Retrospection and Prospection

This page contains excerpts from Dąbrowski's works. References are available at the end of the page. 

What are retrospection and prospection? Restrospection is the act of looking back through past situations and the events of your life. Prospection is generating ideas about what the future might look like, including imagining future emotions and reactions, and planning for actions. Both these activities are important for self-reflection and autopsychotherapy.

These excerpts show how Dabrowski viewed retrospection and prospection, and the roles that they play within the theory of positive disintegration. By viewing these excerpts in the order they were published, you can see how his ideas developed over time with his work.

 

Excerpts from Positive disintegration (1964)

With regard to sequences: The presence of unilevel symptoms at the beginning of the process of disintegration does not indicate negative disintegration to the degree that it would later in the process. The presence of retrospective and prospective attitudes and their relative equilibrium, and the process of the formation of a personality ideal and its importance to the behavior of the individual—these indicate a positive operation. (Dabrowski, 1964, p. 19)

The feeling of guilt is the expression of a stronger engagement of the individual with regard to his own conduct than is the case in discontent with oneself. Guilt involves discontent with oneself and in some feeble degree a feeling of shame; it permeates the whole personality and is closely related to affective memory and a retrospective attitude. (Dabrowski, 1964, p. 36)

This is a child with psychic overexcitability, of mixed type (emotional, imaginative, psychomotor, and mental) with cyclic and schizothymic traits. Inclination to perseveration, and sensitivity to the stimuli of the external world and to moral and psychological problems are evident. Discontent with oneself, shame, and guilt, as well as the attitude of retrospection and prospection, are illustrated here. The discontent arises from disharmony between very impulsive activities and attitudes of reflection, which in turn stem from self-consciousness. Self-consciousness and the feeling of guilt lead to differentiation of superior from inferior levels of the internal milieu. The sense of guilt is an indispensable factor in development and particularly springs forth in individuals during rapid development. It contributes to the creative tension which forms the basis of self-education. (Dabrowski, 1964, p. 39)

A young man experiencing a certain loosening of his internal and external environments observes both these environments more or less closely and manifests an attitude of “subject-object” toward his own self. He assumes a critical attitude toward himself and his surroundings, strives to verify opinions with reality, attempts to transmit personal moral experiences to others, and makes demands of a moral nature both on himself and on other people. The consciousness of his ambivalences arouses in him alternately arouses a sense of superiority and of inferiority, a feeling of guilt and self-discontent, and a more or less strong anticipation of the future or retrospection over past experiences. (Dabrowski, 1964, p. 56)

The positive disintegration type develops progressively through the life cycle by the processes of positive, multilevel disintegration. The individual is highly sensitive to the stimuli of both internal and external psychic environments and has the capacity to comprehend and accept a hierarchy of values. He reveals attitudes of both retrospection and prospection, a depth of experience due to a rich emotional memory. He is consciously aware of personal and social ideals and capable of mobilizing them. Because of past internal progressive transformations, he can understand and collaborate with individuals of various personality patterns. He has the ability to understand many different levels of development in others. Such a person is often involved in conscious and controlled conflict with the external world. All these qualities contribute to a high level of values and an exceptional degree of maturity. (Dabrowski, 1964, pp. 69-70)

Just as is the case in various developmental crises, such as puberty and sometimes the climacteric, many mental disorders may be the cause as well as the symptom of positive development of the individual, bringing increasing awareness both in retrospection and in prospection, even though there is disadaptation to the present situation. In both former and latter states a psychic complexity arises as a basic factor in the development of a multidimensional structure and in the potential for creativity. (Dabrowski, 1964, pp. 93-94)

Creativity is the enemy of stereotypy and automatic activity. A creative person is prospective and inventive even during retrospective contemplation. In the projective method of Rorschach a creative individual will give original answers with kinesthetic perceptions, color sensitivity, many whole responses, and awareness of light and shade. Persons of the ambiequal type, according to Rorschach, are creative individuals. (Dabrowski, 1964, p. 115)

During the stages of opposition and puberty, during breakdowns, depressions, and creative upsurges which violate the stabilized psychic structure, the psychiatrist may observe psychic disintegration, development of “new things,” decrease in automatic behavior, nonadjustment to the environment, and an increase in self-awareness, self-control, and psychic development. In these periods the individual develops an attitude of dissatisfaction with himself and a sense of shame, guilt, and inferiority. Also, the capacity for prospection and retrospection expands, the activity of the third factor increases, and there is a sense of reality of the personality ideal and the need to achieve it. (Dabrowski, 1964, p. 122)

