I wish I had known about Dabrowski when my children were growing up. My oldest was 7 before I knew it wasn’t natural to be able to learn something new the first time he heard it. It would have helped to know that his temper tantrums were related to the speed and intensity with which he experienced his emotions. My daughter was dramatic, which appeared as attention-seeking to the untrained eye. My middle child could fix anything, although he didn’t always put things back together after he had taken them apart. All of these events occurred because my children were exceptional learners. The five areas defined by Dabrowski as Overexcitabilities (OEs) are: Emotional, Intellectual, Motor, Sensual, and Imaginational. Sal Mendaglio defines OE as “ a high level of reactivity of the central nervous system.”1
Let me interject here that my understanding of Dabrowski stems from attending one conference and reading one book, so it may not be entirely accurate.
Does your fourth-grade child feel like her world is ending because she can’t sing in the “Joseph” musical that rehearses until midnight every night? Have other children shut your child out and he is hurt and lost? Does he condemn himself for making stupid mistakes? These are all extremes of emotion children can experience when they have emotional hypersensitivity.
Intellectual OEs cause children to crave stimulation. It is often hard to differentiate the gifted child from the hyperactive child. Primarily, gifted children have a more intense focus. My son could build highways in the mud for hours outdoors on the farm. All three kids loved art activities that lasted all afternoon.
Psychomotor OEs allow a one-year old child to hold a pencil correctly or climb to the “forbidden cabinet” at 18 months.
Sensual OEs might make a child reject foods because of their texture or fuss about the tag on the back of the shirt.
Imaginational OEs can produce an imaginary friend or exaggerated vision of someone. My oldest once refused to go up the stairs to bed. When I pressured him, he said there was a bee on the stairs. I had told him that day the the opening in his pants was called a fly. Yes, there was a pair of pants on the stairs.
1 Mendaglio, Sal, Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration, Great Potential Press, Inc., 2008, p. 18.