A Personal Reflection on Complexity of Overexcitabilities and the Gifted Mind
As the conversation around authenticity continues to gain momentum, I feel compelled to share a personal anecdote that speaks to my own struggles with vulnerability. Authenticity has always been a fundamental aspect of my being, but opening up about my emotions poses a unique challenge. While I yearn to express myself honestly and openly, I am aware of how my words may impact those around me. I recognize that many people are not attuned to their emotional states, and therefore, sharing the intricacies of my experiences, especially in the workplace, are not always be well-received.
Within me lies a plethora of emotions, an intricate web of feelings woven so tightly that I dare not untangle them, for the fear of facing further marginalization within the unforgiving walls of the workplace. Despite this, I attempted to voice my concerns to my previous boss, hoping for a glimmer of validation and support. Instead, her response was a bitter pill to swallow. As a Senior Project Manager, she insinuated that my emotional sensitivity was a sign of weakness and that I should be more than capable of managing the professional demands that come with the job. This dismissive attitude towards emotional well-being highlights the prevalent disregard for mental health in modern workplaces.
Amidst the dark clouds of turmoil that had gathered over me, a glimmer of hope shone through the horizon two weeks ago. A transition in my department saw my previous boss leave and my new supervisor step in with her genuine and gracious personality. This change was a breath of fresh air that gave me a renewed sense of optimism that things would get better. My partner, who had borne the brunt of my complaints and criticisms about work, saw this as a solution to my work-related woes. In the midst of this positive change, I realized that I had burdened my partner for far too long with my work-related struggles. It was a humbling moment for me, recognizing that my complaints may have taken a toll on him. It reinforced the importance of having a support system, but also the need for me to take ownership of my struggles and work on finding solutions to them.
The past six months of my work experience have been nothing short of an excruciatingly arduous journey, akin to being trapped in an endless cycle of being punched repeatedly in the same tender spot, each blow amplifying the excruciating pain. The sheer magnitude of the burden I have been carrying on my shoulders is almost too much to bear, and has left me feeling drained, both emotionally and physically. Each day feels like an insurmountable hurdle, with each new challenge only adding to the weight of an already immense load. Despite my best efforts, the situation seems to only get worse with time, and I feel as though I am running out of options. The road ahead looks bleak, and the thought of continuing down this path is almost too much to bear.
The reality is, it was never solely about my former boss, or any particular individual I work with. Rather, it is about systems that were not designed with individuals like myself, and others with similar traits, in mind. Individuals who are highly sensitive, possess overexcitabilities, and wake up with a deep yearning for justice. Authenticity is at the very core of our being, and our passion for justice comes naturally, without any conscious effort. Although we are not alone, and there are numerous others who share our unyielding pursuit of justice, we often lack the thick skin seemingly necessary to endure this type of work.
However, I am cognizant of my overexcitabilities, which often result in heightened emotions compared to the average individual. It's essential to note that this does not equate to bipolar disorder, though some similarities in presentation may exist. I recognize and embrace my overexcitabilities, and I am conscious of how they may manifest in various circumstances. Overexcitabilities can manifest in various ways depending on the individual and the situation they are in.
There are five types of overexcitabilities: psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, emotional, and imaginational.
Psychomotor overexcitability is a unique and dynamic trait that manifests in individuals as high energy levels, an incessant restlessness, and a strong need for physical activity. These individuals are often characterized as being exceptionally active, fidgety, and have difficulty sitting still for extended periods of time. However, while everyone may experience some level of psychomotor overexcitability, those who possess it to a greater extent may find it challenging to contain their energy levels and experience difficulty in regulating their impulses.
As for myself, I relate to this overexcitability in a personal way. Those who know me well would agree that I exhibit such traits. My partner often jokes that I am a "puppy up, puppy down" kind of person, meaning that I am constantly on the move when I am awake. I have come to recognize and embrace the unique energy that comes with this overexcitability. My constant restlessness and need for physical activity can be seen as a challenge, but it is also an undeniable aspect of my personality. Despite the potential difficulties that come with this overexcitability, I appreciate the added energy and vitality it brings to my life. It is a part of my identity that I have learned to accept and even cherish, rather than view as a flaw or weakness.
