Family conscience


We are all children – We are not necessarily parents, but we are all children. (My husband sometimes says in such cases: “You must have a degree in pointing out the bleedin’ obvious.”). We remain children all our lives, until we die and – actually – beyond that.

In Family Constellation Work this is an important fact and has some weight.

When you visit mum and/or dad or phone them now as an adult, do you know the feeling of regressing to the 16 year old rebelling teenager you once were, or even to the ten year old child that wanted only one thing: to please Mum and Dad? I know it very well. Although I have learnt to handle those tense situations, in my case – when mum is being mum, I still feel all those feelings of a pleasing or a rebelling child. The pleasing bit is easy, isn’t it – you still get all the praise and the shining glimmer in their eyes when you comply to their ideas of how things should be, you feel you’re doing the right thing – you’re in the game. But when it comes to disagreement, that’s another story: You get responses like “Oh, you shouldn’t…” or “I wouldn’t, if I were you …”, or even a “How dare you do that to me/us!”. That feels, … um … dangerous – or, minimum uncomfortale. Doesn’t it?

My family conscience is all around; I take it with me, wherever I go; it is part of me. There’s always that little entity in me that knows exactly what agrees and what disagrees with mum’s and dad’s opinions on how life should be and how things will work. Family Constellation people call this “the family conscience”.

There is also the other thing you get, which is when mum and dad disagree and I dare to act like the disagreed parent: “You’re just like your father!” or “mother”, with that slight expression of disgust in the disagreeing parent. Ouch! That hurts. This is when children are – consciously or unconsciously – asked to take sides with one parent, which is basically tearing them apart. As long as the parents are together, when they disagree from time to time or even often, they actually agree to disagree and that is part of the ‘family conscience’. This is difficult for children and they develop certain skills in order to deal with such a situation.
If parents are separated though, there will be two family consciences. If parents separate in a disagreeable way and keep disagreeing with each other, it can be an even more difficult situation for a person (child). Of course, in other cases, if the parents agree to still be parents after separation, it can be a relief for children.
Any case of disagreement between mother and father and pulling their child(ren) into it, is asking the child(ren) to take sides, which is – because they love them both – impossible.

Children, by default, love both mum and dad and would do anything to make them both happy. They would actually even take their parent’s burdens from them, if they could. And they do try – unconsciously. This is when children (even when they’re grown-ups) don’t live their own lives. They try the impossible. A person’s fate is a person’s fate (or burden). Nobody can take it away from them. And – if everything was consciously happening – nobody would like to give their fate to anybody else. Would they?

The family conscience is a big thing that rules our lives – many people are completely unconscious about that fact. In Family Constellation Work the unconscious can be brought into consciousness. By looking at people acting as representatives for children (that is also adult children) and parents, family dynamics become visible. The inside picture of a family is brought to the outside world in order to have a look at it from a distance. Looking at issues from a distance – as you might know – can be revealing, and as a result the issue can usually be ‘handled’ with more awareness of all circumstances.

These days, when I speak with my mother, I have this whole picture in my mind, which was revealed to me, when I did my own family constellation. I see that she was the younger of two girls (5 years apart), losing her twin sister right after birth, losing her mother to cancer, when she was only 13 years old, having to get used to and accept a step mother, whom she couldn’t stand and a heart-broken father, who treated the wife like a house maid. I see all her short comings and that there was no counselling available to her in order to deal with her traumas. I see her hardly being able to stand on her own two legs without the support of a man by her side (my father), which made me sob, when I saw it in my constellation. These days, when I look at my mum or when I speak with her, I know that she has done the best she could. And with this in my mind, I feel grateful for what she has given to me: My life (and many other things). That is why these days our conversations are mostly harmonious, and we have finally bonded as mother and child. Since I saw what I saw in that constellation, I respect my mother with all her short comings. I am now able to say ‘yes’, when I think ‘no’, knowing that it makes her happy when I agree. I can now talk to her more respectfully, when I strongly disagree. I don’t slam doors anymore or hang up the phone.

It is magical: Since I did my constellation, my mum actually changed as well. She didn’t know anything about it. My attitude towards her changed, and that made her change. She started seeing me, respecting me. It was a process and probably still is, but it made our relationship work.

I still have a choice: I can be part of the family system or I can decide to step out of it. I chose to stay in it. As a result my life changed to the better. It changed from a chaotic life to a stable life.

Funny enough – my ex-partner’s families were all quite dysfunctional, and I never managed to stay with a man for more than three years. Now I am with a partner, whose family is exceptionally functional, and we’ve been together since the beginning of 2004, which is now eight years. And it looks very much like we’re going to stay together for a long time.

Love to the Universe and everybody in it!

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