This is part of a series of blogs reflecting on the program of Integral Europe Conference 2023,  whose theme was Planetary Awakening 2.0. This blog introduces a Keynote  from the conference – curated in an Action Research Format – summarizing What the speaker said, So What could we take as the meaning? and Now What are options for action.

What did Robert Kegan say about Shadow & Light in Adult Development?

I /we are living a lifetime of unfolding systems of meaning.

All development is vertical…AQAL … I am a levels guy …I extend my work/views into social collective realm.

Integralists are over indexed on late stages of development 😜

Today, I look at middle stages of  development …so I am not talking today about the top of ladder… I am down where all ladders start in the ragbone shop of heart.

Kegan illustrates his talk with film clip of play “The Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen. From the film he offers these pointing out instructions.

Nora says:

  • I have to stand on my own 2 feet.
  • I am a human being.

Keegan says this is a powerful scene…we see a dramatic change in Nora herself …She has new beliefs where beliefs come from …and who authorises them.

Her ideas are made by her …they show her shifting from socialised mind to self-authorised mind.

Socialised mind emerging in a person’s teens is a triumph over self-code (me, me, me).

Consider how socialised mind has a less favoured quality as a sub-dominant category …socialised mind takes in toxins …self-poisoning  occurs as it takes place on margins.

When, like Nora, we emerge into self-authoring mind this allows us to detoxify.

We learn to read the political text …like the civil rights movement…in small shafts and huge landscapes

Then we move from amber/blue to orange – and we discover the Gift of modernism.

Integralist interest is in postmodern and metamodern … but all are going on at the same time.

All “changers” (people growing through development stages) needs Allies…self-recognition…reknowing oneself.

We may create a psychological distance from those around us …others may not recognise us …we may have to leave to save our lives!

An example in today’s world from Japan – 30% of Japanese young women don’t want to have children or get married.

These are Japanese Noras…separating from their culture…disengaging from their society.

Thorvald (Nora’s husband) is actually trapped in a traditional narrative… he holds the power position (as a fact) – his circumstances don’t reveal an equal developmental reality (as Nora’s).

We need to extend compassion to the Thorvalds of the world … his world order is threatened … his shadow side impedes changes (to him and world).

We are living in a world-wide power struggle.

Kegan finishes his talk with 3 Stories:

  1. When Trump was elected, Kegan was having difficulty reflecting on the result – so Kegan drove to a poker room in a group where people are not equal…there is always a mix of genders ages politics etc. (This is Kegan’s way of relaxing on a regular basis 😊) In the room were MAGA hats, Kegan heard that these people felt (the Trump result) meant that they had found their country again.
  2. In the Post 911 time – a Muslim student said that Muslim men felt the virus of the west related to the sexuality of women…this was so disturbing to the self-definition of men …that it lead to the explosion of 911.
  3. A (Jewish?) congregation had set out to reshape its liturgies. A rabbi heard from a woman who had sat in the same seat as an adult as she had as a child. The woman asks, “The way we said our prayers when I was a child – you changed all this – is the way that we prayed and talked to God – was it wrong?

So what could this mean?

Kegan pointed out to IEC23 that as Integral Thinkers we are too concerned with late stage development. He reminds us that middle stage development is continuously occurring as well. Estimates (from Kegan, STAGES, Memenomics, etc.) show that the majority of the world is moving through Purple, Red, Blue into Orange/Modern). The examples that Kegan gives with his 3 stories illustrates that in America the realities of middle stage dominance impact everyone’s life from professors (like Kegan), non-Christian non-liberal students and traditional faith practitioners.

Therefore, if we want to meet people where they are at, if we want to encourage acceptance we must practise being with others of differing (often less complex views) with respect, tolerance and acceptance. We must be willing to listen, play and respond to the Thorvalds of the traditional world, even as we see the Nora’s of the world emerging into modernism from their positions of little or no traditional power.

Now what can we do?

Here are 3 possible actions/responses we can take to find the Light in the Shadows of Development:

  1. Seek out people who demonstrate socialized-mind (amber/blue) and find ways to enjoy their world(s) – often at ritual/seasonal times of gathering or sports events. Invite people representing the 4 Voices of the City.
  2. Listen to women emerging into self-authoring mind (healthy red/independent orange) and support them as they express interest in and seek opportunities for acting with power. (Consider we might have a Triple Helix of Change in play.)
  3. Read the news through lenses of compassion for victims, tyrants, rebels, rescuers, witnesses and be curious about the roots of Shadow and Light in the lives of all people.