Family Constellation TherapyJun 30, 2022
Dr Ameet shares about the body response to stress with adrenal glands, inflammation, gut health and liver health. He then shares about emotional trauma and how to deal with it from the perspective of family constellation therapy. He also shares about how to get to the root of emotional issues.
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Ande: Hello, Avaiya family. I'm Ande Anderson. My partner Ike Allen and I are teachers, mentors and the co-owners of Avaiya University. Avaiya is a creator of over a thousand books, films, Free Holistic Medicine Courses Online, teachings and other supportive resources. Thank you so much for joining us.
Our fellow teacher Dr. Ameet Aggarwal is back with us today to talk about trauma, inflammation, ancestral pain and healing emotions. Voted one of the top 43 therapists worldwide, Dr. Ameet helps you heal the root cause of mood problems and physical illness by focusing on healing personal trauma and negative beliefs, your ancestral trauma and your biology. He combines naturopathic and functional medicine, Gestalt psychotherapy, EMDR, family constellations and homeopathy to help you heal your mind and body together.
Welcome back to Avaiya, Dr. Ameet.
Dr. Ameet: Thanks, Ande. Great to be back. I'm just dipping into ancestral trauma right now and wondering how to connect it to biology, but I'm excited to go there.
Ande: Well, I'm excited to see where we go and what happens. So let's talk about you've talked about in your work like when you treat things like stress, anxiety, worry, this kind of stuff you mentioned that it requires healing emotional trauma as well as the person's biology. So why is that?
Dr. Ameet: So our neurotransmitters, our brain chemicals, serotonin, dopamine, GABA, melatonin, etcetera, they are affected by our biology, the foods we eat, inflammation going on in our body as well as by our stress response and I'll show you how that happens. Basically when we're stressed or traumatized as children, as adults, we go into a fight-or-flight state and that requires our adrenal glands to make adrenaline and cortisol. And as children when we get stressed and trauma, traumatized, we don't necessarily release that stress and trauma - it's stored in our nervous system.
And that stored traumatic memory is driving your nervous system and your adrenal system constantly even as adults, that old childhood trauma. And when you're faced with stress and trauma as an adult what happens is those old traumas as a child, when you're a child, also get triggered. So you have like two traumatic responses or stress responses going on. And even when you're not stressed or traumatized as an adult those old memories are still firing up your nervous system. So over time what happens is your adrenal glands get burnt out, and the chemicals they produce go out of balance - your cortisol, adrenaline, all that goes out of balance. And when that happens melatonin, serotonin, dopamine, GABA, all those brain chemicals start to go off. So the stress response, trauma, traumatic memories, etcetera, emotional stress affects our biology through the adrenal glands and the stress response, through what we call the hypothalamus pituitary axis.
Now your adrenal glands are also affected by your biology, the foods you eat. When you eat inflammatory foods - gluten, dairy, too much coffee, etcetera, then what happens is your body gets inflamed. And when you have chronic inflammation that inflammation also drives your adrenal glands to produce excessive cortisol. So inflammation also burns out your adrenal glands. People think adrenal burnout is only from stress. No, your diet can actually cause you or lead to adrenal burnout as well. And when you get adrenal burnout cortisol is out of balance, brain chemicals go out of balance leading to stress, anxiety, worry, depression, all sorts of symptoms.
Ande: Got you. Quick question, Ameet, just for people who don't know like where are the adrenal glands?
Adrenal glands inflamamtion
Dr. Ameet: Beautiful, okay. So adrenal glands are these little glands above your kidneys and they respond to stress through what we call the hypothalamus pituitary axis, you'll see that as HPA axis. Your brain receives a signal of danger, danger, danger and sends a signal immediately down to your adrenal glands saying, "Okay, you know what? Produce adrenaline so that we can run faster, we can hide, we can fight." And some of the responses actually is the freeze response which many people don't talk about. A lot of people actually go into a freeze response after trauma. So trauma is not the external environment necessarily but trauma is what happens within you, the freeze response, and that can lead to chronic sense of anxiety or muscle pains, even biological changes in your body because basically you're compensating your natural response and your sense of freedom. And you might slip into depression, silence, withdrawal, you're not so sure about the world because all your muscles are not activated and mentally you interpret that as lack of confidence, low self-esteem, you have a dry mouth or you sweat easily - different changes happen.
Ande: Got you. So you mentioned ... thank you for that, just for people who didn't know what, you know, we talk about adrenal glands all the time but it's always interesting, "Well, where are these things?" So what about let's dive a little deeper into the biology and how the foods that we eat affect our adrenal glands. So you mentioned a few different like inflammatory foods, can you kind of go deeper into those and then what are anti-inflammatory foods?
