I’ve written previously about intergenerational trauma and its effects — this is an important area of trauma and PTSD about which we don’t speak enough. I’m very pleased today to share with you this guest post by Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP, about a terrific upcoming conference that addresses this topic in an incredibly comprehensive way and with one of my favorite practitioners keynoting: Edward Tick.
Sometimes the Trauma Isn’t Yours – Family Constellations Tell Us So
Michael had been suffering with chronically painful feet for quite a long time.
Too long. The doctors diagnosed the tingling and needle-like pain as “sensory neuropathy,” but they could not offer any treatment other than pain medication and antidepressants – neither of which made a difference. Alternative treatments, like acupuncture, bodywork and allergy remedies, did little resolve the pain.
Then, desperate for help, Michael enrolled in a workshop that promoted “Family Constellations,” a new experiential approach that examines multi-generational trauma.
Michael had remembered that his father’s feet had been badly damaged during with frostbite during his service in World War II. At the workshop, the facilitator focused on the relationships between his father, the U.S. commanding officers and the Japanese people.
As the experience unfolded with the help of group members, it became apparent that Michael was unconsciously carrying the guilt, pain and trauma of his father’s war experience.
With this fact coming to consciousness and the interventions of the facilitator, Michael’s condition improved almost immediately. At the end of two months, the pain appeared to have fully faded away.
Family constellations – sometimes called systemic constellations – offer a new dimension to our understanding of trauma. Although much trauma certainly is personal, it appears that traumatic experiences in past generations are passed down to future generations, affecting our physical health, prosperity, relationships, emotional stability and more.
Family constellations were developed during the past 30 years in Germany by Bert Hellinger, a philosopher and family therapist, to address the problems of the children of Holocaust survivors and children of the Nazis after World War II.
Family constellations have become extremely popular in Europe, Russia, China and Latin America as an alternative to talk therapy. They are particularly helpful for people and families who have experienced trauma or want to understand the multi-generational aspects of trauma.
This style of work is now growing rapidly in the United States, with several established training programs and a biennial conference that brings together trainers and facilitators throughout North America to share innovations with the method.
The many faces of trauma will be examined during the 2015 North American Systemic Constellations Conference Nov. 12-15 in San Diego. It is expected to draw a variety of professionals, including mental health professionals, physicians, educators, coaches, organizational consultants, alternative practitioners, body workers and others.
Presenters will discuss, among other themes, trauma as it relates to addiction, love relationships and physical and emotional health. One of the 50-plus presenters is Michael Reddy, the coach who suffered the chronic foot pain and has told his story in his book Health, Happiness and Family Constellations: How Ancestors, Family Systems, and Hidden Loyalties Shape Your Life and What You Can Do About It.
Saturday, Nov. 14, will focus on healing the wounds of veterans from a systemic perspective with Edward Tick, Ph.D., well known for his books War and the Soul: Healing Our Nation’s Veterans from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and more recently Warrior’s Return: Restoring the Soul After War.
Although Dr. Tick is not a constellation facilitator, his work takes a systemic perspective and is highly compatible with the constellation approach.
The constellation approach involves an experiential process where ordinary people, without expertise in psychology or any other healing modality, are able to sense the hidden dimensions of persistent and troubling problems within the larger family system. Typically, these are problems that defy resolution with rational analysis.
Once the distorted dynamics are discovered, a trained facilitator will direct changes within the grouping to release trauma and create a greater sense of peace, harmony and resolution.
The growing literature base – as well as numerous anecdotal reports – report unexpected correlations that shift an inner picture of the trauma dynamic. Among them: The woman with the eating disorder who makes the connection between her binge-eating and her Irish ancestors who struggled with starvation. The depressed man who is carrying the huge sadness and grief of his mother’s miscarriages, the would-be siblings who were lost before he was born. The woman who finds the source of her failed business as related to the trauma of immigration and poverty of her grandparents. The list goes on.
Daylong and full-conference options are available for attendees. Veterans, active military and their families will be offered special discounts of $150 for Saturday and $495 if they wish to attend the full conference. Use VETDAY code for one-day ticket and VETFULL code for full conference ticket during the registration process at www.constellateus.com/conference2015.
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Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP, is a certified facilitator of constellation work, a board-certified trainer, educator and practitioner of psychodrama, sociometry and group psychotherapy, and co-author of Integrating Psychodrama and Systemic Constellation Work: New Directions for Action Methods, Mind-Body Therapies and Energy Healing and other books on mind-body therapies including Healing Eating Disorders with Psychodrama and Other Action Methods.” She is the author of “Show and Tell Psychodrama: Skills for Therapists, Coaches, Teachers, Leaders.” For more information, see www.realtruelife.com.