Holacracy Community of Practice Archive, 2015-2019 Community Holacracy Web Site

Transcript: Terri O'Fallon on Holacracy & Human Ego Conversation with Brian Robertson & Tom Thomison, March 3, 2011

Brian: Welcome everyone.  This is the second call in our current Community of Practice topic, which is Holacracy and human ego.  It’s a topic I’ve been personally really looking forward to, and we had a phenomenal call a couple of weeks back with Susanne to introduce this distinction of ego.  What is it?  What do we mean when we say that?  I think there’s a common definition of ego, which is not how I use it in the context of Holacracy, and we got to explore that a little bit a few weeks back with Susanne.  This week we’ve got Terri O’Fallon joining us.

Ever since I attended Terri’s presentation at the Integral Theory Conference on some of her latest research at taking adult development at what, to me, feels like an entirely new level with some new distinctions that just totally blew my mind and have had me spinning ever since, trying to incorporate these new insights, I’ve been really looking forward to this call.  Terri, before we get started, can you tell us just a bit about your background and what led you to this line of work?


Terri: Well, thank you so much Brian.  I got a good background being a teacher.  I started working with pre-kindergarten and gradually, through the last forty years has taught all the way up to post-PhD, and have just appreciated so much the opportunity of actually engaging with and being with people as I do my research, and this is one of the beautiful things that happens when you actually can experience the embodiment of the research that you’re working with.  So my research right now is making some additional distinctions related to the Cook-Greuter scale, the ego development scale, that you talked with Susanne about in your last call.  We’ve been using that in Pacific Integral now for about seven years.  The beauty of it is that when you learn to watch and observe and witness people as they’re in the process of development, because you have an inventory that targets their center of gravity and also the full range of experience – perspective taking that they seem to be able to take, and you watch them grow over a period of two years, you can really begin to see the development as an embodied thing.  It’s really quite an incredibly profound and useful experience to combine research like this along with actual observations.  In our program, we do inner observation as well as the inner radar on the protocols.  So my recent work is based on this incredible opportunity to watch many, many people roll through these various stages from middle stages particularly into some very late stages.  We have learned a lot about how people develop in their actual lives as well as how they show up on a protocol in their responses to the maps which Susanne has developed so carefully.  So more recently, my work has been to continue making distinctions based on what we’ve noticed in person, and based on the longevity research that we’ve done at Pacific Integral.  I’m focusing a lot now on the differences between these different stages and several pivotal points that we have noticed as people developed.


Brian: Yes.  Those points for me, which just blew me away at your presentation, is the concept of different floors of meaning making, if you will, and can you tell us a bit about that?  Though there were many components you laid out that added on to the basic theory, that was one of the really earthshaking ones for me, and gave a whole new lens of looking at development at a bigger picture.  So can you tell us more about what the concept is, as much as you can summarize the work with these different scores and the transition between?


Terri: Yes.  The title of my presentation was The Collapse of the Wilber Combs Matrix and I guess it isn’t really a collapse.  It’s an inter-penetration that I’m seeing now, and what I’m really understanding as I work with people and as I continue my research and of course I scored this inventory as well, and quite a number of other protocols, is that people take concrete perspectives and there are about four different levels in the concrete perspective-taking arena.  When people get to a certain point, they shift from concrete perspective - and we called this the concrete floor – they shift to a subtle/taking subtle perspective and there are about four stages that take these subtle perspectives…


Brian: Can you give us an example of a concrete versus a subtle perspective?


Terri: Well, a concrete perspective is basically the senses and the emotions, the ones that you can see.  For instance, sad, glad, mad, fear are all emotions that you can see on a person’s face.  If they’re sad, they cry.  If they’re glad, they smile.  If they’re mad, they throw a tantrum or they frown and if they begin to feel fear, they run away or they freeze, so these are the rudimentary beginnings of emotions that you can see from the concrete.  As far as having an understanding of these perspectives being on the interior, generally people at the concrete floor don’t experience it that way.  The same is true of motion and action and this sort of thing, so most of the perspective that they take relate to these sensory and concrete emotions and movements in action, and then it also relates to their own concrete self and other concrete selves.  They’re more likely to describe somebody based on what they looked like or based on what they do, rather than how they feel or other more subtle kinds of emotions.  When they move into this subtle floor, the perspective taken there tends to be more related to things that you can’t see with your senses.  The emotions for instance, become quite subtle, so you can’t always see the feeling of compassion or the feeling of empathy, although it may be there.  So these kinds of experiences become interior and they become – at the subtle floor, there’s quite an array of interior experiences that people have on the inside, and so they begin to get a subtle self that arises at that point, and this is the self that gradually tries to build into an authentic self.  The first two stages tend to want to identify and clarify more and more about what this individual subtle self is that they have, and the last two stages that Susanne described so often - they want to integrate/do more integration on the last two.  So here we’re talking about early orange/orange and green and teal, so there are four stages that happen there and…


