Building Bridges between polarized viewpoints

Building Bridges between polarized viewpoints

21. December 2021

I often found myself in the role of a bridge builder throughout my life, bridge builder between different professional groups, between teams in organizations, between developers and business or users, between people with different world views, between different generations….

Building a bridge means trying to empathize with different viewpoints and perspectives (independent of my own viewpoint) so that I can support finding a common denominator or a way forward that is acceptable to both sides.

This is exactly what would be urgently needed in today’s discussions around the virus and vaccination.

Again and again, when polarized viewpoints clashed in my environment, I tried to find a way to build a bridge, to open both sides to at least a small insight that the other might have a comprehensible viewpoint after all, on closer benevolent consideration. I do not have to agree with this point of view and I do not have to adopt it. But I can remain respectful and concede to the other person that, seen from his point of view, I can understand his argumentation and conclusion.

Unfortunately, I found that this was often not possible.

Understanding the Levels of Consciousness

Looking at life, at people, teams and organizations, but also at nations through the lens of the Spiral Dynamics level of consciousness model has been a proven method for me for many years to expand my understanding, to gain a more differentiated perspective and it often helps to bridge gaps – to build bridges.

The public discussion and the polemic and almost violent interaction with each other is hard to bear. This blog is my attempt to better understand what is going on. It is an exploratory journey, my first draft at the subject, so to speak, and I welcome any contributions to my thoughts, whether critical or expanding.

Clare Graves, the founder of Spiral Dynamics said, “mankind is preparing for a momentous leap.”  By this he meant the leap from the Green level of consciousness to the Yellow level of consciousness (Yellow is called Teal in the Ken Wilber color model).

Without going into an in-depth discussion of the individual stages here (that would go beyond the scope of this blog), I would like to provide a very brief summary of the stages as an introduction. In courses, I always start the explanation at the bottom of the spiral, since the lower stages emerged first. Each subsequent stage evolves from the previous ones and shows itself at different levels of maturity, i.e. beginning stage when it is newly emerging, mature stage when it is well developed and integrated, and ending stage when it is winding down, weaknesses and problems are showing up and a new stage starts to emerge.

Overview Spiral Dynamics Levels of Consciousness

Turquoise – stage after yellow – we exclude this one in this consideration. Let’s master Yellow first.

Yellow (Teal) – Conscious development, evolution through intuition, inspiration and non-judgmental integration of all previous levels of consciousness. This is the first level on the so-called 2nd Tier and this is what Clare Graves was talking about when he spoke of the tremendous leap of consciousness.

Green – humanity and togetherness through connection at eye level, compassion, meaningfulness, all perspectives deserve equal respect, awareness of being embedded in a greater whole (society, nation, planet).

Orange – prosperity and success through science and progress, competitive orientation, forms own opinion, can question authority, management by objectives.

Blue (Amber according to Ken Wilber) – order and stability through rules, external authority is not questioned. Structured processes, command and control, hierarchy, morality, black and white thinking.

Red – Enforcement and expansion through will and self-assertion, impulsive (does not plan). Heroism, egocentricity

We exclude Beige and Purple in this consideration for the moment.

The Interpretation of the Levels

The above mentioned keywords for each stage are to be understood as a kind of “placeholder” for large and diverse fields. If we want to work with these stages, it is not enough to deal with them cognitively. It is important that we also deal with them on an experiential and emotional level. These levels are NOT to be understood as a typology and no human being IS “Blue” or “Orange” or “Green”.

These are the levels of consciousness as they have developed in evolution and we carry them all within us, they are part of our human DNA. So we are not “being” Blue, we are “behaving” “Blue” in a certain situation, but we can act from a different level of consciousness in another situation or at another time.

The leap from Green to Yellow is greater than any leap before, which is why Clare Graves calls it 2nd Tier. There are several fundamental differences between Levels 1 – 6 and Level 7. One difference is that up to and including Green, everyone thinks their way of seeing the world is the only right way. Orange and Green are more tolerant than the previous levels and accept other opinions, but ultimately their view is the only correct one. Yellow is the first level, which has the awareness that each level has its justification and its important contribution to the whole. In a healthy organization, for example, you want all levels to be present in a healthy expression so that the organization is holistic and stable.

Another difference between Yellow and the previous levels is, that Yellow is not driven by fear anymore. It can therefore not be manipulated. While previous levels develop to better cope with the world becoming more and more complex, Yellow develops simply out of the pure joy of developing. What we can observe is that the levels up to Green tend to revert to previous levels when they feel insecure and threatened. This might be one of the drivers of the aggression in the current discussion which tries to solve the problem with a black-and-white schema.

Examining the current Public Discussion from the Point of View of the Levels of Consciousness

Now I would like to look at the current discussion (if you can even call that a discussion) from this point of view and try to understand what is going on.

The big challenge is that the government has to make rules that are valid for everyone. The resistance comes from the fact that different people have different opinions about what is necessary and what is reasonable. Our challenge as a collective is: How can we find a way to deal with each other and define rules that are acceptable to all levels of consciousness? There are no patterns and templates for this, that is the challenge of the gradually emerging Yellow level of consciousness. We will now have to develop these together in order to find a way out. It is not an option for one level to impose its view on the others as a universal truth. The opinion that one’s own world view is the only correct one is an attribute of the levels up to and including Green. Yellow sees it differently, integrative.

