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Emotional Life and Psychotherapy of the Gifted in Light of Dabrowski’s Theory

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  • Daimon Institute for the Highly Gifted Inc.
  • Institute for Educational Advancement

Abstract and Figures

In this chapter we introduce the basic terms of Dabrowski’s theory, review the themes of emotional life of the gifted, including emotional and spiritual giftedness, discuss psychotherapy for the gifted, and present two cases illustrating development through positive disintegration in exceptionally gifted young persons. KeywordsDevelopmental potential–Emotional intensity–Emotional sensitivity–Emotional giftedness–Psychotherapy–Multilevelness
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Chapter 20
Emotional Life and Psychotherapy of the Gifted in Light
of Dabrowski’s Theory
P. Susan Jackson, Vicky F. Moyle and Michael M. Piechowski
Abstract In this chapter we introduce the basic terms
of Dabrowski’s theory, review the themes of emotional
life of the gifted, including emotional and spiritual
giftedness, discuss psychotherapy for the gifted, and
present two cases illustrating development through
positive disintegration in exceptionally gifted young
persons.
Keywords Developmental potential ·Emotional
intensity ·Emotional sensitivity ·Emotional gifted-
ness ·Psychotherapy ·Multilevelness
Two Core Concepts: Developmental
Potential and Multilevelness
Dabrowski’s theory of positive disintegration was first
introduced to the field of giftedness in 1979. Two chap-
ters in New Voices in Counseling the Gifted presented
the core concepts of the theory: developmental po-
tential and multilevelness (Colangelo-Ogburn, 1979;
Piechowski, 1979). By development Dabrowski meant
personal growth much like scaling a mountain rather
than the sequential unfolding of childhood, adoles-
cence, and adulthood.
Imagining personal growth as ascent of a moun-
tain, with all the peril, tests of courage and persever-
ance, suggests that not everyone has the strength, en-
durance, and determination to go far; few manage to
reach the summit. Also not everyone is interested in
M.M. Piechowski (B)
Institute for Educational Advancement, South Pasadena,
CA, USA
e-mail: spirgif@earthlink.net
climbing and may prefer to remain in the valley. Some
may not even be aware of the mountain. The endow-
ment for how far in scaling the figurative mountain
an individual can go constitutes developmental poten-
tial. An endowment for multilevel development signi-
fies that a person starts already a significant distance up
the slope. A person with limited potential starts in the
valley and does not reach far. Multilevel development
is a special kind of development involving introspec-
tion, self-evaluation and self-judgment, and significant
inner conflict and suffering that constitute the work of
inner transformation.
Dabrowski’s theory introduced a concept of multi-
levelness, the idea that the extremes—for good and for
bad—of human emotions, motivations, values, striv-
ings, and behaviors will make more sense if looked
at through a prism of levels. If, for instance, we take
manifestations of joy we could see joy from winning
a football game, feeling superior, defeating an oppo-
nent, succeeding by cunning, and feeling of power
when cleverly manipulating others. But to many peo-
ple such joys would be offensive because of complete
lack of consideration for others. A different kind of
joy is the joy that the name of a loved one brings, the
joy of overcoming one’s bad habits, the joy of self-
discovery, the joy of a creative moment and inspira-
tion, and the joy of being able to help another. In the
first case, the experiences of joy are egocentric, self-
serving, self-protecting, and power-seeking. In the sec-
ond case, they arise from love and empathy toward
others, from positive changes in oneself, and from ex-
pansive feelings of a higher order. The first case rep-
resents joy on a low emotional level; the second case
represents joy on a high emotional level. This com-
parison can be extended to all emotions and behav-
iors (Dabrowski, 1970). It is quite possible for a young
L.V. Shavinina (ed.), International Handbook on Giftedness,437
DOI 10.1007/978-1-4020-6162-2 20, c
Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009
438 P.S. Jackson et al.
person to operate on a higher emotional level than a
so-called mature adult.
The idea of levels comes from the experience of
higher and lower in oneself. Failing a person in time
of need is something lower, something we are ashamed
of and feel guilty about. Helping a person without any
expectation of reward or even token gratitude is some-
thing higher in ourselves, and all the purer if no one
knows about it. The yardstick here is the nature of our
intentions and motives.
Dabrowski envisioned five levels, which create four
intermediate levels, thus nine in all (Table 20.1). The
whole levels form a hierarchy: I, Primary integration;
II, Unilevel disintegration; III, Spontaneous Multilevel
Disintegration; IV, Organized Multilevel Disintegra-
tion; and V, Secondary Integration. The levels can be
identified by values, feelings toward self, and feelings
toward others that Miller used for her coding system
(Miller, 1985; Miller & Silverman, 1987).
The five levels have been outlined numerous times
(Dabrowski, 1970; Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977;
Miller & Silverman, 1987; Nelson, 1989; Piechowski,
1975, 1991, 2003; Silverman, 1993). The theory is
very complex and no simplified version can give it
justice. In Dabrowski’s clinical practice, artists, actors,
writers, religious persons, and gifted children were
prominent. He also studied the lives of eminent cre-
ators. Consequently the theory addresses the personal
characteristics and the subjective experience of the
gifted. It draws attention to the role of emotions,
imagination, and intellect in multilevel development.
Besides research instruments, the theory offers new
tools for differentiating gifted and non-gifted stu-
dents (Ackerman, 1997) and of identifying gifted
African-American students (Breard, 1994). The theory
Table 20.1 Miller’s criteria for assessment of levels of
development
Level Values Feelings Toward others
Towar d sel f
I Self-serving Egocentric Superficial
I–II
II Stereotypical Ambivalent Adaptive
II–III
III Individual Inner conflict Interdependent
III–IV
IV Universal Self-direction Democratic
IV–V
V Transcendent Peace and harmony Communionistic
(transpersonal)
Adapted from Miller (1985)
also helps to understand the intensities and sensi-
tivities driving creative people (Piirto, 2002; 2004;
Piechowski, 1999).
The components of developmental potential (DP)
are germane because they overlap with characteristics
recognized in many gifted children and adults. Tal-
ent, specific abilities, and g (intelligence) constitute the
first and the most obvious component. Overexcitabili-
ties constitute the second component. They were read-
ily embraced by the field because heightened excitabil-
ity is what’s noted about gifted children, their capacity
to be intensely and greatly stimulated and stay stim-
ulated for long. As far back as 1938, Dabrowski de-
scribed five overexcitabilities and so far no additional
ones have been suggested. Overexcitabilities may be
viewed as the necessary—but not sufficient—raw ma-
terial for multilevel development. Inner psychic trans-
formation is the third component, and it encapsulates
what multilevel development is about.
Developmental potential for multilevel develop-
ment takes this form:
1. Talents, special abilities, and g (intelligence).
2. Overexcitability: psychomotor, sensual, intellec-
tual, imaginational, and emotional.
3. Capacity for inner transformation.
Overexcitability means that reality is experienced
in a qualitatively different manner. Not just more of
curiosity, sensory enjoyment, imagination, and feeling
but added dimensions of depth, texture, acuity, and per-
ception. It implies an intense aliveness and a neural
processing very different from the norm. The idea that
high neural plasticity of the brain underlies giftedness
may be relevant here (Kalbfleisch, this volume).
Gifted children, endowed with the capacity for
advanced development, tend to be more active than
regular children and display higher energy level,
whether physical, intellectual, or emotional. Prodigies
are examples of an extraordinary concentration of
mental energy. The energy of the electric current in
the nerve tissue becomes interest, passion, sustained
effort, perseverance, creative flow, ecstasy, caring,
compassion, or spiritual experience. A greater than
average intensity, sometimes very great and extreme,
results in experiencing life intensely. For example, “I
get filled with energy when I need that energy. And,
of course, I release it by doing the thing that got me
excited in the first place” (Piechowski, 2006, p. 40).
This surplus of energy Dabrowski called psychomotor
20 Emotional Life and Psychotherapy 439
overexcitability because it has to be discharged in
action. In three studies, psychomotor overexcitability
differentiated between gifted and non-gifted students
(Ackerman, 1997; Bouchard, 2004; Tieso, 2007).
Sensory experience for gifted children tends to be of
a much richer quality because so much more detail, tex-
ture, contrast, and distinction are coming into aware-
ness. What is pleasant is liked with a passion, what
is unpleasant is disliked intensely. Dabrowski called it
sensual overexcitability. For example: “I seem to no-
tice more smells than a lot of other people. I love dark,
musty smells and earthy smells, herbs and things like
that. I love the smell of clean air in spring and tree
blossoms and things and the smell of clean bodies,
esp. hair” (Piechowski, 2006, p. 48). Sensual overex-
citability may join with emotional overexcitability, as
it often does, thus making the experience all the richer
and more meaningful. For example, “I like yellow for it
seems warm and full of joy” (Piechowski, 2006, p. 43).
In an intimate relationship sensual and emotional ele-
ments cannot be teased apart.
Intellectual overexcitability is the characteristic
by which gifted children are most often identified.
In a happy turn of phrase, Frank (2006) said that
intelligence is about the ability to solve problems, but
overexcitability is about the passion for solving them.
When the emotional and mental energies meet, the
mind supplies the energy of sustained concentration
while emotional energy drives interest (passion).
Interest is one of the basic emotions (Izard, 1971).
Gifted children tend to have excitable imagination,
especially rich, abundant, and surprising in creative
individuals. Imagination is a vast subject and yet not
sufficiently studied in gifted children. Creativity de-
pends on it. Imagination in combination with absorp-
tion enables construction of new realities (more about
this later).
Emotional overexcitability, manifested in the range
of emotions and feelings, tends to be wide and multi-
faceted in gifted children, both in intensity and in sen-
sitivity. Besides compassion, caring, and responsibility
the significance of deep and perceptive feeling lies in
empathy as a way of knowing, another unexplored abil-
ity of the gifted.
Gifted children are often misunderstood exactly
because they can be so greatly stimulated and because
they perceive and process things differently. Their
excitement is viewed as excessive, their high energy
as hyperactivity, their persistence as nagging, their
questioning as undermining authority, their imagina-
tion as not paying attention, their persistence as being
disruptive, their strong emotions and sensitivity as
immaturity, and their creativity and self-directedness
as oppositional disorder. They are the wild tall pop-
pies that many forces conspire to cut down to size
(Gross, 1998).
Funneling of Emotional Tension
The concept of overexcitability suggests that the
overall picture of an individual’s personal energy is
worth investigating. Certain situations impede the
natural flow of this energy. For a naturally active
person inactivity leads to a buildup of energy, which
presses to be discharged. For a naturally active mind a
boring day at school, or at a meeting, has to be worked
off by engagement in an intensely absorbing mental
task, otherwise sleep will not come (Tolan, 1994).
Emotional tension also builds up energy which then
seeks release in nervous habits, sensual easement of
tension (e.g. drinking, eating, shopping, sex), or exces-
sive worrying. Nervous habits and workaholism are a
psychomotor way of funneling of emotional tension,
oral compulsions are the sensual way (Piechowski,
2006).
Giftedness from Inside Out
The varieties of expressions of each overexcitability
have been collected from open-ended questionnaires
(Piechowski, 2006). Quantitative studies are good for
group comparisons and general trends in the data,
but it is the content of responses that reveals the
quality of experience and features of emotional life
(Piirto, 2004). Three different studies provided 158
OEQs (open-ended questions) with a total of about
5,000 responses from 79 boys and 79 girls, aged 9–19
years; the majority were teens (Piechowski, 1979;
Piechowski & Colangelo, 1984; Piechowski &
Miller, 1995). The first study used an OEQ with
46 questions, subsequently replaced by a 21-item
open-ended OEQ. The expressions by which a given
overexcitability is identified in the scoring process
have been listed in a number of sources (Cline &
440 P.S. Jackson et al.
Schwartz, 1999; Piechowski, 1991; 2001; 2003; 2006;
Silverman, 1993). The themes that emerged from
review of the content of the responses give a fairly
good picture of the many dimensions of inner life of
gifted children and adolescents (Piechowski, 2006).
A sampling of themes is presented in Table 20.2.
Yoo and Moon (2006) developed a 47-item inventory
of problems identified by parents of gifted children
requiring counseling. Quite a few of the items in
the inventory identify concerns similar to the themes
listed in Table 20.2, for instance, hypersensitivity,
anxiety and fearfulness, low self-esteem (self-doubt),
pressure to meet expectations (burden of “the gift”),
perfectionism, conflict with teachers or classmates,
non-compliance (resistance to compulsion), depres-
sion, loss and grief (coping with death), and so on.
Only a brief overview of selected topics can be
presented here.
Intellectual Energy
The process of solving problems or trying to grasp
difficult concepts typically can take one of two
directions: a step-by-step progression of breaking
the concept down, or by flash of insight that follows
many shifting points of seemingly fruitless attack.
