Let’s look closely at the sixth stage in the Spiral Dynamics model: stage Green.
This is one of the most dominant stages in the West right now. You’ll almost certainly know people who embody Green, and will have heard the Green siren song in the media. And that’s the power of Spiral Dynamics and developmental theory – it helps us integrate and contextualise the many value systems, worldviews and groups that we’re already familiar with.
This stage falls into the other-oriented, deny-self family, as opposed to the self-oriented, express-self family. The Spiral Dynamics theory calls it HumanBond, Relativistic and Sensitive. Let’s find out why.
It’s crucial to understand when and why Green emerges in individuals and groups, as well as its historical significance.
When Does Spiral Dynamics Stage Green Emerge Collectively?
When societies reach a certain level of economic prosperity, energy is freed up, enabling other issues to be addressed. People turn their attention to matters like inequality, pollution, racism, sexism and the many barriers still separating human beings despite our technological and material abundance.
Green’s evolutionary role is to move society forward by targeting these issues.
So Green emerges in modern, prosperous societies where collective expressions of Orange – the free market, democracy, capitalism and consumerism – are well established. Some examples are Scandinavia, North America, Australia and Western Europe.
For this reason, Green-centred people often dislike capitalism and the modern world. They often have trouble integrating its wonderful contributions, and are blind to their own dependence on it. Many see these modern creations to be diseases that have infected humankind. We’ll dive into this more when we get to Green’s values.
Green burst onto the world scene in the 1960s when the anti-establishment Boomer generation attacked the status quo and helped initiate enormous social change. Women’s rights, gay rights and black rights were forever transformed.
Green is dominating the media right now. While the political left embody a reasonably healthy version of Green, the Wokers and social justice warriors are going down the malignant route.
Let’s look at when and why Green emerges for individuals.
When Does Spiral Dynamics Stage Green Emerge Individually?
The Orange-Green transition is visible in celebs and bigshots who realise the hollowness of their materialism and begin searching for something deeper.
Green emerges when we become aware of the limits of Orange in our own lives. Once we fully download Green, we go from being excitement-seeking consumerists to minimalists, preferring to make do with less, live in the present and rid ourselves of drives for affluence and success.
Our Orange-inspired scientific worldview goes out the window and in its place comes a more sensitive, open-minded, “fuzzy” philosophy.
Many outright reject their Orange drives, often with regrettable results.
With children now versed in race issues, climate change and the dark side of human history, many are fluent in Green concepts by their early teenage years.
They then fully download this stage during university, and may regret their Orange-oriented career choices as they’re on the brink of graduating and entering the workforce (like I did).
Time to look at the characteristic worldviews of Green.
Spiral Dynamics Stage Green: Worldview
A crucial component of the Green worldview is the awareness that humanity and the world has been torn apart by capitalism, imperialism, colonialism – any “ism” that divides people into winners and losers.
We sense the possibility of peace and love, of humankind coming together and living as one in a “shared habitat”, as the Spiral Dynamics theory puts it.
While this idealism is beautiful and empowering, too often it spirals into nihilism and depression. These nuggets of gold are hijacked by social media and friendship echo rooms and malignantly grow into a full-blown rejection of humankind and modernity, becoming a soul-eating mind cancer.
Relativism also comes online with Green. Before, we were hypnotised by science, modernity and the materialistic dream. Now, we’re open to many more truth systems, all of which are contextual and open to questioning.
Now onto the psychology of Green.
Spiral Dynamics Stage Green: Psychology
A crucial part of Green’s psychology is its sensitivity.
There’s a broad sensitivity to humankind’s victim groups and losers, like blacks, gays, women and the LGBTQ community. We realise humankind needs to atone for the horror inflicted on these groups.
Linked to this is the sensitivity (or perhaps allergy) to judgement, ranking, sorting and categorising of any kind.
Green-centred people tend to have levels of warmth and kindness that you won’t find anywhere else. There’s a heightened empathy, too – they want to hear your story.
On the other hand, there’s a susceptibility to group think: “If I go along with the group, I’ll be accepted, so I’ll just keep quiet and try not to rock the boat.” Lack of warm, emotional connection to others causes suffering, and we can become too much of a light touch.
Like all Spiral Dynamics stages, Green has its unique allergy profile. Green-centred people often react negatively to the mainstream, the corporate world, conventionality, authority, consumerism, hierarchy, autonomy, power and aggression.
Let’s now look at the key values of Green.
Spiral Dynamics Green: Values
The key to understanding Green-level values is that they centre around creating a planet where everyone can belong, absolutely regardless of who they are. What Green wants, above everything else, is peace and love for all.
