Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Adult Mind - Part II

The centerpiece of understanding yourself and others.

Our Minds -- 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 an interestingly common pathway.

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

(3rd order) 
The 'Socialized Mind':  You're drawn to aligning yourself with others, living within the available roles, strongly influenced by what you believes others want to hear.  You trust 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 settle down in that third order mental arrangement and rise no further. 

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.

(4th order) 

The Self-Authoring Mind: You're able to objectively evaluate the opinions of others against your 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, you'll hold the surrounding social context at a distance.   Your concerns will include falling short of your own standards or being managed by others’ expectations.
Approximately 35% of the adult population is at this plateau of development.

(5th order

The Self-Transforming Mind: This 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.  Your questions would include, “What am I missing?”, “How can my outlook be more inclusive?”
Your concerns would include complacency regarding your own identity or thinking you'd finally “learned it all”.
Less than perhaps 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, nonlinear, and multivariate.  Children are often observed running back and forth across these boundaries, as though reaching for something more.  And it is a theory, of course.  
This offers us a fascinating theoretical perspective; perhaps helpful in our efforts to understand one another and ourselves.  
 What have you noticed along the way? 
  • 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 common business context is pre-stage-3; and perhaps our business and government leaders alike are just poorly developed preadolescents.  

  • So what might 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 stunning.  :)
Thanks and a hat-tip to psychologist Dr. Robert Kegan.  Building on the work of Jean PiagetLawrence KohlbergWilliam Perry, and others, Kegan gives us at least a partial view of cognitive development that defines these five stages of mental complexity or “orders of mind”.