Click here to join!

Clothes Don’t Make The Person

"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. It may even be assumed that just as the unconscious affects us, so the increase in our consciousness affects the unconscious."

Carl Jung


In attempting to clarify my own thinking in Spiral Dynamics and to try to help others to grasp spiral intelligence. I’m going to try to list some assumptions/beliefs using a metaphor that I have about development theory, themes, threads, lines, levels, quadrants and dilly bars—as Wilber might say.  However, if you have no background in spiral dynamics or Gravesian Theory, then this is likely to be a rather strange experience. [ ]


1.    I’m going to use a metaphor of clothing to describe spiral intelligence as it forms as an all quadrant set of constructs independent, yet interdependent on the people who form it, such as people and clothing.

Ø      Clothing (vMEME = value system) is manufactured by people for various reasons.  It is dependent on an all quadrant approach, although that approach is mostly invisible (transparent) in the process.

Ø      As people go through life, they choose “clothing solutions” at different times to respond to differing “occasions” largely again through an invisible, often unconscious or unaware all-quadrant transparent approach, using the current level of development in various lines as a “determinant” in their choice, be it “running” or choosing them, or through awareness and conscious choice.

Ø      Clothing develops on its own as a variety of people are involved in the development of different levels of clothing, as those people (developers, innovators, early-adopters) awaken different styles and forms according to an independently occurring set of occasions dictated by life conditions—each “level” of person has experienced and used.

Ø      Anyone may wear this clothing as it exists independent of any one person, people may try it on, or take it out for approval and return it. (permanent, temporary or peak altered states)

Ø      Most of the time, people will not wear clothing that is not representative of their level of development among their lines (symbolic, affective, perceptual and behavioral-Kolb), but from time to time they will be encouraged, challenged and cajoled into various levels of clothing…however certain clothes feel more appropriate at any given time. (center of gravity)

Ø      In some cases, people can’t be and are distinguishable from the clothes they wear and this is apparent to everyone.

Ø      A natural design occurs when the clothing and the person matches, however this is not a static state but a continual journey of experiment, experience and r/evolution over a period of one’s life…all the while clothing continues to develop according to the people who have inspired the development of clothing at many different levels of development over time in many different waves, streams, lines, themes and threads—clearly independent of any one’s developmental journey.

Ø      Each level of clothing relies on the previous level to inform it, yet at the same time causes a new level to be born as a result…in response to and transcendence of the previous levels of clothing experience in meeting life conditions where the success of one type of clothing actually creates the need for another and so on in a infinite dance of couples—conditions/clothing—clothing/conditions.

Ø      It is the complexification of life conditions that produces the response of clothing makers to undergo, transcend and include the previous clothing as they “invent” new clothing to deal with yet the conditions of success.

Ø      Remembering this is only a metaphor, we realize that the clothing (vMEME) is NOT the person and while interdependent and certainly interdevelopmental, clothing may be popular and appropriate one minute and then quickly transcended when “occasions” occur that are more naturally designed to satisfy the person’s needs, wants or desires, yet there is some point of gravity in terms of where we reside in our choices.

Ø      You might say there are men’s and women’s clothing.  In some cultures, these are indistinct, however in most cultures we have chosen to distinguish them.  If we look rather at energy than at the surface conditions representative of the “interpretation” of that energy, we find essential two distinct forms, that of masculine and feminine, as labeled by such.

Ø      Jung reported two distinct ways of “deciding” or what I refer to as processing a perception (ladder of inference), that of thinking and feeling.  We know both exist in people and that all humans—and clothing—for that matter contain each as a part of its “structure of consciousness.”

Ø      There are significant amounts of research to affirm that these two “ways” are distinct and counterbalanced by the other, yet each way is preferred over the other and is not equal in conventional development.  At higher levels of reality, I suspect there is no separation only the amalgam of such, however I really don’t know.

