My Positive Disintegration

Kazimierz Dabrowski’s psychological theory of positive disintegration, in short, states that we are programmed from our early childhood by two things: our environment and our biology. We carry that programming through life and build upon it as best we can. However, there usually comes a point in a person’s life where the past programming is no longer able to take him where he wants to go. Often this is precipitated by overexcitabilities: overt intellectual curiosity, overt physical movement (the kid who just can’t stop moving), overt emotion and expression thereof, etc. The more these overexcitabilities are expressed, the more discontent with his primary programming a person is becoming. The first sign of this may be a panic attack. Once the person realizes that he can no longer continue down the path of his previous programming and go in life where he feels that he must or where he truly desires, it becomes incumbent upon him tear himself apart (to disintegrate as a person) and reconstruct himself (or reintegrate) according to how he wants to become.

(Regarding overexcitabilities: there are five categories of overexcitabilities: Psychomotor, Sensual, Intellectual, Imaginational, and Emotional. Most people will have at most one of these at a time. After psychological evaluation it was revealed I had all five. For a while some had nicknamed me “Mr. Excitement.” They don’t know how right they were.)

The process of positive disintegration is usually a pretty painful one, since it involves facing all the things which have created who you are — love, fear, hopes, dreams, hatreds, desires, taboos — and deconstructing them in order to create the person you wish to be. It is easy to become lost in the intellectual side of positive disintegration, meaning that the process can, without proper guidance, become mired in intellectualism. However, once the defensive barrier of intellectuality has been broken through, all that is left is the raw person, and from there does process of true disintegration begin. Tears are usually shed, depression may set in, and the question of meaning may become very pervasive. It has for me.

When reintegration begins, the person can ask themselves such questions as “who do I want to be?” and “who do I want to become?”, discovering that the answer was within them all the time, but that prior programming may have prevented it from actualizing. However, once the person has reached the point where he is willing to reintegrate, then the answers — and the actions which follow — are more easily accepted and integrated.

My disintegration started about a year ago. However, it wasn’t until about a month ago that I finally broke through the intellectual barrier. What precipitated the change? The very real thought that my life was nearing its end. It all started in November with a slight flu that because a sinus infection (or so I thought). During that time I also started to get a lot of heartburn, which I attributed to a hiatal hernia I was diagnosed with about 10 years ago. It didn’t help any that I started slacking on my eating habits — eating out more often than I should, especially junk foods, breads, ice creams, chocolates and coffees, especially the frappuccinos, of which I was sucking a large one every day or two, not to mention the cortaditos and green teas I was drinking. Sure, I was eating less, exercising, and losing weight, but I was eating like crap, and tearing my system apart from the inside with caffeine. Meanwhile, I was feeling crappier and crappier, pretending the sinus infection was nothing but an allergic reaction to my dog, and pretending the heartburn and stomach pains were normal. During this time, my anxiety kept going up and up about all manner of health issues — diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, ALS — for which I was displaying symptoms.

Then, about 4 weeks ago, my heartburn hit. Bad. I spent that Friday overeating (vegetables, for the most part; it was the only thing I allowed myself to overeat then), having coffee, and then eating Chinese food: fried rice with fried crab rangoons and eggrolls. Saturday morning I ate the remaining Chinese food leftovers, topping it off about 3 hours later with a frappuccino, then 2 hours after that with a large, fish meal. 2300 calories in about 6 hours. Considering I eat 2100 calories a day, that sort of stretched it for me. I was on the edge of queasy that whole day, with a bit of acid indigestion and the feeling that fish was stuck in my throat. Then I had some green tea, 4 cups of it. That’s when it hit: the heartburn to end all heartburn. My stomach fired up, and everything in my body’s core was painful. I couldn’t sleep that night because my throat would burn unmercifully if I laid down, or even sat, so I spent the whole night walking around in my apartment complex. It got better during the weekend, but not much, and throughout the week I found myself barely able to eat since everything — everything — gave me heartburn, even water. I was miserable.

Eventually the doctor gave me Pepcid to control the heartburn, then had me checked for gallstones, pancreatis, and liver issues. Nothing. However, I don’t do well on H2-blockers, so a few days later I landed in the emergency room with massive stomach pain. There I was prescribed a much stronger acid blocker, Prevacid, and told to take one per day, a dosage my GI doctor, with whom I had already met and scheduled an upper esophageal endoscopy with, doubled when it didn’t seem to be working. (The dosage has been stepped back down, thankfully).