The sudden insight is typified by K´
ekule’s discovery
of the ring structure of the benzene molecule and by
Einstein’s thought experiments. Today it comes under
the rubric of spatial thinking or visual-spatial learning
(Lubinski, 2003; Silverman, 2002). Spatial thinking,
which is nothing short of amazing, depends on precise
visualization, a link to imagination.
Intellectual energy has other consequences: relent-
less questioning, critical thinking, and evaluation. For
instance, gifted adolescents responded to the question,
What gets your mind going?, by mentioning the ir-
resistible attraction of brain teasers, logical puzzles,
theories, and controversies. More significantly, some
have mentioned “challenging anything accepted by so-
ciety” (not all were this radical) by equating such ac-
ceptance with conformity: “One good thing [is that] I
try to think about my beliefs—political and religious—
so that I won’t believe things just because my par-
ents do” (Piechowski, 2006, p. 64). This may lead to
a crisis in families with rather strict and orthodox reli-
gious faith or political adherence. A gifted adolescent
is likely to question the foundations of their faith and
often will find it wanting. To a highly gifted young per-
son doubts about beliefs present themselves almost in-
evitably, consequently they may precipitate a crisis of
worldview.
The price of questioning can be twofold. One, in en-
vironments that do not value questioning one quickly
meets with resistance and even rejection. Two, as self-
questioning it may create self-doubt and the fear of go-
ing crazy: “I probably spend too much time thinking
about my own thinking, analyzing myself and analyz-
ing the analysis. I sometimes psych myself into think-
ing I am going crazy” (Piechowski, 2006, p. 63). It
may be interesting to note that the great Sir Francis
Galton tried thinking paranoidally and was startled
how quickly he became paranoid.
Imaginal Experience
Commanding energy, sensual delights, racing
thoughts, and ideas are, for the most part, known
territory. With imagination a whole universe of unlim-
ited possibilities opens up to us. Imaginal experience
can be real and remembered as such, “as if it really
happened.”
The subject of invisible friends (imaginary play-
mates) has not received much attention in gifted
literature other than noting that gifted children tend
to have many more such companions than other
children (Terman, 1925; Hollingworth, 1942) and that
creative adolescents often keep them from childhood
(Davis, 2003; Piirto, 2004). That children distinguish
pretend play from everyday reality has been long
established (Singer, 1975; Singer & Singer, 1990).
However, the role of invisible friends in social
development, in gaining sense of competence and
overcoming fears, though studied in regular children,
has not received much attention in regard to gifted
children (but see Root-Bernstein, this volume). Imag-
inary companions usually are not secret but they do
belong to the child’s own world. Attempts on the
part of adults to interact with them swiftly lead to
their disappearance by natural or unnatural means
(Taylor, 1999). Imaginary playmates are real to the
child, and one may wonder whether the experience
is accompanied by sensory feelings. The study of
imaginary worlds answers this question.
20 Emotional Life and Psychotherapy 441
Table 20.2 Emotional life of the gifted: A sampling of themes
Piechowski (2006) Yoo & Moon (2006)
Intensity and sensitivity Hypersensitivity
High personal energy—physical and mental
Funneling of emotional tension:
psychomotor: nervous habits
sensual: eating, drinking, etc.
intellectual: a mind that cannot slow down
imaginal: doomsday scenarios
emotional: excessive worrying, (expecting the worst)
Sensual delights: appreciation increases with age
Intellectual energy
interest as a basic emotion
the role of empathy in intellectual probing
passion for finding and solving problems
relentless questioning and its consequences:
resistance in others, self-doubt in oneself low self-esteem
testing assumptions and beliefs: adolescent
crisis of worldview
spatial thinking
Imaginal experience
is imagination valued or source of annoyance?
imagistic thinking, e.g., metaphors
precise visualization: spatial and vivid
absorption: experiencing with full
sensory engagement
communication with nature
invisible friends (aka imaginary companions)
imaginary worlds
how real is a self-created reality?
Emotional experience
emotional intensity as “too much”
predominance of positive affect
friendships transcend stereotypes
affectional bonds with family, animals, and places
the self in adolescence: elusive, fragmented,
multiple, or confident
sense of responsibility: the burden of “the gift” pressure to meet expectations
being different sense of being different
perfectionism perfectionism
entelechy
empathy and a calling to action
empathy as a way of knowing
triggers of conflict conflict with teachers, fighting with
peers
resistance to compulsion noncompliance
anger, insecurity, and self-consciousness anger/ frustration
coping with depression depression
isolation, loneliness
coping with fears anxiety, fearfulness
coping with death recent loss/ grief
suicidal ideations
Typology of emotional growth
rational altruistic (“judging” or J)
emotional introspective (“perceptive” or P)
Emotional giftedness
the high end of emotional intelligence
Spiritual giftedness
facility for transpersonal experience
Multilevel development
unilevel vs. multilevel developmental process
442 P.S. Jackson et al.
Cohen and MacKeith (1991) examined 64 accounts
of imaginary worlds. The degree of elaboration—
creation of histories, languages, multiple characters
(in one case as many as 282), and the early age when
they are begun (6 or 7 or even younger)—indicates
the young weavers of these worlds were highly gifted.
The experience of being in an imaginary world can
be “as real as real.” For example, “I also had a magic
boat in my youth for a while. It had an outboard motor
but I found that too noisy. I’ve never been clever with
engines and there were always problems about petrol,
so I discarded the idea” (Cohen & MacKeith, 1991,
p. 57).
“Imaginary” is usually taken to mean “not real.
But imaginary playmates and imaginary worlds are
lived with the full range of sensory experience and
memory. The brain appears to make little distinction
between something that is vividly imagined from
something that is experienced from an outside input to
the senses (Damasio, 2003). Therefore, to allow for the
“as real as real” quality of experience, a more fitting
term is imaginal (Corbin, 1972; Singer, 1975; Watkins,
1990).
A study of excellent hypnotic subjects showed
that a significant proportion of the population,
between 2 and 4%, is quite at home in imaginal
scenarios of their own making (Wilson & Bar-
ber, 1983; Lynne & Rhue, 1988; Singer, 1975). For
the experience to feel completely real, vividness of
visualization has to be accompanied by the ability
to be completely absorbed in the experience. For
example, to enter into a painting, become one with
music, become water, sky, or an animal with all
the attendant sensations and perceptions is to be
totally and realistically merged in the experience
(Piechowski, 2006; Tellegen & Atkinson, 1974).
Such depth of absorption is more than flow because
it takes place in a self-created reality. We are faced
with the intriguing question of how imagination
constructs reality. Since the internal, self-created
reality cannot be distinguished from the properties
of external reality, one has to ask, which is the real
“real”? (Piechowski, 2006). The discovery of mirror
neurons opens new possibilities for exploring the
exact nature of imaginal experience as these neu-
rons have links to the motor and sensory systems
(Azziz-Zadeh, Wislon, Rizzolatti, & Iacoboni, 2006;
Sch¨
utz-Bosbach, Mancini, Aglioti & Haggard, 2006;
Turk, 2007).
Emotional Life
Emotional overexcitability is about what stimulates the
person. It is further differentiated into emotional inten-
sity and sensitivity. Emotional sensitivity represents the
ability to perceive and respond to nuances of emotion
and feeling in others, in oneself, and in group interac-
tions. It may be so acute that it becomes hypersensitiv-
ity. Emotional intensity (passion) is about the amount
of energy being expressed. With some people the inten-
sity of their expression is so great that it can be felt like
a pressure wave. Intensity of concentration and their
passion for a subject or talent, distinguish gifted chil-
dren; as one of them said: “A passion is something that
rules your life. You want to know everything that there
is to know and you want to be the best at it. An in-
terest is something that is cool, and you would like to
know more, but if you don’t that’s okay too” (Schultz &
Delisle, 2006a, p. 90).
Emotional life of the gifted encompasses so much
that only a few selected themes can be discussed
(Table 20.2). In the responses to the OEQ positive
feelings predominate. The dominant affect tends to be
love, compassion, caring, optimism, appreciation of
beauty, and the like. Bonds of deep affection involve
parents and siblings, pets and favorite places, whether
it is grandma’s house, an orchard, a spot by the river,
or backstage of the school theater.
The role of contact with nature in our emotional
well-being has received very little attention. With the
worsening environmental condition of the planet and
growing urbanization, the opportunity for children to
spend time in nature and explore it has all but vanished
(Louv, 2005).
Preadolescent younger children have much empa-
thy for the natural world (cf. the case of Kieran in the
last part of this chapter). They empathize with a wilt-
ing plant, a tree whose limb is cut off, a crushed spi-
der, and rise in indignation against maltreatment of liv-
ing things. We belittle it by calling it animism because
we do not see the moral imagination of the child who
identifies with what is living and seems sentient. This
feeling is extended to stuffed animals or any objects of
which the child is especially fond. Adults do that, too,
when they identify with their car or a piece of jewelry
(Piechowski, 2006).
Friendships are described in terms of intuitive con-
nection and mutual understanding on a deep level.
20 Emotional Life and Psychotherapy 443
Friendships transcend gender stereotypes and are as
easily formed between boys and girls as between boys
only or girls only. Introverted and non-athletic gifted
youngsters have a particularly difficult time finding
friends—they are a minority (non-athletic) within a mi-
nority (gifted), which can be further compounded by
any degree of “geekiness.
Being intense, which to most people means “too
much,” also creates an obvious challenge of finding
friends of similar level of intensity or passion. Being
intense is an ineradicable part of the gifted self. When
asked how they see their own self, some said that their
self is unknown, elusive, or hidden; others described
themselves in opposites. For example: “For every ad-
jective I can think of there is one that contradicts it en-
tirely: artistic but can’t write neatly (so you’ve seen),
lovable, yet a bitch; shy but loud, mature but silly, calm
but ‘spastic,’ together yet ready for a nervous break-
down” (Piechowski, 2006, p. 174). Struggles with self-
doubt, low self-concept, and lack of self-acceptance are
common. In adolescence the self is often changing and
awareness of having many selves, or even being split
into a thousand fragments, is not unusual. It is part of
emotional growing and seeking, which may be inten-
sified in adolescence and adulthood in the process of
multilevel development.
Because of their awareness of a larger context,
gifted adolescents may feel insignificant. But they can
also feel predestined for their mission in life, an inner
imperative called entelechy (Lovecky, 1990). In such
cases the qualities of will and self-determination be-
come prominent and clash with compulsory demands
and authoritarian commands.
For gifted young people it is often not easy to admit
being talented. The expectations of others for gifted
children “to fulfill their potential” (as if one could
know what that is) create pressure that is an unwel-
come burden because already one of the outstanding
dominant traits of most gifted young people is a feeling
of responsibility. Expectations and pressures from
others rob them of their own initiative only to make
the responsibility weigh all the more heavily on their
shoulders. They are well aware of it. The question,
who owns “the gift,” is rarely considered (Clark,
2005).
The value of working for the common good is some-
thing gifted children understand readily. One teacher
of the gifted said this about the difference in teaching
gifted and regular students:
One thing I have not realized until I returned to the regular
classroom was that gifted students’ heightened ability to
perceive connections meant that I extensively used their
empathy for others to teach broad concepts at a depth
I find difficult to even start to address with my current
classes. The empathy made the abstract very personal.
Most of my current students cannot get beyond their own
narrow world, and for some, not even beyond their skins.
(Frank, 2006, p. 166)
Gifted children’s quick empathic response to the
needs of others, their misfortunes, and tragedies has
been well documented (Lewis, 1992; Lovecky, 1992;
Piechowski, 2003; Roeper, 2007; Silverman, 1994;
Waldman, 2001). The statement quoted above shows
the gifted students’ capacity for empathy as a way of
knowing.
The capacity for empathy as part of gifted children’s
intellectual makeup is something that deserves more at-
tention. We have come late upon the knowledge that ra-
tional thought is ineffectual without feeling (Damasio,
1994). In fact, social interaction and empathy depend
on the activity of the mirror neurons, which create a
simulation of the actions and the emotions of others
within ourselves. A feelingful response is fast and op-
erates on a precognitive level (Gazzola, Aziz-Zadeh, &
Keysers, 2006).
Being gifted inevitably leads to conflict. Gifted
adolescents described those who brag as insensitive
and irresponsible. Clearly, these behaviors offend
their empathy, caring, and sense of fairness. A
frequently mentioned conflict arises with teachers
who do not accept students’ views, their knowledge,
and their questions, in short, teachers who do not
show respect for their students (Piechowski, 2006;
Schultz & Delisle, 2006a, 2006b). Being forced to act
against one’s will raises resistance to compulsion,a
much overlooked but very basic phenomenon (Selig-
man, 1975; Piechowski, 2006). Gifted students, and
the creative ones especially, react very strongly and
viscerally when they are denied choice and respect.
Procrastination, refusal to work, as well as learning
difficulties are born from this kind of resistance. Also
being forced to adhere to a belief one has not chosen.
The students then assert, by any means possible, their
self, individual identity, right to be heard, respected,
and given choice.
