Kazimierz Dabrowski and his Developmental Theory

“The Theory of Positive Disintegration (TPD) is a grand, or all-encompassing, theory of how humans develop. I consider it a grand theory not only because Dabrowski was concerned with the whole person, but because its foundational philosophy is clearly stated, its image of humanness worked out, and its appreciation of health and sickness plainly explicated so that one can see the values on which it is built. Because so much of theory, particularly psychological theory, comes not just from the head but from the heart of its author, I am convinced that a theory is best appreciated by those who have first an image of the kind of person who conceived it.

Kazimierz Dabrowski was born in Poland in 1902, studied in Europe, and suffered through the atrocities of two World Wars. It was this combination of high academic scholarship and deep personal participation in the realities of the world at some of its ugliest moments that brought him the understanding and sensibilities to build a profound and meaningful theory of human development.

Professor Dabrowski studied both medicine and education before receiving his MD at the University of Geneva. In 1931 he received his PhD in psychology at PoznanUniversity, a certificate of psychoanalytic studies at Vienna (under Wilhelm Stekel), and a certificate of the School of Public Health at Harvard in 1934. He studied under Claparede and Jean Piaget and established an institute of mental hygiene at Warsaw in 1935. After World War II and his imprisonment during the Nazi occupation of Poland, he was awarded a ‘habilitation in psychiatry’ at the University of Wroclaw. He was professor of experimental psychology at Warsaw in 1956 and at the PolishAcademy of Sciences until 1958. From 1964 until 1979 he was a professor and Director of Clinical Research and Internship at the University of Alberta, Canada, and from 1968 a visiting professor at Laval University, Quebec. In 1979 he returned to Poland and died there in 1980. In his lifetime he wrote more than 38 books and 253 other publications, in English, Polish, and French. Centers for the study of his theory are located throughout Canada, the United States, South America, and Europe. Those of us who were fortunate enough to meet Dr. Dabrowski, first as his students and then as his colleagues in developing the theory, were impressed by the quiet humility of the man, his scholarship and hard work, and above all the depths of feeling that made possible a theory of psychological development that speaks so well to the human condition.

My own memories of Kazimierz Dabrowski are not confined to the innumerable pages of handouts in purple mimeograph ink we shared in each weekly seminar where we explored new aspects of his theory as he developed them in his senior years. My personal memories are of a gentlemanly scholar not given to small talk, not lapsing into personal narrative, but flowing from a wellspring of thought and life experience that gave rise to a mystique of reticence. There was always another depth to be explored. He was single-minded and consumed with the development of ‘the theory.’ My memories too are of the “taste-full” evenings at the Dabrowskian home, talking, of course, about the theory as we devoured elaborate Polish dishes graciously presented by his wife and daughters.” – Hague, W. J. Evolving Spirituality. Edmonton, AB: Publications Services, University of Alberta (1995): 120 – 21.

Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration and the Gifted…

Gifted individuals, whose developmental paths differ from the norm, are distinguished by their abstract reasoning, intellectual potential, heightened intensity, sensitivity and self-criticism.   This combination leads to increased awareness and a complex inner life resulting in a vulnerability to periods of crises.  Dabrowski’s theory places behaviors demonstrated by the gifted and periods of crises in a developmentally positive and constructive framework.  With its emphasis on emotion and its influence on personality development, the theory is particularly applicable to personality development of the gifted.   Key researchers in the gifted arena have promoted the acceptance of Dabrowski’s theory in the field of gifted education as a way of understanding and providing for gifted individuals.   The concepts of overexcitabilities (OEs), multilevel growth and inner transformation have become part of the gifted lexicon demonstrating the integration of Dabrowski’s theory and the field of gifted education and research. – submitted by Gaye Harden, Canmore, Alberta.

"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."

- Kazimierz Dabrowski



The International Dabrowski Congress is an opportunity for researchers, educators, psychologists, parents, and others to gather from around the globe and delve into topics related to Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration, including the concept of developmental potential, giftedness and education, research and giftedness, and personal experiences with, and applications of, Dabrowski’s theory.

Attendees will have the opportunity to:

  • hear keynote speakers known around the world,
  • expand the global Dabrowskian community,
  • connect with people who are passionate about personal development,
  • and extend their understanding of a theory with significant implications for psychology, human development, giftedness, and more. 

Special events include a welcoming reception on Thursday evening and a banquet on Friday evening. 

Please join us for this conference full of learning, exploration, reflection, and growth.  We look forward to seeing you in Chicago!

Wendy Chamberlin, Amanda Davey, and Michele Kane

Dabrowski Congress 2018 Co-Chairs