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constellation mapping

what is it

Constellation mapping is a process of bringing presence to parts of a system and their relationship to each other.

Mapping the internal parts of psyche.

 

We pay attention to all the parts in a system. The system may be internal parts of oneself and how they relate to each other. For instance, one part that wants to be healthy, another part that wants to be lazy. What is their relationship to each other?

 

As we pay attention, we move from being unconsciously identified with these parts, to becoming the observer and intermediary of them. The one who is able to include them all, without being possessed by them. To not hide from them, while also not being consumed by them.

 

If we observe such a constellation and notice ourselves judging any part as right or wrong, then the one who is doing the judging is also mapped out as another part. For instance, there may be a part that sees being healthy as the "correct" approach to life, and that sees being lazy as wrong or shameful. Each is another part in itself.

 

Every part that has an opinion or agenda is mapped out and experienced. The more we can bring awareness into a system, the more we develop an overview of the map and bring more presence into the dynamic that is playing out.

 

As we notice the characteristics of a certain feeling or part of us, they naturally lessen their grip on us. This in turn opens up space for more energy to run through the system, for the system to become more alive and illuminated. Rather than something dull, obscured and in the shadows that we are simultaneously drawn to and repelled by.

 

The more this happens and the more the constellation is experienced from every angle, the more we create the conditions needed for life to find its own way toward balance and healing. We are less identified with the parts in play, and less attached to the outcome of the constellation resolving in any particular direction.

 

We naturally move away from forcing the direction that is the desire/command of one part. The system can organise itself from its own natural intelligence. Our role is to simply bring a compassionate presence. The one magic ingredient that has been missing, up until now, is our capacity to be a loving parent to the obscured parts in play.

 

We notice whenever we identify with one part of the constellation, and to then experience that part fully in order to map out the system more. We drop as deeply as we can into the beliefs, feelings and opinions of that part and how it relates to other parts.

This isn't as simple a case as identifying the part with a word. But to know what and who that part is deeply on an intimate level. To know its desires and motivations, its attitude toward the other parts of the system. We do not need to know where and when it came from. We are more interested in the dance of energies that is occurring now.

 

It may be interesting to notice where it when it came from if that information naturally rises up, but we don't go looking for it. We aren't trying to solve the equation of the constellation. Merely to observe it playing out. If resolution comes it is typically born from mystery in a way we would not have predicted. This is why it is key to make space and map out investments and opinions as other parts with their own agenda.

 

We are attempting to broker a meeting between all the parts of a system so they can naturally work out their own way to be in harmony. We cannot know what resolution, if any, will look like ahead of time. Having an idea of what it will look like is indicative of us being identified with a certain part that thinks it knows how things should be. In reality, our psyche and how it functions, is a mystery.

 

Any agenda we bring in, even if that is a seemingly pure desire for all parts to be healed and feel loved, is a separate part. A part with its own values and viewpoints that don't necessarily correspond with those of other parts. 

 

We are not here to judge which parts have the "right" or "healthy" viewpoint. But to recognise the validity of each part and deeply hear what it has to offer. To be the one holding the peace counsel at the centre of it all. The knowledge of how to create a healthy sense of harmony and flow in a system is beyond the mind's ability to know. 

Some parts may carry a lifetime of pain and trauma. They have been shut out from our awareness for so long that they will not reveal themselves easily. Deep trust must be built up over a long period. This trust comes from not bringing an agenda toward what that part needs to be in order for it to be reintegrated. It's possible to carry a subtle conditionality when we contact parts that feel unknown, dangerous or intense. "You can come back inside and tell us how you feel so long as you don't get too upset."

For deeply buried parts this approach is likely to re stimulate and reinforce trauma patterns that drove them into the darkness in the first place.

If we notice that there is a conditionality around how we are willing to relate to these parts, that is very understandable. There may well be other parts of the system that are nervous and unsure about these long lost beings, and perhaps for good reason.

 

Perhaps these lost parts caused a lot of trouble when we were young. Perhaps they were too strong and unacceptable for the environment we were born into. And so another part had to become a type of police, to keep the trouble-making part at bay, so as to ensure our survival.

If this is the case, we then also map the part which has unease and conditionality toward the lost part. It is a good opportunity to map the system out further, to expand and deepen our sense of the constellation. 

We follow the flow of where our attention is led. We don't need to try and work the system out or to try and resolve it. It will resolve itself and find harmony as we learn to relax more in it, to let the parts have their say and be felt as they need to, rather than for them to feel manipulated and controlled.

 

If stress is felt, this is indicative of a system that is out of balance with itself, and that our previous attempts to engage have not resulted in resolution.

How do we allow for the system to become more harmonised? Perhaps there is a way for the parts to not be not at odds with each other, but to work in fluid harmony together. Or perhaps they have had enough conversations that they have come to accept their differences and tolerate each other, so that when we tune into the system, we are more likely to feel a sense of peace and integration than disharmony and deregulation.

Constellations could be mapped out visually like in a spider diagram, but not necessarily. It might be more one has a sense of the elements in one's mind, a constellation map that feels more energetic rather than visual. 

This work can be done entirely on one's own or by working with a another person or in groups.

