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PHD - Doctor of Philosophy




In his book, In over our heads: the mental demands of modern life, Kegan (1994) has suggested that the average level of adults’ thinking is more complex today than at previous times in history. This is due, in part, to our increased lifespans, which have enabled complex thinking to evolve and emerge. However, Kegan has also suggested that the demands of the social environment are expanding much faster than the average complexity of adult thinking and learning. In Kegan’s terms, we are “in over our heads.” Using a semi-clinical, semi-structured, qualitative interview with twenty adult learners, this study investigated the role of shadow work, employed after Kegan and Lahey’s (2009) Immunity to Change (ITC) process in support of the adult developmental journey. Shadow work refers to one or more processes that a person may use to uncover, or bring to awareness, repressed aspects of Self. The data analysis suggests that horizontal learning—becoming more whole through shadow work—may support vertical development, or increased complexity. Specifically, shadow work, employed after the ITC process, may support the adult developmental journey in three important ways. First, shadow work may result in a release of energy by changing one’s relationship to what Kegan and Rogers (1991) have referred to as “a characterological disposition” (p. 138). The highly individualized characterological disposition may be psychologically created within a person through the influence of that individual’s childhood holding environment (social environment). Second, shadow work may support horizontal learning, which may in turn support vertical development. Finally, the unrealized energy that may be released by shadow work may catalyze increasing developmental complexity. Further, the data analysis suggests that shadow work, following the ITC process, may influence the adult learner’s relationship to the characteristics of andragogy. Shadow work, in support of the adult developmental journey, may facilitate one’s ability to collaboratively engage wicked problems. Author keywords: adult learning, adult development, andragogy, Constructive-developmental theory, horizontal growth, Immunity to Change, integral learning, integral conflict, Kegan and Lahey, projection, shadow, shadow work, transformational learning, transformative learning, vertical growth, wicked problems.



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