2:2 The Seven Mind Modes and Psychological Stages

In this episode, Orna Ross draws on the work of Abraham Maslow and Ken Wilber to delve into the seven mind modes and psychological stages that shape our creative and personal growth. From the foundational Tribal and Conquering stages to the higher realms of Communitarian, Creative, and Transcendent mind modes, Orna explains how understanding and navigating these stages can help us to understand ourselves and others and achieve greater fulfillment. Tune in to discover how these mind modes influence your creativity and how understanding them is key to unlocking the human potential for change.

Read the Transcript to Go Creative! Podcast Season 2, Episode 2: The Seven Mind Modes and Psychological Stages

Hello and welcome creatives and creativists. Today, I'd like to talk to you about the seven mind modes that human life goes through. This is quite a theoretical episode, but it's important, I think, to understand.

We talk a lot about mindset in creative fields and mindset is actually, to me, a little to set. I prefer the idea of mind modes, and understanding that there are different mind modes that we move in and out of. The one that is dominant for us is the mindset that we're in at the moment, and mindsets shift, and mind modes are constantly shifting during the day.

So, going to talk about that, but essentially what I'm going to look at today is the seven mind modes. It's a way of thinking about how we, as we progress through life, we go through a series of mappable, psychological states, psychological conditions. Indeed, we can go through seven of them in one day, but we have a dominant one. One that is our dominant state of living, our level of living, you might think about it though I'm not too keen on the hierarchical notions that are embedded in some of these stage models of mind mode and mindset. I like to think of things as a spiral, and I'll talk a bit about that in a minute.

But each of these states, it's a way of living, a way of approaching life, a way of meeting life that's characterized by markedly different ways of understanding what's going on, different ways of understanding life itself and how it operates in us, different ways of understanding other people and how the world works.

So, I want to talk first a little bit about my own thinking on this, how it developed.

The American philosopher Ken Wilber in his book, Integral Psychology, that is where I started to connect my creative work and my experience as a creative and a creativist, to connect that with the stage psychology models that I had learned in college.

As someone who's trained to be a teacher, Maslow's hierarchy of needs was a key theory, and I think Maslow's hierarchy of needs turns up in almost every college course because it is such a foundational and fundamental way of thinking about things.

So, Wilbur assembled the conclusions of about, I think it was over a hundred psychological researchers post-Maslow, and found that what they had brought together is a very consistent story of the evolution of human consciousness. A very similar tale of growth and development of the mind as a series of unfolding stages or waves.

So, Maslow gave us a very hierarchical way of thinking about this, about human development and how the mind develops. He was working mid-twentieth century in the US. He was one of the first psychologists to look at healthy adults. Up to then, studies of the mind had very much focused on psychopathology, what was wrong, mental illness, as we would call it today.

But he decided to look at the half of the glass that is full, and understand more about what goes right when we've got a healthy human being. He gave rise to a whole branch of psychology then called positivist psychology, because he was looking at that positive aspect of human living.

He said, we live by bread alone when there is no bread. What happens when there's plenty of bread? What happens to the human mind then?

His answer was that “higher” needs surface then and begin to dominate, and when they're in turn satisfied, still newer and higher needs emerge. This goes on until we come to what he called self-actualization or transcendence, which represents the highest levels, and the psychologically healthy person's motivation is to become self-actualized.

He did a six-stage model first and then he later modified that to eight.

Biological, is the first stage. So, air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, all the biological needs. Then comes safety. If you've got your food and your drink and all of that sorted out, then you begin to think about safety, protection from the elements, security, order, and in our society, laws, limits, stability.

Once your safety needs are sorted, you become more social. You're thinking about belonging, your work group, but of course your family, friends. Affection and relationship are important when you're in social mind mode.

Once social is sorted, you move into seeking esteem. So, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige and self-esteem also are the wants and desires when you're in this mind mode.

