Positive Disintegration
Positive Disintegration Podcast
Giftedness and Personality

Giftedness and Personality

Join Emma Nicholson and Chris Wells for Episode 50 with Deborah Ruf

In episode 50, Chris and Emma talked with Dr. Deborah Ruf, author of the award-winning book 5 Levels of Gifted. In 2023, she released a follow-up book called The 5 Levels of Gifted Children Grown Up: What They Tell Us. Our conversation highlights her expertise in studying giftedness and personality across the lifespan.

We started the episode by asking Deborah to share her journey, and learned how she was first introduced to Dąbrowski’s theory in the early 1990s. Her dissertation study included the theory of positive disintegration, which she has worked with for many years. We discussed how she incorporated the theory into her work while exploring the complexities of giftedness, including its intersection with personality types and life circumstances.

Our personalities have a profound impact on our relationships with others as well as with our own self-understanding. Chris shared a few quotes from The 5 Levels of Gifted Children Grown Up during our discussion, including this one about the importance of the environment on development:

“It is not the high IQ or intellectual level that causes personal problems for many of our most intellectually gifted people. It is the ongoing presence of a poor environmental “fit” during their childhood. The better the fit, the better the social, emotional, and any other kind of well-being outcome measure, they will have.” (Ruf, 2023)

Overall, this episode underscores the multifaceted nature of intelligence and personality, shaping our interactions, self-perception, and adaptation to various environments. Embracing and understanding ourselves can lead to personal growth and improved relationships with others. We highlight the importance of adopting multiple lenses and frameworks to reach a fuller understanding. As complex individuals with diverse backgrounds, strengths, and environments, we require various perspectives to deepen our understanding, heal from past experiences, and develop.

Deborah emphasized that personality tests are not fixed and can change as we evolve. Personality tests offer insights into our current state, and by taking them multiple times, we can observe our growth and understand how different factors and periods in our lives impact our moods and responses.


00:02:30 - Dr. Ruf's Journey to Dabrowski's Theory

00:05:42 - Personal Growth and Weaving Theories

00:08:29 - The Challenges of Funding Research

00:13:45 - Personality Matters

00:19:55 - An Example of Self-Understanding

00:23:20 - The Need for Multiple Perspectives

00:26:26 - Impact of Personality on Life Choices

00:32:41 - Importance of Environmental Fit for Gifted Individuals

00:34:48 - Round Pegs in Square Holes

00:39:25 - Environmental Fit Issues Continue in Adulthood

00:42:15 - Transcending Psychological Type

00:43:57 - The Intersection of Giftedness and Personality

00:48:17 - Levels of Giftedness

00:56:45 - The Issue of Multiple-Exceptionalities

00:59:35 - Understanding and Overcoming Trauma

01:04:39 - Apologizing Without Excuses

01:06:09 - The Complexity of Personal Identity and Labels

* A transcript of this episode is available on our website.

Resources from this episode

The 5 Levels of Gifted Children Grown Up: What They Tell Us (Amazon)

5 Levels of Gifted: School Issues and Educational Options (Amazon)

Keys to Successfully Parenting the Gifted Child (Amazon)

Gifted Through the Lifespan (Dr. Ruf on Substack)

Five Levels of Gifted (Dr. Ruf’s website)

Karen Nelson’s 1989 paper from Advanced Development Journal

Conversations on Gifted Trauma podcast

Personality Page (The price is now $6.99 per test, but worthwhile for those who are interested)

Connect with us

Positive Disintegration on Substack

Visit the Dabrowski Center website



The Positive Disintegration YouTube Channel

Adults with Overexcitabilities group on Facebook

Dabrowski Center and Positive Disintegration Podcast Community on Facebook

The Tragic Gift blog by Emma

Email us at positivedisintegration.pod@gmail.com

Please consider supporting the podcast to help fund this work through the Dabrowski Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

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Positive Disintegration
Positive Disintegration Podcast
What can be positive about disintegration? Join us for an exploration of positive disintegration through conversation and shared stories. It’s a framework for understanding a variety of intense experiences that often look and feel like mental illness, but which can also be viewed as building blocks for creating an authentic personality.