I have chosen three questions that I find relevant in this context.

Question 1 – Is vaccination a good idea and a reasonable measure?
Question 2 – How do I cope with death, what does it mean to me?
Question 3 – What does freedom mean to me, what do I use to determine it?

For each of these questions I try to sketch how the different levels see it. Usually I draw the stages as a spiral bottom up. starting with red, so at the bottom are the stages that have developed first and further up the stages that are newer and partly just emerging (Yellow). So if you want to read this as it develops and see how a stage emerges from the previous ones, you can start at the bottom at red and read upwards.

A transition from one stage to another usually takes a long time (in decades or longer). In the Age of Enlightenment period, for example, it took almost 200 years for the new understanding to become established in people’s everyday consciousness. In the early days, the bearers of the “good” news were sometimes burned at the stake. Today, such pioneers are called “esoterics” at best, and the stake has been replaced by banning and censorship on social media.

For a differentiated view, we must also be aware that each of us carries all stages within us. They show themselves dynamically and appear in different orchestrations. Even I as an individual can be ambivalent within myself, and have multiple voices that have different opinions. Often it happens in this case that one oscillates between different views, depending on what kind of group of people one is with or what kind of media one has just been exposed to.

Is Vaccination a Good Idea and an effective Measure?

We go through all levels and look at how different the criteria are for whether someone considers a measure to be effective and meaningful.  It also shows that at each level, the reasons for being in favor or against vaccination can be very different. We also look at different attitudes towards compulsory vaccination.

Red doesn’t think much about it, red is very impulsive, doesn’t think strategically and just does what he/she wants. Red can say yes or no to the measures, as it suits him/her. in the moment. The masses usually decide depending on how the leader acts.

Blue likes the current regulation of measures. Someone has to ensure order in the interest of the community. Seen from this Blue perspective, the calls for “vaccinating for the community” and “showing solidarity” are plausible.

Blue is comfortable with measures being dictated by a higher authority. Blue tends to say yes to the measures and also to compulsory vaccination, unless one belongs to a free church, a sect, or other groupings with their own conventions that dictate otherwise, in which case he is in solidarity with his group. Fundamentalist groups usually act out of a dominant blue state of consciousness.

Orange begins to discuss the vaccination and measures, finds different scientific points of view and wants the debate, the discourse. With this behavior, Orange also contributes to the further development of science. Orange cultivates mainstream science. Research that brings findings that question the status quo are called anomalies in varying degrees of intensity and are more or less ignored. Orange does high level science in the border area with a smooth transition to Green.

Science has never advanced in history because the status quo has been defended and protected. The scientists who have challenged the status quo have been repeatedly burned at the stake (depending on the century), stigmatized and excluded, or ridiculed as esoteric. Today they are marginalized and censored by social media algorithms.

Orange’s attitude to the measures and compulsory vaccination depends on what is currently seen as “scientific”. Opinions can differ, especially the more Green is represented in the theses. Orange loves intellectual sport and extensive discussions, the end in itself is in the foreground, a certain self-indulgence can occur.

Green does not relate easily to the currently still prevailing image of science (as far as health is concerned). Green has a networked systemic view of biology and genetics and sees the immune system as a highly complex, self-regulating system. To intervene mechanistically in such a system, which we do not really understand yet, with a vaccination is seen as dangerous, because one cannot foresee the many reactions it will trigger across the biological system. In the case of Corona the effects have not been studied more carefully in long-term studies. For Green, the notion that there are no alternatives to vaccination is not acceptable.

Some who operate on the Green level vaccinate themselves because “freedom” is important to them and because they want to be part of the community, want to go to a concert with friends and that is more important to them. These are open-minded people and when the world is suddenly strictly regulated and closed, this creates an inner struggle.  Green does not want to be manipulated (we are all equal, we are at eye level, we do not want to be controlled by higher hierarchy).
From this understanding, a compulsion to vaccinate can trigger feelings of powerlessness or thoughts of flight. Some people emigrate or look for other ways to escape the compulsion.

Yellow goes one step further than Green and knows that the mind is the creator of a healthy body and that we all, if we develop to conscious clarity, can heal our bodies ourselves (without remedies). For yellow both is possible (vaccinate and not vaccinate) and everyone must be allowed to decide for himself according to his own feeling, life situation and his health history and conditioning. Yellow cannot be controlled by fear, it may get vaccinated under the motto “I look what feels right for me and go with my coherence”.

Yellow observes consciously, looks what the situation does with him and what kind of information his emotions give him, then decides very situatively and flexibly.

How do I cope with Death, what does it mean for me?

In the debates I have followed, the topic of death has hardly been addressed. The unspoken credo seems to be: death is something that must be prevented by all means. Today, however, this bias is rather one-sidedly referred to Corona. There are many other causes of death that could be prevented, which politicians have been watching for years without taking any measures.

