Hyper in Dąbrowski’s Work

Chris did this retrieval for hyper while working on the Origins paper in summer 2019. Note that this is a refined version of the document and it doesn't include every mention. 

Excerpts from Psychological Bases of Self-Mutilation (1937)

These are two sides of the same phenomenon, appearing in one or the other sphere depending on the mental make-up of the given individual, his age, education, or form of disorder. Most frequently the self-mutilation appears in a typical case under both forms, with predominance of one or the other. In the majority of cases, we are inclined to accept the identity of sources of self-mutilation in both spheres in the same individual. For instance, psychomotor hyperexcitability may be the cause of the initiation and development of nail-biting, wounding the nail-fold, scratching of the head; on the other hand, hyperexcitability resulting in tactless awkward behavior may lead to self-accusation and psychic self-mutilation. (Dabrowski, 1937)

In neurotic conditions, especially in young people, we encounter an excess of such impulses, either in the form of hyperkinesis in general, or tics, with which may be combined disturbances of inhibition. In nervous individuals the sphere of impulsive and subconscious life is more strongly developed than in individuals of more resistant nervous constitution. Therefore the cortical control appears weaker and of shorter duration, or is out of proportion to the exciting agent, in consequence of which either an excessive inhibition (anxiety state) or a weakness of inhibition may appear at any given moment. The preoccupation with any emotion causes a diminution of the repression of impulses and the impulses increase (scratching the head, biting the nails, hyperkinesis while studying or reading). Meige and Feindel (55) in their work on tics present the mechanism in the following way: “Any prolonged concentration of the attention on a particular act or a particular idea presupposes a concomitant weakening of inhibitory power over other acts and ideas, which then become corrupt and inopportune, are incapable of further repression, and blossom into tics.” (Dabrowski, 1937)

It is known that overexcitable individuals with diminished repression, with a tendency to psychic disintegration (Schizoid types of Kretschmer; tetanoid types of Jaensch) have great difficulty in coordinating the main action of lower motor functions, which difficulty may, in coexistence with some irritating agent, appear as a process of self-mutilation. Moreover, the motor hyperexcitability, combining itself with disturbance of inhibition, causes the necessity for release which, in types described above, is often realized by finding on one's own body exciting areas which may serve as starting-points for self-mutilation. (Dabrowski, 1937)

These disturbances of inhibition and assumedly the lack of harmony in the coordination of the cortical centers and the autonomic nervous system can explain partly the appearance of self-mutilation in the hypnagogic state, on awakening, during a long stay in bed (convalescence), in emotional states, or while solving some problem. In children and adolescents the urge for activity is stronger than in adults. It is known that forced suppression of motor activity because of disease, travel, or sleeplessness disorganizes the control of actions and facilitates the appearance of hyperkinesis as well as self-mutilation. (Dabrowski, 1937)

In this section we have discussed, in the first place, the role of the exciting agents in the origin and the development of self-mutilating tendencies. The examples cited above show that these tendencies are the result, on one hand, of various somatic irritation; and, on the other hand, of psychic overexcitability and tendencies to obsession. Either of these may be a predisposing and a determining factor, depending on the type, strength, and duration of its action. A strong exciting agent may be simultaneously a predisposing and a determining factor of the self-mutilating process (itching, hyperesthesia), and it may be its exclusive cause. On the other hand, the exciting agent often has only a supplementary accidental effect, and the deciding agent may be the tendency toward obsession or psychomotor overexcitability in ordinarily introverted types. (Dabrowski, 1937)

This mechanism is illustrated by the case of 18-year-old Miss M, a nervous idealist, very intelligent and highly sentimental, quick tempered and overexcitable. M showed in childhood a moderate tendency to hyperkinesis, nail-biting, scratching of the nailfold, and a tendency to excessive enthusiasm and periodic depression. No hereditary stigmata were found. M fell in love with one of her acquaintances and decided to marry. Some time later, it turned out that the chosen one had deceived her. Within a few hours after learning this, she gave herself to the least acceptable and even physically repulsive of her suitors, after which she committed suicide. We deal here with an emotional shock caused by a sudden disappointment. The realization of one's own conflicting tendencies toward the object of one's emotions and toward one's ego produces a's a reaction in young, impulsive, introverted girls a state of depression and doubt concerning the value of the deeper emotions, together with a focusing of vengeance on one's own self. (Dabrowski, 1937)

In Bhagavad-Ghita we find the definition of an ascetic as follows: “It is one who has neither desires nor prejudices (ill will)”. In hyperexcitable and introverted individuals it was insufficient to reach the state of indifference to experiences of life; they found an outlet for their excitability in increasing the life experiences by the application of self-mutilation. The following passages from Hindu books indicate various immediate causes for self-mutilation, all of which have as a common basis the desire for the annihilation of pain by producing indifference to earthly pleasures, for attaining higher aims, and for the transformation of the lowest orders to the values of higher orders. (Dabrowski, 1937)

We showed above that the relation of sadism and masochism in the same individual may differ, with more or less great predominance of one or the other. We had under observation a 17-year-old student, W. who presented himself with a request for a medico-psychological qualification for a military training school. From the conversation it was found that he was subject to frequent fainting attacks on observation of his own slightest wound or “a drop of blood.” He was indifferent to the sight of blood or a wound in others, and very frequently purposely looked forward to seeing wounds and blood. He inspected with pleasure the murdered or the dead. In phantasies and dreams he imagined a field of battle covered with dead troops. He was then strongly sexually excited. No disorders of heart and vascular system were found. From further observation and conversation it was found that W began to masturbate a few years before be matured; he showed a tendency to onychophagia, laceration of the skin, especially of the nipples which, incidentally, became enlarged under the influence of their mutilation and frequent excitation. Besides this, he was obtrusive and aggressive in his relations with his family. This indicates the presence in W of the sado-masochistic complex, with predominance of the first. His dermal hyperexcitability and irritation of the nipples, associated with pleasure, testify to the presence of a masochistic complex. (Dabrowski, 1937)

Self-mutilation produces similar traits in emotionally hyperexcitable individuals through distressing experiences, submission to pessimistic moods, meditation about death and the uselessness of life, etc. The early creation in the child of an ability to form wider association and the formation of an inclination in a definite direction, depending on his interests and capacities, would be valuable in weakening the tendency towards an exclusively inner life and strengthening the life in the family group. In such people, the formation of an active basis for life and of a faculty to fight the evil in himself and others is possible. (Dabrowski, 1937)

Excerpts from Positive Disintegration (1964)