Throughout this time, my fear and anxiety was at an all time high. The words “esophageal cancer” (or “the beast” as it is called in cancer circles) kept showing up associated with all my symptoms, as did “esophagitis” and “Barrett’s esophagus”: food getting stuck in the throat, pain swallowing, pain which radiated to the back, nausea after eating, and a bunch others I don’t want to list. The result of the endoscopy was better than that, however: mild gastritis due to increased acid, and GERD causing a lot of esophageal inflammation. And while most gastritis is a result of an H. pylori infection, in my case it was simply all that damn coffee I was drinking. (I’ve since to have one cup of a caffeine containing drink, which has had a rather interesting side effect on my sleeping: I’m now going to sleep at 10pm and waking up, refreshed, at 4am.) At least, that’s the hope. The doctor’s also said that if the nausea doesn’t subside he’ll have me checked for something called gastroparesis, which is basically where some sort of nerve damage — half the time due to “unexplained reasons”, by which they usually mean an untraceable viral infection damaging the Vagus nerve, which controls the stomach’s muscle contractions — which causes the stomach muscles to not work as they should.

Remember that sinus infection I kept putting off? Can you see now why I’m scared of this?

Speaking of which, I went to the allergist and found out that I’m allergic to pretty much everything: bahia grass, johnson grass, oak, mulberry, dust (VERY allergic to dust), cats, dogs, hamsters, rabbits, fire ants. Everything except mold, that is. Not allergic to mold. Weird. I also found out that I had a sinus infection, for which I got an antibiotic. Problem is that even after the sinus infection I started getting bouts of dizziness, headaches, and nausea. Inner-ear infection, maybe? I’ll have to wait ’til Tuesday, when I meet with my (new) Ear/Nose/Throat (ENT) doc about this. Hopefully it isn’t labyrinthitis, but then if it isn’t, what could it be?

By the way, if you were wondering why I hadn’t written in a while, here’s your answer. Because of all of this, I haven’t been able to concentrate on anything for any extended period of time, especially writing. My anxiety levels were going through the roof (they’re much better now, but I tend to have relapses) speeding up the entire disintegration process by making me face the very real possibility that I may soon discover what will kill me. (Please, please, please if you’re going to comment some pithy little quip like “well, we’re all going to die of something sometime!” do me a favor and save your bits. I’ve had enough of that.)

So then this is both a blessing and a curse. A curse because I still don’t know what’s going on, and due to my history it may have something to do with my brain. (When I was a kid I took a lot of head injuries, including a fall from 6-feet up which landed me in the hospital. Well, it landed me on the concrete, then I was transported to the hospital.) A blessing because too often thoughts of this nature — about who you are versus who you want and believe you can and should be — don’t come until it’s too late. Charles Stanley, a pastor I enjoy listening to, put it best when he said that all too often people in their deathbeds would tell him, “I’m just now dying, but I suddenly realized that I forgot to live.”

Insofar as the medical issues are concerned, I’m sure I’ll put up an update sometime. When I know what’s going on. Don’t hold your breath, though, it might take a while. Insofar as overexcitabilities are concerned, my overt attention to my health (in other words, my hypochondria) is an expression of these overexcitabilities, my mind trying to move in one direction in order to get its motors running. The problem is that unless that direction is constructive, it will be destructive.

Now, regarding the person I want to reintegrate myself into? Well now, that’s a pretty deep question, and one I’ll only partly answer here, both because some answers are highly personal and because other answers I’ve yet to discover.

First and foremost, I want to become a more social person. I’ve always admired people who almost effortlessly meet people, and I want to become like that. So I will. I’m also becoming much better at keeping up with friends who I’ve lost touch with. For example, yesterday I met with Mike. Mike is an avid reader of science fiction I met in a bookstore a fee months back. He’s semi-retired, works 2 days a week (enough to pay the bills) and lives by himself. I saw him waiting for the bus, and decided to stop and say hello. I hadn’t seen him in months and may not see him again, yet it’s nice to be able to stop and say hello. My primary integration told me that I should avoid talking to strangers too much, and because of my many moves, my environment also told me that I shouldn’t keep up with relationships. My new integration now dictates that I’ll make every possible effort to keep in touch with friends and family. Happiness, I’ve discovered, is not a personal thing. There’s no such thing as “personal happiness,” no matter how much the media says there should be. No, happiness is very much a community thing. And I, as a very social person, require community in order to be happy.

