When an Over-excitability Rears it’s Ugly Head

Today was rough, it was emotional and we are both drained. It’s only 12:30pm.

I have shared about our journey in previous posts, our challenges in the public school system and finding out about my son’s gifted qualities that lead us to the decision to homeschool. However, I haven’t shared too much about what giftedness looks like in our family.

If you’re not familiar with the term Gifted, no I’m not just proclaiming my son is a super smart little guy, not exactly.  “Some professionals define “gifted” as an intelligence test score above 130, two or more standard deviations above the norm, or the top 2.5%.  Others define “gifted” based on scholastic achievement: a gifted child works 2 or more grade levels above his or her age.  Still others see giftedness as prodigious accomplishment: adult-level work while chronologically a child.  But these are far from the only definitions.” – Gifted 101, Hoagie’s Gifted Education Page.

Along with the IQ come many other ‘add ons’ including over-excitabilities of which we witnessed today.  I dropped off my son at his outdoor school for the day, like we have done the past 4 weeks on this day.  It’s a 1-day a week program for only 3 hours.  The group is small, only 7-8 kids in his age range.  Things had been going well but this week in particular was extra busy.  We had our standard homeschool community day on Tuesday, but instead of working from home on Wednesday we celebrated fossil day at the local museum.  This was a big deal because my son is incredibly passionate about all things dinosaurs and he was filled with joy and excitement most of the day walking through halls and viewing replicas of dinosaurs from our area.  He met a paleontologist and was able to talk to her about fossils.  It was fantastic!

The down side is, when you have one or more full and exciting days in a row there is usually a ‘let down’ period.  It looks more like a breakdown period! It didn’t help that we got to bed late on Wednesday and had to wake up early on Thursday.  All this combined increased the intensity of his over-excitabilities that popped up on Thursday.  My poor son was exhausted, emotional and couldn’t handle something as simple as someone accidentally knocking over his water bottle.  When I talked to him later he mentioned he was really sad about the water that spilled being wasted.

Emotional Intensity

You see, when we talk about something at home, learn something in school, my son takes it to heart.  When we talk about not wasting resources, he takes it seriously.  Now, he may not have thrown a fit and run off on a different day when he was more rested but he would still have been upset.

One of Dabrowski’s  Five Over-excitabilities is Emotional Intensity. It is reflected in heightened, intense feelings, extremes of complex emotions, identification with others’ feelings, and strong affective expression (Piechowski, 1991)

When I went to pick up my son I could see his disappointment in how he behaved.  When you have these extreme feelings you can’t help but have them.  You can be more aware and find tools to help you manage but you can’t pretend they’re not there and when you’re a tired 8 year old boy, it’s just rough.

My heart hurt for my boy but we talked and we will try again next week.  I’m so grateful we homeschool, that we get to choose what the best learning environments are for him, for us and explore new opportunities.

From the last 4 weeks my little guy has grown so much!  He used to be a little boy who didn’t like getting dirty, didn’t want creepy crawly things touching him in any way and definitely didn’t want to play with them, to now a boy who is treading water in creeks and playing with rolly-polly’s as he watches them crawl all over his arms!

Sometimes over-excitabilities rear their ugly heads but we won’t let that stop us, we will push on and we will keep on growing.

“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.” ~ Lyndon B. Johnson

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2 thoughts on “When an Over-excitability Rears it’s Ugly Head

  1. Hi there. I’m an adult with strong OEs and enjoy reading what other people have written about their experiences with this wonderful, challenging wiring. You mentioned gfitedness applies to your family in general. I wonder if you also have OE, and if so, whether it has persisted into adulthood. (Obviously, we generally learn to manage it by then, so it may not manifest the same way to external observers, but it’s still there. And I know as a child I caused my mom challenges similar to those you described here…!)

    1. Hi Jessie! So sorry for the late response but I feel like I never really noticed OE’s in myself until now (adulthood). Although now part of me wonders if this is just partly hormonal and comes with aging as well but I do know that I’ve always had emotional OEs. Moved deeply by many things, commercials, a song, a conversation. However, being unaware and having to create coping mechanisms from an early age I think I mostly learned to manage with them. Thanks so much for your comment!

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