Even when the rules have been applied perfectly

Why saying is not doing

The rules of a professional meeting are applied perfectly. Everybody nods in agreement. These are the agreements, and this is how we’re going to do it. The process that has led to this wonderful result has been meticulously prepared and executed. The objectives are clear and desirable. The agreements meet all standards. And, also important: everyone agrees wholeheartedly. Including you. 

And yet. Somewhere you’ve got a gut feeling. Will the agreements be kept to this time? But there again: the agreements won’t get any better than this. Meaning it’s about something else. 

It starts with that gut feeling, which in fact is information, but more hidden information, different to the kind you get from thinking. Similar to how it works with goose bumps, heart palpitations and bated breath: you can’t do anything about it, it just happens. We call these system reactions. 

Your body responds to something that happens in one of the systems you’re connected to at that moment. Through a gut feeling, for instance. 


You’re always connected to something bigger than you alone. The team you’re part of for example, the profession you practice and the way you were raised. These lines of connection communicate with you via reactions in your body. Similar to how your smartphone automatically receives information from all the different apps installed. So, the gut feeling is a notification from a system saying that something is happening.  

Every system has unwritten rules, that are invisibly guiding. They determine for example what you need to do in order to belong, what is normal and what is right. This is what Bert Hellinger calls the ‘group conscience’. Meaning you say yes to the agreements because within the group conscience they seem reasonable and useful.

But apart from that of the group, there is another conscience: the system conscience. This conscience is actually focused on its own survival: meaning the company or organisation. This objective can at times clash with the group conscience. In the media there are enough examples of companies that place survival above all other interests.   

Of course, it doesn’t have to immediately be serious (social) malpractice, that feeling in your gut. The feeling can also bubble up with something smaller, triggered by an internal meeting or regulation for instance. That at the moment you say yes, you feel no. In your gut. Because the rules of the system conscience are primarily unconscious, you often don’t know what it’s connected to. 


What you can do, is make the unconscious sources of the feelings visible by putting them into words. The easiest way is by asking questions. ‘What must you be unfaithful to if you go along with these agreements?” is a good question for the example of making agreements. By doing so, you make the invisible rules of the system-conscience visible. Perhaps, as a result of these new insights, the agreements may even no longer be desirable.   

Or, when in doubt, try this follow-up question: “What connection allows you to adhere to the agreements?”’ Your gut feeling will tell you whether you’re on the right path. And that if you say yes, you’ll also do yes.  

Siets Bakker