This is the second of a series based on questions received in You Tube comments around my video on Spiral Dynamics. If you are not familiar with the theory of Spiral Dynamics….I encourage you to stop and go watch this video: What is Spiral Dynamics? It’s only 10 minutes long and will be time well spent!
In the previous blog, we looked at the topic of the relationship between earlier forms of spirituality as practiced in times past and the newer post-modern “green” and integral “yellow/turquoise” spirituality that “re-discovers” aspects of those traditions. Today, we consider the topic of how our worldviews (or levels of consciousness) evolve. Is such growth gradual or sudden?
The question posed by one of my viewers and my response is below…with minor edits for clarity.
Is the leap from blue to yellow a transitional leap or a sudden leap because I believe I have outgrown the green phase but I cannot quite relate to yellow? [Again view the introductory video for an explanation of the “colors”.]
As I think about it, several things come to mind. So pardon me for a “multi-part” response.
First….The short answer is that the “leap” (in my opinion) from green to yellow is experienced mainly as a gradual transition by most people….in fact most movement “up the spiral” occurs step by step….and not all steps are “upward”. Our life experiences and the shifting of our consciousness based on those experiences can move up and down the spiral.
Most of those experiences are interpreted by us as events that are smaller in nature and have smaller responses and smaller shifts in our consciousness (again in either direction…forward or backward). However, there are events that can “hit us” so hard that they have a major impact upon our thinking and that shift within us can be so impactful that we can immediately interpret it as a “leap”.
Major life events such as death of a loved one, a divorce, a job loss, a big new opportunity, a pandemic and so on can lead us to the experience of a mental “leap” in one direction or the other. One can look around at the recent events such as the coronavirus and the black lives matter protests and see people who have reacted by “regressing” to actions based on blue or red thinking out of fear…or “progressing” in their beliefs around the value and interconnectedness of all lives and with it shifting their thoughts and actions regarding the inequalities they see in our social systems.
My point is not to get political but rather to notice that “big life events” can lead to “big shifts in thinking” in either direction on the spiral….and there are times that these big events can take us in one fell swoop from one level to the next and given the magnitude of change we can perceive the shift….but most of our lives are filled with “smaller life events” leading to a sense of “smaller shifts” in our thinking, so small that it is only when we step back and look at our life from a larger vantage point that we can see that we don’t look at things the same as we did several years ago.
Secondly……as I have said several times….we can move up and down the spiral….it is sort of like looking at the stock market levels over a long period of time….small movements up and small movements down most of the time with those rarer times when there are big swings in either direction…..but—-and this is critical—for many of us (again, my opinion and subject to world events)—the movement has a general tendency for upward growth. There may be fits and starts but the direction is generally forward as we evolve.
Third……it’s easy to talk about us being “green” or “yellow” or any level on the spiral….but life doesn’t generally fit into such neat categories……as Graves or Beck always point out, this is simply a “theory” or a “map” to help us understand human values……we as individuals rarely fall into a neat description of any one of the levels.
They liked to point out that multiple levels of the spiral co-exist within us at the same time like layers in an onion. We may see our “red” showing up in our sports participation while our “orange” is dominant at work and our “green” is dominant in our political beliefs or our spirituality. The point is, we have different aspects of the spiral that may drive us in different areas of our lives…and when we recognize that, it can lead us to seeing that we don’t neatly fit into one level….yet, we do tend to have one level of the spiral that may be our “center of gravity” and the one we most likely identify with the most.
Fourth…..and this is probably inherent in what I have said already….but the process of our change as we move from one level to the next has many different factors that come into play…our life conditions need to have changed such that it is leading us to the next level…..our personal responsiveness has to be one that is not resisting change but open to it…..there are certain human experience “traps” that we can fall into (anger, hopelessness, fear, perception that we have no power for positive change) that can lead us to avoiding change or regressing…..our conditions (outer world ones and inner consciousness ones) have to support our positive change to the next level. This area is so important that Beck and Cowan devoted a whole chapter in their book on the process of change.
Fifth…..although Clare Graves [creator of the theory now called Spiral Dyamics] used the phrase “the momentous leap to second tier” in discussing the shift from green to yellow, let’s make a distinction here from the process of moving from green to yellow versus the impact of moving from green to yellow. In my opinion, Graves was not saying that the process of our shift from green to yellow would be experienced as a “leap”…..our “process” is that whole package I’ve been discussing… of fits and starts ….and up and down …..and multi levels existing in us side by side…. and our life conditions and responses to those conditions being supportive of upward growth. The process of change from any level to any level (including green to yellow) is the same.
However, the “leap” really is in the personal impact to our worldview by moving from green to yellow.
Prior to moving to yellow, we didn’t see the big picture of these multiple levels of consciousness. Instead, we saw different groups of people who valued different things and we judged negatively those who thought differently from us….frequently wondering “why do they believe that?” We thought that if we could simply convince them that “we were right and they are wrong” (or force our will upon them), then we could improve things. The world at first tier is very much one of competition and a struggle for control between “right” (my side) and “wrong” (their side).
As we begin to move into yellow, one of the big important aspects of our change is that our focus turns towards the big picture and recognizing the evolution of our consciousness individually and collectively through our lives and our world history….seeing that each level of the spiral has served us….each level was a necessary step to the next level. We cannot jump from red or blue or orange into second tier….we must go through each stage sequentially and must make the transition from green to yellow. There are gifts and important lessons to be gained from the journey through each of the levels of consciousness.
This “big picture” and “evolutionary” awareness that allows us to see the value and importance of all levels of consciousness that comes with yellow is so major a shift in our personal outlook….that is why it is referred to as a “leap”.
Finally, you say that you feel that you have outgrown the green level but cannot quite relate to yellow. I hope that in this answer, you can see that such a feeling is normal. The process of our change up the spiral is rarely clear cut.
I love the work of William Bridges and his book Transitions. He says that all change is like a cycle….we go from full levels of something in our life being fully expressed….to our starting to move out of it or releasing it…..to a state of being “in between” the old and the new (he called the “void”)…before we birth the newness of whatever it is we are called to express…and then we return back to the full level of expressing that new thing. This cycle plays out in our relationships, our jobs and all aspects of our life.
I believe that it can play out in the process of changing our viewpoint of life as well. Seen in this light, we can easily see that for many of us who are waking up to second tier, we are releasing our attachment to those things we believed in green….but then there may be an experience of the void as we sit in between what was and what is to become. There is a natural tendency for us to want to move quickly to the new after we have released the old…..but we need to avoid that and spend time in that state of the unknown as we allow that newness to be birthed naturally.
I applaud you for the growth that you are experiencing and your recognition of it. I hope that these words have been helpful in some small measure as you continue your journey.