Are You Ready to Grow Up? Wake Up?

Mar 3, 2015

In last Friday’s blog, I spoke to the added value of understanding your center of gravity.

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably found yourself stressed out and frustrated with someone in your life at one time or another. These emotions rise up because we’re trying to mold other people into our idea of life.

Here’s the reality.

People have different experiences of life. As a result of those experiences, they have different perspectives. Accept this reality, and life gets much easier.

Better yet, when we focus on our own growth and development (over trying to “fix” others), we wake up to new possibilities in our relationships and in our life.

So let’s get started.

I’ll begin with a brief description of the StAGES Model as researched and described by Dr. Terri O’Fallon (2013).

The Concrete, Subtle, and Causal Tiers

I know. This is very philosophical language. Just hang in here with me. I promise, you’ll come away with a deeper understanding of who you are in relation to others. If you want less stress in your life, it’s worth the effort.

Theorists break down and describe human development in terms of tiers: the concrete, subtle and causal. Each tier is home to four developmental stages or levels.

We can’t skip tiers or levels in order to grow up and wake up. That would be analogous to a baby learning to walk before he’s learned to sit up or crawl.

Imagine a 12-floor building. The first four floors represent the concrete stages of development. The next four floors represent the subtle stages, and the last four floors are home to the causal tiers.

If you were on an elevator, you’d have to move through each floor to get to the 12th floor. So, it is with development. All floors are valid and purposeful floors. What changes is the view.

For today’s blog, I’m going to focus on the Concrete Tier.

The Concrete Tier is described as such because people who fall within this tier focus on what is concrete within the world. Their perspectives are generally centered around what they do, see, hear, touch, taste, smell, or things they want or desire.

Within that tier of consciousness, perspectives vary–all depending on which state you’re in.

The Impulsive Stage

The early stages of development within the Concrete Tier begin with infancy. Think of babies on the ground floor of our imaginary building. They receive information through their senses and respond to their environment via concrete emotions of happiness, sadness, anger, fear, or startle.

A baby studies his hand for hours on end as he learns about his physical body, but he does not yet know that this hand is part of him. At this stage, the only thing that exists in his world is that which he can experience through the senses. When mom or dad leave the room and are out of visual range, they cease to exist.

We rarely see adults on this ground floor of development unless they have experienced a significant life trauma or have some form of developmental disability.

The Opportunist Stage

Now, picture a group of young children on the second floor of our imaginary building. They’re learning to explore their physical bodies in relation to the world, but they cannot yet see or understand that other people also have wants and needs.

A toddler, for example, views the world as “all about me and what I want.” There is no capacity to see oneself in relation to the world. This perspective is not a selfish or ego-centric worldview. At this stage, the child does not yet have the capacity to see that other people may also have the same wants and needs.

Sometimes adults show up at the Opportunist Stage. Such individuals may have difficulty seeing the consequences of their actions. For instance, a person at this stage may lie, cheat, or steal to get what she wants and may not have any remorse or concern about the impact of her actions on others.

If you’ve had people in your life who seem to fall into this range, their lives may look like somewhat of a train wreck. These individuals are often blind to the consequences of their actions. They also don’t have the capacity to learn from past mistakes so they keep on repeating the same destructive behaviors over and over again.

Part of the reason for this destructive path is that the Opportunist has a need for immediate gratification. As such, she may haphazardly respond to sensory desires related to drugs, alcohol, sexual indiscretions, or compulsive spending without considering the impact of such actions on self or others.

O’Fallon reminds us that adults who are stuck at this early stage of development may have been traumatized in early childhood. While they may have a normal or high levels of intelligence, they are in dire need of strong boundaries, compassion, and care in order to “maintain a safe and happy life.”

Understanding the perspectives of individuals who indicate behaviors at these various stages gives the opportunity to interact with them in more supportive and productive ways.

Stay tuned for Friday’s blog. I will discuss the last two stages of the Concrete Tier: The Rule Oriented and The Conformist.

If you’d like to learn more about your specific stage, you may inquire about the StAGES Model assessment by reaching out to me via email at

[callout]This post is part of a series written by Sharon Spano, PhD. The series is titled, The Stages of Human Development. To learn about the stages of human development, read my posts: