The levels of development mapped out by Don Riso have been different things to me at different points in my journey. At first, they seemed theoretical and, while they made total sense to me, still curiously hard to nail down within myself, in my own moment-to-moment experience. Later, the sense they made started appearing in my experiential understanding, too — not just on the intellectual plane.
And finally, I started exploring them through the filter of how we can sink of float in our inner work, depending on which tools, formats and exercises we choose to work with in relation to the level of balance at which we are currently finding ourselves. That last bit of exploration turned into the Climbing the Levels of Development booklet, which briefly describes the levels dynamics as I understand them and goes on to suggest shifting focuses for our attempts to intervene with the ego’s agendas, again depending on the level at which they are being played out.
When someone told me she’d like me to run a course on this topic, at first I pictured a dry, theoretical lecture on the levels and how to best try and address them. I can’t really think why, as anyone who has even participated in one of my courses, online or irl, can testify to the matter that theoretical lectures aren’t my favourite format 😉; I can only assume I reverted back to my original deferential and slightly solemn take on the subject. In any case, this made me stall slightly in progressing with the idea, plodding about in the belief that I was not knowledgeable enough to do anything worthwhile with the levels that was not easily accomplished by reading the relevant passages out of Personality Types.
A booklet morphing into a course (yes, they do that! 🧐)
However, it turned out the idea was not that easily dismissed, and one day I found myself drawing up a basic course schedule where I started playing around with the concepts of the booklet. Soon, it became clear to me that while the levels and their basic dynamics still required a bit of theoretical run-through, the theory as such would not be the main point of any course of mine. Nor was it, of course, what the person that suggested it was hoping for. But apparently the “who am I to talk about this” syndrome can skew our perspective at first.
As I kept playing with the concepts, it’s fairer to say that the course emerged than that I constructed it. At first, I tried to take a logical approach. Starting with the unhealthy levels, it was a reasonable guess that none of the attendees of this course would have their centre of gravity there, nor even drop down into them that often. So, was there even any use working with those? Climbing upwards, the same question kept appearing in slightly different outfits. Would it really benefit anyone working with the level they were currently not inhabiting — seeing as my whole point with the booklet was the merits of tailoring your inner work to your current level?
The point of “level-tailored” work vs working with all of the levels
Delving deeper into the topic and shifting upwards through the levels, the course taking shape as if under its own steam, I was surprised how clear it was to me that the answer was “yes”. It is immensely rewarding to do this work — all of it. Because there are two ways to do it: When you are in a particular bind and perhaps find yourself struggling with at your current level — that is the time to acknowledge where you are at, looking up the relevant passage in the booklet, and focus specifically on the steps particular to that level.
But other times, when we are in a more even-keeled, everyday mode and doing our everyday (or “everyweek” or however it might look for you) work, then that, on the other hand, provides a brilliant opportunity for us to explore, to research, to familiarise ourselves with fears, perspectives, and antidotes at the whole range of levels, so that we can recognise them when we take a plunge in reactivity. And it’s really only when we’ve put in the groundwork here that our chances of using the work in more dire straits are worth mentioning.
The good old benefit of hindsight 😉
Looking at it all in hindsight, this feels a bit “duuh”. Of course that is how it works. This is how it always works, after all, why inner work is useful in the first place. We do not sit down to meditate, or do emotional or other therapeutic work, only in response to an urgent need; to remedy acute reactivity. That would never work, as it is impossible to learn such things from that perspective (and as we are, as a rule, most reluctant to take in any perspective when our need for it is the greatest). It makes much more sense to practice with small things and from our everyday awareness, away from immediate reactions and flaring moods. And why should working with the levels be any different?
So, as usual, the benefit of hindsight is a fine thing 🧐. Also, with that, I can now confidently say: Please, do join this course! It will give you clarity on important aspects of your psyche and tools for how to approach inner turbulence in a way that does not feed ego reactivity, but rather holds it, allows it to gently subside and makes it possible to guide our own journey to higher ground. If that’s not a fantastic gift to yourself for a New Year, I don’t know what is ❤️