A Brief Overview Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration

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William Tillier
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Abstract

Dabrowski presents a theory of personality development based on a multilevel, hierarchical view of life. The theory suggests individual developmental potentials are important factors in determining the course of personality growth. Developmental potential includes three aspects; special talents and abilities, a physiological measure of neural reactivity Dabrowski called overexcitability (OE) and a factor describing an inner motivation to develop. Individuals with strong developmental potential tend to experience frequent and intense crises (positive disintegrations) that create opportunities for the development of an autonomous, self-crafted personality. Dabrowski observed that gifted and creative populations tend to exhibit increased levels of developmental potential and thus may be predisposed to experience the process of positive disintegration. While recent work has focussed on the link between overexcitability and giftedness, developmental potential and giftedness are not synonymous, indeed, many (most) with developmental potential will not be classified as gifted, and many gifted will display little overall developmental potential. A brief overview of Dabrowski's theory and its relevance for gifted individuals are presented.

Paper

Kazimierz Dabrowski (1902 - 1980) advanced a theory of individual personality development based on a progression from an initial, lower integration, through a sequence of disintegrations, culminating in a second, higher integration (see note one). Dabrowski called his work the Theory of Positive Disintegration to reflect the central and positive role disintegration plays in development. He believed that some individuals are predisposed to experience life more intensely and this predisposes them to frequent and severe crisis. This heightened sensitivity is based on genetic characteristics Dabrowski called developmental potential. The presence of increased sensitivity combined with crises (disintegration) represent an increased opportunity to develop to advanced levels of personality.

In his research, Dabrowski found that gifted and creative individuals tend to exhibit higher levels of developmental potential and therefore are predicted to experience increased disintegration and personality growth. This is the basis of recent applications of the theory to the gifted (see note two). This paper will discuss Dabrowski's basic ideas and apply his theory to the gifted.

Dabrowski's Theory

Dabrowski observed that most people live their lives in a state of primitive integration guided by biological impulses (first factor) and/or by uncritical adherence to social convention (second factor). He called this initial integration Level I. Creative expression at Level I is influenced and constrained by these first two factors. First factor tends to channel giftedness and talents toward accomplishing self-serving goals. Often these talents are used in antisocial ways. For example, many criminals display this selfish creativity in the service of advancing their goals at the expense of others. The second factor constrains individual creativity by encouraging a group view of life and discouraging unique thought and expression. Second factor shapes creativity into forms that follow and support the existing social milieu.

Dabrowski also described a group of people who display an individualized developmental pathway. These people break away from an automatic, socialized view of life (what Dabrowski called "negative adjustment") and move into a series of disintegrations. If development continues, people go on to develop an individualized, conscious and critically evaluated hierarchical value structure (called "positive adjustment"). The hierarchy of values comes to act as a benchmark by which all things are seen and the higher values in the hierarchy direct behavior. These higher, individual values characterize a second integration reflecting individual autonomy. At this level, each person develops his or her own vision of how life ought to be. This higher level is associated with strong individual approaches to problem solving and creativity. Giftedness and creativity are applied in the service of these higher individual values and visions of how life could be. The individual expresses his or her talents energetically, through action, though art, through social change, etc.

Advanced development is often seen in people who exhibit strong developmental potential. Developmental potential represents a constellation of genetic features, expressed and mediated through environmental interaction, that consist of three major aspects: overexcitability (OE), specific abilities and talents, and a strong drive toward autonomous growth, a feature Dabrowski called the third factor.

The most evident and perhaps most fundamental aspect of developmental potential is overexcitability (OE), a heightened physiological experience of sensory stimuli resulting from increased neuronal sensitivities. The greater the OE, the more intense the sensory experience of life. In short, the individual is more sensitive to experiences in life.

Dabrowski presented five forms of OE: psychomotor, sensual, imaginational, intellectual and emotional. These overexcitabilities, especially the latter three, often cause a person to experience daily life more intensely and to feel the extremes of the joys and sorrows of life profoundly. Dabrowski found that heightened overexcitability in groups of gifted and creative individuals demonstrated their intense sensual experiences. Combined with imaginational and intellectual OE, create a rich source of creative material. Additionally, psychomotor and emotional OE often provide strong stamina and motivation, often expressed in "bouts" of intense work and creativity.

Although based in the nervous system, overexcitabilities are expressed psychologically through the development of structures that reflect the emerging self. The most important of these conceptualizations are dynamisms: biological or mental forces that control behavior and its development. "Instincts, drives, and intellectual processes combined with emotions are dynamisms" (Dabrowski, 1972, p. 294). With advanced development, dynamisms increasingly reflect movement toward autonomy. The second arm of developmental potential, specific abilities and talents, tends to serve the individual's developmental level. As outlined, individuals at lower levels use talents to support egocentric goals or to climb the social and corporate ladders. At higher levels, specific talents and abilities become an important force as they are channelled by the individual's value hierarchy into expressing and achieving the person's vision of his or her ideal personality and his or her view of what "ought to be" in the world.

The third aspect of developmental potential, the third factor, is a drive towards individual growth and autonomy. Third factor is important in creativity for two reasons: first, it directs talents and creativity toward autonomous expression, and second, it provides motivation to strive for more - to try to imagine and achieve goals currently beyond the individual's grasp.

The first and fifth levels are characterized by psychological integration, harmony and little inner conflict. As outlined above, the first level is called primitive or primary integration and consists of people who show either prominent First Factor ("heredity" / impulse) and/or Second Factor ("social environment"). The majority of people at Level I are integrated at the environmental or social level (Dabrowski called them "average" people): however, many also exhibit shades of both impulse and socialization. Dabrowski distinguished the two subgroups of Level I by degree, "the state of primary integration is a state contrary to mental health. A fairly high degree of primary integration is present in the average person; a very high degree of primary integration is present in the psychopath" (Dabrowski, 1964, p. 121). (see note three).

