#048 Why You Need Dabrowski with Dr Chris Wells & Emma Nicholson

Why we Need Dabrowski with Emma Nicholson and Christiane Wells podcast image

It is Neurodiversity Celebration Week and we are diving into neurodiversity and what it is like to figure out you are neurodivergent as an adult.

Today we talk Dr Christiane Wells and Emma Nicholson, hosts of The Positive Disintegration Podcast to unpack why you need Dabrowski!

We answer – are Overexcitabilities still relevant? What is positive disintegration? What is The Theory of Positive Disintegration? What impact can all this have on the neurodivergent & gifted community?

Hit play and let’s get started!

Memorable Quotes

“So it’s been eight years and I can tell you that now, I no longer think of myself as gifted and mentally ill. I see myself from a whole different framework that has, like I said, changed my life, thanks to Dabrowski because I realized that the difficult times I had when I was younger, were not signs of mental illness so much as struggles that I have reframed as periods of positive disintegration.” – Christiane Wells

“I accidentally fell into a dark night of the soul and this life-changing moment and… I went to Google for answers and typed in something like  why does my brain feel like it’s falling apart and stumbled upon positive disintegration quite by accident, and overexcitabilities. I broke down in tears, finding the answer to who I was finally after all this time. And I understood why I had been the way I was as a child and why basically  struggled to adult successfully as I put it.” – Emma Nicholson


The Positive Disintegration Podcast

Bio – Chris Wells

Christiane Wells, PhD, LSW is the president and founder of the Dąbrowski Center, an organization that provides reliable information and resources about the theory of positive disintegration and the psychology of giftedness. Chris is a therapist, consultant, speaker, and Dąbrowski scholar who works with gifted adults and advocates for deepening the research and application of Dąbrowski’s theory beyond the superficial in gifted education. She is also a co-host of the Positive Disintegration podcast. You can reach Chris at dabrowskicenter@gmail.com.

Bio – Emma

Emma Nicholson is a business analyst from Sydney, who created the Adults With Overexcitabilities YouTube Channel, and uses business techniques to provide tips and insights in managing life with OE. Emma’s website tragicgift.com was created as an all-in-one starting point for adults who are just embarking on their reading journey about Dabrowski, where she provides overviews of the theory, and blogs about her experiences with overexcitabilities and positive disintegration. Together with Dr Chris Wells, she is cohost of the Positive Disintegration podcast. You can reach Emma at adultswithoverexcitabilies@gmail.com.


[00:00:00] Sophia Elliott: Emma and Chris, I’m absolutely delighted to have you with us today. Thank you so much for your time. Let’s start off with just sharing with everyone. What do you do? What do you do? How did you find Dabrowski?

[00:00:12] Chris: Okay, I’ll go first. First of all. Thanks so much for having us Sophia. We’re so glad to be here. So my name is Chris Wells and. My background is in psychology and social work. I am a therapist and a consultant, and I work with gifted and twice exceptional adults. I am based in the Denver, Colorado area, but I work with people from all over the world.

[00:00:34] Chris: I’m the president of the Dabrowski center, which is a brand new nonprofit organization. It’s so new that we don’t even have the website ready yet to share, but it’s been created around an archive of work related to the theory of positive disintegration. And that’s my specialty. I’m a Dabrowski scholar. And I’ve been studying the theory basically as my full-time job for the past several years.

[00:01:03] Chris: Although I have to say for the past year or so, my it’s been less of a full-time job because now I’m working with clients, but I’m also the cohost of the positive disintegration podcast with Emma for the past several years, I’ve also worked closely with Michael Bukowski. He was a close collaborator with Dabrowski and he brought the theory to the field of gifted education in 1979.

[00:01:29] Chris: And I always consider myself Michael’s student because he’s my mentor, but we’re also friends and colleagues at this point. And I came to the theory in 2014, early in 2014, while I was doing an auto ethnography, I was studying my own life from a research perspective. And I was trying to get a better understanding of twice exceptionality.

[00:01:52] Chris: Because at that point I was seeing myself as gifted and mentally ill. In fact, I had spent most of my adult life thinking of myself as mentally ill, not so much gifted. I mean, I’d been identified as a gifted kid, but after high school, it didn’t seem like a label that mattered to me or. Applied. And so it wasn’t until I was in my forties and I had a son who was identified as twice exceptional that I started to wonder about myself and my past and how I had gotten there.

[00:02:23] Chris: And while I was doing that research, one day, I downloaded a chapter by Michael Bielawski from 1997. And it really changed my life to discover the recipes theory and overexcitabilities. And now that was, well, gosh, I mean, that was eight years ago. This, this month that I found that chapter. Wow. That’s that blows my mind.

[00:02:48] Chris: So it’s been eight years and I can tell you that now I no longer think of myself as gifted and mentally ill. I see myself from a whole different framework that has, like I said, changed my life. Thanks to Dubroski because I realized that the. Difficult times I had when I was younger, were not signs of mental illness so much as struggles that I have reframed as periods of positive disintegration.

[00:03:16] Chris: And that’s what brings us here today. So thanks again for having us. And if anybody wants to find me, you can go to my website, Christianne wells.com or link tree. I have, L I N K T R dot E forward slash Chris Wells. And I am here. If people are always welcome to reach out to me. So thank you. Thank

[00:03:41] Sophia Elliott: you.

[00:03:42] Sophia Elliott: Key, Chris. I’m really looking forward to diving into positive disintegration with you today. That sounds totally cool. And, and Emma, would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself?

[00:03:54] Emma: I’m the average, Joe. Huh? The little dynamic geo that is being Chris. So, I’m actually a business analyst who lives in Sydney. And I found out about overexcitabilities a couple of years ago,

[00:04:07] quite

[00:04:07] Chris: by accident.

