Podcast – Episode 0223 – Why Culture Resists Personal Development

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In this episode, Joel and Antonia talk about how our culture tends to resist maps and models of human development due to the threats it poses to our ideals.

In this podcast you’ll find:

  • Ability to handle feedback can be a personal growth challenge.
  • We objectify people in media.
  • The Graves Model (aka Spiral Dynamics) is a vertical model.
  • It feels like a hierarchy which is icky to some people.
  • Is it a bad thing to look at hierarchical models?
  • Graves Model podcast
  • Vertical and Horizontal Models
  • These are just lenses to see reality through.
  • The horizontal model assumes everyone is at the same level of development (MBTI).
  • A Vertical Model assumes everyone is at different levels of achievement (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs).
  • Clare Graves discovered the Graves Model.
  • Then there was an attempt to remove the hierarchical nature of it.
  • The numbered levels were changed to colors to make it feel less hierarchical, and it came to be known as Spiral Dynamics.
  • It is a hierarchical system, however.
  • A horrible human being can be at any level just like an amazing human being can be at any level.
  • Character isn’t related to Graves Level.
  • It is an attempt to see where we were and where we are going.
  • Are hierarchical models good or bad?
  • Enneagram attempts to create distinctions between how people show up within their Enneagram type.
  • Riso & Hudson Enneagram book had 9 point system within each type.
  • At the bottom of this 9 point system is suicide and homicidal tendencies.
  • At the top is transcendence.
  • That version of the system is hierarchical.
  • It is a good gauge for determining where you want to go vs. where you don’t want to be.
  • No one has arrived. There is no end game.
  • These hierarchical models are like a compass.
  • Be at peace with where you’re at and accept there is still a better version of yourself you can manifest.
  • This is the conversation of our time.
  • Lots of social causes today: memes, gender viewpoints, wealth distribution, nationalism, etc.
  • We tend to inject vertical models into horizontal models.
  • Even within Myers-Briggs, we try to create a hierarchical structure.
  • Zero to One Podcast
  • SPOILER ALERT: Star Wars The Last Jedi
  • The Force is available to everyone, which killed the hierarchy of the Jedi.
  • We get a massive pushback whenever we invoke a vertical model.
  • You are ultimately the person who navigates your healing and growth.
  • How do we get us all on a horizontal level, so we all have the same possibilities?
  • Personal empowerment is the birthplace of reform.
  • The more you work on your empowerment, the more the culture sees the need to change.
  • We oversimplify all this stuff which is why we like models because it gives us a simpler way of breaking down the nodes that contribute to the system.
  • As an individual, we are responsible for our personal growth and empowerment.
  • Models remind us that nobody has arrived. We are all on various paths.
  • Time and the universe aren’t going to stop to accommodate us.
  • Sometimes we have to start all over, and we don’t get rewarded for some of our hard work.
  • The universe rewards determination, persistence, and personal responsibility.
  • We cannot expect culture to do our work for us.
  • If you don’t want to be perpetually victimized you have to figure out how not to be a victim.
  • Our egos don’t do us any favors.
  • “All models are wrong, but some are useful.”
  • When looking at maps and models, the question isn’t ‘Is this wrong.’ It is ‘Is this useful.
  • Don’t abandon a model just because your ego gets triggered and you don’t like how it feels.
  • If that happens, that makes it a very useful model.
  • It is shining a bright light in a dark place.
  • “I don’t like this because I don’t like where I’m at.”
  • It is your job to figure out where you want to be.
  • A lot of systems have been democratized and there is an expectation that everything should be democratized.
  • Not everything can be democratized.
  • One of the best ways to understand our You Are Here dot as humanity is to look at long enough timelines.
  • Forgetting history is easy.
  • The world didn’t start when you were born.
  • We are on an exponential growth curve, but we haven’t arrived.
  • Human evolution is incredibly slow.
  • You can tell when someone is doing personal growth willingly and when they are doing it unwillingly.
  • When someone’s life has fallen apart, and they have to do growth work just to survive. They may approach growth kicking and screaming.
  • Versus someone who has taken on the mantle of personal growth and does it willingly. They have a zen-like approach to change.
  • Our collective egos are bucking against where we are really at.
  • We don’t like it when reality gives us harsh reminders of how much work we still have to do.
  • Isn’t it better to have a map even if you don’t like where your You Are Here dot is?  
  • The only way to get to where we want to be is to acknowledge where we are at and carve a path to where we want to be.
  • If you have some definite ideas about how you think the world should be, grab a microphone and create a platform.
  • Create content that moves the needle.
  • Stand for something don’t just stand against things.

