Intro to the Graves/Jung Model – Intro to Level 3

Level 3 — Red

“Express self now and to hell with others….”

L3-Red is where the merger of member and tribe breaks down, clearly delineating an ego. L3 is thus usually called egoistic. It is often self centered, hedonistic, competitive, selfish, and shows no regard for any other living creature. It conquers, not for the raping and pillaging that surely follows, but for the rush that comes just from winning: defining oneself as a winner, superior. This is the level of hierarchy, the drive for superiority. All the perks are great, but it is the thrill of battle and the adrenaline rush of the win that really matter. To gain that rush, L3 may be hostile or even passive-aggressive. It can be cynical, embittered, lawless, crude, exploitive, course, and ruthless.

On the softer side, L3 is where we learn to take care of ourselves. We develop our own personal agenda. We learn to lead others — or to follow. We become aware that situations, events, and even people can be controlled and manipulated to meet our needs and get us what we want / need. This is where we first see needs and desires face to face, and we learn to go after those things with passion and ingenuity. L3 is often feisty and rebellious, prone to taking risks to get what it wants, spontaneous, energetic, willing to break from tradition, innovative, and autonomous. What it really wants is attention.

In its first incarnation, L3 was nothing more than an L2 tribe with an aggressive chief who wanted another tribe’s land, fields, herds, and probably its sexually appealing women or men. Once the wars started, all the involved L2 tribes either moved up to L3 and fought back, or gave in and became part of the spoils of war, and followers or slave labor.

There are a lot of clichés we are familiar with that illustrate the central problem of existence at L3. A child’s cry: “You’re not the boss of me!” and “You can’t make me!” are L3 protests. “The last one standing — wins” concept belongs to L3, as does “Eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die….” — The real problem of existence seems to be the constant struggle to proclaim our own independence or to prove our ability to rise above.

It is at L3 where we get our first taste of shame. L2 may have felt dirty or contaminated when it broke the taboos of the tribe and its rituals, but L3 takes that inner feeling of being unclean and rolls it into full blown shame. It intentionally harms others for its own motives, then must hang its head, occasionally for the damage it has done, or more characteristically, when it fails at what it attempts.

L3 lives in a tough world — the world just recently made modestly safe by the tribal culture of L2. It is only from such safety that a blossoming L3 could emerge — and L2 provides an instant community of followers, soldiers, and slaves for the aggressive and independent L3.

In a world where only the strong survive, the obvious coping means is to fight harder, outwit, be stronger, and survive in spite of others. L3 is where we learn to go after what we want, and in L3 we get our first taste of success (respect) and failure (shame) without the safety net of the tribe or family.

For those not stooping to conquer, L3 is experienced as a follower who vicariously gains ego points by serving the right king. The variety of ways to express self is limited only by the imagination of the human being, since ego is expressed equally well by the painter, cook, or wood carver, and by the athlete and soldier.

L3 is the first system where tactics and strategy are even possible because they can not only see the past (as the L2’s were able to do), but they can also use the past. They look at the last competition or battle and figure out what they did that worked — and then make adjustments to their next encounter based on that learning.

L3 is motivated by instant gratification. Immediate, tangible, physical rewards. Gold. Land. Property. Herds. Oil fields. A strip of land between two rivers. A trophy. A banner. Parades, banquets, and feasts in honor of the victor. Medals and ribbons. Bouquets of flowers, laurel wreaths and crowns. For L3, rewards should be public, obvious, and highly visible.

Successful navigation through the L3 portion of the developmental map yields a strong sense of self, the ability to stand up for yourself even in difficult circumstances, and a clear differentiation from others — even from a strong and healthy L2 family.

Unsuccessful or incomplete L3 can produce an individual with low self esteem, an inactive or reactive approach to life (rather than pro-active or self initiating), and an over dependence on others.

Learning happens at L3 when the teacher is as strong as the learner. Weakness is judged harshly in this system, so a firm but not threatening teaching style is required. Since L3 will constantly test authority and has a relatively short attention span, teaching will be best accomplished with skill challenges, trial and error, and a lively, hands-on class structure. At L3, a gold star, a blue ribbon, or a public graduation or achievement ceremony will make more difference in the learning environment than almost anything else.

If L3 is lived to its limits, an individual will have a strong sense of self and of personal identity. They will have the ability to set goals and to design a plan to achieve those goals, as well as the ability to make active choices concerning the direction of their lives. They will be able to compete with vigor and with the intent to win, and be able to both lead and be led. L3 is where we learn to follow orders and to do (often repetitive) labor . L3 is where the ability to initiate action begins, as opposed to living “reactively” as was done at L1 and L2.

