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Living with Intensity

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Gifted children and adults are often misunderstood. Their excitement is viewed as excessive, their high energy as hyperactivity, their persistence as nagging, their imagination as not paying attention, their passion as being disruptive, their strong emotions and sensitivity as immaturity, their creativity and self-directedness as oppositional. This resource describes these overexcitabilities and strategies for dealing with children and adults who are experiencing them, and provides essential information about Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration. Learn practical methods for nurturing sensitivity, intensity, perfectionism, and much more.

320 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2008

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Susan Daniels

19 books3 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 99 reviews
Profile Image for Allison Corbett .
13 reviews2 followers
July 25, 2010
Wonderful book for anyone who has ever felt or been told that they were "too much" or perceived that perhaps they just felt more than other people. As I read the beginning of this book I found myself crying because of how much it helped me understand myself. It offers a comprehensive view of "giftedness," what they term "Intensity," including 5 areas of OE or overexcitability. These authors view the emotional conflicts, intensity, and differentness of OE, intense, gifted individuals as potential for higher emotional development. Using Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration as a model, they explain the ways that what might sometimes be pathologized by untrained teachers, clinicians, and parents, can really be steps towards emotional development. That when we "disintegrate", we are then able to, potentially, re-integrate ourselves with a better understanding of ourselves and our world.

The book chronicles the common ways that OE manifests itself in children, how best to deal with OE children in a clinical setting, how parents can deal with an OE child, about OE parents, OE teenagers, and the ways that OE persists throughout a lifetime. Very specific topic, but an engaging book and fairly easy to read.
Profile Image for Shannon.
2,135 reviews53 followers
October 30, 2011
Amazing. This explained my life. It explained my students. It explained my friends. I was particularly interested in the section discussing the misdiagnosis of many gifted kids as ADHD because of their overexcitabilities. The information and research about gifted adults was particularly refreshing, as I haven't read ANYTHING else like this.

I'd recommend reading this book after reading The Drama of the Gifted Child.
Profile Image for Sophia.
230 reviews2 followers
August 8, 2011
This book really helped me understand other people. Weird huh? As a gifted adolescent you'd think that in the constant search for myself this would help illuminate all of my quirks and problems, in addition, perhaps, to solutions. Not quiet. Growing up i knew that i was "different" and i attributed this to many things. I knew that i was empathic, intelligent, creative et al... albeit i never tied these things together or looked at them holistically. All of these things were just personality traits that had nothing to do with anything. The problem was i've never paid much attention to norms. While ive never put myself at the center of things assuming that im normal and everyone else is not... neither have i understood how most people think or live. Growing up read biographies of people like Einstein and Jung and associated with unusual people if any. Its like a person born into a rich family, living in a mansion visits my one bedroom apartment where we have no wifi and no food in the pantry- i dont really consider myself poor until bills start coming in. Anyway, my point is people who have been rich their entire lives cant possibly understand what its like to not have money much in the way that i cant possibly understand what its like to live your life in a negative stage of consciousness not even attempting to improve your spiritual or moral or personal growth. Its like when i was taking psychology and the teacher was lecturing about Kholberg's moral development and told us that not a single person in this room was in the later stages because it just wasn't possible. And of course i gave her this "you have to be kidding" look because one: i didnt believe her and found her presumptuousness annoying and two: the thought astounds me and is difficult to accept... i cant even imagine defending a law for no other reason than the government said so anymore than i can understand the mentality of a serial killer. Not to say that i don't try... its just not something that i had thought much about until now. Not in an egocentric way but in an innocent and well-meaning way.
I do have that constant need to be doing things, i hate sleeping, i have so much energy and want to accomplish so much... now taht i realize not everyone can do that i'm going to take their needs into consideration more instead of assuming taht everyone can keep up with my Haruhi like pace... Im not going to stop doing things or take more breaks, but maybe spend more quality time doing useful things while other people rest. Like when other people go to sleep and i stay up to read books then wake up early to cook everyone breakfast... or maybe meditating because ive been neglecting that. See this is a healthy learning experience. Also i saw a book last night i wanted to read so much. Cant wait to buy it!
13 reviews
November 20, 2015
This is a hard book to review because I have mixed feelings about it. The most salient point is that this is *not* a practical book. I bought it under the impression that it would have strategies for day-to-day life, but it's a very theoretical book, containing essays about Dabrowski's theory of positive disintegration and how it can be used to understand the behaviour of gifted people throughout the lifecycle. As the chapters are contributed by different authors, they have very different tones, styles, and quality.

Some of the chapters are both interesting and well-written. I particularly liked chapter 9, about perfectionism. Unfortunately, other chapters take interesting ideas and bury them in turgid, magniloquent prose:

"If there is inadequate responsiveness or lack of proximity with a sufficiently reciprocal and synergistic environment, this profound transmutation between the inner and outer world can feel hopeless and devastating. However, a therapeutic encounter with an understanding clinician of sufficient capacity can help enliven and heal an individual and can help a client to discover his or her own resources to create connectivity with the external world."

Translation: feeling out of place usually makes you feel bad. Therapy can help.

Others chapters drip with self-importance:

"[Gifted teens] experience an overwhelming need to affiliate -- to find a place with others in a vital, life giving, and meaningful human context. Arising, too, is a not-to-be-ignored yearning to find meaning in existence -- both for ultimate knowledge and for engagement in a wider and deeper sphere of contact, influence, and experience...This intense, often turbulent period of life is characterized by vital thrusts of discovery, newness, feelings of urgency, and questioning."

