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It's All Relative

The Spark explores Constellations


Imagine if there was a way to connect to your ancestors, and find out how their lives and experiences affect your own. My mum was adopted, and her mum was adopted, and I’m naturally interested in how this might affect me.

I recently came across Constellations Therapy, which offers a way to access deep truths about family connections past and present, working on a soul level with every member of a family system, both living and dead. I was wondering how effective this work would be for me, given that I didn’t know a huge amount about my mother’s or my grandmother’s adoption. I sought out Constellations expert Vivian Broughton to find out more.

“With Constellations you don’t have to know everything,” Vivian said. “It’s about helping people now, not resolving past experiences.”

So what is Constellations Therapy? It deals with systems, and it defines a system as “any two or more people or elements that are in a relationship with each other”. This could be a family, a society, a religion, or a work place, for example. Constellations works to support the healthy life of the system it is dealing with.

Constellations was founded in Germany by Bert Hellinger, originally a family therapist who found himself working more and more with the children and grandchildren of World War 2 holocaust victims, and helping them deal with issues they’d inherited.

Constellations’ methodology found a way to represent the dead and respond to issues that were a legacy of the past.

Vivian Broughton discovered Constellations in the early 1990s when she attended a Bert Hellinger seminar in London, along with around 250 other people.

“I was floored by what I experienced and saw – it was unlike anything I had experienced before,” she told me. “It was something direct, dramatic and profound which affected all who were there. And it changed my life.”

In 2000 Vivian persuaded Dr Albrecht Mahr, who worked for many years with Hellinger, to deliver training in the UK. Vivian took on the organising of the training, and began the process of becoming a teacher herself. Now they’re on the fifth of a successful series.

Vivian does one-on-one and group sessions. If she works with groups of people, for example a family, then different members can stand in to represent, and voice the views of, the dead, with amazing results.

A family system will usually involve parents, siblings and parents’ siblings, and grandparents – ancestors through the blood line. However, the lives of still born, miscarried or aborted children are very important too and it’s a principle of Constellations that no-one who’s a member of the system can be excluded. Members may try to exclude other members by forgetting them, for example where the grief of survivors – perhaps for a child who died young, or someone who died in a war – is too painful to dwell on. But according to the Constellations work, “the system will not allow it; the person will be remembered at the soul level.”

Vivian says she is 100 per cent committed to the work. “I’m excited about the real opportunities it offers for people who, for example, are refugees or immigrants or affected by the current Middle East crisis. Most therapists tend to deal with what’s happened in this lifetime, whereas with Constellations events don’t just end there. It can look at the bigger system.”

I asked Vivian about the growing interest in genealogy, as seen on TV with programmes as “Who Do You Think You Are?”.

“It shows that people have a need to know,” she told me “Many people feel they have lost contact with their roots and need to find a connection. Constellations and genealogies provide that connection.”

I decided to have a one-to-one Constellations session with Vivian myself. To start the session Vivian strewed a bag of little Lego people onto the floor beside me and asked me to pick one to represent me, one for my mum. As I instinctively placed them on the table between us we discussed the feelings that emerged. Slowly we built up a group of people representing my biological grandmother, my adopted granny, and other members of the family from further back in time. I voiced their feelings about where they’d been placed, sometimes we moved them and discussed how the change affected how they felt, sometimes Vivian suggested words they might say which I repeated and reflected on. Sometimes the figures talked to each other and the exchanges brought information that I can’t know for sure was real but seemed true and right.

By the end of the session the group, which had been distant and separate from each other, and from me, joined together, welcoming me and my son to the family, and thanking my granny for caring for their child, welcoming her as an honorary member of the family too. Days later the feeling of being part of this family and the welcome I and my son had been given was still with me, in a validating and solid way.

Vivian’s one-to-one sessions are usually on a one-off basis but she offers a follow up two or three months later, because the work needs time to settle and sink in. I’m looking forward to seeing how any effects will deepen or develop over time. Vivian’s favourite quote is from Somé (who wrote ‘Ritual: Power, Healing and Community’) and it seems apt: “The young ones are the future of the old ones.”

Vivian offers workshops, seminars, teaching courses, presentations and private consultations in Constellations. Individual consultations in Bath, £120 for a 3 hour session.
Tel: 01373 836694, Skype Phone: 0121 288 6514 (computer to computer free calling), or email


First published issue 47 (Winter 2006)
Written by Beccy Golding

Disclaimer – details were correct at time of going to press, but may now have changed. Please make your own checks.

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