Evolution and Ego

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When you develop and reach higher value levels (referencing the values levels and Memes identified by Clare Graves and further expanded by Spiral Dynamics®) isn’t it sometimes challenging to deal with people from different value levels? What can we do about this? Helene Gabrielsson, Sydney

Spiral Dynamics® This framework is based on the original research and theory of developmental scholar Dr. Clare W. Graves. It explores what makes us different and alike at levels deeper than the demographics of age or gender, economics or ethnicities. With these insights, it is possible to build education, business, and governance systems which better fit who people are, and help diverse people to find contexts of best fit. In addition, it offers a trajectory for change, both progressive and regressive in our search for congruence and fit. Click here

Is it sometimes challenging to be in friendship, business, a marriage, work, etc with a fellow human being, who you have felt deeply connected to, only to discover you no longer share much in common?  This person with whom you felt bonded, can now bore you to tears.  Perhaps you find yourself disagreeing with the very principles you once would have shared intimately and fought together for like comrades?

Perhaps, “they” (those you once felt connected with) accuse you of “changing” and becoming weird. You are criticised by those closest to you and you yourself may have become very good at judging other’s “lower level” thinking.

Perhaps you feel proud of your  “higher level” values and abilities, so much so you can no longer identify with those lower mortals, who are stuck in their rigid thinking and behaving. Perhaps you reject and attempt to eliminate them from your life. Perhaps even better (?), you are committed to liberating those lower beings, transforming them, helping them rise to your heights!

This of course can sometimes be what we experience in our relationships as we naturally evolve up the Spiral (and back down again). The reality is, as we evolve, so do our values. That which we give significance to begins to change and influence our view and choices in work, relationships, health, spirituality, personal development, success etc.

As a result, much begins to alter and change in ourselves and our relationship to life, from our interests, hobbies, experience of time, to how we relate to one another, what we spend our money on, and how we strive (or perhaps not), etc.

One of the most significant aspects of our being challenged and provoked during this process is our sense of identity (ego). As we begin to “identify” with different Memes; beliefs, values, concepts, behaviours, attitudes, and structures (or lack of), we strive to be perceived by ourself and others in alignment with that meme.

Consequently, our ego can become compelled to ‘fit in’ and belong to a new inspirational meme; using language that fits, dressing and styling ourselves in similar ways, such as purchasing or giving away certain possessions, relating to specific styles or developing an interest in new genres of books and films.

As part of this process we unconsciously begin to dis-identify ourselves from behaviours in other memes, those we begin to judge as lacking the higher virtues and values  we now aspire.  Consequently, we can experience conflict as we start to express our new values, and change the way in which we work, live and play.  We will experience conflict when we begin to judge, criticise and resent other people’s virtues and values that we are consciously developing beyond or we are fearful of.

A simple example of this is moving out of Orange meme (Level 5) where you were motivated by status, financial success, possessions, accumulation, competition, being the best, control, etc and moving into Green meme (Level 6) where you are motivated by such things as saving the planet, connection, consensus decision-making, spirituality, freedom and contribution.

The ego dis-identification that can occur in this example, is a rejection and criticism of the perceived dominant aspect of the Orange meme; materialism, power struggles, and control as you begin to try the new mindset and behaviour of Green meme; sharing almost everything, forgiveness (no matter the hurt), group projects for contributing to the planet, etc.

Those who have a dominant black/white – all/nothing thinking pattern can mistakenly see these values and behaviours in polarity (opposition) and falsely believe they can only fully embody the new values by rejecting, abandoning, eliminating 100% of the old values and 100% living the new. Mistakenly, in this process we may not realise evolution is a process and therefore occurs gradually over a continuum and not in monumental black to white leaps.

Such confusion generates internal conflict and disharmony as we relate to the world and see reflected back to ourselves, all that we no longer identify with.  The natural tendency is to want to alter, eliminate, change and rid ourselves of all that no longer fits with our new identity. For some, this can be such an uncomfortable experience they may develop an obsessive and impatient pursuit to rid themselves of old robes (values, relationships, beliefs, etc) to try and wear the often elusive new golden robe of the meme they are being drawn to.

