A social paradox / Human physical attractiveness

The pagan goddess of love: Sandro Boticelli's "Birth of Venus" remains, after 500 years, an awestruck view of the female form.

The pagan goddess of love: Sandro Boticelli’s “Birth of Venus” remains, after 500 years, an awestruck view of the female form, without condemnation nor sentimentality.



Beauty, symmetry, movement, being comfortable in one’s own body, judgment of character based on physical appearance, and physical types are all facets stressed in American social survival. Of course there’s a paradox: the visual presentation of “ideal humans” is extreme and distorted, so natural examples are rare and increasingly “faked” by make up, photo-shopped images, computer distortions, cosmetic surgery and dentistry, extreme diets, work outs and applied chemistry.

And then, moral and ethical confusion enters.

People are supposed to be loved “for who they are” as opposed to how they look. A person’s behavior ought to be paramount in one’s choice of partner: immoral or criminal acts; lies, deception, and real pathology, such as abuse of others, are clear warning signs that so-and-so is not a good candidate for partnership nor parenthood. And yet, “for who they are” now includes career criminals and other dangerous people.

I’m old enough to remember a different social context in the U.S.

“Love someone for who they are” meant that a good set of values, reliability, devotion, hard work and investment in a family may be found in a person who is average looking or even “homely” and that these are qualities that lead to a good partnership. Choosing based on looks alone was insubstantial. Beauty comes “free” from ancestral genes and is not a product of character. “Beauty” whether male or female is a condition of physical chance and not a substitute for substance.

Somehow in the U.S. the idea of “love someone for who they are” has become inverted, and now means embracing substandard behavior – and there lies the point: no one is allowed to condemn personal or corporate criminal acts, whether violent or selfish. Coping with loss of human rights, including death, devastation of the environment, or negligent acts has passed to lawyers. There is no moral component left in “who someone is.” We are forced as individuals to accept ‘bad behavior” from any person or agency or corporation that touches our lives. As individuals,  combatting such calamities is nearly impossible: “justice” used to be part of the social contract, but morality has been “stolen” by religious institutions, whose members deny that any secular segment of humanity can behave morally or ethically.

Morality and ethics have been removed from the social hierarchy: people are punished for their inclusion in a mostly economic class system. True criminals are not differentiated from people merely caught up in a careless and mindless factory system that provides a sham appearance of good and evil, of  WWL – wealthy with lawyers and those who are considered “low status and vulnerable.”

This is not to say that many who are in prison don’t need to be there, to protect their families, neighborhoods and communities from devastating violence and loss. But – the inversion of “love someone for who he is” meaning having “good qualities” to “anything goes” has contributed to making criminal behavior a valid lifestyle and muddled the moral waters with “sympathy for devils.” As in other arena’s of American life, emotionality and shallow sympathy take precedence over good judgment. No judgment allowed. Without judgment we are lost.

Does this look like a balanced and healthy society?

Does this look like a balanced and healthy society?

This comparison of incarceration rates makes a lie of our insistence that the U.S. is a fair and just society and represents a light of democracy in a dark world. It does reveal an inability to distinguish true criminals from those caught up by ridiculous laws, and a belief that “crime” defines poor people, but the well-off and “upper class” are exempt.





Have you ever had an original thought?

The obvious model for a social pyramid dates to Ancient Egypt. Note that the scale of Pharaoh to subject is that of parent to child.

The obvious model for a social pyramid dates to Ancient Egypt. Note that the scale of Pharaoh to subject is that of parent to child. It still is.

How many human beings have ever produced an original thought?

What we assume to be created by our brains has actually been installed by our family, education and culture. Case in point: the majority of individuals did not choose their religion or beliefs about how the world ought to be, but were born into a world view that dictates how the individual filters and transforms new information to support old ideas. 

Our array of languages may not be active or dominant in each individual. Some people are so dominated by magical thinking that no amount of demonstration or explanation will lead them to accept natural explanations for phenomena. Although abstract thinking is one of the advantages of word languages, my ‘native’ thinking is visual. I must translate visual ideas into words: mathematics becomes alien when concrete applications are left behind. Magical thinking is thought by child development specialists to be active briefly in childhood, and then to disappear in favor of concrete thinking, with abstract thinking developing later through education, a ladder or level concept (another pyramid scheme!) that is misleading. Magical thinking is not only present, but dominates the adult social brain. Analytical thinking is the cherry on top and few individuals get the cherry.

Do the ideas produced by language describe physical reality or do they shape and distort perceptions of reality? Ideas can clearly be a roadblock to understanding the human condition, especially ideas of proper governance. The potential for word language pre-exists in the brain, but must be activated by other humans. This need to learn demonstrates continuity with the languages of many species such as birds a cetaceans. Mathematics is the language of physical reality; mathematical relationships are intrinsic to nature and basic to understanding the substance and organization of both living and nonliving matter, energy systems, and the history of the universe. Mathematics is essential to the culture we have created and yet, in the United States, “doing it” is viewed as an arcane and alien activity – and those who speak mathematics form an increasingly imported priestly class.

It's not a good sign for equality that today's pyramids have become even steeper.

It’s not a good sign for the world’s citizens that today’s pyramids have become radically steeper than in ancient empires.

This repetition of information and instruction, which we designate as learning, has great benefits; no one must reinvent the wheel, but if a continuity of knowledge is not maintained down generations, ideas and technologies can be utterly lost. The modern social pyramid as it exists has stretched inequality to dangerous limits: skilled labor and crafts have been denigrated as demeaning grunt work, and a college degree is ‘required’ for an individual to gain a foothold on the pyramid, despite that degree providing no skills for earning a living nor satisfying basic human needs for accomplishment and reward. If anyone believes that the social hierarchy is working to benefit citizens, the extreme disparity in income between minimum wage earners and Pharaohs at the top completely eradicates such fantasy.

