Learning to Pilot Your Spaceship

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Chris
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Learning to Pilot Your Spaceship

Post by Chris » Fri Sep 28, 2018 9:30 am

What did you think of Jessie's article on autopsychotherapy? Can you relate?

btillier
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Re: Learning to Pilot Your Spaceship

Post by btillier » Thu Oct 04, 2018 9:18 pm

Whenever I read an article on Dąbrowski, I’m always reminded that the overarching emphasis of the theory is integration. The different parts of the theory operate together synergistically and need to be considered as a package. This was the issue with examining overexcitability as a standalone trait. Likewise, in your interesting article, you discuss autopsychotherapy in a relatively isolated way. Any discussion of autopsychotherapy needs to be integrated with discussions of self-education (these two constructs are almost synonymous in the TPD) and with other developmental features. So, in managing one’s overexcitability through autopsychotherapy one needs to consider other aspects of development potential, the strength of the developmental instinct and the instinct of self-perfection, and, in particular, the operation of subject-object and personality ideal to mention a few of the relative constructs.
You state: “The first lesson of autopsychotherapy is this: being anxious or depressed, over- or under-stimulated, indicates that something is off.” We need to make sure that your readers not mistake this for simply another status quo type of therapy. This line implies that one would use autopsychotherapy to remediate anxiety, or depression, or overstimulation (that is, to fix something that is “off”). In the TPD, these features are considered fundamentally developmental when experienced within a context of strong developmental potential. So, Dąbrowski would advocate that we not mitigate anxiety or depression unless they are overwhelming (for example, pushing one towards self-harm, suicide or psychosis). One would use autopsychotherapy to manage anxiety, depression or overstimulation in positive ways, not to simply try to ameliorate them. This is where the associated constructs come into play. How do we know how to manage things within our inner psychic milieu? We must learn new skills through self-education. Without some roadmap of development how would we know what direction to take in managing our psychological traits? Our vision of our ideal self — the personality ideal — acts as a roadmap of our own personal development. Personality ideal plays a fundamental role in autopsychotherapy by giving one an overarching direction to move toward.
Autopsychotherapy must utilize a very strong vision of what type of person one concludes one ought to be based upon an awareness of one’s fundamental essence or characteristics. In this way, an individual can emphasize those traits that are “more like” him or herself, and inhibit those traits that are “less like” him or herself. This process of self-discovery both results from autopsychotherapy and facilitates further autopsychotherapy and is also fundamentally an aspect of self-education.
As one comes to know more about one’s intrinsic essence, one can then examine and develop an understanding of one’s existing hierarchy of values. Utilizing the process that Dąbrowski referred to as hierarchization, one can judge the appropriateness of these existing values and make the necessary changes to shape one’s hierarchy of aims, one’s hierarchy of goals and one’s hierarchy of values, to better reflect one’s personality ideal. This process of change is driven by the strength of the third factor — a feeling of needing to express and become oneself [Again, you can see here the importance of an overall integrated approach].
Day-to-day management of psychological aspects of one’s inner psychic milieu becomes part of an ongoing process of the management of one’s own development and education. Again, guided by the coalescing vision of one’s personality ideal, this development becomes an ongoing expression of personality shaping that, in turn, expresses one’s unique developmental instinct, creativity, and one’s instinct of self-perfection.
Thus far I have not mentioned the fundamental construct of positive disintegration. In those individuals who display strong development potential, day-to-day life and development are interspersed with periods of intense self-doubt, self-questioning, questioning of one’s social milieu and mores (second factor), and psychoneuroses. Psychoneuroses are characterized by strong feelings of self-criticism, guilt, anxiety, existential angst and depressions. The development, expression, and management of psychoneuroses are a fundamental consequence of the expression of one’s mix of dynamisms and overexcitabilities. Dąbrowski, by definition, linked psychoneuroses and development.
It is important to emphasize that many of these constructs are themselves dynamic and dimensional. Transitions from integration to disintegration are normally quantitative, not categorical. Likewise, it’s important to understand that the transition from one level to another in the TPD is also generally dimensional. The one exception Dąbrowski described was the transition from a unilevel perspective of reality to multilevelness. He described this fundamental transition as qualitative and one that could not revert once established.
In summary, you see there are many systems on our spacecraft that one needs to discover, learn about and manage in a balanced and coordinated fashion. A homeostatic steady-state is not our goal. There are times when acceleration will be called for and other times when one’s foot needs to be on the brake. The emphasis is on an ongoing, dynamic integration of different features and energies.