Brian: So just link that to the names of the stages then, the concrete floor shift to the subtle floor is between the Diplomat and the Expert stage with Diplomat kind of the height of the developed concrete self, and that acts as the beginning of development of the subtle self all the way through Strategist or what the integral world would call Integral or Teal, or what have you, being the fully integrated subtle self, but not yet shifted to the next floor, which I’m sure you’re getting to.


Terri: Yes.  Which is the causal floor and then of course the casual self arises.  One of the things that I’ve noticed in the scoring and with working with people is that when people make a shift into a new floor, what they tend to do is see their arrogance from the previous floor.  So this is where we find a concern about arrogance and being stuck up and this sort of thing.  It happens at the Expert level and they’re looking at people who are at the concrete level, and they see the concrete arrogance that they might have - that they have more material goods than other people have and so forth.  When they shift from the subtle floor, which is Teal, to the causal floor and move into construct aware, they seem to start taking some perspectives on the ego/the subtle ego, which is like spiritual materialism and arrogance around what kinds of knowledge people have, their capacity to know things, and to analyze, and their IQ and all that sort of thing.  Those are the sorts of things that they begin to notice, and a huge sense of hubris and concern about having an ego seems to arise there again.  So while I know that people do have awareness around these egoic perspectives, probably all the way up and all the way down, in the scoring that I do, I tend to find many more comments at the Expert and at the construct aware level because they can see the egoic aspects of the floor that they just left.


Brian: Yes.  I think this is something I see connected back to Holacracy, as something that is a significant value to a lot of the people that are connecting with us and with the work around Holacracy.  I think, especially with our marketing in the integral space, we’ve found a lot of people swirling around this work who themselves seem too often be coming from those late in the subtle tier, either Strategist or sometimes the stage before that as well, but I think one of the really powerful glimpses that people get with Holacracy is that its methods hold up the mirror to the subtle ego.  The process continually holds up a mirror when we’re trying to attach/dominate what have you with our ideas, our theories, our mental structures.  It continually holds up that mirror and just invites us to let it go, ground, and get back to just presence and flow.  I think, from all the many comments we get about how cool that Integrative Decision Making process is, that it actually does that. I think the value a lot of people are resonating with is catching glimpses of perhaps something, even something in their self and something in others that they haven’t directly seen or worked with as often before this.  In that way, I think it also has a potential for being a catalytic force in their own development by continually highlighting and showing some aspect of self.


Terri: I agree with you there.  One of the important things that arises at the causal tier is the witness, and that means the things that you used to do in meditation while you are sitting, the things that you used to be able to witness while you’re sitting in meditation, you now do while you’re walking around, so everything becomes more in the moment.  Of course, letting go is also something that happens at that causal tier.  About three different times do we find a sensation or a perspective taking, as far as I can tell, where people begin to profoundly let go, and this is something that happens more in the moment.  Of course in your work with Holacracy, your frame here really is asking people to let go of something in the moment because they can revisit it at any time.  That is not an experience that most people have, because when you’re taking perspectives from the subtle tier, the subtle is as concrete to them as the concrete was to the concrete people.  It’s not very pliable.  What is subtle is not all that pliable, but when you get to the causal floor, people are walking around with pliability.  They’re seeing the constructive nature of everything in their perspective taking and their meaning making, and so even though they get caught up in their capacities to make beautiful maps and reapply them and do good in the world and all that sort of thing, at some point they can stand back and say, “Oh, even that is a construction.  Even Holacracy is a construction.  As much as I believe in it and I see the good of it, it’s just nothing but something that’s made up.”  So built right into Holacracy is this witnessing practice.  The tactical meeting itself is based on tensions in the moment.  Not in the past, not in the future, but right now, and that brings people into the moment, and your Integrative Decision Making process asks people on the different realms to share in a way that allows them to let go.  The very premise of Holacracy really focuses on these very same approaches as the kind of perspective taking that happens in the causal tier.  So we use Holacracy in Pacific Integral, and it’s just a fabulous approach for us.  We’ve really benefitted so much from that work and we’ve personally attended your workshops, and Geoff has been very, very involved in maintaining connection with you and your whole organization and we’ve just counted to benefit from that, knowing that it is a practice.  It’s an organizational structure in a way, but it’s a practice as well.


