In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life

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Overview

If contemporary culture were a school, with all the tasks and expectations meted out by modern life as its curriculum, would anyone graduate? In the spirit of a sympathetic teacher, Robert Kegan guides us through this tricky curriculum, assessing the fit between its complex demands and our mental capacities, and showing what happens when we find ourselves, as we so often do, in over our heads. In this dazzling intellectual tour, he completely reintroduces us to the psychological landscape of our private and public lives.

A decade ago in The Evolving Self, Kegan presented a dynamic view of the development of human consciousness. Here he applies this widely acclaimed theory to the mental complexity of adulthood. As parents and partners, employees and bosses, citizens and leaders, we constantly confront a bewildering array of expectations, prescriptions, claims, and demands, as well as an equally confusing assortment of expert opinions that tell us what each of these roles entails. Surveying the disparate expert "literatures," which normally take no account of each other, Kegan brings them together to reveal, for the first time, what these many demands have in common. Our frequent frustration in trying to meet these complex and often conflicting claims results, he shows us, from a mismatch between the way we ordinarily know the world and the way we are unwittingly expected to understand it.

In Over Our Heads provides us entirely fresh perspectives on a number of cultural controversies-the "abstinence vs. safe sex" debate, the diversity movement, communication across genders, the meaning of postmodernism. What emerges in these pages is a theory of evolving ways of knowing that allows us to view adult development much as we view child development, as an open-ended process born of the dynamic interaction of cultural demands and emerging mental capabilities. If our culture is to be a good "school," as Kegan suggests, it must offer, along with a challenging curriculum, the guidance and support that we clearly need to master this course-a need that this lucid and richly argued book begins to meet.

If contemporary culture were a school, would anyone graduate? In the spirit of a sympathetic teacher, Kegan guides us through this tricky curriculum, assessing the fit between its complex demands and our mental capacities, and showing what happens when we find ourselves--as we often do--in over our heads.

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Editorial Reviews

Boston Sunday Globe

A stimulating tour through the modern mind in society...In Over Our Heads is full of insight; it reflects broad learning and enormous intellectual effort.
— David Mehegan

Contemporary Psychology

[This book] is intellectually exciting and far-reaching in its implications...Kegan's writing has much to offer developmental psychology, which suffers from a dearth of theoretical frameworks in the area of adult development...This book invites readers to work hard but rewards them greatly. There are foundation-shaking theoretical and research challenges here for mainstream psychology, especially behavioral and social learning approaches that focus on skill training and cumulative (quantitative) change...I thoroughly recommend this exciting book...It has the potential to transform our texts on life span development. It is a book that opens up whole new vistas for developmental researchers, as well as psychologists whose practice includes adult clients.
— Marie R. Joyce

Health and Recovery
A dazzling intellectual tour...In Over Our Heads provides us with entirely fresh perspectives on a number of cultural controversies--the "abstinence vs. safe sex" debate, the diversity movement, communication across genders, the meaning of postmodernism.
Boston Sunday Globe - David Mehegan
A stimulating tour through the modern mind in society...In Over Our Heads is full of insight; it reflects broad learning and enormous intellectual effort.
Contemporary Psychology - Marie R. Joyce
[This book] is intellectually exciting and far-reaching in its implications...Kegan's writing has much to offer developmental psychology, which suffers from a dearth of theoretical frameworks in the area of adult development...This book invites readers to work hard but rewards them greatly. There are foundation-shaking theoretical and research challenges here for mainstream psychology, especially behavioral and social learning approaches that focus on skill training and cumulative (quantitative) change...I thoroughly recommend this exciting book...It has the potential to transform our texts on life span development. It is a book that opens up whole new vistas for developmental researchers, as well as psychologists whose practice includes adult clients.
Boston Sunday Globe
A stimulating tour through the modern mind in society...In Over Our Heads is full of insight; it reflects broad learning and enormous intellectual effort.
— David Mehegan
Contemporary Psychology
[This book] is intellectually exciting and far-reaching in its implications...Kegan's writing has much to offer developmental psychology, which suffers from a dearth of theoretical frameworks in the area of adult development...This book invites readers to work hard but rewards them greatly. There are foundation-shaking theoretical and research challenges here for mainstream psychology, especially behavioral and social learning approaches that focus on skill training and cumulative (quantitative) change...I thoroughly recommend this exciting book...It has the potential to transform our texts on life span development. It is a book that opens up whole new vistas for developmental researchers, as well as psychologists whose practice includes adult clients.
— Marie R. Joyce
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674445888
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 414
  • Sales rank: 299,591
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Kegan is the William and Miriam Meehan Professor of Adult Learning and Professional Development at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.
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Table of Contents

Prologue

I. The Mental Demand of Adolescence

1. The Hidden Curriculum of Youth: "Whaddaya Want from Me?"

2. Coaching the Curriculum: A Bridge Must Be Well Anchored on Either Side

II. The Mental Demand of Private Life: Parenting and Partnering

3. Parenting: Minding Our Children

4. Partnering: Love and Consciousness

III. The Mental Demand of Public Life: Work and Self-Expansion

5. Working: On Seeking to Hire the Self-Employed

6. Dealing with Difference: Communication between the Sexes/Communication between the Theories

7. Healing: The Undiscussed Demands of Psychotherapy

8. Learning: "The Teacher Wants Us to Be Self-Directing"

IV. The Mental Demand of Postmodern Life

9. Conflict, Leadership, and Knowledge Creation

10. On Being Good Company for the Wrong Journey

Epilogue

Notes

Index

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2003

    An enthusiastic two thumbs up!

    By using various theories and examples, this book explains the parallels between the evolution of consciousness and the development of human consciousness in a lifetime. It is an exciting book that places our problems and developmental steps in the context of the evolution of our mind and how the two are related to each other as well as how we can become fragmented when the two are out of sync with each other. It is an excellent book that allows us to make sense of our present state and also take a glimpse into the future of our evolution. If you like books like this on consciousness, I would highly recommend 'The Ever-Transcending Spirit' by Toru Sato. It is an absolutely fascinating book that explains these things in a simple (perhaps Zenlike) way that everybody can grasp. Two thumbs up for both Kegan and Sato!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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