Ironically, according to Clare Graves, we cannot fully embody the higher memes without having fully experienced and developed the capacities and embraced the learning in the lower memes.  Therefore, development is an accumulating and coalescing process rather than a stop, and then start, at a new level.

As Ken Wilber so aptly highlights, each experience at a higher meme will be experienced only as a fleeting “state”, until we have integrated fully all of the dis-owned elements from the lower levels.  Only then can we experience a meme as a fully integrated “stage”.

For example in my own life, as it is for most, truly transcending and including GREEN meme (Level 6) was laborious and a fraught experience, that went on and on and on!  It was not until I had fully integrated my dis-owned development stages from childhood in PURPLE meme (Level 2) and RED meme (Level 3) was I really able to sustain GREEN meme (Level 6) as a stage.  I had to go back and truly embrace the light and dark of mysticism and tribes from PURPLE and the light and dark of my egocentricity and individuation in RED, as just two examples.

Ken Wilber refers to where you’re ‘being’ truly resides on the spiral, as “your centre of gravity”. Even though we may be able to espouse, relate and think conceptually at the higher-level memes, it does NOT mean we reside there. During that phase of my development I mentioned, my centre of gravity was more at RED (Level 3) and BLUE  (Level 4) due to the amount I had rejected physically and energetically in my body and also emotionally and mentally, even though my ego identified with GREEN (Level 6) transitioning into YELLOW (Level 7).

You can work out your centre of gravity by determining where you go when you are confronted, taken by surprise, under stress, suffering illness, and challenged to the core of your being. How do you try and solve problems? Where do you go? This will be your centre of gravity.

As you no doubt have discerned, it is our ego that has one of the greatest influences on how, the timeframe, and ease in which we can evolve and develop through the memes.

It is quite obvious how difficult and ultimately humbling it can be when we over-identify with a higher meme, but are forced by life events, conscious intention, or just the innate unfolding nature of evolution to deal with the darkest aspect of being human.  Those aspects are present within each meme and cannot be bypassed in the evolutionary process.

While there are some tangible physical difficulties as we grow and evolve, most of the difficulties we encounter are birthed conceptually out of our ego and our inability to identify with them personally or to have our loved ones and the world at large identify us with them.

Some steps to embracing the challenges of living, loving and learning with others as we evolve

While I see there are many steps and aspects to truly living, loving and learning harmoniously with others as we evolve, these are perhaps some of the most crucial, none being more important than each other.

Develop solid healthy Self-Esteem

Develop a solid sense of Self. Know in every cell in your body you are a human being of value and worth, with or without your accolades, achievements, talents, money, beauty, fame, intellect, and, critically, no matter your level of consciousness or development.

When your ego no longer has to identify with any characteristic from any meme or level of development, you will have evidence that you have begun the journey of transcending and including your ego. That is; to have a solid sense of Self, but not to over-identify or be attached to any expression of it.

You can then invite people to have differing opinions of you and associate you with attributes and values you do not necessarily identify with. It will be literally “water off a duck’s back”.  Importantly, you will have no need to convert or alter anybody in your life to your ideals and values, as your ego will not be fighting back from being associated with them.  You will be able to stand beside and relate with all expressions and behaviours of men or women, without feeling psychologically or emotionally threatened.

You can imagine the level of acceptance and appreciation for the diversity of human expression that you can enjoy.  This means that it is not a necessity to end relationships as you evolve, although it may be a choice that you exert.

For past article on Self- Esteem click here.
For past article on Acceptance click here.

Give self and others permission…
Whether we are aware of it or not, each one of us relates to our self, each other and the world from a set of rules. These rules will usually reflect our ‘centre of gravity’ on the Spiral, and will include all the ‘right and wrong’ behaviours and boundaries we believe we should express when relating with family, friends, spouses, lovers, etc. These rules underpin our expectations of, and obligations to one another.

