Kegans Orders of Consciousness and Immunity to Change

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This assignment seeks answers to the following 3 questions – What are the main elements of Robert Kegan’s Theory of Adult Mental Development? What are the implications for my professional practice of Kegan’s Theory of Adult Mental Development? How useful an idea is immunity to change for me in my practice, professional role, and career? What are the main elements of Robert Kegan’s Theory of Adult Mental Development? Kegan’s model of constructive-development and in particular theory around adult Development provides a picture of the many differing ways people have of being in the world and, in particular, the demands the world places on development and the capacity of adults to meet these demands. The theory describes the many different ways people have of meaning-making about the world. When people are able to hold their own and other ideas and ways of being and making meaning as different, potentially comprehensible, it opens up the possibility for deeper relationships and understanding. Instead of the regular way people have of understanding difference which is to mistrust it or judge it wrong, Kegan’s theory gives us an insight into how we can make sense and understand what is different in the world as leaders in organisations and in our everyday lives.

Kegan’s theory is made up of a number of key elements these are: • Orders of Consciousness
• Subject / Object Theory
• Dynamic Equilibrium
• Transformation
• Competing Commitments and Immunity To Change
A number of assumptions underpin Kegan’s theory of adult development – Orders of Consciousness not only refer to how one thinks but generally how one constructs reality from experience. The orders are concerned with how we organise our social, thinking and feeling relationships. Each order represents a different subject / object relationship. Each order relates to the other- one order does not replace the previous, it is more complex and inclusive than the previous. Subject and object are not fixed. What was subject in one order becomes object in the next and so on.

Orders of Consciousness
According to Kegan we develop the ability, over the course of our adult lives, to make meaning of the world through a series of five “orders of consciousness”. An “order of consciousness” is a way of comprehending one’s experiences. It is not about ‘knowing what’ but of ‘knowing how’. It is also essential to understand that each higher “order of consciousness” encompasses the previous one and you cannot achieve one without achieving the previous one. In fact most of do not achieve all five levels. The first two orders relate to children and orders three to five to adults.

The first “order of consciousness”
Young children operate in a place where the whole world revolves around them. They can recognise that other people do exist around them and are separate to them but they cannot recognise that those around them have different feelings or purposes to them. The second “order of consciousness”

From around the age of six years the child begins to exhibit second order characteristics and begins to see that the world does not revolve around them but does not yet fully grasp the implications of this. They cannot consider their own point of view simultaneously with another’s point of view. The third “order of consciousness”

During the teenage years we begin to understand some of the responsibilities, obligations, expectations and implications inherent in the fact that the world does not fully revolve around us as individuals, and that we have to work and play with others around us. By the time you have made the transition from second order to third order i.e. early twenties, you understand that shared feelings and agreements take precedence over your own interests. What you cannot do at this stage is see yourself as the ‘author’ of your inner psychological life. In this ‘third order of consciousness’ you do...
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