Dr. Graves' Seminar
Handout* (Fonte) What the Research of Clare W. Graves
Says a Model of Healthy Mature Psychosocial Behavior Should Represent
1. That the human being, though but one biological
organism, has developed to date, seven Exiting, seven Nodal, and
eight Entering progressively developing psychosocial systems because
it is an almost infinite psychological being which changes systematically
as the world changes in the course of living.
2. That these nodal systems are, normally, hierarchically
ordered, prepotent and upwardly spiraling.
3. That these systems alternate their mental focus
in a cyclic, oscillating, dominant fashion.
4. That the first system is slightly differentiated
to favor focus upon the external world and how to gain and expand
power over it, then alternating thereafter upon the inner subjective
world and how to come to know and come to peace with it in even
numbered systems, and focus upon the external world and how to control
and expand power over it in subsequent odd-numbered systems.
5. That cerebral dominance, in the odd-numbered
systems is by the left hemisphere of the brain and in even-numbered
systems is by the right hemisphere of the brain.
6. That these alternating systems show little mean
variation for some psychological dimensions, such as intelligence
7. That certain psychological dimensions such as
ideological dogmatism and objectivity emerge with a particular system
in the hierarchy of systems, then decrease or increase systematically
in subsequent systems.
8. That certain psychological dimensions such as
guilt, as a felt emotion, emerge with a particular system in the
hierarchy then, in subsequent systems, vary quantitatively in an
increasing or decreasing cyclic, wave-like fashion.
9. That every other psychosocial system is like,
but at the same time, not like its alternating partner. Systems
2, 4, and 6 etc., are predominantly obeisance, conservative systems;
but each obeys different authority sources and obeys and conserves
in different ways. Systems 1, 3, 5, and 7 etc., are predominantly
change systems, but how to and what to change is different in each
10. That each system has a general theme for existence
which typifies it.
11. That each central theme for existence is particularizable
into almost an infinite number of ways for peripheral expression.
For example, the fourth level absolutistic "sacrifice now to
get later" theme is found in the world particularized into
many absolutistic, monotheistic, religious theologies and many non-religious
12. That increasing degrees of behavioral freedom,
increasing degrees of choice emerge with each successive level;
but the degree of increase is greater in odd-numbered than in even-numbered
13. That every seventh system shows a degree of
change in excess of the sum of all six previous changes.
14. That adult psychosocial life is a developing,
emergent process which can be likened to a symphony built on six
basic themes which repeat, in higher order form, every set of six.
The first six tell the story of adult psychosocial development in
a world of naturalistic abundance. The second order systems tell
the story of how psychosocial development will take place in a world
of naturalistic scarcity.
15. That each system develops from the interaction
of hierarchically ordered, parallel, and prepotent sets of existential
problems and sets of neuropsychological coping equipment.
16. That adult psychosocial development is a flowing
process in which the solution of current existential problems creates
the next set of existential problems to be solved and in their creation
produces complex chemicals which activate the next set of neuropsychological
coping equipment consisting of the information processing means
for detection and solution of the created set of existential problems.
17. That the process moves in a complex wave-like,
progressive, nodal, regressive fashion and may fixate at certain
progressive or regressive points. Each wave develops slowly to the
point of inflection, then rapidly ascends to its nodal form, then
begins a slow descent to the point of deflection where a precipitous
fall ensues as the next wave starts slowly to ascend.
THE FIRST SUBSISTENCE LEVEL - The A-N or Autistic Existential
Theme: Express self as if just another animal according
to the dictates of one's imperative physiological needs and the
Thinks in an autistic, that is, need-satisfying,
wish-fulfillment manner. Lives a herd-based, automatic, reflexological,
undifferentiated-from-other-animals form of existence.
No true self-awareness, no awareness of self as
differentiated from others. Imperative need-based concept of time;
no concept of space beyond home territory; no concept of Gods or
God, the universe, or the like.
Motivated by the tensions of the imperative, periodic,
Shows no organized or oriented planned work effort.
Has no concept of leadership. Effort is expended in response to
immediate needs or desires if awake and plays when surfeited.
Has a physiological, imperative need-based concept
of time, cause, space, and materiality which are of very limited
The system by which all lived 40,000 or more years
ago. Still exists in viable and functioning form today, though most
often found today in pathological cases. Exists today in conditions
of existence which provide for automatic satisfaction of the A-level
problems of existence, the problems of individual and race survival
-problems which are sensed, processed, and reacted to through the
automatic equipment of the N neurological system, the neuro system
specifically attuned to processing imperative, physiological need
information. Learns through the process of habituation, the learning
process which automatically signals the on-off character of need.
