Episode 13: Through the Dąbrowski Lens

Chris Wells & Emma Nicholson with Amanda Harper

Release date: May 10, 2022

In episode 13, Chris and Emma were joined by Dr. Amanda Harper, an educator and Dąbrowski scholar from Tasmania, Australia. We discussed the deep and fascinating work that Amanda has done in examining Dąbrowski’s writing. The focus was on two of her published papers: one on Empathy and the Syntonic Continuum, and the other on Philosophy, Faith, and the Personality Ideal.

We talk about the differences between syntony and empathy, how they look across various levels, and how Amanda mapped them in order to create a visual guide to these important dynamisms. We explore the value of defining terms, and why using Dabrowski’s own language and quotes helps us gain greater meaning from the theory of positive disintegration. Reading Dabrowski’s work can be a ‘treasure hunt’ for both academic purposes and within your own life!

Amanda shared what it was like to study the theory during her master’s and doctoral programs, and compared notes with Chris who also has experience examining constructs over time in Dąbrowski’s original texts, as well as the value and experience of attending conferences and meeting up with the Dabrowski community.

Bio: Amanda's career has always involved education, beginning in 1988 as a music teacher in primary and high schools, then in curriculum development and leadership, and adult learning before moving into academia as a gifted education specialist, having gained her Masters of Education (Honours) (UNE), and her PhD (UTAS) in gifted education. Amanda is actively involved in the international gifted education community, and also volunteers with the Tasmanian Association for the Gifted.

Resources mentioned during this episode

Jasneath Education (Amanda’s website with courses available for purchase)

Remember to check out Amanda’s newsletter.

The papers we mentioned:

Through the Dąbrowski Lens: Empathy and the Syntonic Continuum (2019)

Through the Dąbrowski Lens: Philosophy, Faith, and the Personality Ideal (2017)

Through the Dąbrowski Lens: A Fresh Examination of the Theory of Positive Disintegration (2017)

Amanda’s new chapter can be found in the Palgrave Handbook of Transformational Giftedness for Education:

Through the Dąbrowski Lens: Wisdom, Transformational Giftedness, and the Personality Ideal

Transcript:

Emma: We've got quite a big, chunky conversation coming up, which is probably on topic for Easter, because we're going to be talking about empathy and spirituality and all sorts of stuff. So I'm kind of excited to be on theme, actually.

Chris: I am, too. I think that this is going to be a great one. I agree. No pressure, guest.

Emma: Yeah, no pressure. For our listeners, our guest today is Amanda Harper. Amanda's career has always involved education, beginning in 1988 as a music teacher in primary and high schools. She then went on to curriculum development and leadership and adult learning before moving into academia as a gifted education specialist, having gained her master's of education and her PhD in gifted education. Amanda is actively involved in the international gifted education community and also volunteers with Tasmanian Association for the Gifted. So welcome to the podcast, Amanda.

Amanda: Thank you. It's great to be here.

Chris:  We're glad to have you here. Thanks for joining us. Well, I was just going to say, I am glad to finally meet you. We are admins together in the Dąbrowski International Group with Bill Tillier on Facebook. So, I've gotten to know you just a tiny bit there. But it's so nice to actually get to talk with you and see you and it just makes all the difference, I think.

Amanda: It is, it's great to meet you as well. I kind of lurk in the background a little on the Facebook page. So I pop my head up occasionally, and I am there, but lurking quietly in the background.

Emma: Every Facebook group needs its lurkers, so I think that's fair.

Amanda: A role I can undertake, yes.

Chris: Our plan for today is to talk about some of the work you did. You did your dissertation on Dąbrowski's theory, right? And then you published a few papers based on that in Roper Review, which is a journal and gifted education.

Amanda: Both for my master's and my PhD actually was a focus on Dąbrowski.

Chris: Okay, that's right. I do think I knew that. But I just don't remember because at this point, I mean, I remember the first time I know like the first paper came out I want to say in like the end of December 2016 or something and so that's already like five years ago, more than five years ago.

Amanda: A long time ago. Ancient history in the world of academia really.

Chris: But it doesn't feel like that to me. Well and part of it is that I mean it's not like we see I mean, we only see a limited number of papers about the theory, really. I mean, we see papers about overexcitability more than kind of the deeper theoretical issues. And so, that’s one of the things I appreciated about “Through the Dąbrowski Lens: Philosophy, Faith, and the Personality Ideal,” which was from 2017, and “Through the Dąbrowski lens: Empathy and the Syntonic Continuum,” which came out in 2019.

But before we get into your papers, we have to start with our obligatory first question of how did you first learn about Dąbrowski’s theory?

Amanda: That was random actually. I'd been studying psych part-time at University of New England in New South Wales here in Australia. And I was coming to the end of the grad dip and had this, I don't know, how would you describe it? It was just a sense that the study stuff wasn't done yet. I came back from residential school and was flicking through their online course and unit handbook and found a Master’s of Gifted Education. I applied and was accepted and quickly became one of those students who emailed the coordinator and said, please can I have some reading? Please can I have some reading? I know I don't start until February, but please can I have some reading? And Peter Merrotsy, bless him, he obviously now I know must have been rolling his eyes going, ah, we've got one of those students.

It didn't take very long for him to send me this random article because I was just consuming the reading. He sent me the first article on Dąbrowski's theory. And I'd never heard of it before. I didn't know anything about it. But within the article, there was a description of the overexcitabilities. And I'm just like, whoa. This is this is voyeuristic. How is it that this person knows that this is what my life's like? This is weird. He's describing my life. And it's like, right. I need to read more because this is really bizarre. How is it that?

I'm still incredulous about it, that when I read this stuff, it's like, how is it that this person just knows what this feels like? Yeah, so anyway that's how it started and from there I just became a bit of a sponge and kept reading and hassling Peter Merrotsy for more material and then when I sort of started to discover more, I was able to find more and one thing led to another and here I am.

Emma: That's so common, isn't it, Chris? We hear that all the time. And I describe it as the ugly duckling moment, particularly with overexcitabilities, where you read it, you see your reflection, you go, oh my God, that's what's wrong with me. I'm a swan, I'm not a duck at all.

Amanda: Well, I didn't quite go, that's what's wrong with me, but it was a real aha, that explains it. Yeah, it's like, oh, okay, perhaps I'm not quite as weird as I thought I was.

Emma: And also, I'm not alone, I'm not alone.

Amanda: Yeah, yeah, but it really was, I mean it's that voyeuristic, it was like someone's been watching, was very random and exciting and cool.

Chris: Interesting. I feel like I should have seen that coming in a way, but I didn't because I never know how people have heard about it but it's true that we it does seem like there's a trend at this point—that you know it's coming to the overexcitability is having that shocking moment of recognition.

Emma: And realizing you're not the only person in the world that obsessively cuts all your clothing tags out of your shirts when you buy them.

Amanda: They're so scratchy, and I do—how did you know?

Emma: I wonder. I was actually wondering if you can tell our listeners, you've got that paper, Empathy and the Syntonic Continuum. So what's the difference? Let's just explain first, what is empathy and what is syntony?

Amanda: Right. Well, that was a really interesting thing, because I'd never heard of the word syntony before. I didn't have a clue about it. So I guess just backing back a bit, when I was introduced to Dąbrowski, I then started to try and find, oh, well, I read whatever I could get my hands on, but then when I was able to access, and I found Bill's website, Bill Tillier's website, and at that point of time, it was, okay, so it was a little while ago, you weren't able to download the files, but you were able to email Bill and request copies. And so he was making files available on CD-ROM and posting it out.

I went down that path and I was really excited to have encountered this website and actually being able to communicate with the person who had access to this original material. I just thought that was the best thing ever. And so that's what I did. I started reading the original material and I stepped away somewhat from reading other people's writings. I just was reading what Dąbrowski said. I thought that was fantastic. It was such a hard slog because the writing style was so unusual. I guess that's the whole deal with the word syntony—I'd never heard of it. Anyway, it's obviously it's not a common word.

That was a thread that kept happening with Dąbrowski's material, the original material. It is challenging to get your head around it. I was having to read stuff multiple times over and reread whole chunks or whole papers or chapters or whatever to actually get my head around what it was that he was actually talking about. I was going through a process, and I think it was where I found this word syntony and otherwise been drawn to the concept of empathy. I realized that there were many times where he'd use the word syntony and it was different to empathy.

I found that he actually used the word syntony in two different ways as well in his writing—to start with, it was a sameness or a settledness. And he described used it in relation to level one and level five, where there was no conflict with yourself or with others, because you were either, you know, you'd reached personality ideal at level five, and everything was sort of settled, and there was this oneness. And same at level one, you just went along with the masses. There was no internal sense of conflict, no wanting to contradict societal norms or because you just accepted blindly everything that was around you. He used it in that way. And then he started to, there were occasions where he used it in a different way.

