“When we have passed a certain age, the soul of the child we were and the souls of the dead from whom we have sprung come to lavish on us their riches and their spells.”

Marcel Proust – In Search of Lost Time

An Expanded Consciousness Model in Psychology: Systemic Constellations

What happens when the treatment method that works best makes no sense in traditional psychology?  That is the dilemma of Systemic Constellations.  It’s an interesting alternate treatment method based on the idea that consciousness can and should be treated at the group level.  That is to say, individuals can be traumatized by events within their group even if they were not directly involved.  Not only does this occur in real time, but it goes back into history.  A person can even be personally affected by events that their ancestors experienced.  From a practical standpoint, this means that individual and group stresses can be approached by looking at what happened within the group.

From a materialist viewpoint, where the brain creates the mind, this makes no sense of course, but if we look at consciousness as being a fundamental property of the universe then there is a real possibility that this has a scientific footing.  It is entirely possible to transfer memories from the past into the future as witness with the peculiar phenomenon of Cellular Memory.  (Some recipients of organ transplants acquire habits of their donors.)

I think that the idea has value.  People don’t live in vacuums; we are all part of small communities which are part of larger communities and if we are going to assume that consciousness is fundamental, then we have to acknowledge the fact that consciousness forms entities within entities.  Watch this short video of a white blood cell chasing a microbe to see what I mean:


It’s fairly obvious that both the white blood cell and the bacteria are behaving independently and with conscious intent.  The white blood cell is a living part of our living body.  Or to put it another way, it is a consciousness within a consciousness.  It is both whole unto itself and part of a greater whole at the same time.  This is a demonstration of the holographic nature of consciousness.  All pieces, no matter how small are whole unto themselves and together create something more complex than the sum of the individual pieces.  There is no reason for the grouping of consciousness to stop at a single living entity, such as a human, a bird or even an insect.  The grouping of individual conscious entities into larger entities can easily be found in nature.  There is an eerie similarity between the movement of a flock of starlings and the white blood cell.  Each Starling has its white blood cells which are conscious within the starling which is conscious which is within a flock, which is conscious as well.


We also see these traits within bugs, which, individually are conscious entities and can demonstrate some spectacular examples of systemic constellations in the form of termite mounds and leaf cutter ant colonies.

These are both two dimensional renderings of highly complex, site adapted colonies created by creatures about the size of your fingernail.  These are individual creatures, acting as one to create a structure of immense complexity that no single bug could hope to accomplish.  They have to work together in a way that is only possible if you accept the existence of systemic constellations.

On a much larger scale we have the parapsychological research of the Global Consciousness Project, where it is shown that large changes in human consciousness can affect random number generators.

There are also some interesting experiments and evidence coming from an unlikely source that hint at electromagnetically based entangled communication as the means of information transfer.  The idea of systemic constellations is not at all foreign to current parapsychological experiments.  There is even another theory that runs along the same lines.  Rupert Sheldrake has coined the term Morphogenetic Fields.

Morphic fields in biology
Over the course of fifteen years of research on plant development, I came to the conclusion that for understanding the development of plants, their morphogenesis, genes and gene products are not enough. Morphogenesis also depends on organizing fields. The same arguments apply to the development of animals. Since the 1920s many developmental biologists have proposed that biological organization depends on fields, variously called biological fields, or developmental fields, or positional fields, or morphogenetic fields.

In other words it appears to be a property of consciousness to form conscious entities which combined form greater conscious entities which combined form greater conscious entities until it extends to the whole universe.

When this concept is applied to psychology it is used to help people see themselves and the problems they have as part of a greater whole.  Somehow, this is quite helpful.  Because of the successes that have come with this approach, this is a small but growing field of study in psychology.  The International Systemic Constellation Association(ISCA) currently has 222 members spanning the globe and according to Wikipedia is being integrated by thousands of practitioners world wide.  (No independent source is given for this claim.)  This is a very small number of people; it is only slightly larger than the field of parapsychology.  That is not surprising however, given the animosity that the field of clinical psychology has towards any theories that involve an expanded view of consciousness

In the Systemic Constellation system, people are treated as members of larger groups and the impact of those groups on the individual is given significant importance in therapy.  The groups may be as small as a family or as large as an entire nation.  One area of focus with this system for example is the enduring effects of slavery on the psyche’s of men and women generations removed from this horror.