In both states of cyclic disorders one can observe symptoms which are positive for personality development. The depressive syndrome with inhibition which makes action difficult and gives rise to anxiety and suicidal thoughts is a disintegration of the internal environment. In this phenomenon we see cortical inhibition, an excess of self-analysis and self-criticism, and feelings of sin and inferiority. The manic state shows intensified general feeling, rapidity of thought, emotional and psychomotor excitement, and great mobility of attention. Symptoms of the manic state will vary depending on the hierarchical level attained by the individual. At lower cultural levels there will be aggressiveness, provocation of annoyance, and a tendency to respond to annoyance; individuals at higher levels will show excessive alterocentrism, social hyperactivity, and creativeness. In manic-depressive psychosis the nature of the disintegration will depend on the changeability from manic stage to depression and on the level of culture. (Dabrowski, 1964)

The schizophrenic shows two basic symptoms: intensified mental excitability and psychic immaturity which hinders adjustment to the environment (especially to an unsuitable environment). In schizophrenia there is fragility and vulnerability to external stimuli, psychic infantilism, and weakness of drives. The schizophrenic individual is characterized by hyperesthesia with an inclination to disintegration and very often to accelerated development. Disintegration in schizophrenia is a mixture of positive and negative types on the borderline of multilevel and unilevel disintegration. There are hierarchical traits in levels of integration, but the integration is fragile and has distortions. Schizophrenics are inhibited and rigid and have strong anxiety and autism. The irregularity of environmental influences and the shortening instead of prolongation of the developmental period (perhaps because of a special constitution) lead to intolerance of developmental tension, to negation, and to fragmentation of the personality. Nevertheless, some plasticity of psychic structure and dynamics is present, since it is not uncommon for the psychiatrist, after a long period of observation, to change his diagnosis from schizophrenia to reactive psychosis with some schizophrenic characteristics. (Dabrowski, 1964)

Individuals of advanced personality development whose lives are characterized by rich intellectual and emotional activity and a high level of creativity often show symptoms of positive disintegration. Emotional and psychomotor hyperexcitability and many psychoneuroses are positively correlated with great mental resources, personality development, and creativity. (Dabrowski, 1964)

P -, a 3-year-old girl, very intelligent (I.Q. = 140), impulsive, imaginative, and emotionally hyperexcitable, had a clear attitude of opposition to but at the same time a deep affection for both her parents. Although there was strong mutual confidence between her and her parents, she presented mood changes with egocentrism to which her parents were in opposition. She reacted to the position of the parents by crying. However, a change occurred in this development. Without any coercion from her parents, but on her own initiative, she began to muffle her cries by placing her hands over her mouth. She declared she did not want to be a “crybaby” (the word utilized by the parents at the times of her crises). She rejected this baby crying and said she would be a very “good girl.” Her father said at one time that it sounded as if her cries were going up the chimney. After this, whenever she had a tendency to cry, she opened the chimney flue and waited for her crying spell to go away. (Dabrowski, 1964)

Nervous children, who have increased psychomotor, emotional, imaginative, and sensual or mental psychic excitability and who show strength and perseveration of reactions incommensurate to their stimuli, reveal patterns of disintegration. A child with psychomotor hyperexcitability responds far beyond what is appropriate to the stimuli of his environment, occasioning conflicts within himself and with others. So does the child with increased emotional excitability, whose individual structure contains germs of disintegration (anxiety, phobias, slight states of anguish, and emotional hypersensitivity). (Dabrowski, 1964)

The child with imaginative hyperexcitability is not able to agree with his environment; he will often reach out beyond the limits of actual life into a world of dreams and fantasy. He manifests a pronounced maladaptation to reality. The child with sensory hyperexcitability, the exaggerated growth of the sensory sphere to the disadvantage of other spheres, may also have difficulties in adapting to his surroundings and in managing himself in conditions demanding reactions of a different kind from sensory ones. The child with mental hyperexcitability can also be maladapted, owing to an exaggerated search for explanations and a tendency to intellectualize problems in everyday life. (Dabrowski, 1964)

Here we note two contradictory points of view concerning emotions in the psychic life of children: the theory of positive disintegration and Janet's negative view. These two opinions might be reconciled by the acknowledgment of two types of disintegrating action, one of them working positively in the field of a child's development, the other working negatively. Positive disintegration renders the individual's psychic structure especially sensitive to stimuli, causing a deepening and acceleration of his development. Negative disintegration creates disharmony in the child's emotional structure without activation of tendencies to development or to creativity. Thus, in the case of emotional hyperexcitability, a child's susceptibility to exterior and interior stimuli increases, and a positive development of intellectual, moral, and aesthetic values is likely to take place. (Dabrowski, 1964)

States of anxiety and of hyperexcitability and certain states of neurosis self-dislike, depressive reactions, and a feeling of strangeness toward reality, for example are often connected with the capacity for accelerated development and with psychic subtlety, a delicacy of feeling, and considerable moral development. Most of the mechanisms considered typical of psychoneurosis by Pavlov's school, such as the swaying of balance between the processes of stimulation and inhibition, excessive inhibition or stimulation, and disharmony between activities of the cortex and subcortical centers, or between the first and second signaling system, are phenomena generally observed in sensitive individuals with considerable abilities and potential for a high level of development. (Dabrowski, 1964)

It seems probable that certain forms of maladaptation to one's self and to reality, hypersensitivity, lability of psychic structure, and even certain symptoms of internal discord such as self-criticism with a strong emotional accent are elements indispensable in man's development. (Dabrowski, 1964)

Excerpts from Personality-Shaping through Positive Disintegration (1967)

Excessive excitability is, among others, a sign that one's adaptability to the environment is disturbed. These disintegration processes are based on various forms of increased psychic excitability, namely on psychomotor, imaginative, affectional, sensual, and mental hyperexcitability. Psychomotor excitability is basic in the development of functional hyperkineses, tics, and psychomotor obtrusions, as well as vagrancy. Imaginative excitability reveals itself in the form of daydreaming, in the intensification of night dreams, in illusions, in artistic ideas arising, which point to the tendency toward dissolution and disintegration of one's adaptability to the narrow actual reality. Affectional hyperexcitability produces states of agitation and depression, sympathy for or dislike of oneself and the world, dissatisfaction with oneself and the environment, strangeness in relation to oneself and the environment, and feelings of inferiority or superiority. Sensual excitability, with the cooperation of other forms of hyperexcitability, develops the complex receptors under the pressure of sensations and stimuli, making them sensitive (strengthening and refining the sensual and esthetic experiences, but leaving one with a feeling of their relative incompleteness), which, in turn, dissolves the tenacity of the structure. Finally, increased mental excitability causes the dissolution of its conjugation with the controlling set, makes itself independent, and dissociates itself from its too close relation with the aspirational and emotional structure; it discovers within itself and develops new directing tendencies, intellectualized to a great extent. (Dabrowski, 1967)

