Episode 9: Complexity and Positive Disintegration

Chris Wells & Emma Nicholson with Lotte van Lith

Released February 27, 2022

In episode 9, Chris and Emma were joined by Lotte van Lith, a coach, lecturer, and author from the Netherlands. Lotte has been studying and working with Dąbrowski’s theory of positive disintegration for more than a decade, and she brought her personal and professional expertise to this discussion of complexity and emotional development in gifted and creative people. She feels that once you view the complexity of life through the lens of emotional development, you can see the paradoxes inherent in human experience. We talked about complexity as a hallmark of giftedness and discussed how the drives for authenticity and self-actualization can be supported in this population.

Bio: Lotte van Lith is a lecturer, instructor and senior trainer on the psychology, practice, context and art of gifted development, amongst others at the School of Thinking at Free University of Brussels and the Buckminster School and Games. In her own company, A Lot of Complexity, she guides intense and driven adolescents and adults in their personal and creative development and regularly organizes vivid seminars and courses on topics ranging from sense making and creative giftedness to emotional development.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Lotte’s website

Intens Mens by Lotte van Lith

A Lot of Complexity! Lotte’s interview on Unleash Monday.


Emma: Welcome back, happy listeners, to another episode of Positive Disintegration, a framework for becoming your authentic self. I'm your host, Emma Nicholson, and with me is Chris Wells, my co-host. Welcome back to the podcast, Chris. 

Chris: Thanks, Emma. Glad to be here, even though it's 6:21 AM for me right now. 

Emma: And it's just past midnight for me. But it's a good reason for that because we have our first European guest on today. 

Chris: That's right. It's very exciting. 

Emma: Our guest today is Lotte van Lith. Lotte is a lecturer, instructor and senior trainer on the psychology, practice, context and art of gifted development, amongst others at the School of Thinking at Free University of Brussels and the Buckminster School and Games. In her own company, A Lot of Complexity, she guides intense and driven adolescents and adults in their personal and creative development and regularly organizes vivid seminars and courses on topics ranging from sense making and creative giftedness to emotional development. Welcome to the show.

Lotte: Thank you so much for the invitation, and thank you for adjusting your time schedule.

Chris: We're excited to have you with us. So, tell us, how did you first discover Dąbrowski's theory?

Lotte: Yeah, I think it's a funny story because I think it was about—let me see—I'm now almost 37, so I think it's almost 13, 14 years ago that I had a profile on a dating site, lonely and searching as I was for attachment. I had an idiosyncratic profile, so I had a lot of references to, for example, philosopher Nietzsche, but also many meta reflections on why people are using dating sites, and why people are connecting and how they do this, and what kind of norms do they have. And there was a psychologist that responded and that said it doesn't really suffer any doubt, but I think you are gifted, and you should look up this theory. So that was like, wow—when I read about Dąbrowski's theory, that made so much sense.

And even though I was questioning the psychologist’s reference to giftedness as I thought, well, am I gifted? I never thought about myself in that way. The reading about Dąbrowski’s theory was a turning point in my life because it made so much sense. The thing was also that the profile of the psychologist that contacted me, at first, I was a bit hesitant because I thought perhaps he was trying to ask me out on a date in a very original manner. But then I looked at his profile and I noticed that to me he embodied all the stereotypes of a gifted person. He was a researcher, and he knew a lot about his topic, and I projected all these kinds of stereotypes that I had about giftedness at him. 

And so at first, I thought, if he is gifted, then he must know the truth. In that way, I even projected the stereotype. So that also convinced me to think about myself in that way, as a gifted person. That helped me through this first journey in positive disintegration and learning about myself as a gifted person.

Chris: I envy you learning about it so young. I wish that I had learned about it in my twenties. So, did that have an impact on the direction you took in your career?

Lotte: A huge impact because that was also about the time that I was about to finish studying amongst others literature, so literary studies at the university, and I enjoyed that study very much, but at the end of the study, you don't really know what am I going to do in society. You don't have a clear route. You didn't learn to be a doctor, for example. So yeah, I questioned what kind of steps can I now take. And then I learned about positive disintegration, and I had such a strong connection with Dąbrowski's view on what it means to be a human being and what it means to be an emotional being in the world. That to me, it wasn't even a question anymore what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something with this theory, but of course, there was first this sort of invitation to integrate his view in my self understanding before doing something with the theory with other people.

