Family Constellation
Regular Practice Group
Northern Rivers NSW

Family Constellations - Awareness Play

Family Constellation is an intuition and feeling centred action method that endeavours to reveal unrecognised interpersonal dynamics and dissolve entanglements and conflict. The practice group with rotating facilitation is an opportunity to develop skills and observe varied styles of practice. There is no charge and we share the modest cost of venue hire.

For further details please contact

Our hearts remember those who gave us life, those who gave us love, and those whose fate is entangled with our own. As soon as the link to one parent or both is diminished, people lose energy and strength. Constellation restores the connection and the flow of love to what was separated.    ~Bert Hellinger

Study of Holocaust survivors finds
trauma passed on to children's genes.

New finding is first example in humans of epigenetic inheritance: the theory that environmental factors can affect the genes of children.  Genetic changes stemming from the trauma suffered by Holocaust survivors are capable of being passed on to their children, the clearest sign yet that one person’s life experience can affect subsequent generations.

                             The team’s work is the clearest sign yet that life experience
                                         can affect the genes of subsequent generations.

The conclusion from a research team at New York’s Mount Sinai hospital led by Rachel Yehuda stems from the genetic study of 32 Jewish men and women who had either been interned in a Nazi concentration camp, witnessed or experienced torture or who had had to hide during the second world war.

They also analysed the genes of their children, who are known to have increased likelihood of stress disorders, and compared the results with Jewish families who were living outside of Europe during the war. “The gene changes in the children could only be attributed to Holocaust exposure in the parents,” said Yehuda.

Her team’s work is the clearest example in humans of the transmission of trauma to a child via what is called “epigenetic inheritance” - the idea that environmental influences such as smoking, diet and stress can affect the genes of your children and possibly even grandchildren.

The idea is controversial, as scientific convention states that genes contained in DNA are the only way to transmit biological information between generations. However, our genes are modified by the environment all the time, through chemical tags that attach themselves to our DNA, switching genes on and off. Recent studies suggest that some of these tags might somehow be passed through generations, meaning our environment could have and impact on our children’s health.

Other studies have proposed a more tentative connection between one generation’s experience and the next. For example, girls born to Dutch women who were pregnant during a severe famine at the end of the second world war had an above-average risk of developing schizophrenia. Likewise, another study has showed that men who smoked before puberty fathered heavier sons than those who smoked after.

The team were specifically interested in one region of a gene associated with the regulation of stress hormones, which is known to be affected by trauma. “It makes sense to look at this gene,” said Yehuda. “If there’s a transmitted effect of trauma, it would be in a stress-related gene that shapes the way we cope with our environment.”

They found epigenetic tags on the very same part of this gene in both the Holocaust survivors and their offspring, the same correlation was not found in any of the control group and their children.


Through further genetic analysis, the team ruled out the possibility that the epigenetic changes were a result of trauma that the children had experienced themselves.

“To our knowledge, this provides the first demonstration of transmission of pre-conception stress effects resulting in epigenetic changes in both the exposed parents and their offspring in humans,” said Yehuda, whose work was published in Biological Psychiatry.

It’s still not clear how these tags might be passed from parent to child. Genetic information in sperm and eggs is not supposed to be affected by the environment - any epigenetic tags on DNA had been thought to be wiped clean soon after fertilisation occurs.

However, research by Azim Surani at Cambridge University and colleagues, has recently shown that some epigenetic tags escape the cleaning process at fertilisation, slipping through the net. It’s not clear whether the gene changes found in the study would permanently affect the children’s health, nor do the results upend any of our theories of evolution.

Whether the gene in question is switched on or off could have a tremendous impact on how much stress hormone is made and how we cope with stress, said Yehuda. “It’s a lot to wrap our heads around. It’s certainly an opportunity to learn a lot of important things about how we adapt to our environment and how we might pass on environmental resilience.”

The impact of Holocaust survival on the next generation has been investigated for years - the challenge has been to show intergenerational effects are not just transmitted by social influences from the parents or regular genetic inheritance, said Marcus Pembrey, emeritus professor of paediatric genetics at University College London.

