Robert Kegan. (1985). The Evolving Self. Harvard. pp. 73-110 (abridged).


The Constitutions of the Self

Robert Kegan

Diane is twenty years old, attractive, and extremely depressed. She took forty-two pills, "not to die," she says, "but to show him how much he hurt me." She had lived with a man for nearly a year and now he was seeing another woman. Her hopes for "an exclusive relationship" were destroyed. She was furious with him but she was afraid that if she expressed this she would lose him completely. She had no one else with whom to share her unhappiness, because after she moved in with him she gradually stopped seeing other friends. As her anxiety and depression increased she had terrifying nightmares with recurring images of death. Minor irritations with her boyfriend brought on in her several episodes of rage, during which she pictured herself sitting on the mouth of a large plastic head resembling her own, staring at the back of the inside of the structure. She had several experiences of waking up abruptly and relating to her boyfriend "as if he were my father and I was about four years old"; then she would fall back to sleep and wake with no memory of these events. As she began to make plans to separate from her boyfriend she became extremely upset and took an overdose of drugs, This had happened to her before, she says. She finds a man, finds herself becoming increasingly dependent upon him; he eventually finds the relationship too burdening and moves to end it or reduce its intensity; she then feels, "I can't five with him and I can't live without him." On two other occasions when things got to this state she tried to kill herself. Now she has tried again. This time she has admitted herself to the psychiatric unit of a local hospital. What is happening? This is what she and I both want to know.

In the last two chapters we looked at the consequences of meaning-evolution in the circumscribed domains of physical and sociomoral construction. We were embarked not on an exhaustive study of Piaget and Kohlberg so much as on a search for the common origin of the stages they discovered. I suggested that the underlying motion of evolution, setting terms on what the organism constitutes as self and other, may both give rise to the stage-like regularities in the domains they explore and describe the process of movement from one stage to the next. I tried to indicate the great variety of phenomena such a proposal seems to take into account and for which it seems to offer a more integrative explanation. In this chapter I seek to widen even further the phenomenal domain of which the sequence and process of "psychologics" might be able to take account. I consider the meaning of each evolutionary truce for the basic organization of the psychological self--a lifespan developmental approach to object relations which describes a sequence of emotional, motivational, and psychodynamic organizations, as well as the now familiar cognitive and sociomoral ones.

The same week Diane entered the hospital, Terry arrived on the ward. Though the ward is a "voluntary" one, Terry, at fifteen, was not herself the volunteer. She was admitted by her mother after her parents decided they could no longer deal with her. The final blow had come that week when the mother called the school and had discovered that her daughter had skipped. When Terry returned home at the appropriate afterschool hour, her mother confronted her with the information; Terry then flew into a rage at what she regarded as her mother's intrusiveness and demanded that her mother give her her bankbook so she could run away. Her mother refused, so Terry took twenty dollars from her mother's purse and barricaded herself in her room. When the mother forced entry, Terry escaped through a window and led the Mother, assorted allies, and eventually the police on a seven-hour chase which Terry reports in the hospital with glee. On the checklist at admission Terry's mother describes Terry as bright, egocentric, narcissistic, and manipulative. Terry characterizes her mother as stern, strong, stubborn, nagging, unwilling to compromise, and headstrong.

In the hospital, where group therapy and participation in the life of a ward community are the primary media of treatment, Terry is having a terrible time. She can be seen in group meetings struggling unsuccessfully to talk about herself in a way the staff will approve. When she says, in many different ways, "My problems are not mental; they have to do with getting along with my family," the staff, however gently and indirectly, is not satisfied with the formulation and takes it as resistance to dealing with herself, her own feelings and responsibilities. The staff can see that when she does speak the language of internal reflexivity she is doing it by triangulation or imitation, that she is not really speaking her own voice; this, too, they take as a kind of slipperiness or dishonesty. Their exasperation with her grows, and when it is discovered both that she spoke to people outside the ward about people inside the ward (a cardinal violation of patient-patient bonds) and that she used "unprescribed drugs" during a weekend pass (a violation of patient-staff bonds), the staff throws her out of the community. They understand her behavior as hostility and acting out, and they justify their own on the grounds that she "would not do the work of the ward," "was argumentative," "was disruptive," "was inciting to other patients," and "was a staff- splitter. " In short, this outstanding professional staff is no more successful in being helpful (or even staying with) Terry than were her parents. But why are the staff and the milieu treatment so unsuccessful? This is what they and I both want to know.

Whatever else might be said about Terry and Diane, they seem to share a concern about personal boundaries. Their sense of what is "self" and what is "others" seems either to be shaky or to have become shaky. Difficulties of this sort-especially the inability to maintain the differentiation between self and other- are now widely understood to reflect on the vicissitudes of earliest life, the infant's separation and individuation from its undifferentiated state at birth (Mahler, 1975). From this point of view the phenomena of infancy become the context to which all further considerations of object relations throughout the life span are referred. Recurring issues of differentiation and integration throughout life come to be understood as the consequences, reflections, or offspring of this earliest period. The recognition of this crucial era prior even to the oedipal years has led in effect to a restatement of Freud's dictum: now it is the infant who is father to the man.

The constructive-developmental approach, which develops not out of the psychoanalytic tradition but out of the Piagetian one, takes a somewhat different view--both of the phenomena of infancy and of their representations in the later living of a Terry or a Diane. Its argument, in effect, is a shift of figure and ground. It suggests that rather than understanding issues of differentiation and integration in the context of infancy, the phenomena of infancy are better understood in the context of the psychological meaning of evolution, a lifetime activity of differentiating and integrating what is taken as self and what is taken as other. The consequences of doing so are not only a somewhat different conception of infancy, but the possibility of understanding - in some way which would not otherwise be available--that Terry and Diane are not eighteen months old any longer.

Everyone has heard the story of the man who was searching for something under a streetlight. "You lost it around here?" he is asked. "No, over there," he says, pointing to a dark corner some distance away. "Well why are you looking for it here?" he is asked. "Because," he says, "this is where the light is good." I admit to hoping that a constructive-developmental approach to object relations might light up some of these dark corners so that we are not forced to understand all evolutionary phenomena by default in terms of the one transformation we understand well.

What is an object? People frequently find the term "object relations" strange or distasteful. What we are most of all speaking about, they say, is other human beings, and the notion of persons as things seems unfortunate. And yet there is a meaning to the word "object" that must not be lost and that no other word conveys. We can start by looking for this in its very etymology. The root (ject) speaks first of all to a motion, an activity rather than a thing-more particularly, to throwing. Taken with the prefix, the word suggests the motion or consequence of "thrown from" or "thrown away from." "Object" speaks to that which some motion has made separate or distinct from, or to the motion itself. "Object relations," by this line of reasoning, might be expected to have to do with our relations to that which some motion has made separate or distinct from us, our relations to that which has been thrown from us, or the experience of this throwing itself. Now I know this preliminary definition sounds peculiar, but it has more in its favor than a Latin pedigree: it is the underlying conception of object relations to be found in neo-Piagetian theory.