The first weeks after meeting this psychologist, we had—or months, almost a year maybe—we had a lot of conversations about personality development, about the psychology of gifted persons, but also psychology in a more general sense, about emotional development, spiritual development. And that had also a therapeutic effect on me of course. Just meeting with a like-minded person and then talking about these topics that resonated so much with my inner experience. And while I grew through that experience, I felt all the more enthusiastic and committed to our shared intention to share the theory with other people. 

So, he stopped doing his research or academic work, and we both started to give workshops around Dąbrowski's theory. And we started out with four or five people in the room and just creating stuff and experimenting. So how can you—for example, the subject object dynamism— how could you work with that in a group? We did role-playing for example, and experimenting how to translate the abstract theory into concrete exercises, concrete experience. That was the beginning.

Emma: Do you think having applied the theory to your own life first and having something to attach it to made a big difference in those experiments that you were trying? And being able to apply that then to other people. Do you think it's important to first have a grasp of any psychological theory, how it applies to you personally before you can apply it to other people?

Lotte: When it comes to these kinds of theories, yes. Because at the core of this theory is emotional development, and the experience of emotion and of being an emotional being in the world, at the one hand it's a very subjective individual experience. On the other hand, it's something that connects us all. It's the one thing that makes you authentic, and it's the one thing that attach you to other people or through which you experience your attachment. And it's exactly this experience that is central to understanding what Dąbrowski is writing about. So yeah, part of the self-reflection is what do you experience as an emotion? How do you interpret it? What kind of behavior is related to it? What are your values? 

All these questions are very personal. So if you don't relate the abstract theory to the personal experience, then I think the whole theory becomes a bit, how you say it in English, hollow. The meaning is stripped out of it. And I think it's also Dąbrowski himself that says, the emotional component of life gives it its meaning, which to me, sort of underlies the idea that the personal experience is very important in understanding the theory he wrote.

Chris: Yeah, I agree with that very strongly. I have seen how problematic it is when people try to learn about the theory by reading about it intellectually, without having the emotional connection with it or really understanding it. I feel like when I came to the theory, I understood it intuitively. Viscerally, it just made sense from my own lived experience. And it's interesting to me, too—I think it matters for my clients that I've lived these things. They see that I know what I'm talking about because I've been through this, and I feel a connection with people in that way when I'm working with them. It's interesting to work with Dąbrowski's theory compared to other therapeutic perspectives. What you learned when you're becoming a clinician, at least in the United States is to have this detached kind of way of doing it. And I hate to say it, but I find myself working with the theory in my practice that I am going farther and farther away from what I learned in school or in practice.

Lotte: Yeah, maybe I think also, of course there are a lot of different theories about psychology, and we try to do science in psychology and it's quite a challenge because there's so much complexity when it comes to individuals, society, culture at large, our biology. And I think all the same. There are a lot of different methods, also many much more concrete than reading Dąbrowski's theory. But in Dąbrowski's theory, emotional insight is the method itself. That is the method through which you learn that also for many professionals reading about the Dąbrowski's theory. Actually in some way sets them free to actually use their lived experience as a reference for the questions that they encounter in their practice. So yeah, I feel that very strongly, I guess.

Chris: That's something I really love about it, is that it's so freeing to me to work with this because it's so unlike anything else I learned about while I was learning how to do this kind of work. And so, it's been freeing and cool for me personally. I want to ask you about complexity, because when I was working on my origins of overexcitability paper with Frank, one of the things that was really clear to us was that—because Dąbrowski saw everything in terms of levels in the theory—he saw overexcitability in terms of levels, too. And when we were trying to figure out how to talk about that, it seemed clear that overexcitability at a higher level is much more complex than lower-level overexcitability, which makes sense. But when you attach that with giftedness, you can especially see complexity involved. Giftedness, to my mind—a hallmark of giftedness is complexity. Gifted people are complex. They grapple with things in a completely different way than people who are not gifted.

Talk to us about complexity in Dabrowski's theory. Your business is called A Lot of Complexity. Let's talk about complexity. That is the topic of this episode.

