Charlie El Awbery

Notes on The Evolving Self
Chapter 3


May 10, 2020 |  Categories:   learning   Kegan  

This chapter explains the driving force behind the evolution of meaning-making: the human universal of apparently contradictory needs for agency and communion (independence and interdependence). Piaget and Kohlberg ‘discovered’ stages in different domains – child development and sociomoral development – that Kegan believes have a common origin, an “underlying motion of evolution, setting terms on what the organism constitutes as self and other”. (Pg. 74.) He calls this the ‘phenomenal domain’ of which the sequence and processes of psychologies may take account. “What is an object?...the root ject speaks first of all to a motion, an activity rather than a thing: more particularly to throwing. Taken with the prefix, the word suggests the motion or consequence of ‘thrown from’ or ‘thrown away from’ … ‘Object relations,’ by this line of reasoning, might be expected to have to do with our relations to that which some motion has made separate or distinct from us.” Pg. 76 goes on to describe the evolution of developmental stages as the way in which what was modus operandi, and therefore fully integral to worldview, is superseded by a more evolved view, a psycho-logical next step. “Central to that theory is an understanding of motion as the prior context of personality. Simply put, this is the motion of evolution; less simply, it is evolution as a meaning-constitutive activity.” (Pg. 77.) “Subject-object relations emerge out of a lifelong process of development: a succession of qualitative differentiations of the self from the world, with a qualitatively more extensive object with which to be in relation created each time; a natural history of qualitatively better guarantees to the world of its distinctness; successive triumphs of ‘relationship to’ rather than ‘embeddedness in.’ (Pg. 77.) Both Piagetian and psychoanalytic theory see the first 18 months as emergence from an objectless world into a world of object-relations. (Pg. 78.) “The process of differentiation, creating the possibility of integration, brings into being the lifelong theme of finding and losing.” (Pg. 81.) ‘Object creating’ must mean ‘subject losing’. ‘Subject losing can lead to object finding.’ This is a rhythm central to the underlying motion of personality and development. (Pg. 83.) Piaget said: “All objects are simultaneously cognitive and affective.” (Pg. 83.) The rest of the chapter explains each of the stages common to various developmental theories. His own diagram of development is a helix. (Pg. 109)

Kegan helix image not displaying

This helix is reprinted at the start of each chapter and is referred to throughout the book. The wording bottom left is 'psychologics favoring independence' and bottom right, 'psychologics favoring inclusion'. Stage 0: Incorporative (reflexes and sensing) Stage 1: Impulsive balance

Stage 2: Imperial balance

The limits of stage 2: “What I may experience is concern about whether the person I have betrayed will find out, and what the consequences of their finding out will be.” (Pg. 90.) In stage 2 I can see that others, like me, have needs and impulses. I can understand that they too experience feelings, e.g. about being betrayed. But how they will feel is not part of my own feeling or meaning-making. (Pg. 91.) Creation of guilt, or conscience, does not arrive until stage 3. “The creation of guilt, or development of conscience…is also quite liberating, as it frees one of having to exercise so much control over an otherwise unfathomable world. It frees me of the distrust of a world from which I am radically separate. Without the internalization of the other’s voice in one’s very construction of the self, how one feels is very much more a matter of how external others will react, and the universal effort to preserve one’s integrity will be felt by others as an effort to control or manipulate. When you are the object of my stage 2 balance, you are subject to my projecting onto you my own embeddedness in my needs. I constitute you as that by which I either do, or do not, meet my needs, fulfill my wishes, pursue my interests.” (Pg. 91.) Stage 2 is a construction mindful that different parties have different needs and wants, but not integrative of those different needs and wants. This is not an orientation to a relationship. (Pg. 94.) “Though persons at stage 2 will sometimes use the word ‘guilt’ to refer to their own experience, when we look into what they mean, it turns out they are talking about an anxious anticipation of what the other will do.” (Pg. 94.) At this stage, “what they don’t know won’t hurt them” = “what they don’t know won’t hurt me.” Stage 3: Interpersonal balance

Stage 3 is interpersonal but not intimate. One might seem to be lacking self-esteem: but the concern is not so much about whether someone likes themselves or what degree of self-confidence they have. “The difference goes to that fundamental ground which is itself the source of affect and thought, the evolution of meaning.” (Pg. 96.) “Thus, if the interpersonal balance is able to bring inside of itself the other half of a conversation the imperial balance had always to be listening for in the external world, the internal balance suffers the vicissitudes of its own externalities. It cannot bring onto itself the obligations, expectations, satisfactions, purposes or influences of interpersonalism. They cannot be reviewed, reflected upon, mediated–and so they rule.” (Pg. 97.) From the perspective of stage 3, stage 2 looks like selfishness. Stage 3 is altruistic. Stage 4: The institutional balance