[00:04:08] Emma: I tried creative writing when we had those big Bush fires at the end of 2019. And I accidentally fell into a dark night of the soul and this life-changing sort of moment.

[00:04:18] Emma: And in this sort of perplex days, I went to Google for answers and typed in something along the lines of why does my brain feel like it’s falling apart and stumbled upon positive disintegration quite by accident. And overexcitabilities. I broke down in teas, finding the answer to who I was finally after all this time.

[00:04:39] Emma: And I understood why I had been the way I was as a child and why basically struggled, struggled

[00:04:44] Chris: to adult successfully as I put it.

[00:04:47] Emma: But then when I went to try and find out more about the theory there was a lot of articles on gifted children. Not a lot on adults and the rest was like research papers or things for academics.

[00:04:56] Emma: So people with a psychology background or I’d have to pay for books and empty my bank account for a bit of self self-help. And for me, that sort of wasn’t the set of secretary. And I could immediately say how the theory could help all the people that were in the same situation that I was, who were kind of struggling, people in average jobs who, are busy, they’ve got their lives to be getting on with, but there wasn’t much sort of free around on the internet.

[00:05:17] Emma: And because I’ve got a background in processing. So I’ve got a lot of experience in financial services or taking very technical, boring stuff, particularly about insurance and simplifying it into things that you can teach to other people who are just starting out in those jobs. I knew it could be done.

[00:05:34] Emma: So I thought, well, if no one else is going to do it, I’m going to do it myself. So I got onto YouTube and started my channel adults with overexcitabilities. And I used some of my business techniques from project management in my videos to try and give people hints and tips about how they consider successfully navigate life with Zoe.

[00:05:51] Emma: And eventually I was contacted by bill Tilia, who reached out to me over one of my videos. And he also encouraged me to write about my experiences and it clicked with me that the way I found my path was not through YouTube, but by Googling and reading about it online. So I started my blog and website tragic gift.com.

[00:06:13] Emma: And I do simplified versions of the theory there that people can easily read in a few minutes and also blog about my experiences. And bill will, thankfully also introduced me to Chris. And we got talking about our shared passion for making Debraski accessible and, and getting it out to a wider audience.

[00:06:33] Emma: And then Chris found out that I’d been editing podcasts for the past couple of years. And the rest is basically history. So I now co-hosts the podcast positive disintegration podcasts with Chris. So it’s not my day job and I’m certainly not an expert in this and nobody pays me for it. But I’ve got a load of personal experience that I can now reflect on with the theory.

[00:06:55] Emma: I know how to edit a little bit, and I’ve got a real passion for trying to unleash the power that I see in

[00:07:01] Chris: Debraski theories.

[00:07:05] Sophia Elliott: So, first of all, Emma, that’s, that’s an amazing journey. And I think it obviously speaks to the impact it had on you that you found Nebraska’s work. And then you’ve actually started blogging YouTubing website, the whole shebang, just to kind of share that with the world.

[00:07:23] Sophia Elliott: So that’s obviously had an enormous impact on you, and I was wondering how you guys met. So that’s really interesting. And I’ve, I’ve heard bill talking on your podcast. I feel like I’m getting to know bill a little bit as well, and he sounds like an amazing individual and obviously very, very passionate about Debraski his work.

[00:07:43] Sophia Elliott: And so I want to dive into the podcast questions, but very quickly, I just want to ask Chris you, you mentioned that you work with people from all over the world. And so is that as a social worker, As well, do you do that? Yeah. So just tell us a little bit about that because if people are going, oh, I wonder what she does.

[00:08:07] Sophia Elliott: And if, if that’s something that would work for me. Yeah. Tell us a little bit about that first.

[00:08:14] Chris: Okay. Well, in some ways it’s hard to explain. And in other ways it’s simple. I can only do therapy with people who are in Colorado. That’s the limits of my license. Yeah. But as a social worker, but I work with people all over the world kind of as a guide or a mentor.

[00:08:34] Chris: And with those people, what I do is definitely not therapy, but I prefer it to be honest, I’m moving away from doing any kind of therapy with anybody because I really love just supporting people on their journeys. Educating them about giftedness and overexcitabilities in Nebraska’s theory, but also mirroring them, having conversations with them in a way that some of them have never been able to have with anybody before.

[00:09:06] Chris: It is heartbreaking to me how many adults there are, who reach out to me who have never had anybody really understand them, have never been able to connect. Well, maybe they have struggled to make friends. And I love working with these people and giving them new frameworks for an understanding themselves and the struggles that they’ve had.

[00:09:27] Chris: And so, yes, I mean, if this sounds like you feel free to reach out, well, they have to be honest that I’m at the point where I’m going to have to stop taking new clients and, or be more selective or have a wait list or something because I’m finding myself overwhelmed and not able to do my writing and other stuff that I love to do.

[00:09:47] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s the challenge of finding a good support system everywhere is is being able to fit, fit everyone in.

[00:09:57] Sophia Elliott: I was really excited and reached out to see if you guys would come talk to us today for a number of reasons. First of all, if you are exploring the world of the, of giftedness, you will, most, most of our listeners may have heard of overexcitabilities or even positive disintegration or Dubroski. So I’m really keen for us to actually talk about what that is about, because I feel like there’s a bit of misunderstanding about all that, but also what I found really interesting.

[00:10:34] Sophia Elliott: And it was from listening to. Probably your, one of your early podcasts is this idea that it provides a framework for us to understand ourselves and our journeys, which shifts away from that idea of I’m broken to, to another type of journey. And I know that resonated a lot for me and I, I know that that’s going to be a really important thing to hear for a lot of people that I know who are going through, pretty tough journeys.