Another issue is the issue of God. I want to believe in God, and while my primary integration took me to a place where God wasn’t an acceptable answer (or even an acceptable question), my new integration instead has made me realize that there is still room for something as seemingly illogical as God. Furthermore, because I can now accept truly and fully that God speaks through various means to everyone, I can allow myself to once again return to my Catholic roots without becoming judgmental of others or myself when i don’t totally agree with what orthodoxy has to say: I can believe what I believe based on my understanding. After all, didn’t Jesus speak to different people with messages specifically meant for them? The lady at the well got a completely different message than Nikodemos, didn’t she? Now, don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t insult the Catholic faith by claiming myself to be one, but neither will I deny that I now routinely wear a rosary and spend at least a half hour each morning in prayer. (Things to do after waking up at 4am: (1) pray, (2) go to the gym, (3) write.) I also still listen to many protestant teachers, like Bob Coy and Charles Stanley, and like with Catholicism, I may not agree with everything they say, but there’s much I can learn from them, including when to know that I am wrong.

Why I’ve chosen to believe in God has everything to do with a logical fallacy which states that I will look as perceived proof of something as enough reason to accept its existence, instead of following the scientific approach of failing to find ways to disprove it. During the lowest of low times — and, trust me, these were LOW times of which I may in some future post write more abut — I would get signs and revelations made to me which were nothing short of extremely well placed coincidences. This included my finding two books at the South Florida Art Festival in a Friends of the Library display: Dreamality by Bob Coy (Pastor at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale) and Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Both meaning and dreams were things that I at that time was lacking, to the point where I started to question the very purpose of my existence. “Without a vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18) I’ve started and almost finished reading Man’s Search for Meaning and will move on to Dreamality afterwards. The fact that these two books appeared in front of me in a most unexpected place during a time of terrible personal need is but one of the reasons I have decided to believe in a God. There are others, but I’ll leave this as is.

A third issue is that of weight. I’ve always seen it as a protective thing, and now I’m realizing that I’ve always been at my perfect weight. However, I’ve chosen to carry an extra load for protection. I don’t need that protection any more, so it’s time for me to drop it. As of this morning, I was 254.5 lbs. (I started the year at 276-ish, though most of the weight was lost during the 2 weeks I couldn’t eat.) I’ve realized that gluten doesn’t agree with me, so I’ve dropped them. (Gluten-containing foods tend to give me heartburn, joint pains, make me moody and irritable, and hinder my cognitive faculties; I think I may be non-celiac glucose intolerant, which isn’t at all a surprise to me, since I’ve never really been much of a bread eater.) I’m not completely gluten free yet, but I’m close, with most of my foods being raw fruits and vegetables, with some fish. And slowly, I’m feeling better and better. I just hope it’s not too late for me to right my ship, and hope that something out of my control (like gastroparesis) doesn’t show up.

You can bet there are more issues — after all, I’m making the person I want to become! But it’s a slow, sometimes painful process, one I recommend to all. It is true what they say, that the pain of regret is greater by far than the pain of correction.

In the process of disintegration, I’ve also done a few things — consciously and not — which I had to do in order to continue the process, painful as they were. One of these was to quit a number of associations I found myself in previously. Most of you don’t know this, but I used to be a Quixtar IBO, though technically I still am because I have the license, but since I’m not active it doesn’t count. (Quixtar, by the way, is a sister company of Amway. Hate me yet?) Specifically, I was in the Bill Britt/Kanti Gala/Shivaram Kumar/Sugeet Ajmani line of sponsorship. I stopped it after I realized that being there, at that time, was a hinderance to my growth. I didn’t know where I wanted to go, but knew that at that time I didn’t want to go where they were heading. (Funny sidenote: my spell checker didn’t like “Britt”, “Kumar” or “Ajmani”, but had no problems with “Sugeet”, “Kanti”, or “Shivaram”.)

