Category Archives: Systemic Practice

The ‘Power’ in the letter

If you don’t ask you can’t find out what you need to know!

The ‘Power’ was in the Letter

When I read the letter and took it to Guyana, I had a better idea about why I was researching my family heritage. And what I was seeking to find out about my ancestral identity.

Back in 1979 my mother wrote to her favourite brother Eustace and asked for more details about their family heritage. My mothers memory is poor now so I can’t ask her why she did that, but I can only guess that she was homesick and wanted something to remind her of her heritage? Or maybe because she didn’t grow up with her siblings she was looking to reconnect?

Details of Family Unknown!

For whatever reason he wrote back and gave her details about their maternal and paternal ancestry, back to their grandparents and great-grandparents.   I am eternally grateful to her, because that letter has been pivotal in many ways, in my own search for my ancestral family heritage.

I brought a copy of the letter for my cousin Emily who I met last year in Guyana for the first time . I didn’t think it would be useful as anything other than supplementary evidence.  But what I found when I went back, was that this outlining of our family heritage by her father, had also helped her to make sense of connections with other family members.

That letter was the Impetus for my Search

Letter from my uncle to my mother

I have reconnected to unknown cousins and there has been an opportunity for my relatives to find out more about their family history.  As a result, several cousins have asked for more information based on this letter.  I have found a sense of belonging to a community, even if that community was in another land.  And I have forged a stronger connection to my cousin Emily, who has introduced me to other members of the family (Emilys  father and my mother are brother and sister).

Connecting Parts of the Family Tree

When I took that letter to my cousin, she started to put the connections together to other parts of the family tree.  And as I was introduced to new cousins that I hadn’t met before, she was recounting to them how they were related.  “This was so and so’s father, you are his cousin through his marriage to…”

So there have been lessons for me, any piece of information that you can find can be a useful piece in your research. From this experience I am now going to start recording the names in a family tree, something that I had started before but couldn’t continue.  They were just names, without connection and meaning. Now that connection is alive, I can start to put the tree into place.

What you think is a small or insignificant fact or information, a letter, a journal, a picture. Look again and start to reconnect with your family, ask questions, seek advice on who that person is.  You may find out that it becomes a central part of your connection to family heritage.

Until next time!

Working with Spirit

Honouring the Living and the Dead

Ancestral Spirits

In constellations work, from an African perspective, we are summoning ancestral spirits!

Sometimes we need to honour those who have departed from the physical life but may not yet be at peace in the after-life.  The work of Ancestral Constellations draws on traditional African spirituality, that which honours those who have gone before and seeks a healing path for those who are to come.

In many parts of Africa and more widely in cultures from India, to China and Japan, Ancestors are an important part of community life.  In Africa, ancestors are considered to be part of the family and community.  They are to be revered, not worshipped as is often thought.  Reverence means to acknowledge and honour, those who have come before and to hold them in your thoughts after they have departed from this earth.

Looking to the Past for Healing

Many cultures believe that in remembering ancestors we support and help to heal our family line.  There is a flow of life that continues after a loved one has departed.  When past family or community rituals have been forgotten, or actions unresolved, members in the current family system are charged with repeating the pattern or resolving it.

My work involves helping those who wish to heal these unresolved problems or difficulties.  By looking back through the transgenerational line to explore and surface past family patterns, there is a chance for greater peace for future generations.  Put like this, it seems simple and straightforward, right?

The Power of Difference

A question to ask when we look at the present and past family problem is “what has created the situation?”  Often it is differences, differences that result in conflict, or violence or trauma.  If we look to history, there can be a personal or familial aspect of this but also alongside it a wider community or national issue.  War, slavery, colonialism, genocide are all large scale events that have historically impacted generations.

So when we are doing ancestral work of any kind, we are working with peaceful ancestors who are fortuitous and happy to help.  And there are those who in their lifetime who may have been angry, or frustrated and did not find peace in their lifetime because of their deeds.

Remembering can be Very Unsettling

As facilitators of this work, especially those from African heritage, we walk a difficult line.  Is it because this wonderful and powerful work is both healing, therapeutic and a divinatory path?

It can be a difficult process for those who are steeped in a religious tradition that denies the reverence of our ancestors.  Throughout history there has been a following of the ‘old ways’, but often it has been hidden or secret, not for public view.