Do some individuals deserve higher rewards for skills and abilities? Inevitably yes, but modern social humans reward sociopaths who destroy culture, and with it, human lives. If our primary ethical position was this; that each human being counts and ought to have the means and ability to provide healthy food, clean water and shelter for his or her family, we could do it. This is a choice that we are making, to deny others (including more and more Americans) by consuming the majority of the planet’s resources, which are not ours and by destroying sovereign nations, so that 1% of Americans can be billionaires.

Greed is not an original idea;

we’re merely copying the Pharaohs,

Great Kings,  Dictators, Tyrants,

and Gods of the past.


Jinniushan / Transition Erectus to Sapien?


The Jinniushan skeleton was excavated in 1984 from a collapsed limestone cave near Sitian Village, southwest of Yinkou in Liaoning Provence by students from Peking University under the direction of Professor Lu Zun’e. Original reports and preliminary descriptions of the Jinniushan skeleton were presented by Wu (1988a, 1988b) and Lu (1989), however, little else has been published. There are a number of Uranium series dates from the cave which range from 310,000 to 200,000 years. Lu (1989) argued that layer 7 where the hominid fossils were found was dated to approximately 280,000 years (BP). Research by Huang and You (1987)and Chen et al. (1994) indicates a date of closer to 200,000 might be more appropriate.

The skeleton consists of a skull, left ulna, left innominate, 6 vertebrae, ribs and numerous bones of the hands and feet. The cranium was originally in one piece but was unfortunately damaged during excavation. Reconstruction of the skull was undertaken at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing by Wu Rukang and his assistant Zhao Zongyi (Wu, 1988). This reconstruction was subsequently altered after the skeleton was returned to the Archaeology Department of Peking University. Both the vault and facial skeleton are heavily reconstructed, with extensive bone loss in the frontal, parietal and occipital regions.


Similar to Dali, Jinniushan has a combination of Homo erectus and H. sapiens anatomical features. An endocranial volume of approximately 1400 cc, combined with relatively thin cranial vault bone, some parietal expansion, rounding of the occipital region, the position of maximum cranial breadth, and overall facial morphology have resulted in Jinniushan being allotted to archaic Homo sapiens. Compared with Dali the brow ridges are less robust and not thickened mid-orbit, the supraorbital sulcus is shallower but there is greater post-orbital constriction. Jinniushan has a median frontal ridge which extends on to the parietals. Like Dali the mastoid process is small. The occipital and nuchal planes do not meet at as sharp an angle as in Dali and the occipital torus is not particularly robust. The posterior profile of the parietals is similar to Dali, as is the location of maximum cranial breadth. Derived traits, similar to H. sapiens, are apparent in the relatively delicate facial skeleton.

While anterior tooth wear is marked there is relatively little wear on the molar teeth. Comparison with prehistoric Australian dentitions suggest that Jinniushan was a young adult, 16 to 20 years of age, but this would depend upon broadly similar rates of tooth wear. Lu’s (1989) age estimate of around 20 years is probably closer than Wu’s (1988) estimate of 30. (See below – described as female)

Recently there has been a tendency to link a group of Chinese hominin fossils, including Jinniushan, Xujiayao, Dali, and Maba, previously considered by some researchers to be “archaic Homo sapiens”, with the Denisovians (Reich et al. 2010) (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v468/n7327/full/nature09710.html). However, apart from a few teeth, the Denisovians are only known from palaeo DNA. There is also a great deal of anatomical variation in the Chinese “archaic Homo sapiens” group. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next decade, or so.

Acccess to Jinniushan

Research workers interested in access to Jinniushan must write to Professor Lu Zun’e, Archaeology Department, Peking University (Beida), Beijing, China.

Related article PNAS ______________________________________________________

Body size, body proportions, and encephalization in a Middle Pleistocene archaic human from northern China

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Mar 7; 103(10): 3552–3556.
Published online 2006 doi:  10.1073/pnas.0508681103
PMCID: PMC1450121, Anthropology


The unusual discovery of associated cranial and postcranial elements from a single Middle Pleistocene fossil human allows us to calculate body proportions and relative cranial capacity (encephalization quotient) for that individual rather than rely on estimates based on sample means from unassociated specimens. The individual analyzed here (Jinniushan) from northeastern China at 260,000 years ago is the largest female specimen yet known in the human fossil record and has body proportions (body height relative to body breadth and relative limb length) typical of cold-adapted populations elsewhere in the world. Her encephalization quotient of 4.15 is similar to estimates for late Middle Pleistocene humans that are based on mean body size and mean brain size from unassociated specimens.


Thus, the Jinniushan specimen represents a nearly unique opportunity to assess key aspects of morphology in an important period of human evolution, when relative brain size appears to have been increasing rapidly (1, 2) and geographic variation in body shape was becoming pronounced (6, 10) as the geographic range of the human species expanded to cover most of the Old World.

The most reliable indicators of sex in humans are found on the pelvis, specifically the pubis. Examination of the traits that Phenice found to be best indicators of sex (16) provides the most convincing evidence that the Jinniushan specimen is female. Because of damage to the medial portion of the pubis, it is not possible to evaluate whether there was a ventral arc present. However, a subpubic concavity is present, and the medial aspect of the ischiopubic ramus is ridged rather than flat. According to Phenice, these latter two features would classify the Jinniushan specimen as female. The sciatic notch, which is generally wider in females than in males in all human populations, is intermediate in breadth. Compared with the Kebara 2 Neandertal specimen (a male), another archaic human that preserves a complete os coxae, the Jinniushan specimen is gracile in features such as the iliac buttress and ischial tuberosity, again compatible with a sex determination of female. The ischiopubic index (length of the superior pubic ramus/height of ischial bone × 100) has long been well known to be greater in females than in males (17). Jinniushan has an ischiopubic index of 132.3, and Kebara 2 has an ischiopubic index of 126.0, consistent with the diagnosis of female for the former specimen and male for the latter. The one piece of evidence that suggests that the Jinniushan specimen might be male is the overall size of its os coxae, which is large in absolute terms.

