How to Learn Intensely

Many XIPs have an innate preference for a specific mode of taking in and processing information without being aware of this. Their environment usually offers information in a certain mode, which may or may not provide an adequate fit for them.
One may compare the results to having to listen, think and speak in your mother tongue, or in your second, third or fourth language. Although others may perceive that you can manage all right, do you experience that you live up to your full potential? Is your need for expressing your complexity and intensity filled?
In this blog I invite you to reconsider your learning style preferences (plural). To what extent did they match in the past with your learning environment? Could it be relevant to pay extra attention to your mode of information intake in the near future, and to become more aware of its effects on you?

Imaginal Thinking and Verbal Thinking

Imaginal thinking versus verbal thinking is one of the facets of Xidentity. If you have a strong preference for one over the other, you will become more effective when you take that into account while taking in and processing information. For a quick overview of the differences, see this webpage.
six booksThanks to my partnership with Mechel Ensing-Wijn of Beelddenkwerk and to her (Dutch) “Atlas” on the subject, I have come to understand much more of Imaginal thinking and my own way of (not) doing it.
Verbal thinking comes much easier to me than the specific form of Imaginal thinking called Visual thinking that Mechel excels in. I am quite keen to spend time on finding the right words, the right phrasing, just to express exactly what I intend to convey. I feel very happy when I have succeeded in triggering the intended response.
In a similar way, Mechel is more than willing to spend time and effort to take those pictures of objects or patterns that fully represent her intended ideas.
In our sessions with clients we investigate their preferences for either imaginal or verbal thinking, and tailor our communication to these preferences.

What about those Kinesthetic learners?

But there is more: There are people who need to physically move while processing information.
Reading while walkingThey learn best by doing, not by listening or seeing. Most often they have good physical skills. When they are not allowed to move, they switch to their standby mode.
That may have influenced their school career negatively, and instilled a lack of confidence regarding their intelligence. At work, lengthy meetings while sitting down may feel like torture to them.

Kinesthesia is sense perception of movement: We have an internal sense that informs us about the relative position of all parts of our body. According to Gardner, Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence is one of our Multiple Intelligences (see my webpage).
In various learning style models (e.g. the VARK learning model) or perception models (e.g. NLP) the notion of Kinesthetic has been extended and is contrasted with Visual or Aural/Auditive.
It may include people with a “Tactile” learning style, who need to touch and feel something in order to decide whether they like it: Just looking at it does not provide sufficient information. Sometimes “kinesthetic” includes everything that has to do with (awareness of) emotional feelings about something.

Many XIPs have many feelings

This raises a question about the relation between being a kinesthetic learner and being highly sensitive; a quality many XIPs possess. How does this relate to being intense?
Do “Extra Intense People” innately use strong kinesthetic information processing? Do they need to take this kinesthetic information seriously in order to be able to express their intensity fully? Even if their main learning preference is auditive/verbal or visual/images?

To my knowledge and in my experience there is a big divide between “sensory” and “conceptual” information processing. Giftedness and academic eminence is associated with the latter variety, although you may have used your eyes or ears to take that (verbal or symbolic) information in.
However, taking your processing of bodily sensations seriously is perceived as something totally different. Can you simultaneously process your conceptual information, or do you consider them totally separate?

A confident feeling of being an XIP?

How can one – through bodily sensations – feel confident about being an XIP or being gifted? After all, people with a strong kinesthetic learning preference can only feel the validity and relevance of their giftedness when they have experienced it in some way or another. Old memories of being earmarked as (rather) dumb can impede such feelings.
Violet knowsThe inner acceptance of being an XIP develops through an intuitive and/or bodily awareness that you recognize the typical character traits and innately act that way.
But it can be hard for “Active Doers” to gain access to their own reflective thoughts. In my experience, it is often more effective for them to ask others what they observe about them: They actually reflect by experiencing other people’s observations of themselves.

Four questions

To apply the above to your own situation:

  1. How important is doing and feeling for you, and has this changed over the years?
  2. Which of your senses evokes your strongest emotions?
  3. Which of your senses do you use the most at work?
  4. What is the role of sensory information processing at work?


The Felder Silverman Learning Style Model

I was searching for a way to go beyond discerning a preference for either verbal or visual thinking. (Although that is a very valuable distinction, no doubt about that!)
To my surprise, I came across a model developed by Richard Felder and Linda Silverman in the late 1980s. It is officially known as the Felder Silverman Learning Style Model, and has been modified somewhat in the past decades. In its current form it offers the “Index of Learning Styles” (ILS), an online questionnaire with 44 questions, which I consider well worth trying out for yourself. There is also a webpage with references and more information.

Four dimensions

The model discerns four scales with two dimensions (or poles) each. Your score on either of the scales is somewhere between the two poles, depending on your answers.
The scales, with their two dimensions are:

  • Active – Reflective
  • Sensing – Intuitive
  • Visual – Verbal
  • Sequential – Global


The Active – Reflective scale relates to some extent to the differences between Extraverts and Introverts in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The Sensing – Intuitive scale relates directly to the MBTI.
Cover Upside Down BrillianceYou may have noticed that Linda Silverman in her later work chose to focus more on the last two scales, combining them into Auditory-Sequential versus Visual-Spatial. As she explains in her book “The Visual-Spatial Learner” (2002), schools are mainly focused on Auditory-Sequential learners. She shows the existence of Visual-Spatial learners and how different their learning style and needs are.
The book remains a rich source on the characteristics of visual thinking.
It is my impression that the first two scales of the Felder Silverman model provide information on your kinesthetic preferences. They thereby give an indication how you express your intensity.

What’s in it for you?

Through filling in the ILS I found out that I have a strong preference for Reflective, Intuitive and Global, and a moderate preference for Verbal. I feel this to be a more accurate description of my way of being an XIP, than “limiting” myself to being just a verbal thinker, even though I am a proficient one.
Allow yourself to be surprised by your results on the ILS and feel free to experiment with your responses to the questions to see what happens. Especially if you consider your choices very dependent on the context of the situation (XIPs are notorious for such considerations in test environments.)

Please consider that it is not about acquiring a label, or feeling discouraged because your environment does not fit your preferred and most effective learning and information processing style.
It’s about being more aware of the various styles and your personal preferences, in order to find more effective uses of your “extra” abilities. You may even want to experiment with the alternative dimension on the various scales compared to your innate preference.
For some, the results may (finally) offer an explanation why school did not give them what they expected and wished for. And why they continued their lives as they have done.

“So I’m not crazy after all!” and “So actually I’m not stupid!” are highly emotional statements, that may – after you have gotten over the shock – provide an opportunity to take an appropriate next step in your life.

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