I actually started to map those because I'm very visual, I understand things better when I can see things. I stuck a whole pile of pieces of paper together and set them out on my kitchen bench. I was going through all the material, and I mapped each time he used the word syntony and each time he used the word empathy, and also where he used the word sympathy, because they're all different. I actually still have them. I dug them out the other day and there's this big, long, rolled up pieces of paper that were all stuck together to make one because I didn't have any butcher's paper and to make one big piece.

I was mapping with a pen, you know, writing out the quotations and mapping how and where he used those terms. But in relation to which level of development he was talking about, how he used the word syntony at level one, how he used it at level five. I wrote those quotations out on this big piece of paper at either end of this continuum. And then where empathy started to appear and how he described it. That was the genesis of the continuum image that ended up appearing in the article, which is actually a much shrunk down version of the great big piece of paper that I had spread out on my kitchen bench. Because I couldn't include every quotation, I just had to pick key ones to get across the key points.

Chris: I'm so glad that we're having this conversation because I have to tell you, Amanda, that that is how I approached learning about the third factor and learning about developmental potential. I love that. I went through a similar kind of process and I did that with overexcitability, too.

Well, with overexcitability, it was the same thing where I printed out all of these places in Dąbrowski's work and in Michael's work just to look at the difference between how they were talking about them, you know. But this is the thing I think that you miss when you're just reading somebody's paper. I love to hear that. You're a kindred spirit to me now—that we have mapped these things out. Even just hearing you talk about reading the original materials and what a slog it is, and how it's slow going at first and you have to read and reread. I think that's really validating for people to hear because it's not easy to read him in the original and it does take work and dedication.

Amanda: Yeah, it's hard. It is. It's really hard. Also, too, some of the especially the earliest stuff like the usage of term, not only are there different terms that are in common usage now. Some of the terms were used differently when he was writing in comparison to now, even though it's not that many decades later, really, in the whole scheme of the life in the universe. But that the terminology has changed and usage of words has changed considerably.

So, yeah, it's hard stuff to read. With the Syntonic Continuum, though, I was so thankful with the documents that Bill makes available that they're searchable. And so you can actually bring up the documents and do a search and then check every single iteration of the usage of a word. And so it means that that kind of research is very accurate. And you're not just cherry-picking bits that might suit a purpose. You actually get the whole—if you're meticulous with your research, you actually can make an assessment on the whole lot, which is amazing. It's an incredible resource that is available. Still hard going. But it's great that it's available.

Chris: It is great. It is, and that's what I appreciated. When I came to it, I was in my dissertation process, actually. And so I had, I was using qualitative data analysis software anyway. And so I decided I was having such a hard time when I first came to the Dąbrowski materials that I decided to take all of his books because the PDFs are searchable and codable. I was able to put all of the PDFs into the software and use it to do retrievals and code.

I was able to code and then pull out retrieval documents with coded segments for these terms. It really helped me. These aren't easy books to just sit down and read. So, by pulling out constructs, and just reading about one construct at a time, I was able to really immerse myself in it, and see how he changed and evolved over time in the way he talked about them. I really appreciate the way that Bill made the materials available that way.

Amanda: It's made a world of difference. There’s a lot of writing on the OEs and there's a lot, I mean, there's still writing on, you know, the five levels, but to actually dig down into that and home in on something that's kind of different. I enjoyed that because it was like a treasure hunt. It was like finding gold when you actually stumbled across, like the word syntony that sort of started this discussion. It's like, what is that? and dig down and find out and look at the different usages and what it might mean. And yeah, it really was like a treasure hunt. I was like a little kid.

Emma: I think that work in trying to understand what the meanings of the words are, because let's face it, this is some old war generation Polish guy that's writing this stuff. It's, you know, not a TikToker. So, you know, the gap from old man language to modern language is quite significant. But the work shows and for me coming from like a financial services and insurance background where defining key terms is really critical to people's understanding of the work as a whole.

Say you've got a financial contract or some sort of insurance policy document, if you don't understand what those key terms mean, you're going to struggle to apply the context to everything else that's written about it. I wanted to read out your definitions, Amanda, of syntony and empathy because I think you've done a really good in taking his terms. For the research, it's actually manifest in how you've been able to describe that.