Finally, chapter 12 is new-age woo that has no place in any kind of academic work. The author seriously argues that some people are "spiritually gifted" and have the ability to connect with the Divine (capitalization hers). An excerpt:

"One four-year-old girl saw angels at bedtime on a regular basis. Her parents feared that she was hallucinating and that something was seriously wrong with her...I was able to assure her parents that her experiences were real."

Another client who was distressed by a tree being cut down could supposedly "receive the intrinsic essence of the tree and its distressed vibration in reaction to being cut down." This was because the client "communicated with nature spirits". I cannot overemphasize that this is an exact quote. I don't care what the author personally believes, but the other essays in the book are academic in nature and cite peer-reviewed literature. This one and its "nature spirits" are sorely out of place.

One hallmark of a good book, for me, is how much time I spend thinking about it as I read and after I finish. This book was very thought-provoking and the concept of positive disintegration gave me a new way of approaching difficult situations. I'm glad I read it; however, the chapters are very hit-or-miss, so I'll give it three stars overall.
Profile Image for Susan.
Author 9 books73 followers
June 26, 2013
As a mom with three kids in the "gifted" program at school (quotes because I use the term loosely; I'm under no illusion that I'm raising the world's next Einsteins), I'm always on the lookout for books exploring various traits exhibited by such kids.

"Living With Intensity: Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitability, and the Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Adults" was great! It's really a compilation of articles by various authors, and especially highlights works inspired by the late psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski, who I regret is no longer with us. He posited that gifted individuals have various "overexcitabilities" to a much greater degree than the general population. The overexcitabilities he noted were psychomotor (a surplus of energy), sensual (enhanced sensory and aesthetic pleasures), intellectual (intensified activity of the mind), imaginational (free play of the imagination), and emotional (intensified feelings and emotions).

As I read through the book, it felt like I was reading a family history, because each member of our family has "overexcitabilities" in at least one of these areas. And while intensity/passion/whatever you want to call it can be a true gift, it's also exhausting to live with on a daily basis.

One thing I liked about Dabrowski's writings is that he viewed these "overexcitabilities" as positive features, not as pathological or negative features - as many teachers, sadly, do.

"Parenting a gifted child is like living in a theme park full of thrill rides. Sometimes you smile. Sometimes you gasp. Sometimes you scream. Sometimes you laugh. Sometimes you gaze in wonder and astonishment. Sometimes you're frozen in your seat. Sometimes you're proud. And sometimes, the ride is so nerve-wracking, you can't do anything but cry."

In this book, you'll learn more about the noted overexcitabilities and how they express themselves in gifted children, as well as in adults. You'll also learn parenting and teaching tips to use with the more-intense child. There are even sections on overexcitabilities throughout life and how individuals with these traits may change throughout the years.

The book is packed with great quotes: "Their excitement is viewed as excessive, their high energy as hyperactivity, their persistence as nagging, their questioning as undermining authority, their imagination as not paying attention, their passion as being disruptive, their strong emotions and sensitivity as immaturity, their creativity and self-directedness as oppositional. They stand out from the norm. But then again, what is normal?"

Although scholarly in tone, the book is still fairly easy to read. Recommended for all those who are - or who know - someone experiencing life "in a higher key."
Profile Image for Natalie.
698 reviews10 followers
June 26, 2013
This book is awesome. So far it's like reading a book written about my daughter :-)

I've read enough of it to know that I want to own it. I imagine I'll reference it off an on forever.

I did buy this and I just re-read the part on young kids again to recharge me :-) Intensity takes a lot of energy and I've been burning out trying to deal with her. She deserves better than that :-(
Profile Image for sologdin.
1,705 reviews608 followers
October 16, 2014
Popular psychology approach to education & parenting, employing Dabrowskian theory. Includes sections regarding adults, but the center of gravity is juveniles.

I'm finding Dabrowski's concepts very useful: overexcitability, multilevel development, asynchrony, personality disintegration, positive maladjustment, and so on.

Basis is that there are five levels of personality development, not related to age. Level I, primary integration, is animalistic, marked by concern for money & power. That describes the world, incidentally. Levels II-IIII involve inner conflict, a distinction between what is and what should be, vis-a-vis the internal and the external. Level V is hypothetical, and it is suggested that Christ might've achieved it; it dovetails with Maslow's self-actualization theory to some extent.

All that is great, but the whole thing fits well within a hegelo-marxist dialectics, wherein the internal conflict pushes to the point of crisis, at which time one might achieve "secondary integration," ultimately leading to "service to all humanity." It's slick.

Some facile presentation here, nonetheless, with the insistence on authenticity and a given internal real self seeking expression, as against impositions of the world. I'd suggest that the internal generally is inscribed by the external (what is this--innate ideas?), but with that amendment, am liking.

Volume refers to much academic research and clinical study, so it fulfills its promise as a popularizing volume. Essays are all high quality, some more rigorous than others.

Dabrowski himself has the distinction of surviving imprisonment in both the third reich and the Soviet Union.
Profile Image for Elizabeth Andrew.
Author 6 books121 followers
August 21, 2014
Revolutionary, at least in my little world. This book is essential for understanding giftedness, perfectionism, intensity, and human development. I most appreciate how Dobrowski's theory parses apart varieties of "overexcitabilities" (a clumsy, unhelpful term), to help me understand and be more compassionate toward intense people (myself included). I'm buying this one so I'll have it on hand to read again in a few years.
Profile Image for Emily Evans.
5 reviews1 follower
September 23, 2014
Excellent if sometimes emotionally difficult book on the psychological needs and experiences of the gifted with a focus on Kazimierz Dąbrowski's theories of overexcitabilities and positive disintegration. While it's primarily written about gifted children, there are a few articles on adults as well. It should be required reading for parents of gifted children, and I'd highly recommend it for gifted adults as well.
125 reviews4 followers
December 26, 2013
This book's greatest value to me was in helping me to understand my husband and my relationship with him. He is gifted, and that makes him both interesting and wonderful but also difficult to live with at times. It helps to understand that his differences are not unique to him, though they are uncommon. He is the kind of person who can talk passionately and at length on almost any subject. It's great, until I am exhausted. And he has certain sensitivities that I never realized were connected to his giftedness.

