Podcast – Episode 0022 – Graves Model

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In this episode, Joel and Antonia talk about the Graves Model of development created by Clare Graves.

In this podcast you’ll find:

  • Developed by Clare Graves, the Graves Model focuses on Self-Actualization.
  • After studying Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Clare asked himself, what does Self Actualization mean and happens when we self-actualize?
  • He asked a group of people for over 50 years – ‘how would you define a healthy person? He noticed that their responses show a pattern. People were going on different stages of growth and development. He saw a model emerging that both worked on a micro and macro level.
  1. Beige – Survival Level. Everything is about me and my personal survival. Examples – birth to 4 years old, people who are homeless and have little sensitivity to other people, feral children.
  2. Purple Tribal Level. More about our survival as a tribe. Micro – this is where a toddler starts to identify survival as a family/group. Macro – Focused on a group. It’s important not to be kicked out of the tribe. Spiritual development can be observed (how gods impact us as humans, magical thinking).
  3. Red – Warlord. 15,000 – 20,000 years ago. When one or two people stand out from the rest of the group, they begin to get a lot of attention and are regarded as leaders, they move up to level 3. Goes back about getting ‘me’ again. This is where the rebellious years come. Example – Teens get into fights for no reason. They assume that they know everything and everybody else is halfwit. People learn how to stand-up for themselves. They don’t really believe that they have any right.
  4. Blue – Civilization. Started about 5,000 – 8,000 years ago. We learn to identify something bigger than us. When territory boundaries are created. Law and rule are made. If we all live under certain rules, we live in a better society. Civilizations create armies and better force. Because everything is in order, we’re seeing relationships between tribes that create institutions and civilizations. Example – World War II.
  5. Orange – Achievement. Leaders begin to emerge. Developed 150 – 200 years ago. Leaders see resources as limitless, something they can manipulate and master. This is where you find a lot of capitalism. Example – anybody who’s going through any massive achievement. We learn that there’s no reason to limit our selves. Many people keep themselves from going to this level casting limitations on themselves. Science and technology is very important for individuals who are in this level.
  6. Green – Ecology. 20-50 years ago. Starts to take in a much bigger territory.These are individuals who have met their goals. Example – Bill Gates. They have a more ecological perspective.They start to think in terms of community and how they can give back to the world. They’re more concerned about the impact on a holistic manner. They learn how to give back. The idea of tolerance is introduced. Individuals in this level find it very challenging to accomplish their mission because they’re busy listening to everyone’s perspectives.
  7. Yellow – Thought Leader – A person who has realized that not every voices needs to give the exact same honour. They are able to communicate with individuals in different levels in order to get what they want in a faster and more productive way.
  • Every transition from one level to the next (on a macro level) has been bloody.
  • 2 reasons why we go to the next level:
  1. When the problems we’re facing can’t be solved by our current level so we’re forced to go to the next level.
  2. When they have fully explored their current level and are not sure what to do.
  • The more we go up the level, the more we see things get done on the planet, the less warfare we see in a global level.
  • We as individuals have a lot to gain by going up these levels. Even though it causes trauma during transition, our consciousness open up and we see a bigger picture.
  • Growth does lead to happiness. People are happier when they are growing.
  • If you are interested in the Graves model and understanding where you fit and the implications of it in your life, please feel free to check-out our Your Personality: Owner’s Manual Program.

Exercises we recommend in this podcast about the Graves Model:

Take a piece of paper and draw a vertical line going up and down. Draw 7 horizontal lines (to create 8 horizontal sections) going up. Number each box beginning at the bottom (first little box on the left hand corner) on ascending order (1-8) and use the space adjacent to each number to jot down a few notes and learning points discussed on this podcast.

In this episode Joel and Antonia talk about the Graves Model of development created by Clare Graves. #gravesmodel #spiraldynamics

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Showing 31 comments
  • Laurie J Rice

    I’m hooked in your podcast. Discovered it about 6 months ago, as I was delving further into EI work. Can you recommend I place to find out what “color” one is on the Grave’s Model? Looked into your Owners Manual that was recommended at the end of the podcast but it doesn’t seem to be available any longer. I have taken 2 online tests but not sure they are “accurate” or “reliable” – is there such a thing?
    Thanks so much … loving every minute of your podcast!!