For our listeners, I'm just reading Amanda's term of syntony. Therefore the term syntony is used within Dąbrowski’s writing to describe a sense of balance and oneness. It refers to a state where there is no inner turmoil and no conflict, but there is a deep sense of connection and unification with the existence in the world.

I think if you understand that every time you come across syntony, then it makes a little bit more sense. And you've defined empathy as: empathy is a response based on reflection, a sense of nurturing towards other people and an understanding of other circumstances.

You can clearly say that they're two completely different things, but I think understanding that meaning behind it and defining that term just helps people when they go to the work to be able to make sense of it.

Amanda: What's really important though too is how those manifest because they, as with absolutely everything, they are multilevel constructs. It's not like you have empathy or you don't. Empathy doesn't emerge until the latter part of level three, and it's going to change in different circumstances and as an individual evolves and changes with the levels as well. It is absolutely a multilevel construct.

Dąbrowski gives us examples in the Multilevelness of Emotional Functions book. There's a whole pile of examples of all kinds of things at all of the different levels. I think that's really a key takeaway is to always remember that no matter what the construct is that we're talking about, everything is multilevel, and changes according to the level that the person is operating on.

Emma: Almost like it has to be built in a way and it's going to look different as it's growing. You know, you don't just wake up one morning and you go, I'm empathetic. Thank you. It just sits out of the ground from nowhere.

Amanda: Absolutely. It's a bit like the construction of a house. You get your plan for your house. But at each stage of the building, you know, a brick is going to look different. At the beginning, a brick is going to look like a brick. But then as it starts to become part of a wall, whether it be an external wall or an internal wall or a bit up near the roof or its context is different. And then it might get rendered. And it's like that one brick ends up being something quite different all along the way. So it's very much the same.

Every element of life is like that. Syntony, empathy, sympathy. That's one of the things that I think is critical when people think about any of the constructs within Dąbrowski's work. Everything is multi-level.

Chris: I'm glad that you brought up the cases and Multilevelness, too, because it's true that in the second part of Multilevelness, you can actually see the research and see the examples for yourself. It's interesting that empathy and syntony are continuing dynamisms like in that chart.

I just pulled it up to have a look at the constellations of dynamisms figure that was in Multilevelness. So, temperamental syntony is at a much lower level than empathy, but empathy is continuing dynamism. Like you said, it changes and looks different across levels.

I knew that this would be a conversation that was worth having. These are the nuances that really get lost for people who don't dig in to Dąbrowski for themselves and really try to figure these things out.

Amanda: In the Syntonic Continuum diagram, that's basically an extract of the mapping exercise, but everything that's mapped onto that is a direct quotation from Dąbrowski's writing. And so where he has described primitive temperamental syntony, that citation is there. So it's not actually me interpreting it. It's actually just me bringing together his writings and extracting what he has said and condensing it into one space. It's not really And I think that was actually quite an important part of what I was trying to achieve, that it wasn't me trying to overlay my understanding, but it was actually me sharing in hopefully a more accessible way what Dąbrowski had said. It's not, you know, just to really get back to the original writing.

Chris: I found your Syntonic Continuum figure really inspiring, and I thought to myself that it would be fun to take the documents that I made with quotations, like I said, for the third factor or developmental potential, and to make similar figures for them. If I could find some way to share them on a website or something, to make it available for people.

I'm always trying to think about how to make these things more accessible. And so it's a great figure. I'm sitting here looking at it, of course, listener, you can't see it. But we will, I will find a way to, I will share these papers in the show notes, if I can, and make them available.

Emma: We'll, we'll figure that out. even sticking to his terms, the whole exercise, as you said, Amanda, you're a visual person, right? The whole exercise of actually putting the puzzle pieces in the right order and making a overall picture of it or some sort of diagram or a map helps people see it and how it all fits together.

Chris: You included a quote that I really love, Amanda, from Multilevelness, which Dąbrowski, 1996. I'm going to read it because I think it's great. And here you say that he profoundly identified the power, place, and purpose of empathy. Growth of empathy is one of the most powerful developmental dynamics and one which most clearly shows the progressive and hard-won change from narrow egocentrism to all-encompassing universal love. Empathy grows out of the strong emotions of search for the meaning of life and finding it in concern and service to others, and out of the need for self-perfection as a human being. Self-perfection is not possible in a vacuum, but grows out of a sense of relatedness with others, measured in terms of an ideal other, embodied in one's personality ideal. It grows out of conflicts with oneself, which produce an increase in caring and appreciation of others, and a deeper humility within oneself. And that was from page 70.

