The movies Precious, and Phoebe in Wonderland both have characters that make use of their imaginational intensity or overexcitability as part of their personality and a valuable way to deal with challenges in their lives.
What is intensity / overexcitability?
Stephanie Tolan, a writer and advocate for extremely bright children, notes the original Polish word for psychiatrist Dabrowski’s concept of overexcitabilities / excitabilities can be translated more literally as “superstimulatabilities.”
She summarizes, “It’s a stimulus-response difference from the norms. It means that in these five areas a person reacts more strongly than normal for a longer period than normal to a stimulus that may be very small. It involves not just psychological factors but central nervous system sensitivity.”
In her post Lessons from Precious: Intensity of the Imagination (on her Everyday Intensity blog) Lisa explains, “The theories of Kazimierz Dabrowski, a Polish psychologist and psychiatrist, have greatly informed our understanding of the social and emotional aspects of giftedness.
“He proposed five different kinds of intensities that many people experience: intensity of the intellect, intensity of the emotions, psychomotor intensity, intensity of the senses, and intensity of the imagination. Some people have nearly all of these intensities, while, in other people, one or two seem to predominate.”
She writes about seeing the movie Precious (yes, it has a longer ‘official’ title, but I’m going to use the shorter one), and finding “delightful surprise” in “the role and strength of the main character’s intensity of imagination.”
She quotes Michael Piechowski from his book “Mellow Out” They Say: If I Only Could: Intensities and Sensitivities of the Young and Bright, that intensity of the imagination means “free play of the imagination, capacity for living in a world of fantasy, spontaneous imagery as an expression of emotional tension, and low tolerance of boredom.”
It is manifested as “Frequent use of image and metaphor, facility for invention and fantasy, facility for detailed visualization, poetic and dramatic perception, animistic and magical thinking; Predilection for magic and fairy tales, creation of private worlds, imaginary companions, dramatization…”
Lisa says “The character of Precious… taps into her imaginative power and intensity to deal with the circumstances around her…”
Lisa Rivero is also author of the books Smart Teens’ Guide to Living with Intensity: How to Get More Out of Life and Learning, and A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Teens: Living with Intense and Creative Adolescents.
Imagination as journey into, as well as escape from
In her article Overexcitabilities in Gifted Children, Lesley Sword (Gifted and Creative Services Australia) summarizes Imaginational Overexcitability as: “vivid imagination: creative & inventive, a rich and active fantasy life, superb visual memory, elaborate dreams, day dreams, love of poetry, music and drama, fears of the unknown, mixing of truth and fantasy, great sense of humour.”
The latter may not apply to Precious – I don’t really know, as I did not see the movie; just the trailer looked too upsetting for me to want to sit in a theatre and experiencing the story.
But Precious apparently uses her imagination as many people do, to cope. Another comment by Lisa: “…one of the the movie’s most important messages [is] Our imagination can help to save us, if we allow it to.”
Exploring our psyche
Writer and director Guillermo del Toro has talked about his movie, with its richly beautiful as well as terrifying images, as coming out of his using art and imagination to explore the subconscious and supranatural. [See my post Writing from Your Subconscious.]
Obviously, many artists throughout history have used imaginational intensity in their work.
But the various kinds of intensity are part of many of us – adults and children – whether or not we are artists.
Elizabeth Mika (director of Gifted Resources in Northern Illinois), in an article about Dabrowski’s work, mentions the example of Cathy, “an exceptionally intellectually gifted 4-year-old, with strong emotional and imaginational overexcitability” who, according to her parents, “likes to scare herself on purpose, imagining that her toys come alive, that bubbles in the paint on the wall will turn into a forest, etc.
“But she does not like to be comforted then – she wants to work on her fears by herself.”
Phoebe in Wonderland
In the film, 9-year-old Phoebe (Elle Fanning) uses her intensity of imagination to help her cope with anxieties and other challenges, and also participates in her school production of “Alice in Wonderland” – art as healing.
She uses her vivid imagination to create imaginary scenes and people, which also leads her to act out some possibly obsessive self-punishing rituals to earn the role of Alice.
When Phoebe explains to her drama teacher Miss Dodger (Patricia Clarkson) that she can’t control her odd behaviors, Miss Dodger responds, “I want to tell you something which may not make any sense. But I should say it, just so that one day you might remember it and maybe it will make you feel better.
“At a certain point in your life, probably when too much of it has gone by, you will open your eyes and see yourself for who you are. Especially for everything that made you so different from all the other ‘awful’ normals.”
Quotes above are from my post Our high sensitivity personality: normalcy, wholeness, acceptance
Book: Living with Intensity, edited by Susan Daniels, Ph.D., and Michael M. Piechowski, Ph.D.
Highly Sensitive site
Page: Dabrowski / advanced development – quotes, books, articles
Articles by Stephanie Tolan on high ability/giftedness.
overexcitabilities, excitabilities, intensities, gifted teens, gifted children information, gifted personality, psychology of giftedness
Article publié pour la première fois le 23/05/2015