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Jessie
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Re: Learning to Pilot Your Spaceship

Post by Jessie » Fri Oct 05, 2018 6:54 pm

Hi Bill, thanks for the comments! It's great to get a discussion going here about the theory. :)

You're absolutely right, of course, about the theory being a package. This is perhaps the most salient challenge we face with Third Factor. In this case, the Third Factor project in its entirety is our effort to convey the whole package. In keeping with the Internet-based medium, we're trying to unfold this complex theory in pieces small enough for novices to absorb, but that will eventually all come together and cohere for subscribers. I hoped to signal this in the piece, for instance, by alluding to forthcoming articles. This, of course, means we have to hope that readers will stick with us long enough to read those ensuing articles. The alternative is to try to present it in one fell swoop, by bringing up every term from the literature and defining it; it's my sense, though, that this would make it hard for a novice to absorb, and we'd lose people if we tried this. It may, of course, be that someone other than me is up to the task of presenting the whole theory in its complexity in a blog post. (I would love that person to submit an article.... :) )

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that you are particularly concerned about one line: “The first lesson of autopsychotherapy is this: being anxious or depressed, over- or under-stimulated, indicates that something is off.” You responded, We need to make sure that your readers not mistake this for simply another status quo type of therapy.

I agree that we must make sure of that, and have certainly erred if people read it that way. It is a bit silly to argue about what a metaphor means; what matters is how people receive it. But I will say, at least, that I intended for the astronaut metaphor to convey that this isn't a normal experience--and therefore can't be addressed via "status quo" means. I hope others received it as such. (Does anyone else have thoughts?) And of course, if they aren't certain of this yet, we do have some major stories of disintegration in the works that we hope will contribute to making this clear.

You wrote,

This line implies that one would use autopsychotherapy to remediate anxiety, or depression, or overstimulation (that is, to fix something that is “off”). In the TPD, these features are considered fundamentally developmental when experienced within a context of strong developmental potential. So, Dąbrowski would advocate that we not mitigate anxiety or depression unless they are overwhelming (for example, pushing one towards self-harm, suicide or psychosis). One would use autopsychotherapy to manage anxiety, depression or overstimulation in positive ways, not to simply try to ameliorate them. This is where the associated constructs come into play.

I don't know as much as I would like to about the theory, it's true. It's possible that I am wrong, so if you think I'm still missing the mark, if you could point to some passages in Dabrowski's work that I should read, I will eagerly do so. But I'm not sure I agree with this interpretation, based on what I've read--including the passage from Mental Growth Through Positive Disintegration that I cited in the piece, and quote again here:
Although we recognize that these conflicts have a positive side to them insofar as they result in the development of personality, still the individual has to cope with them. The ability to cope with such conflicts constitutes the dynamism of autopsychotherapy.

As man’s development comes closer to secondary integration, conflicts that would earlier produce neurotic and psychoneurotic symptoms are dealt with by the dynamism of autopsychotherapy in such a way that these very conflicts become the creative medium of self-perfection.
In other words, even though you're absolutely right that anxiety and depression can be developmental and you don't want to just put a band-aid on them, "still the individual has to cope with them," as Dabrowski himself said in his own definition of autopsychotherapy. Are all means of addressing anxiety and depression necessarily unproductive mitigation? If we DO temporarily mitigate anxiety/depression, does that ever have the effect of furthering the development of other dynamisms, such as subject-object in oneself, empathy, the personality ideal, etc.? It seems to me the answers to those are no and yes respectively.

Part of your critique of the piece seems to be related to your assumption that I'm arguing for a means of "ameliorating depression and anxiety" in some way other than "managing anxiety, depression, or overstimulation in positive ways." This whole website package exists in pursuit of precisely those positive ways. The article was not explicit about that, it's true; but I hoped that (a.) readers already knew that, and/or (b.) I could set the stage for later chapters with these passages:
It might also be that, having satisfied the lower needs, those instruments are signaling that you should now try to meet higher ones—those dictated by your unique mission—but that you haven’t realized it yet.
Recognizing those thoughts and feelings is the first step. And of course, that’s the easy part. The hard part is figuring out a plan for what you can do to address them—and then successfully implementing that plan. The plan might include temporary stop-gap measures; it might involve moderate alterations designed to change habits; occasionally it will demand big changes in your life. Big changes merit their own articles, and I and other Third Factor authors have some of those stories in store for you in future issues.
With respect to self-education, in addition to the previous passage, here's how I included it:
You still have to learn how to harness and channel that fuel. And on this note, it may well be that virtually no one will be able to teach you. You’ve got to do it yourself.
I hope that doesn't imply that I'm satisfied with just mitigating anxiety/depression and then continuing on unchanged!

