The Embracing Intensity Journey

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Chris
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The Embracing Intensity Journey

Post by Chris » Fri Sep 28, 2018 9:22 am

The editors welcome a new author to Third Factor – Aurora Remember Holtzman! We've love to hear your thoughts on this piece about her Embracing Intensity podcast.

btillier
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Re: The Embracing Intensity Journey

Post by btillier » Tue Oct 16, 2018 3:45 am

I was interested in learning more about Aurora so I checked out her podcasts. I was a bit disappointed. In her first introductory podcast she talked a lot about excitability and listed the "five excitabilities" — I did not hear her use the term overexcitability. So that's a bit confusing. Second, at one point she says "if you are too upset" — not sure I would equate being upset with overexcitability. she gives podcasts that discuss Aron's construct of highly sensitive without differentiating it from Dąbrowski's approach to overexcitability. Finally, her mission statement seems to leave out overexcitability in half of the population (in men): My Mission Is To Help Highly Excitable Women Use Their Excitability To Connect With Their Unique Super Powers, Balance Their Energy And Feel A Sense Of Accomplishment In Their Life :shock:

auroraremember
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Re: The Embracing Intensity Journey

Post by auroraremember » Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:18 pm

I appreciate your thoughts on this. It is true that I started out focusing on women, but I have since expanded to include men as I've had more and more men resonate with my work and I wanted to better reflect that in my interviews. I chose to use the term "excitability" rather than "overexcitability" because in reading Dabrowski's Positive Disintegration book from 1967 (before the reprint I believe), he referred to them by a variety of names, including "overexcitability" and I believe "hyper excitability" (I don't have it here for exact reference at the moment). My mission has also changed quite a bit since that first episode aired as I've shifted focus toward intensity in general and less specifically on overexcitability.

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Jessie
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Re: The Embracing Intensity Journey

Post by Jessie » Thu Oct 18, 2018 12:33 pm

Bill, thanks for your comments on the piece. I see Aurora's already explained her point of view, so I'll just follow up with some general thoughts.

The word "overexcitability" is certainly a controversial one. And like Aurora noted, Dabrowski seems to have used a lot of different terms; I understand that "overexcitability" is supposed to convey that this experience exceeds the threshold of what is considered normal excitability (since, of course, everyone has some excitability). Others don't prefer that one to talk about their lived experience because they feel it connotes an excess that is implicitly condemned. Perhaps the tension contained within that very word is something that we should explore in an article here at Third Factor -- when is excitability actually overexcitability? Can our articles apply just to "highly" but not "over-" excitable people? When, if ever, IS it "over" a line?

I can definitely see why for a podcast that's not expressly about Dabrowski's theory, an author would choose to go with the simpler "excitability," though -- especially given Dabrowski's variety of terms.

An article about how Aron's HSPs And Dabrowski's OE are similar and how they are distinct would be of GREAT interest to us here at Third Factor, if anyone felt like writing such an article. (This is one that would need some solid citations, of course. Anyone up for it?) I recall at the 2016 Dabrowski Congress hearing some presentations that discussed both ideas, but don't remember the fine details.

I can also certainly understand starting out focused on a narrow audience and building from there. Who knows how far one's own experiences will apply and resonate? It's very cool to hear that more men found Aurora's work resonated than she expected. :)

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Re: The Embracing Intensity Journey

Post by btillier » Sat Oct 20, 2018 11:24 pm

The word "overexcitability" is certainly a controversial one. It is? It's certainly not controversial within the Dąbrowski world. and, if anyone feels that overexcitability is implicitly associated with condemnation then again this isn't Dąbrowski — is it? You say: "When, if ever, IS it "over" a line?" if ever? Well, if it was never over the line then we wouldn't have such a thing as overexcitability would we? As to the question of gender, if she's found more men perhaps she should change her mission statement :P

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Re: The Embracing Intensity Journey

Post by btillier » Sun Oct 21, 2018 8:52 pm

I was speaking to another Dabrowski expert about this and he wisely pointed out that we need to make the critical distinction between how Dabrowski described and reviewed the construct of overexcitability compared to the way society at large deals with it. Society does look at it with condemnation and judgement. now, I think his consensus with me was that this needs to be understood but that we don't have to throw out the term overexcitability in making this distinction. Likewise we discussed Aron's important contribution to describing HSP individuals and making it clear that this personality trait or personality type is not pathological in and of itself. Again the major difference is that Dabrowski does not suggest ameliorating overexcitability whereas Aron suggests that overstimulation needs to be avoided. :D

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Re: The Embracing Intensity Journey

Post by Jessie » Mon Oct 22, 2018 8:51 am

Bill, I have only a few points, as once again, I don't think we disagree about content in any meaningful way.

