Akwaaba and the Land in your Blood


Akwaabais a word from Twi language, one of the dialects commonly used in Ghana, and it translates to ‘Welcome’. The accepted response, in Twi, is Medaase meaning ‘Thank you’.

I have been back home in Scotland for a few weeks now after my trip to Ghana in honour of the year of return to acknowledge 400 years since the first documented enslaved people were taken from Africa to America. It is still settling within me. I am sure that ripples from the trip are still moving for all concerned. 

There are many significant memories when I look back but there is one overriding theme that I am very aware of. When we travelled around Ghana as a group, and we were a big group at over 250 people, at each new region it was important to visit, honour and acknowledge the tribal chief of that particular region. This is a local custom and an appropriate one. You wouldn’t enter someone else’s home without knocking on the door, introducing yourself and asking them to let you in. But it was so much more complex than that. Ghana is celebrating the return of the descendants of the ancestors who were stolen. And the vast majority of the group were returning to the land of their ancestors, to honour those ancestors. 

We travelled to three different regions within Ghana. Firstly, within the capital Accra, then to the Cape Coast and finally Kumasi, within the Ashanti Kingdom. At each welcome ceremony the Chief or King, his family, priests and dignitaries, maybe around thirty people in total, would be seated on a stage waiting to receive us. 

One by one, each member of our group worked their way along the line of dignitaries, bowing gently and shaking each person’s hand. Each member of the king’s group would clasp their hand and say ‘Akwaaba – Welcome home. You are home’ as they looked them in the eye. ‘Medaase’was the response. 

In my work I have observed that there is an influence, on all parts of the constellation field, from the psychohistory of different lands. Memories are held within the land and those memories hold sway over each of us as individuals, particularly in connection to our belonging. These memories are held within our blood, passed silently from one generation to the next and they become stirred at points of transitions, choices and change that are in resonance with our ancestors and their fields of influence.

Migration of some kind within a family’s historical narrative, whether through choice or through force, is not uncommon. If there is unresolved trauma around a forced displacement, then the associated entanglement will be rooted to that time and with those ancestors, and their historical narrative will flow down the line to the descendants in the present generation. It also flows from the collective belonging of a particular land or country to the people that knowingly or unknowingly belong to that land or country. The ‘silence’ that characterises the experience of this within general constellation exploration appears as a collectively rooted entanglement within the psychohistory of the land, the unscreamed scream.

Several generations may pass with the family or a particular branch of the family being established in the new land however the first loyalty, known or unknown, will be to the land of origin and to those left behind. 

The land of origin within the ancestral line can have greater influence upon the individual in question particularly if there is an entanglement around land, be it displacement, slavery, perpetration, betrayal, exclusion or a belief system associated with the land of origin. 

In exploring these influences within the constellation field I have found that there is a pattern that repeatedly appears. It is a triangle of:

Those left behind > those who left > the individual in the present

It is this very triangulation that is the root cause of entanglements around a lack of compassionate response, or a sacrificing response on a personal level, in intimate and family relationships or to the current geo-political changes. 

If our belonging within our family field is fractured, from ancestral or present time migration or displacement, then our individual belonging is severely hampered.

These disruptions create the entangled memories that are passed trans-generationally and are inherited by us as individuals. It also affects how we see others and how we may perceive others as potentially dangerous for our belonging. If we for a moment think about our current geo-political situation it begins to make a little more sense.

So how do you begin to heal something like that?

In each of these ceremonies to honour the tribal chiefs and kings there was an unconscious meeting of those left behind, those who left and the individuals in the present. An enactment of that very triangulation. It was a hotbed of deeply intense emotions, healing and trauma. It was fascinating and deeply humbling to witness the reconnection of such an entrenched separation. Witnessing those who chose to actually ‘see’ the individual in front of them and truly connect in the moment, with land looking on. It wasn’t always possible but when it was possible it was a highly charged moment of connection. A moment of bearing witness within the emotional relationship between the descendants of those who were taken and the descendants of those left behind. It also varied within each of the different regions of Ghana. 

It gave me great hope to witness the gathering and the healing connection between the descendants of those left behind and the descendants of those who were forced to leave. The hard part to ‘see’ for some of the those present within the group, and for the majority in the collective, was within ‘those forced to leave’ and in particular ‘those that didn’t survive’. The victims. The dead. Their suffering and pain. But that is where the deepest healing movement is. 

