Phase Transition, Inc

Empowerment Through Self Awareness

Category Archives: Family Constellation

Reflection on Family

The days are shortening, and as the sun dips into the canyon beyond my window I think of my parents and siblings whom I have lost, those who were not at the table for Thanksgiving but who blessed me in so many ways throughout my life.  This year my friends are loosing their parents, and I am able to tell them that the pain of that loss is less in time.

My reflection on the nature or the nurture of family left me ripe for a quote by Penelope Niven whose book Thorton Wilder: A Life (Harper) was recently released.  “In Wilder’s daily life,” Niven writes, “family was an anchor, usually a comfort and help, sometimes a nuisance, and always a responsibility, generously fulfilled.” Like Wilder, family is my anchor weighted by comfort given, help taken, nuisance given and taken, always a responsibility generously fulfilled.  I am blessed to feel this way, and I share Bert Hellinger’s Constellation work so others might find their anchor as well.

For more on Penelope Niven’s book, read the review by Rob Hardy at:

For more on Bert Hellinger’s Family Constellation work, see Bert Hellinger’s home page at

Peace in 2012

“Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.”              Jelaluddin Rumi

I could not have understood this statement, or accepted this invitation, from Runi had it not been for Family Constellation work.  In the framework of a larger, historical context most actions taken by our ancestors seem to logically follow in the wake tragedies too heartbreaking to speak of.  Rather than judging right or wrong, the work seeks to remember those missing or excluded ones and acknowledges the suffering of lost hope, lost love, or lost life.  Finally, family members take their rightful place so that order is restored.   Those who participate experience a sense of peace.

If you are ready to explore Rumi’s invitation, check out a Family Constellation workshop near you.

Essential Clay Play

As summer winds down and planned activates wane, try this recipe for homemade clay.  Add essential oils and color to make it a more kinesthetic experience.  If your children have trouble with letters or numbers, have them shape the clay in uppercase or lower case letters.  Stipple, score or otherwise texture the characters and let them dry for a three dimensional representation of the alphabet.  For more ideas, contact me!

Kids of all ages will have hours of aromatic fun with this soft, long-lasting dough.


  1. Mix 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup salt, 2 tablespoons cream of tarter, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1 cup water in a medium-sized pot until well blended.
  2. While stirring continuously, cook the mixture in the pot over medium-low heat until it forms a thick dough that is no longer sticky (approximately 5 minutes). You can tell it is done when it no longer sticks to the sides of the pan, but forms a clump of dough in the middle of the pan. (*Helpful hint: the dough will become fairly hard to stir before it gets done, so an extra set of hands to help stir may be useful.)
  3. Remove the dough from the pan and place on waxed-paper. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes.
  4. Divide the dough into four equal pieces.
  5. For each of the four pieces of dough, add approximately 10 drops of different colored food coloring, and knead until the color is well blended into the dough.
  6. Add approximately 8-10 drops of different essential oils or blends to each of the four pieces of dough and knead for about 60 seconds. If you find the scent of the dough is not strong enough, add a few more drops of the essential oil or blend. (*Helpful hint: to make sure both the food coloring and the essential oil or blend stay in the dough and don’t drip off, create a well in the top of the piece of dough with your finger, drop the coloring or oil in the well, fold the dough so it closes over the well opening, then continue to knead the dough as normal.)
  7. Store each piece of dough in a clean, 4 oz. plastic container, Ziplock® bag, or other airtight container.

Extra Ideas:

  1. Create fun labels for your containers using sheets of inkjet or laser labels (such as Avery®). You can either color these by hand using markers, stamps, or paints, or you can use your software that has pre-formatted label settings (most word-processing software does) and create labels on your computer and print them.
  2. Try creating scents that match the color of the play clay you created. For example, try using peppermint oil for red or white, pine for green, wintergreen or birch (both have a root beer-like aroma) for brown, spruce for blue, orange oil for orange, and so forth.
  3. Make two batches and shape the clay into the letters of the alphabet.   Before they dry, lightly stipple, score or mark the letters in varying ways.  Once they dry, have your child put them in order, group them into consonants and vowels or spell simple words.

This and other recipes using essential oils are available at

Stuck In Between – Part 2

Did you ever feel stuck between two emotions, or two options with no idea of how to move forward? If so, you are not alone. It happens to most of us at one time or another. So what can be done to get “unstuck”? Last time I explained the “two chair” model that helps get in touch with the reasons and feelings related to each choice.

Hellinger style resolution between two choices looks a lot like the “two chair” method. The difference is in the field. Hellinger’s work relies on people who or objects that represent each option. I prefer people for issues related to choice, so I’ll explain it from that perspective. Feel free to ask questions if you’d like to know more about working with objects.

One client worked in the family business – three generations of business law. Her hobby was dancing. When her dance teacher asked her to turn professional and go on the road, she found the idea captivating. Stuck between loyalty to the family business, and the enticement of professional dancing, I asked her to choose a representative for law and a representative for dance. They stood in front of us at first, and then moved to where they felt comfortable in relation to each other and the client. The representative for law was resolute, turned away from “dance”, and partially away from the client. The representative for dance was exuberant, moving boldly, bumping into “law” and the client at times.

I asked the client to stand in front of “law” and look him in the eye. It was clear from her stance and facial expressions that she was deeply connected to “law”. No words were spoken, though they could have been. Five minutes or more passed before a peace came over the two of them, their faces calm, their shoulders relaxed, their faces neutral or smiling.

I then asked her to look “professional dance” in the eye. “Dance” was beaming, always moving some part of her body. The client stood for a long time, six or seven minutes, looking at “dance”. Twice she looked over at “law” who turned to watch from about three feet away. I noted the client’s posture and her facial expressions, but said nothing aloud so she could focus on her own feelings. Eventually she turned to me and stated, “I got what I needed. Thank you.”

