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Levels of Perspective: The Catabolic Levels

As we continue with our ongoing series on the 7 levels of perspective (derived from iPEC’s 7 Levels of Leadership) as introduced in my last blog, we’re going to start in the ickiest place: the bottom. We’re going to get into the first two perspective levels, which are often described as ‘catabolic’ because they are destructive and ultimately break us down. We’re going to identify them, learn the characteristics of them and how they can really affect our lives. This is not for the faint of heart, but knowledge is always the first step to change!

The first perspective is often called the victim perspective or as I like to call it, “at the effect of” perspective. This perspective is characterized by thoughts like, “There is nothing I can do anyway, I don’t have a choice or no one cares or ever listens to me.” You can definitely hear this around the office in the form of, “Nothing ever changes around here anyway, so what’s the point?”

If this is where our heads are at then yeah, we’re feeling pretty down on ourselves and others. There is nothing more draining than the constant feeling of no control. So we are constantly worried, we’re fearful, lacking in confidence and doubtful of ourselves, and guilt starts whispering in our ear. We’ve all had that conversation with ourselves. “I’m so stupid, why did I say that?” And then we fixate on that conversation until we’re feeling even more down on ourselves and our situation.

So when we are in this state, how motivated are we to take on tasks and make decisions? Not at all right? We feel lethargic, we have a hard time making decisions and we want to avoid people and situations.

Now don’t get me wrong there are some times when it is necessary to adopt the victim perspective. If you are dealing with a life threatening illness or have just suffered the loss of a loved one, it’s perfectly sensible that you would choose this perspective as you need to be taken care of. It’s when this perspective becomes our only perspective that it can be harmful to us and others. When we stay stuck in this perspective, we’re not getting much done and we feel guilty about it, we spend time beating ourselves up and we end up in a vicious cycle that results in the classic Debby Downer. Who wants to be around Debby? Hardly anyone! So rest in level 1 for a bit when you need to, but recognize where you are and put that house up for sale and move out!

Let’s talk about the second level of perspective, which also qualifies as catabolic. This one is the conflict perspective, which is unfortunately the most common perspective we see as around 80% of people are stuck in this level most of their lives.

This level is characterized by black or white, good or bad, right or wrong. It often creates a very narrow way of thinking and can limit a person’s ability to see the full scope of possibilities. It turns out that not just kids love playing the blame game, it’s also popular with we adults who are stuck in this level. At work you’ll hear this perspective come out if something doesn’t go as planned and instead of owning up to a mistake, the finger-pointing starts.

So if everything has to be either right or wrong, how do you think that will affect our emotions? We’ll be frustrated, resistant and suspicious that others are going to sabotage us. What about how it will affect our relationships? Just like with the Debby-Downer it’s hard to be around someone who is constantly frustrated and suspicious of you. Those in level 2 also tend to be self-righteous and unable to see why everyone else doesn’t think and act like they do.

We covered a lot in these first two perspectives, and I know that if we identify with these perspectives it can seem a little disheartening, but fear not! We have the power to choose our perspective and the next two levels are going to show us how we can do that and the benefits of moving up the Perspective Ladder.

Take this week to observe. Watch others and see how they react to different situations and take internal notes of how their reactions affect the situation. Observe your own reactions and interactions and self -reflect on how it effects your own emotions and situation. I promise you, it will not disappoint!

Trish Cody has over 18 years of experience consulting with some of the world’s top Fortune 500 Companies. Today, as an ICF and iPEC Certified Coach and Energy Leadership Master Practitioner, Trish works with clients to uncover their core values and beliefs, clearly see how they are showing up in their behaviors and impacting their success, and to shift their thinking to naturally attract positivity and success. For more information, visit

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