Any of the types of excitability, if too strongly developed, subordinates to itself the function of reality and often results in a limitation of other kinds of experiences. Habits and addictions occur usually, therefore, when the individual is unable to endure too excessive internal psychic tension at the existing excitability. Excessive smoking of cigarettes by people with sensual and psychomotor hyperexcitability, is symptomatic of a venting of passion in a substitutional, indirect, abortive form. This is often a palliative action where one lacks the possibility of proper action. The use of alcohol and other narcotics often signifies violation of the function of reality, whose inhibitions are too weak to control impulses aimed at splitting the individual from actual reality. (Dabrowski, 1967)

Individuals of the schizothymic type experience on the one hand coldness, difficulty in establishing contact, the need for solitude, and are excessively critical; on the other hand, they experience hypersensibility, even touchiness, and are refined in the reception of stimuli from the external and internal environments. These are, as it were, two separate structures, two kinds of dynamisms acting without harmony and without logical infiltration. (Dabrowski, 1967)

Let us consider first of all disturbances in the intellectual functions, primarily disturbances in the experiencing, perception, and comprehension of sensations. Hyperesthesia and hyperalgesia, occurring in many mental diseases, may reflect general sensitivity or periodic hypersensitivity, which, like depression, may play a positive role in development (objective, critical attitude). A feeling of estrangement and freshness of sensations in relation to various types of stimuli may have creative significance and is often observed among poets. Illusions are characteristic not only of the mentally sick but also of the majority of writers, painters, and people with highly developed emotions and capacity for phantasy. Furthermore, simple and conjugated hallucinations have often been observed in prominent people in the period of their mental diseases (Beers, Mayer, Kandinsky) and in other outstanding people who were not suspected of such disease (Wagner, Wladislaw Dawid). Many kinds of hallucinations reveal a mechanism similar to that of dreams. Regardless of the organic ground of hallucinations, we observe them in individuals inclined to eidetism, in people with a highly excitable imagination, in maladjusted individuals, in people with a high sensitivity to external stimuli and with a capacity for plastic memory. (Dabrowski, 1967)

It is difficult to speak of memory—for instance, of hyperamnesia—as a pathological symptom, for it can also be a symptom of development. A permanent weakening of memory is, of course, a pathological symptom and in most cases connected with organic disturbances. On the other hand, a periodic weakening of the memory, or gaps in the memory, is often a sign of self-defense on the part of the patient's organism and personality, or evidence of the liquidation of trauma. (Dabrowski, 1967)

Taking the view that emotional life is a controlling structure in the personality, we now pass to disturbances in the emotional life. An intensified sad mood (hypothymia) or gay mood (hyperthymia) and the length of time they are experienced do not provide evidence that these experiences are morbid in character. Such moods are often connected with a strong experiencing of internal conflicts, with the shift of the disposing and directing center to an ever higher level, or they are, in other ways, of a protective, developmental character. Apathy, both in its conscious form (in psychoneuroses) and in its unconscious form (in schizophrenia), does not necessarily reflect indifference. In psychoneuroses, indifference is related to only some areas of reality and some internal structures; in schizophrenia apathy is caused mainly by the impossibility of expressing one's feelings in the period of a negative attitude toward the injuring environment and daily stimuli. In reality such individuals are excessively sensitive and crave love, warmth, and kindness. “Injury,” failure in the gratification of these needs, results in negativity and in the mask of callousness. We meet with an essential lack of affectual sensitivity in moral insanity, which is characterized by psychic integration at a low level. (Dabrowski, 1967)

The essential characteristic of nervousness is an increased excitability, symptomatized in the forms of sensual, psychomotor, affectional, imaginational, and mental hyperexcitability. It consists in an unproportional reaction to a stimulus, an extended, long-lasting, accelerated reaction, and a peculiar reaction to a neutral stimulus. This hyperexcitability is therefore a strong, uncommon sensitivity to external and internal stimuli; it is virtually a positive trait. Talented people, capable of controlling their own actions and fighting against social injustice, are characterized by a sensitivity to esthetic, moral, and social stimuli, to various psychic processes in their own internal environment. Each of the forms of psychic hyperexcitability mentioned is characterized by valuable, actual or prospective, properties. Sensual hyperexcitability is an attitude of being sensitive to external stimuli, such as the sense of color, form, and tone. Psychomotor hyperexcitability gives sharpness, speed, and an immediacy of reaction and capacity for action; it is a “permanent” psychomotor readiness. Affectional hyperexcitability is evidence of the development of a property which is the controlling dynamism of the psyche. Imaginational hyperexcitability gives prospective and creative capabilities, as well as those of projecting and foreseeing. Finally, mental hyperexcitability results in easier and stronger conjugations of particular forms of increased sensibility, which facilitates their developmental work and is a factor that controls and enriches the mentioned dynamism (creativity, psychomotor readiness, etc.). None of the forms of hyperexcitability mentioned above develops in isolation. As a rule these are mixed forms with predominance of this or that form. They are disintegrating factors and, in conjugation with mental hyperexcitability, permit preparation for higher forms of disintegration and secondary integration. (Dabrowski, 1967)

It should be noted that light dissociative processes characterize, as a rule, hypersensitive individuals, and also individuals with a tendency for extended periods of development. Feelings of guilt, difficulties in contacts and in adaptability, an inclination to mysticism, mania, artificiality, and animism are observed in poets, painters, philosophers, and artists in general. Pursuit of an ideal, affirmation and negation of various values in oneself, suicidal thoughts and tendencies, the need for solitude, all these are traits of positively developing individuals. (Dabrowski, 1967)

Schizophrenics are people possessing tendencies to accelerated development; they are hypersensitive, predisposed to disintegration. When the influence of the environment is abnormal, when instead of long periods, short periods of development are imposed, then, if we are dealing with a special constitution, the patient may not withstand the developmental tensions and fail into negation, with its pathological forms of dissolution. In the practice of criminal psychiatry one may often observe that in the course of observation the suspected schizophrenia transforms itself into reactive psychosis, with symptoms strongly similar to that of actual schizophrenia. This is evidence of the existence of tendencies toward adaptation to the conditions of life. (Dabrowski, 1967)

Based on the author's conceptions of the positive role of nervousness as well as neuroses and psychoneuroses in the development of man, it is evident that, with this conception, the method of psychotherapy composes an integral part of the personality shaping methods. If we assume that the various forms of inadaptability to the internal environment (educational difficulties), manifestations of psychic hyperexcitability (nervousness), and the numerous forms of neuroses and psychoneuroses constitute indispensable developmental processes, then—extending the thus far accepted meaning of the term psychotherapy and treating it as a method of education and self-education in difficult developmental periods, in conditions of great tensions and conflicts in the external environment and in the internal environment—we will be able to understand properly the above-given conception of psychotherapy. (Dabrowski, 1967)