Another gift from this book was recognizing that both of my children are gifted, not just my younger one as I had previously thought. I didn't learn any new strategies for living with them, but I did get more insight into their world and I think that I am on the right track with them. I also got an idea of what the future may bring, and what I need to look for in educational opportunities for them.
361 reviews7 followers
November 15, 2011
This book talks about over-excitabilities and the theory of positive disintegration both ideas posited by Dabrowski that explain why gifted people do not fit in the norms for behavior.

It spoke to me as an adult gifted person. I read it because I felt that my children fit in this mold only to find out that I was in the midst of trying to deal with my own level 3 disintegration and deal with my own boredom brought on by not engaging my questing and creative mind.

A great find for parents of gifted children who are seeking answers for why their cold doesn't fit in as well as gifted adults who wonder why most people just don't get them. Well-researched and thought out.
Profile Image for QOH.
483 reviews21 followers
January 31, 2015
This is a mixed bag: some good essays, some meh, some painful. Useful if you need an overview of Dabrowski and wanted more than Wikipedia had to offer. It reinforced what I knew about myself as a child (and see in my own child), and that's either very nice or an example of cognitive bias.

(I don't know how much credence I give to personality theories in general, and as far as this goes, the research is incestuous. I'd like to see how well this weathers extensive academic scrutiny.)
Profile Image for Swankivy.
1,177 reviews133 followers
July 2, 2016
This book was maybe a bit of an odd read for me because I wasn't sure what to expect, and then after reading it, I wasn't sure how to apply what I'd read because it was sort of a hodgepodge of perspectives for a variety of apparent purposes. Some of the chapters described theory; some described case studies and examples; some seemed like personal narratives/biographies; some seemed like guidelines for teachers and therapists. Most of the stuff that interested me was anecdotal presentations of people having experiences that were similar to what I've dealt with for most of my life, and it was valuable to see those experiences translated into more technical language and put into place in a web of understanding, acknowledging that people who are gifted in some way or another tend to exhibit one or more "overexcitabilities"--and contrary to many traditional theories, these overexcitabilities are not a liability to be managed, extinguished, or explained away as mental disorders a person must work past to become productive and fulfilled.

I appreciated seeing this acknowledged, and though I tend to shy away from theories that conceptualize personality development in "levels" (since that subtly encourages people to actively try to achieve higher levels with the perception that climbing onto the next platform is a goal in and over itself, while I think it's more useful to observe personality evolution in retrospect), I do like that the theory of positive disintegration presents life's frustrations and setbacks as ultimately useful in moving forward. I never liked seeing life as a series of ups and downs, and with this theory, I think we can acknowledge the ups and downs in a spiral upwards rather than a horizontally undulating line. As the disintegrations happen and we build ourselves back up from them, we're still going "up" even if from our perspective we might backslide during a disintegration. (It certainly feels like it when you're at a low point.) But disintegration as described in this book does seem useful and sometimes necessary for becoming more of what you want to be.

I don't think I ever fully internalized the overall message of this book, which I guess is fine because it's pretty disparate sometimes so I don't know that there WAS "one" message, and though I don't know how applicable some of this information really will be to my life, I did think it was a special book that contained valuable insights. I connected most to the anecdotes and examples of gifted people dealing with various external reactions and internal pressures, and since the book was full of stuff-that-made-me-think-of-other-stuff, I decided my review would be best completed by sharing where I related. But first, some general observations:

1. I liked that the book said therapy should not exist to "cure" people. That's so aggressive, I think--this idea that people need to go to therapy and get themselves fixed, rather than learning to control their lives and obtain what they desire. It's to give people coping mechanisms, insight, and tools. Not to coercively retrain them to be something else.

2. One chapter pointed out that there's a tendency to assume people have lost their minds when they're trying to develop their true selves. Change, especially drastic change, is usually interpreted by outsiders as a negative thing, even if the person it's happening to (or who's making it happen) conceives it as positive or necessary. I thought that observation was clever.

3. The idea and question sheets were cool.

4. One thing I wasn't a fan of was the suggestions given for what adults should say to kids with overexcitabilities. I didn't need to hear the things they suggested adults say, and to be honest would have found them condescending. Though I guess if nobody else in your life was acknowledging your experiences, it might be more helpful.

5. I like that it's mentioned that some adults think all disintegrative states are negative and may push for normativity, as will one's peers. It's true!

6. Great point that stress comes both from the environment and from inside the self. I relate to that one a LOT.

7. I appreciate that in the chapter featuring exploration of spirituality, the text does not assume that being intelligent or "gifted" means you will logically come to the conclusion that there is no God. I don't personally believe in a God and my experiences with spirituality aren't religious, but I think it's a shame when people are dubbed delusional or less capable if their religious beliefs are central in their lives (unless those religious beliefs lead them to hurting others). I've explored some spiritual paths that led to altered states of consciousness and some transcendent perspectives, but I don't pretend to have conclusively determined the nature of reality from these. I just like that they aren't written off as unimportant or excluded as a route to personal growth.

