In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life

By Robert Kegan

In the spirit of a sympathetic teacher, Kegan guides us through assessing the fit between the complex demands of modern life and our own mental capacities, showing what happens when we find ourselves, as we so often do, in over our heads. In this dazzling intellectual tour, Kegan completely reintroduces us to the psychological landscape of our private and public lives.

As parents and partners, employees and bosses, citizens and leaders, we constantly confront a bewildering array of expectations, prescriptions, claims, and demands, as well as an equally confusing assortment of expert opinions that tell us what each of these roles entails. Kegan shows that our frequent frustration in trying to meet these complex and often conflicting claims results from a mismatch between the way we ordinarily know the world and the way we are expected to understand it.

What emerges in these pages is a theory of evolving ways of knowing that allows us to view adult development much as we view child development, as an open-ended process born of the dynamic interaction of cultural demands and emerging mental capabilities.

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“A stimulating tour through the modern mind in society… In Over Our Heads is full of insight; it reflects broad learning and enormous intellectual effort.” – David Mehegan, Boston Sunday Globe

“[This book] is intellectually exciting and far-reaching in its implications… Kegan’s writing has much to offer developmental psychology, which suffers from a dearth of theoretical frameworks in the area of adult development… There are foundation-thinking theoretical and research challenges here for mainstream psychology, especially behavioral and social learning approaches that focus on skill training and cumulative (quantitative) change… It has the potential to transform our texts on life span development.” – Marie R. Joyce, Contemporary Psychology

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