We processed up the hill towards the palace where the King and his dignitaries where waiting for us. We had been asked to wear white. There were drummers and dancers and people lining the streets welcoming us. It was quite a sight to see. We eventually arrived at the palace and we each made our way slowly along the line to be received by the King, shaking hands, a mix of seeing and not seeing, being seen and not being seen. 

When the ceremony was completed we slowly walked down the hill to the ‘Cape Coast Castle’. It is referred to locally as ‘The dungeons’. No one in Ghana calls it a castle. And the weight of the dead were present in the air. Standing in the darkness of the dungeons the waves pounding against the old walls was the loudest sound. People silently walked through and witnessed the horror. The crashing of the waves reached back through the generations, unchanged from then until now. The guide explained that the thick black hardened substance we were standing on was not actually concrete, it was several hundred years of decomposed human waste, flesh, blood and tears. And so we were present too with the ancestors. With those who didn’t survive, those forced to leave, those left behind, the descendants in the present, the dead and the land itself with the unchanging roar of the ocean behind us. 

I see you

I feel you

I remember you

You have not been forgotten

Choosing to see

I am in Ghana at the moment for the year of return on the Jamestown2Jamestown trip with The NAACP and the Adinkra Group along with over 250 people. It is 400 years since the first documented enslaved people from Africa arrived and were sold in Jamestown, VA and Ghana is celebrating the Year of the Return. It is so important to honour, bear witness and remember. The act of seeing the trauma, of bearing witness to it, begins to disentangle the entangled inherited memories. It begins the process of giving place to the displaced within both the collective and the individual. Each and every soul belongs and has a place—a free place. Honouring the ancestors and truly seeing and bearing witness to the trauma perpetrated can break the patterns unconsciously carried within our blood. 

As part of the trip we travelled to the Cape Coast Dungeons in Elmina. 70 people within the group had taken ancestry DNA tests through African Ancestry and there was an ancestry reveal ceremony on the land above the dungeons. The significance for those individuals in terms of their identity, which was stolen from them and their ancestors, and their belonging as they discovered where in Africa they came from was incredibly powerful. Standing within the walls of the dungeons and hearing the waves crash upon the walls in the present whilst witnessing the past and the ancestors was deeply moving.

We also travelled to the Assin Manso slave river, ‘the last bath’, where those people who had been enslaved, after walking hundreds of miles in shackles, were brought to the river to be washed before being inspected and then sold onto ships and sent to America and the Caribbean. 

Walking barefoot in the footsteps of those souls and honouring them, witnessing them and remembering them was a movement of the soul. It is sacred land. It is important to witness and remember. When the trauma isn’t seen it doesn’t just go away. The wound deepens, festers and the burden becomes heavier as it moves through the generations.

There is great power in collective remembrance and acknowledgment. Your ancestors, and those whose lives they influenced, reside within your soul and within your blood. Think about the power of all the things that we celebrate within our families, communities and cultures. Think about the power of remembering and honouring what was and what has been. Everything from celebrating a wedding anniversary to honouring years served in the military, to remembering a loved one after they have passed. Think too about the cultural and collective remembrance and celebrations. Perhaps Independence day on the 4th of July, or Remembrance Sunday within Europe on the 11th of November to commemorate the end of the 1st World War, or Martin Luther King day on the 3rd of January, or Holocaust memorial day on the 27th of January. 

All of these memories and moments are significant on an individual and collective basis; they have an emotional charge and help knowingly or unknowingly to define the structure of who we are. As we connect with those memories, both individually and collectively, we are in effect animating their field of influence upon and within us. Our sense of belonging can be enhanced by the individual and collective honouring and remembrance. Think now of the weight of the absences of those things that are not remembered both individually and collectively? The trauma that has not been witnessed. Where history has perhaps been rewritten or ignored. The emotional trauma of an individual who is excluded and displaced connects through to the weight of the collective unacknowledged trauma. This unacknowledged and invisible trauma also forms the structure of who we are and how we live, in destructive ways. The belonging of individuals and large groups is negatively impacted by the invisibility of unacknowledged trauma. I am deeply grateful to have been able to be here in Ghana and to stand with healing as I witnessed those ancestors who were enslaved as well as the connection within Scotland, my land of origin, to those who chose to enslave others. 