Anger, insecurity, and self-consciousness were
listed as unwelcome negative feelings. Depression
was expressed through vivid imagery. Those who
have experienced it recognized that there is a real
444 P.S. Jackson et al.
danger when one disconnects and is no longer able
to ask for help. Yet they endure and persist and in
most cases work their way out of the dark pit (cf.
the case of Lael later in the chapter). They realize
that their depression is precipitated by isolation and
lack of contact with those who can understand them.
Their need for communion on a deep level is acute
(Jackson, 1998). Depression may be precipitated also
by the awareness of having much ability and energy
but being too young, too “unplaced” to apply them
meaningfully and effectively outside academics: able
and willing but nowhere to go (Elkind, 1984).
They have fears. Holding to a high standard for
themselves they fear making a fool of themselves.
Those who are introverted and emotionally sensitive
tend to lack self-confidence and suffer agonies when
having to speak in front of an audience. They fear
not doing well, of not being the best (many are those
who feel they have to be the best), they fear failing
in their responsibilities, not fulfilling their goals. As
one boy said, the list of possible failures is pretty
frightening.
They also think of death, a subject that has received
too little attention in gifted literature and in school.
As one boy said, “can’t ask questions related to
life, only the textbook” (Schultz & Delisle, 2006a,
p. 53). Grant (2002, p. 13) observed “the important
topics in educating gifted children are self, meaning,
sex, relationship, community, life, purpose, ethics,
spirituality—the Most Important Things in Life,”
subjects that are for the most part avoided. Thinking
of death makes some gifted children delve into the
meaning of their role in life. Encountering violent
death of others—by accident and murder—forces
such questions with even greater urgency. Not all
are afraid of death. Some expressed curiosity about
the process of dying and wished to be able, when
the time comes, to be conscious of their own dying
and making the transition into the great unknown.
Others, however, feared the finality of death and
especially of their parents and loved ones more than
their own. As for explanation of what happens after
death they are divided between those who accept stan-
dard explanations offered by religion and those who
do not.
It is not unusual for gifted children and adolescents
to have precognitions, in dreams or wakefulness, of
events that are yet to happen. These experiences are
just too common to be discounted. They are intuitive—
knowing something without having the information on
which to base it. Precognitions of accidents and death
that turn out true are too unsettling to be mentioned in
the open. Often a young person has no one to consult
with. It is therefore a burden for a child or a young per-
son to have to keep it quiet and have no reassurance
about the normality of it (Piechowski, 2006).
As was mentioned earlier, gifted adolescents prefer
to cope with their problems on their own. In a study
of bullying, Peterson and Ray (2006) found that rather
than report it and ask for help, gifted students chose
to handle it themselves. Sometimes it meant to just grit
their teeth, endure, and not complain. This may explain
why despite their overexcitabilities, the suicide rate of
gifted young people is not higher than their non-gifted
counterparts (Cross, 1996; Cross, Cassady & Miller,
2006).
Psychological Types and Types
of Emotional Growth
C. G. Jung’s concept of psychological type identifies
four continuous personality dimensions from extrover-
sion to introversion (E-I), from sensation to intuition
(S-N), and from thinking to feeling (T-F). One would
expect these dimensions to correspond to the overex-
citabilities, for instance, thinking to intellectual or feel-
ing to emotional. However, there is very little corre-
lation between overexcitabilities and these dimensions
(low correlation for sensual and imaginational with F,
and no correlation for psychomotor, intellectual, and
emotional). The reason for it is this: the Jungian di-
mensions are different constructs from overexcitabili-
ties. The Jungian dimensions refer to preferred and ha-
bitual modes of dealing with the data of experience; the
overexcitabilities refer to the heightened capacities for
both apprehending and generating the data of experi-
ence (Lysy & Piechowski, 1983). A further distinction
into judging (J) and perceiving (P) was introduced by
Meyers and Meyers (1995). There is a significant cor-
relation (.37) between imaginational overexcitability
and type P (Lysy & Piechowski, 1983). Among gifted
children type P is more frequent than type J, the in-
tuitive more frequent than the sensation type, and the
thinking type more frequent than the feeling type; but
the gifted consistently are evenly divided between ex-
troverts and introverts (Hawkins, 1998; Cross, Cassady
20 Emotional Life and Psychotherapy 445
& Miller, 2006). The higher the level of giftedness, the
frequency of both the N and the P type rises dramat-
ically (Meckstroth, 2006). The highly gifted Rhodes
scholars are more than ten to one intuitive, and type P is
close to twice as frequent as type J. In the general pop-
ulation of high school students it is just the opposite:
the intuitive type is about five times less frequent than
the sensation type (Meyers and Meyers, 1995). This is
one significant source for the gifted feeling “different,
consequently not fitting in school. The situation is one
of opposites rather than a match with other students and
with teachers (Cross et al., 2006). The prevalence of
the intuitive type is consistent with higher frequency of
multilevel developmental potential among the gifted.
Meyers and Meyers (1995) describe the “judging”
type as oriented toward action by personal executive
power of will and choice, while the “perceiving”
type as oriented toward embracing experience: “The
judging types believe that life should be willed and
decided, while the perceptive types regard life as
something to be experienced and understood” (p. 69).
From analysis of responses rated as emotional overex-
citability two types of emotional growth have been
identified in gifted adolescents: rational altruistic and
introspective (Piechowski, 1989). They correspond
exactly to the judging/perceiving distinction. Thus one
validates the other as the two typologies were derived
independently.
The rational-altruistic type so far has not been ana-
lyzed into internal components. The introspective type
has eight intrapersonal components. Although on the
surface people of the J type fit society’s yardstick for
defining a “good citizen” they are nevertheless ca-
pable of deep inner life (Lysy & Piechowski, 1983;
Piechowski, 2006). Schools clearly prefer J type stu-
dents because they tend toward achievement and tend
not to buck the system unless their logical thinking and
strong sense of fairness see a violation of basic princi-
ples and rights.
Another type of gifted persons was described
by Elaine Aron as the Highly Sensitive Person
(Aron, 1997). Aron’s description of the HSP includes
a tendency toward introversion, heightened emotional
sensitivity, and a combination of intellectual and
imaginational overexcitabilities (Piechowski, 2006). In
a word, a complex but distinct profile of a person with
a sensitive nervous system that is easily overwhelmed
by overstimulation. Hence social discomfort and
feeling of being a misfit.
Research on Overexcitability
While early studies relied on an open-ended instru-
ment, the Overexcitability Questionnaire (OEQ), new
and larger scale studies have been made possible with
the advent of a 50-item inventory, the OEQII (Bouchet
& Falk, 2001).
Research findings on overexcitability have been
reviewed by Mendaglio and Tillier (2006) with the
general conclusion that gifted children tend to have
higher overexcitability scores than regular children.
The difference is particularly strong for creative
children and adults. Among consistent findings is the
higher emotional score for females than for males and
higher psychomotor score for males than for females.
The overexcitability profile for artists has received
cross-cultural validation in a comparison study of
American and Venezuelan artists (Falk, Manzanero,
& Miller, 1997). An extensive cross-cultural study of
gifted students in Mexico, Spain, Turkey, Taiwan, and
the US found a similar overexcitability profile in these
six different cultures (Falk, Balderas, Chang, Guzel, &
Pardo, 2003).
A study of OE profiles in gifted families found
how parents describe their children’s OE profiles, the
challenges each OE presents, and the strategies these
parents use to cope with them (Daniels, 2006). For in-
stance, in one family, in regard to psychomotor overex-
citability, the parents saw its positive side in that the
children stay physically fit and do not tire even in phys-
ically demanding activities, but it is a challenge for
them to endure long car rides or family dinners. Also
they do not regulate well their own energy and think
they can go on when in fact they are tired and need
the rest. They need periods of time to be in motion. So
one of the strategies is to let them spend lots of time
outdoors skating, biking, or playing ball.
Emotional Giftedness
That some children are emotionally gifted was first
suggested by Annemarie Roeper (1982). Emotionally
gifted children have deep empathy and respond to the
needs and hurts of others. Such children cannot rest
until they have set things right for others. This is espe-
cially noteworthy when the other is a stranger or some-
one disliked, e.g., when a child makes a special effort
446 P.S. Jackson et al.
to be friendly to the class bully as did one 10-year-old
girl. Intimidating others, she explained, was his way of
covering his own insecurity.
To be emotionally gifted is to dare to act on one’s
awareness. If there are hungry people one feeds them
and makes sure they will not go hungry from now on. If
one sees someone in distress, one offers relief. Unfair-
ness and injustice call for defending people’s rights.
There are many preteens and early teens who
take up social action on behalf of others, actions that
become large-scale operations extending over many
states, or even many nations. For example, raising
thousands of dollars for deaf and blind children, vic-
tims of abuse, sending over 100,000 books to African
children, providing suitcases for children going into
foster homes, providing kid packs for children victims
of domestic violence whose parents are in jail are
only a few of the ingenious, effective organizational
efforts that are motivated by compassion in these
very young people (Lewis, 1992; Piechowski, 2003;
Silverman, 1994; Waldman, 2001).
Emotional giftedness represents the high end of
emotional intelligence. Mayer, Perkins, Caruso, and
Salovey (2001) devised ways of measuring compo-
nents of emotional intelligence. In one of their tests
they asked teenagers how they handled emotion-
ally difficult situations: “Think about last time you
were out with some friends and they wanted to do
something you were uncomfortable with.” Mayer et
al. hypothesized that emotionally gifted adolescents
will resist going along with unsavory intentions of
their friends. The results confirmed the hypothesis.
Consequently the concept of emotional giftedness was
validated (see also Bar-On, this volume). Opportuni-
ties for research on the biological basis of emotional
giftedness come from the study of mirror neurons.
These neurons, which make possible empathy and
understanding the moods and intentions of others,
are more strongly activated in people who score
higher on an empathy scale (Gazzola, Aziz-Zadeh,
& Keysers, 2006). At the same time the mirror
neurons appear to be defective in autistic individuals
(Turk, 2007).
Mayer et al. also realized that in response to their
test situation taking a stand in opposition to peer
pressure was what Dabrowski named positive malad-
justment. It means not compromising one’s ideals and
having the fortitude to stand alone (Dabrowski, 1970).
When empathy and sense of justice inspire action to
help and protect others then emotional giftedness and
positive maladjustment overlap (Piechowski, 2006).
Resisting peer pressure for drugs, sex, and subversive
acts are examples of positive maladjustment in which
emotional giftedness plays a lesser role.
Emotional giftedness at a higher level of devel-
opment is represented by Eleanor Roosevelt, Etty
Hillesum, Peace Pilgrim, Paul Robeson, Bishop Tutu,
all profoundly spiritual persons, and can be also found
among case studies of self-actualizing people and
gifted teachers (Brennan & Piechowski, 1991; Mr´
oz,
2002; Payne, 1987; Piechowski, 1992; Frank, 2006).
The first piece of research exploring the application
of Dabrowski’s theory to the personality of a teacher
of the gifted is Frank’s (2006) study of an inspirational
teacher. The criteria of multilevelness applied by Frank
revealed an authentic individual, thoughtfully and de-
liberately engaged in a teaching grounded in the moral
foundation of his advanced level of development. The
effectiveness of this teacher lay in his Socratic method
as an empathic and moral education that can be called
teaching for life in the truest sense.
Spiritual Giftedness
From emotional giftedness it takes only one further
step to spiritual giftedness (Piechowski, 2001, 2003,
2006). There has been some debate whether or
not a case can be made for spiritual intelligence
(Emmons, 2000; Gardner, 2000). The argument
advanced by Emmons is that what motivates people
often has its source in genuinely spiritual concerns.
But if one could recognize spiritual giftedness then the
case for spiritual intelligence would have been made.
What defines spiritual giftedness is a predisposition
toward deep states of consciousness and the facility
for entering such states, in short an ease for transper-
sonal experience (Piechowski, 2006). Among people
who take up meditation and various kinds of spiri-
tual discipline many struggle to reach some modicum
of calm and inner peace, while some reach it rather
quickly and easily. No doubt the capacity for becom-
ing absorbed in an experience when combined with
the ability to focus one’s mind, relax, let go of press-
ing concerns and distracting thoughts, predisposes a
person for meditation and thereby for developing a
deeply spiritual life. One telling example came from
20 Emotional Life and Psychotherapy 447
a nun who said that her spiritual inclination dated from
childhood. Contact with God was for her deeply emo-
tional: “Sometimes I felt his presence and I remember
that I did not need to be saying verbal prayers, they
even tired me. ... I was immediately in his presence.
... So it was a gift, given freely, of ease of making
contact” (Mr´
oz, 2002; Piechowski, 2006, pp. 247–48).
It is now known that facility for this kind of experi-
ence involves the ability to suppress the activity of an
area in the left parietal lobe. That area is involved in
self/other dichotomy and depends on input from the
senses (Newberg & Newberg, 2006). In deep medita-
tive states the input from the senses is diminished or
even completely blocked so no sounds or other sensa-
tions reach the meditator.