The cranium is robust compared with modern specimens, which led some researchers in the past to conclude that it was male (18). However, when compared more appropriately with the Dali specimen, a cranium of similar geological (and chronological) age from Shanxi Province in northwestern China, the Jinniushan specimen appears to be gracile and probably female. The Jinniushan specimen has outer dimensions similar to those of Dali but has a thinner cranial vault and therefore larger cranial capacity (Dali is 1,120 cm3, and published estimates of Jinniushan range from 1,260 to 1,400 cm3) (11–15, 18, 19). The Jinniushan supraorbitals are thinner than those of the Dali specimen, and the differences between the two penecontemporaneous specimens are probably explained by sexual dimorphism.


Finding information about Chinese sites and skeletal finds is not easy, and “western” treatment of such papers and articles usually comes with a dismissive tone.

It’s good to find anthropologists who are taking a serious look at hominid sites in China.

You say sapiens, I say erectus.

Pre-modern humans may have picked up genes from Homo erectus

My speculation from doing thought problems, is that we’re all Homo erectus, with modern humans (those since the agricultural revolution) being juvenalized Homo erectus.

Denisova cave serves up a new genome, this time Neanderthal.

It’s a busy time in our attempts to study our species’ pre-modern history. Just two weeks ago, researchers reported the sequence of the oldest bones to yield human DNA. Now, the same research group is back with an entire genome, obtained from a bone found in Siberia’s Denisova cave. This genome comes from a Neanderthal, but all the data reveals a lot about all the interconnections among the pre-modern human groups that were wandering around Eurasia tens of thousands of years ago. The analysis came with a tantalizing hint that one of those groups had interbred with a species separated from modern humans by over a million years—perhaps Homo erectus.

The Denisova cave is famous for having yielded the bones that helped us identify the Denisovans, a group of archaic humans that inhabited Asia at the same time as the Neanderthals. Although we haven’t found enough bones to know much about what the Denisovans looked like, DNA analysis has revealed that they are most closely related to Neanderthals and that they interbred with modern humans that went on to populate East Asia, the Americas, and the Pacific.

The new results spring from a toe bone found in the same cave, this one from a layer that is estimated to be tens of thousands of years earlier. DNA sequencing revealed the bone to be from a Neanderthal, a different group of pre-modern humans that is most closely related to the Denisovans. The DNA was in excellent condition and had a minimal (about one percent) contamination with sequences from modern humans. The team generated a high-quality genome using samples from this bone.

The sequence that resulted tells us a lot about Neanderthals. For one, it shows that other populations we’ve obtained DNA from (samples found in the Caucasus and Croatia) were closely related but distinct, indicating that the Neanderthals were already well established by the time this individual died. Those populations were apparently quite small, however, since there’s not a lot of genetic diversity among them. In the case of the specific individual in the Denisovan cave, the lack of diversity was quite severe. Rather than carrying two distinct sets of chromosomes, large stretches of the two chromosomes were identical, indicating that they were inherited from a single individual in the recent past.

The extent of this identity suggests that the parents of this individual were half-siblings, although other combinations (uncle-niece, aunt-nephew) would also produce a similar pattern.

But the more significant results come from what this new sequence tells us about the other groups of humans present at the time, including modern humans. To begin with, it confirms the rough timing of the split between the ancestors of modern humans and the ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans, which took place about 550,000-600,000 years ago. The Neanderthals and Denisovans became a distinct population about 400,000 years ago.

The sequence also provides a clearer estimate of the amount of Neanderthal DNA that shows up in modern human populations: 1.5 to 2.1 percent. And it confirms that it got there via interbreeding, since the Neanderthal sequence looks most similar to the sample obtained from the Caucasus remains. Had it been inherited through a structured ancestral population in Africa, it should look like it was equally distant from all three of the Neanderthal genomes. The other thing that’s apparent is that modern Asian and American populations have a bit more Neanderthal DNA than others, suggesting that a low amount of interbreeding continued as our ancestors moved east.

Our ancestors weren’t the only ones who couldn’t resist getting a piece of the Neanderthals. At least a half percent of the Denisovan genome also came from them as well.

But perhaps the most unexpected finding comes from a comparison with the Denisovan genome. Modern humans in Africa never overlapped geographically with Neanderthals or Denisovans and thus contain none of their DNA. Therefore, any shared DNA they have should be inherited from a common ancestor, and the African’s should be equally distant from the Neanderthals and Denisovans. Yet they’re not. The Denisovans have some sequences that are much more distant than you’d expect.

After considering and rejecting a couple of alternative explanations for this, the paper settles on a rather radical explanation: Denisovans themselves interbred with a population that had been separated from their common ancestor with modern humans for about a million years. This, as the authors note, suggests that the DNA’s source was Homo erectus. In fact, they suggest that the Denisovan’s entire mitochondrial genome might have come from this interbreeding event, since it’s much more distant from the Neanderthals’ than the rest of the genome is.

Of course, that explanation is even harder to square with the findings from the ancient bones in Spain, which had a similar sequence but came from skeletons that looked somewhat like Neanderthals. Unless, of course, the Spanish population also interbred with Homo erectus (or whatever this is) at some point.

In any case, the results add yet another layer onto the increasingly complicated Out-of-Africa model of the origin of modern humans. We still arose in Africa and migrated out into Eurasia. But once we got there, we interbred with a previous wave of African expatriates and incorporated a small bit of their genetic legacy into our own. And one part of that previous wave may have even incorporated a tiny piece of a species that hadn’t seen Africa for a very long time.

erectus2thomas herectus_map_ngEurope dots arch sites


Neurotypical-Asperger Spouse Gossip Site / Martyrdom

I’m not going to name the site or the authors. It’s a place to complain about being married to an Asperger (although way too many Aspergers are being diagnosed by the angry spouse, not by any official entity.)