[00:11:09] Sophia Elliott: But also, and I think finally it was when I was listening to that episode in particular, I think it might’ve been the second one. It resonated very deeply with my experience of. Which ended ultimately in a kind of diagnosis of gifted plus autistic last year. But also I think Chris, like you said, a real kind of understanding of perhaps why I’ve had many of those moments throughout my life.

[00:11:37] Sophia Elliott: And, and, and giving some context to that. So perhaps let’s dive in with who is Dubroski and what is positive disintegration? Just a small little question. I would like to jump in on that one.

[00:11:51] Chris: Well, cashmere’s Dombrowski was a Polish psychiatrist and psychologist who lived from 1902 to 1980. And he was a really amazing person who was extremely well-educated in multiple areas. I mean, not only was he a psychiatrist and psychologist, but he had, he was educated in philosophy education.

[00:12:17] Chris: I mean, he just was so well-rounded, he lived through, he lived through two world wars. He experienced a significant amount of trauma in his life, and it’s very clear that his traumatic experiences led him to search for answers and for an understanding of the multi-level illness of reality, where, you know, some people.

[00:12:44] Chris: Are more evolved. They have a completely different experience of reality than other people. There’s so much to say about him and where he came from and how he developed his theory. And then the question of what is positive disintegration is also a huge topic that, we could spend forever on. But I mean, positive disintegration is like the loosening or breaking up, or even, I mean, even like the complete, complete breakdown of psychic structures and functions.

[00:13:19] Chris: And so you’re lower or more narrow or more primitive structures breakdown, which allows for the development of a richer or higher more creative functions to take their place. And so positive disintegration tastes place and people who have strong overexcitabilities, they are these elements of disintegration that create conflict internally and externally.

[00:13:50] Chris: People with overexcitabilities have no, they have more sensitivity. Their their threshold for frustration is lower. They have symptoms of anxiety and depression. And so these are the people who go through over a positive disintegration. And so it’s really like. Personal evolution, I think is the way that I describe it pretty frequently, these days of going from lower to higher.

[00:14:21] Chris: And, the time when you’re in the disintegration and you are broken down and you haven’t reached that next place yet is very painful and difficult and it can look like mental illness.

[00:14:34] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. And so what I found really interesting from your podcast was painting that understanding because I, I feel as though when I’ve, I’ve read about Debraski within the kind of, gifted ed context, it comes up, it’s just like little bits of it.

[00:14:53] Sophia Elliott: But what I now understand and correct me if I’m right in this understanding is that it’s actually just a completely alternative way of, or approach to psychology. So it’s a whole other framework. And so there’s a lot of benefit and understanding it as a big picture, not just kind of getting these little bits of it.

[00:15:17] Sophia Elliott: Would that be right?

[00:15:19] Chris: That’s right. He did take an alternative to the mainstream, even, even during his time, his contemporary Saudis things as negative, overexcitabilities was called nervousness for a long time before it was considered overexcitabilities or, or called that by Debraski who differentiated into the five types overexcitabilities has a long history.

[00:15:42] Chris: And even the disintegration part of course, the way that he saw something positive in that was totally different than the people around him. I mean, when you think about. I mean here in the United States, the first DSM or diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders came out, I think in 1958, I might be wrong about that, but it was in the fifties.

[00:16:04] Chris: It might’ve been earlier. The next one was in the late sixties. And so this was the time when he was developing his theory in Poland and then bringing it to Canada. But he worked tirelessly. I mean, he, even during world war two, like right on the heels of that, he was publishing again, like the minute things opened up and he could publish, he was trying to say that this was really a positive thing and not really mental illness.

[00:16:37] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. And I think that’s maybe what I like most about the the theory in general is that very strict. Based approach to, to these experiences. And so Emma, for you, when you found the work of Dubroski and overexcitabilities, was it, was it initially the overexcitabilities that you resonated with or was it more than the disintegration aspects?

[00:17:04] Emma: It was a read about the disintegration aspect first and that seemed to explain what I was going through, but it was really the overexcitabilities

[00:17:14] Chris: that

[00:17:15] Emma: gave me license to forgive myself for who I was all those quirky traits and things that I thought made me odd. And less, I guess, when now.

[00:17:26] Emma: St through a different lens of just being different and not being broken. And I kind of like in that discovery to the tail of the ugly duckling where he goes through his entire life believing he’s basically a defective doc. And it’s, it’s very parallel to giftedness, I guess, because, when he’s quite young, he’s mother doesn’t think much of it because he can swim very well with the other ducklings, but as he starts to get through his life he suffers more and more because of his difference because he can’t seem to duck properly.

[00:17:57] Emma: He can’t seem to be a duck. And he goes through life believing, this is, this is what he is. And it’s that revelation of. Not only, discovering he’s this one, first of all, he has to know what a Swan is. He has to understand that there’s others out there like him. And then when he realizes that he fits in this group and he’s not in fact effective anyway, he’s just different.

[00:18:19] Emma: It’s very powerful. And for me, that’s where,

[00:18:22] Emma: All the para theory came from me was that personal recognition that I fit into a group that wasn’t viewing my differences as being defective. And then as I dug further, it was then the positive disintegration aspect that spoke more to me because I was able to reflect back on my life and see those moments where I thought, I just wasn’t coping as a process of.

[00:18:47] Emma: Really shedding off who I was in order to become who I was supposed to be. And Nebraska talks about, psycho neurosis is not an illness. So he talks about things like existential, depression, and anxiety, actually being tools for shaking off all that socialization. So when Chris talks about the loosening of structures, it’s really throwing off everything that you’ve been taught to be in by society, by school, by religion, my parents, telling you these are the values that you’re supposed to adhere to and realizing that that can fall away and you have an opportunity to build yourself and decide who you want to be and what values you want to have.

