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⧈ 3.1.1 Overview by Tillier.
⚀ 126.96.36.199 Summary.
⚀ 188.8.131.52 A positive approach to mental health.
⚀ 184.108.40.206 Two types of development.
⚀ 220.127.116.11 The multilevel and multidimensional approach.
⚀ 18.104.22.168 The theory has five levels.
⚀ 22.214.171.124 Adjustment.
⚀ 126.96.36.199 The three factors of development.
⚀ 188.8.131.52 Developmental potential.
⚀ 184.108.40.206 Dynamisms.
⚀ 220.127.116.11 The developmental process—Positive disintegration.
⚀ 18.104.22.168 The personality ideal and subject-object.
⚀ 22.214.171.124 Personality-shaping: A key developmental feature.
⚀ 126.96.36.199 Conclusion.
⧈ 3.1.2 A Polish article.
⚀ 188.8.131.52 Primary integration.
⚀ 184.108.40.206 One-level disintegration.
⚀ 220.127.116.11 Multilevel spontaneous disintegration.
⚀ 18.104.22.168 Organized multi-level disintegration.
⚀ 22.214.171.124 Secondary integration.
⧈ 3.1.1 Overview by Tillier.
⚀ 126.96.36.199 Summary.
Kazimierz Dąbrowski (1902-1980) developed the Theory of Positive Disintegration (TPD) to describe psychological—personality—development. Dąbrowski's approach is a precursor of the modern field of post-traumatic growth research. Dąbrowski explained to me that he could not find a psychological theory that could describe the wide range of behavior he had observed during his lifetime. He saw a continuum from the lowest to highest behaviors that encompasses three essential categories or types of people, each with different types of development: the psychopath showing no development, the average person developing within the parameters of their social environment (these first two are "unilevel"), and a third category; transformative or transitional development that is autonomous and is "multilevel."
TPD is a broad and complex approach, with many interrelated and unique constructs. Although in many ways unusual, TPD has a solid basis in philosophy, psychology and neurology. In constructing TPD, Dąbrowski retained some existing psychological constructs, reinterpreted others, and introduced new ones.
TPD has many potential applications, including in psychology, psychotherapy, education, philosophy, ethics, science, history, sociology, politics, and pastoral guidance.
⚀ 188.8.131.52 A positive approach to mental health.
Dąbrowski's theory uses a positive approach to mental health that emphasizes that the presence or absence of symptoms are not a sufficient criterion to assess mental health. Mental health requires the development of autonomy and independence from rote socialization through creating an individualized hierarchy of values and personality ideal—this reflects people as they "ought to be," not as they are.
Dąbrowski had an odd and complicated view of personality; he believed the average person has individuality, but not a unique personality. Personality represents one's deep essence (one's true, higher self), and reflects the highest level of development—personality is a rare achievement. In discovering one's unique essence—one's character—one can become a unique and authentic individual expressing and developing a personality reflecting their true and deeper self, defined by ideal, desirable, and authentic qualities. Whereas, the average person's true personality is suppressed by adherence to social values and goals—this reflects Nietzsche's "herd personality."
Dąbrowski defined personality as a self-aware, self-conscious, self-chosen, self-objectified, autonomous, authentic, and self-confirmed unity of mental qualities. The self is positive, other-oriented, and selfless (the ego is defeated). Here, we see empathy, humility, responsibility, self-education, self-assessment, and self-control.
⚀ 184.108.40.206 Two types of development.
Dąbrowski described two types of development: the first, "lower" type, involves quantitative and cumulative change, commonly seen in the average person and described by the traditional stage/age based theories of psychology (e.g., Erikson, Piaget, etc.). This is ontogenetic development, a type Dąbrowski called "heteronomous." Here development is biologically and socially determined and the individual derives their view of life and morality by accepting externally defined social mores.
The second type of development—autonomous development—is transformational and involves qualitative change. Autonomous development leads to new forms of mental life characterized as self-conscious, self-determined, and self-controlled. Autonomous development emerges from, "higher" more complicated sources and involves "new forces" of self-determination and autonomy [for example, "third factor"]. These energies allow the individual to become self-aware and to transcend lower biological instincts and social determinants by making deliberate and authentic choices based on a "multilevel" understanding of the environment and of oneself. Autonomous development reflects a combination of elements; some that are ontogenetic, for example, intelligence, and others that reflect an evolutionary non-ontogenetic pattern of growth through levels. Dąbrowski used emotional development as an example of a non-ontogenetic pattern: "the level of emotional functioning is not produced automatically in the course of ontogenesis but evolves as a function of other conditions" (Dąbrowski, 1964, p. 9, see also Dąbrowski, 1970, p. 5). This approach is analogous to the theories of Frankl, Maslow, and Cloninger, for example.
⚀ 220.127.116.11 The multilevel and multidimensional approach.
Dąbrowski felt that psychological variables (e.g. intellect, instinct and emotion) are best understood, and must be described, using a multilevel analysis. Many people see life only on one level. However, reality consists of lower and higher levels that differ qualitatively. When we are able to see and compare psychological variables on lower and higher levels, it often initially creates conflicts over which we should choose. These choices are often a struggle between higher and lower within the self—we want the lower, but we feel we ought to choose the higher. Over time, we build a hierarchy of choices—of values—that we are comfortable with. These "multilevel" views of ourselves, and of life, help us to see, and describe, reality more deeply and accurately.
By using a multidimensional analysis, different dimensions can be described and their level of development inferred. As well, interactions between dimensions can be analyzed based upon the level of each dimension under consideration. When different dimensions exhibit broad differences in their developmental level, one risks "one-sided" development. The example that Dąbrowski often gave was a high level of intellectual development with a low level of emotion and morality, often leading to high levels of accomplishment but unguided by morality—"to be able to build a better bomb."
The combination of a multilevel and multidimensional analysis leads to more nuanced approach to describing reality—both of external and internal aspects of reality.
