Systems (or Systemic) Constellations Explained

What's with the word "Constellations"...

... and "Systems" or "Systemic" ?

"Constellations" is a translation from the German word "Aufstellungen", which might bring up the image of stars in your mind, but would be literally translated as "placements". So, it has nothing to do with Astrology. What a constellator does is using either people, floor markers or figurines to place (or set up) a system visually in/on a pre-defined space (as you can see in the picture).

For a family constellation you bring your inner picture of your family of origin (you, your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents etc) or of your current family (partner, children, grandchildren) onto a defined space, so you can have a good look at it. Your family members are usually not present during this process, and it is entirely unnecessary for them to be there in person.

The dictionary says: " systemically - adverb

  • in a way that relates to or affects the whole of something."

Examples for systems:

- You (you and the parts of your body)

- Family (you and your family)

- Work place (you and your colleagues/managers)

- Organisation (you and your employees/partners)

- Friends (you and a friend or a group of friends)

- Relationships (you and your partner)

- Community (you and your wider community)

- Region (you and where you live, or where you were born)

- Country (you and your home country,  or the country you're living in)

A system is usually part of a bigger system. When we speak about "the systemic approach", we look at the system as a whole and its individual parts, and which system this one is part of and what the bigger system wants. This approach is also very helpful to Organisations.

In a group workshop the facilitator 'interviews' an issue holder in order to find out what exactly they would like to inquire into. Once that is defined, the issue holder can pick people from the participants to represent parts of the system relevant to their inquiry. The issue holder's inner picture is then visible to everyone in the space. The issue holder can usually just sit back and observe, as the facilitator now starts the process with the representatives by asking for feedback from their positions. The aim is to find a good place for all involved in the system. Most issue holders get much more insight, understanding and a wider picture, or even find the cause of their issue. 

From the place they are standing in, the representatives usually feel emotions in their body, and thoughts come up as well. All which is felt and thought about can be expressed and is relevant to the process.

Participants usually come away much wiser and in awe of this very powerful approach.

What happens during a constellation is quite difficult to explain, because the process is phenomenological and it is felt in the body.

Wooden Figurines used in Systems (Systemic) Constellations.

Using wooden figurines as place holders for parts of a system.

Systems Constellations in one sentence



It’s a powerful, life-changing tool to free oneself from ancestral entanglement; shine a light onto the unconscious; find one’s place in this world; and create positive change, healing and peace.

A brief explanation of systemic work

A great introduction of Family (Systems) Constellations by Brigitte Sztab

Silvia’s small claim to fame on That’s TV Oxford in September 2017

Are you working systemically?

If you’d like to facilitate a workshop with OxISC, would like to teach, or to become a member for only £15 a year and get the workshops for a greatly reduced price, please feel free to get in touch today.