Lotte: Yeah. So I love the word, first of all, complexity because this is also something that sort of sets me free to be the person I am, but also to see the complexity of life in a general sense. And once you look at the complexity of life through the lens of emotional development, you really see all the paradoxes that are inherent in human experience, and how life unfolds for you. I think Dąbrowski has done a really good job in honoring this complexity, while at the same time modeling the development and the growth dynamics that are part of this complexity. So, at the same time, painting a holistic picture or providing us with an holistic understanding of what it means to be human being, and then at the same time, creating an analysis of what this life involves for you, which includes emotional development will offer you in the form of challenges.

What do you need to cope with these challenges on an emotional level. That to me, or maybe also to my own complex thinking, made a lot of sense. And I think when it comes to giftedness and complexity, a human being has you could say two strong needs—to be authentic and to attach. And if you look at giftedness, you will see that a gifted person has this natural tendency to increase the complexity in their life, and at the same time is a normal human being that wants to be authentic and wants to attach. And here you have a potential space of conflict, because for every human being, I guess, generally speaking, of course I haven't spoken to every human being, but I imagine this is the case, the person wants to be authentic and needs that also. 

You have to know when you have to run basically evolutionary, but you also have to know when you want something or don't want something, and how to create the possibilities in your life to fulfill this goal or this need. At the same time, there's this attachment and you want to be part of a bigger picture. You want to be part of a group; you want to be taken care of. You want to be mirrored by other people, to be understood. It's a very important need also. And when you think about gifted people, the tendency is to increase the complexity in their life. They have a natural tendency to be more authentic, to differentiate themselves more clearly than other people, self-actualize. Oh, this is what I really want. Oh, I have a really strong sense of justice when it comes to these kinds of topics, and I have my own own clear opinion about it.

And at the same time, the potential to integrate that differentiation in a more let's say, well, maybe not more, but in a qualitatively different way, for example, offer other people the insights that the other people can use to understand parts of life better. If you look at a researcher, gifted researcher, for example. So here you have, when it comes to giftedness, you have this strong dynamic between being an authentic human being and at the other end integrate it in your connections with the society, with the group you're apart of. And I think that the basic conflict that can already be part of a human being, being authentic or attach yourself is sometimes enlarged or intensified when it comes to gifted people. 

And from a framework of complexity that makes just a lot of sense. So a gifted person looking at themselves from that perspective sort of feels, potentially feels legitimized that it's okay to experience these conflicts. And if you think about Dąbrowski's theory, positive disintegration, then the conflicts that you might experience when you both differentiate and integrate, or you have the need to differentiate and integrate, also makes sense and are also backed up, so to speak, by your development, by your emotional development. So, for example, somebody exercising autopsychotherapy is capable of dealing with more complexity in their life, in the form of intense emotions that you feel when you go for a new challenge and you want to explore something and you know it's scary and you feel these emotions and you have learned how to cope with these emotions. 

Very important if you're a gifted person and you feel generally attracted to complexity, because you will probably feel also some developmental instability and some intense emotions that come along with doing something that's new for you, then the autopsychotherapy is very important to be able to, to recognize what kind of emotions you experience and what need is expressed by these emotions, and also what you can do for yourself to regulate them in a self-compassionate and also empathetic manner towards other people. So then that makes a lot of sense. Like, okay, I'm a gifted person. I naturally feel attracted to increasing complexity in my life. If I want to do that, I naturally also will feel the challenge to be a good auto therapist for myself, because otherwise, I will suffer the giftedness more than I will enjoy it, and I won't be able. Maybe even more important, I won't be able to both be authentic and be of true value for other people.

Chris: You really have me thinking right now about the problem that gifted people face when they don't realize that they're gifted and that this is what is at the root of their individual difference compared to other people in their lives. You're making me think of people who come to me who have just made this discovery about themselves in adulthood, and now everything is making sense to them, and they have a sense of regret or grief around the fact that they tried to be normal for so long. And this resonates with me too, even though I knew I was gifted growing up, I spent so many years of my life trying to fit in and be normal until I gave myself permission to stop doing that and embrace who I really was and be authentic and be myself. And that's when I think autopsychotherapy really was able to work for me because I stopped trying to do what might make me normal, because I was never going to be normal.

There was no way to make that happen. It was a goal that couldn't even be reached. And so this is a problem, I think, for gifted people who, whether they know it or not, it's uncomfortable and difficult to be an outlier because it makes you feel like there's something wrong with you. 