Brian: Yes.  I find it fascinating because of that.  It is a practice that doesn’t require cognitive understanding to do the methods, which means it can be applied even before somebody has the constant always on ready awareness of the subtle meaning making – the subtle ego or whatever – however you want to language it.  It’s a practice that can be done even before that and a practice that then shifts from just having an experience of that in a meditative state or another removed-from-reality process into the very way we make decisions in a meeting, the very way we show up in an organization everyday.  We now have – I think this is both the value and the challenge I often see. I’ve seen people who have a Strategist capacity, the late subtle floor in many ways, have more trouble, more challenge, and more opportunity in doing this practice.  I’m curious just to check that out with you.  There is certainly no research behind it, just observation, but I’ve noticed it’s often the people with more capacity that tend to have more ways of hiding from themselves, more attachment to their self image, the subtle self image, and the sense of “my ideas”, and “my ability to heroically lead with my own thoughts and meaning making”, is reinforced by reality when they’ve got a capacity that’s beyond the modern norm. Then I think Holacracy almost challenges the attachment to their own subtle meaning making, their own ideas, theories, concepts, what have you.


Terri: Well yes, I think it would likely be something that would be challenging for them.  What I’m understanding in working with the floor levels at this subtle tier, which are Experts, Achiever, Individualist, and Strategist – this is part of the pattern making that I discussed at the ITC conference that Susanne refers to.  The patterning of being in the moment with your understanding, and then, like an Expert who steps into the first aspect of capacity for having a subtle self and they don’t know much about it yet, they’re in an exploration phase. They have to have a lot of experience before they can start categorizing anything and finding the reasons why things happen, so they’re pretty much an in the moment process themselves.  Then when they move to Achiever, it’s after they’ve had enough experience that they can actually categorize and start making more meaning through time, and they become very action oriented about the understandings that they’ve had, and take it out into the world and want to do something with it. Then you find them moving to Individualist or Green, and here they step into an entirely new world of being aware of their context.  This is a qualitative aspect that Susanne talks about so much.  It’s more than just cognitive.  It’s the capacity to understand that your context actually helps define who you are.  It’s not just you looking at your own subtle self.  The subtle and concrete context actually support and shape the human being that you are, but if you only realize that at the beginning, it takes a long time of watching all these different contexts – and people love to travel and look at different kinds of contexts.  They look at all the interior contexts dealing with authenticity and that sort of thing, trying to figure out what does this mean?  They’re not very hierarchical about it yet, because they haven't got enough experience to make categories.  So once you get enough experience to categorize some of these contextual interior and exterior experiences, then you pop into Strategist.  Once you have the opportunity to take these experiences, categorize them, and see patterns with them, then you want to take them out into the world and do something with them, and you’re quite sure of yourself.  When you’re quite sure of yourself, you’re not really ready to be in the moment, because you’ve already been in the moment.  So what happens when you get into the next floor, which is construct aware?  You’re back in the movement again.  The thing about that though is that the witness arises, so you tend to be more in the moment all the time, even if you’re in the process of making categories and that sort of thing because people do make categories of constructs.  If they look at constructs long enough, they can say, “Oh, I make something up here with these and reify them and do something with them,” but they’re in the moment because the witness arises there.  I don’t know if that makes sense to you.


Brian: That makes total sense and aligns again, with the experiential piece in in many ways – when you take people earlier in their development, there’s not yet the capacity to fully realize or see what Holacracy is doing and it’s just another process to follow, and there’s a flow with it and I think that has – because it does the constant pointing out, if anything, it’s helping along that journey.  Then you get to that later stages of it when there’s so much built up in Strategist, and this is where I see almost one of the biggest challenges and opportunities for people coming from that space, Holacracy is challenging all of the constructions.  All of these beautiful, complex, sophisticated ways of thinking, of working, and the doing in the world with them, and pointing to the internal irony of all of that.  Pointing to the need to just step back and let go because no matter how hard we try, we can’t control reality through those constructions.  There’s a challenge almost to the sense of self for some people there, and an opportunity to glimpse something beyond it for those who are ready to have that glimpse, and it seems like there’s like this major leap I’ve seen post strategist, and now your theory makes some sense to that.  It is some leak to a different floor and it’s a hard one to make.


