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Constellation Therapy 3/8: Language, Narrative, Story

Family stories can be both formative and reductive. They can also be transformative – and transformed. In the third part of her blog series, Nicola Mackay, a clinical physicist turned constellation therapist and researcher, introduces the two forms of language she uses within constellation therapy – and shares the powerful phrases that helped one client disentangle from his grandmother’s WW1 grief.

Stories are important. They are part of our life blood. They hold our love, our hopes and dreams, but also, they hold who we were. Who our ancestors were. Stories and language define the world and our place in it. Giving language and words to a silenced story of trauma gives a place to it. 

The story the client shares about what they wish to explore in the constellation informs the intentional question that we discussed in the first blog. I do always listen to the client’s story, but my focus is always on what is missing or what is not said within their story. 

Family stories are often altered or reduced down to a few words. We all do this. We all create a ‘single story’ of someone or something, and we do it to ourselves too. Encapsulating some of our own experiences into a few words is the creation of a single story:

•    I had a brother.
•    I am divorced.
•    I am estranged from my family. 
•    I live alone. 

There are silenced voices underneath those words.

This silencing of voices is also prevalent in our family and ancestral narrative, the scraps of information passed down from one generation to the next.

•    She never married. 
•    He never spoke of the war. 
•    My great-grandfather came over from Ireland. 
•    I think we used to have a farm. 
•    I think there was maybe a baby given away or lost there, I’m not sure. 
•    They always said she had a hard life. 

These souls rendered voiceless within the single story of the client are essential for creating the language of the intentional question and the unfolding of the constellation map.

Healing words: spontaneous language and directed language

During the course of a constellation, whether in a group or an individual session, a language narrative will be introduced by the constellator within the created constellation space. 

There are two forms of language that I use within constellation therapy that I want to introduce you to: spontaneous and directed. 

The spontaneous is a language spoken directly from the entanglement we are unknowingly carrying with us as we walk through our life. In a constellation map, the spontaneous language narrative is spoken by the client as well as whoever or whatever is being represented. 

The directed narrative is the phrasing introduced by the constellation therapist to the client and it has a very specific focus. It moves and releases the client from the influence of the informing field. In terms of quantum physics theory, the language narrative within the created constellation space provokes the wave function collapse within the influent field acting upon an individual, allowing them to step into their own place unencumbered by the weight of the entanglement from the previously influent field. This is the wave function collapse we discussed in our last blog. 

My client, Bill, was unconsciously entangled with his grandmother whose son was killed in WW2 in India. We worked with the phrases “I can feel the weight of your grief. I didn’t know I was holding this but I can feel it now. I have been trying to be him for you. But I can’t be him. I am not him.” 

This gently moves Bill out of the field of influence from his grandmother who was overwhelmed by her grief. Bill then spoke to her son: “You still have a place. I have been holding you within my place but you belong outside of me. You still have your own place. You haven’t been forgotten. I remember you. I am not the only one who remembers.” These words and phrases shifted the field of influence around Bill. 

Removing the emotional entanglements through the directed language narrative released Bill from the burden of holding the grief and allowed him to bear witness to what had happened.

Bearing witness means sitting a while. Stopping. Feeling it. Seeing it. The function of bearing witness is to honour the hidden or silenced parts within the created constellation space, giving voice to the voiceless. This shifts the field of influence from the past to the present. 

In our next blog we will be exploring some of the most common entanglements experienced within the paternal line and field, and why our relationship to the Paternal is so important. 


Nikki Mackay

Nikki Mackay (BSc, MSc) is a Family & Ancestral Constellation therapist and teacher. She previously worked as a Clinical Physicist within the NHS, specialising in Neurophysiological measurement and exploring the efficacy of energy healing on the autonomic nervous system. Nicola has been in private practice for 20 years. She has a busy therapy practice and teaching school based in Western Europe and the USA and offers training, workshops and individual family constellation therapy. Since 2016 she has been exploring the possibilities of constellations at a macro level, working with the International Relations Department of a University in Scotland looking at using constellations as a tool for understanding collective memory and trauma. Her fifth book, Your Invisible Inheritance,  was published by Rebel Magic Books in May 2020. She can be contacted at

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