What is Incest?
Incest is human sexual activity between family members or close relatives with the most reported phenomenon being sex a father has with his daughter but also common are such incidents between an older brother and his younger sister. The phenomenon is considered a universal taboo and is one of the most widespread of all cultural taboos, both in present and in past societies. In addition, incest between an adult and a child under the age of consent, is considered child sexual abuse and often leads to severe and long-term post-trauma.
Incest in A Family Constellation
When I began to witness incest dynamics in constellations, it challenged me. I bombarded my teacher with lots of questions, to which I did not get a satisfying response. I read everything I could find on the subject, including the harsh criticism that Hellinger received for his systemic views on this matter and finally, I got a personal opportunity to facilitate such a constellation myself. I was so fortunate to have powerful and highly connected women as representatives to whom I am deeply grateful. The client read this post and gave full permission to publish it.
The topic we presented was: “Coming to peace with the past – Releasing the parents”.
This is How We Begin:
The client places a representative for herself. This will be the only representative who will know who she represents. The rest will be a blind constellation.
Here are the signs for further simplicity:
R-rep for the client
R stands up and immediately starts crying.
She says she feels weak and unprotected. It’s really hard for her to stand.
We bring in a rep for the mother – M.
The client places her in front of R., really close and they are facing each other.
M looks at her daughter and says that she feels she should offer her support, but something holds her back and it doesn’t happen. They move away from each other.
R feels even more helpless and lost.
We bring in a rep for the father-F.
The client places F on the left next to her R looking at her.
The M is already very far away and is on the other side of the room, saying she is no longer needed and she is managing on her own. Quite amazingly, she tries not to occupy any place where the R is at, and only moves there after R has moved away.
The F stands behind R and feels a strong need to embrace her… he really clings to her, wraps his arms around her neck and chest in a manner that holds her in place and she can’t break free… she says she doesn’t like it but doesn’t move.
The feeling is that nothing can move.
After a while, we bring a rep for the Perpetrator Energy... PE. (like an archetype)
This representation becomes the key to the whole constellation and there is so much to learn from it.
Almost immediately, the F releases his grip and walks away and his rep says: I’m not sure if I gave you support or if the support was for me. Suddenly I feel that maybe it was my own need… (Amazing!)
The rep for PE begins to move around the room and says that she feels like wind and must be constantly in motion; She can’t find her place.
The F becomes impatient and irritable.
No connection is made between him and the mother during the entire constellation.
Since out of the 7 women who volunteered for the constellation, only 4 showed up, I had to be creative. In some spur of the moment, I told each of them to pick up a fabric (we work in Israel with coloured felts as representations) that would represent a resource for them in the situation they are in, even if they don’t know what it is.
R brings a resource for something that will give her strength.
M brings a resource for her own father and places it behind her.
F brings a resource of a colourful fabric that has blue, red, yellow and green…. and feels that it is like an omen predicting something that is going to happen, maybe a birth?
PE brings a resource for rest (!)
And then everything starts to change and take a surprising turn.
The PE can finally rest and manages to sit.
The F looks at the fabric of her resource and begins to see all kinds of images in it. “Why do I suddenly see blood?” she asks. “And here there is a figure here who came to protect the child… (?)hmmmm….. maybe there is a birth here…(?) I need scissors…”
The M, who has not made any contact with the F so far, also looks at the same fabric and says that she also sees images in it. The image of Miriam, the sister of Moshe and Aaron, comes to her mind, looking out on the wicker basket over the Nile, in which her mother placed her brother Moses among the reeds, in order to save him.
If we recall the Bible for a moment, when the Pharaoh’s daughter arrives and picks up the baby, Miriam turns to her and says:
“Shall I go and get you a Hebrew nurse to nurse the child for you?
And Pharaoh’s daughter says to her, Yes, and the young woman goes and calls for the child’s mother.”
So, the M comes up with a story about a baby who was supposed to be thrown into the Nile and not only was he saved, his mother came to breastfeed him.
This gives me an idea and I whisper to the client: Was there any loss of an embryo in the family history?
And she whispers back to me, Yes. It was an abortion because they didn’t want any more children.
The question remains, how does it belong?
After this discussion about blood and birth and Miriam… the F pushes this resource representation (coloured fabric) towards the R’s resource fabric. As if to say: take it; It will give you strength… he then links the two fabrics together as if embracing each other. “It should be here”, he says.
In the meantime, the M, in addition to HER father, also brings representations for her mother and grandmother, and it turns out from what the client tells us, that the grandfather was violent and she (client) is named after her great-grandmother.
