A DEFINITION OF HEALTH AT ANY LEVEL – THE HIDDEN MAP
One of the greatest advantages to looking at a model of human development is the ability to see the map as we are moving from one place to the next. Unlike the great explorers who entered a new land knowing little more than what direction they were facing at any given moment, we have the ability (thanks to Clare Graves, Ken Wilber, and all the great cartographers of the human spirit) to see not only where we’ve been, but where we are in relation to the rest of the world, and where we might be going next. The power inherent in that single piece of knowledge is the power to prepare, to build, and to approach each change with both caution and gratitude.
Whether as an individual, charting a personal path; as a society using the map to understand itself and its sub-cultures; or as an organization, future thinking its place in society; it is the possession of a map which allows us to plan, to avoid wandering lost and without direction, and to return to the safe and familiar without fear.
From L6, however, something important is about to happen to those who travel the spectrum map. In order to talk about this important step, let’s look at a metaphor. If you have or know children who play “quest” type games on their personal computers, this may be familiar.
Where We Begin
To get a better idea of what is about to happen at the transition between L6 and L7, imagine that you are sitting down at a new computer game. The screen comes up, and it is a map, completely obscured by black shielding except for one small grid square where a tiny character is standing next to his house.
As the little explorer moves in any direction on the playing field, the grid squares where he/she walks are illuminated, and the map underneath the shielding is revealed.
Tools, Information, Clues, Experiences, Territory, Resources
Hidden within the grid squares all over the map are treasures (X), little tools (T), bits of information (i) and clues, challenges, opponents to defeat, puzzles, and experiences.
– And, somewhere on the map is a central challenge to be met. Once the central challenge of each map is complete, the little explorer is propelled into the next map.
Metaphorically, this is a description of how we experience our own travels through the spectrum map. We discover. We learn. We pick up tools and resources to help us on our journey. We make a home for ourselves in the territory of our own spirit. We become comfortable with our self and with our place in the world.
So our little explorer is making his way around the first map, picking up tools, skills, experience, treasure, clues, and information as he goes. He defeats wild creatures and assists those who need his help. He builds structures and performs tasks.
And then, he stumbles across the key to the door that will catapult him into the next map.
How We Progress: Solving the Riddle of Each System
Remember that we’re in the land of metaphor. In the developmental model built by Dr. Clare Graves, there is no central puzzle or riddle at each level. There are a handful of lessons that seem only to be available within certain contexts and at certain points in our development, but the idea of a key riddle for each level is strictly a part of this learning tool and shouldn’t be mistaken for a literal part of the Graves Model.
That said, once our little explorer stumbles into the grid square that contains the central puzzle for that map, he blinks and then: Voila! He finds himself in the only illuminated spot of a brand new map.
And with or without all the skills, tools, and information available from the previous map, the little explorer is on his way again.
What We Mean By Health and UnHealth
There has been a lot of speculation about several “alternative” ways to travel the spectrum map. Some of these alternatives include:
1. a preference for either even or odd systems which allows an individual to spend relatively little time in the systems opposite their preference (occidental culture, for instance, associates odd-numbered levels with “masculine,” even-numbered levels with “feminine” traits);
2. a complete skip of one or more systems; and
3. a surrogate relationship with the individual’s particular society or culture in which a system completely saturated into the culture can be “absorbed” by osmosis (another form of the “skip”) rather than being explored or experienced in the usual way.
All three of these exceptions have been observed and are completely viable in the first tier systems (though still not the preferred experience). Remember, however, that what we are talking about is a definition of health within this model. There is as a big difference between the minimum experience of each system (our little explorer stumbling onto the key puzzle of the map and being thrown directly into the next map) and real health, as there is between minimum existence and a healthy life.
One of the most striking aspects of this developmental model at first exposure, is the extent to which it accurately describes what we all view as inherently unhealthy about our society and cultures. An unhealthy L2 is recognizable where there is child or spousal abuse of any kind; in the flood of latch-key children and absentee parents; and in adults who have never mastered the basic skills of trusting, loving, and being honest or open with others. Unhealthy L3 is recognizable in tyrannical or bully-ish behavior; hyper-competitiveness, inadequate respect for authority, and insufficient boundaries between self and others. These are our terrorists, street gangs, cults, and militia groups.