⚀ 18.104.22.168 The theory has five levels.
Dąbrowski carefully observed people and described five levels of psychological functions: the lowest and highest levels are integrations. An integration reflects the cohesive, interrelated processes that are the foundation of our psychological functions. These two integrations are quite different. At the lowest level, is a strong self-serving, lower, ego-based identity, focused on one's own needs and reflecting social roles and mores; this is negative adjustment to "life as it is." This rigid unilevel integration curtails autonomy, but also provides strong security. At the highest level, is an integration reflecting a unique and authentic personality. It is a harmonious multilevel structure based on one's unique essence and values. Adjustment is to "life as it ought to be."
To understand Dąbrowski’s approach to level I, one must take into account the two basic expressions of unilevelness he described. At the lowest sub-level is the psychopath, who is emotionally bereft and is only concerned about satisfying their own needs, often at the great expense of others. They have no conceptualization of what ought to be, either within themselves or within the larger society and morally they are "dwarfs." The psychopath is seen as governed by factor 1; biological instincts. It should be recalled that Dąbrowski saw the behavior of the psychopath as determined by genetically based developmental potential that is negative in character and leads to an extremely rigid psychological structure.
The higher sub-level of level I encompasses the average person who conforms to the norms and expectations of their social milieu. The average person lacks strong positive or negative developmental potential and therefore is prone to be socialized to express the mores of their society. Thus, the average person is governed by factor 2, (Note 1) social environment. Dąbrowski said the average person goes through the normal socialization process, arriving at individualism, but because their value structure is external, they lack a true authentic and unique personality. This is the type of development that Chojnowski appears to describe as "cumulative." We see a wide range of second factor social structures in the world today. Some are dominated by a sense of common humanity while others are autocratic and do not value the humanity of the individual.
"Individuals with some degree of primitive integration comprise the majority of society. In psychopathology we find that psychopaths very primitive integrated structure. Nevertheless, the compactness of primitive integration has many variations in degrees of stability and in mutability. In normal persons, primitive structure can be changed with some effectiveness by certain conditions. The structure of the individual may contain stronger or weaker dispositions to disintegration and therefore can be influenced by the stresses and strains of life. These environmental factors which affect the disposition to disintegration determine the active, and in some cases accelerated, development of moral, social, intellectual, and aesthetic culture of the individual and of society" (Dąbrowski, 1964, pp. 7-8).
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. The more cohesive the structure of primary integration, the less the possibility of development; the greater the strength of automatic functioning, stereotypy, and habitual activity, the lower the level of mental health. The psychopath is only slightly, if at all, capable of development; he is deaf and blind to stimuli except those pertaining to his impulse-ridden structure, to which intelligence is subordinated. The absence of the development of personality means the absence of mental health" (Dąbrowski, 1964, pp. 121-122).
In describing level I, Dąbrowski said the theories of H. S. Sullivan and A. Adler reflect the role of the second factor in development. He also said Freud's approach was a good description of, and applied to, level I. For example, the three components of Freud's approach are applicable: id corresponds to the uninhibited expression of lower instincts as seen in the psychopath. They will steal your wallet. The next level is the ego where the priorities of the self rise above everything else. Social conformity is flexible, you will obey the law when it serves your purposes but, generally if you can get away with something you will. This is the level of "the ends justify the means" when it comes to serving and promoting the self. If you find a wallet on the ground and no one is looking, you will take the money. At the third level is the superego where the prevailing norms, values, and laws of society are ingrained. I won't take the wallet because I was taught not to. To use an analogy, at the id level you will get, or take, what you want regardless of the policeman standing on the corner. At the ego level, you will conform if you see the policeman standing on the corner, otherwise, you may or may not. At the level of superego, you will behave even when there is no one watching.
Dąbrowski describes three levels of disintegration;
▪ Unilevel disintegration (II)
▪ Multilevel disintegration: Spontaneous (III)
▪ Multilevel disintegration: Organized or Directed (IV)
Dąbrowski (1996, p. 18) describes level II: "It consists of disintegrative processes occurring as if on a single structural level. There is disintegration but no differentiation of levels of emotional or intellectual control. Unilevel disintegration begins with the loosening of the cohesive and rigid structure of primary integration. There is hesitation, doubt, ambivalence, increased sensitivity to internal stimuli, fluctuations of mood, excitations and depressions, vague feelings of disquietude, various forms of mental and psychosomatic disharmony. There is ambitendency of action, either changing from one direction to another, or being unable to decide which course to take and letting the decision fall to chance, or a whim of like or dislike. Thinking has a circular character of argument for argument's sake. Externality is still quite strong. Nuclei of hierarchization may gradually appear, weakly differentiating events in the external milieu and in the internal milieu but still there is continual vacillation between 'pros' and 'cons' with no clear direction out of the vicious circle. Internal conflicts are unilevel and often superficial. When they are severe and engage deeper emotional structures the individual often sees himself caught in a 'no exit' situation. Severe mental disorders are associated with unilevel developmental structure." "Prolongation of unilevel disintegration often leads to reintegration on a lower level, to suicidal tendencies, or to psychosis" (Dąbrowski, 1964, p. 7).
"Developmental Level III is called spontaneous multilevel disintegration. It is characterized by a greater degree of conscious involvement of the individual in his emotional and mental life. This fact generates an internal conflict which is an experience of a struggle for mental control between the 'lower' and the 'higher' within oneself. This is a multilevel conflict which carries the potential for a direction and further development (from the 'lower' to the 'higher,' i.e. from less autonomous to more autonomous). The experiences and associated conflicts for the most part are brought onto the individual by events in his life. Hence the name 'spontaneous multilevel disintegration.' The mental disorders on Level III are characterized by prevalence of psychoneurotic over psychotic processes" (Dąbrowski, 1972, p. 112). The hallmark of Level III is inner conflict: "The nature of multilevel conflict is in essence the opposition between 'what is' against 'what ought to be.' The conflict exists between higher and lower levels of an internal hierarchy, between the subject and the object within oneself, between the 'lower self' and the 'higher self," between the forces of negation and the forces of affirmation. Not infrequently very intense conflicts lead to suicide or even psychosis (see Ideal). The different factors operating at this level are manifestations of the different dynamic dimensions of inner conflict" (Dąbrowski, 1996, p. 37).