[00:19:24] Emma: And so as I got through the dark patch and had that recognize creation of myself in a way, and it was able to sort of come to a bit of pace. I was then able to use the theory to go right now. I have this opportunity to build myself into something else. So it was really like a two phase thing.

[00:19:42] Emma: And that’s why I kind of think overexcitabilities has a little bit power because it’s easily identifiable. Like he could recognize yourself within it in like a five minute raid. And once you understand that and it gets you in and gives you license to forgive yourself, he can then dig into the positive disintegration aspect and go right now, what do I do with my life?

[00:20:01] Emma: And how do I build myself back up again

[00:20:05] Sophia Elliott: is positive disintegration. That journey reliant on being someone with overexcitabilities.

[00:20:16] Chris: Yeah. For Dubroski it definitely, it was people with overexcitabilities and it was the people who don’t have overexcitabilities, who don’t go through positive disintegration.

[00:20:26] Chris: And so he saw that you, you see in certain developmental periods like puberty or menopause that people struggle. And maybe go through kind of a minor disintegration, but not really. He believed that the true, serious, positive disintegrations were in the people who have strong overexcitabilities or developmental potential, which is really more than that.

[00:20:55] Chris: It’s also these dynamisms and if you’re gifted, that high intelligence, your special talents and abilities, it was like a whole kind of bundle of things together that he was talking about with developmental potential. Not just overexcitabilities.

[00:21:11] Sophia Elliott: Tell me about dynamism. Dynamisms

[00:21:16] Emma: yeah.

[00:21:17] Chris: Dynamisms are well, he defined them as intra-psychic forces. They are the shapers of develop. But there are unit level dynamisms and there are multi-level dynamisms there’s levels of everything in Dobro CS theory. So the unit, there are only three unit level dynamisms ambivalences and Amber tendencies.

[00:21:39] Chris: And the second factor, it would take too much to explain all these things, but then there are many more than 20 multilevel dynamisms as well. Some of them are familiar like guilt and shame. Some of them have names like positive maladjustment, little more difficult to explain to people or like dissatisfaction toward oneself or with oneself.

[00:22:01] Chris: I mean, we all understand being disgusted with yourself because you’ve done something, and so these are the things that drive us to change and do better. And so, the ones in level three are all very well, not all of them, but most of them are emotionally charged and you can see that they are coming directly from a strong experience of emotional overexcitabilities.

[00:22:22] Chris: So if you don’t have emotional overexcitabilities, where are these dynamisms going to come from? That’s the connection.

[00:22:31] Emma: And I think, you know why that also almost like signs or hallmarks of where a person. Sort of is at, in their journey because if you look at something like positive maladjustment, which is really a sense of correct me, if I’m wrong, Chris’ sense of not fitting in with the sys society, because there’s something wrong with the world.

[00:22:51] Emma: Not necessarily something wrong with yourself or there’s something not right. And you therefore don’t fit in. You talked about dissatisfaction with yourself. So being disgusted in, maybe how you behave or on the other hand, astonishment with yourself, where you do something you pleasantly surprise yourself with how you behaved in a line with your value.

[00:23:08] Emma: So it’s more, I think, than the forces at work. Like if you’re observing a person and you can see those, they’re kind of almost an indicator of how you’re feeling about things and where you might, might be in a particular.

[00:23:25] Chris: I think with positive maladjustment too. It’s like a reaction against something like when you see something isn’t right. It’s not just noting it, but, taking that realization of injustice or whatever, like in our episode on complexity, lots of it was like, she brought up Gretta Thornburg as an example of positive maladjustment.

[00:23:52] Chris: And that’s it. I mean, when you see that there’s something not right in the world and you take a stand against it, I would say that that’s a good example of that.

[00:24:01] Sophia Elliott: Yup. Yup. Okay. So for our listeners,

[00:24:07] Sophia Elliott: I imagine a fair few of our listeners would be filling million with overexcitabilities because that comes up in terms of explaining a lot of the traits of our gifted kids. So the connection is someone needs to demonstrate those overexcitabilities because that level of intensity is kind of an indicator of their potential to go through this journey of positive disintegration.

[00:24:32] Sophia Elliott: If, because the whole idea of positive to just disintegration is a kind of dark night of the soul type experience. But at the other end, you have that opportunity to kind of reconstruct and do something with yourself and move forward. I’m getting head nods, some I’m on the right track.

[00:24:48] Sophia Elliott: They’re good because when I was listening to your, your, I think it was the second episode, and you’re talking about the levels and the, that kind of. The disintegration resonated very deeply with me and, and it, and it was really interesting because you talk about the different dynamisms and kind of markers.

[00:25:08] Sophia Elliott: And I think it’s worth noting as well that Emma has done a blog where she deconstructs Jerry Maguire which is really interesting. Yeah. I have as an example of, you can see someone’s journey and, at this point they’re unhappy with themselves and what they’re doing, and then there are different points in that journey.

[00:25:28] Sophia Elliott: And I know for me, I can pinpoint a moment the exact moment. And I was having a conversation with my husband and, and out of that conversation, I have a very kind of crushing, realization of some of the what would I call that? I think in order to get through life, my approach had been like, I think many women to be like people plays and rise up to the expectations of others and be a high achiever and a good girl.

[00:25:59] Sophia Elliott: And I kind of play that kind of role. And, and I sort of had this moment where I sort of realized, first of all, I was doing that, cause it wasn’t necessarily a conscious thing. But secondly, the toll that was taking on myself and the impact that was having on my family in navigating life, in that particular way, and.

