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Spiral Dynamics Stage Green: The Good and The Bad

Today we’re going to look at the good and the bad of Spiral Dynamics Stage Green in our personal lives. This is a super practical article packed with insights from my own life, my engagement with the Spiral Dynamics community, and my observations of the successes and failures of friends at this stage.

My intention is to help you skillfully embody Stage Green – incorporating the healthy and constructive and sidestepping the unhealthy and destructive.

I won’t describe Spiral Dynamics Green or the Spiral Dynamics model in any depth – check out these articles for in-depth descriptions of both, then come back here.
Spiral Dynamics For Newbies: The 8 Stages and More
Spiral Dynamics Stage Green in a Nutshell

I was going to split this down the middle: strengths on one hand, weaknesses on the other. But after some thought, I realised that each capacity or feature of Green is both a positive and a negative. It’s both a strength and a weakness, depending on how we view it. So we’ll look at several capacities or properties of stage green and ask what their healthy and unhealthy parts are.

By the way, I say “Green” in third person for simplicity’s sake. I don’t want to typecast people or create this distant “third-person” as though I was talking about an alien species. My intention isn’t to make it seem that Green is outside of me, separate and detached; it’s alive and well in me. I refer to it more as a psychological structure than a living, breathing person.

Let’s look at a quick summary of Green.

Express Summary of Stage Green

Green is about sensitivity, justice and egalitarianism. It’s a feminine stage and is emotional and postconventional.

It’s crucial to realise that many of Green’s characteristics come from a transcendence and rejection of Orange. As Orange wanes, competition with others becomes stifling and we realise that our selfishness is hurting other people. Materialism ultimately doesn’t fulfil us and the fallout of pursuing it – environmental damage, inequality, health issues, injustice and pillaging of resources – is made plain to see.

We may be rich and have a great self-image but still feel a void despite the promises of everlasting material happiness. We also have a need to belong again – to feel close to others and feel accepted.

  • Spiral Dynamics Stage Green Worldview
  • Spiral Dynamics Stage Green Values
  • Spiral Dynamics Stage Green Psychology

Here are the key markers of Green:

  • we’re connected to feelings and emotions more than any other stage;
  • we value sensitivity, warmth, respectful discourse, sharing, and understanding;
  • we seek to tear down artificial human divisions and hierarchies and create parity;
  • we’re relativistic: one view is not necessarily better than the next, all views must be heard and considered;
  • we support the downtrodden and needy, attempt to regulate growth and protect endangered species;
  • we strive to give everyone a say and rely on cooperation, community, togetherness and gently communicating feelings.

Now that we’ve taken a quick tour of Stage Green, let’s get to the core of this article. We begin with our new relationship to ourselves and its ups and downs.

Stage Green Quality 1: Connection to Emotional Self

At Green, the world of emotions, feelings, thoughts and intuition opens up. We realise that we have a wonderfully alive inner life and begin exploring it.

We come to the conclusion that the heart and emotions often totally contradict our logical, hard-nosed side. The latter seems to operate on hunches, desire and authenticity rather than practicality, realism and intellect.

Thus our personality and mode of decision-making radically changes. Instead of rationalising the life out of everything, we let our feelings guide the way. This can be confusing but also hugely liberating as we find a deeper thread of meaning in our lives. It seems we’re being looked after by something that’s greater than us and whose language isn’t rational and logical.

This is great: us humans often deliberate over decisions too much, not connecting to our desires or internal warning system. We even supress our emotions and desires, considering them too fluffy and intangible, to make way for well-reasoned, “practical” courses of action. Emotions often lead the way to authentic desires, beyond our mental justifications for them. We miss this wisdom when we bypass them.

Besides, connecting to this emotional self brings remarkable self-understanding that was simply unavailable to us when prior levels dominated. Our trauma, emotional patterns, mental habits, delusions and deficiencies all come to life. We quickly get to work exploring this weird and wonderful new territory.

The Downside

But as I said, each quality of Stage Green has a downside too, and we don’t have to look far for the downsides to this one. For one thing, we often start demonising rationality, knowledge and science, believing them to be opposed to emotion. We start questioning truth systems, seeing them as overly practical and devoid of creativity. We might even believe that there is no such thing as truth.

Besides, often our emotions can mislead us. We tend to fall into the trap of thinking that feelings and intuition are more elevated than rationality and logic.

In fact, this inner material at times comes from primitive parts of ourselves, and we’d do better to listen to our rational self, given that it exists so that we can step back and think about our decisions. We should be with the emotion and give it its say, but also put it through our filters, and also put our mind through filter of our emotions.

