There are 15 people in the room. We are sitting on chairs in a rough circle of sixteen chairs. In the bay window, backlit by sunlight sits our facilitator with a spare chair next to her. She is the only person I know here, all the rest are strangers, and although I feel a bit nervous and awkward, I am glad to be here. There is space to breathe and relax in this room but only just I think, it was good that one person could not make it.
This is the first workshop I have attended on Constellations, a therapeutic method initially developed by Bert Hellinger. I am one of two men in the group, and one of four people who have come to try this approach for the first time, the other guy hasn’t done any group work before which I find rather surprising. I am on the older end of the age scale.
I am delighted to find that half the group are from other European countries, I look forward to the mix of cultures and I am in awe of my fellow Europeans that turn up to a therapeutic workshop being able to converse in a non-native language. As people give a short introduction about themselves, they often said why they were in Scotland and I am immediately struck by how many have come here to find time and space to work out who they are and what they need. How many people in this international city are here to seek sanctuary, I wonder.
Being an Englishman in Scotland I can identify in some ways with being an immigrant. I ended up going to University because I wanted to escape from home, and my more cultured friends around me gave me the idea. I did visit my local university but I knew for my own sanity that I needed to get further away than that. Once I had worked out my short list of five establishments the nearest one was 170 miles away, the furthest over 500 miles. I wonder how my parents felt when they found that out. After three years of study I returned home, but after another year I escaped again to study in Edinburgh. Through my studies, I found work at the university and I put down roots and formed a community of friends and eventually a family of my own.
I wonder if it is possible to have national pride and not identify another group as the enemy? I have never felt threatened because I am English, but I do get fed up by the accumulation of snide comments sometimes, and I am always shaken when Scots will automatically support the other side when England are playing football. My type of immigrant is called a “white settler” in this area, but my kids are second generation and have only every known Scotland as home. I have lived in Scotland for well over half of my life but I will never be Scottish. I carry my formative years and experience with me and as the Constellation workshop goes on, I gain a better understanding of how much generational experience I am carrying too.
I am struck by the universality of human experience despite the cultural differences in the room, and how through being present in the moment we can help others unravel and understand mysteries in their lives. The love and support in the room is incredible to behold, and the word privilege keeps popping into my sentences when I reflect on the experience. Strangers are sharing their vulnerabilities and through this gift we are all gaining.
We are invited to say one word at the end of the day. I choose “strength” because in each of us I have seen an immense struggle to keep living, and now I recognise that those experiences have given us strength and resilience for now and in the future. I think the sharing of those experiences and the use constellations to explore those traumas has also given me hope, hope that I can continue to develop and change.