Simply put – the more rules we have, the more loaded our relating becomes. The more ‘hoops’ we all must jump through in order to remain connected and bonded and appear respectful. Given most of our rules will be meme dependent, there is great potential for differing rules. Rules may or may not continue to serve us as we move up and down the Spiral. Evidently our rules evolve as we evolve.

Giving yourself permission to evolve your rules and to accept others rules, releases the “musting, shoulding” and other requirements we place on each other, obviously reducing conflict.
I am not suggesting that we have absolutely no rules or boundaries, as at different memes, rules are critical to our development. It is not till memes 8 and above do rules become an obsolete way of relating.

What I am suggesting is to challenge each of your rules. Ask; “Does this rule serve my current ‘centre of gravity’ and the quality of relating and intimacy that I want and am capable of?” Am I imposing the rules from my ‘centre of gravity’ on others? Do I have unrealistic expectations that everybody is operating from a shared set of rules and expectations?

Meet others at their Being-ness NOT their level of consciousness/ development

Your being-ness is your unique expression in voice, gesture, laughter, play, etc of your personal frequency, beyond cognitive and emotional abilities and distinctions.

We human beings naturally feel a simpatico connection with those with whom we find similarity. Therefore, we often seek and believe we can only relate to those that are the ‘same as us’, seeking commonality in experiences, values, fashion, the arts, life goals, etc. While these qualities may at first compel and attract us, and the connection feels delightful, easy and enriching, it is only a superficial level of connection and is not a sustainable foundation for ongoing relating.

As already distinguished in such an approach, as soon as our values and experiences become different, we perceive we no longer have a foundation for on-going relationship.   With fear and trepidation, we try to control and change others so we stay feeling connected and/or we will often ‘hold ourselves back’ for fear we will out-grow others.  I am sure we all know only too well the results of such an approach!

However, we can reach a place where we meet one another beyond what we know or don’t know, any shared values or norms, to connect with each other at the source of their and our being; the life force that surges through us, there will only and always be a continuum of sameness, of connection; the higher and lower frequencies that pulse through each and every single human being.   When we connect with and truly value, appreciate and fall in love with each other’s frequency – our being-ness; we can be as different as night and day to one another and still experience exciting, enriching and sustainable relationships.

Because each person has a unique frequency, as unique as our thumb print or DNA, we can see that our frequency has its own unique range and resonance. No matter how we choose to express our frequency or how we evolve consciously in terms of what we value and believe, our frequency range remains constant.

When we choose to partner in friendship, business or  love with those that our frequency resonates with, there is that deep, deep connection that transcends individual beliefs and values. This frequency exchange is literally and quite physically palpable.  Scientists are beginning to work on tools for measuring such frequencies and the exchanges between frequencies in our nervous systems.

Some may call this meeting others from our right-brain rather than dominant analytical left-brain, relating.  We all have experiences of right-brain relating (being-ness) such as being in flow with nature and life, for example: sailing, skiing, swimming, love- making.

Can you imagine the joy and harmony of relating to your loved ones and colleagues from this place?

Listen to an interview on Beingness with Sarah McIntyre.

Develop Continuum Thinking

If you are stuck in black/white and all/nothing thinking, you will evaluate your relationships through a classification system, consistently analysing and categorising behaviours, beliefs and values as fitting or not fitting you and your ego identifications.

When you experience your own and others development as a continuum you will easily be able to accommodate and relate to difference in yourself and others, as you will feel comfortable with ‘grey’, having no need to classify your interactions on the Spiral.

See article on Living In Extremes click here.

Work with your biology/DNA

Most of us get so caught up with developing our consciousness (evolving our thinking and levels of distinction) that we forget evolution is driven by biology and the energy of the planet.  Encoded within each one of us is a unique DNA chain of code that holds the passport to our fulfilment and joy.

