I’m not sure that the exact copy below ever made it into one of my books. If not, it should have. Because this describes how Clare W. Graves made the leap

If you had been with me on that cantankerous, wintry New England day when I got my first glimpse of him, I think we’d both have agreed that the initial sighting was memorable. The focus, I believe, would have been mostly on his visage. To a surprising extent, his facial features reminded me of the somber, dignified Abe Lincoln who stares back at you in Matthew Brady’s daguerreotypes.

In the Newton, Mass., restaurant that day, I could instantly fit Lincoln’s craggy face, with the dark, hedgerow eyebrows, onto a gangly body not unlike the late actor Jimmy Stewart’s, though not quite so tall. Palpably, this became Professor Clare W. Graves at about 11:15 p.m. of his pathfinder’s life. Most people who ever met him also remembered Dr. Graves’ black-rimmed eyeglasses, possibly in part because of their proximity to a pair of watchful, deep-set eyes. Dr. Graves, an American psychologist, was the pioneering researcher and theorist who was the first to realize that a great new watershed in human thinking abilities was surfacing—a 21st Century-prefiguring, global-world-processing new kind of mind.

Like the first to see many a newly identified heavenly object, Dr. Graves was able to make the sighting only because he was looking with the right tools—including his own gifted intuitions and analytical skills—in the right direction at the right time for observing a radically different way for individuals to organize their thinking.

It all began because iconoclastic Clare Graves was acutely irritated by the inability of psychology’s reigning personalities (Freud, Alder, Fromm, Erikson, Skinner, Maslow, Rogers and others) to agree on what constitutes a healthy mind. He decided to ignore their views and develop his own. And that meant accumulating his own data.

For several years, Graves had been systemically collecting and cataloguing his students’ views about what made for a mature person. It had grown into a massive one-man research project. He had a hoard of basic input about minds from many different cultures—and the mounting intimation of a promising theory. He was growing more and more optimistic about working out a plausible solution for psychology’s wishy-washiness.
When, out of the blue, he experienced a stunning setback.

DR. CLARE W. GRAVES (Photo used by permission of the late Christopher C. Cowan and Spiral Dynamics)

DR. CLARE W. GRAVES (Photo used by permission of the late Christopher C. Cowan and Spiral Dynamics)

With no warning at all, the beliefs of some of his most perceptive and sensitive—and, in his view, most mature—research subjects abruptly and permanently shifted on him. And not just their beliefs. Something unexpected happened to some of their most vital thinking skills, too. He knew because he quickly tested them. There was nothing in his developing theory or his thoughts to explain how this could be. Suddenly, he faced the researcher’s worse nightmare: he was lost and could see no recognizable landmarks in view.

If at one moment these individuals were capable of processing the day-to-day complexities and subtleties of the world at C, it was as if they were now suddenly capable of interacting with their hour-to-hour surroundings at E or G or K. It wasn’t that their IQs had turned on the afterburner and shot toward the stratosphere. In a conventional sense, they weren’t suddenly smarter. A better explanation was that they were more complicated, more insightful, more … open and thoughtful and strategic. Their horizons had been widened. To Dr. Graves, it seemed as if they had been granted added space and extra skills for growing up, though most of them were already nearly grown. How could he possibly explain that?

He was dumbfounded.

As the months passed, then a year, then more months, Dr. Graves’ intellectual crisis continued. Unlike Jacob, he didn’t wrestle nightly with angels. His wrestling opponents were demons, not angels—the demons of unknowing, confusion and puzzlement. Forgetting the sins of the profession’s fathers, he now struggled with the chaos he confronted in his own personal academic backyard.

Then, in a moment, it was over. The angst ended, the skies cleared. As unceremoniously as it had appeared—in one of those breakaway creative flashes that often advances the human cause—in his mind, the problem resolved itself.

On a fall day in 1961, in his classroom at Union College in Schenectady, New York, Graves hurried to a blackboard. Writing as fast as he could, he jotted down the rudiments of an explanation both for his own research conundrum and for the fundamental confusions and contradictions that had so long flummoxed psychology—the inability of psychology’s greatest theorists to come to agreement on the ideal human mind. As Graves described it years later in various locations, including an article for The Futurist (April, 1974, pp. 72-87) , his basic realization was this:

“The psychology of the mature human being is an unfolding, emergent, oscillating, spiraling process marked by progressive subordination of older, lower-order behavior systems to newer, higher-order systems as man’s existential problems change….Each successive stage, wave, or level of existence is a state through which people pass on their way to other states of being. When the human is centralized in one state of existence, he or she has a psychology which is particular to that state. His or her feelings, motivations, ethics and values, biochemistry, degree of neurological activation, learning system, belief system, conception of mental health, ideas as to what mental illness is and how it should be treated, conceptions of and preferences for management, education, economics, and political theory and practice are all appropriate to that state.”

Translation: there is no single way to describe a mature human because, in the truest sense, there is no such thing as a mature human. Maturity is as maturity does. And what the psychologically healthy person does best is to change with the times. The change always involves substituting new ways to think and behave for old ways. And the substitution may occur—needs to occur—again and again. Human maturation, Graves concluded, is an ever-ongoing process!

Dr. Graves’ model of how humans mature is, of course, highly basic to our “dolphin strategy” thinking skills model and to our MindMaker6® and Yo!Dolphin! Worldview Survey® assessment tools. And it anchors the discussion in all my books of theoretical and actual aspects of how we humans think and how our personal psychologies mature.

[Send comments for LEAP!Psych to info@braintechnologies.com]

Bookmark and Share