Dabrowski's Theory A Model for U

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					 Dabrowski’s Theory: A Model for
Understanding the Sensitivity of the
         Gifted Student

Pam Clark, Ph.D.
Converse College
   “We’re killing bugs on the windshield, and
    I’ve already seen too much death for
    someone my age!”
                    (Webb et al., 2007, pg.13)
Kazimierz Dabrowski

   Polish psychiatrist and
   Born in 1902 in
    Klarowo, Lublin, Poland
   As a child, studied with
    Catholic priests and
    then in Lublin at the
    university studying
    psychology, philosophy,
    and literature
   Completed an MA in 1924 in Warsaw
   Although his plans were to become a professional musician,
    after a friends suicide he decided to become a physician
   Received his medical degree from the University of Geneva in
   Studied psychoanalysis in Vienna in 1930
   In 1931, studied child psychiatry and obtain a Ph.D. in
    psychology from the University of Poznan
   In 1933 went to Harvard University to study public health
   In 1934, returned to Switzerland and was a lecturer in child
    psychiatry at the University of Geneva
   Returned to Poland and established the Polish State Mental Hygiene Institute in
    Warsaw where he was the director from 1935 to 1948 with an interruption from
    the German invasion
   1939 the Germans closed the Mental Hygiene institute and Dabrowski shifted
    his focus to a second institution that provided services to over 200 children and
     –   The institution also sheltered and saved many war orphans, priests, Polish soldiers,
         members of the resistance, and Jewish children
   In 1942 Dabrowski was imprisoned by the Germans for suspicion of
    involvement with the Polish underground
   After his release, he resumed his position as director of the Mental Hygiene
   1949 – Stalin closed the Institute and declared Dabrowski a persona non gratis
   He was imprisoned for 18 months, “rehabilitated,” and then released
   1960 – Jason Arsonson traveled behind the Iron Curtain to invite psychiatrist to
    contribute to his journal, International Journal of Psychiatry, where he met
   1964 Dabrowski accepted a
    position at a hospital in
    Montreal, Canada
   1965 he became a visiting
    professor at the University of
   He spent the 70’s writing
    and refining his theory
   1979 he suffered a serious
    heart attack and, in 1980, he
    returned to Polar and died in
Theory of Personality

   Dabrowski’s theory is essentially a theory of
    personality development
   It emphasizes emotion and the role emotion plays in
    personality, intelligence, and behaviors
    –   Negative emotions are frequently evidence of psychological
        growth and development and essential for the development
        of personality
   The theory has become an important aspect of
    understanding the psychology of gifted individuals

   Personality – is shaped and created by an
    individual to create his or her unique
   Positive disintegration – process by which
    personality is achieved
    –   Disintegration of initial mental organization based
        on biological needs and conforming to social
    –   Re-integration at a higher level transcending
        biological needs and resulting in autonomy
   Developmental potential – person’s constitutional make-up that
    shapes positive disintegration that results in personality
     –   Overexcitability – high level of reactivity of the central nervous
     –   Dynamisms – autonomous inner forces
   Human development not in stages
     –   Movement from a lower, primitive level of organization to a higher,
         advanced level of organization
     –   Fueled by strong anxieties and often depression
     –   Re-integration characterized by an individual’s creation of a
         hierarchy of values
             Embracing those characteristics and values important to the individual
              “more self” and rejecting those that are “less self”
             Results in achieving a unique and autonomous personality

   Multilevelness
    –   Human development proceeds from lower, simple
        structures to higher, complex structures
    –   We share some instincts with the animals (self-preservation,
        sex, etc.) and others are uniquely human (creativity, self-
    –   Emotions range from lower levels to higher, e.g. satisfaction
        at eating when hungry to satisfaction in one’s sense of
        understanding or growth
    –   Conflict ranges from lower to higher, e.g. sexual frustration
        to frustration at not living up to one’s personal values
   Conflict and even psychopathology essential for
    –   Transition from lower to higher levels can only be
        accomplished through conflict
    –   Integration results in inner harmony and peace
            Primary integration – lack of inner conflicts; motivated by
             biological needs and conformity
            Secondary integration – harmony achieved through
             achievement of personality; characterized by authenticity,
             acceptance of self and others, and a daily life directed by a
             hierarchy of values
    –   Anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions result
        from the conflict between self and ideal self and act upon
        primary integration as a motivation toward growth
   Emotions are the directing forces of
    –   Emotions drive the transition from lower levels to
        higher levels
    –   Intense negative emotions have a disintegrating
        power that is necessary to dismantle the primary
        integration and assist the move to secondary

   Personality
    –   Product of a person’s struggle to toward an ideal
            Sounds a lot like self-actualization
    –   Positive value systems drive the behavior of
        individuals who have achieved personality
   Factors of Development
     –   Biologically determined
             Includes conformity to social environment
             Behaviors are regulated in response to biological drives
             Social norms control drive gratification
     –   Autonomous mental
             Inner mental forces combine with positive values
             Transcends dictates of biology and society
             Characterized by frequent disintegration and reintegration at a higher level
     –   One-sided
             Structures are reintegrated in an egocentric, antisocial way
             Negative maladjustment - mental states such as criminality or paranoia
   A developed individual is one who has transcended biologically
    determined stages and achievement in response to society norms and
    has achieved a level of development characterized by autonomy,
    authenticity, and altruism
   Developmental Instinct and Developmental
    –   Developmental instinct – the drive that pushes us
        to transcend biological drives
    –   Developmental potential – seen in the
        “overexcitebilities” or the “higher than average
        response to stimuli due to heightened sensitivity
        of nervous system receptors”
            Perceive reality in a more intense manner