Levels II, III and IV describe various levels and types of disintegration. The character of Level II is reflected in its name: Unilevel Disintegration. The prominent feature of this level is an initial, brief, and often intense crisis or series of crises. Crises are spontaneous and only occur on one level (and often involve only one dimension). "Unilevel disintegration occurs during developmental crises such as puberty or menopause, in periods of difficulty in handling some stressful external event, or under psychological and psychopathological conditions such as nervousness and psychoneurosis. Unilevel disintegration consists of processes on a single structural and emotional level; there is a prevalence of automatic dynamisms with only slight self-consciousness and self-control" (Dabrowski, 1964, p. 6). Conflicts on the same level (horizontal) produce ambitendencies and ambivalences: the person is pulled between different but equivalent choices (ambitendencies) and is not able decide what to do (ambivalence). Ultimately, the individual is thrust into an existential crisis: his or her social rationales no longer account for his or her experiences and no alternate explanations exist. During this phase, existential despair is the predominant emotion. The resolution of this phase begins as individually chosen values are integrated into a "new" hierarchy of personal values. These new values often conflict with the person's previous social values. Many of the "status quo" explanations for the "way things are,' learned through education and from the social order, collapse under conscious, individual scrutiny. This causes more conflicts focussed on the individual's analysis of his or her own reactions to the world at large and of the behavior of others. Common behaviors and the ethics of the prevailing social order become seen as inadequate, wrong or hypocritical. "Positive maladjustment" prevails. For Dabrowski, these crises represent a strong potential for development toward personal growth and mental health. Using a positive definition, mental health reflects more than social conformity: it involves a careful, personal examination of the world and of one's values leading to the development of an individual personality.

The expression of positive maladjustment can often be seen in both individual creativity and in creative movements at this level. For example, Cubism and Dadaism, with their chaotic forms are examples of creativity expressing positive maladjustment -- the rejection and overthrow of the "standard views" of art and life.

Level II is a transitional period. Dabrowski said you either fall back, move ahead or end negatively, in suicide or psychosis. "Prolongation of unilevel disintegration often leads to reintegration on a lower level, to suicidal tendencies, or to psychosis" (Dabrowski, 1964, p. 7).

The transition from level II to level III involves a fundamental shift that requires a phenomenal amount of energy. This period is the crossroads of development as from here one must either progress or regress. The struggle between Dabrowski's Factors reflect this transitional crisis: "Do I follow my instincts (First Factor), my teachings (Second Factor) or my heart (Third Factor)?" The developmental answer is to transform one's lower instincts (automatic reactions like anger) into positive motivation, to resist rote, social answers and to listen to one's own, inner sense of "what you ought to do."

Level III describes the vertical conflicts caused by an involuntary perception of higher versus lower choices in life (because it is involuntary, Dabrowski called it spontaneous multilevel disintegration). Dabrowski called this vertical dimension multilevelness. Multilevelness is a gradual realization of the "possibility of the higher" (a phrase Dabrowski used frequently) and of the subsequent contrasts between the higher and the lower in life. These vertical comparisons often illustrate the lower, actual behavior of a person in contrast to higher, imagined ideals and alternate choices. When a person perceives the higher choice, it becomes obvious that this is the path one ought to follow. When the person's actual behavior falls short of the ideal, disharmony and a drive to review and reconstruct one's life often follow. Multilevelness thus represents a new and powerful type of conflict, a conflict that is potentially developmental.

These vertical conflicts are critical in leading to autonomy and advanced personality growth. If the person is to achieve higher levels, the shift to multilevelness must occur. If a person does not have the developmental potential to move into a multilevel view, then they would fall back from the crises of Level II to reintegrate at Level I.

In the shift to multilevelness, the "horizontal" (unilevel), stimulus-response model of life is replaced by a vertical and hierarchical analysis. This vertical view becomes anchored by one's emerging individual value structure and all events are seen in relation to personal ideals. These personal value ideals become the personality ideal: how the person wants to live his or her life. As events in life are seen in relation to this multilevel, vertical view, it becomes impossible to support positions that favor the lower course when higher goals can be identified (or imagined).

In level IV the individual takes full control of his or her development. The involuntary spontaneous development of level III is replaced by a deliberate, conscious and self-directed review of life from the multilevel perspective. This level marks the emergence of "the third factor," described by Dabrowski as an autonomous factor "of conscious choice (valuation) by which one affirms or rejects certain qualities in oneself and in one's environment" (Dabrowski, 1972, p. 306). The person consciously reviews his or her existing belief system and tries to replace his or her lower, automatic views and reactions with carefully thought-out, examined and chosen ideals. These "new" values will increasingly be reflected in the person's behavior. Behaviour becomes less reactive, less automatic, and more deliberate as behavioral choices fall under the influence of the person's higher, chosen ideals.

One's social orientation comes to reflect a deep responsibility based on both intellectual and emotional factors. At the highest levels, "individuals of this kind feel responsible for the realization of justice and for the protection of others against harm and injustice. Their feelings of responsibility extend almost to everything" (Dabrowski, 1973, p. 97). This perspective results from seeing life in relation to one's hierarchy of values (the multilevel view) and the subsequent appreciation of the potential of how life could be, and ought to be, lived. One's disagreements with the (lower level) world are expressed compassionately in doing what one can to help achieve the "ought."

