Emotional Health Levels

Emotional health levels are an important conceptual framework that helps us understand ourselves and others behaviours, as well as giving us valuable insights into this area. This concept is based on the work of Riso & Hudson 1999.

The Figure 1a (below), is a diagrammatical representation of the key elements and includes the name for each of the health levels.


Figure 1a. – Emotional Health Levels

The best way to describe the application of this model is for us to look at it from an overview perspective and then to go into the detail of each of the various levels. Firstly, lets look at a hypothetical person who is centred at level 5 – “automated Response”. This level would be the average of the Australian population in general, so is a great place to start.

At this level, a person would exhibit a range of behaviours that are thought about and considered, and a range of behaviours that are automated responses to how they see people treating them. Ironically, it is most often our loved ones who know which “buttons” to push to elicit automated responses that we would rather not own up to. These automated responses are defence mechanisms and part of an overall coping strategy we adopt to endeavour to get our own personal needs met. The amount of automated responses determines the “Degree of Self-centeredness”.

If we accept that at level 5, some of our response are automated, and are therefore not thought about, then the opposing view from self-centeredness is the “Degree of Behavioural Freedom”. If we are not making choices about the most appropriate behaviour, then our degree of behavioural freedom is therefore limited. How often do we do things without thinking about or considering the most appropriate action?

To give you an idea of the vast spread of behaviours through the emotional health levels, you will find that people at level 9 are often fixated, delusional, self destructive and are generally institutionalised and under medical/psychiatric care (or need to be), where as level 1 people are open, well balanced and liberated from any degree of self-centredness with complete behavioural freedom.

As we help people to move up the health levels, they are able to see other perspectives of the world they live in and start to understand the assumptions that their world view is built on. This helps them see that the coping strategy they are using is not helping them grow and develop, instead tends to keep them stagnated in their current position or situation. As our consciousness becomes more active, we can actually view ourselves in action and identify areas of our behaviour we need to work on and thus continue our development.

Lets look at this from a leadership perspective first. In organisations, either government or business, there is a constant push to improve the effectiveness and efficiency in what they do. One of the keys to this is seen as leadership within the organisation. To improve leadership skills, a number of things are done, leadership development courses are conducted along with identifying what are the leadership competencies/skills that we need for the organisation. In many cases the leadership competencies are gained from external sources who have conducted research into the skills and attributes of proven successful and effective leaders. These competencies then become the benchmark for leaders within that organisation.

When we analyse these competencies, more often than not we find that the degree of behavioural freedom required to be competent is high. That is, the behaviours required are at both ends of the spectrum eg: compassionate and caring through to strong and decisive. High degree of behavioural freedom is associated with high emotional health levels (1,2 & 3), and the ideal competency model is usually built on people in those levels.
Leaders at these higher emotional health levels drive positive emotions in the workplace and create resonance, by inspiring others through creating a shared vision and coaching them to be all that they can be toward achieving that vision.

Level 1 – Presence
At this level we are in a state of perpetual “presence’. We have a quiet mind and fully in touch with the present moment or the “now”. We are happiness. We have total behavioural freedom.

Level 2 – Wisdom
At this level we have long periods of being “present”, however we still have an attachment to false perceptions that have driven our coping strategy and defence mechanisms. We are much more conscious of those detracting moments and are able to keep them under control, however they still exist.

Level 3 – Social Value
At this level, we have greater balance in our lives and start to move our concerns to more social interests. As we start to lose more of our self-centredness there is a natural tendency to embrace the social aspect of our community. We also start to increase the number of opportunities to be “present” and further understand how to use our inner observer to further raise our own consciousness.

Level 4 – Recognition
At this level we start to recognise that we have choices about all of our behaviours and begin to observe our own behaviours on a more regular basis. The level of consciousness starts to rise as we begin to observe ourselves more. We also start to recognise that we can start to create moments of “presence” under certain circumstances. We still find it easy to fall back into our defensive coping strategies and need to constantly work at moving away from them.

Level 5 – Automated Response
At this level we are dominated by a range of automated responses to what is occurring around us. These responses are mostly defensive and about controlling our environment (including the people in it) in trying to get our perceived needs met. There are still times when we do make decisions about our behaviours, however the automated responses tend to take over in the moment.

Level 6 – Exaggeration
At this level we start to be more aggressive in our defences, with our behaviours being exaggerated and over compensating in response to our internal conflicts and anxieties. The majority of responses occur automatically without thinking, or from our mind taking over from a distorted perspective.

Level 7 – Survival
At this level our internal feelings become intolerable as we start to realise that our defence mechanisms are not working. We now start to employ a survival tactic as a self-protective response. We have started to lose all control over making reasonable choices and become fixated on the survival tactic we have chosen.

Level 8 – Preoccupation
At this level we start to lose touch with reality, and our thinking, feeling, perceiving and behaviours all be come severely distorted. We are out of control, and this is considered to be a full pathological state.

Level 9 – Delusional
At this level we are delusional, and out of touch with reality and willing to destroy others and ourselves. This includes states of extreme psychosis where we are totally uncontrollable and unreasonable. Our mind obsessions take over our life completely.