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Coaching to a Las Vegas State of Mind

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Is this splitting a recent phenomenon among young women and men, or is it simply becoming more evident given reduction in the pressures for young people to conform to societal expectations (at least in many parts of the world)? If nothing else, we would suggest that this splitting is likely to be wide spread in a postmodern cave with multiple openings that are often shifting. As Kegan suggests, the challenge is to retain some sense of coherence and discover the underlying unifying source (perhaps what exists outside the cave). How hard is it for any of us to retain this coherence? Are we in the same position as those in younger generations with regard to our simultaneous embracing of a real self and one or more alternative selves? Do we emulate the strip in Las Vegas with its multiple attractions and simulacrums? Are we often in our own personal Las Vegas state of mind?

William Perry (1970) offers an even more detailed description of the challenging postmodern world we face. He suggests that most of us move through several stages of cognitive development and epistemological sophistication as we mature. As young men and women we tend to view our world in a dualistic fashion: there is a reality that can be discerned and there is one right answer to the complex questions we are asked. Those in authority can be trusted to reveal the truth. There are also those people who are inherently evil or stupid, and they are not to be trusted. There are indeed people with white hats and black hats. Our job is to determine which color hat they are wearing.

While many people spend most, if not all, their life viewing the world from this dualistic perspective, there are often events or people who disrupt this simplistic frame. We discover that there are multiple sources of credible information and multiple sources of potentially valid interpretation of this information. It is not clear what is true or what is real. According to Perry, the initial response to this disconfirmation is often a sense of betrayal. We were told by people we trust and respect that the world is to be seen in one way. Suddenly we see that this might not be the case. Given that there is no one right answer, then any answer will do. This is what Perry identifies as the multiplistic perspective.  In many ways, it is simply another form of dualism: if there is no one truth or reality than there must be no truths and no realities! Certainly the challenge of living in a postmodern cave would suggest that the multiplistic perspective is justifiable. If there are multiple openings that are always shifting and if we can’t even see the shadows on the wall but must rely on interpretations and replays, then why should we ever trust anything that we experience in this cave. The world is composed of nothing but expedient story-telling and fake versions of the real world: those with the power are allowed to define what is real and important.

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