Terri: It’s one of the most difficult ones to make.  The one between Diplomat and Expert is hard, but they have a whole community of people that Experts that that can leap into. But the one between Strategist or Teal and construct aware is much more difficult, because it’s like about 1% of the people we score ever reach that stage, and you’re not going to walk around your community and find very many other people to communicate with that understand this.  Of course, we run into many people who are wondering about their own mental health when they’re isolated and don’t have anybody to make meaning with around what they’re seeing about the constructed nature of reality, so it’s a very, very difficult leap to make.  I always think it’s a good idea if people like that can find at least one other person who has the same perspective taking that they have. 


But I’d like to just step back a little bit and remark, Brian, on our experience.  Ken often says that people at Green or at Individualist don’t like hierarchy and that they are mean and this sort of thing, and I think that really does happen.  However, what we’ve noticed in our work is that if people get a strong take on development at the earlier levels of Achiever or Expert, they don’t disagree with development.  They background it because they’re swimming in context and trying to figure out in the moment what contexts are about, but they don’t throw away their understanding of development.  So if you get this stuff to people early enough, they just background something and then they’ll foreground it again when it’s useful for them. And I’m sensing that this would also happen with Holacracy.  If you give people a Strategist perspective for the first time, it might be very difficult for them to actually understand and to make meaning of it, but if they were involved in a Holacratic system from the time that they were an Expert - even Diplomats can learn the rules and do it.  It’s not like they can’t operate at this level, so if you get an organization and it’s likely going to have nested systems where you’re going to have people at the Expert level perhaps doing some of the accounting work.  You’re going to have people at variety of different kinds of levels and if they learn Holacracy as they develop up through the organization, I would ask and I wonder if it would not help support them in their development and even as they develop, they would be able to have a better understanding of Holacracy, which would then help them develop further.  So it seems to me like this is almost a vertical autopoetic pattern here that could certainly be useful if you’ve got people at an early enough level.  If they’re late, it seems like it would be more difficult for them to get it until they got into construct aware, so I don’t know if that makes sense to you, but I’m just musing here about this as a possibility.


Brian: It totally matches my experience.  We see people all over the developmental mass love it and rise to it, and I think what it’s doing is meeting them where they are and helping to support them where they are with the capacity they can manifest, and give them better channels to use that capacity where they are, and it’s embracing what they understand and what they know of the world for sure.  This is a comment Susanne made after she went through our Certification Training.  She said the structure is remarkable in how the system can embrace anyone where they are and at the same time take capacities that they might not have individually and embed them into the structure of the organization so that collectively, we can be part of manifesting a capacity even when no one individually has it, and that matches with my experience.  Actually, I think most of the market that’s attracted to Holacracy is not coming with construct aware capacity.  There are certainly exceptions. There are certainly people that are, but I think much of our market is coming with late postmodern capacities, and seeing in this some beautiful wisdom embedded and an opportunity to take it somewhere next.  I think most of the people in our space that are coming with the Strategist capacity have no problems seeing the capacity embedded in this, and that it’s beyond even their moment to movement awareness capacity regularly everyday and often rise to that challenge of looking at, “Wow.  This is taking something I can reflectively see and bringing it into my day to day awareness and embedding it in decision making methods.”  I see that response quite often and sometimes from existing power holders, who are kind of in their own heroic leadership mode, and taking a lot of their own kind of self esteem needs perhaps through that.  There’s simultaneous with that a sense of profound opportunity and appreciation, a challenge in that Holacracy is holding up a ruthless mirror to their own habits, their own attachments, their own meaning making in the moment, and that is both painful and delightful. It is hard to even describe or categorize that experience. It’s the exquisite joy of development right?


Terri: Yes. Of course, the really profound process that Holacracy has is that it is not just a structure, it’s also a practice. We need more of these kinds of vertical autopoetic practices in the world. The other thing that’s good about it is that it operates in business. It operates when you’re actually working. Not just when you’re sitting on the mat or other places. It’s just a practice that appears to me, is one that allows people to develop from wherever they are, doesn’t push people, gets them a practice that they can work with on a day to day level and it also is an organizational structure that allows the organization to move in a really practical way. Not too many organizational structures are also a practice, and yours is the only one I know of that does that and I just admire it so much for that.


