Nikki Petersen en Self-Improvement, Entrepreneurs, Coaching CEO • Nikki Petersen dot com 21/11/2016 · 4 min de lectura · 1,9K

Dabrowski's Sweater

Dabrowski's SweaterA post from @Ali Anani brought Dąbrowski to the front of my mind today.  

If you're not familiar with Kazimierz Dąbrowski, he was a psychologist that was particularly interested in the development and functioning of gifted children.  

He brought us the concept of over-excitabilities as well as his Theory of Positive Disintegration (TPD). The former is the idea that some people have areas of intensity, which they seek stimulation for (intellectual, imaginational, emotional, psychomotor, and sensory).  The latter, TPD, is about self concept and how we develop our personalities.

Self concept is what we think of ourselves, and is a reflection of the feedback we’ve received since birth, from people who played significant roles in our lives. This is the end result of your parents socializing you and sculpting you into the reasonable likeness of what they considered a “good human being”. Your parents gave you the yarn to make a sweater and showed you how to knit it. As a gifted person, your experience of the yarn is . . . more intense than most. You may see the colors more intensely, or the wool is scratchier for you than it is for others.

Let's think of this in terms of entrepreneurship. You came to this work with a whole truck-load of ideas about who you are and why you’re doing what you do — this is the amalgamation of ideas, thoughts, concepts, and structure created by your childhood, adulthood, work life, and seeking of rewarding work. You’ve been socialized to business by your parents and how they got through their day-to-day life, but also by the businesses, leaders, and teachers you’ve been exposed to, for whatever reason.

You became an entrepreneur as the result of finding all of the other options . . . unpalatable. 

Maybe you did that as a child, and it’s only grown since. Maybe, like me, you came to it as an adult (and somewhat unwillingly). Either way, there was a tension you felt that you couldn’t shake off, to be more and do more and break free from the restraints of what you “should be” doing with your life. That is what Dąbrowski called disintegration -- that discomfort with how things are going.

As you can imagine, once your business personality has been established, it’s pretty freaking hard to change it (insert “old dog new tricks" joke here). The way to change it is by receiving new input, new opinions, new feedback, and new socialization that reflects new ideas. With all that newness, it’s not shocking that people resist change, is it??

Because it’s risky, to willingly go into all that newness, and risk can be scary AF — particularly if the self concept is negative, with a heaping of low self-esteem and sprinkled with impostor syndrome. That's deeper when you're gifted, because you can, if allowed, tend towards over-analysis, tunnel-vision, and getting stuck in cycles that are not productive or healthy.

That fear of the unknown can lead to a shut-down, right? You can become paralyzed with self-doubt and freaking out because impostor syndrome is running hog wild in your brain. Most people think that losing your shit like this is bad. We don’t want to lose our shit because then we look even more unqualified than we feel, which then leads us even deeper down the rabbit hole of despair. You put the knitting needles down because you can't handle it right now, and your work starts to unravel.

But what if I told you that what you’re seeing as a red flag ("stop what you’re doing because you’re obviously not going to be successful, and you’re wasting everyone’s time and no one wants to drink your crappy kool-aid anyway”) is actually a green flag? It's an all-hands-on-deck and a chopper-go!

That’s what Dąbrowski’s theory says. When you’re feeling unraveled it’s because you’re getting ready to make a new sweater -- you just don't know it. Just when it feels like your world is falling apart, that’s when you’ve got the best opportunity to make something spectacular. Your unraveling is creating mounds of opportunity to create new stuff that has great potential for being awesome.

Dąbrowski goes a step further to say that when you’re feeling unraveled, it’s actually because all this time, you’ve been knitting a sweater that wasn’t even your design! The personality you’ve created has been the design of your parents and all those influential people in your life — who you are when you’re at the crossroads is the construct of what other people think you should be. You’re a sweater designed by others, not designed by your own self.


The next question must be along the lines of who decides whether you go down the rabbit hole or up into the light? ((You know this one, right??))

It’s YOU! 😃

So how does this play out in your business?

You may come to a place in your work where you’re stuck and you aren’t feeling authentic, and that’s maybe being reflected in a lack of sales or a disinterest in being at work, or going through the motions but not getting all the feels you used to from your work.

Can you sit with these feelings? Can you give them space? Can you chill with them and let them mingle in your mind? Now that you’ve realized you’re in a rut and you want to redefine who you are in business and what you are all about, you have an opportunity to create your own personality, with intentionality and authenticity.

To keep on with my knitting analogy, when you’re in a positive disintegration, you’ve just realized that the sweater you’ve got on was knitted by you, but the yarn was given to you by your parents and other influential people in your childhood. When you take control of the development of your sense of self in business, you are creating something new, yet familiar; you’re making a new sweater out of old yarn. With that realization, you’re suddenly in a yarn store. All the yarn is there for your taking, to create the sweater that is truly yours and authentically you, integrating some (or all) of the yarn from your ravelings, plus new yarn that YOU get to pick out because, dammit, you like it!

You get to do you! Finally!

What yarns will you pick? Do you grab what’s right in front of you? Walk around the shop and touch everything? Walk around twice? Three times?

You pick yarns that speak to you, because of their color or their feel, the thickness, or the sparkles (yes, some yarn has sparkles -- don't judge). Oh! Maybe you’re even eyeing the unspun wool (the stuff that looks like it just came off the sheep or alpaca) and thinking you could needle felt some elbow patches onto the sweater once it’s done. You’re thinking about what the sweater will look like when it’s done, not just what the yarn looks like in a ball on the shelf.

