Murder and unjust death

This post is a subject assignment submitted by a trainee for Foundation Training 2016 (Cape Town).
Theory cannot be removed from observation of what is present phenomenologically in the client system.
It has been included here as a resource for students and graduated facilitators:


Family Constellations Perspectives: Murder and Unjust death

Hellinger 2003 in Thomas 2010 views a family as a multi-generational, extended system where every person that is born or brought into the system or by marriage has the right to belong and nobody can be excluded including those who have committed murder or crime otherwise the family system will try in its own way to maintain equilibrium.

He further says that family members are connected by a deep bond of love, adding that behind any behaviour, even the most unusual ones lies love which is also the hidden force behind all symptoms. He argues that love in the system can survive only when the systemic laws are followed, that love is a part of order, order was set before love and therefore love can develop only within a framework of order, with order as the a primary principle

Boszormenyi-Nagy, 1973 in Thomas 2010 has also found that it is this bond of love that forces people to be loyal to their parents, grandparents and other members of the extended family. He add that the invisible trans-generational loyalties serve as unconscious regulators of balance, entitlement and merit.

Hellinger, 2016 contends that people who are victims of violent acts at the hands of members of our family become a part of the family, especially those who were murdered; murderers are drawn to their victims just as victims are drawn to their murderers.

Cohen, 2008, says by committing a murder, the perpetrator takes something irreplaceable from the victim.

Views: Common response to murderers

Cohen, 2008 maintains that as a society, we deny our bond with them and feel quite justified in excluding them.

Hellinger,1998 argues that members of a family are naturally tempted to exclude those who have committed a crime, cautioning that members may forget those who have been excluded, but the system “re-members” its own.

He has observed that family constellations of people with serious psychological and physical illnesses often reveal such acts of exclusion.

Views: Equalisation – Compensatory acts

Hellinger, 1999 argues that if murderers are excluded or rejected, the collective conscience will ensure that they are later represented by members of our family.

Cohen, 2008 adds that children and grandchildren can feel compelled to complete what they did not start, atone for what they did not do, or inflict punishment on the living.

Ulsamer says that order ruling in families ensures that injustice is being atoned, frequently resulting in further homicide or suicides in the following generation or the generation after.

Hellinger, 1999 observed that in many constellations involving the descendants of murderers during the Nazi Regime, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren wanted to lie next to the victims, which implied a danger of strong suicidal tendencies.

Hellinger, 2002 in Burdziuk 2012 shares that because the systemic entanglements are largely unconscious, the family system will go on repeating the pattern of behaviour and experience.

Views: Impact of the system’s response

Hellinger, 1999 says that the living take upon themselves something that only the dead among themselves can achieve.

Hellinger, 1998 maintains that when parents give what is harmful, or when children take it, love is injured.

Cohen, 2008 adds that neither vengeance nor sacrifice changes the fate of the living or the dead for

the better.

Hellinger and ten Hovel 1999, in Burdziuk 2012, an entangled unconsciously takes over the fate of an earlier member of the family and lives it out, there is a systemic drive to repeat the occurrence. They conclude that in this way the system can never bring things truly into order.

Views: Bringing the system into order

Hellinger, 1998 argues that injustices suffered or committed are among the things that parents must not give their children, and that children must not take. He says these remain the parents’ responsibility and their role is to protect their children from the negative effect of such things. Further that for children to trust their parents to deal with whatever fate has meted out.

Cohen, 2008 reasons in support of forgiveness that it leaves the guilt with the perpetrator and frees the victims from the desire for vengeance. He says forgiveness can only happen when perpetrators, victims, and their descendants include each other as full members of the human community. Where the fate of all individuals involved are accepted and respected.

He says true forgiveness requires that perpetrators acknowledge guilt, express sincere remorse, and offer a reasonable restitution. And for the victims and their descendants, forgiveness is an act of deep compassion and humility that restores the sweetness of life.

Hellinger, 1999 argues that people who were victims of violent acts at the hands of members of our family become a part of the family, especially those who were murdered. Our family must look at these individuals as “brothers” and “sisters” with love and grief and pain.

He has observed that in constellations, murderers and victims feel complete only when they have found each other and have reunited, and that when we allow the dead and the murderers to face each other-then it doesn’t need any intervention from outside. The dead meet on a level where they are really one.


Hellinger Bert, 1998, with Gunthard Webber and Hunter Beaumont. Love’s Hidden Symmetry

Hellinger Bert, 1999. Unravelling Family Secrets: interview with Humberto del Pozo, Chile.

Thomas G. K., 2010. Effectiveness of Systemic Family Constellations: Master of Science: Dissertation, California State University.

Cohen D.B. 2008. Systemic Family Constellations – Prisoners serving long-term sentences for murder or rape: Ph.D. Dissertation, Faculty of Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center.

Hellinger Bert, 2001. Love’s own truth, bonding and balancing in close relationships

Burdziuk Agata, 2012. Summary of Bert Hellinger’s Model of Family Constellations:

Ulsamer Bertold. Does family make you sick:, english pages.

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