What is Ancestral Healing and how do we access our ancestral lines somatically? In this video, Dara explains the importance of healing not just our own wounds, but the ones of those who came before us. Ultimately, they are one and the same. Click to watch below or read the video transcript to learn more.
Orienting to Your Family Constellation
Hi, this is Dara with Somatic Spiritual Counseling, and this video is on ancestral healing, what it is, and why it is important to be doing this work. The likely case is that if you’re an audience of Somatic Spiritual Counseling and you’re watching this video, you probably have some degree of awareness of your own psychology or how your upbringing has affected who you are, the person you have become today.
Maybe that’s through the lens of understanding your childhood, past history with trauma from your childhood, or just general family patterns. I like to use the word “family constellations,” because, in a way, especially in family dynamics, we’re all relating to each other in a certain way, and everybody is standing in a particular configuration. Maybe one person is standing and pointing a finger at somebody else, and that person is crouching and turning their head and looking the other way, and one person is off in the corner with their arms crossed, just looking on.
That’s an unhappy family. Perhaps in your family, everyone is landing and singing kumbaya together, holding hands. Typically not the case, but that would be a lovely family constellation to have. Although not without its downsides. I could see there being some problems with perfect harmony as well.
In any case, we all have family patterns, and those patterns get encoded into us. And so, we carry not just the part that we play in our family system, but the whole pattern in itself. And we can play it out inside of ourselves as well as outside of ourselves. And we typically do for our entire life. Not only that; we pass it onto our children, and then they get encoded with the whole pattern. And maybe they’d choose to play a certain role. Maybe then they choose to play a different role.
Oftentimes, we gravitate towards a couple of different roles, like maybe you’re the scapegoat in your family, maybe you’re the black sheep, maybe you’re the caregiver. Maybe there’s a certain role that you play that is habitual. In any case, it’s interesting to reflect and see what roles have you played and what roles have members of your family in your ancestral lines played. So, go back a couple of generations. Maybe your grandparents are still alive. If you’re young or really lucky, your great-grandparents as well. What stories have you been told? Who are the characters in this larger narrative of your family constellation, who perhaps you didn’t know directly but who are informing whatever current dynamic is playing out with your family?
Taking Accountability: Stop Playing Your Part
And so, something that can be really interesting to start tracing is “What family members am I similar to?” Maybe these people are no longer with us. Maybe they have transitioned to the other side, and they are part of your ancestral lines. For example, my grandmother has passed. She passed a few years back, on my mother’s side. And in some ways, I’m very similar to her, and I emulate her. Of course, I have my own character and I’m a mix of so many different things, not just her. But in particular, there are some things about her, some characteristics and traits that I resonate with more than any other family member I know. And so, in a way, I’m carrying forward her legacy. And oftentimes, that’s the reason people have children, in part at least: to continue on their legacy in some meaningful way after they’re gone.
So, what do we do with this? Well, in my particular case, my grandma had a lot of issues that she carried with her to her grave. She had undiagnosed chronic pain. She suffered with depression for her whole life. She never really resolved many issues that she had with her children, with her early married life, with her life before she was married, with her childhood. How do I know that these issues lay unresolved? Well, I did start asking and kind of poking at the end of her life. But if you don’t have a chance to do that with deceased people, there’s a different way of telling, and perhaps it’s body-based. There’s a way where we can tune into our body, and not just into our own body, but into our body’s memory of those who came before, and see how they’re doing.
Maybe you’re familiar with journey work. Journeying to visit ancestors is another pretty easy way to gauge and to have a litmus test. How are these people doing? Maybe they’re representations in your own psyche. Maybe they’re literal ghosts or spirits. It doesn’t really matter how you think of it. The important part is that you’re relating to something that needs help in relationship with you and with the world, something that has gone unhealed. In my case, for example, one of the things that’s been passed down to me in my maternal line, and I think it’s often the case with a lot of women, is that we haven’t been able to speak freely for many, many, many generations, centuries, millennia.
So, what effect does this have? Well, our voice has been constricted in different ways, both by ourselves and by others. So, it doesn’t have to be a blame game or a patriarchy bashing session. But we can just acknowledge, “Okay, there’s been systems of oppression that have been set up that have subjugated women and repressed the female voice.” And it’s played out in my particular lineage in a certain set of ways.
So, what can I do in this lifetime to overcome that, to change that? As I’m starting to uncover these patterns and noticing different ways that I can reclaim my voice, that I can start to speak more, even just making this video might be an example of “Okay, yeah, I’m articulating myself. I’m putting my ideas and my presence out in the world in a meaningful way.” This can be an example of ancestral healing because this is something that I’m intending to do, not just for myself, but for the women in my line that came before that couldn’t do it either.
Clearing Intergenerational Trauma: Untangling the Lines
And so, in this way, I can change my family constellation. I can change that configuration of who’s pointing to who, and who’s standing and facing the wall, and who has been exiled to the corner, and who’s in the center of attention and talking but nobody is listening. So, I can start to change that. Just changing myself, not having to go to my family and say, “Hey, everyone, you all need to go to therapy because I just realized how messed up I am, and you guys are the problem.” Usually that doesn’t work so well. So, there are different ways that we can change our family system outside of pushing so hard directly.
And doing this ancestral work can be really honoring and freeing, and I want to use the word “disentangling” because oftentimes our ancestral lines are tangled, almost like balls of yarn being tangled into knots. And when we’re doing this work… And it can be subtle or it can be obvious. It can be complex or simple. And there’s so many different ways to approach it. But when we’re doing this ancestral healing work, we’re untangling these knots. And what happens when the knots get untangled? Well, it’s like dams are unleashed, and a river is finally able to flow free.
And so, perhaps your ancestors are vindictive. I mean, people aren’t necessarily always with one’s best intentions in heart. Perhaps your ancestors don’t want to see you happy, for reasons that are yet to be explored. But when we start to untangle things, appease the people that need to be appeased, and generally create harmony in this world and the other, things flow better for us in both. So, it can behoove us to honor our ancestors, not just in and of itself, because it’s important to do it, but because it might actually help our logistical life go a lot better if we have the support of our predecessors and have resolved any postmortem conflicts, shall we say.
Cutting-Edge Ancient Concepts
So, I’m wondering what this evokes in you. This is a bit of a cutting-edge, ancient concept. I think ancestral healing work is starting to become a bit more palatable and a bit more recognized as important within our society, but it’s definitely not commonplace yet. I think it hopefully will move in that direction. There are so many cultures all over the world that have ancestor worship, ancestor ritual, at the center of their traditional lifestyles. The Chinese come to mind–super ancestor-based. A lot of different tribes in West Africa come to mind, and all over the world. Just honoring those that have come before is such an important part of honoring ourselves and, in a way, honoring our future generations or children as well.
So, if this resonates with you, I’d love to hear from you. I’m offering a special three-hour ancestral healing intensive, which just looks like us getting together for several hours, doing some journey work, connecting with ancestors, doing some somatic work, connecting it to your personal life, seeing what rituals need to be carried forth into your daily life, giving you a set of practices if needed, elemental connections if needed, if called for, many different things, all rolled into one bundle. And it’s a gift to give to your family, not just for yourself. So, I’d love to hear from you. If you have any comments, or if this video evokes anything in you, leave a comment or write to us. You can reach us at somaticspiritualcounseling.com. Again, my name is Dara del Rio, and I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for watching.
Learn more about somatic therapy here.