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For local spiritual coach, family is everything

Sonya Arias is interested in the ties that bind, namely the ways family, past and present, impacts our lives.

The wellness practitioner is skilled in healing methods from hypnosis to Reiki, but her biggest passion is Family Constellation work. The therapy, created by German therapist Bert Hellinger, maintains we unconsciously carry trauma and negative patterns taken on from relatives, loved ones and ancestors.

Every family group has a collective soul, and each person within that group has a place that needs to be acknowledged, Ms. Arias said.

This includes people who have died early, even in infancy, family “black sheep” and former romantic partners. Because we’re unable to reject our family on an unconscious soul level, they continue to wield an influence, even in their absence.

A man may choose not to talk about a child who’s died only to find the loss, and the avoidance of the subject, is affecting his living children. Or a woman may consciously reject her abusive father, then find herself attracting toxic relationships or unable to control her own rages.

“When one of the family members is excluded, we unconsciously do our best to include them back into the family system by reenacting patterns, past traumatic events, illness and negative emotions,” Ms. Arias explained.

Family Constellation work encourages clients to acknowledge that which they have pushed away and to clear harmful blockages by tapping into the wisdom of the family soul.

Ms. Arias presents her next Family Constellation workshop Saturday, March 25 from 7 to 10 p.m. at Kindred Spirits, 813 W. Foothill Blvd. in Claremont.

The charge is $125 for clients wanting to undertake Family Constellation therapy and $25 for participants, who can simply watch or choose to take on the role of the clients’ relatives.

Family drama

For a client, it starts with a problem they want to address. Perhaps they’re experiencing health problems or being besieged by panic attacks. Maybe they have trouble maintaining long-term relationships or feel consumed by anger.

Ms. Arias said it’s human nature to take the issues in our lives at face value and look for obvious causes.

“We like to connect the dots. We think, ‘I’m depressed because of this life trigger,’ or ‘I’m depressed because I don’t have the love of my life,’” she said. “But that’s not really the source; the source comes from way before. They feel like our emotions but they’re not really ours.”

After a discussion about the client’s central issue, the work begins. “We start with an outcome in mind. You have a problem and would like to look at it differently,” Ms. Arias said.

A client picks participants to represent family members or an issue like addiction and positions them in the center of the circle. Surrounded by the “morphogenic field” of the family soul, they start feeling the experiences of the person they’re portraying.

Ms. Arias takes note of participants’ body language and expressions and may also ask some questions.

“There’s a healing movement that happens at the soul level and emerges to show us where the origin of pain and discomfort is,” she said. “We’re able to see patterns and honor the things we are doing in a good way and address the things we are doing in a not-so-healthy way.”

Once she has a grip on the family drama, Ms. Arias may direct participants’ to change positions or to repeat “healing sentences.”

“If we have a drunk, mean father, we don’t want to accept anything from him. Sometimes we don’t even want to accept life,” Ms. Arias said. “I might tell the client to say something like, ‘You gave me life. I remain your daughter. And you’re the only father I can have.’”

Many people find regular participation in Family Constellation workshops to be beneficial.

“A participant may have an issue with their mom and the clients’ constellation between her and her mom might help them,” Ms. Arias said. “Or it can help if the client has an illness like cancer and the participant is battling diabetes.”

For clients, however, Family Constellation therapy is not intended to be a long-term form of therapy but is typically a one-off. While a session generally ranges from 15 minutes to an hour, many clients report significant relief.

“A lot of people feel isolated,” Ms. Arias said. “We don’t express our emotions, so we don’t even understand what we’re feeling. In Family Constellation work, all that stuff that’s been suppressed comes out to the light so it can be acknowledged. When we acknowledge it, it begins to dissipate.”

Finding her place

Ms. Arias, 48, hasn’t always worked in the healing arts. In 2000 she was living in Ontario, working in real estate and struggling with the fact that she had not found her vocational passion. She was also going through a divorce.

“I was looking for a place,” she said. “I was in turmoil and I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing or not,” she said.

She spoke with Kindred Spirits co-owner Persis Newland and began attending a meditation group there. She says Kindred Spirits encouraged her spiritual growth.

“I was raised Catholic,” she said. “I would have run out the door if it hadn’t been for the divorce. But meditation gave me a break from my thoughts.”

Ms. Arias started taking college classes to become a psychologist but continued meditating and meeting with spiritual groups. She was introduced to healing modalities like Reiki energy healing, became a Reiki master, and began conducting workshops and private sessions as a spiritual counselor.

Then a friend introduced her to Family Constellation work.

“I took to it right away. It came easier for me than others. It’s almost like common sense for me,” she said.

Ms. Arias underwent training in Family Constellation work in Carlsbad with Mark Wolynn, director of the Family Constellation Institute, and was certified in 2008.

Now a resident of Aliso Viejo, she travels to Kindred Spirits each Wednesday to offer on-on-one spiritual counseling sessions and gives monthly Family Constellation workshops at the Claremont shop.

Ms. Arias says the power of the work is regularly affirmed through clients’ feedback.

In one case, she worked with a woman who’d become terrified that she would develop breast cancer, a malady that had stricken many women in her family. She’d wake up at night and find that she was checking her breast for lumps in her sleep.

Ms. Arias set up the Family Constellation and all signs pointed to the client’s fear being based in a family history of sexual assault. After undertaking Family Constellation therapy, the client reported feeling a greater sense of peace and relief. “Something had moved,” Ms. Arias said.

Later, the woman came back with a story. She’d visited some relatives and, as they talked, it was revealed that as a young woman her grandmother had been raped so brutally the perpetrator had bitten off a chunk of her breast.

The grandmother remained self-conscious about the scars for the rest of her life. “The women in the family had carried on the breast hang-up,” Ms. Arias said. 

Another woman came in who was having trouble losing weight and difficulty conceiving a child.

They did a Family Constellation session that revealed and sought to heal inter-generational issues of incest and sexual molestation. The woman visited Ms. Arias a year later.

“She looked about 40 pounds thinner,” she recalled. “She’d just had a baby and had lost weight during the pregnancy.”

Ms. Arias attributes her effectiveness as a therapist to the power of the modalities with which she works. Ms. Newland, however, says Ms. Arias brings her own strengths to Kindred Spirits.

“What I admire about Sonya is her balance. She’s very loving and heartfelt, but at the same time she gives really good information,” she said. “She works to empower the people she works with, not stand as a guru.”

Ms. Arias says that’s the only healthy approach.

“I want the best for my clients but it’s up to them,” she said. “I bring my tools like a basket of fruit. It’s up to them to take it.”

Ms. Newland considers the Family Constellation workshops a fine addition to her shop’s offerings.

“It really calls on all the traditional aspects of healing, which are to identify the challenge, work in a safe place, be with people you feel safe with and get to the thing that’s eating at you inside,” she said.

Having worked on her own issues, Ms. Arias says she wouldn’t change the challenges she has faced. After all, they brought her to her bliss.

“Family Constellation, it’s in my soul,” she said.

For information, visit kindredspirits online or call (909) 626-2434.

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com

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