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The Eight Dimensions of Personal Development

-- An Integral Theory for Growth Professionals --

Hugh & Amalia Kaye Martin

P.O. Box 1736
Sebastopol, CA 95473
(707) 874-9799/ -9699
[email protected]
[email protected]

Copyright Hugh Martin & Co.  April 2007

Permission is granted to quote from, revise, and improve this article for non-profit purposes -- provided proper attribution is given to Hugh & Kaye Martin and to Whole Life Advisory, and provided that a copy of modifications and intended use are sent to the addresses below and written confirmation from the authors is received.]


HUGH MARTIN is listed in Who’s Who in the World.  He has appeared on numerous talk shows, led seminars at many colleges and corporations, and spoken at numerous professional conferences and colloquia.  Mr. Martin is president of the NASD-registered securities brokerage firm, Hugh Martin Securities, and of the SEC-registered investment advisory firm, Hugh Martin & Co.  Hugh is also president and co-founder of the life planning and counseling firm, Whole Life Advisory. 

AMALIA KAYE MARTIN (‘Kaye’) is a gifted natural medicine practitioner and an instructor in nutrition and natural medicine at Baumann College.  Kaye is a dedicated homemaker, full-time mother, ‘clairvoyant’ life counselor, certified natural foods chef, and dynamic community organizer.

The Eight Dimensions of Personal Development


The world is made up of two kinds of people – the few who grow, and the many who don’t.  Those who grow are called Cultural Creatives[1] -- or self-actualizers, or Translucents, or enlightened beings.  Those who don’t are called Droids, or Zombies, or Stepford Wives, or Couch Potatoes, or flatlanders, or meatheads (at least by the Creatives!).  The Cultural Creatives seek various forms of growth -- enlightenment, enlivenment, maturity, individuality, fulfillment, out-of-the-box thinking, the cutting edge, or realizing their human potential.  The Droids generally seek stasis – in the form of comfort, security, stability, conformity, herd mentality, status quo, and fitting into the most convenient niche.  The Creatives often see life as a journey or a quest.  The Droids rarely contemplate life at all.[2]

Cultural Creatives are often involved in radical politics (at both ends of the spectrum), environmental issues, the human potential movement, Eastern religions, the arts.  They need not be in the vanguard.  They need not be of a particular political or religious persuasion.  But they are all involved in, committed to, and passionate about personal growth, radical self-expression, spiritual evolution, transformation of consciousness, and other forms of improvement and enlightenment. 

Why is growth important?  What difference does it make?  Why make the effort? – especially since it seems so much easier to just stay the same.  Growth offers several significant benefits:

  • Aliveness.  If we are growing, we feel more vital, more engaged, more aware, more present, more exhilarated by each moment,.  Life is more fun and more interesting.

  • Health.  If we are more alive, our bodies feel better.  If we are more energetic, and more flowing, it’s likely we’ll be healthier and live longer.

  • Significance.  If we are growing, we are more likely to be on the cutting edge of change.  As a catalyst to those around us, we are more likely to impact and influence the course of society – to be a greater force for good.

  • True to nature.  As we look around us, all living things are growing and changing.  Trees spread their branches, caterpillars metamorphose into butterflies, birds mate and bear young.  If we embrace growth, we are more true to our own nature as living beings.

  • Fulfillment.  As Creatives, we yearn to drink deeply of all life has to offer.  Growth allows us to fill that inner longing, to satisfy that desire to move beyond the confines of the ordinary.

  • Inevitability.  If we are at heart Creatives, we can’t remain static even if we want to.  We may crave stability, but it slips from your grasp.  If our life will be in flux anyway, why not let go?   Why not jump into the tumbling, frothing current, and enjoy swirling flow? 

In human potential circles, there is much talk about growth.  There are many generalizations about personal development, self-actualization, achieving one’s potential, and connecting with one’s true self.  But almost no one asks what growth actually consists of.  What does it really mean to grow?  What are the components of personal evolution?  Who within us actually does the growing?  How do I know whether I am growing, and in what directions? What’s the difference between evolutionary growth, and just solving problems?  How can we distinguish between true growth and mere posturing and self-aggrandizement? How can I consciously initiate and orchestrate my own growth?  This article endeavors to find meaningful and relevant answers to such questions.


Growth is the process of moving or progressing along what we call the Growth Continuum.  The Growth Continuum is a multi-faceted field consisting of eight Dimensions – all of which cohere, resonate, and weave into a single, seamless pattern of personal development.  The eight Dimensions are:

  • Stage growth.  We grow as we move through the various Stages of human development.

  • Transition growth.  We grow as we Transition from one Stage to the next.

  • Realm growth.  We grow simultaneously in all four Realms of human consciousness.

  • Arena growth.  We grow differentially within the various Arenas of each Realm.

  • Participant growth.  We grow individually within our Selves, but also collectively – as members of groups.

  • Vector and direction growth.  We grow in four Vectors – but also in two Directions along those Vectors.

  • Therapeutic growth.  As basically healthy people, we grow by actualizing our human potential.  But as people with our normal share of problems, we grow by resolving those problems.

  • Coordination growth.  We grow by coordinating all the other Dimensions of growth into balanced, harmonious whole.

Each of these Dimensions will be examined in detail in the course of this article.


