Trump & Spiral Dynamics

By Leo Gura - July 31, 2017

Here’s some political analysis you’ll never see on the evening news: Trump acts the way he acts because he is at Spiral Dynamics stage Red/Orange.

Trump is a really interesting case study of applied Spiral Dynamics. I hope you’re seeing this as it unfolds.

Here’s a quick chart of the Spiral Dynamics Stages of Consciousness which will help you make sense of all the “Red”, “Blue”, “Orange”, “Green”, “Yellow” words I’ll be using.

If you’re a student of Spiral Dynamics, and you really grasp that model, it should have allowed you to predict that Trump would behave as President, PRECISELY as he is now behaving. There’s nothing surprising about it. It perfectly correlates with his level of consciousness, which is not so much Orange (as people assume), but Red.

The following is a list of characteristics of Spiral Dynamics stage Red which I pulled straight from the book and various Spiral Dynamics charts. You be the judge of how well it applies to Trump:

  • Egocentric, Warlord Level, Express Self Impulsively
  • Worldview is: “My needs”
  • Focus: I want to be in charge
  • Feudal, exploitative
  • Be what you are, do what you want, regardless
  • Stands tall, expects attention, demands respect, and calls the shots
  • Enjoys self to the fullest right now without guilt or remorse
  • Conquers, out-foxes, and dominates over aggressive characters
  • When confronted with obstacles: fights tooth and nail, takes no prisoners, gets down and dirty
  • Coercion and offers one cannot refuse with fear or pain or even death
  • Quest for: heroic status, power, glory
  • Method: align with power, take what you need
  • Pitfalls: anxiety, depression, guilt, cannot build stable nations
  • Gratification, glitz, conquest, action, impulse and ruthless, lives for the now
  • Courageous, determined, and powerful
  • Leadership style: the big boss
  • Organizational style: exploitative empire
  • Stimulates the impulsive self while generating powerful images of aggressiveness, conquest, and predator/prey relationships
  • World is like a jungle where the tough and strong prevail while the weak serve; nature is an adversary
  • Power/action; asserting self to dominate others; control; exploitative
  • Excitement, proving individual prowess, cunning dominance
  • Fight to survival despite what others want
  • Excited by stories of company heroes, by celebrating feats of conquest, and by evidence of respect
  • Where the “Big Me” leaves his personal mark
  • Basic motives: Enforce power over self, others, and nature through exploitative independence
  • The thinking is egocentric, the structures are empires, the process is exploitative
  • Triggered by: potential shame, loss of control, disrespect
  • Exploits the masses to accomplish the desires of the few
  • Things tend to be physical, emotion-laden, and gut-level
  • Examples of stage Red: the rebellious teenager, gang members, mafia bosses, drug lords, dictators, frontier mentalities, Atilla the Hun, James Bond villains, soldiers of fortune, wild rock stars, con artists

Read the descriptions of stage Red here, and compare them to descriptions of stage Orange.

The reason that many people were/are surprised by Trump’s behavior is because they mistakenly confuse him for a stage Orange businessman guy. But he’s not nearly that evolved. He actually exhibits many heartless, impulsive, thuggish, stage Red characteristics. Trump is a blend of Red/Orange. Which is why he’s so dangerous. People assume he’s just like your typical businessman, but he’s not. A typical Fortune 500 CEO is stage Orange, perhaps even starting to tap into stage Green. Which why many of the best business leaders do not support Trump.

Why did Trump win the election? There were many factors of course, but in the big picture, it was because a good chunk of the electorate is at stage Blue/Orange consciousness, and they saw him reflecting their values. Trump cleverly exploited these stages by hitting at their weakest values and fears, and by pitting them against stage Green/Yellow values which flourished a bit under Obama’s presidency.

A collective ego backlash was rather expected. Nations are huge systems with huge inertia and homeostasis. Any dramatic move towards Green/Yellow will create a lot of hooting and hollering because stage Blue/Orange doesn’t just not understand Green/Yellow, they view Green/Yellow as idealistic lunacy. A large part of Blue/Orange identity is defined in opposition to Green/Yellow. As in, “I’m not like those weed-smoking hippies & academics”.

Ultimately, many conservatives (stage Blue) are gonna be disappointed with Trump because they think they made a deal with a stage Orange guy, but he’s actually half stage Red. Trump doesn’t value conservativism, religion, morality, ethics, law, or tradition — he values SELF, power, and glory at all costs. He is the victim of his own level of consciousness, as we all are.

American society is drowning in stage Orange materialism run amok. The upper limits of stage Orange consciousness should be abundantly clear if you’re doing this work. The only way forward will be to stage Green, but the resistance from stage Orange, and Blue, will be fierce. One of the most dangerous scenarios is electing leaders who want to double-down on stage Orange. More materialism and success will NOT solve our problems because that IS our chief problem. Success, like almost any other quantity in a complex system, backfires when it goes unchecked.

People vote — first and foremost — based on their level consciousness. Because consciousness underpins psychology, values, judgments, motivations, ideals, and fears. If we want to elect better leaders, we need to help the populace raise their own level of consciousness first. Helping them understand Spiral Dynamics — by teaching it in schools around the country — would be a good first step. But of course, even the effort to modernize our education system will be viewed as a threat by stages Blue and Orange.

I hope you’re seeing that all the complex, academic-sounding topics I talk about — like Spiral Dynamics or systems thinking — are totally practical. As I hope this example shows you. The deeper your understanding of the fundamental dynamics of systems and consciousness, the better you’ll be able to navigate life.

Perhaps one of Trump’s most dangerous qualities is that he is not a system’s thinker AT ALL. And yet he is trying to make changes to one of the largest and most complex systems in the world: the U.S. government. If you’ve studied systems thinking even a bit, it should be obvious why this will be disastrous.

Credit: Spiral Dynamics by Don Beck & Christopher Cowan, and the research of Clare Graves

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