Given their genuine (authentic) pro-social outlook, those individuals achieving higher development would also raise the level of their society. "Pro-social" here is not just support of the existing social order. If the social order is "lower" and you are adjusted to it, then you also reflect the lower ("negative adjustment" in Dabrowski's terms, a Level I feature). Here, pro-social is a genuine cultivation of social interactions based on higher values. These positions often conflict with the status quo of a lower society ("positive maladjustment'). In other words, to be maladjusted to a low level society is a positive feature. The fifth level displays an integrated and harmonious character, but one vastly different from that at the first level. At this highest level, one's behavior is guided by conscious, carefully weighed decisions based upon an individualized and chosen hierarchy of personal values. Behaviour conforms to this inner standard of how life "ought" to be lived and thus, little inner conflict arises in one's life.

Creative expression and the accomplishments of the gifted find their most individual expression at Levels IV and V. Especially at Level V, problem solving and art come to represent the highest and noblest features of human life. Art captures the inner most emotional states and is based upon a deep empathy and understanding of the subject. Often human suffering and sacrifice are the subjects of these works. Truly visionary works, works that are unique and novel, are created by individuals expressing a vision unrestrained by convention. Advances in society, through politics, philosophy, and religion are therefore commonly associated with strong individual creativity or accomplishments.

Applications of the Theory of Positive Disintegration

The Theory of Positive Disintegration (TPD) has an extremely broad scope and has implications for many areas. One central application applies to psychological and psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. Dabrowski advocated a comprehensive, multilevel diagnosis of the person's situation, including his or her symptoms and his or her developmental potentials. If the disintegration appears to fit into a developmental context, then the person is educated in the theory and encouraged to take a developmental view of his or her situation and experiences. Rather than trying to eliminate symptoms, they are reframed to yield insight and understanding into life and the person's unique situation. Dabrowski illustrated his theory in the autobiographies of, and biographies about, those who have experienced positive disintegration and he encouraged autobiography as a step in the process of autopsychotherapy. For Dabrowski, the goal of therapy is to eliminate the therapist by providing a context within which a person could understand and help him or herself. The gifted child, or the suicidal teen, or the troubled artist is often experiencing the features of the TPD and if they accept and understand the meaning of their feelings and crises, they can move ahead, not fall apart.

A second primary focus is on education, and in particular, on the experience of creative or gifted students. Dabrowski hypothesized that these students will disproportionately show strong overexcitability and therefore will be prone to the disintegrative process.

Dabrowski and the Gifted Individual

In an appendix to Dabrowski (1967), results of investigations done in 1962 with Polish youth are reported (see note four). Specifically, "a group of gifted children and young people, aged 8 to 23' were examined (Dabrowski, 1967, p. 251). Of the 80 youth studied, 30 were "intellectually gifted" and 50 were from "drama, ballet, and plastic art schools'(Dabrowski, 1967, p. 251). Dabrowski found that "every one" of the children displayed overexcitability, "which constituted the foundation for the emergence of neurotic and psychoneurotic sets. Moreover it turned out that these children also showed sets of nervousness, neurosis, and psychoneurosis of various kinds and intensities, from light vegetative symptoms, or anxiety symptoms, to distinctly and highly intensive psychasthenic or hysterical sets" (Dabrowski, 1967, p. 253). Dabrowski asked why these children should display such "states of nervousness or psychoneurosis" and suggested that it was due to the presence of OE (Dabrowski, 1967, p. 255). "Probably the cause is more than average sensitivity which not only permits one to achieve outstanding results in learning and work, but at the same time increases the number of points sensitive to all experiences that may accelerate anomalous reactions revealing themselves in psychoneurotic sets' (Dabrowski, 1967, p. 255).

Dabrowski was always very cautious about the implications of high IQ. He said that the overall developmental profile is critical. By definition, a person with a high IQ would display increased developmental potential as special abilities are a component of developmental potential. However, Dabrowski described a type of development he called one-sided. In one-sided development, a person may have very significant talents or abilities in one area but does not display an overall balanced developmental profile. This is a treacherous scenario as without a balanced profile, the enhanced qualities may be used to pursue lower ends. For example, an individual with high IQ and low emotions and low morality may use their intelligence to achieve a selfish agenda and become another Hitler.

The association between OE and giftedness appears to be borne out in the research (Lysy & Piechowski, 1983; Piechowski, 1986; Piechowski, & Miller, 1995). It appears that at the least OE is a marker of potential for gifted / creativity. The basic message of Dabrowski is that the gifted will disproportionately display this process of positive disintegration and personality growth.

The Environment and the Gifted

Today, the importance of the interaction of the individual with the environment is well recognized. "From infancy onwards, genetic individuality helps to steer the developing organism through the multitude of possible [environmental] experiences and choices"leading to a "nature via nurture" position (Bouchard, Lykken, McGue, Segal, & Tellegen, 1990). In this view, the dynamic interaction is an important factor and the effect that the individual has on shaping his or her experience is recognized. Dabrowski suggested that "there are very few people among us who are consciously independent of the external environment" (Dabrowski, 1967, p. 12). Most people generally take what the environment gives them for granted and the interactive components play out their dynamics on an unconscious stage: Dabrowski's second factor. How we live largely depends on what happens to us and our behavior is largely reactive and unconscious. Once positive disintegration begins, this changes. A person's "relation to his environment becomes more and more conscious, clear, and determined. He selects from it elements on which he places value. He becomes more independent," gradually moving toward third factor (Dabrowski, 1964, pp. 61-62).