During the stage of opposition in the small child, during the stage of puberty, in states of nervousness and psychoneurosis, and under conditions of internal conflict, disharmony, and dysfunction in one's own internal environment, the third factor arises and becomes more or less pronounced. Self-awareness, self-approval, and self-disapproval play a basic role in the development of the third factor. It relates negatively and positively, and therefore selectively, to specific aspects of the external environment. This third factor always appears during periods of positive disintegration and is connected with creative, dynamic processes in prospective and retrospective attitudes and with purposeful nonadaptation. It is a basic factor for the realization of one's personality ideal. It is the primary dynamic element in the development of dissatisfaction with oneself, shame, guilt, and inferiority and in the building of one's own hierarchical internal environment. The development of personality, and consequently mental health, is clearly related to the activities of the third factor. (Dabrowski, 1964, p. 123)

The process of mental disintegration in an individual leads to symptoms of multilevel disintegration. This results in disruption within the internal environment, in the rise of a sense of “object-subject,” in the growth of an awareness of higher and lower levels in the hierarchy of one's values, and in the development of an attitude of prospection and retrospection. All these contribute to the movement of the disposing and directing center to a higher level, to the emergence of the third factor, and to the development of a personality ideal. (Dabrowski, 1964, p. 123)

 

Excerpts From Personality-shaping through positive Disintegration  (1967)

With respect to death, individuals with a deeply developed process of disintegration, with a clear personality ideal, with a broad experience of life, and possessing a strong tendency for retrospection and prospection, prepare themselves for it, almost from childhood, in the world of the imagination. The thought of their own death often conditions the direction of their work, their deeds. Hence, in the actions of these individuals the foremost place is occupied by supersensual aims and by aspirations for immortality (fame, greatness, perfection). Such men are usually capable of unselfish, sacrificial, and heroic acts. Their attitude toward life includes the need to work for a better future, the tendency to create imperishable, everlasting works; it also includes the belief that deeply felt individual bonds will outlast death; and, finally, it includes the pursuit and realization of lasting cultural goods, in which the “eternal or universal man” comes to be expressed. (Dabrowski, 1967, pp. 31-32)

For in the latter case one's consciousness is not diminished; on the contrary, it is strengthened and shows great intensity. The everyday life of the individual is marked by consonance despite inward concentration and isolation. In the process of the awakening of self- awareness a man subordinates himself to a strong dominant, which is a supreme, prevalent, distinct idea; through retrospection and prospection he perceives the line of his life more clearly than before. We shall call this supreme idea this pattern of life the personality ideal. (Dabrowski, 1967, pp. 40-41)

The death of a child weakens the sharpness of a mother's self-preservation instinct. Acute suffering crushes for some time the force and range of action of a limited, narrow function of reality; there begin to appear disintegration processes, a weakening of the process of adapting oneself to the present reality, and a strengthening of the retrospective and prospective attitude. Physical suffering often causes a widening of the sphere of experience, a greater understanding of the suffering of other people, a movement beyond the sphere of the self-preservation instinct, and a loosening of the thus far existing structure. The feeling of approaching death enhances the attitude of prospection in respect to near relations and friends, for whom one executes a will. (Dabrowski, 1967, p. 57)

Self-awareness developing in connection with the mentioned processes and everyday-life conflicts, inhibiting processes, reflection, recesses in vital functioning gradually participates, to an ever greater extent, in the reshaping of the primitive instinctive structure. Experiences, lived through, point to shortcomings in our actions, make us aware of them and of the wrongs done by us to the environment, not intentionally but through lack of adequate sensitivity, adequate prospection and retrospection, and adequate knowledge of ourselves. (Dabrowski, 1967, p. 63)

Prospective dynamisms struggle here with retrospective dynamisms; there is no harmony, calmness, or peace. The new total organization is achieved painfully. There are periods when one feels the need for holding on to the center which is losing its psychophysiological vitality but to which one is bound by emotional memory. What dominate in this period are the asthenic attitude, depressive moods, and “partial attachment” to often apparent values, to abortive actions. The states of disintegration and fluctuation of dominants in the structure and dynamisms of an individual are rather distinctly reflected in experiences characterizing the moods of disintegration suspense, sorrow, a weakening of confidence in the environment and oneself, depressions, the need for solitude, and, on the other hand, in the surge of the sthenic disposition, energy, ideas, and so on. (Dabrowski, 1967, p. 65)

The second characteristic form of unilevel disintegration is that taking place during the climacteric period. It is also characterized by a weakening or evanescence of certain dynamisms or certain values in favor of others, and general experience tells us that almost always these new elements are of lesser value compared to the retreating ones. In this period the sexual drive weakens or transforms itself into other drives, one's vital efficiency usually weakens, the interests pursued thus far are no longer as strong and one is not so vigorous in one's attempts to realize them; one's somatic side also undergoes changes which are biologically disadvantageous to the individual, changes that are reflected in the weakening of one's efficiency in action and in growing old. The individual is trying to substitute new or strengthened dynamisms in place of the retreating dynamisms, and this is usually more difficult to accomplish than in the preceding period (tendencies toward strengthening of family life, greater thriftiness in material matters, parsimony, not paying too much attention to one's dress, arbitrariness, egocentrism, and so forth). Nevertheless, the psychic state at the time of substitution is marked by the weakness of vital tension, an uncertainty in action, a feeling of inferiority, depression, retrospective tendencies and fear of the future, and a slackening of prospection. (Dabrowski, 1967, pp. 65-66)

