In the field of gifted education it is often not well known that giftedness has an emotional as well as a cognitive substructure: cognitive complexity gives rise to emotional depth. Gifted children not only think differently from their peers, they also feel differently. Michael Piechowski explains this difference in feeling as intensity; an expanded field of subjective experience.
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It is not a matter of degree but of a different quality of experiencing: vivid, absorbing, penetrating, encompassing, complex, commanding-a way of being quiveringly alive". The Overexcitabilities Emotional intensity can be understood as a positive characteristic for gifted children in the context of Dabrowski's theory of Emotional Development. Emotional development proceeds as a function of the interaction between the individual's developmental potential and environment. Developmental potential is constituted of a person's talents, intelligence, five forms of psychic overexcitability and the capacity for inner transformation.
Dabrowski ; Piechowski Overexcitability expanded awareness and a heightened capacity to respond to stimuli of various types is a translation from a Polish term which means the capacity to be superstimulated. The term overexcitability was chosen to convey the idea that the stimulation is well beyond the common and average in intensity and duration. The difference in intensity and sensitivity is not only greater than normal, it is also a difference in the very quality of experiencing. Overexcitabilities can be thought of as an abundance of physical, sensual, creative, intellectual and emotional energy that can result in creative endeavours as well as advanced emotional and ethical development in adulthood.
As such, they are a positive force for the gifted, as they feed, enrich, empower and amplify talent. Piechowski Psychomotor - surplus of energy, restless, curious Sensual - sensory and aesthetic pleasure Intellectual - strong signs of analysis and synthesis, theoretical thinking, probing questions, learning, problem solving Imaginational - vivid fantasy life, spontaneous imagery, sensitive to imaginary realities Emotional - intensity of feeling:, complex emotions and feelings, extremes of emotion, sensitivity, identification with the feelings of others, difficulty adjusting to change.
Dabrowski ; Piechowski, cited in Silverman, Emotional Overexcitability High levels of Emotional Overexcitability are exhibited by gifted children, adolescents and adults as the capacity for emotional depth. The depth and intensity of emotional life are expressed by the gifted through a wide range of feelings, attachments. While these are normal for the gifted and appear very early in gifted children, they are often misunderstood as signs of emotional immaturity rather than as evidence of a rich inner life. Intensity of feeling: positive feelings, negative feelings, extremes of emotion, complex emotions, identification with others' feelings, laughing and crying together.
Relationship feelings: emotional ties and attachments, concern for others empathy , sensitivity in relationships, attachment to animals, difficulty in adjusting to new environments, loneliness, conflicts with others over depth of relationship. Feelings toward self: self-evaluation and self-judgment, feelings of inadequacy and inferiority.
Descriptions of emotional intensity experienced by gifted people include the following:. I am often overwhelmed by emotion. At these times I feel the need to cry and not control it, to sit in it and make sense of it. This emotional intensity is a strength that supports my personal growth. Sometimes my feelings are so strong that my heart races, my chest feels tight and I can't catch my breath. Whenever I am called on in class a tide of red rises up and ungulfs my face. It burns so much that I am sure everyone can see it.
When I kill a fly or an ant or any other insect, I suddenly get a feeling like "should I have done that? That's really like going and killing a human being. I bet the animals have their own life, feelings. They must because they are really intelligent". The next time a fly gets in the way, I'll just let it go because I feel guilty. Sometimes the beauty of trees flowering or birds singing fills me with awe and I just stand there not able to move. Two boys were fighting in the school ground and I burst into tears.
I couldn't stand to feel their pain and cruelty. The other children called me a baby and a wimp. The teacher told me to act my age. I pick up other people's feelings.
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I don't know how I do this. It's like being hit by a bag of sand on a rope. It's like walking into someone else's life. I am overwhelmed by these feelings. Sometimes I am completely in touch with a person.
It's weird and compelling at the same time. I just want to reach out to them. I don't even have to have spoken to them. I was in class and a wasp flew in the window.
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The others were frightened and the teacher chased it and killed it. It took a long time to die. I could feel its pain inside me and I cried and shouted at them all at the same time. Nobody understood I am a person who has feelings I have friends.
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I love life Emotional Immaturity or Emotional Intensity? Michael was 4 years old when his mother took him to see the movie "Charlotte's Web". He left the theatre sobbing uncontrollably because the spider had died, leaving her children alone in the world. He cried for hours that day and continued speaking about death and sadness for months afterwards. His parents were concerned as he withdrew into himself. His teacher said that he wouldn't mix with other children and didn't want to play with his friends.
Thomas, 7, is described by his teachers as a shy and sensitive boy who is very aware of the needs of other children. In class, he is quiet and hesitant to do activities until he has had time to watch and evaluate them. He is, at times, uncomfortable with the noise and activity level in the room and displays extreme emotions during these times, often crying. Rebecca 8 was working happily on her drawing in class when suddenly she threw it to the ground, stamped on it and burst into tears, yelling "it's not right, I can't do it right".
Annabel 6 taught herself to read and write before she started school. She loved books, particularly The Hobbit, which was her favourite. In her first at school she was made to read at the level of other children her age and she became withdrawn. The teacher said that she had poor social skills. In her second year she was frustrated and angry and began to misbehave and disrupt the class.
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The suggestion was made that she should attend counseling to correct her oppositional and anti-social behaviour. Heightened sensitivity to things that happen in the world is a normal response for gifted children. However they may see their own intense inner experiences as evidence that something is wrong with them.
Other children may ridicule a gifted child for reacting strongly to an apparently trivial incident, thereby increasing the child's feeling of being odd. Also, sensitivity to society's injustice and hypocrisy can lead many emotionally intense gifted children to feel despair and cynicism at very young ages. The Colombus' Group's definition of giftedness includes both the cognitive and emotional components and encompasses the concept of asynchrony. Silverman Asynchrony in the gifted means a lack of synchronicity in the rates of their cognitive, emotional and physical development.
This lack of synchronicity creates great inner tension, as when a five-year old child perceives a horse through eight-year-old eyes but cannot replicate the horse in clay with her five-year-old fingers and so screams in frustration. Morelock Roedell discusses the unique vulnerabilities of gifted children that are associated with asynchrony: areas of vulnerability include uneven development, perfectionism, adult expectations, intense sensitivity, self-definition, alienation, inappropriate environments and role conflicts.
The gap between a child's advanced intellectual capability and more age-appropriate social and physical skills leads to unrealistic expectations for performance. Young children become frustrated when their limited physical capabilities prevent the construction of the complex projects created in their extremely capable imaginations.