And now for my own perspectives and anecdotes:

1. Maslow's hierarchy of needs is mentioned in this book a couple times. I remember studying it in college and having the teacher ask us to write an essay on which level in the hierarchy we thought we'd achieved. I immediately assumed claiming the "highest" level (self-actualization) would sound self-important and that the teacher would laugh at the idea of a college kid who thinks she knows herself already, so my essay was kind of preemptively defensive, examining the other levels and describing how I felt they had been satisfied in my life. My teacher returned my paper with comments in the margin saying she thought there was no doubt I was right, so I guess I didn't need to worry. Based on what this book says about self-actualization, I've probably been in a self-actualized state since I was pretty young.

2. Tying into the above, I remember an episode that was probably some kind of disintegration when I was in middle school. I was depressed--at least, the closest someone like me probably could get to depressed, but I didn't really talk about it--and I'd had a series of very bad experiences in school, followed by a scary time when my sister was being tested for potential glaucoma and I was freaking out worrying about her. And for some reason while I was wallowing in that--literally lying on my bedroom floor--I had this weird moment of clarity where I decided that I would give myself permission to be who I wanted to be. To leave behind the things I didn't like and didn't want to be from that point on and then just act like I was already the person I wanted to be for the rest of my life. I have no idea what prompted it, but I remember it very clearly. I was 12 or 13, I guess.

3. After the above incident, I didn't focus on myself much at all--I had no intentional focus on changing who I was for the better. I still had goals and aspirations, but I thought about other people a lot and what kind of help or attention they might need. I didn't want to abandon them or write them off just because they didn't have all their needs met or didn't know how to love themselves. Something I heard a lot during that time was that I had a lot of friends that were "losers." I gravitated toward people who needed a friend. Some interpreted this as a show of pity. Some interpreted this as if I was so desperate for companionship (no, I wasn't) that I would "lower" myself to hanging out with misfits, and therefore I was a misfit myself. I thought the whole idea was silly and just continued to be nice to people who were nice to me and who had needs that weren't being met. I've had mixed results with this throughout my life, though. Some people have become lifelong friends and others with serious problems that I couldn't "solve" reacted by taking advantage of me. It's a little hit or miss, but I don't think I'd have it any other way.

4. There's a bit in the book where the discussion of overexcitabilities led to conceptualizing gifted young people's anxiety over choosing a direction for their lives. I experienced this very distinctly. I had a lot of interests and passions, and adored being active in vocal music, visual art, and all sorts of writing. I eventually figured out that I CAN "do it all," but I probably CAN'T "do it all" professionally, and had to choose which to pursue, balancing between passion and realistic attainability. I eventually concluded that I tend to write about everything and that writing is the most natural conduit of my expression, while the other arts are just things I enjoy doing. In other words, I write about music and art sometimes, but I don't tend to make art about music or writing and I don't tend to make music about art or writing. Writing is the default. So I became a writer. A writer who draws webcomics and sings karaoke. Ya know.

5. When overexcitabilities were examined in detail in Chapter 3, I immediately thought about how adults gaslighted me when I was younger, though I didn't stop trusting my own internal sense of the reality, but I still began to know what to expect and still felt bad about it. And then the book literally echoed things adults would say to me, like "you're too sensitive." This kind of thing would happen when I didn't want to look at eyeballs or veins, or I didn't like the pressure of putting a heavy bag on my wrist and would insist on trying to carry it in less practical ways that didn't cause the discomfort, only to get yelled at as if I was being difficult for no other reason than to cause someone else some grief. Being scolded for feeling a certain way is apparently very common among people with overexcitabilities.

6. I really liked that the overexcitability examination of sensual experiences mentions that children are not trying to manipulate anyone by needing what they need. It drove me up the wall when adults thought I was saying what I needed out of desire to control them, and I especially disliked the implication that really my desires were dishonesty and simple rebellion. I actually felt really hurt by that (and kind of continue to feel hurt by that) when people suggest my expressed feelings are REALLY expressed for the purpose of hurting or reacting to THEM.

7. The book says gifted kids are often baffled by how other kids can be cruel, and are often interpreted as lonely even if they're not (just because they're more often alone). This is pretty much me. I have to say I preferred not to be around other people--not just because they were jackasses, either--and that cruelty was less of an individual hurt and more of a deep shock of "how the HELL can someone deliberately do this to someone else?"

8. I relate to the discussion of competitive behavior. I like competition and find it to be a good motivator, but I absolutely hated how people reacted if I beat them. It made me want to either not win or downplay the enjoyment of winning if I did. I got cut during tennis team tryouts because of stuff like this in high school--going easy on my opponent when she got super upset, and then letting her think she'd won when I'd already beaten her, etc. You know, only to find out that the scores she reported "counted" and I got cut because of it.

9. I like that the intersection of mental illness and giftedness was explored. Especially since lots of people interpret me as a perfectionist or as under a lot of stress--potentially to pathological levels. When I was a little kid I cried during a reading test because the introductory material had markings over the vowels that I'd never seen before. (They were to help new readers with long vs. short vowel sounds, but I was unfamiliar with them, thought it was some kind of trick or advanced notation, and got judged as having both extreme test anxiety and as reading at a rudimentary level.) Sometimes reactions we have are interpreted as extreme because those interpreting us don't actually know what's going on on a different level, and so they default to assuming it's a more traditional inability to handle a situation, or immaturity, or lack of ability. Since mental illnesses and anxiety and whatnot CAN coexist with giftedness, it takes a nuanced exploration and a patient evaluator to appropriately diagnose and interpret. Most of us are not fortunate enough to have folks with these skills controlling our education.

10. I related very much to the discussion of anxiety and conflict between real self vs. ideal self being an impetus to attain progress forward, as well as how disagreements are framed as the push a person might need to learn. I experience this all the time, and have become a better activist and a better writer because of having disagreements or experiencing conflict within myself.