Along with the feeling of the fluctuation of the disposing and directing center, “up” and “down,” there appears on the one hand the feeling of inferiority and on the other the awareness of an ideal, the feeling of superiority, an aspiration toward a power of a “higher order,” the desire for the realization of other aims of life, a prospective and retrospective attitude with a plan for perfecting oneself. (Dabrowski, 1967, p. 70)

The principal differences between unilevel and multilevel disintegration are best shown, we think, if they are examined in the same areas. Let us consider the symptoms of multilevel disintegration in the maturation period. In the forefront here is the process of evaluation, both with respect to the internal and external environments. In both these environments one sees that which is worse and that which is better, the higher and the lower, the near and the farther, and what is familiar and what is strange to us. Thus one divides one's external and internal environments into certain layers according to their values. The association between the fluctuating disposing and directing center and certain levels of both environments becomes weaker. A considerable role is played here by consciousness, which takes an active part in the process of the loosening and disintegration of these environments. The retrospective and prospective attitudes, which grow increasingly important, also assist in this process. The first examines the “lower” environments taken in time and their changes which depend on time, and the other draws its energy for the analysis and reshaping of the external and, above all, the inner environment from the growing hierarchy of aims and dynamisms of one's own personality ideal, which is increasingly more distinctly shaped. (Dabrowski, 1967, p. 71)

Somatic disease causes disturbances in normal, everyday relations with the external world, as well as disturbances in the psychic milieu. It causes short or long, more or less global interruption in vital activities, disintegration of more or less integrated relations of one's own organism and psyche with its thus far existing world. Depending on the seriousness of the disease, it amounts to a characteristic intensification of the negative attitude to one's own state, to a feeling of some impediment, of some encumbrance, and of being imposed upon by something unexpected and unwanted. Many everyday matters lose their importance, the integrated conditions of life are shattered, there is a shift in the existing dominant in psychic life, and a compulsory process ensues “time must stop.” Longer-lasting or chronic diseases (tuberculosis, tuberculous osteomyelitis, articular disease, serious chronic heart disease, and the like) require reshaping of the relations with the external world and changes become ever more “astereotypic.” There results the feeling of impotency, excitement, depression, discord, concentration on the functioning of internal organs, on the difficulties of adapting oneself to life. This results in superfluous deliberation, prospection and retrospection, analyzing, and then, with the psychic energy accumulated by the summing up of particular inhibitions, in affectional outbursts. (Dabrowski, 1967, p. 88)

The presence of retrospective and prospective tendencies and activities, with a simultaneous equilibrium of these dynamisms, would also be evidence that the process is positive. This attitude would be connected with abilities helpful in reaching a clear shaping of the personality ideal. The ability for consonance with the social environment would also be a determining factor as to the positiveness of the disintegration process. (Dabrowski, 1967, p. 93)

The feeling of guilt reflects a considerably deeper engagement of oneself, with respect to oneself and to one's behavior, than does the feeling of disappointment with oneself. The experiential element is here much stronger, it more fully embraces the whole personality, binding itself more strongly with the affectional memory and with the retrospective attitude. In the feeling of guilt both dissatisfaction with oneself and, to a somewhat lesser extent, shame are strongly represented, but the feeling of evil or vice committed in relation to one's own development and to the human environment occupies the prime place. With the feeling of guilt there usually arises, simultaneously, the need for self-accusation, penalty, and expiation. The feeling of guilt is a poignant experience, and is connected with the experience of “fear and trembling.” As we have shown, it has a considerably greater influence on the whole of personality than does simple dissatisfaction with oneself, or the feeling of shame. When this experience is accompanied by the process of consciousness, it reaches deeper into the subconsciousness than other experiences. On the one hand, it reaches with its roots into heredity and often into the phase of early-childhood injuries, and on the other, it is transposed into the feeling of responsibility for the immediate or more distant environments, or for the whole society. (Dabrowski, 1967, p. 97)

In the phase of positive disintegration the disposing and directing centers are represented by various tendencies which, not rarely, contrast with each other and differ in intensity. This plurality of centers and variability of their domination results in ambivalences and ambitendencies, alternate feelings of inferiority and superiority, often aversion to oneself and maladjustment to the external world, criticism and self-criticism, prospection and retrospection. (Dabrowski, 1967, p. 110)