  • Joseph Stein

    I listened to this podcast slowly and I have to say that you really contradicted yourselves. You started off by saying that one cannot say that any level is better than any other level. You then finished by saying that the higher levels are the most developed.

    From my perspective, I’ve learned that people need to first focus on themselves, then their families, then their communities. This means that people who are too obsessed with their layer can sometimes forget that their are lower layers, closer to their lives over which they can have much more control and influence.

    A large part of changing the world means changing people which people resist. Do you really think that you can fight against the world? What makes you so special? What gives you the right to change people? Change small things first.

  • Myra Shelley

    I’m new to Personality Hacker, and I’ve been listening to the podcasts from the beginning. This morning I was listening to this one and I had a thought that may not even be relevant, but I’m enjoying thinking about it. I was struck by level one being about the “me” phase of life, but I’m wondering if it could more accurately be described as a “oneness” phase. Infants are born totally dependent and unable to separate themselves from the “minds” of those around them, but they’re quickly enculturated and learn to believe in separation. This scatters that state of oneness, or wholeness, that we then spend the rest of our lives trying to recreate so we can get back to it. I think it would be fun to sort of identify infancy as a state of oneness and see what we see. One of my first thoughts is about the idea that, “What’s best for me is best for everyone,” which could describe the mind of an infant/toddler, but if that belief comes from a state of oneness where there is no separation, wouldn’t this be a true statement? Of course, what’s “best for me” would have to come from a state of innocence (which is the state we’re born into), and it could get pretty bad if we thought we knew what was best for everyone from a state of separation. Clearly we don’t. But when we know what’s truly best for our own most authentic selves, that statement becomes true again, doesn’t it?

  • FriendlySpock

    Hi there! Love your podcast! I came to this link from episode 156.
    Have you ever thought of correlating this with enneagram’s levels of development? For anyone who doesn’t know this and is reading, every enneagram type has a different level in personal development. Where level ones are free of their fear (Every enneagram type has a specific core fear) and use their strengths for compassionate gains. Where level nine can be so bad that people can have mental illnesses, be suicidal or even commit great evil acts.

    I read that level 3 (the start of the healthy levels) is where the need to help others with their strengths lie. 4s would share to others their creativity and uniqueness for others. 8s would help others with their decisiveness, bravery and ability to stand up to themselves.

    I actually found myself to level 3 recently as a type 5 INTP. Which tends to produce someone who wants to share their knowledge to others. I find myself trying to practice explaining information to myself so I can teach others like when I read really complicated books. I’m starting to have the urge to share what I’ve learned and thought about in random forums rather than lurking all the time. And moving up from the average levels in level 4 seems to have graduated me to the Graves model level 6 – ecology. I can deeply relate to model levels of 5 and 6 really but not like I’m a rich billionaire but in my own personal development and goals in learning out of curiosity.

    I felt so excited I stayed up late to listen to this. But now I’m going to sleep. I’ll probably be listening to the rest of the Graves Model podcast tomorrow. Well, thanks guys, for making this accessible. When I googled the Grave Model, I didn’t see much online.

    Might I ask for a podcast view on correlations of the Grave model with Mbti and/or enneagram? That would be awesome.

  • Angela Cardwell

    I just had the pleasure of listening to this podcast. It is so timely right now with everything that is going on with our politics in this nation. I bet this is eery to you how accurate it is now and how history repeats itself. Seems like just yesterday we, as a country were strolling along pathway to Graves 6 when, who should appear but Donald Trump….hmmmmm. I’m guessing he is a 4. He is playing on the fear and anxiety of all the other 4’s. Looks like the 6’s are fighting back. I hope this isn’t too bloody. #revolution #Graves6 #socialevolution

  • Gary

    can infjs be at 1 and 6 at the same time?