Finally, we spend so much time trying to heal and mend ourselves that we forget about the outside world. We stop getting shit done! We have to make sure we’ve done the inner work before we take any action. If we don’t feel right, we feel paralysed. The inner world comes first, so we often fall into inaction and ineffectiveness. We’ll return to this point later in the article.

Stage Green Quality #2: Connection To Injustice In World

Another central quality of Green is our sensitivity, which we tend to direct towards social justice. We see that the human world is still highly unequal despite technological advancement, democracy and civilised society. The contradictions, lies and hypocrisy of politics, big business and the First World is made plain.

We start going to anti-oil, anti-capitalist protests, doing charity work and complaining to your friends about the state of the world. We can see this kind of behaviour in the Vegan movement, climate change activities, the LGBTQ movement and other Left-oriented social and political trends.

Every Spiral Dynamics stage has its necessity. This awakening to injustice and suffering is a crucial step in our personal evolution. It helps us see aspects of human life that were hidden from our eyes before. We get really pragmatic about solving issues in the world and improving society, beyond our self-centred interests. This Green sensitivity is essential for society to continue evolving.

But you can get stuck in this sensitivity and concern for the world. For example, a lot of climate activists are really scared. They genuinely believe that the world is coming to an end if we don’t do something quick. Remind them that in little more than 100 years human society has continued to thrive despite two world wars, Communism, Fascism, The Cold War, the Cultural Revolution and the Big Leap Forward, and they’ll try to convince you that this really is the time that we fucked it all up.

You see, they create an identity around fighting climate change. They take the moral high ground and get paranoid and catastrophic. And the same thing goes for all these liberal movements. The underlying tone is “modern human society is a shit stain on this planet, and unless we evolve into a new kind of society, we’re going to hell.” They seem to be remarkably unaware of human psychological, technological and moral evolution and end up completely lost in their nihilism.

We forget how dark human history is and don’t see that the social injustices we’re fighting against now are comparatively mild, even though we believe they’re so terrible and immoral.

There’s a lot of negative propaganda out there that convinces us we’re all going to drown or get baked by the sun, which I think is a load of nonsense.

Quality #3: Postconventionality

Susanne Cook-Greuter called her analogue of Stage Green “Individualist” and describes it as the first postconventional stage of ego development. What does postconventional mean?

This means that for the first time in our lives we can see the chaos and calamities of the prevailing culture. We start looking beyond it for our sense of meaning and purpose. This opens the way for a new life, a new self, a new philosophy, a healthier life than the conventional one.

This is a healthy development in the individual, if it comes at the right time. We might become a maverick, keen to find our new identify free of conventional influences and express it to the world. But we often begin to criticise the modern order and end up going too far. A common illusion is that modern Western culture, with its capitalism, consumerism, technology and industry, represents the very worst of human life.

In reality, this is false. Modern Western society is one of the greatest blessings in human history. We have freedom, rights, autonomy, medical care, legal protection, education opportunities, technology and luxuries that were simply unimaginable even 100 years ago.

Being hypercritical of modern times gets depressing. It can make us feel lost, separate from society, without solid ground to stand on.

Besides, a lot of us postmodern, Green people grow up in Western culture and are extremely privileged. We’ve no idea what it’s like to grow up in a developing country or in fundamentalist Muslim countries, so we get idealistic. We take everything for granted. What’s more, when we become postconventional, we don’t suddenly detach and float above society – we’re still entirely dependent on it.

I believe we can feel much more at peace with the world by seeing that humans are in evolution and that Western culture is actually pretty damn good compared to others.

#4: New Desire For Connection

One of the great Green awakenings comes when we start contacting the humanness in other people. We want to get close to them, feel their emotions, get inside their skin, generate good vibes and create close relationships. We let go of our judgments and try to understand others for who they are.

In doing so, we’re exploring a new aspect of our social lives: knowing a person for who they are, seeing their story, forming a connection, and honouring them. This is an expansion of consciousness, a further move away from our self-obsession and separate sense of self.

We also get interested in how our communication and internal biases warp and distort our relationships with other people. This leads to stringent self-analysis and a genuine desire to become softer, more sensitive, more loving, less reactive and less driven by our own inner limitations.

But, like with all the others, this very capacity is itself a problem!

We become with so obsessed with positivity and good vibes that we can’t tell people to beat it when we need to. That is, we become a doormat. We’re simply unable to hurt another person, meaning we often let them hurt us with impunity. Our assertivity and strength wither and die. 

