Positive Disintegration (Level 4): Rethinking Self-Actualization

Studying Positive Disintegration helps people organize multiple inner experiences and instinctive reactions around a framework.  

As a five-stage system of personality development, it helps to articulate values (money related or otherwise) in terms of a well-researched theory; helping to legitimize basic intuitions, goals for self-improvement, and strong reactions to dysfunction in the outer world.

If you like having a tidy inner world in the overwhelming land of abstract thoughts and feelings, the work of Dabrowski helps.   Most of all, his theory promotes honest self-reflection in sensitive individuals who have struggled at some point or another with anxiety or their mental health.  

In order to gain the most from this post, I recommend you check out the posts about key vocabulary, level one, level two, and level three if you haven’t already.

Welcome to Level Four: You Won a Battle No One Saw!

People at level four live free of social convention in a way closely matching their ideal self.

If they worked hard to articulate their ideal self in level three, they have a well-thought-out approach to living along with a guide for all behavior in level four.  

In essence, their ideal life is aligned with the way they actually experience their day.  They show compassion for others and self-acceptance for themselves in the space where they used to compare themselves to others (or their inner ideal).  Focus turns outside of themselves again, but not in terms of conflict or comparing like at level one.

A common thread with all humanity is felt and often expressed creatively.  Lack of acknowledgment and lack of social support can go hand-in-hand with this level, but a solid core self (carefully cultivated over the years) leaves level four individuals undeterred.  Their dominant way of interacting with the world gravitates naturally towards their higher self, eliminating the “angel vs. devil on the shoulder" effect of level three.

Is Level Four Like Abraham Maslow’s Idea of Self-Actualization?

Dabrowski would probably put aside all humility to say, “No.” For example, should we assume people in leadership positions are self-actualized?  Clearly, with current societal trends, any discerning person would laugh that question out of the room.

Equating level four with self-actualization depends on how specific you want to get about the difference between outward appearance and internal intentions.  

Even so, this stage is often compared to the more traditional framework of Maslow’s self-actualization by famous TPD researchers such as Piechowski. However, this comparison is often done in order to make connections with people’s background knowledge (while also implying both Maslow and Dabrowski were onto something as they strived to articulate notions we’ve all had about a higher development beyond where we currently are).  

Either way, a self-chosen identity and a realistic sense of control are achieved.  According to Dabrowski, this feat should be humbly celebrated. 

The level four version of the self acts as a reliable source for all future endeavors.  Inner growth will continue to expand while difficulties are fully experienced, processed, and let go.

The next post will discuss level five (the final level of Dabrowski’s theory; something hard to conceptualize and somewhat akin to ascension).

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