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Understanding Conscience through Systemic Constellation (Part 2)

Classification and Functions of Conscience

Conscience can be categorized into Personal Conscience, Collective Conscience, and Spiritual Conscience, distinguished as follows:

1. Personal Conscience

Personal conscience refers to whether our thoughts, feelings, or actions align with the expectations of certain individuals, typically belonging to groups such as family or the workplace. The function of personal conscience is to ensure a close sense of belonging with these individuals or groups. If our thoughts, feelings, or behaviors jeopardize these relationships, our personal conscience will recognize and signal a sense of ‘guilt’. Conversely, if our behavior aligns with group expectations or when an unacceptable behavior is corrected, our personal conscience will signal a comforting sense of ‘innocence'.

For example: In friendships, "If you don't do this, you aren’t a good friend!" At the workplace, "If you don't follow your boss's orders, you will get fired."

In the family setting, it might sound like this: "If you misbehave again, I'll get angry!" warns Mom, while Dad says, "Boys should be lively and spirited!"

As such, personal conscience sets different standards for each kind of relationship, just as we have distinct standards for our father, mother, friends, colleagues, and every group we belong to. As different standards can lead to conflicts in conscience, we may experience varying senses of guilt or innocence towards different individuals and groups. Through the so-called distinction between 'good and bad,' while fostering a sense of belonging, we unintentionally 'exclude' others from our group—essentially, 'those who engage in the same actions are part of us, and those who don't, are not part of us.'

2.Collective Conscience

Collective conscience encompasses a broader scope, focusing on the integrity of a group and the maintenance of hierarchical order within it. Human collective conscience includes family, companies, social groups, religious organizations, society, and national systems. Collective conscience covers all members within a family or group and prioritizes the survival of the collective system over individual interests. For the sake of system integrity, collective conscience may even sacrifice individual interests. Therefore, collective conscience often conflicts with personal conscience, and clashes can arise between different collective consciences.

For example, you want to take care of your aging parents at home locally, but your company sends you overseas to put you in charge of executive duties, taking on the crucial responsibility of market development.

Although people may not frequently discuss collective conscience, it deeply influences our lives, and its presence is only felt through its consequences. For example, the influence of collective conscience becomes apparent when recurring patterns of harm occurs within a family. It is also noticeable when blind acts of violence and attacks are driven by what is referred to as the 'good conscience' within the collective conscience of a particular faith or race. This is where systemic constellation contributes by helping individuals 'see' how collective conscience operates and affects them. With this awareness, people gain an opportunity for change, reducing unconscious harm, unnecessary attacks, and ultimately leading to a more conscious life. We need to rely on the transformation brought about by 'Spiritual Conscience' in order to truly live a life of awareness.

3. Spiritual Conscience

Also known as the 'Tao' conscience, spiritual conscience treats all things as equal, without distinctions of 'good and evil' or 'belonging and exclusion’. It extends love and goodwill to all, regardless of their fate. Following spiritual conscience requires significant effort; it is both a practice and an adventure. Initially, one might experience guilt, fear, and loneliness because it challenges our identification with any form of values, including personal, familial, religious, racial, cultural, and societal identities. It guides people beyond the limitations of the two aforementioned consciences to follow a greater collective awareness.

In this love that regards all equally, if one deviates from the love for all, spiritual conscience steps in to remind us, ensuring that everyone receives the nurturing care of this universal love. With the understanding of conscience, many aspects become clearer, as the influence of conscience extends from the individual, family, and company to broader social and national communities.

Extracted from “Systemic, Family Constellation: Core Principles and Training Practices” by Chou Ting Wen

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