The Ist Tier
BEIGE (A-N) (Maslow’s Survival; Loevinger’s Pre-Social)
This vMEME is concerned with basic survival needs and is bottom of the Spiral. It is instinctive and does not lend itself to cognitive thought as such.
Air, food and water, sleep, shelter from the elements and sex for procreation (rather than pleasure or affection) are the very basic drives which characterise this vMEME. If these requirements are not met (with the partial exception of sex for procreation), the human body simply cannot continue to function. If the BEIGE driver ceases to work, then we will die because we simply will not do what we need to do to survive. BEIGE ceasing to function is almost certainly what is meant when we say that someone has lost the will to live.
Much of what Evolutionary Psychology has to say about the essentials of human nature is centred at this pre-cognitive, animalistic level.
There is not enough reliable data to break this transition down into exiting and entering phases. The organism is beginning to show signs of cognition. Graves (1978/2005, p214) referred to it as the beginning of “viable psychological life”. Basic cause-and-effect assumptions start to be made. Primitive clans associate the death of a cow, for example, with the full moon and thus look for a witch doctor to learn how to placate the gods – a first step towards recognising some kind of authority and organisation (the tribe) to provide safety. The infant realises that the mother (or other caregiver) is associated with food (as per Classical Conditioning) and that certain behaviours more than others are more likely to produce comforting hugs (Operant Conditioning).
Cook-Greuter (2005) sees all pre-Symbiotic life as characterised by a lack of language. Like Beck & Cowan (1996), Cook-Greuter perceives adults dominated by such characteristics as being totally dependent and usually institutionalised.
In the clip below – copyright © 2006 Clearfire Media – Don Beck talks with Doug Kruschke about how the PURPLE vMEME develops…
PURPLE (A-N) (Maslow’s Safety and Belonging; Loevinger’s Symbiotic L-1)
Located in a mysterious – and quite possibly scary – world it does not understand, this vMEME seeks safety in belonging – hence Graves (1970) finds 2 of Maslow’s (1943) needs are met in one motivation.
In anthropological/historical terms, this is the formation of the tribe for protection. The seeking of safety in numbers is driven by people’s yearning for a predictable, orderly world in which inconsistency is under control, the familiar frequent and the unfamiliar rare. Symbols and ritual acts become an important part of maintaining the protection. For adults in the modern Western world, safety needs include personal security from crime, financial security, health and well-being and having a safety net against accidents/illness and their adverse impacts.
PURPLE’s needs are also manifest in the scenario of the young infant in the family. The more safe the infant is with their (caring and nurturing) parents – or other caregiver(s) – the more likely he/she will develop a healthy psyche. The failure of a nurturing attachment for a young child can lead to Maternal Deprivation and major psychological problems.
The belonging can be to a tribe, a family, a club, a gang or even a boy-girl relationship. The belonging can be informal – though PURPLE’s safety needs often lead it to desire formalisation and reinforcement of relationships through ritual – eg: the marriage ceremony, gang induction rites, etc. Behaviours such as excreting and having sex become regulated as the norms of the tribe are developed and socialisation of the very young child into the way of the family takes place. In these respects, PURPLE leads the individual to become acceptable to the tribe/family in the ways Freud (1920) ascribed to the Ego.
In the absence of such attachments, many people become susceptible to loneliness, social anxiety and even Depression.
In knowing who it belongs to, PURPLE may differentiate between those who are of-our-tribe and those who are-not-of-our tribe, demonstrating prejudice and discrimination.
There is little interest in – and sometimes little capacity for – the written word. Word of mouth is the favoured means of communication and the oral tradition the primary means of locating the tribe or family in time and space.
PURPLE/red (B-O/c-p) (Kohlberg’s Punishment & Obedience)
As RED first starts to emerge, the individual becomes aware that looking after the tribe’s needs or doing what the family wants uses up energy that could be used to satisfy a growing sense of self. The tribal/family customs seem increasingly cloying and inhibiting. In the tribe the shamans/tribal leaders no longer seem so sure or so powerful in their decision-making. In the family Mummy & Daddy no longer seem infallible.
Little challenges to the tribal/family order prove successful and the world starts to seem less of a mysterious, incomprehensible and scary place and the individual may start to talk/fantasise about breaking away.
