Systemic Structure Training – Online with figures

About the background of the algorithm


Setting up with colored wooden blocks

Colored wooden blocks have great advantages over the usual figures used in constellations. A set of approx. 50 blocks offers four different colors and approx. 4-5 different shapes: cubes, round, square and narrow blocks in dif- ferent sizes. This diversity is necessary to symbolize the elements that have become more complex. Since structure is central, the missing eyes – which allow a line of sight – are irrelevant for structure training! Therefore Playmobil figures are also not so well suited.

Constellation work and structure

For almost 30 years I have been working with constellations in my psych- iatric practice in order to better understand my client’s problems and to find good solutions for them. Through patient, loving empathy – with a healthy distance at the same time! – I have succeeded more and more in perceiving and describing the inner processes.

Like a natural scientist, I tried to grasp the logic and the hidden meaning of these phenomena, to describe them with the appropriate words and to find a model that can clarify the observed laws and dynamics. This gradually resul- ted in a complex concept. Its inner logic and meaningfulness had a great aesthetic appeal and an inner coherence. I felt like other naturalists who were enthusiastic about the beauty and perfection of the diverse forms that nature has created.

The central organ seemed to me to be the self that is worth respecting and loving simply because it is there (intrinsically). Regardless of whether it is “obedient” or “useful” – that would correspond to an extrinsic self-worth. The conception of such a self corresponds to the inalienable dignity of a person, as it is anchored as a basic right in our Basic Law.

This self is created from birth, but in order to be effective it has to be !awa- kened” through the unconditional love of a parent. Only then can it become an organ of self-regulation. It creates a structure through which it manifests and stabilizes itself. A structure that enables autonomy and self-regulation, including self-care.

Through the unconditional love of another (mostly a parent), this self was “awakened”. This experience of being worthy of unconditional love enables both self-love and unconditional love for others.

Structure and relationship

The distinction between I and not-I creates an awareness of limits. In this way, spaces with different responsibilities can arise: a separate space in which everything belongs that defines me – and nothing alien. And the other’s room, in which I am not responsible. This protected space of one’s own is the prerequisite for the person being able to be identical with him-/herself, with his/her own self. This self is also the source of “strength”, the task of which is to recognize that which is alien to the self and to remove it from one’s own space. This self, which, as I said, first had to be awakened by the unconditional love of an adult, has made the experience that it is worth loving, regardless of performance. Therefore, in turn, it can show un- conditional love to others and itself accept unconditional love from others.

People who are connected in this way can also reveal themselves to others for who they really are. This makes them look real and attractive to others. A mutual attraction can develop between two people who are congruent and authentic in this way, so that there is an attraction bond between them. If everyone respects himself and the other, then a true, unconditional love between the two becomes possible.

Constellation image and movements of the figures as a symbolic language

The constellation picture makes an unconscious inner reality clear, corresponding to a non-verbal symbol font. This symbolic language is immediately understandable to the client – but also to the therapist and other viewers. The translation of these non-verbal symbols into word-writing is possible, but – as with all translations – only approximately.

Elements of this symbolic language are spatial proximity – or distance bet- ween the symbols, also elevated positions, or lying on the floor have symbolic meanings. The movements exercised by the client in the interventions “demarcation” and “counter demarcation” also have a meaning. They also trigger heavy feelings at times, ranging between fear (prohibition) and happiness (liberation).

During the guided constellation process, these feelings are stored along with the associated movements and sentences. In this way, incorrect storage can be resolved and the new combinations of sentence and movement can be saved. That corresponds to conditioning.

The solution steps described in the algorithm were created over twenty years of constellation work. They have been shown to be very effective. At first glance, they might seem a bit schematic and rigid. Therefore, I will use a case study to describe the observations and considerations that led to the concept and the solution steps.

Case Study Loss Trauma

The client mentions a concern, e.g. “I am becoming more and more like my grandmother. As a child I was more with my grandmother. She had asthma. She was very kind to me. When I had to go back to my parents at the age of 6, it was very painful for me, all the more because they were very overwhelmed and had much less time for me. Grandma has long been dead, but I notice that I always behave like her. And now I also have asthma – just like her”.

In order to clarify the matter, she sets up – following her feeling – symbols for herself: her “I” (“focus”), her two self-parts and two other symbols for the grandmother and for the asthma.

When she sees for herself that she is much closer to her grandmother and her asthma than to her “true self”, then she is surprised. She wasn’t aware of that. Apparently she gave the grandmother and her asthma her attention, even her own space, so that her own – her unencumbered self – was marginalized. Is that the cause of her problems?

