The labels of immaturity, moodiness and excessive emotionality put a negative light on children who experience life intensely. This can become evident during family holidays, when the absence of friends and school, different routines and rhythms, travel and new experiences sees all that intensity getting funnelled onto and into family members.
It can be helpful to keep in mind that these children are often, compared to the many others, more sensitive, or more excitable, in one or more realms of being. Seen this way, they are pretty special, gifted, kids. But still hard to hang out with 24/7.
In the book '"Mellow Out", They Say, If Only I Could', by Michael M. Piechowski, the author talks about five different realms that intense children can be extra sensitive in. These were initially termed by Dabrowksi. Actually, he uses the terms "gifted" and "over-excited", but I prefer "intense" and "sensitive". I just like to think of these children as being strongly alive in some dimensions.
The five realms of "over-excitability" described in the book are psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, imaginational and emotional.
In psychomotor sensitivity, the child might have rapid speech, prefer fast games, be competitive and like organising. Emotional tension is expressed by compulsive talking and actions, nervous habits like nail biting and workaholism.
In sensual sensitivity, the child takes enhanced pleasure from stimulation of the senses like music, tasting, smelling, touching and beautiful objects. We might see emotional tension by overeating, buying sprees and addictions.
In intellectual sensitivity, there is a thirst for knowledge, avid reading, detailed recall, planning and precision. These children can be prone to over-thinking, criticising and arguing.
In imaginational sensitivity, children engage in rich invention and fantasy, magical thinking and detailed visualisation. They have private worlds and imaginary companions. They are vulnerable to catastrophising, boredom, nightmares.
In emotional sensitivity, children can have extreme and complex emotions, strong affective expressions like shyness, enthusiasm, euphoria and pride. They can have strong emotional ties to people and things, compassion and responsiveness to others. These children can be affected by loneliness, self-judgement, somatic expressions like a tense stomach and headache and over-identification with others' feelings.
I'm sure that we all, in fact, experience some of sensitivities. Psychotherapy can help these children feel understood, to give them a place where all of them is welcome, and to make sense of their intense feelings so that their family can support them and live more harmoniously.
For an assessment of your child or young person, please reach out and get in touch here.