In the family situation, as the first challenges to authority are made, the message from the parents to the child is that what is punished is bad behaviour. This results in schemas like: “The last time I did that I got spanked so I will not do it again.” The worse the punishment for the act is, the more ‘bad’ the act is perceived to be. This can give rise to an inference that even innocent victims are guilty in proportion to their suffering. This view is egocentric, lacking recognition that others’ points of view are different from one’s own. There is a deference to superior power or prestige. Obedience is not valued for its own sake.
The typical Maslowian/Gravesian scenario is that the next vMEME starts to emerge following the healthy nodal peak expression of the current dominant vMEME. However, this may not follow where a current dominant vMEME has not been able to express itself healthily. Where PURPLE has not had its need for belonging satisfied, RED may dominate to compensate. In some children this can lead to attachment disorders. Where peer pressure is strong enough, the PURPLE/red transition can lead to people disregarding their BEIGE physiological and PURPLE security needs to win acceptance in a group to which they feel they have to belong. Eg: teenagers indulging in life-threatening behaviour to join a gang.
As RED takes ascendancy in the vMEME stack, the individual will become increasingly dismissive of tribal leaders or parents/guardians – even contemptuous! They are ready to adventure and will leave tribal/family safety structures. Sometimes this ‘leaving the nest’ is totally all at once and likely to lead to an explosion of peak RED! More often this transition demonstrates an incremental growth of autonomy. The indvidual experiences a growing sense of their own power to take on the world.
Some elements of Loevinger’s Impulsive stage do seem to reflect a hint of PURPLE still in the mix, primarily in that impulses are “curbed by the environment” – ie: there is some reference to others in the external world. From this, Graves (1978/2005) categorised Impulsive as b-o/C-P. However, the bulk of Loevinger’s descriptors for Impulsive place it clearly as a match for RED.
In the clip below – copyright © 2006 Clearfire Media – Beck and Kruschke discuss the change in life conditions from which RED emerges…
RED (C-P) (Maslow’s Esteem; Loevinger’s Impulsive L-2; Kohlberg’s Instrumental Hedonism)
RED is an assertion of me and a drive for esteem of ‘me’, especially self-esteem.
Effectively a finding of ‘my own voice’, it is the peak expression of what Freud termed the Id and it works on the ‘Pleasure Principle’ – ie: if it feels good, do it! Like the Id, RED has little or no fear of consequences because it has no real sense of the future, living mostly in the moment.
In terms of meta-programmes, peak RED is highly Internally-Referenced. It usually knows what to do and often has difficulty accepting input from others into decision-making, demonstrating a strong internal locus of control.
Inevitably, alone beyond the safety of the tribe or family, the life conditions can be scary and even dangerous – so having power to dominate and gain what is desired for ‘self’ is critical. Thus, the social world of RED is a competitive place, where people seek to advance up the ‘power pecking order’. Power in this sense can be displayed through physical strength, fighting ability, intelligence, sexiness, mischievousness and just about any form of marking I’m better at this than someone else. Thus, RED struggles to accept limitations to its self-expression, cannot accept shame and will do whatever it takes to avoid it.
Where the power of others is clearly greater, though, there is no shame in submitting to that greater power. However, RED will always be looking for ways to increase its power at the expense of others and to climb up the power pecking order. Thus, when greater power is achieved, RED will seek to diminish those hitherto higher in the power pecking order.
Maslow saw that all humans have a need to be respected, to have self-esteem, self-respect and respect from others. In his 1938 studies of the Blackfoot (Maslow, 1938; Abraham Maslow & John Honigmann, 1938) – published in 2014 by Sidney Stone Brown) – Maslow emphasises how critical high and healthy self-esteem is to the achievement of Self-Actualisation. Lack of this can result in an inferiority complex. People with low self-esteem may overperform to gain respect from others. They may seek fame or glory – but this depends on the response of others. However, Maslow noted that many people with low self-esteem will not be able to improve their view of themselves simply by receiving fame, respect and glory externally; first, they have to accept themselves internally.
Kohlberg (1963) perceived a limited interest in the needs of others, but only to a point where it might further the individual’s own interests. As a result, concern for others is not based on loyalty or intrinsic respect but rather a “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours” mentality. As Graves (1970) points out, RED will act deviously to get what it wants where it cannot express itself openly because of its lower position in the power pecking order. RED is often seen to dominate in young teenagers but this vMEME is often active in the vMEME stack at a very early age – the ‘Terrible Twos’!
RED is often comtemptuous of the need to learn – especially if the subject of the learning is put forward by others. Thus, it is often dismissive of the need to learn complex language, for example.