In professional practice, as well as one’s own life, growth along the Growth Continuum is implemented by a set of Processes.  Processes of growth are all the techniques, therapies, practices, programs, activities, explorations, studies, and focused experiences that move us along the Growth Continuum.  The 32 major Processes of human growth are described in detail in our companion article, The Processes of Growth (‘Processes’).  Specific experiential examples of each Process are presented in our second companion article, The Processes in Real Life (‘Real Life’) [both in preparation as of April 2007]. 


The framework for our investigation is called the Whole Life Model – since it addresses the ‘whole person’ over a ‘whole lifetime.’  The Whole Life Model (WLM) is derived in large part from the Integral Psychology of philosopher Ken Wilber[3] – generally recognized as the most profound, comprehensive, influential, and popular integral theorist of our day.  Parallels to and departures from Wilber’s system are noted in the footnotes – along with contributions from other important investigators.[4] 

Key terms are Capitalized; the first appearance of such terms is bolded.  Illustrations and examples of key concepts are provided through the set of simplified Tables in the Appendix of this article – which are referenced by footnotes and links, as appropriate.  For additional validation and illustration, the reader is encouraged to consult the more complex and complete tables in Arrays of Light – Ken Wilber’s Tables of Correspondence (‘Arrays’) -- our companion article posted on

Since no one can be an expert on such a vast array of fields, this study is offered not as a definitive answer – but as an invitation to focused inquiry and spirited discussion.  Please send your comments, questions, and proposed modifications to the addresses shown at the beginning of this article.



We grow as we move through the various Stages of human development.  Stages[6] are the levels of development, maturity, enlivenment, or enlightenment through which we pass as we grow.  Stages are generally periods of horizontal Translation[7] – times when we are expanding and becoming better at activities we already know how to do.  Stage Growth occurs as we meet and master the challenges presented by a particular Stage.

Ex: “As a toddler, I’m getting better and better at walking.”

For an example of Stage Growth, see Table 1, Life Passages, colored rows.


We grow as we Transition from one Stage to the next.  Transitions are the quantum leaps that take us from one Stage to the next.  Transitions are generally periods of vertical Transformation – times when we are becoming something we’ve never been before.  Transition growth[9] occurs as we leave the familiar comfort of past (often-surmounted) challenges, and venture into the unknown territory of strange and daunting new challenges.

Ex: “I’m getting up off all fours, taking the chance I might fall and hurt myself, and learning how to toddle.”

For an example of Transition Growth, see Table 1, Life Passages, grey rows.

The Transition cycle

Transition occurs through a four-phase process we call the Transition Cycle:[10]

1. Identification (‘embedding’[11]).  Initially, the Self identifies with a particular Stage of development (manifests the initial Experienced Self[12]). 

Ex: “I am a baby.”

2. Differentiation (‘dis-embedding’).  Next, the Self transcends that Stage by dis-identifying with it (manifests the Observed Self). 

Ex: “I am no longer the baby I was.”

3. Re-identification (‘re-embedding’).  Then, the Self begins to identify with the subsequent Stage of development (manifests a new Experienced Self). 

Ex: “I am now a toddler.”

4. Integration.  Finally, the Self consolidates the new identification -- integrating the new Experienced Self with the old Observed Self.

Ex: “I’m a toddler with good feelings about the baby I used to be.”

The Sequence of Stages and Transitions

The basic developmental sequence is a series of alternating Stages and Transitions – of Translation, followed by Transformation, followed by Translation, and so forth.[13]

Fundamental Developmental Sequence.  For the internal Passages[14] of psyche, body, and spirit, the entire series of alternating Stages and Transitions is called the Fundamental Developmental Sequence (FDS).[15]  All told, the FDS for internal Passages consists of 38 distinct steps.[16]  For the sake of clarity and simplicity, these steps are consolidated into 12 developmental Clusters,[17] – consisting of 12 Stages, separated by 11 Transitions.  Within those 12 Clusters, the seven central Stages are known in Eastern philosophy as the Chakras.[18]

For an outline of the FDS, along with its related Clusters and Chakras, see Table 2, The Fundamental Development Sequence and the Chakras.



We grow simultaneously and differentially in all four Realms of consciousness.  The Realms[20] are the major domains or spheres of human experience in which growth and development can occur – everyday life, the psyche, the body, and the spirit.  Corresponding to these Realms, there are four major sequences of human growth (called Passages) -- one external and three internal.  Each sequence contains a series of Stages and Transitions through which growth takes place:[21]

Life Passages.[22]  Life Passages are the external phases of accomplishment or Achievement that occur as we progress through the Life Cycle. 

Ex: “In my Life Passages, I develop from infancy to old age along the biological life cycle.”

For details and examples, see Table 1, Life Passages, and Table 3 in Arrays.

Psyche Passages.[23]  Psyche Passages are the internal phases of mental Maturation that occur as we progress through the Stages of psychological Development. 

Ex: “In my Psyche Passages, I progress from a survival mentality to visionary wisdom.”

For details and examples, see Table 3, Psyche Passages, and Table 4A-I in Arrays.

Body Passages.  Body Passages are the internal phases of physical Enlivenment that occur as we awaken and connect the Energy Centers of our body. 

Ex: “In my Body Passages, my attention proceeds from Base Chakra needs for food and comfort to the Brow Chakra higher-thought functions of my central nervous system.”

For details and examples, see Table 4, Body Passages, and Table 5 in Arrays.

