Levels, States and Types of Development

Levels, States and Types of Development

by Michael Dewan-Herrick

Attending to all four quadrants and recognizing various lines will give us a very broad view of what is involved in being human.  It also suggests a great variety of ways that things can go wrong, or get stuck, and what might be needed if they do.  Still, quadrants and lines by themselves do not exhaust what is possible to consider in an integral approach to care.  Our MBSE does not simply exist in healthy or sick states.  All four move through a process of development.  We grow, change, and mature as we go through life.  What is healthy and needed for an infant is different than what is healthy and needed for an adult.  To say the obvious, an infant is not a pathological adult, nor vice-versa. We go through different stages as we mature.

Those who have studied various lines or streams of development have proposed different stages or waves through which that development unfolds. Wilber has brought many of these systems together in his book Integral Psychology, and suggests that there is no one “right” way to divide up stages of development.  Just as inches are just as accurate as centimeters and Celsius is just as accurate as Fahrenheit, so the various stage models of development can all contribute to our understanding.

For the sake of simplicity I will use abbreviated versions of stage models.  Sometimes I will use the stages of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.  Sometimes I will just refer to body, mind, and spirit.  Another, even simpler, way to consider development is in terms of three basic stages: beginning, intermediate, and advanced.  This is how we commonly measure our progress in any endeavor or any line of development.  Whether taking a yoga class, piano lessons, or learning to use a computer, we are all familiar with these three levels The following are some simple three-stage conceptions of development in different lines:


Advanced—————Trans-rational Intermediate————Rational Beginning—————Pre-rational

Affective (Emotional)

Advanced—————Universal Compassion Intermediate————-Relational/Caring Beginning—————Selfish


Advanced—————-Trans-personal Intermediate————-Personal Beginning—————Pre-personal


Advanced—————Worldcentric Intermediate————Ethnocentric Beginning—————Egocentric


Advanced—————-Post-Conventional Intermediate————-Conventional Beginning—————Pre-Conventional


Advanced—————Self-transcendence (spiritual) Intermediate————Emotional/psychological Beginning—————Physical

I offer these not as scientifically validated “facts”, but as a super-simplified way to begin to assess development in different lines.


Although any of us may be generally stable within certain levels in the various developmental lines, our state of consciousness is in a continual flux.  On a daily basis, for instance, we experience at least three different fundamental states:

1) Ordinary waking consciousness
2) Dreaming
3) Deep dreamless sleep

In addition to these three states, we may also experience “altered states” of various kinds that can be induced by drugs, sleep deprivation, religious rituals and ceremonies, meditation, prayer and other spiritual practices, dance, spontaneous “kundalini awakening” , trauma, repetitive motions, hypnosis, sensory deprivation or overload, etc. Additionally, when we are deeply absorbed in an activity that we have developed mastery in, we may also enter what is known as the “flow state”.    In this state we are able to quickly, automatically, continuously, and with an almost miraculous deftness, execute whatever task is before us.

All of this is to say that our state of mind is continuously variable. A state of consciousness is different than a stage of consciousness, in that a state is temporary and a stage is relatively stable and permanent.  So when we are caring for someone who enters a regressed, elevated, or any other state, it is important to know where their usual home base is at, i.e. their “baseline”.  This will keep us from drawing conclusions based on their current state, and holding to theories and strategies of care that are better implemented only on a temporary basis. 

Recognizing and attending to states will make us more flexible and adaptive to changing circumstances.  It will also allow us to see what may be possible as a more stable structure of consciousness for someone (for good or bad) if they continue with their current practices. As we provide care for others, we too, of course, will experience different states of mind.  These will affect our ability to be present, to empathize, to express ourselves, to embody skillful means, etc.  Some states may enhance our care, while others may present obstacles.  Knowing the difference, and knowing what produces these different states of mind, could be very useful toward being the kind of caregiver we want to be.