Sensual overexcitability involves heightened sensitivity to sensory experiences such as taste, touch, sight, smell, and sound. Those with sensual overexcitability may be more sensitive to loud noises or bright lights, have a more refined sense of taste, or be more aware of subtle changes in their environment. If you came to my house would you find about dozen soft fur blankets, feaux velvet furniture, and lots of soft clothing items. I am extremely sensitive to light and will wear a eye mask to bed often and never leave the home without sunglasses, even on the gloomiest of days. Florescent lighting gives me migraines so I avoid any and all spaces with this lighting.
In order to cope with the overwhelming sensory experiences that I encounter on a daily basis, I have discovered a self-care ritual that has become an essential part of my routine. Taking a hot bath every day at 5pm has become a crucial method for me to ground myself and bring my focus back to my body after a long and often tense workday. The sensation of the warm water enveloping me is incredibly soothing and has a calming effect on my nervous system. Through the consistent practice of this daily ritual, I have found a way to release the accumulated sensory tension and stress that I encounter on a regular basis, which has provided me with a sense of renewal and revitalization. It is a critical part of my self-care routine that enables me to navigate my challenging work environment and maintain my well-being. Without the flexibility of working from home, I doubt I would have been able to sustain my current position for as long as I have.
The gift of intellectual overexcitability is a profound one, as those who possess it are blessed with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and an unparalleled curiosity. Their minds are constantly engaged in analytical thinking, and they possess a remarkable ability to scrutinize the world around them. These individuals have a powerful urge to question, delve deeper, and explore topics that fascinate them, making them the intellectual engines that drive innovation and progress.
As someone with intellectual overexcitability, I am grateful for my natural inclination towards analytical thinking and insatiable curiosity. I recognize that my thirst for knowledge is not unique, and that many individuals possess a similar drive to understand the world around them.While I am proud of my ability to question everything and undertake rigorous research, I am also aware of my limitations. Giftedness is a multifaceted phenomenon, and my overexcitability is just one aspect of it. I am mindful that traditional measures of intelligence may not fully capture my abilities and that there is always more to learn.
Despite my intellectual strengths, I am humble and constantly striving to improve. I recognize that there is much I do not know, and I am open to new ideas and perspectives. Ultimately, my goal is not just to accumulate knowledge, but to use it in a way that benefits others and contributes to a better world. This ability to make connections and see the big picture is a hallmark of giftedness, but it often goes unrecognized in traditional measures of intelligence. In professional settings, I have often encountered situations where my valuable insights and unique perspectives are dismissed, and I am unjustly perceived as arrogant or overconfident.
Unfortunately, this is a common experience for many gifted individuals who are seen as presumptuous or lacking in credentials despite possessing a deep understanding of the subject matter at hand. Despite possessing a wealth of knowledge and unique perspectives, they are often subjected to unwarranted skepticism and judgment, resulting in feelings of frustration and disillusionment. The lack of recognition for their expertise and insights can also leave them feeling isolated and misunderstood, as if their intellectual capabilities are being negated or belittled. It is crucial for society to recognize and value the contributions of gifted individuals and provide them with opportunities to fully utilize their talents and abilities.
Individuals who possess emotional overexcitability often experience the world in a more intense and profound way. This can manifest in an array of feelings, from heightened empathy to intense emotional responses to stimuli. Such individuals have a deep understanding of their own emotional states and are capable of accurately deciphering the emotions of others. They may feel an intense connection to the social and emotional aspects of the world, which can leave them feeling particularly affected by injustices and disparities.
For me, the plight of navigating inequitable government systems has become a constant source of distress and frustration for me. The overexcitabilities that are an inherent part of my personality are already a challenge to manage on their own, but when combined with the oppressive dynamics of the system, the toll on my mental and emotional well-being is amplified. The constant invalidation and marginalization can make it feel like an uphill battle just to have my voice heard and my contributions acknowledged. It's a deeply disheartening reality that can leave one feeling depleted and defeated.
Imaginational overexcitability is a fascinating trait that often characterizes individuals with a rich and imaginative inner life. These individuals tend to be highly creative and may enjoy artistic pursuits such as creative writing, storytelling, painting, or music. They are often drawn to beauty and aesthetics, seeing the world in a poetic and romantic light. People with imaginational overexcitability often have a profound appreciation for nature, and their heightened sense of imagination allows them to connect with the environment in a way that is deeply personal and meaningful. However, this trait can also make them vulnerable to feelings of intense sadness or despair. The vividness of their imagination can sometimes lead to a preoccupation with the darker aspects of life, such as suffering and pain. It can also make them more sensitive to the harsh realities of the world, and they may struggle with feelings of disillusionment or hopelessness.
