This is part of a series of blogs reflecting on the program of Integral Europe Conference 2023,  whose theme was Planetary Awakening 2.0.

This blog introduces the sounds of Change and the Change Curve as the pattern that curates following blogs.

The IEC 2023 theme was Planetary Awakening 2.0.

As I attended the conference which had more than 200 presentation – including my own (Awakening to a Planet of Living Cities) – I could hear the distinctive sounds of Change as attendees interacted with presenters, ideas, experiences and each other – along a Change Curve I first learned from Clare Graves and Spiral Dynamics integral.

Clare Graves (Hamilton, Book 1) proposed that humans develop along a trajectory of progressively complex capacities. He described a double helix where individual and cultural development were intertwined with the life conditions (comprised of all the influences from climate, geography, ecology, history, culture, etc.). (Elsewhere I have even explored the possibility of a triple helix where feminine is intertwined with masculine and both with life conditions (Hamilton, ILR).

Graves terminology used letters of the alphabet to indicate levels of development where the first letter referenced the person and the second referenced the life conditions – AN, BO, CP, DQ, ER, FS, GT, HU). Altogether he described 8 levels.)

Each of the levels calls forth a change curve of stages: Alpha, Beta, Gamma (Trap), Delta, New Alpha (now popularized in a number of change theories including Adizes Corporate Lifecycles, Scharmer’s U Theory, Kegan’s change model, Kubler-Ross’ grief cycle, 3 Horizons).

In Living Cities.Earth we have proposed that the stages of change can be correlated to the states of happiness because each of the stages emerges from tensions that vibrate at different states of coherence. I introduce them here as a happiness or response pattern by which we can curate my experiences and others’ interactions with the IEC2023 program.

Alpha and New Alpha are likely the happiest / most positive response stages in the Change curve – because the human (whether individual or collective) is well aligned with their context. The “sound” of the change state in Alpha and new Alpha is one of a happy “hummmmm.”

Happiness becomes more difficult at Beta because life conditions shift the context of the person’s capacity for responding effectively – increasing tensions and eliciting audible “uh oh’s.”

The Beta stage – is characterized by the sense that something is not quite right. We ask how can we get back to Alpha”? So, Beta can be periodically happy when possibilities exist for the return to Alpha – but equally quickly can disappear when one is forced down the uncertain curve of change to the stage of “Gamma” – where unhappiness tends to abound because of the VUCA conditions of life (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous). The sound here can be “Oh Damn.” Nothing is certain or clear and everything seems to be changing all the time. If the change situation devolves into a “Gamma Trap” (where the sound darkens into “Oh Shit!) – then it will be very difficult to find happiness in individuals or collectives who feel themselves with no good options. Instead of happiness the feeling will likely be of fear, intimidation, anger, worry, despair, depression – the antithesis of happiness.

Few people are happy or positive when faced with a shift that is not only seemingly unmanageable – what Graves called a Gamma Trap – but which is a real life threat – the stark opposite of a happy/stable state.

Until the individual can learn a new path out of Gamma or the Gamma Trap into Delta, the state of happiness will be elusive. But when the discovery is made that removes the block and reopens the flow of change, the surge of joy and happiness at Delta can be so strong that it is experienced as elation, with commensurate sounds of “WOW” and bodily freedom as the weight of Gamma is removed from life.

After the surge of release, the new learning in Delta must be consolidated and integrated (transcending into a new stage that at its most coherent recalibrates all earlier stages and includes them in a new understanding of the world). In this final act of stage development the change experience has come full cycle and a New Alpha emerges with a “hmmmm” of happiness once more in the air.

In the fabric of happiness and positive perspectives, the rhythms and cycles of change are constantly flowing from and between individuals and groups, adding textures of discernment and healing to the 4 realms of bio-psycho-cultural-systems realities and the circles of care that embrace and elicit happiness and contentment with life – including the IEC 2023 Conference (read on to see how I apply this framework to the sounds of Change I heard around me at the conference.)