With your esteem needs sorted, cognitive needs become important. So, knowledge, meaning, understanding is what we begin to search for and look for there.

With our cognitive needs sorted, we move into aesthetics; beauty, balance, and that's where the arts come in largely.

Then he spoke of self-actualization, which is the realizing of your own potential. Self-fulfilment, personal growth, peak experiences. These are the things you begin to sequence. You've got the earlier stages sorted and finally is the top of his pyramid, because he shaped this as a pyramid, his transcendence. Unity with all, helping others to achieve their self-actualization.

Now, it's not a perfect theory. No theory is perfect. He very much set it up as a hierarchy, very much had this idea that you tick one box before you move on to the next, and that's very debatable. Is it really true that cognitive, the desire for knowledge and meaning and understanding only comes in once you've satisfied your esteem needs and your social needs and your safety needs? Very debatable, and yes, the debates have happened and still go on. We don't need to get involved in any of that there at all.

The other thing about Maslow's hierarchy is that he used a very subjective methodology. Essentially, he used biographical analysis and looking at the biographies and writings of 18 people that he identified as self-actualized, and surprise, most of his sample of self-actualized people were privileged white US males. Again, the debates go on about that and the criticism about that.

Nonetheless, he was onto something and countless, hundreds of thousands, of psychologists have gone in there with this understanding in hand and developed it.

One of the first was Claire Graves. One of his students went on to verify and expand Maslow's work, and his conclusion was that values develop in response to environmental conditions, which are then remoulded by our values in an unfolding series. He used waves rather than a hierarchy, and he suggested eight developmental levels of psychological health.

I'm not going to go through all of that now, but based on his work, and this is where I came in with great interest, when I came across the work of Don Beck and Chris Cohen through the work of Ken Wilber.

Beck and Cohen have an eight-stage model that they call spiral dynamics, and this model is now widely used by governments, organizations, and institutions to understand human motivation and to set up change in challenging environments, particularly in conflict. For example, it was used in post-apartheid South Africa in terms of the opposite side being able to understand each other.

So, all of these stage models are useful in explaining deep forces in human nature that shape our responses and attitudes.

What was striking to me as I went through this phase of exploring their work was how the developmental states correspond to the stages of the creative process that we've discussed on the podcast many times before and how the later stages or waves, or top of the hierarchy, or whatever way you want to talk about it, how it tallies with what it is to live as a creative and a creativist from creative principles.

So, Masa found people whose dominant state was what he called self-actualization, that they deeply appreciated ordinary life experiences, that they established deep and satisfying relationships, that they tolerated uncertainty well, that they had a high need for solitude and privacy at times. They tended to be democratic in their inclinations, that they accepted themselves and others as they are, rather than aiming to be better. That they often experienced life in a more childlike way because they had the ability for full absorption and concentration. That they like to try new things, rather than sticking to old and safe pathways. That they were more authentic, honest and sincere. That they paid more attention to their own personal feelings than to tradition or authority. That they're prepared to be unpopular, and that they assume responsibility for their own lives. That they work hard but think of it as pleasure. That they try to observe their ego mind, as he called it, and transcend it. That they demonstrate spontaneity and that they are, and this was his word, that they are highly creative, and to my mind, all the other things before that summarized is what it is to be highly creative. Though what he meant was that they produce things like the arts, books, plays, music, art, and so on.

But in our understanding of being creative, everything that he listed that a self-actualized person does is what a creative does, is what a creativist does, and there's so much similarity between how he describes the self-actualized person and how Dr. Mike describes creative flow.

That whole idea of fully focused motivation that is core to the concept of creative flow, and that mental state of being fully immersed in an activity with your energized focus and complete involvement in the process. That is common to both Maslow's idea of a fully actualized person and our concepts of creative flow.

So, what does all of this have to do with conscious creation?