Dąbrowski (1996) summarized level IV: "The developmental factors (dynamisms) characteristic for organized multilevel disintegration are: subject-object in oneself, third factor (conscious discrimination and choice), inner psychic transformation, self-awareness, self-control, education-of-oneself and autopsychotherapy. Self-perfection plays a highly significant role" (p. 19).
The levels and psychoneurosis: "The analysis of the levels of development, and therefore, of the levels of the inner psychic milieu, in relation to both healthy and pathological dynamisms gives us a differentiating tool that can be applied to psychoneuroses. Thus we distinguish different levels of psychoneuroses related to different levels of development, for instance, hypochondria is characteristic for unilevel disintegration (level II), and psychasthenia is characteristic for advanced spontaneous multilevel disintegration (advanced level III); neuroses of organs characterize unilevel disintegration, while psychoneurotic depressions of the existential type characterize spontaneous multilevel disintegration (level III) or even borderline of the organized multilevel disintegration (level IV)" (Dąbrowski, 1972, p. 107).
⚀ 22.214.171.124 Adjustment.
Dąbrowski described four types of adjustment—two types of adjustment and two types of maladjustment.
▪ Negative maladjustment is essentially antisocial or criminal behavior.
▪ Negative adjustment reflects an individual's rote or automatic and uncritical adjustment to the world "as is"—a unilevel adjustment. In our current approach to mental health, unquestioning social adjustment is considered a major criteria of mental health.
▪ Positive maladjustment reflects being out of step with a lower-level society—it is the active rejection of the world "as it is" in favor of an image of how one thinks it ought to be. As Dąbrowski said, to be maladjusted to a sick society is to be a healthy individual.
▪ Positive adjustment is an adjustment to "what ought to be"—to one's personality ideal—to a multilevel adjustment reflecting a harmony with one's self.
⚀ 126.96.36.199 The three factors of development.
Dąbrowski described three factors that guide and determine development. The first is hereditary or constitutional endowment ("original endowment"—"OE"). Dąbrowski described the first factor as the genetic endowment one inherits "plus all lasting effects of pregnancy, birth defects, nutrition, drugs, etc." (1970, p. 72). The second factor, seen in heteronomous development, is external influence, including society and culture as well as the family environment. The third factor represents the totality of the autonomous forces of self-directed development (autonomous development).
Dąbrowski was clear that all three factors are genetic in nature. Development depends upon the relative genetic strength of the factors. If the first factor is strong but the second and third are weak, then development will be limited and psychopathy may be the outcome. If the second factor is strong, predisposing socialization, then development will result in "primary integration" (the so-called average person). The third factor may be weak and not be able to sustain itself when activated. On the other hand, if the third factor is genetically strong, when activated, it emerges, becoming a dominant developmental force. Describing the third factor as genetic creates a conundrum: Its roots are genetic but it may emerge and come to control the first and second factor. Thus, Dąbrowski talks about transcending one's genetics and implies the third factor becomes a metaphysical aspect to the theory.
Dąbrowski described two contexts for the third factor: "In the strict sense the third factor is a dynamism which carries out the functions of affirmation, negation and choice in relation to the inner and to the outer milieus" (1970, p. 73). "In a broad sense the third factor is the central representative of the autonomous factors like 'subject-object' in oneself, self-awareness, self-control, identification and empathy, inner psychic transformation, and even those of the spontaneous phase of multilevel disintegration like negative adjustment and positive maladjustment which in addition to their own function perform the role of 'third sub-factors'" (Dąbrowski, 1970, p. 73).
The third factor assumes the major role in directing advanced development. It is a dynamism of valuation that contributes to the development of an autonomous hierarchy of values. The third factor differentiates between lower and higher reality and affirms the higher level, the level of creativity, self-reflection, intuition, and self-control (see Dąbrowski,1996, p.63). The "third factor" is a "new and fundamental element in the chain of factors that decide the development of a man (besides heredity and environmental influences), and is a reflection of a new force, which determines a new direction of development than that followed thus far" (Dąbrowski, 1967, p. 105).
"Autonomy results from the work of the third factor. While the third factor is a dynamism primarily concerned with the discrimination between higher and lower in mental development, autonomy is a dynamism of inner freedom" (Dąbrowski, 1970, pp. 77-78).
"This third factor always appears during periods of positive disintegration and is connected with creative, dynamic processes in prospective and retrospective attitudes and with purposeful nonadaptation. It is a basic factor for the realization of one’s personality ideal. It is the primary dynamic element in the development of dissatisfaction with oneself, shame, guilt, and inferiority and in the building of one’s own hierarchical internal environment. The development of personality, and consequently mental health, is clearly related to the activities of the third factor" (Dąbrowski, 1964, p. 123).
⚀ 188.8.131.52 Developmental potential.
Why is personality rare? Dąbrowski observed that people achieving personality show a group of common characteristics, linked to development, but not guaranteeing it. These "developmental potentials" consist of several psychological aspects that Dąbrowski believed are genetic. In describing developmental potential, Dąbrowski emphasized that it may be positive or negative, it may be general or may be more specific, and it may be strong or weak. For maximum development one's developmental potential must be positive and strong. A weak level of developmental potential will generally limit development to levels I and II in the theory. Strong negative developmental potential may not respond to a positive environment ("the worst child produced by the best environment"). Strong positive developmental potential may not be held back by the worst environment ("the best child emerging from the harshest environment"). If the development potential is equivocal, environment may play a critical role in determining if the individual will be psychopathic or adjusted to the norms of society.