Emma: Or even on the flip side of that, where you do know that you're gifted and you just think to yourself, why can't I adult properly? If I'm so smart, why can't I make myself fit? Why can't I cope like everybody else is? So whether you know it or not, it's that not fitting, that not being able to stick a square peg into a round hole kind of thing.

Lotte: Yeah. And I think that there's also something very interesting about actually inviting a gifted person to be more complex than they're already used to. And also an invitation that has a lot to do with understanding how life works. I'm not sure of course how life works, but you try to understand it, and the complexity is just an interesting perspective to do so, to say, yes, of course you're trying to fit in because you have an attachment need and you have a need to be authentic. It's not either or and that's where the multilevel development really can start to kick in, that there are so many levels to understand this process. And also that the complexity is something that you can try to reduce for a certain period in your life, but you will always suffer.

You will always suffer because you are this complex person. So for me, it's always, when you start to see for example, the grief that Chris was referring to, I think that's such a strong reflection of the human potential to process and integrate complex experiences. I appreciate such grief immensely. Even though my response in one-on-one interaction is subtle. I appreciate it intensely because actually, when you start to grieve about it, you become more open again to new complexity in your life, and also the complexity of your own giftedness, which Chris was also referring to. For example, being complex because your thought process are deep, the breath is more than other people, the speed is impressive. All these things that also have an impact on how you experience the complexity of life.

Chris: I took a road trip in October, and I was driving to Wisconsin, and I listened to your podcast interview with Nadja on Unleash Monday, and I loved how you talked about emotional development with her. And in your conversation, that's when I knew—it's funny to me now in retrospect— I want to say that that was the week we released our first episode in October. And so, in my mind, I was thinking about who I wanted to ask to come on our podcast, and that's what made me reach out to you because I thought [while listening to you with Nadja], this is what I want to talk about. The emotional connection for me is such a huge deal. When I was young, I think the thing that was holding me back the most was that because I feel things so intensely. I shut myself down when I was young, and I became a really angry person because it was too overwhelming for me.

And so in some ways, I feel like my whole adult life has been this unfolding of learning how to feel intensely, but not hang on to my feelings and not obsess about them. This is, I think, why Dąbrowski's theory made so much sense to me when I came to it. There was no other place where I saw myself so clearly, but it was shocking to see that from his perspective, to have these intense emotions wasn't something that was wrong with me. It wasn't a personality disorder. It wasn't a character flaw. It was something to be embraced and celebrated. And so the more I've learned to allow myself to feel, and to trust my feelings and to connect with others, I guess that's another thing—is I love how you bring attachment into the picture, too, because to attach with other people is critical.

But anyway, emotional development, can we talk more about how complex that is? Because when you have feelings that are overwhelming, it is the challenge of a lifetime for somebody who feels too intensely, and has this intense intellectual process, to be able to integrate and not be overwhelmed and derailed repeatedly in their lifetime. How do you help people learn to be authentic and feel with such a deep [emotional] process? This is something that I am still learning how to do with people from a clinical point of view.

Lotte: I'm also still learning, but I think probably that will always be the case, seeing the complexity of human beings. There are so many different layers because processing emotions or how we cope with emotions particularly intense emotions. There's, of course, the layer of cognitive understanding. And so the perspective of giftedness, for example, in yourself, which can be sort of, which can create understanding and acceptance and a healthy form of, let's say self-compassion, self-pride. Also maybe in the potential that you've expressed already in certain creative expressions, et cetera. That's a cognitive perspective or cognitive layers, so to speak. And even there, you have the multi-level development already. So maybe first there is the identity development that's more about yourself and trying to understand yourself as a gifted person.

But then there's also a next level, so to speak, of, okay, how do you relate to the world now that you understand yourself better, what kind of values do you have and what do you want to create in this world also through your giftedness? Which is, again, maybe also a cognitive question that you pose to yourself, but it's already a different kind of development. So this is something, and I think of course, when it comes to intense emotions, the body is very important. The body is the place where it happens for you and where you can also work with it. So I generally have the impression, there are quite a lot, not everybody, but quite a lot of gifted people that have at least the potential of a very acute interceptive awareness of what is going on inside of their body.

