Humanist Psychologist. Gestalt therapist. A Family Constellations specialist, he introduced Bert Hellinger in Spain. He teaches Trainings and workshops in Family Constellations throughout Spain and in Latin America. He studied and collaborated with Claudio Naranjo. Writer. Co-creator of the Gestalt Institute of Barcelona, etc.
You collaborated with Claudio Naranjo in this Integrative Psychotherapy SAT programs. What do you think was the greatest teaching that he transmitted to you for your personal life?
Well, it’s hard to say, he taught many things. His teachings about the «enneagram» influenced me and helped me a lot. I also received his permission to be as one is and to exercise certain transparency, that is, to be without the need to pose or behind a character. One of the great items of my personal developments has been how to be real.
As an enneagram psychology expert, what does this mean and how can it help us?
I believe that genuine freedom means being free from ourselves. To know the enneagram is to know our own machinery, automatisms, our own robotics. We could say that it is like an enlarged map through which we can recognize the main mask that leads you through the path of life, which is the main ego mask. Once seen, it is not that it falls by magic, but you are more aware and can fight it. It is often said that instead of being «ridden by the tiger», we learn how to «ride the tiger.» I have discovered that this is also a vehicle to use positively and with creativity. We can say that the enemy becomes an ally. But first, you have to transform it, and to transform it, you have to know it well. After that, you will be able to oppose it as well and then tame it to reach this image of «riding the tiger.»
During 1999, you invited Bert Hellinger to the Gestalt Institute in Barcelona to publicize his great work on Family Constellations. Currently, among many other activities, you teach Constellation Training and Workshops. What interested you the most about the Constellations?
What amazed me the most was that I had never known a tool that, with so little time, would go so far to reach the invisible or very hidden things of our personal universe and, above all, in our relational universe. In the workshop offered by Hellinger, many family and bonding plots were instantly revealed. In in individual therapy or in a conversational way, to get there it usually takes a long time. Wrongings were undone, understandings and liberations were obtained from these chains. I speak of chains and, at times, we could also speak of blessings and resources, which have been seeded to us by our family tree. It seemed to me a path that brought much fruit.
Many people have heard about family constellations but do not know what they are really about. Could you explain us briefly?
It is an opportunity to see, and to see not only with the eyes, but with the body, those plots of father, mother, son, grandparents, siblings … that help us understand who we are and how we work inside our family group. Each person has within him an experience of belonging to this network of ties. We can find out what dynamics are behind supporting the problems we have in the field of the couple, parenthood, work, health, etc. A constellation incorporates, clarifies matters that were pending in the family tree. It makes each person able to be in their rightful place. One internalizes a different, new position, closer to the solution he needs or the vital movement he needs. A constellation would be an opportunity to rewrite some chapters again.
From this perspective of the constellations, it is important to recognize that we are not an individual soul but a collective soul, isn’t it?
In my gaze, personal and collective go always together. When I work in my workshops, I do not see only one person when I look, in that person’s body, gestures, mother, father, etc., there is a story… Today epigenetics shows that things that our parents, our grandparents, and our great-grandparents lived through have a resonance with experiences lived four or five generations later.
An experiment was carried out with mice in which they had been given a smell to smell. Then an electric shock was applied with which a stimulus-response conditioning was produced in which the smell was associated with a traumatic response of paralysis, of panic. The children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren of those mice that were conditioned when they smell this smell also feel panic.
There must some kind of prior order, to allow love to flow, isn’t it?
Hellinger introduced the concept of the orders of love, referring to the fact that love is not enough it needs order. Love is like water and order is the channel; so the water needs the channel so as not to get lost or spill out without direction. Love without order is “bad love”, and its consequences do not provide happiness, on the other hand, love in tune with order is “good love” and will provide happiness.
1st order. Membership: all members of a system have the full right to belong to it. The exclusion or lack of recognition of any of them causes a system imbalance that will cause that a later generation will have to include again. For example: the grandfather mistreated the grandmother, so she is excluded and condemned. There are many possibilities that later the grandson will adopt the same or similar behaviours of the grandfather, and in this way he is integrated again and seen a part of the clan.
