Overexcitability

Understanding “overexcitabilities”  is important for educators  in order to support the highly able learner’s sense of self. The term “overexcitability” (OE)  in itself might cause confusion at it seems to elicit the notion of “too much.” Contrary to this interpretation, OEs may more succinctly be seen as a different quality of experiencing the world (Piechowski, 2014). These heightened experiences stem form the nervous system’s ability to become excitable and for highly able learners the capacity to maintain and create this energy is greater, consequently the reference to “over” in the term OE. In other words, while every person experiences the world through their perceptions and as such experiences excitability, for highly able learners, these experiences are richer, more complex and more intense (Piechowksi, 2014).  These experiences can elicit great joy and eventually might propel the individual to a higher level of personal development. Paradoxically, while the OE experiences are integral to their developmental potential, these OEs may place the highly able learner at risk for social and emotional issues not necessarily because of he OE’s per se, but as a consequence of how people respond to them (Piechowksi, 2014).

FORMS AND EXPRESSIONS OF OVEREXCITABILITY
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PSYCHOMOTOR
Surplus of energy

  •  rapid speech, intense physical activity (fast games and sports), pressure for action (organizing), competitiveness

Psychomotor expression of emotional tension

  • compulsive talking and chattering, impulsive actions,
  • nervous habits (tics, nail biting), workaholism, acting out

SENSUAL
Enhanced sensory and aesthetic pleasure

  • seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, hearing; delight in beautiful objects, sounds of words, music, form, colour, balance

Sensual expression of emotional tension

  • overeating, buying sprees, wanting to be in the limelight

INTELLECTUAL
Intensified activity of the mind

  • thirst for knowledge, curiosity, sustained concentration, avid reading, keen observation, detailed visual recall, detailed planning,passion for precision

Penchant for probing questions and problem solving

  • search for truth and understanding, tenacity in problem solving

Reflective thought

  • thinking about thinking; love of theory, analysis, and logic;
  • oral thinking; independence of thought (sometimes very critical)

IMAGINATIONAL
Free play of the imagination

  • frequent use of image and metaphor, rich invention and fantasy,detailed visualization, animistic and magical thinking

Capacity for living in a world of imagination

  • predilection for magic and fairy tales, creation of private worlds,imaginary companions; dramatization

Spontaneous imagery as an expression of emotional tension

  • catastrophizing, elaborate dreams, phantasms

Low tolerance of boredom

  • need for novelty

EMOTIONAL
Feelings and emotions intensified

  • extremes of emotion, complex emotions and feelings,
    identification with others’ feelings, awareness of a whole range of
    feelings

Strong somatic expressions

  • tense stomach, sinking heart, blushing, flushing, pounding heart,sweaty palms

Strong affective expressions

  • inhibition (shyness); enthusiasm, ecstasy, euphoria, pride; strong affective memory; shame; feelings of unreality, fears and anxieties, feelings of guilt, concern with death, depressive and suicidal moods

Capacity for strong attachments, deep relationships

  • strong emotional ties and attachments to persons, living things,places; attachments to animals; difficulty adjusting to new environments; compassion, responsiveness to others, sensitivity in relationships; loneliness

Well-differentiated feelings toward self

  • inner dialogue and self-judgment

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From Michael. M. Piechowski (2014). “Mellow out, They Say. If I Only
Could.” 2nd ed. Unionville, NY: Royal Fireworks Press (posted with permission from Piechowski)