“Yehuda’s paper makes some useful progress. What we’re getting here is the very beginnings of a understanding of how one generation responds to the experiences of the previous generation. It’s fine-tuning the way your genes respond to the world.”

Can you inherit a memory of trauma?

Researchers have already shown that certain fears might be inherited through generations, at least in animals.

Scientists at Emory University in Atlanta trained male mice to fear the smell of cherry blossom by pairing the smell with a small electric shock. Eventually the mice shuddered at the smell even when it was delivered on its own.

Despite never having encountered the smell of cherry blossom, the offspring of these mice had the same fearful response to the smell - shuddering when they came in contact with it. So too did some of their own offspring.

On the other hand, offspring of mice that had been conditioned to fear another smell, or mice who’d had no such conditioning had no fear of cherry blossom.

The fearful mice produced sperm which had fewer epigenetic tags on the gene responsible for producing receptors that sense cherry blossom. The pups themselves had an increased number of cherry blossom smell receptors in their brain, although how this led to them associating the smell with fear is still a mystery.

Peace between man and woman

Anngwyn wanted me as a partner for the workshop „Men, Women and Peace“, because as a German I would be a „former enemy“. It took some time before I understood what she meant. She is from England, her ancestors fought against Germans. In the English soul apparently former wartimes still rub off on us contemporary Germans. We are the „former enemies“.

I didn't take that serious at all. My direct ancestors did not fight against Englishmen, at least during World War II. However, as I write this, it crosses my mind that my grandfather had been at the Western Front in World War I, thus could have fought indeed against the English. With my Czech great grandfather this also is not excluded. Anyway, I’ve never had anything against the English personally, on the contrary, I like them.

Anngwyn is a friend of mine for over 15 years. We respect each other in our professional skills. So at first I really did not know what she meant with „former enemy“. With the constellation „peace and war“ in Mexico City, however, the quality of our relationship changed. I noticed this, as we sat in a circle with the group after the constellation and traced what we had experienced just now. Sitting next to Anngwyn I looked at her and felt a new relaxed atmosphere between us. I haven't been aware of any tension or problem before. And yet something was gone, which previously had disturbed. Intuitively I understood that this something was a result of former wars and that real peace was arising now. We were no longer Englishwoman and German, we were two friends who meant well for each other. I crossed my legs, leaned back and made jokes with her. In front of the group Anngwyn invited me to come with her to England, to celebrate a peace ritual at a war memorial. After some hesitation, I agreed. The way to England, to London, which I have never visited so far, is all of a sudden open to me.

What I am saying with this little story is that one can overlook a warlike disturbance in a relationship if it exists from the beginning. One can get used to a certain level of mutual distrust, a certain level of defense preparedness and can consider the warlike atmosphere or the lack of real peace as normal. Only the complete absence of warlike potential lets us know what deep peace feels like.

If this has a significant impact even in a professional partnership, how much more intense this effect might be felt in a love relationship, in which true peace can be passed to children and grandchildren. In every relationship between men and women it is worthwhile to search for war potential, so that peace can arise. If the fathers or grandfathers of partners have been fighting against each other, if the ethnic groups or peoples of the partners were enemies, you normally will find something. Then it is necessary to pull the combat uniform of the next soldier, the one who wants to attack next.

In a couple relationship in which you become the aggressor yourself, you have to solve this problem by yourself. You can only achieve this when you gather the community of your ancestors, the wise elders, when you look at yourself through their eyes, and break the old pattern of recurrent war this way, which ultimately is directed against loved ones. Mutual respect is the path by which this goal can be reached.
Dr. med. Karl-Heinz Raucher's latest blog " Peace is in the Picture"

Family and Systemic Constellations Resources Network

Where Germans Make Peace with Their Dead - The New Yorker

Long-term effects of psychotherapeutic interventions

Current Trends in Family System Constellations

  Awareness Play
Garden in the Hills
Wu Wei
David Whyte
Nothing is Yours
Family Constellations
Carlos Castaneda
Annette Nibley
Paul Lowe