⚁ 9.3 Dr. Dąbrowski and Dr. Piechowski:

Differences – Detail.

William Tillier


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⚂ 9.3.1 Michael Piechowski.

⚂ 9.3.2 Dr. Dąbrowski and Dr. Piechowski.

⚃ 9.3.2.1 Synopsis.

⚃ 9.3.2.2 Issue 1: Issues pertaining to the publication of the 1977 books.

⚃ 9.3.2.3 Issue 2: Structure of Levels I & II.

⚃ 9.3.2.4 Issue 3: The Role of Developmental Potential.

⚃ 9.3.2.5 Issue 4: Two Approaches to Development.

⚃ 9.3.2.6 Issue 5: Dr. Piechowski Questions Multilevelness.

⚃ 9.3.2.7 Issue 6: The Role of Self-actualization.

⚃ 9.3.2.8 Issue 7: The relationship between overexcitability and the dynamisms.

⚃ 9.3.2.9 A Pathway Forward?

⚃ 9.3.2.10 Summary.

⚃ 9.3.2.11 Misattributions to Dr. Piechowski.

⚂ 9.3.3 Tillier - Dr. Piechowski point/counterpoint.

⚂ 9.3.4 Moral Disengagement/Bandura.

⚂ 9.3.5 Schmidt.

⚂ 9.3.6 Also see: This section is pertinent to this discussion: 3.6.7. Dąbrowski and Maslow.

⚂ 9.3.7 Also see: This section is pertinent to this discussion: A.7 Stanley Milgram: A selected review of the literature.

⚂ 9.3.8 Also see: This section is pertinent to this discussion: A.11 Authoritarianism.

⚂ 9.3.9 A PDF of 9.3.3; 3.6.7; A.7; and A.11.

⚂ 9.3.10 References (pdf).

⚂ 9.3.1 Michael Piechowski.

⚃ 9.3.1.1 When prompted with “who is Michael Piechowski?” the ChatGPT-generated text indicated “Michael Piechowski is an American psychologist known for his work on the concept of ‘psychological overexcitability’ and its connection to giftedness. He has made significant contributions to the field of gifted education and the understanding of gifted individuals.
Piechowski has worked closely with Kazimierz Dąbrowski, the originator of the theory of positive disintegration, which includes the concept of overexcitability. He has expanded upon Dąbrowski’s work and conducted research specifically focused on the five types of psychological overexcitability.
Piechowski’s research and writings have highlighted the importance of recognizing and understanding the unique intensities and sensitivities experienced by gifted individuals. He has emphasized the need for appropriate educational and psychological support to help gifted individuals harness their overexcitabilities and reach their full potential.
Michael Piechowski has written numerous articles and books on giftedness and overexcitability, including Mellow Out, They Say. If I Only Could: Intensities and Sensitivities of the Young and Bright and Living with Intensity: Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitability, and Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Adults,> which he co-authored with Susan Daniels.
Overall, Michael Piechowski has made significant contributions to the field of gifted education by shedding light on the unique psychological characteristics and needs of gifted individuals, particularly in relation to psychological overexcitability.” (OpenAI, 2023).

 OpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT (Jun 27 version) [Large language model]. Website.

⚃ 9.3.1.2 A single PDF file containing the majority of Dr. Piechowski’s papers (due to copyright no books are included). DOWNLOAD PDF.

⚂ 9.3.2 Dr. Dąbrowski and Dr. Piechowski.

⚃ This section was updated in 2024. Portions of this section are from a presentation by Bill Tillier at the 19th Annual Society for the Advancement of Gifted Education (SAGE) Conference November 7th & 8th, 2008 Revised 2020 University of Calgary Calgary, Alberta.

⚃ 9.3.2.1 Synopsis.

⚄ 9.3.2.1.1 Overview of differences.

⚅ Dr. Piechowski’s interpretation of TPD differs from Dr. Dąbrowski’s original position on several important points, but he has not always clarified this. This has created confusion: what Dr. Dąbrowski said versus Dr. Piechowski. The work of the two authors has often been commingled.

⚅ I recognize and appreciate the contributions that Dr. Piechowski has made to Dr. Dąbrowski’s work. Where these two authors differ in their views, it is important to differentiate their approaches, especially for those involved in a detailed study of Dr. Dąbrowski’s theory.

⚅ Dr. Piechowski has expressed philosophical disagreements with the TPD. For example: he has told me he believes that “all should have equal access to advanced growth whether or not they have developmental potential.” Thus, strong developmental potential is not always required for growth: “under optimal conditions, even children with limited developmental potential can grow up to be good citizens with a strong sense of fairness” (Piechowski, 2008, p. 54).

⚅ Dr. Piechowski has expressed disagreements with the theory based on empirical findings. For example, based on the findings of his first student’s Masters thesis, Dr. Piechowski concluded that the vast majority of people expressing psychopathic behaviours are not psychopaths; their behaviour can be explained using Bandura’s social learning model. This explanation accounts for the so-called primitive behaviour Dąbrowski saw at level one.

⚅⚀ Dr. Piechowski’s views involve several tenets of TPD:

⚅⚁ There is no such thing as primary integration and this term should be eliminated (however, level one should be retained).

⚅⚁ Level I is influenced by the first factor and applies only to a small number of people.

⚅⚁ Level II is characterized by the second factor, not unilevel disintegration, and is the level of the average person – Dr. Piechowski told me that he could not reconcile the average person being at level I. Dr. Piechowski has indicated that he does not believe that disintegration is a significant factor at Level II – he said that that “Dr. Dąbrowski overemphasized suffering and disintegration based on his experiences during the war.”

⚅⚁ Strong developmental potential and/or positive disintegration may not be necessary for advanced growth.

⚅⚁ Multilevelness may not be necessary for an optimal society.

⚅ In reviewing the contemporary literature, I believe that it is fair to say that most authors reflect Dąbrowski’s original theory.

⚅⚀ For example, Stupak & Dyga (2018, p. 790) illustrated the description of level I as Dr. Dąbrowski formulated it: “According to Dr. Dąbrowski (1986), average people and psychopaths find themselves on the lowest possible level of psychological development and personality structure. This is termed ‘primary integration,’ and those at this stage are described as unconscious, lacking a hierarchy of values, and influenced primarily by biological and environmental forces. As a hierarchy of values is absent on this level, these people rarely experience inner conflicts over their values or their actions.”

⚅⚀ “According to Dr. 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 developmental potential of people who are representatives of the so-called the statistical norm is small” (Tylikowska, 2000).

⚄ 9.3.2.1.2 Historical context.

⚅ Historically, my role has been to highlight the differences between the two authors. This is critically important when new students discover the theory and are confused over what Dr. Dąbrowski originally said, compared to some of Dr. Piechowski’s writings. Over the years, others and I (for example, Dr. Mendaglio) have asked Dr. Piechowski to differentiate and promote his view of development under his name and to present his theory – an endeavour we feel would be valuable for everyone interested. He has refused, saying that he “has no theory of development;” instead, he says “Dr. Dąbrowski made mistakes in writing the theory that need to be corrected.”

⚅ The relationship between Dr. Dąbrowski and Dr. Piechowski has a sad and acrimonious history – both ended up hurt and isolated from each other. I found myself in the middle of it by happenstance. I met Dr. Dąbrowski in October 1976, and I met Dr. Piechowski in Edmonton, Christmas 1977. So, I heard their perspectives firsthand.

⚅ My role has occasionally been characterized as a personal argument with Dr. Piechowski. This is not the case; these are differences of academic viewpoints and interpretations between Dr. Piechowski and Dr. Dąbrowski.

