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Social Priorities and the Ladder of Shock

How Our Social Priorities Reveal Our States of Consciousness

In this visual article, we briefly explore how our social priorities are affected by our state of consciousness. We also look at how going into and out of shock alters the order of these priorities, and how knowing this order can tell us when we are in shock, and help us to come out of shock.

normal social priorities of a three

Introducing Social Priority "Cycles of Consciousness" Chart

What you see above is yet another incarnation of the "social priority chart." What are we looking at?

To begin with, this social priority chart is for the group of people who are by character type, "3's," and whose social priorities are comfort first, freedom second, neatness third, and understanding fourth. In addition, the people represented by this chart are currently in a normal, everyday state of consciousness. In other words, they are not, to any significant degree, under stress.

So how does this chart work?

To see, first look at the very center of this drawing. Here, you'll find this groups' social priority scale, with the groups' character type; "3"; drawn in the box on the left, and the groups' four social priorities; comfort, freedom, neatness, and understanding; drawn in the four boxes on the right.

Next, look just above these boxes. Here you'll find a curved red line, shaped somewhat like the ubiquitous, statistical "bell shaped curve." In this case, though, rather than being a statistical indicator, this red line simply represents an experiential "hill"; an Emergence Practitioner's way of showing how easy or difficult it will be for these people to change between the states of being listed on this line.

So what states of being does this red line indicate the ease or difficulty of changing between? This groups' four social priorities; comfort, freedom, neatness, and understanding. Thus, this red line indicates how easy or hard it will be for this group of people to move between these social priorities.

Obviously, going up a "hill" is harder than going down. Thus, going "up the hill" from comfort to freedom takes a bit of effort, but going "over the hill" from freedom to neatness takes a lot more effort.

Next, look at the lower left hand part of this drawing. Here, you'll find another curved line, this time a curved blue lined.

What does this blue line represent? It represents where this group's social priorities fall during normal states of consciousness.

How do they fall normally? They normally cycle between this group's "upper two" social priorities, between comfort and freedom, this group's "upper pair."

Finally, in the bottom center of this drawing, we see this group's normal "need style" voiced as a sentence; "I want you to get me comfortable, and when I'm comfortable, I want to comfort you."

Of course, because the people in this group have a freedom secondary, they also want to get and give this comfort freely. In other words, these folks do not want to have to work for their comfort, neither to get it, nor to give it. They want people to comfort them, and then, to be able to comfort others freely, with no strings.

So what about this group's third and fourth social priorities; their "lower pair" of priorities; neatness, and understanding?

For the people in this group, these two "lower" social priorities rarely affect them during normal states of consciousness. Except, of course, when these people find themselves in an obvious "organizing" or "learning" situation, a situation in which they would need to focus on these two priorities. Otherwise, though, these people barely notice these two lower social priorities.

How about when something stresses them though, meaning, when they are in other than a normal state of consciousness?

When something stresses them enough; yes, their social priority focus changes. Further, this is true not only for this group but for all people.

What happens to the focus of peoples' social priorities when they are under stress?

When people get stressed, and especially when they experience a BLock, their focus changes to their lower pair of social priorities. To what degree? To see this, let's pick an actual person from the group we've just explored. We'll call her, Beth. Further, let's assume that Beth has a BLock in and around flying and that she has just left for the airport.

What would happen to the focus of Beth's social priorities?

social priority cycles for a three going into shock

the "Going Into Shock" Part of the Cycle for a Typical "3"

To see what Beth would experience, focus on how Beth's blue line has changed. Here, we see Beth's social priorities beginning to cycle past the point at her priorities would normally cycle back. What is happening?

She is beginning to feel trapped. How can I tell? Because the social priority which precedes Beth's going into shock is freedom. In fact, a good way to refer to this point is to call it her "freedom point."

In Beth's case then, at this point, she's gone from comfort to freedom, then "over the hill" toward neatness.

What would Beth be experiencing as this was happening?

Just before leaving, she would probably have feel rushed. And anxious. And worried.

As she left, she would probably be obsessing as to whether she had forgotten anything (neatness).

Comfort? At this point, she would barely notice if she felt discomfort. What she would notice however is whether those around her felt comfortable, so much so, in fact, that she might pressure others to let her comfort them.

"Are you all right?" she might repeatedly ask, this despite numerous reassurances from those she's trying to comfort. "Relax," they might respond, with kindness and understanding. However, as Beth continued to pressure them, their reassurances might change from kindly to annoyed.

"Relax?" Relaxing would be beyond her. Why? Because at this point, Beth's character type has inverted, from a normal three; "I want to get then give"; to an inverted three; "I must give then get."

