TL;DR: This article covers a systemic conception of psychology articulated by Clare Graves. The first principals he surfaced are foundational to a number of related theories like spiral dynamics and integrates many others. If your interested in the field you should probably start here before looking at other work as its one of the more robust and reliable.
This article basically acts as an exposition to highlight my investigations into the work of Clare Graves, a New York psychology professor who brought the world an evidence based meta-model known as Emergent Cyclical Theory.
His work is salient to me due to its broad utility and explanatory power that's capable of integrating a plethora of existing theories as well as clarifying a lot of confusion around various existential questions; in a nutshell it's a great lens to lean on when making sense of the world!
For many of us society can seem rife with fragmentation and contradictory views due to our heterogeneous and pluralistic nature. Gazing through this kaleidoscope of world views it’s hard not to get lost in the fractal and such chaorder can feel extremely unpredictable, arbitrary and uncertain at times.
This artefact thus originates from a personal desire to discern order from chaos. Are there constants in the complexity of values that drive human behaviour? my own conjecture here is basically yes but that discussion is out of scope. For now we are going to look at vertical integration and skip out on the horizontal axis.
Graves' work is grounded in inquiry rather than hypothesis and highlights the importance of an unfolding evolutionary process rather than the static models and prescriptions often found in other psychological literature. Many of these theories do indeed contain grains of truth but let us momentarily pause here to note that there many castles made out of sand. There is no one ring to rule them all.
I’ll endeavour not to mislead you but please note that I’m what you might call an
epistemic trespasser in the waters of psychology so please engage your critical faculties and do your best to remember that “the map is not the territory!”
Firstly, I'm gonna prime you with some asides on the theory and then lead you through it's history and background. After that, I’ll get down and dirty with the framework and detail some of the research Graves explicated. Then we’ll discuss the underlying process which drives the model and I'll add some reflections regarding its significance and potential use. Last, I’ll add some of my own experiences and some commentary before concluding the essay. Enjoy!
Essence - An Open Inquiry
Emergent Cyclical Theory came perilously close to remaining a buried treasure.
At one point during the mid 1950's Graves witnessed his friend and colleague Abraham Maslow unceremoniously "torn to pieces" by colleagues at an APA seminar. He subsequently vowed to never put himself into a similar situation until he could adequately defend his own position; a rather difficult task that ultimately led to obscurity rather than fame. Credit to him, he was rigorous and did the work.
Much of this work was later abandoned out of frustration and the book he was working on remained unpublished until after his death. Only later was it posthumously pieced back together again by peers and archivists digging through his remaining articles, transcripts and seminars.
For me, one of the most salient parts of this theory is that it considers the human condition as open-ended with no final state of enlightenment, self-actualization or nirvana. These states may indeed exist but the evidence seems to favour an endless search for order in a chaotic universe without an ultimate finality.
Eventually the more famous Abraham Maslow embraced Graves' open-ended view despite many common interpretations of his work:
You should know that Maslow came around to my point of view. If you look at his later writings you will see that he accepted both the cyclic idea that there is more than one kind of expressive system and more than one kind of belonging system, and the system is open ended. We finally, after fighting this over for eight years, came to a fundamental agreement along that line. - Graves (Lee, 2002, p. 52)
The essence of Graves’ work is that humans develop new bio-psycho-social coping mechanisms to deal with existential problems, and these emergent coping mechanisms arise in response to an increasingly complex environment. As the tide of human progress rises exponentially, it may be that we'll begin to encounter more so called Buddhas about. Or face existential ruin...
⚠️ For those who have already done a degree of reading around Spiral Dynamics, or Ken Wilbur etc, please do your best NOT to draw comparisons just yet. These works are all indeed very similar and also related but I’m deliberately avoiding discussion on these authors because they draw FROM this foundational work and conflating them may lead to confusion ⚠️
In the early 1950's Graves held a position as a psychology professor at Union College NY where a student of his posited the following question: from all the competing psychological theorists, whose model was ultimately correct?
With no immediate answer to hand, and a monkey on his back, Graves could only start collecting the data required to find out!
He began with the following lines of inquiry:
- Can one provide evidence that conflict and contradiction, confusion and controversy are represented in conceptions of psychological health?
- What are the conceptions of psychological health existing in the minds of biologically mature human beings?
- Do the concepts which exist suggest that psychological health should be viewed (a) as a state or condition, or (b) as a psychological process?
- What is the essential nature of psychological health if it is a state or condition?