Although in the first period of his life he showed no great tendency for reshaping himself he did no work upon himself in a broad sense, his behavior was controlled by the self-preservation and sexual instincts nonetheless, the indicators of personality became rather marked in this period. They consisted in a manifold psychic hypersensitivity, uncommon intelligence, ambition, exclusiveness of affections, love, a capability for introspection, a sensitivity to real greatness, and a peculiar faith in Christ. (Dabrowski, 1967)

St. Augustine possessed all forms of excitability: sensual, affectional, psychomotor, imaginational, and mental. Sensual hyperexcitability is the ground for perpetual sensual hunger, continual and excessive satiation and dissatisfactions. Affectional hyperexcitability constitutes the ground for compassion, pity, anxiety about others and about one's own thread of life in connection with recollection and on analysis of the past. Psychomotor hyperexcitability, in conjunction with the other forms, is the main cause of violent reactions, motor unrest, and the need for action. Imaginational excitability plays a great role in forming the hierarchy of aims and in the development of prospection. Finally, mental excitability causes a whirl, a stream of problems, thoughts, multidimensional mental attitudes, and a richness of associations and methods of work. (Dabrowski, 1967)

The Manichaean dualism is solved by loving God as the highest good; skepticism is leveled by the introduction of the hierarchy of values and by the unification of free will with the will of God; sensual instincts transform into an enhanced sensitivity to beauty; affectional hyperexcitability transforms into a love of God and neighbor; imaginational hyperexcitability develops into a prospection in relation to goals. New attitudes and achievements lead to the discovery of the way to ecstasy. Secondary integration is thus attained. Ceasing to be the servant of contradictions and destroying nothing natural, but appraising and feeling them from the spiritual point of view, St. Augustine transformed his sexual drive into a love of beauty, transformed the species instinct into compassion, pity, sensitivity, and active love of his neighbor, thus creating a mature, self-conscious affectional attitude. (Dabrowski, 1967)

Every one of the investigated children showed considerable vegetative, sexual, affectional, imaginational, and intellectual hyperexcitability which constituted a foundation for the emergence of neurotic and psychoneurotic sets. Moreover, it turned out that these children also showed sets of nervousness, neuroses, and psychoneuroses of various kinds and degrees of intensity, from light vegetative symptoms, or anxiety symptoms, to distinctly and highly intensive psychasthenic or hysterical sets. The arrangements of these sets allowed very rich descriptive diagnoses, varying with each particular child. (Dabrowski, 1967)

They experience anxieties because of primitive external causes (beating, abuse, physical injury, and noise). The hierarchization of values takes place in the world of sensual experiences (the best things in life are the favorite dish or a person from whom one gets something). Moral concepts are accepted according to standards set by the environment with respect to internal behavior (e.g., when one sits properly one is good). Their feelings are more shallow, there is a lack of consonance with those close to them, and tragic accidents are presented in a lighthearted form. As may be seen from the above, these children do not show symptoms of the hierarchy of values. The kind of neurosis connected with such psychic underdevelopment is typical. Namely, vegetative neurosis and very marked psychomotor and sensual hyperexcitability predominate exclusively. They reveal themselves frequently among oligophrenic children and there appear tendencies to increased muscular tension, to limb reflexes, to hand trembling, to dermographism, to perspiration, onychophagia, a disposition to tiredness, tearfulness, noisiness, a remarkable mobility, and very strong tic like symptoms. Moreover, they are characterized by primitive manifestations of anxiety, lightheartedness, euphoria, by a light susceptibility to suggestion, a lack of shyness, excessive courage, and undue loquacity. (Dabrowski, 1967)

Excerpts from Mental Growth through Positive Disintegration (1970)

The process of disintegration is also noticeable in the case of serious internal conflicts which lead to stupor and immobilization, to the weakening and diminution of awareness or its hyperactivity. Among such states of disintegration, we can also include states of existential anxiety, existential “spasms” in which we find ourselves estranged from others and undergo experiences of psychic or emotional depletion, emptiness and “nights of soul.” These types of disintegration are most common in psychoneuroses. (Dabrowski, 1970)

Mental processes described above indicate that there are two general kinds, or better, two levels of mental development: one, taking place in conformity to the universal laws of development of the human species, to the biological cycle of life, and another, which takes an accelerated form and transcends the cycle of biological transformations. The first passes through the stages of childhood, maturity, aging, and culminates in death. It is characterized by gradual psychobiological integration of functions, growing biological perfection, activities typical for universal phases of development (acquirement of psychosomatic and intellectual skills specific to man, adjustment to the external environment, engagement in commonly practical, sexual, professional, and social pursuits). The second form of mental development consists of the transcendence of those activities, in some degree of maladjustment to the universal phases of development. It is characterized by mental hyperexcitability, that is to say nervousness, frequent disintegration of functions, psychoneuroses, social maladjustment and accelerated process of mental transformations. (Dabrowski, 1970)

In the first kind of development mental hyperexcitability and maladjustment appear usually in specific developmental phases and in situations of stress. They vanish when a biological phase or a grave experience comes to an end. In the second kind of development, the contrary is true: hyperexcitability, maladjustment, creative projections become permanent, or almost permanent elements and manifest themselves not only in difficult periods. (Dabrowski, 1970)

In the first kind of development we usually observe an average level of intellectual functions and some degree of emotional underdevelopment. In the other kind of development we usually observe above average abilities, emotional richness and depth, as well as inclination to psychoneurosis. The individuals who manifest the second kind of development are from their childhood maladjusted, talented, experiencing serious developmental cries. They show a tendency toward mental hyperexcitability, toward dissolution of lower levels in their drive toward higher levels. Hence, they exhibit disturbances and disharmony in their internal and external environment, the feeling of “otherness,” strangeness. In this group we can find bright children, creative and outstanding personalities, men of genius, i.e. those who contribute new values. (Dabrowski, 1970)

One can already observe in a child one and a half to two years old certain fairly well differentiated potentials of the developmental instinct. These can be expressed through various differentiated forms of psychic hyperexcitability such as sensual, psychomotor, emotional, imaginational or intellectual hyperexcitability. (Dabrowski, 1970)