Central to that theory is an understanding of motion as the prior context of personality. Simply put, this is the motion of evolution; less simply, it is evolution as a meaning-constitutive activity. As the prior context of personality (I mean, of course, philosophically prior; not temporally), it is argued to be not only the unifying, but also the generating, context for both (1) thought and feeling (about which more later), and (2) subject and object, or self and other (about which more now). Evolutionary activity involves the very creating of the object (a process of differentiation) as well as our relating to it (a process of integration). By such a conception, object relations (really, subject-object relations) are not something that go on in the "space" between a worldless person and a personless world; rather they bring into being the very distinction in the first place. Subject-object relations emerge out of a lifelong process of development: a succession of qualitative differentiations of the self from the world, with a qualitatively more extensive object with which to be in relation created each time; a natural history of qualitatively better guarantees to the world of its distinctness; successive triumphs of "relationship to" rather than "embeddedness in." By such a conception the term "object relations" is an acceptable, even welcome term (more welcome than something more human sounding), because, properly understood, the term does not relate persons to things, but creates a more general category. In the term is a recognition that any given person may differ from us not only by her distinctness from other persons, but by the differing ways in which we ourselves make sense of her, of which differences none may be so important as the extent to which we distinguish her from ourselves

Psychoanalytic object relations theory looks to the events of the first years of life for its basic themes and categories. While early infancy has great importance from a neo-Piagetian view, it is not, in its most fundamental respect, qualitatively different from any other moment in the lifespan. What is taken as fundamental is the activity of meaning-constitutive evolution. It is true that infancy marks the beginning in the history of this activity. As such, infancy initiates themes that can be traced through the lifespan and inaugurates a disposition on the part of the person toward the activity of evolution. The first years of life do indeed have great salience. But it is not a salience sui generis; the distinctive features of infancy, it is suggested, are to be understood in the context of that same activity which is the person's fate throughout his or her life. The recurrence of these distinctive features in new forms later on in development are not understood as later manifestations of infancy issues, but contemporary manifestations of meaning-making, just as the issues of infancy are, in their own time, contemporary manifestations of meaning-making. What does it mean to look at the psychological phenomena of infancy in the context of meaning-making, rather than to look at meaning-making in the context of infancy?

Piagetian and psychoanalytic psychologies share a conception of the newborn's state. Both consider the newborn to live in an objectless world, a world in which everything sensed is taken to be an extension of the infant, where out of sight (or touch or taste or hearing or smell) can mean out of existence. Freud considered "mental functioning" eventually to be under the sway of "the pleasure principle" and "the reality principle," but in the newborn only under the first (1911). Piaget considers mental functioning eventually to be under the sway of "assimilation" (fitting one's experience to one's present means of organizing reality) and "accommodation" (reorganizing one's way of making meaning to take account of experience), but in the newborn only under the first (1936). Taken at a general level, the notion of "orality" is consistent with the Piagetian conception of the all-assimilative, incorporative newborn. Both perspectives see the central psychological achievement of the first eighteen months in terms of an end to this objectless world and the dawn of object relations.

From a psychoanalytic point of view the baby's binding energy is directed away from himself toward another, or some part of another. The infant's natural narcissism, or self-absorption, gradually comes to an end as he withdraws an attachment to himself in favor of a new "object choice' outside himself. The notion of object relations as an energy redirection or an object choice can be contrasted with the neo-Piagetian notion of object creation. By this understanding the dawn of an object world is the consequence of the organism's gradual "emergence from embeddedness" (Schachtel, 1959). By differentiating itself from the world and the world from it, the organism brings into being that which is independent of its own sensing and moving. As Piaget himself writes, such an understanding makes early life narcissistic only in a very special sense of the word: "One could not describe it as a focus of emotion on the activity itself, as a self contemplation of self, precisely because the self has not yet developed. Narcissism is nothing other than emotion associated with the non-differentiation between the self and the non-self (the adulatory stage of Baldwin, emotional symbiosis of Wallon). The primary narcissism of nursing is really a narcissism without Narcissus" (1964, p. 35).

From a neo-Piagetian view, the transformation in the first eighteen months of life-giving birth to object relations-is only the first instance of that basic evolutionary activity taken as the fundamental ground of personality development. The infant's "moving and sensing," as the basic structure of its personal organization (the reflexes), get "thrown from"; they become an object of attention, the "content" of a newly evolved structure. Rather than being my reflexes, I now have them, and "I" am something other. "I" am that which coordinates or mediates the reflexes, what we mean by "impulses" and "perceptions." This is the new subjectivity. For the very first time, this creates a world separate from me, the first qualitative transformation in the history of guaranteeing the world its distinct integrity, of having it to relate to, rather than to be embedded in. But this transformation does not take place over a weekend, and it does not take place without cost to the organism, which must suffer what amounts to the loss of itself in the process. The laborious gradualness and personal cost of this transformation can be considered in the context of the two best researched phenomena of this period- the construction of the permanence of the object, and the infant's protest upon separation from the primary caretaker. From a neo-Piagetian view, both phenomena are easily misunderstood.

In a film describing their scales for measuring object permanence, Uzguris and Hunt (1968) show us the same infants from the first months of their lives until after their second birthdays. The experimenter interests a child in some small object, and then, right under the child's eyes, conceals it in some way -a bead necklace is covered by a small blanket, or a ball is rolled under a chair. Before the object is covered the child of four or five months is able to involve himself with the toy, pursuing it with eyes and hands, holding it, bringing it to his mouth; but when the object is covered all involvement with it ceases. This cannot be attributed to a loss of interest in the toy, for the experimenter has only to lift the cover and the child lights up, vocalizes, reaches again for the object. It seems not that the child loses interest in the covered object, but that the covered object loses its existence for the child. Beginning somewhere around eight to ten months, children make some tentative efforts to retrieve the covered object, though if it is covered by more than one screen or displaced from one screen to another, their exploration often comes to an early halt. By the time they are two years old they usually have no problem retrieving the hidden object, despite the experimenter's multiple displacements.

These widely known experiments are not so widely understood. When I show graduate students the Uzguris and Hunt film for the first time, they usually become bored and restless halfway through. It is clear that the children are behaving "as they should," that as they get older they get "better at finding the object." The theme is set early on and the predictability of the infants' behavior makes the film tiresome. And yet I have seen students watch the film again and again once they understood what they were seeing, and I find that I do not tire of seeing it repeatedly. For the film amounts to time-lapse photography of the most difficult sort--the evolution of a relationship. The process in the film is not as simple as the unfolding of a rose or the physical growth of a single organism (a child). Rather, the film is time-lapse photography of the relationship between an organism and its environment. If one turns an eye to it, one can see the child being "hatched out" (to use Mahler's term, 1975) of a world in which he was embedded.

It is difficult, for anyone, unless forewarned, to resist the perception that the little necklace or the rubber ball is remaining the same throughout the film ' while only the infant is changing; that the two-year drama contains two characters--an infant and an object--whose entitivity remains the same. The film takes on a whole new life if one sees that a single dynamic organism, "baby-and-ball," is gradually undergoing a process of transformation. Over the period roughly from nine to twenty-one months, the baby-and-ball begins to be something other than a single entity, but does not quite constitute, as yet, two distinct entities. Although the hidden object is not immediately given up, its pursuit is easily defeated. One has the sense of a differentiation so fragile, so tentative, that it can very easily merge back into oneness. Even the experimenter taking the object out of the infant's hands becomes a fascinating picture of a scientist probing the integrity of a specimen in a critical period in its evolution. Having given the object to the infant to enhance his interest in it, the experimenter then routinely pulls it gently away in order to cover it. In the early months the child gives it up without protest of any kind. He does not, it seems clear, have it, in the sense of its being something apart from, something to be bound up with. As he gets older it seems that it is not only his physical grasp that intensifies and articulates (from gross to fine motor coordination, for example), but a psychological one as well. All in all, the film, then, is capturing a motion, the motion of "throwing from," of differentiation, which creates the ob ect, and the motion of integration, which creates the object relation.

But what can be found can also be lost. The process of differentiation, creating the possibility of integration, brings into being the lifelong theme of finding and losing, which before now could not have existed. The universal infant reaction of protest upon separation from the primary caretaker, a great number of researchers tend to agree, first appears around ten months, peaks at twelve months, and ceases at about twenty-one months (Kagan, 1971).