But they've learned to suppress that a lot or to intellectualize it. So maybe they communicate with other people in such a way that they eloquently, verbally, eloquently say, Oh, I noticed that I'm getting angry. And then their face is very—I don't know the English word for it—but the other person doesn't see the anger physically or physiologically even, doesn't notice anything and doesn't really also get the bodily feedback that the other person is indeed angry. There's no signal that actually what the person is saying is important and need your attention. So they don't get mirrored at that moment. They don't get mirrored. The gifted person doesn't get mirrored in the other person saying, oh, okay, so if you're angry, maybe we should sit down and speak about what you feel and what's important for you and I can listen.

That's a problem, of course. So even though there's an intense experience because of the intellectualizing, the quality of the relationship isn't really high. So there, you start to work, of course, trying to create a vocabulary through which the sensations that are felt can be recognized and communicated more concretely and directly, but also working with movement, I think is an interesting perspective. So something that you see, for example, also in the use of the theory, you, I don't know if you're familiar with, but is the question, okay, if you would express how you feel about a certain situation in which you feel stuck in a movement, how would you show that? And then the person gets to learn their automatic reactions or their intuitive reactions or whatever their body is actually conveying, but in a language that they are not used to notice.

And when you do this with gifted persons that are committed to this process of self-awareness, there's of course also the chance that they learn quite fast because that's part of who they are. I really enjoy it to work with them in such a way that they make a connection between that intellectualizing and appreciate also the fact that they understand things from an intellectual perspective. So also, relate to that. I'm not trying to suppress it in any way and try to relate to it and also engage intellectual thinkers to think about their emotional life, maybe in a bit more poetic way, for example, but also relate the intellectual understanding to the very concrete visual bodily experience that one has. And the nice thing about this is that it makes sense. It not only gives them emotional insight, but also the ability to understand who they are, to understand how to communicate with other people, but also it makes sense about what life is.

Because once they see the logic in their emotional experience, that helps them to be compassionate, because logic is an important aspect of being also an intellectual, intense person. So these are all different kinds of ways I work with people, I guess. But another thing that I think is also quite important, and I touched upon it briefly, is to invite them to express themself in a creative manner. So to explore creative outlets of their intensity. Because a creative expression, also when that means a creative conceptual thought process means or provides the person with the potential to be intense, to be as intense as you are, but it doesn't have the effect that another person finds it threatening or gives a feedback that what you said derails the person from whatever was important for them.

So creative outlet I think is also a very nice way to develop emotional insight without focusing on it per se. So through the creative process, there's this expression of intensity, and at the same time, there's a lot of learning going on about how does it work? How does such a process work? And what does it say about me when I feel frustrated. But that actually provides me with more critical questions when it comes to this creative conceptual work I'm doing. That's an insight. So yeah, I really like to work also with creativity because there's so much in it that can be insightful for a gifted person.

Emma: That's very interesting—you're talking about creativity—because I think as a society, we tend to separate creativity and intellect, which if you look at someone like DaVinci is probably a little bit incorrect, but do you think there's still some sort of stigma like hangover in society about what it means to be an intellectual? And I'm thinking of those pop culture things that we have, like Mr. Spock, the Vulcan who foregoes his emotions in order to stick to his logic, even like Jekyll and Hyde, where you've got that raging emotional monster versus the intellectual scientist. And even for more modern stuff. And spoiler alert, if you haven't been watching the The Book of Boba Fett, and I apologize to everybody, this whole thing of Jedi mastering the mind by forgoing their emotional attachments and the whole thing of Baby Yoda Grogu, having to make that choice between does he choose the Mandalorian way of having attachments to the people he loves, or does he choose the Jedi path and achieve mastery, but he has to let go of his emotions. Do you think that there's still some hangover in society about the fact that logic and emotions don't go hand in hand? In fact, they must be separated, and therefore creativity and intellect is also at some point being separated in people's minds?

Lotte: Yeah, definitely. I think it's an example, I guess of a unilevel understanding. I see this in practice almost every day, that gifted person, for example, is struggling with being both an intellectual being that adores intellectual questioning and is very expressive on a bodily level. So for example, not so long time ago, I guided somebody that actually did also performance art and at the same time was a philosopher, and the person was so struggling inside of himself, like is it possible to be a philosopher and a performance artist at the same time. Is it okay to be a critical thinker and work through a creative process that really doesn't demand me to think in a focused manner? Because the creative process around the performance art was very implicit.