The presence of OE increases the significance of the role played by the person-environment interaction. As a person's confidence in his or her developing personality becomes stronger, one comes to choose his or her environment more consciously, deciding what in the environment to respond to and how. While rejection of unacceptable environmental features may cause further developmental conflict, it is also an important aspect of the emerging autonomous personality. As development proceeds, the environment shapes the person less while the person shapes the environment more. Opinion on the ideal environment for the gifted is divided into two basic themes. One is a stress-free setting where things are as positive, accepting and pressureless as possible -- the "bullish environment"(Sternberg & Lubart, 1995). The other approach is called the "bearish environment" (Sternberg & Lubart, 1995). Here, obstacles arise that challenge the individual. Successfully mastering these obstacles strengthens the character and abilities of the person. Sternberg reviews these positions and concludes that "it helps to have a generally favorable environment sprinkled with some obstacles along the way" (Sternberg & Lubart, 1995, p. 256). However, in Dabrowski's theory, this dichotomy does not reflect the real complexity involved in understanding creativity. For Dabrowski, several critical elements are involved, including the physiological reaction of the individual to the environment (OE), the dynamic interplay of the person with the environment, and any resultant conflicts and disintegrations that arise.

Dabrowski emphasized the role of environmental events would be most important when genetic dispositions are equivocal. When genetic potentials are strong, environment plays less of a role. Dabrowski said "the worst environment will not stop the strongest genetics, the best environment cannot overcome the worst genetics" (K. Dabrowski, personal communication, 1978).

Developmental Potential: A Mixed Blessing?

Dabrowski called OE "a tragic gift" to reflect that the road of the person with strong OE is not a smooth or easy one (M. Rankel, personal communication, April 6, 1996). Potentials to experience great highs are also potentials to experience great lows. Similarly, potentials to express great creativity simultaneously hold the likelihood of experiencing a great deal of personal conflict and stress. This stress both drives development and is a result of developmental conflicts, both intrapsychic and social. Suicide is a significant risk in the acute phases of this stress. The isolation often experienced by these young people heightens the risks of self-harm (see note five). Dabrowski advocated educating the person about OEs and the disintegrative process to give them a context within which to understand their intense feelings and needs. This context is a positive and developmental one. Dabrowski suggested that individuals be given support in their efforts to develop and find their own self-expression. To be out of step is encouraged and seen as a feature of the overall developmental journey. Social maladjustment is also encouraged, particularly when it is positive and based on individually thought-out values. Young people who are seen as "squares" because they prefer to study instead of partying are an example. Many of these children have to "find and walk their own path" often at the expense of fitting in with their social peers and even with their families.

Piechowski, and subsequently Silverman, have begun the process of measuring OE in the gifted (see note six). These are important first steps in applying a Dabrowskian approach to the gifted. Other exciting avenues have begun, for example, efforts to counsel the gifted to help them see their overexcitabilities and disintegrations as positive features (Ogburn-Colangelo, 1979).

A Case Study

"M ----, a girl 10 years old of asthenic-schizothymic type, had marked mathematical and scientific abilities and was dutiful, with a tendency to be overly so. After good progress in one school she was moved to another, more extroverted system, where the teachers were prone to superficial appreciation of their students, basing their opinions on the pupil's boldness and originality. M ----, a rather shy girl with excessive inhibitions, withdrew from these new conditions and for several weeks showed both shyness and anxiety. She obtained marks that were fairly good, but much lower than in her former school. Her anxieties increased; she became resentful, slept badly, lost weight, and was either irritable or withdrawn. After several months her marks improved, although she lost confidence in some of her teachers. When her parents discussed with her the possibility of moving to another class or another school, she replied: 'It seems to me that in another class or school there will be similar teachers. I don't want to change. Always, only some of the teachers and some of the other students will like me. That's the way people are, and that's the way I am.' In this case, disintegration occurred in an ambitious girl with a strong sense of justice, resulting in withdrawal and resentment. The fact that she did not wish to transfer to another class or school seems to be explained by emotional exhaustion and, at the same time, an increasingly realistic attitude toward the environment and patterns of interaction with it. This is a sign of partial, still insufficient, but clear rebuilding. Secondary integration is evident in M ----'s new appreciation of herself and others but is still combined with a feeling of disappointment and a certain degree of compromise." (Dabrowski, 1964, p. 105).

Conclusion

It is beyond this paper to explore Dabrowski's theory fully. The central point is that Dabrowski saw the gifted as a special subset of people, a subset prone to experience positive disintegration. This opportunity presents both creative possibilities and risks to the developing self. If the individual fails to navigate these risks, a sad outcome of underachievement, addiction or suicide is possible. To avoid this, Dabrowski advocated providing a supportive and encouraging environment. Additionally, he suggested the individual be provided with the developmental context of positive disintegration. We cannot ease the experience of OEs or the literal pain of development. Still, we can and must give it context and shepherd our gifted youth through the height of their developmental crises. Individual creativity and expression of talent must be valued as an expression of higher personality development.

Note one: Dabrowski's theory is presented in: Dabrowski, 1937, 1964, 1966, 1967, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1996.

Note two: Recent applications to the gifted are represented by the following research: Brennan & Piechowski, 1991; Lewis, Kitano, & Lynch, 1992; Miller, Silverman, & Falk, 1994; Piechowski, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1986, 1989, 1991; Piechowski & Colangelo, 1984; Piechowski & Cunningham, 1985; Piechowski & Miller, 1995; Piechowski, Silverman & Falk, 1985; Silverman, 1983, 1986, 1989, 1991, 1993a, 1993b, 1994; Silverman & Schuppin, 1989.