I love that. That's one of my favorite quotations, I would say, from any of his works, because it just so clearly shows how, if you are at a higher level in this theory, you are caring about other people outside of yourself and beyond yourself. Service to others is what is important.

Amanda: I guess to get that whole of life thing, it's a change and new direction and new evolution of self comes about after a whole pile of little things, little experiences or changes. I mean, some of those may be as a result of big experiences and profound events in someone's life that might trigger a positive disintegration. I guess one of the things that concerns me is people may confuse the profoundness of a positive disintegrative experience and that movement to next level and searching for the personality, ideal, let alone, you know, getting even vaguely close, because, who does? These are, you know, it's not like, oh, I had a positive disintegrative experience yesterday when I did some little thing happened, but yet today I'm back to normal. It's like, that's not what it is.

We're talking about really, profound change to a person's psyche and values. And it then becomes ingrained in a person for the betterment of themselves and humanity and just being Good with a capital G. These aren't little things. What Dąbrowski is talking about is really profound mega stuff that makes a person move forward towards the ideal. I guess that's why faith and philosophy and spirituality was so important to Dąbrowski because that's the kind of bigness and profound level of development that he's talking about. It's not the minute.

Emma: Even in that quote that you just read out, Chris, he talks about, you know, hard won it's a lot of hard work. And if we think about the common social attitude towards other people, and it's mostly look after yourself, you know, it's a bit dog ate dog, that leap from there to this sort of repeated notion of like self-sacrifice and generosity and unconditionality of your love at these higher levels, like that's a big gap to jump. And it doesn't just happen overnight.

Amanda: I think when you actually achieve that kind of level, a person might achieve that kind of level. You don't even think about it. It's not like, oh, I'm going to be good to that person, because that actually requires a conscious decision once you're at that level. It just is who you are. There is no need for it to be a conscious decision because there is no alternative. It's just in your very DNA almost.

I think that's why he describes so few people ever achieving level five because it's a life of sacrifice. But there is no other way. It's not, oh, I'm going to be a level five person. Therefore, I'm going to sacrifice. It's just who they are. So the very essence, another Dąbrowskian word, the very essence of that person is to be in that way.

Chris: I just had the term transactional in mind. That's what it's not. It seems to me at lower levels, when people are more egocentric, things are transactional. It's like, I'm doing this for you, because maybe I'll get this from you in return, or whatever. At the higher levels, it becomes who you are. You don't have to think about it, because you are Good with a capital G. I like that.

Amanda: It was really cool. I’ve recently written a chapter in a book that looks at the transactional nature of gifted giftedness and transformational giftedness, and on wisdom, and that was exactly what I was writing on—the place of Dąbrowski and how that relates to what wisdom is and you know that kind of stuff.

Chris: Very, very cool. That sounds great. Actually, I think I saw that, too. It's an edited book coming out. I get alerts for anything related to the theory. Sometimes I see the title of a book or that something came out, but I don't have time to click. It's a Sternberg book, right?

Amanda: And Don Ambrose and Sarah Kramer.

Chris: I'll look forward to reading that because transformational giftedness is interesting. It's right in this wheelhouse. This is kind of a good segue to the other paper on philosophy.

All right, well, let me just, this is just one sentence that you wrote that I thought was worth worthy of discussion in this episode. Dąbrowski portrays the norms of society as largely counter to the personal awareness and motivation that is required as an individual moves to the levels within the theory of positive disintegration. The norms of society are totally counter to what he's saying about moving through these levels. That's one of the things I think that makes this theory so hard for people to wrap their heads around.

Amanda: Responding to societal norms is level one. He makes that very clear. And it's only as you move away or it's only if you can actually step back and reassess societal norms and assess yourself against those norms and against the kind of human you wish to be, that you can start to move past level one. And I mean, Dąbrowski says the vast majority of people don't move past level one, but yet live perfectly happy, contented lives. That's not a negative valuation. It's perfectly normal.

Chris: I think one of the things that caught my eye about that particular sentence actually was that just one word that keeps coming up again and again with my clients lately is that I keep saying to people that they have to kind of break through or overcome their conditioning. Like so many people come to me because they're still struggling with stuff they dealt with their parents or the things that they learned in school or like all of these norms are the things that they that were imposed on them values from other people that were imposed on them and so like breaking that conditioning is a big part of getting well and growing and being healthier from a Dąbrowskian way.