From the neo-Piagetian perspective these simultaneous phenomena the gradually developing capacity to orient to the object even when it is absent, and the definable course of protest upon separation -are the cognitive and affective dimensions of a single, more basic phenomenon, the evolutionary transition from an undifferentiated state to the first equilibrium. In arguing for evolutionary activity as the fundamental ground in personality, constructive-developmental theory is not choosing between "affect" or cognition" as the master of development a choice which has limited both classical Freudian and Piagetian theory -but is putting forth a candidate for a ground of consideration prior to, and generative of, cognition and affect. When we view this evolutionary activity with respect to any particular subject-object differentiation which is being maintained, we are considering its implications for knowing. The events of the first eighteen months culminate with the creation of the object and make evolutionary activity henceforth an activity of equilibration, of preserving or renegotiating the balance between what is taken as subject or self and what is taken as object or other. I suggest that human development involves a succession of renegotiated balances, or "biologics," which come to organize the experience of the individual in qualitatively different ways. In this sense, evolutionary activity is intrinsically cognitive, but it is no less affective; we are this activity and we experience it. Affect is essentially phenomenological, the felt experience of a motion (hence, "e-motion"). In identifying evolutionary activity as the fundamental ground of personality I am suggesting that the source of our emotions is the phenomenological experience of evolving--of defending, surrendering, and reconstructing a center. The universally recognized anxiety between nine and twenty-one months I understand as that distress which attends every qualitative decentration--which from the point of view of the developing organism amounts to the loss of its very organization.

"Separation anxiety," by this account, is not well understood as an anxiety about the loss of an object or another, of the caretaker or the comforts the caretaker provides. It seems more correct to imagine that, from the perspective of the infant (the only perspective that counts when we attempt to understand an infant's anxiety), the distress is not about the loss of an object-for an object does not yet wholly exist, and the time when it does wholly exist (around twenty-one months) is exactly when the anxious behavior comes to an end. Central to the experiences of qualitative change or decentration (phenomenologically, the loss of my center) are the affects of loss-anxiety and depression. Infant distress understood as the felt experience of an evolutionary transformation- an emergence from embeddedness--seems to be, not so much a matter of separation from the object as separation from myself, from what is gradually becoming the old me, from which I am not yet sufficiently differentiated to integrate as other. The extraordinary vulnerability of the infant to an actual prolonged separation from the primary caretaker, which according to Spitz and others does not seem to exist before six months or much after two years, seems to be due to the misfortunate combination of an actual disappearance of what was part of me at the very time I am psychobiologically beginning to separate myself from it.

Anxiety and depression may be the affective experience of the wrenching activity of differentiation in its first phases, but sooner or later the balance as to which self is "me" begins to shift, and the old equilibrium can be reflected upon from the new, emerged position. This experience, which begins the process of integration, of taking the old equilibrium as "object" in the new balance, is often affectively a matter of anger and repudiation. From a neo-Piagetian perspective the familiar sequence from depression to anger is not so much a matter of redirecting an emotion from self to other-from one target to another-as it is moving the target of the anger itself from self to other. Emergence from embeddedness involves a kind of repudiation, an evolutionary re-cognition that what before was me is not-me. This we see, coo, on a universal basis in the first years of life. Could the "terrible twos" with their rampant negativism and declarations of "No!" be a communication to the old self, now gradually becoming object, more than to those exasperated parents who feel they are being defied as distinct and separate people? When the new balance becomes more secure, the infant will have less of a need to "protest too much" and the parents will become "others" rather than "not-me's."

I started by discussing how "object creating" must mean "subject losing"; I have come round to showing how "subject losing" can lead to "object finding." This is a rhythm central to the underlying motion of personality. Its discovery during difficult periods in the lives of Terry or Diane may not be so much a matter of revisiting an infancy rhythm, as experiencing the contemporary manifestation of a lifelong activity which begins in infancy.

Let me summarize some of the implications of this section. It should be clear that my conception neither subsumes affectivity to the cognitive realm, as traditional Piagetians tend to, nor makes intellectual life the offspring servant of affect, as psychoanalysis tends to do. "Thinking," from such a perspective, does not have to wait upon the discovered insufficiencies of "primary process," as classic psychoanalysis would. suggest. It begins in its own form at birth with the moving hand and the sensing eye, the newborn's body being its mind. As Piaget himself has said (despite the inability of his own work to realize it fully): "There are not two developments, one cognitive and the other affective, two separate psychic functions, nor are there two kinds of objects: all objects are simultaneously cognitive and affective." This is because all objects are themselves the elaboration of an activity which is simultaneously cognitive and affective.

It should also be clear how such a model speaks directly to the ambition of modern psychoanalytic theorists to recognize--rather than just posit--an intrinsic motivation for object. Though the person is seen now to "think" from birth, it is not "thinking" which motivates her growth. Though she "feels" from birth, it is not "feeling" or drive state, or energetics which motivate her growth. Psychoanalytic theory views the individual as primarily motivated by the desire to reduce or eliminate unpleasurable affect. By this reasoning the individual turns away from herself to the object (whether it is the objectís representation, as in primary process, or the world of real objects, as in secondary "cognition") because her own system of warding off noxious experience has broken down. Object relations are thus formed extrinsically, a kind of necessary inconvenience. Freud depicted ego formation and reality orientation as an unavoidable "detour" the psychic system must make to secure for itself the peace which it has desired since inception and which was much more efficiently obtained in utero. While I share the perception that it is the newborn's inability to satisfy herself that brings on the birth of object relations, this perception is couched in a conception of human motivation which is not tied to affect alone. It is the greater coherence of its organization which is the presumed motive, a transorganic motive shared by all living things. A more cognitive-sounding translation of the motive is to say that the organism is moved to make meaning or to resolve discrepancy; but this would not be different than to say it is moved to preserve and enhance its integrity.

In any case, the neo-Piagetian view concurs that it is the infant's inability to satisfy himself that prompts his development, but gives a rather different reason why. The in utero state represents a kind of nirvana. One of its most impressive features is that the needs of the fetus are perfectly met; the host organism nourishes it, breathes for it (through the host's blood), and so on. It is most appealing, in light of the neo-Piagetian understanding of growth as a process of emergence from embeddedness, to consider the experience of birth itself as the beginning of the, transition out of the first evolutionary position. What must be most dramatic about this new world for the infant is an end to this harmony. Innate reflexes may cause the eyes to close automatically before bright light, but the stomach contractions brought on by hunger do not cause food to enter the system. These discrepant experiences the organism is prompted to resolve -not, the neo-Piagetian perspective would understand, in order to return to the homeostatic state of the fetus, but to bring its organization into a coherence that can take account of the greater complexity with which it is faced; not to return to an old reality, but to establish a meaning for, or make sense out of-yes, even at one year of age-its present reality. The further elaboration this occasions, which always brings about a qualitatively new object relation, is hence neither an effort to recreate the fetal state nor an extrinsic detour. Object relations, from a neo-Piagetian view, are oriented to the present reality, and are brought into being for their own intrinsic value. While growth is no merry ride, neither is each qualitative change regarded as a greater defeat, or further indebtedness, an ever more complex and less elegant way of keeping the system free of stimulation. Rather, each qualitative change, hard won, is a response to the complexity of the world, a response in further recognition of how the world and I are yet again distinct--and thereby more related.


What we traced in the preceding section on infancy was the transition from the incorporative stage to the impulsive stage. This transformation was accomplished through a process which we will see repeated. It has been called a process of decentration, emergence from embeddedness, the recurring triumph over egocentrism; it has been referred to as a process in which the whole becomes a part to a new whole; in which what was structure becomes content on behalf of a new structure; in which what was ultimate becomes preliminary on behalf of a new ultimacy; in which what was immediate gets mediated by a new immediacy. All these descriptions speak to the same process, which is essentially that of adaptation, a differentiation from that which was the very subject of my personal organization and which becomes thereby the object of a new organization on behalf of a new subjectivity that coordinates it. In Mahler's terms, we are "hatched out"--but over and over again. And, as we shall see in succeeding chapters, we are vulnerable each time to a qualitatively new kind of separation anxiety.