Note three: Dabrowski's description of Level I as "psychopathic" reflects an earlier definition of the term: one that emphasized individual factors (genetic features as opposed to social factors) that act to impede a person's developmental course. This broad usage encompasses both malignant criminals and upstanding citizens who blindly and uncritically follow every social precept. This has created controversy and confusion in the theory as Dabrowski said that most of society's members live on Level I (see Dabrowski, 1964, pp. 4-10). Other authors have introduced the term "robopath" to describe the "unauthentic life" based on a robot-like reaction to life (Bertalanffy, 1967; Yablonsky, 1972). Bertalanffy (1967) was critical of psychology's approach to the human as a lab rat. He extended his criticism to society and the structure of modern life that demands "reaching optimal psychosocial equilibrium by answering outside demands in reinforced responses" (Bertalanffy, 1967, p. 9). Bertalanffy lamented that people were losing their autonomy in a stimulus-response society, a society where an individual does not need to reflect or to think but merely to respond, a society geared to meeting external performance standards as measures of success. Yablonsky (1972) uses the term robopath "to describe people whose pathology entails robot-like behavior and existence. Robopaths have what Kierkegaard called 'sickness unto death'" (Yablonsky, 1972, p. 7). Yablonsky says that robopaths are "socially dead" and function based on 'pseudo-image" they are egocentric and lack compassion for others. 'Their existential state is ahuman" (Yablonsky, 1972, p. 7). Yablonsky elaborates how our modern society encourages "the emergence of robopathology." Also relevant is Rieber (1997) and his views on the "normalized psychopathy" of todays culture. These descriptions, especially Bertalanffy's and Rieber's, appear to apply to a person who follows precepts uncritically and who simply "follows orders" in living life -- Dabrowski's idea of the second factor.

Note four: The appendix is titled: "Personality, outstanding abilities, and psychoneurosis in children and young people'

Note five: Self-harm is a common feature of those with high developmental potential and the central risk during the height of developmental crises (Dabrowski, 1937).

Note six: Recent research on measuring overexcitability includes: Brennan & Piechowski, 1991; Miller, Silverman, & Falk, 1994; Piechowski, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1986, 1989, 1991; Piechowski & Colangelo, 1984; Piechowski & Cunningham, 1985; Piechowski & Miller, 1995; Piechowski, Silverman & Falk, 1985; Silverman, 1983, 1986, 1989, 1991, 1993a, 1993b, 1994; Silverman & Schuppin, 1989.

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Dabrowski presented five forms of OE: psychomotor, sensual, imaginational, intellectual and emotional. These overexcitabilities, especially the latter three, often cause a person to experience daily life more intensely and to feel the extremes of the joys and sorrows of life profoundly. Dabrowski found that heightened overexcitability in groups of gifted and creative individuals demonstrated their intense sensual experiences. Combined with imaginational and intellectual OE, create a rich source of creative material. Additionally, psychomotor and emotional OE often provide strong stamina and motivation, often expressed in "bouts" of intense work and creativity.
This and all of Dobrowski's theory provides a lot of insite to the side of the spectrum opposite that of the predatory psychopath (described in another thread). The two articles are actually complementary, in my view, and can help in the original suggestion in the Organic Portals thread regarding graphing the human population in terms of people with individuation potential, OP's and psychopaths.

Regardless if such a graph can cover the full scope of the issue or if it is even practical to try to confine the issue in terms of graphs, regarding one variable, it may be useful. In this posting, I would rather look at the distribution of human potential implied by the factor of excitablity on its own terms, and allow the reader to make comparisons with OP's, non-Op's etc, as described in other threads.

If we, therefore, look towards the factor of excitablity as one of the variables in the distribution, it might be better to refer to this factor in way that can be applied to psychopaths as well as the bulk of humanity that does not fit into the "creative individual" and/or psychopathic category. As such, I believe that a better word in this case is sensitization capacity.

From the article on psychopathic predators, I noticed that psychopaths seem to suffer from emotional desensitization. They cannot feel, they cannot relate, they crave external stimuli to give life meaning and excitement, and they end up exploding in exaggerated emotional reactions as if they can only experience emotions after a prior build-up of pressure.

Creative individuals, on the other hand, seem to be highly sensitized and more than just emotionally. As Dobrowski states, they experience more of life, more of others and more of themselves. Psychopaths experience less of all three. Creative people tend to often become introverted because of hypersensitivity, while psychopaths can be overly extroverted because they crave what they find difficult to experience: life.

Of course, psychopaths can be introverted and creative people extroverted, but it seems for the psychopath introversion is a negative morose state or a state connected to plotting and planning (like a predator stuffed with food or getting ready for the next "hunt"), while for the creative person extroversion expends energies accumulated during periods of introspection, which in and of themselves are nourishing.

The psychopath thus can go into latency after they get the stimulation they crave (fueled by extroverted activity), while the creative individual becomes expressive to release energies gained through introspection, and is thus fueled by the introverted state.

At the same time, both these extremes have one element in common, and that is instability. The psychopath has an entropic nature and must project that nature into external destructiveness or s/he will be consumed by it, while the creative individual experiences strong internal breakdown, which s/he cannot or will not externalize, and must rebuild themselves into a more complex state or suffer psychological reversal.

In a sense, the psychopath affirms self through acting descructively on others, and the creative individual creates and re-creates self and ends up affirming life in others as a result.

In between these two states tending toward instability for diametrically opposed reasons, lies a mass of humanity whose characteristic is the drive toward transition-free stability. Out of this main mass of humanity, forming the peak of the "bell curve" the ends seems to taper off. In other words the closer we are to the central axis of the curve the more stability is a permanent feature of our make-up, and the more we diverge to either end (either positive or negative), the more we are prone to internal break-down.

The reason for breakdown seems to be related to sensitization capacity. Within a certain safety margin between the extremes of hypersensitivity and desensitization the human psyche craves a status quo condition, as if it has attained a kind of homeostatic stability out of which it is reluctant to move.

Apparently out of that margin, destabilization leads to different ends. It can also be that individuals with certain genetic tendencies and whose environment may have generatied initial conditions of inner stability, may drift out of the stability range at either ends of the spectrum.