Brian: Yes, and the power of I think having it embedded in a practice is that it does not even reside on the capacity of an individual within to hold to the rules. It resides from a process to hold to the rules. There’s rules for the facilitator and all that. That means it’s – even for those of us that live, eat, sleep, breathe this all the time, Tom and I, for example, we still are not immune, as is any one, from getting stuck in our own attachments. Yet, we have a practice everyday that when we go there, holds up a mirror to it. It doesn’t beat us over the head with it, but it just hold up a mirror, and makes it more obvious to even us when we ourselves are stuck in our own meaning making system, when we are falling prey to an attachment, and risking projecting that onto the organization in a way that limits its purpose. When that happens, it holds up the mirror and it helps us see it. It doesn’t matter even if those of us who are promoting this and leading this get stuck. The process still works with us. So, to me, that’s what’s so powerful. It’s a shift from any individual leading to heroically hold a space for that kind of process to happen, to structure a system holding a space for that kind of let go to happen. Even when I get stuck, Holacracy is a cruel mistress. It’s outside any one of us, and it’s a system of practice in and of itself. That’s a really powerful piece.


Terri: The thing is, is that when what seems to be in this mind that can only  make distinctions, it’s the process that it has to be in because of our senses. Our senses aren’t senses unless they can make distinctions, like with our sight, and our tasting, and hearing, and smelling. That’s all our senses do, is makes distinctions, and these distinctions become  finer and finer and finer, and the mind that we have and the perspective taking this mind has, develops from the very day we’re born until the day we pass. It’s learning to make distinctions that are finer and finer, and from these distinctions, it takes perspectives, and when you have a structure that allows people to continue to make finer and finer distinctions from which they can develop later and later perspectives, at some point, you get to a place where the structure of this developmental practice and structure that you have here in Holacracy, is that at some point one would be able to step back and see the mind itself that makes these distinctions. That’s the practice here in the concrete, the subtle, the causal floor is gradually discovered more and more. This mind that is fueled by our senses that must make distinctions, it works with opposing poles, and those opposing poles come from our senses themselves at the very early stages. If you don’t have one side of a pole, then you don’t have the other side. So, you have to have two in order to make sense of anything. It is really quite an amazing process, this trek from birth, the concrete floor where you’re working primarily with the distinctions of the concrete to the subtle floor, where you’re making very subtle distinctions between even the subtlest of emotions and thinking processes and that sort of thing to the causal distinctions where you’re making very subtle distinctions between emptiness and form. Subtle distinctions based on what the witness is capable of seeing, and finding any kind of structure that will shepherd people through this process of mind is really quite an accomplishment I think.


Brian: Yes. Actually that brings up another really interesting thought I’ve been playing with – I’d love to hear your perspective on. Turn back the clock a couple thousand years – a thousand years, two thousand years, something like that. We lived in a world where our concrete sense of selves – our concrete selves were in conflict with other concrete selves and fighting for space to honor the autonomy of our concrete selves – literally our physical bodies. We lived in a world where physical safety was not guaranteed by any system or process. We lived in a world where there was either constant fear or you needed to dominate others physically in order to assure your physical integrity and safety. That was normal. At the time, it probably wasn’t considered culturally bad to be dominating somebody else physically. It was just normal. It’s how things work. We live in a world where we try to dominate each other with our concrete physical selves to make sure we weren’t dominated with our concrete physical selves. Then, somewhere along the line, we have our modern Western societies, which have managed to provide a remarkable base of safety where we don’t need to compete with our physical concrete selves anymore. We have our own autonomy and integrity, and it’s held by the systems around us at play, which actually then blossomed an ability to work in this subtle realm and now today, it seems standard and normal to dominate others with our subtle sense of self. Our theories, our ideas, we have debates which are not that different than gladiator fights on a different level. We have debates. We are expecting, that’s how we lead organizations. We are the dominant one where our ideas trump anyone else’s because we’re smarter, brighter, better, whatever. We have more vision, so we lead. It is a world where it is normal. It is expected. It is not viewed as a bad thing to have a debate with somebody else and try to push your value, your opinion, your whatever on someone else. That’s normal. That’s sport. I think one of the fascinating things that Holacracy is doing from this frame is holding a space where we no longer have to dominate each other with our subtle meaning making, our subtle distinctions, these “my values, my ideas, my theories,” all of these are subtle distinctions. It all comes in polarities. We collapse to one side our preferred pole or whatever, and then we try to push it on the rest of the world around us, and that’s how organizations are run and led today. Holacracy’s holding a space where all of that kind of doesn’t matter anymore, where the goal is to – it is purpose pulled, tuning into some evolutionary potential pulling us forward, and then holding  a space where any meaning making, any subtle distinction does not have to compete with others. We just collapse moment to moment to whatever the useful distinction is right now to unfold the purpose, without privileging one side or the other of a pole except for in the moment, in a context for a specific purpose. So, when we have that space, we no longer have to compete at a subtle realm of subtle egos sparring it out. We don’t have to try to win or dominate with our ideas, our theories, our values. I have a blogpost on this called The Limits of Company Values. As much as it’s touted as a good idea, what it amounts to is more taking one side of a pole and trying to press it on the organization and dominate others with our preference, our subtle meaning making. I think this is a really interesting way of looking at Holacracy for me. It’s holding a space where subtle egos can be whole and autonomous with their own meaning making and perspective taking. It’s not in any way pushing against them or subjugating them. It is allowing them to be more fully autonomous and whole as they are and yet integrate with others in a way where domination isn’t the norm -- in the same way our western societies did with the concrete egos and concrete sense of self. It’s not about subjugating them. It’s about allowing everyone to be full, healthy, autonomous physical selves as they are, and yet integrate with others in a society for something broader. I think the same is true with Holacracy at the subtle tier. How does that land?