Notice the essence of this change. To put it in a single word; "force." Thus, what happens when peoples' character type inverts is that they feel forced to focus on their current social priority.

Now look again, and make note of what has, and has not, changed in Beth's social priority chart. The only thing which has changed is that her character type has inverted. In other words, the only changes are in whose needs come first and in how much pressure Beth feels to meet these needs.

At this point, then, Beth feels pressured to give freedom, then pressured to get freedom.

So has the focus of Beth's social priorities changed yet?

No, it hasn't. Not yet anyway. However, as Beth goes deeper into shock, she and those around her will feel more and more separated, and more and more alone. And if this shock were to continue to deepen, at some point, Beth's focus would then change again, this time, when Beth's social priorities inverted.

What would Beth be like at this point? To see, we need to move to the next drawing.

social priority cycles for a three in shock

the "In Shock" Part of the Cycle for a Typical "3"

At this point, Beth has moved solidly into shock. What is she behaving like now?

To see this, begin by looking at where her blue line is now, and notice which of Beth's social priorities are now in play.

Understanding has now become Beth's main priority. Thus she may be desperately trying to talk herself down from her panic feelings. How? By thinking about how she should be rearranging the luggage. Or reorganizing the plane tickets.

What she won't be thinking about is what she would normally feel important; comfort. Thus, she won't even be considering eating or about where she's sitting or about how hot or cold it is. Nor will she be thinking about whether she feels free or not.

So does she feel freedom? Hardly. In fact, she feels trapped. However, because her social priorities have inverted, she won't even notice how trapped she feels.

In effect, neither comfort nor freedom will appeal to her now. These priorities simply will not matter.

What will matter though, in fact, what will matter too much is whether she can figure out what is happening to her, and to those around her (understanding).

What will she be doing?

Actually, Beth will probably be withdrawing from others, this despite the fact that Beth would normally be open and quite physically interactive. She'll also probably be searching her mind for answers, as to what she is experiencing and what she should be doing about it.

Does Beth normally care how personality works? Normally? Not really. However, when she's in shock, her social priorities invert. Thus, she will suddenly feel pressured to self examine and to understand herself.

So have Beth's social priorities actually reversed?

Actually, no they have not, and this last point is quite important. You see, while the actual order of peoples' social priorities does not change, peoples' ability to feel these priorities does change. How? In effect, the shock people feel obscures their social priorities, and the degree to which they get obscured is related to how much they normally feel the priority.

In other words, the higher a social priority is normally, the more shock obscures the person's ability to experience it. In reality then, people in shock still experience their social priorities in the same order. They just experience them differently.

In Beth's case, this means that the shock Beth feels has made it hard for her to experience her two upper social priorities. More over, as Beth was going into shock, she increasingly felt her third priority, neatness. On the way, though, she felt trapped and pressured, this the affect of her freedom secondary.

What will happen to Beth when she comes out of shock though? Will her ability to experience her social priorities change again?

Yes. So obviously, Beth will eventually come out of shock, say, when her plane lands safely and she is once again on the ground. And to see how this will alter her experience of her social priorities, move down to the next drawing.

social priority cycles for a three coming out of shock

the "Coming Out of Shock" Part of the Cycle for a Typical "3"

Again, notice the blue line and which social priorities it is traversing.

Now picture Beth walking into the airport. What is she feeling?

First, she is feeling relief, because she now understands. She has a fear of flying and the flight is over.

In a very real sense then, Beth can let go of this need (her need to understand) as it has finally been met.

But didn't she understand this about herself all along?

Actually, no, not consciously at least. And learning to see this difference can be a bit complicated. However, in order to understand this part of the cycle, we at least have to briefly touch on it, on the difference between knowing something and knowing about it.

What Beth felt all along was she knew about her fear of flying. In other words, Beth was mentally aware she had a fear of flying and knew this all long. However, her "knowing about" this fear was not the same as "knowing" it consciously.

How are these two experiences different?

"Knowing" something requires you feel connected to it. Consciously. Thus, whether this something you know is a person or an idea, consciously "knowing" it means you feel connected to it.

For instance, "knowing" a child consciously means you feel connected to this child, specifically, to how this child thinks and feels. You two have things in common and feel a bond between you.

And "knowing about" a child?

Well, "knowing about" a child is simply saying that you know this child exists. Thus, while you may be quite aware that this particular child exists, you do not know this child well enough to feel connected to them.