Experiences, observations, and self-observations lead us to a better consonance with various points of view, with various attitudes, methods of work, and with various types of mentality. We begin to develop, in ourselves, new receptivities, new attitudes, and new structures of mental activities. We begin to look retrospectively and prospectively on our own mental structure, on the history of our development, on our “black periods” which are not sensitive to certain mental stimuli, on our excessively developed unilateral structures. Through emotional tensions and analysis we begin to disintegrate solidified structures, and to make them sensitive multilaterally. We no more place confidence in our own judgments, in our own opinions. As Nietzsche puts it: “Never conceal from yourself and never pass over in silence in yourself that which could be thought against your thoughts. Swear it to yourself. This is the primal honesty in thinking. Every day you must struggle with yourself. Every victory and every rampart captured no longer concerns you, but the truth concerns you, and also all your setbacks no longer concern you.”
Then we have a certain hierarchy of needs which we expand, increase, analyze, disintegrate, subordinating anew one to the others, while we ever more surely seize the principal lines of our development. We may, therefore, say that our needs change with the development of personality. The needs connected with our aspirational and affectional structure, integrated at a low level, begin to weaken in favor of broader, more universal needs based on retrospection and prospection. (Dabrowski, 1967, pp. 125-126)

We often observe the ebb and tide of creativity. A great flow of creativity, changing direction, reach, subject, and level of the creativity, often follows after great defeats in life. Freshness of creativity, frequency and originality of ideas are often found in the essence of such psychic structures as certain types of infantile structure, with an enhanced excitability of various kinds, with fluctuating feelings of inferiority and superiority, excitement and depression, and internal conflicts (Sowacki). In any case, the process of disintegration seems to be at the root of great “inflorescences” of creativity, in which the struggle of contradictory sets of tendencies, an inadaptability to reality, a disposition to prospection and retrospection, dynamisms of one's ideal, all play a fundamental role, particularly when it comes to poetic, literary, plastic, and philosophical creativity, to say nothing of reformatory creativity in the realm of religion and education. (Dabrowski, 1967, p. 129)

In the drama of development, in the phase of disintegration, in the phase of struggle and internal conflicts, in descents and ascents, in negations and confirmations, the glimmer of calm, of harmony, of a union with the higher disposing and directing center, are described as the action of grace. This may reveal itself in a sudden understanding of a certain truth by way of illumination or intuitive insight, by an impulse to such a deed, behavior, or saying as would not be effected when one exerts consciously his intellect or volition, or retrospective action when the coincidence of events actually not understood, difficult, or painful, is positively estimated from the perspective of time. (Dabrowski, 1967, p. 132)

We will speak briefly about one of the qualities of personality which is connected with one's attitude toward the world of existential needs and tendencies, namely, the adaptation of oneself to suffering and death. The development in oneself of retrospective and prospective attitudes, a “running ahead” of the present moment, experiencing the transiency of our life, with a simultaneous development of the main dynamisms of disintegration, weakens the primitive traits in relation to suffering and death and leads not only to acceptance, but also to experiencing the universality of this phenomenon. On the other hand, it increases the need for finding the answer to the chief enigma of being, consequently also to the sense of suffering and death, to the sense of separation from one's near relations and friends with whom the bond has become deeper as a result of the development of the dynamism of multilevel disintegration. (Dabrowski, 1967, pp. 165-166)

The fundamental quality shaped by the everyday effort of the individual aiming at personality is the ability to meditate. We have referred to it repeatedly. It has its origin in a form of reflection, a predisposition for deep meditation, the ability to interrupt one's daily activity, and the need for frank “philosophizing.” The individual may avail himself of the many works of various schools dealing with spiritual life in order to deepen this capacity for meditation. Retrospection and prospection and periodic isolation of oneself give definite results here. They clearly promote all those activities which develop the inner environment and its hierarchy of values—that is, they promote all the dynamisms of multilevel disintegration. (Dabrowski, 1967, p. 166)

Education consists in developing the possibility of resignation from primitive needs; it consists in partial frustration, in experiencing the feeling of dissatisfaction with oneself, in developing self-control, inhibition, retrospection, and prospection. These phenomena display certain mild forms of disintegration without which the education process would be unthinkable. The pain and suffering of a child, his failures, his experiences of shame, and his feelings of inferiority or guilt are the fundamental dynamisms that reshape his primitive structure. They are positive dynamisms if, at the same time, they are offset by pleasant experiences—joy, satisfaction, ambitions, the feeling of superiority, the feeling of having fulfilled one's duty well, the experience of praise, and the like. (Dabrowski, 1967, p. 169)

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, p. 223)

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, p. 224)

 

Excerpts From Mental Growth Through Positive Disintegration (1970)

The objectivity of moral valuation is related to and dependent on the development level of mental functions, particularly of higher emotions. An act is morally good, inasmuch as it is a result of a thoughtful and authentic transformation of stimuli, retrospection and prospection, empathy, identification, etc. in general, if it comes about from an adequate understanding of other people and understanding of our role in relation to them. The more advanced and autonomous are our mental functions, our grasp of reality, particularly our capacity for higher empathic forms of syntony, the greater is our ability to evaluate in a way which does justice to facts. The more automatic, impulsive and primitive are our mental processes, the greater is the risk of our acting in a way contrary to what we would recognize as valuable, if we would have more insights and reach higher levels of mental refinement. (Dabrowski, 1970, p. 7)