⚅ I have been a staunch advocate for the theory as Dr. Dąbrowski proposed it. I liked Dr. Dąbrowski, and I liked the theory. At one point, he took me aside and asked me to “shepherd the theory after he died.” I studied with him until he left Edmonton in the fall of 1979, passing away in 1980 in Poland. I subsequently received his papers.

⚅ I also have maintained correspondence with Dr. Piechowski – from 1977 until present.

⚅ In 1967, Dr. Piechowski was a professor in the microbiology department at the University of Alberta when he met Dr. Dąbrowski. He gave up his position to become a student, a research assistant (along with several other dedicated students – Marlene Rankel, Leo Mos, Dexter Amend, Lynn Kealy, Bill Hague, etc.) and subsequently, became one of Dr. Dąbrowski’s co-authors. They formed a close personal and professional relationship and Dr. Piechowski became a primary collaborator. Dr. Piechowski left in January 1970, moving to Wisconsin to pursue a PhD in counselling. I understood he left because he wanted more input into the theory, and Dr. Dąbrowski would not allow it.

⚅ The two continued to work by correspondence that culminated in preparing the 1977 book manuscripts. While Dr. Dąbrowski was in Poland, Dr. Piechowski “tried to convince Dr. Dąbrowski to make changes during a phone call, but Dr. Dąbrowski refused permission.” Dr. Piechowski changed the final galley proofs submitted for publication, including changing the titles, authorship, and adding a 50-page section on self-actualization. When Dr. Dąbrowski saw this published work, he rejected it and broke off all contact with Dr. Piechowski. Dr. Dąbrowski requested the original manuscripts be republished, and this was finally done in 1996.

⚅ In Wisconsin, Dr. Piechowski met Nick Colangelo and Kay Ogburn, who were also graduate students. In 1979, Colangelo and Ron Zaffrann edited a book on counseling for gifted individuals, which included a chapter by Dr. Piechowski titled “Developmental Potential.” This chapter discussed the application of overexcitability to gifted individuals. Dr. Piechowski dedicated himself to “furthering research, writing, and advocacy in the field of gifted education, with a particular focus on overexcitability for the next four decades.” Dr. Piechowski also went on to give many seminars between 1980 and 1994, promoting his views of TPD; mainly focussed on overexcitability in the gifted field.

⚅ At one time, Dr. Dąbrowski’s writings were difficult to find and many people discovered the theory by reading Dr. Piechowski’s more accessible materials. When Dr. Dąbrowski died, he gave me his papers but didn't explicitly give me permission to distribute his works and no one was given permission from Mrs. Dąbrowski to distribute them.

⚅ In 1994, Sharon Lind organized a seminar in Keystone Colorado. She invited a group of students of Dr. Dąbrowski’s (Leo Mos, Marlene Rankel, Bill Hague, Dexter Amend, Norbert Duda, and me) [a.k.a. “the Canadians”] along with Dr. Piechowski, Linda Silverman, Frank Falk, Nancy Miller, Cheryl Ackerman, and others [a.k.a. “the Americans”]. Many in the audience were shocked when we took out Dr. Dąbrowski’s English books, not realizing they existed (despite the fact that these works had been referenced in the past).

⚅ The purpose of the 1994 Keystone meeting was to examine the differences between Dr. Piechowski’s teachings and Dr. Dąbrowski’s work. Over the years, these differences were brought to light, mostly by Norbert Duda, a student of Dr. Dąbrowski’s. Many differences were discussed at Keystone, and I left the meeting with a resolution to create this website in order to promote Dr. Dąbrowski’s work and archive and disseminate his theory. I eventually secured permission to distribute the work widely, and this further brought the differences to light.

⚃ 9.3.2.2 Issue 1: Issues pertaining to the publication of the 1977 books.

⚄ 9.3.2.2.1 Introduction.

⚅ Much of the confusion that has arisen can be traced back to the publication of the 1977 books. This publication characterized Dąbrowski’s work as a theory of emotional development and associated self-actualization with the theory. Dąbrowski subsequently objected to changing the title and rejected self-actualization – this was confusing because these alternate views appeared in the book under Dąbrowski’s name. This section will address how this came to be.

⚄ 9.3.2.2.2 The publication lineage of the 1977 books:

⚅ In 1970, an unpublished manuscript by Dr. Dąbrowski titled Multilevelness of instinctive and emotional functions was printed by the University of Alberta (Dąbrowski, 1970). This manuscript then evolved into two volumes, again printed by the University of Alberta in 1972 and 1974. In 1977, these two manuscripts were used to generate galley proofs of a book, to be presented in two volumes.

⚅ In 1972, Volume 2 was expanded and reproduced and bound as a manuscript by the University of Alberta. (Dąbrowski and Piechowski, 1972).

⚅ In 1974, Volume 1 was expanded and reproduced and bound as a manuscript by the University of Alberta. (Dąbrowski, 1974).

⚅ The 1972 and 1974 manuscripts were edited by Dr. Piechowski while Dr. Dąbrowski was in Poland and submitted to Dabor Publishers to produce the 1977 books.

⚅ Sequence of manuscripts.

⚄ 9.3.2.2.3 Differences:

⚅ 9.3.2.2.3.1 Changed titles:

⚅⚀ The following chart shows key differences between the original manuscript titles and the titles as published.

⚅⚁ Volume 1 of the 1977 books:
⚅⚁ Dr. Dąbrowski’s original title: Multilevelness of emotional and instinctive functions. Part 1: Theory and description of levels of behavior.
⚅⚁ Dr. Piechowski’s revision: Theory of levels of emotional development: Multilevelness and positive disintegration.

⚅⚁ Volume 2 of the 1977 books:
⚅⚁ Dr. Dąbrowski’s original title: Multilevelness of emotional and instinctive functions. Part 2: Types and Levels of Development.
⚅⚁ Dr. Piechowski’s revision: Theory of levels of emotional development: From primary integration to self-actualization.

⚅⚀ These changes had two major effects:

⚅⚀ One: The phrase "Dąbrowski’s Theory of Emotional Development" was subsequently popularized by Dr. Piechowski in his works and lectures. This was rejected by Dr. Dąbrowski as he felt the titles changed – narrowed – the scope of his theory and altered its focus away from positive disintegration and psychoneuroses and away from personality development.

⚅⚁ The result of these changes has been ongoing confusion about what Dr. Dąbrowski’s theory is called: Some authors have subsequently referred to "Dąbrowski’s Theory of Emotional Development" as the title of the theory, for example, Silverman (1993a, 1993b). Some authors now use both titles, for example, Piirto (1997, p. 7) says "the Dąbrowski Theory of Positive Disintegration (as it is called in Canada, or of Emotional Development, as it is called in the United States)." Sisk (2008, p. 26) referred to the theory using both titles: “Dąbrowski’s … Theory of Positive Disintegration, also known as the Theory of Emotional Development.”

⚅⚁ Dr. Piechowski says he historically used a “generic name” and primarily portrayed “Dąbrowski’s theory of emotional development” as a theory describing and measuring emotional development. (see Piechowski, 2014). He now says the “proper name” of the theory is the theory of positive disintegration [The convention all researchers should use when referring to the theory]. (Piechowski, 2014, p. 12).

⚅⚀ Two: the revised subtitle of volume 2 implies that the goal of development is self-actualization. Dr. Piechowski explained that adding self-actualization to the title “would make the work more popular, and it was a pity that Dr. Dąbrowski could not realize this.” Dr. Dąbrowski was opposed to equating self-actualization with his higher levels and thus he rejected this subtitle.

