May 8, 2015

Quick Chat: Werklund researcher talks about gifted education

Sal Mendaglio outlines the ties between creativity, problem-solving skills and 'overexcitability'
Sal Mendaglio

Sal Mendaglio talks about the theory of positive disintegration and overexcitability

Sal Mendaglio is on a mission. A mission to share Kazimierz Dąbrowski's theory of positive disintegration and its application to the field of gifted education.

While positive disintegration may sound like an oxymoron, Mendaglio says that Dąbrowski had a knack for juxtaposing terms that would not normally go together and that his work redefined the field of mental health.

“It is a theory of personality that really belongs in psychology. But it is only well known in gifted education, where it is very influential. It’s not a theory of giftedness, though it is applicable to gifted individuals,” says Mendaglio.

Put simply, positive disintegration is the process by which certain individuals develop into the highest level of human functioning. Dąbrowski identified five levels of integration and believed that a sizeable portion of the population remain on the lowest level throughout their lives. People on the lowest level are governed by self-fulfillment while those on the highest level are guided by a hierarchy of personal values that they create and live by.

These exemplars of humanity, as Mendaglio puts it, place a high worth on problem solving and creative expression and might include such people as Mother Teresa or John Lennon.

"The process of positive disintegration is psychologically painful.  It destroys the lower way of being. Lower mental structures are replaced with a higher form.” 

But how does all of this talk of enlightenment help those working in gifted education?

Dąbrowski believed that individuals who are gifted display a higher than average reaction to daily living producing crises; he termed this higher sensitivity “overexcitability”. As a result, Dąbrowski believed that gifted individuals were more prone to undergo positive disintegration.

In this quick chat, Mendaglio continues on his mission and delves deeper into the theory of positive disintegration and overexcitability.