Best foods to fight inflammation
Dr. Ameet: Great, yeah. So inflammatory foods are foods that you're sensitive to that trigger inflammation, right? So you have a stomach and you have an intestine and your intestine is like a nice lining, kept healthy by good bacteria and good food. Over time with antibiotic use, poor diet, even the birth control pill, lots of medications these good bacteria get killed off and the lining is damaged so you get holes in the intestine. And then that leads to toxins going into your bloodstream and that triggers inflammation all over your body. So it's not only foods like gluten and dairy and other foods you might be sensitive to, some people are very sensitive to eggs, but it's also the medications you're taking. Anything that aggravates the stomach lining or the intestinal lining all kills the good bacteria in there.
And then what happens is this chronic inflammation, one, of course, it pushes your adrenal glands to produce cortisol, but, two, most people forget the master organ, the liver. See, the liver produces bile, it controls your hormones, it detoxifies your body, it does almost every single function in your body, right? It's connected to every single function in your body including cholesterol management.
Now with chronic inflammation your liver becomes inflamed as well and the inflammation and toxins from pesticides, from the environment, also go in and slam your liver. So you've got inflammation slamming your liver and toxins. Your liver becomes stagnant, it produces less bile. When it produces less bile you get more gas, bloating, indigestion and constipation, so you get more toxin buildup and more inflammation leading to more cortisol imbalance which leads to, of course, the anxiety, the depression, insomnia, OCD.
The other thing that people forget is that the liver controls the hormones like progesterone, estrogen metabolism. And when people's liver is stagnant then usually I see a drop in progesterone or an imbalance basically. And progesterone is super important for GABA, one of your anti-anxiety neurotransmitters to work well in the brain. So when people have a hormonal imbalance GABA doesn't work so well in the brain so people experience PMS symptoms, anxiety, insomnia, excessive worry because of liver stagnation which is coming from chronic inflammation as well as from stress.
Gut microbiome and Mental health
Ande: Got you, awesome. Thank you for diving deeper into that. And I know in your work you have protocols to heal our gut, replenish that bacteria as well as heal the liver, can you talk a little bit about how someone could get started doing that?
Dr. Ameet: Absolutely. So probiotics and healthy foods, so avoiding certain inflammatory foods. I go into more details in my Free Holistic Medicine Courses Online work with specific remedies but I'll cover some of them here. Turmeric, turmeric is an excellent anti-inflammatory spice that I add to my cooking. But the key thing is to avoid the foods that cause inflammation. I've mentioned them multiple times, it's typically wheat, dairy, anything with gluten for some people, excessive alcohol, excessive coffee, beef I find quite inflammatory as well.
And then I like to include remedies to heal the gut lining, that's the probiotics, that's the glutamine powder. Depending though, if you have schizophrenia, bipolar, then I would avoid glutamine powder because it creates glutamate in the brain and that can trigger some psychosis for some people. And then I've mentioned vitamin D, fish oils are great, even primrose oil is also great to reduce inflammation.
Natural remedies for leaky gut
But the key thing to remember is also to detoxify the liver, so that means having bitter foods, bitter foods stimulate your liver to release more bile and to detoxify. You want to have cabbage, sprouts, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, the cruciferous vegetables - they create sulfur compounds which help your body detoxify as well, your liver particularly.
Then hot water, lemon and ginger is great for detoxifying your liver especially an empty stomach. I'll use certain herbs like milk thistle, dandelion and others that I cover in the Free Holistic Medicine Courses Online and homeopathic remedies as well which go much deeper into really healing your liver cells and stimulating that bile flow. Sometimes homeopathy is needed because herbs and supplements don't go deep enough.
Ande: Got you.
Dr. Ameet: It's really a combined approach of gut and liver detoxification and repair to optimize digestion and reducing inflammation.
Ande: Got you, awesome. Thank you. Thank you for really covering the biology of this conversation so deeply. So let's go back to emotional trauma, family trauma, ancestral trauma. I'm curious, how does ancestral trauma, like things that have been passed from generation to generation, how does that influence things like anxiety and stress for people?
What is Family Constellation Therapy
Dr. Ameet: So I practice a therapy called family constellations therapy which really gives us the tools to sense the traumas of the past that are causing the symptoms of anxiety, depression or other physical symptoms or emotional symptoms of a person today. Family constellations therapy has discovered that we as children are kind of loyal to the sufferings of our parents and our grandparents unconsciously or even consciously. For example, if mom is abused by dad then we will usually side with mom, we'll take mom's side. And that loyalty keeps us occupied with mom's troubles and we get this responsibility, a sense of over responsibility. And that over sense of responsibility, one, it basically creates long-term sadness for some people or unhappiness, you're never free to just enjoy your life because you've taken like a parent caring role for your parent who's meant to be caring for you despite your situation. And also what happens is you might have an antagonism or antagonistic attitude towards the other parent, the abuser.
