Note: As someone who has had long term mental health issues, I’m not sure how much I believe of this theory. It still is interesting to learn about.
A brilliant overview in relation to the gifted mind.
Dabrowski’s theory is richly layered and not easy to unpack, and Lisa Riveros learn something new with each revisitation. This post is the first in a series about the Theory of Positive Disintegration (hereafter TPD), her current in-progress understanding of it, and why the theory is particularly useful today.
Chapter two of Personality-Shaping through Positive Disintegration introduces the concepts of developmental instinct, primary integration, and disintegration, all of which are important to understand in the overall process of “wandering upward” toward a personality ideal. Lisa Rivero discusses this and offers questions for discussion.
The “awakening of self-awareness” is not intellectual only but is “usually accompanied by an emotional component, symptoms of which are the sense that something is passing away in us, that something departs from us, and by depression, by the sense of nascency, affirmation, excitation, and, sometimes, ecstasy” (p. 36).
One way in which TPD challenges our usual notions of mental health and mental illness is that the disintegration of self is not only not always bad but is necessary for personal growth.
When people undergo a great trauma or other unsettling event—they have lost a job or a loved one dies, for example—their understanding of themselves or of their place in the world often disintegrates, and they temporarily “fall apart,” experiencing a type of depression referred to as existential depression.
James T. Webb discusses on characteristics of people, especially the gifted, that may lead them to spontaneous existential depression, relate these to Dabrowski’s theory of positive disintegration, as well as to other psychological theories, and then discuss some specific ways to manage existential depression.