The Old Ways

For those of us who are called to this work, we are remembering ‘these old ways’, the traditions that were lost during slavery and colonialism.  And often we are also on our own healing path.  For those who have been brought up in a Western and modern tradition, remembering can be very unsettling.

We are in search of lost roots and looking for awakening, peace and healing in our lives.  In forgetting our past, we may have been sleeping. In this deep sleep, we can be ashamed and confused about where we came from and whom we have become. If we are of African heritage, there can be a tendency to deny our relationship to the past and guilty feelings about stepping onto an ancestral path that leads us into the future.

Raised in European Traditions

Raised in the European traditions of the church slavery denied us our tribal traditions.  We were told that we were inhuman, that our culture was base, tribal and evil and we believed this becoming afraid to reclaim our roots. I know because I too have experienced this, even though for over 25 years I have followed a ‘proud to be Black’ philosophy, still the past continues to haunt me.

When we start to practice and revere our ancestors, we begin to read deeply into and understand our past. When we start to retrace our roots to ‘Mother Africa’, we may do it in a hidden way, keeping our ideas and thoughts to ourselves so that others do not consider us weird, mad and well, just bad.  Until we get to a point where we can no longer stay hidden and step out to take the first steps on the path to healing, we will remain lost to these old liberating traditions.

Ashe!

Ancestral in the Constellation

Making Sense of the Ancestral in the Constellation

Little has been researched or written about the ‘Ancestral’ aspect of constellations theory and practice.   After more than seven years of learning this approach and travelling my own healing path, I have understood as a woman of African heritage that I have to step out and step up.  That means naming what this work is from an African perspective, the ‘Call’ to the Ancestral path.

When you follow the path of African spirituality and ancestral work you come to realise that our ancestors are with us in the living world.  We remember them and in African cosmology, we honour them.  Just as many people in the West do when they visit their family members graves and talk to them, what is the difference?

AWAKEN to Your Heritage!

If you look at a ‘Call’ to ancestral practice as an awakening to your ancestral heritage, it becomes a journey of family work and self-understanding. The Ancestral Constellations approach honours our ancestors and frames constellations practice as a Healing-Ritual.  And African traditional spirituality is a very inclusive philosophy, so regardless of your background, culture, colour or religion, there is a place for you in the work.

At the beginning of a workshop or group session, we seek the permission of our family ancestors to do this healing work.  We can ask collectively because this work is a community ritual and we can ask individually prior to doing a piece of personal work. In acknowledging an ancestral presence we honour their role in the healing process that is unfolding and we strengthen the process as a community ritual.

The Family and Community Soul

This important because we are working at the family and community soul level.  Many of the personal issues that are carried from generation to generation are family or personal traumas, they are not healed in one lifetime and often reappear in another.  The combination of an ancestral past linked to African ways of knowing and a Western psychological systemic approach in the present creates a powerful and profound method of liberating healing potential for the future.

As we enter 2019, it is a good time to revisit and rethink the work.  I am taking opportunities to reflect on how to approach Ancestral Constellations work.  There is renewed interest in the ‘ancestral’ from clients and a deeper understanding of the role that I bring to this practice as a woman of African heritage.  This will be reflected over the coming weeks and months in posts on this blog!

Until next time!

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

BAATN Podcast

Talking Constellations!

For the last 7 years, I have been on a personal and professional ‘seekers’ path, exploring identity, belonging and Ancestral Roots. It is a journey that has taken me to re-connect to parental homelands in South America and to research my Ancestral lineage in West Africa. This integration of personal awakening and systemic practice is both entangled and liberating. This BAATN podcast reveals both method and becoming, the first step for others on a similar path.

BAATN 400x150 copy

 

Family Research and Systemic Constellations

In June 2018 a few weeks after my father passed away I was invited to give a presentation to BAATN.  This is a podcast of the session, it highlights not just what the systemic family constellations process is as a method, but what it can also teach us about family, cultural heritage, the role of ancestors and ancestral research.

Whether we live in fast-moving and a growing developing nation or in westernised modern urban communities, we are also increasingly dependent on each other.   And people from different cultural backgrounds around the world to support us as part of a global community.

Searching for Identity

Python-Temple-Benin.jpg

Who are we?   Where do we belong?  How do we maintain our authenticity and sense of identity and belonging when we carry multiple identities and know not where they are all from?  The questions that will help to shape these answers often come from those that came before us and when they have gone the knowledge is lost forever.