 In this episode, Joel and Antonia talk about how our culture tends to resist maps and models of human development due to the threats it poses to our ideals. #podcast #personaldevelopment #personalgrowth #gravesmodel #spiraldynamics

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Showing 27 comments
  • Kylie Stedman Gomes

    Antonia & Joel – just wanted to leave a quick comment to thank you for introducing me to Spiral Dynamics several months ago via your podcasts. 🙂

    I’ve been interested ‘long time’ in both MBTI and the Enneagram, and when I found your podcasts, found I got a real kick out of listening to you both as Ne-doms (like me) exploring the models and applying them to different questions. You always seem to explore a slightly different angle than I’d previously considered, and that was more than good enough for me to keep you on my podcast walking list.

    Antonia & Joel – just wanted to leave a quick comment to thank you for introducing me to Spiral Dynamics several months ago via your podcasts, and to add my voice to those who are saying, “Ignore the haters. Keep doing what you’re doing.” 🙂

    I am saddened — though even more sadly not surprised — to hear that you have received criticism regarding your approach to talking about the Graves model. In this podcast #233, you’ve handled that criticism in your usual thoughtful and graceful manner, even if Joel’s passion (as he put it) did peek through somewhat towards the end. 😉 That’s not a criticism, either. I’m glad it did peek through, because in this case I think you erred on the side of being “too kind” to your critics.

    These people need to grow the !$%@ up.

    And you two … please don’t apologise for telling the truth.

  • Ann Marie

    Hey, Antonia and Joel:

    In response to Antonia’s inquiry, “Let me know when I said I was Graves 7”:

    I haven’t listened to any of your previous podcasts regarding the Graves Model, and vertical models do not bother me (I’m just interested in what is “true”); but I do have some information that pertains to the question, although it does not come from a podcast.

    I recalled Antonia referring to her Spiral Dynamics “position” in a section of my Personality Starter Kit called “Transcending Type”.

    From the slide entitled, “Ways ‘Interdependence’ Manifests”:

    A non-exhaustive look at my (Antonia’s) personality. I “am”

    – An ENTP in Myers-Briggs…
    – Entering 7 in Spiral Dynamics…
    – 38 years old at the time of this recording (time stamp)

    You may only be looking for when you said it in a podcast; and “entering” 7 doesn’t necessarily mean the same as “at” 7. I’m just passing on the information — (I’m an INTP 😉

    • Antonia Dodge

      Thank you! Good to know it wasn’t in a podcast (I’m more forthcoming in our programs as a rule).


  • Matej Ferenc

    Where can I find the hierarchical structure for a specific enneagram type where one can see the stages of the particular’s type development?

    • Antonia Dodge

      I know Riso-Hudson break down the nine levels in Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self Discovery, but I want to say it’s also in The Wisdom of the Enneagram. You can find their resources here: https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/store/


      • Matej Ferenc

        Alright, I have just gotten the Wisdom of the Enneagram from library, so I shall take a look at it later. Thank you, and thank you for the podcast – it’s been very helpful.

  • John Danzer

    Just a little encouragement from Theodore Roosevelt:

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat… The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder.”

  • Hal

    Listening to this podcast I keep thinking, a tree’s leaves are way higher than its roots but that doesn’t mean leaves are in some way better. I know. Trees are not all vertical models. Just what I’m thinking.

  • Andy

    There is such resistance these days to the concept of hierarchy. People need to appreciate the value of growth hierarchies (as highlighted by Graves, etc). How else do we map and measure developmental progress?

  • Amy

    Hi Antonia,

    When you mentioned (in the email) that people were feeling marginalized, I was reminded of something I recently heard or read that struck me as profound. It took me a little while to remember the source, but here it is:

    “The only way to completely love yourself is to love others. This is because the “others” are those who contain your marginalized aspects.”

    ~Atreya Thomas, Awakening into a Complete Human: Merging the Outer with the Innermost Self, page 24

    Anyway, I wondered if life (via the feedback from others) is attempting to help you see aspects of yourself that seek inclusion…

    • Amy

      In other words, could there be something that needs to be welcomed, pulled close, and embraced rather than developed, overcome, or let go of? I have found this to be the case in my process.

  • Maureen Fanta

    My daughter, while hearing this podcast playing in the other room:

    “Oh. Antonia and Joel are in the apartment again.”

    Disembodied house guests, I suppose!