Something being hard, painful or uncomfortable to look at is no excuse for not looking and bearing witness. Bearing witness is where the potential for healing and transformation resides. Constellation is a tool for shifting the structure and system of belonging to give place to the missing and absent memories and trauma. The potential for transformation and change from the individual through to the collective is massive. That is where I choose to stand, where do you choose to stand?
#JamestownToJamestown
#NAACPinGhana
#YearofReturn

What is actually happening during a representing experience?

Representing within a constellation is a multi-faceted multi-dimensional experience. There is a hierarchy of flow and structure within a represented constellation field:

  • Field of influence of group
  • Intentional question
  • Field of influence relating to the client asking the question
  • Representatives
  • Individual field of influence for each participant present
  • The narrative of disentangling

The field of influence of the group will coalesce over the period of time that the group works together and will act as a separate informing field that supports the community that is created within the group. You can think of it as multiple morphic fields coming together and interacting with one another.

Every created community field of influence is utterly unique to the place and land where the work occurs. This unique community field is informed by the belonging of the representatives to that land or an earning of place there along with the time that is spent together and the interaction of the constellation community group.

Each representative comes to the community field with the field of influence that they belong to, their ancestors and the historical narrative that is affecting them. This includes the arc through the field of the beliefs, land, migration influences, language, culture as well as the missing and unseen within the field of influence. Not all of this, if any, will be conscious within the participants.

As a group continues to work each participant interacts with the created community field as they represent. Each participant has their own movement and process within the represented space in service of their own field, the intentional question field and the created community field. They are affecting the created community field and at the same time are affected by other representative’s influent fields within the larger created community field.
The participants are united in their own individual intentions in service of the created community field.

This phenomenon occurs even within blindly represented constellations. Each participant present behaves as if they are a field of influence in and of themselves. In quantum physics terms, they are behaving as walking wave functions responding within the created constellation field informed by the intentional question and responding to the field of influence within that space.

This is where the language of the constellation therapeutic process comes in. During the course of a constellation, whether in a group or individual session, a language narrative will be introduced by the constellator to certain represented aspects within the created constellation space. The directed narrative has a very specific focus and is in alignment with the overall intentional question. What the language narrative does is to move and release the individual from the influence of the informing influent field. In terms of quantum physics theory, as opposed to a classical approach, the language narrative within the created constellation space provokes the response of a wave function collapse within the influent field acting upon an individual allowing them to step into their own place unencumbered by the weight of the entanglement from the previously influent field.

It is because of this field interaction that representing within a constellation is such a rich and valuable experience. When we view it from this perspective we can perhaps begin to understand that a constellation is not something that we have ‘done’ it is something that we do. The intention that guides us to be there, will invite the changes within our own field of influence whether our personal intention is the focus of a group constellation or not.

The significance of a Reversed Paternal Line


Bill participated in a general group family constellation class being held in France. He was an American married to a French woman and had settled in France with her. Throughout the course of the day he had been pulled into several different constellations as a representative. In each of his representative roles a theme appeared to emerge of him being excluded. He represented ‘unseen men’, a forgotten love, an abandoned child and also ‘silence’ as the days constellations unfolded. Even within the context of the group I observed him holding himself back and would actively give up his place for others. He arrived into the class a little late after one of the breaks and placed himself outside of the circle of chairs where the rest of the group were seated. He was surprised when one of the other participants noticed him and invited him to take one of the unoccupied chairs. This interaction struck me as interesting in light of the roles he had held for others and I invited him to explore his own family field dynamics within the group.

When I asked him if he had a particular focus or area of exploration for the constellation he asked if he could explore why he felt he didn’t belong in his family. The lack of sense of place was having an impact on his current marriage and relationship with his children. He also felt it had been a contributing factor to the end of his first marriage. 

With such a strong sense of displacement the root entanglement is unlikely to be within the current field of influence around Bill in his present marriage or even within his former marriage. The former marriage was with an American woman and Bill resided within the USA for the duration of the marriage. There will undoubtedly be entanglements within the current and former relationship that are exacerbating the root entanglement of displacement however until the root entanglements are uncovered and acknowledged the core dynamics will not release. Given his move from the USA to France for love and his previous representative roles I decided to explore the land influences within his family and ancestral field. 