Amanda: He doesn't use hard-won lightly. Right. It is yeah. That's the kind of stuff that he's talking about. It's like too, when you dig down into the descriptors of the levels and the different behaviours and attributes at the levels, you're not talking about tiny, small, insignificant changes. These are, well, they're not changes, tiny, insignificant elements. He's actually talking about, you know, human systemic change.

Emma: The thing that I loved about that particular paper that you did is jumped out at me that Dąbrowski's attitude even towards religion, which could be argued as one of the more dogmatic aspects of human society, was also to shake off what you have been taught and find your own path in a way which is like completely counterintuitive to what most major religions are sort of all about in a lot of ways and this quote that you put in came through to me and it's God is a God of love and human freedom who loves man and longs for his love but love out of free will through the understanding and acceptance of ideals and not just their imposition So even his attitude on religion fits in with his whole thing of break off that conditioning, break off that socialization. And people look at those two things and go, hang on, religion, breaking of dogma. I can't put those two things together.

Amanda: It's awesome, isn't it? It's just like when you do bring those two elements of his thinking together, I mean, it matches up beautifully, because it's not about like his perception of religion is not about guilt, guilting people into behaviors or other humans standing in judgment. It's I mean, that's not what it's about. It's about that, that development about pure love about generosity. It's Yeah.

Emma: And he talks about, you know, don't have a monologue about God, have a dialogue with God. But like for someone like Chris sitting there with a client trying to go break off that social conditioning, like that's got to be a real hard pill for some people to swallow.

Chris: Yeah, definitely. It is. I wanted to say, Amanda, one thing that's really cool about this paper and for the listener—we are shifted now to the philosophy, faith and the personality ideal one—is that you analyzed a text, an unpublished manuscript in this paper. It's called Confessions of Faith and Thoughts and Aphorisms. It's cool that there are some unpublished manuscripts that are available. Tell us about your process with this document and going through it and what that was like for you, because I would love to hear about that.

Amanda: It was like striking gold. So it's more treasure hunting again. Seriously, this has been the most exciting, inspiring thing to stumble across. I stumbled across the fact that there was these documents and they were in an archive in Canada. And so I was digging around online and discovered that they were there and it's like, do I need to, this is pre-COVID. We're talking a long time ago. And it's like, do I need to get on a plane? How can I say this? I need to read them. It's like, I was a bit, I was a bit crazy with it. It's like, there was a desperation. I just had to read these. And so I actually found that I was able to get scanned copies and they arrived in my inbox through the archive service in Canada. And I mean, it was just the most incredible thing to be able to read. I mean, such a privilege and unbelievable, just such a privilege to be able to read these papers that had not been published, that were great insights and extra. And it was just so exciting to be able to use these to add to the information that's out there on TPD. It was an incredible privilege.

Chris: It must have been. I can only imagine how cool that was. And especially that they scan them and just email them to you is so cool.

Amanda: Well, it did take some time and it was a service that I had to pay for. But I couldn't believe that I found them. And it's like, really? Are these really, truly? And it's like, yeah, they were amazing.

Chris: Yeah, that's very neat. And so what was your process?

Amanda: When the documents arrived in my inbox, I mean, I didn't know what I was going to find. It was just a title. That's all I got. I had no idea what the written content was going to be, whether they were going to be blank pages in these documents or what. It was a real leap of faith. And I was really excited. And then, I guess, because of the other stuff of the Dąbrowski’s that I'd been reading when I got this unpublished manuscript that was around the philosophy and the faith and stuff. And to be fair, it was speaking to a lot of stuff that I'd been working through in my own existence. I mean, you don't engage with this stuff and it not speak to your own life. and your own experiences. And so it was such a dual experience in that it was both exciting from an academic perspective, but also from a personal perspective. It added so much to me and the thinking that I was doing around my own existence and place on the planet, you know? It was incredibly exciting, and it pulled—oh, there was a weird timing thing to get this particular, you know, this material to be able to read when I was reading other things. And it just, there was this real light bulb. It's like, oh, I've got to write this. And it was just, yeah, it was really strange. It was a really, a bit out there really.