- What is the nature of the process of psychological health if the basic research indicates that it should be viewed thus?
These drivers were then further expanded into research questions in order to generate relevant data:
- How do biologically mature human beings conceive of 'what is the healthy personality'?
- Do biologically mature humans have, basically, one major identifiable conception of what the psychologically healthy adult is?
- Do biologically mature humans have more than one conception of what a healthy personality is?
- If adults have several conceptions of healthy personality, are the conceptions classifiable into groups of similar conceptions?
- If the various conceptions are classifiable, how can they be classified?
(a) by content? (b) structurally? (c) functionally?
- Will there be evidence that a singular conception of healthy personality stands out as superior to other conceptions?
The primary issue surmised:
What will be the nature and character of conceptions of psychological health of biologically mature human beings who are intelligent, but relatively unsophisticated in psychological knowledge in general, and in personality theory in particular?
With these formulations, Graves set out to conduct his research which unfolded in approximately four phases: Data Collection, Classification, Observation and Interpretation.
Phase 1: Primary Data Collection
At the beginning of Graves' investigation he was working in three schools (note three levels of recursion); one all male, another all female and the last was a mixed adult extension division. Over the course of his research he studied a relatively diverse group of about 1,065 subjects aged 18-61.
He needed 'representative' subjects for the purposes of his study; which he found in his relatively unsophisticated first year students that were enrolled on his "Theory of Normal Psychology" program. The classroom became a laboratory where he taught in 'novel' ways to accommodate his study while applying his methodology to eight sets of students, eight seperate times in order to generate his primary data set.
Upon starting his lectures, he told his students not to read a single thing on psychology for the first five classes. The time was to be spent discussing what one might put into a conception of healthy personality and a personal conception was to be presented in a paper at the end of the first five weeks.
In the second set of five weeks, students were split into random groups and instructed to present their personal conceptions to peers and receive criticism. Graves observed their reactions and behaviours as their peers "went after them" with critique of their espoused conception.
At the end of the second interval of five weeks, students were asked to write up a defence or modification of their existing conception. This gave Graves a chance to observe if and how conceptions changed under peer influence.
In a third and final interval of five weeks, the class studied a variety of authorities and again turned in a modification of their original hypotheses. Graves then sat with randomly selected students to interview them about the process itself; how might their conceptions have changed and what were the factors that influenced them in changing their minds?
This data set produced:
- A large set of beliefs around the conception of a healthy psychology.
- Reactions to the criticism of espoused beliefs, evidenced in observation and through paper defence and/or modification.
- Relation to confrontation with authority as evidenced through paper defence or modification.
- Interview data on the process of the primary experience.
Through this study, a second set of research questions opened up:
- What will happen to a person's characterization of mature human behaviour when s/he is confronted with the criticism of his/her point of view by peers who have also developed their own conception of psychologically mature behaviour?
- What will happen to a person's conception of mature human behaviour when confronted with the task of comparing and contrasting his/her conception of psychologically mature human personality to those conceptions which have been developed by authorities in the field?
- How will the subjects behave under peer criticism?
Phase 2: Classification
Discernment and Differentiation
Year after year an external panel of judges were instructed to classify the data into categories. This process was then blindly repeated by a second panel of judges - as per good science.
The data points repeatedly collapsed into two primary categories:
- Express self; primarily motivated by internal forces.
- Deny self; predominantly driven by external forces.
As these two categories emerged each year (unknown to the panel) the research turned into a process of accumulation. Over 8 years, sub-categories also began to emerge in about 60% of the data. This data was later augmented and interpreted through further research in phase four of Graves’ inquiry.
The primary categories, the labels of which will be expanded on later, and the basic traits of the participants’ conceptions are as follows:
- Deny self:
a) sacrificially - Aka [BO].
b) for deferred reward - Aka [DQ].
c) for acceptance now - Aka [FS].
- Express self:
a) as self desires in a calculating fashion, at the expense of others - Aka [ER].
b) as self desires but not at the expense of others - Aka [GT].
Phase 3: Observation of Interactions
With formalised classifications, Graves was now able to study his accumulated data and observations in depth. This was probably the most interesting phase of his study as it would reveal a good deal of information about how different conceptions tend to interact in the social field. It's also where the situation began to turn into a somewhat more complex puzzle!
- The first task was to study the formalised conceptions in relation to peer criticism as evaluated through a defence/modification of the conceptions espoused by a given subject - whether and how peer criticism influenced a subjects conception and the interaction patterns at play with peers in this process.
