Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Change Is Gonna Come

Please allow me to navel gaze for a moment...

We’re learning about Kegan’s Stages of development in my Adult & Adolescent Development class. Instead of a traditional textbook, we’re reading Kegan’s own book, The Evolving Self–one written primarily for use by his peers. It’s making for dense reading material, but Kegan has some really interesting ideas. I’ve found myself trying to transpose those ideas to my own life.

Kegan has a belief in six equilibrium stages of development (numbered 0-5), beginning with the Incorporative stage and ending with the Inter-individual stage. The subject of each stage is the object of the previous one, and each individual has to progress through the stages in order. There’s generally a period of transition when characteristics of the present stage and of the next stage are displayed simultaneously. Each transitional period is eventually ended when the individual begins to rely more on the future stage than the present one.

I think I’m transitioning from Stage 3 to Stage 4 right now. I’m at a point where my sense of self is at least in part based on how I think others view me. I’ve really been struggling with the disparity between my two identities: the Me that I see, and the Me that (I think) others see. A lot of my self-esteem is still derived from how I am regarded by others (or how I perceive others’ regard of me). I basically define and conduct myself in terms of the social expectations placed on me (or my perception of social expectations placed on me). This is sort of classic Stage 3 stuff.

The transition factors in because at least part of the time, I can successfully function without regard to how others’ view me. I’ve at least begun constructing my own set of values and standards of conduct, completely independent of those set forth by society. That’s where Stage 4 comes in. Stage 4 is all about independence from social expectations, enabling K4s to make decisions in absence of shared social support and in the face of competing social and organizational expectations.

That last sentence is why I can only say that I’m in transition. I’m far from being able to make decisions and commitments without social support of some kind, and it’s very hard for me to deal with competing social expectations–mine versus theirs. But I really feel like I’m getting there. It’s kind of interesting to take what we’re learning in class and apply it to my life directly.