One of Bert Hellinger’s unique contributions to the world has been his thoughts on conscience and belonging. He made a differentiation between our personal conscience and our family or collective conscience. If we look at this historically, we see that in past times, the survival of the tribal group was paramount and took precedence over the survival of the individual. So sick or injured individuals were sacrificed in order to preserve the survival of the group. Individual needs were subsumed under the needs of the group.
Once we moved from being hunter-gatherers to becoming settlers, we began to claim
It is clear though, from the family constellation work, that the collective conscience within the family still operates at a deeper level and we are compelled to follow it. We are not individualistic beings. We are like pack animals. We need each other to thrive. Those who reject their families find themselves trying to recreate them in other groupings, but no other group can fully replace our own family, however difficult it is.
The family conscience dictates that we behave in a certain way in order to preserve our belonging. Some of the rules will be overt and many will be
At the same time, particularly in the Western world, we are influenced by individualistic thinking and so we find ourselves dancing between our conscious, individualistic way of seeing and being in the world and the larger collective forces that are operating, often out of our awareness, but which compel our souls to follow a certain path.
Our personal conscience will be dictated by the values and beliefs we formed initially from our place in our family but then influenced by other outside forces when we leave home. However, our deepest beliefs and values will in all likelihood be pretty close to those of our family of origin.
To not belong is life-threatening for most people. We are pack animals. We need to belong to thrive. Many people these days reject their own families and then discover that life without
Nazis and Jews
Israelis and Palestinians
Colonialists and colonised
Black and white
Conservatives and Socialists
Many acts of war, unkindness, cruelty, torture are done in the name of our group conscience. We commit these acts because we need to belong to a particular group and in that
And it is generally those closest to us that trigger most strongly these
unprocessed feelings. But if we can commit to keeping our heart open, no matter what, then we find we can move through deep pain and suffering together with another human being and the result is pure joy. Such joy just sits on the other side of suffering and we cannot have one without the other.
Family constellations are a great tool for uncovering these wounds, many of which we are unwittingly carrying for others in our family. When we witness these wounds in the context of our families and those who have gone before us, we can widen our lens and see our own suffering and that of those closest to us in a different light. Then we can find compassion and understanding for each other.