- The second task was to study the formalised conceptions in relation to authoritative criticism as evaluated through a defence/modification of a subjects articulated conceptions - whether and how authoritative criticism influenced a subjects conception and the interaction patterns at play with authority in this process.
By diving into these fundemental interaction patterns the models of each conception were significantly enriched aiding the ongoing discernment process outlined in phase 2; why did it seem that there were such radical differences in the same “primary conceptions”?
As a quick revision, the similarities in the primary conceptions were:
- Sacrificial conceptions were responsive to external conditions. They saw denial of self and degrees of conformity as the answer to their existential conditions.
- Expressive conceptions were NOT responsive to external conditions. They saw self expression as a means to overcome their existential conditions but would move into deny-self modalities when "central change" (movement to other modalities) occurred.
The subject of importance here was the difference between subjects occupying similar conceptions, particularly for enumerating and enhancing resolution on the subcategories. These findings are summarised below.
Differences between sacrificial conceptions:
Some of the deny-self conceptions were dissimilar in relation to their effective change force. Certain subjects (the [DQ] conception) would respond only to an accepted higher authority and NOT their peers, remaining rigid and otherwise defending their initial conceptions to the last. Others however (the [FS] conception) would respond only to peer authority and NOT a perceived higher power. The two classifications were also quite dissimilar in terms of their perceived behavioural freedoms.
Differences between expressive conceptions:
The express-self conceptions were also quite different in terms of effective change forces. A number of subjects (the [ER] conceptions) would change only through self procured sources, while others (the [GT] conceptions) seemed to respond regardless of where a thought or information originated from.
These conceptions were also dissimilar in terms of perceived behavioural freedoms. Certain subjects (the [ER] conceptions) "always expressed themselves as if tethers were on them, always tying them down", while others (the [GT] conception) didn't feel bound to anything much at all - especially the goals of others. These subjects were generally non-argumentative but would often interject about perceived mistakes.
With increased resolution on the subcategories; students with the same conceptions of psychological maturity were grouped into classes and tasked with a specific problem. These subjects were then left to autonomously form groups and students with a...
• [DQ] conception split up into small feudalistic units, each with separate leaders.
• [ER] conception had a huge argument, with one eventual leader emerging.
• [FS] conception worked well on their own without a leader.
• [GT] conception chose the most appropriate leader for the task at hand and later to drop them for someone better suited for the next task.
Phase 4: Outliers and Interpretation
The last phase was spent interpreting the data through research and factoring in world views from other non-industrialised cultures. These walks of life were were probably factored in to avoid immediacy bias.
Around this time a new category also started to emerge as up until this point the available data seemed to point towards a final stage of psychological maturity... but a number of people with the ‘express self but without cost to the others’ conception began to reject their previous world views! This contradiction shook Graves’ work at its foundations and for a short time caused him a great deal of confusion.
After the occurrence of these anomalies, people from working classes also began to gain access to higher education and it became evident that an earlier sub-category had been missed out; a remorseless 'express self at all costs' modality whom appeared to hold a 'law of the jungle' mentality where 'might is right'.
This remorseless [CP] conception was thus the most primordial Graves collected in his primary sample, though as mentioned prior stages of cognitive evolution were later uncovered through anthropological research.
The subjects of this [CP] conception (‘express self mercilessly at all costs’) began to shift in their beliefs, lo and behold, into the already documented conception of 'deny self for later reward'!
Thus in one stroke the earlier anomaly of [GT] subjects denying their own prior conceptions was also resolved; they had undergone a process of central change and were starting to embrace a yet inconceived modality. Subsequently, these findings paved the way for psychological health to be viewed as a process rather than fixed state.
This new category [HU] was as far Graves’ primary data went but he and a number of others believed that it wasn't the end of the journey! Given how old this research is already paired with the rising complexity of our environment, we may now once again be witnessing the birth of a new conception not listed on the 1974 chart above; the [IV] modality. Graves speculated the progression was a 'six on six ladder' or octave – so keep an eye out!
The Dialectical Ladder
So far we’ve just reviewed the history of the research and how the conceptions were formed. At this point we can now begin to cover the topic more generally while trying to elicit some insights. The classifications are probably still a bit unclear so let’s quickly cover those in more depth.
