Kinship Dynamics and the Flows of History

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By Elisa Novick

In November I will be presenting my workshop, Kinship Dynamics and the Flows of History, in Malaysia. As I was writing about it, I felt strongly to share with you some of what I’ve learned from working with people in sessions and workshops about generational healing. Readers of Planet Waves are already familiar with the effects of the relational patterns of cosmic forces on our lives and how they can play out in our families and nations and I’m sure will make a lot of “Aha!” connections with what I am presenting here.

Elisa in the Monkey Forest (by Karali Pitzele)

Elisa in the Monkey Forest (by Karali Pitzele)

Because I’ve been blessed to be able to combine family and systemic constellation work with spiritual awareness and an understanding of the necessities of karma, experience has taught me that healing on the systemic-historical level is essential for each of us — personally and for the larger patterns we are all part of.

When you look at another person, you see a single human being, yet that person is deeply interwoven into multiple larger patterns, a constellation of people who are each also interwoven with others and with what has taken place historically, rippling through time. We cannot have global health as long as the damage that has accumulated over millennia of familial and tribal strife is not brought to peace. Unresolved disturbance on any level can impact our lives and relationships for generations.

Once we begin to search for healing for ourselves and our world, the possible contexts multiply. Here are examples of contributing forces we can put on display:

  • Family of origin and step-families, and all other members of the extended family, present and past generations
  • Relationships with spouse and spouse’s family
  • Friendship, tribe, business, organization, school, institution, legal system
  • Political, religious, ethnic, economic, societal, ecological and global forces
  • Emigration, famine, epidemics, war, slavery, persecution, abuse, crime, victim and persecutor roles
  • Genetic, karmic and spiritual trajectories
  • Art, music, architecture, era, geometric and astrological effects, energetic-spiritual realms and cosmic patterns
  • Land, rocks, trees, animals, plants, water, weather, geography, directional forces
  • Elementary principles: life force, death, illness, love, Light and Dark, color, sound, motherhood, fatherhood, psyche, Spirit


When we are born, the family provides our most obvious context. The family acts as a system or field of consciousness, with its own regulatory mechanisms. A change in one member of the system affects the others and they respond according to the norms and underlying beliefs of the group. When an issue is not resolved, it is automatically shared by all, and if not resolved when it occurs, it is bequeathed to subsequent generations. The inheritors may not know what the original issue was but still find themselves acting it out — taking on the roles of those who never completed what they put in motion.

For instance, if a family left their homeland due to persecution, the breakage with the family members left behind and the land that nourished their bodies can have a near-permanent effect going down through generations. Members of the family may identify with and take on the role of the persecuting government, military, church, faction, that was never resolved, even just to wield the strength to make the journey. A father, unable to maintain the role of protector or any sort of dignity, may become a brutal drunk or abdicate entirely. The family may be unable to take root in the new country because the grief of leaving home has never been faced or the love attachments honored. Children may be neglected, abused or rejected or may be ill or die in sympathy with those who were damaged or killed in the homeland. Generations later, we wonder why we find ourselves unable to cope, ungrounded, having difficulty making or keeping agreements or staying in marriages. The wars they fled continue to play out endlessly in our daily lives, overtly or in subtle ways.

How does this take place? We are born so receptive that without conscious awareness, we accept what’s been given us and take it into our own lifestreams, though it may entail molding ourselves in ways not natural to our innate tendencies, causing disruption and illness or for some of us, destroying our lives. Living within our parents’ energy fields, there is no discernment of what is ours or theirs. We try to fix them, when they are supposed to be taking care of us, so our energy goes back up the line instead of carrying us forward into life.

Consider what may happen if someone in the ancestral line took part in or was hurt by the Gestapo or Inquisition or Mafia or the Cultural Revolution, was a slave or slave-runner, or if the parents of a child come from two countries that have been at war for centuries. What happens in families forced by their church to have too many children or to suppress their creative life force? How are we affected when babies have been secretly killed by family members because there was no contraception? And on the positive side, how may we be suffused with happiness when we make contact with loving, Light-filled ancestors from whom we can receive blessings, encouragement and abilities?

In family and systemic constellations, we can put on display these larger patterns and look for how to bring resolution and healing to the system we are addressing and how to receive its gifts. When we do, there is an easing of the entire field, members of the family coming to peace, ancestors can finally rest, a feeling that the elements and relationships in the family are now in their rightful place. Once we discern the larger historical pattern, we can find compassion or at least neutrality. A sense of freedom can appear. The person for whom the constellation is conducted feels relief and the soul comes sparkling through her or his eyes as never before. She/he can now live a good, more authentic life.

An exciting aspect of this work I’ve seen so many times, is that once one person brings healing or resolution or balance to the system, the entire system begins to respond and the healing resonates out to the larger system, past, present and future. All are affected, sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically.

When we do it in a workshop, often the theme that comes through one person’s healing constellation is then processed by all in the group who participated or witnessed and out to all those in their systems and even out to others in the world in similar circumstances. We can take one person’s theme and address it at a societal or planetary level and in doing so, contribute to a larger process for the whole. Or we may begin at the larger level and then see how we are also individually affected.

Why do we do this? Many people don’t believe we should look at the past; that we just need to live in the “now.” New clients often tell me they are tired of looking at their families; they just want to live their lives or it is just too painful. Frankly, I’ve never seen that work. The acting out of old patterns has a life of its own if not processed. If it is still painful it is not complete.

These ancient relationships can support or bind us. They can be loving or destructive. Whether we want to get free from them or within them, the profound understanding of how they function and how to transform them can make navigating our worlds an exciting and fulfilling adventure.

