The Evolving Self: Problem and Process in Human Development Reprint Edition
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“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, Contemporary Psychology
“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, Review of Psychoanalytic Books
“Replete with literary allusions and personal anecdotes, this scholarly and appealing discourse represents a fascinating appraisal of the evolution of the self, devoting particular attention to the role of environmental forces which may have crucial impact on the individual. It evaluates, compares, and contrasts the contributions of Piaget, Erikson, Freud, Kohlberg, and others in a refreshing and informative fashion. Written by a clinician, the book also proposes a thought-provoking metatheory of therapy and considers the topic of depression from an evolutionary orientation. [This work is] well articulated and comprehensive in scope.”―Lucille F. Halgin, Library Journal
“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.”―Chris Argyris
“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.”―Robert L. Grossman
“A major contribution to the human development literature. Like Freud, Kegan’s literary style matches the brilliance of his insights.”―William R. Torbert, Boston College
“If one could only buy one book on child development, The Evolving Self would bet the book to buy… It reflects the state of the art.”―George E. Vaillant, M.D.
“Here is a bright, ambitious mind, integrating old ideas from such diverse sources as Freud, Piaget, Erikson, and Kohlberg into an original synthesis. Kegan seems to be the first Neo-Piagetian who is able to look at the evolving person as more than a succession of systems but as a whole human being.”―Ernest S. Wolf, M.D.
About the Author
- Publisher : Harvard University Press; Reprint edition (June 3, 1982)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0674272315
- ISBN-13 : 978-0674272316
- Item Weight : 15.3 ounces
- Dimensions : 6.05 x 0.9 x 9.28 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #69,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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As has been mentioned, many aspects in this book can be related to Humberto Maturana's work of auto-poeisis. Both concepts stress a person's evolution to understand an entity better. That is, in Maturana's concept, a culture's history of evolution must be understood to understand how it functions as a system, the same with Kegan's concept that applies to the person. There are many other similarities, such as when a balance is present, it is not attended to or not as noticed as when something is in disequilibrium or 'broken.' Maturana stresses the same about the biological processes that occur seamlessly unless something threatens its seamless process or existence. There are too many to list here.
It is very annoying that all illustrations cannot be seen in the ebook version, but always refers to the printed version.
"The Evolving Self" is about human, and personality, development. Read in conjunction with another excellent book on development and change, " Change: Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution " (published in 1974), a set of "meta-themes", or themes about themes...emerges related to human development.
Kegan's book (the subject of this review) was published in 1982...the fact that this book and " Change: Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution " were published more than 25 years ago is not meant to suggest that no good books of this type have been published in the recent past, but rather that "The Evolving Self" and " Change: Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution " have stood the test of time well.
From my perspective, Kegan covers two fundamental topics in this book, (1) "meaning-making," and (2) the evolution of self as an activity...a process and a motion. While these two topics may seem abstract at first glance, they make sense in the context of the models and stories encapsulated in this important book.
The first fundamental topic of this book, "meaning-making," represents the manner in which people make meaning of events...more or less a process by which an event or action "turns into" an event or action from the point of view of a person. In other words, how a person makes meaning of an event or action.
The second fundamental topic of "The Evolving Self," that of the evolution of self as an activity, reflects a philosophy or viewpoint that recognizes/views the world as being made up of processes as much as entities. Kegan notes that this viewpoint is common across the Chinese culture, but less frequently found in other cultures...thus, "seeing" the world in this manner may take practice from those not of the Chinese culture.
Put another way, Kegan states, "This book is about human being as an activity. It is not about the doing which a human does; it is about the doing which a human is." This may sound complex, but the panorama of Kegan's writing and thinking elucidates the importance of this distinction.
Thus, the simple messages of Kegan's book, on the other side of the complex linguistics found in the book, are these, (1) different people "make meaning" of things and people in different, somewhat predictable ways, and (2) the manner is which a "self" evolves follows an evolutionary pattern.
I highly recommend this book...it will likely require a significant investment of time and thought to make it through the book in a meaningful way, but it is well worth the effort.
Top reviews from other countries
The author has more than a gift for crafting a good story: he writes colourful descriptions and explains the subject matter with complete clarity. It's impressive just how well he writes about a complex and often ambiguous collection of ideas, research and theory - without losing the reader, and whilst managing to always keep application/practice firmly in sight. He writes in a very accessible way - not easy given the subject matter - without dumbing it down.
It's probably not a book that a complete newbie to psychology and developmental processes will be able to fully comprehend. But that said, I think it will help any newbie to direct their further study by clarifying why they are studying the topics here and figuring out what they do and don't yet understand.
As testament to how practical this knoweldge is, I found the discussion of depression (in the final chapter with the intriguing title of "Natural therapy") to be very helpful to me personally in understanding my own struggles with depression. I could pin-point the type of depression I suffer, and recognise/comprehend its dynamics from his descriptions.
As an educator, his discussion of how to separate one's own goals and interpretations from the development process of the client was particularly useful. He explores this with examples of contrasting counsellor-client conversations, demonstrating different traps that the counsellor can fall into as well as his remedies. And - true to the spirit of his constructive-developmental approach - he shares his own internal dialogues that help keep his mind clear about how to approach a given "client problem" by "holding" a space that serves the client's needs from the process. Really clear, really insightful, and very practical.