You referred to This process of change is driven by the strength of the third factor. To that I say, yes indeed! This is the core of what I intended with the astronaut metaphor and, in this case, the rocket fuel analogy. :)

You concluded, In summary, you see there are many systems on our spacecraft that one needs to discover, learn about and manage in a balanced and coordinated fashion. A homeostatic steady-state is not our goal.

It most emphatically is not. I'm glad you picked up that the metaphor encompasses that. :)
(And am a little puzzled because it seems you think I didn't intend that.)

Well, I hope I've reassured you that we don't disagree with your general take here. Flying a spaceship implies a certain acceptance of cold, empty space and hot reentry, even if one makes those flight trajectory corrections necessary to align with the personality ideal (which is a term I did not use here, but is of course represented by that reentry corridor represented by the sheet of paper). Rest assured that we'll be using the proper Dabrowskian terms in future articles! They'll build on and link back to this one.

If I may circle back to our challenge of unfolding TPD and making it accessible: theories with a lot of special terminology are difficult for non-experts (even very bright, abstract-intensive ones) so we're doing the best we can to illustrate it in a vivid but accurate way. On that point, I really appreciate your thoughts about where we might have failed. We certainly don't want to just put a band-aid on anxiety and depression (even though we do emphatically support addressing it, in a pro-developmental way, well short of psychosis, self harm, or suicide). A static, band-aid style approach would, of course, be counter to the whole idea of positive disintegration, and leave Third Factor without much of a raison d'être! So if others thought I was expressly arguing in favor of a homeostatic personality stasis, please let me know, as we'll have to write a follow up to address that ASAP.

btillier
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Re: Learning to Pilot Your Spaceship

Post by btillier » Sat Oct 06, 2018 12:29 am

I said: “One would use autopsychotherapy to manage anxiety, depression or overstimulation in positive ways, not to simply try to ameliorate them.” Dąbrowski said: “still the individual has to cope with them.” I do not see a contradiction here. My use of the term manage is synonymous with saying that the individual has to cope. I do not equate management or coping with mitigation or amelioration of symptoms — management or coping and mitigation are not synonymous, although mitigation may be required as a management strategy. You ask: “Are all means of addressing anxiety and depression necessarily unproductive mitigation? Let me be clear, in the ideal case, an individual can manage and cope with overexcitabilities through autopsychotherapy without necessarily reducing or mitigating their strength. As I said, in cases where overexcitability or other dynamisms or pressures (say, perhaps, from the third factor) come to threaten the individual, for example, through self-harm, then a positive mitigation or reduction may be required. Dąbrowski discussed this, for example, under the construct of positive regression.


I did not intend my comment to be a critique of your article per se. I’m just pointing out that these complex constructs need to be seen as a package and can best be understood and applied when viewed as a whole. :D

You suggest that you included self-education but without naming it?

I agree that presenting the TPD is a challenge because each of these constructs is complicated and each is embedded in the overall theory. As well, each construct must be considered in relation to their interactions with other constructs. I think we have a responsibility not to be reductionistic but, at the same time, as you say, present things in bite-size chunks. I’m sure that readers who are interested in learning more will read Dąbrowski and rely on his glossaries in the learning process. I wrote this previous comment off the top of my head. I couldn’t have done this 30 years ago. It’s just a theory that takes a long time to really digest and to really understand. I’m sorry if you thought my comment was harsh or somehow unfair, but I just think that we need to remember the challenges presented by learning and understanding the TPD.

I reread the article. You state that overexcitabilities are disintegrative forces. Yes and no. At some stages of development, overexcitabilities fuel or enlarge an individual’s perceptions, contributing to the perception of conflict. This can be very important in the disintegrative process. But, once the crisis period passes, the same overexcitabilities contribute to reintegration at a higher level. An individual approaching secondary integration and having largely overcome crises and disintegration will still exhibit very strong overexcitabilities, however their role and impact will change. At this stage, overexcitabilities play a major, ongoing role in creativity and the pursuit of the personality ideal—to cite just two examples.

