Final step

There are two key insights available to you as a result of this exercise.

The first is to see that if you work backwards through the statements you have made then starting with your Big Assumption(s) your competing commitments are there to serve that assumption, and your behaviours listed in step 2 succeed in achieving this. Most people are surprised to see that from the perspective of their Big Assumption their behaviour is perfectly rational, in fact often quite brilliant, at protecting them from the consequences in their big assumption. The authors call this an individual’s “immune system” and that it is this that prevents them from changing – either as a person or to meet their declared commitments.

The second thing that the authors stress is that you cannot undo this ‘immune system’ quickly or easily. It is there for a good reason and they have a whole programme – one that lasts months – to help people make headway. The first key step is to become more aware of how the Big Assumption(s) operate in your life – by just noticing when they are operating. Later, after noticing how and where it operates, you will be in a position to develop a safe test for the assumption – for example letting yourself be out of control in a specific context.

Making progress with one’s “immune system” enables you to develop in the sense described in adult development theories. Indeed the activity that accelerates an individual’s development most, in Kegan’s view, is a conflict that forces the person to face whatever they are identified with. Another way of regarding this process is that becoming aware of one’s ‘Big Assumption’ enables one to cease acting unconsciously so that they can have more choice about how to act (since sometimes the big assumption will be valid and sometimes it will not.)

In a long term relationship it is very helpful to share the results of this process with your partner and invite them to help you make headway with the issues uncovered.

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