I frequently get questions about emotional intensity and what I mean by the phrase. No explanation can be complete without starting with one of my favorite quotes on the matter:
The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this:
A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.
a touch is a blow,
a sound is a noise,
a misfortune is a tragedy,
a joy is an ecstasy,
a friend is a lover,
a lover is a god,
and failure is death.
– Pearl Buck
This is my absolute favorite explanation of what it means to be gifted, creative or intense. I have worked with gifted children and adults for more than a decade, and I can say that everyone, with the exception of some 2E individuals (which we will discuss in future posts) have lived this poem to some degree.
Intensity refers to how an individual approaches life. At its best, it is the driving passion that enables some people to achieve amazing things – in any domain. But at its worst, it is the turmoil that has the power to consume these same individuals from time to time as they learn how to manage that aspect of their personality.
Intensity comes in the form of cognitive intensity – those aspects of thinking ad processing information that all gifted individuals to problem solve. It relates to the attributes of focus, sustained attention, creative problem solving, and advanced reasoning skills. Most people think of cognitive intensity as intellect, or “being smart” – all good things.
Emotional intensity is akin to the above poem. It refers to the passion gifted people feel daily. But it also refers to the extreme highs and lows many gifted people experience throughout their lifetime, causing them to question their own mental stability from time to time. This type of intensity is a natural aspect of giftedness. However, in my experience, it is also one of the most misunderstood attributes. I will talk more about the problems of intensity in future posts.
My book, Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students (2nd edition) covers all aspects of emotional intensity, and more importantly – what you can do about it. I also wrote a series called “Making Emotional Intensity Your Superpower”, which you can access here:
Between the posts and the book, I am hoping your questions are answered. Please let me know if you have additional thoughts or questions.