So your two sources of life, mother and father, you have different loyalties to them or a conflict of feelings for them but you come from both of those parents so you end up being torn inside or unsettled inside not knowing it's coming from these loyalties, right? And your parents' behavior and trauma is also coming from their entanglements from their parents, so your grandparents. So whatever happened to your grandparents is trickling down into your family system and you're responding to that out of loyalty, out of love, out of compensation.
And that unhappiness, that stress while you're growing up will trigger an adrenaline response, will lead to anxiety, will lead to depression. And I've also seen multiple times in practice where if there is a miscarriage or an abortion in your family and that abortion or miscarriage is not talked about, it's kept a secret, you as the child will actually end up trying to live the life of both children, yours and the missing child. I've seen them multiple times. Client of mine comes in and have lots of anxiety, feeling of overwhelm, lots of responsibility, not feeling good enough, having to do too much and I asked her, "Please go back to your parents and ask them was there a miscarriage or an abortion." And she was shocked when she found and she's like, "Ameet, how did you know that?" And we did a beautiful piece of work where I got her to stand in the room and imagine both her parents behind her. And then I said, "Imagine that missing child before you. And I want you to really feel in your body what it feels like to be the second child in your family system rather than the first child." And she got a glimpse of another reality, she was like, "Gosh, this feels so much more calm, calmer. I get my own soul now."
And then we said certain healing sentences like we do in family constellation therapy to really release that entanglement and to acknowledge that missing child and to feel seen by the parents as the second child. Ande, I'm telling you she didn't need any more homeopathy, she didn't need any more therapy, it was done - her anxiety disappeared. From one session, just from one session.
Ande: That is so amazing. I love it when we talk about this specific thing. I know we've talked about this in other master classes and how interesting that is and something that most people probably haven't even thought of that could be the cause of anxiety, stress, worry in their lives. Any other thoughts around how people can heal this ancestral trauma? You gave an example there, but what else can people do to start really tapping into the fact that they're carrying with them these traumas from multiple generations?
How to Heal Emotional Trauma
Dr. Ameet: So often most of us are carrying stuff for our parents and our grandparents, so if you have this chronic anxiety and worry it could be this sense of loyalty to your parents or to your parents' problems. I see that all the time, like our parents are suffering financial issues or abuse, etcetera, we imbibe that, right? And we want to rescue them, which is natural.
So in constellation therapy we say healing sentences, one of the healing sentences could be like, "Dear mom or dear dad, I love you very much and I'm your child and I know you are the big one and I know you came before me so you chose this journey, you have it in your hands to face what you're facing. And I want to be your son or daughter again, I want to be your child. Please take this from me and let me feel you as the parent and me as the little one." And just taking a risk of saying those sentences and letting yourself feel that, because a lot of people will resist saying that sentence because like, "Oh, you don't understand what my parents went through, I have to be there," etcetera. I totally respect that.
So based on the energy of a person in the room I will find, I will channel the right sentences for them to say in a very respectful way so they can feel the movement and give back the power back to their parents. Because when a child sees their parents as powerful in a good way, in a healthy way, a sense of calmness comes over that child or the adult doing the therapy because then you have less responsibility to carry for that troubled parent. Or when you see both parents in harmony together then you have less stress of trying to keep the family together or try to heal the wounds of the family.
Ande: Interesting. So here's a thought that's coming to me - what about people who struggle with this loyalty you're talking about, they don't want to disappoint their parents? This is something that I think runs pretty deep for a lot of people, even like adults who haven't thought about it in so long, but like any thoughts there for an adult child of a parent who is just not wanting to disappoint them?
Emotional Attachment Issues
Dr. Ameet: So I have multiple answers coming at the same time, I'm going to try and cover each one. One is that that need to please the parent could have happened at a very early age when you were a child, right? And it was necessary for that dynamic at that time because of the situation. The parent might have felt better, relaxed or the day got saved. The thing is we don't release that entanglement, we don't realize that their parents need is over and that they don't have the same expectations of us. And I see that all the time for my clients and for myself. We're so loyal because we think that parents still expect the same things of us, but they grow old, they change, they change their perspective but we don't talk about it. So we're living unconsciously to please them from an old loyalty.
So being aware of where this worry or this loyalty is coming from will give you a memory, a flashback of that memory and you'll be like, "Ah, okay, I get it. Is it really important now? Are they in danger now? Are they having the same expectations now?" And you'll feel it in the body that maybe they don't have those same expectations, right? That is one.