William James’s (1902) study of the varieties
of religious experience was par excellence a study of
spiritually gifted people. However, the exploration of
the spiritual life of gifted children has barely begun
(Lovecky, 1998; Piechowski, 2006). When conducting
guided imagery exercises with gifted undergraduates
and high school students it was found that scenarios
designed for personal growth can, on occasion, evoke a
genuine spiritual experience. For example, in an exer-
cise called the Rose, one is guided to watch a rosebud
slowly open, then the flower, and finally to look inside:
“The rose was of magnificent beauty; it was red with
violet tips. The rose then begun to open up more and
I was able to smell a potent and refreshing scent. Then
as the rose opened even more I was able to see and feel
a mystical vibrant ball with an aura of its own. When
I saw this ball I felt a feeling in my lower chest of glee
and inner peace” (Piechowski, 2006, p. 253).
Research on the spiritual life of children was initi-
ated in England by Robinson (1977), and in the United
States by Hoffman (1992) and Hart (2003). Children’s
spirituality is now a research field in its own right.
An International Journal of Children’s Spirituality was
launched in 1995 and a comprehensive Handbook of
Spiritual Development in Children and Adolescents
came out in 2006 (Roehlkepartain, King, Wagener, &
Benson, 2006).
Fostering Emotional Growth
Examining emotional life leads to the question as to
how can we give it proper attention and help culti-
vate it. One way is to lead psychosynthesis exercises,
or any other guided imagery designed with similar
focus. Psychosynthesis techniques are designed for
personal and spiritual growth (Ferrucci, 1982). One
of us (M.M.P.) led these exercises for a number of
years, first with undergraduate students, later with
gifted children aged 10–17 years. Gifted children,
with very few exceptions, have great capacity for
detailed visualization and absorption in the imaginal
experience. How this is done is described in detail
elsewhere (Piechowski, 2006, Chapter 20). These
techniques have also been adapted for elementary
age children (Fugitt, 2001; Murdock, 1988). Another
way of attending to emotional life is through group
process devoted to emotionally charged issues. In a
safe space, where no judgment or criticism is allowed
to interfere with the process, teens discuss feel-
ings, family, relationships, and the future (Peterson,
1995).
Multilevel Development
Since the emphasis of the theory is on multilevel
development, it offers the means of identifying
persons at advanced levels of development. The
theory contributes constructs of transpersonal devel-
opment that go beyond Kohlberg’s and Loevinger’s
developmental schemes (Piechowski, 2003). Support
for the theory was found not only in cross-cultural
validation of overexcitability profiles but also through
three empirical tests (Piechowski, 1975), a positive
correlation (0.44) between the Jungian intuitive
type (N) and the developmental level and that all
five overexcitabilities correlated with developmental
level: psychomotor 0.26, sensual 0.31, intellectual
0.57, imaginational 0.38, and emotional 0.59 (Lysy
& Piechowski, 1983). Furthermore, on detailed
scrutiny the construct of Level IV corresponds ex-
actly to Maslow’s description of self-actualizing
people (Piechowski, 1978). When two independent
sets of observations and constructs converge, we
can be confident that a real phenomenon has been
identified.
For the understanding of emotional growth of
gifted children, the distinction between a unilevel
and a multilevel process of development is the most
relevant. In unilevel process values are relative rather
448 P.S. Jackson et al.
than universal, inner conflicts are recycled rather
than resolved, relationships with others do not have
a steady footing. Trying every new trend, following
fads, being guided primarily by others’ opinions is an
individual without a center. The shifting nature of the
person’s identity depends on the circumstances and the
people present. Such is often the self of an adolescent.
When the process intensifies it becomes unilevel
disintegration.
A change comes when this state of affairs begins to
tire with its meaningless emotional treading water and
growing malaise. The search for a way out starts with
the realization of the possibility of a more meaningful
focus in life. A sense of higher and lower in oneself
opens new horizons. Sensing the possibility of some-
thing higher in oneself engenders the feeling of inferi-
ority, not to others but toward oneself. It is an inferi-
ority before one’s unrealized better self. Soon this feel-
ing of inferiority toward oneself is followed by an array
of inner currents and rifts with descriptive names like
disquietude with oneself, dissatisfaction with oneself,
positive maladjustment, and so on. What they all have
in common is the vertical axis of self-evaluation, that
judges the distance from the higher in oneself, which
attracts, and grows a stronger reaction against the lower
in oneself, which repels.
When in a young person we recognize an inner
dialogue, self-judgment, distress over a moral conflict
we have in front of us a multilevel process. The
introspective emotional growth mentioned earlier,
has eight components, which help recognize the
specifics of the multilevel emotional development in
adolescents. They are (1) awareness of growing and
changing, (2) awareness of feelings, interest in others
and empathy toward them, (3) occasional feelings of
unreality, (4) inner dialogue, (5) self-examination,
(6) self-judgment, (7) searching, problem-finding,
asking existential questions, and (8) awareness of
one’s real self (Piechowski, 1989; 2006). Looking
back at Table 20.1, it becomes clear that the values in
such a process can be both individual and universal,
that the feelings toward oneself can be rife with
inner conflict or they can be showing an emergent
self-direction, and that feelings toward others will
be sincerely democratic and displaying awareness of
interdependence. In cases of intense inner conflict,
suffering, inner seeking, and depression, the process
becomes multilevel disintegration as illustrated in the
cases of Lael and Kieran later in the chapter.
Counseling and Psychotherapy
for the Gifted
Effective counseling for the gifted requires a thera-
peutic orientation that strives to help a client integrate
all aspects of his being. This inclusive conceptualiza-
tion gives influential roles to the intelligence and emo-
tional complexity of the client—but not only those
aspects. Perhaps more importantly, the wise therapist
helps her client evolve and develop, and this requires
adopting a multilevel perspective. The development of
the personality—taking into account not only the nat-
ural endowment of the individual and his social milieu
but also a will and motivation to transcend both na-
ture and nurture—is the task of utmost importance for
a client of high developmental potential. A personal
process of manifesting authenticity and autonomy in
his unique human life defines the growth trajectory
for many gifted persons. Multilevel development is
uncommon: accelerated, idiosyncratic, and often em-
phatic. It involves effort on the part of the individual; it
is neither automatic nor inevitable. This virtual birthing
process of the personality, innervating every aspect of
one’s being, is felt as a compelling drive within the core
of an individual with high developmental potential.
A mental health professional should have sufficient
awareness and understanding of, and appreciation for,
the phenomenological experience of a gifted person.
The lived experience of a child imbued with high
developmental potential is organic, vibrant, and full of
tension and overexcitability. Children who are attuned
to and interested in various forms of reality, who
are penetratingly aware and sensitive, present many
different and rich psychological characteristics. Deep
interests, deep probing intelligence, and deep emo-
tional involvement in many and various issues, events,
and imaginings, characterize such children. Great
effort and deep perception is needed on the part of a
professional to appreciate, understand, and respond
to their core developmental needs and their unique
person.
The inner life of these potentiated children is
filled with indeterminate fullness and burgeoning
activity. Inherent in all of their experiencing is a
strong sense of purpose and intention, or entelechy
(Lovecky, 1993, 1998). This deeply ingrained in-
tention is sometimes consciously known and at
other times apparent in their action and movement
in the world. The developmental template that is
20 Emotional Life and Psychotherapy 449
their birthright is both a rich resource and a call to
become who they most deeply are. It is a truly heroic
quest the gifted child undertakes as he strives toward
full-spectrum living. He may experience annoyances
and deep frustration, awe, inexorable perceptions
and insights, complex original fantasy images, deep
connections to others and ideals—and, for him, these
are normal occurrences needing acknowledgment and
healthy expression. There is an enlivening, animating
quality to these experiences for the child, as he has
the awareness that they carry the possibility of being
transformative and creative. An often absolute and
compelling character infuses this core generative
quality—the gifted child can appear undeterred and, to
the outside world, seemingly incomprehensible. Over-
all, this lived experience is—for many—an undeniable
call toward self-realization and transcendence.
Because of this palpable generative quality, a
meaningful psychotherapeutic stance requires in-
corporating a notion of creativity as an essential
factor in healthy development and therapy. Dabrowski
(1964, 1970, 1972) asserted that the “creative in-
stinct” was a fundamental determinant for advanced
development. What did he mean by this? The idea of
a creative “instinct” at work in human development
might not be a concept strictly supportable by modern
scientific research that focuses on behaviors and
environments, but the notion of an inner drivenness
toward new realization and improvement, a capacity
for conceiving and creating novelty—whether inborn
or teachable—seems to be an undeniable quality
of many gifted individuals. Furthermore, the tacit
infrastructure of existing knowledge—perhaps in
any field—will be insufficient for conceptualizing
the truly gifted mind and psyche. What does this
mean for the counselor approaching work with such a
client?
Frequently, it means bringing creativity into the
therapeutic relationship in challenging ways for a
therapist. This includes accepting the often profound
idiosyncratic nature of a client’s symbolism, lan-
guage, behavior, and/or thought processes—to name
a few—and refraining from therapeutic judgment in
response. Such unique modes of expression and the
potential for multidimensional experiencing in gifted
persons spring from their inborn extraordinary intel-
lects, the presence of super-ordinate talents, and the
existence of will or “autonomous factors” (Dabrowski,
1964).
Counselors must honor and be aware that this rich
capacity is served by an animated and imbued way of
knowing. Children with high developmental potential
apprehend and experience their world through an en-
livened sensual knowing; through image, symbol, and
metaphor; and through emotionally nuanced and subtle
compelling perceptions. Furthermore, this discernment
is both a cognitive-intellectual and an intuitive aware-
ness. Strong kinesthetic dimensions flavor the process
as well. Such children can be physically stimulated
by these uncommon capacities. Muscles, tendons, and
joints may be affected by this perceptiveness, and bod-
ily movements and tensions may actually stimulate the
knowing itself.
The characteristic of an effective therapist to sus-
pend a tendency to diagnose mental illness or patholo-
gize symptoms is crucial. This does not mean, however,
that a therapist can ignore traditional knowledge of
mental health issues, nor that she does not need a thor-
ough grounding in a reputable counseling or psychol-
ogy program. However, a mental health professional
needs to keep a consistent consciousness on the possi-
bility that supposed symptoms of mental illness might
be mechanisms of growth for the gifted individual.
Insufficiency of Existing
Psychotherapeutic Paradigms
Most psychotherapeutic paradigms currently in vogue
in the United States are not, in and of themselves,
effective for helping a gifted client—especially the
highly gifted in stages of advanced development. Com-
monly used orientations are rarely complex enough,
and often pit the client’s mental aspects against each
other, exacerbating inner polarization rather than
relieving it. For instance, therapies of choice in many
US training programs and established agency venues
emphasize cognitive, cognitive-behavioral, solution-
focused, brief therapy, and group therapy techniques.
Emphasis is on short-term relationships with the
client, discrete problem-solving techniques, simple
symptom-reduction behaviors, and/or optimization
of interpersonal functioning. While these are valid
and acceptable goals, such single points-of-focus
therapeutic work is unsatisfactory for a gifted client.
While perhaps helpful for the average therapist or
typical patient, such gross simplification—more often
450 P.S. Jackson et al.
than not—fails the gifted client. Dabrowski repeatedly
asserted that the full spectrum of human behavior,
especially for advanced development, could not be
explained by cognitive or behavioral approaches
(1964, 1970, 1972).
Emotional and Social Implications
of Dabrowski’s Theory
As already discussed, a gifted individual can be par-
ticularly sensitive to external stimuli, and he can have
extraordinary processing capacities for cognition, emo-
tional intensity and depth, and profound imaginal qual-
ities. These potentials for unique internal experience,
while capable of creating exquisite feelings and peak
experiences, can cause difficulty for the person as well.
Many gifted are acutely aware of the dangers and pit-
falls of trying to communicate these intensities (more
often than not unshared) with others. Incongruency of
the private inner experience versus the external expres-
sion of it, which usually must be severely modulated if
not curtailed, is often painful for the gifted client. This
lack of flow between the inner and the outer worlds
can be exacerbated by feelings of loneliness and doubts
about one’s own sanity, in the absence of a satisfactory
mirroring with another. Mirroring the client, uncondi-
tional positive regard, accurate understanding, and em-
pathy take on new meaning with a client of great emo-
tional, imaginational, and intellectual complexity, in-
tensity, and depth.
Emotional Sensitivity and Moral
Valuation
Dabrowski was convinced that an adequate theory of
human mental development was not possible without
an incorporation of ethical valuation and an acknowl-
edgement of the complexity of the affective side of
mental life. “All that is truly human expresses a hierar-
chy of values,” he wrote in his unpublished manuscript
Authentic Education (Dabrowski, n.d.). He was
greatly influenced by John Dewey, who emphasized
the role of intelligence and the capacity for careful
discrimination in making moral decisions (Moyle,
2005).
