Revealing Constellations – Part 1: Phenomenon Origin and Practice

What are Constellations

The term “constellation” comes from the Latin words: “con,” meaning together, and “stella,” meaning stars. Thus, a constellation is a group of stars that appear to form a pattern in the sky. This term is also utilized in the human sciences to describe a system of elements in relation to each other.

Specifically, Systemic Constellations represent a framework in which elements within a system align to reveal underlying patterns and relationships, offering insights and solutions to complex issues. This process facilitates the emergence of information in various forms (words, postures, movements) that assist clients in identifying the root causes of their issues and finding sustainable solutions. Constellations are a direct experience of the phenomenon that unfolds both sensing and connecting with one’s intuition and a method for bringing balance and healing to systems.

Despite extensive research confirming the efficacy of constellations, the underlying mechanics remain a mystery, likely pointing to a deeper level of consciousness engagement rather than tangible mechanics.

Phenomenon Origin

The concept of Systemic Constellations was pioneered by Bert Hellinger (1925-2019), a German psychotherapist, philosopher, and researcher. With a diverse background as a former priest, missionary to the Zulu in South Africa for 16 years, educator, psychoanalyst, body therapist, group dynamic therapist, and family therapist, Hellinger infused his work with a wealth of experience and insight. In Hellinger’s constellation approach, he combined elements from various influential psychotherapeutic methods, such as gestalt therapy and psychodrama, with insights from other fields. Additionally, he incorporated techniques for perceiving and accessing the collective consciousness, enriching his methodology to be more comprehensive and profound.
Hellinger discovered that the behavior of systems follows certain laws or principles. The most important thing is that he discovered a special way of uncovering hidden dynamics in the system. With this, he developed a phenomenological method of searching for quality solutions, which he called Systemic Constellations.

Initially, Hellinger focused solely on families as systems, which is why Family Constellations are more widely known. Later, he also applied his methods in organizations. Jan Jacob Stam and Gunter Weber also contributed to the integration of the original method into the field of organizations, leading to the global expansion of Business Constellations.

Business Constellation

The basic assumption of the method is that over time, every group or organization, regardless of its size, develops its own patterns and modes of operation, which influence the thoughts and actions of all members of the system. These fundamental behavior patterns and culture of conduct can diminish the organization’s capabilities for productivity and success. Organizations thus expend significant amounts of time and energy, which could be used more productively, as the dynamics of events are beyond the control or awareness of individuals.
Systemic Business Constellation is a kind of simulation in which we can assess the current situation and evaluate the impact of alternative options and solutions. This allows us to understand the factors that help or hinder the organization’s success and find the most appropriate solution.

Business Constellation Process

The process of Business Constellation is a process where a constellation (visual and intuitive map) of a business’s elements emerges in response to a specific business question. This process consists of the following steps:

  1. Interview: The facilitator conducts a brief interview to understand the client’s questions and decide on the key elements relevant to these questions, such as a new product, management team, department, goal, market, marketing strategy, etc.
  2. Selection of Representatives: The client selects workshop participants to represent the identified elements, regardless of their prior knowledge about the business issues.
  3. Placing Representatives: The client intuitively arranges the representatives within a given space. The created constellation represents the client’s internal perception of the situation. After positioning the representatives, the client steps back to observe the unfolding constellation as a spectator. The representatives, through their positioning, spontaneously embody and convey the essential information needed for the constellation, a process referred to as ‘somatic information.’ This phenomenon is distinct from acting; it naturally arises the moment participants assume their roles as representatives and dissipates once they step out of these roles.
  4. Observing the Flow: The client attentively watches the representatives to see what unfolds. Under the facilitator’s guidance, these representatives express their observations and sensations. The facilitator, attuned to the dynamics of the field, allows the representatives to move according to their instinctual impulses. Through this process, a distinct pattern gradually and powerfully materializes. This pattern is an external embodiment of the unconscious inner image of the issue. The facilitator interprets this pattern, working with the representatives to uncover more insights.
  5. Creating a New Equilibrium: Through this interactive process, the underlying dynamics that obstruct or complicate matters are revealed. As the constellation develops, a transformative pattern surfaces—one that offers resolution and restores balance. Remarkably, the shifts towards peace and equilibrium within the constellation often reflect in the external world. Post-workshop, tangible changes are observed: individuals alter their behaviors, the client’s perspectives shift, and previously persistent patterns appear to dissolve.
  6. Conclusion: The journey through the constellation process culminates in a profound transformation. This shift transcends mere cognitive understanding and affects the system’s energetic and functional balance. By crafting a new reality, previously constrained energy is liberated, laying the groundwork for practical and actionable steps forward.

Transformative Practice

Systemic Constellations allow individuals to view a situation or problem within its entire context, working with the system’s elements to discern which elements, or relationships amongst the elements, are functional and which are disruptive. By examining and adjusting the interactions and functions of various elements, constellations facilitate a transition from disorder to harmony. The methodology not only illuminates the path from a present challenge to future resolution but also catalyzes a transformation that aligns the system with its optimal state of operation.

Systemic Constellation is a powerful tool for understanding and navigating the complexities of various systems. This approach provides actionable insights and solutions, driving meaningful change. As this practice continues to expand its application in the business, it is unlocking new perspectives on leadership, strategy, and organizational health.

Continue revealing constellations with the next article.