I found it really useful when I put together all these different ways of thinking about how the mind operates, and one thing that's interesting is that there is a creative state of mind, a create state, which we've talked about before, and that's one of the mind modes. I'll talk about it in a minute as I go through each of the seven of the modes that I think are relevant for creatives and creativists.

So, knowing that there is a create state in and of itself is interesting, but we are not in that state all the time, no matter how well practiced we are, there are always other mind modes going on for us and for other people.

Understanding the different mind modes, and as I said earlier, it's been so mapped now by so many psychologists, it is a fully accepted and understood way of getting to grips with the fact that certain people think in certain ways, their mind mode has got set into that position, and whatever mind mode that is our dominant way of thinking and meeting the world, that becomes our mindset.

These are all alterable and changeable, and they in fact do alter and change as we go through life.

The other interesting thing about it is, they're also altering and changing at a social level. So, the dominant mind mode, which becomes the mindset, gets fixed into the laws and social actions and behaviours of a society.

So, we can see these mind modes unfolding, not just in ourselves as human beings, as we move across life, not just in ourselves as we fluctuate through the different mind modes in a given day or week or month, but also in our social set up.

So, for those of us who are creativists who want to see certain things changing in the world, then this understanding of the seven mind modes, I think, becomes very useful.

So, what are the mind modes?

We start off with tribal. So, even though it arises from Maslow's work, it's quite different to how he presented and understood, or it builds on his understanding, but it also moves from it.

There is a mind state that has been identified, which is called survivalist, which I'm not going to consider here because it's unaware of self and others to a degree that conscious creativity is not possible, and that mind state is dubbed survivalist. It's a small proportion of the adult population that have this mindset. Adults in this state are often mute or dependent, maybe in an institution. I'm very familiar with this mindset because my sister Una, she was born profoundly mentally and physically incapacitated, and so the drives here are literally survival. All we can do for Una is look after her food, her clothing, that she's warm, safe, dry and looked after. This state, this mind state, is seen in prehistoric humans as well, newborns, the senile elderly, the mentally ill, the profoundly disabled, those who are starving. So, it's not somewhere, as I said, in this mind mode, conscious creation is not possible, but still survival is possible, and that's interesting. So, Una manages to create around her what she needs to survive. She's now in her late fifties and through engendering the compassion and protective instincts of other human beings, she has had her needs met in her life.

That, to me, is interesting, even though it's not consciously created by her it nonetheless has happened for her.

But the seven aware mind states, the creativist mind states where people have some sense of awareness of what is happening are tribal, conquering, moral, rational, communitarian, creative, and transcendent.

I'm just going to go through those now, explaining what they look like and where we see them in our world.

The first one, tribal, are also called ancestral. At this level of living, the most important thing is obeying your ancestors, your elders, the clan; preserving the places and the objects and the memories that are important to the tribe.

People operating from this mindset organize around lineage and family often to look after each other and to meet their safety needs. I, when I was very young, tuned into this mindset. It was much more evident around me in those days. I grew up in a very small Irish village, where in some ways things had not changed for centuries, and I remember older people. and how they thought in these ways.

What's interesting about this tribal, ancestral, mythical state of mind is that often there is a guidance by magical spirits, mystical signs, superstitions, curses and spells. You see that, and the motto, for this mind mode would be, blood is thicker than water, and beliefs tend to be that sort of magical, animistic thing that I was talking about there. So, voodoo is part of this, dragons, beasts, sacrifice. There's an awareness of these things, and the drive is very much about belonging and kinship, and staying safe by doing what the tribe says.

We still see it in our world within gang world, it doesn't have to be family. It can be an adopted family, as I said, like gang world or mafia.

Children around the age of one year develop and show coming into this kind of mind mode. Game Thrones exemplifies it brilliantly, and this mind mode exerts its influence through spells and curses and charms definitely, but also rioting and steaming and throwing temper. It's very basic, and empathy for others is not a characteristic of this mind mode.

All of these modes are still in us. Even if we are more dominantly in another mode, we have this tribal ancestral mythical sort of space within us.