[00:26:24] Sophia Elliott: And then, so in terms of that journey of, of positive disintegration, as you’re talking about, it made me realize that and it was at that point that I was very unhappy with myself and, and and that was kind of a pivotal moment for me. But then I moved on in my journey to what I call caterpillar mush.

[00:26:44] Sophia Elliott: Because that journey of the caterpillar is it goes into the cocoon, but it turns to liquid before it rebuilds as the butterfly. And I, I got to the point of complete mush as I was coming to terms with the, the idea and reality of actually. Figuring out that I was autistic. And then also discovering while I was gifted, which is less of a shock because by this point, I know that I’ve got three gifted kids, but the autism thing was really left of field and required a whole rewriting of identity, who I thought I was, six months prior and who, I kind of feel like I am now a two very different people.

[00:27:25] Sophia Elliott: And I’m still processing that, in terms of going through that opportunity of recreating or who, who am I going to be now, in terms of the, my authentic self and living in my values and, and, and that kind of a journey. And I share that because I know I’m not alone in going through those sort of experiences and that I think what you guys have to offer and why your podcast is so good is giving a.

[00:27:54] Sophia Elliott: Kind of in-depth explanation of those steps in that journey to help find and make some sense of it all. And so that in itself is this huge kind of big thing,

[00:28:07] Sophia Elliott: but it’s very separate from, well, it isn’t, it isn’t, but we’ve, so we’ve got all of that, but then we’ve also got giftedness and the gifted community and gifted education. So, I guess what, I, there are two things that I kind of wanted to talk about in this podcast with you guys. First of all, was this over this disintegration experience in terms of our broader understanding that we’re not all broken there’s a, a broader thing, but also trying to make sense of how this has resonated so much with the gifted community.

[00:28:43] Sophia Elliott: And if is it still relevant? Cause I, I saw her posts and it was only like three days ago in a, in a group and someone had found overexcitabilities as a parent going, oh, I’ve just discovered overexcitabilities and this makes such sense for my child and someone else posted actually, no, they’re, they’re irrelevant now that’s old kind of do, that’s an old theory and that that’s not relevant anymore.

[00:29:10] Sophia Elliott: So, is it still relevant to the gifted community?

[00:29:16] Chris: It’s still relevant. I’m glad to be having this conversation because it is so hard to see that misunderstanding replayed again and again on social media. But it comes from a couple of papers that came out in 2016, which were an effort to displace and well to remove overexcitabilities.

[00:29:44] Chris: And Dubroski from the field based on one woman’s dissertation study, which, we can say a lot about that. And the level of critical thinking that goes into throwing something out of a field that’s been shown to be very important to so many people. It’s interesting to me, how many people have come to overexcitabilities since it was first introduced to give to dad in 1979, they’ve seen themselves it’s changed their lives.

[00:30:17] Chris: They’ve talked about it. And yet these two papers come out in 2016 from this one dissertation study and half the field is ready to just throw it out and say, oh yes, it must be openness to experience. And we’ll just use the five factor model now. Well, let me tell you as somebody who works with clients and trying to help them on their journey, how much more helpful the browse his theory is compared to the five factor model it’s.

[00:30:47] Chris: It’s much more useful. It is a phenomenological theory that just resonates at a deep level with people who’ve been through the process of disintegration and people who have overexcitabilities recognize themselves. And they finally feel like there’s not something wrong with them. And again, though, we have these academics and gifted ed who, well, we’ll just throw it out.

[00:31:15] Chris: I mean, and yet there’s a long, empirical scientific history to these constructs. In Nebraska’s theory, I gave a presentation in November at the national association for gifted children here in the U S and this was the topic of my session. Just kind of talking about the long history of scientific inquiry, the empirical foundations of the theory, how it got to gifted ed, the research in gifted ed.

[00:31:44] Chris: I mean, is it perfect? No. Is it still relevant, extremely, and it’s going to continue to be being relevant and there certainly is a place for it in the field. And so, unfortunately though, I think it’s going to take a few years for this to work itself out. And I believe that our podcasts and also writing, I’ve tried, I’ve written some papers and, chapter with Michael Bychowski, we’re trying to kind of turn things around and, and fix the problem.

[00:32:16] Chris: But it’s going to take time.

[00:32:19] Emma: I think two of the main groups that you had Chris was, first of all, they’re trying to use it for, as a tool that is not meant to be useful. So if you try to use overexcitabilities as basically the fixable. Yeah, this is the gifted identification tool of the century.

[00:32:34] Emma: It’s not. And so it’s basically like trying to use a butter knife to, undo a screw rather than a screwdriver using something for purposes, not designed to do. And also that thing, Chris, of, throwing the baby out with the bath water and saying, here’s something that’s got, scientific research behind it.

[00:32:52] Emma: And rather than exploring it further, we just going to Chuck it out and replace it with something new, which it really isn’t good scientific thinking at all. Further research would be the correct course of action, not just going well, that doesn’t completely work for us. It’s just chop that out and put something else in.

[00:33:11] Chris: Great. Yeah. Thank you, Emma. Exactly. I mean, that’s not how science works, so it’s been an interesting thing. To navigate. I mean, when I came into the field and studying overexcitabilities was right at that point when those papers were coming out and it just, and that’s what led me to this deep dive, because I said, well, who’s right about this.

[00:33:37] Chris: There were various places where, some people were defending it. Some people were ready to throw it out and I just, I needed to know for myself. And so that’s what led me to, spend years figuring it out, learning Polish last month, marked five, five years that I’ve been learning Polish. And I, yeah, I’ve spent a lot of time in the past trying to understand what he was talking about, but also examining all the research and gifted ed.

[00:34:10] Chris: And it’s still relevant for sure. And it still resonates like strongly with people, like so strongly that it reduces people to tears.