Both of Bill’s parents were born in the USA however looking further back down the family lines his maternal family originated from the Nordics and his paternal from France and Germany. In discussion of any possible links with war or military service Bill shared that his maternal line had been involved in the American civil war and that his paternal line had been involved in the first world war. From this information, we immediately get a sense of the possible root entanglement of the displacement that Bill is experiencing. The paternal aspects of both the PLF and the MLF are complex. I decided to include both of Bill’s paternal line aspects as well as representatives of each of the countries connected to his family.

Representatives:

Bill

mother

Maternal – paternal aspect

Father

Parent’s marriage promise

Paternal-paternal aspect

USA

Nordics

France

Germany

In the initial set up of the constellation Bill placed himself, his mother and father along with their marriage promise in a tight triangle. Both parents immediately stepped back away from Bill though his mother still looked at him. The marriage promise stayed with Bill. Both parents were drawn to the oppositional aspects of the paternal line i.e. the mother looked to the father’s paternal line and the father looked to the mother’s paternal line. In contrast, the paternal line representatives were drawn to the representatives of the different countries.

This suggests at the very least a paternal line triangulation with Bill holding the weight of his parent’s marriage promise and representing his father for his mother. However, there is more complexity because of the pull that the oppositional paternal lines has for each parent. This suggests that ‘looking’ at the trauma in the family field for each other was an unconscious part of their marriage promise and Bill is holding responsibility for that too. This hints that there is also a narrative of broken or unfulfilled promises in either or both paternal line. The paternal lines are drawn to the countries of origin within the constellation. In this context the represented space is not just land or a country, it is a representation of the individual or individuals connected to that land or country that remain unseen or unacknowledged. It is very likely ‘those left behind’. I decide to explore the constellation further and add in representatives for: 

American Civil War

WW1

Broken promises

Those Left Behind

The dead

When representing an animating space such as land, it is a representation of the family members that are entangled within the represented space. Examples include ‘Those left behind’, ‘Those that didn’t survive’, those that did survive and the cost of that survival as well as those waiting in the land of origin for people to come home.

Entanglements around perpetration can be triggered within different generations and we observed that in the interplay between the two paternal line spaces. For Bill, this has a strong influence on his sense of safety and belonging and he struggled to carry more of the perpetration and the cost of the perpetration within himself in order to be safe and to belong. 

When there is a shift from one country to another, this can create a series of effects within the family field and some individuals will be drawn to ‘see’ and acknowledge them at the cost of their own belong. Others choose to not ‘see’ and to perpetrate others in an effort to be safe and to avoid becoming an unseen victim. 

Within this constellation the association that came through most strongly was the cost of a broken promise particularly the promise from those who left to come back ‘home’ and liberate those waiting behind. When the dominant energy is of ‘those left behind’ then the cost of survival of ‘those that survived’ as well as the guilt carried for ‘Those left behind’ can influence your ability to take your own place and to be free to choose for yourself. This is essentially what we observed within Bill’s constellation.

The entire focus of the constellation changed when the representatives for ‘civil war’ and ‘WW1’ were included. The civil war space was far more dominant. Bill and his parents as well as the paternal line and broken promise spaces were responding to it as if it were alive and in the present moment. When we observe such a response it is an indication that the unacknowledged trauma and the associated dead have yet to be seen. They have been carried forward silently from one generation to the next and experienced as if the war and threat of war and death were still ‘alive’. When spaces were brought in to represent the dead, the countries could not see them and gentle work was undertaken to allow the dead to come ‘home’ and acknowledge the cost of the ‘broken promise’ from both sides. This allowed for more balance in the field. 

A further sense of peace and balance was achieved when Bill could connect with the different countries that were holding the space for those left behind and said:

Parts of me come from you

Parts of me are like you

I accept those parts 

We’re separate You Belong and
I Belong 

There is enough now

I can’t be them for you

But I do remember 

You are remembered

I remember you

I am not the only one who remembers

From this work, we can see the some of the threads that weave in silently from the deeper paternal ancestral field. Often the larger narrative will be largely unknown but part of who you are, where you come from and the cost of the choices made, whether those choices involve perpetration, to survive or love. The cost of the choice can re-animate the unacknowledged pain of the paternal field in the present when a similar choice or cost arises. Land and belonging is triggered collectively and individually.