Entanglements-JM DF JM (1)

Unravel Entanglements
with Love

Constellation Work



The Importance of Family

Bert Hellinger’s Systemic Constellations
The facilitator’s approach
The role of the representative
The morphogenetic field and the family soul

The Order of Love
a) Everyone who has belonged to the system will always belong
A person who has benefitted the family with their death or fate
Unborn children belong to the system

The birth order
b) Hierarchy (acknowledgement of the hierarchical order)
A restless child
c) Balance in giving and receiving

Accept your parents into your heart

Turn towards your own life with your parents behind you

When the Order of Love is in Disarray



Entanglements and breathing
Asthma and an interrupted movement towards the mother
Alcohol and other addictive substances


“Difficult” children

When Two Systems Meet

New man and new woman

The personal conscience
The collective conscience
How guilt and innocence are related to the consciences
Good and bad consciences
The third conscience

Roots and Homeland

Our relationship to our country
Restless and on the run
Mother tongue and native country
The woman follows the man and the man takes care of the woman
When the father and mother come from different countries
Accepting your country of origin
When wars divide
Civil war (Spain)
A family is divided (Bosnia and Croatia)
Let the dead rest in peace

Children who have been cut off from their roots
Surrogate mothers and donor-conceived children
“Gift” children in Greenland

The Journey Home
Bert Hellinger


18 years ago, a friend of mine from Germany rang and encouraged me to become acquainted with Bert Hellinger’s systemic constellations.
I had been working with family therapy and body therapy for many years, and had studied learning difficulties and dyslexia. I was working in schools and preschools and was interested in understanding human relationships in a wider context.
With my friend’s encouragement, I set about reading Hellinger’s books, and one day I tried out some of the method in an individual therapy session. The woman, who I had been counselling for an extended period of time, reported to me two weeks later that she had never experienced anything so deep and effective. She felt as though she had gained the clarity she needed to move on in her life. A process had been set in motion.
I was excited, a little overwhelmed and extremely curious to try it some more. This was the beginning of an extended study of Bert Hellinger’s systemic phenomenological constellations. Along the way, I had to work hard and without compromise and had to re-evaluate many of my values. It is a process that has benefitted my family, my children and my surroundings.

Bert Hellinger, with his courage and his wisdom, has enriched my life in a way that is difficult to describe. He has opened up my heart and my eyes to new ways of working with other people. His great love for all humans has taught me to be more accepting. With his wife, Sophie Hellinger, and various teachers at his school, he has passed on his experience and insights, and I am deeply grateful for the many years I have had the opportunity to be close to such a teacher.
In 2009, I published Hellinger’s book Die Liebe des Geistes in Danish (Hellinger Sciencia). The book compiles all his insights about human relationships and has brought much joy to many therapists, psychologists and people who want to understand their reactions and relationships better.
But many people have mentioned to me that they would like more Danish texts, for example, a book that can be used as an introduction to Hellinger’s methods and way of thinking, before launching into something as philosophical as Hellinger Sciencia. Something with more examples so that this method and way of thinking, that is new to many, becomes clear and graphic for ’beginners’.
I have accepted this challenge and with this book will attempt to describe the most important rules of Bert Hellinger’s systemic constellations. I hope that, with this book, I will be able to pass on what I have learnt from Bert Hellinger and all the people who studied with me over the years.

Through examples, often from my own practice, I try to show each component of the method. Each constellation can be used for inspiration, but they should of course never be used without consideration or transferred to another client with similar problems. Every person who comes for help must be met with a clear and open mind. No constellation can be used as a recipe, but by reading about the different constellations in the case studies, I hope that the reader will be able to understand the method.

I have, of course, changed all names of participants from the constellations. Some participants may recognise themselves and their stories when they read the book, but I am quite sure that no-one else will recognise them.

Other than outlining the actual method, I also want to help the reader to acknowledge the power and energy source that comes from our roots. Not just from our family, but also from the country and the culture we come from. Many people deny their roots, or cannot see their importance. I hope that this book can help them to unravel themselves from the destructive entanglements that prevent us loving ourselves and others, and to be satisfied with our origins.

