Do you relate to any of this?
You’re an intense person who is concerned with the bringing what is closer to what ought to be. You strive for authenticity and autonomy, seeking to develop yourself in accordance with your values, though you recognize that this is likely to come at a cost. On that note, you’ve probably been through some rough times, but in the end, it seems to come back to your drive to become your best self.
If this rang true to you, then I’d like to introduce you to Kazimierz Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration (TPD).
Dabrowski’s work tends to really resonate with a small sliver of the population while everyone else shrugs and doesn’t get why those of us in the sliver are so excited about it. But I suspect that there are members of this sliver among those of you who are interested in the rest of this blog’s content. The more I learn about TPD, the more I recognize it as a foundation underlying my writing here, on topics ranging from politics and society to grief to creativity. TPD is also an excellent tool for parsing the stories of those we tend to consider heroes and humanitarian exemplars, like Abraham Lincoln, Socrates, Gandhi, or Eleanor Roosevelt, to name just a few whom Dabrowski and his colleagues profiled. I’ve also read an article that posits quite compellingly that TPD is basically the Hero’s Journey retold in language that’s useful for clinical psychologists (or their would-be patients).
So I’ve pulled together this introduction both to enrich the rest of my content and to increase the odds that others who would value it will stumble across it. There’s lots of information about TPD on the Web already; the leading source is positivedisintegration.com, an encyclopedic site maintained by a former student of Dr. Dabrowski. What I’m aiming to add is an introduction that makes this complex work as accessible as possible for those who come to it through references in my blog. Keep in mind that this is just the surface of the theory, and that you’re viewing it here through my lens; others may have different (and better informed) interpretations. Ultimately, I hope you’ll be intrigued enough to explore the wealth of deep material out there on TPD. Then we can make sense of it together.
So without further ado, allow me to present three concepts that strike me as useful to introduce the theory:
- Overexcitabilities are the intensities that are the most well known element of TPD. I’ve illustrated them here with brief personal memoirs, and I invite similar stories from others who are wired like this.
- What is Positive Disintegration? Here we’ll walk through a term that throws some people for a loop.
- Dynamisms and the Levels: Dynamisms are less well known than overexcitability, which is too bad, because they’re the real heart of the theory. They’re the foundation for another defining element of TPD: the five levels of development. This primer explains the levels through the dynamisms they comprise.