There are people who come into this world programmed to experience life on a very different sensory level than others. Through no fault or special circumstance of their own, their central nervous systems are wired to experience stronger emotions, more intense feelings, and deeper thought processes than most. Polish psychologist and psychiatrist Kazimierz Dabrowski termed this phenomenon Over-Excitabilities (OEs).
Speaking from personal experience, I can say that those endowed with OEs, aka high sensitivity, do not have an easy go at life. It is, in Dabrowski’s words “a tragic gift”. “Tragic” because it leaves the person defenseless, raw, and exposed to all manner of physical, emotional, sensory, imaginational and intellectual onslaught. And a “gift” because it nourishes the mind and spirit on a higher level, creating an exquisitely rich inner experience not generally accessible to most, and laying out the fertile ground on which unbounded creativity can flourish. There is no getting around it though, for those living with OEs, the potential to experience higher highs, must also come with the potential to experience lower lows.
Of particular interest to me is Dabrowski’s belief that those having the strongest OEs have an innate potential for higher personality development. The resulting inner conflicts, crises, and existential angst experienced by the overly sensitive mind and soul can often lead to incredible growth in those having the potential according to Dabrowski. I have come to value the focus he put on the positive aspects of mental health, combining both biological and humanistic perspectives with respect to some forms of psychoneurosis and human suffering.
Here is a general description of Dabrowski`s five forms of over-excitabilities :
|PSYCHOMOTOR — this is often thought to mean that the person needs lots of movement and athletic activity, but it can also refer to having trouble smoothing out the mind’s activities for sleeping. Lots of physical energy and movement, lots of gestures, sometimes nervous tics. SENSUAL —A love for sensory things — textures, smells, tastes etc. or a powerful reaction to negative sensory input (bad smells, loud sounds, etc.) Sensitive to bright lights (squinting in all the family photographs, etc.), harsh sounds. Aesthetic awareness — the person who is awed to breathlessness at the sight of a beautiful sunset or cries hearing Mozart, etc.||IMAGINATIONAL — these are the dreamers, poets, “space cadets” who are strong visual thinkers, use lots of metaphorical speech. They daydream, remember their dreams at night and often react strongly to them.INTELLECTUAL — Those with a strong logical imperative, who enjoy following a line of complex reasoning, figuring things out. A love of things academic, new information, thinking about thinking, cognitive games, etc.EMOTIONAL — this includes being “happier when happy, sadder when sad, angrier when angry,” etc. Intensity and broad range of emotion. A need for deep connections with a select few. Difficulty finding close and deep relationships. Empathy and compassion. This is also the OE that makes people susceptible to depression.|
- Some Challenges of Being Gifted and a Parent (christinefonseca.wordpress.com)