RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT Published in the Knowing Field January 2021 edition Y. Sethi
The Missing Piece for Family Constellation practitioners
Family Constellations is a highly innovative and magical process for deep change and self-healing which I feel highly privileged to have discovered and be involved in as a practitioner and trainer since 2005.
At first, as a Systemic Family Constellations practitioner in a euphoria of initiation, I felt that constellations could be used for most, if not all human struggles, dilemmas and issues. However, over time even though the constellation process remains a perfect choice for systemic issues, it became apparent that it is not appropriate for all issues.
In my earlier days in this work, after coming to an understanding of the personal and systemic aspects that require their own specific approaches, I would work with the systemic parts of an issue and then go back to my counselling, clinical hypnotherapy, NLP or EFT tapping to attempt to assist clients who had issues outside of those purely systemic. This frequently felt sporadic, confused and clunky compared to the ease and flow of the constellation process. In addition, I was aware of using a collection of haphazard approaches that frequently came from different or non-complimentary therapeutic foundations. I began to consider how I could find a way of working that was more congruent with the constellation process in terms of ease and flow and was client-centred, brief and solution-focused for the personal repressed material that was underpinning symptoms.
Over many years of working with clients I found that I could separate human experience into at least two classifications. Firstly, the systemic, for those patterns that come through the family system and secondly the personal, for those that arise through the act of living; through personal choices, conflicts, dilemmas, stresses, strains and traumas of life experiences. Some constellation practitioners may also say: “But don’t our personal choices also come from the patterning of our family system?” This is where it becomes more complicated because the answer may be ‘yes’ and/or ‘no’.
We know that we are part of a family system and this has both positive and negative consequences due to the healthy love, entanglements and blind love that link us to our tribe with generational patterns, tragedies and trauma. This does affect us in our daily, personal life. However, through the act of living, we also have a rich tapestry of experiences that accumulate in our personal lives as well, that is separate to the systemic because it is personally ours.
It is probably true that over time, if we don’t resolve our personal issues, these may become systemic for our children and grandchildren, so there is a link. The systemic energies arrive with our DNA as epigenetics studies are showing as ‘genetic memory’. I have called this systemic, emotional and relational memory, the ‘genetic unconscious mind’. This is deeply unconscious until it is exposed in a systemic process such as a constellation.
In terms of personal experiences, these too have both positive and negative consequences. Personal experiences are valuable in adding to our wisdom as we mature, informing and influencing how to navigate our lives. However, not all experiences are positive or easy to process and our brain is wired to protect us from the more upsetting or traumatic experiences of daily life, as it has a mechanism whereby these are repressed in the personal unconscious mind, initially for protection. The fight or flight responses from distress are automatic neurological reactions for physical survival and psychological protection. This forms the personal unconscious mind and also has an effect and influence on our choices and how we navigate our lives.
So I have come to believe, we have at least two strands of disturbances that can form triggers to thoughts, feelings and dysfunction in the brain, mind and body. In my experience there is no separation between the mind and body and further, disturbances and trauma may be trapped in the mind-body connection causing dysfunctions, until they are processed or released. The systemic parts of these disturbances may be processed in the constellation process.
As constellators, I believe we are in danger of relying too much on the systemic as the answer to all aspects of problems, as it does not allow for the presence of the personal-autonomy and free-will, as a vital part of our resilience with a soul and life purpose of our own. If we were all run by the pre-programming idea of everything being systemic, then no one would ever break free or make changes of any sort and this is clearly not the case, as change and healing may take place at any time under appropriate conditions. Therefore, personal and free-will elements deserve to be appreciated as part of the human psyche. From this we have the reality that many experience growth, transformation and new possibilities.
As systemic practitioners we have a few choices as to how we practise. To attempt to use constellations for all issues, relational and personal. To specialise in systemic issues only and to refer people who do not fall into this category to specialists in other fields; or alternatively, to complete the missing link and work with both the personal and systemic aspects of the whole person, by choosing an additional modality that provides the knowledge and tools to do both. This would need to be a modality that is informed by constellations, the best of compatible psychotherapies and neuroscience, so that you can freely work with both the systemic and personal in clients, in a way that is brief, experiential, psychodynamic and deeply powerful for personal issues.
Here I introduce Emotional Mind Integration (EMI), a neuro-trance psychotherapy founded by myself 2016. EMI utilises specific appropriate knowledge and skills from past psychotherapies, along with the latest in neuroscience in one seamless, brief, experiential and powerful modality to provide an approach that is relatively easy to use, clearing one neural pathway at a time, for deep and fast results.