⚅ 9.3.2.2.3.2 Authorship changes (following APA 7 citation guidelines):

⚅⚀ The 1974 manuscript (Volume 1), was printed as a work by Dr. Dąbrowski (no other authors appear on the manuscript).
⚅⚁ Volume 1 of the 1977 book was published as Dr. Dąbrowski with Dr. Piechowski. In his changes, Dr. Piechowski added himself as the author of chapters 1, 2, 3, 5 and as the primary author of chapter 6. Dr. Piechowski told me that he “deserved full authorship of these sections because [he had spent 600 hours making changes and trying to find a publisher.”
⚅⚁ Correct APA reference: Dąbrowski, K. (with Piechowski, M. M.) (1977). Theory of levels of emotional development: Volume 1 - Multilevelness and positive disintegration. Dabor Science.

⚅⚀ The 1972 manuscript (Volume 2), was printed as coauthored by Dr. Dąbrowski & Piechowski (with the assistance of Dexter Amend and Marlene King).
⚅⚁ Volume 2 of the 1977 book was published as coauthored by Dąbrowski & Piechowski (with the assistance of Dexter Amend and Marlene King).
⚅⚁ Correct APA reference: Dąbrowski, K. & Piechowski, M. M. (1977). Theory of levels of emotional development: Volume 2 - From primary integration to self-actualization. Dabor Science.

⚅⚀ Subsequently, both volumes have often been incorrectly referenced collectively as Dąbrowski & Piechowski, 1977.

⚅ 9.3.2.2.3.3 Major alterations in text:

⚅⚀ Dr. Piechowski inserted a case study of Saint-Exupéry as chapter 8 of Volume 2. This material equated Dr. Dąbrowski’s levels with self-actualization. This material was in press at the time and was subsequently published as an article (Piechowski, 1978). Dr. Dąbrowski rejected equating Maslow’s theory of self-actualization with his own.

⚅⚀ There are a number of other minor differences in the text. In my opinion, a direct comparison best serves the interested reader.

⚅ 9.3.2.2.3.4 Preface:

⚅⚀ The preface inserted in the 1977 books was written by Dr. Dąbrowski endorsing a journal article of Dr. Piechowski’s and was previously published in that context (Piechowski, 1975). It was not written to endorse the content of these books. Dr. Piechowski explained that Dr. Dąbrowski “provided a preface for the books but it was not suitable to use” thus he reused this older preface (changing “this article” to “this book”).

⚅ 9.3.2.2.3.5 Data:

⚅⚀ It should be noted for research purposes the data presented in the original manuscripts is more comprehensive but that the data presented in the 1977 works is more accurate (several mistakes in calculation were corrected but several data points are omitted). This information came from Dr. Piechowski.

⚄ 9.3.2.2.4 Dr. Dąbrowski’s reaction to the changes:

⚅ Dr. Dąbrowski would not acknowledge the 1977 books after they were published and asked several people (including me) to help in republishing the original manuscripts.

⚅ As per Dr. Dąbrowski’s wishes, a reprinting of the original titles and text of the 1972 / 1974 manuscripts was done in 1996, in Poland, by Mrs. Dąbrowski (Dąbrowski, 1996).

⚅ The 1996 reprinting bound both volumes into one book (now listed as part 1 and part 2). Dr. Dąbrowski was listed as author of parts 1 and 2. Dr. Piechowski was listed as an "assistant" on part 2 (along with Dexter Amend and Marlene King).

⚅ An errata from the publisher has been circulated to correct the citation of part 2 to reflect the 1972 manuscript (indicating Dr. Piechowski as a co-author of part 2).

⚅ Dr. Piechowski has indicated that he believes that the authorship citations of the 1974 manuscript and of the 1996 book (part 1) are inaccurate and that the correct citation of his role appears in the 1977 book (Volume 1).

⚃ 9.3.2.3 Issue 2: Structure of Levels I & II

⚄ 9.3.2.3.1 Dr. Piechowski’s views change over time.

⚅ 9.3.2.3.1.1 Level I

⚅⚀ As can be seen in chapter three – authorship credited to Dr. Piechowski, pages 18 to 26 of volume 1, 1977, his description of level I started out reflecting Dr. Dąbrowski’s original approach. To see the whole section click here.

⚅⚁ At least two forms of primary integration can be distinguished, an extreme one and a less extreme one. Previously this distinction has not been made explicit but it is present in an earlier description of forms of primary integration (Dąbrowski, 1967). We shall start with a discussion of the extreme form (p. 20).
… “Primary integration has been usually defined as "an integration of mental functions, subordinated to primitive drives" (Dąbrowski et al., 1970, p. 176, Dąbrowski, 1972, p. 156). No inner psychic milieu and no developmental dynamisms are associated with this structure. The individual has no capacity for processing experience of any psychic depth, nor for developmental transformation: his behavior is automatic, impulsive, or coldly calculated. He recognizes only his self-serving goals. His intelligence serves him as an instrument to satisfy his basic goals without controlling or transforming basic drives” (p. 20)
… In primary integration, the elementary social responsiveness that makes people desire to cooperate and be helpful is lacking, as are the elementary forms of individual responsiveness and empathy. The level I individual has no consideration for others. (p. 20)
… At level I, the individual does not reflect on his experience or his behavior. He does not evaluate it in terms of responsibility, and, consequently, he is not able to judge in moral or emotional terms the consequences of his behavior for himself and for others. Indeed, others are treated merely as objects or as means to ends. Aside from that they are given little consideration. Thus, there is no inner conflict for the level I person. (p. 21)
… This extreme description of the level I person has been modeled after the successful psychopath. But there also exist unsuccessful psychopaths, as attested by most of the psychopaths studied by Cleckley, who do not appear to enjoy their antics and the havoc they create. The successful psychopath, the model for the extreme form of the level I person, gets ahead in life through ruthless competition, intent on winning and advancing himself at any cost. (p. 21)
… The milder form of primary integration applies to "normals" rather than successful psychopaths or near-psychopaths. These individuals have a narrow scope of interest, limited horizons in thinking, aspirations, and affect, but they are not totally without feeling. While they may acquire skills of various kinds, develop their abilities, become competent within the prescribed demands of the job market, have achievements that are visible and readily rewarded, there is no actual development in the basic underlying structure of their personality. Such "normals" follow a stereotyped path of development with regard to social advancement. The course of their lives is generally predictable. When because of a loss of job, or other misfortune, the continuity of progress is broken for such a person, then, seeing no alternatives, he may suffer nervous breakdown or commit suicide. (pp. 21-22)
… The hold of primary structure is strong and transitions from level I to II are rare and difficult, possible only if there are present some nuclei of instability, some cognitive complexity and some emotional responsiveness. (p. 22)
… It is likely that Kohlberg’s good boy – good girl and law-and-order orientations (stages 3 and 4) also represent milder forms of primary integration, for in both theories these individuals follow externally established rules. (p. 22)

⚅⚀ In 2008 Dr. Piechowski summarized that based on the Master’s thesis of his first graduate student, Margaret Lee Schmidt, “Level I is not a personality structure, but instead is the result of limited developmental potential of people trying to survive in a ruthlessly competitive and economically uncertain world. While Dąbrowski, just like Adorno et al., viewed primary integration as a rigid personality structure, now it makes more sense to see it as the outcome of social conditions. If people are operating at Level I, it is because this is the condition of their world, not because they are constituted that way” (Piechowski, 2003).

⚅⚀ “The concept of primary integration – originally called primitive integration by Dąbrowski – was not examined until Margaret Schmidt showed in her [master’s] thesis that it largely corresponds to the concept of authoritarian personality (Schmidt, 1977). Authoritarian personality results from strict parenting and social pressures that enforce conformity and respect for authority; that is, those who hold power. Therefore, it is not an integration either inherited genetically or arrived at by the individual himself” (Piechowski, 2014, p. 13).

