Plotting key factors to explore the connections in systems – a taste of “Constellations”

May’s Together Tools meetup was an expert led session from Heather Day, focusing on “Constellations”. This practice originated in family therapy but its focus on understanding the connections within systems means that is has evolved into much wider usage.

I had heard enough about it on previous occasions to spark my interest but had little greater understanding of the process.  This mirrored the experience of most of the group and meant that the experiential taster Heather gave us stimulated some interesting conversation and for me at least, a curiosity to explore it further.

We started the session with some simple movement exercises to demonstrate how elements of a system connect and work together, before moving into pairs to test a “blind” constellation where an issue that we each chose to work with, was not shared.  Our partner was to embody the issue and we were prompted to position them at a spot in the room that felt “right” and to play with moving around that person ourselves to see what thoughts and feelings it provoked.

We then broke into different pairs and used objects to map out some of the key components of an issue that, in this instance we briefly described to one another before starting. I was surprised at how certain I was of what the map of my issue should look like and further brief questions from my partner allowed some aspects to briefly be explored further.

I can’t deny that this type of practice is one that I don’t generally find easy to engage with, opting more often for a “head ruled” route, particularly where I have a specific objective in mind.  In this session though, my sole aim was to be open to what came up and to take this opportunity to explore and to play with a new way of working.

Visually plotting out an issue was something I found unexpectedly helpful and is definitely a technique that I could see options for using in the future.  From the group’s reflections as the session came to a conclusion, this seemed to be an aspect that others

With this newfound interest in constellations fresh in my mind, I was very pleased when the option to try another twist on the process in an Action Learning session the next day.  On that occasion the whole group was invited to become part of the “constellation”, with each participant representing a person in the scenario and contributing our feelings as changes were made to our positioning.

Again this evoked some helpful discussion including the fact that I found that in being asked to “play a role” I felt that the comments I made might almost be taken to represent a judgement or comment on the scenario being worked through rather than an expression of a general “energy” in the system.  Being able to bring to the surface some of these more process based questions and concerns is, for me, one of the key benefits of being able to explore new techniques in a safe space where all are there to experiment and learn.

While I wouldn’t necessarily envisage working purely with a constellations model in the near future, the concept of using people or objects to visually plot the key factors in a scenario is definitely something I’m going to bear in mind both personally and when considering methods to explore issues in the various projects and working groups I’m involved with.  The conversations the session evoked around the importance of recognising the connections within a system and the factors that can affect these are also ones that I think it would be interesting to explore when working with teams in future.

It would be great to hear of specific scenarios where others have facilitated or participated in “Constellations”.  Where has this worked well?  What are the key factors to bear in mind?  In what scenarios has this worked less effectively and why?

We started the session with some simple movement exercises to demonstrate how elements of a system connect and work together, before moving into pairs to test a “blind” constellation where an issue that we each chose to work with, was not shared.  Our partner was to embody the issue and we were prompted to position them at a spot in the room that felt “right” and to play with moving around that person ourselves to see what thoughts and feelings it provoked.

We then broke into different pairs and used objects to map out some of the key components of an issue that, in this instance we briefly described to one another before starting. I was surprised at how certain I was of what the map of my issue should look like and further brief questions from my partner allowed some aspects to briefly be explored further.

I can’t deny that this type of practice is one that I don’t generally find easy to engage with, opting more often for a “head ruled” route, particularly where I have a specific objective in mind.  In this session though, my sole aim was to be open to what came up and to take this opportunity to explore and to play with a new way of working.

Visually plotting out an issue was something I found unexpectedly helpful and is definitely a technique that I could see options for using in the future.  From the group’s reflections as the session came to a conclusion, this seemed to be an aspect that others also felt drawn to.

With this newfound interest in constellations fresh in my mind, I was very pleased when the option to try another twist on the process in an Action Learning session the next day.  On that occasion the whole group was invited to become part of the “constellation”, with each participant representing a person in the scenario and contributing our feelings as changes were made to our positioning.

Again this evoked some helpful discussion including the fact that I found that in being asked to “play a role” I felt that the comments I made might almost be taken to represent a judgement or comment on the scenario being worked through rather than an expression of a general “energy” in the system.  Being able to bring to the surface some of these more process based questions and concerns is, for me, one of the key benefits of being able to explore new techniques in a safe space where all are there to experiment and learn.

While I wouldn’t necessarily envisage working purely with a constellations model in the near future, the concept of using people or objects to visually plot the key factors in a scenario is definitely something I’m going to bear in mind both personally and when considering methods to explore issues in the various projects and working groups I’m involved with.  The conversations the session evoked around the importance of recognising the connections within a system and the factors that can affect these are also ones that I think it would be interesting to explore when working with teams in future.

It would be great to hear of specific scenarios where others have facilitated or participated in “Constellations”.  Where has this worked well?  What are the key factors to bear in mind?  In what scenarios has this worked less effectively and why?

Heather Day is an experienced systemic constellation facilitator.  To find out more about her work, visit her website http://heatherdaycoaching.com/

If you’d like to learn about or join in with Together Tools, please look at the meetup page:  https://www.meetup.com/Together-Tools/  Our next session will be on 6 June, led by Cristian Nica and focused on “Harnessing group skills to design problem solving tools”.

Images: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star

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