We all have different styles of feeling, thinking, and acting in the world.  One way to recognize this is to speak of “types”.  While levels of development may be ranked in terms of “higher” and “lower”, or less and more inclusive, any given type can be expressed at any level.  In other words, types per se can’t be fairly ranked.  We all express ourselves in different ways.  For instance, there is not just one way to be at a conventional level of moral development, or at any other level of any line.  This means that no one type is necessarily “better” than any other.  It depends on what level of development it is coming from. 

This creates a lot of space for diversity in how we might grow as caring people.  We don’t have to twist ourselves into some shape that is unnatural for us.  Nor do we have to expect others to be something they are not.  This gives us a way to appreciate our own unique gifts, and also appreciate others who are very different from us.

For instance, certain ways of being and doing are more feminine, while others are more masculine.  Some people are more intuitive, while others are more logical.  Throughout my career I have worked in many settings where one or another style seemed to be preferred, and those who did not follow it became marginalized and targeted for further supervision and training, in order to get them into the accepted mold.  Or else they were let go.  When it is a matter of style, or type of care, I think this is unnecessary.  Each individual can be recognized and supported in his or her own way of caring for others.

Occasionally, however, some people will see this greater acceptance of types as a way to disregard levels.  Because there is great justice and liberation that comes from accepting different types as equal, there can be the zealous belief that any person expressing any particular style is just as developed and accomplished as any other person- regardless of what level of development that style is coming from.  It’s a kind of “different strokes for different folks” belief that doesn’t recognize that caresses are generally better than strokes delivered with a blunt object.  I believe that this is a mistake. 

While a person’s style may be completely legitimate, they may be expressing it at a lower level, or a distorted way, and need support and education in order to develop their style further.  Their style may be just as good as anyone else’s, but their way of manifesting it may not. It is also possible for types to be expressed not only at lower levels, but also in pathological ways.  In other words, a fundamental style or way of being and acting can be exaggerated or twisted in such a way that it causes harm.  The basic healthy feminine expression of nurturance and support can take a co-dependant turn.  The basic healthy masculine approach of self-assertion and challenge can become aggressive.  An introspective personality can lapse into obsessive internal self-criticism and isolation.  An extroverted style can neglect self-reflection. 

Yet even embedded within such dysfunctional ways of being, are the seeds of our greater potential.  Our basic type just needs to be untangled and distilled from its pathological expression and helped to develop in more healthy ways. As care providers it is good to know our own particular style. 

There are many different systems for identifying types, such: Myers Briggs personality profile, Jungian archetypes, the Sufi enneagram, the 5 Buddha families , or ayurvedic types.  There does not seem to be any general agreement about which system is the best. 

I recommend exploring several and finding one or two that make sense and speak to you. Just as we can recognize and cultivate our own style or type as a caregiver, so can we also appreciate the unique type of someone we care for.  Relieving a person’s suffering shouldn’t require that they adapt to our notion of an acceptable style of living.  If we are able to recognize the healthy expression of any type, then we can support and challenge someone toward embodying his or her own style, even if that style is radically different from our own.  Prepared with an understanding of types we are then able to see our own irritations with people as suggesting the need for more self-reflection, rather than necessarily as triggers that launch us into campaigns for change.


An integral approach to care will include an awareness of quadrants, lines, levels, states, and types.  This awareness provides reference points for our responses as we attend to others.  The integral map does not dictate what we should do; it simply helps us be aware of what we might do. 

Wilber has suggested that it is like the “operating system” for a computer.  He calls it the Integral Operating System, or IOS.  It allows all kinds of “software” to be run.  In this case, all different kinds of care.  At first it may seem daunting.  Perhaps after reading this chapter you feel it is just too much to think about.  Maybe it seems way too complicated.  And yet, really, it is just a description of what is available in your own awareness all the time.  We are aware that we have a mind, a body, relationships with other people, and that we live in an environment. (Quadrants) We know we have different aspects of who we are, different things that we are good at. (Lines)  We observe that we have grown and matured in different ways over time. (Levels) We experience waking, dreaming, deep sleep, intoxication, and other states of consciousness.  We notice that everyone has their own way of expressing their personality. (Types)  The integral map simply elaborates on these basic aspects of being human.  It provides a way to make sure we don’t leave out anything important as we embark on the path of caring for others.

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