Developmental potential includes; developmental dynamisms, the developmental instinct, the instinct of self-perfection, third factor, and personalty ideal to name a few aspects. Dąbrowski said that developmental potential could be measured by looking at three factors: Special abilities and talents, the third factor, and overexcitabilities. The most obvious characteristic of developmental potential involves nervous energy: Dąbrowski called it "overexcitability." People with overexcitabilities often have intense experiences in life, usually creating, and/or intensifying, crises. Overexcitabilities may impact our physical energy, the five senses, our imagination, our intellectual curiosity, and/or our emotions—the most important type.
Dąbrowski defined overexcitability as nervousness and used the two terms synonymously. He described five forms: emotional, sensual, psychomotor, imaginational and intellectual. "Mental overexcitability is based on hereditary endowment and is shaped through the influence of the external environment and autonomous factors" (Dąbrowski, 1973, p. 147). Dąbrowski continues "Without mental overexcitability or nervousness the individual has no possibility of 'getting out' from the rigid dependence on the biological life cycle which ends in senile deterioration. He has no possibility of transgressing this cycle or transgressing his own psychological type."
Definition: "Each form of overexcitability points to a higher than average sensitivity of its receptors. As a result a person endowed with different forms of overexcitability reacts with surprise, puzzlement to many things, he collides with things, persons and events, which in turn brings him astonishment and disquietude. One could say that one who manifests a given form of overexcitability, and especially one who manifests several forms of overexcitability, sees reality in a different, stronger and more multisided manner. Reality for such an individual ceases to be indifferent but affects him deeply and leaves long-lasting impressions. Enhanced excitability is thus a means for more frequent interactions and a wider range of experiencing" (Dąbrowski, 1972, p. 7). Dąbrowski said: "Developmental potential is strongest if all, or almost all forms of overexcitability are present. The three forms, intellectual, imaginational and emotional, are essential if a high level of development is to be reached. The highest level of development is possible only if the emotional form is the strongest, or at least no less strong than the other forms. Great strength of the psychomotor and the sensual forms limits development to the lowest levels only" (p. 16). "Some forms of overexcitability constitute a richer developmental potential than others. Emotional (affective), imaginational and intellectual overexcitability are the richer forms. If they appear together they give rich possibilities of development and creativity. If these three forms of overexcitability are combined with the sensual and psychomotoric then these latter two are both enriched and enhanced in their positive developmental possibilities" (Dąbrowski, 1972, pp. 7-8). "The achievement of higher levels of development seems to depend on the particular strength of emotional overexcitability. It seems that the highest level of development is possible only if in the constellation of all five forms the emotional is the strongest" (Dąbrowski, 1996, p. 182).
Overexcitabilities contribute to the development process, in part, by intensifying the experience of everyday reality and creating strong reactions. As Marlene used to say: "if you have overexcitability then you won't be able to sleep after watching the evening news."
Another key characteristic of developmental potential is a strong inner drive to express one's true self—the third factor. Other aspects of energy include the mental factors that shape development by controlling behavior—what Dąbrowski called dynamisms. Instincts, drives, and intellectual processes combined with emotions are dynamisms.
⚀ 184.108.40.206 Dynamisms.
Dąbrowski's theory is in the tradition of other psychodynamic theories that emphasize the role of energy in psychological functioning. The idea of dynamisms in TPD is critically linked to development (and the term is used some 1500 times in the English works). Dąbrowski defined dynamisms as a: "Biological or mental force controlling behavior and its development. Instincts, drives, and intellectual processes combined with emotions are dynamisms" (Dąbrowski, 1972, p. 294). Dąbrowski linked dynamisms with creativity and one's basic perception of reality: "All developmental dynamisms are creative by their power of transforming the individual and his perception of reality" (Dąbrowski, 1972, p. 292). Dynamisms are hierarchically arranged, beginning in level II and up, they are associated with higher development. Dąbrowski cast a wide net and included many features under the umbrella of dynamisms; for example, ambitendency, ambivalence, inferiority towards oneself, dissatisfaction with oneself, astonishment with oneself, disquietude, guilt, shame, positive maladjustment, creativity, subject-object, third factor, self-awareness and self-control, autopsychotherapy, self-education, empathy, autonomy and authenticity, and the personality ideal. An individual's inner psychic milieu is a unique reflection of their essence—it is a unique collection of the dynamisms that characterize an individual. The interaction of dynamisms, either on one level or on different levels, and either synergistically or antagonistically, are critical aspects in determining the course of development.
This definition of dynamisms emphasizes the role of emotion. In Dąbrowski, emotion is seen as a dynamic, moving force. (Interestingly, Dąbrowski also used the terms emotion and values interchangeably and believed that all values were expressions of emotions. Further, values are defined by emotional reactions to situations.)
"emotion (n.) 1570s, 'a (social) moving, stirring, agitation,' from French émotion (16c.), from Old French emouvoir 'stir up' (12c.), from Latin emovere 'move out, remove, agitate,' from assimilated form of ex 'out' (see ex-) + movere 'to move' (from PIE root *meue- 'to push away'). Sense of 'strong feeling' is first recorded 1650s; extended to any feeling by 1808." https://www.etymonline.com/word/emotion
⚀ 220.127.116.11 The developmental process—Positive disintegration.
How do we develop from the lower to the higher level? In his research, Dąbrowski saw that people achieving personality show a common path; they have many crises, often breaking apart the lower integration, thus allowing opportunities to rebuild a unique self.
Dąbrowski saw depression, self-doubt and anxieties as critical parts of growth. Conflicts may lead to emotional, philosophical and existential crises. Crises challenge us to review our life and create opportunities to reorder our priorities, to inhibit or drop some things, and enhance or add other things.