The nuclei of what is valuable at a higher level are inherent in the reality of lower levels. Thus an increase in consciousness of one's actions, observable at lower levels, is equally characteristic of mental growth at higher levels. The same can be observed with regard to self-control, participation of “one's own forces” in the transformation of stimuli, retrospection and prospection transformations of syntony, etc. In general, the roots of mental development at higher levels can be found in earlier stages. (Dabrowski, 1970, p. 13)

A pronounced activity of the third factor lies at the foundation of a more intensive operation of the synthetic dynamism of inner psychic transformation This is a dynamism which puts an end to the stereotypy of conditioned reflexes and habits. It selects stimuli, internalizes only those which stand the test of evaluative scrutiny. It subjects stimuli to an intensive process of “reshaping” in the workshop of other dynamisms, the transformational forces due to empathy, memory, imagination, retrospection and prospection, intuitive and discursive thought. The response resulting from inner psychic transformation depends less on the kind and strength of the stimuli than on the quality and depth of the inner psychic milieu, on the level of attitudes and commitments, aspirations and beliefs of the individual. The phenomenon of inner psychic transformation is the reason why human behavior cannot be tortured into and explained by the mechanistic “S-R” approach. (Dabrowski, 1970, pp. 25-26)

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. 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, p. 31)

The individual begins to accept and affirm some influences and to reject others from both the inner and outer milieu. There arises a disposition towards conscious choice and autodetermination. Self-awareness and self-control increase: retrospection and prospection become stronger; imposed forms of reality begin to weaken. The individual seeks his own higher identity, chosen and determined by himself. He does not want to be content with only one level of mental life which has been imposed on him by his social milieu. He searches for his own hierarchy of values and is sensitive to the distressing, negative facets of life. When he has a happy experience, he remembers the sad fact that it will not endure. He tries to overcome his sensory and logical world by striving to create, in imagination, a better world. He attempts to go beyond a sense-oriented, rationalist empiricism, since he recognizes it to be only one level of reality, and attempts to reach the higher level of synthesis, intuition, existential and transcendental experience. (Dabrowski, 1970, p. 33)

A young man of outstanding and multidirectional abilities, of increased affective and imaginational sensitivity, of inner milieu built on recognized hierarchy, with dominant elements of highest dynamisms of mental life, considerable ability for inner psychic transformation, creative capacity. The dynamisms “subject-object” in oneself and the third factor are manifested by his careful observation of the changeability of his own states, by their evaluation, and by his selective attitude (positive to some states, negative to others). This is also manifested in his attitude to his own artistic work. Moral values which he put on the highest level fascinated him, so that he subordinated all other values to them (thus placing his disposing and directing center on a high level). His highest values were global and humanistic. The whole organization of his life was based on these dynamisms together with constant retrospection and prospection in relation to himself and to the world around him. All these characteristics, with concomitant decrease in activity of the instinct of self-preservation and strong multilevel disintegration (feelings of responsibility, “excessive” syntony, dissatisfaction with himself, process of subject-object in oneself, the third factor, definite localization of disposing and directing center at a higher level) all these indicate the development of insight, of a wide scale and deep penetration of aims and firm nonadjustment to lower levels of reality. (Dabrowski, 1970, pp. 44-45)

Shame has strong somatic components which find their expression in vegetative disequilibrium (blushing, trembling, psychosomatic stiffness, heart arrhythmia, and the like). The feeling of guilt is in part an interiorized shame of considerable tension. It expresses a retrospective reliving of experiences of one's own moral failures, real or imaginary. It is also connected with the feeling of inferiority with regard to oneself and dissatisfaction with oneself. (Dabrowski, 1970, p. 68)

All forms of positive disintegration are accompanied by increased inner tension, depression, anxiety, development of retrospective and prospective tendencies, curiosity and astonishment with regard to one self and to the inner environment. Creativity is an important outlet for the increased tension of inner conflicts. In this role creative dynamisms are the forces of defense against mental illness. They help in the task of reorganization of a disintegrated mental structure. But there also appears a desire to achieve a richer, truer personality. One realizes that one's present status is primitive or one-sided. This realization is an initial mark of autonomy and authenticity to be achieved later in the developmental process. (Dabrowski, 1970, p. 69)

Self-awareness and self-control. The conscious feeling of distance toward one's daily tasks, if leading to calmness and moments of reflection, indicates the appearance of dynamisms of self-awareness and self-control. Their role grows with the increase of inner quietude and relaxation, in other words under conditions of retrospective and introspective concentration. (Dabrowski, 1970, p. 70)

A necessary part of inner psychic transformation is prospection and retrospection. Prospection, among other things, is seeing what “ought to be.” Retrospection is looking back at oneself to see what has been achieved, what of the negative and hindering inner growth has been eliminated. This looking back and looking forward may achieve striking clarity in exceptional states of mental uplifting. (Dabrowski, 1970, p. 75)

