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Blog Post 

Trauma, the Constellation of the Intention and Flower Essence Therapy:
A path to psychological integration and personal freedom

Loey Colebeck

Translated from Spanish. Presented at the VI biennial SEDIBAC Flower Essence Therapy Congress in Barcelona, 2017.


                Those who are deeply acquainted with Flower Essence Therapy are also well-attuned to the importance of a careful approach to trauma and attachment within the therapeutic process. According to Franz Ruppert, student of Bert Hellinger and founder of the Constellation of the Intention, trauma is the biggest cause of physical and psychological problems in humans. Professor Ruppert includes in his description of trauma both “symbiotic trauma”, which happens between mother and child, and “bonding system trauma”. Both will be described further ahead. Having observed thousands of people processing their traumas through the Constellation of the Intention, he has noticed that often a “trauma of love”, such as the ones we’ve just mentioned, is the root of all subsequent traumatic experiences in which the subject will participate. Bessel Van der Kolk, in his book, The Body Keeps the Score, comes to a similar conclusion: that a child’s insecure attachment with caretakers precedes a lifetime of traumatic experiences.

Professor Ruppert’s inclusion of the physical and corporeal in his definition of the psyche is aligned with the Flower Essence Therapist’s view. We know that everything that happens to us happens to the totality of our being. Scientific research continues to demonstrate that there is no division between body and psyche, and this fact, besides being evidenced in the phenomenon of the Constellation of the Intention, provides solid reason for approaching healing with the whole being for creating new and holistic psychophysical experiences, such as is possible using the Constellation method.

                The Constellation of the Intention was developed based on Bert Hellinger’s Family Constellation method. Family Constellations have to do with a correct order of love in a family system and that each person living, deceased or unborn has a particular place in the system and must be recognized as part of the family. One fundamental difference between these two types of constellation methods is that the Constellation of the Intention takes into consideration the delicacy with which trauma must be processed in the client’s psyche, recognizing that often it is the parents who are, consciously or not, the perpetrators in the child’s trauma. The goal of the Constellation of the Intention is not the resolution of family entanglements but rather that the client disentangle her own traumatized parts from the traumas of her parents and ancestors in order to achieve psychological autonomy. It puts into the hands of the client the power to access the type and quantity of trauma work that she is willing to process at any given moment, thus avoiding re-traumatization. Having the client’s autonomy in mind, the facilitator intervenes much less in this method than is done in the Family Constellation method.

Trauma and psychological splits

                Trauma, according to Ruppert, is “an event which causes the psyche to block unbearable reality from consciousness, instead of maintaining connection to reality.”[1] He describes four types of trauma:

·         Existential trauma (a life-threatening event)
·         Loss trauma (losing a person to whom one is attached)
·         Bonding trauma (the rejection by someone with whom attachment is necessary)
·         Bonding systems trauma (perpetrator-victim dynamics within a bonding system, caused by violence, incest or homicide).

The resulting trauma is the division of the psyche into three parts which are evidenced in the phenomenon of the Constellation of the Intention: the traumatized part(s) (often pre-verbal) that have remained frozen in time and without resources in the moment of the traumatic experience; the surviving part(s) (related to the personality in Dr. Bach’s and Flower Essence Therapy’s terms) that protect the person and his nervous system from the memory of the traumatic experience; and the healthy parts, linked to a well-developed Self and, in Dr. Bach’s terms, the virtues that the flower essences help to develop. These splits in the psyche are described visually by Ruppert in a circular graph which is divided into three parts inhabited by: a frowning face, a serious face, and a smiling face.

                These three states of the psyche are distinguishable from one another in their differing behaviors and psychophysical sensations[2]:

The healthy parts (smiling face) of the psyche are related with wellbeing, with the ability to easily manage the affairs of daily life, and the ability to relax and enjoy oneself. No existential threat exists. One feels safe and comfortable in the environment and open to it. In this state it is possible to develop with ease. One is open to reality.