Terri: That lands pretty well, and yet we still have attachments at the causal tier too. There you have the emptiness in form or transcendence in immanence, then you have the witness of the one and then manifestation. So you have this wide kind of moving back and forth between immanence and the perspective taking of mind, body, spirit, and the immanence of everything. Then you have the swinging off into everything is empty, and you’re letting go of everything, and people get stuck on either end of those poles from time to time. They’ll swear by one and the other one isn’t working, and then they’ll step into the other one. So the thing is when you’re in the space of the immanence, you can become quite attached to what your model is, and there are several model-making stages that happen at that causal tier, and you could get quite attached to it and lost and then at some point, you step back and say, “Oh! My gosh! This is nothing but a construction itself”. Then you fall back into a very empty sort of a space before you move on. So you still have these attachments that occur, and seeing the causal ego when you’re in it is not all that easy to do. I’m quite assured that it’s still there.


Brian: I’m fascinated. I wonder how do we dominate each other with causal ego?


Terri: Well, of course, it’s very, very subtle but it does happen. I do think Holacracy’s source is out of the causal tier. From what I can tell, it’s a very late level organizational practice structure that can be beneficial at every level, and transcends and includes, which is really a beautiful think about it. I would be willing to bet you that you’re pretty attached to Holacracy!  So there’s really nothing wrong with attachments in the concrete form; one had better be attached to their babies because bad things happen if they’re not, and so attachment isn’t something necessarily to rail against either, but the awareness of it and the awareness of the emptiness of everything even as there is fullness there.


The thing is that Susanne talks about differentiation and integration. There’s differentiation and integration at the concrete floor, there’s differentiation and integration at the subtle floor. There’s also as far as I can tell differentiation and integration at the causal floor, and the first two stages at any floor is creating a new self. That’s the differentiating. You’re differentiating from – in the subtle floor when you’re creating subtle self, you’re differentiating yourself from the concrete, and you’re creating a subtle self.


The last two stages, which are Individualist and Strategist, are actually destroying that subtle self because they’re integrating themselves so much that they no longer have a subtle self, and that happens like projection becomes something that becomes very real. By the time your at the end of the Strategist stage, you look at somebody else and you say, “Gosh! What I see in them is really me, and what I see in me is really them.” So where is your subtle self if the projections exist – you can’t find it. This integration part actually destroys the subtle self that you built in the first two stages, and prepares you for leaping into the next floor, which is a causal self, and the first two stages there, you’re creating a causal self. The last two stages, you are integrating again, and as far as I can tell, this is a pattern that happens all the way through. So it’s quite a fascinating process, and as you look at people in these various stages, it’s really important to have a practice that will hold everybody in that and of course I think, as I mentioned before, I think Holacracy does that quite well with its capacity of encouraging people to continue to let go. It allows people at the differentiating or the creation stage to let go of their old concrete self or their old subtle self, and in the integration or the destruction stage, it allows people to let go of the self that they just created, so that they can move into a new self. So it’s really quite an ingenious process.