The first set of characters in Graves’ notation system [A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H] refer to “existential conditions'' or the environment in which we inhabit. While the second set of characters [N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U] refer to what Graves termed “emergent coping mechanisms” – the capabilities we leverage to transcend our environments.
These emergent cycles might be thought of as a swinging pendulum where we oscillate between express-self and deny-self modalities in an unfolding process. What I find particularly interesting about the implications of Graves classifications is the generative dialectic between environment and organism.
To me, this dialectic feels like the difference between aspiration and embodied action; the environmental context gives rise to a set of needs or desires, which are then slowly manifested through a form of abductive reasoning embodied in new and novel behaviours. Like an octopus:
Graves later revised the [GT] and [HU] conceptions to [AN'] and [BO'] as he theorised a 'six on six ladder'. He did so because these later conceptions closely resembled the earliest stages with a post-subsistance twist.
In contrast to the Gravesian symbol system of letter pairings; the colours, categories and “value-memes” typically reified in Spiral Dynamics and related materials seem to grossly overlook this generative interplay, reducing it into a static typing system – something that I personally find unhelpful. This focus on static categories is a reductive fallacy that has often been used to claim higher ground and author legitimacy narratives. In my opinion Graves avoids this pitfall by maintaining a focus on dialectic and process.
As you might imagine – there can be quite a tension between existential conditions and the formation of 'emergent coping mechanisms'. This friction is perhaps akin to the myth of Sisyphus pushing a boulder uphill for all of eternity. Once a local maximum is reached in this seemingly open ended system, the boulder rolls back down again to a new local minimum. Once more we begin work on our next existential challenge!
So, having now acquainted ourselves with the various psychological conceptions; and more importantly the process of structural coupling which occurs between actor and environment, the most interesting questions (for me) become:
- what actually occurs during this generative process of transformation?
- and how do such bio-psycho-social phase shifts happen?
Lets zoom in on the transformative process as articulated by Graves:
The necessary “higher order structures” must be present within the organism – which Graves saw as neurological systems within the brain. Unfortunately, further resolution on this matter has eluded me during the course of my Gravesian investigations.
Dąbrowski's work on positive disintegration may be relevant however. Here he points to the factors of over-excitability, personal capabilities and drive for autonomy as significant factors in the development of an “independent personality”. At the organisational level, we might speculate that these structures could be represented by the variety of people, rituals, values, coordination protocols, practices and memetics available within a group or environment.
- Resolution of existential problems
Stages of expanding (and contracting) awareness cannot be skipped or bypassed. Problems faced at earlier stages of existence must be resolved in order to release psychic energy for advance. First things first!
- Feelings of dissonance
A breakdown of solutions to one’s immediate existential problems MUST be faced along with a period of crisis and regression. The dissonance of this situation is required to catalyse biochemical changes that drive a regressive search for old patterns of behaviour in order to establish a previous apparent solution to the situation. Such a search is certain to end in arrestment, regression or growth as old solutions to previous problems DO NOT apply to the new context any better than the way of life whose inadequacy triggered the initial search. This might be considered a form of psychological bifurcation.
- Gaining of insights
Putting an end to the regressive search, unlocking the formation of new structures and propelling an evolution to the next modality, is insight. This insight MUST enable the organism to find an equilibrium in the immediate environment.
- Removal of barriers
When this insight is reached, few in the environment will share the same understanding and thus the barriers of friends, family, processes etc. must be overcome or ignored to make a leap.
- Opportunity to consolidate
The last necessary condition for the emergence of new structures is a consolidation factor which comes into play as the organism begins to practice and affirm the new behaviour. Here the implementation of insights are being achieved and accomplished.
At this point I feel compelled to speculate that uncovering this transformative process is probably where Graves got most stuck, leading to delays publishing his work and frustrations mentioned at the beginning of this article. To my senses the above list is a rough hexad within and animating the enneagram of process - though I doubt Graves personally realised this. My own belief is that that this would prove a fruitful line of inquiry for anyone looking to enrich Graves' work as the non-linear temporalities reveal a lot about the transformative journey. The apokritikal levels of being that Graves describes as psychological modalities were not unfamiliar to Sufi schools and other mystery traditions.
Engaging with transformation
Ok, so now having grokked the various conceptions and the deeper process of transformation; how do we leverage this understanding? Can it be used to help us judge appropriate actions in a given context to empower both ourselves and other individuals while navigating transition? What insights might really help us help us to flourish?
Perhaps the first key is to accurately diagnose the terrain we're traversing before figuring out what’s needed and/or desired before prioritising an appropriate pattern, schema or modality to enables us to overcome the obstacles in our way?
