The news has been scary. It is scary for adults as well as children, and it has also been relentless. For some of us, especially gifted children and adults who may be especially sensitive to the problems of the world, these have been some incredibly difficult times.
Polish psychiatrist, psychologist, and physician, Kazimierz Dąbrowski, (best known for his theory of positive disintegration), noticed that some people possess overexcitabilities which predispose them to heightened sensitivities to their world. He defined these overexcitabilities as psychomotor, sensual, emotional, intellectual, and imaginational. While not everyone agrees with Dabrowski’s work, parents/caregivers and educators of gifted children often observe these intensities in the children they know and love.
According to Dabrowski, psychomotor overexcitability manifests itself in a capacity for being active and energetic, a love of movement, a surplus of energy, and an actual need for physical action. Many parents/caregivers of gifted children report this in their children (and it is sometimes mistaken for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder).
Sensual overexcitability manifests itself in a heightened ability to experience sensory/ aesthetic pleasure. These are children who may hate labels in their clothing, refuse to eat foods with objectionable textures, or be bothered by stimuli that most people ignore or do not even notice, for example. Additionally, they may display a great need to touch and be touched, and respond with great joy or disgust to sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures.
Emotional overexcitability is often recognized by parents of gifted children and others as well because those who have it often display intense emotions and responses to events and experiences in their lives. Comments about people with emotional hypersensitivity often include the word “too…” (e.g., too bossy, too loud, too opinionated, too sensitive).
Children who possess intellectual overexcitabilities may persist in asking probing questions, have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge/novelty, possess keen observational skills and concentration in areas of interest, persevere in asking probing questions, possess a proclivity or reverence for logic or theoretical thinking, or possess a deep precision for understanding and can be intolerant of imprecision or errors. Like R2D2 in Star Wars, they demand INPUT!
Finally, children with imaginational overexcitabilities view the world in a variety of powerful ways. They often have very strong attachments to persons, living things, or places. They may be timid or shy, or conversely, extremely boisterous and outgoing, sometimes explosively so. They may possess strong affective memories. They may live their lives “inside their heads.”They may worry excessively about the pain of the world “Weltschmerz,” or the pain of others, and obsess over their inability to effect change.
While truly “gifts,” all of these sensitivities can also be liabilities during times when the news is scary, as it is now.
Clearly, many of us have been worried about how to reassure our sensitive children during these times. In late February, I listened to a short podcast prepared by Anya Kamenetz and Cory Turner on National Public Radio entitled,
What to Say to Kids When the News is Scary.
My takeaways included things I already knew, and also caused me to think about some new ideas. Here are the main takeaways (in italics/bold), and my thoughts, following:
Though I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor, I hope that these ideas have comforted you, and have given you some tools to help your children and your students cope during these trying times.
As always, I look forward to your thoughts. Together we grow. Take care.
Jackie Drummer, Past President and Current Board Advisor
WI Association for Talented and Gifted
(WATG would like to extend a huge thank you to Dr. Martha Aracely Lopez of Milwaukee Public Schools for translating this article into Spanish for our Spanish-speaking families and educators. The translation can be found in our website blogs.)
Gifted in Perspective
A column designed to link the gifted perspective to other perspectives, and to make you think.