Family Consternations and Transgenerational Dealing

John Payne says he knows things. He says that the major agent in all illness is stress, but not just any old stress. He says it’s the particular stress of half-forgotten dead or suffering relatives, whom he calls “The Forgotten,” and whose tensions are transferred onto the remainder of the family, via a surrogate if necessary, by courtesy of Rupert Sheldrake’s “morphogenic field” (to be pedantic, it’s morphic or morphogenetic), which field supposedly connects us all to one another in a big spiritual ball of psychic spaghetti. Your friends, presumably, are the sauce.

Yum. Make mine Arrabiata, please.

Payne (what’s in a name?) proudly announces how grounded and empirical all of this is, and goes on about the panoply of benefits that accrue from his technique of whipping your ancestors and relations into a well-oiled regiment of satisfied spirit soldiers who will rally around you, keen to assail your infirmities. At one point he writes prophetically, “This work is astounding and often leaves one thinking ‘how does this work?’,” a single brief moment of lucidity that is pursued no further. The emotional baggage attending such conditions as cancer, HIV/AIDS, MS and autism, among several lesser ailments, falls in tidy swathes before these Dim Reapers’ scythes, and the ensuing relief can contribute significantly towards a total cure.

Not a shred of evidence, aside from a few dubious testimonials, is offered to support any of this, which is why Payne, probably at the urging of his legal counsel, publishes this revealing disclaimer. I write, “probably at the urging of his legal counsel,” because it’s clearly an escape-hatch. It can’t be the result of simple honesty or pangs of conscience; if it were, he would never have begun fleecing people with this crafty bit of hooey.


I am probably guilty of prejudice, but the graphics and colours on these things are almost always a dead give-away :stuck_out_tongue:

edit: Ha, my Firefox add blocker wants to block that page. (Firefox, the rational choice ;))

No, there’s no such implication to that disclaimer. Every type of treatment of whatever nature, be it a herb, nutritional supplement, vitamin, Swedish massage, NLP, exercise machine or whatever that is not directly licensed by the AMA has to carry a disclaimer that is substantially the same as the one in the link.

The medical profession has done an excellent job of marketing themselves in the USA and convincing Congress to pronounce that Doctors, and Doctors alone have the ability to heal all ailments of the body, mind and, presumably, of the spirit too, although they probably deny the existance of a spirit, being the good Scientists that they are supposed to be.

It’s also about protecting the medical monopoly. They don’t want anyone else getting any moola from any sick people, or even people wanting to avoid getting sick, so every product will tell you something to the effect that “you should consult your healthcare professional before using this”.

Just BTW, I am sceptical about Family Constellation Therapy too.

You will, I hope, forgive me for dismissing this as fancy verbal footwork, especially in light of the very next sentence.

Welcome to the realities of jurisprudence.

Welcome to reality in general.


The medical profession has, on the whole, done an excellent job of backing up its claims of efficacy with evidence that is repeatable and also, at least in principle, independently verifiable by anyone who chooses to do their own investigation. This important ingredient is simply papered over by the spindoctors of woo, who feign, as a substitute for evidence, deep offence when someone has the unmitigated temerity to challenge their loopy contentions through application of that old spoilsport, “reality.”

You presume to much. Most scientists would, I think, assert that there is no good reason, logical or empirical, to believe in such a thing, rather than flat out deny it. There’s a world of difference between the two positions.

Is this also true of treatment regimens for congenital paranoia?


That used to be true. The FDA was at one time an independant body that approved any new treatment only if it passed the twin standards of safety and efficacy. Now the FDA co-operates with the drug manufacturers to the detriment of public health and allows drugs to be marketed based on the flimsiest of evidence. Almost all new drugs entering the market in recent years are no better than the older drugs in the same class which are no longer under patent.

There most certainly is a lot of fraud in the arena of alternative treatments. There is a lot of fraud in allopathic (conventional) medicine too. Certainly, people should be warned about the dangers of both, especially when they are asked to part with their hard-earned cash.

This is a mechanism that should work both ways. The public should be warned that alternative treatment A does not do anything of value, and also that licensed drug B has these known toxic effects and surgical procedure C has a certain known chance of failing to work too. In general, the healthcare business is better at stating the case, but since it is a business, is also quite adept at concealing the failures.

That does not mean that people should be denied the choice of treatments. If they want to pay a Homeopath a premium for distilled water, then they should be free to do so.

Yes, so you say. Any evidence to back this up? You know, that stuff that that is used to determine or demonstrate the truth of an assertion.

‘Cos, far as I can see, you’re still just blowin’ smoke.


I’m embarrassed to say I’ve been on a family constellation workshop. It cost a few thousand rand (I think it was about two thousand rand, about two years ago) for a single day workship. Not only was it not helpful, it was also damaging because it said a lot of negative things about my family that have no basis in reality, and I believed them at the time. Which is not to say there’s no validity in understanding how family structure and history can influence people, but the workshops are way beyond that, based on a set of so-called “universal laws”.

A Family Constellation is created where members of a group are asked to represent members of a family. Everyone is intuitively placed in a position, including an individual that takes the place of yourself whereby the family constellation comes to life. Those who represent family members begin to feel the emotions, fears and desires of the persons concerned.

Its worth noting that the participant / subject places and position the group members.

The group members are not trained psychologists, but they all know the “universal laws” and I am sure must act according to those when they take on the roles in the family - thereby appearing to confirm the universal laws. Also, I think any effect it has comes from a kind of group-based cold-reading effect, where each person in the group representing the family picks up some aspect of the subject’s attitude towards them and acts on it, and this is then interpreted by the others, etc. Obviously though the actors can easily make mistakes, which will affect the rest of the group, and so on. Unfortunately because the group picked up on some things they had no obvious way of knowing and were true, I thought everything they picked up was true. This a probably a known logical fallacy ?

Unlike traditional forms of therapy, this approach looks at the facts of life and death stripped bare, avoiding any defences, distortions or denials

This is part of what makes it damaging. If you say that something in the constellation is wrong it tends to be interpreted as denial or a defense, which is anything but the “gentle” approach that they claim.

I’d really like to know what everyone else here thinks of family constellations, and what the problems are with them, because I am still sometimes “haunted” by it. Kennyg wrote:

Just BTW, I am sceptical about Family Constellation Therapy too.

Can you explain why you’re skeptical about it?

Look on the side that few others in your position get to see: you have dared to question the “facts” they claimed and found them wanting. There’s no shame in that at all, and, in fact, good reason to be pleased because you taught yourself something very important.

Yes, that seems reasonable: an unobtrusive series of positive feedback loops are set up where individuals pick up on and expand on things that others in the group have said. Afterwards, it seems as though the group received information from “outside.” One of the best books to consult (and own!) in this regard is Ian Rowland’s “The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading.” Many more people ought to read it.

Yes, it is known as “confirmation bias.”

The first thing to realise, I think, is that people like John Payne and his transgenerational minions are into selling good feeling. If his clients feel good when they leave him after a session, that’s great even if they actually feel worse upon reflection some time later. Actually, if they do feel worse, that will probably encourage them to come back again because they’ll certainly remember that they felt good immediately afterwards.

Personally, I think it’s hogwash. There’s no evidence to support any of their basic assumptions about the dead and any “unfinished business” you might have with them, and much to suggest otherwise. There’s also no evidence to indicate that these practioners accept that they are engaged in some kind of role-playing therapy, nor that “therapy” of this kind actually helps anyone beside the practitioners and their purses.