The second state is conquering, or colonizing maybe. This is typified by self-gratification. So, what's most important to this mind mode is to call the shots. It tends to be egocentric and defensive and self-centred, and often violent, and morality for this mind mode is quite expedient, characterized by its need to dominate others. Its motto might be, ‘it's them or us.'

So, self-gratification, winning, and being feared are the drives.

Its values are like war trophies or bedpost notching or flags, pillage territory, land, scalps. These sum up the values of the colonizing mind. So, we see it in ruthless corporations still. We saw it in history in feudal kingdoms. We see it, I think, in the US gun lobby. We see it in shoplifters or room-trashing rock stars. Empires, obviously, had the great colonizing minds where people's ways of being were completely and utterly dominated and deliberately destroyed.

So, the colonizing mind exerts its influence through fighting and coercion and dominance.

The next stage is the moralizing stage. It's often thought of also as being paternalistic, and at this level of living, what's important is a sort of code of conduct based on what it thinks are self-evident principles of right and wrong. Individual self-identity is far less important than group justice and order. When we're in the moralizing mind state, we see right and wrong as clear and distinct, and also in the moralizing mind state, those who violate the ideas of right warrant serious punishment and repercussions. If they're not rewarded in this world, they'll be rewarded in the next. The faithful, the believers, are rewarded.

This mind mode, obviously, we see it most clearly in the religious systems of the world. Its motto might be, ‘ the Lord helps those who help themselves.'

Its drives are all around duty, conformity, social approval, righteousness. The values are organization and order, ethics, and its core belief that if society was more religious, everything would be better. So, we see it in the Vatican, as an example, or Puritan America, or in Victorian philanthropy.

I write novels based in late Victorian, early Edwardian times at the moment, and the philanthropic mind of that time is full of this moralizing mindset.

It's in totalitarian states of all kinds. It's in any fundamentalist religion. It's in all sorts of codes of chivalry, boy scouts, girl scouts the moral majority, which is often referred to as a political force. So, we still live with this very much in our world.

Beck and Cohen estimate that 40 percent of the adult population of the world is in this mind mode as a dominant mindset, and so the moralizing mindset exerts its influence through rules of order, obviously, but also protocols and conventions and conformity, people doing what they're supposed to be doing and feeling guilty if they don't.

The next state is the materialist state, and the materialist state is rational. In this level of living, progressing knowledge and merit by self-reliance is key. This mindset believes that there are ways of doing and being that can be learned and mastered, and that the world is like a rational machine and when we understand how it works, and we fit in, and we do our studies and we get the knowledge that we need, then we understand reality better.

It tends to see subjective views of reality as very flawed, stupid, or even dangerous and every attempt must be made to be objective. Science is the most trustworthy knowledge we have as it factors in for human bias. This mind state is interested in reasons and causes and consequences and it Its productivity is its God.

So, it's characterized very much by a drive towards success and the beliefs are scientific or atheistic often. Its motto might be something like, ‘ the harder I work, the luckier I get.'

It's driven by achievement, by victory, by meeting goals, by getting ahead. Its values are success and affluence, achievement, prizes. In this mind mode, we love all of that.

Its belief about societies is that a prosperous society is a peaceful society, that those two things go hand in hand. So, we see this widely in our own societies, and I think we see the seeds of it and all the theory around it. In 18th century enlightenment thinking and writing, but from our academia to our journalism to our Wall Street and the city, the monetary and financial world, the middle classes, generally speaking, stock markets, liberal self-interest, wherever we see that, we're talking about that mind mode.

When we're in that mind mode, the materialist mode, we're exerting influence through logical argument, through data, through contracts, through reasoned opinion, and through the influence of money, it has to be said.

The next mind state then, and again, if you're thinking in terms of Maslow's hierarchy, each of these states is flowing out of the other but in a more fluid way than Maslow's hierarchical setup, but one does lead into the other in similar fashion. I like the image of the spiral; one spirals out of the other.