Emma: The way it happened. When you talk about that sort of stuff, it makes me think about like people, I ask Chris and I, you know, what is positive disintegration and how do you tell the difference between what is a true disintegration and what's just a horrible, horrible moment, right? But this sort of stuff, like one of my favorite writings of his is one Chris, you sent, Existential Thoughts and Aphorisms, which he did under his pen name. But it's these big lofty questions of what is my place in the universe? And, you know, what is my relationship with higher things? And how does society work as a big construct? If you're questioning that sort of stuff, then you're on like a solid path, I reckon. And so for you to describe that, you know, you're looking at these things through your personal lens and going, holy hell, like my mind's blowing up. That's really like the essence itself of what positive disintegration in a way is all about. It's like if your mind ain't exploding and the rug ain't being pulled out from underneath you, you're probably not having a disintegration.

Amanda: Yeah. And it's not changing you.

Emma: Chris always talks about transformation. It's got to be transformative.

Chris: It's got to be transformative. Well, and so while you were just talking, finally, I caught like, so this is a little section that I would like to read that goes kind of perfectly with what you just said, Emma. Okay, so this is from page 265. Without the tragic, the challenging, the conflicting and the confronting, an individual cannot, will not, experience the inner psychic transformation necessary for multi-level development, or the emergence of a full empathic condition, and cannot move toward the personality ideal. Similarly, without these challenges and anxieties, we are not equipped to understand or experience in its fullness, the tapestry, elation, and fulfillment of the process of development. Amanda, that is beautiful. Those are your words. Those are not Dąbrowski's words. And I just want to say that that, I mean, I thought was beautiful.

Amanda: Thank you. I didn't recognize them.

Chris: But yeah, I thought that that was just a beautiful way of putting it.

Amanda: Thank you. It sums up what I was trying to say, actually. Yeah, that. Right?

Chris: It is funny when you get a little bit of distance from your writing, and then you go back to it later, and you're like, well, that wasn't bad. Okay. It's always a nice feeling. Or sometimes you go back and you're like, oh, what was I thinking?

Amanda: But, you know, you can feel good about this one. Absolutely. Oh, God. Like, oh, did I write that? Really?

Emma: Then you get those gems and someone whips it out like a TV baker going, here's one I prepared earlier.

Amanda: Yeah. I'm kind of surprised, but that's really cool. Thank you.

Chris: I want to ask you, like, so you've been to the Dąbrowski Congress. Have you been to more than one? I've been to two. Which ones did you go to?

Amanda: 2014 and 2016.

Chris: I was there in 2016, but I was so new at that point that I didn't know who anyone was pretty much except for the people here in Colorado. So, it was it was one of those first conferences where you're like trying to take it all in and you don't know anybody.

Amanda: Well, I'd only done two and like the 2014 one I was like a bunny in the headlights. It was monumental for me, actually. Huge. One of the first conferences of any description that I'd been to, let alone a Dąbrowski one, and I'd had a debacle of trying to get out of the country because of weather and plane cancellations. I missed my international flight and didn't arrive into Canada until really, really late at night and had to be up really, really early the next morning.

I must admit, Bill came and collected me from the airport really, really late and then came and picked me up again the following morning. And it's like I was completely in awe. I mean, he's such a lovely human, but I hadn't met him before. And I was it's like, oh, my gosh, He's a guru. I'm just this little person from this tiny island at the bottom of Australia. I was late and had no sleep and my luggage had got lost. So, when I first walked into my very first Congress, it was like, ah, but everyone was so lovely.

I guess that's the one thing that I would encourage anyone to feel comfortable participating, because I just was wrapped up. I mean, I knew nothing. I was just so much at the beginning, but I was completely wrapped up by everyone. And that was just so lovely and supportive and welcoming. And yeah, I felt like I'd found my tribe within, you know, half an hour of being there. It was amazing. Hence, I got on a plane and did it all again in 2016. That's dedication. I love it.

Chris: That is dedication.

Amanda: It was so worth it. It was like the Congress was amazing. I couldn't believe that I got to make these people that wrote about all this stuff, and I was like totally spun out. It was great. Loved it.

Chris: That's how I remember it too. Feeling that and just being amazed at how comfortable it was and how, I don't know, just fulfilling it was to finally be at a conference where everybody was talking about the theory, which for me was amazing.

Amanda: Yeah, so refreshing. I mean, because here, well, in Tasmania, no one else speaks about it. It's just me. And if I try and talk to people about it, I generally get the rolling of eyes and then they run away and don't want to talk to me anymore.

Chris: Are you going to join us virtually this summer? There's going to be the Congress, it's going to be here in Denver in person for people who can make it, but there's going to be a virtual element and we're going, I mean, it's, it should be good. Joi Lin is a big part of it and Joi, she just put on a great, conference last month at the University of Denver. And so I have a lot of faith that she can she can make the Congress good for us. We will help updates. Okay, no pressure. I feel like I really pressured Eric Windhorst when he was our guest. I'm like, Come on, Eric.

