Don't Just Survive... Thrive

Gifted? It may not be what you think.

Did you know that being gifted may not translate to school or work success? Gifted people experience the world differently than other people. This doesn’t change as we age, and we’re not only intellectually different. Gifted adults (and children) are typically “super-sensitive” or “over-excitable” (as early translators incorrectly translated) in five key ways (according to psychologist K. Dabrowski):

Intellectual: More than being determined by school performance, Intellectual Super-Sensitivity (SS) is characterized by a need to seek understanding and truth, as well as to gain knowledge, to analyze and synthesize. Other characteristics of those with Intellectual SS include intense curiosity and keen observation. They are often avid readers who are fascinated with abstract and moral thinking (which may translate to activism). On the downside, they can be easily frustrated with people who can’t keep up with their mental pace, and their thinking can take on a compulsive quality.

Emotional: Those labeled as gifted often have a profoundly different emotional experience of the world. Their experience is characterized by “heightened, intense feelings, extremes of complex emotions, identification with others’ feelings, and strong affective expression.”1 They are more prone to stomach aches and blushing, depression and concern with death. They have an unusual capacity for deep relationships and strong emotional attachments to people, places, and things. Those with Emotional SS are often described as sensitive, compassionate and empathetic, yet are often accused of overreacting. People with strong Emotional SS have rich inner dialogues, are acutely aware of their emotions and growth and practice harsh self-judgement

Imaginational: Imaginational SS “reflects a heightened play of the imagination with rich association of images and impressions, frequent use of image and metaphor, facility for invention and fantasy, detailed visualization, and elaborate dreams”1. Many children with Imaginational SS have imaginary friends or are disciplined for daydreaming.

Sensual: Those with Sensual SS experience heightened pleasure or displeasure from sensory input (be it sight, smell, touch, taste or hearing). Their sensory experiences are qualitatively and quantitatively different. They may have an early and intense appreciation for the arts or other sensual input, such as nature. When under heightened stress some with Sensual SS seek physical sensation through over-spending, over-eating or risky sexual behavior. When absorbed in the senses the outside world ceases to exist.

Psychomotor: Psychomotor SS “is a heightened excitability of the neuromuscular system. This Psychomotor intensity includes a “capacity for being active and energetic”, love of movement for its own sake, surplus of energy demonstrated by rapid speech, zealous enthusiasm, intense physical activity, and a need for action.”1 When under emotional stress, those with strong Psychomotor SS may “talk compulsively, act impulsively, misbehave and act out, display nervous habits, show intense drive (tending towards “workaholism”), compulsively organize, or become quite competitive.”1

If this sounds like you a suggest you educate yourself on what it means to be a gifted adult. Also, look into the Theory of Positive Disintegration by Kazimierz Dabrowski. Another valuable resource is SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted). Although geared towards children it contains a great library of articles.



  1. Lind, S. (2011, September 14). Overexcitability and the Gifted. Retrieved January 23, 2017, from



Most Recent Post

  • Preparing for Goal Setting

    This is the time of year for setting goals and making resolutions. It seems like everyone is talking about setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, that is goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. But jumping right into setting smart goals is really putting the cart before the horse. There are things you should do before […]Read More »