These systems based on the study of animal psychology derive from orthodox behaviorism and stimulus response psychology. The mechanistic approach does not take into account the fact that in human development—and not only human—appear self-directing dynamisms, by which the content of a response may differ fundamentally from the quality and intensity of a given stimulus or stimuli. The response contains a transformed meaning produced on the basis of retrospection which activates the inscribed content of affective memory. If we add to this projection into the future, we have a chain of events which goes far beyond the mechanistic relation to cause and effect. We do well here to emphasize the Bergsonian notion that an effect contains a different and more complex content than its cause. This is a definite transgression of the so-called law of cause and effect, as it is applied in stimulus-response psychology. (Dabrowski, 1970, p. 84)

Deliberate nervous activity draws upon the totality of the inscribed experiential history of an individual. Thus it is not only a response to stimuli actually present, but also to stimuli that acted in the past (recorded experience). In this way deliberate nervous activity is based on internal stimuli combined with retrospection, inner psychic transformation, and prospection. In other words, deliberate nervous activity is the resultant of actual stimuli, stimuli evoked from affective memory, and prospective stimuli (looking ahead to aims, ideals and future development yet to be accomplished). (Dabrowski, 1970, p. 102)

We agree that there undoubtedly are a wide variety of moral opinions, but we insist that it is so only among those primitive individuals who consider morally good what suits their innate inclinations or results from uncritical social conformity. On the other hand, there is a striking unity of basic moral tenets among those who are capable of higher levels of empathic understanding, inner psychic transformation, authenticity, retrospection and prospection. (Dabrowski, 1970, pp. 122-123)

 

Excerpt From Fragments from the Diary of A Madman (1972)

We are gifted with senses from which we draw many aural, visual, tactile, gustatory, olfactory and sexual experiences. Sensory feelings connected with emotional ones give us esthetic, moral and social experiences of various scope and multilevel depth. Sensory feelings connected with intellectual and emotional ones bring us into an experiential mental, creative, and at the same time concrete and reflexive world from which we draw our intellectual and emotional needs. And besides that our consciousness works toward retrospection and prospection; the feeling of constancy and inconstancy, identity add dissolution. To these experiences add the experiences of illness, old age and death. (Cienin, 1972, pp. 67-68)

 

Excerpts From Psychoneurosis is Not An Illness (1972)

Retrospections and regressions to the past, to childish tendencies, are not necessarily expressive of a repressed “libido” (especially in the form of Electra, Oedipus, castration and other complexes) but rather of a need to return to a most happy period, to a period of intense development from which to draw new energy. Equally often these reactions represent prophylactic stratagems called in to handle future conflicts with the external world, as well as in the inner world (prevention of nervous breakdowns or suicide). (Dabrowski, 1972, pp. 68-69)

We can say that in psychoneuroses we deal with “polarizing disquietude” directed towards the negation of stereotype. We also find in relation to these properties a facility for expressing mixed feelings. Loosening up and even disintegration of his cohesive (even rigid) structures and complexes of activities permits a person to simultaneously experience qualitatively opposite emotions. This may be, for instance, an experience of “joyful sadness” because one cannot fill the actual, momentary events with simple and pure joy since one looks back on happy moments that never returned and one also looks into the future to new burdens, responsibilities and obstacles. This is retrospection and prospection. It may appear as nothing but neurotic gloom, nevertheless, we consider it a necessary step in expanding one's horizon of awareness. Here belong mixed feelings of sympathy and resentment towards the same individuals, or the experiencing of “smiling through tears.” Just as there can be simultaneous excitability and depression, syntony and estrangement, so too, simultaneous attitudes of excessive prospection and retrospection are an expression of a widening internal and external reality and of growth in the experience of life. (Dabrowski, 1972, p. 74)

His inner milieu is built on an authentic hierarchy of values, where the dominant elements are the highest dynamisms of mental life. The dynamisms “subject-object” in oneself and the third factor are manifested by his careful observation of the changeability of his own states, by their evaluation, and by his selective attitude (positive to some states, negative to others). This is also manifested in his attitude to his own artistic work. Moral values which he put on the highest level fascinated him, so that he subordinated all other values to them (thus placing his disposing and directing center on a high level). His highest values were global and humanistic. The whole organization of his life was based on these dynamisms together with constant retrospection and prospection in relation to himself and to the world around him. All these characteristics, with concomitant decrease in activity of the instinct of self-preservation and strong multilevel disintegration (feelings of responsibility, “excessive” syntony, dissatisfaction with himself, an attitude toward himself as object and toward others as subjects, the third factor, definite localization of disposing and directing center at a higher level) all these indicate the development of insight, of a wide scale and deep penetration of aims and firm non-adjustment to lower levels of reality. (Dabrowski, 1972, p. 83)