Most psychotherapies involve helping a client to
adapt to existing norms because it is assumed that
his quality of life (or the quality of life of others in
the environment) is adversely affected by an inabil-
ity or refusal to comply with social expectations. Ori-
enting therapy with a consideration toward multilevel
development is implied for the discerning therapist
who works with gifted individuals capable of develop-
ing beyond commonly accepted cultural parameters or
who disagrees with the prevailing moral valuation of
his social milieu.
Counseling Using an Integral Approach
Supporting the developmental potential of a gifted
child—while not removing the struggle for existence
and expression—involves having a profound aware-
ness of subtle cues, conveyed on a multitude of levels.
Dabrowski asserted that emotional sensitivity was
a key indicator of developmental potential, and he
agreed with Dewey that emotions form the basis of
ethical and moral valuation, so this characteristic is
important to acknowledge in therapeutic planning.
Because his intellect is constantly tempered with
his emotional complexity, an emotionally charged
individual, even with great intelligence, appears less
likely to consider himself gifted. The opportunity to
experience activation of self-growth through relation-
ship is often problematic for the gifted (Jackson, 1998;
Gross, 1993, 1998; Lovecky, 1993, 1998). Many
have virtually no human context in which to develop
naturally or environments in which to interface,
since finding true peers is rare. Being a catalyst of
development is a role of great responsibility that a
therapist for the gifted must embrace consciously and
with wisdom and integrity.
Authentic development, for Dabrowski, meant go-
ing beyond genetic endowment and environmental con-
straints, and required an individual “making commit-
ment to his own particular developmental inner truth”
and harmonizing this personal vision with the needs
and values, or “developmental inner truths” of others
(Dabrowski, n.d.). To this end, the child must be reared
and educated in an environment of mutual compas-
sion, understanding, and positive adjustment—not sim-
ply adjustment to the changing material conditions of
life.
20 Emotional Life and Psychotherapy 451
Implicit in the work of mental health profession-
als should be an emphatic concern for developing
‘giftedness’—not for the purpose of celebrating talent
or potential eminence—but instead for helping the
manifestation of the child’s talents in the service of his
integrated development.
Dabrowski’s Theory Is Non-ontogenetic
and Value Based
Dabrowski was clear that development is non-
ontogenetic. His is not an age-based stage theory, and
thus can be applied to individuals without regard to
previous stages or chronological age. Because gifted
children often exhibit behaviors and understanding
more typical to their elders than their peers, his theory
helps to guide gifted education and counseling where
other paradigms fall short.
An essential piece of the complex makeup of
high DP individuals is their complex moral system.
The existence of such systems has been verified
consistently in the first and second authors’ clinical
practices, and has been mentioned by others, including
Gross (1993, 1998) and Lovecky (1993, 1998). The
value systems clearly exhibit a hierarchy and include
uncommon valuing, subtle and careful discernment,
and a dynamic equilibrium—which filters through
and infuses all aspects of perception, motivation, and
judging. However, when confronted with unsupportive
environments, those children who express emotional,
intellectual, and imaginational overexcitabilities (OE)
can present with overly heightened and misunderstood
reactions, sometimes even psychoneuroses. An under-
standing of the child’s uniqueness and developmental
potential from a positive point of view is key for
healthy socialization. Persons of high DP should be
encouraged in the therapeutic relationship to develop,
realize, and take responsibility for their uniquely
crafted hierarchy of values. In this sense, concepts
of adjustment are directed by the individual’s own
potentials, values, and aims.
Dabrowski’s theory helps to see the gifted experi-
ence in the new light of a potential for multilevel de-
velopment. That emotional life leads development and
the intellect plays a subordinate role in advanced de-
velopment, Dabrowski stated in a form of a hypothesis
to be tested empirically:
The operation of the dynamisms of multilevel disintegra-
tion transforms the intellectual function by liberating it
from its subservient role to primitive drives, by increas-
ing its objectivism, widening its horizons, increasing the
power of imagination, replacing fallacious and rigid pat-
terns by creative forms... and working towards an equi-
librium of analytic and synthetic processes of thought and
an intimate conjunction of thinking with higher emotions
and personality. (Dabrowski, 1970, p. 136)
As indicated earlier, his position finds support in the
fact that when the frontal lobe connection between
emotion and reason is severed, reasoning remains in-
tact but loses the capacity to choose between alterna-
tives (since it no longer knows their different values,
which are decided by feeling) and thus is hopelessly
ineffectual (Damasio, 1994).
Supporting the Developmental Inner
Truth of the Child with High
Developmental Potential
Two case studies, a gifted child and an adolescent with
elevated developmental potential, will illustrate this ap-
proach. Emphasis is placed on the need for a differen-
tiated understanding of the ways these children know,
think, feel, imagine, express, and experience—given
their complex and idiosyncratic makeup. Understand-
ing of the child’s uniqueness and developmental poten-
tial from a positive point of view is essential for healthy
socialization. Education of these children must include
creative adaptation of standard methods of teaching
and behavior. Counseling interventions must be in-
formed by an understanding and appreciation of their
penetrating capacity for apprehension, their dynamic
moment-to-moment experiencing, and their complex
moral frameworks.
Children must be encouraged to develop and realize
their uniquely crafted hierarchy of values. Adjustment
is directed by the child’s own potentials, values, and
aims.
As mentioned previously, Dabrowski’s view on ed-
ucation of those with high developmental potential in-
cludes an injunction for educators to orient their ac-
tivities toward the “developmental inner truth” of the
child. The multidimensionality of this developmen-
tal inner truth is described in Dabrowski’s Authentic
Education:
452 P.S. Jackson et al.
All that is truly human expresses a hierarchy of values—
a clear indication that the teacher recognizes, in him-
self, and others, better and worse ways of educating,
and that he consciously chooses the “better” ...Itis
aimed at educating children in an environment of mutual
compassion, understanding, and positive adjustment—
adjustment not just to the changing material conditions
of life, but commitment to individual positive develop-
mental changes. Authentic” for the child, then, is his
commitment to his own particular “developmental in-
nertruth”...harmonizedwiththeneedsandvalues,
the “developmental inner truths” of others. (Dabrowski,
n.d.)
Each person is multidimensional, his psychic
being functions in n-space or n-dimensions, and most
importantly
each individual has his own “unique n-dimensional inner
space.” It is this inner space that belongs to you and you
alone and the growth and development of this inner space
is what personal freedom is all about and what education
should be all about. (Yeudall, n.d.)
Social and Emotional Development
from a Multilevel Multiple
Perspective
How do we help our gifted children grow and
develop—through the inevitable dissolutions and
self-transcendence inherent in growth—in ways that
do not involve unnecessary suffering, benign neglect,
or an unhealthy hyper vigilance? We need to help our
gifted children:
1. To begin to develop an ongoing awareness of Self:
emotions, cognitions, imaginative play, kinesthetic
dimensions, sense of right and wrong, instincts and
intuitions, and apprehension through intuition and
through an elevated sensorium.
2. To develop an awareness of the vastness of the
emotional landscape: identify multiple modes and
kinds of feelings in self and others and expand
their capacity to understand and express emotional
knowing.
3. To be able to relate to others and establish hu-
man connections across many levels and lines of
expression.
4. To develop capacities to acknowledge, express and
reciprocate with others in variant circumstances and
levels of energy interchange.
5. To learn to identify with and be sustained by in a
core Self that directs and is responsive even in times
of rapid change and growth.
6. To become aware of and trust developmental dy-
namisms: modalities and manner of development
are idiosyncratic.
7. To trust, activate, and support creative impulses,
drive, and insights.
The gifted child with high developmental potential
is a profound meaning-maker: in the immediate phys-
ical reality, in the realm of ideas, in relationships, and
in existence/being. The gifted child identifies patterns
and inheres order in the phenomena he encounters.
He has innate drive for coherence in the disparate el-
ements of his experience and relation. For some gifted
children this understanding and coherence is experi-
enced most strongly through emotional channels—for
some, the conduits may be intellectual, aesthetic, or
kinesthetic. The degree and interactive effect of these
channels varies from child to child. Table 20.3 outlines
the broad categories of focus for developmental and
therapeutic work with these individuals. Included are
themes of developing awareness, and developing ca-
pacities for personal agency and communion.
The most important point is that there exists a
crucial need to help gifted children understand that
these fundamental drives—while uncommon—are
normative for them. A guiding adult must help to
provide the right amount of complex stimulus and
restorative periods for these children. Acceptance of
the child’s innate capacities for self-awareness and
self-regulation is key!
Mental Health from a Multidimensional
View of Personality Development:
The Case of Lael, an Exceptionally Gifted
17-Year-Old
The following case study is written by the first au-
thor, a clinical counselor specializing in advanced
development of gifted individuals. The “initial im-
pression” portion of this case study is written in
first-person narrative to give the reader an in situ per-
spective of the subtle interplay between counselor and
client.
20 Emotional Life and Psychotherapy 453
Table 20.3 Components of focus for gifted social and emotional development: a multilevel perspective
FOCUS COMPONENTS OF FOCUS PURPOSE OF WORK
VALIDATE AND
DEVELOP
CAPACITIES FOR
AWARENESS
Awareness of Self Own self’s emotions, cognitions,
imaginative imagery,
values-sense of right and wrong,
spontaneous ‘instincts’,
apprehensions-from intution,
unconscious, and elevated
sensorium
To begin to understand and know
that to be conscious of one’s
own natural inclinations,
instincts, and inborn proclivities
is necessary in order to develop
Awareness of Others Others’ emotions, congitions,
imaginative imagery,
values-sense of right and wrong,
spontaneous ’instincts’,
apprehensions-from intuition,
unconscious, and possibly
elevated sensorium. Also,
awareness of collective and
cultural expectations, tacit
infrastructure, etc.
To begin to understand and know
that others have comparable
senses of self-both similar and
different, but nevertheless valid;
to also begin to understand that
the collective environment
influences and shapes awareness
and development
Awareness of Emotions Multiple modes and varieties of
feeling in both self and others
To expand capacity to identify and
understand one’s own and
other’s emotional states; to
develop capacity to accurately
and appropriately express
emotions
Awareness of Connections Interconnectedness and
interdependence of self and
others
To begin to understand
perspectives, subject-object in
self and others, spheres of
influence and boundaries of ego
VALIDATE AND
DEVELOP
CAPACITIES FOR
AGENCY
Inner Experience Qualities of motivation, resiliency,
inspiration, self as an enduring
pattern
To begin to identity with and be
sustained by one core self; to
begin to modulate inner reality;
to trust developmental instincts
Outer Expression Sense of purpose, accurate and
effective communication of
ideas and knowledge, talent
expression, creativity
To begin to develop capacities to
be proactive, to fulfill creative
calling; to activate and support
creative impulses, drives, and
insights; to effectively realize
and produce creative ideas, to
manifest unique and
unrepeatable personality; to
make a difference in the world
Integration of Both Coherency, flow, congruency
between inner & outer realities,
self-regulation, equilibrium
To maintain sense of wholeness
and effective expression in the
face of environmental pressure
DEVELOP CAPACITIES
FOR COMMUNION
Marking Connections
Between Self and World
Effective and accurate
communication; capacity for
participation, friendship,
bonding, intimacy; constructing
and maintaining relationship;
exchange with environment,
including: sentient beings and
non-sentient objects, spiritual
ideations; trusting
developmental instincts
To be able to relate to others and
establish human connections
across many levels and lines of
expressions; to effectively adapt
to or accommodate others; to
acknowledge and reciprocate
with others; to develop
capacities to react or
synergistically co-create
454 P.S. Jackson et al.
Initial Impression and First Meeting.
First Person Narrative
She is remarkably beautiful with a presence and energy
that pulsates in the room. Her countenance is mesmer-
izing in its stillness; there is a penetration of mind and
spirit radiating from the stillness of her gaze and sub-
tle movements. I find myself exceptionally attentive to
the palpable subtleness of her being. I attempt to re-
move all expectations from my conscious mind and
breathe deeply. Internally, I am disturbed by the appar-
ent fragility she attempts to guard from me. I know,
intuitively, that my deepest contemplative bearing is
necessary to begin understanding and supporting this
deeply troubled young woman.
Her hair is platinum in color; shaved to pink scalp
on one side balanced by a long-arced fringe. She shyly
submits that she designed and sewed her outfit, which
is a fusion of lines and cultural influences. Her gaze is
concentrated and her conversational style punctuated
by long silences with passionate outbursts and sub-
tle riffs into related topics. Teachers report her to be
“globally gifted”: excelling in the sciences, the human-
ities (particularly philosophy), and in visual art. Her
artwork is groundbreaking, evocative, technically ex-
cellent, and sometimes shocking. She is the top student
of the 11th grade class in a magnet school for excep-
tionally bright learners.