11. I haaaaated being told that the intensity, duration, or frequency of something I enjoyed or something I felt was inappropriate. Hey you, stop feeling incorrectly! I can't even count the number of times I was told my reactions were exaggerated or that my response was concocted for sympathy or attention. And if I acted like being accused of such things hurt, that was "acting" and not genuine either. Like if I would be reading something and I laughed out loud, someone would respond to me as if I must have been making noise to get attention so I could be asked what I was laughing about and have the opportunity to talk to someone about it. The idea that my reaction was for someone else's benefit, to elicit someone else's attention, was really gross to me. I was certainly capable of saying "oh hey let me share this with you" if I wanted to, and I don't know why people thought if I had a reaction, it must have been a performance to make them pay attention to me or something.

12. There's a bit in the book where they discuss holding oneself to really high standards. Yeah, that's me. I definitely used to complicate tasks on purpose so they'd be interesting. A couple examples: In college I took a music class I was required to take for my major even though there was no way I actually needed to take it. We were asked to write songs to help kids learn things, and though the requirements of the assignment only asked us to teach to a certain standard curriculum item, I would do fancy things like write piano parts and include multiple verses and versions so the song could be used for several different grade levels, simplifying it or complicating it as necessary. (Like, I wrote a song about the planets, and each planet had its own whole verse, but if you just wanted an overview of the planets, the first line of each planet's verse could be combined into a separate all-planets song, and regardless of which you used, the stanzas would rhyme.) I had to do stuff like that to make it worth doing, I thought, since the actual requirements were boring. And in middle school, we had to make a world map and label a minimum of certain physical features. I labeled like a bajillion of them for fun, and then actually got marked down for a misspelling on a river even though I had exceeded the requirement fulfilled of X number of rivers. I felt like my teacher was trying to teach me a lesson for "showing off" or something because I didn't just do the minimum, so she had to mark me down on something. I tried to contest it and my teacher just said I should have spent more time doing the project right than doing more items with less accuracy. It made me really angry.

13. One of the chapters opens with quotes that have been said to people with overexcitabilities: "You have so much energy!" "I can't believe how much you do!" "Don't you ever slow down?" Welcome to my life. People talk about these aspects of my habits as if I'm hurting myself with these aspirations, and how even when I feel like I'm not very productive, I'm still doing more than the average person. My standards are really sky high and I hate when I don't meet them, but then I sound like a jerk complaining because other people don't do on a good day what I do on a bad one in some cases. And talking about it makes them treat me like I'm saying this because I want to brag. It's complicated.

14. There's a bit in the book about feeling that you have to hide what's different about you and that you consider your differences to make you "wrong." I actually never felt like that. I did sometimes feel like I had to hide or downplay something that was different about me, but I guess I never internalized that it was "wrong" to feel or do the things I did. I consider myself fortunate for this, because I've seen how perspectives like that can destroy people. I've definitely been shamed for some aspects of myself, but I feel like the shame didn't WORK, if that makes sense.

15. And lastly, I like the part about how some people think intensity is fake. There's an anecdote about a woman who is too bubbly, too enthusiastic, and people always reacted to her like this was manufactured even though it was genuine. I've had that reaction--people think that because I talk about who I am, what I've done, what I enjoy, or what I don't enjoy with a lot of intensity, it must be made up for effect or, again, to elicit a reaction that I must need or want for some maladaptive reason. I can be perceptive about others' motivations but I tend to treat them like they ask to be treated and take them at face value. I wish there was more of that in the world.

Anyway, I enjoyed being able to connect to this book's variety of presentations of giftedness and overexcitabilities, and I liked that it did put an emphasis on gifted adults too and showed some snapshots of what it looks like in young adulthood, middle adulthood, and older adulthood. I don't know how much I *learned* or how much I can *apply* in my life, but I do think it was valuable to just see what others have experienced and how people who study giftedness, overexcitabilities, special talents, disintegration, and various psychological and educational theories are incorporating these understandings into their practices.

Profile Image for Kavitha.
187 reviews51 followers
April 17, 2019
Have you ever been told that you are too much? That you are too sensitive or too intense or too persistent or too idealistic or that you analyze things too much or that you have too much energy, so much so that people often can’t believe how much you accomplish in any given day? I have been told all of these things by various people at various points in my life. But these messages were always delivered in a judgmental way that made me feel bad about being the way I am. If you can relate to this, then this book is for you. Or if you are a parent like me, who is raising a kid who is too intense, too passionate or too sensitive, and you want to learn more about how to effectively deal with this “too much”, then this book is for you.

I picked up this book initially to understand more about my sensitive and passionate children. But it helped me learn more about myself. It helped me embrace myself a bit more, which is why this was a 5 star read for me. The book is written by various professors and scientists. It is based on Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Integration, which views anxiety and mental tension as necessary for the growth of a gifted individual. I particularly loved the chapters on overexcitabilities (OE’s). Basically, gifted people are prone to OE’s. These OE’s fall into various categories like sensual, intellectual, psychomotor, emotional and imaginational. These OE’s, that are often misunderstood by the world, help gifted people accomplish extra ordinary things. The author’s argue (by backing up with results from research) that some gifted children have already accomplished the emotional growth of an adult.

There is a lot that I can say about this book because it really spoke to me. I read it slowly, taking copious amounts of notes along the way. As a parent raising children who are prone to OE’s, I got so many useful insights that I can apply in my life, both for myself and for my kids. There are lot of behavior related diagnoses out there whenever a kid does not fit into a regular mold. This book equipped me with knowledge so that I can advocate for my children against such quick diagnoses as needed.

