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.




Maternal – paternal aspect


Parent’s marriage promise

Paternal-paternal aspect





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


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. 

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