The word "overexcitability" is certainly a controversial one. It is? It's certainly not controversial within the Dąbrowski world.

It is. And our goal here is to grow the size of the "Dabrowski world," by which I mean people out there experiencing overexcitability who could harness it for growth toward their personality ideal, instead of simply suffering.

So how do we grow that world? For one thing, we've got to consider how people receive this word at first glance. If it creates a barrier to the very people who could benefit from understanding it, then perhaps there is a synonym we might use with those people. It's similar to often-misunderstood words like "gifted" or "socialist." A person who objects to the word "socialism" because they think it refers to authoritarianism and gulags might nevertheless react positively to the terms "community-based economics" or "workplace democracy," which might be precisely what the speaker talking about "socialism" was referring to. It doesn't mean the socialist has to give up the word "socialism" permanently, but he or she should certainly be aware of how it's received, and use synonyms where appropriate. Fortunately for us, Dabrowski himself gave us several synonyms. (Also fortunately, I don't mean to say that OE is controversial to the same level as the S-word! The situation is similar in kind, but not in degree.)

Ideally, of course, the person will be interested enough to eventually head over to your website and get Dabrowski's original works to study for him- or herself. But since his books are so hard to come by, we have to get people curious enough to go to the trouble!

All those sample questions I put out there are things I invite people to write about. It would be really interesting to see someone citing Dabrowski about where that "line" gets drawn, for instance. We are attempting to start conversations, which you seem to be interpreting as something other than trying to get people engaged with the material. (You may have noticed that I do, for instance, use the word overexcitability.)

Finally, you seem to be assuming that when we talk about addressing the negative effects of OE, we mean returning to stasis without growth. This is NOT what we mean. Indeed, the best way to mitigate the harsh aspects of overexcitability is to reintegrate at a higher level. You often seem not to be interpreting us this way, but this is always what we are after. (Why would we bother writing about Dabrowski's theory if we weren't interested in growth?)

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Re: The Embracing Intensity Journey

Post by btillier » Mon Oct 22, 2018 5:58 pm

Jessie. I appreciate this dialogue. I will take your points in order.

You are the first person who has suggested to me that overexcitability is controversial within the Dąbrowski world and I have been here for over 40 years. The theory explains the context of the term and the term must be seen and understood in this context and if it is then it certainly is not controversial from my point of view.

You say: It is. And our goal here is to grow the size of the "Dabrowski world," by which I mean people out there experiencing overexcitability who could harness it for growth toward their personality ideal, instead of simply suffering.

If I read this literally then it creates conflict for me because again the whole point made by Dabrowski and his theory is that overexcitability is a means to an end and his theory lays out the steps toward growth and towards accomplishing the personality ideal. If you see overexcitability as "simply suffering" then this is not representative of the way Dabrowski presents it as a construct. you don't need TPD to understand overexcitability. If an individual is experiencing strong overexcitability, he or she will naturally feel internal conflict and the disintegrative forces inherent in this intense experience. Likewise, this individual would naturally struggle toward rebuilding after disintegration and intuitively would move toward a personality ideal more representative of their essence. As I mentioned before, Marlene made the point that she didn't feel that any of the Dabrowski materials should be distributed because it was obvious that people — at the time, Piechowski — were taking them of the context and essentially using them for their own advancement. She made the point that individuals who experience strong developmental potential will naturally move along the processes and levels of the TPD, whether they read the books or not! people have been going through this process long before Dabrowski or for that matter, Nietzsche, described the developmental process as they observed it. so in summary, people who have strong developmental potential and strong overexcitability did not simply suffer — they naturally go through this process of self challenge and disintegration and reintegration toward a more authentic personality.

The key question for me is if people object to the term overexcitability — on the face of it, that is to say without understanding it within the larger TPD context — can we use another term without distorting its meaning within the theory? I do not see how the other terms Dabrowski used are any less offensive when taken out of context — excess nervousness is just as much a problem. [I've heard people who do not understand the five factor model of personality complain that one of main traits is neuroticism and — without understanding the term in context — they simply reject this whole approach because they don't like the term neuroticism applied to individuals]

As to getting people interested in the theory, it's been my experience that when people get it they get it and really there's no need to try to induce them.