Some words from the book that really spoke to me:

"You are not accidental. Existence needs you. Without you, something will be missing in existence, and no one can replace it."

"Parenting a gifted child is like living in a theme park full of thrill rides. Sometimes you smile. Sometimes you gasp. Sometimes you scream. Sometimes you laugh, sometimes you gaze in wonder and astonishment. Sometimes you're frozen in your seat. Sometimes you're proud. And sometimes, the ride is so nerve-wracking, you can't do anything but cry".

"The desire for self-perfection is painful, and not everyone is willing to experience that pain. This is what separates the person of high moral commitment in adult life from the apathetic person who is adapted to the limitations that currently exist in oneself and the world".

"Perfectionism applied to oneself may lead to higher accomplishment, whereas perfectionism applied to others leads to unfair expectations, disappointment, and resentfulness. Perfectionism that translates into trying again and again leads to success, whereas perfectionism that results in paralysis, avoidance, anxiety attacks, and withdrawal guarantees failure. Perfectionism facing forward leads to striving to create a better life, while perfectionism facing backward leads to self-flagellation, over concern with one's mistakes, and wallowing in self-pity. The key is learning how to set priorities. Instead of obliterating perfectionistic tendencies, I encourage gifted students to channel their perfectionism into what they care about the most".

"They tend to be fully present in the moment (sometimes oblivious to time and its constraints) and to imbue each encounter with relevance and meaning. Superficiality is unfamiliar territory for them, and they tend to go into far further depth in whatever they do or feel than others, thereby seeking and frequently finding great fulfillment even in everyday events - a sunrise, a chance encounter on a bus, a message from a friend, the laughter of children."

"If you will see me as I am
Then I can let you come inside,
Into a place
Where you can find
The treasures of my hidden mind.
I'll share my secret world with you,
Tell you my dreams,
My thoughts, my plans.
And then, at last,
Perhaps I can
Know who it is I really am."

"Their sophisticated thought processes allow them to grasp all the elements of a complex big picture, and they actually thrive on continual innovation and change".
"They realize they are intense, complex, and driven, but they have been taught that their strong personalities are perceived as excessive, too different from the norm, and consequently wrong"

"To find the source of all our power
Perhaps may be the quest
That we have set before us.
The journey is it's own reward
And has its own rewards
If we will only see them -
If we can only see them
As we travel on
To find our own true path".
13 reviews
December 16, 2015
Highly practical for gifted people. There is too much information in this book to provide a fitting summary, but I will try.

If, when you were a child, you were told you need to calm down, or that you overthink things, or that you're too sensitive, or that, perhaps, you need to learn to listen better, or that you need to stop fidgeting, this book essentially explains that you have some form of giftedness that, perhaps, may be presently suppressed a great deal. This book will help you understand why suppressing it will make you feel bad enough that you may not want to live anymore. I have been oddly close to this point over the years and very few of my friends and family members (and even therapists/psychologists) understood why - more importantly, I didn't either.

If any of those above descriptions resounds with you as they did for me, I can't recommend this book enough. It will help you free your mind so that you can understand the true nature of your self. You may not be willing to engage in all of the recommendations from this book, but in the meantime, understanding yourself is of critical importance in a world that seems, at times, to hate everything and everyone.

At thirty, I'm finally ready to be myself to everyone I know and stop feeling self shame. I believe that this book helped me understand this. For that reason, I need to recommend it fully. If I could've understood this earlier, I might have been able to become an even better person, but I'm wonderfully happy with my current life again due to the self-acceptance this book prompted me to discover.
Profile Image for Shannon.
141 reviews6 followers
March 14, 2010
I appreciated the parts of the book about overexcitablities, but I was expecting more practical information about how to live with OE or how to live with a child with OE. All the material about Dabrowski's theory of the levels of development assumes a belief in a humanistic transcendental experience of self-actualization as the ultimate goal of human experience.

"Level V is the perfection of the personality. It is life without inner conflict. It is a life directed by the highest guiding principles. At this amazing level of human development, the individual becomes a wise teacher, guide, and exemplar for others. Here, one achieves autonomy from the lower layer of reality fraught with confusion and violence. Life is lived in service to all of humanity, not in service of the ego. The motto for this highest level could be, 'All is love.' This is the transcendent potential for humanity--the greatest gift of Dabrowski's theory."

"Each has developed a means to 'enter the light' and reach up to Spirit, Divine Order, or God in times of joy and gratitude, as well as during times of need. They are moving toward embracing themselves, others, and "All That Is' and uniting with an order greater than their intellectual and emotional grasp. Spiritually, as well as in everyday mundane life, the 'I' begets the 'We,' which begets the 'All'--the cycle is a continuous flow--'I,' 'We,' 'All' are One. These individuals are each committed to knowing and living this truth."

Profile Image for Laura.
181 reviews1 follower
August 16, 2012
There were some really good insights in this book and they were laid out in an understandable and logical way. The concept of OE was extrmely helpful in seeing my child in a clearer light and understanding some of the challenges gifted children face. However, it was about 100 pages too long. All the garbage on research methodology and personal stories about people in the field of "giftedness" we're more than I ever wanted to know and not important to learning the material.
Profile Image for Jervaise.
191 reviews
July 17, 2019
Profound. I understand myself, my gifted students, and my gifted family and friends so much more. Explores all aspects of giftedness from early years to late adulthood. Some articles within were extremely powerful and thought provoking for me including those about Dabrowski’s theory of positive disintegration, perfectionism, nurturing OEs in young gifted, and about the three phrases of adulthood. My life & family in a nutshell. I definitely recommend.
Profile Image for Lamazone.
33 reviews84 followers
February 13, 2021
De gemengde reviews zijn interessant. Voor veel mensen voelt dit boek als 'thuiskomen' en een bevestiging dat jij en je gevoelens, karaktertrekken en gewoontes bestaansrecht hebben. Tranen van geluk! Vijf sterren! Voor veel mensen voelt dit boek als pseudowetenschap, fluff of onvolledig aan. Boegeroep en ontgoocheling! Eén ster!