Unhealthy L4 may be unethical and dishonest to an extreme; fanatical and proselytizing; punitive; callous and de-humanizing, judgmental or hyper-critical; or prone to anger, depression, and isolationism. This is where we have experienced witch hunts of all kinds, from Salem, Mass., to Joe McCarthy’s U.S. Senate. Unhealthy L5 may be cut-throat and greedy; materialistic to the exclusion of human relationships; a con-artist or swindler; or mercenary – willing to do anything for a buck. These can be found from the inside traders and sharks of Wall Street, to the deceitful heads of non-profits who steal from medical research and children’s camps to fatten their own wallets. Unhealthy L6 can be overly permissive and unrealistically idealistic , gullible in their willingness to believe others based on sincerity rather than on evidence or truth; or easily distracted from any mission or purpose. These are our space cadets, so caught up in their own touchy-feely experience of the world that they believe enough money and charitable feelings will fix anything.
Looking at our partially revealed maps, it’s easy to see that even though our little explorer may successfully navigate his way from one level to the next – he may be doing so at the expense of a great many experiences, challenges, acquired skills and tools, and accumulated information and clues to existence. Real health would mean experiencing each map to the edges – that is, every grid square and every aspect of each system should be absorbed; every bit of knowledge and every skill should be gathered, learned, and practiced with intention.
What’s more, real health would mean keeping all those learnings from each system and incorporating them into the next system and every system thereafter. Failure to complete a system along the way results in the inability to successfully complete any system thereafter. An incomplete or unhealthy L2 would result is every system from that point on being incomplete. There is no such thing as a healthy L5 without a complete and healthy L2 as its foundation – but with L2 firmly in place, L5 can achieve its prosperity without sacrificing its family. In fact, L5 will only be healthy and live up to its full potential with successful and complete L1 – L4. If any one system is missing or incomplete, L5 will be distorted from its intended form.
The same holds true for each system.
A healthy L3 would be one in which all the values and learnings from L1 and L2 are embraced, respected, and used to allow L3 to be competitive (as it always is) with trust, and ego-driven in an environment of safety. Such an L2 support base will allow L3 to be less violent, and respectful of its L2 followers.
And the same holds true whether we are talking about individuals, families, businesses, or states. Not only do all people follow this model and these patterns – but so do all groups of people. An L5 organization without the trust and tribal loyalty of L2, missing the competitive edge of L3 or the ethics of L4 – will also miss the mark at L5 and never achieve its full potential as an L5 business – and then never be able turn toward healthy L6 or beyond. The trend toward using trust-building exercises like “ROPES” courses and wilderness weekends is an attempt to build missing or lost L2. In fact, neither L2 nor L4 is particularly easy to add to the mix since the implication is that for the group to have it – so must the individuals. We’ll talk more about this in a few pages.
It’s a safe bet that if you look across the business community and find those businesses which are having trouble with the follow-through on current trends toward “teams” – then what you are actually finding are the businesses with one or more of the lower systems dysfunctioning. A business in this state may want to follow the trend, or even look longingly and try to emulate the transition into L6, but even if they try to form teams they will be teams in name only, still operating under a management hierarchy, and still exhibiting all the characteristics of L5 operations.
Businesses for which L6 is an exciting turn, embraced by most everyone in the company as the answer to their problems of existence, are businesses in which the majority of employees have healthy preparation for this change.
For individuals, as long as we are functioning in the first tier, the goal of health across the spectrum is an ideal; from L7 onward, however, it becomes a necessity.
Remember that part of what makes L7 tick is its love for gathering information, and its propensity for putting all the pieces together – solving puzzles. With its perspective on the first tier systems, L7 enters its “reclaiming” phase – hopefully before L8 emerges. It seems that part of what defines a healthy L7 is the quest to go back to each map and illuminate as much of the darkened grid as possible, filling in missing pieces of the puzzle as it goes.
Once each map is completely revealed and all the information, tools and skills are congruently incorporated into the whole, systems L1 – L6 are complete, and survival above L6 is much more likely because the completed first tier turns out to be the initial learning for the second tier.
Another metaphor, and one used by both Beck and Cowan, and by Mike Armour and others who teach and use Graves, is that of the “core sample.” In geological terms, a core sample is a vertical sample of earth which shows the stratification of soils, rocks, and mineral or other deposits that have accumulated over time. In its simplest terms, this metaphor – as seen in the first two samples below – illustrates the distribution and imbalance of an average, unreclaimed existence. In the first core sample, we see a person with very prominent L4, a good portion of L2 and L5, and modest or minimal L1, L3, L6, and L7. In the second core sample, the dominant system is L7, with L2 and L6 close behind, a crown of L8, but still minimal L1, L3, L4, and L5.
The core sample on the far right, however, illustrates an ideal. A life in balance where either by natural, sequential development (improbable) or reclamation and remediation, the spectrum is in balance.
So long as all systems are available and the best system tools are available for use at any given time without preference either toward any one system or away from any, then flexibility, versatility, and the freedom to choose with wisdom and without fear is a real possibility.