In disembedding herself from her reflexes the two-year-old comes to have reflexes rather than be them, and the new self is embedded in that which coordinates the reflexes, namely, the "perceptions" and the "impulses." The tremendous lability, cognitive and emotional, of the preschool child is suggested to be a function of this new embeddedness. The child is able to recognize objects separate from herself, but those objects are subject to the child's perception of them (this is, I suggest, the underlying structure of Piaget's preoperational stage). If the child's perception of an object changes, the object itself has changed, in the child's experience; she is unable to hold her perception of the liquid in one container with her perception of the liquid in the taller, thinner container, precisely because she cannot separate herself from her perceptions. The same is true of the structurally equivalent psychological category, the "impulse." The preschooler has poor impulse control, it is suggested, not because she lacks some quantitative countering force, but because her "biologic" (the living logic which she is) is composed in a qualitatively different way. Impulse control requires mediation, but the impulses are immediate to this subject-object balance. When I am subject to my impulses, their nonexpression raises an ultimate threat; they risk who I am. Similarly, the preschooler's inability to hold two perceptions together (which is what gives the object world its concreteness, ŗ la Piaget) is paralleled in the preschooler's inability to hold two feelings about a single thing together -either the same feelings about a thing over time which creates the "enduring disposition" (the psychological structure I call "needs, interests, wishes" in Table 6), or competing feelings at the same time. This latter suggests why the preschooler lacks the capacity for ambivalence, and it understands the tantrum--the classic expression of distress in this era-- as an example of a system overwhelmed by internal conflict because there is no self yet which can serve as a context upon which the competing impulses can play themselves out; the impulses are the self, are themselves the context.

The extremely varied phenomena suggesting a fundamental shift between the ages of five and seven find a unifying context when we see that the underlying shift is exactly that of the next transformation in object relations, from the impulsive balance to the imperial one. Consider findings as apparently disparate as these: (1) Children on the early side of the five to seven shift seem to need rewards which are fairly immediate, sensual, and communicating of praise; children on the older side seem to feel more rewarded by the information that they have been correct. (2) Children who lose a limb or become blind before they are through the shift tend not to have phantom limb responses or memories of sight; children on the other side of the shift do. A child's capacity to take her impulses and perceptions as an object of her meaning-making not only brings an end to the lability of the earlier subject-object relation, but brings into being a new subject-object relation which creates a more endurable self--a self which does its own praising, so to speak, but needs the information that it is correct as a confirmation; a self which can store memories, feelings, and perceptions (rather than being them), so that a feeling arm or a seeing eye lives on in some way. The examples make clear, I think, that the context which is evolving is more than cognition or affect.


One way of characterizing the new subject-object relation (stage 2: the imperial balance) is in terms of the construction of the role. This is true whether we are speaking of the social-cognitive capacity to take the role of another person, or the affective differentiation within the impulse life of the family, which permits me to take my appropriate role as a "child" in relation to a "parent" rather than being my impulse life bound up with another. A distinguishing feature of this new subject-object relation is that the child seems to "seal up" in a sense; there is a self-containment that was not there before; the adult no longer finds himself engaged in the middle of conversations the child has begun all by himself; the child no longer lives with the sense that the parent can read his private feelings. He has a private world, which he did not have before.

It is not just the physical world which is being conserved but internal experience, too. With the constitution of the enduring disposition (what I call, for shorthand purposes, the "needs"--but it should be clear I am not talking about need as a content), there comes as well the emergence of a self-concept, a more or less consistent notion of a me, what I am (as opposed to the earlier sense of self, that I am, and the later sense of self, who I am).

With the capacity to take command of one's impulses (to have them, rather than be them) can conic a new sense of freedom, power, independence--agency, above all. Things no longer just happen in the world; with the capacity to see behind the shadows, to come in with the data of experience, I now have something to do with what happens. The end of Kohlberg's first moral stage, where authority is all-powerful and right by virtue of its being authority, is probably brought on by this construction of one's own authority. Recall Terry, the sixteen-year-old runaway. She was asked during an interview on the ward, "What's the most important thing involved in a mother-daughter relationship?"

A lot of love and understanding but a lot of times that understanding has been misplaced and over-protectiveness takes its place. I guess if the mother doesn't know when to break the bond. When a kid is born, till five they are really dependent on the mother. Then they want to break away a little bit and the mother doesn't know. She has been so used to "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, should I do this? Mommy, help me with that." The child has total dependency and the mother doesn't want to break that because she has been subjected to it for five years and it is hard to break. It is hard to break out of the habit. The kid doesn't see it because the kid, of course, is getting maturer and maturer while the mother has dependency and it is hard.

As is the case with every new development, the new liberation carries new risks and vulnerabilities. If I now have something to do with what happens in the world, then whether things go badly or well for me is a question of what I can do. Looming over a system whose hallmark is newly won stability, control, and freedom, is the threat of the old lability, loss of control, and what now appears as the old subjugation from without. How much of the control and manipulation we experience when we are the object of this meaning-making balance is a matter of a person's efforts to save herself from an old world's threat of ungovernable and overwhelming impulse life?

Every new balance is a triumph over the constraints of the past evolutionary truce, but a limit with respect to the truce which might follow. What are the limits of stage 2, the imperial self. If I betray a confidence because it suits my needs to do so, I do not experience whatever it is one experiences when one simultaneously considers one's own impulse coordinating with another's (often called "guilt"). What I may experience is concern about whether the person I have betrayed will find out, and what the consequences of their finding out will be. I am certainly prepared for their dissatisfaction with my deed, as I am able to see that they, like me, have needs and interests. I am able to understand how they might feel about being betrayed, but how they will feel is not a part of the very source of my own feeling or meaning-making. For it to be so would require me to be able to integrate one needs-perspective with another, which would be not just an additive but a qualitative construction of the balance in which I hang. Such a reconstruction entails not just a new level of social perspective, but a new organization and experience of interior life a well. When my own needs and another's are not integrated, I an unable to hold the other imaginatively and so must seek to hold him in some other way This is because, being unable to hold him imaginatively, I am left having to await or anticipate the actual movements or happenings of others in order to keep my world coherent.

The creation of guilt, or the development of conscience, may seen to some a terrible burden and a terrible loss. And, of course, in some way it is; but it is also quite liberating, as it frees one of having to exercise so much control over an otherwise unfathomable world. It frees me of the distrust of a world from which I am radically separate Without the internalization of the other's voice in one's very construction of self, how one feels is much more a matter of how external others will react, and the universal effort to preserve one's integrity will be felt by others as an effort to control or manipulate. When you are the object of my stage 2 balance you are subject to my projecting onto you my own embeddedness in my needs. I constitute you as that by which I either do, or do not, meet my needs, fulfill my wishes, pursue my interests. Instead of seeing my needs I see through my needs. You may experience this as manipulation, or being imperialized, because in order for me to "keep my balance" I have to actually control, or at least predict, the behavior "out there" of people who, in carrying around their own agendas separate from me, make it impossible, unless I can exercise such control, for me to gauge reality, the essence of which, at this point, is knowing the consequences of my actions. What makes the balance imperial is our sense of the absence of a shared reality. The absence of that shared reality names the structural limits of the second stage.

Terry discussed her understanding of Kohlberg's dilemmas while she was in the hospital. She was told about a teenager whose mother had promised her she could go to a special rock concert if she earned the money herself. She saved up the cost of the ticket-five dollars-plus another three, by babysitting, but then her mother changed her mind and told Judy she had to spend the money on new clothes for school. Judy was disappointed and decided to go to the concert and tell her mother she had only saved three dollars. That Saturday she went to the performance and told her mother that she was spending the day with a friend. A week passed without her mother finding out. Judy then told her older sister that she had gone to the concert and lied to their mother about it. The older sister wonders whether to tell their mother what Judy did. Should she?

Should the older sister tell their mother that Judy lied about the money or should she keep quiet?