    Re: actual podcast. Good topic, good job. I go on the assumption that it’s difficult to understand the Graves model unless a person is AT LEAST a four, but probably a five. You’d have to have moved through enough levels yourself to be able to intuit the later levels so that you can even grasp the concept. A three will not want to hear that their rebellion is predictable. A five will be able to remember passing through three and therefore be able to take a more outside perspective on themselves as they go about raging against the machine.

  • Marilyn Schramm

    I may be wrong, because I’m somewhat of a newcomer to Spiral Dynamics. (I studied it to try & make better sense of my world.). But isn’t it inherent in the Graves Model that those at the higher levels have greater ability to “see” & understand the worldview/perspectives of the lower levels? And, of course, it does not go the other way (ie, lower level “understanding” of higher level b4 they actually achieve). So, isn’t it expected that lower levels would be turned off by those who identify at higher level? But I think Antonia was saying – one can respond to that self-identification in an egoistic way, or one can use it as motivation for further work on personal development (and perhaps pick up some role models along the way). I believe I am teetering, not yet fully transformed to Yellow.

  • Chris

    I wonder what your definition of culture is?
    The header for your new podcast has provoked an immediate reaction in me, saying “nep, personality development IS at the heart of culture, for me culture starts when humans meet, think and decide to do something, it is as opposed to NATURE. Everything you talk about is culture, not the culture of a nation, but human culture. Love your podcast, don’t mind the begrudgers, and beware of justifying yourselves too much. there will always be some types whose motivations you simply cannot understand, and it is healthier not to, we all have blind spots for a reason. Keep going, you are a very positive influence for so many of us here!

  • Eric Côté

    Having a map would be super great :).

  • Michael Beausoleil

    I haven’t yet listened to this podcast, but Antonia’s comment in the email announcement I just received triggered me enough to come here to post this comment:

    If anything, the work you two do and your stated positions in {model name here} INSPIRE me to work hard on myself so that I, too, may consider myself “leveled-up”. Personally, I think anyone who feels marginalized by your self-assessments probably isn’t being adequately objective and reflective about themselves. Furthermore, what difference does it make where Joel and Antonia feel they reside in {model name here}? What truly matters is where in the {model name here} I currently reside relative to where I desire to be.

    I find value in the Graves Model insomuch as how it can be applied to measure the growth of humanity and oneself, relatively. For example, am I leading my society into the higher levels? Am I trailing? When I perceive someone to be more advanced than I, their teaching is what I seek so that I may leverage their knowledge towards my advancement. By my own graduation, I hope that my living an exemplified life – not my boasting – will lead others to follow. To assess others against any model is futile and in now way serves to advance my personal growth.

    Never have I interpreted either of your statements as being that of a braggart. You two are exceptionally humble given your accomplishments and resounding impact.

    While I applaud you, Antonia, for taking to heart your friend’s apparently genuine critique and committing the time to dissect yourself in that regard, I have come here to submit my vote: Does not feel marginalized by Antonia’s self-assessment of her position in the Graves Model 😉

    This is about as close as I can get to a rant in written form. Thank you both for all that you do!

  • Eric Côté

    Around 33:00, Antonia, wow, I said out loud ”that’s f* awesome”. That’s so like how I feel. Get everyone to be better versions of themselves, globally. You said it so well. Joel too, dead on too.

    My not humble opinion is that societies need to change, and people are changing – and we see that going on. People need to be free – truly – to be themselves. We need to improve things for everyone, makes me cry as I write this. Both need to happen.

  • Jess Visher

    Interesting podcast! I don’t think heirarchal personality models are a bad thing. After all if someone actually _is_ on the higher side are they supposed to lie about it? I mean you are what you are. But I see that most people have a pride button and a hierarchal personality models presses it.

    From personal experience much of this pride can come from weird issues that you may have had since childhood. My mom got my IQ tested when I was 12 and to her disappointment I didn’t come out as genius. I also didn’t have any other traits about me that made me stick out as “special” and I keenly felt that. I understood quickly that my parents wanted their version of “rare” and it wasn’t me. So thirty years later when I was introduced to MBTI and got ENFJ as my type it brought up an array of mixed emotions and I had no idea where they came from (figured it out months later). My childhood turned a horizontal system like MBTI into a heirarchal one where “rare” was the prize. I very badly wanted to be an INFJ (and I was so close!) for this reason and very badly did not because if I was an INFJ then I would be “better” than everyone around. It was the present I always wanted but in opening it I would be reducing the value of everyone around me. And I saw INFJs as secretly prideful and assumed most of them lied to get there! And if my less-than-ideal childhood (and mine was a ton better than others) did _that_ to a horizontal system, imagine what could mess with the intent of a vertical system!