Let’s sample a selection of potentially useful approaches:
In most modern cultures, the [AN] and [BO] stages are primarily found in toddlers. Learning is through habituation and essentially Pavlovian conditioning; an associative linear process whereby stimulus provokes a response. The classic example is a dog drooling while its dinner is being prepared, but the same process also applies in large to dementia and substance addiction (e.g. a junkie searching out a bag of heroin).
For a loose cannon at the [CP] stage, benevolent autocracy is perhaps warranted? This might perhaps sound draconian but given complete freedom inhabitants of this modality will absorb as much space as possible while openly fleecing others of their agency; if you give an inch, they'll take a mile. Graves references B.F. Skinner, August Aichhorn and Kurt Eisler as relevant therapies stating "you put this person in a box psychologically and you don't let him out. You've got to know and accept those rules!". Most subsistence modalities will have immense difficulties dealing with this conception due to the limitations of their own ontology.
Working with the [DQ] stage, Graves suggests Freud is pretty much the only person who ever had a clue. These subjects need gentle hand-holding and a personal relationship in order to overcome their fears, break down unhelpful positions and foster trust… thereafter moving along at a snail's pace to lead them back into a sense of embodied self. These people need to see the engaging party as an acceptable authority figure or they’ll remain hidden in their shell without conceding an inch.
The [ER] modalities gain insight only from what they can procure for themselves, gauging their expectations against outcomes. In this regard encounter groups where people gather to express felt experiences arising out of personal interactions are good places to receive useful feedback. Worth noting here however is if the (out) group is unknown to the [ER] centred psychology it would seem that they will often observe and leverage the weakness of others members of the group to exploit and instrumentalise them. They need to interact with a known group with real stakes and repercussions.
For those centred in an [FS] modality, Graves held that the Rodgerian approach was "a very fine one". Many of these methods are similar to the [ER] interventions minus the training wheels of a known group. Particular methods such as the Rodgerean Argument he seemed to consider more suitable than others. As the [FS] modality has embarked on a journey of self-exploration they are predominantly asking "why?" questions which means than an authentic and congruent 1:1 relationship facilitates deeper inquiry and shared context.
We'll stop here as [GT] and [HU] conceptions are open on all channels, learning from every encounter and situation. The main difference between these modes is the maturity; [GT] often seeming to be a kind of potential junkie.
While writing this document and in the course of my own journey, I can say that the conceptions feel quite accurate and extremely useful tools of perception and diagnostics. Schemas are not something I’ll ever really take for gospel but the framework does seem to diagnose past behaviours with relatively high degrees of accuracy; I can see a cycle of personal conceptions that have repeatedly arisen and broken down again while oscillating upon the carrier wave of my life:
BO > CP: The modality throughout my teenage years was clearly that of deny-self. Socialised mind did its best to fit in with kin spirits and fill a group niche. This semi-autistic version of myself was eventually perturbed into a sense of self-awareness via romantic rejection and teenage heartbreak.
CP > DQ: Later during my university years I moved into an express-self modality. I was ferociously exercising, writing music prolifically while dating regularly. At one point in this cycle a dear friend of mine got fed up with the impulsive behaviour and hit me with the statement “you can’t just keep talking over people man” the shame of which once again perturbed my world view.
DQ > ER: My early career seems to accurately fit a deny-self modality where I felt quite disembodied; watching myself in third person while smoking away external tensions as a form of escapism. I was working for a particularly imperialistic employer and the thought of further subordinating myself to such tyrannical authority was really grating on me so when the opportunity arose I quit my job and started a company of my own.
ER > FS: As captain of my own ship I moved into an express-self modality; installing sound systems for several high end venues in London while also beginning to invest in speculative assets. I expanded into night club tech management and eventually burnt myself out on graveyard shifts – moving into a well paid technology job shortly thereafter. My calculated boundary pushing there provoked push back and brought down the wrath of others, eventually leading to being made redundant as the startup began to run out of funding in the great ETH crash of 2018. Yeah, I was a brat.
FS > GT: Leaving the world of employment behind to search out like minded peers seems to accurately reflect the “deny-self for acceptance now” conception; I joined a variety of self-organising initiatives and after some time found refuge in the countryside messing about with crypto robotics with a peer. The pace was slow and the location isolating so a sense of dissonance began to creep in; resultantly I was moved to affirm myself and began to seek stability on my own ground by taking a job as a Ledger Governance Coordinator and moving to Berlin before quickly pivoting to Lisbon instead.