Spirit Passages.  Spirit Passages are the internal phases of spiritual Enlightenment that occur as we ascend through the Stages and States[24] of spiritual Development.

Ex: “As Christians and Jews, we honor the Spirit Passages of life with seven sacraments – ranging from Baptism at birth to Extreme Unction at death.”[25]

For details and examples, see Table 5, Spirit Passages, and Tables 6A-D in Arrays.

Because growth in psyche, body, and spirit occurs through corresponding Stages, such growth can occur simultaneously in all three internal Realms. Such simultaneous and corresponding growth is best described from the perspective of Eastern philosophy, using the concept of the Chakras.

The Chakras.[26]  The Chakras may be viewed as both a condensation of the FDS[27] and as an integration of the three internal Passages.  From a Western perspective, the Chakras are merely a consolidation, condensation, or simplification of the FDS into seven basic Stages.[28]  From an Eastern perspective, the Chakras are energy phenomena that manifest themselves simultaneously in all three internal Realms of Body, Psyche, and Spirit.  At the Body level, the Chakras are experienced as seven nerve plexes located in ascending bodily regions from the base of the spine to the crown of the head.  At the Psyche level, the Chakras are experienced as seven Stages of mental and emotional expansion.  At the Spirit level, the Chakras are experienced as seven portals through which universal cosmic energy flows into our being.  Thus, from an Eastern perspective, each Stage of development is simultaneously physical, psychological, and spiritual.

“When my chiropractor gives me a sacral adjustment (base of spine), I experience increased physical stability (body), emotional grounding (psyche), and spiritual compassion (spirit).  When he gives me an atlas/axis adjustment (top of neck), I experience improved eyesight (body), mental clarity (psyche), and spiritual enlightenment (spirit).”

For a comparison of equivalent Stages in all three internal Realms, and their correspondence to the Chakras, see Table 6, Internal Passages.


We grow differentially within the various Arenas of each Realm.  Arenas[30] are the spheres of action, the types of experience, the themes of development, or the aspects of personal evolution within each Realm in which growth takes place.  Each Realm possesses its own set of Arenas.

Ex: “I live my everyday life in approximately 12 Arenas – ranging from my career, to my finances, to my health, to my marriage.  I’m growing fine in the Career Arena – but not so well in the Relationship Arena.”

For the Arenas in Life Passages, see Table 7, Life Arenas.

At each Stage of life, and within each Arena, we grow by encountering certain key Issues.  These challenging Issues must be addressed and resolved to transition successfully to the next Stage. 

Ex: “In the relationships Arena, I used to experiment and ‘play the field’ as an unattached teenager.  Now that I’m a Young Adult, the Issue of finding a lifetime partner is becoming important to me.”

For typical Issues in the Relationships Arena of Life Passages, see Table 8, Relationship Issues..



We grow individually, but also as groups – couples, families, workgroups, communities, or societies. 

Ex: “As an individual, I continue to grow well.  But at the group level, my family is in strife, and my workgroup is really bogged down.”

Therefore, Participants in the growth process can be of two types -- Individual or Collective

Individual participants

The Self.  The Individual Participant in the growth process is the Self.  That Self is encountered in three aspects:[32]

Experienced Self, or I-Self.[33]  The Experienced Self is the observing, subjective, inside Self.  This Self identifies with our current Stage of development.

Observed Self, or Me-Self.[34]  The Observed Self is the detached, objective, outside Self.  This is the Self from a prior Stage of development that we have transcended, or otherwise ceased to identify with.

Transcendent Self or Witness.[35]  The Transcendent Self is the all-pervasive Seer or I-I-Self.  It is our Essence, True Self, or True Nature.

Ex: “When I was a Young Adult, I was intensely involved in striving for the perks of success.  Now that I’ve passed through Mid-Life, I look back at the Old Me with bemusement.  My compassionate Witness takes in all of it – both the striving and the bemusement.”

For examples of Individual growth of the Immediate Self, see Table 1, Life Passages – as well as Tables 3-5.

The Experienced and Observed Selves together comprise what we call the Immediate Self.  Since the Immediate Self undergoes sequential, stage-like development[36] it is the essential participant in the individual growth process.[37]  The Immediate and Transcendent selves together comprise the Overall Self.[38]

There are two other aspects of the individual Self which are essential to growth -- the Persona and the Sub-personalities:

The Persona.  The Persona (or Role) is our ‘public face’ -- the set of attributes and behaviors we construct to enable the Self to play a part in the drama of existence.[39]  In other words, the Persona is the Self’s way of engaging in Life Passages.[40] 

Enneagram Roles.  The Enneagram is a particular system for categorizing (‘typing’) Personae.  An Enneagram Role,[41] or ‘Enneagram Type,’ can be viewed as the fundamental cluster of attributes by which the Self manifests its public character.  Normally, a person will manifest a Dominant Role and one or more Contributing Roles

Ex: “I’m predominantly a principled, idealistic Reformer – but I’m supported in that Role by strong characteristics as an ambitious Achiever and a meticulous Investigator.”

For an outline of all nine Enneagram Types, in both fixated and evolved forms, see Table 9, Enneagram Roles.