On this site I will present my own method of working with this idea of mapping and my approach to how I engage with internal systems. You are free to make it your own, borrow some elements, and leave others.

We do not attempt to dive in for deep and intense therapy. It can be a very slow and gentle process. In order to contact and integrate lost parts, a culture of allowing and including must be created. If there is a part/drive to dive deep into the core of the wound as possible, this is mapped out as its own part.

 

That is no to say that part/drive doesn't have its own valid contribution to make. But sometimes these drives can be an urge to re-stimulate trauma in order to avoid the danger of a healthy and settled nervous system.

Why would a healthy and settled nervous system be dangerous? Because it gives you access to more of yourself, including parts that were perhaps unacceptable in the environment you were born into. So it potentially poses a threat.

In this way we do not dismiss the validity of the part that wants to dive deep, but we also remember to map this urge as another part that has its own beliefs and agenda, that might not line up with other parts in the system and their needs. We do not take it for granted that the urge to dive deep contains more wisdom than the desire and need to go slow and integrate, or vice versa.

We don't try to work out which of these is the "correct" approach. We simply observe whichever one is showing up in the moment, and listen deeply to what they have to say.

We don't need to try hard to "keep ahold" of whatever part we are working with. If another part barges through the door and demands our attention, it is fine for it to go there. Some approaches place a high level of importance on negotiating with the part that is currently present if it is ok to move on to another part. This approach can help establish safety and trust. But in my experience, if my intention to make space for a part is genuine, I have not experienced any conflict arising from my attention going elsewhere in a natural flow. Essentially the flow of energy and attention, the ability for this to change naturally and spontaneously is more important than making sure that the part currently present is definitely fully settled and ok before moving on. The practice then becomes more of a dance of energy. Following the flow of energy with our attention. The more presence and adaptation we can bring, the more online and energised the overall system becomes.

In my experience, if a part has more to say, it will make it known, at the right time. And so it's an intuitive practice, one we develop for ourselves. Much of the time I just pay attention to whoever is talking loudest in the room at any given point. If I allow them the full floor, they generally talk until they are satisfied, or until another opposing or complimentary part comes in and takes over. These back and forth conversations then become an important part of the interaction which could not happen if we forced ourselves to stay with the same part no matter what. If another part enters and we have to always ask the current part for permission to go over there, it may break the flow of conversation taking place. Sometimes it feels natural and intuitive to speak to a part before taking our attention elsewhere, but I would not make it a rule.

I see it more like a conversation with a group of human beings. Some are very opinionated. Some are very shy. Some are eager to take over no matter what. And sometimes they need to be given space to do so, in order to have the experience of actually being listened to. Perhaps their need to shout and dominate comes from never really feeling like they have ever been given full permission to take centre stage, perhaps there has always been an immediate resistance to them taking over, so they believe they have to become the loudmouth in order to get any space at all.

Conversation is an art, as is being the adjudicator for internal conversation. Different situations will call for a different approach. Generally, if I follow the guideline of allowing myself to go where my attention naturally leads, this works out best.

How I can best engage in order to allow this system to fulfil its destiny? How can I get out of my own way and stop interfering in what is already trying to naturally occur, while still remaining engaged in the process? How can I offer the simple gift of my awareness without the force of my will that has aligned itself with an agenda?

I follow the natural thread of life that is already occurring.

If a system is in disharmony, we have 3 options available:

1) Don't do anything, just ignore it and leave it as it is. 

2) Try and force or manipulate the system into the way I want it to be. But who is the I and what is his or her desire? We experience many different conflicting desires and fears around the same subject, so any time I try and change the system toward what I want it to be, I can recognise that what I am labelling as "I" is actually one part that I have become identified with in that moment as my "self". I have become possessed by an idea/identity and I believe its perspective to be what I am.

There is another approach we can consider:

3) Bring awareness and attention to what is naturally playing out with or without our involvement. We get keenly observant with whatever aspect of the constellation we find ourselves paying attention to in any moment. 

This approach was born out of coming into contact many times with different internal constellations and noticing that my experience often ended up as a groundhog day of going around a cycle of the constellation over and over, without it seeming to be going anywhere toward resolution. The longer I stayed in it, the muddier the waters became. And any direct attempt I made to fix, help, heal or resolve the drama just seemed to make it more intense, more polarised, further from harmony.

The more I took the approach of simply connecting with each part and witnessing it without agenda, or more specifically noticing and mapping the parts that had an agenda when they came in, the more I felt that the system was able to breathe. The parts seemed to gradually trust my presence more, open up to me and allow me in to feel them more deeply, to know them more deeply. It opened up space for parts to be able to see and hear the other parts that they had previously been in fierce opposition to for years. And, over time, they didn't need to shout quite so loudly or hide quite so deeply.

The more I do this practice, the more easily and automatically I move through different parts/sub-personalities. Until it starts to feel less like distinct identities, and more like a constantly moving dance of energy, moving through different landscapes. A wave of energy upon which my awareness is surfing.

In this way, the practice of constellation mapping may be a foundational stage to an energetic practice that is more subtle. 

This practice can be done alone, or between more people.

Contact

fromecontact(at)gmail.com

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