One of the realizations I’ve made over time is how much that association, with those people, was responsible for my growth as a person. Indeed, those people are some of the best individuals I’ve ever encountered, and I’m now in the process of reintroducing them to my life, if they’ll allow me. (Just because I want them around doesn’t mean they want me.) That doesn’t mean I’m planning to become an active IBO again, but it does mean that my life is enriched by that association and the principles by which they live. The world I am creating for myself is filled with people like those. This is not to say that’s the only place where they exist. Far from it! In fact, through my journey I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and becoming friends with terrific individuals who are heading in their own directions and who have faced or are facing challenges like I am, and of reacquainting myself with people who have been where I now tread, and worse, who have been available to me all my life. I’ve also seen what a rarity these people are, and how special it is to have a group which not only attracts people like those, but that also helps produce people like that by bringing out the best within others.

The big question for me during this process has been whether I wish to continue writing. I know, shocking, but it’s true. I don’t doubt that I have some ability in the craft, and that if I pursued it with more fervor that I would me more successful in it than I am now, but the question is whether I want to do that. Though I would like to answer that the issue has been settled, frankly, that question is still up in the air. At the moment my biggest concern has been with a vision I keep getting, a strange one that makes absolutely no sense to me given my history: I think I’m supposed to work with orphaned children. I don’t plan on going to any other country to do it, since I think I’m supposed to stay right here (the US), but I don’t know what the future holds. All I know is that I’m finally slowly becoming the person I want to be, not because of some outside influence, but because of myself.

11 thoughts on “My Positive Disintegration

  1. I am sorry to hear about all your recent health issues. I pray nothing serious comes of it and you start feeling more “nornal” sooner then later.

    I too have been thinking a lot about what I want myself to become in the past few months.

    I am expecting our Thrid child, a girl, due in July. This baby came as a total shock to us.. and while it is a blessing.. we recently found out from a screening the baby may have something seriously wrong with it. I been sitting here trying to determine what will come of our lifes if there is something wrong with this baby. It has been a crazy couple of weeks.
    But I been trying to keep a postive outlook and hope for the best.

    I been in pretty good health myself, which for me is pretty shocking. Besides a few minior colds and a horrible doze of pnemoina and a sinus infection this winter.. it has been pretty good.

    My son has been battling a rare disorder for the past year. His pancerus isn’t producing an emzeme needed to digest food properly. We been visiting numerous Specialists in the madison area.. and the ltitle guy has been through so much.. but we still do not have a final dianoses. It has put a lot of strain on our family.. which like you has been both a curse and a blessing.

    We have became a lot closer as a family which is a great thing. And I have learned how blessed I am to have my family and close friends to lean on in hard times.

    Like you I have also been doing a lot of self examination. I have decided that I want to go back to school in the next few years, after my two oldest are in school.. (which will be probably another year or so…).. and I want to finish my degree.

    I also been trying to eat better and get the family to eat more well balanced meals.. I been trying to serve something from every food group at every meal.. or close to. And we been cutting out going out to eat a lot more.

    I been working with both kids to get their skills to the levels they need to. My daughter has the wrost hand eye cordiation you have ever seen.. and my son is really behind on speech.

    I also been thinking a lot about faith and where it lays in my life. And while I am still unsure.. I been doing A lot of looking into it.. including reading.. yes.. me reading.. shocker there..

    Ok, this is getting to be a long comment! I wish your family the best and take care!

  2. OMG! I am going through the same process almost verbatum. An existential crisis caused by the cognitive dissonance of anomie gave me an anhedonia from which my ego had only two choices: bend or break under the strain. I surrendered and bent. Now that I am right brain side up I can see that life isn’t a problem to be solved or endured but a mystery to be lived.

    I also have the same dietary habits and symptoms. I also share the search for what is causing them (hypochondria.) Actually, I prefer hypersensitivity. I have an enlarged thyroid and am getting tested this week. Have you found out the cause of your symptoms?

    The easiest way to make social connections is a genuine heartfelt smile by the way. I’ve been an avoidant cave dweller most of my life and am also starting to come out of my cave with my positive disintegration programming.

    Thank you for your post. It is nice to know that I’m not alone in an incredible transformation. Congratulations by the way!

  3. Hey
    Just stumbled across your entries…don’t know how but am so curious about you!

    It is so unusual to find someone who thinks so much and who is so open.

    People can label me as someone who ‘thinks too much’ or is too sensitive etc etc but actually I am quite bright, which brings its own problems!

    Just want to say it was really good to read about your life and thanks for your generosity in sharing it

    1. Liz,
      Thank you for the complements: I’m humbled, and glad you enjoy reading. As for the content, I’m fairly open online or in real life, so what you see here is pretty much what you get, though I do sound a bit more coherent when I’ve had time to edit my message. If you ever have any questions about something you read here, don’t hesitate to contact me, best way being via this blog or Twitter (@gnorb). I’ll answer any of your questions as best possible.