Then the next one that comes out is communitarian mindset. Planetary consciousness. At this level of living, inner peace, connection with the planet, connection with the ecosystem and environment, and caring dimensions of community becomes important.

People who operate from this mindset see reality as being socially constructed. They feel that a lot of the dogma, divisiveness, the hierarchy and inequalities that we have in our social ways of being and inside ourselves are solved through dialogue. There must be reconciliation and consensus. The Earth's resources have to be cherished and have to be more equally distributed.

In this mind mode, feelings and connection are more important than rational knowledge. So, rational knowledge is encompassed within it, but for a purpose, for the purpose of connection with both our environment and each other. So, this is the organic movement, the eco movement, the Gaian movement.

It's characterized by egalitarianism and by connection. Its drives are equality, caring, sharing, and human rights is very much part of this way of understanding as well. Respect for others and for the earth. So, we're seeing the rise in this movement in our societies in the West. In particular, ecological and animal rights movements, secular humanism is the dominant belief. We see it in the NHS, in cooperative movements, in all post-colonial movements. We also see it in diversity movements, human rights, LGBT, all of these movements are part of this way of understanding.

They arise out of this mind mode and in this mind mode influences exerted through discussion and dialogue, and then modification of existing social structures. So, evolution rather than revolution.

State number six is creative, and this is where the creatives and creativists come in.

At this level of living, what's most important is giving expression to the essential self, the inner imaginative senses and perceptions.

Here we move into the world of complexity, of shifting context and conflicting needs and desires and overlapping, and we can accommodate and enjoy that when we are in creative mode.

In the earlier mind modes that's less possible. Abilities here are valued in core. Abilities of everybody are valued more than rank or status. Authenticity more than identifying with the group, and so balance is also a key creative, and we spoke about this when we looked at the creative virtues. Balance is key.

So, egalitarianism, yes, the communitarian way and mind mode is in there, but also balanced with acknowledgement of excellence and feedback from life, arising circumstances is always considered when solving problems and meeting challenges.

So, definitely the creativist mindset sees reality as a mental, intentional construct. It's characterized by interdependent autonomy. So, we recognize that we are independent human beings, and we give expression to our individuality and originality. Everybody is different. Everybody has a right to full expression, but there is also an interdependence.

The communitarian mindset is embedded within the creative mindset. In fact, all of the previous mindsets are embedded within the creative mindset.

Claire Graves identified that the creativist mindset takes a leap in that it can understand and accommodate all the other mindsets.

Each of the others is, sort of, within its own boundaries. It believes that its way of thinking is the right way, and it fails to understand people who are in a different mindset or a different mind mode.

For example, the communitarian cannot comprehend the conquering or the tribal. They just do not understand, and dialogue fails and doesn't reach across different mindsets. So, there is wonderful dialogue within the communitarian community, but outside of that, it becomes difficult.

With creative mindset, it becomes more possible, because there's a recognition and an acknowledgement that we are all different, that we have many mind modes inside of us, and they are all fully accepted when you're in the creative state, when you're in the creative mind mode, there is full acceptance of all the voices within, and therefore all the voices without as well.

So, values here are very much around freedom, self-expression and flexibility.

From a societal perspective, the personal is political, so there's room for all those communitarian, beliefs and drives, and the diversity and accessibility is all part of the creative, but it goes beyond that to also deconstruct beliefs and integral philosophy and art, which ties all the different things together, or chaos theory where it breaks it all apart.

So, the whole thing about the creative mindset is there is no set mindset. It is a mind mode. It's an opening out, and the creativist mindset exerts influence through breaking the box, through win-win. solutions, through acknowledgment of individuality.

Cohen estimates that only 1 percent of the world population currently operates from a creative mindset as a dominant mindset.

Then the final one is transcendent, and Cohen estimates that it's 0. 1 percent of the population who is living from the transcendent mind mode the majority of the time.