The thought processes were very implicit, were very associative and divergent in the background, so to speak. He was creating his performance while he was sleeping. That's different from creating a philosophical paper that needed really a focused attention. So these cultural ideas, or maybe even convictions still are very much part of intimate inner conflicts of people. And I think that's problematic, although more so when it comes to the importance of emotions, because emotional understanding is so very much important for other parts of your life to be healthy. It's connected to all other parts, or all other parts of our lives generally tend to see it culturally, society, I think as something of less important is really, it's sad. It makes me very sad. Also because it's very much, I think, related to how leaders, for example, what kind of decisions they make and how they relate themselves to the people that live the consequences of their decisions. So yeah, we have a lot to do after Descartes’s idea, I think therefore, I am, yeah.

Chris: You just made me think of another issue that I run into with clients pretty regularly, and that is the suffering that I see people describe from growing up with parents who are emotionally immature. And so if you grow up with parents who are emotionally immature, who can't deal with the emotions of their children, then they tell their children that their experience of emotion is invalid, or they can't deal with it in a variety of ways. And this is just something that I think creates a lot of suffering way beyond what we recognized. And I say this as a parent, and I know that you have a young daughter, and so I've watched—because we're Facebook friends—I can see how great you are with your daughter, and it really warms my heart. But sometimes I realize that I have a son who is a teenager now, and I wish that I could go back in time and deal with him better than I did. Because he was a really intense kid, and I wish that I had been a better parent around being with him in the moment when he was intense, and really honoring and respecting his experience of intensity.

Because when you're a parent and—let's say your kid is melting down in a restaurant or somewhere—your instinct is to be like, stop it, to shut them down and make them behave, instead of honoring who they are and finding a way through that in a more authentic way. And so this is just another area that I see in people where if you have a really intense experience of emotions and your parents always told you that wasn't okay and shut you down, then as an adult, it's even harder for you to find a way out of that and to be who you really are. And then also, these people have children and then they repeat this cycle with their kids. And so this is, I'm not sure that there's a question here, but this is another thing that I think about when it comes to emotions, and how it's so much more complicated than we realize. And we tend to, I think, repeat these experiences with our own children, unless we're very intentional and careful about it.

Lotte: Yeah. And maybe when we speak about this topic, it's okay not to have questions because the comments are just part of our lived experience. We notice what is important and how we struggle. And this is a continuous question. So you cannot even articulate one concrete question. It would be much more simple if we could do that and just have one answer. But we continue to struggle with this. I also do that. I mean, I notice it in my own life now, when our daughter is two years old and she's quite intense with, with her emotions. I struggle because I have a personality ideal. I want to be a sensitive person. And for me, sensitivity is sort of the developmental potential of intensity. So I can feel emotional intensity in my body. 

I notice it in my thought processes and etcetera, or the way I act, but my ideal image of a personality is, okay, I want to channel that intensity in a sensitive manner as a sensitive person. And then I have my daughter, that's very intensive moments, and I struggle a lot, like, okay, how much of this can I contain and while remaining a sensitive person? And of course there are many moments when I struggle and I feel, and I know that the moment that I feel or feel that the invitation is again to reconnect with her and reconnect with my own bodily experience of the intensity. And that will recreate sort of a sensitive space for both of us to explore what is needed, what we can do. But it's an ongoing question. It's an ongoing question because every time you connect with another human being—and that makes it also very interesting for a gifted mind to analyze this—you are dealing with a different value system. So, that's a lot of increasing complexity there in that moment of connection. I enjoy the ride but it's intense, as we say.

Chris: I want to ask you about your book. You had a book come out in I think, May 2021 last year, Intens Mens. So, please, tell us about your book. I know it's in Dutch, and I wish that I could read it in English. I wonder, too, about that—if there's going to be a translation. So, please.

Lotte:  There are many different lyrical reflections in the book on themes such as giftedness, but also emotional development and sense-making, creativity. I wanted to create a text in which also the form would communicate intensity. So, there you have the lyrical element. I was also very much sort of influenced, inspired by the work of writers that I got to know while studying literature and to sort of sometimes baroque style that I read resonated a lot with the experience of intensity. So that influenced me, inspired me to write these lyrical reflections. I noticed now also that people reading the book feel very much, feel a lot of recognition. It's recognition, but it also provides sort of an active acceptance of being intense. I'm very thankful, grateful for the response that I get on these reflections. And yeah, I think I would really enjoy making an English version but that would demand a literary translation. I'm still a bit struggling whether I could be the one creating that, or I should ask somebody else. But keep asking, please, because that would motivate me. 

