An “epicycle” is an ancient Greek astronomical term that was used to explain the apparent retrograde motion of planets as see from Earth (they appeared to move backwards sometimes). Everyone assumed that planets had circular orbits, and it would take centuries to learn that they are elliptical. Something similar occurs in human development, where the self engages in behaviors abandoned long ago on it’s way towards new, more complex, and better ways of making sense of itself and the world. I began noticing this in my clients years ago, and the term “developmental epicycling” kept coming to mind, because this apparent regression to old behaviors (“retrograde behaviors”) only makes sense when you realize that it is a natural aspect of growing into a new self.
For years people have told me that I should “write about levels the way you talk about them.” And for years I would send them a brief paper written by others. When I would circle back and ask about the paper, most of them persisted in their request that I write about levels the way that I talk about levels. This, then, is my attempt to write about these important developmental mindsets (or levels) as I might discuss them. Continue reading