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Using vertical development to move down 2010-Sep-05 at 21:37 PDT

Posted by Scott Arbeit in Blog.
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In the Integral world, we’re all familiar with some scheme of developmental psychology… whether it’s Spiral Dynamics, the Leadership Development Framework, Dynamic Skill Theory, we’ve all seen one or more of them.

Typically, when one learns about these hierarchical schemes of development (and/or gets introduced to Integral), one does two things fairly quickly:  first, one looks at the scheme, tries to figure out where on it one fits, and then looks at the levels of development above that to see where one’s growth might be heading; second, one starts to project out onto everything whatever levels of development those objects or concepts or people might represent.  Quickly, we populate our world with what seems like a significant improvement over our old, confusing, flatland view of everything.  Now, everything has its level and its place, and we situate ourselves in the middle of all of that new labeling and order.

And I’m not trying to denigrate that move at all.  It’s quite natural for that to be the first thing that we do when we “get it” about developmental psychology.  And when I say “first thing” I’m not talking about something that lasts for a day or two.  This seems to be a stage that many of us pass through as we enter Integral, and it lasts for years.  And I’m really glad that it does; it’s a more developed position than the (pathological) post-modern view that holds all hierarchies as bad.

Of course, even new and more highly developed positions have their limitations and their shadows, and sometimes those shadows hold beautiful opportunities, and that’s what I’m interested in here.

One idea I’ve been playing with lately is the importance of using vertical developmental sequences not just as scaffolding for our own (or for our collective) growth up, but also to use them to grow down, as tools to re-inhabit those levels within ourselves that we’ve disowned.  For instance (using Spiral Dynamics as our scheme-of-the-moment) many people in the Integral movement have, to one extent or another, disowned their inner Blue and Orange tendencies, and that disowning runs deep.

Don’t believe me?  Let’s go right to an extreme case, then.  Just ask anyone you know who is familiar with Integral this one question: Can you love President George W. Bush?

So many people I saw at the Integral Theory Conference last month still walk around with deep, visceral hatred for President Bush, for instance, and expressed it quite publicly, and it saddened me.  I have to ask… is that really the most healthy relationship one can have with BLUE/Orange?  Are you capable of expressing appreciation for President Bush, and for some of the decisions he made?  Or is it all anger and disappointment and hatred?  Even he wasn’t capable of 100% error, right?

[Ed. note: this is not about having a political debate.  It’s about looking at our relationship to levels of development that we may have disowned and therefore are no longer able to access – you know, transcend and include, not transcend and disown.]

I’d suggest that there’s a way that we can open ourselves up to a more loving perspective about those parts of ourselves that we’ve disowned.  If we do, we can have a relationship with those who are currently living through those levels that we’ve disowned.  We can meet them where they are, with love, and see them – truly see them – and through the simple act of seeing them deeply and being present with them, we can hold the invitation to continued growth, not from a place of “you have to” but from a place of “you’re loved exactly as you are, and even more is possible.”

And if we don’t?  Well, if we don’t, then everything we do and say about people who live through the levels that we’ve disowned comes from one place: our own projections.  If you’re not truly in a relationship with someone – if you’re not treating them and feeling them as their own subject, worthy of respect and all of the Universe’s love – then you’re just projecting your own limitations onto them.

And I have to ask all of you in the Integral world: have you disowned your Orange?  Have you disowned your Blue?  Have you disowned your Green?  Are you ready to fix that now?

And how do we re-own them, to be more complete, to be able to take the view from love with everyone we meet?

I suspect that as the years go by, we’ll come up with more than just a few ways to remedy this particular developmental pathology, but I know one method for this that’s pretty fool-proof and easy to do: the UZAZU Vertical Practice.  Using the sound / breath / movement combinations of UZAZU, the Vertical Practice can walk you through a felt experience of each of the levels of development in Spiral Dynamics, all within 30 minutes, leading up to a deep experience of Oneness.  By doing this practice regularly, you give your body the experience of occupying those levels that you’ve disowned (as well as the ones that you’re comfortable with), and you get the felt sense of how they build on each other, and that they’re all a part of your own birthright as a human being.

Whether you choose to use UZAZU for this, or some other practice, I consider it to be absolutely vital for Integral action-in-the-world that we relate to all people wherever they are on the grand spirals of development, and with as much love – and as little projection – as we can muster.  You know as well as I do that you can’t get there from projection.  We all want to grow up… and let’s all grow down, too.



