I have just experienced my first “non verbal” trauma constellation.
For those who don’t know what a trauma constellation is, I will explain.
The dialoguing trauma constellation (in a group*)
The facilitator invites the client to think about what they would like to achieve in the time and space of the session. From this the client forms their “sentence of their intention” which they then write on the board or paper. This forms the focus for the session. Sometimes clients come with a fully formed sentence so there is little preamble. This too is absolutely fine. One of the main qualities of the trauma constellation work is inclusivity.
Once the client has written their intention up, for the group, themselves and the facilitator to see, they read it out aloud.
Now when working in a group, the client chooses one person to represent one word of the sentence. This person is then invited to join the client into the space formed by the group’s circle of chairs. Now the client and representative are free to do/say/move as they like. (A note here: no self harm or violence towards another is allowed. If strong violent impulses arise, they are vocalised but never acted upon.)
One by one the client chooses people from the group to represent another word in the sentence. Each “representative” can then do/say/move as they feel to.
This form of constellation provides rich information about the client’s psyche. What forms is literally a map of the inner world, in relation to the sentence of intention. Some people show clear representation of survival parts (parts of the psyche that have developed to keep trauma feelings at bay), some exhibit healthy behaviour, some traumatized parts. Often one representative can carry a mix of all these parts, that will show themselves during the session.
Once the client has experienced “enough” they will often draw the session to a close themselves “it’s enough”. Perhaps the facilitator might ask “Is this enough?”.
The facilitator then gives the client space to talk through what they have just experienced, and will also ask if they would like to hear feedback from the representatives. Often the client has no need to talk much at this point, as they reflect on what just took place.
* The one to one session follows a similar format, except the client might ask the facilitator to represent the words, and floor markers (either round female or square male, in a variety of colours) are placed on the ground by the client as they move through their sentence.
The non-verbal trauma constellation
This is a recent development coming from Franz Ruppert’s experimentation with the method.
The client forms their “sentence of the intention” for their piece of work in the same way. He/she writes it up on the board and reads it aloud. Now the client chooses people from the group to represent each of the words at the same time. Markers are also chosen at this point and put down by the client. The representatives and the client find their own place in the space and now, without words, a 15-20 minute period of no words follows. The client and representatives are free to move around the space and do as they feel moved. Sounds are allowed but no formed words.
After 15-20 minutes the client sits down with the facilitator and can speak about their experience, ask for feedback from the facilitator and the representatives.
The session is then brought to a close after the feedback has finished.
The underlying theory behind the “non-verbal” constellation is that we experience the earliest and most profound trauma of our lives in our pre-verbal state, in utero and before we develop the ability to communicate with words. So it is possible that pre-verbal trauma can only truly be resolved by a non-verbal process. By the time we have developed to the use of language our survival mechanisms are already well-established in our psychneuroimmunoendocrinal pathways, and we have already formed our adaptive behaviours towards our primary caregivers, in order to be safe, be seen and stay alive. Language becomes one of these survival strategies.
So to experience a non-verbal trauma constellation allows a unique space to feel into the impact of the trauma, to feel the power of our survival behaviours, to connect with the healthy parts. The work is more subtle, allows for deeper connection. My experience in a dialoguing constellation is that the words can be confusing, disorienting, overwhelming. As we were flooded by trauma feelings in our pre-verbal state, we can too be flooded by words as an adult.