"What is new, higher, richer, must in a large measure grow from the loosening and disruption of what is old, simple, poorer, integrated, and nondynamic. Achievement of the 'new,' the 'higher,' is almost always connected with a process which over a period of time must demonstrate a stronger or weaker, narrow or wide process of disintegration. Therefore, the stages of disintegration are related to creativity, general psychic development, growth of self-awareness, and mental health" (Dąbrowski, 1964, p. 122).
Dąbrowski said we should look at our emotions and differentiate lower from higher emotions. Awareness of our higher emotions allows them to direct us toward authenticity, where intelligence serves emotions. Intellect without emotion is unbalanced (one-sided) development. Feelings and imagination let us see "the higher possibilities" and "what ought to be in life." As described above, Dąbrowski saw emotions and values as synonymous and said we must carefully evaluate our emotions to create, and/or choose, our own unique hierarchy of values.
Although we have an animal heritage, we have some uniquely human instincts that qualitatively separate us from animals; e.g., the developmental instinct, the creative, and self-perfection instincts.
⚀ 18.104.22.168 The personality ideal and subject-object.
The key idea behind multilevelness is that the individual becomes aware of vertical differences in reality and this creates conflicts between higher and lower aspects on a particular dimension. When the individual chooses the lower aspect they will often feel regret and if given another chance, they will choose the higher alternativ the next time.
These comparisons between higher and lower also come into focus in the self. Dąbrowski described how imagination and emotional overexcitability contribute to accentuating the differences between higher and lower aspects of the self. When one sees how one actually acts and compares it to their imaginational view of how they ought to act, a vertical conflict arises between what is and what ought to be. In addition, subject-object begins to function. Again with the stimulus of imaginational overexcitability one comes to imagine oneself as if seen by someone else. This creates an objective view of self. At the same time, one imagines oneself in the shoes of another and this gives a subjective view of the other.
Dąbrowski emphasized that subject-object creates self-awareness and an objectification of oneself. This process further highlights higher and lower elements in the self and an image is formed of the ideal personality that one aspires to. This personality ideal comes to guide subsequent choices and behavior. The ongoing action of subject-object helps refine and further define this ideal. This ideal is expressed in a hierarchy of values that comes to represent an individual's core priorities both for themselves and for the society they live in.
Dabrowski emphasized that in the discovery of one's essence, authenticity would would emerge as a guiding force. Dąbrowski often said that the extraordinary individual was simply extra—ordinary but ordinary in the sense of how an authentic human being ought to be. Finally, subject-object is a major aspect guiding autopsychotherapy and self-education.
⚀ 22.214.171.124 Personality-shaping: A key developmental feature.
The developmental process is guided by the development of one's personality ideal; a vision of one's unique self and essence—of one's best self. Once this image is seen, in one's imigination, we can make day-to-day choices leading toward achieving our ideal. In this process we become more and more like our real, higher self ("become more myself")—our aspirational personalty ideal. Part of this process involves inhibiting or transforming lower aspects (that are "less myself"). In this way, one consciously and volitionally, shapes—develops—oneself, slowly moving from "what one is" toward the conceptualization of "what one ought to be."
⚀ 126.96.36.199 Conclusion: This is a complex but satisfying theory describing psychological development through crises.
Note 1: There appears to be some confusion over the way level II is presented. First, Dąbrowski clearly presented it as a transitional level indicating the great levels of stress and conflict associated with it usually cause a person to reintegrate back at level I. Piechowski has suggested that the average person exists at level II, that it is often not transitional and that the role of developmental potential and positive disintegration are over emphasized in the development process, especially as they pertain to level II.
There is also an irregularity in the presentation of factor 2. It seems clear that Dąbrowski placed the average person at level I and often suggested that some 70% of the population exists at this level. When he taught the theory to me, factors one and two were both the first level, and factor 3 began to appear at the third level. The material I’ve seen from Poland seems to support this view. The irregularity arises as Dąbrowski included the second factor in his description of level II (1996, p. 33). Why it appears here is a mystery (is it an ending mistake?).
Piechowski (1975) has presented the second factor as a dynamism of level II and has consistently presented the average person as being at the second level. This seems at odds with Dąbrowski's views.
Piechowski (1975, p. 260) said:
Unilevel disintegration denotes a radical departure from the cohesive undifferentiated structure of primary integration (second vertical column of Figure 1). Externality is still very strong but there are deviations from it; rigidity is replaced by hesitation, doubt, wavering attitudes, and changing likes and dislikes. Emotional relationships with others exist but may have emotional components to excess (e.g., overdependence on others, jealousy). Patterns of thought are often circular, although they may appear sophisticated. Internal conflicts appear but are often more readily resolved by chance or superficial considerations than by internal struggle. When internal conflicts are severe, they lack the crucial possibility of developmental resolution. Behavior is essentially disoriented and conforming to external standards. It follows changing fads, ideologies, and leaders with little evaluation. When behavior is nonconforming, even rebellious, it is still without direction here-it is not based on autonomously developed principles. Because of the general looseness and lack of hierarchical structure at this level of development, it can result in the most severe mental disorders: psychosis, schizophrenia, phobias, psychosomatic disorders, alcoholism, or drug addiction.
The description above by Piechowski is also quite reminiscent of what appears in Dąbrowski 1996 on page 18:
Unilevel Disintegration. It consists of disintegrative processes occurring as if on a single structural level. There is disintegration but no differentiation of levels of emotional or intellectual control. Unilevel disintegration begins with the loosening of the cohesive and rigid structure of primary integration. There is hesitation, doubt, ambivalence, increased sensitivity to internal stimuli, fluctuations of mood, excitations and depressions, vague feelings of disquietude, various forms of mental and psychosomatic disharmony. There is ambitendency of action, either changing from one direction to another, or being unable to decide which course to take and letting the decision fall to chance, or a whim of like or dislike. Thinking has a circular character of argument for argument’s sake. Externality is still quite strong. Nuclei of hierarchization may gradually appear weakly differentiating events in the external milieu and in the internal milieu but still there is continual vacillation between “pros” and “cons” with no clear direction out of the vicious circle. Internal conflicts are unilevel and often superficial. When they are severe and engage deeper emotional structures the individual often sees himself caught in a “no exit” situation. Severe mental disorders are associated with unilevel developmental structure.
