All Our Selves

By Mary Rentschler

The theme of the Bernried Constellations Intensive that I attended this Spring was “Heimat und Fremde” – “Homeland and the Stranger.” It led us to look at all our different selves and to ask, “Who is our inner foreigner? Who is our inner terrorist? Our inner child? Inner saint? Real self?” It was a chance to explore all our selves – those we are at home with and those we don’t know very well.

Systemic Family Constellations begins with the idea that instead of originating in one’s biographical history from birth to the present, dysfunction and suffering often relate to unresolved painful events in the family’s past. A trained facilitator addresses generational family histories using a gathered group of people. Dan Booth Cohen and Emily Blefeld Volden provide a good description of the way that this approach also uses various levels of consciousness:

“We frame our understanding of Constellations from a model of three dimensions of consciousness: personal, ancestral, and spiritual. The first dimension of consciousness is the ordinary. The second dimension is the consciousness that survives death and remains in relationship with the living. The third dimension is the consciousness that is beyond human scale: the Earth, ocean, trees, Jungian archetypes, divine presences, astrological aspects, and mythical creatures. These distinctions have been used by many Constellation facilitators, though often under different names. For example, Ursula Franke and Thomas Bryson refer to these three dimensions as the individual, the systemic and what is beyond, similar to the metaphor of a drop of water, the wave and the ocean.” *

In facilitating a Constellation, I do my best to stay aware of the three-legged stool I learned about from Berthold Ulsamer, a structure that supports the whole enterprise. The first leg is facts – what we know that happened in someone’s life and in the history of their family. The second leg is the “family soul,” referred to as the Knowing Field – the information coming from working with the group assembled to deal with the family issue.

The third leg is what Bert Hellinger, the originator of Constellations, called “Something Greater” – something eternal that Jalaluddin Rumi describes in this poem:
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make any sense.”

After a week of morning lectures and breakout groups, afternoons of working with constellations, and down time for reflection, I was full of musings on the subject of self. At the final banquet where we often fill the after-dinner time with songs and recitations, I offered these two equally true, though conflicting, statements about self by two of my favorite poets. The first is, again, by Rumi:
“Do you think I know what I’m doing?
That for one breath or half-breath I belong to myself?
As much as a pen knows what it’s writing,
or the ball can guess where it’s going next?”

And this is a part of a longer poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins:
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy well
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves – goes beyond itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.      

       *     *     *     *     *

*  Dan Booth Cohen and Emily Blefeld Volden, THE KNOWING FIELD, Issue 26, June  2015

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