By Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP
The political and social turmoil of our times can leave many of us feeling distressed, hopeless or weary – or all of the above. Yet I suspect most of us yearn to find a path to address these painful places and arrive at a greater heart-satisfying understanding feels more complete, more true.
As my activist and teacher friend Alison Fornes says: When it comes to understanding complex systems – especially those that stir strong feelings and a lack of control – our best analysis is not enough. This is because analysis breaks things down into smaller parts with the expectation that it will help us understand the whole. It often results in incomplete models, along with incomplete solutions that don’t fully address the problem.
During this workshop, we employed our bodies to experience the relationships between the parts of a system that contribute to social injustice in our community, nation or the world.
With mindful intention, we came together to discover which parts of the system attract and support each other, which parts repel and want to distance, what is out of place and which parts are missing. With the use of the illuminating approach of Systemic Constellations, an experiential process which helps us set aside blame and bring insight and change to our hearts and minds, we did indeed discover a fresh way of experiencing the depth of what has seemed like an intractable problem.
And so, we had a powerful morning gathering for Ancestor Stories: Social Injustice and Collective Healing one morning this week at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lancaster. We explored a current social issue using the principles of Systemic Constellations rather than the typical methods of discussion and debate, demonstrating that our inner knowledge, coming from body-sensing inquiry, can be surprisingly enlightening.
After our warm up of identifying multiple social issues that are present in our nation and world today -- climate change, poverty-stricken teens who feel voiceless, the polarizing of attitudes in our country, and other themes -- we settled on the topic of Latin American migrant children jailed at the Mexican border, particularly as the situation relates to the apparent extreme divisions of points of view in our country.
We started with representatives for the United States and the jailed Migrant Children. Once embodied by a volunteer representative and placed in the space in the center of our group circle, the Migrant Children representative was immediately shaking, scared and tearful, while the U.S. representative was standing and waiting.
Representatives for the Political Right and Political Left were added to the scene. Political Left representative went to comfort Migrant for a period of time, then walked away to engage with Political Right.
Migrant Children continued to express anxiety, and we added a representative for Latin Indigenous Ancestors to stand with Children, which calmed Children significantly. After a while, Left and Right quietly made contact, with Political Right holding the hand of the United States, sometimes tightly and sometimes loosely, and also the hand of the Political Left with the other hand. United States representative periodically voiced confusion about feelings and trying to understand what is going on.
After some time of this confusion and loosening and tightening, a new representative spontaneously came in – representing U.S. Citizen, who quickly walked over to stand with the Migrant Children.
We did a test to see if U.S. Citizen might more comfortably stand near Political Right or Political Left, but that place was reported physically uncomfortable. We ended with U.S. Citizen comfortably standing with Migrant Children and Latin Indigenous Ancestors.
I’ve facilitated a few of these Systemic Constellations – which explore the larger systems of culture, organizations and groups that are bigger than families. It is a time to set aside preconceived notions and favorite theories and is always enlightening to notice what wants to emerge within our consciousness.
Thanks to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lancaster for hosting this presentation. I’m available for more community presentations like this because this process adds another aspect of knowing that cannot be discovered by the cognitive brain alone.
Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP, is an author, trainer and psychotherapist who promotes, practices and teaches experiential methods including psychodrama, Family and Systemic Constellations, sand tray, mindfulness and Tarot imagery.