If she did, she would be a rat. Because it was important to the kid, the kid wanted to go and she had saved up for it, and she still had three dollars left over. The sister should not have said anything, because she knew she would get her sister in trouble. That's a kid's point of view.

What is the other point of view?

She shouldn't have lied. Her mother said it was for clothes. It did take a long time for her to save the money up?

Pretty long.

She still had three dollars left over, I don't know. I don't know.

What is the problem here, what do you see as the conflict?

Between adult and kid, the girl wanted it, she saved up for a long time. Of course it was a disappointment to her. But it wasn't exactly fair in her mother's rights. She wasn't exactly understanding to say no after the girl had saved up for a long time. I think that the mother should have made some kind of compromise.

You are taking both points of view, the mother's and the kids.

Yes. This is too close to home, that is why I am having problems with it, it really is.

What would be the best reason for the older sister to keep her mouth shut?

Because the younger sister will probably rat-fink on her sometime. She would experience something worse. If she had told her mom, it would not have been right from a sister, sibling position; you don't tell on me. You tell on me, I tell on you. That's the way it is between kids. Plus I think there would be a lot of problems in that family and they would be better left alone; no one was hurt. She got away with it. Besides, there would be just as many problems if she didn't go because she and her mother would be bitching at each other for who knows how long. If she was saving up for a long time. It was a goal and her mother shot it for her. Still it wasn't like five dollars was all she had, she had eight dollars, and she had three dollars left over; I am sure if she did as much babysitting as she did before, she could get more money. I am sure she could suffice without clothes--of course, she has clothes, but not new clothes--a little while. You could kill two birds with one stone; if you could get away with it, go ahead.

Would it be right to?

No, I don't think so. It would be wrong for her to tell.

How come?

There would be too many hassles, there would be a lot of fighting. There really would.

* * *

How about the older sister; she has a relationship with her younger sister and you said she wants to keep a trust going, but she also has a relationship with her mother and if she tells on her sister, she breaks the sister bond. If she doesn't tell on her sister she is in a dishonest relation with her mother.

In a way, if she does suffer guilt feelings. I wouldn't suffer guilt feelings. I couldn't.

You don't think it would be violating your trust with your mother?

Sure, because it is just your concern that the mother does know about it, the mother probably wouldn't find out. If she did--she wouldn't come to it--it wouldn't be as fresh, it would be an old issue and time would have kind of erased it from my mind, the circumstances.

* * *

Was it right for Judy to do it?

Yah, in the sense that she has worked for it. No, in the sense that she is going to always worry, what if her mommy finds out. She would have to worry about that, won't enjoy it as much.

What makes the thing wrong?

It is hard, because there are reasons for both. You can make something right if you want to make it right. If you want it to be wrong, you can make something wrong.

What is the wrong reason, how is it wrong?

Because she didn't have her mother's permission to go. She misused the money in her mother's eyes, but not in her eyes.

How about in your eyes?

I would have gone because it is something I worked for. It was important to me.

From the very start of the interview we see that Terry herself frames the dilemma in terms of what the kid wants versus what the adult wants. This is a construction mindful that different parties have different needs or wants, but it is not a construction integrative of these different wants. She does not orient to a relationship-to the nature of a promise, for example, or to the cost of sustaining a shared relationship when one partner acts like the mother is acting, or to the impact of the mother's or the daughter's violation on the bond between the two people. Might this truncated orientation arise because the shared context does not yet quite exist for Terry; because the intercourse between people is not so much a context in itself as an avenue for expedient exchange? The older sister should not tell on Judy "because the younger sister will probably rat-fink on her sometime."

Terry demonstrates no spontaneous sense that the older sister may be in a conflict of her own between her interpersonal obligations to her sister and those to her mother, the sort of conflict that is bound to raise grave problems for the interpersonalist balance. When a question is put on just this subject, Terry answers that the older sister would only be in such a bind "if she suffers guilt feelings." In this fascinating section of the interview we begin to see what "guilt" is like when viewed from the outside. Guilt is apparently something that some people-it is clear to her perceptive observation-do suffer from, but she has no personal experience of it. She would not suffer guilt feelings, she says; "I couldn't." What she would have instead is a "worry" as to whether her mother would find out, and so long as she didn't find out things would either be okay, or continuously worrisome. Was it right for Judy to go to the concert? "Yah, in the sense that she has worked for it. No, in the sense that she is going to always worry, what if her mommy finds out." Notice here how both notions of its being right and wrong stem from the same context-what would or would not be of benefit to one party (herself. Guilt has to do with having a problem simply because the he exists and one is implicated thereby; the mother in such a case is a part of the interior life. Worry has to do with potential consequences of the lie's being discovered; here the mother is outside. Though persons at stage 2 will sometimes use the word "guilt" to refer to their own experience, when we look into what they mean it turns out they are talking about an anxious anticipation of what the other will do. Similarly, their favorite guilt-free expression, "What they don't know won't hurt them," really means, "What they don't know won't hurt me." In the recent movie Peppermint Soda, the lives of two sisters, seventeen and fourteen, are explored. One day the two are walking with their mother, and the younger sister steals an apple off a cart. The mother is embarrassed. That night the sisters are talking in their bedroom and the older sister asks, "How could you do that to Mama?" The younger one replies, "I didn't think I'd get caught." This is a conversation at cross-purposes precisely because it crosses two different evolutionary balances. The older girl orients to the idea of stealing, and to its violation of an "internalized" bond between herself and her mother. The younger girl orients to the consequences of the behavior, and whether mother win find out. This is because the mother is "out" in a way she is not for the older sister.

With the emergence from an embeddedness in one's needs, gradually a new evolutionary truce is struck. "I" no longer am my needs (no longer the imperial 1); rather, I have them. In having them I can now coordinate, or integrate, one need system with another, and in so doing, I bring into being that need-mediating reality which we refer to when we speak of mutuality. The theory presented in this book is at once a theory of interpersonal and intrapsychic reconstruction. The context of meaning-evolution is taken as prior to the interpersonal and the intrapsychic; it gives rise to each. The interpersonal consequence of moving the structure of needs from subject to object is that the person, in being able to coordinate needs, can become mutual, empathic, and oriented to reciprocal obligation. But during the transition the old balance can experience this change as an unwelcome intrusion upon the more independent world of personal control and agency. The intrapsychic consequence of moving the structure of needs from subject to object is that the person is able to coordinate points of view within herself, leading to the experience of subjectivity, the sense of inner states, and the ability to talk about feelings experienced now as feelings rather than social negotiations. But once again, during the transition, this change can be felt as a perplexing complexification of one's inner experience, the most common expression of which is adolescent moodiness.


In the interpersonal balance the feelings the self gives rise to are, a priori, shared; somebody else is in there from the beginning. The self becomes conversational. To say that the self is located in the interpersonal matrix is to say that it embodies a plurality of voices. Its strength lies in its capacity to be conversational, freeing itself of the prior balance's frenzy-making constant charge to find out what the voice will say on the other end. But its limit lies in its inability to consult itself about that shared reality. It cannot because it is that shared reality.

My stage 3 ambivalences or personal conflicts are not really conflicts between what I want and what someone else wants. When looked into they regularly turn out to be conflicts between what I want to do as a part of this shared reality and what I want to do as part of that shared reality. To ask someone in this evolutionary balance to resolve such a conflict by bringing both shared realities before herself is to name precisely the limits of this way of making meaning. "Bringing before oneself" means not being subject to it, being able to take it as an object, just what this balance cannot do.