The art specialist at the school is extremely con-
cerned; Lael has been creatively unproductive for 3
months and is increasingly non-responsive. She is
described as deeply introverted, reflective, and individ-
ualistic. She enjoys creative design, the fields of spir-
ituality and philosophy, and long walks alone; she has
several close friends, although she is detached from the
general population. She loves music of all kinds. Lael
has an exceptionally strong relationship with her father,
who is seriously ill and unemployed. In conversation
she reports intense internal strife, inexpressible long-
ings, and dissatisfaction. She hints at immoderate emo-
tional distress and alarming irrepressible moods. She is
gentle, probing, and reflective. She asks if I will return.
Background
In her grade 11 year Lael is referred for specialized
assessment and counseling by her school-based team.
Mental health support for Lael at the time included a
psychiatrist, suicide prevention team, counselors at the
school, and the gifted specialist. They reported extreme
concern about her well-being; she was nonresponsive
to their detailed care plan and daily ministrations. She
had been diagnosed with major depression; antidepres-
sant medications had been prescribed.
Throughout her life Lael’s capacity and pas-
sion for visual art provided her with a discerning
and redolent creative outlet. She supplemented her
multimodal art expression with creative writing
in all genres: poetry, journaling, myth making,
and story. Lael had multiple ways of expressing
herself and strong innate autonomous forces com-
pelling this expression. Her home environment—
while fraught with difficulty of underemployment
and poverty—encouraged autonomous expression,
introspection, and authenticity. Lael was exposed to
classical music, philosophical texts, spiritual practice,
and rich discussions. Despite daily practical challenges
and frequent moves, Lael’s parents made every attempt
to provide optimal experiences for her within the
context of balance in the family and awareness of
the needs of their other two children. Lael’s parents
acknowledged and understood—at least in part—her
complex developmental needs and unique ways.
Although far from perfect, there was unconditional
love, respect, and affirmation within the family
dynamic.
This dynamic thoroughly changed when Lael’s
father became critically ill, in November of her grade
11 year. Lael’s brilliant and vibrant father clung to
life by a small margin, no longer able to work and
completely unable to communicate. Lael’s mother
became wholly immobilized by the circumstances.
Lael felt powerless to help her father or support her
mother, intimidated by the medical system and entirely
lacking in resources to sustain herself and her family.
Her drawings (see Fig. 20.1) from that time included
an unforgettable image of non-sustainability and
persecution.
These extreme external challenges were the cata-
lysts for a complete breakdown in functioning for Lael.
She withdrew from the world around her and found
herself increasingly impotent in terms of thinking and
creative capabilities. Her sleeping patterns were par-
ticularly disturbed and her desire for food diminished.
A most frightening symptom for Lael was a radical
narrowing of perception and incapacity for abstract
20 Emotional Life and Psychotherapy 455
Fig. 20.1
thought. Her expressive faculties became knotted
in a progressively more sinister emotional subtext.
While at first diminished in discernment and capacity,
Lael was soon freighted with destructive impulses,
negative thought patterns and a desire for self-harm.
Suicidal thoughts emerged; the desire to cut into her
own flesh became an ominous and compelling impulse
(see Fig. 20.2). Over time her emotional experiencing
became trapped in extreme shame and vulnerability.
Lael described this state as: “complete darkness,
despair, completely overwhelming... I couldn’t see out,
I couldn’t make sense, there was no light.
In an extended essay written after she emerged
from the major depressive state Lael described her
experience with despair as being on “the underside of
infinity”:
It was characterized by emptiness, the diligent feeling of
being so alone, and everything in the outer environment
just affirmed this belief. It was a pit, and I tried very hard
to fill that pit by pushing as much sadness and pain down
into it, only to see it was bottomless. I could feel it was
so. When I manipulated myself into a corner I’d engulf
myself, I’d swallow down, and in a gasp of raw tears I’d
look and see the ground open beneath me. I’d invert my-
self and be pushed under, reaching for a bottom I never
found. It was the underside. It was the wrong side of infi-
nite. It lasted a long time.
Differential Diagnoses According
to the Theory of Positive Disintegration
From a standardized mental health perspective
Lael suffered from major depression. Symptoms of
depression are described clinically as a profound
mood of sadness or emptiness, an overriding sense
of inadequacy, feelings of despondency, a decrease
in activity and reactivity, and an emotional state
marked by worthlessness, pessimism, and despair.
Thinking capacity is often impaired with evidence
of retardation of thought process, a sense of mental
fuzziness, and lack of cohesion in thought patterns.
The depressed person may become very lethargic or
extremely agitated. Other physical signs include a poor
appetite and weight loss or, in some cases, increased
appetite and weight gain. Other characteristics of
major depression include negative self-concept and
self-blame and pervasive feelings of worthlessness
and guilt. A seriously depressed person may have
difficulty in concentrating and may show evidence of
slowed thinking and indecisiveness. Those afflicted
with major depression may report recurring thoughts
and images of death and suicide (Jackson & Peterson,
2003).
456 P.S. Jackson et al.
Fig. 20.2
Considered from a multilevel perspective of the
Theory of Positive Disintegration, Lael’s situation—
while grave—had many positive developmental
signifiers. In Dabrowskian terms Lael experienced
a positive disintegration that appeared to be both
multilevel and global. Dabrowski describes multilevel
transformation as that process wherein new and quali-
tatively different insights and qualities emerge—such
that the person is capable of overcoming hereditary
and social determination in a movement toward a
self-controlled, creative, empathetic, and authentic
being.
Lael’s experience was global in that it involved
all facets of her functioning. Due to strong internal
conflicts and a difficult external environment, all
aspects of Lael’s being were loosened and fragmented.
This occurred through a decrease in psychical func-
tioning and an extreme tendency for self-analysis,
self-criticism, and feelings of inferiority and guilt
(Dabrowski, 1972, p. 47). Extreme psychological
tension, withdrawal, isolation, fear of activity, and
low mental tension, alternated with periods of high
emotional tension. Clearly, in Lael’s case, external
circumstance catalyzed this psychoneurotic depressive
state. Lael’s inner dialogue, occasional feelings of
unreality, and piercing self-examination were earmarks
of a positive disintegrative experience. Dabrowski
believed that when depression is a function of devel-
opmental potential it allows for the development of
self-evaluation and profound awareness of the value of
others. He believed that
behind the facade of depression there may be hidden a de-
velopmentally necessary psychological withdraw serving
the function of self-criticism, self-analysis, self-control,
a justified dissatisfaction with oneself and feelings of in-
feriority with respect to one’s possibilities. If these pro-
cesses can be found in depression they indicate a potential
for positive growth. (Dabrowski, 1972, p. 255)
Lael presents with extraordinarily high develop-
mental potential. Her history reveals that even as a
young child she actively engaged all aspects of Self:
a complex and probing intelligence, resonant imag-
ination, nuanced emotional awareness, and suffused
sensual experiencing. The awareness of higher and
lower—the earmark of multilevelness—existed in
Lael from earliest times. The realizations of transcen-
dent values, of the interdependence of all creation,
and of her own “real self” were inner templates
in Lael—seeking emergence and coherence in the
world around her. De Quincey (2002) describes this
emergent human capacity: “Our living organism is
a system tingling with purpose and evolved expec-
tations: a system designed for self-preservation, for
reproduction, and ultimately for self-transcendence.”
Powerful forces of intuition, intellectual capacity, and
imaginational acuity fed Lael’s intense self-awareness;
these activated higher-level sensing perceptions.
Lael’s inner world—an amalgam of emotional, imag-
inational and intellectual experiencing—was rarely
reflected in the world around her, particularly in
educational and social milieus. She reported extreme
loneliness, estrangement, and feelings of unreality in
her school settings. While she excelled in all school
subjects and continued to perform at extraordinar-
ily high levels, she was increasingly emotionally
laden and at odds with the social and academic
dynamic.
Most painful for Lael were her experiences in gifted
programming where she found no outlet for the to-
tality of her understandings and apprehensions. Lael
20 Emotional Life and Psychotherapy 457
intuitively sought intellectual experiences that would
serve her drive toward higher level experiencing and
morality and the development of her personality. Lael
was offered, instead, higher-level thinking opportuni-
ties, complex knowledge acquisition, and creative out-
lets independent of the very core of her being: her
innervated emotional, intuitional, and instinctive ele-
ments. Dabrowski wrote that multidimensional devel-
opment must be fully rounded and
not restricted to the perfection of one or some capacities
and skills but instead includes a transformation and
refinement of all basic aspects of mental life including
innate drive, emotions, intellect, volition, imagination,
moral, social aesthetic and spiritual components.
(Dabrowski, n.d., italics added)
On the Development of the Personality
Through Multilevel Disintegration
According to Dabrowski, the development of
personality—the highest level of human develop-
ment—occurs through the disruption of the existing,
originally integrated organization of a person’s being.
This disintegration destroys the existent psychic unity
of the individual. The cohesion—which has provided
meaning and purpose—dislodges, and the individual
is propelled toward a different unity, a higher level
of reality. This birthing process of the personality
involves effort and the innervation of every aspect
of one’s being; this is what the deepest forces of
self-expression compel.
Lael is emphatic that her disintegrative experience
was essential for her overall development. She alludes
to her knowledge of a higher state of knowing—what
Dabrowski termed the Personality Ideal:
My “less than optimal” emotional state I have come to
regard as an essential piece of my development. In its ab-
sence I cannot be certain what qualities I would have in-
stead acquired, or what knowledge I would have failed to
learn. I consider it to have happened for a specific reason,
enmeshed in a much larger plan that I have now begun to
understand.
Even during the most disturbing of times Lael’s
creative capacity informed her and affirmed the
developmental nature of her disturbing disintegrative
experience. Her creativity was a critical determinant
in her capacity to reintegrate and work through the
intense depressive experience. Her night-time dreams,
her artwork in its myriad forms, and her writing and
journaling illuminated and brought to her conscious
mind the awareness that aspects of her being needed
consideration and care. In a lengthy composition,
linking will to intention and purpose Lael talked
about how she has learned to pay attention to all
aspects of her developing being and how she had
learned to deeply trust the developmental process (cf.
Table 20.3):
I just made a fabulous connection to a very old dream.
It’s quite perfect, because in that dream, hear the words
that came to me, “for on his unsafe skin there was a tar
with the safety of gasoline, and in him they will wreak of
fear for his smell of potential burning.” I think it is amaz-
ing that it should make the most wonderful sense at this
moment. This is how I (not one, this isn’t a silly English
paper, it is I, as IAm) know that all things are working
in purpose that is reality, and existence, and awareness,
which is then all the outcome as well. That I should have
a dream of two years ago, which I always kept so close
with me, knowing it was important, suddenly turn into
something new and different, though I knew it all along.
Her drawing of “great turbines” and the accompanying
text illustrates this deeper knowing that flowed from
Lael’s immensely creative processes and heightened
self-awareness (see Fig. 20.3). The text on this drawing
reads: “The most powerful of heavy handed dreams.
I turn my body at the center of great turbines; I spin
through the grinder. I am deconstructed to be recon-
structed at a later date.”
Lael’s depressive state was emblematic of a
multilevel disintegration in which the nucleus of
the personality ideal was activated. This involved
criticism of oneself, disquietude and dissatisfac-
tion, feelings of inferiority toward oneself because
of unfulfilled possibilities, guilt feelings, and an
excessive tendency to self-observation and self-
objectivity. Dabrowski attested that this process
allowed for a “clearing of the field” for a new
creative force in the individual (Dabrowski, 1972).
Lael’s description of this clearing is particularly
erudite:
The depressive state I experienced acted as a catalyst for
personal growth; compression of thought or mood into
a lower frequency that still at times occurs, has become
part of a pattern I can respect for its ability to elicit spe-
cific responses from me. Often such a constriction will
be followed shortly by its dissipation and a sense of self
and awareness has been heightened. In those moments
it may be unpleasant, but my major hurdle for the most
part has been crossed. What I experience now is akin to
the tightening of a spring before it is released; I must
458 P.S. Jackson et al.
Fig. 20.3
be forced a few steps back in order to develop the ten-
sion and potential that will allow me to move even far-
ther ahead. It is through this process that I am working
through many levels, clearing away confusion, old ten-
dencies, stale energy...
This immense inner conflict and anguishing depres-
sive state birthed a young woman with articulated self-
awareness and self-direction (characteristic of Level
IV). Lael’s discerning nature allowed her to reflect on
the nature of the disintegrative incident, bringing pene-
trating insight into the all-encompassing nature of such
unfathomable experience:
To get to this point I experienced a rather long and ar-
duous journey. It is difficult to remember because I no
longer resonate with the components of that former ver-
sion of myself. I was the underside. That is what I will
refer to it as, because it is part of the whole, but it is so
focused and consumed with its negativity, its downward
direction that it cannot conceive; it cannot know anything
beyond itself.
At the beginning of the downward spiral into her ex-
treme depressive experience Lael drew “Outsource”
(see Fig. 20.4) which captures the wrenching and ab-
solute experience of a multilevel global disintegration.