The first can manifest itself through a need and active search for sensory experiences, gentle touches and caresses. This can be later developed into sensual emotionality and a strong sexual drive. Psychomotor hyperexcitability is often expressed through general hyperactivity, domineering, discord, antagonistic attitudes. The potential for emotional hyperexcitability can manifest itself by a great syntony and sensitivity. These represent nuclei for further growth towards a high level of empathy. Imaginational hyperexcitability can provide a basis for the development of prospection and retrospection, that is to say, the ability to use one's past experiences in the planning of the future. Intellectual hyperexcitability, accompanied by other forms of overexcitability, especially emotional and imaginational, together with some potential for intuition, can lead to an early development of special interests and talents. (Dabrowski, 1970)

The coexistence in the developmental potential, for example, of emotional, imaginational, and intellectual hyperexcitability, or coexistence of introvert and extrovert, schizothymic and cyclothymic traits, enables one to transform his basic psychological type, that is to say, it permits the elaboration of a much more complex, multidimensional and rich typological characteristic (p. 31). (Dabrowski, 1970)

In the life experiences of individuals, who show such potentials for transformation, we will see, in the schizothymic and introvert types for example, a need for contact, for understanding others, and for empathy. In the extravert and cyclic types, we will observe a need for introversion, solitude, isolation, quietness and exclusiveness of emotional bonds. We will then be dealing with a combination of mental traits characteristics of contact introversion or meditative extraversion, both conducive to accelerated development. Another example would be the existence of needs for activity and organization on the part of an individual already characterized by emotional and psychomotor hyperexcitability, sensitivity, subtlety, richness of emotional experience and a tendency toward emotional exclusiveness. It is from such potentials that arise the nuclei for the development of higher emotional attitudes, nuclei for transcending one-sided structures, for the development of authenticity, empathy, self-awareness and self-control (p. 32). (Dabrowski, 1970)

Psychic hyperexcitability, traits of mixed psychological type (which are, at the same time, the nuclei of the inner psychic milieu), intuition, strong interests and talents, all provide a basis for the slow development of tendencies towards transcending man's biological life cycle. This process is expressed by gradual elimination of automatic, rigid, instinctive stereotypes, and replacing them with dynamisms which are more creative, more individual, more exclusive, more supratypological. (Dabrowski, 1970)

We have already touched several times, albeit superficially, on the topic of the three factors in the development of man. The first of these factors involves the hereditary, innate constitutional elements which are expressed in the developmental potential, in a more or less specific way, and are already recognizable in a one year old child. They can often be clearly perceived in a child from one to three years of age. The early differentiation of such a potential could not be explained, despite its plausibility, by environmental factors. Within a family that is cultural and well educated, that manifests love and responsibility for the children, we cannot explain the differences in emotional or imaginational hyperexcitability, the differences in mixed typology, the differences in interests and talents among the children by reference to environmental influences only. (Dabrowski, 1970)

Innate developmental potentials may be more general or more specific, more positive or more negative. General excitability, nuclei of the inner psychic milieu, general interests and aptitudes are examples of general and positive potentials. Specific forms of hyperexcitability such as emotional, imaginational or sensual hyperexcitability, as well as specific interests or aptitudes, such as musical, choreographic or mathematical aptitudes, constitute specific and positive potentials. Constitutional psychopathy, nuclei of involutionary psychosis, hereditary forms of mental retardation are examples of general negative potentials. Aggressiveness, criminal inclinations, constitute specifically negative potentials. (Dabrowski, 1970)

First, psychic hyperexcitability, general or more differentiated (emotional, psychomotor, intellectual) provokes conflicts, disappointments, suffering in family life, in school, in professional life, in short, leads to conflicts with the external environment. Hyperexcitability also provokes inner conflicts as well as the means by which these conflicts can be overcome. Second, hyperexcitability precipitates psychoneurotic processes, and third, conflicts and psychoneurotic processes become the dominant factor in accelerated development. (Dabrowski, 1970)

What is the source of the phenomenon of positive maladjustment? It arises from psychic hyperexcitability particularly emotional, imaginational, and intellectual, from the nuclei of the inner psychic milieu, and from the instincts of creativity and self-perfection. (Dabrowski, 1970)

All the phenomena discussed above, that is to say, positive psychic hyperexcitability, low frustration threshold, maladjustment, are marks of the process of positive disintegration, i.e. the process of psychic loosening, disintegration and even possible breakdown. In some cases disintegration has a negative character leading to psychotic dissolution. But in the vast majority of cases, the phenomena of disintegration point to a very great developmental potential. They form the basic dynamisms of mental growth, of sensitivity and creativity; they indicate the possibility of rich positive development which an individual could be capable of. (Dabrowski, 1970)

Psychic hyperexcitability is one of the major developmental potentials, but it also forms a symptom, or a group of general psychoneurotic symptoms. We have already described the significance of this symptom for development as well as its creative aspect. Beyond this symptom, we will describe some general dynamisms which have been considered psychopathological but which, in our opinion, are positive in psychoneurotic processes because they tend to promote personal growth (Dabrowski, 1970).

Among the general psychoneurotic symptoms we will discuss broadly the tendency to disquietude. Disquietude can arise with low, medium or high psychological tension. What is the source of disquietude? It appears to be based, to a great extent, on psychic hyperexcitability, particularly of the emotional and the imaginational type. Since it develops an attitude of prospection, emotional and imaginational hyperexcitability gives rise to uneasiness about the future. Disturbing affective experiences, frustrations, disappointments, and suffering experienced in the past excite uneasy thoughts about the future. Those feelings constitute an important part in the lives of individuals endowed with favorable developmental nuclei. (Dabrowski, 1970)

We will now briefly discuss the phenomenon of “illusion” which we often encounter in nervous and psychoneurotic individuals. Illusion is a tendency to modify the perceived object. This tendency involves lively activity and even creativeness of imagination, it involves poetic and artistic conceptions, and even sometimes eidetic elements. This is a phenomenon very closely bound to imaginational hyperexcitability, and to aspirations for high development and modification of low unilevel reality. This is also connected with very strong emotional hyperexcitability, with poetic and elevated moods. (Dabrowski, 1970)

It is necessary to underline that either a very sad mood (hypothymia) or a very happy mood (hyperthymia) can never indicate, by itself, a pathological state. The capacity for profound experiences (great sadness or great joy) is certainly not pathological. Neither is the intensity or duration of sadness or happiness to be considered an indication of pathology. Inhibitions, anxiety and phobias combined with sadness may lead to the formation of psychoneurotic syndromes. Nevertheless we can say that, in general, inhibitions, anxiety, etc., are related to intensive positive development; they are also related to stronger feelings arising from internal psychic conflicts, on the way to much higher levels of development. (Dabrowski, 1970)

As we have already stated mental hyperexcitability is the basic component of developmental and creative potentials. Creativity, ingenuity, empathy, identification, autonomy and authenticity cannot develop without this foundation. Mental hyperexcitability constitutes one of the most important factors in the rise of the inner psychic milieu and of the tendency to transcend one's psychological type and the biological life cycle. In this way mental hyperexcitability, and especially emotional and imaginational hyperexcitability are one of the most important factors in the drive towards realization of higher forms of mental life. (Dabrowski, 1970)