If she then – following her mind – puts a ruler as a symbol of a boundary between herself and the grandmother and the asthma, then this can trigger mixed feelings. On the one hand, she can feel relieved because she is more connected to her self-parts and therefore congruent. At the same time, however, she can also get the feeling of being cut off from something that has given her orientation and identity – maybe even more than her own parts of herself!

Further: when she takes the symbols for the grandmother and her asthma out of her room and puts them in the grandmother’s room, it feels forbidden, like betrayal. As if by doing this she would let her grandmother down with her asthma. As if she were still connected to her grandmother through her own asthma!

Loss trauma leads to structural disarray

These observations are so characteristic and so frequent that a regularity can be assumed behind them, which I describe as follows: As a 6-year-old, the client could not process the separation from the beloved grandmother, i.e. save it as something that had been done.

The grandmother therefore remained in her identity space as an introject that was alien to the I, along with the other introject: asthma. This created a “conglomerate” that determined their self-perception and behavior, as their true selves had been marginalized.

In concrete terms, this means for her concern: The introject asthma was closer to her than her own self, which “can feel completely even without asthma.” Therefore, this introject had a stronger effect on her well-being than her true self. And since it also connected her to the beloved grandmother – some mistakenly call this “loyalty” – the connection with asthma became even stronger, so that it could not be successfully treated with conventional treatment.

We see: the client could no longer distinguish with certainty
– between I and the grandmother
– between her own identity space and that of her grandmother
– between her asthma and that of her grandmother

As we understand, these aspects belong to the structure. The incorrectly stored trauma resulted in this structure being distorted. Important: These trauma-related distortions of the structure are also shown in the autonomy diagram. So they affect all relationships in the sense of a symbiosis pattern. This structure is thus deformed by an unresolved symbiosis. And it favors symbiotic relationships.

Excursus: structure

STRUCTURE includes the ability

– to have an awareness of one’s own self, which has its own value (intrinsically), regardless of performance (according to the innate right to human dignity in the Basic Law!)
– to perceive and protect one’s own limits
– to perceive and respect foreign borders – without offense
– to use the strength (aggression) healthily for oneself (demarcation) – instead of against oneself and against others
– the awareness of intrinsic self-esteem makes it possible to accept unconditional love – and to give it to others

STRUCTURE is a requirement for

– self-connection (autonomy)
– authenticity (congruence)
– self-care
– resilience (resistance to stress)
– a partnership-like relationship on an equal footing that enables – to receive – and to give – unconditional love

Structure training leads to adaptive storage of the trauma

Constellations not only make it possible to set up such a hypothesis, but also to derive targeted interventions from it. If these prove to be effective, then the hypothesis is confirmed. In this case, it makes sense for the client to put the conglomerate (loss trauma with grandmother and her asthma) out of her room and symbolically !stop” it in a demarcation maneuver, as if she were thereby protecting the border of her room. If that feels forbidden or loveless to her, then she can decide whether she decides on her – obviously confused – feeling or rather on her mind.

This discrepancy between a – confused – feeling and the mind is very often found in trauma-related distortions of the structure. The structural distortion is almost maintained by this emotional confusion.

Problem solving through structure training

This approach strengthens the client’s ability to differentiate and to define boundaries. Due to the symbolic demarcation also from the past, the incorrectly saved conglomerate is stored “adaptively”, that is, as something from the past. It can then no longer be triggered.

Through this targeted training of the structure, the client can reconnect with her true self, which feels complete even without the asthma that she unconsciously associated with her grandmother.

The result: the client’s asthma can disappear after such structural training – without it being treated. Now that she is connected to her true self, she can let go of the asthma that she unconsciously connected to her grandmother.

And she can also let go of her grandmother, who was still holding her unconsciously, and “let her go where she finds peace“.

Other symbiotic relationships – and the autonomy diagram – can also change after such training in the sense of an increase in autonomy.
Conclusion: The image created by the installation makes the distortions of the structure visible and at the same time offers a !symbolic stage” to strengthen the structure again through targeted interventions. The resulting self-connection strengthens congruence, autonomy, self-orientation and self- care – and thus health and satisfaction.

If the client can identify with their true self again – instead of with their grandmother – then they can also receive and give unconditional love. And it can use the aggressive potential constructively, e.g. in demarcation.

Munich 8th of April 2021