Responds only to change in intensity of need, not to patterning
A state which cannot be assessed by verbal means.
THE SECOND SUBSISTENCE LEVEL - The B-0 or Animistic Existential
Theme: Sacrifice to the way of your elders.
This state emerges when living an A-N way produces
safety and security problems, for example, by exhausting the natural
food or water supply. These problems activate the neuropsychological
system that is specifically attuned to sensing, processing, and
acting upon conditions which threaten satisfaction of the non-imperative
physiological needs and activates the aperiodic physiological needs
like escape from harm from various dangers.
The persons thinking at this level is animistic.
This is the thinking which is in terms of indwelling spirits of
life in all thingsbe they animate or inanimate. Thinks in
terms of there being a transmutable spirit in self, in others
selves, in animals, floods, stones, earthquakes, etc.
Believes in the continued existence of disembodied
spirits capable of exercising benignant or malignant influence.
Lives a tribalistic way of life which is believed
inherent in the nature of things, thus is unchanging and unalterable.
They resolutely hold to and perpetuate things "as they are."
Thinks spatially in an atomistic, not wholistic, manner, thus has
a name for each bend in a river, but none for the river.
Thinks ritualistically and superstitiously and stereotypically,
thus tries to control by incantation, totems, and taboos. Uses such
to invoke continuance of what is or to control the unexpected.
Predominant learning method is by Pavlovian or classical
conditioning by association without conscious awareness or intent.
This learning without awareness produces the fixated, tenaciously-held-to,
totem-and-taboo, tribalistic way of life, elder-dominated by the
controller of lore and magic.
First appeared approximately 40,000 years ago.
This system, as the first, is not open to verbal
THE THIRD SUBSISTENCE LEVEL - The C-P or Egocentric Existential
Theme: Express self, to hell with the consequences,
lest one suffer the torment of unbearable shame.
This level arises when the achievement of relative
safety and security produces boredom with the life of elders and
activates awareness of self as a being separate and distinct from
The accumulating problems from living a secure,
unchanging, elder-dominated, "shaman"-controlled way of
life produces expressive problems for those who experience the awakening
These problems activate the P system, that psychoneurological
system which possesses the tissue which is specifically tuned to
sense consciousness and consciousness of self and has the capacity
to experience the feeling of shame. It also activates the operant
or intentional learning system.
Thinking at this level is totally self-centered,
that is, egocentric in fashion. It is in terms of controlling or
being controlled, in terms of intentions to assure that self will
receive and to insure that self will always receive.
Thinks in terms of struggling to gain one's own
satisfaction, to hell with others--in terms of snaring, entrapping,
and acting to avoid being caught while taking advantage of others.
Shows stubborn resistiveness to power exercised
by others, but obeisance when overpowered until power over self
is lost. Thus, thinks in terms of "haves" and "have
Sees life in a very person-affective way. Is a cauldron
of strong, negative emotional forces such as shame, rage, hate,
disgust, grief, but not guilt. Coexistent in this person is the
tendency to revel in hedonistic, pleasure seeking pursuits to an
Shows strong emotional reactivity to the actions
of others who are pleasing or not pleasing to selfish desires. Expresses
such with no consideration of others, spawns an exploitative form
Shows a generalized "you are with me or against
me" emotional response to others. Has a two-fold aim in life
-- to win, or at least to live forever in the mouths and legends
of others. There are no true two-way'-interpersonal relations.
Learns predominantly through Skinnerian operant
conditioning principles, but does not learn from punishment.
This system is open to verbal assessment, but only
First appeared about 10,000 years ago.
THE FOURTH SUBSISTENCE LEVEL - The D-Q or Absolutistic Existential
Theme: Sacrifice self now in order to receive reward
This system begins to emerge when successful C-P
existence creates a bi-polar set of problems, the problems of existence
D. These result when the self-centered, hedonsitic C-P exis tence
creates a problem for the haves, as well as the have-nots. They
are also products of the increased activation of consciousness of
self and consciousness of others. The have is brought face-to-face
with death's taking away the pleasure of existence and with the
problem of having to give up his/her successful self-centered existence.
The have-not, also facing the awareness of death, has the problem
of explaining why life has been such a miserable existence. These
awarenesses of death problems activate the Q neurological system,
a system specifically equipped to experience quilt, to learn through
avoidant learning (i.e., punishment) and to rationalize.