On the other hand, those whose environment has put them at one or another extreme can drift toward the center and even to the other end of the spectrum in some cases. In these cases, I believe genetics have the final say. However, a highly stressful environment can drive anyone toward psychopathy.

So it makes sense for where one tends to drift in this curve would depened on the difference (or the sum) between the genetic and environmental vectors under which the individual is subject.

Interestingly enough, although there have obviously been many studies on psychopaths and creative individuals, I do not know of any that has addressed the portion of humanity at the center of the hypothetical bell-curve, even though those make up the majority. I guess it may be because "experts" take it for granted that this portion is simply what normality is all about, and hence unworthy of mention.
 

Approaching Infinity

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Laura said:
Note three: Dabrowski's description of Level I as "psychopathic" reflects an earlier definition of the term: one that emphasized individual factors (genetic features as opposed to social factors) that act to impede a person's developmental course. This broad usage encompasses both malignant criminals and upstanding citizens who blindly and uncritically follow every social precept. This has created controversy and confusion in the theory as Dabrowski said that most of society's members live on Level I (see Dabrowski, 1964, pp. 4-10). Other authors have introduced the term "robopath" to describe the "unauthentic life" based on a robot-like reaction to life (Bertalanffy, 1967; Yablonsky, 1972). Bertalanffy (1967) was critical of psychology's approach to the human as a lab rat. He extended his criticism to society and the structure of modern life that demands "reaching optimal psychosocial equilibrium by answering outside demands in reinforced responses" (Bertalanffy, 1967, p. 9). Bertalanffy lamented that people were losing their autonomy in a stimulus-response society, a society where an individual does not need to reflect or to think but merely to respond, a society geared to meeting external performance standards as measures of success. Yablonsky (1972) uses the term robopath "to describe people whose pathology entails robot-like behavior and existence. Robopaths have what Kierkegaard called 'sickness unto death'" (Yablonsky, 1972, p. 7). Yablonsky says that robopaths are "socially dead" and function based on 'pseudo-image" they are egocentric and lack compassion for others. 'Their existential state is ahuman" (Yablonsky, 1972, p. 7). Yablonsky elaborates how our modern society encourages "the emergence of robopathology." Also relevant is Rieber (1997) and his views on the "normalized psychopathy" of todays culture. These descriptions, especially Bertalanffy's and Rieber's, appear to apply to a person who follows precepts uncritically and who simply "follows orders" in living life -- Dabrowski's idea of the second factor.
These guys were on to something.
 

Miss Isness

Jedi Master
I wonder if I'm the only person who's ever experienced interaction with people who demonstrate both OE, and tendencies towards positive integration, as well as tendencies towards robopathy, and characteropathy.

I remember once seeing a tarot card of 'The Lovers' that showed the marriage of light and darkness within a single person, which could also be considered conscious creativity, and subconscious self destructive tendencies, and I wonder if that's what is often accomplished when artists and idealists are seduced into opening themselves to possesion by choosing to experience their ideal world through drug use rather than by suffering through the process of positive integration, and bringing their ideals down to earth. When you think about it that way, it's really no wonder that the psychopathic elite are so heavily invested in drug trafficking.

To take it a step further, I'd hazard to guess that susceptibility to this type of possession can become a genetic characteristic passed down through generations to the point where drug use is no longer necessary as the soul is already 'possessed' at birth, and the creative energy is used to blind oneself and others with the false light of the ego. Under these circumstances, freeing oneself from possession is most likely a long and arduous process where the robopath and the experiencer of positive integration are forced to co-exist in the same body in constant conflict.

The outward appearnance of such a person would be someone who oscillates betweem extremes of behaviour as the battle proceeds. One day exhibiting the ability to confront reality and in so doing reforming one's values to reflect how things ought to be, and the next day willfully negating reality in favor of going with the status quo, or even indulging in behaviour that is obviously hurtful to others. Perhaps in a case like this, it's important to focus on the big picture to assess the persons overall direction, as the robopath may be winning certain battles but the creative energy is well on it's way to winning the war.

This is what I think I am struggling with, within myself and within my marital relationship. We are both musicians. Maybe I've got it wrong, though......
 
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Miss Isness said:
I wonder if I'm the only person who's ever experienced interaction with people who demonstrate both OE, and tendencies towards positive integration, as well as tendencies towards robopathy, and characteropathy.

I think these situations are more complex than how you describe them. The operative word in your statement above, IMO, is tendency. As I see it, when both "tendencies" are present, one is either pathological, and imitating integration patterns, or one is moving through crises and integrating while addressing inner disharmony and turmoil manifesting through symptoms of psychopathy.

Saying one inherently both can be an avoidance of seeing which of the two possibilities really applies. Actually, all of us have tendencies to distortion and integration. The Lovers card is a symbol of our ability to choose. Yet, the potential for that choice is not available for some people, or rather they were born having made the choice already. These are the true cases of dual tendencies.

In the characteropath the tendency to integration is imitated. OE in a psychopath is also imitated as a dramitic response designed to manipulate. Discernment is, therefore, a must.

Regarding drugs of all sorts, these ellicit different responses in different people, although some are invariably harmful. Many are demonized. And ideals can be drugs. Many "clean" individuals are addicted to "ideals" they use to cloth themselves with false meaning. The issue is the individual, not the medium that exacerbates their inner state.

Even the ability to confront reality can be an act, where things reverse as soon as reality comes front and center. It might actually be an ability to proclaim that reality will be confronted, and play the role of sincerity. I think genetic psychopathy is complex, and the general term "drugs" as an umbrella cause can be a scapegoat. Societies where inbreeding is present exhibit marked degrees of psychopathy, but this isn't the rule either.