We give recognition to the aborted fetus and something is released. The resource fabrics of F and R can now be separated again. The R moves away from her F and turns to look at the PE.
At this point, I bring the client herself into the constellation to stand next to her representative.
They turn to the PE and the client says:
“ I have carried you with me all my life and I don’t want you in my life anymore. I leave you here”.
The emotions overwhelm her and we stay with her until she feels a relief. The R also feels relieved.
The PE feels like a balloon that has lost all its air.
She lays down on the floor and says a Hebrew word that is a verb made out of the word nothing (I have become “nothing”, I disappeared).
And this is a tremendous gift for the client.
So much to integrate from the insight that the healing movement is possible in relations to the Perpetrator Energy representative and not with the father or mother.
We finish and release the representatives and the client tells each of them who she represented and what the story is.
They are very, very, very moved.
After the “discovery”, the father’s representative wants to say something to the client and also the mother’s representative. They want to apologize.
It doesn’t really work because it does not come from the field itself and that’s exactly why in this case a blind constellation was so essential.
After they all leave, I sit with the client and she suddenly remembers that mom got depressed after that abortion and that the incest started at that time. Now what we saw makes so much more sense.
So, when the father pushed the coloured fabric toward the representation of “something that would give the representative strength”, the meaning was that the abortion was a decisive factor in the dynamics of the incest.
When I ask her if her mother had any loyalty to a partner who preceded the relationship with her father, [Since throughout the whole constellation, there was a feeling that the mother wanted out of the system, that she had no contact with the father and was distancing herself from her daughter], she tells me an amazing story…. mind blowing in fact…..
Her mother was in love with the father’s brother. They were a couple and intended to marry. He got sick and died of cancer. Then the father’s family more or less forced him to leave his then, girlfriend and marry his dead brother’s partner.
That’s what families do sometimes.
And that’s the whole story.
A study done on incest victims found “common traits” within families before father-daughter incest occurred. Even if generalizations can be problematic, they are at times useful when they support an understanding of energetic trends that arise repeatedly in diverse family systems. Here we find often the common phenomenons of alienation between mother and daughter, paternal dominance and/or the transfer of traditional family responsibilities from the mother to her daughter. Although it is an unconscious mechanism, incest in the constellation tends to refer to two perpetrators; One is overt, the father and the other is covert, the mother.
The systemic constellation examines the subject systematically and tends to discover insights for the entire system (the family) and not just for the individual. We cannot change the past but presence it in an attempt to gain a broader perspective on what happened in the trans-generational family system that might have contributed to the abnormal sexual behaviour. It often turns out that the woman (M) feels pulled outside the system, perhaps because she is following someone from her past… her participation in this dynamic is not conscious as mentioned. On the other hand, the father bears most of the responsibility because he knows very well what he is doing. Looking at the past without blame and judgment does not excuse the behaviour of the perpetrator, but a systemic understanding, can lead to a spontaneous emotional release and healing for the victim.
Incest is an energetic dynamic in the family system that is broader than the individuals involved in it. We look at what created the emotional behaviour of the mother and father. What unresolved past traumas occurred in their own family systems? Was incest, sexual abuse or violence a family pattern? Were there patterns of emotional muteness, family fragmentation or estrangement? What happened in this system to create a dynamic of an abuse?
Abuse or incest do not tend to occur without an energetic or emotional dynamic in the original family system behind it. What dynamic created a perpetrator who felt that incest was legitimate?
This is what the constellation process often reveals.
One of the ways to reconcile between a perpetrator and a victim is to look toward a power greater than both of them. It can be the source which created both and it can be the losses both experienced. When both sides of a dispute (be it incest or war or genocide) look together at everyone’s dead, not just at their own, and acknowledge their need for healing, it is possible to end the conflict and mourn for all.
“I open myself to a situation in darkness, not knowing what is going on. T h e question is: How do I get to a t r u t h concealed in darkness? I dive into a flowing field; I become part of it, and it reaches out beyond me. Things move in the field, some into areas of light, revealing something of whatever IS. I open myself to that and wait for something to come to me. An image for this process is: I feel my way in darkness along the walls until I find a door. When I find a place of light, I try to describe what is illuminating me with a word that is full and ripe. When the right word is found, those for whom it came grasp it at a level beyond rational thought. T h e right word touches and moves them, even when they don’t understand how.”
Bert Hellinger with Gunthard Weber, & Hunter Beaumont,
Love’s Hidden Symmetry, 1998