These two kinds of knowing reveal a lot about states of consciousness. Consciously "knowing" something, anything, means you feel connected to this something. And merely "knowing about" something" means you feel separate from it and at best, mentally able to acknowledge it exists.

Here, then, is the essential quality of what being in shock is like. You feel a very deep separateness, a deep aloneness, really. You also feel very separate from your surroundings, even to the degree that you feel separate from your own thoughts.

So how does this separateness affect our social priorities?

This separateness means we feel apart from our needs. We know they exist. But we feel little need to address them.

In other words, when people go into shock, while they may still know about their social priorities and even acknowledge they exist, because they feel disconnected from them, they will feel little need to address them.

Let me say this once more.

Whenever people go into shock, the main thing they personally feel is a dreadful aloneness. And because the essence of this dreadful aloneness is feeling separate from all else, people lose their perspective. Then, as they more and more lose their ability to feel and think clearly, they focus more and more on their aloneness.

One way to describe this experience would be to call these feelings, "primitive feelings." I say this because, in essence, this is true. What we feel in these times is very much primitive. How so. To some degree, being in shock means we return to first shocking experience we felt, our first separation; being born.

So am I saying that going into shock is in some way us reliving our births?

Yes, this is exactly what I'm saying. Not, of course, to the degree of the actual birth, but to the degree we refer to our first shocking experience and to how we felt then.

How would this apply to Beth then, specifically at this point in the cycle?

Probably she would begin to complain, and as she more and more recovered from having been in shock, these complaints would escalate.

The focus of her complaints? How she hates feeling trapped into having to fly. And then?

She would begin to find fault with the discomforts of flying in general.

Next she would find fault with the discomforts she herself experienced on this particular flight.

Then finally, she would ask how those around her did, if they were uncomfortable during the flight. And at this point, Beth and her social priorities would just about back to normal. In other words, at this point Beth's social priorities would again look like those in the first drawing in this series.

full set of social priority cycles for a typical three

a Full, Social Priority, Cycles of Consciousness Chart for a Typical "3"

So now, let's take a look at the whole cycle which Beth has just gone through, from being normally conscious to being in shock and back out of shock again. Only this time, we'll use a person with slightly different social priorities; Sara.

To begin with, know that the Cycles of Consciousness chart I placed above is Sara's, not Beth's. So, while Sara, like Beth, is a "3" character type, and like Beth, Sara's normal first social priority is comfort, the rest of Sara's social priorities follow a different sequence. Sara's social priorities go from comfort to neatness to understanding to freedom.

How would Sara's experience have been different?

To begin with, Sara's comfort would normally come from those around her being organized. Thus, she would have asked those around her to pack and plan, and to organize until she felt comfortable.

Then she would have done the same thing for herself.

On the way to the airport though, as her fear of flying kicked in, she would have probably begun to worry that they or she may have forgotten something. However, at some point, her fear would cause her character type to invert, causing her focus to shift from them to herself. Thus, at this point, Sara would forget completely what others might have missed and would begin to focus entirely on what she herself may have left behind.

What next?

They arrive at the airport. And as Sara was walking into the airport, she would have probably begun to feel panicky. Why? Because at this point, both her character type and her social priorities would have been inverted. This means her inverted character type would have begun to compel her to focus on the needs of others. And her inverted first social priority, freedom, would have made the focus of her needs to compulsively make sure that others were not feeling rushed or pressured.

Eventually, then, as her panic peaked, she would have experienced a full blown panic attack. And at some point, the patience of those around her would have worn thin.

What I mean is, at this point, those around Sara would probably have begun to feel quite annoyed or worse.

Not so good, right?

Actually, it could be a good thing. You see, this annoyance would actually have helped Sara to begin to come out of shock. How? Because the more she saw this annoyance, the less she would focus on how free or trapped others felt. This would then allow her to feel free to focus on giving herself care.

Finally, after landing and as Sara walked into the airport, her social priorities would have begun to return to normal. This means her focus would have shifted from freedom to organization; meaning, she would have probably felt discomfort in and around whether their luggage would be there or not.

So what do other character types experience as their state of consciousness changes? To give you a brief glimpse, I've placed the other three social priority, Cycles of Consciousness charts below.

full set of social priority cycles for a typical one

the Full Social Priority Cycles for a Typical "1"

What you see above is a drawing which shows the full, social priority, cycles of consciousness chart for a typical "one." Here, I've used the same set of social priorities as I gave Sara, only for a "1".

How would this person respond differently than Sara?

To begin with, "1's" do not see the needs of others except in extraordinary circumstances. Translation. Unless "1's" are connected to someone, they will be totally oblivious to the needs of others. They feel only their own needs.

