Family syntax: attachment-trauma-transmission of trauma from generation to generation




Babies depend on their mothers for their love and care from birth. It is also dependent on the human communities into which they were born. The newborn child turns to his mother by using all his strength and senses, the source of his physical, emotional and spiritual development is his mother, the ability to adapt positively and easily to the mother-child relationship is a natural part of our nature. Through the mother, the child begins to experience himself. Attachment to the mother is the foundation of the spiritual pattern for every human being. Interpersonal bonding, the foundations of which are laid with the mother, are largely emotional.

The better the conditions for the mothers, the better for the children, the more love the mother received as a child, the more supported by the community she lives in – by all the men and women there – the better she will be. If the mother, who grew up without love in childhood, is not among the people to meet her needs, she will transfer the spiritual and emotional world created by this to the child. Therefore, almost every mental problem begins and continues with the mother-child relationship in the early developmental period.


The word trauma means injury. In this sense, it is used in medicine to describe physical injuries involving bone or tissue damage. In the spiritual and emotional field; If processes such as perception, feeling, thinking, memory or dreaming are significantly restricted in certain periods or in the long term and do not function normally, a mental injury or trauma can be mentioned.

Mental trauma is caused by the inconsistency between threatening factors related to a particular situation and the person’s ability to cope; It is a critical experience accompanied by feelings of helplessness and being at the mercy of others and events, resulting in a permanent shock in perception of oneself and the world.

If the person cannot get away from the traumatic situation, there is only one way to get rid of the trauma, and that is to freeze the experiences by separating them from consciousness. Since the feeling of trauma is far beyond the person’s physical, mental and spiritual carrying capacity, the person develops a survival strategy by freezing their experiences and separating them from consciousness.

In the case of chronic trauma, such as abuse or torture, the fragmentation of personal identity becomes more and more automatic. Only a certain part of the personality remains whole and withstands the trauma, while other parts of the personality recede. In this fragmentation process; The perception is blocked, the person experiences himself as if he is in a cloud of fog, the emotions are frozen, the person becomes numb, cold and emotionless, the state of bodiless consciousness occurs, the person lives as if he is separated from his body and is watching the event from the outside, and sometimes there is a separation into lower personalities.

Transmission of Trauma from Generation to Generation

Traumatic effects are not limited to the actual victim, because a trauma we experience happens internally and affects our relationship systems both socially and personally. However, the situation does not stop there, even if the person who experienced the first trauma dies, trauma affects the relationship systems. Traumatic experiences are transmitted from one generation to the next through spiritual and emotional attachment, and in this way children are drawn into and affected by their parents’ traumas. The changes created by a traumatic event in the person extend to children through the person’s mother or father relationships, this happens through the process of spiritual and emotional attachment, the wounds of a family are passed from generation to generation and are inherited by subsequent generations.

Parents who have been traumatized; they transfer their anxiety and negative feelings to their children, they need their children to comfort themselves and to get rid of their bad feelings. Their feelings of love for their children are paralyzed, and their insight into their children’s needs is also inadequate.

Traumatized parents unconsciously pass on their experiences to their children, who unconsciously identify themselves with their parents’ fate. The child then experiences two conflicting realities; his own experience of daily life and his parents’ past experiences, and as a result, the child experiences a partial sense of identity, confusion, or a fragmented identity.

Traumatic experiences can make people unable to form emotional bonds properly; People can relate in one way or another, but they cannot form a real bond. When such a person becomes a parent, his need to protect himself from any confrontation with his traumatic feelings, split off from himself, renders him incapable of loving his own children. Nor is he able to feel any positive feelings towards his child as a result of the numbness caused by his own trauma.

When there is an emotional exchange between the mother and the child, the feelings of trauma that the mother cannot control and keep to herself, despite all her suppression and denial, are also included in this communication. At this point, the child, who is ready to bond, is subjected to the pressure of his mother’s deep feelings of fear, anger, shame, sadness, and guilt. However, despite the mother’s bad feelings, the child loves his mother like all children and clings to her with all his feelings. Thus, instead of love and compassion, the child absorbs the emotional chaos created by his mother’s trauma.

Family Constellation

Family Constellation is a method for understanding how spiritual conflicts arise and develop in complex relationship systems.

The creator of the family syntax technique is Bert Hellinger, a theologian and missionary who later turned to the field of psychotherapy. In the 70’s and 80’s he trained and worked with the available resources of the western therapy world. Inspired by Moreno’s Psychodrama technique in which he staged family dynamics, he developed his own Family Synopsis Technique. Hellinger argues that unconscious dynamics and traumas in families can be discovered and become conscious through syntagms.

Children try to carry the traumatic burdens of their families, the excluded and forgotten (the raped, the dead, the delinquent, the murdered) are unconsciously represented by the later born. Parents unconsciously pass on their trauma to their children, and children are unconsciously forced to either repeat the traumatic events or experience the emotion of the trauma in an attempt to rebalance. Working with Family Constellation helps people to become aware of these ‘blind’ balancing attempts and thus to change them, to become free from family traumas.

Family Syntax Method; It is applied in a group that does not know each other, accompanied by a therapist. It starts with the introduction and the explanations of the therapist, and it takes place in the form of people expressing their feelings through movement. Work begins with the syntax of one of the participants. The client tells the issue, the problem he wants to look at, selects representatives from the group and the application is made, the person who is being sequenced watches this staging from the outside. He sees the places that coincide with his own life and family history as a whole through representatives. The person encounters the photograph of his inner dynamics and inner trauma objectively, confronts his trauma with the help of a therapist, and the study ends when he gains awareness of where to start for change and transformation.

Clients choose representatives, often clients choose representatives based on their similarity to the people they represent, either based on their appearance, the way they present themselves, or on tiny signals they unconsciously receive. Meeting is important for people to get ideas about each other. People may unconsciously sense those who have traumatic experiences similar to themselves in the group and choose these people as representatives in their syntax.

In family syntax studies, representatives do not enter their roles by thinking analytically, they begin to perceive and experience the mental and physiological conditions of the person they represent immediately and directly, and act accordingly.

The representative phenomenon is confirmed by the “mirror neurons”, the discovery of the Italian physiologist Giacomo Rizzolatti in brain research. It has been observed that these neurons fire in the person watching the person performing an action. As soon as these neurons were discovered, brain researchers also discovered this mirroring principle in parts of the brain linked to other important spiritual functions. It has been proven that with mirror neuron cells, the emotions and feelings of the person, just like a stimulus, will activate the emotions of the person in front of them and that the person can react to the emotions experienced by that person as if the other person has experienced them.

With the development of technology and communication, the importance of the formation of one’s self and personality through environmental interactions has increased and been emphasized in psychological studies. It has been observed that methods that include not only the person but also the family, society and even previous generations are more effective, and brain research confirms this and offers developments. With the increase in these studies and research, we can say that psychological services will develop more effectively and with faster results.