The survival parts (serious face) are related to a state of stress which is a reaction to possible threats. Psychophysical channels of perception and intellect are focused on the identification of the threat. Other functions of the organism, such as digestion and recovery, remain in the background or cease all together. There is a limited view of reality.

The traumatized parts (frowning face) are related to a state of emergency in which the threat overwhelms stress responses and the situation becomes unbearable. The situation is hopeless and the person is powerless. Any stress response that might call the attention of the threat, such as crying, for example, is suppressed. Stress responses are frozen and reality is denied.

Symbiotic trauma and traumatized women

                Some of the traumatic situations a woman might experience are: the loss of family members at an early age, the loss of her own children, accidents, violence, having been witness to the cruelties of war, having been herself the perpetrator of violence, the injustice of a society that is violent toward women, and being trapped in symbiotic trauma with her parents.

                Ruppert explains that procreation, pregnancy, birth, and bonding can be traumatic for the mother and child when the woman is already traumatized[3]. When the traumatized woman arrives at maternity, the strong emotions that naturally arise due to pregnancy and that serve to develop a healthy attachment between she and her baby, will remind her of the strong emotions associated with her own trauma. Her survival parts will protect her from these emotions, and as a result, prevent healthy attachment between she and her baby. The woman will relate with her embrionic, fetal or newborn baby out of the psychological splits resulting from her own trauma. In this way, the woman’s survival part(s), preventing the emotions that help create attachment, become a perpetrator to the baby. Here we see the victim/perpetrator split in the triad of trauma in which the third player is the helper. So, the first encounter that the baby has with the world, through the complicated emotional relationship it has with its mother, is confusing; love is confused with fear, anger or sadness. The baby needs protection from the mother to survive; it will try to protect the mother emotionally and help her. This is how the baby becomes entangled in the mother’s trauma. This is called symbiotic trauma.

 Perpetrator-victim dynamic within a traumatized bonding system

Franz Ruppert writes:

“The perpetrador-victim relationship, which initially is an external relationship, becomes a permanent internalized split in the psyche of those involved. All those concerned internalize and develop both perpetrator and victim structures. Through the presence of the victim, the perpetrator feels under pressure and perceives himself as the victim, and the victim also develops perpetrator behavior patterns which they enact on those weaker than themselves, since it is impossible for them to enact in this way against the actual perpetrator.
These perpetrator-victim splits are found in all those involved in such a destructive bonding system. Within a family these dynamics continue from generation to generation and are likely to spread out into the larger relationship systems in which these families exist, because it is not possible in a perpetrator role, or in a victim role, to lead an autonomous life separate from the system. Perpetrators need victims for their survival, and victims are fixated on their perpetrators in their survival strategies. In extreme cases within a society this results in war.”[4]

Trauma as a survival strategy

Let’s imagine a circular graph made up of four concentric circles[5]. In the center circle we find the trauma of love. The second layer holds traumas in sexuality. Trauma due to human violence occupies the third layer, and traumas due to natural forces occupies the outermost layer. This visual description show how the trauma of love is deepest. Vivian Broughton, therapist and English translator of Franz Ruppert’s books, describes how the other traumas in which a person will participate throughout their life can function as a survival strategy. She proposes two ways in which this can occur[6]:

First, conscious traumas—for example, trauma due to human violence such as war—or traumas less conscious that may be remembered later in life, such as childhood sexual exploitation, can occupy the central focus of a therapeutic process. That way, the trauma that most concerns us, the trauma of love, as Ruppert has observed in Constellationes of the Intention, remain unconscious and is not dealt with.

                Second, a later trauma can serve as a distraction for avoiding contact with the unbearable reality of the trauma of love. Even though the trauma that happens later in life is enormous and dramatic, it is not greater—in fact it is less important—than symbiotic trauma because symbiotic trauma was formative and happened at a time when the person had the least amount of resources available and least autonomy: when the person’s entire life was its mother.