Brian: Fascinating, let me ask you, so looking at this development through the different floors and at how it is normal at one space to have the selves competing and dominating, and then holding a space where they can integrate, and then start competing at another level. So as soon as we get all the concrete selves all working together nicely and held in a framework, it allows the subtle selves to blossom and start competing with each other until we hold a framework, which I think Holacracy  does, for allowing that to integrate. So the next step is going to be competing with each other at the causal self level, and I’m wondering – I’m pretty sure I do it all the time but I’m not sure quite what it looks like.  I have glimpses here and there. How do we dominate each other at the causal self level? Even if we’re in a framework like Holacracy  that holds and integrates at the subtle level beautifully, I bet Holacracy is not sufficient for that. I don’t think that’s what it does. That we can still dominate each other at the causal self level. What does that look like? Any ideas?


Terri: The thing about the causal level that is so different is that it becomes – we’re working in transpersonal, it’s beyond the person. Because you’re beyond the person, the transpersonal levels, you have this witness that is activated all the time. You become aware of domination, and you become aware of – there’s a humility in it – even as you have attachments and ownership to things, there is a space that you move to eventually, where you see everything as really beautiful and there’s a profound acceptance of everything that is quite astonishing. As long as the mind that makes distinction is the one that’s running the show and making up the constructions and all of that, there’s going to be some sort of tricky phase and some sort of – I don’t know if you want to call it domination. It may not like domination at the later levels, but a sense that you know what’s going on anyway that other people may not know as much of what’s going as you do. That’s the ego, and you get to a place where you really understand that any choice you make is egoic. Even though it may seem like good or bad, whether you make the choice either way, it’s an egoic choice in some respects and so I think that if there is a domination, it’s a much refined one because you have this witness and the witness is really a transpersonal experience coming up and it’s walking around with you in the moment.


An awareness can arise at the subtle floor, but generally it’s a little bit more related to meditative sitting, meditation or conscious bringing of the witness or awareness to bear. This witness at the causal tier tends to be with you all the time and it generally doesn’t take a lot of effort.


Brian: Yet it seems like there’s got to be then something, is it maybe our capacity to – even just sense distinctions arising? Is it something with that capacity itself that’s somehow… I don’t know, I’m just theorizing. If each of these floors starts with a different selves, different instances of selves trying to find a work together and competing until eventually it’s integrated. Is there a way in which these causal selves, not just through their subtle manifestations, but causal selves are actually themselves kind of add-ons and some deeper integration yet beyond that on another new floor to be done. I don’t know – just interesting!


Terri: Well I think that the big ego-like experience that I’m aware of that people can get is there is – because there is a transpersonal experience with some of this stuff, you tend to – and it seems like that there is such a subtle, a very, very subtle filament that’s holding you in the ether there, that sometimes there’s kind of instantaneous sorts of recognitions that come up and that sort of thing. It’s like the egoic aspect there is, “Oh I’m the one that’s getting these insights, so I’m the one that has this understanding”. So there’s an attachment to that, even though you may feel that these insights don’t necessarily come from you. There is oftentimes this subtle experience that you have something that other people don’t have.


It just never goes away. As long as you have this mind that is constructing things and making these distinctions, it just simply is going to give you some kind of experience. That’s my opinion. I can’t say that for sure – we’ve had some experiences with that with some of the people that we work with in Pacific Integral, but I’m really – I mean I love this mind that makes distinctions. It’s given us an incredible world and it’s given us so much beauty and a life that I have lived with great gusto and I’m so grateful for this mind, and who knows maybe someday we’ll transcend the whole mind that makes distinctions and move into a different kind of mind. Aurobindo talks about that and I think we’re a ways off from that.


Brian: Yes and whatever’s next is likely built on top of what’s come before. I think that’s something I’ve found again and again in my work with organizations and with Holacracy. It’s holding a space that allows the subtle meaning making to be transparent to itself that allows an integration of polarities without a collapse to one side or the other or a bias to one side or the other. It doesn’t stop us from making distinctions. It doesn’t stop us from privileging one side of the pole over the other.


Terri: No.


Brian: What it does is dynamically integrate all of that and builds on top of it so that we can privilege one side in the moment when it’s needed, and then release and let it go and privilege the other side of the pole. It’s building on top of the distinction making capacity to allow a broader organization to emerge and define its purpose and path. So it’s all built on what’s come before.


Terri: The great thing too about it is there are some safety measures there for people that really couldn’t do that without a safety measure because safety measures are, “Oh we can always revisit this”. So people are willing to let go when they know that things are really not working out well. Tomorrow, they can come back and so having a safety measure built in to this process is a really critical aspect. It really wouldn’t work well without that.