Amanda: Yeah, it's always it's always good to be reminded that these things are on, especially in a in a world that's still grappling with COVID and things. I tend not to think very far afield, to be quite honest, even though the virtual thing is very much more normal, my focus has very much been inward with my family and just keeping safe. So it's nice to be reminded that there is stuff starting to happen again.

Emma: Not to pick on the Australian government, but you never know when they're going to shut the borders back down and you're going to get trapped somewhere.

Amanda: Yeah, look, absolutely. I haven't been off the island of Tasmania for a very long time, not since pre-COVID. We are the hermit nation.

Emma: We're a nation of hermits.

Amanda: Yeah, I've definitely become a hermit. But it's been an opportunity to look at new initiatives and think about things some more, so.

Chris: Well, and we're Facebook friends, and so I see that you have these two adorable dogs that you go, they go trundling on the beach, and it just looks wonderful. I just am so envious. Like, why can't we go trundling on the beach with our dog? Because we live in Colorado.

Amanda: Less than five minutes walk from my house, and the two little dogs, they do love it a lot. Yeah, so there's been a good bit of that through COVID, I must admit, because we've been able to get down to the beach and I garden, I find gardening very therapeutic, and I love planting things that produce food of varying kinds. Massive tomato and apple crop this year, it's been wonderful, keeping the Dąbrowski theme happening.

I've actually established Jasneeth Education, which is a crossing over between the world of gifted ed stuff and Dąbrowski. So I'm developing a series of online courses in all things gifted ed, but also there will be one this year looking at introducing Dąbrowski's theory in hopefully an accessible way so that some of this material is available. for people to work through. That's on the drawing board still, but this year.

Chris: That's great. I was wondering what, like, what are the online courses like? Is it, are they like videos? Is the material, like what kind of a platform did you use or whatever the right word would be?

Amanda: It's a combination of stuff. So you just to, to work through the material, you log into the website, And there's a combination of typewritten material, video links, activities, a little bit of me, but it's non-assessed. It's available for people just to work through self-paced. It's just really about trying to make some of this stuff more accessible to more people in a user-friendly, non-stressed kind of way.

Chris: That's great. And we really need one about the theory. So I think that's wonderful. It would be great to be able to point people to here, take Amanda's course on.

Amanda: Yeah, well, it's coming. It's coming. I've done the gifted ed introductory one. And I'm currently working on emotional and social needs of gifted learners, tall poppies and touching on the wisdom stuff. And then I'll have another one that's more specifically on Dąbrowski stuff as well. So I'm trying to cover a whole pile of Dąbrowski material in that. And I implemented a newsletter too. First edition went out this morning. Actually, I'm really pleased. It's been something I've been just been working on and it's only short, but basically looking at a communication mechanism for conferences, so I could potentially list the Dąbrowski Congress material in it.

And also looking at take a look at what's been recently published in the literature, because not everyone can access that because they're usually often behind a paywall. So I'm actually finding a new article that I thought was interesting. And talking about some of the key takeaways. It's not a review or a critique. of whichever article I pick, it's just like, this is what this person is saying. And it's interesting. So here, just to try and make some of that new thinking accessible for people as well. So yeah, that's available for free download. Yay.

Chris: Well, thanks so much, Amanda. I think that we have covered the bases that we wanted to cover for this episode. There was actually so much to talk about that if you want to come back on and join us again, I'm sure that that would be great. We could fill another whole episode from this philosophy one or you know, like lots of fun and you guys went anywhere near as scary as I thought you were going to be.

Amanda: Thank you for being gentle with me. Appreciate it.

Emma: Thanks for coming on. I found this really insightful and no, we don't bite too hard. So I'm glad you felt safe. And thanks to you, Chris, for being on the podcast with me as well. I always appreciate you. I appreciate you, Emma. Thank you. And thank you to our listeners. We always appreciate you joining us and we hope you've enjoyed this episode. And if you're listening to us on Apple or Spotify, don't forget to keep those little stars and give us a rating. If you have any questions, feedback, or topics that you'd like us to discuss, feel free to get in contact with us. You can email us at positivedisintegration.pod at gmail.com or find us on Twitter or Instagram. Until next time, keep walking that path to your authentic self.