                So, our therapeutic work with clients who carry patterns of trauma as a survival strategy will consist in part in delicately accompanying the person toward consciousness of what is happening in their psyche. If, as Flower Essence Therapists, we are conscious of our client’s mechanisms and the associated Flower Remedies, we will find in the Flowers an enormous resource for promoting a blossoming within the client that can lead us toward the therapeutic work we might develop through the Constellation of the Intention.

The Constellation of the Intention: method and motive

                Ruppert suggests the following in the introduction of his book, Trauma, Fear and Love: How the Constellation of the Intention Supports Healthy Autonomy:

             With the theory of symbiotic trauma, multi-generational psychotraumatology touches a deep social taboo. Mothers’ traumas are seen as one of the main causes of psychological disorders in their children. From this viewpoint, therapeutic work with patients and clients has taken on a clear focus: it is not about the resolution of entanglements within a family, or finding some reconciliation with the parents, but about the practical and psychological detachment from the traumatized parents, and a withdrawal from the symbiotic entanglements within a family system. It is about the integration of the parts of the individual’s personality that have been split off by a symbiotic trauma, and all the other traumas connected with it. […] it is essential for the individual to leave behind him the world of symbiotic illusions [Honeysuckle] and all other survival strategies that have been employed. These strategies prevent contact with the reality of the trauma, and interfere with the individual’s ability to access feelings of compassion toward himself, thereby blocking his connection to himself and his environment [Pine]. Internally and externally, a person should be neither victim nor perpetrator, but should aim to return to the calm waters of healthy psychological development.
               This new understanding of psyche and trauma allows a different therapeutic approach. On this basis, I have developed a new psychotherapeutic concept that, with the use of human representatives to make a person’s internal psychological state externally visible, initiates processes of change in a logical way. This I call the “constellation of the intention”.
               When using the method of the “constellation of the intention”, work is done systematically according to the intention of the client in each given situation. On one hand, this avoids futile therapeutic efforts if a client is unable or unwilling to put forward an intention to instigate change; on the other, it guards against the danger of overtaxing the client during the work, and thereby causing a re-traumatization.

                My teacher, Jamie Kirdain, student of Ruppert, emphasizes the value of this work when the facilitator is capable of practicing self-control and trusting the client; because a traumatic situation leaves a person powerless to produce any kind of response—the only possible response is dissociation—it paramount that the person maintains power over, during and within the process of contact with the memory of the traumatic event. As opposed to Family Constellations, in the Constellation of the Intention the person’s parents will enter the work only when the client is ready and if it appears in his sentence of intention. On the contrary, if the work were in the hands of the facilitator, there would be a greater risk of re-traumatization due to the client’s lack of power over contact with the reality of the trauma.

                In the practice of the Constellation of the Intention, the client writes a sentence of intention. The work will not detour from this intention at any time. The client participates in the constellation representing himself. He will then choose human representatives to represent words from the intention, one at a time, but not necessarily every word. These words have conscious and unconscious meanings for the client and through the human representatives may appear as: internal states; any of the three parts of the psyche; or as persons or figures that have impacted the person. Over the course of the constellation work, according to the internal evolution of the client, the significance of a word or the figure behind its meaning might change. For example, an apparent resource—say the word “strength”—might end up being also being survival strategy that impedes a healing reconnection with the client’s traumatized part. The reverse can also happen; a traumatized part can become a resource. The client may also come in contact with, and differentiate himself from, parts that belong to other family members that he has been carrying such as the mother’s traumatized part or an ancestral trauma.

We assume that the sentence of intention is written from all the parts of the client’s psyche (traumatized, surviving, and healthy parts), which implies that the sentence contains the exact amount of work that the person in willing and capable of doing in that moment.

                Not only does this type of constellation work place the power in the hands of the client, but it also relieves the facilitator of the need to construct a theory about the client’s reality. The result is an organic healing process that is unique and unrepeatable in which the facilitator intervenes little and only in order to contain and promote fluidity to the process. The facilitator observes the movements between representatives in the constellation and offers to the client both external observations of the psychophysical dynamics between representatives and options available for progressing in the work. Each representative is a resource allowing the elaboration of the traumatic experience, so the facilitator makes sure the client continues to stay resourced, reminding him of his options.