⚅⚀ “Furthermore, there is nothing primary about primary integration. It is not the starting point of development, and it conflicts with our evolutionary design for primary affectional attachment (Bowlby, 1969). We are born as social beings programmed for social interaction through cooing, smiling, and calming in loving arms. Asocial character develops because of emotional injuries that repeatedly break the bond of attachment. If it looks like an integration, it is due to the defensive armor to protect oneself from emotional hurt” (Piechowski, 2008, p. 56).

⚅⚀ Dr. Piechowski: Says that the whole construct of primary integration should be reconsidered – “as it is neither primary nor a personality structure but the outcome of the way society is” (Piechowski, 2008, p. 76).

⚅⚀ “Level I is not a personality structure, but instead is the result of limited developmental potential of people trying to survive in a ruthlessly competitive and economically uncertain world” (Piechowski, 2008, p. 55).

⚅⚀ Here, growth is limited by socialization, not by genetic developmental potential as Dr. Dąbrowski described it: “The concept of primary integration as a starting point for personality development is untenable in light of research on child development. In its place, Level I as a type of development that is constrained by social pressures and the effort to succeed in life will serve better. Milgram’s studies of obedience and Bandura’s of the ways of bypassing one’s conscience are sufficient to explain how the Level I type of integration can take hold of a person” (Piechowski, 2014, p. 11).

⚅⚀ “Dąbrowski’s characterization of primary integration as self-serving, manipulative, and lacking in consideration for others is more negative. The type of behavior that involves harm to others is most often transitory and adopted under conditions of obedience to authority and other mechanisms that bypass one’s conscience. This fits precisely with Dąbrowski’s concept of Level I. Therefore, the concept of primary integration should be abandoned and replaced with Level I” (Piechowski, 2014, p. 17).

⚅⚀ “By definition, primary integration has a developmental potential so limited that inner transformation, the essence of multilevel development, is out of reach. Consequently, the theory makes it clear that primary integration is not where development can start under any conditions” (Piechowski, 2014, p. 14).

⚅⚀ The behaviour Dr. Dąbrowski described at Level I “is not a personality structure but the consequence of a culture that increasingly puts distance between people” (Piechowski, 2014, p. 15).

⚅⚀ Discussing Milgram’s famous obedience experiment, Dr. Piechowski said: “The high proportion of people who obeyed the authority figure to the end demonstrates that the concept of primary integration does not fit reality. It is the response to the situation, and the person’s assigned role in it, that for a period of time leads to harming others. Does this make people part-time psychopaths, as Dąbrowski would have it?” (Piechowski, 2014, p. 16).

⚅⚀ “Abolishing the concept of primary integration does not mean that the concept of Level I should be abolished” (p. 2014, p. 14) … “it makes sense to separate the concept of Level I from primary integration, a descriptive but ill-defined term” (Piechowski, 2014, p. 16).

⚅⚀ “In elaborating his theory, Dabrowski’s main effort was toward elucidating multilevel development. His theory would be just as powerful if Level I were never included. There is nothing essential about it to the conceptual structure of the theory” (Piechowski, 2015, p. 230).

⚅⚀ Dr. Piechowski has told me that “it is philosophically unacceptable for anyone to be seen as biologically limited in terms of growth; limitations are social and can be eliminated.”

⚅⚀ Dr. Dąbrowski: “Primary Integration. The characteristic of cognitive and emotional structures and functions of primary integration is that they are automatic, impulsive, and rigid. Behavior is controlled by primitive drives and by externality. Intelligence neither controls nor transforms basic drives; it serves the ends determined by primitive drives. There is no inner conflict while external conflicts are the rule. The overall picture is of little differentiation, primitive drive structure, and predominant externality [second factor]” (Dąbrowski, 1996, p. 18)

⚅⚀ Here is an example of a description of Level I based on Dr. Dąbrowski’s views from Mika (2003, p. 2): Although primary integration describes level 1 and thus encompasses most individuals in the present human society, people existing in primary (negative) integration do not form a homogenous group. According to Dr. Dąbrowski, there are degrees of primary integration, just like there are degrees of disintegration. An overwhelming majority of people possess some developmental potential, which means they have some capability for positive disintegration. Dr. Dąbrowski also notes that a great majority of people also exhibit some psychopathic traits, but only constitutional psychopaths and persons with global mental retardation are so highly integrated that they are incapable of any degree of development. Based on the degree of integration and disintegration, Dr. Dąbrowski described the following groups of people inhabiting level 1: [from lowest to highest]

⚅⚁ Psychopath and psychopath-like individual.

⚅⚁ The borderline between the average person and a psychopath.

⚅⚁ Average person.

⚅⚁ The borderline between the average person and psychoneurotic.

⚅ 9.3.2.3.1.2 Level II

⚅⚀ As can be seen in chapter three – authorship credited to Dr. Piechowski, pages 18 to 26 of volume 1, 1977, his description of level II started out reflecting Dr. Dąbrowski’s original approach. To see the whole section click here.

⚅⚁ Level II: Unilevel Disintegration
There are two ways in which Dr. Dąbrowski (1967) applies the term unilevel disintegration. The first usage denotes a temporary departure from primary integration, a short-term breakdown of its rigid, tight cohesion; in this sense, unilevel disintegration is equivalent to a period of disequilibrium, often followed by reintegration, the reestablishment of the original primary structure. Such periods of disintegrations may occur, for example, during adolescence, menopause, illness, retirement, or they may take place in response to circumstances that force a sudden change of perspective with regard to one’s position in life. (pp. 23-24)
… The second usage refers to a formation of personality with built-in imbalances of physiological and psychological systems, autonomic liabilities, polarizations, a structure made up a varied, uneven parts that do not match, do not fit together, and do not work together. Consequently the structure is somewhat loose, comes apart under the impact of stress and emotional tension, and is not equipped with resources for retooling and reconstruction of a more coordinated whole. (p. 24)
… Insight into oneself and self-awareness are weak in unilevel disintegration as is the capacity for inner psychic transformation of conflicts, difficulties, experienced tensions. Rather than being transformed, tensions must be released or converted. They may be transposed to the body, giving rise to psychosomatic disorders. They may be externalized as projections, distortions of reality, or hallucinations. They may be quelled with alcohol, drugs, or suicide. Guilt feelings are passive and come from lack of acceptance, lack of approval, lack of love in childhood. Since that conscious moral responsibility that is characteristic of the higher levels is missing, the guilt characteristic of this level is debilitating and does not have the power to open a passage from unilevel to multilevel processes (Ogburn, 1976). It is a "no exit" condition. (pp. 24-25)
… The degree of instability varies in level II, and as a result this level has the most multiform structure of all the levels. It encompasses total mental fragmentation as in psychosis and drug-induced states, a middle range of more stereotyped forms of behavior—inferiority toward others, dependency, need to conform, seeking approval and admiration—and at the other extreme partially integrated forms that convey certain degree of stability, even maturity (here Loevinger’s Conscientious-Conformist is a possible counterpart). (p. 26)

⚅⚀ “[At Level II] the self derives its definition from fulfilling the expectations of others, family, or society (‘second factor’)” (Piechowski, 2003, p. 289). [As Dąbrowski taught the theory to me, he placed second factor at level I.]

⚅⚀ Based upon Dr. Piechowski’s interpretation, in the gifted literature, Level II is often described as a level of socialization (encompassing the average person), and Level II's goal has been described as socialization (Silverman, 1993, p. 14).

