The below is an extract from: Unraveling Family Secrets. Bert Hellinger interviewed on Family Constellations, By Humberto del Pozo in Santiago de Chile, September 1999.
Are your therapeutic methods also applicable with people who are severely ill?
Yes, specially in cases where the problem or illness is caused by systemic implications, or when it is at least a contributing cause.
What are the symptoms that best respond to a systemic psychotherapy?
We can see that certain very threatening illnesses, for example cancer, also have systemic causes. The systemic context shows in the dynamics of: “I will follow you”; that means, a persons wants to follow another member of the family who is sick or dead, by falling ill or seeking death himself too. Or a child who sees someone in his family having the tendency to follow another person in this way, and tries to hold him, saying: “It’s better that I go instead of you.”
So all this adds up the desire to atone and compensate a fate, seeking in turn a similar fate. Knowing these fundamental dynamics, it is possible to devoid them of their power and alleviate much suffering and pain.
Other symptoms are related to the interrupted movement towards one of the parents. Thus, for example, heart pains or headaches are frequently expressing a retained love, and back aches develop many times when a person refuses to bow profoundly in respect for his father or mother.