The Teal Shadow: Integral Expert, First-Tier Allergy

By Kelly Sosan Bearer, originally published in Center for Integral Wisdom

The Integral Expert

integralexpert-300x225We all  have shadows, or disowned, repressed, dissociated parts of ourselves, and as we grow and develop from one stage to the next, and even as we grow into higher stages of development, a simple fact remains—the shadow does not go away, but rather follows us as we ascend into the higher reaches of self. Is it possible that certain types of shadow qualities are more probable to arise at certain levels of development? When we apply this question to the integral or teal level of development, what types of shadow material will we generally encounter in both ourselves and others?

When we have the courage to take an honest view of ourselves, and as we learn more about and live an integral life, what shadow tendencies do we see? Let’s explore, with a light heart and hand, the general flavors of shadow material that we may be grappling with specifically once we acquire an Integral awareness. Two specific shadow manifestations that can potentially arise with Integral awareness, at the teal level of development, can be called the “integral expert” and the “1st tier allergy.”

We do not necessarily need to understand the Integral approach for our center of gravity to be stationed at teal. With that said, once we learn the Integral model, in all of its dimensions, we can often come away feeling like we now fully understand everything. Comprehending the Integral model helps us feel as though we can find a place for everything and anything we come across, both within and without, which is truly wonderful—but it can easily begin to eclipse our relationship with the Mystery, with the Great Unknown.

Here, it is possible for the “integral expert” shadow to manifest. This shadow quality can actually inhibit our growth and development. For instance, if we feel that we know everything, why would we continue to explore how the Integral model manifests in real time? How is it possible to approach the mystery of existence from beginner’s mind? How can we let the grace of Spirit fall into us if we are closed to new possibilities arising? We want to be aware that the potential for this “integral expert” shadow to arise is very real and to notice how it manifests.

This is no fault of the Integral approach, but an issue of translation on the part of the practitioner. Once we are integrally informed, there seems to be a tendency to feel like we know everything, while Integral wisdom simply suggests a few parameters to help honor everything we CANNOT know…

While it is true that “cognition is necessary but not sufficient” to grow into higher stages of consciousness, many of us tend to step off the developmental ladder once the mind is properly satiated.

And what can satiate a thirsty mind more than Integral theory? Again, this is not a fault of the theory. For many, understanding cognitively the Integral approach seems to replace the need for true state training. We cognitively grasp the existence and importance of states. We are even cognizant of how they unfold in a stage-like progression, moving from gross to subtle to causal to nondual.

What occurs is that we truly and rather innocently mistake the map for the territory. We can often find ourselves and others more interested in talking about practice, rather than actually engaging practice on a regular basis. We can be quick to judge without actually experiencing, first hand, these topics that so fascinate and intrigue us. There is a tendency to fall victim to the “talking school” or become “armchair” philosophers—meaning, we have a conceptual understanding, a cognitive understanding, but this understanding is not grounded in any real world experience, not grounded emotionally, experientially, socially, or relationally. This can be applied to much more than state training of course, and this is used as only one of many examples of how this “integral expert” shadow quality may arise.

In extreme cases, the “integral expert” shadow can actually manifest itself in a way where people begin to misuse the Integral model to disengage from the world, to hide from life, negating all responsibility. For example, if we are approached by someone who has feedback about our behavior, or how we have shown up in a meeting, or during an exchange, one response that seems to reflect this “integral expert” shadow quality is “you should 3-2-1 that”. [1] We may not necessarily say this out loud, but there is a tendency to internally experience this and so we brush off feedback—justifying ourselves by thinking “this person is just projecting onto me.”

Instead of actually receiving what could be very helpful feedback, we actually push it away. What is ironic here is that we actually push feedback away by using the 3-2-1 process instead of using the 3-2-1 process to go deeper into the feedback that was so graciously offered. What the Integral model invites, encourages and almost demands from us to do is actually participate in the world more, for the simple fact that we do have a greater understanding and awareness—not to use the tools of the model to hide or turn away from manifest reality.  Learn it, live it, apply it… That is what the Integral approach calls us to do in every moment.

First-Tier Allergy 

Another shadow quality that may arise at the teal level of development can be called the “first tier allergy”, which is the general resistance to participating with all structures prior to teal.  This often shows up as mistaking the idea that people can be color-coded according to the developmental models we use in Integral theory.

We are all probability waves, as Kohlberg points out—the probability of finding a particular behavior at a particular time tends to follow the 25-50-25 rule. But often too many of us walk around dismissing people as being “so totally green” or “way too orange”. With these strong judgements, we tend to cut ourselves off from 95% of the world. Elitism is fine—because everyone is invited; snobbery is not. All too often we come off as Integral snobs when we use developmental schemes as a way to judge others and ultimately ignore them simply because they are not inhabiting the same developmental space that we are.

One of the major benefits of Integral awareness is that we can act as developmental wizards, understanding that each and every level of development is utterly needed and appropriate, that we can locate within ourselves all of the levels of first tier, and realize that everyone has the right to be at any stage they are stationed at.

This is a Upaya, or a skillful means of the model—one that could potentially help the world tremendously in a number of areas from politics to spirituality, education to business, ecology to healthcare.

The importance of understanding where someone is stationed developmentally is not to judge them and write them off completely, but rather to inform us so that we can then choose the best way to interact with this person to have the best possible outcome. This outcome is understanding. And an understanding that then translates into action in the world on the part of the person we were just engaging. Imagine if we were to touch one person a day with the implications of the Integral approach? The possibilities are endless.

Of course the “expert” and “allergy” can manifest at each developmental stage and these are generally a part of the growth process. As we grow from one stage to the next we tend to dis-identify with the stage we previously inhabited. Another way to say this is that we make our previous subject, object—we turn our 1st-person experience into a 3rd- person experience. During that process, it is almost certain that we can acquire an “allergy” (or an addiction, but that’s another post) to our previous level of development.

Once we grow into a higher stage, it is also possible that with a deeper and wider understanding of self, we can feel as “expert” to our previous self. The difference at the integral or teal level of development is that the “expert” and “allergy” of the growth process in first tier, has the potential to actually turn into shadow qualities.  We now have greater vision and responsibility to recognize the “integral expert” and “1st tier allergy” shadows and to work with these repressed aspects of self. Fortunately, the Integral model not only includes, but encourages us to work with our shadow traits. The 3-2-1 process is a great place to start.

[1] Reference added by Enlivening Edge Magazine

Permission to republish granted by the author.

Featured Image/Graphic link added by Enlivening Edge Magazine.