Understanding Change in the Spiral
If you have read the first module you should understand that the spiral and its colors are all part of a journey of change. Change affects every aspect of life. In this section we will discuss the journey of change in detail, what is necessary for change to occur, the steps we must take and the different variations and types of change.
For change to occur, for us to develop into a more complex system, these six conditions need to be met.
In order for change to occur, first there must be potential, unfortunately not all people are equally open to, capable of, or prepared for change.
You may know some individuals who have changed from who they were in the past and others who have not changed. As said by Don Beck and Christopher C. Cowan, “Every community has its crusty old souls” (people stuck in their own model of the world. Sometimes we tend to settle into what appears to be “of the highest benefit” even after our current life conditions has changed and life is no longer what it seems. The degree to which we accept change may vary through each topic, for example, a person may be willing to change in a relationship but not their views on religion. Trying to introduce change to a group or an individual who is unwilling is a waste of time and recourses. If you push against someone who is unwilling, they are bound to push back. Frederick Krasey states that, if it barks, back off, if it wags its tail keep going.
In order to evaluate a person’s “change potential” Graves created a list of “states” otherwise known as “OAC status” Open, arrested or closed.
To be open is the best place to be, it allows for adaptability and flow making life transitions more comfortable. Such terms as, “Going with the flow,” “dealing with whatever comes down the pike,” or “keeping all my options open” suggests openness.
- Potential for more complex level functioning, healthiest form with most possibilities for adjustment
- Readiness to accept new modes of being, thinking changes as conditions/ realities change
- Deals effectively with barriers
- Doesn’t present as sharp a picture of the level as closed does, shows considerable elasticity without jumping on bandwagons
- Does not get locked into habitual patterns or unexamined assumptions, a non-judgmental approach to life
- Engages in a number of spiral sub-systems, from celebrating “Purple” in ethnic festivals to contemplating “Turquoise” on earth day
- Has good listening skills, tolerance of differences, and a lack of closed mindedness
This state is much less desirable as anyone in an arrested state is drastically limited by his or her own worldview. An analogy to explain this state is that, it is like the pause button on your DVD player has been pressed and is currently stuck. The barriers may be adjusted a bit, but general assumptions remain unaltered. Any effort to change is limited to what they already know; there is little movement along the spiral toward more complex systems. Such terms as, “whatever will be will be,” “living with the establishment,” “that’s just the way the cookie crumbles,” or “fitting serenely into one’s niche in life” suggest, “Arrested-ness.” There is some hope for change although it may come with unnecessary stress and reluctance.
- Caught by barriers in self/ situation
- Reluctance to rock the boat
- Possibility for change only if barriers are overcome
- May lack insights that explain what is happening
- Will require more dissonance be created to spark change
- Makes excuses and rationalize the status quo
- Attempts to live within life’s barriers and adjust to them the best way possible
- Focused on fixer-uppers within the “tried-and-true” rather than transformational change
- Frustrated with life
To understand this state, I shall give you an analogy, imagine a jigsaw puzzle, an open minded person would find the matching pieces and fit them together to make an unknown picture, while a closed minded person would try to fit pieces that don’t fit together to make a picture that they desire. This is how they approach life, only seeing what they want to see, to the point where it becomes irrational and conflictive with common sense. More often than not, closed state thinkers exhibit a meme at its peak.
Frenzied zealots, political extremists, workaholics, bleeding heart social workers and hard-core criminals are typically closed. If a closed thinker is pushed too hard on a “closed” issue, they may have breakdowns; show panic and manic behaviors, fits of rage, violence, and suicide or serve depression.
- Blocked by bio-psychosocial capacities (Brain chemistry is out of balance as well having a closed world view.) May lack neurological equipment/pathways or necessary intelligences
- “This is all there is” mentality
- Historic traumas may have triggered closure
- Unable to recognize barriers much less over come them
- Threatened by change and fights to stay put or else
- Alternative Perspectives are rejected, even cursed and demonized
- Inappropriateness: lack of adaptability to a changing milieu; every idea is washed the same color, regardless. Laughter, anger, conversational topics are out of context. Behavior appears awkward and contrived.