  • Danielle

    I really enjoyed this podcast! It was so insightful and I honestly didn’t want it to end.

    As far as the Grave’s Model, I personally don’t particularly like to use it to classify myself or others. Instead I see it as more of a big picture concept for societies. At least for me, I don’t want to apply a label to myself that might make others think I view them as better or worse than myself. I feel like my intent personally comes off more positive if I’m discussing another model or philosophy like systems thinking, which either goes above people’s heads because I’m awful at explaining things or gives them a really refreshing insight. Still, I think it’s a bit ridiculous to get mad about people using the graves model to apply to themselves and their own personal growth. To each their own. I suppose that’s because I live my life by the philosophy “If no one is hurt, it’s okay with me.” And I sense that both of you have positive intent, which is always an added bonus when I am formulating a reaction to anything someone says and does.

    I do think we can be really resistant to models in general. As people, we don’t like things that paint us in a negative light. I remember when I first started to really figure out my Enneagram of 6, I was sort of resistant to a lot of the more negative aspects of my type that do apply to me. This is apparently common. But for me, I personally felt very adverse. I felt like the description was saying that I’m someone who isn’t independent in a sense and latches onto ideologies and authorities blindly. I consider myself to be a very independent, free spirit who is skeptical of authority and strictly avoids completely adhering to a group’s ideology (particuarily political parties, I call myself an independent on principal)so the description was a bit jarring (and I’m also pretty sure I misinterpreted several parts).

    I then realized that I actually do have the insecurities of a 6, and what I didn’t like was that the description was shining light on qualities of myself that mostly showed up when I was younger and very emotionally and mentally unstable. These qualities can still occasionally show up and wreak havoc, so it sort of was a wake-up call that I still had more work to do in those areas.

    I also think the anxieties that 6s face manifest for me in a slightly different way than I think descriptions tend to say it does for 6s. I chalk that up to being an ENFP 6w7 sp/so, which I don’t think is the most common variety of 6 out there.

    MBTI also has helped me gain greater self awareness as well. A lot of intuitives talk about the N/S distinction being extremely mind opening. To me, that really was only putting a name to something that my Ne had already pattern recognized.

    I actually developed Ne to a really impressive extent as a child in hindsight. Obviously, I wasn’t at the level of an adult, but in retrospect I was probably better with it then most kids my age were. I attribute that to my intellectual maturity and basically always being surrounded by adults during my formative years. However, around when I started puberty, I just shut down. I think I was unconsciously trying to repress Ne. So I got stuck in the grips of Si. I was about 13/14 when I first encountered MBTI through a friend and was still in this stage. As many people do, I had my type wrong for years. At first I thought I was an INFJ, then I realized that I’m actually a perceiver who doesn’t act in the stereotypical perceiver fashion at times, mostly due to the influence of my parents. Interestingly, my dad is similar to me in the regard that we don’t come across as what one would technically consider perceivers, and my mom leads with a dominant extroverted judging function. So, I settled on INFP. It seemed to fit and that’s what I usually get on online tests (although I’ve gotten every single NF type, ENTP, ESFP, ISTJ, and probably others so clearly the tests are not accurate).

    Years pass and I’m between my senior year of high school and freshman year of college. I start to realize that I’m an extrovert. For some reason, I was hugely resistant to the idea. Now, I’ve read that many Ne-doms tend to see themselves and be significantly less extraverted than other extraverts. Still, I’m not sure why I was adverse to the idea of being an ENFP instead of an INFP, I don’t have any weird hang-ups about other people being extraverted, and I enjoy the presence of ENFPs. But I then realized that I am an extrovert who essentially hid that part of herself for awhile and tried to suppress it because I had been hurt by rejection from my peers and the people above me like teachers and one of my grandmothers. This was a game changer for me since it gave me permission to show up as my authentic self more often, which also helped my Fi become more refined as a viable tool instead of just a set of personal convictions.

    So I guess the point is some times we need to hear the truths about ourselves that we’re not yet willing to admit in order to grow. Still, from my own experience, I really get why people can be put off by vertical models because of my personal experiences with what MBTI and Enneagram. Hope that all made sense. I do tend to be a bit self conscious about my tendency to go off on giant Ne rambles.

    • Joel Mark Witt

      Totally made sense to me Danielle. Thanks for sharing your experience. As an ENFP – Enneagram Social 6 – I can totally relate to a lot of what you are saying.

  • Keith Youngberg

    Also realized that you did make it clear in the podcast info at the top of the page that someone’s character is not related to whatever Graves level they may identify with, and I’m sure you probably mentioned that in the podcast as well. Anyway… happy you made that distinction, I missed that part at first.