Chris: I would love to read it. So I'll definitely keep bothering you about that. What else do you have planned for writing, though? I know that when we talked, you had mentioned wanting to write another book, so has there been much progress?

Lotte: Well, there's certainly progress in the back of my mind. I would really like to write a book this time, English, on exemplars of positive disintegration. For example, we refer briefly to Greta Thunberg. We talked about her being an interesting example of positive maladjustment. And in my workshops and stuff like that, I use a lot of examples because that's the way we learn more intensely. And also, it's a better way to learn about an abstract theory when you don't have an academic goal. I think it would be great to create such a book. I'm thinking about starting with a crowdfunding campaign. So that's my first practical sort of steps that I will take. And also to learn from other people, what they need when it comes to learning about positive disintegration. Because I've had a lot of people asking me, are you writing a book? Or do you have the intention to do so? And I feel it's important for me to understand what they want to understand also because I've been working with the theory for almost 12 years now. So if you work with something for 12 years, it's sometimes difficult to even see what another person doesn't know about it. So yeah, that's my first step in this process.

Chris: That's great. And it's very necessary. We have Michael's exemplars right now, and I share them with people, but that's something that we really need is more examples of what the theory looks like at different levels. I would say as important as it is to show multilevel development, I think that it would be great if somebody would write about unilevel development, too. Because the majority of people in the world are in a unilevel process, and we don't have much about that. I think that we need more all around.

Lotte: Yeah, I think that even that could be a very interesting and important invitation for somebody to think about writing a book, indeed, about unilevel development. Also because that would make it possible to connect to Dąbrowski’s insights, maybe to more mainstream psychology. Not to reduce the complexity of the Dąbrowski view, but maybe to engage others in understanding what he was, how he was understanding human development, and emotional and moral development. I think it could inspire a lot of psychologists, psychiatrists, other people working in that field but also others to re-understand, so to speak, pathology from a developmental point of view. I think that is very much lacking nowadays. So yeah, somebody listening, wanting to create a book on unilevel development, please do so.

Chris: That's right. There's an invitation. 

Emma: In your work with complex people, do you find if you do discuss Dąbrowski's theory, and particularly the positive disintegration aspect, that it tends to resonate with people who are particularly complex, that they've sort of been through these disintegrated processes and they can kind of go, a-ha, that's what's happening to me, or that's happened to me in the past?

Lotte: Yeah. Particularly when we understand the complexity as something that also always implies self-awareness. So, the self-awareness or self-evaluation or self-questioning that raises the complexity also of one's emotional development, but also the potential of it. I think these people would resonate intensely with what Dąbrowski is talking about. And also those that are in that moment experiencing a crisis, of course, be that an existential crisis or something often triggered by, for example, a great loss of somebody that they loved, or something that was more triggered internally. But those are probably the persons that are a bit more self-aware in that sense. So, yeah. So somebody in a crisis or somebody that is self-aware and is struggling and doesn't see that self-awareness reflected as something potentially in a positive way, guiding one's emotional development, mirrored in other approaches.

Chris: This was great. I knew that you were going to be a great guest. Thank you so much for joining us. This was wonderful. And I again think it's so cool that we are representing three continents in this episode. So, thank you so much for being with us.

Emma: Yeah, it's been great because also too, I think what you've been saying about complex people and giftedness is really going to speak to a lot of people, so I really appreciate having you on.

Lotte: Thank you for the invitation and yeah, it's indeed great to know that we have all these different continents. So, Dąbrowski is traveling around the world. This is what we want.

Emma: If we're going to find all the people for this space too, we're going to sweep an 8 billion person haystack. So we're doing our part. Thank you too, Chris, for joining me again. Pleasure as always.

Chris: It is. Thank you.

Emma: And thank you, listeners, for joining us. We appreciate you as well. If you've got any questions, feedbacks, or topics you would like us to cover, please get in contact with us. You can email us at positivedisintegration.pod@gmail.com, or you can look us up and follow us on Twitter or Instagram. And until next time, keep walking that path to your authentic self.

Download a PDF of this transcript

View Episode 9 on Substack with the show notes

Return to the list of podcast episodes