Jenny Brown (skywind8) wrote,
Jenny Brown

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Book! and Intensity and Group Dynamics

I am reading Living with Intensity - and actually read about 2/3 of it already tonight since it arrived in the mail today.

The full title is: "Living With Intensity: Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitability, and the Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Adults" which hints at the rather clinical language used throughout the book. It's definitely written with therapists as a primary audience. Regardless, it's a pretty cool book, in that it goes into some depth about all the different areas of emotional difference that come with giftedness, er, 'being smart.' It especially dives into overexcitabilities (OEs) and Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration. (Those are short articles from SENG's list of articles on social and emotional aspects of giftedness - an excellent intro set.)

But, those words don't do justice to WHY I'm reading it or what I gained already tonight.
* the realization that I deeply need friendships which mirror back my intensity and passion
* the realization that some of the traits that irritate me in coworkers are also OEs and actually indicators of good things
* the realization that a few of my own annoying traits (yes they bother me too) are also driven by OEs, and while I may be able to adjust their expression, I can't "eliminate" that which is essentially me

Probably the single biggest for me, though, is getting a gut level "oh yeah, that!" on the idea of mirroring and having someone who can reflect back the intensity, passion, verbal connection, and imagination that I have. I have a lot of years of experience of people not understanding me, or my feelings, or my hopes, or even actively telling me that it doesn't matter, don't worry about it, it's no big deal; dismissing my feelings and needs. I have very little experience with validation until pretty recently. And it's so rare that someone has enough time to connect, even if they do have the passion for it, and it also relies on seeing each other enough to build comfort and a strong foundation of shared interests, so the conversation can go deeper than surface events and casual games.

Then to complicate it further, since I rarely get to share with intensity at emotional depths for hours/days at a time, the experience of doing so tends to draw me past friendship and into attraction, which is usually highly inconvenient, depending on the person. (Doh.) I feel a bit less strange about that, however, since reading in the book about it being a really common effect among gifted teens -- that when they finally find authentic connection and intellectual peers, there's a strong tendency for romantic relationships which may or may not be a practical way to connect. It comes with the intensity. And the emotionality and intensity can knock me off course by complicating a friendship. Not that I get much choice in the matter of attraction.

Anyway. Much of my life in the last several years has been about learning to quiet and make moderate my intensity, to try to make practical things work better. Simplify conversations, make peace, etc. Some of that is my own need for safety and peace in my environment. And some is, well... hm. What's the word for a blend of overbearing, stuffy, formal, grudgingly tolerant, cooperative, and wary? Something like that.

My power is trying to find ways to shine, and I want to find ways to let it. And I think, since others mirroring my thoughts, feelings, and experiences back, seems such a foreign experience, that I've probably had rather little of it over the years. I was simply always the one who was "different" - no one was like me, so it seemed that of course no one else had experiences like mine. I finally just settled on always being alone with that. It was settling, though; I wanted more.

Of the OEs (psychomotor/activity, sensual, intellectual, imaginational, and emotional) I have all of them, though psychomotor somewhat less than the others. It still comes through in verbal enthusiasm, and if someone responds well to that, I get more expressive with my whole body too. I often don't feel secure enough to do that, though.

The one I have the hardest time living with is emotional - relatively innocuous conversations or (especially) turn-taking slips around me can set off a surprising intensity in my verbal reactions. I get cranky with people and it surprises even me. It's triggering, yet unpredictable; at best, I notice it once it starts and try to modulate it in the moment. Never easy tho. (And of course... what I worry about for days was objectively no more than 5 seconds of interaction. Heh.) But it made my rock unsteady, and I got crabby at someone, and that bothers me. I expect more of myself. And yes, it takes time to grow into that.

Anyway I stayed up way too late but it was excellent reading and I have a lot of thoughts on ways to share this around groups where the dynamic is happening and I'm not sure we're consciously aware that OEs from giftedness are probably playing a large role. And my own need for intensity and intense verbal expression is also likely contributing to my random outbursts at times I consider inconvenient, meaning beneath that is an unmet need for that expression in healthier ways. I'll have to see what I can figure out for that.
Tags: gifted, leadership
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