The internal reconnections that happen within the client are evidenced externally in psychophysical connections between representatives: physical, visual and/or verbal contact. The creation of a new holistic experience, with touch, is what allows healing to occur because trauma is stored in body tissues and in the feeling centers of the brain[7]. The parts of the self, that at the time of the trauma did not have a voice, are now able to speak or otherwise demonstrate to the client what is happening internally. New connections in the body-psyche are established. Over a series of constellations, as the person’s healthy parts gain strength to overcome survival patterns, the person may gradually approach the reality of the trauma by recognizing and connecting with her split-off traumatized parts.

                For our work with flower essences, the Constellation of the Intention clearly evidences the flower states and personality traits present in the person, facilitating greatly our selection of remedies for the client’s formula.

Some Bach Flower Essences associated with the Constellation of the Intention

Each flower essence personality type has its own way of avoiding contact with the reality of trauma. Below are a just few examples of Flowers associated with the survival parts of the psyche as evidenced in the constellation work:

Rock Water/Pine, Vine/Centaury:
internal and external dissociative perpetrator/victim dynamics; for example, in cases of anorexia the internal perpetrator suppresses the traumatized parts represented by the body; or, in relationships, oppressing another person is an attempt at suppressing one’s own sense of weakness, of powerlessness, associated with one’s own trauma.

Water Violet:
Pride and social/affective distance are a survival tactic that prevents contact with vulnerability and emotions associated with trauma.

The intellect’s attempts at understanding the constellation (the traumatic situation) distances the person from feeling the emotions and sensation associated with the trauma.

Fighting against the perpetrator as a survival strategy: the victim remains fixated on the perpetrator in order to avoid facing the reality of her own traumatized parts. Arguing with the perpetrator allows the victim to maintain a bond with the perpetrator rather than recovering the bond with her own traumatized parts.

Perfectionism is a survival tactic that keeps the victim entangled with the perpetrator in attempts at gaining recognition.

Oak, Centaury:
Overwork and excess focus on others allows the person to negate the reality of the trauma.
The strong individual who shoulders the trauma healing of a family system, as a spiritual midwife, may do so as a means of avoiding responsibility over her own life and trauma healing. Also, these flower essences provide strength in the process of bringing to light the reality of the trauma.

Feeling guilty/responsible can be a survival tactic to avoid the feeling of powerlessness inherent in trauma.

Chicory/Red Chestnut:
The person who is extra-entangled in family matters may do so as a mechanism for avoiding the reality of her own trauma.

Rock Rose:
The personality that repeats traumatic experiences as a survival tactic is trying to avoid facing the deeper and more painful symbiotic trauma.

Examples of transpersonal applications specific to this work: Flower Essences from Bach, FES, Bush Australia, and Saint Germain

Rage is primary emotion close to trauma.

Sweet Chestnut, Mint Bush:
For addressing anguish stemming from resistance to the dissolution of old survival patterns, these Flowers help dissolve limiting survival structures in order to cross the threshold into a new personal paradigm.

Mimulus, Gentian:
These Flowers provide confidence in the possibility that a different future might exist, even if completely unknown, if survival strategies are released.

Gorse, Wild Rose, Rock Rose:
The traumatized part(s) feel, by definition, hopeless and powerless to act.

Beech, Crab Apple, Star of Bethlehem:
for sensations and sentiments of rejection, disgust and resistance toward one’s own traumatized part(s)

Star of Bethlehem, Echinacea:
for healing ruptures and integrating splits in the psyche

This essence helps give voice to one’s reality rather than functioning behind an inauthentic survival self.

for letting go of the hope for a better past; to let go of fantasies of an ideal mother or father (symbiotic illusion). Acceptance of the reality of the trauma makes it posible to live in the present.