Finally, I would like to thank all the clients and participants who have attended my courses and who have enriched me and the other participants with their life-histories and the work they have done with themselves. Also, thanks to everyone who has shown their trust by participating in a constellation I have facilitated, and thanks to all who have been prepared to be representatives for others in the constellations. It is always a beautiful experience, when several people meet for a weekend to solve each other’s entanglements.
Many thanks to my parents, my twin brother Helmut, my homeland Germany, the city of Lindau on my beloved Lake Constance. I have my roots with you.

A special thank you goes to my husband, Jens Thordal Christensen, who has supported me along the way and who created the front cover of this book, and participated in constellations during courses. Thank you to my patient children, Sarah Jo, Frederik and Mirjam who, despite being deprived of their mother, always supported me when I, once again, travelled to Germany for a course.
Rie Pedersen reviewed the manuscript, with the greatest of patience and empathy. Without her help and professional competence, this book would never have come into existence. Many affectionate thanks to Rie!

And, finally, thanks again from the heart to Bert Hellinger and his wife Sophie.

For your reading pleasure,

Doris Elisabeth Fischer, spring 2011.

Spring 2018

Seven years have passed since the first edition and this book has now been revised and translated into English.

I have facilitated constellations with hundreds, probably thousands of people and have learnt more with every one of their stories. It takes courage to participate in a constellation - it can cut right to the bone. There are no compromises and it can be confronting, but it is a place where we can really make changes.
I meet many people who want to make a better world and who dedicate their lives to peace. But they aren’t all willing to create peace inside themselves and within their families. This is understandable; those closest to us can hurt us the most. This is why it is so demanding resolving our personal problems. It is easier to fight against the mistakes of others or to guide others to achieve a better world. The critical transformations happen when we look inside ourselves and solve our own entanglements.

The world is undergoing great changes. We are being challenged to take responsibility on whole new levels. Nature is crying out for our loving attention and consciousness. With our desire for limitless economic growth, we have lost contact with our roots. We have exploited the earth’s resources as never before. Clean drinking water has vanished from many areas, the ground is polluted and animals and people are suffering.
The whole situation needs a wake-up call and a thorough clean-up.
My contribution to the clean-up is to work with the family field. There is so much that needs to be healed before we are strong enough to be present and to take responsibility for the life that we are part of creating at every single moment. Now is not the time to place guilt and responsibility with our ancestors or their histories.
We need to understand and to accept what has happened, and to leave history where it belongs. By judging others, we become entangled in history and aren’t free to take the next steps. The next steps require trust. Trust of an internal voice that shows us the way to a new history.

Working with the family field creates a great energy and a concrete opportunity to lift our common history up to a higher level, into the heart.
Every time we judge and exclude a person, we shut the door to our own heart and vibrate in a lower frequency. Everything we exclude separates us from ourselves and others. To remain whole, demands a ’yes’ and unconditional love. Love for everything and everyone just as they are.
The first step is to acknowledge that we often judge others. How often do we feel as though we are better, more important, maybe that we have a more legitimate place here on Earth than our fellow humans?
The next step is to acknowledge that we aren’t perfect. That we make mistakes and that we lie to ourselves and others - many times and every day.
To act from the heart you need the courage to be honest. To act from the heart isn’t about being on a fluffy pink cloud of sweetness, as some people perhaps think. It takes courage to stand by your convictions. It takes courage to no longer participate just to make others feel comfortable.

The book is full of case studies, covering various themes. Constellations can sound very simple and logical when you read about them. It seems easy to resolve old entanglements. But it isn’t always so simple. Entanglements often sit deep within us and may have become a part of our identity. They can be hard to change, because deep inside we think that we will be guilty in the eyes of our family if we let go of them. These guilty feelings make us feel anxious, that we will no longer belong and they threaten our entire existence. To move on, we actually need to feel guilty about our old concepts of what we are allowed to do, what we have to do and what kind of behaviour will exclude us from the family system.
We need to listen to our hearts with trust and to feel guilty with joy. Yes, joy, because we will realise that we can’t repair the fate of others by repeating their history and that the meaning of life will always be that we must live our own life.