It should be emphasized that individuals who have a rich psychic life, marked exclusiveness of emotions, empathy, emotional and imaginational hyperexcitability, may show dissociations of various kinds and levels. We can mention as examples of dissociations states of contemplation or ecstasy, mediumistic or spiritistic experiences, states known as anorexia nervosa, and any form of authentic self-perfection through positive disintegration, (e.g. the development of the inner psychic milieu, especially of  the dynamism “subject-object” in oneself, the third factor, activation of the ideal of personality, tendency to ecstasy). The development of the partial death instinct which may find an outlet in extreme forms of asceticism or suicide is also an expression of this process. (Dabrowski, 1970)

Let us now consider psychoneurotic depression. The individual with such a neurosis is characterized, in general, by emotional and imaginational hyperexcitability and a very great fatigability. This leads to irritability, greater suggestibility, low frustration tolerance, dissatisfaction with others and with oneself, and very weak adjustment to reality. (Dabrowski, 1970)

We can discern in schizophrenia, already in the hereditary and innate potentials, emotional hyperexcitability that is not channeled in any particular direction. In the very early expression of these potentials we fail to find any strong capacity for inner psychic transformation and no nuclei of mixed psychological type. (Dabrowski, 1970)

The developmental role of inner conflicts and crises, emotional and imaginational hyperexcitability, disruption of primitive functions and structures, generally speaking, the positive nature of the processes of mental disintegration is emphasized and explained in the framework of a developmental perspective. Special consideration is given to the phenomena of surpassing the biological life cycle and transformation of the psychological type. It seems that careful empirical elaboration of conditions which contribute to such phenomena should lead to the discovery of important determinants of mental transformations. This would certainly lead to many useful applications and techniques. The theory also establishes a new typology which sets up five developmental stages or psychological types: primitive integration, unilevel disintegration, spontaneous and self-directed multilevel disintegration, secondary integration, and a special case of negative disintegration. (Dabrowski, 1970)

Excerpts from Psychoneurosis is Not an Illness (1972)

Hypersensitivity—whether internal or external—may be, and often is, out of proportion to the real guilt. Psychoneuroses—especially those of a higher level—provide an opportunity to “take one's life in one's own hands.” They are expressive of a drive for psychic autonomy, especially moral autonomy, through transformation of a more or less primitively integrated structure. This is a process in which the individual himself becomes an active agent in his disintegration, and even breakdown. Thus the person finds a “cure” for himself, not in the sense of a rehabilitation but rather in the sense of reaching a higher level than the one at which he was prior to disintegration. This occurs through a process of an education of oneself and of an inner psychic transformation. One of the main mechanisms of this process is a continual sense of looking into oneself as if from outside, followed by a conscious affirmation or negation of conditions and values in both the internal and external environments. Through this constant creation of himself, through the development of the inner psychic milieu, and development of discriminating power with respect to both the inner and outer milieus—an individual goes through ever higher levels of “neuroses” and at the same time through ever higher levels of universal development of his personality. (Dabrowski, 1972)

All states which appear to be unwarranted by existing external conditions, such as: anxiety, states of nervousness (i.e. increased psychic sensitivity), obsessive thoughts related to an apparent danger for us or for our children, intense emotional fatigue or depression, “nervous sleep,” hypersensitivity, an increase in rate and strength of heart beat, etc., are universally considered by a majority of physicians, specialists or not, as manifestations of neuroses or psychoneuroses. (Dabrowski, 1972)

Neuroses can be expressive of hyperfunctions, hypofunctions or dysfunctions; they may be of a briefer or longer duration; they may localize in a specific system, or extend to several systems. However, hyperfunction in one organ or in a part of a system can coexist for a brief or longer period with hypo-function in another organ or system. These conditions can also vary since there is a tendency to change the localization of excessive tension. (Dabrowski, 1972)

Pavlov, for example, spoke only of neuroses. His basic assumption was that the organism exists only as physiological whole; some of its physiological functions are related to cortical functions, and are called psychical phenomena. This view is not uncommon even today. Detailed studies indicate, however, that in every case of neurosis, the human psyche is involved, and in, a large majority of cases (if not all) of the type described (e.g. cases 1 through 5, Chapter 2), there is a more or less strong neurological disturbance of organs or systems of organs as well. Psychosomatic hypersensitivity or psychosomatic “allergies” are, different terms to describe the same phenomenon. (Dabrowski, 1972)

Autonomic disequilibrium, especially when constitutional, is a lack of coupled control (synergistic control) between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. In consequence a sudden shift in the direction of one or the other system is followed often by too quick, even violent, reaction in the other direction. Individuals with hyperactive thyroid, i.e. those with excessive activity of the sympathetic system, are subject to sudden onslaughts of fatigue induced by an over-reaction of the parasympathetic system. These people have to lie down at once, if only for 15 minutes, in order to restore their own peculiar balance of the autonomic-endocrinal systems. (Dabrowski, 1972)

Nervous individuals with enhanced psychic excitability can be observed to show certain symptoms pointing to an excessive tension of the sympathetic or the parasympathetic nervous system. In the case of an increased tension of the sympathetic nervous system we observe hyperactivity of the thyroid, fatigability, increased pulse and together with these physiological excitations we see mental alertness, initiative. In turn enthusiasm, joy and ecstasy excite the sympathetic system. (Dabrowski, 1972)

Disorders of the autonomic nervous systems, reactions against them (hypertonia followed by a hypotonia) and periodical balance awaken protective forces which are in the service of development. An individual seeking a way out of a situation often finds the solution by activating a more cortical and more frontal system of action rather than staying tied to psychosomatic reactions controlled by the autonomic nervous system (sub-cortical control). (Dabrowski, 1972)

According to such investigators as Hayem and Thomas, in psychoneurotic dystonias eye pupils rapidly dilate and constrict, then dilate again. We are here concerned with motor-vascular hyperactivity, such that the patient reacts to the smallest emotional stimulus by either going pale or blushing, sweating or dermographia (reddening or whitening of the skin). Pulse acceleration is a common phenomenon; dyspepsia and diarrhea are common associates of fear. In serious anxiety conditions, swelling and skin irritation also are known. (Dabrowski, 1972)

In summary, neuroses are conditions of high (hypertonia) or low tension (hypotonia) of the autonomic systems. When these conditions of low and high tension alternate they create a dystonia or disharmony of the autonomic system embracing the whole organism. This dystonia affects the various systems in the organism simultaneously or consecutively. (Dabrowski, 1972)