An ability for global synthesis, for retrospection and projection into the future (as discerning one's own direction of development, definition of aims in terms of changes in one's personality structure), delayed responses yet great intelligence and weakness of primitive functions are phenomena in evidence of certain splitting into levels. We have already mentioned the “self-sufficiency” of many psychasthenics their self-confidence and activity in their own inner psychic milieu. Perceptions, ideas, memory stimuli all this can develop and reach greater complexity without the participation, or with only a minor one, of the external milieu. The woman in Case 2 did not care at all what others were going to think of her, whether her material needs were going to be satisfied or not, or when she was going to die. Her interests and her experiencing were focused on her own essences. This picture clearly demonstrates multilevel disintegration, loosening and in some cases extinction of primitive drive integration. (Dabrowski, 1972, p. 96)

The psychasthenic who gives others many a fertile idea, who will create an important work of art or science but fails to publish is said to be exhibiting an impractical attitude and will likely be judged as having no sense of reality. An individual living in the world of retrospection and prospection, who cannot and would not adapt himself to the actual daily reality, will be considered an unrealistic man, or one disturbed in his reality function. a person who values his own inner independence more than he does adaptation to a mediocre level of a milieu will be judged an unrealistic politician or moralist. (Dabrowski, 1972, p. 225)

 

Excerpts From The Dynamics of Concepts (1973)

[Multilevelness of Joy and Sadness] Calm and empathic joy never has an elemental, somatopsychic character because it is based on deep individual and group experiences, on reflection upon ones failures, of one’s own and other people’s and on the awareness limitations.
It is not connected only with the actual moment. There is an element of nonconcreteness and breadth in it. Even if it is connected with the present, it is retrospective and prospective. It is too multilevel and multidimensional to be connected with outbursts of emotion, temperament and the body. (Dabrowski, 1973, p. 19)

[Negative Integration] It seems that in this way living beings pass from forms of behavior controlled by lower neural centers to those controlled by cortical and frontal centers. Psychic development of living creatures and especially man consists in this growth of self-determination; that is to say, the growth of the role of “one's own forces,” increasingly more conscious, increasingly independent of momentary stimuli and conditions. At the same time man becomes more dependent on his own conscious history of development, on retrospection and prospection, and an autonomous hierarchy of values and aims. (Dabrowski, 1973, p. 38)

[Nervousness] Nervousness consists in mental overexcitability which may take emotional, sensual, psychomotor, imaginative or intellectual form. It must be emphasized that clear cases of such forms of overexcitability do not exist. They appear, as a rule, in compounds of two or more forms some of which may be more or less favorable for development. For instance, it seems that the coexistence and collaboration of emotional, imaginative and intellectual overexcitability are very favorable for development, because they are strongly connected with general mental sensitivity, with creative tendencies and with capabilities for prospection and retrospection. However, we do not regard the union of sensual and psychomotor overexcitability as useful for development, because they create a rather narrow structure on the borderline of psychopathy with little reflectivity and limited creative possibilities. (Dabrowski, 1973, pp. 146-147)

[Creative Psychopathology] Emotional overexcitability is of fundamental importance in the formation and shaping of a hierarchy of values, empathy, identification, self-consciousness, autonomy, authenticity, etc.; that is to say, of the dynamisms which play a decisive role in the general and positive development of a human individual.
Imaginational overexcitability is of great significance in artistic creativity, in positive infantilism, in the capacity for retrospection and prospection, in intuitive planning and even in contemplation and ecstasy.
Intellectual overexcitability, especially in conjunction with emotional and imaginational overexcitability, gives rise to scholarly creativity, to the growth of reflection and self-control, of autonomy and authenticity, of an autonomous hierarchy of values, of the dynamism subject-object” in oneself and of the third factor. (Dabrowski, 1973, p. 173)

[Intuition] Intellectual, emotional and volitional components are involved in various degrees and in various setups in the work of intuition. The composite nature of intuition facilitates the cooperation between intuition and discursive operations. It allows the coordination of intuition with self-consciousness and self-control, retrospection and prospection. The process of positive disintegration assists intuition with the “work” done by different dynamisms. The gradual shifting of the disposing and directing center toward higher levels at which developmental dynamisms are integrated into a harmonious structure is at the foundation of the synthesizing function of intuition. (Dabrowski, 1973, p. 189)

 

Excerpts From Multilevelness Of Emotional And Instinctive Functions (1996)

Secondary Integration. This level marks a new organization and harmonization of personality. Disintegrative activities arise only in retrospection. Personality ideal is the dominant dynamism in close union with empathy, and the activation of the ideal. The relationship of “I” and “Thou” takes on the dimension of an absolute relationship on the level of transcendental empiricism. There is a need to transcend “verifiable,” “consensual” reality (known through sensory perception) and to reach empirically through intuition, contemplation and ecstasy toward a transcendental reality. A balance develops between the philosophical orientations of essence and existence. (1996, pp. 19-20)