Individuals with imaginational overexcitability possess a unique gift despite the challenges they face. Their vivid imagination and creative abilities allow them to perceive the world in a different and beautiful light. They often have the ability to inspire others with their unique perspective, and their idealistic view of the world can be a source of motivation and hope for those around them. For me, personally, my rich inner life is like an active painting, and I find comfort in it even in the midst of the external chaos. I am an idealist who sees the world in poetry and music, and I cannot imagine a world void of aesthetics. I am grateful for this gift as it enables me to envision a world that is truly beautiful and strive to make it a reality.
It is imperative to comprehend that overexcitabilities are not a transient condition that can be remedied or resolved. Instead, they constitute an integral part of an individual's innate character and personality. Although it is conceivable to conceal or restrain these characteristics, the toll on an individual's emotional and mental wellbeing may be significant. Suppressing one's natural tendencies can lead to inner turmoil and an unbalanced existence, which may result in negative consequences that affect all aspects of life. It is vital to acknowledge and embrace one's overexcitabilities, as they offer a unique perspective and allow for a fuller, more authentic expression of oneself.
In our society, overexcitabilities are frequently regarded as a weakness, a sign of emotional instability or lack of self-discipline. We are conditioned to value stoicism and composure over emotional expression and vulnerability, which leads to a negative perception of those who exhibit overexcitabilities. Nevertheless, it is crucial to acknowledge that these characteristics can also have significant benefits. The vivid and intense emotions of overexcitability can fuel creativity and innovation, while heightened empathy can enable a deeper understanding and connection with others. Furthermore, the strong sense of justice and fairness that often accompanies overexcitabilities can be a powerful force for positive change in the world.
When individuals with overexcitabilities are met with skepticism or indifference, their very essence can feel disregarded, leaving them with a deep sense of emotional pain. It is a profound disappointment when the people around them do not recognize the depth and intensity of their experiences, especially when they are rooted in a natural and unalterable aspect of their personality. This invalidation can make them feel isolated and disconnected from the world, as if they are living in a different reality from everyone else. It is important for individuals to feel heard, understood, and respected for their experiences, rather than being criticized or dismissed. By acknowledging and embracing their unique qualities, individuals can tap into their full potential and use their abilities to make a positive impact on themselves and the world around them.
It is crucial to acknowledge that overexcitabilities are a natural part of the human condition, but some people may display more persistent and pronounced traits of these phenomena. This can include increased sensitivity to emotions, heightened reactions to stimuli, and greater creative and imaginative capacity. The Overexcitability Questionnaire-Two (OEQ-II) is a useful tool for assessing the level and character of overexcitability in individuals. Upon completing the Overexcitability Questionnaire, it came as no surprise to me that I scored significantly high in all areas of overexcitability.
As I reflected on my results, I began to realize that these intense experiences are not anomalies, but rather an integral part of who I am. It was a profound moment of self-discovery, as I finally had a language to describe and understand the intense emotions and heightened responses that have shaped my experiences throughout my life. Though these traits can be challenging at times, I also recognize that they are a source of strength and creativity, and that embracing them can lead to a richer and more fulfilling life. By being aware of my overexcitabilities, I can better manage and channel my intense emotional responses in a positive way. It's important for others to recognize and appreciate these traits as well, rather than dismissing them as a weakness or liability. By doing so, we can create a more inclusive and accepting society that values and celebrates diversity in all its forms.
The daily realities of working within the current governmental systems have been a difficult and grueling experience, particularly for those who identify as marginalized or do not conform to traditional norms. The severe biases and lack of understanding towards individuals who present themselves in diverse ways can create an environment of fear and exclusion. Despite my strong desire to contribute to positive change, the bureaucratic processes in place can feel insurmountable, creating a profound sense of hopelessness and frustration. While I am torn between my desire to create change and my own well-being, I cannot help but question the sustainability of working within such a system, and what it may require of me to continue doing so.