- Instability: there is never enough. The person’s urges are ever satisfied. The closed individual always needs more and makes incessant demands: “Do you love me?” but there are never enough “yes, I love you.” There is always doubt. “Tell me again; I don’t believe you.”
- Exclusivity: There is no other option, no other way to be. Any other view is rejected out of hand. Only a few people are in the inner-circle; everybody else, even those slightly removed, are in the “them” group.
- Undue response to frustration: Reactions to barriers or being blocked are extreme, far beyond what is called for in the situation. Flies off-the-handle at even minor difficulties. When stressed the closed person becomes irritable quickly. One may even faint, become physically ill, or appear traumatized. You should anticipate sudden or extreme actions to unexpected stimuli (blowups).
- Fulfills tasks to extremes: a perfectionist; compulsive. A person who consistently checks and re-checks to be certain it is “right,” “in line with,” or “true to form.”
- Builds a shell: Avoids exposure to other points of view. Hides or destroys information that runs counter to one’s own position. Demands censorship and thought control. “Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is already made up.”
To summarize Condition 1 (Potential to change), in order for change, “potential” must be present, the brain must have the potential for further development and expansion. The subject (individual or community) must be “Open” (or at least in an alterable state of arrest.)
There is no point trying to push change, or force a “jump” in complexity if there are already massive unresolved problems within the current state of being. As put by Don beck and Chris Cowan, any sensible person would put first things first by concentrating on the issues at hand.
Example 1: If a person’s dominant expression was the blue meme and they were consistently dealing with “hooligans” who were an impending threat to the order and peace of life, they are going to be more focused on that, than the fact that, they don’t have enough money.
Example 2: If a person’s dominant expression was the Orange meme and their business was failing and money was being lost. They would be too focused on that problem to even consider a green meme existence of “giving back to the community.”
To summarize condition 2, the meme in which the person or community predominantly resides must be at peace, a zone of comfort. There must be excess energy to explore the next more complex system.
Although the problems within the current meme have been solved if new problems appear that are from a more complex meme a jump or an adaptation is made necessary. Change does not occur unless the boat rocks.
Example 1: If a person’s dominant expression was red meme and they were top of the pack, safe from harm, alone (the goal for this meme)… every thing is great within that meme, but they feel guilt, shame and loneliness. That is the dissonance required to jump to blue.
Example 2: If a person’s dominant expression was blue meme and they felt structured and authority, that they had dedicated them selves for the greater good of others at the highest level but they have no money and they are lacking in individual success they will feel dissonance, maybe enough to make them make the jump.
There are many, many more causes for dissonance other than the examples that have been given.
To summarize condition 3, there must be,
• Awareness of the growing gap between life conditions and current means for handling those problems.
• Enough turbulence to create a sense that “something is wrong” without so much chaos that the whole world seems to be coming apart
• Abject failure of old solutions to solve problems of new life conditions may stimulate fresh thinking
Insight into probable causes and variable alternatives is the next condition. If you don’t already know where something is, how are you supposed to get there? To be able to make the jump an individual will need some sort of idea about what they are jumping into a.k.a the solutions. Insight keeps the old problems in focus and clarifies the new ones.
To summarize condition 4, have enough insight to see an opening in the current meme with a pathway leading to the next.
Barriers can make change difficult, if not impossible. They must be recognized (no more denial) and identified concretely (name, names) and then, eliminated, bypassed, neutralized or reframed into something else.
To summarize condition 5, barriers must be overcome.
The last condition for change is consolidation and support during the transition. As in the parable of the sower, the seeds of change often fall on thin or hostile soil, infested with weeds and difficulties. If lacking a supportive culture a new meme can barely germinate, much less bloom. When significant change occurs, you can expect a period of confusion, false starts, long learning curves and awkward assimilation. When an “individual or organization,” change, they run the risk of being punished by those who do not understand what is happening and now find themselves left out, misaligned and threatened.
To summarize condition 6, in order for change to occur it generally needs to happen in a supportive environment.
1. Potential in the mind and brain
2. Solutions to current problems
3. Dissonance and uncertainty
4. Insight and alternatives
5. Barriers identified and resolved
6. Consolidation and support
When all six conditions are met, new values may awaken and movement along the spiral may occur.