I will conclude my new preface with one more thank you. It goes to a place in Scotland, called the Findhorn Foundation, a spiritual community that has existed since 1962. In the last four years, I have visited Findhorn many times, to immerse myself and to strengthen my faith in the divine light within myself, in everything and everyone around me. It is a precondition for my work to be able to connect to the light within me. My visits to Findhorn have supported me in believing in that light and the love that is in me and others. Thank you to everyone who looks after the Findhorn Foundation and who practice daily, what they call Love in Action. A special thank you goes to Michaela Baudisch, Niels Paulsen and Sverre Koxvold.

Entanglements-JM DF JM (1)

The Importance of Family

Bert Hellinger’s Systemic Constellations


What happens during a systemic constellation?
Systemic constellations are usually conducted in a group. The members of the group don’t necessarily know each other, but everyone is prepared to be a representative for each other.
The facilitator invites the participant who wishes to work on an issue to sit beside them. Without much talking and only providing the most important information, the two agree on an issue to work on. The facilitator invites the participant to choose a representative for each (relevant) family member and to position them in relation to each other as they see their ‘family portrait’. They do this without explanation or too much consideration.

In the past, a lot of time was spent positioning, sensing and directing each representative around the room. With time it has been found that each representative quickly finds their place if they allow themselves to follow the movement within them and the constellation.
Bert Hellinger calls this ‘following the movement of the soul’ and speaks of it as a spiritual impulse.
When all the representatives are positioned, the facilitator looks very carefully at where they are placed and how they relate to each other. They consider the following: Who is looking at whom, who is looking away, who is looking down at the floor, who reacts with anger, aggression, grief, resignation, happiness? Who wants to leave, who is missing?
Previously with constellations, each representative was asked about their feelings and sensations. They were also asked if they were drawn towards or away from another person. The facilitator moved everything around according to their answers, to see how the new portrait would affect the participant.
Today, with the new spiritual systemic constellations, the representatives are encouraged to follow their intuition and the movement that is guiding them. The facilitator is attentive and steps in if the movement comes to a stand-still or if they can see that the rules of the system aren’t being followed. These rules will be discussed in more detail in one of the following chapters.

There are, however, no definitive rules for when and how a facilitator should interfere in or interrupt a constellation. The process continues until everyone in the constellation is satisfied with their position, this is known as the ‘solution portrait’. With their family in position, the participant then usually sits outside the field and observes. They usually first enter the portrait, that is, are exchanged with their own representative, when the solution portrait is complete. There are, however, situations where it is advantageous to position the participant in the portrait earlier, or even from the very beginning.
The constellation reveals an image and shows us the patterns in our lives. We can be carrying old narratives, emotions and roles, perhaps unknowingly. Looking at this image from the outside can be healing for the participant and helps them to understand why they feel the way they do.

Occasionally, the facilitator needs to interrupt a constellation. In some families, there are secrets that can frighten some family members. They would prefer to avoid these secrets being revealed. When a facilitator intuits that there is a secret, they may interrupt the constellation. They might also interrupt when they feel that a representative is no longer in tune with their soul. This is apparent when the representative becomes restless or analytical. An interrupted constellation can have very strong effects. It often initiates a process that might first be resolved weeks or even months later.
Systemic constellations are conducted in groups. It is, however, possible to have individual sessions, using cardboard cut-outs, dolls, shoes or other aids.
The advantage of working in a group and with representatives is being able to use the movements of each representative and their empathy in the ‘family field’.

Before working with a person and their issue, it is a good idea to ask yourself:
“Will my contribution here and now lead to more or less?”

The aim of systemic constellations is not to relive traumatic childhood experiences.
The aim is to resolve entanglements and to help the person you are working with to get more enjoyment out of life. When a participant asks for help, you should ask yourself: “Will this lead to something positive or negative?” You shouldn’t do more than what is beneficial and necessary.
When a participant tells about their life, before they begin the constellation, you should ask yourself the same question: “Will this story or explanation lift us to a higher level or will it pull us down to something that gives us less?”

