Serving Life Caroline Wingolf, Talking Tree
Serving Life
"I've always been interested in communication and what's hidden beneath the surface," says Caroline Wingolf, Family Constellations facilitator. For many years she worked in film and television using imagery as a means for conveying meaning.
But her not-for-profit work with self-help groups awakened her interest in personal development. She studied Mental Training for Stress Reduction, Interpersonal Communication Facilitation and Family Constellations.

Today, she’s put much of her film work to rest. Instead, she guides clients using Family Constellations.
The first time Caroline Wingolf encountered Family Constellation work, it was as an interpreter. In the autumn of 2000, she was asked to translate a talk by the German psychoanalyst and psychotherapist Albrecht Mahr. English was an easy match for Caroline who was born and raised in New York.

"During a meditation we had to imagine that our parents were standing behind our backs and behind them stood their parents and so on, for several generations. I had never thought about the support and strength one has to lean on and that we ourselves are a part of," she says.
Shortly thereafter, she enrolled in a Family Constellation workshop held by Dr. Mahr.

"I was amazed at how powerful the constellation was. You can keep on talking and reasoning for years without understanding. In the constellation I received a direct experience in my body, helping me to understand what the issue really was about”.

No one knows exactly how a family constellation works. A constellation is a systemic developmental method combining several different therapeutic forms into one. The premise is that family ties command strong loyalty whether one is aware of them or not. These bonds are affected by difficult circumstances in life. War, separations, early deaths and other existential incidents can bind the family in unconscious, negative patterns for several generation. Children can carry the burden of experiences that parents have not been able to process. A sister can lead an unhappy and destructive life in unconscious loyalty to a twin sister who has died.

- You can compare the family system with a tree. If the tree grows in a hard and barren place, that can show up in leaves that develop 100 years later. Life-threatening events leave traces that can be carried on for several generations, she says.

Family constellations are an effective way of viewing families' hidden structures, but also help to straighten out entangled relationships.
The client chooses representatives for family members as well as for themselves, from the people at the workshop. These representatives are placed intuitively in relation to each other. In an interaction between the constellation facilitator, the client and the representatives, a possible solution then emerges which can give way to a new, positive direction for the client and the client's family.

- An important aspect of a family constellation is finding a way of honoring our parents who brought us life. Blaming, belittling, disliking or feeling sorry for them will never lead to any good, in the long run, says Caroline Wingolf.

- Anyone can participate in a Family Constellation. No prior experience is necessary.

Standing as a representative in another person’s constellation can provide valuable experience in how other people feel and react, something that both enriches and provides insight into one's own life, concludes Caroline Wingolf.

Interviewed by Ylva Berglund, April 2005