(There are other variations on change within systems even if all six conditions are not met.)
The purpose of these steps are best defined by a question asked by Barbra Jordan, “From what, to what”. It is crucial to understand where the individual or organization and/or its components stand in regard to the five landmarks in the cycle of change so you can see “where they are,” “where they are going” and “where they need to be.” For identification purposes Graves assigned each of the 5 steps after a letter of the Greek alphabet. Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, New Alpha
Alpha is a place where an individual, organization or culture is in sync and relatively successful at addressing the life conditions.
• An individual “has it together” in his or her personal world and believes it will be relatively smooth sailing for a while.
• The company is doing well in its “niche”
• The society is meeting the needs of its citizens
• Human systems are in a state of equilibrium
Alpha is often illusionary, what appears to be stable is not, what seems at rest is in motion just beneath the surface. Many things challenge alpha, predominately, the external world itself (ever changing.) Sometimes boredom sets in once the mountain has been conquered and there is no apparent frontier.
Beta is a time of uncertainty, questioning and frustration. Something is wrong, but what is it? The older ways of living no longer work. A person’s world begins to become unglued. A marriage shows evidence of stress and strain; the family becomes dysfunctional. A company begins to lose key people, productivity drops, or other signs of deterioration appear without clear reasons.
Examples of the Beta Condition,
• In the Beige world, the habitat can no longer support the bands as food becomes more difficult to find.
• In the Purple world, the offerings and rituals fail to fend off the evil spirits as the tribal order begins to collapse.
• In the Red world, the conflict they thought would bring them peace has failed and given way to chaos and confusion.
• In the Blue world, the truth no longer guarantees order and a stable future as doubt, skepticism and new options appear.
• In the Orange world, “the good life” (in materialistic terms) is frayed and tarnished as the search for inner peace flourishes.
• In the Green world, warm, human aspirations wear thin as the realities of complex societal problems and limited resources are laid bare.
• In the Yellow world, the reliance on individual choices and freedom fails to provide the cooperative action necessary for overall survival.
Beta problems are better felt than told. We experience the frustration and discomfort in our hearts more than our minds. Things feel shaky. We sense the turmoil but cannot get a handle on the causes.
As we first leave from Alpha to Beta, we try “more of the same” in the naïve belief that there is nothing wrong with existing Alpha systems. We put more focus and resources into Alpha systems, train people to implement those systems more effectively, or nail down the rules and run a tighter ship. We have failed to recognize that aspects of the “life conditions” Alpha was handling have changed.
As we sharpen the edge of the Alpha systems, we generally make things worse, not better. Frequently this accelerates movement into deeper Beta and that may not be a bad thing.
• When parents overly constrain their children at the first sign of independence to maintain parental control. They may transform the child’s anger into rebelliousness endangering future relationships.
• When a company attempts to retain key people by simply enhancing the financial rewards and perks, they may be repeating the very behavior that motivated those employees to search for working relationships elsewhere where trust and intimacy are more highly valued.
Gamma is a state of anger, hopelessness and revolution. If things get bad enough we move from Beta to Gamma. In the Gamma stage we feel trapped by impossible barriers. The denial and foggy thinking of Beta give way to stark reality. There is now a clear vision of how bad things are.
The trip to full-fledged Gamma is not inevitable. Often at this juncture the “reform option” is still available and offers a detour around the trap. Locating the reform option usually requires that someone flag us down and point it out. Reform road demands willingness to pro-act rather than react and a sincere commitment to take some risks.
Deep Gamma is a difficult stage because of the perceived lack of power to do anything about it. The emotions of frustration and confusion at Beta give way to deeper anger and hostility in Gamma. Gamma state is a sense of panic and fear, like living on emotional roller coaster. There are frantic attempts to brake out and find a simple moment of peace in a chaotic and tumbling world. The patience in Beta to “wait and see” or “hope things will work out ok” is supplanted by impatient demands for action, NOW. There is nothing left to lose.
