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Excitabilities in Gifted Children

KAZIMIERZ DABROWSKI (1902 - 1980), a Polish Psychiatrist and Psychologist worked with creative adults and adolescents. He proposed that crises and disintegration are necessary for psychological growth and the attainment of a personality ideal. He called this the Theory of Positive Disintegration. Dabrowski believed that inner conflict is a developmental rather than a degenerative sign ie advanced development requires a breakdown of existing psychological structures in order to form higher, more evolved structures.


Overexcitabilities - heightened intensity and supersensitivity of the nervous system - play a central part in Dabrowski's theory of advanced development.

Michael Piechowski, who worked with Dabrowski, explains the overexcitabilities as an abundance of physical, sensual, creative, intellectual and emotional energy that can result in creative endeavours as well as advanced emotional and ethical development in adulthood. Michael says that the overexcitabilities feed, enrich, empower and amplify talent.

Overexcitabilities are assumed to be innate: a genetic predisposition of the nervous system to respond more and more intensely to life's stimuli. This causes those with strong overexcitabilities to have more intense than usual experiences.

These overexcitabilities describe the unusual intensity of the gifted as well as many of the ways in which they look and behave unusually. Not all gifted people have all excitabilities, however, highly gifted people tend to have all five.

Dabrowski believed emotional overexcitability to be the energy center from which all the excitabilities are generated.

The different forms

Overexcitabilities appear in five forms:

Psychomotor - surplus of energy: rapid speech, pressure for action, restlessness impulsive actions, nervous habits & tics, competitiveness, sleeplessness.

Sensual – sensory and aesthetic pleasure: heightened sensory awareness eg sights, smells, tastes, textures, sounds, appreciation of beautiful objects, music, nature, sensitivity to foods and pollutants, intense dislike of certain clothing, craving for pleasure.

Intellectual – learning, problem solving: curiosity, concentration, theoretical & analytical thinking, questioning, introspection, love of learning and problem solving, moral concern, thinking about personal and social moral values.

Imaginational – vivid imagination: creative & inventive, a rich and active fantasy life, superb visual memory, elaborate dreams, day dreams, love of poetry, music and drama, fears of the unknown, mixing of truth and fantasy, great sense of humour.

Emotional – intensity of feeling: complex emotions, extremes of emotion, empathy with others, sensitivity in relationships, strong memory for feelings, difficulty adjusting to change, fears and anxieties, inhibition, timidity, shyness, self-judgment, feelings of inadequacy and inferiority, heightened awareness of injustice and hypocrisy.


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