If we only develop and nourish our development cognitively and emotionally, we ignore the primary source of our personal evolution – our DNA.  This ignorance creates a bottleneck of untapped DNA energy inside of our body. This powerful energy, if not expressed, can turn inwards on the body and create dis-ease in the body, naturally leading to stress and tension in our relationship with our self, others and life.

By consciously exploring your DNA and supporting your biology to express what is in your DNA, you create greater harmony in your body and relationship to life.

Overcome allergic reactions to people and life

Given everything in life has a frequency, as we move through life, our personal frequency is in constant interaction with other frequencies, found emanating from, for example: people, animals, plants, food, chemicals, concepts and clothing.

Most often, reactivity or conflict in our lives does not come from a difference in our values and perception of life, but from the reaction we feel between our own frequency and that of another’s frequency.

These reactions can be experienced in our body, in forms such as sinus, bloating, diarrhoea, disease, etc, but more commonly we experience them emotionally such as anger, impatience, frustration, hurt, sadness, rage, jealousy, excessive joy, addictions, obsessions, etc.

When we neutralise ourselves to these frequencies (finding harmony between the frequencies) we no longer experience reactions to those things. This means you can be around somebody or something that once literally drove you to a state of rage and madness without actually experiencing those states.

Neutrality at the vibrational level influences our nervous system, and thereby our cognitive emotional reactions; creating more balanced choices, behaviours, expressions and relating styles.
For more information on allergy elimination click here

Harmony – integrating and embracing dark and light

For most, especially those who are aspiring to the GREEN meme (Level 6), living “in the light” is a much-revered quality.  In life, generally most of us want positive experiences, such as joy, love, laughter, success and harmony.

Due to most people perceiving dark and light as a polarity opposing one another, in order to “live in the light” means excluding all experiences, expressions and aspects of themselves and others that may be categorised as “dark”.  As you consider this, how much is the source of conflict in our personal lives and collectively on the planet, bred out of an intolerance of ‘darkness’ in ourselves and others?

Most of us accept the reality that due to the placement of planet Earth in the solar system, we will experience night and day to varying different lengths through the year, dependent on our geography at a certain time of the year. The experience of light and dark is considered an essential ingredient in life.

Imagine if you were fully able to accept and appreciate the light AND darkness within a human being… Imagine if you did not categorise darkness as undesirable… What if you fully accepted those traits as part of being human?  What difference would this make to how you identify yourself and others? And most critically, how you relate to others as you are provoked and challenged by the evolutionary impulse that runs through each one of us.

Ironically, harmony includes all darkness and light, and each shade in between.

Listen to Alanis Morissette’s version of loving light and dark – Everything Click here
Read Alanis Morissette’s lyrics to Everything Click here

In Summary

While these are some suggestions for dealing with the challenges of relating with people at ‘different levels’, many of these are bread out of the constraints and limitations of working from a ‘map’ such as the Spiral and attempting to evaluate our selves and each other from such a ‘map’.

My preferred response today, at this stage in my life, is to simply meet you wherever you are today, in each moment, irrespective of any other characteristic, or analytical tool, to simply ‘hang out’ in the moment with you, and see what we discover together, or not.

Michelle Duval

As a coach, speaker and writer, Michelle Duval is as a pioneer into new forms of learning. She helped found the field of professional coaching in Australia in 1997 and became a leading voice, forging developmental and transformational coaching worldwide. She has co-authored two international handbooks on coaching, developed coaching psychology models used by professional coaches globally, and trained and certified executive, business and personal coaches in more than 35 countries. Michelle is the founder of Equilibrio, Actualise Daily, Excelerate Coach Mentoring and Fingeprint4Success. Michelle’s personal specialty as a coach is working with entrepreneurs, thought leaders, CEOs, and creative artists such as writers, producers, and actors. As a researcher Michelle led a world first study into the attitudes and motivations of Australia's most successful entreprenuers. Birthed out of her own personal experience with an aggressive life threatening brain disease, Michelle's personal cause and mission is working with otherwise 'incurable' diseases by developing advanced coaching methodologies and the latest discoveries in neuroscience to facilitate well-being and even complete recovery.

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