One of the instances of endocrine disorders with serious consequences for mental development are several forms of infantilism. One is a mild hypogenitalism (subnormal development of genitals) which is often associated with a prolongation of the developmental period, giving rise to neurotic symptoms. On the other hand we observe cases of hypogenitalism and hypothyroidism (subnormal development of the thyroid) which are very often associated with mental retardation. Hypothyroidism occurs with myxedema and mongolism, both of which are forms of mental retardation. They frequently occur together with hypogenitalism in its negative form. Since there is weak psychic sensitivity and low intelligence, marked hypogenitalism in combination with hypothyroidism gives the balance over to somatic life integrated on a low level. On the contrary such effects of hyperactive thyroid as enhanced excitability of affect and imagination combined with a non-pathological weakness of the sexual drive causes an individual to be astonished and disquieted with himself and also to be maladjusted in his environment. (Dabrowski, 1972)

The engagement of the higher mental functions in the transformation of the lower ones causes psychosomatic and somatopsychic disorders,  neuroses of organs, hyper, hypotonia or dystonia of the autonomic nervous system. These disturbances come gradually under control in the general development of the human species, and concretely in individual development. (Dabrowski, 1972)

The tendency to “fall into sickness” is an escape from people, from an external milieu, and from unsolved problems. It is very often related to hypersensitivity of consciousness. For some people it is the only available means of protection taking cover before the brutality of life. (Dabrowski, 1972)

In the case of psychomotor overexcitability without a more pronounced participation of hierarchical dynamisms we observe functional hyperkineses, tics, psychomotor crises, wanderlust. (Dabrowski, 1972)

He went to look at the places of execution (he lived in Warsaw after the Second World War); he experienced the tragedies of the past as something of actual validity, something authentic. He was hypersensitive to blood. He thought that those who pass away are being consecrated for him, so that he becomes responsible for the continuation of their lives. at times he felt that such experiences were dangerous, but something attracted him to them. He was often concerned about the moral value of art. He separated the domains of higher value, which had for him a most real meaning, from those domains of lower values with which he was in mental warfare. (Dabrowski, 1972)

In sexual psychoneuroses we usually encounter sensual excitability as a part of a wide area of psychic hyper-sensitivity, together with symptoms of sexual inhibition and anxiety (e.g. elements of neurotic fetishism and necrophilia); hence excessive sexual idealization, and sexual attraction to more mature persons. (Dabrowski, 1972)

This ability is lacking in the process of unilevel disintegration. Strong inner conflicts and strong external “collisions” create such tensions that a person is in no position to work out their transformation but is forced to seek at first palliative actions, which may take the form of hyperkineses, tics, unconsciously controlled spasms, etc. The lack or insufficiency of inner psychic transformation makes psychosomatic disorders a common phenomenon in unilevel disintegration and the beginning of multilevel disintegration. (Dabrowski, 1972)

The psychoneurotic individual is totally different from the psychopath. The psychoneurotic individual is sensitive, anxious, and has a facility for transposing psychic processes onto the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system stays in close relationship to emotional experiences. Hence emotional tensions are picked up by the autonomic system and expressed as psychosomatic disorders. The psychoneurotic exhibits hyper-sensitivity, often dissatisfaction with himself, feelings of inferiority with respect to himself and to others, and feelings of guilt. He develops an objective attitude toward himself but subjective and individualistic toward others. In his inner psychic milieu he develops an increased self-awareness and introvertive knowledge of himself which gives him a key to his multilevel personality structure. It is a process of self-experience, that is to say, he realizes the multilevelness in his own structures and functions. This sensitivity, susceptibility to psychosomatization, to anxieties, plus the nuclei of the inner psychic milieu, are the substratum of disintegration and accelerated development. That is why he represents a personality capable of disintegration and capable of definite and often accelerated development. The psychoneurotic shows a tendency for conflicts in the external environment, but even more so, within his own inner psychic milieu. In contrast to a psychopath, who causes suffering in others through external conflicts, the psychoneurotic suffers along and lives with his conflicts by himself. (Dabrowski, 1972)

One can detect some psychoneurotic syndromes in mentally retarded persons who are nearest the normal level. However, in general, a deficient mind does not deal with a rich enough material to “produce” a psychoneuroses. It, therefore, produces only deficient forms of psychoneuroses such as functional hyperkineses, tics, masturbation, short-lived and simple states of anxiety or depression. Perhaps that is why we cannot detect in retarded children traditionally recognized pathological units such as: obsession psychoneurosis, psychasthenia, hysteria, anxiety psychoneurosis, etc. (Dabrowski, 1972)

Children of this kind are in continuous motion. They change their position all the time, and are under constant tension; hands and legs move about with little purpose. Among these children, hyperkinesis of facial muscles is especially pronounced producing a variety of expressions (tics, mimics, and other spurious motions). Eyes are usually very active; the tongue is often shown outside. There is a tendency for excessive showing of teeth. They move their hands up to the face for stroking or scratching. They also have a tendency for moving or clasping hands and fingers. Even when trying to be generally quiet, they always maintain an excessive excitability of certain muscular groups (leg crossing, jumpiness, movements of body trunk, etc.). (Dabrowski, 1972)

Hyperkinesis of hand, legs, and face is increased under the influence of external stimuli (noise, new situation, talk). At other times we observe the opposite effect: psychomotoric quietude under influence of external stimuli, which shows that the psychomotoric excitation and inhibition is predominantly controlled by external stimuli. (Dabrowski, 1972)

One may ask what is the origin of the increased tendency among gifted children, who have good conditions of life and learning, to become subject to psychoneurotic states. The origin lies probably in the constitutional hypersensitivity toward the whole of the individual's experiences. An individual who has a differentiated and multilevel developmental potential not only can achieve outstanding results in learning and in work, but at the same time is equipped with an increased number of points of sensitivity to all experiences; this may accelerate “anomalous” reactions which reveal themselves in psychoneurotic behavior (Dabrowski, 1958; Dabrowski, 1959). (Dabrowski, 1972)

Mo. was an individual of high emotional and psychomotor excitability (he had a great need of doing something); he was introverted and had a strong tendency for emotional exclusivity (his feelings for his family and friends were very deep but limited to a few individuals; he had a major interest in human individuality). He represents a strong feeling of responsibility related to hierarchization. His slight tendency for obsession, only initial phase of inner psychic transformation had, however, some preponderance of unilevel over multilevel disintegration. His punctiliousness and small obsessions had a unilevel character. He had not yet awakened in himself the forces moving towards secondary integration, because his dynamisms such as “subject-object in oneself,” the third factor, and personality ideal were still too weak. Since he has not yet come to introduce some organization into his course of development this was the basis of his difficulties in the formation of a disposing and directing center at a higher level and in the dynamization of his personality ideal. In other words he was still far removed from attaining the stage of organized multilevel disintegration. These weaknesses did not provide an adequate basis for hierarchization at a higher level, nor did they allow him to realize such a hierarchization. Hence, his hypersensitivity to external conditions and consequent appearance of certain anxiety states and excessive tension. This, of course, is related to the fact that his unilevel processes were still strong and created excessive tension in his higher, multilevel dynamisms (e.g. feeling of responsibility, exclusivity of emotional bonds). (Dabrowski, 1972)