The developmental transformations are characterized by a transition from unilevelness to multilevelness, from ahierarchic to hierarchic structures, from a narrow to a broad understanding of reality, entailing the capacity for reflecting on one’s past history (retrospection) and for envisaging future conflicts with one-self and tasks of one’s personal growth (prospection). We see also a transition from impulsive, reflexive syntony as a function of temperament and mood of the moment, to reflective syntony, that is, empathy; from subjugation of the intellect to basic drives, to its close link and balanced interaction with higher emotions. (1996, p. 26)

The dominance of biological factors is evident by the following traits: the lack of consideration for age, state of health, emotional condition of the partner, little inhibition in the use of force, little inhibition in sexual expression in the presence of others, sexual behavior is understood primarily in terms of its physiology and absence of retrospection and prospection in sexual life. After the sexual act a state of depletion may follow which in some psychopathic individuals leads to violence, even murder. (1996, p. 45)

The organization and synthesis of the inner psychic milieu, primarily by emotional cognitive dynamisms, such as third factor and subject-object in oneself, results in deep transformations in attitudes toward sexual life. The ideal of exclusivity and permanence of an emotional relationship develops as a deeply reflective philosophical attitude. (By ‘philosophical’ we mean the principles a person believes in and fives by as a function of an examining and searching attitude). The loved one becomes the subject endowed with individuality and uniqueness. A program of sexual life and of its sublimation is developed through retrospection and prospection. Meditation and highly developed empathy and responsibility for the family play here a crucial role. (1996, p. 48)

Third factor works toward a high level of sexual life by separating and selecting what is to be curtailed and eliminated from what is to be accepted and developed. Third factor determines what constitutes a positive or a negative experience in relation to higher and lower levels of sexual life. It eliminates all that is animalistic and selects all that is authentic, individual, social, and empathic. Third factor thus chooses exclusivity of emotional ties, responsibility for the partner and the family, and the unrepeatability of the union of love. In cooperation with empathy, self-control, self-awareness, prospection, retrospection, third factor creates a ‘school’ of marital and family life. Example: “I would not exchange for anything her unique ‘power’ over me. Always unity of the physical with the moral and the spiritual. Union of minds and hearts, never the physical union alone. I feel disgust toward the tyranny of the physical aspect of love, but in its spiritual aspect I feel close to something like an ‘immortality of sex’. (1996, p. 49)

Internal crying is most frequent. Crying is manifested quietly, its source is the awareness of the pain and sorrow in this world, the injustice and humiliation suffered by others. Crying is evoked by affective memory (q.v.), by reaching into the world of ideals, into transcendence and absolute values. It reveals an ability for prospection and retrospection. Crying has a transcendental and existential character and is coupled with the activity of the instinct of partial death (q.v.) associated with the work carried out by the dynamisms of organized multilevel disintegration. (The instinct of partial death is the inner drive which compels the individual to let die or to actively destroy his lower levels—that which is less himself). (1996, p. 89)

[Level I] No actual daydreaming. Thinking and planning is concrete, prospections are mostly realistic, frequently dynamic but without factors that would loosen and enrich the primarily integrated mental structure of the “dreamer.” (1996, p. 107)

[Level III] Daydreams are partially planned and conjoined with a hierarchy of values, prospection, and multilevelness of reality. Daydreams, together with inner longings, go in the direction of knowing oneself and of developing oneself. They can extend to perfecting oneself and to perfecting the world. The individual shows a hierarchy of daydreams and anxieties in respect to everyday reality. The dynamisms of multilevel disintegration shape the multilevelness of dreams, and at the same time of desires and feelings. (1996, pp. 107-108)

The attenuation of selfishness continues as a result of development through level III. The hierarchy of values is already clearly structured, empathy is more developed, the control of oneself and insight with systematic labor of personal transformation are much stronger. These gains in inner growth are incompatible with selfishness. On the basis of active retrospection and prospection, and of affective memory of one’s own selfish experiences, arises an alertness against even the smallest manifestations of selfishness. With time this alertness grows in strength. This alertness is a function of education-of-oneself and of autopsychotherapy. In the process of systematic organization of one’s inner psychic milieu the elements of self-centeredness are transformed and sublimated to become components of a developing individual essence (dominant interests, vocation, exclusive emotional ties, and identification with oneself and one’s developmental history). (1996, p. 121)

References
Cienin, P. (1972). Fragments from the diary of a madman. London, England: Gryf.
Dabrowski, K. (1964). Positive disintegration. Boston, MA: Little, Brown.
Dabrowski, K. (1967). Personality-shaping through positive disintegration. Boston, MA: Little, Brown.
Dabrowski, K. (with Kawczak, A., & Piechowski, M. M.). (1970). Mental growth through positive disintegration. London, England: Gryf.
Dabrowski, K. (1972). Psychoneurosis is not an illness. London, England: Gryf.
Dabrowski, K. (1973). The dynamics of concepts. London, England: Gryf.
Dąbrowski, K. (1996). Multilevelness of emotional and instinctive functions. Part I: Theory and description of levels of behavior. Lublin, Poland: Towarzystwo Naukowe Katolickiego Uniwersytetu Lubelskiego.