Family Constellations: The Song of Saturn

13 07 2010

©July 2010 by Fabienne Lopez

Family Constellation

I have recently become very interested in family constellations work. Family constellations are an intense group process developed by the German psychologist-philosopher Bert Hellinger that aim to release and resolve profound tensions within and between family members.  Hellinger noticed in his therapeutic work that that one member of a family is unconsciously “following” another member. That is, the fate of one member has become entangled in the fate of another. Often it is the younger ones who unconsciously and out of love, take on the unresolved burdens or fates of those who came before. For example, a child may take on the illness of an aunt who was excluded from the family, or carry the depression and grief of a parent, or become entangled in the fate of a grandparent who suffered a “secret” misfortune and died young. One member of a family is “following” another by sharing their fate — out of a deep and unconscious bond of loyalty and love. But this “blind love,” or unconscious following, solves nothing, only adding complexity and tragedy to the family line. It often leads to repeated problems that seems unsolvable: bad relationships, debt problems, health issues…

Having many  of those family issues, I find this type of work fascinating since it adds to the astrological signatures I find in my own family tree. This work speaks of patterns passed down from generation to generation, patterns also found in my own chart.

Saturn eating his children

As I go through the family constellations questionnaire, I cannot stop hearing the whispers of my difficult aspect between Saturn and my Moon.

In astrology, the Moon represents, among other things, a link with our childhood, our heritage, our roots and our sense of continuity in the family structure. It is also the symbol for the mother.

Key words to describe Saturn include restriction, hard-work, discipline, self-control, self-denial, thrift, tact and caution, and wisdom. Saturn also symbolizes the father. Together, Moon and Saturn stand for the parental axis in one’s chart.

In her book Saturn, A New Look at an Old Devil, Liz Greene describes Saturn-Moon people (people who have an aspect between their Saturn and their Moon)as carrying “a well defined stamp of emotional close-fistedness as a result learning to control feelings at an age when feelings are the only outlet a child has to communicate.” (page 99-100)

This description resonated strongly within me. I could see how I had expressed my emotional close-fistedness by assuming the role of a “responsible mute” in my family dynamics. I learned at a very young age that expressing my feelings, desires and dreams would get me nowhere. I would just be ignored since any expression or request for emotional intimacy would be answered by ridicule or dismissed. The only way to get attention and recognition was to be responsible. At age 8, I felt like I was going on 40! And I did become very responsible and self-sufficient. I was the good student, the good daughter who never voiced any complaints or shared her problems. Never complain, never share problems was a decision I made very consciously after concluding that my sister’s rebelliousness was not getting any positive results.

In retrospect, learning not to express my feelings, wants and desires while at the same time being a responsible child-adult was my saving grace. I could have so easily become a drug-addict, pregnant teen-ager with no skills. Instead the price I paid is one too common for a Saturn-Moon child. I paid with rigidity, by being controlling and judgmental, and by trying very hard to conform to the dysfunctional cultural definition of success in my family, which I did not achieve. More for spite than anything else — but this might the subject of another post.

As I reflect on the roles each member of my family played within the family system, I come to understand how my acceptance of my role in the family has impacted and still is impacting my life. Being mute in my family meant not expressing my wants and desires. After a while, I lost my capacity for wanting and desiring. My reasoning was that I would not get my desires fulfilled, so why bother having them? The only desires I was allowed to have were materials ones. What my family lacked in warmth, interaction, love and respect was made up for in the vast quantity of material riches. I think I was the only kid who knew with absolute certainty that she would get every item on her Christmas list. After a while, the fun worn out and I lost interest in Christmas wishes.


I have worked hard to discover what I want to become, and to connect with my dreams. It has been a challenge. As with many Saturn-in-hard aspect-to-Moon children, I have been emotionally reticent to open up to others and to myself on what I want for my life. I am so afraid of being disappointed. Even though I know, as an adult, that disappointment and failures are part of the natural growth cycle, the child inside does not want another letdown. I tend to expect that any request I place on somebody I love will be met with lots of conditions. In turn I become reticent to ask for anything, which in turn just perpetuates the problem.

At the same time that I work through the family constellations questions, I run the charts of parents, siblings and grandparents. As I sit, meditate and ponder on all of our common astrological traits, I find that I have inherited more than my mom’s good looks and my dad’s bad eyesight. By placing one chart next to the other, I decipher ingrained patterns passed down generation through generation. Family constellations practitioners tell you that repeated patterns in families are taught to each child unconsciously through countless methods and are tenaciously protected and lived out. Each one of us has a role to play in order to perpetuate the family mythology: authoritarian, nurturer, dependent, rebel, golden child, outcast, victim, martyr, etc. As a whole, each of my family members had to learn that families are no good in addition to play their own role. Through circumstances my parents learned that lesson and passed that on to my sisters and myself. The concept of family is something foreign to us.

As I said earlier, my role was to be a responsible mute. This role that I inherited has definitely sabotaged my life while protecting me at the same time. And I fought tooth and nail to hold on to that role and avoid going where I really wanted to go, to how I really wanted to be.

Through astrology and the now this family systems therapy, I am changing these negative familial patterns. In this way, I am becoming liberated and healthier. I am discovering my voice!

Photos: Flickr Common Creative



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