Adult development describes how we can mentally grow through life, how our thinking-patterns and the ways in which we understand the world and people around us may shift.
These steps are discrete. They are not a gradual accretion of knowledge but rather more like steps. The shifts are characterized by concentrically-larger circles of identity, care and responsibility.
As we grow through such thinking-patterns our abilities to get different perspectives and see connections, catalyze synergies, lifts. We are more likely, for example, to empathetically understand different value systems and the cares inherent in them. With that comes a widening responsibility.
“Early in life it is I, me and mine. And then it is a we. But it is a particular we—it is my community and everyone else might be considered an other” says Abigail Lynam (see intro video>).
In these stages there is a progression. A less complex stage may be characterized by:
Viewing alternatives as black and white—there is one right way of seeing. This can be useful when we are receptive to subtle thoughts and feelings. It can be a stage of complexity that sees us, and where we see ourselves, as problem solvers.
That shifts when we include more. Say we are confronted weighing costs and motivation. We buy something based on multiple factors including emotions, brand and quality as well as price. A more complex stage-understanding may:
Coordinate such differential concepts. We may directly link the cause and effects so that “increased brand love = increased sales and higher profits”.
What we may not see, within such a linear cause and effect system, are longer-term systemic issues. Those could include climate change, local and global values, exploitation and more.
Many of these issues are the meta-crises of today. Climate emergency, radical inequality, systemic racism, biodiversity calamities, and others, are highly complex. Adult development helps us understand how we are shifting to meet these challenges. The map it provides can assist our own development as well as communicating with others for action.
Watch Abigail Lynam introduce these concepts in the video below>.