Book Critique on
Robert Keganís "The Evolving Self"


Thursday, October 31, 1996

     I remember reading through the selected bibliography list, for a book to write about for the psychology of human development class I am taking this semester. Recently, I have found myself paying much attention to titles of books, something that I was not too particular about in the past. It had to be the title "The evolving self" that made me develop an extreme interest in this text, as well as Dr. Masseyís remark about the author teaching at Harvard University. I heard several discussions about it being difficult to read, hard to understandand, boring from students in class. I guess that might have been another issue that made me look for a challenge, and decided to read ahead. The more I read, the more interested I became, and I told Dr. Massey about my decision for my book critique.

     I found Kegan somewhat stimulating and captivating, the more I got into what I was reading. He has a unique way of getting the message across in a way that will interest the reader and make him want to go on.

     "The mind is never at rest but always engaged in ever progressive motion. It is a restless creativity." This statement summarizes tho core of the Constructive-Developmental Theory of Robert Keganís perspective of personality development, where the idea of construction is directed to activity, while the idea of development is directed to the origin and process by which the form comes to be liberating from the static view of phenomenon. It is a shift from static to dynamic.

     The Constructive-Developmental Theory has a central point of practice, the careful study of Natural Theory, which might be a guide to applications of psychological knowledge. The naturally therapeutic environments, the culture of embeddedness, offer psychological support and preventative practice. This theory builds bridges between developmental, existential and object-relation theories. It involves a new way of understanding the relationship between cognition and affect, between the individual and the social.

The Constructive-Developmental framework studies:

     1. The relationship between the organism and the environment. (Biologistís  "adaptation")
     2. The relationship between the self and the other. (Psychologistís "ego")
     3. The relationship between the subject and the object. (Philosopherís "truth")

It studies one context, (Evolutionary Activity) which it considers to be about adaptation, ego, and truth.

     Basic concepts introduce the orientation of the researcher- philosopherís ideas and placement on facts and truths that control the human being as self and his interaction with the environment. Few of these concepts are:

     Internalization, a process by which something becomes less subjective, or moves from subjective to objective.

     Perception, which refers to the organization of reflexes, sensations, actions, and their coordinations. Perception is the ability of distinguishing between me and not me.

     Rights, which amount to protection that a person obtains for being a member of the human community and is accorded the status of the individual.

     Individuality, which amounts to the most fundamental connections that exist between individuals.

     Interindividuality. The powers a person wants for himself is willing for others to have.

     Object, is that which some motion has made separate or distinct from.

     Motion, is a prior context of personality.

     Neosubjectivity, is when the infant realizes that he is not the reflexes, but he has the reflexes and coordinates them.

     Institutional, is the psychological home of public governance.

     Keganís references to major theories and comparisons among their fundamental ideas offer a deep analysis and understanding of the authorís points of view in the psychological domain, and at the same time recapitulate and make clearer impressions on oneís previous studies of those other theories.

     Starting from the beginning of life, Kegan stresses that "thinking" begins in its own form at birth with the moving of the hands and the sensing of the eyes, the newbornís body being the mind. Although, the person "thinks" from birth, it is not thinking that motivates his growth. Though the person "feels" from birth, it is not feeling, drive states, or energy that motivates his growth.

     The infantís first evolution of meaning involves the infantís differentiation from complete embeddedness in the life force. These functions of the culture of embeddedness are:

Kegan refers to 6 different levels of subject-object relation throughout the life span:

     Stage 1. The impulsive balance.

     Stage 2. The imperial balance, when the impulses are ordered by needs, wishes, interests.

     Stage 3. The interpersonal balance. The needs are ordered by the interpersonal relationships.

     Stage 4. The institutional balance. The interpersonal relationships are rooted by institutions.

     Stage 5. The interindividual balance. The theory of the institutional.

Each stage, or balance is a different evolutionary truce.

     During growth and loss of the impulsive self, the person experiences transformation in order to emerge from the embeddedness in impulses and perceptions. The young individual takes himself in hand toward a self-sufficiency and discovers the "other sufficiency" of the world (reality orientation).

     During growth and loss of imperial self, the child strives to be correct and accept rules and roles. The adolescent develops the interpersonal balance among peers. He needs strong support for the process of evolution from the embeddedness of the imperial. Later, the young individual accepts a new balance, the self-authorship and psychological autonomy. The person enters the institutional balance of ideological adulthood.

     The most important question of the individual studying to become a counselor and searching through various theories and philosophies to identify himself with their axioms and suggestions for further research, is how the proposed explanations to the psychological domain, the confirmed ideas and the rules can be applied for better scientific, as well as practical everyday practice.

     The constructive-developmental counselor should look at his clients as "persons evolving", and not as "patients" or "sick persons", not even "persons with problems". He should activate a process shared with the client right at the moment, and not facing an alient process as is "psychosis". The constructive-developmental counselor has the capacity to listen to the pain that is brought to him, and inform that "crisis" is not understood as "illness", but better distinguished as a move toward growth. What this counselor can do is, a. Protect opportunities for conscious-meaning evolution, which the client brings to him as a "problem". b. Hold the door open to chances of growth and resonate to experience that having such a problem may entail, rather than have to solve the problem, or try to make the experience less painful. He is loyal to the in meaning making than balance. He joins in the process of meaning-evolution, rather than solving the problem. The client should "hear" his problem, rather than looking at it, thus having the feeling that he is "leaving" the problem without its destroying him.
All problems are similar in that they are a threat of the constructed selfís collapse.

     The constructive-developmental counselor is phenomenological, existential, client-centered. He responds to the problem not in terms of assurance, or its resolution or interpretation, but interms of the experience of having or being in the problem, offering the most intimate and unexpected companionship. This counselorís first order of business is to establish that he is a part of the personís very evolution, joining him in an intimate way.

     The following passage is most impressive and worth to keep as a brief, but of great importance and value advice for a counselor.

     "The counselor is present for the client as follows:

     I will not abandon my client, run out of the room, or reject her in any of the things she says to me, or requests of me; nor will I condemn her at any way for the manner in which she is trying to save her life. I will try to recognize the yearnings to be safe and in control."

Copyright Mickey Kalellis © 1996.

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