For several years now I have used these two modalities Systemic Family Constellations and Emotional Mind Integration for almost 100% of my private practice working with relationships, mental health, trauma and recovery from sexual abuse. Constellations for the systemic part of issues and Emotional Mind Integration for the personal. Together they make a complete package for conflict and trauma recovery in a holistic approach. Each complement the other and together make the whole.
The Constellation process is a powerful way of working with the relational aspects of our humanity. The process highlights hidden loyalties, entanglements and blind love and assists in the release of systemic trauma as much as possible and creates a space whereby we can find a healthier place within the family system. In this way, we can receive the love and connection that is available to us and develop a healthier sense of worthiness and move on in our lives. This is highly appropriate for issues that come out of the family system (systemic). However, I found in my private practice that many people who had done Family Constellations in groups or private sessions and made significant inner changes and were in the best place they could be, in relation to their family and the system, frequently had further issues that the constellation process did not address or assist them with. Over time I realised that there was another avenue of unconscious material that was present, that is more personal rather than systemic, that required a specific approach. I found that my normal pre-constellation training methods of using psychotherapy, counselling or traditional hypnotherapy felt very slow, cumbersome and often largely ineffective in these cases. This put me on a road of investigation and experimentation to find better ways to work with these issues.
Having done Family Constellations processes with me, many clients were in a good place in their family system, but retained some symptoms such as triggered emotions and behaviour from the remnants of unresolved disturbances and trauma from the biography of their lived experiences. I came to recognise this as personal unconscious material.
EMI is a neuro-trance psychotherapy that is an amalgamation of key therapeutic, healing principles from former, present and neuroscience fields in one streamlined process. This is designed to clear and reorganise one neural pathway at a time and complete with integration each session. Like the constellation process, Emotional Mind Integration is a brief, experiential process. EMI is constellation, gestalt, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, trauma and neuroscience informed and designed to be solution-focused in providing a space for self-healing.
The process is built on the EMI core requirements for wellness. These are, Love, Connection, Safety, Justice, Dignity and Autonomy. EMI philosophy holds the belief that if these are in place, all is well in the inner life of individuals, in that they are capable of growth, change and directing and living their life according to their wishes.
Not having these in place and holding unresolved personal disappointments, conflicts, emotions, disturbances, shocks and trauma may result in disturbed Emotional Mind States.
I will share some of the essential components of the Emotional Mind Integration philosophy and practice here.
EMI takes the view we are each composed of a family of Emotional Mind States.
From the EMI perspective we consider human personality a dynamic and growing entity, that has the capacity to grow in wisdom, knowledge and resources through experiences and the ability to make meaning. Emotional Mind (EM) states are created throughout life to provide the knowledge and resources to manage our lives. This may include management of environments, tasks and relationships in daily life. When things go well, the earlier (younger) Emotional Mind states grow into more resourced adult states. A bit like how the earlier versions of computer software are constantly updated by more advanced knowledge and function. Healthy Emotional Mind states have the capacity to continually grow.
Problems and dysfunction in the personal mind develop due to unresolved conflicts, emotions and trauma. Trauma is the key.
Through EMI I have developed a definition of trauma as:
Any situation that causes a shock or distressed emotional state that cannot be processed and is therefore repressed in the unconscious mind and body for protection from overwhelm. This is a traumatic response. The fight and flight response is triggered.
Through my practice I found that many situations that our adult self would cope with easily is frequently experienced as shock, distress or total overwhelm (trauma) by our younger two or ten year old Emotional Mind (EM) states. This not only happens in our formative years, but may happen at any time up to the present.
Any situation, in an adult or child where they were subjected to humiliation, shame, abuse or assault or the violence of war that was not able to be processed is repressed in the unconscious mind and frequently forms disturbed EM states at the ages of the traumatic experiences. So ‘normal’ people, me and you, are frequently composed of healthy well-functioning Emotional Mind states and some that are disturbed and frozen at the ages of the disturbing events. These become triggers in the present to cues in daily life that trigger seemingly inappropriate responses, such as anxiety and trauma to seemingly normal situations. Disturbed EM states may be triggered into defence, anger, sadness, depression, anxiety or panic or aggression in seemingly normal everyday interactions.
