Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Adult Mind - Part II

Mental development.  Until recently, we thought our minds were solidified early in childhood.  Now we recognize that brain and mind development must be understood in terms that reach far beyond the brain's structural changes and early stimulus.  Despite our variations of form and culture, we humans seem to walk a common pathway, and not everyone has the same destination in mind.  (Bad pun!)

Curious what milestones we might watch for?   Our children begin with a narrow focus (1st order) that moves quickly, we're told, through (2nd) to the strange world of more people (3rd order).

That 'Socialized Mind'
 is drawn to aligning itself with others, living within the available roles, strongly influenced by what it believes others want to hear.  Trusts authority, unlikely to question.   The great fear of the socialized mind is being disapproved by the crowd, perhaps especially by the leaders thereof.
Not everyone moves on.  Approximately 58% of the adult population lives below the level of 'Self-Authoring'.
Moving onward though, we enter 4th order thinking, the self-authoring mind.  This is perhaps the destination we were reaching for when we talked about trying to 'find ourselves'.  With our identity submerged in a culture of family and classmates and friends, it's difficult to see ourselves distinctly or with any clarity.  I remember; the self-awareness I had envisioned in college took a couple of decades, and everything changed yet again.

The Self-Authoring Mind
(4th order) is able to objectively evaluate the opinions of others against their own.  The result is an independent self-authored identity.  "Guided by their own internal compass, such a person then becomes subject to his or her own ideology.  These individuals tend to be self-directed, independent thinkers."  This is where you legitimize yourself, your philosophy, your theology, your reason for being.  You've reached for it for so many years; arrival is a peaceful descent into clarity on so many fronts.  You find yourself quite comfortable with folks who think differently.
In the course of life, this mind holds the surrounding social context at a distance.   Major fears of such a mind might be falling short of one’s own standards or being made subject to others’ definitions.
Approximately 35% of the adult population is at this plateau of development.

The Self-Transforming Mind
(5th order) is the highest or perhaps last level of consciousness in Kegan's model, self-aware and able to regard multiple contexts simultaneously and compare them, being wary of any single one.  Life questions would include, “What am I missing?”, “How can my outlook be more inclusive?”
Fears would be having a sense of complacency regarding one's own identity or the sense that one has finally “learned it all”.
Less than 1% of the adult population is at this level of development.  
It's worth noting that Dr. Kegan's model defines stages of mental complexity.  These sequentially mastered stages are not about higher intelligence or IQ, nor are the more complex stages intrinsically “better”.  What they represent are five levels, distinguished by progressively more complex ways of thinking.  The milestones are arbitrary, change is irregular, non-linear, and multivariate.  And it is a theory, of course.  
It offers us a fascinating perspective; perhaps helpful in our efforts to understand one another and ourselves.  
 Got an opinion? 
  • The question concluding The Adult Mind - Part I was, "If we weren't worried about profits and wealth, and about coming out on top, would we be different?"  It suggest the capitalist business context is pre-stage-3; and perhaps our business and government leaders alike are just poorly developed pre-adolescents, no?  

  • What does it suggest to us as adults when we're told, "except you become like a little child ...."?  
    • Is there something we can actually grasp and do with that?  
    • Ever heard a 4th order plan and conclusion being laid out by a five year old?  
      • I have; it is so awe-inspiring.  :)
Thanks and a hat-tip to psychologist Dr. Robert Kegan.  Building on the work of Jean PiagetLawrence KohlbergWilliam Perry, and others, Kegan gives us a view of adult cognitive development that defines these five stages of mental complexity or “orders of mind”.