▣ Comments on Jackson, Moyle, & Piechowski, (2009).

William Tillier

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My fundamental problem with this chapter is that it is disconnected from Dąbrowski's writings on the topic. For example, it is beyond me how you could write a chapter on psychotherapy from Dąbrowski's point of view without even mentioning autopsychotherapy, autoeducation or personality shaping. Dąbrowski developed a very specific and unique approach to psychotherapy which does not appear to be reflected in this chapter.

Dąbrowski rejected traditional approaches to psychotherapy because he said it put too much power in the hands and egos of the therapists.

He developed an approach to therapy he referred to as autopsychotherapy (Dąbrowski 1964, 1967, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1996). He also wrote a 400 page manuscript on autopsychotherapy co-authored by Marlene Rankle.

Here is a typical definition Dąbrowski offered: AUTOPSYCHOTHERAPY. Psychotherapy, preventive measures, or changes in living conditions applied to oneself in order to control possible mental disequilibrium. Autopsychotherapy is the process of education-of-oneself under conditions of increased stress, as in developmental crises, in critical moments of life, in neuroses and psychoneuroses. It is an off-shoot of education-of-oneself operating at the borderline of levels III and IV. As development advances through spontaneous to organized multilevel disintegration, the conflicts, disturbances, depressions, and anxieties are handled consciously by the individual himself. Because of the great rise and differentiation of autonomous factors the individual has available to him the means not only to contain areas of conflict and tension but even more so to transform them into processes enriching and strengthening his development. Conscious self-healing is an example of this process at work; it is, however, more crucial in the mental and emotional than in the physical realm. Solitude and concentration play a very important role in this process (Dąbrowski, 1996, p. 40).

Dąbrowski said that autopsychotherapy began with a collaborative diagnosis and he emphasized that a multilevel multidimensional diagnosis was 50% of therapy (Dąbrowski, 1967). Dąbrowski (1972) called his approach "multidimensional, multilevel descriptive-interpretive diagnosis." In referring to a "descriptive-interpretive" diagnosis, Dąbrowski was emphasizing the role played by observation, judgment and interpretation. This interpretation was largely offered by the therapist but in close collaboration with the patient, to the extent that the patient collaborates in forming his or her diagnosis (Dąbrowski, 1972). In addition, the descriptive-interpretive approach distinguished this type of diagnosis from that of a traditional clinical diagnosis which is based upon categorizing an individual's symptoms according to a classification scheme of disorders.

Dąbrowski explained that often an individual will have symptoms reflecting positive disintegration but will not have a context to understand what is happening. He said when he recognized an individual on the developmental path it was often sufficient to educate he or she about positive disintegration and thus give the person a new developmental context to understand what they were going through. To this end, Dąbrowski used bibliotherapy, giving clients copies of his books to read.

Autopsychotherapy was loosely based on depth psychology and on Szondi's "Schicksalanalyse" (Fate analysis or "destiny by choice"). The emphasis is on self discovery and self-control and self construction through developing insight. [Szondi was quite an influential figure on Dąbrowski, to cite a second example, Szondi's photographic test was the basis of Dąbrowski's FACES test]

Influenced by another depth psychologist, Ira Progroff, a key component was writing an autobiography to gain self insight. Importantly, Dąbrowski emphasized this was for the client and not the therapist, the client was encouraged to write an autobiography and then keep it, reviewing it periodically.

In development, once the inner psychic milieu, the third factor and subject object get rolling, the individual really takes over control of his or her development through two primary processes operating synergistically, autoeducation and autopsychotherapy. Through the operation of autoeducation and autopsychotherapy, the individual shapes his or her personality toward the personality ideal that he or she has constructed. Personality shaping, the focus of Dąbrowski's 1967 book, is the end goal of development leading to a unique and autonomous personality. The individual learns from his or her experience of psychoneuroses and develops insight into three key areas: first, into oneself, second into others and into the world at large and third, into the relationship between oneself and others in the world. Again, this process is facilitated by subject object at its development beginning with only subject and slowly moving toward a recognition of the object as a legitimate other and eventually, to a situation where the individual can switch roles, looking at oneself objectively and looking at the other subjectively. This is the basis of empathy and compassion. Once this is achieved, the third factor becomes a key determinant directing one's course of development through the decisions one makes on a day-to-day basis. "Man becomes more truly himself having passed through a variety of painful experiences, having exercised his own will and having made his own choices" (Dąbrowski, 1970b, p. 78). The therapist's role in all of this is essentially to support and encourage the individual in this exploration.

Dąbrowski was very sensitive to the risk of clients being overwhelmed and of suicide. If the stress of development was too strong he would advocate temporary reintegration on a lower level. He endorsed Pierre Janet's approach to the rest cure. If an individual could manage and handle the stress, Dąbrowski would not try to palliate symptoms of depression, anxiety or inferiority, he would encourage the client to work through these feelings and learn from the experience of these feelings.

Jackson et al state that: "Research findings on overexcitability have been reviewed by Mendaglio and Tillier (2006) with the general conclusion that gifted children tend to have higher overexcitability scores than regular children." In fact, Mendaglio and Tillier (p.78, 2006) found that "Taken as a group, findings indicate partial support for the predicted OE profile. The greatest support for the claim that gifted persons manifest the profile of elevated imaginational, intellectual, and emotional OEs - the Big Three-with depressed sensual and psychomotor OEs is found in the studies with adult participants. Further, the strongest support is found in studies that used creativity as a criterion, particularly when this was demonstrated in artistic productions." They continued: "Research with larger samples of adolescents and children, however, did not lend significant support. In fact, both Ackerman (1997) and Bouchard (2004) found that psychomotor OE contributed most significantly to differentiating between gifted and nongifted groups, with gifted participants scoring higher on this OE" (p.79, 2006).

Jackson et al avoided Pyryt's important conclusions based on his meta-analysis of the research. Research has demonstrated that gifted individuals are more likely than those not identified as gifted to show signs of intellectual overexcitability (Pyryt, 2008). However, it now seems apparent that, based upon the research strategies and testing done to date, the gifted do not consistently demonstrate "the big three," intellectual, imaginational and emotional overexcitability. As Pyryt (2008) concluded, "it appears that gifted and average ability individuals have similar amounts of emotional overexcitability. This finding would suggest that many gifted individuals have limited developmental potential in the Dąbrowskian sense and are more likely to behave egocentrically rather than altruistically" (p. 177).

I guess we are making progress, the article actually mentions positive disintegration and psychoneuroses. On the other hand, it is disappointing that secondary authors continued to write papers distorting what Dąbrowski originally presented. Again, to write a chapter on psychotherapy from a Dąbrowskian point of view without even mentioning personality shaping or autopsychotherapy is a tremendous injustice to Dąbrowski.