There is a new capacity for independence at stage 4. One has the ability to own herself rather than having all the pieces of herself owned by various shared contexts. “The sympathies which arise out of one’s shared space are no longer determinative of the ‘self,’ but taken as a preliminary, mediated by the self-system.” (Pg. 101.) “Emotional life in the institutional balance seems to be more internally controlled. The immediacy of interpersonalist feeling is replaced by the mediacy of regulating the interpersonal. Regulation, rather than mutuality itself, is now ultimate. For stage 3 it is those events risking the integrity of the shared context that mobilize the self’s defensive operations; for stage 4 it is those events that threaten chaos for the interior polity.” (Pg. 102.) The question is no longer ‘do you still like me?’ but ‘does my governance still stand?’ Feelings could be dissident, at this stage – subject to psychological civil polity. But a danger is that one could become overly self-controlling, stale, rigid, exhausted by maintaining boundaries, (Pg. 103.) ‘holding it all together.’ This balance emphasizes the importance of respect, above likes and dislikes. Stage 5: The interindividual balance In Kohlberg’s framework, being at stage 5 requires a ‘prior to society’ perspective. Additionally “a kind of theory that roots the legal institution in principles which give rise to it, to which conflicts in the law might be appealed…no longer is ‘the just’ derived from the legal, but the legal from a broader conception of the just.” (Pg. 104.) The past balance is not disowned either. ‘Should’ still exists. “The great difference between stage 5 and stage 3 is that there now is a ‘self’ to be brought to, rather than derived from, others; where ego stage 3 is interpersonal (a fused co-mingling), ego stage 5 is interindividual (a co-mingling which guarantees distinct identities).” (Pg. 105.) “Every new balance represents a capacity to listen to what before one could only hear irritably, and the capacity to hear irritably what before one could not hear at all.” Someone in stage 5 is capable of intimacy in a way that the previous stages were not. Dynamism, flow and play result from “the capacity of the new self to move back and forth between psychic systems within itself.” (Pg. 105.) Emotional conflicts are recognizable and tolerable. At stage 3 one can feel torn between demands from different interpersonal spaces: conflict is ‘out there’ as ground, and ‘I’ am figure on it. At stage 4, conflict is internalized: self is ground for conflict and competing poles are figure on it. Stage 4 ego exists for the purpose of resolving conflict “and its inability to do so jeopardizes its balance. Stage 5 is “open to emotional conflict as an interior conversation.” (Pg. 106.) “This sharing of the self at the level of intimacy permits the emotions and impulses to live in the intersection of systems, to be ‘re-solved’ between one self system and another.” (Pg. 106.) Agency and communion: On Pg. 107 there is a discussion of the tension between communion and agency – two “great human yearnings”– that runs through all the evolutionary stages. This tension is somewhat resolved with a leaning more towards one side or the other, in each alternate balance. “But what is most striking about these two great human yearnings is that they seem to be in conflict, and it is, in fact, their relation , this tension, that is of more interest to me at the moment than either yearning by itself. I believe it is a lifelong tension. Our experience of this fundamental ambivalence may be our experience of the unitary, restless, creative motion of life itself.” (Pg. 107.) Every developmental stage is an evolutionary truce. “It sets terms on the fundamental issue as to how differentiated the organism is from its life-surround and how embedded.” (Pg. 108.) Each stage, or truce, is a temporary solution to the lifelong tension between the needs for communion and independence, the yearnings for inclusion and distinctness. Because each of the stages is slightly imbalanced either towards inclusion or independence, is why they are temporary. Each self is vulnerable to being tipped over. (Pg. 108.) This model recognizes the equal dignity of each yearning, whereas all contemporary frameworks at the time of writing, Kegan says, defined growth in terms of increased differentiation, with dependency and immaturity correlated. “A model in pursuit of the psychological meaning and experience of evolution – intrinsically about differentiation and integration – is less easily bent to this prejudice.” (Pg. 109.) This model shows how we revisit old issues at a new level of complexity. Renegotiation of the terms of any evolutionary balance/truce is “a natural emergency.” (Pg. 110.)