⧈ 3.1.2 A Polish article.
The foundation of the theory of positive disintegration is the assertion about the multi-level structure of reality. In Dąbrowski's works, reality is defined as a multifaceted and multilevel totality of phenomena that occur in the external and internal environment of a human being and are perceived by him, grasped, and also experienced through the senses and mental, emotional, imaginative and intuitive activities, interconnected. Thus, multilevelness concerns both the totality of reality and its individual elements or phenomena. Also man, his functioning and the structure of his psyche, along with the factors dynamizing its changes, are subject to description and explanation in terms of a multi-level structure.
According to the theory of positive disintegration, the drives characterizing a person and individual functions: perception, feelings, thinking, images, intuition, are varied according to the level of experience and action. To illustrate the horizontal differentiation in feeling, expression, and the meaning of a specific drive, Dąbrowski often refers to the differences between the sexual instinct and mature love. Another, more concrete and pictorial example of multilevelness may concern products and experiences of an aesthetic nature. Dąbrowski describes a horizontal upward ascent:
"... from rhythmicity and dance sensuality, to religious dances, from sensuality and rhythmic music of the Beatles, releasing moto-sensual tensions, to music that introduces us to silence, reflection, and even existential and transcendental moods (Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and others ). The same phenomenon occurs in painting and sculpture, ranging from plainly naturalistic, non-individualized sculptures and primitive-naturalistic painting, to the heights of Greek sculpture, revival architecture with Michelangelo at the forefront, impressionism and abstractionism ... " (Dąbrowski, 1989 a, p. 29).
... in the theory of positive disintegration, development of a person is tantamount to development towards identity and personality. It is about moving to higher and higher levels of functioning. The development potential is greater at subsequent levels of development. It increases with an increase in the number and dynamics of factors contained in the personal mental structure, factors that determine the ability to self-regulate experience and behavior. The dependence of the development potential on the complexity of the mental structure and its dynamisms results, according to Dąbrowski, from the fact that the driving force behind all changes are internal conflicts, requiring decisions that may be developmentally positive. The emergence of conflicts is of course the more likely the more complex and dynamic a person's internal structure is.
Traditionally understood, integration is something functional, beneficial, desirable and - as a result - positive. Disintegration, on the other hand, perceived through the prism of association with the disintegration, or even the decay of certain wholes, is generally treated as a negative and non-functional process. The theory of positive disintegration undermines this stereotypical, unambiguous conceptualization of both categories. Both processes - integration and disintegration - can have both positive and negative effects. Therefore, their role and meaning cannot be categorized at the poles: favorable - unfavorable, good - bad.
The theory of positive disintegration distinguishes five levels of development: from primary integration, through three levels of disintegration, to secondary integration. The lowest level of primary integration is non-functional, both individually and socially. At this level, the integrity of the mental structure, its cohesiveness, is of little benefit. On the contrary, it can cause complacency - beautiful indifference. It inhibits the influence of the factors that dynamize the changes and encourage positive efforts. Disintegration processes are an opportunity to move beyond the stage of developmental deadlock. They loosen or break the cohesiveness of the primary - drive and impulsive - mental structure, its functions, ways of experiencing and acting. By breaking down and differentiating the personal structure, they cause crises and conflicts, and - as a result - create the need to deal with the disturbance of integrity.
As Dąbrowski uses the concepts of identity and personality in an inconsistent way, it is necessary to initially systematize his position on the issue of identity and personality.
The theory of positive disintegration assumes that every human being is a person. Personality and identity, on the other hand, are the result of such transformations of a person's mental structure that lead him to achieve the highest of the five levels of development - the level of secondary integration. Although the author of the theory applies the concepts of identity and personality in relation to the previous levels, it is probably the result of the lack of terms differentiating qualitatively different characteristics of different developmental statuses. On the one hand, Dąbrowski sometimes talks about the lower levels of personality, or about having two personalities at the lowest level of disintegration. On the other hand, the author emphasizes in many places that the level of personality is tantamount to the level of secondary integration, and personality is the result of reaching this level.
Personality is a mental structure that forms at the highest level of personal development. Building a personality is related to the development of two essences in the psychological structure of a person, individual and social, which are conceptually synonymous with identity. Although essences and personality constitute a structural and functional whole, the stabilization of an essence precedes a complete transformation of psychic structure into personality. Therefore, in the light of the findings of the theory of positive disintegration, identity is a preliminary - and necessary - condition of personality.
⚀ 188.8.131.52 Primary integration
Primitive integration is sometimes referred to by Dąbrowski as primitive integration. The mental structure of people at this level is developmentally the lowest. It is a coherent, impulsive and drive structure that mechanically regulates experience and behavior. At this level, mental functions are integrated, well organized, and unconscious. Their goal is direct satisfaction derived from meeting primitive, genetically conditioned needs. Since people on the level of primary integration do not have an internal mental environment developed or have only "faint seeds", they are not exposed to contradictions and instability of drives, feelings and aspirations, and do not experience internal conflicts that could disturb the coherence of their mental structure. When encountering difficulties from external reality, the primordially integrated persons may display some form of disintegration. In general, however, these are weak and periodic disintegrations, which do not lead to changes in the mental structure. When the stress factor subsides, people return to their initial state, ie to the "primitive adaptation attitude" (Dąbrowski, 1979, p. 10).
