Throughout our adult life we are seeking the particular way of life by which we wish to live. This search takes us through different levels, but the quest is never ending as each stage leads to another and as we travel we realise there is no final stage to aspire to but rather we change our psychology and rules to adapt to that new search and style of living.
Spiral Dynamics is a theory of human development propounded by Don Beck and Chris Cowan and based on the work of Dr Clare W Graves, professor of psychology at Union College New York and specialist in the theory of personality.
Grave’s psychological levels (vMemes) included:
Biege AN - Automatic psychological satisfaction
Purple BO – Safe mode of living
Red CP – Search for power and glory
Blue DQ – Search for peace
Orange ER – Search for material pleasure
Grey FS – Search for affectionate relations
Yellow GT – Search for respect for self
Turquoise HU – Search for peace in an incomprehensible world
(The colours were added later for ease of labelling).
Graves depicted these levels in a Spiral Vortex (like a double helix) showing how they evolved through levels of increasing complexity. The upward turns depict the adding of new behaviours and rules on top of what already exists. The spiral represents a coiled string of value systems, attitudes and views on our world which are each the product of the particular circumstances we are in at a given time – thus our mind develops as our world changes.
We can use Spiral Dynamics to help us understand individuals by understanding their particular thinking and behavioural type while they are at a particular level in particular conditions. So don’t ask about the type of person, ask instead how to understand or manage for example, the GT part of the person, i.e. the seeking of respect for self in this person at this particular time?
Grave’s levels of psychological existence are termed vMemes (these structure how we think about things) and can be thought of as valuing systems that impact our life choices and can manifest both in healthy and unhealthy forms. Changing life conditions activate vMemes which come in phases ebbing and flowing. They exist together in mixtures, so you could have a person who is essentially in the FS phase of seeking affectionate relations whose CP search for power and glory might be activated in the competition of sports and whose ER search for material pleasure might be found in achieving well in those sports.
Grave’s model is a useful tool for assessing personal values showing how we utilise different values at different times when some levels acquire pre-eminence over others while not destroying those less dominant values which can then re-emerge in different contextual situations.
For more information visit www.clarewgraves.com
- Isla Baliszewska
- The business bit: I have had 25 years experience in the IT sector encompassing equipment finance to computer recycling. The coaching bit: is about delivering business mentoring and personal performance coaching. My clients range from senior executives to the unemployed and I delight in working with them all to build excellence and promote growth. My specialisms are working with business leaders and entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses and enjoy themselves in the process, and helping individuals to realise their full potential. I also work with young people to build confidence and life skills so they can grasp life's opportunities and make the right life choices.