Written by Jackie Thoms
How does adult development play into the internal narratives we hold? How can we shift those narratives?
Internal narratives are the stories we tell ourselves about the world. It’s our self-talk, the way we explain or attempt to think something through. By better understanding these narratives, we can see where to shift toward to change the structure of our thinking.
In this WEAll Citizens event, Jackie Thoms, co-founder of Fraendi, introduced ‘Adult Development’ as a lens through which people can shift their internal narratives. As a body of work, Adult Development has been researched over 40 years internationally, and is now entering more fully into discourse around organisational and leadership practices. This approach is not about defining what the narrative is or needs to be, but supports adults to perceive more and perceive differently, sensing into the deeper patterns of what may be true and potentially enabling shifts in epistemology.
Epistemology is the understanding of how we come to know that something is the reality. It is the understanding of or justification of knowledge claims or a systematic way of interrogating our own thinking, mental models or how we make sense of things.
Often crises support people to make developmental shifts, and we are living through such a crisis now, with the coronavirus pandemic. At this time, we need many more narratives to paint the richness of who we are as a society and to nudge ourselves in subtle and more obvious ways to develop.
With a developmental view of who we are as humans we have the capacity to shift our narratives through different levels. Multiple descriptions and multiple stories illuminate what the problems are and the possibilities and paths forward. It’s not that we need to define or be given the new narratives, we need to be given the structures to support us to create many, many more stories. However, the scaffolding required to support people to develop more mature and complex ways of thinking is not integrated into our way of life.
Most institutions in western cultures: educational, political, and organisational tend to foster reductionist thinking. Reductionist thinking doesn’t include the idea that things are moving and changing, and avoids conflict and dissonance: often the main motor for change. This leads to more static and stable thinking, which contributes to our difficulty in moving beyond the status quo,even as we face the destruction of our ecologies and multiple significant crises. So although people are born with the capacity for complex thinking, it does not develop. Vanessa Andreotti in the Climate Change Sessions, (A school called Home, Nov 2020) goes further to say that we live in a self-infantalising society in western cultures and that “Children are born. Grown-ups are made.”
Another factor that is limiting, is the narrative of (neo-)liberalism from the 1800s which is dominant in most western cultures today. The focus on humanity being the destructive species we are currently, ignores and limits our capacities to be different. It continues the ideal of competition as a priority and downplays or dismisses interdependence and connectedness.
The narrative that we can individually determine our health and wellbeing is being challenged through this lived experience that our health is interdependent on our neighbour, our community, the policies and response of governments across the world and much more.
Mark Langdon, a WEAll member in the session shared that in the book “Wilful Blindness”, Margaret Heffernan comments that competition makes us more likely to conform than to think autonomously.
Adult Development approaches have relevance for education, politics, organisations and are embedded in a broader movement to break out of our limiting narratives and sense making to re-story life on this planet. This is especially important today.
Here are some resources on Paths to perceive more and differently, informed by an Adult Development lens:
- Developmental Assessments for more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Small group Mind Opener programmes, for more information email: email@example.com
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