I so often feel that things make sense that is, there are really obvious courses of action that benefit ourselves, everyone around us and all sentient beings. And yet we don’t act! Despite the fact action delivers great results. This includes for our own health, finances and family plus people and ecologies more generally.
Some pieces we need to overcome this is Integral approaches. It’s always seemed to me that we need to be able to step past barriers and simple explanations – the sort of common threads integral theory helps explain. Overcoming barriers was part of my attraction to the field originally.
I think you are seeing impulses and needs to work with such problems? You’re seeing the time is right and opportunities are opening up?
Integral is a label to capture thinking and create a metaphorical model around something that’s emerging. This clearly has something to do with evolution. It has something to do with the emerging capacity of awareness and connectedness and moving beyond barriers.
One of the really interesting aspects of integral theory is ego development. There is a lineage going up through Jane Loevinger, Suzanne Cook-Greuter and Terri O’Fallon, is that stages of development come in pairs. The first part of these pairs is an immature stage. This is when new understanding creates a new quality that comes online and people don’t have the capacity to handle that new quality maturely or competently.
For example, what really happened in the 1960s was a critical mass of people started to be more aware: context-awareness. They could see the connections, they could see the importance of being holistic. But, what that led to was seeing how all sorts of assumptions were incorrect and should be deconstructed. It led to postmodernism, to the deconstruction of everything. It led to people who started using very inclusive language, who loved everybody but excludes people who are different from themselves.
That’s hard! When we have people feeling like they love everyone but somewhat blind, to their own intolerances of difference, you can’t help being conflicted!
There’s this evolutionary emergence but when a critical mass of the first pair of a new stage comes online. It creates a deep destabilization. It is one of the key things that it’s just missing from social commentary today.
We need to understand the insecurity that this is creating in an increasing number of people. There are people rejecting what used to be seen as modern, used to be seen as traditional. That is very foreign. It’s very threatening.
A trust paradox
Even though the center of gravity, the level of ego-development in populations, is rising the trust level is going down. This is because of division and the lack of understanding. I think one of the key aspects that is invisible and is misunderstood is that the people who are on the cutting edge of evolution in that regard are seen as very foreign. They’re not happy with the people who are less developed than they are. We need to be careful with developmental language and its generalizations but it’s one of the factors explaining an incredible alienation and generalized feeling these aren’t our people anymore. We have people over here are saying: all these people, they’re primitive – we have moved on; people saying, well, those people they’re not Americans or not Australians anymore.
The paradox is this evolutionary emergence creates a destabilization, which creates a lack of trust, which sees people retreat into more protective stances. For example, we need to protect our borders, we are not sure about these people who look different than I do.
Collectively, we create a culture that is very demeaning of one another. There is much less trust. We start electing political leaders who were some of the least mature among us.
My whole Integral Polarity Practice is about how you work with polarities and how an immature approach handles a new polarity. Is that the enemy or this is? Is this right or this is wrong? You can learn to hold such dilemmas in a bowl, learn to wait, then you learn to integrate them.
The promising aspect of that whole story is that sooner rather than later we’ll get to a critical mass of people who are moving into the second, the more mature stage of the context-awareness pair. They are people who see things can be woven together, things can be brought together, that everybody should be honored. Everybody should be respected. Everybody’s story is important. Everybody needs to be listened to and we can’t condescend others, they’re no less human than we are. We’re all invaluable human beings and it doesn’t matter where you are in the spectrum of growth.
The point is that everybody’s important. Everybody’s message is important. And, there’s a way to weave that together for the benefit of all in ways that are true. That is, we can do this at a level of inclusiveness and a height of flourishing that hasn’t existed before.
Bridging the trust paradoxes
I think it’s only when things are getting really dark that silver light, that possibility, is there. The question is, are we going to destroy ourselves before we can develop that capacity?
Two threads of this are: where do you see the way of supporting the capacities needed to do what we’re just talking about here – supporting the more mature part of the developmental stages to come on board?
I’m also really curious about the younger generation that is so full of energy and ideas but are not necessarily in that later developmental stage. Just from age alone. Even though they seem to be, to me. When I look at my 23 year old son and some of his cohorts, they seem to be developing at a different level than is my experience with my contemporaries. I’m curious about that youthful population. They are honing in on capacities for this nuanced, inclusive, broad and yet also energized and focused, not watered-down, action-inclusiveness.
I think there are a lot of people who recognize we need to bridge, we need to figure out how to do this.
One of the things is to create opportunities for everybody and anybody who has that impulse to connect, create convening spaces and opportunities, to help them make connections that they might not otherwise be able to make. I think that’s kind of the driver of this summit (YOUNIFY). People are working with all sorts of lenses from all sorts of centers of gravity. They see the danger of not doing this, the importance of making the connections and working with hyperpolarization.
It takes design capacity to bring people together. It is less about everybody has to be evolved or something. You have to have cultural attractors. You have to have system design pieces. You have to have leadership. All those factors help to allow everybody to come together in ways that don’t seem to be very apparent right now.
Ultimately, in the long run, we have to be building the critical masses of people who have those capacities, who can provide that leadership, who can create such cultural attractors. It’s really only in the last decade that enough psychologists, consultants, thinkers have been bringing on programs and creating opportunities to help people realize these opportunities. If you’re conscious about it you can grow a little faster rate than you otherwise would.
An invisible growth snowball
We have increasing numbers of groups like Pacific Integral and Stages International come along and create opportunities for people. I think one of the big catalysts too is that the most advanced and effective consulting groups in the world now get all of this. These groups are consulting with governments. They’re consulting with communities. There’s a lot of professional work starting to come online and it’s almost invisible. It’s behind the scenes.
Some of the business schools around the world are picking up on these ideas. At some point, I just think it will get incorporated into our educational streams.
I co-founded a charter school in Salt Lake City called the City Academy. Founded by education professionals it tried to research and model how public education might ideally be. I said, okay, now is the time we’re going to put this into schooling, put in an integral approach to education.
After a few years I suggested that in marketing the school we make explicit that it modeled an “integral approach to education” and, within a year, the student population dropped by about two thirds! People were asking, about integral and development, so what is that?!
I realized that you can’t use integral terminology in that way, when people don’t know what it is.
So you just have to play with it. I’m the generation who started talking Integral, using the jargon. Like Freddie says, it’s a foreign language to anybody who isn’t in that little community.
The truly “integral” is how do you speak to connect to everybody? How do you say an argument? How do you know you are persuasive? How do you actually listen to them to know what their real needs and concerns are? And desires and goals? And honor that.