  • Keith Youngberg

    First of all, I’d like to say that I really like this podcast and have learned much since discovering it through iTunes a few months ago. It’s been a blast going through and listening to various past episodes, and keeping up with the current. So, Antonia and Joel…thanks for the work you do and being a voice for personal growth to others!

    Concerning the Graves Model though, I must respectfully dissent (at least, with the limited knowledge I have so far, because I only recently heard of it) or at least bring up the issues that I have with it, and how it is framed. Like I said, it’s a new idea to me and I’m still in deep thought about it, but I’ll do my best to articulate my thoughts and objections clearly.
    First, I do believe that if a model or idea is helping some people to better themselves, then that in itself is a good thing. I also see the Graves Model as a fascinating way to look at how the human race has evolved over time, in a macro sense; but to apply it to the individual level, categorizing people on a vertical scale of growth based on somebody’s very subjective idea of success, maturity, or understanding (perhaps there’s a better word for it, but those are the words that come to mind at the moment). The term ‘worldview’ was used a lot in the description, but one’s worldview doesn’t necessarily change with personal growth, and is also subjective. The defining values, principles or ideals given for each color/level (on an individual/micro scale) are pretty broad, and I would argue that most people have a combination of them anyways. The values and principles I am using are from your site, and this other site as well (see below) and some of them that strike me as being a bit broad are “learning to identify with an institution”, “tolerance”, wanting to be in charge, being responsible, success/creativity/achievement, etc., Which in my opinion seems to reflect personality type and personal values due to nature/nurture, not a vertical level of personal growth.
    And I guess the reason I think all this matters, and in understanding why some people might feel offended or belittled (even though that’s clearly not anyone’s intention here) is that it makes it easy for people to elevate themselves to a higher level/color based on how they interpret the broadly based descriptions, and categorize others at a lower level using the same interpretations. And people will be offended if they feel they will be categorized based on their deeply held religious beliefs (who maybe is also a very successful business person, or a creative artist). As there are also very successful people that have terrible character, and vice versa. The Enneagram types and levels of “health” within a type was brought up, and I think that makes much more sense in that it can be just as useful in helping a person understand where they’re at and what they should work on growth-wise, but without the downside of Graves Model. I definitely agree that people are at various stages of personal development and it’s not always equal and fair, and maybe this particular model has helped many people improve themselves – but I do question it’s accuracy, and its worth.

    Again, thanks for doing what you do! Hopefully I didn’t misrepresent or misunderstand ~


    • Joel Mark Witt

      Thanks Keith for the feedback. I think critical thought around all the maps and models we talk about is great.

  • Sean

    I can’t edit my previous comment, but I just fact checked my fact checking lol (the first comment was just going by memory). So I feel I have to clarify for a Ti user. On this podcast, Antonia asked if she ever said she was a 7. And…no she didn’t. Like I said I just came to this conclusion by the time stamp on two podcasts. The second podcast I was referring to was called “Conditions for Moving up Graves Model Spiral Dynamics”. In the last 4 minutes of this January 2017 podcast she uses her personal story to help carry the narrative of the topic. She mentions her struggle of transitioning to the next level for the past year and a half. The 2014 podcast reveals that Antonia is at 6. The math would conclude Antonia goes to 7. However, Antonia never specifically said she was a 7 nor shows any intent to brag about supioriority for being a 7.

    This has nothing to do with the awesome work you guys are doing. Especially in this thought provoking podcast. But it was a fun puzzle to solve. ?

    • Joel Mark Witt

      Thanks for the feedback Sean. We agree. It’s all kind of a distraction from the core conversation… which is… how do we grow as people no matter which model/level/zone/etc we identify with.

      Thank you for listening and being involved here 🙂

    • Antonia Dodge

      Thank you! You have definitely helped solve this puzzle for me. <3


  • Sean

    In regards to the graves model level you guys are at: I don’t get any feel for you guys intending to be bragging about what level your at. However, I listen to your “Graves Model” podcasts often and was able to gauge your level in the model by time stamp. In a 2014 podcast you say your both 6’s. In a January 2017 podcast (last 5 minutes) Antonia mentions she was in a transition of levels for the past year and a half. So mid 2015ish?….after the 2014 podcast…would mean you transitioned from 6 to another level.
    I’m only responding to your question in the podcast cause you specifically asked. I knew this answer already when I listened to the previous podcast you mentioned, but didn’t feel it was relevant to the point you were making. ?

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