“Today I found this website. Thank you for being here. I live in Sweden married to an Asperger husband for many years. There is no network for Asperger partners, only when it comes to children and young people. It was a relief for me to find the an exellent site to keep focus on my situation – instead of getting sucked into my husbands abnormal perception of reality. If Alice in Wonderland stayed there for 16 years – would she not have to surrender to the bizarre perception of everything, just to survive?”

Noteworthy: most of the neurotypical spouses say they were/are married to an Asperger for DECADES. I have two questions: Did these people not get to know each other even a teeny bit before slipping on the handcuffs? Why would anyone endure decades of martyrdom instead of getting a divorce?

It is very frustrating for my poor daughter, who sees two very different people in him — the one in public versus the one at home. The trauma for children suffering from the tantrums, lies and play acting of the asperger parent is REAL — even though almost nobody will ever believe them. What’s worse — it appears to be permanent. I have watched two daughters suffer because of his aspergers (one was not his and he appeared to truly hate her – and still does). I can’t even begin to thank you for recognizing that not all aspies are “sweet, honest, wonderful people deep down who are just so misunderstood.” I am not saying they are all evil. I am just saying that the hell they inflict is REAL and very painful for those in their sphere.

Good – evil religious judgments are a big clue to this person’s state of mind.

So many of these “testimonials” accuse Aspergers of lies. (Although this is another spouse-diagnosis) This is very un-Aspergerlike behavior. We are notorious “pathological truth-tellers.” Play-acting? Are you kidding? Everyone knows we’re totally boring and bereft of imagination.

The general impression I’m getting is that the spouses projected the personality and characteristics that they wanted onto the “possible mate” and ignored signs to the contrary – and married someone totally unsuitable. The revelation of the “true person” is what they are calling a lie; she lied to herself. This seems to be a common neurotypical pattern, whomever they marry.

Your description post traumatic relationship syndrome is spot on …it also has to be remembered that we can never really escape people who are intertwined in our lives through children and grandchildren. Lack of awareness of these types of men means that we don’t understand the significance of the “red flags” that we perceive. They defy logical explanation, and as our culture tends to respect evidence only, thereby giving the disordered personality the benefit of the doubt, whilst leaving us exposed to serious harm.

Wow! There is a thread of victimhood that is quite disturbing! And no logic being used. It’s society’s fault – these women were tricked into marriage to an Asperger – a plot, no doubt. How can one call something “a red flag” but not understand that it’s a RED FLAG?

Also notable are comments that the Asperger husband is highly intelligent, has a high-paying job – is liked and loved by family and co-workers who are victims of his lies, and co-conspirators in making the spouse’s life a living Hell.

Conclusion? I doubt that these “Hellish spouses” are truly Asperger. Their characteristics would seem to lead to a diagnosis of one of the personality disorders – Jekyll & Hyde personality, a liar, a conspirator with evil intent. But that’s just my impression.

My father was Asperger’s, and very odd at times; my mother got what she wanted: a loyal trustworthy and honest man with a college degree, so that she could escape poverty. He came home every night at 5:30 p.m. and ate dinner with the family; loved his children (a bit oddly at times) and did everything he was asked to do, even when it came to socializing, although he often said odd things. It was their bargain, not mine.




Some thoughts on TIME



September is the best weather month in this part of Wyoming. The light has a character that can’t be described by any other word than  perfection. It has an inordinate effect on me; the days I’ve waited for all summer and yet, I feel disturbed, as if there is something I ought to be doing, but I can’t figure out what it is.

The dogs seem to know it too. They “bug me” every few minutes to do – what? We go for a drive, a walk, we eat, I do chores, but it’s as if time is a real force; a ‘something’ that applies pressure on my body, telling me to move, to go, to flee as if time will soon end.

Is this an “Asperger effect” – that trouble with transitions we supposedly experience? If it is, I would identify it with seasonal migration; like the mysterious trigger that sets birds flying or bears fattening for hibernation, but I live in a town, in a house and I’m going nowhere.

Our weather is odd; seasons may or may not exist; winter can be warm and snowless; snow storms can be sudden and most intense during spring. Spring may not happen at all, with summer arriving one day without warning. One never knows. The wind makes some people crazy, but I count on it to roll over us, changing the stale air and injecting energy; senses revived, in tune, in touch with an immense force that shapes the landscape and everything in it.

In essence, my experience of time is dictated by weather, which affects me deeply. I’m kind of wild that way. From the ‘outside’ people think we are boring people, and I guess we are in social situations. ‘In the wild’ I’m wild, as any animal must be.

Learn about wind:

DABROWSKI / Positive Disintegration

untitleddam imagesex

Anyone who has read my blog knows my views on American psychology: uninspired and uninspiring, Puritanical, intellectually dilute, mechanical and neotenous in its conception of normal, average, or typical development as the highest possible aspiration of all humans. It’s upside down: those who are gifted, talented, out-of-the-box individuals, or anyone with novel ideas, or those who simply are raised in other cultures, are labeled as developmentally disordered, retarded, having defective brains, and exhibiting pathologic behavior. American psychology is a perfect reflection of the society it conforms to; claiming to be a science but inherently religious; pretending to be a profession, but lacking controls on who may practice and profit; claiming to care and fix, while exploiting the marketplace of narcissism without conscience.


NOTE: I don’t know Kazimierez Dabrowski and have only read through this introduction recently. He is evidently little known in the west. I do know that the stage of development prescribed as optimal (normal) in current American psychology, is only the beginning step to becoming fully human in his theory.


The Theory of Positive Disintegration


Page created: October 26, 1995. The material on this site is protected by the provisions of the Copyright Act, by Canadian laws, policies, regulations and international agreements. Such provisions serve to identify the information source and, in specific instances, to prohibit reproduction of materials without written permission.

