Johnny Abegg and the endless journey…

Johnny Abegg, filmaker, surfer and natural creative, speaks about how the experience of chasing the prosurfing circuit for three years invited him to move beyond an earlier frame of socialised thinking (one he was ‘subject to’, wanting to be a prosurfer without having much idea of what that really means, and means to him) towards one where he is more-like authoring his life.

The move from being ‘had-by’ our ideas or problems towards ‘holding my environment as an object’, able to think constructively and critically is discussed in more detail below. While that sounds easy, and desirable, and a great place to be… it is one place along a continuum of our adult development. Like every other growth, excitement and disorientation abound.

(I was wondering how I could start to talk about this stuff I have been studying the last little while. So, thanks Johnny!)

A short intro to adult developmental thinking based on Bob Kegan’s model over the jump, from Peter Pruyn’s excellent blog.

The Socialized Mind takes as object one’s own needs, interests and desires.  Meanwhile it is subject to its social environment, that is, how one is socialized.  At this level of consciousness, one’s identity is tied to living in relationship with others in roles determined by one’s local culture.  Such a person is subject to the opinions of others and is therefore strongly influenced by what she or he believes others want to hear.  Such a stance tends to be reliant on authority for direction and less likely to question, making one a loyal follower.

The Socialized Mind is drawn to seeking alignment between itself and its surroundings.  As a result, its underlying structure of meaning-making can be described as operating “across categories”.  A major fear of such a person would be falling out of favor with one’s “tribe”.

About 60% of the adult population is below the level of Self-Authoring.


The Self-Authoring Mind is able to take a step back from its environment and hold it as object, regarding his or her culture critically.  The Self-Authoring mind is able to distinguish the opinions of others from one’s own opinions to formulate one’s own “seat of judgment”.  The result is a “self-authoring” of one’s own identity that is independent from one’s environment.  Guided by their own internal compass, such a person then becomes subject to his or her own ideology.  These individuals tend to be self-directed, independent thinkers.

The Self-Authoring mind is drawn towards problem-solving around meeting its own personal agenda.  In the course of such problem-solving, the Self-Authoring Mind is holding the surrounding social system as object.  Therefore its underlying structure of meaning-making can be said to be operating at the level of systems.  Major fears of such an order of mind would be falling short of one’s own standards or being subject to others’ definitions.

Approximately 35% of the adult population is at this plateau of development.


The Self-Transforming Mind is the highest level of consciousness in Kegan’s model.   The Self-Transforming Mind is able to take a step back from the act of self-authoring and hold it as object.  From this point of view, one is able to regard multiple ideologies simultaneously and compare them, being wary of any single one.  Driving questions would include, “What am I missing?”, “How can my outlook be more inclusive?”  As Susanne Cook-Greuter likes to say, such a person tends to move away from “either/or” thinking towards thinking that is more “both/and”. This mindset is problem-seeking. This multi-frame perspective is able to hold the contradictions between competing belief systems and is therefore subject to the dialectic between systems of thought.  Underlying this perpetual quest is an acceptance of the incompletion of wholeness.

Because of its interdependent meaning-making, the underlying structure of the Self-Transforming Mind can be thought of as operating at the level of a system of systems.  Fears of this order of mind would be having a sense of complacency regarding ones own identity or the sense that one has finally “learned it all”.

Less than 1% of the adult population is at this level of development.

A one page schema overview flyer (worth a peep)

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