⚅⚀ Dr. Piechowski: “Level II is not always characterized by disintegration because it carries the possibility of partial integration, or adaptive integration, that follows the conventions and dictates of society and one’s immediate environment” (p. 69).

⚅⚀ Dr. Piechowski: “I feel very strongly that emotional growth within the unilevel universe of Level II should not be underestimated but respected and explored further. This raises the question as to whether it is possible to facilitate a transition to multilevel emotional growth if a person’s developmental potential is limited. And is it possible to imagine a harmonious society without a multilevel majority? I feel it is possible – to imagine” (2008, p. 72).

⚅⚀ Dr. Piechowski: “Level II is not always characterized by disintegration, because it carries the possibility of partial integration, or adaptive integration, that follows the conventions and dictates of society and one’s immediate environment. Level II may carry inner instability that we would see in oscillations of mood, inconsistent ways of acting, or shifting from one extreme to the other. But it is also possible to have a fairly integrated worldview of conventional values or a sort of intellectual rationalism. Fulfilling the expectations of others, family, or society (“second factor”) in extreme cases may lead to anorexia and bulimia in gifted women (Gatto-Walden, 1999). Inner fragmentation (“I feel split into a thousand pieces”) and unpredictable shifts among many “selves” are often experienced. In adolescence, a failed attempt at identity, which Elkind (1984) called “the patchwork self,” is another example of the inner disorganization. At this level, personal growth becomes a struggle toward achieving an individual sense of self” (2008, p. 69).

⚅⚀ Dr. Piechowski: “The concept of level II fits well with the case studies of highly gifted adults and also with the Perry inspired study of women’s emotional development. The concept of unilevel disintegration, however, cannot be applied wholly to level II because the majority of lives identified within this level are more or less stable. Even Dąbrowski’s concept of partial integration seems to have limited application because it implies that there is some “disintegration” going on or that the person is chronically on the brink of one. This makes little sense. Instead, we should conclude that the lives of most people follow the stages of lifespan development and that some may be so unreflective that they match level I and others are somewhat more reflective and match level II” (2017, p. 93).

⚅⚀ Dr. Piechowski: “One of the defining features of level II is susceptibility to social convention and opinion (the so-called second factor). Unilevel growth of the self, which is at once cognitive and emotional, can defy convention by rejecting prescribed social roles, such as of a dutiful daughter, wife, or mother. In this case, personal growth and change breaks out of the control of social convention and opinion” (2017, p. 94).

⚅⚀ Dr. Piechowski: “The concept of unilevel disintegration can represent level II only in part because evidence shows that the majority of lives that belong here are rather stable. Unilevel churning, turmoil, and collapse – the disintegration piece – is the clinical part of the picture that deals with psychosomatic and psychoneurotic disorders, addictions, psychoses, and so forth” (2017, p. 94). This quotation also foreshadows two further issues:

⚅⚁ That developmental potential may not be critical to emotional growth and that multilevelness may not be not be a critical element in human psychology.

⚅⚀ Dr. Dąbrowski: 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.”(Dąbrowski, 1996, p. 18)

⚅⚀ Dr. Dąbrowski named Level II to reflect its basic feature unilevel disintegration, characterized by brief and often intense crises between equivalent alternatives.

⚅⚀ Dr. Dąbrowski stressed the intense, transitional nature of the level: “Prolongation of unilevel disintegration often leads to reintegration on a lower level, to suicidal tendencies, or to psychosis”(Dąbrowski, 1964, p. 7).

⚅⚀ Unless one falls back to Level I or progresses onto Level III, one chronically at Level II risks finding oneself in “a trap of a rapidly growing mental tension” – a drama “without exit” (Dąbrowski, 1970, p. 135).

⚅⚀ Unless one falls back to Level I or progresses onto Level III, one chronically at Level II risks finding oneself in “a trap of a rapidly growing mental tension” – a drama “without exit” (Dąbrowski, 1970, p. 135).

⚅⚀ Level II – “perhaps they represent twenty percent of all people” (quoted in Rankel, 2008).

⚅ 9.3.2.3.1.3 Level I and II

⚅⚀ In Fort Lauderdale, in 2002, Dr. Piechowski said that because Level I and II are not associated with development per se, these levels are “totally irrelevant” and “should be dropped from the theory.” (See also Piechowski, 2009, 2014, 2017; Mendaglio & Tillier, 2015; Tillier, 2009a, 2009b, 2009c).

⚅⚀ "The theory would lose none of its value if the two lower levels were never added" (Piechowski, 2015, p. 230).

⚅⚀ Little significant inner life exists at Levels I (primary integration) and II (unilevel disintegration), inner psychic life only begins at Level III with multilevel processes (Piechowski, 2008, p. 43; Piechowski, 2014).

⚅⚀ Development only begins at Level III with the inner psychic milieu and its creative and transforming dynamisms and with multilevel disintegration (Piechowski, 2008, p. 43; Piechowski, 2014).

⚅⚀ Dr. Dąbrowski: lacking strong developmental potential, the “so called normal person” (about 65-70% of the population) is limited to Level I, primary integration, or to the borderline of Level I – II.

⚅⚀ Tillier: The removal of primary or primitive integration (but retaining Level I) and to view Level II as dominated by second factor and only partly involving unilevel disintegration would represent a major theoretical departure from Dr. Dąbrowski’s theory – it would no longer be appropriate to refer to it as Dr. Dąbrowski’s theory.

⚅⚀ Tillier: The lower levels are critical because Dr. Dąbrowski explicitly described lower and higher levels that would account for both the lowest and highest behaviors seen in humans, and proposed mechanisms by which development can occur, moving from the lowest levels to the highest.

⚃ 9.3.2.4 Issue 3: The Role of Developmental Potential.

⚄ For Dr. Piechowski, the role of developmental potential has always been paramount, overshadowing positive disintegration: “The significance and the originality of the theory of positive disintegration does not lie, as it is often believed (1, p. 103; 3; 23; 41; 52) in introducing the idea of disintegration as a positive developmental process. Understandably, this aspect of the theory is most important for clinical psychology, psychiatry, and education. Nevertheless, the significance and originality of Dąbrowski’s theory lie in its concepts of developmental structures, developmental potential, and the characteristics by which they can be detected and measured” (Piechowski, 1975b, p. 266).

⚄ Dr. Piechowski has asked me to emphasize his formula for measuring developmental potential.

⚅ “We shall now turn to the research and procedures which furnished the means of testing some of the features of the theory, in this case, (a) the constellations of dynamisms at each level of development, (b) the operational definition for the developmental potential (DP = d + oe), and (c) the constancy of DP” (Piechowski, 1975b, p. 266).

⚅ “We can express the expected relationship by the following equation: DP = (d + oe) [times] Y where “d” stands for the percentage of dynamism ratings in the total number of ratings for a given subject, “oe” stands for the percentage of overexcitability ratings in the total number of ratings for the same subject, and “y,” or “yield,” is the ratio of the total number of ratings (b) divided by the total number of response units (a) for a given subject” (Piechowski, 1975b, p. 284).

⚅ “DP was calculated by adding the frequencies of dynamisms (d) and overexcitabilities (oe): DP = d + oe” (Piechowski, 2008, pp. 51-52).

⚅ “There were four rating categories: dynamisms (D), dynamism precursors (P), functions (F), and overexcitabilities (OE). For a given subject, the total number of ratings was b = D + P + F + OE. A unit may have zero, one, or more ratings. The total number of units for a subject was a. The ratio b/a was called the yield (Y). The ratio Y was useful as one test of the internal consistency of the rating process of the one rater, myself” (Piechowski, 2008, p. 52).

⚅ “Tillier: I never emphasized this formula as I believe it lacks construct and content validity because it does not take into consideration the third factor.