So one must learn to tell the difference between the genetic (irredeemable) psychopath and one who is under psychopathic stress. The former is a very good actor, playing upon our own wishful thinking to make the role believable. Much has been said in this forum about this topic because it is important we learn to tell the difference between stress-induced psychopathic symptomology and intrinsic psychopathy.

If one is a true robopath, there are no creative energies. The nervous system of the robopath doesn't work that way. Artists and all kinds of idealists can easily be psychopaths. In fact, their idealism and artistic talent is their cloak of deception. This is not sincere art, but the skill of deception posing as art. A lie so profound that the liar is convinced of its "truth" in some way. And the maintanance of the liar's facade is important to them.

Things are complicated, especially when we are personally involved, and have a stake in things being a certain way. It can help to examine the presented artistic ideal, to dare to take it apart. What is its logical conclusion? Can it go beyond cliches and vague imagery? Is the artist empathic and compassionate, or is it the art of acting posing as such? Answering these questions requires courage, and the choice to stand back and observe what is going on. There are too many threads on the subject to identify all of them. Here are a few:

http://www.cassiopaea.org/forum/index.php?topic=1093

http://www.cassiopaea.org/forum/index.php?topic=395

and the threads here:

http://signs-of-the-times.org/signs/forum/viewforum.php?id=10

It's difficult to approach when you are involved in it, but these threads have a lot of input from people who have faced psychopaths, and also show manipulative individuals in action. They may help bring a bit of light in the darkness.
 

Miss Isness

Jedi Master
I think these situations are more complex than how you describe them. The operative word in your statement above, IMO, is tendency. As I see it, when both "tendencies" are present, one is either pathological, and imitating integration patterns, or one is moving through crises and integrating while addressing inner disharmony and turmoil manifesting through symptoms of psychopathy.
That makes sense to me. Unfortunately, it's not easy to establish whether someone's intent is to manipulate, so distinguishing between the two is not so easy.

I certainly identify with the process of positive integration, and my life has been a long series of crises that have gradually made me more autonomous, and continue to bring my behaviour more in line with my values. Music has always been a therapy for me and a way to transform negative emotions into something intelligent., beautiful, and useful. Unfortunately, my ability to express myself creatively through songwriting as I have done in the past, seems somewhat compromised lately.

Thanks for the links, I'll definitely have a look.

P.S. I'm not sure how to use the quote function properly and would appreciate advice
 

ark

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Miss Isness said:
P.S. I'm not sure how to use the quote function properly and would appreciate advice
Type the following code:
Code:
[quote]text to be quoted[/quote]
which then appears as
text to be quoted
or type the code:

Code:
[quote=Dabrowski]text to be quoted[/quote]
which then appears as
Dabrowski said:
text to be quoted
 

Miss Isness

Jedi Master
I don't know if I'm just cluttering up this page, but I feel like I should say thanks for your help with the quotes. Your instructions were clear and it worked as you can see....
 

anart

The Living Force
My advice is to spend some time with the threads that EsoQuest presented, you will learn a lot that may apply to your current situation. Also, if your creativity has stopped in the way you have described, this is likely quite a large sign - where did that energy go? It seems that this is something you may really want to investigate, no matter where the truth takes youl.
 

Cyre2067

The Living Force
BUMP

W. Tillier said:
A very brief sketch of Dabrowski's theory.
by W. Tillier

Four seminal quotes set the stage:

1). "Personality: A self-aware, self-chosen, self-affirmed, and self-determined unity of essential individual psychic qualities. Personality as defined here appears at the level of secondary integration" (Dabrowski, 1972, p. 301).

2). "The propensity for changing one's internal environment and the ability to influence positively the external environment indicate the capacity of the individual to develop. Almost as a rule, these factors are related to increased mental excitability, depressions, dissatisfaction with oneself, feelings of inferiority and guilt, states of anxiety, inhibitions, and ambivalences - all symptoms which the psychiatrist tends to label psychoneurotic. Given a definition of mental health as the development of the personality, we can say that all individuals who present active development in the direction of a higher level of personality (including most psychoneurotic patients) are mentally healthy" (Dabrowski, 1964, p. 112).

3). "Intense psychoneurotic processes are especially characteristic of accelerated development in its course towards the formation of personality. According to our theory accelerated psychic development is actually impossible without transition through processes of nervousness and psychoneuroses, without external and internal conflicts, without maladjustment to actual conditions in order to achieve adjustment to a higher level of values (to what 'ought to be'), and without conflicts with lower level realities as a result of spontaneous or deliberate choice to strengthen the bond with reality of higher level" (Dabrowski, 1972, p. 220).

4). "Psychoneuroses 'especially those of a higher level' provide an opportunity to 'take one's life in one's own hands'. They are expressive of a drive for psychic autonomy, especially moral autonomy, through transformation of a more or less primitively integrated structure. This is a process in which the individual himself becomes an active agent in his disintegration, and even breakdown. Thus the person finds a 'cure' for himself, not in the sense of a rehabilitation but rather in the sense of reaching a higher level than the one at which he was prior to disintegration. This occurs through a process of an education of oneself and of an inner psychic transformation. One of the main mechanisms of this process is a continual sense of looking into oneself as if from outside, followed by a conscious affirmation or negation of conditions and values in both the internal and external environments. Through the constant creation of himself, though the development of the inner psychic milieu and development of discriminating power with respect to both the inner and outer milieus - an individual goes through ever higher levels of 'neuroses' and at the same time through ever higher levels of universal development of his personality" (Dabrowski, 1972, p. 4).

These quotes capture the heart of Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration. The theory describes a process of personality development - the creation of a unique, individual personality.