I think that in terms of the negative effects of overexcitability one has to understand the fundamental nature of overexcitability in the first place. Even after reintegration there will be experientially negative associations with overexcitabilities. This is why Dabrowski referred to overexcitability and developmental potential as a tragic gift. The more intense conflict generating role of the overexcitabilities in early development and disintegration is transformed with growth but this does not mean that overexcitabilities then become rainbows and unicorns. People with strong overexcitabilities will always react more to both the positive and negative aspects of life. This is, in part, what motivates people who do achieve the highest levels to achieve their greatest accomplishments. For example, the tremendous intensity seen in the efforts of people like Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa throughout their lives — to their dying days — to achieve a more advanced world. These accomplishments, in part, were driven by the higher level perceptions of overexcitability, and as I state, these are both positive and negative, even at the highest levels.

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Re: The Embracing Intensity Journey

Post by aLore » Thu Nov 01, 2018 4:04 pm

My understanding was that Dabrowski developed his theory as part of the process of grieving the suicide of a close friend? I certainly don’t know all the details of the story, but it doesn’t seem such a huge stretch to think that he saw his theory as prescriptive as well as observational in nature. Did he merely wish TPD to be used posthumously to judge the caliber of a person or did he intend for it to bring hope to those who suffer and fail to intuit the potential for growth their suffering holds? I wonder if he himself would have wanted to limit the dissemination of his writings.
Do you see TPD as a static law of the universe or as a tool to further understanding and growth?

btillier
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Re: The Embracing Intensity Journey

Post by btillier » Sun Nov 04, 2018 1:33 am

Hi there. As I understand the story, Dabrowski was doing his masters and was very interested in philosophy but wanted to become a professional musician. When his friend and fellow student committed suicide it changed his course to study psychology and psychiatry. I think it’s fair to say that the suicide was the impetus of this change. The theory evolved later based upon observations Dabrowski made of individuals he considered exemplars of advanced personal development. These observations lead him to the conclusion that exemplars almost invariably displayed a lot of tragedy and suffering in their experiences that they were able to somehow overcome and make part of their growth experience. This really was the impetus for the development of the theory. We have to be clear about what you mean by prescriptive. Like Nietzsche, Dabrowski was very concerned that he not be prescriptive in the sense of presenting a value structure to follow. He emphasized the importance of developing an individualized value structure unique to the individual’s essence. Of course, some of these values would overlap with conventional values and, as well, Dabrowski believed, like Maslow, that higher values tended to converge. Part of his rejection of traditional psychotherapy was the idea that the therapist (or the theorist) not be in a position of telling the person what to do or how to think. He saw the theory as a very dynamic and interactive tool that an individual experiencing strong developmental potentials could learn from to recognize a context for those experiences. Again paraphrasing, he said that part of his job was to make the client aware of his or her developmental potential and the positive aspects of psychoneuroses – strong anxieties, strong doubts, depressions etc. He gave the context that suffering gave an individual perspective that could be used through the dynamic experience of subject – object role reversal to develop compassion and empathy and thus is the basis of human authenticity. He was very passionate about his theory but he was very disappointed in how it was being used at the end of his life. He told Marlene once —if you think there’s problems now wait till I’m dead and see what they do. All I can say about the dissemination of his work was that he had a legal opportunity to block the 1977 books and he did not act on it. Rather, he simply said that the manuscripts should be republished without changes. Mme. Dabrowski clearly did not want dissemination after Dr. Dabrowski died and would not give me permission to share any of the materials in any way. After she passed away, I got permission from Dr. Dabrowski’s daughter to create and distribute the archive. Of course I don’t see the theory as any sort of static law. Like any other psychological theory it is descriptive, it contains a number of hypotheses that need to be examined and developed and more theory building needs to take place, both to expand the work and to refine what’s already there. As I’ve indicated above of course I see it as a tool for understanding individual growth. As well, in today’s world, understanding level I, primary integration, may help us understand why half of the American population seems to support the philosophical position of Donald Trump. Dabrowski said that about 65% of people lacked sufficient developmental potential to move beyond unilevel views of life and to understand multilevelness. Again, understanding this context may shed light on understanding today’s society. Does that help?

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