How would this play out for a "1" who, like Beth and Sara, has a fear of flying?

To begin with, let's name this person. We'll call him, Chris.

What is Chris normally like?

Normally Chris likes to be babied. Comforted to the max. And for those around him, comforting him may feel good at times, in many ways, resembling the feeling you get when you comfort a baby.

And his second priority; neatness?

As Chris' normal second social priority is neatness, he would probably like his comfort to be that someone makes sure his things are all there, easily within his reach. Things like having something to eat or drink would be important to him. Along with having a comfortable seat in a comfortable space, temperature wise.

For Chris, these priorities would begin to change though, again, as he pictured going to the airport. How so?

First, he would begin to complain about everything, from the seats in the car to the bumps in the road.

Next, he would probably begin to really blame any and all things within his reach. Thus, he might yell at his kids, be nasty to a toll booth attendant, be grumpy with the ticket counter person, or be downright unreasonable with his wife.

Then, as he cycled downward, deeper and deeper into shock, he would begin to panic really badly. He might even use medication at this point, the tranquilizers his doctor prescribed for his anxiety; comfort in a pill.

Finally, when his plane had landed, and as he walked into the airport, he might have begun to recognize what a bear he had been to all those around him. Unfortunately, because Chris is a "1," he would have felt little beyond regret.

Certainly, he would not feel any genuine remorse, this despite his "sorry's" and his shallow attempts to see the needs of others.

Let me clarify this last point.

What I'm pointing out is, people have two ways to feel bad about what they've done, "regret," and "remorse." What's the difference?

"Regret" is what people feel about what they, themselves, have gone through. "Remorse" is what people feel about how what they've gone through has affected others.

In other words, "regret" is feeling bad for what you've suffered. "Remorse" is feeling bad for how your suffering has affected others.

In Chris' case, because he is a "1," he would feel little to no remorse. At best, he would feel some degree of regret for what the experience has just put him through. Until he returns to normal, then, wherein he will again be seen as a vulnerable man, someone who needs to be babied and comforted.

full set of social priority cycles for a typical two

the Full Social Priority Cycles for a Typical "2"

Again, what you see above is a drawing which shows the full, cycle of consciousness, social priority chart, this time for a typical "two." Here again, I've used the same set of social priorities as I gave Sara.

full set of social priority cycles for a typical four

the Full Social Priority Cycles for a Typical "4"

Finally, what you see this time is a drawing which shows the full, cycle of consciousness, social priority chart, but this time, for a typical "four." Again, I've used the same set of social priorities as Sara.


To me, the idea that we have social priorities is now obvious, so much so, in fact, that I wonder how I ever got along in life without knowing about them. Why?

Before knowing about them, I had times wherein I had no clue as to why someone didn't understand me. Or why, if they did, they were so against what I was saying.

I now have a heck of a tool with which to reshape my conversations so as to better connect with those whose social priorities differ from mine. It's now an "of course" that they have different opinions than I do. And to not pay attention to this in people now feels judgmental to me.

Also, before I knew about social priorities, while I might know that I was in shock at times, this knowing was more like an in shock - out of shock understanding than something which clearly showed me how deeply in shock I was.

Now I have a heck of a tool with which to gauge my present state of consciousness, in other words, to know how conscious or in shock I am. This alone makes knowing my social priorities worth while.

Add to this the idea that for the first time in my life, I have a very practical tool with which to help myself to come out of shock, along with a very accurate gauge as to how far out of shock I've come.

Thus, for me, I now know that if I have urges to overeat, that I am in the bottom zone of my social priorities. I do, after all, have comfort as my lowest social priority.

So when I am in shock, what do I do?

Knowing my next to lowest social priority is neatness, rather than over eat, I turn to trivial organizational tasks, such as doing my bills or mailing letters.

More over, I know I'm out of the woods when I feel my sense of freedom return. Why? Because freedom is my second social priority and in these cases, means that I am well on my way to being fully conscious and in the zone of my top social priority, understanding.

Finally, what are we planning to do with all this good information?

Our teacher's group has in the works a plan as to see how using social priorities can better match students to teachers. In fact, we hope to begin to implement test situations in two school districts by September 2006. We, in fact, already have begun negotiations to do this.

More over, if you'd like to participate, please do write. And while I can't at this point promise anything, I very much want to do what I can and so, am willing to entertain pretty much any and all options.

My point? Please do write if there is any way I can help.



For those wanting to see how the Social Priorities Relate to Learning Disabilities ...
And for those wanting to learn about the Layers of Aloneness Personality Theory in more depth ...