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ACA Charlotte 2009


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Presentation given at the American Counseling Association Conference on Implications of Dabrowski\'s Theory of Positive Disintegration on Counseling Gifted Students

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ACA Charlotte 2009

  1. 1. Implications of Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration for Counseling the Gifted Carrie Lynn Bailey, M.Ed., LPSC, LPC The College of William & Mary ACA Annual Conference & Exposition - Spring 2009
  2. 2. Session Overview • Exposure to Dabrowski’s theory often invokes strong reactions in gifted individuals – resonates on a personal level • Purpose of this session is to provide an overview of the theory • Integration of this theory into counseling practice & perspectives will be discussed 2Carrie Lynn Bailey -
  3. 3. THE AUDIENCE… What brings you to this presentation? In what settings do you practice? What does the term “gifted” mean to you? What are your experiences working with gifted clients? Carrie Lynn Bailey - 3
  4. 4. Dabrowski’s Theory – The Basics • Theory of Positive Disintegration • Developmental Theory – Personality Development – Emotional Development – Moral Development • Polish Psychologist (1902 – 1980) – Theory grew out of experiences during WWI & WWII – “Saw the lowest & the highest in man” – Set out to create a theory to account for this wide range of human behavior & development (Tillier, 2006) Carrie Lynn Bailey - 4
  5. 5. Dabrowski’s Theory – The Basics • Relevance to Gifted Individuals… “Giftedness is not a matter of degree but of a different quality of experiencing…” (Piechowski, 2003) • Gifted individuals experience the world from a different perspective, with qualitative differences including intensities, sensitivities, idealism, perceptiveness, overexcitabilities, asynchrony, complexity, introversion, perfectionism, & moral concerns (Silverman, 2006) • Dabrowski’s theory offers a lens through which to conceptualize these qualitative differences Carrie Lynn Bailey - 5
  6. 6. Dabrowski’s Theory – The Basics • Implications for working with the gifted (Silverman, 2006) : – A new way to define and identify giftedness – A new way to teach and nurture gifted individuals – A new perspective and counseling approach in dealing with the issues and challenges of giftedness • Much interest in this theory and its applications in field of Gifted Education – Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration (Mendaglio, 2008) – Living with Intensity (Daniels & Piechowski, 2009) – Numerous articles in gifted education journals Carrie Lynn Bailey - 6
  7. 7. Developmental Progression FIVE LEVELS OF DEVELOPMENT I. Primary Integration II. Unilevel Disintegration III. Spontaneous Multilevel Disintegration IV. Organized Multilevel Disintegration V. Secondary Integration • More rigid, stereotypical & impulsive actions • Loosening of character structure • Emergence of multilevelness, inner conflict between “what is” and “what ought to be”, beginnings of a hierarchy of values & goals • Conscious & planned self- transformation, growth of empathy, autonomy, & clarity of values and goals • Organization and expression of “personality ideal” Carrie Lynn Bailey - 7
  8. 8. Some Relevant Terms • Developmental Potential • Multilevelness • Positive Disintegration – Maladjustment • Dynamisms • Psychoneuroses • Overexcitabilities • Personality Ideal 8Carrie Lynn Bailey -
  9. 9. Developmental Potential • “…original endowment determining the level to which an individual can develop, if his physical and social conditions are optimal…” (Dabrowski, 1984) • Composed of three factors: – First factor • Genetic & permanent physical traits (intelligence, OE, special talents, temperament) – Second factor • Social environment – Third factor • Autonomous forces & processes such as consciousness, inner conflict, self-determination, etc. Necessary for creativity & advanced development 9Carrie Lynn Bailey -
  10. 10. Multilevelness • Division of human behavior and reality into different, multiple levels of developmental achievement • Result of the hierarchization of one’s internal and external experiences • Hierarchization is based upon a growing awareness of universal values and their role in shaping personal growth 10Carrie Lynn Bailey -
  11. 11. Positive Disintegration • “The royal path to development” • A process of development involving characteristic dynamisms and some degree of awareness of development. • Involves breaking down previously held personality structure and the internal psychic environment and the subsequent creation of new personality structures at higher levels • May involve positive maladjustment – Conflict with and rejection of those standards and attitudes of one’s social environment which are incompatible with one’s growing awareness of a higher scale of values which is developing as an inner imperative (Dabrowski, 1972) 11Carrie Lynn Bailey -