At this level of living, we're into a sort of a symphony of scale system and forms that unites feeling and knowledge, male and female, matter and spirit, life and death, everything inner and outer, thingness and nothingness, potential and actuality, and everything is encompassed in a universal order and pattern.

There's a great creative consciousness that's not based on human rules at all, or our drives or requirements, or our wants necessarily. There are multiple levels of human and non-human development. There are ideas around parallel universes interwoven into this pattern.

In short, the transcendent mindset is beyond human intellectual grasp.

We can feel it and we can sense it and we can be in it, for most of us briefly, sometimes achieved through working in creative mode, sometimes achieved through meditation, sometimes it just arrives and rises in us, looking into the eyes of a child or watching a sunset, we feel transcendent mind mode arise in it.

It's beyond all belief systems, and it doesn't have a religion at all. If it has a motto, it's something like ‘all for one, one for all', and all being in the widest and deepest sense of that word.

The drives are joy for all at all times.

We are not operating from the transcendent state in society at the moment at all. It tends to be an individual experience.

It exerts its influence through spiritual awareness and creative presence and silence, which seems counterintuitive, but so much about the transcendent mind mode is both counterintuitive and intuitive at once.

So, it's very difficult to even talk about it because it is something that is experienced. The words are an intellectual construct, and the intellect breaks down here, but we feel it and sense it when we are in contact with it.

So, I personally have experienced it most when I was in the presence of Thich Nhat Hanh. He is the Buddhist monk whose poetry and other work has deeply influenced my thinking as a creative and creativist. But other Zen masters, poets, some musicians, some artists. We feel it. We feel the presence.

It's summed up by, for me, by Thich Nhat Hanh's poem, Call Me by My True Name. If you're not familiar with that poem, take a read of that, because I think that helps us to understand this mindset.

It's beautiful, and there's not a lot more really, as I said, that can be said about it because words fail to grasp it. It's big mind. Christians call it God. Indian philosophies call it the ground state of being. Chinese call it the Tao. Westerners have called it the perennial philosophy, the magic tradition in the Western world has also tapped into it.

So, they are the mind modes. I hope you found them interesting. I think they're very useful for us as creatives to be aware of them. They're not demarcated by one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, as I have laid them out, like some kind of stairs that we ascend. It's not like that. It's a process, an oscillating kind of ebb and flow, notes in a scale of music maybe, which can be put together in all sorts of different ways.

But they are useful in understanding what's going on within us when we're in a certain mind mode, and we can identify those mind modes in ourselves. It helps us to have that separation, that observation that is always part of the create state.

I think it's also interesting, the qualities of the create state as identified by psychology, and we are getting more and more information and more and more understanding of what that is.

Also, the most important thing I think about it is, these mind modes are alterable and changeable.

We can see how our societies have moved through some of them, and we can see how we as human beings move through these as we go through life. When we're younger, we're in the earlier states, and as we age, if we keep developing and evolving, we will move up through rational into communitarian, creative, and ultimately transcendent.

That is the natural evolution of the human, and conscious creativity feeds into our development and unfolding in that way. So, I think that's the most important thing.

Our brain is not a fixed thing at all. These different modes are unfolding within us. We can help that unfolding along by the actions that we choose to take and make.

From a social perspective, this gives me hope that, as more and more of us move into these higher mind states, then so too will our societies move and improve.

So, that is it for this week and the seven mind modes. I'd love to hear what you think. None of this stuff is set in stone. They're all just theories and ways of understanding this magical, wonderful thing called life.

Yeah, I'd love to hear your thoughts. I'd also love to see what you're creating.

Do join us on patreon.com/ornaross. We have a free creativist club over there where we set our intentions each Monday and go back at the end of the week to reevaluate and talk about how the intentions unfolded. So, do join us there.

I hope you have a wonderful week until we speak next time, and don't forget to go creative.

Bye, bye now.