MENTAL DEVELOPMENT, autonomous, is the passing from lower level structures and functions to higher levels (cf. levels of functions). It is a result of the process of positive disintegration (cf.). In its beginning stages mental development is biologically determined, automatic, unconscious or with a low degree of consciousness, confined within the biological cycle of life and consequently exposed to deterioration with age. In higher stages of development the inner psychic milieu with its main dynamisms (cf.) plays an increasingly important role. From the stage of organized multilevel disintegration the highly conscious dynamisms of inner psychic transformation, the third factor, autonomy, and personality ideal determine the direction of development. Conscious and deliberate choice based on many-sided and multilevel insights and understanding replaces unconscious biological drives. Autonomous development transcends the biological cycle of life in a twofold sense: (1) It ceases to be dependent on organic changes such as those characteristic of the periods of puberty, adolescence, menopause, senility, etc. (2) Development remains progressive into old age despite somatic deterioration due to biological changes.
At higher stages particularly at secondary integration, a regression to lower levels is no longer possible. Lower level drives, once disintegrated and destroyed, cannot re-emerge, while consciously and authentically elaborated higher levels of functions, once integrated into personality, cannot be prevented from operating. The direction of development in its higher stages is derived from the growing insight into and understanding of oneself and the surrounding environment and by the growth of higher emotions, particularly empathy. It is determined by the following guidelines: (1) Openness to new kinds of experiences, increasing sensitivity and growth of both the general potential and specific abilities, the increasing role of conscious and deliberate activities over unconscious and automatic ones, constantly growing control over oneself and the environment. (2) The appearance of a new source of enjoyment resulting from consciously accepted and deliberately developed activities, inspired by a new hierarchy of values (creative work, personal satisfaction from the fulfillment of one's program). The higher the level of development, the grater is the proportion of this type of satisfaction as compared to pleasures derived from appeasing impulsive desires (sensual pleasures, etc.) which are the only accessible kind of pleasures at lower developmental stages. (3) Growing ability for further development.
This conception of mental development differs from traditional approaches in the following aspects: (a) It brings out the positive developmental function of the processes of disintegration. (b) It assigns a crucial role to the inner psychic milieu with its main dynamisms of inner psychic transformation, the third factor, autonomy and authentism, disposing and directing center and the personality ideal, that is concepts and processes hitherto left out of consideration. (c) It replace, at a certain level, biological determinants by psychological, conscious and autonomous determinants. (d) It assumes an empirical hierarchy of levels of functions (cf.) and consequently growing objectivity of valuation in morals, aesthetics, etc. proportionate to the stage of mental development. (1970)
- Dabrowski, K., with Kawczak, A., & Piechowski, M. (1970).Mental Growth Through Positive Disintegration. London: Gryf Publications. 162-180.
- Online: http://positivedisintegration.com/glos.htm