  12. 12. Dynamisms • Biological or mental forces of a variety of kinds, scopes, and intensity • Decisive with regard to behavior, activity, and personality growth (Tillier, 2006) • May include instincts, drives, and intellectual processes conjoined with emotions (Dabrowski, 1970) 12Carrie Lynn Bailey -
  13. 13. Dynamisms • Vary according to level of development – Level II • Ambivalencies and ambitendencies (unilevel conflict), beginning of shame, temperamental adjustment, extreme or changeable identification with others – Level III • Hierarchization of inner conflict and development, disquietude with oneself, dissatisfaction with oneself, feelings of inferiority towards oneself, astonishment with oneself, shame & guilt, positive maladjustment, identification and empathy – Level IV • Third factor, inner psychic transformation, self-awareness, self-control, self-education, multilevel identification, self- acceptance, full empathy towards others, creative instinct – Level IV – Level V • Empathy, responsibility, autonomy and authenticity, personality ideal 13Carrie Lynn Bailey -
  14. 14. Psychoneuroses Viewed by Dabrowski as… • Syndromes of the process of positive disintegration and thus a necessary component of higher level development • Not pathological but positive forces in mental development • Symptoms of disharmony and conflicts within the inner psychic milieu and with the external environment • A favorable hereditary endowment capable of accelerating development through positive disintegration towards a more cohesive personality ideal • Can have both positive and negative manifestations and consequences dependent upon other factors of developmental potential 14Carrie Lynn Bailey -
  15. 15. Overexcitabilities • Higher than average responsiveness to stimuli, manifested by either psychomotor, sensual, emotional, imaginational, or intellectual excitability (Dabrowski, 1972) • Viewed by researchers in gifted education as a “multifaceted lens through which to view the intensities of gifted children” (Tieso, 2007) • A “mode of understanding and responding to the world” (Piechowski, 1979) – a critical component of the qualitatively different way that individuals experience the world 15Carrie Lynn Bailey -
  16. 16. More About Overexcitabilities “One could say that one who manifest 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 this a means for more frequent interactions and a wider range of experiencing.” (Dabrowski, 1972) 16Carrie Lynn Bailey -
  17. 17. More About Overexcitabilities • Dabrowski’s theory, specifically the concept of overexcitabilities, was introduced to the field of gifted education as a better indicator of giftedness and creativity than traditional methods of identification (Piechowski, 1979) • Much research has followed in exploring this avenue • First demonstrated as a basis for counseling gifted clients in 1979 (Ogburn-Colangelo) • Now considered fundamental to understanding the psychological aspects of giftedness (Silverman, 2008) 17Carrie Lynn Bailey -
  18. 18. More About Overexcitabilities • The strength of an overexcitability affects the quality of the person’s experience… the intensity must be understood as a qualitatively distinct characteristic (Piechowski, 1992) • OEs contribute significantly to one’s drive, experience, power to envision possibilities, and the intensity & complexity of feeling involved in creative expression • OEs represent the “kind of endowment that feeds, nourishes, enriches, empowers, and amplifies talent” (Piechowski & Colangelo, 1984) • However – can often be viewed negatively, or pathologically, particularly in educational settings 18Carrie Lynn Bailey -
  19. 19. Reflection… Jot down a few thoughts on the following questions: • What do people say is your best quality? Your worst? • What is your biggest pet peeve at home? At school? • How can someone tell when you are bored? • What do you do when you are tense? • What does it mean to have a good friend? To be a good friend? • Do you have any nervous habits? What are they? • What is your favorite game? • What does fear smell like? Think about students or clients who might resemble the following profiles… 19Carrie Lynn Bailey -
  20. 20. PSYCHOMOTOR • Surplus energy due to enhanced excitability of the neuromuscular system • Manifestations: – Excess physical energy – Rapid speech and/or compulsive talking – Nervous habits – Impulsive actions – Marked competitiveness – “Workaholism” – Restlessness and/or constant fidgeting – Potential tendencies for self-mutilation • Psychomotor expression of emotional tension 20Carrie Lynn Bailey -
  21. 21. SENSUAL • Heightened ability to experience sensory/ aesthetic pleasure • Manifestations: – Increased need to touch & be touched – Delight in beautiful objects – Overeating – Aesthetic interests, Drama – Sensitivity to sensory stimuli (i.e. tags, noises, lights) – Need for comfort and luxury – Varied sexual experiences – Need for attention and company – Dislike of loneliness – May have numerous, but superficial, relationships • Transfer of emotional tension to sensual forms 21Carrie Lynn Bailey -
