The Evolving Self: Problem and Process in Human Development

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Overview

The Evolving Self focuses upon the most basic and universal of psychological problems--the individual's effort to make sense of experience, to make meaning of life. According to Robert Kegan, meaning-making is a lifelong activity that begins in earliest infancy and continues to evolve through a series of stages encompassing childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. The Evolving Self describes this process of evolution in rich and human detail, concentrating especially on the internal experience of growth and transition, its costs and disruptions as well as its triumphs.

At the heart of our meaning-making activity, the book suggests, is the drawing and redrawing of the distinction between self and other. Using Piagetian theory in a creative new way to make sense of how we make sense of ourselves, Kegan shows that each meaning-making stage is a new solution to the lifelong tension between the universal human yearning to be connected, attached, and included, on the one hand, and to be distinct, independent, and autonomous on the other. The Evolving Self is the story of our continuing negotiation of this tension. It is a book that is theoretically daring enough to propose a reinterpretation of the Oedipus complex and clinically concerned enough to suggest a variety of fresh new ways to treat those psychological complaints that commonly arise in the course of development.

Kegan is an irrepressible storyteller, an impassioned opponent of the health-and-illness approach to psychological distress, and a sturdy builder of psychological theory. His is an original and distinctive new voice in the growing discussion of human development across the life span.

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Editorial Reviews

Contemporary Psychology

Kegan acknowledges a debt to Piaget, Kohlberg, and the psychoanalytic object-relations theorists. He regards his theory as a synthesis and extension of their views, resulting in a developmental theory that presents a unified conceptualization of affective, cognitive, and moral development. Individual chapters are devoted to each of six developmental stages—their growth and loss. The last chapter explores the implications of the theory for psychotherapy and for implementing growth in everyday life...The theory is elegant...There is much food for thought and many hypotheses for research in Kegan's book. If one has not appreciated the importance of meaning-making as a central concept in personality theorizing, the book might even propel one into the next stage. More likely, the reader will...obtain some important new insights. All in all I recommend the book highly.
— Seymour Epstein

American Journal of Education

Kegan's great contribution is his description of the powers and difficulties entailed in each of these bases for conducting relations with self and others and his systematizing of considerations involved in changing from one basis to another...Kegan's is indeed a provocative contribution!
— Guy E. Swanson

Review of Psychoanalytic Books

A landmark book...[It] proposes to integrate thought and emotion in human development and I responded to it on this double level. Breathlessly I encountered all the disparate ideas I had had about human development in the last ten years, all under one single solidly constructed theoretical roof...It is a book about meaning-making which revises one's own meaning-making in very profound ways.
— Sophie Freud Lowenstein

Contemporary Psychology - Seymour Epstein
Kegan acknowledges a debt to Piaget, Kohlberg, and the psychoanalytic object-relations theorists. He regards his theory as a synthesis and extension of their views, resulting in a developmental theory that presents a unified conceptualization of affective, cognitive, and moral development. Individual chapters are devoted to each of six developmental stages--their growth and loss. The last chapter explores the implications of the theory for psychotherapy and for implementing growth in everyday life...The theory is elegant...There is much food for thought and many hypotheses for research in Kegan's book. If one has not appreciated the importance of meaning-making as a central concept in personality theorizing, the book might even propel one into the next stage. More likely, the reader will...obtain some important new insights. All in all I recommend the book highly.
American Journal of Education - Guy E. Swanson
Kegan's great contribution is his description of the powers and difficulties entailed in each of these bases for conducting relations with self and others and his systematizing of considerations involved in changing from one basis to another...Kegan's is indeed a provocative contribution!
Chris Argyris
Robert Kegan has created a new perspective of personality development, focusing on the dynamics of the evolving self. The perspective integrates two universal human processes--meaning-making and social development--into a scheme that can be used to derive testable generalizations and simultaneously inform the practice of therapy. A very tall order which he fulfills admirably.
Robert L. Grossman
Kegan has written a vigorous, exhilarating, and brilliant book. If it is read with the same grace and modesty and aliveness with which it is written, it could make psychotherapy more useful, psychology richer, and speculation on the nature of being human infinitely more rewarding.
Review of Psychoanalytic Books - Sophie Freud Lowenstein
A landmark book...[It] proposes to integrate thought and emotion in human development and I responded to it on this double level. Breathlessly I encountered all the disparate ideas I had had about human development in the last ten years, all under one single solidly constructed theoretical roof...It is a book about meaning-making which revises one's own meaning-making in very profound ways.
William R. Torbert
A major contribution to the human development literature. Like Freud, Kegan's literary style matches the brilliance of his insights.
Contemporary Psychology
Kegan acknowledges a debt to Piaget, Kohlberg, and the psychoanalytic object-relations theorists. He regards his theory as a synthesis and extension of their views, resulting in a developmental theory that presents a unified conceptualization of affective, cognitive, and moral development. Individual chapters are devoted to each of six developmental stages--their growth and loss. The last chapter explores the implications of the theory for psychotherapy and for implementing growth in everyday life...The theory is elegant...There is much food for thought and many hypotheses for research in Kegan's book. If one has not appreciated the importance of meaning-making as a central concept in personality theorizing, the book might even propel one into the next stage. More likely, the reader will...obtain some important new insights. All in all I recommend the book highly.
— Seymour Epstein
American Journal of Education
Kegan's great contribution is his description of the powers and difficulties entailed in each of these bases for conducting relations with self and others and his systematizing of considerations involved in changing from one basis to another...Kegan's is indeed a provocative contribution!
— Guy E. Swanson
Review of Psychoanalytic Books
A landmark book...[It] proposes to integrate thought and emotion in human development and I responded to it on this double level. Breathlessly I encountered all the disparate ideas I had had about human development in the last ten years, all under one single solidly constructed theoretical roof...It is a book about meaning-making which revises one's own meaning-making in very profound ways.
— Sophie Freud Lowenstein
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674272316
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/1983
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 504,740
  • Product dimensions: 6.05 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 0.90 (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: Construction and Development

PART ONE: EVOLUTIONARY TRUCES

1. The Unrecognized Genius of Jean Piaget

2. The Evolution of Moral Meaning-Making

3. The Constitutions of the Self

PART TWO: THE NATURAL EMERGENCIES OF THE SELF

4. The Growth and Loss of the Incorporative Self

5. The Growth and Loss of the Impulsive Self

6. The Growth and Loss of the Imperial Self

7. The Growth and Loss of the Interpersonal Self

8. The Growth and Loss of the Institutional Self

9. Natural Therapy

REFERENCES

INDEX

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