I am endlessly grateful that I spent the last seven years of my father’s life on an ancestral journey with systemic constellations that led me to ask him the questions about family and past life in a colonial nation-state that have helped to answer my own questions about identity and belong.

You can read more about my ancestral journey on my blog posts!

Thanks, dad, always in my heart, never forgotten, Reginald Edwin, Riance, Welch 13.10.1929 – 09.05.2018

Constellations as Healing Ritual

A Ritual for Modern Times

I love ‘classic’ family constellations because it is a modern ritual, a ritual fashioned for a Western audience and viewed through an African lens in my work.  I view it as a modern ritual based on an old tradition because that is what I see, that is what I hear and that is what I honour in the process and in the sacred journey to heal family and community!

A constellation is a ritual in community, suggests Malidoma Some Dagara Elder. In 2010 Malidoma was interviewed for an article in East Coast Villages newsletter, Ask Malidoma! Malidoma E-Village 2010…In it, he described his interest and participation in a number of systemic constellations events and he has this to say……….

What is a Community?

A community according to Malidoma Some embodies the unity of spirit, trust, openness, love and caring respect for the elder’s respect for nature and cult of the ancestors. Pg 52 Ritual, Power, Healing and Community.

When I began learning about the systemic constellation method, I immediately looked to that part of the method that most spoke to my own cultural background and would help in the expression of these angry feelings that I seemed to have carried around since childhood.  I couldn’t understand where they had come from because as a 50-year-old looking back at me as a child, I couldn’t quite attribute where all this pent up anger has come from.

Transgenerational Anger

Gradually over time as I started doing some family research, I began to understand that some of the anger may literally ‘have been passed down’ from earlier generations.  And when after 60 years of marriage my mother informed me that she had never had an argument with my father, I knew that there were some dynamics and ‘entanglements in the current system.

Even now I am seen as the ‘difficult one’ in the family.  The one who ‘loses her rag!’ over seemingly over simple things, ‘Never Knowing Reasonable’ my sister states.  Well, I find that all very interesting and to my mind it’s too easy an explanation so I have made it my job to explore and dig a bit deeper into what may lie behind this down the generations.

Exploring South African Roots

It is no secret that Bert Hellinger drew on his time in South Africa as a catholic priest.  He opened a school and ministered to many in the Zulu community, so how could he not gain some kind of understanding about their life in the community.   Embedded in the constellations method are some African family principles that I was immediately intrigued by and curious about.

After I started working with the constellations method with clients I became much clearer about the relevance of the  Indigenous Wisdom in the method when working with black families and those of African heritage.   In many Western societies, the nuclear family has become the norm over several generations.  But in many communities in the Caribbean, in the UK and the Americas, the nuclear family is not the norm and there are many different configurations of family.

Constellations in the African Diaspora

In the UK large numbers of children were left back home as their parents came first to settle here.  Later when they came there were often problems with finding a clear sense of identity.  Indeed although I was brought up in a stable ‘nuclear family’ I keenly felt the loss of a Caribbean community around me growing up,  And I spent many years angry and looking for a sense of identity that I couldn’t find in either a”British” or ‘Caribbean’ identity.  And of course this sense of lack of identity and belonging is not unique to me or my community, it cut across race and culture and ethnicity.

Losing Touch Time after time I would start to map out a constellation and then realise that personal issues that the client came with, was related to the wider cultural environment and historical traumas of the specific African diaspora experience.  So a challenge for me in working with the constellations method was to more clearly reflect the issues that affect families and communities that I work with.   And this meant finding a way to integrate the Western systemic theory and Indigenous African Wisdom and make it relevant for an African diaspora community of which I am a part.

Losing Touch with an Indigenous Past

African heritage people living in a westernised society have lost touch with an indigenous past.  family constellations can build on these lost traditions and by so doing help with answering questions about identity and belonging.  How?  Family constellations can bring in the wider ancestral legacy and extended family and community and the process can start to show people, what has been lost and how to start to regain it.

For those reasons, my approach is increasingly to frame the work as an indigenous healing therapy that is appropriate to meet the many facets of a minority black experience in a majority white culture.  As a family constellations practitioner, I believe that this approach can be a starting place for healing family and community issues that arise from the trauma of an enslaved past.  I will be writing about this more in blog posts, as I deepen my knowledge and skills in this profound work.

Until next time!