And the other thing is so pleasing your parents, if mom was abused or dad was abused, disappointed by another parent or one of parents had troubles in their lives you're likely to find a responsibility to protect them, you want to make sure that they didn't feel that pain again, because if you are happy, if you take a risk and be happy then you would subconsciously or consciously be betraying that parent. You don't want to be happier than your parent - that's typical symptom of an entanglement. "I should not be happy, I'll feel guilty because I'll be abandoning my mother." Or, "How can I be happy if she's not? So I will try and make sure that she is always okay." Over worrying, over compensating because of this deep love, deep love.
Family Constellation Therapy
And when I can say, "Gosh, she's really an adult and I'm the child and I'm misusing her in a way," because I'm misreading her, I'm taking on her suffering but that's creating more guilt for my mom or my dad because I am kind of making her worried about my happiness and my path in life. So you're just ... both of you are just sinking the ship. And when you say these healing sentences and you can find the trust that your parents can carry their pain in most cases but you don't have to abandon them, you can just energetically let them carry their pain and witness them as the carrier with dignity of their journey and you can see them in the full life with deep respect and honor them like, "Gosh, you guys are amazing for doing this." Something releases from your body and you will feel a bit more free to live your life.
Ande: Thank you. I really appreciate you going into that. It was just coming up for me in that moment and how many people can relate to some kind of wanting to please a parent and that enmeshment of holding on to their suffering and being able to release it. So thank you, I appreciate that.
Here's another question for you since we're talking anxiety and stress here also, I remember the last time we talked we talked about how our negative emotions like let's say depression or anxiety can keep us connected to our family of origin. Maybe it was an emotion felt regularly throughout childhood so it makes us feel like we're connected to them. Any thoughts on that as it relates to this conversation?
How stress affects relationships
Dr. Ameet: So my identity is formed in my family at an early age, so if there's a lot of anxiety, depression, I associate belonging with those emotions. That's my normal, that's my comfort zone in a way. And so our communication style is relating through that mindset with the family system and it's hard to break away from that because that's my source of love, that relationship could be my source of love even if it was dysfunctional and painful. Familiarity can be interpreted as love for many people and that's why many people go into abusive relationships later on when they grow up in abusive homes or their parents were abusive, right?
And so it feels almost unnatural or fake or like a movie to be happy, to act in a different way because we've adopted a role at an early age to fit into the family dynamics and coming out of it would almost be leaving those other people, our family, behind and "betraying them." And it's only through deep therapy, really gentle, compassionate inquiry and tenderness can a person begin to feel safe in letting a smile in, letting go of that entanglement and trusting that they're still connected at the heart with the family even though they bring in a bit of happiness or confidence back into the system.
And bizarrely, Ande, what happens is when I work with individuals and they heal their families start shifting even though the family's far away because somehow their energy shift and now it creates a shift in their family dynamic and people in the family start getting clarity for themselves in their own lives, and the weight of the family reduces.
Ande: Got you, awesome.
Dr. Ameet: It's a beautiful experience.
Ande: So here's one more question before we start wrapping up, so let's talk a little bit about ending the cycle, right? You kind of touched on it right there, but ending this cycle of ancestral trauma, right? How does one participate in that?
How to get to the Root of Emotional Issues
Dr. Ameet: Okay, so I do most of my therapy sessions online, right? I use healing sentences. So ending the cycle you can give back, we say, "Please take this back. I am the little one, you're the grandfather, you're the parent, please take this from me." And you push it back. And physically feel it. It's important to really do somatic experiencing, not the therapy called somatic experiencing but experience things somatically while you're doing a constellation or psychotherapy. I use Gestalt, you can do EMDR Gestalt, whatever. But feeling in your body when you're doing these healing sentences because that means you're really doing the work. If you only do it theoretically you're not really doing the work. So giving back is one way of ending the cycle. "Please take this responsibility back. I am the child."
Forgiveness is a huge one for ending the cycle. And in constellation work I like to use the healing sentence, "I'm sorry this happened between us," which is very different from saying, "I forgive you." I forgive you means I still blame you, I acknowledge but I'm forgiving you mentally. "I'm sorry this happened between us," it's like, "Well, that was an experience, I still see you as a soul and as a human equal to me. And the event is what happened between us. And you're not the perpetrator anymore in a way." Like, I'm not holding you as a perpetrator as much as when I say I forgive you, and that also breaks the cycle.