2nd order. Hierarchy: it is related to the fact that those who arrived earlier have priority over those who arrived later and this should be recognized. An imbalance is created when a member does not occupy its rightful place. For example: the mother who lost her mother when she was a child and has not made the process to integrate this loss, will probably have a hard time taking her place as a mother.
3rd order. Attention and care for the balance in exchange, in human relationships, between giving and receiving. Between parents and children there is an unequal exchange: children take the gift of their life and usually much more, care, attention … Children can compensate what they have received through their own children, giving them a good life or doing something good for their parents when they are older and need care.
When you speak of blind love in the field of constellations. What are you talking about?
Many problems do not stem from a lack of love but rather from a lack of «good love.» Good love is recognized because it is capable of respecting others, assuming their reality, allowing, for example, parents or other loved ones such as grandparents and siblings to bear their own pains and sorrows and look at them with love. On the other hand, «bad love or blind love» generates this type of messages: «Since you are not well, neither am I, or I will sacrifice myself.»
It is very difficult for children to bear that their parents are not well and not get involved in it with their own problems. In all systems there are secrets, things that have not been integrated or people that have been excluded. Everything is a field of information that reaches everyone, children, grandchildren, etc. unconsciously. So, there is a kind of love that leads them to become involved in an invisible and unconscious way with the excluded or with non-integrated things, from a blind love that is not capable of accepting reality.
In your latest book: «Dancing together: The hidden face of love in the couple and in the family» you delve into some topics such as the presence of ghosts from the past, unequal love affairs or communication problems. You provide conceptual reflections, and you also make a practical presentation of real cases treated during your family constellation therapies. What would be the best way to dance «in pairs» so that the dance is fluid and loving?
The best dances are those in which the couple has an «adult relationship». This kind of relationship is should not be directed by an «inner child» who seeks to impose ancient scenarios or antique dances (sometimes painful and difficult) lived with his own parents. The concept of dependency is also important, because while it is true that a child «needs» his parents, an adult does not need his partner.
The best dance in my opinion, without a doubt, is the dance of reality, in where we are at all times flexible dancers, without any psychological games. To achieve this requires a great deal of previous personal work, often painful. Not everyone is willing to do it.
How does the emotional bond model learned from childhood influences our relationships?
The most important bond is with our parents, not only our mother or father separately, but especially what happens between them. This is the origin. So, everything that happens between parents, always with a long history within their hearts (plots, patterns and patterns). This configures what I call “prophetic and tyrant kid”, because que keeps his loyalty with old patterns, old wounds, and the kind of defences used against those wounds. This will also influence the children in the way their own relationships.
First parents, after, children. Can you explain this idea?
The couple should always be put in first place, before the families of origin or even their children in common. For any child, it is liberating to feel that his or her parents (together or separately) form a superior team than him (here we find the order). Many children suffer narcissistic attitudes since their parents direct their affective vectors towards them and not between them. If they are more attached to the mother than to the couple, they have not landed as an adult or a singular person. However, if there were children on either side before the couple was formed, then the bond with the child precedes the couple.
What is happiness for you?
I think happiness is to be alright even when things are not going well. Or, in other words, not being too bad when things go bad. I mean, knowing how to be sad when one is sad, when one is in anguish … to embrace that moment ant to accept reality as it is. Saint Augustine used the following phrase summarizes what I believe: “Happiness consists in taking with joy what life gives us and in releasing the same joy what life takes from us”.
Next September you will publish a new book entitled: “Say yes to life”. Is life our teacher?
I believe that what keeps us healthy is processing and integrating what life shows and chooses for us. We know that we cannot always be happy, and although we are aware of this reality, sometimes we feel unable to face pain and suffering when they appear without warning. Suffering is part of life, knowing how to understand and manage it is maybe the most powerful learning.
Accept reality as it is, without believing our «interested» story that many times does not fit the facts that really happened.
Thank you very much Joan, it has been a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for this interesting interview and your clear explanations.
Thank you Helena! It is a great work you do with your magazine. A very special greeting to the people of Ibiza who always receive me so well.
Joan Garriga / www.joangarriga.com
* Portrait photograph by Gabriel Muñoz