When I live in this balance as an adult I am the prime candidate for the assertiveness trainer, who may tell me that I need to learn how to stand up lot myself, be more "selfish," less pliable, and so on, as if these were mere skills to be added on to whoever else I am. The popular literature will talk about me as lacking self-esteem, or as a pushover because I want other people to like me. But this does not quite address me in my predicament, or in my "hoping." It is more that there is no self independent of the context of "other people liking." It is not as if this self, which is supposedly not highly esteemed, is the same as one that can stand up for itself independent of the interpersonal context; it is rather a wholly different self, differently constructed. The difference is not just an affective matter--how much I like myself, how much self-confidence I have. The difference goes to that fundamental ground which is itself the source of affect and thought, the evolution of meaning. With no coordination of its shared psychological space, "pieced out" in a variety of mutualities, this balance lacks the self-coherence from space to space that is taken as the hallmark of "identity." From such perspectives this more public coherence is what is meant by ego itself, but in my view it would be wrong to say that an ego is lacking at stage 3, just as it would be wrong to say that at stage 3 there is a weaker ego. What there is is a qualitatively--not a quantitatively--different ego, a different way of making the self cohere.

This balance is "interpersonal" but it is not "intimate," because what might appear to be intimacy here is the self's source rather than its aim. There is no self to share with another; instead the other is required to bring the self into being. Fusion is not intimacy. If one can feel manipulated by the imperial balance, one can feel devoured by the interpersonal one.

A person in stage 3 is not good with anger, and may, in fact, not even be angry in any number of situations which might be expected to make a person angry. Anger owned and expressed is a risk to the interpersonal fabric, which for this balance is the holy cloth. My getting angry amounts to a declaration of a sense of self separate from the relational context--that I still exist, that I am a person too, that I have my own feelings--which I would continue to own apart from this relationship. It is, as well, a declaration that you are a separate person, that you can survive my being angry, that it is not an ultimate matter for you. If my meaning-making will not permit me to know myself this way, it will surely not permit me to guarantee this kind of distinctness to you either. There are a myriad of reasons why people might find it hard to express anger when they feel it, but it appears that persons in this balance undergo experiences, such as being taken advantage of or victimized, which do not make them angry at all, because they cannot know themselves separate from the interpersonal context; instead they are more likely to feel sad, wounded, or incomplete.

Thus, if the interpersonal balance is able to bring inside to itself the other half of a conversation the imperial balance had always to be listening for in the external world, the interpersonal balance suffers the vicissitudes of its own externalities. It cannot bring onto itself the obligations, expectations, satisfactions, purposes, or influences of interpersonalism; they cannot be reviewed, reflected upon, mediated--and so they rule.

Diane, too, discussed Kohlberg's famous dilemmas. She was told the story of Heinz, who needed a drug to save his dying wife, but faced a druggist who had invented the drug and wanted a huge sum of money for it which Heinz had no way of paying.

He had created this thing to try to help people and then shut it off for his own monetary gains. I think that's wrong. His aim couldn't have been to help people, but to glorify and enrich himself. And that sets up the whole subject of selfishness, which selfishness to that degree I think is wrong.

Get back to Heinz--what if he doesn't feel close or affectionate to his wife, does he have the obligation-first of all, do you think he has any obligation in any case to steal the drug? You said it was the right thing to do.

No, I don't think it is an obligation, I think it comes under does he care enough about his wife, for his wife, to put himself in jeopardy.

But if he doesn't, would he be right not to, if he decided that he doesn't care enough about his wife to put himself in jeopardy, do you think what he is doing is the right thing to do?

I think he should go to his wife and let her know how he feels and help her; they have spent a number of years together, parts of themselves and their lives together, and he should help her to see if there is any way that she can get the drug, but if he feels that he can't-if he puts getting himself in trouble over his wife

I am trying to get oriented. I understand when you say you think it was more important to try to save the woman's life than observe the druggist's rights.

Yah, I don't think he or any person on the street is under any obligation to steal.

So when you say the value of life would make it right to do it, you are saying the husband has an obligation to do it?


Would it be just as right to do it if he no longer loved her, or he was no longer intimately concerned about her welfare?

I think it would be right, I think doing something like that would show that he did care, I don't think he would do it if he didn't care. But I still think it would be right if he didn't, if he felt that he wanted to do this, he would probably feel in that sense, that he owed her something, but I think if he felt he wanted to do this for her, as another human being, it would be all right.

Why do you think it wouldn't be an obligation? Or a duty? Do you think the wife would have a right to expect him to do it for her?

No. Not at all.

Why not?

Because I don't know that you can expect to put other people in that jeopardizing situation for your own good if they don't care to. Anyone doing this for this woman obviously cares a great deal for the woman and I don't think that she could expect that from someone who didn't care about her.

Because someone who didn't wouldn't do it? Or it would be wrong to expect it?

If she has invested nothing in this other person, I don't see how she can expect a return.

So suppose it was not for a person, but it was Heinzís pet dog? Would it be right for him to steal to save the dog's life?

Save the dog's life--I think I would look at that as being somewhat an extreme and an irrational measure for a dog. Then that is putting human life over animal life, and separating the two. But I could go back to the same argument of he has invested in the dog, and I guess I do have some tendency of feeling that animals aren't independent in their own right and I don't think that the dog really has invested himself in a person. I can see how he could, just somehow, I don't see what it is, but something in me is not letting me justify that.

You think it would be wrong if he did it, would you say that was wrong? Or wouldn't you want to talk about it as being right or wrong?

I think you could talk about it being right or wrong, but I just feel at this point I am not able to make that decision.

Whatever it is about a human's life that you are willing to base a justification on it, the person's investment in that life, wouldn't hold for a dog.

Yah, there is something of a sense in here, that dogs hold a shorter life than humans and you can get over those things. There is an interaction between humans that I think becomes much stronger than that of an animal and a person, and that difference, taking that, I guess I would say it was wrong.

Diane spontaneously frames the dilemma either in terms of the relative affective "investments" persons might have in profit-making "things" versus other human beings, or in terms of "selfishness" (what stage 2 looks like from the perspective of stage 3) versus caring for others. The rightness of Heinz's theft is lodged entirely within the expectations, requirements, satisfactions, and influences of mutual, interpersonal relationships. Life is valuable by virtue of people's investment in it, or its investments in others (rather than by virtue of its benefits to me, as was the case in the earlier balance). But stealing is sanctioned with no spontaneous construction of a social or legal system generalized beyond the interpersonal, to some extent regulative of the interpersonal, and requiring some kind of "answer" in the face of a sanctioned theft. The subordination of the druggist's rights are justified finally in terms of the inferior claims of selfishness in comparison to altruism. ("He has created this thing to help people and then shut it off for his own monetary gains. I think that's wrong. His aim couldn't have been to help people, but to glorify himself and enrich himself And that sets up the whole subject of selfishness, which selfishness to that degree I think is wrong.") Thus this much of the interview suggests the kind of self-and-other balance in which the universe is subject to the interpersonal, the self is constructive of the interpersonal, and the important question for the "other" is framed in terms of its recognition of, and availability for, the rigors of mutuality. Does this give us some sense of how great were the proportions of Diane's loss when her relationship ended? Does it suggest something of what must be further lost if she is to be able to five more successfully outside the hospital?

Each new balance sees you (the object) more fully as you; guarantees, in a qualitatively new way, your distinct integrity. Put another way, each new balance corrects a too-subjective view of you; in this sense each new balance represents a qualitative reduction of what another psychology might call "projected ambivalence." In the imperial balance (stage 2), you are an instrument by which I satisfy my needs and work my will. You are the other half of what, from the next balance, I recognize as my own projected ambivalence. In the move to the new evolutionary grammar of stage 3, I claim both sides of this ambivalence and become internally "interpersonal." But stage 3 brings on a new "projected ambivalence." You are the other by whom I complete myself, the other whom I need to create the context out of which I define and know myself and the world. At stage 4, I recognize this as well, and again claim both sides as my own, bringing them onto the self What does this mean for my inner life?


In separating itself from the context of interpersonalism, meaning-evolution authors a self which maintains a coherence across a shared psychological space and so achieves an identity. This authority--sense of self, self-dependence, self-ownership--is its hallmark. In moving from "I am my relationships" to "I have relationships," there is now somebody who is doing this having, the new I, who, in coordinating or reflecting upon mutuality, brings into being a kind of psychic institution (in + statuere: to set up; statutum: law, regulation; as in "statute" and "state").

