Healthy Autonomy

Association for Promoting Healthy Autonomy e.V.

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Bill Johnson

Bill Johnson

The Individual Identity Constellation and In Utero Work

Recognizing that identity trauma can be traced back to early trauma, it becomes important to have tools that reach back to early life, the womb and even the moment of conception. The first splits resulting from a trauma of identity can occur before birth, but nonetheless the body is recording every experience during that time.

I have found that the Identity-oriented Psychotrauma Theory of Prof. Dr. Franz Ruppert is particularly well-suited to the exploration of early trauma. In this workshop, I will discuss how the Inner Family Systems theory of Dr. Richard Schwartz relates to the IoPT model, as both model explain, how the individual psyche dissociates into parts.

I will introduce the topic of how Identity Constellations can be used for In Utero work, referencing the movie, In Utero, and the book, Early Trauma. I will explain my opinions on the differences between individual and group work, and the cases where I think individual work may be a better fit. I will present a short case study from my own work to illustrate the concepts of the individual in utero constellation. I will also speak briefly about using the individual constellation for self-supervision.

The format for the identity constellation in this workshop will be to work with an individual, using floor markers. I will ask that only those attendees enter the random drawing for this constellation who have a specific in utero issue concerning their conception or time in the womb. We will begin the work with a statement of intention, selecting and placing the individual words on floor markers at the beginning of the constellation. As facilitator, I will explore and support the client's interpretation of the constellation, as we both represent the words of the intention.


Bill Johnson is an independent organizational consultant and coach, working in San Antonio and Atlanta in the US. Having been introduced to systemic constellations in organizations, he soon changed his focus to family constellations with individuals. His learning trajectory in dealing with psychotrauma of clients led him to work with Prof. Dr. Franz Ruppert. Bill uses Identity-oriented Psychotrauma Theory, along with aspects of Dr. Richard Schwartz’s Inner Family Systems theory. Bill has studied the depth psychology of Jung and Hillman at Pacifica Graduate Institute, and does both group and individual work in psychotraumatology. Bill continues to deepen his work on early trauma, with a focus on the in utero experience of the individual.

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Isabella Gerstgrasser

Isabella GerstgrasserRheumatoid Arthritis – trying to understand the body and psyche connection

The majority of events in our lives do not suddenly strike us. Things happen one at a time. The onset of an autoimmune disease rarely happens unexpectedly. It is the result of a process consisting of lots of small destructive moments. Moments, which are linked to our early relationship experiences. We usually do not know the extent to which our lives and our current relationships are impacted by this.

Some words, some gestures hurt so much that they create a violent storm that can no longer be restrained, except with the language of the body. Those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis know this language very well: permanent inflammation, painful attacks, and an organism that derails repeatedly.

What happens? Through an autoimmune disease, the stressful consequences of traumatic experiences are expressed. Without our consent, we have been bound - very early on - to a survival mode that operates based on Either-Or. The sufferers then fail themselves, because they are unable to experience themselves as a whole human being - in all their facets and characteristics. This creates chronic pain and stress in muscles, tendons and joints. On top of that, the immune system and the psyche are in constant turmoil. Over time, a destructive inner dynamic develops which becomes self-perpetuating: The perpetrator-victim dynamic. We are dealing with an unconscious event that not only destroys health, well-being and relationships. It also bans us into a parallel identity and invents a pseudo-self, to which we cling to.

What helps? Only if we stop using the destructive principle of survival, if we abandon the desperate search for a substitute ego, if an authentic self is allowed to develop gradually, the exit from the destructive dynamic can be tackled. How we relate to other people, to ourselves and our body depends largely on the clarity of our perception, as well as on the extent of our trust in our own insights. A healing process often begins in later adult years, just when nothing else helps and when unbearable pain and life-threatening physical symptoms are understood as an invitation to take over the direction in our life.


Mag. Isabella Gerstgrasser, born in 1958, lives in Feldkirch/Austria, working as psycholocist and psychotherapist in her own practice. She is co-author in the book “My Trauma, my Body, my I”. She is a mother of an adult daugther. 
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