Inter-passage growth.  The Persona serves a key function in a form of development called Inter-Passage Growth.  Inter-Passage Growth describes the trajectory the Self passes through over the course of a lifetime -- from internal growth, to external, and back to internal.[42]

Ex: “ I began life as a dreamy, clueless kid.  Over the years, I learned to cope and make my way in the world.  Now I’m ready to return to that idyllic state of internal awareness – but with heightened insight and wisdom.”

The three phases of Inter-Passage growth are as follows:

1.      Internal Orientation (immature Essence).  Initially, the infant and young child is focused entirely on its internal needs, urges, and desires.  Lacking an effective Persona, the child is relatively helpless regarding the challenges of everyday life.

2.      External Orientation (Persona).  External orientation emerges in order to equip us  to confront and cope with a variety of real-life situations.  As we mature, our Self develops a Persona, or Role, that allows us to ‘play a part’ (really, a whole series of personae and a whole series of parts) in the drama of existence.  Maximum external-orientation generally occurs by mid-life, when our greatest level of worldly success is attained.

3.      Internal Orientation (mature Essence).  Once that Persona has served its purpose, the Self moves back toward Internal Orientation.  Role dissolution takes place (often through mid-life crisis) -- breaking down the artificial Persona, and allowing the Self to return home to its authentic nature, or mature Essence.

Thus, we begin life narcissistically-focused on the internal Passages of Body, Psyche, and Spirit.  Increasingly, we direct our attention to experience-rich, external Life Passages.  Finally, we return to wisdom-filled, internal Passages in the latter trimester of life.  The result is a peculiar U-shaped Pattern of development -- where internal growth is initiated early in life, then apparently abandoned, then resumed much later.[43]

Sub-personalitiesOur psyche holds numerous Subpersonalities[44] – Personae, Roles, Ennea-types, Adult/Child/Parent ego states, and so forth.  In their benign form, these mini-identities help us handle various life situations – speaking before a group, settling an argument, joking with friends, and so forth.  On the other hand, pernicious or malevolent Sub-personalities -- sometimes called inner saboteurs, shadow-selves, or Gremlins[45] -- are subterranean creatures sometimes spawned when the Self fails to dis-identify with a past Stage.  These perverse, often-neurotic Gremlins – the harsh inner critic, the devious underdog, the neglected child, etc. -- may ‘set up shop in [our] basement, where they sabotage further growth and development.’[46]

Ex: “Every time I try out for a job, my Inner Critic tells me I’ll never measure up – so I blow the interview.”

Collective participants

Collective Participants.  Collective Participants in the growth process include every human group from two-person relationships, to families, to workgroups, to communities, to cultures.  Human groups follow a stage-related growth sequence very comparable to that of Individuals.  

Culture Passages.

Among Collective Participants, the ones most commonly studied from an integral perspective are cultures.[47]  Culture Passages are the internal (cultural) and external (societal) phases of development that occur as mass populations progress through the Stages and Transitions of cultural development.  Culture Passages follow a Stage-related growth path similar to individuals, but spread over eons of time.  The Spiral Dynamics[48] model of Clare Graves and Don Beck is perhaps the most popular and influential contemporary system of Culture Passages. 

Ex:  “I’m just a farm boy living a country life not much different from olden times.  But after I go to college, and go to work for a big city corporation, I’ll become part of the modern age.”

For details and examples of Culture Passages, see Table 10, Culture Passages.

Generational Growth.

An important but little-recognized form of Collective Growth is called Generational Growth.  A Generation is a biological period of life, normally about 20-25 years, between the time one is born and the time one first procreates.  According to Strauss and Howe,[49] advanced cultures repeatedly pass through a Generational Cycle consisting of four characteristic Generations:

à        Prophetic.  Conceives a new cultural vision and a new impetus for change.

à        Reactive.  Reacts against or detaches from the dominance of the Prophetics.

à        Civic.  Fills out and implements the vision of the Prophetics.

à        Bureaucratic.  Institutionalizes and standardizes what once was the Prophetic Vision. 

After the four Generations are complete, the cycle repeats all over again – but at a higher level of development.  A small number of great people dominate and typify each Generation.

Ex:  “Between the Civil War and the 1950’s, America passed through four Generations: Roosevelt and Frank Lloyd Wright (Prophetics), Hemingway and Bogart (Reactives), Disney and John Wayne (Civics), Walter Mondale and the Four Freshmen (Bureaucratics).  In the 1960’s, a whole new Cycle began with the Beatles and Bill Gates (Prophetics).”

For details and examples, see Table 11, Generational Cycles.



We grow in four Vectors – but also in both Directions along those Vectors.

Vectors of growth

The Individual and Collective Participants in growth[51], combined with the inner and outer Passages of growth,[52] form what we call the Vectors[53] -- the four major paths along which human growth proceeds. 

Ex: “My financial achievements (upper-right) affect my external circumstances, but also my internal state of pride and confidence (upper-left).  In addition, they affect my accepted role in society (lower-right), and the respect accorded me by a materialistic culture (lower-left).”