People whose development has stopped at the level of primary integration are not able to reflect, evaluate, select or eliminate constitutional and environmental influences. They perceive reality in a narrow, one-sided way. Their experiences and behaviors are mechanically regulated by direct stimuli. They lack a fully developed time perspective - they do not understand the role played by the flow of time on the stage of constantly changing reality. Consequently, they cannot put themselves in the face of imagining their own death. A further consequence is insensitivity to the death and suffering of others. In describing the status of primitive integration, Dąbrowski emphasizes the inability to empathize and - more generally - a low level of emotionality. He also notices that the primitivism of emotional functions can go hand in hand with one-sided intellectual development. Mental and imaginative functions remain then an instrument for the realization of primary drive goals.
According to Dąbrowski, the status of primary integration is appropriate for a significant part of the population - for "the majority of the so-called average people "(Dąbrowski, 1989 b, p. 53). The development potential of people who are representatives of the so-called the statistical norm is small. In the case of people from among the "majority", the chance to brighten the perspective of individual evolution lies in the unequal cohesiveness of their primary psychological structure and in the events of external reality that violate the integrity of this structure:
"The structure of an individual may be more or less prone to disintegration, therefore it may be stimulated by stresses and harsh experiences. These environmental factors that influence the tendency to disintegrate, thus determine the possibilities of active development ... " (Dąbrowski, 1979, p. 10).
⚀ 184.108.40.206 One-level disintegration
The theory of positive disintegration distinguishes four types of factors causing the first, i.e. the lowest, form of disintegration in people. Two of them are internal in nature and are related either to normative conflicts emerging in the course of the life cycle, or to individual psychophysical properties. The other two categories of factors are of an external nature. The first of them includes changes taking place in the life situation of a person, requiring them to develop new forms of adaptation. The second category of external factors includes such changes or events in the environment of the individual that cause strong injuries or trigger the disease process (cf. Kobierzycki, 1989, p. 46). One-level disintegration is thus caused by a broad class of phenomena. It can be a reaction to the death of a loved one, job loss or a car accident. It may appear: Kazimierz Dąbrowski's theory of positive disintegration ...
"... during development crises, eg in the periods of puberty and menopause, overcoming difficulties in an unfavorable external situation or under the influence of certain psychological and psychopathological factors, such as nervousness and psychoneurosis" (Dąbrowski, 1979, p. 12).
People characterized by one-level disintegration show strong ambivalence and ambitiousness which, by affecting their relations with the environment, may cause numerous external conflicts. They are passive in the face of cyclically changing internal states, fall into extreme moods (with the dominance of negative states - depression and sadness), toss between a sense of inferiority and a sense of superiority, and between feelings of harmony with the external environment and an attitude of rebellion and hostility towards the environment. Subject to conflicting drives and changing moods, they behave in an unstable and inconsistent manner.
One-level disintegration loosens, and in some cases even breaks, the mental structure. The processes of the simplest form of disintegration do not, however, encompass the entire personal psychological structure, but run on one level of it. Since single-level disintegration is dominated by automatic dynamisms, poorly or not at all unconscious and not subject to personal control, the processes of decomposition outweigh the processes of reconstruction. At the first level of disintegration, there is still no third factor. People lack an internal disposition center and autonomy that would allow them to consciously regulate the transformations of the internal structure. They also lack a clear and stable hierarchy of values that would set a developmental direction for the breakdown of the mental structure. For this reason, the end of one-level disintegration is most often regression, tantamount to reintegration at the original level. The consequence of the prolonged process of one-level disintegration may be severe mental disorders, especially psychoses and suicidal tendencies.
It happens that one-level disintegration takes forms similar to the initial stages of multi-level disintegration. If it is subject to gradual differentiation over a greater number of levels, then it should be treated as a preliminary stage of multi-level disintegration. Dąbrowski claims, however, that a significant part of the population is susceptible only to one-level disintegration. Most people's mental structure is characterized by a strong integration of drives, low plasticity and emotional sensitivity, little ability to sublimate, and a narrow range of abilities. The evaluation processes are subordinated to external norms in the majority of cases, and the activities undertaken by people focus on meeting specific needs, often created by the cultural and social environment. Even when — under the influence of internal or external disintegrating factors — people who belong to the majority described by Dąbrowski undertake developmental challenges, their efforts are usually counterbalanced by a strong tendency to return here to the structure of primary integration and end in regression (Dąbrowski, 1964, p. 26; cf. Kobierzycki, 1989, p. 49).
⚀ 220.127.116.11 Multilevel spontaneous disintegration
Dąbrowski sometimes describes the multi-level spontaneous disintegration as impulsive and insufficiently organized. It differs from single-level disintegration in the degree of complication of the processes that characterize it. Complication is the result of breaking down mental structures and functions into individual levels, described by Dąbrowski as lower and higher. The personal internal structure becomes a hierarchical structure. Structures of different levels are in opposition to each other, there are clashes between their elements. As a result, people are subject to strong internal conflicts and crises, which dynamise the changes in the mental structure.
Conflicts and crises resulting from the difference in levels cause states of high mental tension. Mental stress, in turn, causes various forms of neurosis — depressive, anxious and obsessive, hysteria and psychasthenia. The appearance of their symptoms indicates:
"… slow activation of hierarchy mechanisms revealing channels upwards. There are strong tensions, dramatic and even tragic experiences, but there is considerable help in solving them precisely through the hierarchy of development. There are times of breakdowns, even suicides, periodic deterioration of the state of neuroses and psychoneuroses, crises on the road due to various forms of increased mental excitability, but at the same time mental resilience and the ability to solve many complicated problems increases" (Dąbrowski, 1989 b, pp. 54-55).
It should be noted here that Dąbrowski distinguishes between neuroses of a lower level and neuroses characteristic of higher developmental statuses. A phobia in response to external trauma is not the same as an existential fear phobia. The first appears in people who are disintegrated at one level and, in general, is associated with a regression to primary integration. The second type of phobia is the result of increased mental excitability, characteristic of multi-level disintegration. The appearance of its symptoms means the person enters the royal path of development.
