Updated: Oct 14, 2022
In this month's guest interview, I'm chatting with Elle Weber, a systemic coach, and expert in constellation work. If you've never heard of systemic coaching or constellations, keep on reading to find out what it's about and how it can support you.
Introducing systemic constellations
Q: Elle, you do something really exciting, which people who are interested in personal & spiritual growth may have heard about but aren't necessarily familiar with the details, namely systemic constellation work. Can you tell us a bit more about it?
In principle, systemic constellation work is a method that makes relationships and dynamics in different systems visible. A system can be a family (family of origin or a newly founded family), but also our friendships, our professional environment... We all live in systems and within these systems, we interact with different members - we influence each other reciprocally and are mutually dependent on one another. And this is what we look at in systemic work: how does my behavior impact someone else in the system? Systems always strive for balance, which means that if one member changes, the system as a whole changes, or something within the system changes.
Q: So this work can be done with individuals who have their own personal topics, but also with organizations?
Exactly. There are family and relationship constellations, which are most known, but we also have organizational constellations, constellations with our inner parts, our health, our body... There really are no limits to this work because any topic fits in some sort of system.
Q: Who could benefit from this work? Who would you recommend it to?
Normally people come to me when they have a certain pain point. Often it's topics that have been present for them for a while, for example, not being able to manage their finances; feeling unhappy despite having a good job; not being able to keep a partner, or it's something around their family, maybe their mother keeps interfering with their life (which is very common!). They've tried different things, but still feel stuck and can't move forward. Often they don't know what's underneath but feel that they need someone who can take a look at it with them.
How the process of a systemic constellation looks like
Q: Let's say a person decides to give this work a try. What can they expect?
When it comes to systemic constellations work there are different possibilities. We can do it in a group or individually. Groups are made up of individuals who come in for their constellation work and people who take on the roles of representatives.
In an initial conversation with my client, they would first share with me more about their personal topic, for example, about their interfering mother. After that, we'd have a look at how we could constellate their topic and define what representatives we would need (this is customized for each client). In this case, there would be a representative for the client, for the mother, and maybe the inner part of the client that isn't able to set boundaries...
Then we work with real people in the group: the client chooses representatives for themselves, the mother, the inner part, and all the other positions and places them in the room. Then the representatives answer targeted questions (what they perceive, what has changed for them etc.) and that's how bit by bit a bigger picture emerges.
It's a bit difficult to explain if you've never experienced it, but it's phenomenal. It's called "representative perception" and it really helps to feel into the dynamics, relationships, and what happens in the system.
As I mentioned, we can also do this work in an individual setting (I do a lot of these online) - in this case, we work with figures or different objects, which the client then positions on the table. If we're in person, we can also work with floor anchors, like post-its, and use them for different representatives.
Those are the three main options: individual sessions online, individual sessions in person, or a group. All of them work, it's just a different approach.
Q: My biased opinion is that groups can be very healing, but I can imagine that some people could have some fear around showing their vulnerability in front of others. In your opinion, what are the benefits of doing constellation work in groups? What can a group contribute that an individual session can't?
I absolutely agree. When we share our topic in a group, open ourselves up and show our vulnerability, we're already one step ahead. That demonstrates our commitment and that we're ready to have a look at our problem and resolve it.
A big benefit of a group is also that the representatives don't know us. They don't know our story, our past, our experiences and we also don't share the whole family story with them. We mention the topic and have a short conversation, but a lot is left unsaid.
And it often happens that representatives say things where the clients think to themselves "how did they know that!?" For many, that leads to a big "aha moment" because they can see that something is happening although they can't necessarily explain it to themselves. And that's the moment of change, where transformation gets triggered and can unfold.
I've been doing this work for many years and it still feels like magic every time.
Q: Does this all happen in one day or in several sessions?
In terms of groups, we do it on one specific day. With individual sessions, we can do a one-off session, which can already make a difference, but as you know yourself, some topics run very deep, which is why I predominately work with my clients over several weeks so that we can cover different aspects of the topic.
Making the unconscious conscious
Q: I love that and I can see similarities with my method of work. I'm curious, does systemic constellation also work with the unconscious, meaning the deeper layers of the personality structure?
Yes, the systemic constellations work takes into account different levels: mental, emotional, behavioral, and spiritual. Through this work, when everything becomes visible in the room, something interesting happens.
The representatives (who are strangers and don't know the client!) make certain statements and can't possibly know what emotions or thoughts this will trigger in the client. For example, a representative for the client may share that they're deeply sad and feel a pain they can't explain. After listening to the representatives the client may remember an event from their past that was very painful and they weren't able to deal with to this day.
Often stories will surface that clients don't consciously remember.
That's what makes it so interesting because it does touch the deeper layers and can bring awareness to topics that aren't so tangible with other methods.
Q: Yes, this is often called "healing through insight", where a lot already shifts just by bringing our unconscious material into our consciousness.
Exactly. And that's what I meant by using different levels in the systemic constellation - you have these "aha moments" or insights on the mental level, and you can also feel the feelings (sadness, worry, existential fears) that are connected with them on an emotional level.
During the constellation work we can also test out what would happen on a behavioral level if, for example, the client would distance themselves from their mother. How would the mother react? On a higher level, let's call it the spiritual level, we may not be able to find explanations for certain things, but we can clearly perceive that something is happening. It's like there's a higher power behind it, which helps us strengthen our trust.
That's what I find so beautiful with this work: that all of this flows together and I believe that real transformation happens when all these levels are considered.