You state: “You still have to learn how to harness and channel that fuel. And on this note, it may well be that virtually no one will be able to teach you.” I agree. This is where harnessing and channeling energy becomes what I call management or what Dąbrowski called coping. And I agree that virtually no one will be able to help you. That’s why I think Dąbrowski developed the idea of autopsychotherapy in the first place. He always used to say that he felt it was a contradiction to think someone could develop authenticity and uniqueness in a therapeutic relationship with someone else. No one will understand your process as well as you do. As well, as Dąbrowski emphasized, the core uniqueness of our personality is our unique blend of essential characteristics — our essence. I’m reminded that Nietzsche said: “‘This is my way; where is yours?’—thus I answered those who asked me ‘the way.’ For the way—that does not exist. Thus spoke Zarathustra” (Nietzsche, 1966, p. 195).

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Re: Learning to Pilot Your Spaceship

Post by Jessie » Sat Oct 06, 2018 12:52 pm

It sounds like we don't have any significant disagreements on the content, then. We just don't want anyone to think we're advocating "homeostasis!"

With respect to your original comment and how I regarded it, no worries there. I welcome thoughtful feedback, and it's good to know how people with a variety of mindsets perceive it. It's not a problem if we see things differently.

In the end, we may be taking a different approach to "the whole package" than you would choose. My background is both as a narrative fiction writer and as an intelligence analyst (which involves writing about complex things for non-expert policymakers) leads me to take this one: Present an idea in a way that hooks your reader. Give them the information they're prepared to absorb, and no more than that. But we certainly do hope that it encourages people to find Dabrowski's original works and look through the glossary, or pick up your new book!

Since you asked about self-education: yes indeed, I did refer to the idea without using the term. It goes back to the classic Creative Writing 101 maxim: "Show, don't tell." If you're very concerned about the language itself, though, I again hope I can reassure you: we'll focus on "self-education" as a named concept eventually, as part of our alternative effort to open the entire package of Dabrowski's theory to novices. The language is both a core part of the package and a potentially overwhelming abstraction to someone without a teacher around to answer questions. That certainly is one of the challenges presented by learning and understanding TPD -- challenges that are never far from our minds here at Third Factor.

btillier
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Re: Learning to Pilot Your Spaceship

Post by btillier » Sat Oct 06, 2018 6:47 pm

Jessie - yes I think we are fundamentally on the same page :D
And I respect your approach. It is a very hard theory to present because of its complex and interwoven nature. You may find it interesting that Dąbrowski himself tried to summarize the theory in 40 pages - I have about six different drafts that he formulated and he was not happy with any of them, so, you and I are not the only ones who have had a challenge in trying to present this theory in summary form. :P

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Re: Learning to Pilot Your Spaceship

Post by Alex » Tue Oct 16, 2018 9:06 pm

I'll give the full theory summary a try. I think it'll end up being shorter than 40 pages so I bet it'll miss some parts that are worthy of elongation, but I'll be open to critique and general help, especially on aspects or terms I leave out (and then I can iron out a better version). The Dynamics of Concepts is a decent long version summary already, using parts of it and weaving in some of the notable elements emphasized in the other books is my broad gameplan for now.

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Re: Learning to Pilot Your Spaceship

Post by Jessie » Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:05 am

Alex, we (the editorial board) would certainly be interested in your summary. It'll most likely take a lot of coming and refining and commentary from others to get such a thing right, but hey, that's what we're here for. :)

The Dynamics of Concepts might be my favorite of Dabrowski's books. It's the 1973 book that I cite in a lot of my own pieces. If anyone does want to read a book by the man himself, that's the one I tend to recommend.

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Re: Learning to Pilot Your Spaceship

Post by Alex » Wed Oct 17, 2018 1:13 pm

Cool, when it's done I'll post the first summary draft on a fresh discussion forum post, we can use that to gather feedback and then maybe publish the final summary in the magazine if it works out. There's going to be a lot of paraphrasing and probably direct use of some short phrases that don't end up cited and in quotes. To attribute every short, well-worded phrase to a page in a book isn't going to be something I make sure to do though. There's plenty of great sentences that will be cited and in quotes too, just sayin' that generalization and summarization of the content is going to be the focus over making sure every blurb has it's source attached.

I second The Dynamics of Concepts as my favorite Dabrowski book, but would still probably recommend Personality Shaping to a new reader of Dabrowski because it provides a lot clearer context about the theory. The Dynamics of Concepts jumps right in, kinda like a glossary in how it's condensed and deliberate with almost every word, and thorough at covering the intense crisis part of disintegration. It even has a mild chronological aspect to the chapter flow, starting with multilevelness and rounding out with intuition.

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