As stage 3, in appropriating a wider other, was able to bring onto itself the other half of a conversation stage 2 had always to be listening for in the external world, stage 4's wider appropriation brings inside those conflicts between shared spaces which were formerly externalized. This makes stage 4's emotional life a matter of holding both sides of a feeling simultaneously, where stage 3 tends to experience its ambivalences one side at a time. But what is more central, perhaps, to the interior change between the interpersonal and the institutional, is the way the latter is regulative of its feelings. Having moved the shared context over from subject to object, the feelings which arise out of interpersonalism do not reflect the structure of my equilibrative knowing and being, but are, in fact, reflected upon by that structure. The feelings which depend on mutuality for their origin and their renewal remain important but are relativized by that context which is ultimate, the psychic institution and the time-bound constructions of role, norm, self-concept, auto-regulation, which maintain that institution. The sociomoral implications of this ego balance are the construction of the legal, societal, normative system. But what I am suggesting is that these social constructions are reflective of that deeper structure which constructs the self itself as a system, and makes ultimate (as does every balance) the maintenance of its integrity.

Talk of "transcending the interpersonal" often makes people uneasy who want to point out--and rightly, I think--that other people should remain what is important to us throughout our lives. But others are not lost by an emergence from embeddedness in the interpersonal. (On the contrary, in a sense they are found.) The question always is how "other people" are known. The institutional balance does not leave one bereft of interpersonal relationships, but it does appropriate them to the new context of their place in the maintenance of a personal self-system.

A strength of this is the person's new capacity for independence, to own herself, rather than having all the pieces of herself owned by various shared contexts; the sympathies which arise out of one's shared space are no longer determinative of the "self," but taken as preliminary, mediated by the self-system. But in this very strength lies a limit. The "self' is identified with the organization it is trying to run smoothly; it is this organization. The "self" at ego stage 4 is an administrator in the narrow sense of the word, a person whose meanings are derived out of the organization, rather than deriving the organization out of her meaning/principles/purposes/reality. Stage 4 has no "self," no "source," no "truth" before which it can bring the operational constraints of the organization, because its "self," its "source," its "truth" is invested within these operational constraints. In this sense, ego stage 4 is inevitably ideological (as Erikson, 1968, recognized must be the case for identity formation), a truth for a faction, a class, a group. And it probably requires the recognition of a group (or persons as representatives of groups) to come into being; either the tacit ideological support of American institutional life, which is most supportive to the institutional evolution of white males, or the more explicit ideologies in support of a disenfranchised social class, gender, or race.

Emotional life in the institutional balance seems to be more internally controlled. The immediacy of interpersonalist feeling is replaced by the mediacy of regulating the interpersonal. Regulation, rather than mutuality itself, is now ultimate. For stage 3 it is those events risking the integrity of the shared context that mobilize the "self's" defensive operations; for stage 4 it is those events that threaten chaos for the interior polity. The question is not, as it was earlier, "Do you still like me?" but, "Does my government still stand?" A variety of feelings, particularly erotic or affiliative feelings and doubts around performance and duty discharge, come to be viewed as potential dissidents which must be subjected to the psychic civil polity. Stage 4's delicate balance is that in self-government it has rescued the "self" from its captivity by the shared realities, but in having no "self' before which it can bring the demands of that government, it risks the excesses of control that may obtain to any government not subject to a wider context in which to root and justify its laws.

Rebecca is in her mid-thirties. The very self-sufficiency Diane desperately needed when she entered the hospital has long been familiar to Rebecca. It has become now too familiar; it has worn out its welcome. But because "it" is how Rebecca is herself composed, she is herself worn out. We will return to her in more detail later, but in her words, presented here, I think one can hear: (1) a fleeting glance back to the interpersonalist balance, long ago transcended; (2) the personal authority and integrity of the institutional self; and (3) the courage and fatigue of experiencing its limits:

I know I have very defined boundaries and I protect them very carefully. I won't give up the slightest control. In any relationship I decide who gets in, how far, and when.

What am I afraid of? I used to think I was afraid people would find out who I really was, and then not like me. But I don't think that's it anymore. What I feel now is--"That's me. That's mine. It's what makes me." And I'm powerful. It's my negative side, maybe, but it's also my positive stuff--and there's a lot of that. What it is is me, it's my self--and if I let people in maybe they'll take, maybe they'll use it-and I'll be gone.

Respect above all is the most important thing to me. You don't have to like me. You don't have to care about me, even, but you do have to respect me.

This "self," if I had to represent it I think of two things: either a steel rod that runs through everything, a kind of solid fiber, or sort of like a ball at the center that is all together. What you just really can't be is weak.

I wasn't always this way. I used to have two sets of clothes--one for my husband and one for my mother who visited often. Two sets of clothes, but none for me. Now I dress in my clothes. Some of them are like what my mother would like me to wear but that's a totally different thing.

How exhausting it's becoming holding all this together. And until recently I didn't even realize I was doing it.


The rebalancing that characterizes ego stage 5 separates the self from the institution and creates, thus, the "individual," that self who can reflect upon, or take as object, the regulations and purposes of a psychic administration which formerly was the subject of one's attentions. "Moving over" the institutional from subject to object frees the self from that displacement of value whereby the maintenance of the institution has become the end in itself; there is now a self who runs the organization, where before there was a self who was the organization; there is now a source before which the institutional can be brought, by which it is directed, where before the institution was the source.

Every ego equilibrium amounts to a kind of "theory" of the prior stage; this is another way of speaking about subject moving to object, or structure becoming content. Stage 2 is a "theory" of impulse; the impulses are organized or ordered by the needs, wishes, or interests. Stage 3 is a "theory" of needs; they are ordered by that which is taken as prior to them, the interpersonal relationships. Stage 4 is a kind of theory of interpersonal relationships; they are rooted in and reckoned by institutions. Stage 5 is a theory of the institutional; the institutional is ordered by that new self which is taken as prior to the institutional. Kohlberg's moral stage 5 requires a "prior-to-society perspective," by which he refers to that dislodging by which the self is no longer subject to the societal; this is accomplished at the transitional disequilibration between his stages 4 and 5. To be at stage 5 in Kohlberg's framework, a person must have, in addition to this prior-to-society perspective, a kind of theory that roots the legal institution in principles which give rise to it, to which conflicts in the law might be appealed, and by which the rights that the legal institution protects might be hierarchized. What this amounts to, more than disequilibrial. transition out of the stage 4 balance, is the re-equilibration by which the legal institution has been recovered or recollected as object in a new balance. No longer is "the just" derived from the legal, but the legal from a broader conception of the just. And no longer is the past balance disowned (as in, " 'Should' is no longer in my vocabulary"). The hallmark of every rebalancing is that the past, which may during transition be repudiated, is not finally rejected but reappropriated.

But that which is a kind of theory of the legal institution may be an expression, in the moral domain, of the deep structure which is a theory of the self as institutional. And that which constructs this theory--the new subjectivity--is the next ego balance.

What happens to one's construction of community at ego stage 5? The capacity to coordinate the institutional permits one now to join others not as fellow-instrumentalists (ego stage 2) nor as partners in fusion (ego stage 3), nor as loyalists (ego stage 4), but as individuals-people who are known ultimately in relation to their actual or potential recognition of themselves and others as value-originating, system-generating, history-making individuals. The community is for the first time a "universal" one in that all persons, by virtue of their being persons, are eligible for membership. The group which this self knows as "its own" is not a pseudo-species, but the species. One's self is no longer limited to the mediation and control of the interpersonal (the self as an institution) but expands to mediate one's own and others' "institutions." If the construction of the self as an institution brought the interpersonal "into" the self, the new construction brings the self back into the interpersonal. The great difference between this and stage 3 is that there now is a "self' to be brought to, rather than derived from, others; where ego stage 3 is interpersonal (a fused commingling), ego stage 5 is interindividual (a commingling which guarantees distinct identities).