I also acknowledge classical clinical hypnotherapy’s understanding, that the unconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between fact or fiction. Further, I know through my work, that the body ‘remembers’. I have come to realise that the unconscious mind is not only located in the brain, but also in the body. This is because the brain is linked to the body through cells, organs and neurons and senses, such as touch, smell, vision, hearing and feeling. This means that in reality, there is no separation between the body, mind or the brain. This knowledge helps us understand how disturbed emotional mind states are held in the body, organs and the mind.
The limbic system is important here as it is the emotional centre of the brain. It includes the amygdala, thalamus, hippocampus, hypothalamus, basal ganglia, and cingulate gyrus. These are all part of the limbic, emotional centre of the brain beneath the cerebrum. The limbic system is important because it is responsible for the formation of memories, and our emotional lives are stored here. The components of the limbic system regulate endocrine and autonomic functioning in response to emotional stimuli. In short, the three key functions this area of the brain controls are, arousal (stimulation), memory, and emotions. In addition, it has been found that the hippocampus has the capacity to make new memories from old. This is vital information, that suggests that with appropriate therapeutic methodologies, that it may be possible to facilitate the release and resolution of disturbances and trauma locked in the mind/body as disturbed Emotional Mind states. This may involve releasing adrenalin arousal of such feelings as fear or anger through the completion of any unfinished business (locked in the arrested disturbed states) and thereby regain homeostasis, dignity and autonomy.
These findings assist us in understanding what Erickson said about it never being too late to have a happy childhood and that the mind doesn’t know the difference between fact or fiction and is able under favourable conditions and conducive therapeutic approaches adopt new and healthier perspectives in recover. This is further supported by neuroscience discovery of brain plasticity, with its capacity for change, healing and growth.
The EMI process starts with clarifying a client’s symptom or problem. A light trance is induced and an EMI process of body-sensing is adopted to locate the disturbed or trapped emotional mind state connected to the initial symptom or problem and regressed to the first time it came into the life of the client. The next stage involves following an appropriate EMI healing pathway for release or solution and then integrated into the mind and body before bringing the client back into full awareness. All within a normal session period of 60 minutes.
A woman in her late teens came to me in a very distressed state, because she could no longer catch a bus to her university course or to her part time job. She said that she didn’t know if she was scared of the people on the bus, or of being in a road accident. She was fine until the bus pulled up and then she experienced panic attacks and could not enter the bus. This had been growing worse over the last month, until she could no longer board the bus.
I started with a Family Constellation for this issue and soon found she was in a warm and peaceful place with her family and the system. I then started an EMI process with her permission, where she located that panic feeling in her body and was regressed to the beginning of the problem. She went back to the age of twelve when she was with two of her best friends at a bus stop. An argument had started as her friends had been listening to gossip and accused her of doing something she didn’t do. She was experiencing deep hurt and shocked as the bus arrived. The disturbed EM state was resourced in the process and able to express itself fully in the memory of the event and she received a deep apology from her friends in her mind’s eye. The process was completed with integration into the present.
The young woman left me feeling happy and relaxed. I asked her to let me know how she coped with the bus that week. She contacted me a week later to say she was fine and she can’t really remember why she had felt panic about going on the bus.
The EMI core conditions had been internally reinstated, which may have been in this case, love and connection, justice and dignity. For many more case studies and more explanations, go to my book Rapid Core Healing Pathways to Growth and Emotional Healing: Using the unique dual approach of Family Constellations and Emotional Mind Integration for personal and systemic health..
This complete healing process is made up of key therapeutic processes linked in a specific order, creating a much bigger whole the components when linked in this way. The EMI process provides a pathway for healing the mind and heart and clearing neural pathways of disturbances and trauma, so that new healthier networks may develop, without re-traumatisation.
The key to this modality is that it locates the symptom connected to the disturbed emotional mind state and the root cause, allows space for the client to complete unfinished business or release within the original situation, in the mind’s eye, so that core conditions for wellness may be reinstated within each session. Making Emotional Mind Integration, very much the Constellator’s friend in forming a complete and wholistic practice for both personal and systemic issues.
Yildiz Sethi is a Family Constellation facilitator, trainer, founder of Emotional Mind Integration and Rapid Core Healing and author of Rapid Core Healing Pathways to Growth and Emotional Healing: Using the unique dual approach of Family Constellations and Emotional Mind Integration for personal and systemic health.
She provides programmes and online training in her modalities
See the Blog, The Constellators Friend HERE