Too Much, or Just Right?

The theme intensity continues to intrigue me. Recently I was working on a presentation with the title: “Enjoying your extra intensity.”
My attention was drawn by the original term for what has become known in English as “Overexcitability”. The Polish word used by Dabrowski “nadpobudliwość“ is more correctly translated as hyper- or superstimulatability. It is a diagnostic term in the context of the stimulus-response study of the nervous system: Little stimulus leads to many responses and the responses persist a long time.

Why too much?

Mellow Out book coverWhy did the translator at the time choose to translate something that designates “very much”, with TOO much (Chambers: over- is: excessively, to an unwanted degree)?
This is strongly reminiscent of statements in the style of the Ten Reproaches (see web page). “Those people are always so sensitive about nothing.”
Michael Piechowski mentions in his book “Mellow Out,” They Say. If I Only Could that the expression is not ideal, but too established in research literature to change.
He suggests using heightened excitability and aliveness wherever these substitute terms will serve.
I decided at the time to coin a different term: extra receptivity (Xr for short), as one of the facets of your Xidentity.

Are you usually neurotic or irritable?

I can easily imagine that a psychiatrist or any mental healthcare professional will often encounter patients whose superstimulatability has led to personal problems and great mental distress. For them, it is practical to use a word like Overexcitability: the innate physical condition is (probably) the cause of the problems.
So if the patients can get rid of the “over-“ part of their excitability, their problems should become less.

How is it like to be you?

But what if you want to acknowledge and explore the personal experience that your own nervous system (including your brain) reacts in various situations clearly stronger, more complex and longer than is normal for many people around you? What if you would like to describe that quality on your Resume? What if you want to use it to the max, instead of worrying about it and trying to suppress this abnormal trait?

Maybe then the word superstimulatability is more acceptable and inspiring for your professional and personal development. Suddenly you may realize that this capacity brings you the physical building blocks for all kinds of talent; something you should cherish rather than suppress.

Fruitful uses of those building blocks

Playing MusicWhat can a strong, complex and enduring response of a given stimulus bring you?
A cook who is able to distinguish and remember very many different flavours and smells, has a professional edge over someone who can’t.
That applies similarly to hearing abilities for a musician, or visual-spatial capabilities for an artist or architect, or discerning motor skills for an athlete, and so on.

And what about someone who, after observing a problem, immediately considers and analyses all possible solutions and who may still be evaluating options the next morning. While the people around her may not have noticed yet that there is a problem.
Does that sound familiar?

Where do I want to go?

In my opinion, thanks to the brain research of recent years, the evidence accumulates that having special talents and giftedness share a similar “neurological uncommonness” that can conveniently be called superstimulatability.
People with this capacity usually develop an uncommon strong skill in one or more domains. This can be anything: science, all kinds of craftsmanship, sports or the arts, even management.

Often this superstimulatability extends to the realm of perceiving and dealing with one’s own feelings and emotions. But there are countless variations between people in the nature and extent of this emotional superstimulatability. Some variations may be prone to an emotional instability. That may indeed cause the so afflicted to visit a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Accepting your intensity is relieving

Dabrowski young manAs mentioned in a previous blog (Welcome your intensity), for many XIPs their intensity is a somewhat problematic feature, both in the “very much” and the “very emotional” variety. I already referred in that blog to the connection with Dabrowski (see opposite) and the notion of extra receptivity.
While writing this blog I (finally) noticed that my webpage on Extra Receptivity had a rather defensive atmosphere, consistent with my own inhibitions at the time of my writing.
It has given me great satisfaction to modify that webpage and I warmly invite you to read the page again for your own possible acknowledgement.

Just Right!

You really are not helping yourself when you consider your “extras” to be actually “too much” beforehand. Rather try to imagine that you have received these qualities in a proper dosage to shine and show what you have got to offer to the world.

I have even been wondering lately whether suppressing one’s intensity because of worries about the “too much”, in fact causes personal blockages and a surplus in the wrong places. Metaphorically described: constrict the bed of a fast-flowing river and before you know it, you will be struggling with a large reservoir that causes various floods upstream and water shortage downstream:
An additional reason to be reluctant to define yourself as being over-something and start worrying.

The superstimulatable family

Painting Family tree

Mariska Mallee, “Family Tree”

The kind of giftedness that leads to high grades at school is usually highly regarded, compared to the possible results of unusual talents. That is why often a kind of dichotomy may arise in families between the “gifted child” and the siblings and parents. I think that is sad for two reasons:

  • It isolates the child (at home).
  • It denies or ignores many similar qualities of other members of that family.


In other words, I would assume that superstimulatability as such is very heritable. But the domains of application within a family (taking both children and parents into account) may vary considerably. By seeking out everyone’s own fields of unusual intensity, by appreciating them and encouraging further development, I would expect a more balanced personal development and a warmer space at home for all involved as a result.

Allow the similarities in terms of degree of intensity to surprise you – within your family and beyond – rather then continue excluding each other, based only on differences in a particular kind of intelligence.

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