It is clear from this drawing that every part of her is
engaged in the deepest of processes.
Lael was able to reflect on the origin and existence
of the depressive state attesting that it had roots in her
Fig. 20.4
earliest childhood. The multilevel process of inner di-
alogue, self-judgment, and self-examination was evi-
dent early in her life. Her current capacity to transcend
and take hold of her emotional processes independent
20 Emotional Life and Psychotherapy 459
of external demands and memories is especially evi-
dent in the following quote:
I first experienced this concentrated sensation when I was
ten or eleven, but I can trace the lines of those feelings
even further back. The extent of it I think was somewhat
severe, using my present state as a reference point. I have
to admit I’m somewhat dampened now. It’s a fortunate
thing this was the last question. I can turn it around now
however, so I think I will.
At the center of Dabrowski’s ideas in the nexus of his
theory was his understanding of the positive aspects of
disintegrative experience. In this view, the psychoneu-
rotic depressive state experienced by Lael represented
a phase of accelerated authentic development. With as-
tonishing insight Lael described her experience as a
form of death that occurred as part of a series of smaller
deaths that she believes will pave the way for an inte-
grated transcendent consciousness:
I experienced a little death, and I have even littler little
deaths that allow for truer life. The smaller the death, the
closer I can become to a self-actualized individual, until
there is one smooth transition into full consciousness. The
little deaths are needed if one wants to become closer to
the higher self while they are living. Physical death is a
symptom of duality, it ends the sojourn and returns us to
full consciousness in one step, but it is these smaller acts
of disintegration and reintegration that will allow for the
flow of the physical into the psychical. I imagine that is
how we will discover immortality.
The Role of the Counselor in Global
Multilevel Disintegration in the Case
of Lael
At the time of this writing Lael had been in weekly
psychotherapeutic support with the first author for 14
months. Lael’s initial presentation was exceptionally
brittle; her mood state was volatile and she presented
with strong suicidal ideation. Compounding this pro-
file were the vestiges of a disordered eating pattern and
anxiety symptoms. Lael needed informed, consistent,
and highly nuanced psychotherapy.
The first few sessions established a strong clinical
rapport between client and counselor and provided
insight into Lael’s multifaceted and dynamic inner
world. Lael’s support team at school provided the
family background, an academic and social summary,
and the psychiatric profile. At the time Lael was
working on a massive canvas depicting a very dark
wood and a lost figure. As part of her International
Baccalaureate Art Program, Lael had deadlines
to meet; she reported acute frustration with that
particular art piece. More generally she presented
with unfathomable anguish and almost unspeakable
helplessness.
Lael was happy to share many aspects of her internal
processing with the first author. She brought sketches,
poetry, and journal entries to sessions. Her therapist
worked in a deeply intuitive fashion—allowing Lael to
discuss, present, and explore all aspects of her being.
Over time, Lael began to express profound intuitions,
and instinctive awareness—previously locked up in a
complex emotional, moral, and intellectual matrix. She
hinted at unsavory experiences in her past, stating that
she wished to express them but feared they might harm
the listener. In the end, she chose to work through
those memories in a non-verbal fashion through her
art. When offered the opportunity to put them in verbal
form and share in a counseling session she declined,
stating that she had already worked them through and
was no longer beleaguered by them. She was encour-
aged to find her own pace, to stay involved with school
activities and with family. She was strongly advised
to continue to walk in nature, to eat nourishing foods,
and to follow her creative and developmental instincts.
She was also encouraged to continue to interact with
two or three other exceptionally gifted students in her
program (cf. Table 20.3). Over time, she developed a
strong relationship with an exceptionally gifted and in-
tegrated younger boy. She also connected with a couple
of young women—even though their intellectual ap-
petites and capacities could not meet Lael’s widening
intellectual and emotional range and her compelling
need to know.
The first author provided Lael access to resources
of many kinds: philosophical and psychological texts,
higher level art experiences, poetry, and exploration of
various spiritual traditions. The impetus for these ex-
plorations was driven solely by Lael. She absorbed in-
formation and experience at an amazing rate, all the
while maintaining her almost perfect academic record
in the Internal Baccalaureate program. She worked
through ongoing terror and grief about her father and
began to assert herself—for the first time—at home and
in school settings.
Her art experiences continued to provide a context
to integrate all aspects of her developing being. At the
urging of the first author she destroyed the dark woods
460 P.S. Jackson et al.
painting. She chose to use the salvaged strips of canvas
from that painting to build a three-dimensional figure
of a pregnant woman. Once the strips were incorpo-
rated in the life-sized sculpture, she entered a robust
creative period where dream images, past memories,
and current fantasies were crafted from various medi-
ums and integrated into a stunning art piece. Lael was
actively working through the relationship between her
innate capacities (first factor), her environmental in-
fluences and experiences (second factor), and growing
awareness and confidence in the third factor or person-
ality ideal (Dabrowski, 1964, 1970, 1972).
Further explanation of the intricacies and nature of
the counseling intervention is well beyond the scope
of this chapter and will be explored in a later text. An
interesting synchronicity brings closure to this discus-
sion. Midway through the first year Lael was pleased
to provide a gift for her therapist. While exploring
in a major city Lael entered a second-hand bookstore
and found, among several other appealing books, what
promised to be an interesting text. She bought it and
presented it to the first author: Positive Disintegration
by Kazimierz Dabrowski, the 1964 book that intro-
duced Dabrowski to the West. Lael’s creative and de-
velopmental dynamisms were clearly at work in the
world.
Case Study Number Two: Kieran
The second case study describes an 8-year-old boy—
Kieran—who attended school in a rural area in an
undifferentiated school program, regular classroom.
Kieran’s mother contacted the first author for help in
determining the best response for Kieran’s complex
and often conflict-filled behavior patterns. She felt
strongly that school officials needed to understand his
giftedness; she, too, needed guidance in understanding
his complex emotional responses.
At the time of the intervention, Kieran was placed
in a Behaviorally Disordered program. Outbursts, vio-
lent encounters, and non-compliance in the classroom
occurred daily. Teachers, counselors, and parents were
at a loss as to how best meet his needs. They cautioned
that he appeared to have no compassion for others and
could be especially unpredictable, even dangerous. His
psycho-educational report stated that he was quick to
read social cues and excelled in higher-level problem
solving and comprehension. It was reported that his IQ
was high and that he had a writing disability (“written-
output disorder”). He showed extreme difficulty in us-
ing a pencil and paper, and no patience with rote tasks.
He demonstrated a gift for all aspects of mathemat-
ics and was reported to have a love of animals. It was
known, as well, that he had experienced a number of
challenges in his family and that his father lived in an-
other country, estranged from his family.
Initial Impression and First Meeting: First
Person Narrative
He is a stout, dark-eyed, dark-haired young boy. His
gaze is direct and unflinching. It is clear that he does
no wish to be in the room with me. He looks like an
“old hand” at interview protocol. I sense a complex in-
tellect, extreme sensitivity, and a highly defended way
of operating in the world. I ask him a little about his
day, comment on his school, and soon we are engaged
in a conversation. Eventually I ask him if he would be
willing to do some drawings for me. I assure him that
I have no artistic talent and no urge to judge his. After
some time he agrees to draw images of his family. He
has an unyielding pencil grip and appears to be very
conscientious. It takes an extremely long time for him
to create even one figure; I find myself in a state of deep
relaxation and repose. He looks up and asks me what I
am thinking. I tell him “not very much; I am simply re-
laxing.” I comment that he seems to be so focused that
I appreciate his attention to the task and that I am in no
hurry for him to complete the exercise. I affirm that he
controls the pace. He returns to his task and then gen-
tly touches my arm: “Would this be easier for you?”
he asks. I watch as he turns the paper 180 degrees for
my viewing ease and continues to laboriously draw fig-
ures from an upside-down vantage point. I am deeply
moved by his awareness of my perspective; in the re-
cess of my mind I contrast this action with the label of
“non-compassion” and a pattern of social deviance on
the report from school officials.
The crude but meticulous drawings reveal many
things: his isolation from all-male figures, his closeness
to his mother, and his deep ambivalence about family
life. I make no comment on the family dynamic, but I
sense that I may have established a degree of trust with
him. He appears relaxed, interested, and certainly less
20 Emotional Life and Psychotherapy 461
defended. When asked to demonstrate some of his abil-
ity in Math, I encounter the deep willfulness and intel-
lectual surety at the core of his being. I find this surety
mildly amusing and deem the strong will an important
therapeutic ally for future development. We agree on a
second meeting date and shake hands to bring closure
to our meeting.
Background and Developmental Profile
Kieran’s history revealed a little boy rife with devel-
opmental potential who was exposed to extremely try-
ing life circumstances. It is clear that he possessed all
of the overexcitabilities, an autonomous nature, excep-
tional cognitive ability, and a special talent (Mathemat-
ics). In particular, he exhibited extremely heightened
sensual awareness, complex, and nuanced awareness
of the needs and feelings of others, a love of intel-
lectual “play”, and a deep curiosity about how things
work.
Kieran’s mother stated that he has always had re-
markable insight, acute intelligence, and an extremely
sensitive nature. She described his experience in for-
mal schooling as disastrous; a review of the file makes
it clear there had been no accommodation for his
“written-output disorder” and only modest adaptations
for his high cognitive ability. Kieran’s frustration with
academic life was extremely high and his penetrating
capacity to discern deeper patterns in all phenomena
had gone unnoticed and unrewarded. Kieran’s mother
also provided information about his social profile.
She reported that he had always played well with
his cousins—also identified as gifted children—but
was often in conflict with other young boys. She
acknowledged that she and Kieran had always been
close; she and Kieran’s father had divorced several
years previously. Kieran occasionally saw his father,
in summer vacation and for week long holidays. He
apparently returned from those vacations extremely
agitated and unable to settle back into his life.
Counseling Intervention
Kieran’s behavior in a one-on-one interview with
most adults was excellent. In a classroom setting,
however, Kieran quickly became agitated, distracted,
and intractable. Kieran needed immediate interven-
tion to deal with his learning and social needs. He
needed an adapted curriculum to include higher-level
mathematics and opportunities for in-depth study in
areas of deep interest, an assessment to determine
the extent and best response for his writing output
challenges, and time with other gifted learners in
academic and social settings. The first author addition-
ally recommended that the behavioral team build in
breaks throughout the day for one-on-one interaction,
away from the classroom setting. A hot beverage and
conversation with a caring adult, a walk in the treed
and welcoming playground, or time on the swing were
built into Kieran’s day. Kieran’s strong kinesthetic
and sensual nature needed appropriate outlets; his
impatience with the routine of classroom activities
needed tempering. He was given control over when the
breaks happened and quickly learned that he needed to
use that responsibility wisely and appropriately.
Emotigram cards were made for Kieran. His love
of animals and deep emotional awareness was honored
and given response. Each card was a specially chosen
picture of animals, expressing a wide variety of sub-
tle emotions and natural feelings: great anticipation,
fierceness, sleepiness, and deep contentment—to name
a few. Kieran chose all the pictures himself, the pic-
tures were laminated and tags were place on them with
the descriptors he wrote. He kept the cards in his desk
and periodically reviewed them as a way of staying
in touch with the feelings moving throughout his be-
ing. Kieran’s feelings were immensely nuanced and he
often expressed them in inappropriate ways that nega-
tively fed his psychomotor and sensual overexcitabil-
ities. He needed to develop awareness of the multiple
modes and kinds of feelings that inhered in his complex
personal profile (cf. Table 20.3).
The cards were used to communicate with the adults
in his life as well, and Kieran became aware that his
feelings were often hard for others less prepared to un-
derstand. He began to develop an ongoing awareness
of his Self: his apprehension through intuition, imagi-
native play, strong instinct, and emotional complexity
(cf. Table 20.3). In this way, he began to develop a ver-
bal vocabulary and more appropriate ways of respond-
ing to his stratified inner world. Thus was enacted the
recommendation that gifted children with high devel-
opmental potential learn to acknowledge, express, and
reciprocate with others in situations holding disparate
levels of emotional “charge”.
462 P.S. Jackson et al.
Kieran also needed family counseling aimed at
helping him explore his feelings about his father, his
stepfather, and his current family situation. Kieran’s
explosiveness in social situations needed to be dealt
with; he expressed great hurt and unmet longings
related to his relationship with male adults. Kieran’s
mother needed to learn that although Kieran could
discuss complex human interaction with great insight
and awareness, he could not always integrate those
insights, his multifaceted feelings, and the immediate
sensual and kinesthetic expressions that inhered. With
awareness of the many needs and the depth of Kieran’s
awareness and negative feelings, Kieran began to
slowly integrate aspects of his developing Self.
Conclusions
Dabrowski’s theory has pioneered understanding of
the emotional life of the gifted; it provided a basis for
research on multilevel emotional development. The
concept of developmental potential includes the char-
acteristics of intensity and sensitivity (overexcitability)
as a fundamental part of the theory. In addition to
the intellect these constructs provide validation of the
gifted experience encompassing personal energy level,
sensual aliveness, imagination, and emotional life.
