Saturday, September 06, 2008

Growing to be connected? (can there be a reconciliation?)

Living in a more communitarian place (see this about one of my shopping experiences in Jerusalem), has reinforced for me how important community is for me and how I understand both education and pastoral/spiritual care. Community is the primary vehicle for making both education and for pastoral/spiritual care happen, in my view.

But, I've also been spending some time with the developmental theory of Robert Kegan. I'm finding his theory very compelling, but it's been a bit troubling to me that I'm finding myself attracted to a theory that seems to value the opposite of community -- Kegan's theory holds that a more developed person will be "self-authorizing" and more "self-differentiated" (as opposed to respecting the authority of the communities one belongs to).

Kegan recognizes this problem and tries to address it in the 6th chapter of his book In over our heads. He writes (221-2):

"Increasing differentiation" may indeed be part of the story of everyone's development, but "increasing differentiation" can itself be the story of staying connected in the new way, of continuing to hold onto one's precious connections and loyalties while refashioning one's relationship to them so that one makes them up rather than gets made up by them. "Increasing autonomy" does not have to be a story of increasing aloneness. "Deciding for myself" does not have to equal "deciding by myself."
I'm not sure if I buy Kegan's effort to reconcile his theory with the feminist and non-Western critiques of his theory as being too individually focused (and, thus, irredeemably Western and male). But if I can find some value in his effort, I might be able to extend this "reconcilliation" method to help me incorporate other interesting theory into my own approach. For example, the family systems approach of Edwin Friedman gives us some great ways of thinking about a clergy person can manage some of the more challenging dynamics that come up in congregational life. But, I also find myself feeling almost a sense of revulsion to his theory -- it seems to suggest that a clery person must separate his or herself so much from his or her congregants that he or she doesn't really care what those congregants feel or say.

I haven't looked at Friedman for a long time, but he's on my reading list. . . As are more community-focused thinkers like bell hooks (here's an interesting video of her). My hope is that I will be able to come up with my own theory that will be able to reconcile elements of both these kinds of thinkers -- and be able to articulate a value of both community and of the growth of the individual.

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