Most people become socialized in their early family and school experiences. They largely accept the values and mores of society with little question and have no internal conflict in abiding by the basic tenents of society. In some cases, a person begins to notice and to imagine 'higher possibilities' in life. These disparities are driven by overexcitability -- an intense reaction to, and experience of the day-to-day stimuli of life. Eventually, one's perception of reality becomes differentiated into a hierarchy and all aspects of both external and internal life come to be evaluated on a vertical continuum of 'lower versus higher.' This experience often creates a series of deep and painful conflicts between lower, 'habitual' perceptions and reactions based on one's heredity and environment (socialization) and higher, volitional 'possibilities.' In the developing individual, these conflicts may lead to disintegrations and psychoneuroses, for Dabrowski, hallmarks of advanced growth. Eventually, through the processes of advanced development and positive disintegration, one is able to develop control over one's reactions and actions. Eventually, development culminates in the inhibition and extinction of lower levels of reality and behavior and their transcendence via the creation of a higher, autonomous and stable ideal self. The rote acceptance of social values yields to a critically examined and chosen hierarchy of values and aims that becomes a unique expression of the self -- becoming one's personality ideal.

Dabrowski acknowledged the strong and primitive influence of heredity (the first factor) and the robotic, dehumanizing (and de-individualizing) role of the social environment (the second factor). He also described a third factor of influence, a factor emerging from but surpassing heredity - "its activity is autonomous in relation to the first factor (hereditary) and the second (environmental) factor. It consists in a selective attitude with regard to the properties of one's own character and temperament, as well as, to environmental influences" (Dabrowski, 1973, p. 80). The third factor is initially expressed when a person begins to resist their lower impulses and the habitual responses characteristic of socialization. Emerging autonomy is reflected in conscious and volitional choices toward what a person perceives as 'higher' in their internal and external milieus. Over time, this 'new' conscious shaping of the personality comes to reflect an individual 'personality ideal,' an integrated hierarchy of values describing the sense of whom one wants to be and how one wants to live life. With the new freedom and force of the third factor, a person can see and avoid the lower in life and transcend to higher levels. The 'ought to be' of life can replace 'the what is.' It is important to realize that this is not simply an actualization of oneself as is; it involves tremendous conscious work in differentiating the higher and lower in the self and in moving away from lower selfish and egocentric goals toward an idealized image of how 'you ought to be.'

The idealized self is consciously constructed based on both emotional and cognitive foundations. Emotion and cognition become integrated and are reflected in a new approach to life -- feelings direct and shape ideas, goals and ideals, one's ideals work to express one's feelings. imagination is a critical component in this process -- we can literally imagine how it ought to be and how could be in this establishes ideals to try to attain.

Initially, people who are acting on low impulses or who are simply robotically emulating society have little self conflict. Most conflicts are external. During development, the clash between one's actual behavior and environment and one's imagined ideals creates a great deal of internal conflict. This conflict literally motivates the individual to resolve the situation, ideally by inhibiting those aspects he or she considers lower and by accentuating those aspects he or she considers higher. At the highest levels, there is a new harmony of thought, emotion and action that eliminates internal conflict. The individual is behaving in accord with their own personality ideal and consciously derived value structure and therefore feels no internal conflict. Often a person's external focus shifts to 'making the world a better place.'

In describing development, Dabrowski elaborated five levels occurring in three basic phases. The first stage, Level I, involves an integrated but lower level expression of hereditary and social forces. Dabrowski referred to this as a unilevel or primary level. The individual experiences little inner conflict and is initially, largely unaware of the 'higher possibilities of life.' Phase two is characterized by the process of disintegration and psychoneuroses are common features of these levels (Levels II, III and IV). The familiar security of habit is shattered by doubts as the person comes to discover higher levels in life. The lower versus higher continuum signals a shift to the multilevel experience of life (Levels III and IV). The third phase, Level V, is the highest level, second integration, characterized by the expression of one's unique and autonomous personality.
This stuff is great! I can't believe i didn't see it before, guess it wasn't time yet. Can anyone recommend one of his many books?

PS - thanks hkoehli for dropping the references in the entropic forces thread.
 

Approaching Infinity

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Cyre2067 said:
This stuff is great! I can't believe i didn't see it before, guess it wasn't time yet. Can anyone recommend one of his many books?

PS - thanks hkoehli for dropping the references in the entropic forces thread.
I'm pretty sure the only place to get his books is through Bill Tiller's site. You can be a CD with pdfs/word docs of all his English books (Polish, too, but separately). I've read his first book, "The Theory of Positive Disintegration," and am reading his second, "Personality-shaping Through Positive Disintegration," and so far, while the first is a good introduction, and short, the second is pretty mind-blowing.
 

Iron

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I dont know if other members of the forum are aware of this website:

http://positivedisintegration.com

There is a overview of dabrowski theory, some synopses, and most valuable for you US and Canada residents, a DVD with his books and papers in pdf format!
 

Gaby

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Iron said:
I dont know if other members of the forum are aware of this website:

http://positivedisintegration.com

There is a overview of dabrowski theory, some synopses, and most valuable for you US and Canada residents, a DVD with his books and papers in pdf format!
That is Bill Tiller's site. More info on him in this thread: http://www.cassiopaea.org/forum/index.php?topic=13657.msg104146#msg104146
 

Iron

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Psyche said:
That is Bill Tiller's site. More info on him in this thread: http://www.cassiopaea.org/forum/index.php?topic=13657.msg104146#msg104146
Thank you very much, I should have seek references of him here. My mistake... a rookie mistake.
I was taken by excitement, I will try to keep my head more cool next time.
 

Laura

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Psyche said:
That is Bill Tiller's site. More info on him in this thread: http://www.cassiopaea.org/forum/index.php?topic=13657.msg104146#msg104146
Yes, too bad we can "replicate" posts in addition to merging them since the Tillier information would go well here, but it definitely belongs in the other thread also. Maybe a merge anyway?
 
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