   Psychomotor
    –   High energy, need constant change of scenery, and are
        generally restless
    –   Workaholism, nervous habits (biting fingernails), rapid
        speech, and love of movement
   Sensual
    –   Highly sensitive to sensory perceptions such as sights,
        sounds, tastes, and tactile stimulation
    –   Keen aesthetic appreciation and may enjoy being the center
        of attention
   Imaginational
     –   Daydreamers, rich fantasy life, inventive and creative
     –   Often have poetic, dramatic, or artistic abilities
   Intellectual
     –   Abilities of analysis and synthesis, ask probing questions, and love
   Emotional
     –   Intense connectedness with others; the ability to experience things
         intensely; fears of death, embarrassment, and guilt
     –   Empathic toward others and feel a strong need for exclusive
   The Big Three: intellectual, imaginational, and emotions forms
    considered essential for advanced psychological development
   Social Environment
    –   Effects depend on the amount of endowed developmental
    –   If an individual’s developmental potential is strong, the
        environment is of secondary importance
            Innately resilient and transcend environment
    –   If development potential is innately weak, doesn’t matter
        about the environment – development won’t occur
    –   Environment becomes important when developmental
        potential lies between these two extremes
   Dynamism
    –   Force by which individuals become self-
    –   Once activated, individual can transcend
        biological and social needs
    –   Individual becomes intentional and self-directed
Integrations and Disintegrations

   Integrations: primary and secondary
   Disintegrations – movement from primary to
    secondary is the result of positive
    –   Positive disintegration involves two processes
            Dissolution of lower mental structures and functions
             characterized by intense external and internal conflicts
            Creation of higher forms arising from self-awareness,
             self-direction, and autonomy
               –   A new, higher form of integration that resolves the inner
                   conflict and anxiety created by dissolution of the primary
   Negative disintegration
    –   Occurs when individuals only experience the dissolution
    –   Experiencing conflicts and anxiety with no resolution and
        inability to return to previous state of primary integration
    –   Usually result in chronic psychotic illness or suicide
   Partial disintegrations
    –   Can result in a return to the lower level of functioning, a
        partial re-integration at a higher level, or a transformation
        into global disintegration
    –   Quality of social environment impacts both negative and
        partial disintegrations
   Dynamisms – forces that drive development
    –   Dissolving dynamisms weaken, disrupt, and destroy primary
            Ambivalence – fluctuating feelings of like and dislike, inferiority
             and superiority, and approach-avoidance conflicts
            Ambitendenices – conflicting courses of action, indecision,
             desiring incompatible goals or things
            Astonishment with oneself, disquietude with oneself, feelings
             of inferiority toward oneself, dissatisfaction with oneself,
             feelings of shame and guilt, and creativity, and positive
–   Developing dynamisms create the new mental
        Self-awareness and self-control
        Subject and object in oneself
        Syntony (sympathy and resonance to others)
        Identification
        Empathy
        The third factor: inner self that coordinates mental life
        Inner psychic transformation
        Education and psychotherapy of oneself
–   Highest levels of development dynamism
        Responsibility for oneself and for others
        Autonomy
        Authentism
        Disposing and directing center
        Personality ideal
Levels of Development

   Not stages of development: not sequential,
    age-related, or universal
   Represent a movement from egocentric to
    altruistic mode
   Level I: Primary integration
    –   Cohesive mental organization based on gratifying
        biological instincts, drives, and needs including
    –   Attributes focus on self-interest and self-
    –   Often driven by a need for approval and can be
        highly successful individuals, “salt of the earth”
   Level II – Unilevel Disintegration
    –   Triggered by onset of conflict which can be
        developmental (puberty or menopause) or crisis
        related (failure, death, etc.)
    –   Creates intense emotions such as frustration,
        anxiety, or despair
    –   Can result in regression to previous level or
        transition to further disintegration
   Level III: Spontaneous Multilevel
    –   Loosening occurring in Level II becomes a full-
        blown examination of beliefs, values, and
    –   Ideal/real self discrepancies
    –   Self-critical attitudes occur when individuals see
        themselves succumb to biological needs or social
        norms that they no longer believe in
   Level IV: Organized Multilevel Disintegration
    –   Individuals become self-organizing
    –   Rise of autonomy, authenticity, etc.
    –   Third factor begins selecting higher values and
        actions and rejecting lower
    –   Sense of social justice and empathic emotional
        connection with others
    –   Beginning of second integration as one becomes
        self-educating and self-correcting
   Level V: Secondary Integration
    –   Experience harmony and are at peace with
    –   Conduct lives by enacting personality ideal
    –   Behavior is regulated by hierarchy of values
   Mendaglio, S. (2008). Dabrowski’s thoery of positive disintegration: A
    personality theory for the 21st century. In S. Mendaglio (Ed.),
    Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration, pp. 12-40. Scottsdale,
    AZ: Great Potential Press.
   O’Connor, K. (2002). The application of Dabrowski’s theory to the
    gifted. In M. Neihart, S. M. Reis, N. M. Robinson, & S. M. Moon (Eds.),
    The social and emotional development of gifted children,
   Silverman, L. (2008). The theory of positive disintegration in the field of
    gifted education. In S. Mendaglio (Ed.), Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive
    Disintegration, pp. 157-174. Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press.
   Tillier, W. (2008). Kasimierz Dabrowski: The man. In S. Mendaglio
    (Ed.), Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration, pp. 3-12.
    Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press.

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