1. seth - 2010-Sep-11 at 11:26 PDT

Hey there Scott,

I really enjoy the basic premise of this post and am very appreciative of you bringing it up. I’ve been thinking that each person has a different relationship to each stage. So at the integral stages, one has a unique relationship with each stage based on their own life experiences, personality type, etc My guess is that a person could gain great insight into this by reflecting on what their life circumstances were like when they went through a particular stage. However, I doubt this is the only factor (typology is probably another major factor among numerous others). So each person may be stronger or weaker in each stage…may be more or less embodied/integrated/healthy in each stage…and may have preferences for or against each stage. This is a subtler distinction then more pathological ways we can disown/disconnect from various stages. I’m suggesting that even if one is fairly ‘healthy’ at integral stages they will be aware of and value all stages but will still have strengths and preferences related to each specific stages. I am challenging the idea that if we have fully integrated all previous stages then we would have no preferences between them…that they’d all be essentially equal to us (with of course increasing levels of complexity). I think that might just be a green sensibility.

So for example, in your writing my sense is that you prefer orange and blue over green. I’m not questing your valuing of green as a part of the whole spiral, just suggesting you have preferences. And you tend to help draw people’s awareness to toward orange and blue…in a sense part of your mission seems to be to help the help heal/integrate that part of the spiral. And I’d say you seem to have much less preference for green. Above you write, “…than the (pathological) post-modern view that holds all hierarchies as bad”. Now for me, someone who loved my experience of green and still feels so much fondness for it (and probably still dwells there to an extent ;-)…I feel a little protective of green. So I find myself thinking, wait a second, challenging hierarchies is what green does, it’s not pathological…that is one of green’s main characteristics….so are you saying green is fundamentally pathological? So in the same way that you seem drawn to helping people see orange/blue with more acceptance, understanding, compassion, and appreciation…I feel drawn to doing the same for green. Even if green sometimes feels like my annoying little brother to me.

George W. Bush. Full disclosure, Bush isn’t much of a trigger for me, in fact I actually feel alot of affection toward him. That said, I wish you would of used different examples of blue/orange. I know that Bush is a huge trigger for so many people. And I see the blue/orange in him that led you to using him as an example. However, I think there is so much complexity that leads people to being triggered by him that it confuses your point. Obviously, I also encourage everyone to look at their resistances/triggers/judgments/etc of Bush. So much good would come from that, however I highly doubt that it would mostly be reduced to disowned orange/blue. I’d love to see you use some other examples that make your same point if you’re willing. Thanks.

much love and gratitude,

2. Scott Arbeit - 2010-Sep-12 at 01:57 PDT

First of all, thank you, this is brilliant.

I love the distinctions you’re pointing to. (And it occurs to me that we can use UZAZU to explore them.) We can identify which aspects of each stage we’re stronger or weaker with, and not just treat the exercise as complete disowning.

And I’m probably choosing Blue and Orange here because I see most people in the Integral movement still running a lot of Green, so I don’t think there’s a need to sell that too much. :-) I really try not to do any Green-bashing, and I’m sorry if it sounded that way. I clumsily worded a sentence… I really was trying to point to the difference between some of the very hierarchy-flattening early philosophy, and someone like Heidegger, who has recovered much of it. Not trying to say that all of post-modernism is pathological (or that all of it flattens all hierarchies).

But they do wear sandals. Well, some of them do. For what that’s worth.

As for President Bush… I’m not saying that he didn’t make any mistakes. There are multiple valid perspectives one could take where his decisions were… um… ill-advised, to say the least. And I share some of those perspectives.

I’m really just pointing to the visceral hatred, though. We can disagree without the visceral hatred. You know, we see how destructive and limiting it is, for anyone who holds this kind of hatred, when it’s pointed at President Obama (even if you disagree with his policies). We don’t always see how destructive it is to hold this kind of energy with President Bush, but it is just as destructive in its own way. And I saw more examples of that at ITC than I thought was appropriate.

And, you’re probably right, it’s more complicated than just disowned Blue and Orange, but I still think it helps if we’re in touch with them. It’s just hard for me to imagine that much anger and hatred if there’s real connection with those perspectives. And I could be totally wrong about that, but it is hard for me to imagine.

Much love,

3. Daniel - 2010-Sep-16 at 07:09 PDT

‘Transcend and Include’ is important for sure, but not without also holding the ‘Transcend and Exclude’ position in one’s crosshairs — it takes movement from the gross to the subtle to ever ongoingly make this critical distinction.

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