Kazimierz Dabrowski MD, PhD. 1902 – 1980, Poland


Since 1980, there has been a small but consistent demand for Dabrowski’s works. This demand has largely evolved in the United States where Michael Piechowski applied his vision of the theory to gifted education. Piechowski emphasizes overexcitability and largely disregards the other aspects of the theory including positive disintegration and the role of psychoneurosis. Many in education and in gifted education have looked to Dabrowski’s theory to help provide a context for their student’s intense experiences. Although a small part of the overall theory, the application to the gifted area has generated a number of Master’s and Ph.D. theses and introduced the theory to a large audience, an audience eager to learn more about Dabrowski and his theory. This web page was created in 1995 to help provide this information and to fulfill my commitment to Dr. Dabrowski to try to keep his theory alive.


Dabrowski’s writing began in 1929 with a thesis in Polish. His first work in English was done in 1937. Over the years, he has written many articles and books in Polish, English, Spanish and French. In 1977, a two-volume book was edited by Piechowski as it was going to press. Dabrowski eschewed this book and the unedited manuscripts were posthumously published in 1996. All of the materials published in English are available as are the majority of the Polish books. These can be obtained as PDF downloads – see Dabrowski 301 under learning Dabrowski, or click here: Dabrowski 301.

Greetings, Psychoneurotics

Suffering, aloneness, self-doubt, sadness, inner conflict; these are our feelings that we have not learned to live with, that we have failed to appreciate, that we reject as destructive and completely negative, but in fact they are symptoms of an expanding consciousness. Dr. Kazimierz Dabrowski has spent 45 years piecing together the complete picture of the growth of the human psyche from primitive integration at birth; the person with potential for development will experience growth as a loosening of the stable psychic structure accompanied by symptoms of psychoneuroses. Reality becomes multilevel; the choices between higher and lower realms of behavior occupy our thought and mark us as human. Dabrowski called this process positive disintegration; he declares that psychoneurosis is not an illness and he insists that development does not come through psychotherapy but that psychotherapy is automatic when the person is conscious of his development.

To Dabrowski, real therapy is autopsychotherapy; it is the self being aware of the self through inner investigation and mapping the inner environment. There are no techniques to eliminate symptoms because the symptoms constitute the very psychic richness from which grow an increasing awareness of body, mind, humanity and cosmos.  Without intense and painful introspection and reflection, development is unlikely. Psychoneurotic symptoms should be embraced and transformed into anxieties about human problems of an ever higher order. If psychoneuroses continue to be classified as mental illness, then perhaps sickness is better than health.

“Without passing through very difficult experiences and even something like psychoneurosis and neurosis, we cannot understand human beings and we cannot realize our multidimensional and multilevel development toward higher and higher levels.” Dabrowski.

A very brief sketch of Dabrowski’s theory.

Four seminal quotes set the stage:

1). “Personality: A self-aware, self-chosen, self-affirmed, and self-determined unity of essential individual psychic qualities. Personality as defined here appears at the level of secondary integration” (Dabrowski, 1972, p. 301).

2). “The propensity for changing one’s internal environment and the ability to influence positively the external environment indicate the capacity of the individual to develop. Almost as a rule, these factors are related to increased mental excitability, depressions, dissatisfaction with oneself, feelings of inferiority and guilt, states of anxiety, inhibitions, and ambivalences – all symptoms which the psychiatrist tends to label psychoneurotic. Given a definition of mental health as the development of the personality, we can say that all individuals who present active development in the direction of a higher level of personality (including most psychoneurotic patients) are mentally healthy” (Dabrowski, 1964, p. 112).

3). “Intense psychoneurotic processes are especially characteristic of the course of accelerated development towards the formation of personality. According to our theory, accelerated psychic development is impossible without making a transition through processes of nervousness and psychoneuroses, without external and internal conflicts, without maladjustment to actual conditions in order to achieve adjustment to a higher level of values (Ideals) and without conflicts with lower level realities (the social hierarchy) as a result of spontaneous or deliberate choice to strengthen the bond with reality of higher level” (Dabrowski, 1972, p. 220). Translation: It’s a bumpy ride from “socially normal” to true personality; one must endure anxiety and the stigma of “abnormality” in order to develop beyond average or typical resignation to social conformity.)

4). “Psychoneuroses ‘especially those of a higher level’ provide an opportunity to ‘take one’s life in one’s own hands’ (this is taboo in Am. Psych.) They are expressive of a drive for psychic autonomy, especially moral autonomy, through transformation of a more or less primitively integrated structure. This is a process in which the individual becomes active in his disintegration, and even breakdown. Thus the person finds a ‘cure’ for himself, not in the sense of rehabilitation but rather in the sense of reaching a higher level than the one at which he was prior to disintegration. This occurs through education of oneself and an inner psychic transformation. One of the main mechanisms of this process is a continual sense of looking into oneself as if from outside, followed by a conscious affirmation or negation of conditions and values in both the internal and external environments. Through the constant creation of self, through the development of the inner psychic milieu and the development of discriminating power with respect to both the inner and outer milieus – an individual goes through ever higher levels of ‘neuroses’ and at the same time through ever higher levels of universal development of his personality” (Dabrowski, 1972, p. 4). Translation: You have to go through the steps from infant to adult; it’s not automatic. No one can do this for you. It’s a creative journey. Few people ever attempt development beyond childhood basics.

These quotes capture the heart of Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration. The theory describes a process of personality development – the creation of a unique, individual personality.

Most people become socialized in early family and school experiences. They largely accept the values and mores of society with little question and have no internal conflict in sticking to the basic beliefs of society. In some cases, a person begins to notice and to imagine ‘higher possibilities’ in life. These disparities are driven by overexcitability — an intense experience of, and reaction to day-to-day stimuli. Eventually, one’s perception of reality becomes differentiated into a hierarchy and all aspects of both external and internal life come to be evaluated on a vertical continuum of ‘lower versus higher.’ This experience often creates a series of deep and painful conflicts between lower, ‘habitual’ perceptions and reactions based on one’s heredity and environment (socialization) and higher, volitional ‘possibilities.’ In the developing individual, these conflicts may lead to disintegrations and psychoneuroses, which for Dabrowski, are hallmarks of advanced growth. Eventually, through the processes of advanced development and positive disintegration, one is able to develop control over one’s reactions and actions. (Hah!) Development culminates in the inhibition and extinction of lower levels of reality and behavior and their transcendence via the creation of a higher, autonomous and stable ideal self. The rote acceptance of social values gives way to a critically examined and chosen hierarchy of values and aims that becomes a unique expression of the self — becoming one’s personality ideal.