Ik kan me vinden in beide standpunten. Het was voor mij het eerste boek met een theorie die mijn eerste veertig levensjaren verhelderde. Dat voelde heel erg fijn aan. De fluff of zaken waar ik me niet in kan vinden, laat ik wat links liggen. Ik las het boek ook niet van a-z maar pik er de zaken uit die me aanspreken en die me iets bijbrengen.

Ik gebruik dit boek als naslagwerk, referentieboek, onvolledige handleiding, startpunt voor verdere opzoekingen en introspectiekompas. Het helpt me mezelf beter te begrijpen,
Profile Image for Antoinette Perez.
466 reviews8 followers
May 8, 2013
This title was recommended by Amazon, and I must have seen the high average rating and clicked Buy. They could benefit from including the subtitle on the cover, or changing the cover to somehow acknowledge that this is a collection of pieces from academics and mental health practitioners. The book is not what I expected, which is to say that it was helpful in an entirely different way than I anticipated. I was hoping for "techniques for better parenting of an intense child," but what I got was a collection of essays or mini-academic papers on emotional intensity as related to a specific theory of personal disintegration I had never before heard of.

One of the best things to come from reading this is the idea that the emotional ups and downs my child is going through can be seen through a positive lens -- a necessary step for self-actualization (which many of us struggle through in our 30's and 40's, not when we are 8). The real challenge is in guiding this growth when the grower has a limited range of emotional experiences, having lived on earth for less than a decade. That was a good paradigm shift for me. I also got to reconsider the entire family dynamic in this new context. Still working that out in my head.

The how-to's are oversimplified in my opinion, and don't really address the challenge of how to advocate for your child within a dominant educational system that doesn't have your child's best interests at heart. In that sense, the book hasn't provided practical information for the challenge at hand, and I'm back to square one: it's my problem to figure out.

The writing style is often dry, with some chapters reading like they came straight from an academic journal. If you don't buy into that theory of positive disintegration at all, this book may not be helpful at all. But I guess I was ready for a bit of a brain twist.
Profile Image for Catherine Gillespie.
759 reviews40 followers
September 8, 2015
Living With Intensity: Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitability, and the Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Adults takes a much more academic approach, which was fine with me but might be dry if you aren’t really fascinated with the topic. I found that there were several chapters I only skimmed, while others I took time to read slowly and carefully, because some dealt with things I’m not dealing with currently, or were better laid out in other books (like the Misdiagnosis book reviewed above).

I thought the particular strengths of this volume were the chapters on specific strategies for different excitabilities (if you’ve read much of the literature of giftedness you’ve probably run into this idea of different types of intensity/excitability) and the sections on being a gifted adult. I took LOTS of notes on the practical strategies, because my kids do have different excitability types and frankly, I should probably use some of these ideas on myself!

The chapters in Living With Intensity on adult giftedness really helped me. This book goes into several studies on how gifted adults progress through life stages, and it helped me to look at my stage in life and realize that I am not alone in some of my feelings and fears. It also helped me to think through strategies of dealing with things as part of a bigger picture–this is the very thing I try to help my kids with, but I don’t always do it for myself.

Living With Intensity might be a good book to check out of the library so you can read sections of particular interest to you, but if you don’t have time to read widely on these topics you really can skim lots of it.

{Read more from my round up of books about dealing with intensity and giftedness on A Spirited Mind}
449 reviews4 followers
July 31, 2022
I appreciated the book and its outlook on being gifted and what it means through your life. I particularly liked how the book didn't just focus on being gifted in your childhood, but it looked at several phases throughout your life and how giftedness can impact that positively and negatively. The outlook was appreciated. Unfortunately I felt the focus on Dabrowski was a bit too much; honestly, this book should've been called 'Dabrowski for beginners'. I also felt that the last few chapters on spirituality, religion and God don't have a place in a psychology-book. (But perhaps that's because I'm an atheist)
But another important note on my three-star review is that the Dutch translation I read was just simply awful. It was clear to me that the translator thought, 'ooh, I'm translating a book on gifted children - better show everyone how smart I am by using extremely difficult words!'. At one point he translates a letter from a seventeen year-old, but his own style is so all over it that it's not at all recognizeable as the words of a teenager anymore. At another point, he uses the word 'adstructie', and if you're a Dutch speaker who knows what that means, your Dutch is better than mine. At other points it's clear that he copied the whole document of the book and then translated it, because there are untranslated words everywhere. Oh, and don't get me started on the sudden, untranslated German I saw all over the place.
In other words, if you're Dutch and interested in this book, grab the original and don't bother with the translation. But also, get ready to hear a lot about Dabrowski.
Profile Image for Becca.
377 reviews44 followers
November 16, 2018
This book is a compilation of research on Dabrowski's Theory of Postive Disintigration, which is (very oversimplified) a study of five identified levels of relating to the world as a gifted individual, but each of these levels has a multi-level nature and isn't *quite* linear (trust me - just read it!). Dabrowski's theories also cover the overexcitability (OE) of gifted students and adults, which was a revolutionary theory at the time. OE has 5 forms: psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, imaginational, and emotional.