This new locating of the self, not in the structure of my psychic institution but in the coordinating of the institutional, brings about a revolution in Freud's favorite domains, "love" and "work." If one no longer is one's institution, neither is one any longer the duties, performances, work roles, career which institutionality gives rise to. One has a career; one no longer is a career. The self is no longer so vulnerable to the kind of ultimate humiliation which the threat of performance-failure holds out, for the performance is no longer ultimate. The functioning of the organization is no longer an end in itself, and one is interested in the way it serves the aims of the new self whose community stretches beyond that particular organization. The self seems available to "hear" negative reports about its activities; before, it was those activities and therefore literally "irritable" in the face of those reports. (Every balance's irritability is simultaneously testimony to its capacity to grow and its propensity to preserve itself.) Every new balance represents a capacity to listen to what before one could only hear irritably, and the capacity to hear irritably what before one could hear not at all.

But the increased capacity of the stage 5 balance to hear, and to seek out, information which might cause the self to alter its behavior, or share in a negative judgment of that behavior, is but a part of that wider transformation which makes stage 5 capable, as was no previous balance, of intimacy. At ego stage 4, one's feelings seem often to be regarded as a kind of recurring administrative problem which the successful ego-administrator resolves without damage to the smooth functioning of the organization. When the self is located not in the institutional but in the coordinating of the institutional, one's own and others, the interior life gets "freed up" (or "broken open") within oneself, and with others; this new dynamism, flow, or play results from the capacity of the new self to move back and forth between psychic systems within itself. Emotional conflict seems to become both recognizable and tolerable to the "self." At ego stage 3, emotional conflict cannot yet be recognized by the self; one can feel torn between the demands from one interpersonal space and those from another, but the conflict is taken as "out there"; it is the ground and I am the figure upon it. At ego stage 4, this conflict comes inside. The dawn of the "self-as-a-self" '(the institutional self) creates the self as the ground for conflict and the competing poles are figures upon it. Emotional conflict is recognized but not tolerable; that is, it is ultimately costly to the self The self at ego stage 4 was brought into being for the very purpose of resolving such conflict, and its inability to do so jeopardizes its balance. Ego stage 5 which recognizes a plurality of institutional selves within the (interindividual) self is thereby open to emotional conflict as an interior conversation.

Ego stage 5's capacity for intimacy, then, springs from its capacity to be intimate with itself, to break open the institutionality of the former balance. Locating itself now in the coordination of psychic institutions, the self surrenders its counter-dependent independence for an interdependence. Having a self, which is the hallmark of stage 5's advance over stage 4, it now has a self to share. This sharing of the self at the level of intimacy permits the emotions and impulses to live in the intersection of systems, to be "re-solved" between one self-system and another. Rather than the attempt to be both close and auto-regulative, "individuality" permits one to "give oneself up" to another; to find oneself in what Erikson has called "a counter-pointing of identities," which at once shares experiencing and guarantees each partner's distinctness, which permits persons--again Erikson's words--"to regulate with one another the cycles of work, procreation, and recreation" (Erikson, 1968). Every re-equilibration is a qualitative victory over isolation.

The stories of Terry, Diane, and Rebecca are not complete. But perhaps a last picture of them now will help me to suggest an overarching image for this history of evolutionary truces.

Although I said that Terry, Diane, and Rebecca all seem to be involved with boundary issues, it should be clear that some distinctions within this generalization can be made. Chief among these is that Terry and Rebecca (the youngest and oldest of the three) seem to express their concerns in terms of preserving a boundary which feels like it is giving way. Diane, on the other hand, expresses her concerns in terms of a fearful inability to preserve the lack of a boundary. Terry and Rebecca seem to be guarding a precious sense of differentiation or separateness, whereas Diane seems to be guarding an equally precious sense of inclusion or connection.

These two orientations I take to be expressive of what I consider the two greatest yearnings in human experience. We see the expression of these longings everywhere, in ourselves and in those we know, in small children and in mature adults, in cultures East and West, modem and traditional. Of the multitude of hopes and yearnings we experience, these two seem to subsume the others. One of these might be called the yearning to be included, to be a part of, close to, joined with, to be held, admitted, accompanied. The other might be called the yearning to be independent or autonomous, to experience one's distinctness, the self-chosenness of one's directions, one's individual integrity. David Bakan called this "the duality of human experience," the yearnings for "communion" and "agency" (1966). Certainly in my experience as a therapist-a context in which old-fashioned words such as "yearn" and "plea" and "long for" and "mourn" have great meaning-it seems to me that I am often listening to one or the other of these yearnings; or to the fear of losing a most precious sense of being included or feeling independent; or to their fearful flip sides-the fear of being completely unseparate, of being swallowed up and taken over; and the fear of being totally separate, of being utterly alone, abandoned, and remote beyond recall. Those who are religiously oriented win note that the same old-fashioned language finds its way into prayer, and that much liturgy and scripture is an expression of one or the other of these two longings. I think of Schleiermacher's "ultimate dependence," on the one hand (1958), and Luther's "Here I Stand," on the other; of the fervent communalism of Hasidism, on the one hand (1960), and the lonely job, talking to (even cursing) the Lord, on the other.

But what is most striking about these two great human yearnings is that they seem to be in conflict, and it is, in fact, their relation--this tension--that is of more interest to me at the moment than either yearning by itself. I believe it is a lifelong tension. Our experience of this fundamental ambivalence may be our experience of the unitary, restless, creative motion of life itself.

Biologists talk about evolution and its periods of adaptation--of life organization--as involving a balance between differentiation and integration. These are cold and abstract words. I suggest they are a biological way of speaking of the phenomena we experience as the yearnings for autonomy and inclusion.

Every developmental stage, I said, is an evolutionary truce. It sets terms on the fundamental issue as to how differentiated the organism is from its Iife-surround and how embedded. It would be as true to say that every evolutionary truce--each stage or balance I have sketched out in this chapter-is a temporary solution to the lifelong tension between the yearnings for inclusion and distinctness. Each balance resolves the tension in a different way. The fife history I have traced involves a continual moving back and forth between resolving the tension slightly in the favor of autonomy, at one stage, in the favor of inclusion, at the next. We move from the overincluded, fantasy-embedded impulsive balance to the sealed-up self-sufficiency of the imperial balance; from the overdifferentiated imperial balance to overincluded interpersonalism; from interpersonalism to the autonomous, self-regulating institutional balance; from the institutional to a new form of openness in the interindividual. Development is thus better depicted by a spiral or a helix, as in Figure 1, than by a line. 1

While any "picture" of development has its limitations, the helix has a number of advantages. It makes clear that we move back and forth in our struggle with this lifelong tension; that our balances are slightly imbalanced. In fact, it is because each of these temporary balances is slightly imbalanced that each is temporary; each self is vulnerable to being tipped over. The model suggests a way of better understanding the nature of our vulnerability to growth at each level.

The model also recognizes the equal dignity of each yearning, and in this respect offers a corrective to all present developmental frameworks which univocally define growth in terms of differentiation, separation, increasing autonomy, and lose sight of the fact that adaptation is equally about integration, attachment, inclusion. The net effect of this myopia, as feminist psychologists are now pointing out (Gilligan, 1978; Low, 1978), has been that differentiation (the stereotypically male overemphasis in this most human ambivalence) is favored with the language of growth and development, while integration (the stereotypically female overemphasis) gets spoken of in terms of dependency and immaturity. A model in pursuit of the psychological meaning and experience of evolution--intrinsically about differentiation and integration--is less easily bent to this prejudice.


1. The general notion of depicting development as a helix I owe to conversation with William Perry. George Vaillant, I have since discovered, has a similar conception which grows out of his reconstruction of Erikson's model.