The matrix below illustrates the four perspectives represented by these Vectors:


Vectors of growth


Wilber Quadrants

Individual/ Body-Psyche-Spirit Passages

Individual/ internal

Inner Personal


Individual/ Life Passages

Individual/ external

Outer Personal


Collective/ Body-Psyche-Spirit Passages

Collective/ internal



Collective/ Life Passages

Collective/ external



Directions of growth

External development occurs in only one Direction – as our Life Passages proceed inexorably from infancy through old age.  Internal growth in psyche, body, and spirit, however, takes place in two opposite Directions – ascending and descending.[54] Thus, in each internal Realm of development, we actually evolve toward two opposite states of consciousness:


Ascending vector

Descending vector

Life Passages

Upward toward Achievement

Downward toward Fulfillment

Body passages

Upward toward Aliveness

Downward toward Grounding

Psyche passages

Upward toward Maturity

Downward toward Authenticity

Spirit passages

Upward toward Enlightenment

Downward toward Compassion

Ex: “As I grow up, I develop psychologically in two very different, but complementary ways. I become more mature mentally and emotionally.  At the same time, I slough off false identities, and become progressively more authentic.”

The Growth Continuum, then, is best characterized, not as a single upward trajectory, but as a cyclic movement between two opposites.  According to many religious and philosophical perspectives, these opposites are manifestations of fundamental Polarities of the universe – male and female, mind and body, spirit and flesh, symbol and meaning, yang and yin.  As healthy human beings, we embrace, actualize, and integrate both Polarities and all intervening Stages – moving fluidly up and down the developmental column in a rhythmic ebb and flow. 



As basically healthy people, we grow by actualizing our human potential.  But as people with our normal share of problems, we grow by resolving those problems.

Ex: “My career and my financial life are going well -- but I’m working to release blocks, so I can express my emotions more freely.”

When growth Processes are applied to so-called ‘normal’ people, they are described in terms of the Wellness Model -- as ‘experiences’ and ‘explorations’ in ‘human potential,’ ‘self-actualization,’ or ‘personal evolution.’  When such Processes are applied to people who are viewed as ‘having problems,’ they are described in terms of the Medical Model -- as ‘therapies’ or ‘treatments’ of ‘neuroses,’ ‘pathologies,’ or ‘mental illness.’

Problems, or Impediments,[55] are all the ways the growth process can go wrong.  In every Dimension, Impediments can cause the growth process to be distorted, neglected, split off, repressed, denied, ignored, or avoided.  Thus, for every Dimension of the Growth Continuum, there is a corresponding Impediment – as outlined below:

Stage Impediments[56]

We can avoid, or fail to confront, the challenges that are inherent in a given Stage of development. 

Ex:  “As a young adult, I’ve been putting off seeking a challenging job.”

Or, in facing those challenges, we may fail to surmount them. 

Ex:  “As a young adult, I found a job I liked, but got fired for irresponsibility.”

If severely challenged or thwarted, we may regress back to a previous Stage – or shift our efforts to another Realm or Arena entirely.

Ex:  “I’m thinking of going back to school, so my parents will take care of me.”

Transition Impediments[57]

We may have trouble relinquishing the comforts of a prior Stage. 

Ex:  “As a Mid-lifer in Transition, I’m reluctant to give up the perks of wealth and success.”

Or, we may have difficulty facing the challenges of the new Stage. 

Ex:  “As a Mid-lifer, it’s too painful to resurrect all those long-buried dreams and aspirations of my youth.”

Among Impediments, some of the most insidious and tenacious are those of the Transition Cycle.[58]  Problems may develop in any of the four phases:

1.      Weak bonding (vs. Identification).  Our identification or bonding to the initial Stage may be weak or tenuous.  Thus, we can lack a solid platform from which to move forward with confidence and strength. 
Ex: “I’m an insecure baby.”

2.      Fixation (vs. Differentiation).  We may cling to the old Stage, failing to Differentiate – remaining fixated, fused, embedded, arrested. 
Ex: “I won’t give up my babyhood.”

3.      Disattachment (vs. Re-identification).  We may fail to establish a solid bond or commitment to the new Stage – thereby leaving ourselves disattached, alienated, fragmented, rootless, homeless, in limbo. 
Ex: “I’m no longer a baby, but I can’t cope with the challenges of toddlerhood.”

4.      Dissociation (vs. Integration).  We may dissociate ourselves from the prior Stage – avoiding, denying, repressing, or disowning the Observed Self.  We may thereby force it underground, creating an inner saboteur, or Gremlin,[59] with all the classic symptoms of neurosis. 
Ex: “I’m a toddler, but want to forget how unpleasant it was being a baby.”

Realm and Arena Impediments[60]

We may concentrate on the Realms and Arenas we do best at, and ignore the ones where we have trouble succeeding.

Ex, Realms: “I tend to avoid the practical issues in the Realm of Real Life.  I prefer to live my life in the Realms of Psyche and Spirit.”

Ex, Arenas: “In the psychological Arenas, I’m great at feelings and relationships, but I avoid thinking and expressing opinions, because I’m afraid of embarrassing myself.”

We may also experience Inter-Passage Impediments.  We may never build an adequate Persona for dealing with the external Realm of Real Life. 

Ex: “My Mom always remained a little girl, and just let Dad take care of everything practical for her.”

Or, we may cling to that Persona, failing to return to the internal Realms of our True Self.

Ex: “My Dad became so practical, he never found out what he really wanted from life.”

Participant Impediments[61]

We may know our own mind, but never be able to function in groups. 

Ex:  “I’ve always been a maverick, who did things in his own time in his own way.  I never did well in team activities.”

Or we may always follow the crowd, and never be able to speak up for ourselves.

Ex:  “I don’t seem to know what I want, unless I ask someone else’s opinion.”