Chestnut Bud:
helps one to see and integrate the reality of the trauma

Elm, Sweet Chestnut:
to help manage the flood of sensations and emotions that occur when opening up to the possibility of processing a traumatic experience

Illawara Flame Tree:
for the sense of rejection toward one’s own traumatized part, often a projection from having felt or actually been rejected due to symbiotic trauma

Boab, Joshua Tree:
for catalyzing consciousness of, and disentangling from, ancestral trauma

Mariposa Lily, Evening Primrose, Baby Blue Eyes, Bottlebrush, Sunflower, Red Helmet Orchid, Leucantha fórmula:
for catalyzing and supporting inner work with one’s parents

This essence protects the essence of the person.

Bleeding Heart:
This essence if specific to symbiotic trauma.


One of Dr. Bach’s principal concerns was the freedom of the individual. He wrote that parents should not interfere with their children’s development. Nevertheless, interference is not necessarily a conscious choice. What becomes evident through the Constellation of the Intention is that most people are traumatized and entangled with their parents and ancestors in ways that are deeply unconscious. What has also become evident is that, because of the inherent issues of power in trauma, approaching the reality of the traumatic experience without re-traumatizing the person can be risky business.

A conscious therapist will try to remain outside of the trauma triad, in other words, will not perform the helper role for the client but rather will facilitate a situation in which the client can help herself, offering the opportunity to discover her own resources and free herself. Both theory and practice of the Constellation of the Intention are based on the observation of what happens organically when a client has at her disposition the necessary resources (other people as representatives and a facilitator with an outside viewpoint) to allow her to investigate her unconscious traumas. Flower Essence Therapy—when the therapist practices consciously—also consists of facilitating the client’s encounter with herself and with the resources she already carries within. In both cases, the facilitator or therapist should accompany and contain without attempting to take control of the process, allowing indispensable spaces and silences out of which maturation can blossom. Dr. Bach stated that children and adults must be free of family restraints in order to fully follow their soul’s mandate. In the combination of the Constellation of the Intention and Flower Essence Therapy we find theory, method and medicine based on two fundamental aspects for walking the paths and processes of disentanglement toward freedom, autonomy and health: the freedom and responsibility of the client, and the reality of psychophysical unity.  


Bach, Dr. Edward. Heal Thyself. Published in: The Bach Flower Remedies. Essex: C.W. Daniel Co. Ltd., 1997.

Broughton, Vivian. Becoming Your True Self: a handbook for the journey from trauma to healthy autonomy. Great Britain: Green Balloon Publishing, 2014.

Broughton, Vivian. Even Trauma Can Be a Survival Strategy. 2015.

Ruppert, Franz. Trauma, Fear and Love: how the Constellation of the Intention Supports Healthy Autonomy. Great Britain: Green Balloon Publishing, 2014.

Ruppert, Franz. Early Trauma. Presentation, 2013.

Van der Kolk, Bessel. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma. New York: Penguin Books, 2015.

Volonté, Ana Eugenia. Trauma y resiliencia. Integrando paradigmas: Flores de Bach y neurociencias. Presentation at SEDIBAC Flower Essence Therapy Congress, Barcelona, 2015.

[1] Ruppert, Franz. Trauma, Fear and Love: how the Constellation of the Intention Supports Healthy Autonomy. Gran Bretaña: Green Balloon Publishing, 2014.

[2] ibid

[4] Ruppert, Franz. Trauma, Fear and Love: how the Constellation of the Intention Supports Healthy Autonomy. Gran Bretaña: Green Balloon Publishing, 2014. (selección traducido del inglés por Loey Colebeck)

[6] Broughton, Vivian. Even Trauma Can Be a Survival Strategy. 2015.

[7] Volonté, Ana Eugenia. Trauma y resiliencia. Integrando paradigmas: Flores de Bach y neurociencias. Ponencia SEDIBAC 2015

Loey Colebeck teaches a Flower Essence Therapy Training Course and classes in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and via Zoom. She translated Bach Flower Essences and Chinese Medicine.