Why does this method work? The client is literally faced with two choices. Somehow, presumably via Sheldrake’s morphic field or Jung’s collective unconscious, the representatives know something about the choice they represent. “Dance” was exuberant, and “law” was resolute. Through these representations, the client was reminded of why she chose law in the first place, and could see why becoming a professional dancer was attractive. The silent dialogue between the representatives and the client allowed her to safely connect with all of her thoughts, feelings and motivations in the face of both choices. As a facilitator, I could bring awareness to her body posture, sensations and breathing if necessary. I could also bring awareness to the repeating pattern of dichotomy (exuberant/resolute) by including representatives for family members had it seemed appropriate.

In the “two chair” method, the participant does the talking, the noticing. A facilitator may or may not be present to observe and report. The Hellinger method requires more people, and space to set up the field, but the feedback of the representatives is constant and the facilitator is available to bring awareness to things that might otherwise be missed. In both methods, awareness and respect of each option brings the client to resolution.

Next time you feel conflicted by a choice or emotions, give one of these methods a try. Your feedback is always welcome.

Check Out The Horse Boy

For anyone interested in looking at the journey of Autism in a completely different way, check out The Horse Boy by Rupert Isaacson. When their son is first diagnosed Karen and Rupert make dietary and nutritive changes, they try behavioral modification and touch to make contact with the child who is lost more and more to tantrums and daydreams. Things seem more hopeful when Roan is around animals, especially horses, and so begins a scheme to visit Mongolian shamen via horseback. It is not the route that most of us would take, but it is a fascinating journey with many heartwarming moments. I won’t tell you how it ends, but I will tell you it is worth watching on DVD (93 minutes) or reading. The film touched me in many ways.

As a Brain Integration Specialist I was fascinated to see Roan interact with the items of his intense focus – live animals or plastic replicas. In the DVD version succinct interviews from autism experts made the point that we know so little about the minds of those who live among the autism spectrum, and that our way of judging them may do us all a disservice. As an educator I was relieved to hear Roan’s parents share their fears, expectations, reservations, and their unorthodox journey. They speak the language of those whose children are not what society deems “normal” and they respond to daily challenges with grace, humor and boundless love. If you have ever felt ashamed of the DNA that passed to your child, you have a kindred spirit in Rupert Isaacson.

Constellation Facilitators will recognize the “knowing field” in the shaman’s attention to a family member whose symptoms appear to be relevant. Shamanic ceremonies are performed while the camera is rolling, so we get a glimpse of how change is affected in other cultures. Everyone from the guide and cameramen to the parents and shamen seems to be touched by the experience of working for the good of this young boy.

Following the passions of our children may not be the prescribed way of moving through the journey of autism, but here is a look at what might happen if it were!

New Year’s Resolutions Revisited

New Year’s Resolutions Revisited

Many of us resolve to eat less, exercise more and visit with friends or family in the coming year. Bert Hellinger looks at resolution as a process that includes truth, order, and acceptance.

As an example, if I am overweight, through three-dimensional mapping we can set up my family of origin and see who could not take sustenance, and who I am loyally “helping” when I overeat. I can share my feelings of helplessness and deprivation with my ancestor who could not find regular work or food during the depression. That ancestor can tell me it was his fate, and not mine, so I am not “helping” anyone when I overindulge. He can tell me how life went on in spite of difficult times and how I am the product of that life. I can be reminded that by living well I honor him, and all my ancestors. In this way I see (and feel in my gut and my soul) that my overeating was done out of love, as well as a connection to those who came before me, and that there are better ways to love and honor my ancestors. In this way I can make sense of my overindulgence, and feel the strength of my family, instead of the emptiness of my belly.

So don’t be too hard on yourself if your getting to resolution is sluggish. Maybe the systemic nervous system of your family has a hand in the habit you’d like to reform, and maybe a wider lens is needed to understand just how your issue with weight, exercise, relationships, or success relates to love and loyalty. A constellation could be just the thing to bring you a new perspective and lasting resolution in the New Year, so happy 2011!

Closer Together For the Holidays and Beyond

Secrets, tragedy, and estrangement are common fare in most families. Family Constellation work is an uncommon way, at least here in the United States, to reframe the family dynamics so resolutions can be found and reconciliation can be forged.

What if you could see the events that shaped your ancestors beliefs and created the behaviors that push you away? What if, instead of taking their behavior personally, you could see that they are drawn toward death, stuck in fear, or filled with anger that seems to have no end? What if you could also see how this came to be and what needs to change so everyone can breathe and be at peace?

There is a way. In a Family Constellation Workshop, representatives stand in for family members who are relevant but may be troubled, ill, victimized or even dead. Others stand in for spouses, siblings, and parents. As each finds their place in relation to other members, the energy of each relationship and that of the whole is illuminated. Patterns that repeat themselves are clear, hidden loyalties come to light, and ways of loving that are harmful suddenly make some sort of sense. From this springs resolution. Secrets are spoken aloud, tragedies are acknowledged, and unhealthy ways of loving are reviewed and re-ordered. Suddenly everyone has a place in the family, and that place supports each member.

Most often people say the work brought them a peace they had never known before. Others say the work transformed their relationship with someone they love – a sibling, parent, spouse or child. Others change their relationship to abundance, money, living well, loving well. No one leaves unchanged.

For more information on upcoming workshops in the San Diego area, see the events page. If you prefer a workshop in Texas, Chicago or St Louis, please email me at for links to upcoming workshops across the United States.

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