Excerpts from The Dynamics of Concepts (1973)

It seems that a creative man an individual in the process of accelerated mental development must experience states of disequilibrium. The essence of the process of creativity involves increased mental excitability, especially emotional and imaginational. It is mainly mental hyperexcitability through which the search for something new, something different, more complex and more authentic can be accomplished. All this is associated with the loosening and disintegration of primitive homeostasis. (Dabrowski, 1973)

The attempts to bring human individuals with nervous tension and psychoneurotic symptoms back to the former, primitive, ordinary homeostasis betray a serious misunderstanding. Prefrontal lobotomy which seemed to promise a surgical cure to mental disturbances brought the patients to a state of vegetative “stability.” This treatment removed psychic hyperexcitability, disquietude and creative elements. The patients achieved tranquility, a better appetite and biological adaption at the expense of positive development, creativity and authenticity. (Dabrowski, 1973)

In this instinct sensual and imaginative hyperexcitabilities play the greatest role. Inner psychic transformation and especially the transgression of the psychological type and the biological life cycle do not show the necessary globality; they are partial only. The instinct of self-perfection does not usually embrace a narrow area, but the whole or at least the greater part of the personality of the individual. All its functions are shaped so as to “uplift” man. It is the expression of the necessary, self-determined “raising up” in a hierarchy of values toward the ideal of personality. (Dabrowski, 1973)

With regard to the relation of the instinct of self-perfection to neuroses and psychoneuroses, it is clear that the genesis of this instinct is bound closely, and in positive correction, with mental hyperexcitability (nervousness) and psychoneuroses. Psychoneuroses, as we know, play the fundamental role in the development of unilevel and multilevel disintegration, in the separation of the “more I” and “less I,” in the growth of consciousness and in the development of autonomy and authenticity. In the self-perfection of the individual such psychoneuroses as anxiety neurosis, depressive neuroses of an existential type, play a fundamental role. (Dabrowski, 1973)

Distinct creative tendencies, tendencies toward self-perfection, that is to say, tendencies toward transformations, toward accelerated development are, as a rule, associated with mental structures of those people who have a definite positive hereditary endowment favorable to accelerated development. They usually coincide with mental hyperexcitability, especially that of an emotional or imaginational nature, with disharmony, with the processes of mental “loosening.” These kind of mental states occur when there is the process of growth of hierarchization of values, precision of the personality, ideal, formation and growth of the inner psychic milieu and its dynamisms particularly the third factor, “subject-object” in oneself, inner psychic transformation, autonomy and authenticity. (Dabrowski, 1973)

In our discussion here we will be especially concerned with another kind of mental tension. It arises from distinct or accelerated processes of mental development from above average sensitivity, from internal and external conflicts, from creative attitudes, from the will to transform one's own psychological type, etc. Mental tension of this kind is usually associated with various forms of mental hyperexcitability, with excessive sensitivity, with maladjustment to external and internal conditions, with a search for something new and of a higher level of reality. (Dabrowski, 1973)

Positive mental tension is creative tension characteristic for positive and accelerated mental development, usually associated with internal and external conflicts, with mental hyperexcitability, and often with psychoneuroses. (Dabrowski, 1973)

We are not interested here in this kind of problem. Our question is the following: Is there any possibility of transformation of such psychological types as introverted and extraverted, cyclothymic and schizothymic; types of various kinds of mental hyperexcitability, such as emotional, imaginational, sensual, psychomotor or intellectual. (Dabrowski, 1973)

Our question is whether a psychological type can be transformed in the sense of sublimation and acquisition of qualities of other, sometimes even opposite, types. In the present writer's opinion such transformations are not only possible, but belong to the area of well established facts. This is the case particularly in such individuals who possess a favorable endowment for accelerated development and the growth of the inner psychic milieu, as well as, mental hyperexcitability, distinct nuclei of interests and abilities or even talents. So endowed individuals, in cases of “collision” with the external environment, develop a conscious and autonomous attitude toward themselves and toward the environment. Through the process of positive disintegration they develop a multilevel inner psychic milieu which is the basis for a hierarchization of values, for self-consciousness and self-control. (Dabrowski, 1973)

On the lower levels of hysteria—this means, on a low level of disintegration—we can notice such symptoms of hysteria as lying, ostentation, liability to primitive forms of suggestion, etc. On a high level of hysteria, or hysteroid structures we come upon such symptoms and such hysterical or hysteroid dynamisms as emotional hyperexcitability, high capacity for empathy and identification, tendency toward contemplation and ecstasy, capability for dramatization and openness to suggestion of a very high level. In the case of low level anxiety neurosis, in conditions of stress, shock, accident, etc., we find symptoms of fear on a low level expressed in immobilization, automatism and absence of reflectiveness. On a high level of development of anxiety psychoneurosis we may observe the inhibition of primitive fear, symptoms of empathic disquietude about others and existential anxiety. (Dabrowski, 1973)

Accelerated development depends on such hereditary potential as mental hyperexcitability, nuclei of the inner psychic milieu and nuclei of distinct interests and aptitudes which, in collaboration with favorable influences of the environment and autonomous dynamisms, bring about nervous tension and positive development through psychoneuroses. (Dabrowski, 1973)

Excerpts from Multilevelness of Emotional and Instinctive Functions (1996)

Psychic overexcitability in each of its forms is displayed either in all-inclusive or confined forms. For instance, in an all-inclusive form emotional overexcitability may seize the whole psyche in a stream of a psychoneurotic process such as general depression or anxiety. In its confined form, it is displayed, for instance, as phobias. In such reactions as neurasthenia or hypochondriasis, emotional overexcitability is also in its confined form. Psychomotor overexcitability in the all-inclusive form manifests itself as a general restlessness, sudden movements, explosions of anger or screaming. There may be psychomotor crises, which although similar in display to the above, reach deeper into psychic life, even to the unconscious and the sub-conscious, last longer and have a poorer prognosis. Confined forms of psychomotor overexcitability appear as ticks and hyperkineses. The all-inclusive forms of overexcitability are more conducive and receptive to developmental transformations. (Dabrowski, 1996)


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