[00:34:21] Emma: So, and I’m not alone in that one, so there’s gotta be something in it because people are still highly identifying with it.

[00:34:28] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. That like, that is the truth.

[00:34:32] Sophia Elliott: And people kind of look at that and see themselves and they kids and it’s providing some comfort and reassurance. So, so in, in that case, my question is so people have, like, as you’ve said, people have been trying to use overexcitabilities as some kind of tool to identify giftedness, which is, is not what it was produced for.

[00:34:56] Sophia Elliott: It’s the wrong tool to do that. So how is it then related to gifted?

[00:35:04] Chris: Well, there are many gifted people who experienced overexcitabilities and for sure, the, the strongest correlation between overexcitabilities and giftedness comes in the intellectual type. And it’s the only type really that seems to where you have stronger.

[00:35:25] Chris: Overexcitabilities the intellectual area with higher IQ that that’s not true for any of the other ones. And so it’s the intellectual type that you are probably most likely going to see in somebody who’s gifted. But that being said, a lot of gifted people have multiple strong overexcitabilities and in the highly, in profoundly gifted community, you see a lot of people who do have strong overexcitabilities, however, you also will see them.

[00:36:01] Chris: Not have it, like it’s absolutely possible to be extremely intelligent and not resonate with overexcitabilities. And I think that we’ve seen intelligent people not resonate with overexcitabilities in some of these academics in the field. I mean, they’re clearly gifted people. They don’t resonate with it and that’s fine, but a lot do.

[00:36:24] Chris: And so it’s important to understand that not all people have it, but it’s also important. And I want to just say that you can, you can see the connections with ADHD and autism with overexcitabilities too. And this to my mind is like the next frontier of understanding overexcitabilities is its connections with neuro diversions, because this is that’s it like these differences are what matter and whether it’s giftedness or whether it’s one of these.

[00:37:00] Chris: Diagnoses it’s, it’s a difference in the nervous system and that’s how we are identifying it. So, I don’t have like the statistics of how many gifted people have it or, but I know that a lot do.

[00:37:16] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And, and anecdotally, I haven’t come across anyone who doesn’t resonate, but I’m going to keep an eye out for that person.

[00:37:28] Sophia Elliott: Um, But I think interesting what you said there, and I, I, I noted it in one of the podcasts. You also mentioned that overexcitabilities and what I took from that was if I kind of imagine it as an umbrella under which you have neurodivergence as opposed to just being connected to giftedness, it’s more of a.

[00:37:48] Sophia Elliott: Of neurodiversity in general fitting under that umbrella of overexcitabilities. And like you say, connecting those dots or finding those similarities or of traits between giftedness and ADHD and autism and various things, anxiety and depression which I think is really interesting and, and really important.

[00:38:13] Sophia Elliott: And and it’s great for me as well. And, and hopefully listeners to understand that this is a, a highly complex theory that involves all sorts of things. That gifted population are a lot of have resonated with, but not that it was, written like for giftedness or any, anything like that.

[00:38:33] Sophia Elliott: It’s just kind of been one of these things.

[00:38:34] Chris: Right. We can understand why people were excited in the eighties and nineties with the idea that they would be able to identify giftedness with overexcitabilities it makes sense that, I mean, that would’ve been cool if such a thing had been possible, but instead we have to be grateful for the fact that research was done.

[00:38:58] Chris: And we can see that, that wasn’t true. I mean, this is again how science works. We study things and then we revise our understanding of them and we study them some more and we, we can continue building and that’s what we need to do. Now. We need to take our modern understanding of what it means and learn more about it and create new instruments and find new ways to apply the theory and practice in a way that really helps at the end of the day.

[00:39:26] Chris: That’s what matters.

[00:39:28] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And I think what I found really interesting and I, we’ve, we’ve kind of talked about this already was, but just that idea that it helps us to understand not just neurodiverse Versiti as such, but also like in your podcast, you talk about anxiety and depression.

[00:39:49] Sophia Elliott: I’m fairly sure bipolar comes out and, and, and that whole range of, of mental health challenges as such and Nebraska had a very different opinion about those, like you said earlier about nervousness and anxiety and overexcitabilities, he sort of connected those things. And I think, I think it, it has a really powerful place in terms of helping us to not feel.

[00:40:19] Sophia Elliott: That would, that we’re broken that there’s something wrong with us. Like, like we’re not doing life properly. And, and kind of putting those mental health issues and challenges within a context of a larger going into a cocoon and coming out the other end at some point.

[00:40:36] Emma: And I think too, Because I know this is something even through my workplace training, which is starting to be a new message coming out.

[00:40:44] Emma: When we talk about mental health is the idea that even if you’re going through these things, like you may be going through a period of depression or anxiety, it doesn’t mean that will like, that’s not forever. It’s not like once you have this thing that there’s the label it’s stuck on you, you will never get rid of it.

[00:41:00] Emma: Like mental health is a thing that goes kind of up and down. And a lot of it’s not even from you, it’s from external circumstances and stuff. So I like not only the idea in Nebraska, Siri, that you’re not necessarily broken, but even if you were experiencing these things, it doesn’t mean that you have to a, I completely identify with them, but you’re not identifying with it forever.

[00:41:28] Emma: Like it’s not stuck on you and it’s never coming off.

[00:41:31] Chris: Yeah. Yeah. But the problem for me was that I had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and that is one of the disorders where you’re kind of encouraged to think of it as something you’re never going to get better from. And that’s, you’re always going to take medication for, and I can’t tell you how much it harmed me to think that way for decades of my life.