Brian: Yes. For that reason I say the experience – although there are times certainly that the process holds up a mirror to your own attachment and that’s an uncomfortable light to be in. Generally, it’s embracing our distinction making capacity, our egos, our sense of self – they’re embraced in the process, not fought against. They’re invited to show up as they are with whatever distinctions and attachments and anything else they come with and use the process, hold the space, where they’re not able to be projected on in a harmful way the organization and its purpose. But it’s embracing them; it’s not pushing against. It’s holding them, allowing us to show up as we are and harvesting that for the best of what we can offer towards the purpose with the safety mechanism of not allowing it to dominate and vice versa – not allowing others to dominate. The whole process stays very safe and comfortable in a way even as it challenges us pretty deeply at times too.


Terri: Yes, it certainly does. I guess we all, in a way, like to learn and this is one of the great ways that we do learn and getting feedback in the moment, especially with a safety measure, the way that Holacracy  has a safety measure and ways of giving people voices to their own experiences and feelings, even if they’re in the process themselves. All that is going to help people feel safe in terms of their own looking within and understanding their own perspective taking and meaning making and then the real life experience which Susanne talks about so muchm which is so much more than the cognitive. I guess one of the reasons I love the scale that she and Loevinger put together is that it really does work with the affective and different qualities as well as the cognitive and it also works with behavior and that’s I, We, and It. Those are the quadrants and so to me it is a quadratic model because it has some stems that work with all three of those areas and so when you’re with people, you can really start seeing the whole integral approach to development when you’re looking at it from this model.


Brian: Yes, that really resonates. We’re close to the end of our time but in the last few minutes we’ve got, Tom, I just wanted to – you’ve been kind of involved in some deep discussions with me over the last couple of years just looking at all this, and especially since the ITC conference where we first got these new distinctions that Terri’s offering to work with. Any comments from all this that’s coming up for you as you listen?


Tom: Well, I’ll just thank Terri for her work. I tell you I read your paper, Terri, almost like a contemplative piece. Word by word, sentence by sentence – it was such rich material and I’m so deeply appreciative of your work. In fact, I got to the end and I think your poem “Awareness Kissing Distinctions” brought me to tears. It’s very interesting for Brian and me to use that new distinction taking capacity that you built in to your paper. We’ve had some very rich discussion around these different floors and how we show up in Holacracy, and how Holacracy  captures what you were pointing out theoretically, what we’ve experienced in practice. So I just want to tie that back into your work as a theory piece and a piece of direct study has shown up for us and been experienced in really profound ways. I wanted to thank you for that.


Terri: Well thank you so much, Tom. I guess I would say that most of the theory has come out of actually working with people at Pacific Integral too, so ours is experience into theory which comes back into research, which comes back into experience. It’s a loop for us and I sense that that’s how it is for you folks too.


Brian: Yes. and actually let me take that opportunity for those looking for perhaps a way to develop their own potential and capacities. Terri, where can people find more about Pacific Integral’s leadership development program?


Terri: Well they can certainly go to our website http://www.pacificintegral.com. We have a new cohort starting in April, and we work with a lot of these processes and we also work with Holacracy. We have a really good program there that supports people in being a new kind of leader and of course Holacracy fits very well within that. Pacificintegral.com will get you to our website.


Brian: I can attest to anyone interested in that, you’d be working with a phenomenal group over there.


Terri: I think we are.


Brian: Terri, Geoff, and others are just amazing. It’s a really amazing opportunity.


Terri: Yes. Most of our cohorts these days have been – have a center of gravity of construct aware – so they’re later level groups and we’ve really had some pretty amazing processes happening as a result. It’s something seeing an individual at that level, but when you see how people interact in a collective with most of the people or at least over half of the people at those levels, it begins to give you an idea of what’s coming up in the future when you get a collective like that. It’s fascinating.


Brian: It’s probably not that different from watching an organization practicing Holacracy as well, where that capacity is embedded in the structure even if the individuals aren’t there themselves.


Terri: Yes.


Brian: Well, Terri, we are unfortunately out of time.


Tom: Thank you so much.


Brian: I could talk for another hour and I really appreciate your time. It’s been wonderful.


Terri: Well thank you so much for asking me on your program. I’m just a learner here. I have so much left to learn and I just appreciate the opportunity to be in conversation with other people that are interested in these topics. Thank you so much.


Brian: Thank you, Terri. Really appreciate it. Have a great day. Enjoy the rest of your research retreat and look forward to hearing where this all goes for you from here. 

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