We may have problems with our Enneagram Role.  We may fail to recognize and live within our innate Role. 

Ex: “I’m embarrassed at being an ambitious, competitive Achiever, and have always longed to be an idealistic Reformer.”

Or, we may accept our Role, but fail to evolve within it.

Ex: “I’m a principled, crusading Reformer, but I always alienate others because I’m rigid, hostile, and judgmental.”

The Generational Cycle may be disrupted by social catastrophe.

Ex: “The Generational Cycle in 18th Century America was aborted – when so many hopeful, loyal, patriotic Civics were wiped out in the Civil War.”

Or, the Generational Cycle may lapse altogether (‘de-generate’), if the culture slips into static, non-progressive behavior – perhaps as a result of political-economic difficulties and/or loss of vision.

Ex: “The Golden Age of Israel progressed from Samuel (Prophetic), to Saul (Reactive), to David (Civic), to Solomon (Bureaucratic) – but then rapidly fragmented and degenerated as a result of Solomon’s excesses.”

Vector & Direction Impediments[62]

We may emphasize a single Vector, at the expense of the other three.

Ex:  “I’m concerned with the betterment of mankind through social change, so I ignore the personal needs and desires of both myself and my family.”

We may be all-head -- over-emphasizing the exhilaration of the ascending Direction of growth. 

Ex: “As an enlightened meditator, I am filled with compassion for humanity, but don’t actually care much for individuals.”

Or we may be all-feelings -- over-indulging in the comforts of the descending Direction. 

Ex: “As a gifted thinker, I can solve differential equations in my head, but have trouble tying my shoelaces.”

Coordination Impediments[63]

We may exploit our strongest, most lavishly-rewarded Talents, while neglecting or avoiding our weakest, or least-rewarded attributes.  As a result, our constitution may become over-developed in one area (say, career) – with all the attendant stress and exhaustion to our systems – while our other capabilities (say, emotions) may atrophy through under-use.

Ex: “I have lots of psychological self-knowledge, and a pretty solid spiritual path, but I can’t find a satisfying job or maintain a long-term relationship.”

Alternatively, we may become content with mediocrity -- never developing any of our gifts to a level approaching their potential.



Ex: “I could have become a successful concert pianist, but because of my inheritance, I never had to try my hardest at anything.”


We grow by coordinating all the other Dimensions of growth into balanced, harmonious whole.

Ex: “It’s important to me to balance my material achievements with physical vigor and psychological maturity.”

Through luck, diligence, and inspired intuition, we endeavor to weave together the diverse strands of our development – the challenging Stages we pass through, the harrowing Transitions we overcome, the magical Realms we explore, the busy Arenas where we conduct daily life, the contending Participants who share our journey, the Vectors and Directions we travel, the Problems we ultimately hope to resolve.  The multi-dimensioned fabric that results is our life.

From Theory to Real Life

The human Growth Continuum consists of eight Dimensions – Stages, Transitions, Realms, Arenas, Participants, Vectors/directions, Therapeutic growth, and Coordination.  As distinct and diverse as they are, all eight Dimensions weave and interlace together in a single, grand, comprehensive process.  In all forms of growth, we develop through alternating phases of Stage and Transition – in an undulating flow of placid equilibrium, turbulent disequilibrium, and restored equilibrium.  This pulsing flow takes place on the broadest scale in the great Realms of consciousness, then on the more immediate and specific scale of life’s numerous Arenas.  There are various entities, both individual and collective, who participate in the flow.  The flow is of a cyclic nature, involving various Vectors and Directions.  Sometimes our access to the flow is impeded, diverted, or blocked – so we need Therapeutic growth to get us back on track.  And finally, we must orchestrate the various strands, so they all work together.  This is the miracle of growth.  It is complex, intricate, multi-faceted, at times almost chaotic – yet it all resonates, harmonizes, and coheres – flowing as a unity toward maturity, health, fulfillment, and enlightenment.

The present article has established the theoretical groundwork for understanding human growth.  In our companion article, The Processes of Human Growth [in preparation as of April 2007], we bring this theorizing to fruition.  There, we describe the 32 Processes that human beings have devised over the centuries to grow, develop, and evolve.  We outline the specific Modalities (techniques, programs) used within each Process – and show tangible, practical examples of how such Processes and Modalities may be applied to your practice, and to your life.  In a second companion article, The Processes in Real Life [also in preparation], we present detailed experiential examples showing how each Process looks and feels in real-life situations.  We encourage you to continue with us on this exciting and rewarding journey.



[1] Cf. Ray (2000).

[2] Of course, this comparison is an exaggerated, tongue-in-cheek caricature, designed to engage the reader and illustrate a point.  There are, of course, many fine people who lead such exemplary lives they have little need to grow.  Conversely, there are many so-called Creatives whose pretensions to enlightenment are embarrassing.  One’s ideological camp is never an adequate indicator of one’s value as a human being.

[3] The major source referenced in this presentation is Ken Wilber’s Integral Psychology (Wilber 2000) (‘IP’).  For additional Wilber sources, see Appendix B, Resources for Study..  Wilber’s approach to the practicalities of growth will be explored in greater detail in our companion article, Processes.

[4] For references to various important investigators, see Appendix B, Resources for Study.

[5] See also: Stage Impediments, page 17.

[6] Referred to variously by Wilber as Levels, Waves, Spheres, Nests, Holistic Patterns (Wilber 2000: 7).