  4. I know these post are really old, but in the event you receive comments still, I just wanted to recommend a book called THE MAKER’S DIET by Jordan Ruban and read his personal testimony (major health healing) and read chapter 7 on other testimonies from people who followed it and were healed/cured from the very same things mentioned here. I hope you receive this!!!! 🙂 Whoo hoo!!! Help is available!!! Another good book is called TOXIC RELIEF by Dr. Don Colbert. Excellent….. You can go get them and have a highlighter handy, and go to town….. 🙂 Both books also go a little into faith. Happy reading, and be well!

  5. Hey buddy this is a GREAT article! Are you a technical writer?
    I am an MD by background and also is part of BWW I have stopped for a while even after going platinum then came back like an avalanche. You are welcome to associate with us at any point in time and no you don’t have to join my group 🙂
    SIncerely;
    Misha

  6. Hey, I never knew you wrote about this. Or I did and forgot. Google didn’t because somehow this showed up in ‘personal results’ when I searched for Dabrowski again — I first heard about him in late 2009.
    How did this all turn out for you? I still see you around sometimes of course but you might imagine it’s hard to keep track. Social media are great but they’re not communities.

    1. Sorry that I missed this comment: It’s been pretty hectic here (I’ll be writing about this shortly).

      Dabrowski’s ideas definitely helped. I have one of his books, which is no longer in print, and plan to make it into an ebook for myself and friends. (I’ll have to type it all out by hand, but I don’t mind, since I’ll just treat it as a “deep reading”.) I’ll send you a copy once I’ve done this.

      The biggest thing with Dabrowski is that I’ve been able to implement the idea of positive disintegration pretty completely. I start by identifying neuroses when they appear (or rather, when I notice them) and working to find their roots, deconstruct them, and reintegrate the new “programming”, so to speak, into my life. For example, one of my habits is that I start shopping almost uncontrollably as a method of dealing with anxiety, which ironically, in my case, most often comes as a result of financial issues. This eventually leads to full blown panic attacks. In the process, when I’m “bored”, my mind races, and suddenly I become a hypochondriac. Using the techniques I learned from Dabrowski, I’ve been able to identify these behaviors and seek solutions when they arise. In the process I’ve also been able to property channel my thoughts and calm my mind by identifying what’s important to me. (Turns out, for all the tech, there’s nothing I love more than being out amongst trees and enjoying nature. In fact, just by integrating more nature into my life, I’ve been able to calm my mind to the point where I can deal with existential crisis-type thoughts when they arise.)

      Anyway, this could go on forever. If you feel like chatting about it sometime, I’m all for it. Just let me know. I’d love to hear about what you’ve learned, too.

      Finally, you may be interested in this, from an intellectual standpoint: there’s a Yahoo Groups mailing list that’s for Dabrowski’s ideas. Most of it involves history and recent papers and citations, but there are frequently conversations about the interpretation of certain cases and ideas. If nothing else, it makes me feel smarter just reading it, though I’ve also found it useful at times.

      Take care!

  7. Hi, Gnorb.  I found your site through a Google search for Dabrowski and just wanted to thank you for this post (which I know is old, and maybe you’re not even following this anymore).  I also have been experiencing positive disintegration (including some weird health effects, the type that probably won’t kill me but definitely signal something is off).  Last summer I went to the Dabrowski Congress in Calgary (quite a ways away from where I live) and was so excited to be around other unusual-but-similar-to-me people who have experienced the same thing, and also want to improve themselves.  Your post was just like being back at the conference, which is a good thing.
     
    I’m working on a site about Dabrowski, trying to explain his (very rich and complex!) theory in as accessible a manner as possible and linking it to other concerns I have in the world.  I’d like to include other people’s experiences, so it doesn’t all get filtered through my lens.  I’ll link your post if you don’t mind – it’s a really great example and I’m sure it will be meaningful to others.
     

    1. Hey Jessie,
      I’m still following, but not as closely (as you may have noticed.). I’m happy this has helped, and don’t mid the link at all. Thank you! If it can help others, then by all means.

      Best of luck with your new site. Please feel free to drop off a link here whenever you feel it’s ready.

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