Last weekend I attended an inspiring and informative workshop led by one of my favorite Family Constellations teachers, Suzi Tucker. The title of the workshop was “Parenting: Expanding the Vocabulary,” and she certainly did. Suzi is a master at painting family portraits with words to help us understand the underlying dynamics that inform our decisions. As she discussed what can happen when our parents are emotionally wounded, I remembered a profound and powerful constellation that Suzi facilitated for me years ago in Miami.
During the intake interview, I shared that both of my parents experienced tragic losses at a young age. My mother’s father drowned in a swimming accident about a month before she was born. My grandmother had to push her grief aside and find a way to support herself and her newborn baby girl in the middle of the Great Depression. When my father was a young boy, his parents divorced and his mother was kicked out of the family for some undisclosed reason. We only know she was quite a bit younger than my dad’s father and from then on she was ostracized. We heard stories about my grandmother’s thwarted attempts to visit my dad and his sister. To prevent her from seeing them, my grandfather hid them under the bed and told my grandmother that her children were not home. My heart ached for both of my parents when I thought about their traumatic beginnings.
Herein lies one of the most common and challenging family dynamics we see in Family Constellations. Out of love and a distorted sense of duty, children often unconsciously take on the pain or sadness of their parents. We don’t even know we’re doing it, but somehow we feel like it is our job to “fix” our parents or fill the holes that remain in their hearts. Of course, this is an impossible task. And it’s also not our job. We are the little ones. Our parents are the big ones. It’s their job to take care of us, not our job to take care of them. That responsibility belongs to their parents. Sadly, the orders of love often get confused.
Suzi could see this was probably the case in my family and why I felt “stuck.” Little Johnny unknowingly took on some of the pain and responsibility for his parents. For some of you, this may sound very familiar. Thankfully, there is a way to restore the orders of love during a Family Constellation. To set up my mine, Suzi asked me to pick six people from the group, one to represent my mother, one to represent my father, two for my mom’s parents, and two for my dad’s parents. She then asked my “mother” to stand with her parents and my “father” to stand with his parents. I stood facing all of them. Then she invited my mom’s parents to say something like, “Dear John. You can leave her with us. We will take care of her now. You can be the little one again. Today you are free.” Then she asked my dad’s parents to tell me the same thing. “Leave him with us. We will take care of him now. It’s our job. Today you are free.”
To read about it may seem overly simple, unclear, or even silly, but I can assure you it did not feel silly or unclear to my soul. It responded to those words and that image with streams of tears and deep sobs. I don’t think I’ve ever cried that hard in front of other people. It was definitely in the category of the “Oprah Ugly Cry.” When the sobs finally subsided, Suzi encouraged me to look at my parents and grandparents, wave goodbye, then turn around and walk towards my future. She recommended I walk slowly, stopping occasionally to look back at them smiling and waving at me. As difficult as it was to let them go, it was also beautiful and comforting to see my parents being supported by both of their parents. It took some time to integrate that experience, but I left that workshop feeling lighter and free from a burden I didn’t even know I was carrying!
If you have yet to attend a Family Constellations Workshop, I highly encourage you to give it a try. It is a heart-opening experience whether you participate or just observe. My next group session on Zoom is next Saturday, February 6. Click here for more details and to purchase a ticket. I also offer private sessions if that’s more comfortable for you. You can invite one or two trusted friends or family members to participate or it can be just the two of us. Please look around my website for more information and to book a session.
Until next time, I invite you to leave the past behind so you can focus on what’s in front of you.
Our children drink from the wellspring of our own “okayness.” – Suzi Tucker
Love does not conquer all things, but it does set all things right.
A Course in Miracles ~ T-4.VI.7:6