Do you think the same way now as you did when you were 16 years old? When you were 16, did you know that there was any other way of thinking? Well of course the answer is no to both. The 25 year knows what it is like to be 16, but the 16 year old does not know what it is like to be 25. And, the 50 year old knows what it is like to be 35, but the 35 year old does not know what it is like to be 50. So we do change in many ways during our adult lives. We change in terms of how we see ourselves and how we see the world and others.

When I read Seasons of a Man’s Life by Levison in my mid-forties, I felt like the guy had been following me around all my life. He described what was going for me in my late thirties and forties to a tee; lots of questioning and turmoil. It is only when I look back at that time that I see that I had transitioned to a new level of development.

It was not until my early sixties that I learned about levels of adult development from Integral Psychology by Wilber. He talked about Robert Kegan’s Stages of Adult Development.

  • Stage 1 — Impulsive mind (early childhood)
  • Stage 2 — Imperial mind (adolescence, 6% of adult population)
  • Stage 3 — Socialized mind (58% of the adult population) In Stage 3, the most important things are the ideas, norms and beliefs of other people and systems around us (i.e. family, society, ideology, culture, etc.).
  • Stage 4 — Self-Authoring mind (35% of the adult population). In Stage 4, we can define who we are, and not be defined by other people, our relationships or the environment.
  • Stage 5 — Self-Transforming mind (1% of the adult population). In Stage 5, one’s sense of self is not tied to particular identities or roles, but is constantly created through the exploration of one’s identities and roles and further honed through interactions with others.

If you want to explore in more detail about this mental model of Adult Development, go to Kegan’s Levels of Development.

The key idea here is that you grow as an adult. And, that becoming “self-authoring” means not being imprisoned by the cultural and parental messages about who you are or who you should be. It means transcending the misery caused by not owning your own authority. It means thinking deeply for yourself and being independent of others.  I see myself somewhere at stage 4, moving to stage 5.

So how do you become more self-authoring?  Well, knowing and learning about ourselves as we are in the crucible of a crisis is where the true growth occurs.

We can get a head start before a crisis arises by uncover the unconscious patterns and programing that drive us. See the Johari Window from the previous blog.

We can explore our personality dynamics, our personal history, and our value system. We can reflect on these things and see if we can discover where we are on a path of development.

Some people have no interest in this self exploration and I fully respect that. But if you are willing to go on a journey of self discovery in order to grow as an adult, stick with me and let me share with you my learning around personality dynamics, value systems, and crisis.

In the next blog we’re going to begin exploring three mental models of personality.

Can you see how you have changed over the years and think differently now than then?

As you look at the stages of development, where might you be?

One thought on “GROWING UP”

  1. WOW….I didn’t know there was a an official term for the “gate” I have passed through and the corresponding stage of life I am now in. After determining my Enneagram Type several years ago I have been telling people it felt like I received a “driver’s license” to be who I really am and not who others had made me into. Until then, I certainly felt constrained by my environment. YIPPEE…, now I know there is an official description (self-authoring) that describes my stage in life. This article contains several new “breadcrumbs” in the the field of psychology I need to follow into a better understanding of my life ahead.


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