“State of Consciousness” sounds perhaps a bit more complicated than it in fact is. One’s state of consciousness often refers to the degree of awareness and knowledge possessed. There are numerous paradigms for examining states of consciousness. Perhaps the best-known is the Freudian-based unconscious, sub-conscious, pre-conscious, and conscious. Dr. Timothy Leary proposed a model with 8 levels of consciousness. A more accessible, and relevant, series of four was originated with Abraham Maslow, those being:
- Unconscious Incompetence
- The individual neither understands nor knows how to do something, nor recognizes the deficit, nor has a desire to address it.
- Conscious Incompetence
- Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, without yet addressing it.
- Conscious Competence
- The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires a great deal of consciousness or concentration.
4. Unconscious Competence
- The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it becomes “second nature” and can be performed easily (often without concentrating too deeply). This has come to be called “flow”
To me, a more valuable way of looking at consciousness is to combine one’s degree of awareness and knowledge with one’s view of causality. Simply stated, to what degree do you view yourself passively: as the person to whom things happen, as opposed to being an active creator of your experience: the person that has the ability to control responses to whatever may happen? The brilliant philosopher Ken Wilber has proposed a series of seven levels of consciousness encompassing this idea (as well as many others – it is a complicated model, but one well worth reading. See his books “Theory of Everything” or “A Brief History of Everything” – modest he is not).
The three levels that I propose are Victim, Producer, and Peaceful Accepter. From the Victim level, things happen to you, and you are powerless (or essentially powerless) to change your experience. I have a client who is constantly blaming God for his misfortunes. There was a guy in the bible named Job who did the same thing. Of course, if you believe that God is the cause of your misfortune there’s very little you can do about it other than pray.
The Producer Level is a much more powerful place to be coming from. This is the level described (somewhat exaggeratedly, I think) in the best-selling book “The Secret”. You come to realize that you can manifest many of the things you want in your life through hard work, creative visualization, affirmations, “vibrating prosperity and abundance”, etc. And this is true. The problem in operating from the Producer level comes from a very simple premise: Can we really know what will make us happy? How many times have you struggled to achieve something (a relationship, a job, a house, a level of monetary security) only to discover that once you’ve succeeded in getting it it didn’t bring the rewards you thought it would? The book “The Happiness Hypothesis” by Jonathan Haidt does a superb job of illustrating how notoriously unreliable our estimates are of what would make us happy. Another problem with being at the Producer level: It is an awful lot of work to consistently maintain a mindset attuned to your desired outcome.
The Peaceful Accepter level is more advanced. At this level there isn’t striving. Effort occurs naturally, guided by your own wisdom, preparation, and experiences. You do have certain requirements to succeed at this level: Be prepared. Show up. Be willing to stretch yourself. Know that you can handle whatever comes your way, and that you are capable of miraculous achievements.
In the course of a given day most of us will fluctuate among these levels, and that is “normal”. Focus your attention on which level you’re operating from in any given moment, and strive to move up the ladder from Victim to Producer to Peaceful Accepter.