Red does not philosophize, acts impulse- and hormone-driven and thinks that loss is to be expected.

Blue: seen from a religious viewpoint, it is God who calls when someone dies. In any case, it is a force from outside that rules over me. In Blue, the individual doesn’t count for much. First and foremost, everyone has to serve the community and follow the rules. That’s where the undifferentiated call for “solidarity” comes from.

Orange: this is the competition between science and the growth of the pharmaceutical industry. In a healthy form, science tries to develop as best it can in order to fight death and disease more effectively. Orange, however, has an image of biology that mainly fights symptoms and not causes. This leads to many difficulties and side effects (diseases of civilization).

The desire to fight death at all costs is a distortion of Orange and the behaviour of Pharma is the exaggeration of Orange (exploiting to optimize their own returns). Orange thinks we only have to research long enough, then we can become immortal, then we can also stop the climate catastrophe, we no longer believe in anything bigger than us (that would be Blue). Orange is rather not concerned with death and often suppresses to think about it as far as possible.

Green sees the body as a complex, interconnected and self-regulating system. Green does not try to fight symptoms, but to work cause-related and systemically. On this level the soul comes into focus and questions like “when is it time to let go and leave and not keep someone alive at all costs” become important. It is about human dignity. The soul becomes more important than the body.

Yellow takes responsibility for dying and does not even necessarily need an illness to leave the body when it thinks it is time. If a person consciously decides to leave because he is convinced that now is the best moment, then he can leave his body within a few days without illness.

What does Freedom mean to me, what do I use to determine it?

Another important aspect of the discussion is what freedom means to people. How does a person define freedom, what does he need to feel free and what does he resist because it takes away his feeling of freedom? Are there also situations where someone consciously or unconsciously does not want freedom?

Red impulsively does what he/she wants, can even use fists when necessary to do what he/she wants.

Blue does not really have a concept of freedom. Authority decides, I am bound by the rules and norms of my reference group. I get freedom indirectly and unofficially (hypocritical). If you expect Blue to make a free decision for himself, it might just panic.

Orange: my personal freedom is important on this level. The world is at my disposal, and I want to enjoy it. Compassion is not very pronounced and active yet, it only develops properly in Green. With healthy Blue I keep rules, but use them to my advantage. Orange defines freedom more based on externalities.

Green: I want to be part of a community and also see myself embedded in society and as an inhabitant of our planet. Boundaries are difficult for green (often also weak red, which cannot set boundaries) and therefore it has trouble taking a clear stand and likes to get lost in the “we”.

The task of green is to learn to live individuality (the achievement of red and orange) and still behave as part of society without going to one extreme or the other. This is only possible if red, blue and orange are present in a healthy expression.
Important values are inner freedom, freedom of thought, freedom in sexuality, appreciation of diversity, everyone may be as they want (but only within a green value system).

Yellow is free, transpersonal and flows in harmony with evolution. Yellow can let go of control, goes with the flow. is not ego- or fear-driven and for this reason can no longer be manipulated.

The imminent Quantum Leap

Our current, familiar mindset will not help us to overcome the ditch. We are sailing on unknown waters towards an unknown destination and we have no clue how long it is going to take to get there. We are on this journey as a community. We all have to learn to endure uncertainty, to develop a sense for the future and for larger spaces, and an ability to deal with not-knowing.

A quantum leap of consciousness is upon us and we are probably in the crucible of this transformation. It seems as if each stage wants to show itself once again in its extreme.

We all together make up the collective and we are all on this voyage towards a new and unknown territory. Each one of us who contributes to this rather uncomfortable journey, with mutual respect, with respect for human dignity, who does not judge and condemn, who does not condemn the people who still condemn – each one of us who does this contributes to this collective quantum leap. And it takes every one of us.

This blog is my humble contribution. In the struggle for this understanding, in the search for the words that might describe what I feel, I am shaping my process and my contribution. I share it, unfinished as it is, in the hope that my description may spark an inspiration or two.

Written in December 2021 just before the solstice.

My thanks go to Thomas Strauss who assisted with creative conversations and with a review for this blog.

Further options to deepen your understanding

If you would like to delve deeper into these levels of consciousness, I can currently offer three possibilities:

  • In our training The Integral Organizational Map – A Journey of Discovery you will get a good overview of the elements of the Integral Map (quadrants, levels of consciousness model and lines of development) and how to work with this map in organizations. If you attend the physical version in Zurich (usually in German), it is one day, or you can sign up online for 3 modules of 3 hours each (this is offered in German and English).
  • In our Innovation Coaching training, which I offer together with Thomas Strauss, we delve into the different levels in 3 modules of 3 days each, with many exercises, so that we get familiar with the levels and recognize them more easily on the outside. We go on a journey from module to module to understand how one stage develops from the previous one and how we can work with teams and organizations to support such vertical development.
  • Individual coaching and team workshops

We learn together how to better understand current situations and in a larger context. We practice being more and more fully present in the present moment. This enables us to relate more precisely to the current situation and to find new solutions in co-creation and in creation from the intuitive space of the future.