Dabrowski acknowledged the strong and primitive influence of heredity (the first factor) and the robotic, dehumanizing (and de-individualizing) role of the social environment (the second factor). He also described a third factor of influence, a factor emerging from but surpassing heredity – “its activity is autonomous in relation to the first factor (hereditary) and the second (environmental) factor. It consists in a selective attitude with regard to the properties of one’s own character and temperament, as well as, to environmental influences” (Dabrowski, 1973, p. 80). The third factor is initially expressed when a person begins to resist their lower impulses and habitual responses characteristic of socialization. Emerging autonomy is reflected in conscious and volitional choices toward what a person perceives as ‘higher’ in their internal and external milieus. Over time, this ‘new’ conscious shaping of the personality comes to reflect an individual ‘personality ideal,’ an integrated hierarchy of values describing the sense of who one wants to be and how one wants to live life. The ‘ought to be’ of life can replace ‘the what is.’ It is important to realize that this is not simply an actualization of oneself as is; it involves tremendous conscious work in differentiating the higher and lower in the self and in moving away from lower selfish and egocentric goals toward an idealized image of how ‘you ought to be.’

The idealized self is consciously constructed based on both emotional and cognitive foundations. Emotion and cognition become integrated and are reflected in a new approach to life — feelings direct and shape ideas, goals and ideals, one’s ideals work to express one’s feelings. Imagination is a critical component in this process — we can literally imagine how it ought to be and how could be in this establishes ideals to try to attain.

Initially, people who are acting on low impulses or who are simply robotically emulating society have little self conflict. Most conflicts are external. During development, the clash between one’s actual behavior and environment and one’s imagined ideal creates a great deal of internal conflict. This conflict literally motivates the individual to resolve the situation, ideally by inhibiting those aspects he or she considers lower and by accentuating those aspects he or she considers higher. At the highest levels, there is a new harmony of thought, emotion and action that eliminates internal conflict. The individual is behaving in accord with his or her personal ideal and consciously-derived value structure and therefore feels no internal conflict. Often a person’s external focus shifts to ‘making the world a better place.’

In describing development, Dabrowski elaborated five levels occurring in three basic phases. The first stage, Level I, involves an integrated but lower level expression of hereditary and social forces. Dabrowski referred to this as a unilevel or primary level. The individual experiences little inner conflict and is initially, largely unaware of the ‘higher possibilities of life.’ Phase two is characterized by the process of disintegration and psychoneuroses are common features of these levels (Levels II, III and IV). The familiar security of habit is shattered by doubts as the person comes to discover higher levels in life. The lower versus higher continuum signals a shift to the multilevel experience of life (Levels III and IV). The third phase, Level V, is the highest level, second integration, characterized by the expression of one’s unique and autonomous personality.

Too often Asperger children are attacked by schools, teachers, psychologists-psychiatrists and parents for doing what comes naturally – truly healthy development that goes beyond “typical” development. 

Dabrowski / Gifted Children, cont.

 Are neurodiverse children defective or gifted?

The answer depends on the attitudes, beliefs and prejudices of the person who is observing the child. Psychology, with its poor acceptance of neurodiversity, encourages behavior and beliefs about Asperger individuals which amplify stress reactions in many Asperger children. How many gifted children are forced into “mental disorders” by the overweening and invasive control of the behavior police, especially females, for whom any movement away from crushing conformity brings on condemnation?


See what I mean?



Overexcitability and the Gifted / The work of Kazimierz Dabrowski, (1902-1980) 

A small amount of definitive research and a great deal of naturalistic observation have led to the belief that intensity, sensitivity and overexcitability are primary characteristics of the highly gifted. These observations are supported by parents and teachers who notice distinct behavioral and constitutional differences between highly gifted children and their peers. The work of Kazimierz Dabrowski, (1902-1980), provides an excellent framework with which to understand these characteristics. Dabrowski, a Polish psychiatrist and psychologist, developed the Theory of Positive Disintegration as a response to the prevalent psychological theories of his time. He believed that conflict and inner suffering were necessary for advanced development – for movement towards a hierarchy of values based on altruism – for movement from “what is” to “what ought to be.” Dabrowski also observed that not all people move towards an advanced level of development but that innate ability/intelligence combined with overexcitability (OE) were predictive of potential for higher-level development. It is important to emphasize that not all gifted or highly gifted individuals have overexcitabilities. However we do find more people with OEs in the gifted population than in the average population.

OVEREXCITABILITIES are inborn intensities indicating a heightened ability to respond to stimuli. Found to a greater degree in creative and gifted individuals, overexcitabilities are expressed in increased sensitivity, awareness, and intensity, and represent a real difference in the fabric of life and quality of experience. Dabrowski identified five areas of intensity-Psychomotor, Sensual, Intellectual, Imaginational, and Emotional. A person may possess one or more of these. “One who manifests several forms of overexcitability, sees reality in a different, stronger and more multisided manner” (Dabrowski, 1972, p. 7). Experiencing the world in this unique way carries with it great joys and sometimes great frustrations. The joys and positives of being overexcitable need to be celebrated. Any frustrations or negatives can be positively dealt with and used to help facilitate the child’s growth. The five OEs are described below. Each description is followed by several examples of strategies, which represent a fraction of the possible solutions to issues that may cause concern for overexcitable individuals or those who work and live with them. These should serve as a springboard for brainstorming additional strategies or interventions that will help improve the lives of overexcitable people.

