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dots obsession—love transformed into dots
Dots ObsessionLove Transformed into Dots by Yayoi Kusama

The open road…


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Well, as I write these words it’s two days after Christmas. My post for this coming Sunday, “Year end” [12/30] is all but done, and so I’m writing ahead on my January 6 piece because I’m out next week on a trip to visit my daughter in Georgia. So, while it’s easy enough, and even reasonable, to imagine that next week’s current events will be driven by some kind of corruption or chaos (our new Gilded Age <–click), from here I don’t know specifically what might lead the decency/lack-of-decency news. Therefore, current events tie-ins and attending applications of our anthropology topics, will hopefully return next time.

With just a dollop of imagination we can see ‘barriers’ as a current events topic right now, and likely extending into next week, perhaps beyond, what with the (partial) federal government shut-down. We have a work stoppage over a disagreement concerning the WALL that (first candidate, and then) President Trump has promised to build on our Southern border. One key feature of candidate Trump’s nearly daily claim was that the WALL would be built with Mexico’s money. While the claim has persisted at rallies well into the presidency, the money from Mexico has not been forthcoming, so now the president is asking taxpayers to pay for his WALL. ‘Barriers’ of all kinds in those ‘current events.’ David Frum on the present shutdown, “There’s only one way this ends, Trump backs down, no wall.” [CNN on 12/28] 


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Change Condition 5: BARRIERS

So, ‘Change Condition 2: SOLUTIONS’ really needs to include the means to transcend the  obstacles and barriers it faces as part of meeting its obligations. Change Condition 5: BARRIERS is a check on the reality that our obstacles must be known, and acknowledged as such, if we are to have any hope of change/growththe ‘INSIGHT’ of Condition 4 needs to include ‘BARRIERS.’ For instance, the formal discipline of Blue [DQ] ‘order‘ (law/social conformity) values reigns-in the impulsive nature of Red [CP] ‘power‘ (ego) values. While that is a good and necessary thing, the law of unintended consequences weighs in as it is wont to do. Turns out, stifling our impulses has the unintended consequence of disconnecting each of us from our own emotions. We’ve talked about ‘shadows’ (and projection) in earlier posts in this series. This ‘stifling’ is a prime way that our shadows are created. So, the same Blue energy that allows us to transcend Red dominance, also fuels the unintended creation of barriers (e.g., shadows/blind spots) to DQ movement to Orange [ER], thus inhibiting clean transcendence of Blue




In their book Spiral Dynamics, Beck and Cowan write:

Condition 5 – BARRIERS … to Change Identified and Overcome. Barriers can make change difficult, if not impossible. They must be recognized (no more denial) and identified concretely (name names), and then (a) eliminated, (b) bypassed, (c) neutralized, or (d) reframed into something else. These barriers are first identified as part of the external field and the Life Conditions, then later purged from the mindset of the person or group.

In step one, the recognition phase, barriers are usually seen to be external. ‘It’s their fault!’ ‘We are oppressed and they will pay!’ ‘If it were not for you (management, spouse, children), I could be a real person!’ ‘The bloody establishment holds us down.’ As the barriers are identified concretely in step two, the reasons they are effective obstacles shows up in one’s self as well as the external environment. The greatest barriers are often those of our own making… (page 84)


goldfish jumping out of the water


Change Condition 6: CONSOLIDATION 

Bringing all the constituencies of the change into sufficient alignment regarding the new paradigm is the final condition that must be met for clean transcendence to the next level of values [vMEME]. 

Beck and Cowan write:

As in the Parable of the Sower, the seeds of change often fall on thin or hostile soil, infested with weeds and difficulties. Lacking a supporting culture, the new vMEMEs barely germinate much less bloom. Even when they do, new awakenings are usually characterized by high-energy but also high-klutziness.  Exciting discoveries have not yet become mature expressions and so appear half-baked and clumsy. It takes a while for the new systems to blend into the profile. This period of adjustment is volatile and takes some shaking-out. After all, the individual brain is reconnecting itself and the corporate brain is making new acquaintances. 

When significant change occurs, you can expect a period of confusion, false starts, long learning curves, and awkward assimilation. Those who changeeither as individuals or organisationsmay be punished by those who do not understand what is happening and now find themselves left out, misaligned and threatened. Old barriers may be rebuilt in the form of punitive rules, turf battles, and power tests. New obstacles might be set up. Sometimes, you will have to go around, let the bridge burn and not look back.

Six Conditions for Change… a review

“When all Six Conditions are met, new vMEMEs may awaken and movement along the Spiral may occur. … Consider the Six as you observe everything from national politics to discussion of global ecology to schisms within religious movements. The Spiral principles are the same.” ~ Beck and Cowan (page 85)


goldfish jumping out of the water
Illustration of Spiral Growth, vMEME transcendence

Stages/phases of vertical change – brief intro

  • Phase 1: The ALPHA Fit ~ A honeymoon period as Life Conditions and awakened vMEMEs are in relative harmony and life appears to be good, at least on the surface. As life is dynamic, we do well to recall Einstein’s admonition, paraphrased: solutions to our present problems are the seeds of our future problems.
  • Phase 2: The BETA Condition ~ The harmony of the ALPHA Fit begins to give way to dissonancea time of uncertainty, questioning, and frustration. Old ways are not matching present needs as before. 
  • Phase 3: The GAMMA Trap ~ When the situation deteriorates enough the person or organization moves down the path toward the GAMMA Trap. The intuitive sense of the BETA Condition gives way to the concrete apprehension of obstacles and barriers that seem insurmountable. Deep GAMMA is a hope killer as it seems as if there’s no power in hand to do anything about it. Fortunately full-on GAMMA Trap is not a requisite for growth as the ‘revision’ by-pass is available to the astute strategist-leader. Entering GAMMA is really the point of no return as the old-ALPHA ways have now lost their appeal.
  • Phase 4: The DELTA Surge ~ When the GAMMA is unbunged at last and the crippling BETA barriers are finally breached, a DELTA Surge is triggered. Excitement and energy abound as the future opens in the new-found flexibility of the present, a new present in which the past has finally lost its iron grip. This can often be a perilous time as well.
  • Phase 5: The New ALPHA Fit ~ Consolidation has now pulled all the ideas, discoveries, and insights gained in phases 2, 3, & 4 into cohesive alignment. The energies of the person or organization have now coalesced around the new paradigm and formed a new state of equilibrium between values systems and Life Conditions. The New ALPHA Fit assumes the role of official worldview, that  is, until we top the hill, or round the bend to greet a new BETA Condition.


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Next time we’ll dig a bit further into these stages/phases of changeespecially the BETA Condition and the GAMMA Trapand take a closer look at the Red [CP] vMEME. 

May 2019 be the year we come to better understand our values and in so doing learn to be a little more kind. 

Your thoughts?

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

Note: Introducing Spiral Dynamics in this format is ambitious. So, I’m using a serial-approach. Blog introduction (June 30, 2018). First in series (July 1, 2018).


SD Worldview Color Key


goldfish jumping out of the water
A goldfish jumping out of the water to escape to freedom. White background.

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