[00:41:55] Chris: I is so unfortunate that I was kind of trained in my twenties to constantly be monitoring myself for depressive and manic episodes. Because when you identify with something so strongly, like you, you manifest it, you know what I mean? Like it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. And so the more I was concerned about being mentally ill, like the more I was causing my own problems for myself, it’s.

[00:42:23] Chris: Like when I look back on it, I’m like, it’s unfortunate. And I just, I feel for the people who have certain labels that are like, I mean, you can never wash them off unless you have some new framework that you can make sense of your life. And that’s what the browse theory was for me, it was suddenly like, it was like, it just blew my mind to realize that there was another way and I didn’t have to buy into mainstream psychiatry.

[00:42:50] Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. And I think I, I read the book NeuroTribes kind of late last year. And, and it’s it’s a great book. It’s pretty full on. It’s a big book, but what I really liked about it is what you just said was it’s when you read it, you really get an appreciation for the history and the journey of.

[00:43:15] Sophia Elliott: These psychology and these kinds of ideas that people have about things as a real, as a moveable beast, do you know, nothing’s known, it’s like, well, this is what we know now, which is so different from what we knew 10, 20, 30, 50, a hundred years ago. And I’m kind of, I can’t wait to see what we’re going to know in the next few decades about, mental health and, and, and, and these kinds of issues.

[00:43:40] Sophia Elliott: But and that’s, I think why when I kind of got the opportunity to look deeper into positive disintegration, it was so interesting because I think having particularly had that view of the history of I mean, you’re a tribe goes in, is look looking at autism in particular. But you really get a sense of Do you know, this was someone’s idea, and based on me, certain science and thoughts, but there could be other ideas and depressed.

[00:44:08] Sophia Elliott: He’s got this really interesting idea that that could also be reality, and we, we get to choose for ourselves. I think, and I think that’s a really lovely thing. And I guess I just kind of wanted to give everyone a sense of the depths in which you guys dive into these issues in the podcast and highly recommend it to people to listen to, because I mean, we’ve, we’ve touched, we’ve just barely touched on, it here.

[00:44:41] Sophia Elliott: And it is quite a complex thing and I’m trying to. Find a way in, in one hour for our listeners to listen to, but you talk about order psychotherapy, which is basically, that process of taking ownership and, and helping ourselves depression and anxiety being actually good signs of that potential to move forward and grow complexity, empathy, surviving an experience of positive disintegration, the different levels of positive disintegration.

[00:45:14] Sophia Elliott: Like there’s so much in there. And so I think, what would you say

[00:45:20] Sophia Elliott: If you, if you’re going to encourage people to, to take a good look at this what kind of aspects do you feel like? Maybe just have helped you the most in your personal journeys

[00:45:32] Sophia Elliott: doing a style. And Christian, I said that and I’m like, oh, that’s a big question. And it’s okay to say all of it,

[00:45:43] Chris: I think.

[00:45:45] Emma: Okay. I suppose for me the things that helped most and it’s gonna be different for everybody.

[00:45:53] Chris: But

[00:45:55] Emma: the things that helped most were definitely understanding overexcitabilities. Because I’m one of these people who I’m not highly or profoundly gifted, highly more gifted. But if I take that one Q test, I kind of I’m astounded at how many fives and fours I clock on that thing.

[00:46:12] Emma: It’s horrific. So I experienced some quite strongly. So for me, it was very important to understand how that plays out in my own life so that I can help manage that. And I guess. Just the concept of the basic of what is positive disintegration. So the baseline concept that it is the experience of shaking off your socialization in order to be able to build new values for yourself.

[00:46:42] Emma: Because if you are trying to do that, what a psychotherapy thing, where you are trying to work on yourself here, and you’ve got your journal out, you’re doing those things. It’s important to start looking at yourself and seeing how much has been. Upon you. I know I did one blog even about body image and, my struggles with coming to terms with my own body and how I feel about it.

[00:47:05] Emma: And I just had this moment of realization that so much of what I knew about myself about my body, about my sense of self as a woman was put upon me from the outside. So once I realized the depth of that, it is a, quite a big rabbit hole to start digging in, but it may be realized that yes, a lot of my sense of self is probably not from me.

[00:47:30] Emma: It was given to me from someone else. But when Nebraska talks about authentic personality and personality, being something you have to build and create and achieve on your own it really gave me a new goalpost and also hope of, of how I can take that. And how much power I had to create, recreate myself.

[00:47:50] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. And I really resonate with that. I’ve had that experience in particular, a few times in, in recent years of that realization of the veil being lifted on something that you didn’t even realize you were doing, but that was placed there. And you could actually realizing that actually could lift that and do it a different way.

[00:48:13] Sophia Elliott: That’s huge. Yeah. Yeah. For

[00:48:14] Emma: me, it’s a difference between being stuck in the passenger seat of a vehicle while it’s being driven and actually taking the wheel yourself, you are still on a journey and you are still in a car, but the level of control that you have over that ride has now shifted dramatically.

[00:48:29] Sophia Elliott: Yes. Yeah, totally. A hundred percent. Life-changer yeah. And Chris, how about you?

[00:48:38] Chris: Well first, I just want to say really briefly that NeuroTribes had a huge impact on me too. And I just want to throw in there quickly that, so when I was gearing up to write my paper about the origins and conceptual evolution of oversight ability, I read NeuroTribes, I don’t know what it was that prompted me to read it, but that’s when I had like a total lightning bolt moment about autism and overexcitabilities and just was whoa.

[00:49:09] Chris: And the way that he went through the history helped me see so good. And I had already done that with ADHD. And so once I had the histories of ADHD and autism, I thought, oh my gosh, Dubroski deserves to be part of these histories because he was right there with them. He cites glio O’Connor and his Polish works.