  • Jaime A

    Do you guys read comments on older podcasts?

    Just listened to this today as I saw a comment thread with Joel regarding recent US politics and the graves model. I so badly wanted to decipher the conversation.

    I recently had a conversation with someone who was riled up about the election. I’m an ENFJ and I have thought long and hard about the hows and whys of the society we live in. I feel very removed from politics and most people around me would see it as me “not caring” but honestly I’m just living in a bigger picture. I feel like a lot of time’s I’m looking at what is going on from a bird’s eye view. Anyway, considering how much anger is being stirred up around this election, I think there’s going to be a civil explosion. And I think that might be a good thing for growth. It might be the only way to move forward. So I thought it was interesting to learn about the graves model and how you two were talking about war and moving up levels.

    As an aside, my extroverted feeling reeeeaaalllly dislikes all the hatred brewing around this election.

  • Tiger patches

    Excellent podcast. I’m feeling a lot of ambivalence about the Graves model, particularly bc it seems to imply the higher levels are superior to the lower levels. (Color coding them doesn’t hide this fact).

    I did find it interesting that A and J say the latter transitions up the Graves model are “less bloody.” I’m not entirely sure I agree — is it possible there is the same amount of bloodshed but our politicians transfer the bloodshed to other countries so we, in the first world nations, don’t see it up close. Or that our institutions are engaging in bloodshed that is far more subtle — e.g., large scale spraying of pesticides and larvicides, overuse/misuse/abuse of antibiotics especially in our food animals, food contaminated with heavy metals and toxins that are part of modern agriculture. These are assaults on our body and do cause bloodshed, but it is far more subtle than killing someone on the battlefield.

    The other thing I’m wondering is if there is some sort of regression that happens as societies move up Graves levels — the medical institutions (probably Graves 4 institutions with their 1-size-fits all mentality) are the 3rd leading cause of death in the US. Despite such a dismal record of success, there seems to be a lot of regressive magical thinking around medical institutions. People with particular letters after their name (like MD) put on their magical white coats and perform rituals in the name of health. Studies have shown that many of these medical rituals, which include surgery and pharmaceuticals (esp psychiatric pharmaceuticals), are no more effective than placebo in benefit (but can still cause adverse effects — the blood shed isn’t immediate death, but can be chronically debilitating and reduce lifetime happiness). People continue to buy into this system because there’s some magical perception about doctors and the institutions around doctors.

    Government institutions, like the CDC, support the medical institutions because the institutions themselves want to keep existing. Elective circumcion in male babies is a great example of this — people cite that they do this to their babies for “health”‘reasons bc the doctor or the CDC told them so, but the actual scientific studies in the literature dont support the idea that removing healthy tissue from a baby is a good idea. It seems many people are very smug about thinking they’ve transcended superstition and “the gods,” when really they’ve just projected the same superstitious, magical thinking onto the institutions of Graves 4. Instead of invoking God as their deity, they are invoking “science,” “my doctor,” or “the CDC” as their deity.

  • Veronique

    This model is SO interesting. I really loved this podcast. I feel like i understand the world a lot better now.

    I have a question for PHQ: How do you know you’re a real Graves 7 or Graves 8 and not a Graves 6 thinking you’re a Graves 7 or 8? And why do Graves 6 tend to think they are on an upper level?

    I would love to know what you think about this.

    Thank you,


    • Veronique

      Sorry, adding one more question because i’m thinking about this model a lot lately. 🙂

      I feel like my vision of what the world should be fits very well with levels 6 & 7. But as an individual, my current life problems and obstacles look more like a level 5 because in my mid-twenties i am trying to achieve something in my life. So would that make me a level 5 even if i think about a lot of level 6 & 7 stuff? As someone who is thinking a lot, and identify a lot with my thoughts, i thought i was more in level 6 (or+), but when i looked back at it, i saw that really, my life as a whole, achievements and all, is not that far. My thoughts feel way ahead than the rest of me, lol 🙂 So basically do you type people more by their “life stage” or by their “way of thinking”, if that makes sense?