There is no turning back to how it used to be; yet there is no place to go. All available energy goes to existing one day at a time. Nightfall brings moments of reflection and despair. Daybreak awakens the survival instincts. The pain penetrates to the depth of the soul. The wolf is at the door. Gamma is a time of wanting to escape, run away, break out and be free of the bonds that entrap us.
If you are lucky, you do not have to spend much time in The Gamma Trap. If unfortunate, The Gamma Trap can become a lifestyle.
In the Gamma stage the barriers come into the light. Whether they are real of imagined make no difference, like the saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” except think of it like, “Barriers are in the mind of the beholder.” Ones actions will logically flow from these perceptions.
• Lack of access to education
• Limited job opportunities
• Racial Boundaries
• Gender Boundaries
• Ethnic Boundaries
• Relationship or marriage traps
• Authoritarian control structures
• Unresolved psychological wounds and grudges
• Child rearing experiences
• Personal doubts
• Low self-esteem
• Lack of personal power
• Guilt from past failings and betrayals
• Our finite talents and intelligences
When confronted with powerful and persuasive barriers, each level of human development (Meme) will respond in their own way. Because the Gamma stage is, what it is, you can anticipate that the memes will be expressed in an unhealthy, “dark or negative” kind of way.
• When Beige in gamma state confronts barriers, it will curl up into fetal position and die. San Bushmen who are imprisoned by the police are often dead in the morning.
• When Purple in gamma state confronts barriers, it will descend into a fearful, superstitious existence, totally surrounding it self with alters, rituals and omens.
• When Red in gamma state confronts barriers, they fight tooth and nail and take no prisoners, ruthlessly and un-forgiving.
• When Blue in gamma state confronts barriers, it will sink into a righteous crusade, sponsor inquisitions and witch-hunts. Demonize the enemy.
• When Orange in gamma state confronts barriers, it will engage in sleazy and shady deals, blackmail and bribery and other under the table tactics. Whatever it takes to win.
• When Green in gamma state confronts barriers, it will descend into a rigid “better than you”, politically correct stance, arrogantly questioning everyone else’s motives.
• When Yellow in gamma state confronts barriers, it will evaluate the scene and depart on not depending on their analysis of whether the cards are in their favor.
If the barriers are profound enough, you will see full-scale retrenchment into the previous level down the spiral. It is in The Gamma Trap sate that self-destructiveness and anti- social behaviors like, suicide, crime and terrorism occur.
The delta surge is a time when The Gamma Trap has finally been broken open, a period of excitement and rapid change where barriers are overcome and previous restraints drop away. People prepare to take charge of their own destinies.
But beware that it may seem like the end of your troubles but sometimes barriers we thought we overcame we actually did not. Breaking free of the gamma trap is not the same thing as reaching The New Alpha. Getting rid of what you do not like (hated Barriers) does not mean you have captured what you do want. Often people break free from one tyrant only to become the captive of a bigger one.
The Delta Surge is like raw, unrefined power lacking the stability of New Alpha. There is still chance of some hiccups in The Delta Surge that can even take you back into The Gamma Trap.
The individual returns to a steady state, as the world is once again in sync. The organization is congruent with its marketplace or professional niche. Society itself seems to be in stride with its environment. Balance is restored.
Many come to believe that the ultimate has been reached: “the world will stay thus forever”. Of course just over the horizon, around the bend, or up the road lies the next Beta Condition.
Alpha: Stable and Balanced
Beta: A Time of Uncertainty and Questioning
Gamma: Is Full of Anger and Confusion
Delta: Is inspired Enthusiasm
New Alpha: Stability in the Next System(s)
Variation 1: Goes from ground zero of the new meme and changes to the fit basic principals
When first arriving in the new meme we need to change to fit that new paradigm. Like a seed growing roots. “Hot” new books and seminars are popular at this stage.
Variation 2: Enriches the basic principals of the current meme
The roots have grown and its time for the plant to flourish. Our beliefs and values now fit the dominant meme but its time to expand even further, and move toward mastery. An example of variation 2 is, Microsoft DOS 1.1, 2.0,3.3, 5 and 6.22 are all variation 2 changes while the leap to windows 95 is a new thing all together.
Variation 3: Stays within meme but in order to survive some elements of who they are, are stretched back down the spiral.
