What are Excitabilities?
One of the key concepts of Polish psychiatrist and psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski, MD, PhD (1902 – 1980) is that individuals with strong “overexcitabilities” are good candidates for higher level development.
Stephanie Tolan, a writer and advocate for extremely bright children, notes the original Polish word for psychiatrist Dabrowski’s concept of overexcitabilities or excitabilities can be translated more literally as “superstimulatabilities.”
See more in my post Intensity of the imagination: Precious and Phoebe in Wonderland.
Here are some quotes from the video by writer Stephen King, and actors Amanda Bynes and Sandra Bullock about having “teeming brains” – comments that seem to me are about the experience.
Stephen King has said:
“I’ve taken off two months, three months at a time, and, by the end, I get really squirrelly.
“My night life, my dream life, gets extremely populated and crazed.
“It’s as though something in there is running all the time.”
Actor Amanda Bynes, talking about going to college, once said:
“I have such a busy mind and it’s really hard for me to do one thing at a time. … It’s hard for me to sit still.”
Sandra Bullock has commented:
“I am a big ball of high energy and organization and structure. I’m controlling, and I want everything orderly, and I need lists. My mind goes a mile a minute.”
These Excitabilities are considered to occur in five areas: psychomotor, intellectual, imaginational, emotional and sensual. Many writers and educators consider the concept to be particularly relevant for gifted and talented people.
The title for this post (and video) is partly a reference to the book My Teeming Brain: Creativity in Creative Writers, by Jane Piirto, Ph.D., who notes in her article Themes in the Lives of Successful U.S. Adult Creative Writers, that her book title comes from the poet Keats who knew the experience well, writing in a sonnet about his “fears that I may cease to be / before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain…”
See more in my post: Pumping our teeming brain.
Giftedness consultant Lesley Sword describes Overexcitabilities 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. Overexcitabilities feed, enrich, empower and amplify talent.”
From her article Overexcitabilities in Gifted Children.
A resource book on this topic is Living With Intensity: Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitability, and the Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Adults, by Susan Daniels, PhD and Michael M. Piechowski, PhD.
[Also see my High Ability site post Excitabilities and Gifted People – an intro by Susan Daniels with a video excerpt from a webinar by SENG presented by Dr. Daniels: “Understanding Overexcitabilities – The Joys and the Challenges.”]
The authors explain, “Overexcitability is a translation of the Polish word which means ‘superstimulatability.’ (It should have been called superexcitability.) … Another way of looking at is of being spirited – ‘more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, energetic’…
“It would be hard to find a person of talent who shows little evidence of any of the five overexcitabilities.”
But they also note that many people may not welcome such traits: “Unfortunately, the stronger these overexcitabilities are, the less peers and teachers welcome them.”
In his book Why Smart People Hurt psychologist Eric Maisel notes that intelligence is a central aspect of our identity, and lists fifteen challenges every smart person experiences, which many people have in common, including:
“Dealing with a racing brain that, because it doesn’t come with an off switch, inclines itself toward insomnia, manias, obsessions, compulsions, and addictions.”
From my article Brainpower and The Smart Gap.
Dr. Maisel has an Academy for Optimal Living online course which addresses challenges such as:
“The surprising self-unfriendliness of a good mind: a mind that involves itself in personal inquisitions, torrents of self-recriminations, repetitive brooding, and other painful self-reprisals.”
[Related post: Brainpower and The Smart Gap – Eric Maisel describes this kind of pain: “It is a poignant feature of our species that we can contemplate intellectual work that we can’t quite accomplish.”]
“The unfortunate mannerisms, tactics, and tics, like jaw clenching, head scratching, nail biting, or cigarette smoking, that you use to canalize energy and reduce anxiety as you try to think.”
Learn more about his course: Why Smart People Hurt.