Naturally, anti-racism and social justice are characteristic Green concerns.
Green values often include high ideals and egalitarianism. We want to liquify gender roles and smash glass ceilings. We want equal representation, even at the cost of competency. Dominating the media at the moment are stories related to women’s empowerment, gay rights and racism. This is Green at work, and hallelujah!
Similarly, Green values diversity for diversity’s sake. We can learn more when we have a little bit of black, white, Asian, gay, straight, male and female in the mix.
But we don’t only value diversity in this sense – it’s true for our worldviews, too. Seeing the world through conventional, reductionistic lenses is boring and we begin to play with left-field methodologies, contact our interiors and bring back ancient traditions. While Green signifies a huge cognitive leap forward, the built-in allergy to the conventional becomes a sticking point.
Seeing the destructive and divisiveness that has plagued human history, Green champions non-hierarchy. It tends to judge all hierarchies as bad. This is visible in leaderless environmental protest groups where everyone gets a say.
Green values everything “conscious” – this is one of the memes that’s part of the Green vMEME package. Conscious business, conscious actions, conscious food, conscious living, you name it.
Humanity is currently struggling to implement Green-level principles and solutions to high-level concerns such as climate change, food provision, pollution and business. Many of the battles being fought here are between Green and the lower vMEMEs.
On an individual level, at Green we replace our money chasing and status sensitivity with an appreciation of the here and now and the beauty in the world, and the happiness that automatically comes by doing so. We now stop to smell the roses and can actually sensually soak into a scene, rather than merely peering through our phone screens. All of us could use a dose of Green in that regard.
And finally, let’s look at the behavioural side of Green.
Spiral Dynamics Green: Behaviour
Green-centred groups tend to arrange themselves in non-hierarchical structures. You could call these communities or communes. These groups are often leaderless and members will subtly quash other members’ designs on leadership. If there is a leader, they typically don’t direct and manage as a traditional leader would. Instead, they’re ready to relinquish control to the wider group, and won’t risk stepping on people’s toes. They need to be accepted and feel a connection with those they lead.
Processes are team-oriented. Everyone is invited to contribute, every voice is heard, and nothing is pushed through unless everyone signs up. This structure clearly has both pros and cons. It can be costly, long-winded, stifle effective action and take authority away from the most competent, but members will feel accepted and worthy no matter who they are. 100% agreement between members also makes effective action likely.
It’ll be interesting to see how Green manages this non-hierarchical tendency as it continues to tackle global warming and issues of exclusion – issues that need hard-hitting solutions.
Green-centred individuals tend to support the needy and downtrodden, directing their attention towards helping the elderly, the homeless, the poor and the disabled. Thank goodness Western politics has enough Leftist influence to make provisions for these groups possible. On the other hand, a person’s Green ideals of helping the needy may have them settle for a low-paid job that’s far below their potential.
Graves described the outer-oriented stages (Purple, Blue, Green, Turquoise) as “Deny self”. As they seek harmony and connection with others, Green-centred people’s version of Deny self is to adjust its own desires, thoughts and opinions to fit with those of other group members and say the right things to guarantee acceptance and warmth. On the flipside, they often flare up when others rock the boat, act unilaterally or show little regard for the group. They can preach non-judgement, but ironically then condemn any form of judgement.
Green-centred people can be a little soft around the edges and lack Red and Orange’s aggression and “I don’t give a hoot what you think of me”. They often have a sensitive, soft demeanour.
The Monumental Leap from Green to Yellow
Graves called the Green-Yellow transition a “monumental leap”. He liked to use Maslow’s idea of deficiency and abundance needs to describe it. And when you see this transition in yourself and in the world around you, it’s clear to see why.
The predisposition of the first six Spiral Dynamics systems is to grab onto their own values and reject those of other stages. Republicans fighting democrats. Green peace advocates fighting the establishment. Scientists bashing fundamentalist fanatics. Each is closed within itself, sees the world through its unique lens, and acts accordingly.
Green is no different. It can tear us open: exposing us to a variety of unexplored truth systems, having us empathise with all, widening our concern to include issues we had overlooked or swept under the rug.
But Green values are still exclusive values. Green has us reject an array of people and groups, whose values seem evil to us.
Only at Yellow can we grasp to a sufficient level why people hold the values do. We have the flexibility required to consciously integrate all other perspectives and behaviours with our own.
This is a transition that is yet to happen on a societal level. But if and when it does, we could be in for a transformation comparable in magnitude to the Enlightenment, the industrial revolution and the 1960s.
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