⚄ Dr. Dąbrowski defined developmental potential as “The constitutional endowment which determines the character and the extent of mental growth possible for a given individual” (Dąbrowski, 1972, p. 293).

⚄ “The concept of developmental potential is logically necessary. Weak developmental potential limits development; strong developmental potential makes it possible to go far. By definition, primary integration has a developmental potential so limited that inner transformation, the essence of multilevel development, is out of reach. Consequently, the theory makes it clear that primary integration is not where development can start under any conditions” (Piechowski, 2014, p. 14).

⚄ On the other hand, Dr. Piechowski said: “under optimal conditions, even children with limited developmental potential can grow up to be good citizens with a strong sense of fairness” (Piechowski, 2008, p. 54).

⚄ “Speculating about … developmental potential, we came up with two terms: conserving and transforming. Potential for conserving growth would allow it to continue through Level II close to Level III, but not any further. Transforming growth, however, would continue” (Piechowski, 2008, p. 74).

⚃ 9.3.2.5 Issue 4: Two Approaches to Development.

⚄ Dr. Piechowski now outlines two approaches to development and to developmental potential:

⚅ 1). Following Dr. Dąbrowski’s approach, Dr. Piechowski equated personal growth with climbing a mountain saying that “not everyone has the strength, endurance, and determination to go far; few manage to reach the summit” (Piechowski, 2008, p. 64).

⚅ 2). Dr. Piechowski reviewed examples of “unilevel development” occurring at Level II and concluded these cases represent significant growth:

⚅⚀ “This raises the question as to whether it is possible to facilitate a transition to multilevel emotional growth if a person’s developmental potential is limited” (Piechowski, 2008, p. 72).

⚅⚀ “The above examples show that not all material has to be generated from the framework of Dąbrowski’s theory” (Piechowski, 2008, p. 72).

⚃ 9.3.2.6 Issue 5: Dr. Piechowski Questions Multilevelness.

⚄ Dr. Piechowski connects developmental potential with development: “the next step – multilevel development – cannot be set in motion without a strong developmental potential” (Piechowski, 2017, p. 94).

⚄ On the other hand, he also states: “And is it possible to imagine a harmonious society without a multilevel majority? I feel it is possible – to imagine” (Piechowski, 2008, p. 72).

⚄ For Dr. Dąbrowski, the crux of individual development is multilevelness – Multilevel exemplars:

⚅ Herald the next step in human evolution.

⚅ Serve as role models of what is possible.

⚅ Challenge one to take active control of one’s development and strive for ideals and growth.

⚄ Today, society is based upon unilevel principles and reflects self-centered and self-serving motives.

⚄ An ideal society would be based on multilevel principles and ideals, reflecting other-centered motives and would be comprised of a majority of multilevel individuals.

⚃ 9.3.2.7 Issue 6: The Role of Self-actualization.

⚄ From material Dr. Piechowski added to the 1977 books:

⚅ “We shall try to demonstrate that Maslow’s concept of SA fits the structure of Level IV and that, consequently, the traits of SA logically follow from that structure” (Dąbrowski & Piechowski, 1977, pp. 158-159).

⚅ “Self-actualization, as a psychological norm suggested by Maslow, now finds support in the framework of the theory of positive disintegration as an attribute of the Level IV structure” (Dąbrowski & Piechowski, 1977, pp. 218-219).

⚄ “The correspondence between Saint Exupéry’s material and SA and between the terms of SA and the terms of positive disintegration shows that the structure of Level IV underlies all of the characteristics of SA” (Piechowski, 1978, p. 229).

⚄ “In Level IV, we have an explicit and detailed developmental structure which accounts for the pervasiveness and the cohesion of the traits of SA” (Piechowski, 1978, p. 230).

⚅ In 1991, Dr. Piechowski explained: “Maslow’s self-actualizing person fits Level IV; the self-actualized person – the enlightened one – fits Level V.” “The early stages of self-actualization” … “correspond to Level III growth processes” (p. 20).

⚅ “The fit between Level IV as the structural skeleton and self-actualization as the flesh of rich description with which to cover the bones is too good not to be true” (Piechowski, 2008, p. 58).

⚅ In representing his position, Dr. Piechowski said: “He [Dąbrowski] didn’t know that Maslow had changed his position and realized that self-actualization does not necessarily follow satisfaction of all of the needs below (Maslow, 1971). I believe he must not have read Maslow’s description of self-actualizing people nor gotten through my paper (it is rather dense). His conclusion was that his theory and Maslow’s could not be commensurate. He never understood that by providing a theoretical structure for Maslow’s concept of self-actualization, his theory was showing its power” (Piechowski, 2008, p. 57).

⚄ Dr. Piechowski did not acknowledge that Maslow also described a level higher than self-actualization; self-transcendence. At this highest level, “one transcends one’s own personality” (Maslow, 1967, p. 160). See Koltko-Rivera, (2006) for more information.

⚃ 9.3.2.8 Issue 7: The relationship between overexcitability and the dynamisms.

⚄ Piechowski believes that the dynamisms arise from overexcitability “The dynamisms are actually the products of certain types and combinations of overexcitabilities” (Piechowski and Wells, 2021, p. 78).
Tillier: I raise this question because when Dąbrowski taught us the theory he always emphasized the role of instincts in the dynamisms. I would say he presented the dynamisms as initially being driven by, or based on the higher developmental instincts. He called the developmental instinct the “mother” instinct and then you have the creative instinct and the instinct for self-perfection. Instincts come to work hand-in-hand with the dynamisms and overexcitabilities in development.

⚃ 9.3.2.9 A Pathway Forward?

⚄ Mendaglio and Tillier (2015) responded to Dr. Piechowski (2014).

⚅ Suggested 2 possible resolutions: “(a) Dr. Piechowski might differentiate his work from that of the originator of the theory as Jung did [from Freud] and propose his own theory under his own name or, alternatively,
(b) he could take the approach that Robbie Case did in developing a neo-Piagetian theory and integrate his views in a neo-Dąbrowskian conceptualization, amending TPD to reflect a Piechowskian perspective [and put forth under his own name]” (Mendaglio & Tillier, 2015, p. 220).

⚄ Dr. Piechowski’s ongoing arguments appear to be based more on philosophical grounds and differences rather than upon strong research data (1978, 2002, 2003, 2008).

⚃ 9.3.2.10 Summary.

⚄ Dr. Piechowski has introduced several interpretations and criticisms that have influenced the literature.

⚄ Confusion was created when interpretations were not clearly differentiated from Dr. Dąbrowski’s original works.

⚄ Awareness of these issues is critical for those who want to understand and apply Dr. Dąbrowski’s approach.

⚄ Dr. Piechowski (2014) advocated “rethinking Dąbrowski’s theory.” Mendaglio and Tillier (2015) replied.

⚄ Dr. Piechowski has indicated to me that he intends to follow-up with a number of articles “setting the record straight,” the second article in the series was Piechowski (2017).

⚄ Dr. Piechowski rejected Dr. Dąbrowski’s view of Level II as a transitional level dominated by unilevel disintegration:
“The concept of unilevel disintegration, however, cannot be applied wholly to Level II because the majority of lives identified within this level are more or less stable. Even Dąbrowski’s concept of partial integration seems to have limited application because it implies that there is some ‘disintegration’ going on or that the person is chronically on the brink of one. This makes little sense. Instead, we should conclude that the lives of most people follow the stages of lifespan development and that some may be so unreflective that they match Level I and others are somewhat more reflective and match Level II” (Piechowski, 2017, p. 93).