This book is for anyone who has been told that they are "too much" or "I can't believe how much you do!" or "Why do you read so much into what everyone says?" or "You have too many ideas, do you ever stop?" or my personal favourite, "You're too sensitive!" Yep!
This book changed my life and made a lot of sense with my experiences. Basically, a lot of the things that gifted children are shamed for (or that they aren't identified as gifted because they excel in other ways besides book-intellect) can actually be their strengths.

The papers are written by various scholars, researchers and practicing psychologists, so the "speed" of reading varied a lot through the book - some "chapters" would go quickly and some not as much. It's absolutely worth the read, though!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Melanie.
384 reviews
June 12, 2013
I had high hopes for this book about understanding excitability in gifted people - perhaps my hopes were too high. The book starts by describing types of over excitability (psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, imaginational, and emotional) and development potential as defined/observed by Dabrowski. I didn't spend a lot of time on the development levels/potentials.

The chapters are written by various clinicians about different topics related to excitability. A lot of the book rang very true for me - I could see situations that I've been in or my children have been in.

The book helped me better understand some of the intensity involved with the gifted brain. Some of it was really more clinical than interested me, but I simply skimmed those parts. I felt the chapter on adolescence and the chapter on perfectionism were perhaps most useful.

My problem with the book is that it didn't have a lot of advice on what to do and how to cope with the over excitabilities beyond being aware of them and sensitive to them. I guess there's no magic bullet. I love my gifted kids and my own gifted abilities.....the frustration that comes from living with them has simply been validated and well described by this book.
241 reviews
September 22, 2015
This is not a typical parenting book, and not the kind that gives advice on what to do when your kid has tantrums or won't wear socks or dislikes school. Or at least not directly. Instead, it is series of essays discussing Dabrowski's theory of positive disintegration (TPD) and overexcitabilities, and how they relate to personal intensity.

Some of the chapters relate directly to intense children and teens. There is some useful advice on why your child may be behaving the way he does and how you can channel the behavior in a positive way. Some of the chapters got more into the spiritual side of TPD, which I didn't not find particularly useful or interesting.

Overall, I liked this book. The "good" chapters were extremely insightful and worth re-reading. If you've got an intense child and want more direct advice on the hows and whys of his behavior, a better book to start with may be "Raising Your Spirited Child" by Mary Kurcinka.
Profile Image for Stephanie Holt.
102 reviews13 followers
January 6, 2015
I found great information within the pages of this book. There were a couple of chapters that I skimmed over, but most of them were full of useful information. I felt challenged by the clinical sections, but in a good way. There is much to be learned from this book regarding the intensities of being gifted. Not just for people raising gifted children, but for those who are themselves gifted. My perspective on the struggles I have faced has changed drastically. In addition, I will approach parenting in a different way than I did before I read this book. The chapter which I appreciated the most was Chapter 13, written by Stephanie S. Tolan, M.A. In her writings she discusses a different way of looking at the fifth level of development presented by Dabrowski that is less about religion and more about ideals and values. The one thing lacking in this book is more information for handling the different Overexcitabilities in ourselves and as parents of gifted children.
Profile Image for Esther Arrindell.
109 reviews3 followers
January 28, 2019
In dit boek wordt de theorie van de Poolse psychiater Dabrowski toegelicht en toegepast op de ontwikkeling van hoogbegaafde kinderen, adolescenten en volwassenen. Wat ik vooral interessant vond, was de toelichting en uitleg van de twee belangrijkste elementen van Dabrowski's theorie: de overexitabilities en zijn theorie over persoonlijke ontwikkeling in fases van positivedisintegration. Met name dat laatste resoneerde en gaf me handvatten om mijn eigen ontwikkeling wat te duiden. Natuurlijk is het 'slechts' een theorie, een model; tegelijkertijd ligt de functie van een model of theorie er (wat mij betreft) in om een fenomeen (be-)grijpbaar te maken. Voor mij werkte dat hier goed. Het gaf me rust en handvatten om de ontwikkeling die ik als persoon doormaak beter te begrijpen, te duiden, te promoten. Ook weer veel onderstreept, dus 😊
Profile Image for Dee Mixer.
3 reviews2 followers
October 13, 2013
Good book for getting me started with these theories of OE's, and disintegration. This book is pretty clinical, and seems geared for counselors instead of parents. Like other reviewers, it left me wanting practical suggestions for helping my child through the process of "disintegration." I am not so foolish to think that there is a book out there that can provide a step-by-step guide to parenting the gifted, but I'm guessing that pretty much everyone who picks up this book is looking for some kind of guidance. There's not much to be had here. There were some epiphanies that came just from exploring the actual theories of Dobrowski, but my search for an excellent practical book on parenting/educating/serving/living with the gifted continues...
158 reviews
July 22, 2018
Personally I would give 3 stars due to my interest level, but I don't want to negatively affect the rating since this was for a class.

I read this book for a graduate level class. Start to finish, took 2 days, and I did skim some chapters for the main ideas.

It delves into the work of Dabrowski, especially the 5 overexcitabilities and 5 levels of development. The author then applies these ideas to the gifted child in adolescence, throughout life, stressors, and the family.

Very informative. I just wasn't super interested in the material, and I would have appreciated some diagrams.
Profile Image for Kaitlin Kogucz.
19 reviews
May 12, 2018
This was such an a amazing book. Anyone with giftedness or those that feel alone should read this. There were so many parts of this book where I found myself crying from relief in the realization that I was not alone and what I have felt all my life is something other people experience. This is truly a subject that needs to be talked more about, and I appreciate the thoroughness with which this book approached it. Overall, a well needed read that I would recommend for anybody.
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