There’s also a tendency to think that everyone is nice. We walk around with rose-tinted spectales, desperate to connect and feel close to others, and so willingly overlook their faults. If we see an issue in them, it’s our fault, our own lack of love and sensitivity that prevents us from seeing their perfection and humanness.

Part of our nature is anger, masculinity, directness. This tends to go underground at Green. We want to be sensitive, kind and nice. It tends to go too far.

In fact, we actually tend to direct our anger towards groups that we morally disagree with. So while we become nice and sweet to people in person, we still use masculine assertiveness and aggression, but we target it at groups and systems rather than individuals. Don’t be fooled: Green has enemies, like money, power, capitalism, authority, hierarchies. It wants humanity, connection, a level-playing field. It directs its angry and energy at the powers that obstruct those qualities.

We can’t tell anyone to get off our back, but we’ll happily go to protests and blame others for the world’s problems. It’s a strange psychological mechanism.

#5: Spiritual Life

At Green, we often resurrect our spiritual life or even create one from scratch.

If you were born in a secular context, you’re brainwashed into believing that there is nothing bigger going on, that it’s only a physical universe governed by the laws of physics, chemistry, biology and so on. You don’t connect to a deeper source, meaning, principle, being.

At Green, you usually start connecting to that more. I would call Green spirituality “ill-defined” spirituality. It feels like you’re striving for something. You’re going to meditation classes, yoga classes, doing psychedelics, talking about spiritual subjects. It has an ethereal, airy, feminine feel. You’re talking about the mind and observing yourself and getting into psychological work. 

But all of this lacks a structure. Green is a dissociative stage; it tears you apart a little. You’re opening up to all this new territory, but you don’t have a way of integrating it all together and understanding it. 

In Green spiritual communities, they dislike hierarchy, rigid definitions and distinctions, “this way is the way, that way isn’t the way”, and so on. It can’t define things. So spirituality tends to fall into making connections with people, understanding the world in an ethereal and emotional way, opening up to new forms of knowledge, sensitivity, feelings… it’s all of these things with no real framework, in a kind of amorphous gloop.

We might even say things like: “spirituality is undefinable”, “it’s different for everyone”. So you have this spirituality, but it’s not a real, solid spiritual life and system for transformation. You’re doing all this stuff and exploring all these areas, but you don’t really understand why.

Spiral Dynamics Stage Green Quality #6: Getting Shit Done

As mentioned, at Stage Green we get really involved with our emotions and inner world. We see new sides to our personality and become fascinated with personal growth. Books about psychology, intuition and emotions now dominate our bookshelf, and we spend time lots of time journaling, getting in touch with our authentic desires, and analysing ourselves. We turn our back on achievement and striving and start building a peaceful world suited to introspection.

This is a genuine jump in consciousness. Our inner world, previously hidden behind a veil of unawareness, is now wide open, multidimensional, alive. Here the seeds of 2nd- and 3rd-tier transformation are sown. In fact, we’re getting a lot done – just on the inside.

We tend to go so deep into this work that we forget about outside life. Since Green is a dissociative stage, we often lack a clear guiding principle for our life. It’s all a bit ill-defined and nebulous. Combine this with our newfound intimacy with our inner world, and we can end up flailing around, wallowing in our emotions, forgetting that shit needs done!

I’ve never been so financially inept as I was when Green dominated my life. I thought finances were unimportant and that career was a sideshow. The only things that interested me were developing myself, becoming emotionally pure and experiencing spiritual enlightenment. I didn’t want to get involved with the world and get shit done – I preferred to just “be”and get in touch with my inner self.

Stage Green can deconstruct everything – all your bases for meaning, coherence and purpose. Your life can fall apart a little. You might have to rebuild again. If you’re a little older and have money behind you, it’s much more feasible because you already have a solid base.

But if you’re not at the point where you can be unproductive, Green might mess you up. You forget about the everyday practical stuff. You go so deep inward that you forget about the outside.

Because we lack the ability to get shit done and can’t put our newfound values and authenticity towards lasting projects, we tend to wallow around not doing much. It can be plain unsatisfying.

We find a new thing, like a spiritual retreat or volunteer opportunity, and we get involved with that for a while, then a new thing comes along and we jump over to that. We jump around, following our intuition. After a few years, we realise we’ve not done very much.

You explore a lot of new areas, get off the treadmill of building and building, but you don’t accomplish anything. All the values, morals and ideals haven’t been tapped and made into something lasting.

I’ve also got Spiral Dynamics ebooks and an in-depth course on the stages of human development, do check those out if you want to get a really deep understanding of these stages and where they appear in you and in humanity. It can completely shift how your understanding of humans and why we’re here.

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