The idea that difficulties experienced by one member of a family can affect other family members is nothing new.
Famed humorist Mark Twain, for example, fell into a deep depression after the death of his daughters, and Gabriel García Márquez experimented with the theme of a family’s shared fate in his novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”
But a family therapy method known as “family constellations” extends conventional wisdom about familial connections to the spiritual realm by positing that one family member’s traumatic experiences can cause a generations-long ripple effect as family members try to subconsciously compensate for the damage.
Practitioners of family constellations therapy, which blends the basics of psychoanalytic theory with spiritual healing, say the method can help cure problems as diverse as relationship difficulties and tendencies toward depression and addiction.
This month, the practice has an increased presence in Costa Rica with the arrival of Gloria Davila, a respected family constellations therapist from the U.S. state of California.
Also trained in Gestalt therapy – which, like family constellations, encourages people to look for the source of negative patterns in their lives – Davila said she is excited to work with people in Costa Rica.
“I love traveling, but I love traveling with a reason,” said the Mexican-born Davila, who conducts sessions in both English and Spanish.
Davila, 50, feels strongly about the power of family constellations therapy, which she said changed her life.
As an example, she said that after going through the therapy, which involves integrating dead or rejected family members back into one’s life, she learned new information about her family that improved her relationship with her mother.
She said the therapy encouraged her to talk to her mother, and when she did, she learned that her mother had miscarried twice. Counting the pregnancies that resulted in miscarriages, Davila learned that she was not technically the second of three children as she had thought. By including her unborn siblings, she was able to leave behind a persistent feeling of being out of place.
“I had a major shift. I stopped being an English teacher and became a full-time family constellations counselor,” she said.“Now I understand how difficult it must have been for my mother to be around me – a part of me maybe represented death, or she worried I might die.”
Murnie Blades, a friend of Davila’s who was visiting her in California during Davila’s phone interview with The Tico Times, also spoke highly of family constellations.
“It’s helped me to recognize patterns, both in myself and other people… we need to see those patterns or we continue them,” said Blades, 60. “It’s made a profound change in my life, as it has in the lives of my friends.”
Davila already has at least one fan in Costa Rica.
Xinia Salazar, a resident of Heredia, north of San José, met Davila and first underwent therapy with her in California.
She was so impressed that she invited Davila to Costa Rica.
Salazar, 46, described Davila as a charismatic and highly intuitive individual, and one of the best family constellations therapists she has worked with.
“She has not only the knowledge, but also the human sensibility,” she said.
Davila has group sessions scheduled for June 3 and 6, and plans to be in the country until June 13. For more information, call Salazar at 381-8886 or 825-8886.