Sometimes in (Beta) times of trouble, desperate down-spiral searches for “the good old days” occur. Once the needs are met they may snap back to their original base profile. An example of variation 3 is when a predominantly blue meme falls back into red and resorts to violence when times are tough.
Triggers for 3rd variation change,
• Purple: evil forces and sudden unexpected change in environment
• Red: potential shame, loss of control and disrespect
• Blue: ambiguity, weak authority, disorder, and opposing forces
• Orange: incompetence or loss of autonomy and freedom
• Green: disharmony and fragmentation of a once accepting group
• Yellow: no access to knowledge and pointless regimentation
Variation 4: Stays within meme but in order to survive some elements of who they are, are stretched into the next meme.
In other instances when in (beta) times of trouble, exploration if a higher meme will occur. However if the experimentation with new ways of thinking proves too risky, a person will be likely to slide back to the safety of the base. In the 4th variation, the base-thinking paradigm remains the same but new ideas are introduced. New wine is dumped into the very same old wineskins; only the labels are attractively reengineered.
Variation 5: A change to a higher meme due to force applied from life conditions and external factors to the gamma level mindset.
We were in Beta, (variation 3 or 4) and we failed to see the reform option (variation 6 or 7) so we are pushed into a deep Gamma (variation 5.) This variation has the power to send people bankrupt, topple governments and begin wars. Fundamental change is demanded, with no option for compromise.
Variation 6: An individual change to a higher meme on the spiral.
We were in Beta and we did manage to see the reform option! Variation 6 is a smooth transition into a higher meme bypassing, the Gamma trap. When evolutionary change up the spiral occurs instead of using old skins, new wine is poured into new wine skins.
Variation 7: A societal change to higher memes
Variation 7 is like a time of communal Gama. It is a very stressful and dangerous time because there is so much complexity and so much change must come at once. Quantum shifts like this are quite risky and require that the majority of the communities are “open”.
Horizontal – change within a meme (Alpha)
1. Goes from ground zero of the new meme and changes to the fit basic principals
2. Enriches the basic principals of the current meme
Oblique (no form)- merging (Alpha- Beta)
3. Stays within meme but in order to survive some elements of who they are, are stretched back down the spiral.
4. Stays within meme but in order to survive some elements of who they are, are stretched into the next meme.
Vertical – change to a new meme (Gamma- Delta)
5. A change to a higher meme due to force applied from life conditions and external factors to the gamma level mindset.
6. An individual change to a higher meme on the spiral.
7. A societal change to higher memes (massive shift, much like a snowball rolling down a hill and getting bigger extremely fast) example being the shift from the agricultural age to the industrial age and from the industrial age to the information age.
Each meme has it’s own way of instigating content change
Some approaches to adjusting content,
• Ritualized and ceremonial announcements from shaman, elders, chieftains of new views
• Messages from the spirit realm
• Entice with perceived immediate benefits for “me” to look good, feel good, gain face and get what ‘I’ want.
• Heavy persuasion and offers one cannot refuse without fear of pain or even death.
• Pronouncement from appropriate higher authority i.e. Rabbi (for an orthodox Jew) High ranking commander (for a military private).
• Deliver instructions through the chain of command or through citations or scriptures in the holy books.
• Provide new information (there must be a sense that ideas and information are self-produced) According to Orange, facts are facts only when supported by personal observation.
• Provide research data and “scientific” facts derived from prestigious sources.
• Entice with leads to gains of status, prestige, and position within a competitive hierarchy
• Pressure from valued reference group’s consensual opinion.
• Persuasion by significant other(s) within that community. (The community threatens rejection of those who are not “team players.”)
• Provide new information (Does not have to be self provided, variability does not stress this meme and absolute certainty is not an objective.)
• Entice with promise of increased functionality of outcomes.
• Sensation from own instincts and intuitions plus any other information sources
• Entice with an improvement in the long-range health of the spiral.
Cautionary note on instigating change
Make sure that when accessing where a person is at you do not over simplify. People are not types; they think about things in their lives in different ways. Different Parts of organizations have personalities of their own too.
Also making sure that you do actually assess, and know what you are getting yourself into, in any context is always a good idea.