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Positive Disintegration As  A Conscious Journey of Personal Reinvention

...And Reclaiming of Personal Narrative

I have been fascinated by the school of adult developmental psychology for the past 20 years, and have trained in a specialist branch of post-Piagetian cognitive skills assessment and facilitation (Fischer, Dynamic Skills Theory and Lectica).

But my own passions and curiosities lead me to a conscious pivot in 2020, after feeling unsatisfied with my corporate consulting life (although intellectually interesting).


Hearing of how artists describe their journeys and how they speak about the creative process (including doing the Julia Cameron 12 week Artist's Way program in 2007), it was evidently clear to me, that I needed to properly commit to a path of creative experiments. 

These experiments were in the beginning quite dark.....but they make a great deal of sense now that I have learnt about Dabrowski's theory of positive disintegration. I feel this theory and the profoundly inspiring figure that Dabrowski was, helps me really 'make sense' of my journey, and necessary developmental process.

More to follow, but for now a selection of the key autobiographical works:


Artwork "Opportunity Threshold" 2021

One of my very earliest works - sold to a client in Spain


My Poetry Pages 'Mash-Up"

There was something intuitively liberating when my instinct was to cut up a note pad of mine containing poetry and sketches - in the above photos. There are multiple references to the necessary destructive phase (Ref Marie-Odile Brêthes) in creative therapies and this creative process example above, came about spontaneously before I read the literature references. There is also a fascinating paper on the "seduction of the broken object" by Tessa Adams, listed below in the References section.


The 3-2-1 Autoportrait

In the words of Ken Wilber, working through my 1st, 2nd and 3rd person perspectives of Self; I created this collage. The single face portrait directly was inspired by the notion of polarities (the shadow on one side of the face is represented by black, and inverted on the other side, where black represents the highlights). Then a dialogue in the 2nd person between the two faces...and lastly the 3rd person zooming out perspective, with my body almost in a defensive posture. 

“No life is complete without a touch of madness.”

― Paulo Coelho

Video Witnessing of My Journey

In complement to Dabrowski's theory of Positive Disintegration, is the phase of reconstructing the sense of self. Of particular relevance is the power of reclaiming one's personal narrative - the process storytelling that evokes the arc of our journey. Reflecting on the arc of our journey invites us to really look at the big picture, and highlight those significant moments that can suddenly stand out with deeper symbolism of the key thresholds in our life.

I am still very interested in the balance between more modern notions of 'finding oneself' (as if it exists somewhere, pre-defined), and the more ancient notions of following your muse, your daemon or 'genius' (that Elizabeth Gilbert speaks so eloquently about, in terms of the Greek notion of genius as a guiding star, and not some inborn super intelligence). 

Related to my film practice at, I have had the opportunity to speak to my personal narrative through film, and a particular approach of a minimalist, no questions filming process - two videos below were filmed in the early phases of my commiting to my art practice.

In the garden shed - John Oliver
Produced by: Malthouse Films

In the garden shed - John Oliver

John Oliver - Searching for Soul: The Metamorphosis of an Artist
Edited by Jeremy Le Fèvre

John Oliver - Searching for Soul: The Metamorphosis of an Artist



Positive Disintegration On The Developmental Path

A first worthwhile analysis is to see how the notion of positive disintegration appears across many diverse social practices and traditions. It appears in subtly different forms from "decentering" the person, to direct physical and environmental challenges:

  • Contemporary Practices

    • Theory 'U'

    • Vision Quest

    • The Mankind Project

  • Cultural and Religious Traditions

    • Amerindian traditions of young male initiation ceremonies

    • Christian 'dark night of the soul' and resurrection​

    • Hindi symbolism - Kali and Shiva

  • Myths and Legends

    • The Hero's Journey

    • The phoenix rising from Greek mythology

Hindu Goddess Kali Dominating Shiva

Kali is the Hindu goddess of death, time, and doomsday. She is often associated with sexuality and violence but is also considered a strong mother figure and symbol of motherly love. Kali embodies shakti - feminine energy, creativity and fertility.

Kali's dominance over Shiva symbolises the supremacy of Nature over man, and this images evokes the cyclic nature of domination and submission - Shiva is typically depicted with a serene expression and even erotically aroused, in this surrendering to the greater forces of nature and evolution.