What is important is that we begin to develop the abilities necessary to discern the patterns and bring them to resolution and harmony and freedom. Those abilities are applicable in every area of our lives. In the larger context, we can have a profound effect on the world(s) we live in. We are contributing to creating a world in which all can thrive.

To listen to and read past conversations with Elisa Novick on Planet Waves, plus her articles, please use this link. You’re invited to visit her website and Facebook page to view more photos of Bali and leave comments.

Elisa Novick, MSS does profound work as a healer, teacher, counselor, coach, minister, and facilitator of workshops and trainings in personal, professional, and spiritual development. She can assist you to clear personal, karmic and genetic patterns that have limited you and teach you exquisite attunement skills so you can become the magnificent master of life and Light that all of us are destined to be. Elisa has been assisting people in their growth since 1982 through her counseling practice and in facilitating over 1,000 workshops in holistic health, human development, family constellation, systemic constellation, organizational dynamics, planetary healing and spiritual awareness. You may email her directly at elisanovick [at] thrivingplanet [dot] org.

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6 Responses to Kinship Dynamics and the Flows of History

  1. lennie says:

    My constellation experience had to do with female energy in my family. I have two daughters and for some strange reason, I couldn’t s e e them. During the constellation process we rebuilt the lines of feminine energy through the generations. It was quite powerful. The energy was depleted. The immigration process, with leaving and mourning had left the women in my lineage strong, but somehow empty. I also moved overseas, which seemed to thin it out even more.

    Thanks Elisa for bringing all this back to mind. I’m also struck here by how there are regional memories. I live in the Alsace region of France where people have lived through many invasions, Americans seem to be touched by immigration consequences. and Malaysians?

  2. Lizzy Lizzy says:

    Thank you for this wonderful piece, dear Elisa. “We try to fix them, when they are supposed to be taking care of us so our energy goes back up the line instead of carrying us forward into life”. Yes – I find myself living out a family dynamic at work at the moment, my needy colleague who I share my office with (alias my mother) is at logger heads with our supervisors, and I find myself playing my old role of trying to bolster flagging spirits and recreate harmony, giving away a lot of energy in the process. I’m glad I’m aware of it though, and am trying to work consciously with it.
    You know, Elisa, reading this piece I realised for the first time that one of the reasons I probably went to live in another country was to escape a heavy family legacy (German Jewish relatives and Polish jewish ancestors, oy vey!) – and as we all know, you can run but you can’t hide…

  3. Bette Loreen says:

    Elisa, thank-you! This is all so timely for me, as I have been reflecting deeply upon family patterns for years, & it’s like peeling an onion one layer at a time. I make a discovery, & it seems to lead nowhere, & then something floats into awareness & threads connect – progress, so very slowly, but progress.

    I live in a community where I have become very aware of the legacy of suffering & rage that still lingers in many families whose ancestors fled brutality in Eastern Europe many decades ago. But I had only recently become aware that my father, second-generation Irish-Canadian, carried his deep love of land & stewardship & conservation, something that is now my own (genuine) passion, at least in part because of what was lost by our ancestors in Ireland more than a century ago.

    Your words this week greatly support my journey of understanding this (& other, many less happy) patterns. My father passed away more than twenty years ago; I still talk to him often, & I feel much of our past difficult relationship has been healed. I am still not as apt a listener as I might be, but I’m working on that also.

    Thank-you for offering a bit more light by which to see. This feels like such appropriate work for the season of Scorpio.

  4. gumbybug10 says:

    Elisa:

    “These ancient relationships can support or bind us. They can be loving or destructive. Whether we want to get free from them or within them, the profound understanding of how they function and how to transform them can make navigating our worlds an exciting and fulfilling adventure.”

    Yes, for so many years I saw and experienced the attempts to understand these relationships as anything BUT exciting or fulfilling–more like darkness, heaviness, and exhaustion.

    But reading your words (for quite a while now, plus all the other wonderful contributors at PW) has deeply shaped my ability to discern those patterns you mentioned and work towards “resolution, harmony, and freedom” one step, one minute, one day at a time.

    Many thanks to you both Strawberry and nilou for sharing your thoughts and experiences here on PW.

    I look forward each day to “entering” PW with anticipation and an open mind, ready for those “aha” moments, the “I never thought about it quite that way before” moments, and the ever-present “I’m so glad I found this site” times when I say Thank You over and over again.

    Much love to all!

  5. nilou nilou says:

    Strawberrylaughter, thank you for this. It’s wonderful to witness your growth – please accept my gratitude for all you share with us. I like to think of ‘spiritual’ as us being ‘the best that we can be’; one personhood, human and divine: always an aspiration, but a satisfying one. I have found from my experience that this offers me the most fruitful opportunities for being in integrity with my whole self, and the firmest ground for relating with others. All best, nilou

  6. Strawberrylaughter Strawberrylaughter says:

    Elisa, this is awesome. I just attended a Family Constellation workshop myself last weekend (after working with you, I had to learn more), & the amount of healing each of us received in those two days is incredible. I’ve been looking into the sexual abuse/tyranny in my own family system lately, & seeing how complex & interwoven all of those ugly patterns seem to be, realizing how nearly impossible it is to have a healthy relationship when you’re pinned in place by these ancient, unconscious systems.

    It’s like the girl in the 9 of Swords — she’s so stuck, she can’t even see what’s holding her in place, & doesn’t know that she could cut the cords herself if only she could get a grip on something — any piece of it, really. These patterns can & do often run our lives for us. But they’re so hard to get hold of, they seem wispy as air, and encountering them can feel deadly as the sharpest steel. The glory of it is, though, that they’re neither. And we’re stronger than they are.

    To me, this Constellation work is where so much real healing can happen. And your particular ability to bring in the spiritual & karmic levels of it is an unprecedented kind of amazing as far as I’m concerned. You’re my hero, truly.

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