What we often find when we look, are untold stories of family exclusion and secrets that have been kept down the generations, thereby creating the gaps in knowledge that we seek to fill.

Another way of seeing this is as recurring patterns within the family system, that are usually not clearly understood but often taken by a family member as their own. When we seeking a resolution to a family problem, it usually involves a relationship to another person, a friend, a substance, sometimes something that isn’t known but can be viewed as dynamic negative energy that hangs over the family.

Restoring and Reconciling Patterns

 

The goal is to find and work with all the relationships and energy sources so that difficult issues can be resolved and the flow of love starts to move naturally through the family system. One way of looking at this past-present dynamic is as an ‘entanglement‘ in the family.

This can be challenging because revealing or speaking about issues in your family or community system that have been forgotten, hidden or excluded is difficult and sometimes very painful.  However, it is also a powerful way of bringing about change and healing in family patterns.

  • For example, two family members may not have spoken to each other for years, but nobody knows why.
  • A sibling may feel that they are the peacekeeper or mediator for a whole family in conflict and yet have nobody to talk to when they have a problem.
  • An excluded relative that nobody talks about because they have a mental health problem an addiction or a history of violence somehow seems to intrude when there is a family gathering.
  • Or it may be a painful transgenerational community history that is taboo to speak about because its effects have been so traumatic on family members and the wider community.

The Family Constellations Lens

One way of uncovering our ancestral family heritage in more depth is through the lens of family constellations.  This unique method is a way of exploring present difficulties in a family or community, by looking to the past, so that we can understand how to make changes for the future.

The aim of constellations is to restore the ‘flow of love within the family’ and help us separate from entanglements within the system. We can strengthen the ties to our ancestry, by making a conscious choice to delve deep and free ourselves of patterns that create pain and suffering.

This may mean both revealing and speaking about difficult issues and relationships or people that have been forgotten and are hidden in the past.  When we find a place in our hearts for everyone in the family, even those who have been excluded, we can heal the trauma that is passed down the family line.

To find out more go to my Ancestral constellations website here

The Excluded Conversation 

Starting From Your Own Back Door

All communities have to start ‘from their own back door’ if they wish to heal because only they know what is needed and required for change to take place.  In many diaspora communities, we have to start from the inside and heal out and one way of facilitating that healing is through Family and Community constellations that Include the Excluded Conversation. 

The Excluded Conversation is one that focuses on the difficult issues that impact our communities and cause distress, dis-ease and dis-harmony.  I am interested in how to support families and communities to look at the ‘deep roots’ of difficult conversations and relationships.

Conversations on Historical Legacy

In many of our communities, the family is indivisible, both impact on the other.  This is what can make it so difficult for individuals in families to explore their African or Asian heritage, often questions about identity and belonging are taboo or painful to discuss so they are avoided or ignored.

We can seek to explore these conversations on history and legacy and trauma through the mapping process of a systemic constellation. When we fear the taboo, the unspoken and the unknown and keep silent, there is a danger that others in the family or community may take them on and recreate the family patterns from the past.

Why don’t we Talk about Difficult Things?

There are many issues that we know exist in our communities, that we do not speak about. Often these conversations are suppressed and kept within our families and communities for fear of shame, guilt, judgement!!  My cousin told me a story about a young woman in America who entered her boyfriend’s house and looking at a picture on the wall enquired “why is my grandmother on your wall?”

We do not speak of this, or the fear of or other losses, the missing brothers and sisters in our clan, those we have heard of but never met.  And those that we have never met and are suddenly presented to us later in life.  There are other issues that are a left-over legacy from slavery and colonialism like ‘shadism’ that still exists in families and communities.

Transgenerational Anger

There is also much transgenerational anger that reasserts its head in different forms.  In the last two weeks, the issue of gang violence in London has been in all the media and news.  But this is not new, these acts of gang violence and self-harm has been present for many years.  But now younger and younger children are becoming involved, it feels like a new generation is under threat.

Many families who come from communities that have migrated and raised second and third generations in their new homeland are facing these and other issues of identity, belonging and stigmatisation. The dis-ease of living with these stressors impact our families and communities. Our emotional well-being Is being impacted and creating health problems, of the body and mind.

Articulating our Experience

Often in African Diaspora communities, we have often used, music and dance to articulate our experience.  Movement allows us to express a situation in a different way, to harness the energy of the conversation along different lines.  We can do something similar through systemic constellations which map out a family situation or community dilemma that can act as an oracle, a past to present day story, that we can learn and begin to heal from.

Through this process, we can begin to look at the legacy of our history differently.  When we map out and constellate the impact of slavery and colonialism, war and migration on the lived life of our family members and the community it affords us a different perspective.

All Therapeutic Personal work is Hard

All therapeutic work can bring up strong emotions and feelings that are difficult to explore.  But can we let our fear of our feelings have greater control over us than our fear of what will happen within our families and communities if we do not make a profound change?  Questions not for solutions, but for reflection.

This is not therapy, it is not a long term solution because for that we would need generations of healing work.  It is, however, a start and a therapeutic healing process that can start to work with family and community life as it is now, here in the present.

Until next time!