For many years, as a graduate psychologist and systemic therapist, I have accompanied people in my work primarily by talking to them about the issues they brought with them, asking questions to help them find answers and new perspectives for themselves. In doing so, I have often observed that this work, which is very much controlled by the mind (language and thinking), searches for blockages and approaches to solutions primarily in the consciousness. Even when we talk about emotions and feelings, this is primarily a process that is translated and analyzed by the mind. For me, there was always a big part missing, somehow it didn’t feel „whole“. Also on my personal development journey, motivated by this, I have become more and more involved with practices and methods and have done trainings that have helped me to connect with the other so-called bodies – besides the mental body also with the physical, the emotional, the energetic and the spiritual body. Over the last few years I have trained as a meditation teacher, Yin Yoga teacher, energy healer, in the field of Chinese medicine, as a medical aroma consultant and as THE SPIRAL Practitioner in order to be able to accompany my clients holistically in their development.
Today I achieve the most effective and sustainable results with my clients embedding THE SPIRAL process in my program SHIFT INTO MASTERY. In this program, I first work with my client to identify the intention, the desired state or outcome to be achieved after the process. Then, in 8 sessions, we embark on a journey together to explore in the unconscious where beliefs and thought patterns are hidden and anchored that keep us from evolving and growing into our so-called potential. The simplest ones are „I’m not worth it“, „I can’t do this“ or even „I’m not allowed to do this“, but they can be even more subtle things like experiences we have had or stories that have become so entrenched in our unconscious that our mind does everything it can to avoid experiencing them again – which may have been true in childhood, but is no longer true for us as adults.
THE SPIRAL method is based on several models, including the stages of consciousness or Spiral Dynamics. Just knowing this model and knowing what developmental possibilities we have as humans on the level of consciousness helps us to recognize where we are stuck and what we can do to develop further.
Everything I am going to share in this series of articles (according to a podcast series I did in German) is based on the work of great pioneers. Therefor my thanks go out to Clare W. Graves, Don E. Beck and Christopher W. Cohan who developed Spiral Dynamics and to Tara Springett for her great book „Life is a game and these are the rules of the game“ in which she describes the stages of consciousness from years of experience as a Buddhist and psychotherapist. And also Dane Thomas for developing THE SPIRAL and Kylie Ryan and Mei Ouw who have taken over the school from Dane and are continually developing the training.
The Stages of Consciousness according to Tara Springett and Spiral Dynamics.
The stages of consciousness provide us with an understanding and realization of what is necessary for our personal development. When we are stuck in a particular level of consciousness, we may experience suffering. Development at these levels is subject to the individual’s free will.
Tara Springett, psychotherapist and Buddhist, has described 9 stages of consciousness as a staircase in her book „Life is a Game and Here are the Rules of the Game.“ She compares the stages of consciousness to two flights of stairs that show us where we are. We can check this out for ourselves by asking ourselves what our main motivation is in life. The essence of each stage of consciousness lies in our deepest motivation to achieve what we desire in our lives.
Tara Springett emphasizes that each person has the opportunity to evolve through these stages of consciousness and begin their own growth journey. Knowing these stages can help us identify our personal motivations and blocks and set us on the path to a more fulfilling and conscious existence. With her, the stages begin with stage 0 – so don’t get confused when reading. Level 0 is the first level.
Pay attention to how you perceive and feel yourself as you read through the description of the levels. We can experience each stage in parts within us – for example, when we put something off or experience ourselves passively, we are in the innocence stage, when we eat the last piece of cake without giving it to others, we are in the dominance stage, and so on. So the classification is not about us leaving the integrated stages, behind, but continuing to use them in a healthy way when appropriate, and in identifying where we currently are, in what is our current main motivation with associated values and worldview that drives us.
Tara Springett explains the nine stages of consciousness as follows*:
The nine stages of consciousness are ordered like a stairway with two flights of steps and one interconnecting step in the middle. It is possible to recognise these nine stages in every person, in every culture throughout history, in every organisation and even in every moment of one’s inner experience. Here is a first short overview of the stairway of consciousness:
Step 0 – Innocence: Passivity; little motivation; lack of awareness; sense of relative harmony; pleasure and trust; the individual says, ‘I belong to my group’.
Step 1 – Dominance: Wish to dominate others if necessary in a ruthless way; anger; greed; the individual says, ‘I want it and I want it now!’
Step 2 – Obedience: Submission and adherence to moral and social rules for the greater good of all; hierarchical structures in groups of people; self-denial and judging of others; the individual says, ‘I do what is expected of me.’
Step 3 – Ambition: Rational world-view; creating a successful self-image; materialism; competitiveness; the individual says, ‘I want to achieve more than anyone else.’
Step 4 – Sharing: Search for compassionate relationships; exploration of one’s emotions; egalitarianism; living in harmony with nature; the individual says, ‘I am close to others and to nature.’
Step 5 – Responsibility: Taking full responsibility for every single problem in one’s life; keen interest in personal development and following one’s vocation, the individual says, ‘I realise my dreams for the best of humankind.’
Step 6 – Love: Making altruistic love and spiritual development the most important aims in life; the individual says, ‘I send love to heal the world.’
Step 7 – Bliss: Realisation that one’s true nature is blissful loving space; development of supernatural powers; withdrawal into spiritual retreats; the individual says, ‘My true nature is spiritual bliss.’
Step 8 – Enlightenment: Infinite love, bliss and wisdom; seeing oneself as divine and the world as a paradise; the individual says, ‘I am love’.
The majority of people in Western society are at one of the first four steps. By comparison, people who are interested in personal and spiritual development are on the sharing stage, responsibility level or even on one of the higher stages. This is true even if they find aspects in themselves that belong to the lower stages, which signifies remnants of unresolved stress. Finally, only a small minority of people in our society have stabilised themselves at the highest three stages of consciousness and have become able to experience profound states of love, happiness and bliss and use their knowledge to help others.
* found on her website: https://www.taraspringett.com/bliss/introduction-stairway-heaven/
So, what do you think? Which main motivation appealed to you the most? Usually we rank ourselves one or two levels „higher up“ because we have a desire to develop there. In fact, our thinking and behavior are mostly shaped by stages we are born into socially and socioculturally – and unconsciously they shape us until we consciously and actively evolve.
There are also other challenges in placing ourselves in the stages of consciousness: we think no matter what stage we are in, that we have already reached the end of the ladder. Therefore, most people can’t do much with the next stages or even reject them as stupid or weak. Someone who is characterized by competitiveness (organge / ambition), does not think much of cooperation (green / compassion) and so on. Only when people experience suffering do they look for opportunities to develop further, to expand their complexity and then grow beyond themselves.
If we then develop further, this usually has the consequence that we no longer feel comfortable with our previous environment, because we have grown out of the world view and the understanding of values. This can go so far that we also move away from our family of origin, which can often be painful and is often a process that takes years. In times of crisis or great challenges, we often fall back to previous levels.
Curious? Here you can do a self-check!
If you are curious, you can take the test that I provide here for you as a download – it is only a rough classification and by no means absolute. Depending on context and situation you will get different results. But it will give you an interesting first impression where you are currently and you will get an idea which topics you can deal with in order to develop into the next level.