PSYCHOMOTOR OVEREXCITABILITY is a heightened excitability of the neuromuscular system. This Psychomotor intensity includes a “capacity for being active and energetic” (Piechowski, 1991, p. 287), love of movement for its own sake, surplus of energy demonstrated by rapid speech, zealous enthusiasm, intense physical activity, and a need for action (Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977; Piechowski, 1979, 1991). When feeling emotionally tense, individuals strong in Psychomotor OE may talk compulsively, act impulsively, misbehave and act out, display nervous habits, show intense drive (tending towards “workaholism”), compulsively organize, or become quite competitive. They derive great joy from their boundless physical and verbal enthusiasm and activity, but others may find them overwhelming. At home and at school, these children seem never to be still. They may talk constantly. Adults and peers want to tell them to sit down and be quiet! The Psychomotor OE child has the potential of being misdiagnosed as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).


  • Allow time for physical or verbal activity, before, during, and after normal daily and school activities-these individuals love to “do” and need to “do.” Build activity and movement into their lives.
  • Be sure the physical or verbal activities are acceptable and not distracting to those around them. This may take some work, but it can be a fun project and beneficial to all.
  • Provide time for spontaneity and open-ended, freewheeling activities. These tend to favor the needs of a person high in Psychomotor OE.

SENSUAL OVEREXCITABILITY is expressed as a heightened experience of sensual pleasure or displeasure emanating from sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing (Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977; Piechowski, 1979, 1991). Those with Sensual OE have a far more expansive experience from their sensual input than the average person. They have an increased and early appreciation of aesthetic pleasures such as music, language, and art, and derive endless delight from tastes, smells, textures, sounds, and sights. But because of this increased sensitivity, they may also feel over stimulated or uncomfortable with sensory input. When emotionally tense, some individuals high in Sensual OE may overeat, go on buying sprees, or seek the physical sensation of being the center of attraction (Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977; Piechowski, 1979, 1991). Others may withdraw from stimulation. Sensually overexcitable children may find clothing tags, classroom noise, or smells from the cafeteria so distracting that schoolwork becomes secondary. These children may also become so absorbed in their love of a particular piece of art or music that the outside world ceases to exist.


  • Whenever possible, create an environment which limits offensive stimuli and provides comfort.
  • Provide appropriate opportunities for being in the limelight by giving unexpected attention, or facilitating creative and dramatic productions that have an audience. These individuals literally feel the recognition that comes from being in the limelight.
  • Provide time to dwell in the delight of the sensual and to create a soothing environment.

INTELLECTUAL OVEREXCITABILITTY is demonstrated by a marked need to seek understanding and truth, to gain knowledge, and to analyze and synthesize (Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977; Piechowski, 1979, 1991). Those high in Intellectual OE have incredibly active minds. They are intensely curious, often avid readers, and usually keen observers. They are able to concentrate, engage in prolonged intellectual effort, and are tenacious in problem solving when they choose. Other characteristics may include relishing elaborate planning and having remarkably detailed visual recall. People with Intellectual OE frequently love theory, thinking about thinking, and moral thinking. This focus on moral thinking often translates into strong concerns about moral and ethical issues-fairness on the playground, lack of respect for children, or being concerned about “adult” issues such as the homeless, AIDS, or war. Intellectually overexcitable people are also quite independent of thought and sometimes appear critical of and impatient with others who cannot sustain their intellectual pace. Or they may be become so excited about an idea that they interrupt at inappropriate times.


  •  Show how to find the answers to questions. This respects and encourages a person’s passion to analyze, synthesize, and seek understanding.
  • Provide or suggest ways for those interested in moral and ethical issues to act upon their concerns-such as collecting blankets for the homeless or writing to soldiers in Kosovo. This enables them to feel that they can help, in even a small way, to solve community or worldwide problems.
  • If individuals seem critical or too outspoken to others, help them to see how their intent may be perceived as cruel or disrespectful. For example saying “that is a stupid idea” may not be well received, even if the idea is truly stupid.

IMAGINATIONAL OVEREXCITABILITY reflects a heightened play of the imagination with rich association of images and impressions, frequent use of image and metaphor, facility for invention and fantasy, detailed visualization, and elaborate dreams (Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977; Piechowski, 1979, 1991). Often children high in Imaginational OE mix truth with fiction, or create their own private worlds with imaginary companions and dramatizations to escape boredom. They find it difficult to stay tuned into a classroom where creativity and imagination are secondary to learning rigid academic curriculum. They may write stories or draw instead of doing seatwork or participating in class discussions, or they may have difficulty completing tasks when some incredible idea sends them off on an imaginative tangent.


  • Imaginational people may confuse reality and fiction because their memories and new ideas become blended in their mind. Help individuals to differentiate between their imagination and the real world by having them place a stop sign in their mental videotape, or write down or draw the factual account before they embellish it.
  • Help people use their imagination to function in the real world and promote learning and productivity. For example, instead of the conventional school organized notebook, have children create their own organizational system.

EMOTIONAL OVEREXCITABILITY is often the first to be noticed by parents. It is reflected in heightened, intense feelings, extremes of complex emotions, identification with others’ feelings, and strong affective expression (Piechowski, 1991). Other manifestations include physical responses like stomachaches and blushing or concern with death and depression (Piechowski, 1979). Emotionally overexcitable people have a remarkable capacity for deep relationships; they show strong emotional attachments to people, places, and things (Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977). They have compassion, empathy, and sensitivity in relation-ships. Those with strong Emotional OE are acutely aware of their own feelings, of how they are growing and changing, and often carry on inner dialogs and practice self-judgment (Piechowski, 1979, 1991). Children high in Emotional OE‚ are often accused of “overreacting.” Their compassion and concern for others, their focus on relationships, and the intensity of their feelings may interfere with everyday tasks like homework or doing the dishes.


