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