[00:49:30] Chris: I mean, it’s very clear to me that this connection was there, but then I sent the book to my. Yeah. Hofsky and he read NeuroTribes and he also had like his mind blown by it and said, oh my gosh, this is overexcitabilities. So I just want people to know that this was all a part of our path to how we have come to like a modern understanding of overexcitabilities you’re really required opening our minds and a lens change around it when it comes to the gifted connection and encompassing these other issues and neuro diversity.

[00:50:11] Chris: So I just want to throw that in quick, because I think that, I think it’s interesting to people to know that even those of us who I don’t know, like for Michael, I mean, he is this like time scholar he’s had this same message. It’s this kind of work that was able to help him see things from a different perspective.

[00:50:33] Chris: And it’s just

[00:50:34] Sophia Elliott: cool. He is cool. And I, I read that book at a time where I was processing and coming to terms with being autistic and, and a big part of my disintegration was I was having a very physical and emotional response, which said like, there’s something in this, like I, I could know, it, but cognitively what I knew at that point about autism wasn’t matching up.

[00:51:03] Sophia Elliott: What I thought my identity was. And so I was deconstructing very dramatically and turning into mush, trying to cognitively rationalize, but this is who I think I am. And this is what I know about autism and that doesn’t match up. And so having done a lot of research, turning into marsh, but what I, why it really helped me was that amazing intricate history and journey.

[00:51:36] Sophia Elliott: First of all, just show me how fallible we are as humans and how little we know, and we’re still getting our head around. And that’s always important to remember, like we know just this infant dismally, small bit of what is out there. And, but also just seeing that journey of. Just that big, a picture of, of traits and differences throughout time.

[00:52:03] Sophia Elliott: It was, it really helped me to understand how we’d got to where we are today and to all, but see today as just a part of that journey. And it’s kind of like, well, this is moving still and we’re going to be somewhere else. And I’m, I’m really interested to see what we’re going to be because I like yourself and the overexcitabilities and autism and ADHD and giftedness, and even, like anxiety and all those sorts of things.

[00:52:31] Sophia Elliott: You can see those connections. And I, and I’m fascinated with where we’ve drawn the lines between different things. And I, I, when I dug into that research from grow gifted research, Outreach outreach. I’m always like, what’s the, what’s the, oh, I was, that was kinda like, wow, this is really interesting because for me, that really connected the gifted brain to overexcitabilities.

[00:52:59] Sophia Elliott: Did, did you yeah. You familiar with that, that work around the gifted brain.

[00:53:05] Chris: Yeah. And Emma, remember that, that paper just came up in my study group, Facebook group, somebody shared it and it is like this, the idea of this hyper brain, hyper body connection, it makes so much sense. And that was an important exploratory study.

[00:53:21] Chris: And I hope that people will build on it. And for all we know they are, and they’re just trying to get their work through peer review. And I hope so because there’s so much to work with, we’ve had lots of people do work that we can build on, but unfortunately. I think part of the problem right now that we’re dealing with is like we talked about earlier, these papers from 2016, the drive to just a race overexcitabilities from the field has kind of put a dent in this period where it’s harder to publish right now about overexcitabilities in journals in the field because you have editors who are like, well, that’s been debunked, they don’t, they don’t want to hear it.

[00:54:06] Chris: And so it’s really set us back in some ways. And it’s very unfortunate.

[00:54:11] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. And so you’re right. We need to keep talking about it, writing about it because then there’ll be a buzz about it and it’ll be easier to continue the conversation in the work. And I’m astounded at the likes of Dubroski and Asperger.

[00:54:26] Sophia Elliott: When you look at his insights back in the day, like are phenomenal. Right. And and so. Yeah, I think we need to, to take note and dig deeper because it’s easy to get lost in that kind of superficial misunderstanding of things. So thank you so much for your time today. I have thoroughly enjoyed geeking out with you guys talking about positive disintegration and, and I’m really hoping that our listeners have definitely got a sense of the complexity but also how maybe it’s come to interact with giftedness and gifted edge, but also more importantly how much it has to offer us all in terms of understanding our journeys and and just encourage everyone to listen to your podcast and really kind of get into that.

[00:55:15] Sophia Elliott: Because it’s. Yeah, it’s been really awesome. So thank you so much for doing that work and, and putting that time and energy into it. Like I think it’ll, you’ll have a huge impact on people. Yeah.

[00:55:29] Chris: Thank you. And thank you for doing this work. And now we have to have you come on our podcast. So you can talk about your experience of positive disintegration, and you can talk about the experience of being autistic and how overexcitabilities looks for you.

[00:55:45] Chris: Because this is to my mind, what is missing in our research is that we know that people have overexcitabilities and they have these other exceptionalities, but we don’t know how they look at it and what combinations. And so this is really important. And so we hope that you will join us and that we can keep getting the word.

[00:56:05] Sophia Elliott: I’d be absolutely delighted to thank you very much. It’s a really kind offer. Because I think like yourselves are like, Emma, I I’ve just loved hearing your story and Chris, your story as well. And I believe very much in the power of sharing our stories because, without that ability to resonate with someone’s stories, how do we know what our lived experience is to know?

[00:56:28] Sophia Elliott: Like, and yeah, I just want to say thank you to you guys for sharing your journeys as well. It’s, it’s been, it’s really great to

[00:56:35] Emma: thank you for having us on it’s been great and thank you for allowing us that opportunity to share our stories, because I think both Chris and I are the opinion that, It helps one person out there, if they identify with something that’s said, I’m going to help someone, their journey, then you know, every time you share it’s well worth it.

[00:56:55] Emma: So thank you very much for having us on. No,

[00:56:57] Sophia Elliott: it’s been lovely. Thank you so much.

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