Individuals in the throws of finger-pointing, crying “it’s not my fault” are exercising their L3 to the fullest — often with the result of those around them turning to L3 themselves as a matter of self defense. “It’s not my fault!” is often (and possibly best) met with an equally defiant, “So what and who cares — and it is so your fault!” Assigning blame as a matter of self defense is a sign of L3 running without the trust of L2 and/or the open retreat from isolation that comes on the cusp of L1 —> L2.

If L3 is missing or incomplete, there will be incomplete ego development, resulting in inappropriate competitive behaviors and an inability to deal successfully with authority and authority figures. It will often result in an intolerance of weakness (or exceptional strength) at any of the other levels. Without healthy L3, there can be no “self actualization”as described by Abraham Maslow.

Any time you find a dictatorship; any time you find sports competition; any time you find tribal or clan wars, racism, sexism, ageism, or any other hate-ism, you’re looking L3 in the eye. In this century, we have seen our share of nasty L3 aggressors, moving without rules, without morality, and without the restraint of law. Hitler was the epitome of the conscience-less aggressor — all ego and no restraining bolt — taking more for himself without regard to anyone else. Saadam Hussein also fits this mold. Whether the society has maintained L3 for centuries, fighting the same enemies and struggling for the same borders — or has moved on to L4 or L5 as a society and then been pulled backwards to L3 by a single madman or some unexpected series of events — L3 wars can be the most destructive and catastrophic on earth because there is so little regard for human life among L3s.

At an organizational level, L3 is a single powerful leader who maintains direct, hands-on control of his environment and all those he rules. He is the judge and arbiter. He is the general and the tactician.

In the business world, L3 will be a merchant, trader, or other money-lender — but always with direct control over every aspect of the business. In Western Civilization, L3 business might be in the form of a “Mom and Pop” store, or a one man trucking business. Many entrepreneurs have a strong L3 running in them; often doing what they do for the thrill of the kill, and not for the money.

While a cult or a street gang may be filled with individuals looking for a tribe/family, there will be someone at the top who understands that the best way to meet their need for attention, and to be bolstered by belief, admiration, and even worship, is to manipulate and exploit the tribe. He will feed their L2 needs for his own L3 purposes.

Organizationally, the leader will try to make L3 looks like this:

Or maybe like this:

— in fact, this is probably a better graphic to represent the ego involved at L3. These shapes, though, presuppose that only the leader has reached L3as in a typical cult. If all the members are at L3 they form a pecking order (though not the highly organized one of the next level).

In children, the most obvious example of L3 in action is the child who has discovered the power of the word “no.” Most of what we tend to think of as “terrible twos” are really terrible L3’s. They shout “Mine!” and take territory. They discover heroes and fantasy role models in heavily ego driven characters, rather than the princesses and woodsmen of fairy tale. This system may remain dominant for several years in children, depending on the culture of the household in which they are being raised and the culture that surrounds them at school and with their friends.

In adults, L3 manifests itself as machismo in men — choosing careers that favor testosterone and adrenaline.

In women, L3 may show up either as ultra-femininity with a Martha Stewart – class competitive home and kitchen, or as a “woman who can compete in a man’s world”. Either way, she takes in new territory as skillfully and cannily as her male counterparts. L3, in women, may have more children. In some societies having more children means more able bodies in the fight — whether it was a fight against nature to make the crops grow, or in a uniformed fight against some invading neighbor. Historically, more sons was the equivalent of taking in more territory.

Individuals of both sexes who persist in a “battle of the sexes”-life are probably living at least that portion of their life at L3.

Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky is a strongly L3 character, but so is John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.

L3 is our first opportunity to express ourselves as individuals, and also our first real opportunity to cause the destruction of others.

1. Is there individual desire for autonomy?
2. Are there both leaders and followers?
3. Is there win/lose competition?
4. Is winning/conquering (land, peoples, prizes, perfection) the most significant goal?
5. Is there a sense of being able to choose for oneself?


Being entirely egotistic requires repressing kindly feelings that are necessary for social cohesion. Consequently, L3needs its unconscious archetype, the Hero, the embodiment of those affects. Whereas the conscious level is an unscrupulous winner, the unconscious one is self-sacrificing, willing to help others for their respect and die rather than be dishonorable. Although the oldest of the Greek gods trace back to older patterns (e.g., the Trickster) and many of the gods behave as unscrupulous winners, some of the newer ones, notably Hercules and Dionysus functioned as Heroes, who die helping others and are reborn. In its intuitive virtue, the Hero prefigures the conscious virtue of the next stage.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s