Revealing Constellations – Part 3: Three Survival Mechanisms

Bert Hellinger’s exploration of family, organizational, and societal dynamics has unveiled three survival mechanisms, which he called the three consciences. These survival mechanisms offer a phenomenological insight, transcending traditional psychological perspectives to tap into the essence of what sustains individuals, groups, and societies.

First Conscience: The Group Conscience (Persönliche Gewissen)

Hellinger identifies the first survival mechanism as the personal conscience, though it is more often referred to in literature as the group conscience. This conscience, deeply ingrained within the individual, ensures an individual’s survival within a group. It encompasses the innate understanding of belonging, exchange, and order within a family or group setting. Secure placement within the structure is crucial for personal growth, well-being, and the ability to make meaningful contributions. Conversely, uncertainty about one’s place can lead to feelings of insecurity and exclusion, potentially jeopardizing one’s position and survival.

Second Conscience: The System Conscience (Kollektives Gewissen)

The second survival mechanism is the collective conscience or more often referred to in literature as the system conscience. This conscience shifts focus from the individual to the macrocosm of the group or system. It operates as the custodian of the group’s continuity, ensuring its survival. This conscience is the unconscious architect of the system, orchestrating the complex dance of inclusion and exclusion, debt and reparation, to maintain the integrity and viability of the group. It is within this conscience that patterns within a system emerge—repetitive, sometimes destructive cycles that, paradoxically, sustain the system’s existence. These patterns are the system’s way of coping with challenges, ensuring its survival even at the cost of individual sacrifice.

Third Conscience: The Evolutionary Conscience (Geist)

Hellinger’s third conscience, translated as spirit-mind or evolutionary conscience, is the driving force behind the development and transformation of societies. This conscience operates without moral judgment, fostering creation and destruction alike. 
It is both creator and destroyer, ushering in the dissolution of old patterns to make way for the new. The evolutionary conscience operates on a grand scale, guiding the metamorphosis of societies by destabilizing entrenched systems, thus allowing the fluid emergence of innovative dynamics and structures. This mechanism ensures that societies do not remain static but constantly adapt and evolve.

Paths of Survival

Through Hellinger’s framework, we gain a profound understanding of the survival mechanisms that shape our existence within families, organizations, and societies. The group conscience anchors the individual within the group, ensuring their survival. The system conscience serves as the backbone of the group or system, prioritizing its continuity often at great cost. It safeguards the group by filling systemic gaps and sometimes sacrificing individual needs for the greater good. Meanwhile, the evolutionary conscience is the catalyst for societal transformation, promoting the emergence of new paradigms. Together, these three consciences reveal the complex interplay of survival and evolution within human systems.

Through understanding these survival mechanisms, we gain valuable insights into the forces that shape our lives and the lives of those around us, offering a pathway to navigate and influence the dynamics of our existence.