  22. 22. IMAGINATIONAL • Capacity to visualize events very well • Manifestations – Association of images and impressions – Inventiveness – Intuitive, heightened consciousness – Use of image and metaphor in verbal expression – Vivid and animated visualization – Less pure form: dreams, nightmares, mixing of truth & fiction, fears of unknown • Intense living in the world of fantasy • Transfer of emotional tension through imagination 22Carrie Lynn Bailey -
  23. 23. INTELLECTUAL • Intensified activity of the mind • Manifestations: – Persistence to ask probing questions – Avidity for knowledge – Keen observation and analytical abilities – Capacity for intense concentration – Theoretical thinking and preoccupation with theoretical problems – Reverence for logic • Transfer of emotional tension through intellectual pursuits 23Carrie Lynn Bailey -
  24. 24. EMOTIONAL • Function of experiencing emotional relationships • Manifestations: – Strong attachments to persons, living things, or places – Inhibition (Timidity and Shyness) – Excitation (Enthusiasm) – Strong affective memory – Concern with death – Fears, anxieties, and depressions – Feelings of loneliness – Need for security – Concern for others – Exclusive relationships – Difficulty adjusting to new environments • The basis for multilevel positive disintegration 24Carrie Lynn Bailey -
  25. 25. More About Overexcitabilities • OEs appear early in life • Are innate strengths • Considered variables of temperament • Relate most closely to activity level, intensity of reaction, and threshold of responsiveness • Gifted children & adults tend to have significantly higher emotional, intellectual, and imaginational OEs than the average population – How might this impact their counseling needs? 25Carrie Lynn Bailey -
  26. 26. Implications for Counseling • “OEs on the one side accelerate individual development, and on the other, is the initial phase of neuroses and psychoneuroses. Although the latter increase the developmental dynamics, they also bring dangers of tensions too great to absorb and negative disintegration as a result.” (Dabrowski, 1964) • “The challenge for researchers and practitioners is to examine these intensities and promote intervention strategies that will enhance students’ positive characteristics while teaching them to compensate for the negative.” (Tieso, 2007) 26Carrie Lynn Bailey -
  27. 27. Counseling Individuals with Overexcitabilities • PSYCHOMOTOR – Help find appropriate outlets for release of energy – Teach relaxation techniques – Physical therapy & Sensory integration techniques – Medication to prevent exhaustion and to aid attention, concentration and development of self- control • SENSUAL – Help build self-control and self-reflection – Desensitization techniques for overwhelming stimuli (Mika, 2002) Carrie Lynn Bailey - 27
  28. 28. Counseling Individuals with Overexcitabilities • IMAGINATIONAL – Creative or pathological? (illusions, confabulations, delusions…) – Teach differences between illusory and real – Steer imagination towards creativity rather than non- creative isolation • INTELLECTUAL – Help to create balance between intellectual and other Overexcitabilities – Attend to emotional and moral development as well to help counteract over-intellectualization – Encourage development of empathy and creativity (Mika, 2002) Carrie Lynn Bailey - 28
  29. 29. Counseling Individuals with Overexcitabilities • EMOTIONAL – Validation – Teach relaxation techniques – Provide a supportive and understanding environment for the development of self-awareness and self-acceptance – Help support the development of talents and encourage creativity – Use of bibliotherapy/cinematherapy – Use of reframing techniques to help in realization of positive aspects of OEs – Medication, if necessary, to aid relaxation and ease anxiety (Mika, 2002) Carrie Lynn Bailey - 29
  30. 30. More Implications for Counseling • Awareness and greater understanding • Consultation & Advocacy – Misdiagnosis/dual diagnosis in schools • Specific Counseling Approaches – Group Counseling Curriculum promoting self-awareness, self-understanding, and acceptance (Strickland, 2000) – Application of strengths based approach – Individual approaches 30Carrie Lynn Bailey -
  31. 31. Thoughts & Ideas… • How does this fit with your understanding of other developmental theories? • How does this fit with your understanding of yourself or others? • How might you use this theory in working with your students/clients? • Potential for use within other frameworks? – Narrative therapies – Humanistic and person-centered approaches – Cognitive developmental framework • Multicultural implications? • My current research study… – Ego development, developmental potential, and behavioral characteristics of gifted adolescents 31
  32. 32. Carrie Lynn Bailey, M.Ed., LPSC, LPC The College of William & Mary – QUESTIONS & COMMENTS…