You're thinking so meta it blows your own damn mind! (it's how you roll, my gifted friend)

This sweater is you. This sweater is your business (see what I did there). Don’t think those are two different sweaters, because that’s where people often go wrong. When your personal sweater is expressed in your business, that’s when you’re most authentic in your work and that’s what clients and customers connect with.

They like the way you knit; they're your tribe, your peeps, and your network. And that’s the awesome sauce. That’s the home run.

Clients come to me with arms full of unraveled yarn, wanting to know how to put it all back together. We work through what the sweater should look like, and how the style of it speaks to the people checking it out. You find your voice, and speak it out loud, and that's the awesome sauce on top of the awesome sunday. I help my clients transform something that might do well at the "ugly sweater" party into a comfy, cute jumper. So what do you have? Can you see all the possibilities?

I want you to get that sweater made just the way you like it. It's all about you.

Ben Pinto 27/11/2016 · #23

I enjoyed this very much. Thank you. With all the buzz in the business world of being transparent I have recently been using clear fish line for all of my knitting. I made my choice and I am sticking to it; no one can call me a nitpicker.

CityVP 🐝 Manjit 27/11/2016 · #22

This buzz was difficult for me to position because it spans different spectrum's of my own learning journey. I originally connected it to my yellow hive because it talked about Dabrowski (who I have not yet acquainted myself with) and curiosity about his work with "gifted children" as an intellectual treatise. If I however focused my attention on self or physical development I would have connected it to my green hive. In the end as I worked my way though it, I actually connected to my blue hive, because what I was actually picking up from this buzz was actually covering thoughts around managerial capability development and managing transitions - and so I plugged in to the business or entrepreneurial lens, and when I engage my follow up study of Dabrowski (probably after the New Year) that is how I am going to incorporate this into my learning journey. So in a strange way the connection I ended up making in my mind was linking the context of Dabrowski to the transitions Ram Charan talks about in his adaptation he calls "Leadership Pipeline" - that adaptation by itself is based on the work of Elliott Jaques. Jaques was also a psychologist, but his work was originally pioneered through the Tavistock Institute. Jaques BTW beyond is work on work level transitions is famous for creating/studying the term he coined as "Mid Life Crisis".

Sara Jacobovici 27/11/2016 · #21

#19 Thank you @Nikki Petersen, I appreciate you taking the time to respond and for sharing your thoughts and experiences. Children with children, parents with parents, anytime you bring people together, they can become territorial and offensive by making assumptions and judgments. Sad but true. The word narrative comes to mind. We each have an internal story with characters, voices, messages that have been carried over from childhood to adulthood. This narrative is fluid, ebbs and flows. It can be a great way to look at identity as it involves who we are without labels. An ongoing process but definitely worth the effort.

Nikki Petersen 27/11/2016 · #20

#18 Oh, yes, I didn't have my meta hat on yet (not enough coffee onboard just yet). Sorry I missed that bit. Absolutely, the cycle is passed from parent to child and onward. Hopefully the good and the bad. My kids are learning about their own challenges and strengths, and as I teach them, I also teach them about their parents and grandparents in the same context. They're pretty meta, as well, so they get the breadth and depth of it all. They understand that I want them to learn my values but to develop their own sense of self, because I tell them that daily. I hope that it will have the impact I'm aiming for, in that I want them to be more evolved than my generation (as I am more evolved than the one before mine). No easy feat for a single parent!

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Nikki Petersen 27/11/2016 · #19

#9 @Sara Jacobovici, yes, this is such a deeply personal journey of self-discovery, and only one piece of it. The "G-word" as it's often referred to, has such variable impact on different audiences. Some people do react quite aggressively to it. Parents on the playground can turn downright mean when I say that one, tiny four-letter word. Friends have completely dismissed me, believing that I must be an attention seeker and that I'm not all that (and a bag of chips), and if I'm so smart why aren't I saving the world or at least some small corner of it.

But giftedness is more than intelligence. There are so many challenges related to giftedness that it's a wonder anyone can even see the IQ side of it. For quite some time, I fought for it to be more widely accepted. I am currently in a phase of not particularly identifying with it myself. You're right, though -- it is a label and if not given great care in handling, labels can turn into pathologies.

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Harvey Lloyd 27/11/2016 · #18

#17 I guess i was referring to the handing down of experience to our children as creating the loop. Parenting is the challenge. We want our children to gain from our experience, yet they themselves are unique and must experience things for themselves.

Unfortunately or fortunately depending on context, i agree, once we transcend one level we can't put the genie back in the bottle. Thanks for your response and i am reading further on this concept, it is fasinating.

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Nikki Petersen 27/11/2016 · #17

#14 @Harvey Lloyd, I never thought of it as circular, but can see what you mean. I've always considered there to be two transitions, between levels I and II, and another between IV and V, the former being that you realize you can change and the latter a realization that you are the driver of your own change. I don't feel like you can go backward once you've overcome that transition, but in reality there are a number of dips "down" into the lower levels as we ebb and flow as humans.

Thanks for your comments.

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Nikki Petersen 27/11/2016 · #16

#15 @Harvey Lloyd, parenting creates additional challenges to the ideas that Dabrowski brought forth. Understanding your kids and helping them understand themselves, while trying not to unduly influence them too far in one direction or another, but teaching them your values . . . is no simple task. And it doesn't even address their own individual challenges.
Luckily, my own children are so open, loving, and patient with me.

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