[7] Wilber tends to disparage Translation, in comparison to Transformation: “Transformation. . . is a type of vertical shift or even mutation in consciousness structures, while Translation is a simple horizontal movement within a given structure. . .  Translation. . . is moving around on one floor; transformation is moving to a different floor altogether.” (Wilber 1981: 71)

However, according to our model, human growth is an alternating series of Stages and Transitions – of Translational phases succeeded by Transformational phases.  Since Translation and Transformation are links in the same sequence, each is equally essential (and equally challenging) in the overall growth process.  As with the tottering infant learning to walk, experimentation and practice on one flat ‘floor’ is as essential to growth as ‘climbing the stairs’ to the next level of development. 

Compare Life Passages footnote, page 9.

[8] See also: Transition Impediments, page 17.

[9] Described as Transformation by Wilber.  See above Thanslation footnote.

[10] The Transition Cycle is comparable to Wilber’s term Fulcrum – which consists of three phases: differentiation, identification, and integration (Wilber 2000: 93.  See also Wilber 2000: 35-36, 92-108, Wilber 1996, 131). (See Transition Cycle Impediments, page 17.)

In his discussion of Fulcrums, Wilber tends to conflate the two separate phases of Stage and Transition by equating two terms which are really quite different: Fulcrum (pivot point, i.e. Transition) and Milestone (intermediary destination or achievement, i.e. Stage).

[11] Embedding terminology from Kegan (1992).  (See Wilber 2000: 42-43.)

[12] For definitions of the Experienced Self and the Observed Self, see Participants section, page 12.

[13] For a clear example of this two-phase pattern, see the Stages and Transitions columns of Table 1, Life Passages.

[14] For an explanation, see Realm Growth, page 9.

[15] The FDS corresponds to Wilber’s Correlative Structures -- second-to-left column of each Integral Psychology Table (Wilber 2000: 197-217).

[16] Although characterized as a neat, ladder-like progression, growth is, of course, a very ‘messy affair’ – with the Self wandering all over the behavioral map (from mature to infantile) from one moment to the next.  The bell curve of our actions and attitudes will tend to hover around a particular Dominant Stage – with perhaps half our actions emanating from that Stage, and perhaps a quarter ranging to either side of it (Wilber 2000: 35-36).  Likewise, the number, order, and character of developmental Steps is somewhat arbitrary and subjective.  As Wilber points out, “. . . all such cartographies are simply different approaches to the many waves in the great River of Life, matter to mind to spirit, which is the most precious legacy of ancient wisdom.” (Wilber 2000: 190).

[17] What Wilber calls ‘functional groupings’ (Wilber 2000: 18). 

[18] See Chakra section in Realm Growth, page 10.

[19] See also: Realm and Arena Impediments, page 18

[20] Referred to variously by Wilber as Realms, Planes, Domains, Spheres, and Axes (Wilber 2000: 7, 237).  Wilber’s emphasis is almost exclusively on the Realms of Psyche and Spirit.

[21] Wilber’s basic Great Nest model describes the fundamental structure of reality – a series of nested wholes (Holons) of increasing complexity.  Wilber’s developmental system then applies those Holons to human growth – tracing development through a series of physical, psychological, and spiritual stages.  So far, so good.  However, once formed, Wilber’s system appears to portray our interior architecture of Body, Psyche, and Spirit as an ‘archeology,’ where one layer is stacked on one another in a single, continuous progression.  (Wilber 2000: 102-8)

However (as we see it), in the evolutionary process of increasing complexity, each Realm was not built over the last, like layers of an archeological dig, but was added to the existing ‘architectural’ structure as another level of Functionality.  (Literally, a case of ‘transcend and include’!)  That is, the seven Chakral regions – originally only physical – took on psychological and spiritual functions as humans evolved.  This distinction alters the whole strategy of personal growth or therapeutic treatment.  With a layered or ‘stacked’ model (Wilber’s), the Realms of Body, Mind, and Spirit are dealt with sequentially.  With a Multiple-Functionality model (WLM), all three Realms are addressed simultaneously, because they are structurally inseparable.  (See Chakra section of Realm Growth, page 10, for further exploration of this interpretation.)

The two views are not so contradictory as they may seem – just the same reality seen from two different perspectives.  At the core, Wilber is describing a systems-oriented theory of knowledge (from the lower-right perspective), while the Whole Life Model is describing a process-oriented approach personal growth (from the upper-left perspective).  Thus, the system itself does move sequentially toward increasing complexity.  However, the therapeutic process for achieving such complexity is, we believe, not sequential but simultaneous.

[22] Wilber largely ignores external Life Passages, relegating them to the status of ‘horizontal translation.’  Regarding Daniel Levinson’s influential The Seasons of a Man’s Life, for example, he comments, “Several stage conceptions, such as Levinson’s, deal with the ‘seasons’ of horizontal translation, not stages of vertical transformation” (Wilber 2000: 227).  Neither Levinson nor his prolific popularizer, Gail Sheehey, rate even an index reference in Integral Psychology.

However, as we see it, Life Passages -- as with the other three Realms -- consists of alternating phases of Translation (Stages) and Transformation (Transitions).  Thus, Life Passages – though by definition more superficial – is just one more Realm in which ‘true growth’ takes place.  (See discussion of Stage and Transition growth, page 7.)