  • Accept all feelings, regardless of intensity. For people who are not highly emotional, this seems particularly odd. They feel that those high in Emotional OE are just being melodramatic. But if we accept their emotional intensity and help them work through any problems that might result, we will facilitate healthy growth.
  • Teach individuals to anticipate physical and emotional responses and prepare for them. Emotionally intense people often don’t know when they are becoming so overwrought that they may lose control or may have physical responses to their emotions. Help them to identify the physical warning signs of their emotional stress such as headache, sweaty palms, and stomachache. By knowing the warning signs and acting on them early, individuals will be better able to cope with emotional situations and not lose control.

GENERAL STRATEGIES It is often quite difficult and demanding to work and live with overexcitable individuals. Those who are not so, find the behaviors unexplainable, frequently incomprehensible, and often bizarre. Overexcitable people living with other overexcitable people often have more compassion and understanding for each other, but may feel conflicts when their OEs are not to the same degree. Finding strategies for helping children and adults deal with and take advantage of these innate and enduring characteristics may seem difficult. However, resources may be gathered from varied places: Literature regarding counseling, learning styles, special education, and classroom management; parenting books; even popular business texts. Perhaps the best place to begin is with the following general strategies, applicable regardless of which OEs are present.

DISCUSS THE CONCEPT OF OVEREXCITABILITY Share the descriptions of OEs with the family, class, or counseling group. Ask individuals if they see themselves with some of the characteristics. Point out that this article and many others like it indicates that being overexcitable is OK and it is understood and accepted.

FOCUS ON THE POSITIVES Jointly discuss the positives of each overexcitability when you first introduce the concept, and continue to point out these merits. Benefits include being energetic, enthusiastic, sensual, aesthetic, curious, loyal, tenacious, moral, metacognitive, integrative, creative, metaphorical, dramatic, poetic, compassion-ate, empathetic, and self-aware.

CHERISH AND CELEBRATE DIVERSITY One outcome of the pursuit of educational and societal equity has been a diminishing of the celebration of diversity and individual differences. Highly gifted individuals, because of their uniqueness, can fall prey to the public and personal belief that they are not OK. It is vital when discussing OEs that individuals realize that overexcitability is just one more description of who they are, as is being tall, or Asian, or left-handed. Since OEs are inborn traits, they cannot be unlearned! It is therefore exceedingly important that we accept our overexcitable selves, children, and friends. This acceptance provides validation and helps to free people from feelings of “weirdness” and isolation

Another way to show acceptance is to provide opportunities for people to pursue their passions. This shows respect for their abilities and intensities and allows time for them to “wallow” in what they love, to be validated for who they are. Removing passions as consequences for inappropriate behavior has a negative effect by giving the message that your passions, the essence of who you are, are not valuable or worthy of respect.

USE AND TEACH CLEAR VERBAL AND NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION SKILLS All people deserve respect and need to be listened to and responded to with grace. Overexcitable people need this understanding and patience to a greater degree because they experience the world with greater intensity and need to be able to share their intensity and feelings of differentness to thrive. It is vital to learn good communication skills and to teach them to children. Good communication skills are useful on multiple levels, from improving the chances of getting what you want, to nurturing and facilitating growth in others. Regardless of one’s motivation for learning these skills, the outcomes will include less stress, greater self-acceptance, greater understanding from and about others, and less daily friction at home, school, work, or in the grocery store.

When learning communication skills be sure to include both verbal-listening, responding, questioning, telephoning, problem solving (Faber and Mazlish, 1980), and nonverbal-rhythm and use of time, interpersonal distance and touch, gestures and postures, facial expressions, tone of voice, and style of dress (Nowicki, 1992). Verbal and nonverbal strategies improve interpersonal communication and provide the skills individuals need to fit in when they wish to, to change the system if necessary, and to treat others with caring and respect.

TEACH STRESS MANAGEMENT FROM TODDLERHOOD ON Everyone deals with stress on a daily basis. But overexcitable individuals have increased stress reactions because of their increased reception of and reaction to external input. There are many programs and books about stress reduction. The key components are to (1) learn to identify your stress symptoms: headache, backache, pencil tapping, pacing, etc. (2) develop strategies for coping with stress: talk about your feelings, do relaxation exercises, change your diet, exercise, meditate, ask for help, develop organizational and time management skills and (3) develop strategies to prevent stress: make time for fun; develop a cadre of people to help, advise, humor you; practice tolerance of your own and others’ imperfections.

CREATE A COMFORTING ENVIRONMENT WHENEVER POSSIBLE Intense people need to know how to make their environment more comfortable in order to create places for retreat or safety. For example: find places to work or think which are not distracting, work in a quiet or calm environment, listen to music, look at a lovely picture, carry a comforting item, move while working, or wear clothing which does not scratch or cling. Learning to finesse one’s environment to meet one’s needs takes experimentation and cooperation from others, but the outcome will be a greater sense of well being and improved productivity.

HELP TO RAISE AWARENESS OF ONE’S BEHAVIORS AND THEIR IMPACT ON OTHERS Paradoxically, overexcitable people are often insensitive and unaware of how their behaviors affect others. They may assume that everyone will just understand why they interrupt to share an important idea, or tune out when creating a short story in their head during dinner. It is vital to teach children and adults to be responsible for their behaviors, to become more aware of how their behaviors affect others, and to understand that their needs are not more important than those of others. The key is to realize that you can show children and adults how they are perceived, you can teach them strategies to fit in, but they must choose to change.

REMEMBER THE JOY Often when overexcitability is discussed examples and concerns are mostly negative. Remember that being overexcitable also brings with it great joy, astonishment, beauty, compassion, and creativity. Perhaps the most important thing is to acknowledge and relish the uniqueness of an overexcitable child or adult.

References Dabrowski, K. (1972). Psychoneurosis is not an illness. London: Gryf. (Out of print) Dabrowski, K & Piechowski, M.M. (1977). Theory of levels of emotional development (Vols.1 & 2). Oceanside, NY: Dabor Science. (Out of print) Faber, A. & Mazlish, E. (1980). How to talk so kids will listen, and listen so kids will talk. New York: Avon.