Beena Sharma, president of the Vertical Development Academy (VeDA), gives a beautifully cogent explanation of the 8-stage, full spectrum model of adult psychological development, Vertical Development, illuminating us not only to the characteristics of each stage of development, but the implications and ramifications of each stage, the process of human development as a whole, and how this model can help us face our current metacrisis. Beena describes how “each stage is a way of seeing the world and oneself, a constellation of our beliefs and assumptions,” and we discover that our development takes form in patterns of evolving worldviews, a progression of capacities with which we make sense of the world.
On an individual level, Beena asks, “Where is your foot nailed to the floor? Where are parts of you still ahead of you? How can this framework help you make a shift?” And collectively, “What does it mean for the human being to evolve? What makes us think humans at this time are at the end of the evolutionary ladder?” Vertical development focuses on the evolving ego, and interestingly, takes us to the stage where we realize the ego itself is only a construct—and beyond. As well as a brilliant unpacking of the vertical development model and map, this is a profound, warm-hearted conversation, about human evolution and possibility, the dance of the dual and the nondual, the infinitude of the psyche, and what it means to come home to oneself. Recorded July 13, 2022.
“The earlier the stage, the greater the gift; the later the stage, the greater the promise.”
Topics & Time Stamps – Part 1
- Introducing teacher and developmental coach Beena Sharma (1:45)
- The most exciting discovery in psychology is that psychological development and maturity can continue far beyond our 20s, and beyond our conception of “normality” (02:51)
- We are being evolved; we are transitional beings. Nature’s secret is the evolutionary process (05:15)
- Exploring human development and the farther reaches of human possibilities: what does it mean for adults to mature? (06:52)
- Jane Loevinger’s research showed patterns of evolving worldviews, a progression of capacities to make sense of the world, the trajectory revealed through the stories people tell (11:12)
- Creating space for the process of development, i.e. not using words like higher and lower, saying instead earlier and later (15:26)
- Maturity is coming to new understandings about what is real, giving up our assumptions, subject becomes object (18:58)
- Vertical development is a psychoactive model: just understanding that further development is possible helps us grow into our potentials (21:00)
- Using this framework in an ethical way: be careful not to use it in a reductionist way and label people as inferior; hold it lightly, the stages are idealizations (23:35)
- What happens over the course of development? How do we get there? Vertical development is an outcome rather than a goal (27:29)
- Self-centric stage: self-preservation and survival (29:32)
- Group-centric: the “socialized” stage, where you want to fit in and belong (32:22)
- Skill-centric stage: my identity is defined by what I do, not what I am (35:25)
- The triumph of stepping into the next worldview, the next stage (35:55)
- Loving people at whatever level they are at: “the earlier the stage, the greater the gift; the later the stage, the greater the promise.” (39:08)
- Earlier stages are not negative, but they are more limited in capacity (40:45)
- The crisis in parenting, in grandparenting, in ancestoring (44:29)
- Self-determining stage: now I am an independent agent, the master of my destiny, capable of choice and a healing objectivity (46:15)
- Preconventional, conventional, postconventional stages (52:04)
- This developmental process is the ego’s process of evolution, the ego’s process of creating a more complex, nuanced map of how to make sense of the world (53:22)
Resources & References – Part 1
- Beena Sharma, founder of the Vertical Development Academy (VeDA): facilitating leadership maturity
- Sri Aurobindo, sage of modern India
- Jane Loevinger’s Stages of Ego Development, Ego Development,* Paradigms of Personality*
- Susanne Cook-Greuter, Postautonomous Ego Development: A Study of Its Nature and Measurement*
- Rorschach test
- Gordon Allport, a pioneer in the study of personality
- Robert Kegan, The Evolving Self*
- Enneagram of Personality and the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
- Depth psychology and evolutionary psychology
* As an Amazon Associate, Deep Transformation earns from qualifying purchases.
Beena Sharma currently stewards Vertical Development Academy (VeDA) as its founding president, with a vision to enhance the practice of human development. Beena has a passion around helping individuals and organizations orient themselves to the path of the evolving human being across the various stages of maturity as revealed through empirical research and sound theory. She sees the progressive unfolding of maturity in adults as a process where the narrow, the limited, and the conflicting open to a more comprehensive, a more real, a more complete intuition and perspective—each stage of human maturity a temporary station of a more adequate understanding of the human condition.
Beena is a gifted master coach, consultant, teacher, and thought leader. She has been recognized nationally and internationally for her achievements in successfully conceptualizing, developing, and delivering systemic leadership development initiatives. Beena has led efforts as an executive and consultant for various agencies of the U.S. government and leading private-sector companies in healthcare and other industries in the U.S., U.K., Europe, Russia, Brazil, South Africa, and India. Beena is committed to designing and delivering exceptional learning experiences to build deep capability in individuals and organizations in service of creating a sustainable future for our civilization.
Podcast produced by Vanessa Santos and Show Notes by Heidi Mitchell
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