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker Lisa Iverson writes:

The human tendency to avoid reconnection with feelings regarding this long chapter in U.S. history is an aspect of trauma’s “freeze” response. This frozenness has kept us from recognizing slavery’s contribution to the American and global economy, and today we all pay the price for ignoring enslaved African Americans’ contributions. These unhealed, unacknowledged collective wounds of slavery’s landscape cuts us off from creating sustainable, just solutions for today’s economy. We deeply need one another to melt these frozen traumas.

According to practitioner Dan Booth Cohen PhD:

Systemic constellations reveal and transform embedded patterns that are otherwise very challenging to understand and change. Intellectually, we may recognize patterns of negative behaviors and destructive relationships, but in practice it can be extremely difficult to free ourselves from the ones that feel most unwanted. Through this process we become aware of the complex web of interconnection reaching into our present from generations past. Experiencing this interconnectedness so directly has an amazingly freeing effect.

To put this in more pedestrian terms:  Hey!  It works!  Do it again!  The people who practice this technique do it for that one simple reason.  I am all in favor of practicality in psychology.  Personally, in my admittedly quick review of the literature, I find that the practitioners are very much moved by what they experience in healing their clients.  There are several instances in the literature that I read where the language these practitioners use is almost poetic.  What that says to me is that they have hit a well of emotional depth that they are bravely exploring; it seems to be very difficult for them to explain this in the dry, clinical terms that one so commonly finds in psychology research.  Is this not more real than a list of pathologies and their symptoms?  I think so.

This method is the antithesis of modern psychology.  While most studies focus on breaking humans into their individual parts and classifying them, this method treats us not only as a whole, but as part of a greater whole.  I would term this Holistic Psychology, which, like its Holistic medicine counterpart, seems to work better than classical models.

Posted by Craig Weiler In Alternative Medicine 31.12.2011



Let’s Find Out

Apple 2015

If you say it isn’t possible, then you have closed the door. And if you say it is possible, you have also closed the door. But if you say, ‘Let’s find out,’ then you are open to it, you are eager to find out. J. Krishnamurti, from This Light in Oneself: True Meditation

The Gatekeeper

Here is a beautiful poem written and sent to me by Samar Zebian, who is working with Healing the Wounds of History. It is beautiful…..

Gatekeeper don’t you see,

You, him, her and me

Are the gate, the lock and key


Give up your knotted brow

Let go of the tightness in your smile

Let your measured stride go unmeasured for a while


Walk tall, walk like a king of kings

Or the queen of everything

Leave behind all the little things


Open up the windows and doors

And let the wind blow through

Let it make music on the cords of the heart

Let it find something new

By Samar Zebian

How Trauma Is Carried Across Generations

Here is an interesting article written by Molly S. Castelloe in May 2012

systemic constellations

Holding the Secret History of our Ancestors

What is overwhelming and un-namable is passed on to those we are closest to. Our loved ones carry what we cannot. And we do the same.

This is the subject of Lost in Transmission: Studies of Trauma Across Generations, edited by M. Gerard Fromm (2012). This collection of essays on traumatic transmission builds on the idea that “what human beings cannot contain of their experience—what has been traumatically overwhelming, unbearable, unthinkable—falls out of social discourse, but very often on to and into the next generation as an affective sensitivity or a chaotic urgency.”

The transmission of trauma may be particular to a given family suffering a loss, such as the death of an infant, or it can be a shared response to societal trauma.

Maurice De Witt, a sidewalk Santa on Fifth Avenue noticed a marked change in behavior the holiday season following 9/11 when parents would not “let the hands of their children go. The kids sense that. It’s like water seeping down, and the kids can feel it… There is an anxiety, but the kids can’t make the connections.”

“This astute man was noticing a powerful double message in the parent’s action,” Fromm says. “Consciously and verbally, the message was ‘Here’s Santa. Love him.’ Unconsciously and physically, it was ‘Here’s Santa. Fear him.’ The unnamed trauma of 9/11 was communicated to the next generation by the squeeze of a hand.”

Psychic legacies are often passed on through unconscious cues or affective messages that flow between child and adult. Sometimes anxiety falls from one generation to the next through stories told.

