Shadow and Light in Adult Development – Dr Kegan’s Keynote

A Necessary Step… Back

Like with mythic rainbows, the adventurer’s of the integral crowd are gravitated to the pot of shiny gold at the end of our colour spectrum.

By nature of any growth hierarchy, our attentions are drawn to the most developed, most transcended parts, making us rush through the juicy parts, which would inevitably lead to “the promised land” at the end of our evolution.

Dr. Kegan is the academically certified expert of those juicy parts. And he is now coming to Hungary, for the Integral European Conference in person. A Harvard professor, author, who worked with Jane Loevinger, mentored Susanne Cook Greuter and scientifically supported Ken Wilber build his Integral Theory.

He believes that we, integralist are fascinated with the postmodern stage, but the world is not there yet. Why? And where is the world at? Read more here. 

He will not only give a keynote at IEC, titled “Shadow and Light in Adult Development” will be from 9AM to 9:45AM on the 25th of May, but also do an in-person workshop in downtown Budapest, the weekend before the conference on Sunday, 21st of May between 10AM-5PM. The topic for his revolutionary workshop is the theory and practice of adult development, based on his 40+ years of rigorous research.

Dr Kegan’s Keynote Abstract:

Despite many Integralists’ fascination with post-modernity and higher stages of development, our evolutionary “center of gravity” as adults is in the gradual evolution from the Socialized to the Self-Authoring mind.

This talk is at once a celebration of the greater availability of supports for this liberatory move, especially for non-dominant and marginalized people (the “light”), but also a call to better understanding the reactionary forces (e.g., anti-wokeism) that are a consequence of these same supports (the “shadow”).

Dr Kegan’s Model, The Orders of Consciousness:

They can be envisioned as nested layers of context—veritable interrelated Russian dolls of conscious awareness—from which the self, once embedded, organismically emerges, always with increased mental complexity and, consequently, with an upgrade in perspective. 

In his book, In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life (1994), her perfected his framework by applying it to the real life predicaments adults frequently face in their attempts to satisfy contemporary expectations regarding love and work.  The critical process of transitioning between stages—how it occurs and, particularly, the manner in which it is often resisted—has become the focus of his more recent efforts.

In Immunity to Change (2009), Kegan and his co-author Lisa Lahey Ed.D. shine the spotlight on the world of work and on the barriers people consistently erect, frustrating their own improvement goals and preventing the natural transition between adult orders of mind:  Socialized (Stage 3); Self-Authoring (Stage 4); and Self-Transforming (Stage 5). Together they lay bare the key to surfacing the hidden commitments we harbour that keep us stuck, as well as the overarching assumptions that give rise to these commitments, so that lasting, adaptive change can occur.  Kegan and Lahey have written several additional books and co-founded Minds at Work, a professional development, coaching, and coach training service, based on their immunity to change methodology.

Transformation, however, is never painless. 

Elaborating on the Piagetian concept of decentration, what might seem superficially to be an agreeable levelling up to the next order of consciousness actually, in Kegan’s view, involves the destabilizing loss of one’s center of balance—departure of the very subject of one’s being.  During the transition between stages, the center of one’s self is removed and relegated to the forefront of one’s perceptual field, where this former subject (i.e. what one is) can be examined and utilized as an object (i.e. what one has). 

Or as the phrase Wilber popularised it, “subject becomes object“.

Once only looked through, this former lens of self can now looked at, as the middle issues out to the margins. Each successive center is constructed, defended, subordinated, surrendered, and reconstituted as the self evolves, while the culture in which the person is immersed plays its own part in this evolution. Taking up where child psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott left off, Kegan elucidates precisely how one’s environment can serve to provide confirmation (holding), contradiction (letting go), or continuity (staying put for reintegration), either facilitating or complicating the enterprise of development. 

Dr Kegan’s Background:

Dr. Robert Kegan is regularly referred to as the greatest living authority in the field of adult development today (but this is only because he has outlived the more talented contributors).

His ground-breaking works on human and organizational behavior – The Evolving Self, In Over Our Heads, Immunity to Change, How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work, An Everyone Culture – have helped create a whole new field of study, transformed practice in a host of professions, and unleashed the hope that we can all keep growing at any age.

Now an emeritus professor, Kegan was the William and Miriam Meehan Professor in Adult Learning and Professional Development at Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he taught for forty years. He was also Educational Chair for the Institute for Management and Leadership in Education and the Co-director for the Change Leadership Group.

He continues to serve as the Chief Knowledge Officer of the Growth Culture Institute, a consultancy he co-founded, where he provides high-level services to leaders and organizations throughout the world.

Kegan attended Dartmouth College, graduating summa cum laude, and then took his interests in Human Development to Harvard University where he earned an interdisciplinary Ph.D.

In 2019, Kegan was inducted into a select group that includes Nobel Prize winners, Pope Francis, and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, when The Disruptor Foundation honored his “life-long contributions and innovations in the field of developmental psychology, which have led to ground-breaking insights into the emergence of orders of human consciousness and the ongoing internal Copernican shifts that lead to self-transformation.”

A husband, father, and grandfather, he is also an avid poker player, an airplane pilot, and the unheralded inventor of the “Base Average,” a superior statistic for gauging offensive contribution in baseball.

With Love

The IEC Team

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