Ø      As development in humans is representative of development in clothing and vice versa, there is real separation in the behavior from the behavioral products due to the nature of combinatorial forces being present to create behavioral products “almost” completely independent of behavior. (consequence hierarchy = behavioràoutcomesàresults)



2.    Therefore, the clothing someone wears may not be indicative of their center of gravity in terms of their natural systems, but a response to a particular occasion, or a surface manifestation.  In which case, deeper discovery and exploration must take place to understand the “nature” of the person.

3.    There will be a correlation between the person’s clothing and who they are, but it may be complex and thus cause and effect may be dislocated in present terms, as surface manifestations of underlying constructs are varied and rich in terms of their variety of expression .

4.    By using a clothing metaphor, we realize that people are exposed to many different kinds of clothing at the same time and that life is made up of constant matching of clothing to occasion, temporary as well as permanent changes that people make that are naturally or unnaturally made as a response to the life conditions surrounding the occasion.

5.    One can’t confuse the clothing with the person, they are not the same thing even though their development, through all quadrants, lines and streams, waves and dilly bars are both related, natural and interdevelopmental.

6.    Clothing can be something we wear, yet it is not us.  It can be something that represents us but in fact is not us.  We may choose it to belong, but it in fact is not us.  Surface manifestations of our choice of clothing is often confused with who we are, as opposed to recognizing that it is just clothing and that to draw a conclusion about us from our clothing is often dangerous and at least confusing.

7.    Some of us will prefer hot colors (agentic/thinking), others of us cool colors (communal/feeling), yet the movement from hot to cold for clothing continues as a response to the previous natural design that falls short of satisfying the occasions over time.  In other words, the pendulum swings from this to that, from hot to cold, from subtle to distinct, from short to long, from expressing self to fitting-in.

8.    We may try on the hot or cool colors and wear them on “occasion” because they are the most appropriate response to provide us with what completes our wardrobe, yet we prefer one or the other. 

9.    We may experiment and try on and even wear for a time those clothes that provide us with the opportunity to walk where we would normally not walk or be where we would normally not “prefer” to be, yet we do so to gain the experience or the completion required to move on…to become more, to transcend and to include those experiences those “occasions” in our repertoire of knowing, having, doing and being.

10.           As we look back or forward, we can understand why we went “there” why we needed that experience, but also clearly relating to who we “prefer” to be, wear, experience and express or join.  Yet we are not our clothes.

11.           Clothing design continues to expand, to grow in both complexity, in form, in nature as a combinatorial force of forces in all quadrants, quite invisible to most, quite responsible for creating yet another level of solutions for each “occasion” that seems to complexify in nature.

12.           The availability of clothing to us seems unlimited as “others” seem to create responses we would never before be able to imagine to things only they see…the “rack” seems filled constantly with new combinations, new ideas, new and different approaches to clothing…it never seems to stop.  Often, we choose or abhor choice as this or that, right or wrong…black or white.

13.           Yet, we are not our clothes.  Our development is independent of clothes, while clothes are developing, we can’t be said to be the developer as they seem to develop on their own interdependent and independent of us.

14.           In the end…we seek to choose clothes that are comfortable and appropriate, although we never know for sure as it seems once we know, then we don’t.  We constantly try on and seek approval.  We make a statement, we get feedback, sometimes we change, sometimes we don’t.  Sometimes we die for our clothes…or should I say the right to choose our clothes.  Often we are fighting for clothes that are not ours, yet the potential for those clothes to be worn, to be chosen to make us feel like we belong, even when we are unsure of whether those clothes are really right for us.

15.           In the end, we are not our clothes.  They are a metaphor of life--everything else in life and the moral of this story is…clothes don’t make the person.



This material is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Financial, Legal and Professional information is not Financial, Legal and Professional advice. You should see a Financial, Legal or Professional in the area in which you live if you need advice.


Did you find this page through a search engine or other link? Enter your e-mail address below and you'll receive articles like the one above:

Subscribe to coaching edge Today!


Subscribe to CoachingEDGE

Your Name:
Your E-mail Address: