The Power of Being “Too Sensitive”
Perhaps you grew up being called a “cry-baby” or perhaps you have a child who insists you cut the tags out of all his shirts. You may have heard people say, “You’re too sensitive.” Maybe someone has commented, “Cutting out tags? Why do you put up with that from your child?” Being overly sensitive has a bad rap. And yet, being “overly sensitive” can lead to moral development and great achievements when supported.
The different ways of being overly sensitive were labeled overexcitabilities by Dr. K. Dabrowski (1902-1980). There are five types of overexcitabilities which present with challenges, gifts, and potential. Usually a person has more than one.
- These individuals are often active and express themselves physically. They love to move.
- They do best with regular opportunities to move, with an organized environment, and can benefit from downplaying competition.
- These individuals are highly attuned to their senses and experience the world deeply through them. They are sensitive to strong stimuli like loud noises, strong smells, itchy clothing, bright lights, etc.
- They can be supported with opportunities to enjoy their senses and with means for controlling distracting stimuli, like earplugs when in a noisy environment.
- These individuals are highly creative and can easily slip into their own fantasy world or have vivid dreams.
- They can be supported with encouragement to apply their imagination to the everyday world and may need gentle help differentiating between fantasy and reality.
- These individuals are curious by nature and seek knowledge and truth. Their mind races through ideas and they love puzzles and logic.
- They should be encouraged to harness their ability for problem solving and need guidance in becoming sensitive to others.
- These individuals feel deeply and are sensitive to others, easily perceiving emotions and reacting to them. They often have deep connections to people.
- They need support in accepting emotions and learning how to keep themselves from being flooded by them through outward expression and coping skills.
If you can see yourself or your child in any of these descriptions, rejoice! You have the ability to experience life deeply, live your life passionately, and make a difference in the world through this gifts.
“[Overexcitabilities] represent the kind of endowment that feeds, nourishes, enriches, empowers, and amplifies talent” (Piechowski & Colangelo as cited by Silverman, 2008, p. 161).
With these greater sensitivities children grow into adults who are artists, scientists, philanthropists, judges, and athletes.