Thinking at this level is absolutistic, a one right
way - all others are wrong, black and white, good or evil, all or
none, categorical fashion. It is in terms of absolute rules as a
necessity for control of C-P impulses.
True two-way interpersonal relations are expressed
along with true identification with and pity for others. Thinks
in terms of others being taken into account, as a person having
needs and feelings which are different from the others' , but such
feelings are judged as the right feelings or the wrong feelings.
Assumes a right-wrong position in respect to everything,
even an either-or conception of knowledge and sees weakness in any
person who takes a position and then changes.
Thinks in terms of giving and receiving, but, in
the long run, always in terms of giving now or doing now in order
to get, (i.e. , to receive later) , but only after one has learned
Also thinks in terms of punishment right now, and
ever after, for wrong doing unless one repents. Thinks in terms
of tenderness, of giving, of living with, provided one lives by
"my" authoritarian ways.
Giving is professed as more important than receiving,
but giving is done with the ultimate aim of receiving.
Is sensitive to the feeling of guilt and, thus,
to disapproval. Feels guilt for possessing forbidden thoughts or
desires and believes the feeling of guilt and the act of atonement
are the proper responses for wrong done to others.
D-Q behavior shows a struggle to free self from
the guilt of selfishness thorough the acceptance of hierarchy. The
higher authority evaluates the struggling acts of the lower without
taking the offending person's feelings into account.
Sponsors a benevolently autocratic, moralistic-prescriptive
form for managing all life. This must be religiously adhered to.
First appeared about 6,000 years ago.
THE FIFTH SUBSISTENCE LEVEL - The E-R or Multiplistic Existential
Theme: Express self for what self desires, but in
a fashion calculated not to bring down the wrath of others.
This level arises when the D problem, the need for
lasting order and everlasting security, is provided by the philosophical
prescriptives for authority. This rigid, dogmatic, authoritarian
leadership blocks those developing feelings of self which began
to emerge in the third level of existence. This produces problems
in the self for having to adhere to authoritarian ways. And, it
arises from the problem created by the fact of death which a developing
consciousness begins to question.
This desire for the expression of self and this
doubt about the prescriptions and answers of authority, plus the
fact that lower classes have little pleasure in life and higher
cannot be certain of afterlife, activates the R neurological system.
This leads the person to ask, "is this the only life I will
ever live and, if so, why can't I have some pleasure in this existence?"
This activation of the N system provides for the
beginning of dispassionate, objective, hypothetico-deductive, not
moralistic-prescriptive thinking. This leads to thinking in a multiplistic,
not absolutistic, manner. That is, there are many ways to think,
but only one best way, rather than only the right way or the wrong
Thinks beyond giving and receiving to objective
viewing of self, others, things, activity around self and one's
own activities. Thinks in terms of it being right to receive and
to aspire beyond what one's class is--permits one's status desire.
Behaves in terms of not receiving or not following "the word."
Tries to analyze and to comprehend and, in so doing, to be impersonal
Thinks in terms of all life being a game with the
end being to discover how to circumvent the rules to one's own advantage,
but not so much as to raise the ire of others. "Bend-the rules,
don't break them," is the dictum. Promote the individual self,
Enjoys mapping the territory of experience, but
shies from intense personal experiencing itself. Uncomfortable sensing
the whole as more than its parts. Prefers to add up his/her own
conception of the parts. Breaks things into parts so as to understand
and to control them.
Shows actions perceived by others as hostile, but
are unaware of the hostility and deny its presence. Lives so as
to express self, but by avoiding serious trouble when so doing.
Sees the world in terms of intra-psychic separation
from others, Thinks in terms of disidentifying self from earlier
ways of thinking and doing and of rearranging things to suit self.
See selves as struggling to free selves from others. These are struggles
to free self from actual restriction, not egoencroachment.
Thinks in terms of real concern for others so long
as such thinking does not hurt self. Spawns a rational, economic,
bargaining, self-promoting conception for managing life's problems.
First appeared 600-700 years ago.
THE SIXTH SUBSISTENCE LEVEL - The F-S or Relativistic Existential
Theme: Sacrifice now in order to get acceptance
This level arises when the human's struggle for
individuality is solved but does not bring the happiness expected
because it has created the problem of interpersonal acceptance.
