The Shadow Side of Development

In my last post, I went over the five plateaus of human development. Each plateau represents a valid world view, and they become more expansive and inclusive as one ascends toward the highest plateau and beyond.

As you ascend through the five plateaus, it’s important to also look out for the shadow issues that may arise in each stage. When these remain unaddressed, a person can remain at one particular plateau for years, or even a lifetime.

Here are some examples of shadow issues that can stunt growth in each of the plateaus. I offer these from my own life experience, as well as from hundreds of coaching clients:  

  • First Plateau: Playing victim to trauma; short-term survival thinking; behaving impulsively; being overly superstitious or ritualistic; being vindictive; shaming others and being easily shamed; exhibiting passive-aggressive and addictive behavior; feeling insecure, not seen, not valued, unworthy. 
  • Second Plateau: Carrying unnecessary guilt and pushing it on others; being jealous of the success, body, wealth, or position of others; exhibiting aggressive, passive-aggressive or controlling behavior; generating moral absolutisms; posturing.
  • Third Plateau: Being hypercompetitive or materialistic; exhibiting workaholism, recklessness, greed, or excessive risk taking; not accepting help—going it alone feels safer; avoiding conflict and crucial conversations; needing to be admired—Mr. or Ms. Perfect.
  • Fourth Plateau: Exhibiting hypersensitivity; sweeping important issues under the rug due to emotional discomfort in dealing with them; judging those you don’t agree with; forcing your fourth plateau views on others or on the collective as the right and only way.
  • Fifth Plateau: Lack of awareness of subtle lingering shadow elements from other plateaus– such as transferring mother and father issues onto the opposite sex or authority figures; or projecting what you dislike or have disowned in yourself onto others; and exhibiting hidden racial, gender, age, or sexual orientation bias.

You may find that in your finest moments, you identify with the fifth plateau—peaceful and compassionate toward all—but suddenly fear triggers you back to a negative third plateau state as an insensitive hyper achiever. Even with a growth mindset, it is statistically likely that you are operating out of aspects of plateaus two to four. This is good news! Why? Because it means there is work to do, so let’s get busy. I was complacent and in a developmental rut for years. Trauma had locked me between a protector and achiever mindset. Gratefully, I stumbled upon integration training. The daily practice of self-introspection and integrating split off shadow elements has allowed me to break free of the limitations. And the work continues. 

So, in conclusion, ask how you are doing on your climb up the five mountains. What plateau do you most identify with? Are any shadow issues showing up for you right now? If you feel inspired to get unstuck, please join me in The Unbeatable Community. We’ll unlock the next level together!

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