      Thank you! 🙂

  • Raimund

    If you are paying taxes in the US supporting Washington’s foreign policies you are actually at social warload level 3. There is a societal regression in the US and also in the Western World in general which increasingly reverts to Warlord politics in order to secure cheap resources and the continual printing of money to keep up the appearance of wealth.
    I don’t see that those who consider themselves to be at the higher levels in society are actually doing much about this. But when you have refugees in the millions showing up at your door who flee from the weapons you sold to their governments, the issue cannot just be ignored.
    So the question is, what are the level 6 and above doing about it?

  • Christian Ramos

    Great podcast guys very informative love the way graves is like a roadmap to chart where you are in your progress always helps to know where you are and where your going great stuff

  • Sarah

    I just want to say that this is the first place I’ve ever heard of this model and it is SO INTRIGUING TO ME! My dad is a (well-rounded) physician and I hear “Graves Level 3 or 4” echoed in so many of his verbalized frustrations when dealing with his patients in rural and/or certain southern communities.
    I’ve told so many people the paraphrased hack of this model, you wouldn’t believe. After reading the comments above, I am going to Google Spiral Dynamics and read the information. I was disappointed I couldn’t find more information initially!
    Thank you also for your article on it. However, I was sorely missing some of your descriptions from the podcast in your article! (I think the main part was the “storing food” level versus “selecting quality/nutritious food” – my mom is very into nutrition but basically alone in her *region*. I live in Hawaii and have fresh fruit / health food stores / non-GMO / organic food on every corner!)
    Last comment: could you suggest a book that goes more in detail with this model? Thank you!

  • Jayne Flaagan

    Hi! I have been doing research how the different personality tests/models and how it relates to how we grieve over the loss of a loved one. Are you able to share any perspectives on that? Great podcast,by the way!


    • Joel Mark Witt

      Hi Jayne.

      Thanks for the question. I haven’t personally explored this in detail… but I’m sure there are patterns around how types express grief.

      This is what I love about the Personality Hacker community. You are doing research around this and I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

      I hope you will share with us your findings and feel free to “crowdsource” some ideas over on the Facebook community page (http://facebook.com/personalityhacker).

  • Annie

    Hey, thanks for a great podcast!

    This is interesting. Personally I feel my values are connected to level 6., and so they have been for quite some time. I can remember when I was a child and I suddenly realized that the world is so much bigger than me and we all have a responsibility for the survival of our planet. And, in that moment I felt my purpose in life was to make an impact towards positive change for our mother earth. This new-found perspective was a major internal shift for me, but I doubt that anyone else has ever thought of me as a “level 6”, but in my heart I know I have a ecological perspective. However, I don’t think I’ve been through level 5. (or if I want to for that matter) – because I’m already thinking of the world as a “level 6”. If that makes sense. And, I don’t really care that much for money and financial success, even though I know it’s a necessity in today’s society. I will try to get a decent income, sure, but it has nothing to do with my values – that’s more about survival than anything else, and also just a way for me to focus on and reach my real goals. So I guess, what I’m saying is that I don’t know if I agree with this model a hundred prosent… but maybe there’s much more to it than what I know right now.

    • Joel Mark Witt

      Thanks Annie for the comment and feedback. Yes – you are right… there is a bunch more to the model.

    • Antonia Dodge

      Hey, Annie!

      It’s not simply that Graves 6 sees the need to treat the planet better. It’s more the scope of territory that Graves 6 takes in, and in what way. If you’re intrigued and feel it would be a helpful model, I recommend checking out Don Beck’s content on Spiral Dynamics. As a student of Clare Graves, he breaks down the model in a way that really helps see the nuances between the levels.



      • Annie

        Thank you so much for the tip, Antonia! I definitely want to learn more and will check it out.

  • Julian Lee

    Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ is a great analogy for the Graves model! On a side note Antonia, and Joel, don’t you think Kubrick was a Perspectives/Effectiveness (INTJ) user?

