I’d like to share the point of view that Kazimierz Dabrowski held that came from the Living with Intensity:Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitability, and the Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Adults by Susan Daniels (Editor), Michael M. Piechowski (Editor) book. Overexcitabilities (OEs) are only part of the story, and things make sense when you put them in the context of his theory of positive distintegration (TPD). OEs by themselves really don’t serve us well, because while they define what is going on with us, it doesn’t tell us what purpose they do serve.
According to Dabrowski, OEs are a necessary part of advanced personality development. Not every one has them and not everyone progresses through the levels of personality development. Those that don’t hover at lower levels, kind of content with where they are at.
He felt some mental health disorders (like depression and anxiety) were actually a NECESSARY part of personality development and not necessarily needing treatment. He was of the belief that conflict – conflict either between the real self (what we are) and the ideal self (what we want to be), or between the self and others – is a necessary component of advanced development. While most people would be of the belief of “Why would you want negative behaviors to persist? Why don’t you medicate them away?”, he believed that would be stunting the advanced development of the person.
Also, he felt
We feel comfort among those who agree with us – growth among those who don’t.
Think about how LIBERATING this concept is. It’s this very friction between the forces where are true development takes place. Without it, no growth happens.
The way I think of it as I’m reading this book, OEs and positive disintegration is similar to the cycle of the phoenix – where at the end of its life, it burns itself and from the ashes a new phoenix arises. That is the imagery I formed when reading about positive disintegration.
In chapter 2, Daniels and Peichowski remarked that J.D. Salinger looked everywhere outside himself to find that peace he was searching for relentlessly. He tried Kriya Yoga, Dianetics, Christian Science, and many other fads of the day to find answers. The reason he never found them was because he was looking outside himself. The answers aren’t out there, they are within us. You don’t want to trust in authority figures outside yourself, because you will end up deriving a sense of self from external sources, rather from within. When you develop your self-concept on the opinions of others, you are developing it on shifting sand and not a rock solid foundation.
In the meantime, how do you cope, like right now?
You have choices:
1) Screw the society you live in. You are who you are, everyone else can like it or leave. If you have an intact self-concept, this might actually work, though it might alienate everyone you know and leave you alone. Yet, if you are okay with this, then this will work for you.
2) Put on a facade and act “normal” for the sake of having friends who’ll accept you. But suffer the life of being fraudulent.
3) Meet people half-way. Learn to temper your OEs a little bit (for example, through sensory calming strategies, or exercise to diffuse some of them), adjust your speech to your audience (my dad told me when I was younger that I would do well to not talk far above people who couldn’t keep up, it was simple consideration for their abilities), while looking for giftedness in others (I found that when I went looking for it, I was surprised at what fascinating friends I’d made).
4) Have compassion for those that don’t have what you have. They are never going to suffer great highs and lows, they are never going to experience the richness of life that you do, and are never going to have those transcendental experiences that you are capable of and reach advanced levels of development. Reach out to those less fortunate than you are. There’s plenty of people suffering who are never going to have that inner peace that we are capable of.
5) Get a copy of Living With Intensity. Yeah, I should get some sort of payment for extolling the book and encouraging others to get it, but really, I just want others to be helped by it.