Greeting change gladly?



Change Condition 1: Potential [continued] 

“Change” is in the subtitle of the Spiral Dynamics [SD] bookin fact, it is the last, the final word.  In my view, SD‘s take on change is a crowning achievement of the research, the model, and the book. I think that responsible ways to think about change are on offer here and we do well to be mindful of spirally-aware and values-focused change.

A note to readers: this will be the most technical blog post in the series to date as I want to be especially faithful to the SD model and language with respect to this readiness for change issue. So, limited current events this week as my intention for this piece is not to think through how Change Condition 1 applies for you, or us; rather to provide you the relevant SD tools for your use in considering your given change situationwhether personal or organizational.

Now, if you are already determined how the outcome must/will go regarding the change dynamic that you are facing [e.g., you have some kind of an absolutist position on it], then it’s unlikely these tools will provide a great deal of help. However, if your mind is still somewhat ‘open’ to the possibilities intrinsic to the situation, and attending change dynamic before you, then these tools may just provide some grist for the mill of your thinking. The latter would be my hope as it seems pretty pointless writing to try to influence the formerI’ll leave that to the intentional nudges and good work of the Holy Spirit. Please consider Gaia Orion’s ‘Sacred Change’ image. It offers an excellent cover illustration for this post. 


sacred change
Sacred Change by Gaia Orion ||


Readiness spectrum…

Picking up right from where we left off last week (here), we’re looking at a spectrum of potential for successfully meeting change that reflects a range running from OPEN to CLOSED with various degrees of ARRESTED between (OAC).

Development/growth/adaptability are natural processes. When these natural processes are not evident, some kind of dysfunction is at work. A trauma, a lack in some kind of capacity, or an obstacle/blockage of any kind are only a few of the many ways that growth and change are disrupted and prevented. In Spiral Dynamics [SD] the CLOSED State is the category that holds a place for those who, for any reason, seem caught outside the natural process of healthy growth, development, adaptability, and change. If the reason underlying the CLOSED State in an individual is physicalor structural in the case of an organization, then, unless the condition is somehow alterable, growth and adaptation becomes impossible. This is as straight forward as the fact that, presently, it would be impossible for a human to somehow train/grow into the capacity of running a mile at 75 mphphysical limitation is the simple, practical reason for this. So, let’s move on to examine some more SD orthodoxy concerning the OAC spectrum. In the remainder of this post I’ll rely chiefly on the words of Beck and Cowan, from their 1996 book, Spiral Dynamics, pages 76-82.


Closed State graphic sized


CLOSED State system [continued]

Beck and Cowan [continue], Signs of CLOSED thinking are:

  • INSATIABILITY ~ There is never enough. The person’s urges are never satisfied.
  • EXCLUSIVITY ~ There is no other position, 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. When stressed, the CLOSED person becomes irritable quickly.
  • FULFILLS TASKS TO EXTREMES ~ A perfectionist; compulsive. A person who constantly checks and rechecks to be certain it is ‘right,’ ‘in line with,’ or ‘true to form.’
  • BUILDS A SHELL ~ Avoids exposure to other positions or views. Hides or destroys information that runs counter to one’s own position. Demands censorship or thought control. ‘Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up.’


Creative Commons CC0

ARRESTED State system…

An ARRESTED State is the most common among us unless present conditions in our life are somehow testing our ability to cope/change, or we make intentional efforts to remain OPEN. The ARRESTED State is well summed: ‘going along to get along,’ or, ‘don’t rock the boat.’ Beck and Cowan write regarding the ARRESTED State:

  • ARRESTED thinking leads to attempts to live within life’s barriers and adjusts to them the best way possible.
  • ARRESTED thinking is evidenced in undue stress, gastro-intestinal disorders, passive-aggressive behaviors, and other forms of personal and social frustration. When ARRESTED, we may sense difficulties but believe there is nothing for it since ‘that’s just the way the cookie crumbles’ and ‘you can’t fight city hall.’ That inability to adapt and change things leads to frustration, denial, anger, resentment and a leading malady of our age – ‘stress.’
  • ARRESTED thinkers reject transformational models of change focusing instead on fixer-uppers within the tried-and-true. The barriers may be adjusted a bit, but basic assumptions remain unaltered. Change efforts are directed to refine, polish, and work harder-and-smarter.


Arrested State graphic sized


OPEN State system…



Beck and Cowan write regarding the OPEN State:

  • OPEN thinking strives to remove barriers to allow for the expression of individual differences without getting locked into habitual patterns or unexamined assumptions.
  • OPEN thinking anticipates that change is inevitable and shows considerable elasticity without always jumping on bandwagons.
  • OPEN thinking acknowledges the role external conditions play in making change easy or difficult for people.
  • OPEN thinking is often displayed in the ability of a person to engage a number of Spiral sub-systems ~ from celebrating Purple [BO] in ethnic festivals to contemplating Turquoise [HU] on Earth Day.
  • OPEN thinking is usually displayed in good listening skills, a non-judgmental approach to life, tolerance of differences, and a lack of closed-mindedness.


Open State graphic sized


Beck and Cowan’s take-aways…



Don Beck and Christopher Cowan write:

To summarize Condition 1, the mind/brain must have potential for further development and expansion of conceptual space. That includes OPENness (or at least alterable ARRESTEDness) and the necessary intelligences to handle the new LC‘s. No matter how often you attempt to jump-start change along the Spiral, it cannot happen unless the necessary raw material is present. For example, Stalin’s purges made free-market ‘democracy’ difficult for generations of Russians who still waffle between hard nosed controls and entrepreneurism. Significant corporate change usually requires new minds at the top, not just training and development interventions. And most human beings do seem blessed with ‘talents’ — latent capacities that can be stimulated, but we do not have the same ones.  

So, the stipulations for meeting Condition 1 are:

The thinking is not CLOSED, but is OPEN or at least ARRESTED. The person or group has not reached the limit of available capacities, whatever the reasons for that ceiling may be.

The requisite intelligences are present to deal in the more complex milieu. These may be within the individual or the cumulative knowledge/skill base of the social system. 

The person, organization, or society is free from restrictive pathologies, unresolved ‘sink-holes,’ and historical baggage. [pages 81-2]


Current events…

One current events application before we go. It is easy enough to see how Orange [ER] (e.g., freedom, competition, merit) values can become pathological in expression when corporate, capitalistic interests play into, and exacerbate our CLOSED State pathologies, e.g., “Builds a Shell,” and the resulting polarization and partisan politics. This is easily seen in the cable news business model [Fox and MSNBC, for instance], designed to capitalize on the tribalization of a fracturing and fragmenting society. The AI driving social media’s advertising industry is another example of ER (unintentionally) aggravating our CLOSED State vulnerabilities.

Your thoughts?

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?

Note: I know it’s ambitious trying to introduce a big picture idea in a blog format, so I’m using a serial approach. Introductory post (here). First in series (here).


SD Worldview Color Key



5 thoughts on “Greeting change gladly?

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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s