    • Joel Mark Witt

      Thanks for the comment Julian. I never met him in real life – but from what I can tell I would agree that Stanley Kubrick was “Perspectives/Effectiveness.”

    • Antonia Dodge

      Joel is being careful, I’ll be less so: I TOTALLY think Kubrick is Effectiveness/Perspectives (INTJ). Good call!


  • Frederick

    Antonia, it was you that said that the 8 jungian functions are like “multiple intelligences”? I found this definition fascinating because it was used by Ken Wilber to define developmental lines that goes through the 8 levels of the Graves model.

    Have you ever thought that there could be a Graves level 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 for exploration, sensation, perspectives, memory, harmony, effectiveness, authenticity and accuracy? 🙂

    • Antonia Dodge

      Frederick! I’m sorry – I missed this comment!

      In all honesty, I think almost everything goes through this levels of development, so I think that includes the cognitive functions. You can see Exploration at 3 (The Joker), Perspectives at 2 (Shamans), Accuracy at 5 (Warren Buffet) and Effectiveness at 6 (Charity:Water).

      I think there’s (probably) a correlation to the ‘passengers in our car’ (Driver, Co-Pilot, 10 yr old, 3 yr old) and where each is at on the Graves model, but I don’t think I’m ready to unveil what I’ve been working on there yet. 🙂

  • Faye

    Thank you. I enjoyed your presentation and learned something. That always makes it a good expenditure of time. Will be exploring more.

    • Antonia Dodge

      Cheers! Thank you for taking the time to leave encouraging words. 🙂


  • Beth

    I’m intrigued by your take on Sevens. As you yourselves said, they are out there chameleoning along with the folks from other groups because it is far easier to speak the language of the people you are trying to talk with instead of saying, “hey, I’m a seven.” Because they have moved beyond the need to label, prove or compete with anyone or anything else, they are moving through life in harmonious disguise, as it were. They know now is the time to sit back and watch as the tumultuous currents rush by. Sitting on the banks of the river is the smartest thing to do, and they’ll know when to jump back in. You’ll never “see” a Seven : ]

    • Antonia Dodge

      They’re definitely not easy to spot! However, having already gone through 6 is a great tell. If you’re curious about someone’s level, the question is: when did they go through the previous level, and how?

      For a 7, when did they go through 6? And what makes it reasonable to believe they’ve graduated?

      There are definitely 7’s out there. And it’s entirely possible I’m swimming in them. But I’m dubious. :p


  • Scott

    Great podcast! I really love this model and enjoyed your take on it.

    I’m curious to learn more about how people progress through the levels. To what degree can someone progress through the levels while still having some unresolved issues and lessons to learn from previous stages? Do they have to be fully integrated to be transcended or do most people have unresolved issues at lower levels than the one they’re judged to be at in the model?

    • Antonia Dodge

      My observation is that we have a tendency to prefer the “odd” or the “even” numbers. Which means when we’re in our preference we hang out in that level, and when we’re in the opposite we try to speed through.

      For example, I have a preference for the odd numbers. So I sped through 2 and 4, whereas I spent a decade (plus) in 5. We tend to spend a lot of time exploring the levels we like, and try to get through others.

      Also, there are times when we go to the next level because the current level is too painful. You’ll see this with little kids in terrible homes where 2 is traumatic. They’ll have a tendency to go to 3 just to deal with their home life – being a rebellious warlord is much nicer than continually seeking unconditional acceptance from people who are abusing you.

      I’ve noticed, though, that if we’ve sped through a level and haven’t ‘learned the lesson’ of that level, we’ll often need to revisit it later in life. I think that’s why we see so many 6’s revisiting tribal cultures – that’s where wounding has happened, and they need to go back to learn the lesson that was never picked up.


      • Scott

        That makes a lot of sense. Thanks for answering my question and thanks for podcasting about this. Some big lightbulbs have gone off as a result. I’ve been binging on the model in the few days since and it’s really helped bring about some clarity and focus for me.

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