Q: I completely agree, it's important to be able to work with our clients on different levels so that long-term transformation can take place. I also think that it's helpful for people to consider creating change on different levels, regardless of whether they work with a coach or not. So for example, learning new information on a mental level, doing reiki healing on the somatic level, creating an aligned strategy on a behavioral level, etc.
Definitely. It's a journey and I know it was the same for you - we all start somewhere and build up from there. Ten or twelve years ago I started with NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), then I did a yoga teacher training that had a different access point, after that, it was systemic constellation work & systemic coaching and so the journey continues until we eventually bring the puzzle pieces together. 😄
Q: And both of us having been on this journey... I think one of the most amazing and incredibly empowering gifts of this work is to have a set of tools and to know exactly what to do / what to use when we find ourselves in challenging life situations. Challenges constantly arise and it's how we deal with them that makes all the difference. And having the tools makes everything so much easier. What are your thoughts on this?
It's definitely a huge relief to have the tools and to know what to do when you feel stuck. And that's also the advantage of doing a lot of these things (in the personal & spiritual growth realm) - the more you try out, the more tools you have.
This doesn't mean that we're never in a situation where we get stuck - I always say that "every new level has a new devil" - and we absolutely keep on bumping against our own limits and our glass ceilings, but the advantage of having the tools is that we get out of it faster.
What happens after a systemic constellation session
Q: What do your clients normally experience after your work together? What kind of results do they share?
So I normally work with clients in several sessions and combine systemic constellation work with systemic coaching. The first thing that mostly happens after the constellation work is relief. Clients also notice things they haven't been aware of before and have "aha moments". Often there's also a feeling of understanding for other people in the system, for example noticing that it also wasn't easy for their interfering mother and that she also had her own things she was going through. And that doesn't mean that we approve or make excuses for what happened, but sometimes it leads to a greater understanding.
Change happens within us first, which is a prerequisite and then it affects our outer world.
During the constellation work, we do certain processes (conversations, detachment & delimitation processes, etc.) through which clients are able to feel and experience inner changes, and at one point this will also show up in their lives.
Sooner or later they'll find themselves in a situation where their mother will have a certain expectation /requirement toward them and they'll have a chance of trying it out in their outer world.
But since they've already experienced this during the constellation work and saw what happens and what changes in their life if they're in their power & set their boundaries, it's much easier for them to do it in real life. Something that may have been completely unimaginable for them, for example setting their mother a boundary, suddenly turns into "No, I will stand up for myself". They also don't have to do it in a way that hurts, with anger or frustration, but with peace. People see new ways of behavior, new perspectives, new solutions. The emotions are lighter and clearer, they don't see things as dramatically as before.
Their perception is different because they solved the problem at the root and are not trying to treat the symptom.
Q: Are there any topics you particularly like working with?
I work a lot with people who have issues with their parents, say their parents keep interfering with their lives, they feel like they’ve never really been seen or loved by them, or have patterns/behaviors they haven’t been able to resolve so far (falling into their drama very quickly, feeling like a victim, wanting to please others, not being able to stand up for themselves…)
A lot of our patterns originate from our childhood and youth - we're very much shaped by our family, people who were close to us (brothers, sisters, grandparents, cousins, etc) and according to that we develop certain patterns and ways of behavior. Children don't learn what their parents preach, but what they model.
It's not as much about words, but how parents deal with certain subjects, for example, how they handled money when we were kids, how their relationship was like, how they interacted with other people... That's how children start to develop certain behavioral patterns because they want to be loved and grow up safely. These patterns are helpful when we're kids, but often don't support us as adults. I love working with my clients around these and do it quite often, but of course, also work with other topics. Ultimately, my work is always about finding the way back to yourself and truly being yourself.
Ultimately, my work is always about finding the way back to yourself and truly being yourself.
Getting to know Elle
Q: What inspired you to dive deeper into systemic constellation work and support people with this exact method?
I generally love trying out different things and so years back I came across a book about the systemic constellation. I immediately ordered it, read it within 1-2 days and I was blown away. I couldn't believe that something like this was possible and that it could work. So after I read the book I knew immediately that I wanted to book an appointment.
Then when my session came about, I went in with a mindset of "I'll try this out and see what happens." At first, I was pretty unemotional and noticed that the representatives were more emotional than I was. Then suddenly, out of nowhere (and this was a very touching moment for me), I started to cry without explanation.
I couldn't explain it, but I could feel that whatever was happening here was deep - something was able to come out that had wanted to be seen and felt for a long time. In the days and weeks afterward, I noticed that I felt much lighter internally.
After that experience, I pretty quickly decided that I wanted to get qualified in this work and started that a few months after my constellation. Now I have two certifications in systemic constellation work and while I also did other things, for me this work is really deep and so valuable. It positively changed so many things in my life. I've never fallen out of love with it and the journey keeps on going. 😄
Q: Thank you for this inspiring and eye-opening conversation. Where can people find you or get in touch with you?
They can find me on my website www.elleweber.com - there's more information about my work and a calendar where they can book a free preliminary conversation to see whether it's a good fit, and I'm also on Instagram under elle.coaching.
Thank you, my dear reader, for coming this far - I honor your curiosity and for staying open to all the ways you can lovingly take care of yourself and your well-being. I hope you found the conversation inspiring & enlightening and I'd love to hear about your biggest takeaway in the comments below.👇
If you're intrigued by systemic constellation work you're welcome to reach out to Elle. She normally works with her clients in German but is happy to hold space in English as well.