Guided Meditation for Healing
Dr. Ameet: I also do something called dynamic meditation based on Osho's teachings, it's like a lot of stress relief, like heavy breathing, fast breathing and kicking and yelling and all that. And that can really release stress and trauma from your body even while you're focusing on that ancestor or that parent, because we have a certain mindset, a narrative, that's going on, an entanglement that's going on when we're thinking about certain people and that is a source of stress. And when you do a lot of like strong movements and strong breathing and how to release those emotions that mindset and that narrative changes, your language with that person changes.
Just today I had a different conversation with somebody who really hurt me after I did that type of meditation, and the cycle broke. The cycle of resentment and pain and animosity broke because I came to it using a different language, but I could only feel safe using that different language because I had done some inner work. If somebody told me, "No, say it this way," I wouldn't feel safe because I would feel I would be betraying myself or compensating on my integrity. But because I've released the pain and I was feeling comfortable with my own skin and more confident I didn't need that person's approval anymore, it was safe for me to say, "You know what? Just let it go, I'm okay with it. I'm not needing them to apologize. I was done right."
Ande: Right, complete for yourself. That's awesome.
Dr. Ameet: So that breaks the cycle as well.
Ande: Thank you I love all of that. It's always fun to ... we've had so many conversations over the years and we always managed to talk about something new and different and stuff we've never heard about. I love it, that was great.
Dr. Ameet: Thank you.
Ande: So let's talk a little bit about how people can learn more about you. I know you have a gift for everyone and an offer and there's a couple buttons below that lead over to your site, so what do you have for us?
Dr. Ameet: So I have a wonderful gift of free videos and an e-book that helps you heal your gut, your liver, your adrenal glands and there's a beautiful emotional healing exercise in there as well. And there's some videos on constellation work. And you also have free access to some interviews of mine where I go deeper into some other work - emotional healing work, trauma work, fatigue, etcetera.
And when you get the full Free Holistic Medicine Courses Online which is available on these websites then you help me support little kids who have been abandoned for their disabilities in Kenya. So every week or every two weeks I'll go and treat these kids with homeopathy. So whenever you get my books and my Free Holistic Medicine Courses Online you really help support this work for me.
Ande: Awesome. Thank you. I appreciate all of that. And any last insights, Ameet, before you wrap up?
Dr. Ameet: Oh, gosh, they always come through channeling. Hang on a sec. Love, love is coming, love is coming. Giving love, so we're encouraged, of course, for self-love which is important, but finding a way of giving love. Giving love to people we don't practice it enough. So actively giving love in sentences, with words. My brother-in-law was just visiting from the States and he's very conscious in his language and he's always saying, "Thank you," or making sure there's a positive statement in there. And even though it doesn't seem authentic in the beginning through practice, through giving love it begins to feel natural and authentic and people catch up on it. So the language we use with each other shifts and it creates a different level of safety for people in the family. So I appreciate him, my brother-in-law, thank you. And thank you all for listening.
Ande: Wonderful. Thank you as always for doing this, Ameet.
Dr. Ameet: Lots of love.
Ande: You too. And Avaiya students watching or listening, thank you for being here and for loving yourself and giving love today. And we will see you all again real soon. Take care.
Hey, everyone. I hope you enjoyed this latest class with Dr. Ameet Aggarwal. He was back with us today to talk about trauma, inflammation, ancestral pain and healing emotions. I always enjoy my conversations with Ameet, we go in so many different great directions in these topics. And a couple of big take-home messages today was really when we were talking about this ancestral trauma, ancestral pain and how we can take on the traumas from past generations in our family tree and what that looks like for us and how that we can actually be loyal to the suffering of our parents, to the suffering of our grandparents and this keeps us from happiness in so many ways in our life. And just the different things that we can do to start letting go of that and recognizing our role as the child in our relationship with our parents, right? We are the little one. No matter if we're adults today we are the little one in that relationship.
And just some things to think about if you find yourself loyal to the suffering of your parents, if you find yourself experiencing anxiety, stress, guilt - all of the guilt that so many of us feel when it relates to our parents. And maybe some of this is unconscious for you too but just starting to tap into what kinds of things come up for you when we talk about these topics. And also I wanted to make a quick note of how we talked about interpreting familiarity as love as opposed to love is love and whatever you were familiar with growing up, whether that was emotions like anxiety, emotions like stress and feelings in your nervous system of heightened senses of worry, those kinds of things, right? If that was what was familiar to you, you might be making that be love in your life as opposed to love being a completely different thing. So just something to think about if that's something that you're still struggling with in your journey.
So thank you always for showing up here today. And we will see you all again very soon. Take care.
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Watch the full interview on Dr Ameet YouTube Channel
Listen to the full interview on Dr Ameet Podcast