Skills of perception
In this context we mean by skills of perception:
- using all your senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, kinesthetic perception) to catch important clues from the client, the representatives and from the participants in the circle;
- using your feeling and intuition to get an impression of what happened in the family;
- perceiving by yourself what representatives perceive in the constellation;
- perceiving unseen or missing persons in the constellation;
- sensing/perceiving the relationship between unidentified representatives;
- perceiving the sex and age of an unknown family member by looking at their representative or at their (still empty) place in the constellation;
- getting impressions about family members by looking at that persons place in the genogram (was this person heavy or light, lonely or connected, strong or weak, present or not really there, angry/violent or kind, satisfied or disappointed, self-confident or insecure, etc.)
Not only the facilitator, but also the representatives need to use all their senses. A representative once reported: "I smell burned rubber". But there was no such smell in the room. It was a perception that gave an important clue about what had happened. At another time there was a representative who reported: "I smell alcohol." Also as a facilitator you may be able to perceive something like that. So information from the family system may come to all of our senses.
It happened once in a constellation, that immediately after setting up, all three initial representatives began to sway, bend over, and could hardly keep standing. It looked unusually dramatic. The facilitator thought: "what has happened here?!". And then immediately came the thought: "a child has been murdered." Such observations are very helpful. Nevertheless, when we facilitate a constellation, we do not use such perceptions until representatives report sensations that clearly confirm our perception. So only when a representative reported that he felt there was a dead child lying in front of him, we knew we could trust our perception.
When you as the facilitator walk around the constellation, you may place yourself behind a representative and look over his shoulder. You may not actually get a visual impression. However, when you look in the direction where the representative is looking, you may get a clear sensation in your body. Sometimes you only know that something terrible is there. Sometimes it is more clear and you know that, for example, a woman with child lies there, who died together. However, clear these perceptions might be, you should never impose your perceptions on the constellation. Then the client might feel that you project your own ideas on her family — and she may actually be right. So despite your perception, you should let everything develop from the sensations and impressions of the representatives. When they do not confirm your perceptions then you do not use them. However, when a representative clearly confirms your observation, then you can safely act on it and ask representatives to lie down there for a mother and her child.
When you look at a constellation, you should not only look at the representatives. You should also look at the empty places, or more precisely, at places that somehow feel loaded. When you have no other clue — for example, there is no energy with the representatives and no direction for developing the constellation — then you might say to the group: "I have no clue, but I am just trying something here", and then according to your feeling you place a man or a woman at the loaded spot. Often the constellation becomes charged then and things begin to move. The announcement to the group has a purpose: without it people might get restless: "Why is he doing that?!". The remark reassures everyone that, yes this comes out of the blue, but you are just trying out something wild. Actually with this way of proceeding you often introduce the key person in the constellation around which the difficulties have developed. However, if the new representative has no effect, then you say to the group: "Okay, that did not work, so I take this representative out again."
When representatives have been added based on sensations of other representatives, then you often do not know where these new representatives fit in the family, or in the generations. You do not even know who is older, and who is younger. In that case you can make use of the sensing skills of the representatives. They often feel clearly who is in an earlier generation and who is in a later generation. You always need to cross check this. When the sensations of three or four representatives are consistent, you can safely go with their impressions.
In the same way, you may get information about the sex and approximate age of a representative by cross-checking the impressions of several representatives.
If you ask your clients to submit a genogram of their family in advance of working with this client, then you can use this genogram when you prepare for this work. In the same way as you observe, sense and feel when you walk around in a constellation, you can also scan the genogram with your eyes as if it is the field of the family. When you look at some person's name in a genogram, you can observe, sense and feel in exactly the same way as when you look at a representative.