Why I Refuse to Call Them Overexcitabilities

I understand that my name will not go down in history as a great theoretician.  I most likely will not compile my own research and develop a personality, family structure, or any other kind of theory.  As such, I have a great deal of respect for the minds and people who do.  People with amazing innovative minds and who develop brand new theories impress me.  I do, however, reserve the right to think critically, analyze, and disagree with these amazing minds and theories.

Kazmierz Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration is oft cited in gifted literature, as I believe it should be.  His uncovering and explanation of “overexcitabilities” has changed countless lives as they understand themselves and other people better.  His work continues to be invaluable.

I regularly reference his work as I’m meeting with gifted kids, their parents, and other gifted adults, and I always come across as some sort of mind-reading, all-knowing superhero.  It’s a bit of an awesome ego-booster, if I’m honest.  Dabrowski’s identification of these traits allows me to identify gifted individuals before they even talk about their academic prowess or intelligence or even much of their interests.  Once you understand the psychosocial traits of gifted people, they’re pretty easy to spot.  And then, I get to provide information about Dabrowski’s “overexcitabilities” and my clients’ eyes light up with recognition.  “Wow!” they say.  “You totally just described my daughter!”  “How did you do that?”  the kid will say.  “It’s like you jumped inside my brain!”  You seriously should try it sometime.  It’s kind of an awesome feeling to be able to understand someone and help someone feel understood simply by spouting off some information.

So, for what it’s worth, I know that Dabrowski hit the nail on the head . . . except in the one way that he got it wrong.  The label.  I cringe at the word overexcitability, and so I refuse to use it.  Here’s why:

Our gifted kids are so frequently told that they are “too much” that they don’t also need to have the people who can truly understand them and how they experience the world tell them they’re overly excitable.  Gifted people aren’t overly anything.  They are wired just as they should be.  “Overexcitability” implies some sort of judgment, and I just don’t think that’s helpful.  Gifted people are not “too” sensitive.  They just experience intense emotions.  They are not “too” talkative.  They just have an intense compulsion to talk.  They are not “too” squiggly.  They are intensely energized.  They are not “too” intense.  They are just as intense as they were designed to be.

If you’re familiar with any of the gifted literature, you’ve probably picked up on the substitute word I use . . . intense.  And yes, I’m borrowing the label from Daniels and Piechowski’s book, Living with Intensity.  Our gifted kids and adults do not “over” experience the world, they simply experience the world intensely.

So, thank you Dr. Dabrowski.  I will gladly use your information and astute observations.  But, I refuse to use your word.