Lisa Doig, Director of Corporate Evolution, gives an excellent overview of Richard Barrett’s Seven Levels of Consciousness (so much so that Richard himself thought it was ‘brilliant’) and explains how it can be used as a framework for development and growth beyond the societal norms and expectations of the Socialized Mind, as she notes below.
Levels one, two, three, I’m doing what I’m supposed to do, the shoulds, have to, must. At level four, something happens that forces us or awakens us to break away from the conditioning, and it takes courage.
Level one, two, three can be victim and blame, or ‘below the line’ as we say. And level four to seven is above the line. So I take accountability for my part in that.
Adapting: Letting Go of Fears & Control
She also elaborates on what it takes from an organizational perspective to ‘level up’ consciously beyond societal norms, describing the fears and control that leaders need to be let go of before an organization can truly start adapting and innovating.
There’s not one organization I know that can survive in today’s VUCA world that can not be adaptable and innovative. But can you see it takes a higher level of consciousness to be in that place.
So this is also where we start listening to the employee. There’s command and control (at levels one to three). You do what I say. Level four is I’m actually listening and inviting participation from employees.
True Belonging: Unconditional Love & Being At “Home” With Yourself
She further elaborates on levels five and six which resonate with my own journey, as I feel like I’m trying to level up to level six individually right now but I still need to let go of residual fears still holding me back from fully accepting and unconditionally loving myself as I truly am. This mirrors with what Richard Barrett said about levels one, two, and three fears being synchronous preventions of achieving development within levels five, six, and seven.
In (level) five, I’m stepping into my purpose, internally. Level six is externally. If I’m living my highest self, ‘I make a difference’ but really feel it in the heart. Not like, you could be ‘I make a difference’ at level two to be liked. At level six, I know by my being I make a difference. And so it’s a really place not having do and prove anymore but be a mentor and be a coach because it’s my purpose.
What I find remarkable about this statement is that it mirrors the work of Brené Brown when she talks about the difference between belonging (in a more normal, societal sense) versus True Belonging. When a person achieves a sense of True Belonging (which I equate with level six), there is a sense of being truly at home within one’s Self at a higher level versus feeling inadequate and always seeking a place to belong within one’s ego self at a lower level.
Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.Brené Brown
This shift from a lower level self to a higher level Self is achieved by developing a deep intrapersonal relationship with one’s self / Self which again is elaborated by Brené Brown below, describing this acceptance and unconditional love of ourselves as we currently are. To provide a different perspective of this, we all have this feeling of wanting to belong to something larger than our selves. When we achieve True Belonging, our (ego) self finally feels like it belongs to a larger sense of our (soul) Self, thus the ego and soul are finally in perfect alignment.
Belonging so fully to yourself that you’re willing to stand alone is a wilderness–an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. The wilderness can often feel unholy because we can’t control it, or what people think about our choice of whether to venture into that vastness or not. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.
The special courage it takes to experience true belonging is not just about braving the wilderness, it’s about becoming the wilderness. It’s about breaking down the walls, abandoning our ideological bunkers, and living from our wild heart rather than our weary hurt.Brené Brown
Note how this perfectly aligns with what Lisa Doig says near the close of her presentation.
In fact, (level seven) is who we are at our core. A human being at its core is this. We just have layers around us, like the onion, to unpeel to actually see who we really are and this is the journey of being a human being.
Mastering Creativity: Analysis & Synthesis
I couldn’t agree more. And what I find remarkable about this final statement is that I believe it ties into an intuition of mine that this entire life journey of development is teaching us how to understand and master creativity at larger and larger scales within our lives.
In effect, the first three lower ego levels are teaching us analysis which is breaking things down by separating them, thus inadvertently building up walls and layers of separation within our lives (i.e the masks or shields we carry). The highest three soul levels are teaching us synthesis which is bringing things together and integrating them, thus removing walls and layers within our lives, until we fully master creativity. When we do so, we are able to ‘swim’ with ambiguity, even becoming it, as the fluid creative continuum and source of our emerging reality.
The problem though is that many of us get stuck at these lower levels due to being unable to let go of our fears, thus never fully evolving and learning how to apply creativity to the larger context of our entire life and even the world around us as a whole. This to me is the core of understanding social creativity as it applies to social innovation and how our older social constructs of empowerment are now not much more than social artifacts of disempowerment and if we can apply creativity to them, we can let go of them and create newer, larger social constructs that can contain the complexities of the larger world we are living within today.
Dispelling Perceived Myths of Levels of Consciousness
Finally Lisa wraps up her presentation by dispelling some of the perceived myths that people might have when viewing these levels of consciousness and trying to understand them for the first time.
The most obvious incorrect conclusion people have is that higher levels are better than lower levels. They’re not, such as a visionary non-profit unable to deal with its practical needs. Instead the idea is to try to maintain a spectrum of levels, like multiple open gates in a sluice box, to maintain your creative flow which connects and aligns your ego with your soul.
And finally, in reality, just because we may achieve a higher level of consciousness (as a stage of development), it doesn’t mean we stay there. Life events, such as losing our job, may cause us to temporarily fall back down to a lower level of consciousness until those level lower needs are met again.