Dabrowski’s delineation of the processes of unilevel
and mutlilevel disintegration offers understanding of
the profoundly gifted in existential crises.
The case studies of Lael and Kieran illustrate
how important it is to consider mental health issues
from an alternative diagnostic perspective. Aspects
of Dabrowski’s theory were used to shed light on the
developmental inner truth of these two exceptionally
gifted young people. An integral psychotherapy
approach was utilized to attend to their serious and
complex presentations of distress. The counselor was
mindful and responsive to all aspects of these devel-
opmentally advanced young people and established
a healing partnership based on this mutlidimensional
and dynamic awareness.
Finally, the theory provides a template for coun-
seling and psychotherapy of the gifted in critical pe-
riods of emotional and personal growth. The neces-
sary characteristics of a therapist approaching work
with the gifted, and connections between the theory
and counseling have been outlined. Overexcitabilities
play a huge role in the dynamics of gifted development,
consequently must be considered in the therapeutic re-
lationship, and should not be viewed as symptoms of
mental illness.
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...  Γπζκελείο ζπλζήθεο νηθνγελεηαθήο θαη ζρνιηθήο θνηλσληθνπνίεζεο γηα ηνπο ελ ιόγσ καζεηέο, ζε ζεκείν πνπ νη πηζαλόηεηεο γηα αλαγλώξηζε εηδηθώλ ηαιέλησλ είλαη εμαηξεηηθά πεξηνξηζκέλεο (Kurt Heller, 2004). ...
...  Κνηλσληθή απνκόλσζε, αλάπηπμε εγσθεληξηθώλ ζπκπεξηθνξώλ, θίλδπλνο ή δηαηαξαρή ηεο αλάπηπμεο ηεο πξνζσπηθόηεηαο θαη ηεο απηνπεπνίζεζεο κέζσ ησλ ππεξβνιηθώλ πηέζεσλ επίηεπμεο ή ππεξβνιηθήο επζύλεο (Heller, 2004). ...
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Στην παιδική ηλικία η διαμόρφωση της αυτοεικόνας και της αυτοεκτίμησης αποτελούν δύο πολύ σημαντικούς παράγοντες στη φυσιολογική ανάπτυξη των ατόμων. Υπάρχουν όμως διαφορές και προβλήματα στη συναισθηματική ανάπτυξη των χαρισματικών παιδιών;Σκοπός αυτής της εργασίας είναι η διερεύνηση του κατά πόσο μπορεί αυτή η διαφορετικότητα να επηρεάσει τη συναισθηματική ανάπτυξη, είτε εξαιτίας συναισθηματικών παραγόντων (περιθωριοποίηση, δυσκολίες προσαρμογής κ.λπ.), είτε λόγω της διαφορετικότητάς τους, όσο και ποια είναι τα βασικότερα ζητήματα και προβλήματα στην κοινωνικοποίηση και στη συναισθηματική προσαρμογή τους.Η σημασία της κατανόησης της διαφορετικότητας και των ξεχωριστών αναγκών των χαρισματικών μαθητών είναι υψίστης σημασίας. Τι θα μπορούσε να γίνει, ώστε να σταματήσουν αυτά τα παιδιά να είναι στο περιθώριο;
... Highly and Exceptionally gifted children tend to think in qualitatively different ways from more modestly gifted children. Among their qualities are a tendency to elaborate the simple to think precisely, to simplify the complex, to remember with unusual clarity, and to reason abstractly at an early age (Jackson, Moyle, & Piechowski, 2009). For example they struggle with abstract ideas such as the meaning of life and death, moral and ethical issues at an earlier age than most children. ...
... Disparities in social differences, such as a lack of mirroring from true peers or unshared experiences among available age peers, can lead to discomfort and a feeling of being out of place (Jackson & Moyle, 2009a). Eye-opening case examples of adolescents in growthful crisis are described by Jackson (1998), Jackson andMoyle (2009a, 2009b), and Jackson et al. (2009). ...
... Jackson, a therapeutic counselor working with highly-profoundly gifted children, described overexcitabilities as a "qualitatively different" experience, "not just more of curiosity, sensory enjoyment, imagination and feeling but added dimensions of depth, texture, acuity, and perception. It implies an intense aliveness and a neural processing very different from the norm" [96]. Open Access | Page 159 | [1][2][3]. ...
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Heightened sensitivity, heightened intensity, heightened awareness and advanced cognitive development, compared to chronological aged peers, distinguish the highly-profoundly gifted child and permeate their social, emotional, physical, cognitive and/or altruistic life experiences. This instinctive and often asynchronous development has been historically misunderstood, misidentified, and misdiagnosed by professionals who have not received training on the unique char- acteristics, behaviors, and development typical of this population. As a result, the natural development and potential of highly-profoundly gifted children and adolescents are vulnerable and at high risk. A review of the literature found the characteristics, behaviors and developmental markers of the highly-profoundly gifted strikingly similar to the char- acteristics, behaviors and development of the combination of multiple, higher-level overexcitabilities. Further study of overexcitabilities and Dabrowski’s human development theory found the combination of multiple, higher-level overex- citabilities distinctively different than individual overexcitabilities. Developmental dynamisms explained the multi-facet- ed development of multiple overexcitabilities at the highest level. It was concluded that multiple, higher-level overex- citabilities and the development of dynamisms correlate closely with the heightened sensitivity, heightened intensity, heightened awareness and advanced cognitive development of highly-profoundly gifted children and adolescents and therefore could be an effective tool for identification. Additional research and further development of assessment tools to identify higher-level overexcitabilities, developmental dynamisms and highly-profoundly gifted students are warrant- ed. Education outreach and professional development are recommended for parents, teachers, school administrators, counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, pediatricians and policy makers to curve misunderstanding, misidentification and misdiagnosis. Mandates to appropriately identify and support the education and development of highly-profoundly gifted children and adolescents, are imperative.
... Ακθηζβεηνύλ θαλόλεο θαη αμίεο (Daniels & Piechowski, 2009) θαη δνπλ πνιύ κέζα ζηελ πξαγκαηηθόηεηα παξαηεξώληαο ηνπο απζαίξεηνπο θαλόλεο θαη πεξηνξηζκνύο πνπ ηελ δηέπνπλ. Έρνπλ ζπρλά απμεκέλε ελζπλαίζζεζε, δηθαηνζύλε θαη αιιειεγγύε γηα ηνπο γύξσ ηνπο (Jackson, Moyle & Piechowski, 2009). Αθόκε, έρνπλ ππεξβνιηθό άγρνο ην νπνίν ζπρλά νδεγεί ζηελ θαηάζιηςε ιόγσ ησλ απμεκέλσλ απαηηήζεσλ ηεο θαζεκεξηλόηεηαο . ...
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Είναι γεγονός ότι οι χαρισματικοί μαθητές παρουσιάζουν εξαιρετικές ικανότητες και επιδόσεις, που απέχουν παρασάγγας από εκείνες των συνομηλίκων τους. Η διαφορετικότητα γίνεται αντιληπτή τόσο από το χαρισματικό άτομο, όσο και από τον περίγυρο του, γεγονός που συχνά δημιουργεί συναισθήματα μοναξιάς και οδηγεί στην συναισθηματική απομόνωση. Λόγω της διαφορετικότητας αυτής, η κοινωνία θεωρεί ότι η χαρισματικότητα συνοδεύεται από κατάθλιψη, αυτοκτονικές τάσεις ή άλλες ψυχολογικές δυσκολίες και ψυχικές διαταραχές. Επιπλέον, η άποψη ότι τα χαρισματικά άτομα τείνουν να διερωτώνται για τα υπαρξιακά, “μεγάλα” ερωτήματα έχει οδηγήσει την σύνδεση των χαρισματικών ατόμων με την υπαρξιακή κατάθλιψη.Η έρευνα έχει ως στόχο να διερευνήσει την σχέση μεταξύ χαρισματικότητας και ψυχολογικών διαταραχών και κατά πόσο η συσχέτιση τους ανταποκρίνεται στη πραγματικότητα. Θέτει ως ερώτημα το αν το χαρισματικό παιδί είναι πιο επιρρεπές στην ανάπτυξη ψυχολογικών διαταραχών σε σχέση με τα μη χαρισματικά παιδιά. Τέλος, εξετάζει αν τα χαρισματικά άτομα είναι πιο ευάλωτα στην εμφάνιση της υπαρξιακής κατάθλιψης.Το θέμα εξακολουθεί να βρίσκεται υπό διερεύνηση και οι ερευνητές δεν έχουν καταλήξει ομόφωνα στο αν τα χαρισματικά παιδιά έχουν περισσότερες πιθανότητες να εμφανίσουν ψυχολογικές διαταραχές σε σχέση με τα υπόλοιπα. Ωστόσο, όλες συμφωνούν στο γεγονός ότι το περιβάλλον μέσα στο οποίο ανήκει το χαρισματικό άτομο παίζει ίσως τον πιο ουσιαστικό ρόλο για την ομαλή ένταξη στο σύνολο και την απαραίτητη ψυχολογική υποστήριξη που το άτομο θα χρειαστεί.
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In this study, we provide analyses of a convention, a declaration and preschool curriculum texts (from Australia, Estonia, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden) relating to talent development, giftedness and gifted children’s rights. The analyses indicate a commitment towards children’s rights and needs, empowering children’s agency and fostering the learning and development of all children as well as some but few explicit mentions (mentioned one, two, three or four times) of talent development, giftedness and rights of gifted children. Further, there is an absence of explicit attention (five or more mentions) of giftedness or talent development. This largely implicit attention in international and national macro policies may be applied with good intentions. However, when being considered in relation to lived experience reported about in media and research studies, gifted children do not always seem to be recognised within the aspirations of children/all children having the democratic right to learn and be supported towards their individual capability. Thus, implicit attention or few mentions in macro policies do not seem sufficient; the risk is that gifted children are unseen.
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This is a study of three lives in transformation, two of which are directly concerned with the issue of war: Etty Hillesum, a young Jewish woman who lived in the Nazi occupied Amsterdam and later died in Auschwitz and Peace Pilgrim, an American woman who started walking for peace at the time of the Korean war. The third, Ashley, is a contemporary woman, mother of two. The lives of these three gifted individuals illustrate characteristics of transforming growth: inner conflict, acceptance, willingness to serve, surrender, and inner peace. As a result of their far reaching inner transformation, they discovered on their own the transpersonal principle of nonseparateness. From the depth of their being they know that inner peace is the necessary condition of world peace. These cases illustrate in greater depth than was previously available the higher levels in Dabrowski's theory of emotional development. They also bring out the deeper meaning and effectiveness of acceptance which the theory has neglected.
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Hundreds of examples of childhood spiritual experiences have been collected by researchers in England and the United States. Oddly enough, they have been missed by the mainstream of transpersonal psychology. Three kinds of childhood experiences contradict the theoretical positions of Wilber and Washburn in regard to early stages of development: (1) when on the basis of their own experience children realize that the adults around them are spiritually ignorant, (2) when children become aware of their identity beyond the physical self and beyond one lifetime, and (3) when they know or discover methods of achieving on their own a state of nonordinary consciousness.
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This article examines the nature and extent of depressive disorders in highly gifted adolescents based on current literature and data gathered from a phenomenological study, focus groups, and clinical records. Two case studies and clinical examples document the capacity of some highly gifted adolescents to mask even severe symptoms. Several factors appeared to contribute to this masking phenomenon, including shame for being incapacitated and unable to resolve their dilemma; depression's signature cognitive confusion, which disengaged their coping mechanisms; and fear of harming others with their toxic state. These findings raise questions about the efficacy of quantitative research instruments to determine actual cases of depressive disorder in this subgroup, as well as current research estimates of depression in the highly gifted population.
Chapter
A neuropsychological perspective on spiritual development The study of religious and spiritual phenomena from a neuropsychological and developmental perspective presents a number of complex issues, the most important of which is to determine whether such an approach may open a window to understanding how religion and spirituality are intimately linked with human biology and psychology throughout the life cycle. We will argue that the basic mechanisms associated with religious and spiritual experiences are correlated with essential brain functions and that the development of each mirrors that of the other. The notion that as the brain develops physiologically, the human concept of religion and spirituality evolves accordingly, supports the intimate link between human biology and spirituality. By exploring this link, we hope to elucidate how religion and spirituality become hard associated with various brain functions. Spirituality, religion, and faith are complex concepts that have been defined in many different ways. For ...
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The Handbook of Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence breaks new ground by articulating the state of knowledge in the area of childhood and adolescent spiritual development. Featuring a rich array of theory and research from an international assortment of leading social scientists in multiple disciplines, this book represents work from diverse traditions and approaches – making it an invaluable resource for scholars across a variety of disciplines and organizations.