⚄ I have included this long quote in the summary because it succinctly captures the dilemma: some of Dr. Dąbrowski’s constructs make little sense to Dr. Piechowski, and he favours different conclusions.

⚄ The quote also illustrates another dilemma:
Dr. Piechowski’s frequent contradictions. He concluded “the lives of most people follow the stages of lifespan development.” Yet in the opening paragraphs of this same paper, Dr. Piechowski rejected a stage approach: “The challenge in understanding the theory lies in the fact that the levels are not successive stages but represent different types of development” (Piechowski, 2017, p. 87; also see Piechowski, 2014, pp. 11-12).

⚄ In summary, rather than “rethinking Dąbrowski’s theory,” both Dr. Piechowski and the gifted community would be better served if he developed his own constructs and published his own theory that could then be compared to Dr. Dąbrowski’s original.

⚃ 9.3.2.11 Misattributions to Dr. Piechowski.

⚄ Historically, Dr. Piechowski inserted his own views under the titling of TPD and Dr. Dąbrowski’s name, making it difficult for new readers to see the different contributions of each author, thus creating confusion.

⚅ Example: Chia (2017, p. 651) misattributed the creation of the five levels to Dr. Piechowski. “The past experiences provided Dąbrowski food for serious thought and certainly enriched fodder for developing his theory which, later, his colleague, Dr. Piechowski (2003), adapted to create the continuum of five developmental levels in personality structure: primary integration, unilevel disintegration, multilevel disintegration, directed multilevel disintegration, and secondary integration.”

⚅ Example: Vuyk (2015, p. 15) says: “Later, Piechowski (1979, 2006), who was a student of Dąbrowski, described five areas of heightened sensitivity or OEs that represented developmental potential and could lead to this advanced development.” [The five overexcitabilities were clearly elaborated by Dąbrowski (1972, pp. 6-7)].

⚄ “As a global theory, there are many possible interpretations of TPD. The framing I describe here is largely based upon the interpretation of Mendaglio and Michael M. Piechowski, who co-developed the theory with Dąbrowski” (Atienza, 2023, p. 62).

⚂ 9.3.3 Tillier - Dr. Piechowski point/counterpoint.

⚃ 9.3.3.1 Tillier, W. (2009). Conceptual differences between Piechowski and Dąbrowski. In J. Frank, H. Curties, & G. Finlay, (Eds.). Imagining the way: Proceedings from the 19th Annual SAGE Conference (pp. 60 - 68). Unpublished Manuscript. (Proceedings from the 19th Annual SAGE Conference. November 7-8, 2008, University of Calgary, Calgary AB.).

⚃ 9.3.3.2 Mendaglio, S. (2009). Point-Counter Point. In J. Frank, H. Curties, & G. Finlay, (Eds.). Imagining the way: Proceedings from the 19th Annual SAGE Conference (p. 69). Unpublished Manuscript. (Proceedings from the 19th Annual SAGE Conference. November 7-8, 2008, University of Calgary, Calgary AB.).

⚃ 9.3.3.3 Piechowski, M. M. (2009). Dr. Piechowski’s response to William Tillier’s "Conceptual differences between Piechowski and Dąbrowski" In J. Frank, H. Curties, & G. Finlay, (Eds.). Imagining the way: Proceedings from the 19th Annual SAGE Conference (pp. 70 - 74). Unpublished Manuscript. (Proceedings from the 19th Annual SAGE Conference. November 7-8, 2008, University of Calgary, Calgary AB.).

⚃ 9.3.3.4 Tillier, W. (2009). Tillier’s response to Dr. Piechowski. In J. Frank, H. Curties, & G. Finlay, (Eds.). Imagining the way: Proceedings from the 19th Annual SAGE Conference (pp. 75 - 77). Unpublished Manuscript. (Proceedings from the 19th Annual SAGE Conference. November 7-8, 2008, University of Calgary, Calgary AB.).

⚃ 9.3.3.5 Reference: Frank, J., Curties, H., & Finlay, G. (Eds.). (2009). Imagining the way: Proceedings from the 19th Annual SAGE Conference. Unpublished Manuscript. (Proceedings from the 19th Annual SAGE Conference. November 7-8, 2008, University of Calgary, Calgary AB.).

⚂ 9.3.4 Moral Disengagement/Bandura.

⚃ Bandura has many works on social cognitive theory and moral disengagement; his recent work is (2016).

⚃ Moral disengagement is a subset of social cognitive theory.

⚃ 8 Mechanisms:

⚄ Moral, social and economic justification. People do not ordinarily engage in reprehensible conduct until they have justified to themselves the rightness of their actions. In the process of moral justification, detrimental conduct is made personally and socially acceptable by portraying it in the service of valued social or moral purposes. (behavior locus)

⚄ Euphemistic labeling. Activities can take on markedly different appearances depending on what they are called. Euphemistic labeling provides a tool for masking reprehensible activities or even conferring a respectable status upon them. Through sanitized or convoluted language, destructive conduct is made benign or acceptable [“collateral damage”]. (behavior locus)

⚄ Advantageous (palliative) comparison. Behavior can assume different qualities depending on what it is contrasted with. By exploiting advantageous comparisons, injurious conduct can be rendered benign or made to appear to be of little consequence. The more extreme the contrasted activities, the more likely it is that one’s own injurious conduct will appear trifling or even benevolent [“the lesser of two evils”]. (behavior locus)

⚄ Displacement of responsibility Under displacement of responsibility people view their actions as springing from the social pressures or dictates of others rather than as some- thing for which they are personally responsible. Because they are not the actual agents of their actions, they are spared self-censuring reactions. Hence, they are willing to behave in ways they normally repudiate if a legitimate authority accepts responsibility for the effects of their actions [“just following orders”]. (agency locus)

⚄ Diffusion of responsibility. The exercise of moral control is weakened when personal agency is obscured by diffusion of responsibility for detrimental conduct. Any harm done by a group can be attributed largely to the behavior of others. People behave more cruelly under group responsibility than when they hold themselves personally accountable for their actions [“I was just one soldier”]. (agency locus)

⚄ Minimizing, ignoring, or misconstruing the consequences. The agent of harm may deny that people were seriously harmed, or say that the punishment actually was good for the individual because it toughened him up. In addition to selective inattention and cognitive distortion of effects, the misrepresentation may involve active efforts to discredit evidence of the harm that is caused [“It was just an insurance company—no one got hurt”] [Catholic Church ignored abuse of children]. (outcome locus)

⚄ Dehumanization. Self-censure for injurious conduct can be disengaged or blunted by dehumanization that divests people of human qualities or attributes bestial qualities to them. Once dehumanized, they are no longer viewed as persons with feelings, hopes, and concerns but as subhuman objects [“he was a cockroach”]. (victim locus)

⚄ Attribution of blame. Blaming one’s adversaries or circumstances is another expedient that can serve selfexonerating purposes. By fixing the blame on others or on circumstances, not only are one’s own injurious actions excusable but also one can even feel self-righteous in the process [“she was asking for it”]. (victim locus)

⚄ Further references: Caroli & Sagone, 2014; Moore, 2015; Proios, 2016; Tillman, Gonzalez, Whitman, Crawford, & Hood, 2018; Walters, 2017; Zheng, Qin, Liu, & Liao, 2017.

⚃ Bandura: morality is rooted in self-regulation of behavior, part of an agentic perspective—“to be an agent is to intentionally produce certain effects by one’s actions” (Bandura, 2018, p. 130).

⚃ Essentially a socially based alternative theory to the genetic explanation of psychopathy.

⚃ Behavioral locus: harmful behavior is seen as good behavior.

⚃ Agency locus: displacement or obfuscation of blame regarding who is responsible for harmful acts.