Psycho-historian Peter Loewenberg recalls the oral tradition of his parents who lived through the hunger years in Germany during the First World War when the physical health and stature of a generation was stunted due to prolonged malnutrition. According to their stories, a once-a-year indulgence was an orange segmented and apportioned among the entire family. Loewenberg further identifies a cause chain between physical privations of the German people during WWI, which culminated in the Great Depression (1929), and the Nazi appeal to children of Central Europe. To what extent did “the passive experiences of childhood starvation” lead to a reversal and fantasied “undoing” through the hunger regimen and cruelty of the concentration camps? (Lowenberg, 61)

He cites another example of group transmission and its reversal. “The greatest Chinese historical trauma was undoubtedly the humiliation of the Japanese Imperial land” (1937-1945). When Chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed the People’s Republic in 1949 and said “The Chinese People have stood up!” he was repairing historical shame and hurt.

Psycho-historian Howard Stein takes up the topic of collective trauma in America and imagines all the possible directions trauma can be transmitted in nations, ethnic groups, religions, and families. Trauma can be transferred in “vertical” direction, for example, in the brutal downsizing of a corporation. This is also the case in a leadership change at a local church after a pastor has been accused of sexual misconduct.=-

Stein articulates “horizontal” transmission as the circulation of injury among people in more equivalent powers relations. This is often the experience of health professionals working with victims of large scale disaster, such as the Oklahoma City bombing (1995), who suffer the empathy of witnessing second-hand. Vertical and lateral transmissions may happen concurrently, in relation to the same event.

Traumatic transmission ferries out unacknowledged grief along multiple vectors. Stein says mourning is “short-circuited,” groups become “stuck” in time, and collective solidarity is created in the process.

Transmission is the giving of a task. The next generation must grapple with the trauma, find ways of representing it and spare transmitting the experience of hell back to one’s parents. A main task of transmission is to resist disassociating from the family hertiage and “bring its full, tragic story into social discourse.” (Fromm, xxi)

Often one child within a family is nominated to both carry and communicate the grief of their predecessors. There was a man who entered a Holocaust Museum requesting that the institution keep the remains of the tattooed serial number taken from his arm. The chosen child is analogously charged with the mission of keeping the family heritage, being a “holding environment.”

How do we carry secret stories from before our lifetimes?

Trans-generational transmissions take on life in our in dreams, in acting out, in “life lessons” given in turns of phrase and taught us by our family. Discovering transmission means coming to know and tell a larger narrative, one from the preceding generation. It requires close listening to the stories of our parents and grandparents, with special attention to the social and historical milieu in which they lived — especially its military, economic and political turmoil.

The emotional ties between child and ancestors are essential to the development of our values. These bonds often determine the answers to myriad questions such as: “Who am I?” “Who am I to my family?” “Who can ‘we’ trust” and who are our enemies?” “What ties me to my family?” And, most importantly, “of these ties, which do I reject and which to I keep?” (Barri Belnap, 127)

How does one discharge this mission? It is a precarious terrain of finding one’s way through a web of familial loyalties to which one has been intensely faithful. The working through of transmission entails a painful, seemingly unbearable, process of separation. It can become an identity crisis, the breaking of an emotional chain. As Fromm puts it, “something life defining and deeply intimate is over.” The child speaks what their parent could not. He or she recognizes how their own experience has been authored, how one has been authorized, if unconsciously, to carry their parents’ injury into the future. In rising above the remnants of one’s ancestors’ trauma, one helps to heal future generations.



From Plato’s Charmide

Zamolxis, …says further,

“That as you ought not to attempt to cure the eyes without the head, or the head without the body, so neither ought you to attempt to cure the body without the soul; and this,” he said, “is the reason why the cure of many diseases is unknown to the physicians of Hellas, because they are ignorant of the whole, which ought to be studied also; for the part can never be well unless the whole is well.”

For all good and evil, whether in the body or in human nature, originates, as he declared, in the soul, and overflows from thence, as if from the head into
the eyes. And therefore if the head and body are to be well, you must begin
by curing the soul; that is the first thing.

“Let no one,” he said, “persuade you to cure the head, until he has first
given you his soul to be cured…”

Plato's Head

Plato’s Head


“Vulnerability is not weakness – it is the most accurate measurement of courage”
Brene Brown

constellation of courage

constellation of courage

Portraits of Reconciliation


20 years after the genocide in Rwanda,
reconciliation still happens one encounter at a time….. These images and the enormity of the story behind them make very special viewing…. do take a look. It is a humbling experience.

Just please yourself…..

the most perfect vase of flowers

 for me this is the most perfect vase of flowers

Eventually I discovered for myself the utterly simple prescription for creativity: be intensely yourself. Don’t try to be outstanding; don’t try to be a success; don’t try to do pictures for others to look at – just please yourself.              Ralph Steiner