The struggle for individuality, through expression of self and outer
material existence, seems solved, but it has left one alone in the
world. This creates the F problems, the problems of coming to peace
with aloneness, with one's inner self and with others. These problems
increase markedly the activation of the right side of the brain,
the equipment for subjective, non-linear thinking.
Thinks in terms of one's own and others' individualities,
in terms of others also being individuals in their own rights, havein
their own, just as good, views of the world. Thus, shows a greater
degree of affective warmtn and a greater ability to extend it to
full appreciation of the individuality of the other person. Turns
excessively to the exploration of the inner self and others and
focuses on relationships as a central aspect of living. The way
people relate to others looms high in their consciousness.
Thinks in terms of goals which relate to all human
kind, rather than just to self; in terms of living by what is unique
This system sees the world relativistically. Thinking
shows an almost radical, almost compulsive emphasis on seeing everything
from a relativistic, subjective frame of reference. Thus, shows
growth in placing self at a distance when reflecting on,one's own
Appears to effect a deliberate inarticulation and
disdain for precise language. Expresses a need to be "more
connected'' and feels alienated when others do not share his/her
unique personal delights.
Talks earnestly about community, intimacy, involvement,
shared experience, but behaviorally shows an inability to commit
self to others. Rigidly against uniformity and homogenization, but
follows the crowds' or peers' lead or pressure. Objects strongly
to authorities' lead or pressure. Spawns a participative form of
First appeared about 80-90 years ago.
THE FIRST BEING LEVEL - The A'-N' or Systemic
Theme: Express self for what self desires and others
need, but never at the expense of others, and in a manner that all
life, not my life, will profit.
This is the first system in the second spiral of
existence. In this system, sheer organismic life is threatened by
the rape of the world by the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th subsistence
levels. Thus, the A problems are problems such as the need to substitute
for depleting natural resources, overpopulation, too much individuality,
and the like -- problems which require tremendous change in thinking
of human kind in order to solve them. This is accomplished by a
marked activation of previously uncommitted cells in the brain.
These cells of the Y system in the brain combine with the basic
coping cells to form the first of the second order coping systems,
that is, N + some Y = NO.
Because of its prime characteristics, dissolution
of fear and compulsiveness and marked increases in conceptual space,
seventh level thinking cannot be readily empathized with by other
This type of thinking still involves anxieties,
worries, and concerns, even some fears, but not in a manner bothersome
to the person. No need is felt to overcome them. They do not intrude.
One lives comfortably with them, tries to deal with them, but does
not feel compelled to master them, though still thinking it would
be nice if they were gone. Ambition is shown, but there is not ambitiousness.
Anger, even hostility, is present, but it is intellectually used
rather than just emotionally displayed. one directs it, rather than
its-directing the self.
Concern is felt, but solutions do not have to be.
Care for others is displayed, but one does not feel
compelled to care for. Things done well is prefeered, but things
not done well does not mean the end of the world.
Knowledge in AN thinking exists in different
settings and knowers think in different ways. Thus, thinking is
in terms of several legitimate interpretations and several sets
of values are legitimate, depending on the thinker and his/her conditions
of and for existence.
The world is seen kaliedoscopically with different
views demanding different attention. AIN' thinking is in terms of
the systemic whole and thought is about the different wholes in
different ways. Thought strives to ascertain which way of thinking
or which combination of ways fits the extant set of conditions.
Thinking is in terms of what is best for the survival
of life, my life, their lives, and all life, but not compulsively;
and what is best for me or thee does not have to be best for she
or them. My way does not have to be yours, nor yours mine, yet I
have very strong convictions about what is my way, but never such
They think in terms of authority being centered
in the person in terms of his/her capacity to act in this or that
situation. It is not derived from age, status, blood, etc. It is
situational. It must be earned and it must be given over to the
superior competence of another. Thinks in terms of competence, not
Thought is of being there to help and helping if
helping is desired, but not helping to straighten out, to shape
up, to gain power or control over.
Sees life in terms of life continuing hereafter,
not in terms of my life continuing in a hereafter. Accepts and lives
with the fact of differences and that one is relating to people
who are different. Shows readiness to live with differences.
Accepts that life is an up-and-down journey from
problem to solution, with no mean point ever to be found.
Spawns a variable management form wherein managed
and managing change according to the fit between problem and competencies
to deal with problems.
First appeared about 30-35 years ago.
of Existence as Seen by Dr. Clare W. Graves
"Human Nature Prepares for a Momentous Leap," The