⚃ Outcome locus: attempted explanations for effects of behavior.

⚃ Victim locus: attempts to displace blame onto the victim.

⚃ Discussions of moral disengagement (social cognitive theory) are often applied to sports ethics (e.g. Lance Armstrong) and the morality of corporations and business (e.g. entertainment, guns, food, tobacco, etc.).

⚂ 9.3.5 Schmidt.

⚃ Schmidt, M. (1977). The pebble in song and legend: Primary integration in studies of personality and development (Unpublished master’s thesis). University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL.

⚃ Dr. Piechowski claimed that based on one master's thesis, level I in TPD can be adequately explained using the concept of the authoritarian personality.

⚃ Dr. Piechowski uses social learning theory and sees level I as socially constructed, not genetic. It is caused by poor parenting and by children growing up in unloving authoritarian households.

⚃ Dr. Piechowski suggests that “Dr. Dąbrowski could not consider any of this because he was developing his theory in the 1950s before the most significant findings about abuse appeared in the literature and before the advances in research on early childhood” (Piechowski, 2014, p. 13). This argument is somewhat confusing given that Dr. Piechowski repeatedly claims that he played a major role in writing Dr. Dąbrowski’s major works in the 1970s.

⚃ “The concept of primary integration—originally called primitive integration by Dr. Dąbrowski—was not examined until Margaret Schmidt showed in her thesis that it largely corresponds to the concept of authoritarian personality (Schmidt, 1977). Authoritarian personality results from strict parenting and social pressures that enforce conformity and respect for authority; that is, those who hold power. Therefore, it is not an integration either inherited genetically or arrived at by the individual himself” (Piechowski, 2014, p. 13).

⚃ “In theories like those of Adorno, Kohlberg, Loevinger, and Peck and Havighurst, the lowest levels of character development are like those in Dr. Dąbrowski’s Level I (Schmidt, 1977). When character is deficient, love and caring are almost always lacking in the formative years of early childhood. What we also know today is that physical, sexual, and emotional abuse of children is commonplace. In Ruf’s (2009) study of highly gifted adults, 56% of her subjects suffered emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. Only the few who are resilient can overcome it (Anthony, 1987; Higgins, 1994).

⚃ “This paper is an attempt to establish some sort of correspondences between the theories of Dr. Dąbrowski, Kohlberg and Loevinger particularly between the lower levels or stages postulated by the respective theorists. All three are theories of development where development is understood as a change in level of organization or structure. All three have an empirical basis. In addition empirical studies of especially significant personality forms which appear to fit structures defined by these theories will be examined. Included here are Peck and Havighurst’s (1960) five character types, the authoritarian personality (Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik Levinson, and Sanford, 1950) and the psychopath (Cleckley, 1941)” (Schmidt, 1977 p. 4).

⚃ “Peck and Havighurst describe five basic character types: amoral, expedient, conforming, irrational-conscientious and rational altruistic, which are hierarchically arranged at least in terms of ‘successful’ adaptation to the environment and ‘mental health’ defined in a conventional way. The character types range from egocentric to allocentric, from external or no control to self control. Cleckley’s Mask of Sanity and Adorno's Authoritarian Personality, though not presenting levels or stages of personality offer descriptions of two special personality types each having a particular set of characteristics by which they can be identified. Both these studies have of 44 being particularly rich in case material” (Schmidt, 1977 p. 4).

⚃ “The psychopath of course is different than the authoritarian personality not only in being another type altogether but in that the psychopath appears to be born not made. Psychopaths appear to come from disparate backgrounds and often these to be optimal” (p. 67).

⚃ “One of the most characteristic traits of the psychopath is the lack of feeling. They seem to have been born with not only weak emotional overexcitability but with emotional underexcitability. The psychopath can be highly intelligent and well aware how the world works. He can even have the overexcitabilities – psychomotor, sensual, and to a limited extent imaginational, but lacking the emotional component he is incapable of growth and development. Dr. Dąbrowski maintains that emotional overexcitability is the essential determiner of growth. Psychopathic personality demonstrates by its absence how important it is” (pp. 67-68).

⚃ “The psychopath is a special case of Level I development, but many of his characteristics are shared by other Level I individuals to a greater or lesser extent. Cleckley’s psychopath is the unsuccessful type in terms of social norms. But take away unmotivated antisocial behavior, failure to learn by experience and failure to follow a life plan and add ambition and a little talent, and you have a picture of success ruthlessly achieved and often admired” (p. 70).

⚃ Dr. Piechowski: “Schmidt showed in her thesis that it [primary integration] largely corresponds to the concept of authoritarian personality” (2014, p. 13). However, he failed to mention Schmidt included both psychopaths and authoritarian personalities in level I [this slide and the next]. She did not address the relative prevalence of each type.

⚃ Schmidt: authoritarian personalities are made and created by their environment (parenting), but psychopaths are born 46 (genetic).

⚃ “Both Cleckley and Adorno have shown that there are constellations of character traits that go into the makeup of particular personality types, that it is not content but the underlying response to the self, to others and the environment that produce the psychopath or the authoritarian personality. These underlying response patterns contain elements that are all characteristic of Level I functioning – deficient affect, lack of introspection, reification of others and viewing the elements of the environment as instruments for the satisfaction of one’s own basic needs. There are many differences between the psychopath and the authoritarian personality. The former appears to ‘repress’ nothing and acts out every whim and desire, the latter appears to have everything tightly under wraps. The most essential difference however is that the psychopath from all evidence is born that way while the authoritarian personality is a product of his environment” (pp. 73-74, italics added).

⚃ “it is very likely that given optimal, or at least favorable environmental conditions, no one outside of psychopaths, mental defectives, etc., would be limited to Level I. People functioning at Level I, it seems clear from the research cited here, are largely products of damaging home environments which are related to the quality of the society in which they exist. In a nation that preaches democracy, human rights, equality, etc., but glorifies material goods, power and prestige, and makes it difficult for fragile ‘human’ values to survive, it is not surprising that so many individuals are limited to Level I functioning” (Schmidt, 1977 pp. 74-75).

⚃ Schmidt: with an optimal environment, authoritarian personalities could be eliminated, leaving mostly psychopaths at level I. Again, she does not note relative numbers.

⚃ Dr. Piechowski focuses only on the authoritarian personality and ignores Schmidt’s references to psychopaths.

⚃ “There are several implications for counseling stemming from Dr. Dąbrowski's theory and from the other material presented here. Surely the most important is that an integrated self is not necessarily a healthy self. In fact, it has been demonstrated here that most of those at the level of Primary Integration are pathetic one-dimensional persons—the Delta’s, the Impulsives, the authoritarians are basically stunted beings who function at a level that is closer to that of a machine than to the human. Therefore, counselors should not be necessarily striving toward adaptation or adjustment on the part of their clients nor toward squeezing them into the ‘right’ corner of the OK corral” (Schmidt, 1977, pp. 77-78).

⚃ [Schmidt: there are “many differences between the psychopath and the authoritarian personality.” Maslow equated the two: “The conditions which the authoritarian attributes to human nature, in general, are in point of fact found only in a small proportion of our population. The only individuals who ultimately fulfill their conditions are those we call psychopathic personalities” (Maslow, 1943a, p. 411).]

⚃ Dr. Dąbrowski described level I as comprised of several sub-levels.

⚃ Schmidt differentiated psychopaths from those with authoritarian personalities.

⚃ From a theoretical viewpoint, level I could be comprised of four main groups: psychopaths, authoritarian personalities, the “average person,” and those demonstrating less rigidity and more psychoneurotic qualities.

⚃ It remains to be seen if the basis of these personality types is primarily genetic or social.

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