The mental functioning of individuals on the level of multi-level spontaneous disintegration is varied and dynamic. In the mental structure, an autonomous third factor is formed and evolved, which gradually takes control over experience and behavior. People gain the ability to self-reflection and self-esteem. The developing emotionality of higher levels allows the discovery of a hierarchy of values and goals, which also gains importance in the regulation of feeling and action. The multi-level processes of loosening and breaking the mental structure are an expression of crossing the biological cycle, departing from the rectilinear dependence on development phases, freeing oneself from genetic and social determinants. At this stage, the anxiety experienced by individuals is described as existential, and crises and conflicts are often of a moral nature. Dąbrowski wrote on this topic:
"Attitudes of hesitation are replaced by a growing sense of what should be, as opposed to what is in one's own personality structure. Internal conflicts are large and represent the hierarchical organization of emotional and intellectual life - what is against what should be" (Dąbrowski, 1989, p. 43).
As conflicts and crises are a symptom of entering a higher level of development, spontaneous multi-level disintegration is of fundamental importance for developmental transformations and is treated as an initial form of multi-level organized disintegration. The spontaneous multilevel structure does not yet have a degree of organization sufficient for integration on the secondary level and the formation of a personal identity and personality. However, the personality ideal that ruthlessly dynamizes further transformations is formed in it.
⚀ 18.104.22.168 Organized multi-level disintegration
The specificity of multi-level organized disintegration can be inferred from its name. They distinguish themselves from the previous form of disintegration by a higher level of systematization. What characterizes people at this stage of development is a clearly formed autonomous factor and a highly developed hierarchy of values and goals. Therefore, people no longer experience such strong tensions and conflicts, they are characterized by:
"… quite a significant psychological calming, organization and systematization of development and a much higher share of reflective elements" (Dąbrowski, 1989 b, p. 55).
A man whose internal reality is organized in a multi-level disintegration is capable of self-reflection and self-assessment to the extent that allows him to purposefully transform his own mental structure and his attitude towards the environment. As development factors characteristic of the third level of disintegration, Dąbrowski lists: the third factor enabling conscious differentiation and choice, the dynamism of the subject-object in itself, the dynamism of a high level of empathy, the dynamism of intra-psychological transformation, self-awareness and self-control, and the dynamics of self-education and self-psychotherapy.
⚀ 22.214.171.124 Secondary integration
At the fifth level of development, the mental structure is reintegrated. This, of course, is not to return the structure to the state it was before its loosening or disintegration, but to organize it at a higher level. Secondary integration is: "… with the level of secondary harmonization after the individual goes through the phases of one-level and multi-level disintegration, through heavy internal and external experiences, through the phase of lowering dynamisms of lower and growth of higher dynamisms" (Dąbrowski, 1989b, p. 55).
Dąbrowski emphasizes, however, that: "Secondary integration can be realized in many ways; it may include: a return to the previous forms of integration in a more perfect form (I), a transition to a new form of integration, but with the same primitive elements of the structure without a higher hierarchy of values and goals (II), or a transition to a new structural form with a new, a higher hierarchy of values (III). The latter path is the most appropriate path for the mental development of the internal environment" (Dąbrowski, 1979, pp. 27-28).
Only at the level of secondary integration, and only in the case of its third variant, do people have a formed identity, and their psychological structure is a personality. The dominant development factors are then: the highest level of self-awareness and empathy available to the study, autonomy and authenticity, responsibility, shaping all major interests and talents, and the personality ideal. The most powerful dynamism, the main factor of further development is the personality ideal, built on the foundation of two essences - individual and social. Individual essence contains the most important interests and abilities of persons that, her lasting and unique bonds of friendship and love, and a conscious sense of identity with her own development history, with herself in the present and with self-projection into the future. The social essence, also known as common or universal, includes empathy, responsibility, autonomy, authenticity and a high degree of social awareness. Dąbrowski, I am writing: "These two essences constitute two closely related groups of basic personality traits, each of which is a sine qua non-condition for the existence and development of the other" (Dąbrowski, 1989 b, pp. 55-56).
The content of both essences is the foundation for a personality shaped by one's ideal. The personality ideal and its essence constitute a functional whole, leading to the development in the mental structure of central individual and social qualities, which form into a set of permanent, individual-specific properties and functions. The personality characteristics created in this way are not subject to qualitative modifications in the course of their lives. On the other hand, the mental structure retains the possibility of quantitative changes and the ability to acquire less significant additional properties. After the formation of the personality, development mainly consists in confirming and improving its typical features and forms of activity.
Individuals who have reached the personality level have a stable hierarchy of values and goals governing their experience and behavior. They no longer feel normative internal conflicts, they do not hesitate between what is and what should be. They show a strong tendency to altruistic actions and are characterized by a high level of compassion, described by Dąbrowski as universal. Achieving secondary integration is therefore not only of individual importance. Since it can have considerable social consequences, striving for the level of personality has a moral dimension and, therefore, is treated postulatively by Dąbrowski.
In this context, let the final conclusion be the postulate of taking a closer look at the theory of positive disintegration and taking seriously both its entirety and the detailed findings it offers — including those relating to identity and personality. Despite the fact that Dąbrowski's concept seems to go to extremes - moving from idealism, or even romanticism, to a very pessimistic assessment of the possibility of the realization of personal potential by the majority of people, perhaps it is worth considering again. Again, because there was a time when the theoretical and practical importance of theory was reflected in publications and conference debates. Many of its claims have made personality psychology a dead end. The theory of positive disintegration could provide a new (old?) Impulse to research and analyze the issues of identity and personality
Above from google translate, Tylikowska, A. (2000) Teoria dezintegracji pozytywnej Kazimierza Dąbrowskiego. Trud rozwoju ku tożsamości i osobowości. (Kazimierz Dąbrowski's theory of positive disintegration. A struggle to develop towards identity and personality.) In: Gałdowa, A. (ed.) Tożsamość człowieka. (The human identity.) Kraków: Wydawnictwo UJ.