It appears that many sources suggest that the FS > GT transition is the hardest to work through. However, the reasoning for these assertions seem quite mysterious and thin on the ground and so I feel compelled to share my own experience of this transition. Stated bluntly the end of the green transition felt like I’d been stripped of all character leaving a whisper of core essence that was pretty unresponsive and completely spaced out. Veg mode.
The upside to that however was an honest sense of self-awareness which seemed to become a process of rebuilding my “avatar” in a systematic way from the ground up unintentionally taking on the properties of each stage that seemed to change about every three months or so. There was also a growing sense of self-acceptance (which I thought I’d already found) coming from an open disclosure of my internal world. This was probably the end of the FS stage.
Autonomy and independence certainly came at a cost but life became both more colourful and difficult as I entered the GT stage; my experience of this transition was that the involution cycle felt pretty dark. The GT modality seems to be refilling on potential that previously withered away so a whole bunch of high capacity chaos cats seem to emerge and get real frigging tricky with each other.
There's a sense of fear and paranoia among individuated peers while reality turns into a warzone as individuals competing for agency rug each other for the realisation of their potential... leading to the unitive HU transformation; though I honestly can't quite comment on that part of the journey in detail just yet other than to say that I'm frigging exhausted from the involution cycle.
While exploring and reflecting on this model, I’ve taken it with a pinch of salt and largely read between the lines. From this perspective it feels pretty solid and I honestly don’t have a huge amount of criticism to direct at in. Taking a more literal perspective however it seems that some of the terminology might benefit from minor adjustments in framing.
In particular Graves seems to frame the process from a lens of coping and problem solving which we might say is a form of goal orientation. This seems at odds with his otherwise predominant process orientation and so we can perhaps view the transitions as a process of healing from damage incurred in prior modalities.
Throughout this article I’ve also been cautious not to call the conceptions “levels” – as many transcripts do – because such words can easily lead to a sense of elitism. This is rife in the Spiral Dynamics communities which draw upon this work and tends to turn many people off. Graves himself noted in a number of transcripts that “levels'' were uncorrelated with intelligence and that it's more a case of understanding how people do what they do, or how they believe what they believe.
While it seems that the research methods were generally robust; the [AN] and [BO] conceptions were inferred through extensive study of anthropological literature as previously mentioned. This seems fair in the context of his study and a necessary step to avoid the immediacy bias of solely relying on his own sample; however by looking for conceptions outside his sample and finding them it opens the potential for confirmation bias. Ahh, the thin line and endless double bind!
It seems apparent to me at this point that Emergent Cyclical Theory has a wide range of implications across a number of fields; particularly in government, business, healthcare, education and social sciences. We might thereby consider it an aid for anticipating potential futures, or as a lens for systemic intervention - with the right eyes and ears it can help enable us to tailor an appropriate response to a given context and meet it in place with right (or deliberately wrong) action!
Furthermore, Emergent Cyclical Theory seems pretty applicable to emerging fields like distributed ledger technology, artificial general intelligence and computer science - as they are all artefacts of our ontologyes and how we think.
These encoded ideologies are the products of our environmental coupling which then become concrete realities which shape the affordances of our daily lives. Having an awareness of what’s shaping us and the modality that created it is an incredibly important notion to be aware of… and perhaps even more so in the reverse; how we’re using our agency to shape the world and others around us is a deep ethical concern that we can probably all be more aware of. How are we contributing? What values are driving our actions and behaviour? How much hubris is involved?
Navigating the tensions present in daily life feels analogous to matching voltage or impedence; wherever there's an ontological mismatch there's a energetic bottleneck that restricts flow and leaks potential. Stepping and blending these energetics is an art form I could personally use more practice in but having a good sense of where others are coming from is certainly helpful in attempting such alchemy!
Perhaps beyond this is a notion of situationism; the conjuring of moments which enable us to grow in safe to fail environments at the collective scale. Performance events and circumstances which test our capacities and surface our ontologies for what they are; fragile beliefs, attachments and conditioned patterns. As Graves initially pondered; can exposure to confusion, contradiction, controversy and conflict help us to become better adapted to our existential environment? I personally believe so but buyer beware; this can be absolutely exhausting when sustained over long periods of time!
None the less my recommendation is to:
“Buy the ticket, take the ride”
Ad Astra ✨,