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Unique Dąbrowski Terms.

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There are several terms that are applied uniquely in the context of the theory of positive disintegration and if these terms are used outside this context they are often seen as paradoxical, or they are misunderstood, or worse, they are seen as pejorative judgements. Here are some examples.

Development. Traditionally, theories of psychological development emphasize ontological stages, for example, Piaget's stages of cognitive development. Dąbrowski endorsed these approaches. Dąbrowski also described aspects of development that he believed were non-ontological including emotional development and the third factor. These elements simply appear in the course of development. This gives the theory a somewhat metaphysical element.

Disintegration. Dąbrowski observed the lives of individuals he judged to exhibit advanced personality development and concluded that crises were a ubiquitous feature. He developed the construct of positive disintegration to explain that one must experience crises and disintegration of existing personality structures in order to allow the individual to reconsider and restructure the self, including, one's values. Positive disintegration describes development from biological based influences (first factor) to social determination (second factor) to the emergence of third factor: self-determination. Dąbrowski also described negative disintegration, involving suicide or mental illness.

Education. Another term with a special connotation in TPD. Dąbrowski compared traditional education, especially in America, to animal training. He suggested that individual development must involve education of oneself and include a balance between the intellectual, special abilities and talents, and developing insight into one's unique essence and emotions.

Overexcitability. The expression of overexcitability is usually misunderstood in medicine, psychiatry and psychology, and in educational settings. Traditional approaches try to ameliorate or mitigate overexcitability. For example, even in Aron's approach to the highly sensitive person, overstimulation is seen as a negative experience that needs to be tightly reined in. Overexcitability, in general, plays a different role during the disintegrative phases compared to its role in advanced development. As well, each of the five different overexcitabilities in the theory has several contexts depending upon one's developmental level.

Personality. Dąbrowski used a unique definition of personality and concluded that personality is an achievement that is seldom attained. This leads to the counterintuitive conclusion that the average person does not have personality. Dąbrowski differentiated individuality from personality and said that we all have individuality but, given his definition, few people develop and differentiate their unique self enough to justify using the term personality.

Philosophy. Traditionally, essentialist and existential approaches are differentiated in philosophy and presented as separate entities. Dąbrowski took the unusual step to combine them in what he called the existentio-essentialist compound. He said the essence that one is born with is primary but this essence cannot be fully realized without making day-to-day existential choices (personality shaping).

Positive adjustment. This is adjustment to the way a person or life ought to be not the way it is. To be adjusted to a lower level, sick society is to also be sick. Traditionally, adjustment is perceived as conformity to, and the embracing of, the prevailing values and morality of one's society. Dąbrowski refers to this as negative adjustment. Dąbrowski introduced two types of maladjustment. The first, negative maladjustment, is simply what we traditionally understand as typical antisocial or criminal behaviour. The second, positive maladjustment, is a rejection of social norms based on the perception that they are somehow wrong, or unfair. Positive maladjustment represents the conflict between what the individual sees ought to be, versus the way society and life actually is.

Psychoneurosis. You mean I'm crazy? In the theory, Dąbrowski described psychoneuroses as essentially strong anxieties and depressions. Again, in the context of TPD, psychoneuroses are usually a positive feature and are defined as a necessary part of the development process.

Psychopathy/psychopath. Dąbrowski often referred to individuals at Level I as psychopaths. This was based on the view that psychopathy represents any genetically-based issue (lack of development potential) that prevents full authentic development. This usage was not commonly known or popular in America.

Psychotherapy. D?browski endorsed traditional psychotherapy and pharmacological treatments of mental issues in individuals who have limited developmental potential. However, for individuals who display significant development potential, D?browski generally advocated an approach emphasizing self therapy that he called autopsychotherapy. He encouraged individuals to use introspection to help understand their developmental potential and fundamentally unique essence. Through using autobiographical writing and techniques such as the imaginary mirrors (psychological and psychosocial), the individual can learn to manage his or her crises and development without relying upon the advice or perceptions of a therapist.

Suffering. In some approaches, happiness is achieved by avoiding suffering at all costs. In TPD, suffering gives us perspective and allows us to develop empathy and compassion both for ourselves and for others. Suffering helps us become authentically human and is a necessary part of life and psychological development.

Third factor. Many people seem to reduce third factor to simple willpower but in fact, it is a lot more than that. Third factor is the basis of the development of an individual's unique autonomy. It involves the differentiation of oneself from one's larger social milieu (second factor) and encourages one to review one's instincts (first factor) and apply them in service of one's hierarchy of values.

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