Loevinger’s Impulsive asserts their growing sense of self and views the world in egocentric terms. At this stage “the child is preoccupied with bodily impulses, particularly (age-appropriate) sexual and aggressive ones.” (p16) Here Loevinger parallels the sex/life Eros drive and the Thanatos death drive of Freud’s Id. The child is too immersed in the moment and views the world solely in terms of how things affect them. When someone meets their needs, they are considered ‘good’; and, if they do not meet their needs they are considered ‘bad’ – often resulting in impulsive retaliation such as running away from home. Discipline is viewed by the child as unwanted restraints; and ‘rewards and punishments’ are seen as being nice to me or mean to me. The inverse of this, according to Kohlberg, is that behaviour that is rewarded is good behaviour. This is because “the child’s needs and feelings are experienced mostly in bodily modes” (Pauline Young-Eisendrath, 1982, p326) and “the child’s orientation at this stage is almost exclusively to the present rather than to past or future”. Again, this fits with Freud’s assertion that the Id has no sense of consequences.
In historical terms Mediaeval Europe could be viewed as an age of RED-driven kingdoms and empires where the king ruled the lords absolutely and the lords owned the serfs but various lords would sometimes seek to overthrow the king. A late 20th Century example of a RED-driven ‘kingdom’ is that of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Saddam was the king who ruled his lords – the generals – with absolute authority and would periodically cull them to disrupt plots against him. As for the long-suffering people of Iraq, they were effectively serfs for Saddam and the generals to do with as they wished.
RED/blue (C-P/d-q) (Loevinger’s Self-Protective Δ)
A growing doubt as to whether sheer energy and power can deal with newly-arising problems and the start of BLUE’s emergence results in a questioning of selfish impulses and unbridled desires. There may be some slight acknowledgement of guilt, though the individual may seesaw between acknowledging some fault and denying all responsibility. There is a sense of starting to search for morality and direction from without, rather than living purely on your own internal compass (‘my way or no way’).
Graves (1978/2005) categorises Self-Protective as C-P (RED) but he seems to miss the point completely that Loevinger (p17) says this stage represents “the first step towards self-control of impulses.… The Self-Protective person has the notion of blame but he externalises it to other people or to circumstances.” (Loevinger, p17) At this level, the child “craves a morally prescribed, rigidly enforced, unchanging order” and, if maintained too long, “an older child or adult who remains here may become opportunistic, deceptive, preoccupied with control…naive instrumental hedonism”. (p415; p17)
While a degree of conceptual cohesion has been reached, morality is essentially a matter of anticipating rewards and punishments, with the motto: “Don’t get caught!”
Rather than reflecting outright RED, Self-Protective seems more of a RED/blue transition. Cook-Greuter (p10) confirms morality is on the horizon but self-expression is more important: “For Self-Protective persons, the world is a hostile, dangerous place. Rules are recognised, but only followed for immediate advantage or to avoid punishments.”
One historical example of RED beginning to give way for BLUE is the RED kings of the Middle Ages starting to initiate written rules and procedures for the collection of taxes.
red/BLUE (c-p/D-Q) (Loevinger’s Malignant Conformist; Kohlberg’s Good/Bad)
As BLUE starts to dominate in the vMEME stack, there is an increasing acknowledgement of responsibility and guilt and a determination to curtail the excesses of RED with self-control. There is a growing sense of future and the need to defer instant gratification to avoid aversive consequences.
The personal interpretation and enforcement of the correct way all should live can result in zealotry, with self-righteous punishment of ‘sinners’.
As BLUE grows in strength, there is a markedly increased tendency to sacrifice self as well as others to the righteous cause.
Kohlberg notes the importance here of living up to the expectations of society’s social roles. (It should be noted here that less complex social roles are formulated in PURPLE and RED-dominated societies.) People try to be a ‘good boy’ or ‘good girl’ by living up to these expectations. The growing desire to maintain rules and authority exists only primarily to support these social roles.
Though she doesn’t give it the status of ‘stage’, Loevinger does talk about the ‘Malignant Conformist’ whom she portrays as an alternative version of Self-Protective. However, the Malignant Conformist is unable to progress completely to Conformist because they are unable to trust. Graves rightly portrays this as c-p/D-Q (red/BLUE). However, the underpinning PURPLE is likely to be disrupted as attachment disorders are characterised frequently by Malignant Conformist type behaviours.
In the clip below – copyright © 2006 Clearfire Media – Beck explains to Kruschke how the BLUE vMEME starts to emerge…