[23] The concept of Psyche is a composite for all the mental experiences that occur within the human brain and nervous system – urges, emotions, routines, creativity, thought, and so forth.  The Psyche, in other words, comprises all the subjects in the field of psychology, or ‘psyche-logy.’

[24] Wilber (1996), 182-86, 191-93, 199-210.  Wilber calls these States nature mysticism (psychic), deity mysticism (subtle), formless mysticism (causal), and non-dual mysticism.

[25] See Myss (1996).

[26] See Judith (1996), Brennan (1998), and Easley (2006) in Resources Appendix. 

[27] See Fundamental Developmental Sequence (FDS), page 8.

[28] Wilber’s categorizaton of the Chakras relative to the FDS differs considerably from the traditional placement.  See Table 2, The FDS and the Chakras, for a side-by-side comparison.

[29] See also: Realm & Arena Impediments, page 18.

[30] Although Wilber has no term comparable to Arena, he does sometimes group his Lines into Arena-like clusters – as seen in his tables for Cognition, Self-development, and Morals.  (Wilber 2000: 201-02, 203-05, and 206-08, respectively.

[31] See also: Participant Impediments, page 19.

[32] Wilber (2000), 33-35, 91.

[33] Wilber’s ‘Proximate Self.’  Wilber (2000), 91, 197, 225.  Related to what Wilber calls ‘Self-sense.’

[34] Wilber’s ‘Distal Self.’  Related to what Wilber calls ‘Self-system.’

[35] Wilber (1996), 199-210.  Referred to variously by Wilber as: ultimate subject, pure consciousness, antecedent self, emptiness.

[36] See Transition Cycle, page 8.

[37] As Wilber poetically describes it, “. . . the Proximate Self. . . is the navigator through the basic waves in the Great Nest of Being.” (Wilber 2000: 35)  As seen in our discussion of the Transition Cycle (page 8), both aspects of the Immediate Self are central participants in the growth process.

[38] Wilber refers to the combination of Proximate and Distal as the Overall Self (Wilber 2000: 33), and has no term for the composite of all three Selves.

[39] See Inter-Passage Growth below, page 13.

[40] From our perspective, a Persona is not Stage-specific, but can be created at any Stage of development to deal with real-life circumstances.  Wilber uses Persona in a more restricted sense, to refer specifically to the Membership-Self (conformist Role-Self) or to the Rule/Role region of his Correlative Structures (steps 12-18 in the FDS).  (See Wilber 2000: 91, 126, 240-41, and 198 self-sense column)

[41] The Enneagram Roles are examples of true horizontal equivalence – since each of the nine Roles exist on the same hierarchical level, and each can undergo comparable Stages of development.  (Compare Wilber’s reference to Translation in Life Passages footnote, page 9, and in Stage Growth footnote, page 7.)

[42] Wilber rightly criticizes the Pre-/Trans- Fallacy – the notion that spiritual Enlightenment is equivalent to a return to an idealized, womblike Eden of early childhood.  In our model, the Self returns to an internal state that is radically matured from its original condition.

For a discussion of the Enneagram from the perspective of Essence, see Almaas (1998).

[43] Wilber particularly notes this phenomenon in the spiritual realm (Wilber 2000: 126, 141-42, 266), although it can be observed in all three internal Passages.

[44] See Rowan (1990).

[45] Wilber (2000), 100-02, 246-47.  For the effect of Gremlins on growth, see Transition Cycle, page 8, and Transition Cycle Impediments, page 17.  Term originates from Richard D. Carson, Taming Your Gremlin (1986).

[46] Wilber (2000), 101.

[47] In discussing Collective Participants, Wilber’s emphasis is almost exclusively on Cultures.  See Wilber (2000), 145-49, 154-55.

[48] See Beck (1996).

[49] Strauss and Howe (1991).

[50] See also: Vector & Direction Impediments, page 19.

[51] See Participants section, page 11.

[52] See Realms section, page 9.

[53] The Vectors correspond closely to Wilber’s four Quadrants of Integral Theory. We prefer the term Vector, because it conveys the dynamic and directional quality of each Quadrant.  The four Quadrants of Wilber’s Great Nest represent the four fundamental domains of reality.  (See Wilber 1996, 64-68 and all Wilber writings since 1995.)

[54] Wilber acknowledges both Directions, which he calls Evolution and Involution (Wilber 2000: 110-11, 190, 251).  However, throughout his work, Wilber’s strong emphasis is toward the ascending Vector.

[55] Wilber discusses both therapeutic and normal growth in his writings.  Integral Psychology, for example, deals largely with therapeutic growth (Wilber 2000: 92-100, 102-10), with a short section devoted to growth practices for normal people (Wilber 2000: 112-14).  Integral Spirituality concentrates on normal or evolved growth (Wilber 2006: 201-10).  Wilber’s approaches to growth will be discussed more fully in Processes.

[56] See Stage Growth, page 7.

[57] See Transition Growth, page 7.

[58] Wilber (2000), 92-108, 246-47.  (See also Transition Cycle, page 8.)

[59] For a discussion of Gremlins, see Sub-personalities section, page 14.

[60] See Realm Growth, page 9, and Arena Growth, page 11.

[61] See Participant Growth, page 11.

[62] See Vector & Direction Growth, page 15.

[63] See Coordination Growth below, page 20

[64] See Coordination Impediments above, page 19