Do I get clarity out of that which confuses me? Does it give me energy and direction, or does it weaken me and my focus?”
This also applies when group participants ask questions or give comments after a constellation. You need to be especially careful here. Does the question add to the constellation, or does it destroy the benefits because it is analytical and judgemental?

The facilitator’s approach

Systemic family constellations differ from many other forms of therapy and family therapy.
One of the first things you learn as a facilitator is to approach the person, or family you are working with, without intention, fear or preference.
You should assume that every person has the resources they need to develop and cope with the problems they encounter.
When you work without intention, you can clearly and more intensely see what is revealed in the constellation. As soon as you get an idea or an intention, you are bringing yourself into the constellation. This could lead you to accidentally influence or manipulate the person coming to you for help, or you might unintentionally place yourself above the other person and their situation. That is, feel more important than the other person and believe you know what is best and what is right for them and their life.

There seem to be just as many different paths to follow in life as there are people. No-one can know what is right or wrong for others. We can only carefully consider the movements and blockages that are revealed in the constellation, and try to move forward. We need to restrain ourselves and our own ideas and try not to interfere in our constellation work. We need to respect the other person and their family.
This approach is very demanding for the systemic facilitator and is particularly important when the facilitator knows their client’s history, and can already see a possible solution. In this type of situation, you should make yourself completely empty inside before starting to work. With this emptiness and without expectations, you then open the ‘field’ and start setting up the constellation.
(The terms ‘field’ and ‘family field’ will be explained in a later chapter).

This inner emptiness is without emotion, without will and without judgement, and is a prerequisite for a good constellation. This is how the facilitator should meet each participant who requests a constellation. They should remain open to everything the representatives reveal, even if they anticipated something completely different. Let’s look at an example:

A woman, who the facilitator has known for many years, participates in a constellation.
The facilitator is aware that she needs to be particularly vigilant, because she knows the woman so well.
The previous constellation had been about abortion. The facilitator knows that the woman now participating has also had an abortion – the only pregnancy in her life. She did not tell the child’s father about the pregnancy. During the constellation, the woman’s representative looks despairingly down at the floor and cries. The facilitator places a man down on the floor where she is looking, and immediately thinks that he must represent the woman’s aborted child. The man lies totally still and waits.
The facilitator positions another man next to the ‘child’ to represent the child’s father. The man (the father) shakes his head in surprise. The facilitator asks the father’s representative to say to the child’s representative: “You are my child. I didn’t know that you existed, but now I can see you. Now you have a place in my heart.”
The child’s representative sighs deeply and shuts his eyes in relief.
The woman’s representative says: “I am full of pain and I don’t know what to do with it.”
The facilitator asks her to look the man in the eye and say: “I’m sorry that I did this without considering you. I didn’t think that you, as the child’s father, had an important role in my decision. It is also your child.”
The father’s representative nods seriously.
The facilitator asks them to hold each other by the hand, and to say to the child: “No matter what there was between us, we are your parents. You now have a place in our hearts.”
The child’s representative lies completely still on the floor with his eyes closed, while the parents stand holding hands addressing him.
The facilitator asks the father’s representative how he is feeling. His answer is: “Surprised, but well.”
The woman’s representative answers the same question: “I still feel a lot of pain and guilt, but I also feel much better and lighter.”
The facilitator asks the participant to take her place in the constellation. She says: “OK, but I can overcome that pain myself.” She seems a little distant.
The facilitator stops the constellation here.
The following day, the woman says that she had slept better than she had in a very long time, but she doesn’t think that the constellation was about her child. The man who was lying on the floor was probably her father, who died when she was a child.

The same evening, the facilitator can feel that the woman’s remark has made her unsure of herself. She had definitely been influenced by what she knew about the woman’s life and abortion. When the woman signed up for a constellation directly after some work concerning abortion, the facilitator was predisposed and focussed on a specific subject – the woman’s abortion. She should have been totally open and looking very carefully at the portrait that was revealed. Perhaps she should have asked about the various representatives. Perhaps she was too fast and manipulative.

This experience and many other situations in constellation work, show how important it is to work slowly, and to constantly be in contact with what is happening.

In current forms of therapy, it is normal for the therapist to control the therapy’s progression, using the knowledge they have about the client. A therapist may have an idea about what is right or wrong, good or bad for their client. They might manipulate the progression in the ‘right’ direction. Instead of staying totally neutral, a therapist may unknowingly elevate themselves above their client.
Bert Hellinger assumes that no-one can know what is right or wrong for another person. Instead, the facilitator should observe with trust the movements that are revealed in the constellation, and believe in the representatives. At the same time, they should keep in close contact with the participant, to see if the constellation is making sense, and moving towards a solution.

The first premise of systemic constellations is to remain as neutral as possible and to work without intentions. The second premise is to work without fear. Be prepared for the reality that presents itself, no matter what that may be. Be prepared for life and death, as they may emerge. The facilitator must be brave and able to look death in the face. For some, the solution lies in death, even though we would rather see and present something else. It is easier to say to a participant: “Everything will be fine. You will recover and you’ll live.” It takes, however, courage to say: “I can see that you would prefer to die. I’ll choose two representatives – one for you, and one for death.” Or: “I can’t help you.”
Occasionally, it is necessary to interrupt a constellation mid-process, because you can see that it is stagnating, perhaps because the person cannot, or will not change and therefore won’t take the next step. Again, it takes courage to say: “I can’t continue. I’m going to stop now and I can’t help you anymore right now.”

Once, many years ago, when I experienced Bert Hellinger working for the first time, I was quite impressed by the courage that he dared to confront his participants with. I have never experienced anything quite like it.

A woman, around 50 years of age, dressed in black, came to Bert Hellinger for a constellation. She stared down at the floor without saying anything.
Bert Hellinger: “How many therapists have you gone to before coming to me?”
Woman: “I don’t know.”
Bert Hellinger: “Just tell me. Is it three, four, five, six?”
Woman: “Maybe it was three or four.”
Bert Hellinger: “Ok, and now you want me to work with you. I certainly won’t. You are completely bitter. Have a look at yourself. You don’t want to move on. But you do want us to do the work for you. Sit down again. I will not work with you.”
Bert Hellinger, after the woman sat down in her place: “I want to tell you a story. Once there was a woman who rang the doctor. It was in the evening, and the doctor had gone to bed. The woman said: “You must come. I just feel so sick.”
The doctor went to the woman and sat by her bed all night, looking after her. In the morning, the doctor was dead. That was the story.”

The room, where we (around 450 people) sat became completely still. It was as if no-one dared to breathe. Many were shocked, many showed sympathy for the woman and others were worried about her.
I thought: “How can she cope with being treated like this?” But I was also very moved by Bert Hellinger’s courage. He was coping with confronting her in front of so many people, and with the reactions of all the course participants. It didn’t seem to affect him at all.
I couldn’t help turning around to look at the woman several times. She sat a few rows behind me. She stayed in the room and was clearly perking up. Was she maybe waking up? Coming out of her hibernation? The story seemed to be working; a story with clear images, about a victim and a helper.

An interrupted constellation can, as mentioned earlier, be very effective for the participant. It often brings a new movement or impulse to their soul. I will explain it with another example:

A 40-year-old woman requests a constellation. She has great difficulties walking and moves laboriously, with the help of a crutch, to the chair beside the facilitator. Most members of the group show sympathy for the woman’s disability. The facilitator looks at the woman and says: “It’s good that you can’t walk any faster. There is so much anger in you, that you might injure others if you were more mobile.”
The woman looks at the facilitator with confusion.
He says: “Let’s see what we can do.”
The facilitator chooses a representative for the woman and studies her movements.
The woman’s representative moves her hands restlessly and finally stands with clenched fists and very tense legs.
The facilitator asks the woman: “Who are you so angry at?”
The woman laughs nervously and says: “I’m not angry at anyone.”
Facilitator: “I can’t do anything else for you right now. Sit down. Maybe we’ll work on it again later.”
The woman sits down and is emotional and shaken. It is troubling her. The next day, she again asks for a constellation. She is clear and open to looking at the source of her problem.