Emotional intensity in gifted children

Emotional intensity in gifted children

The Gifted or High Capabilities (AACC)have a emotional as well as intellectual component. Intellectual complexity goes hand in hand with emotional depth. In the same way that the thoughts of gifted children are more complex and deeper than that of other children, so are their emotions in terms of complexity and intensity.

This complexity is observed in a wide range of emotions that gifted children can experience at one time at a time and the intensity is evident in that overflow of their feelings about practically everything, so familiar to their parents and teachers.

The emotional intensity of the gifted It is not a matter of feeling more than the rest of the people but of a way of experiencing the different world: alive, absorbing, penetrating, encompassing, complex, dominant - a way of being restlessly alive.

Emotional intensity can be expressed in many ways.

  • Feelings intensity - Positive, negative feelings, both at the same time, extreme emotions, complex emotions that apparently move from one feeling to another in a short period of time, identification with other people's feelings, tears and tears at the same time.
  • In the body - the body reflects the emotions and feelings that are often expressed as bodily symptoms such as tense stomach, apprehension, blushing, headaches, nausea.
  • Inhibition - lack of self confidence and shyness.
  • Strong emotional memory - Emotionally intense children can remember the feelings that accompanied an incident and will very often be able to relive them and “re-feel them” even much later.
  • Fears and anxieties, feelings of guilt, feelings of being out of control.
  • Concern for death, depressive states.
  • Emotional association and attachment to others, empathy and concern for others, sensitivity in relationships, attachment to animals, difficulty adjusting to new environments, loneliness, conflicts with the rest regarding the depth of relationships.
  • Critical Self-Evaluation and internal judgments, feelings of inferiority and insufficiency.

It seems that many people are not aware that intense feelings are a part of giftedness and little attention is usually paid to emotional intensity.

Historically, the expression of intense feelings has been seen as a sign of emotional instability, rather than as clear evidence of a rich inner life. In the West, emotions and intellect have traditionally been considered as two separate and contradictory parts. However, there is an indissoluble link between emotions and intellect that, combined, have a profound effect on gifted people.

It is the emotional intensity that feeds the joy of living, the passion for learning, the engine of the expression of an area of ​​talent, the motivation for the achievements of the gifted.

The difficulties of feeling so intensely

Feeling everything much more deeply than others can be both painful and scary. Gifted people who are emotionally intense often feel abnormal. "I must have something bad ... maybe I'm crazy, it doesn't seem like anyone feels things like that." They often experience intense internal conflicts with oneself, self-criticism, anxiety and feelings of inferiority.

The medical community tends to view these conflicts as symptoms and label the gifted as neurotic. However, these conflicts are an intrinsic part of being gifted. Moreover, these conflicts are the engine for their growth and personal fulfillment.

It is vitally important that gifted children be taught to interpret their exalted sensitivity to things that happen in the world as a normal response to them. If this is not clarified in time, they may see their own intense experiences as evidence that they have something wrong. Other children may ridicule a gifted child for reacting strongly to an apparently trivial fact, thereby increasing their feelings that they are rare.

On the other hand, their sensitivity to the injustices and hypocrisy of society can lead emotionally intense gifted children to feel hopelessness and cynicism at very early ages.

The most important thing we can do to help these children is Accept their emotions: they need to feel understood and supported. We must explain that their intense feelings are normal in children who are like them. Help them use their intellect to develop their self-knowledge and self-acceptance.

Parents need to practice proper discipline as this helps to develop a feeling of security that leads to the development of self-discipline and a feeling of emotional competence.

This appropriate discipline consists of a consistent application of the values, rules and behaviors that are understood as important for the family. Explain the benefits of the rules to the child and enforce them as a consequence of his behavior.

Talk about feelings openly; The negatives as well as the positives. It can be helpful to use an “emotional thermometer” to start the discussion. For example, "on a scale of 1-10, how are you feeling today?" Take enough time to listen to children's ideas, opinions and feelings. Do not make judgments: do not interrupt, moralize, distract or give advice. Appreciate your sensitivity, your intensity and your passions. Do not try to minimize your emotions because they make you feel uncomfortable with your pain.

It definitely doesn't help to say "you're too sensitive," or "take that out of your head," or "everything will be fine." You have to reaffirm them when they are afraid and help them find a way to express their intense emotions through stories, poems, art, music, newspapers or physical activities.

It is necessary to realize that they become frustrated when their physical abilities do not correspond to their intellectual capacity and help them deal with this.

Reward the effort process and not just the results. Emphasize your strengths instead of staying in flaws.

Realize that sensitivity does not mean weakness. They are not weak beings. Give them adequate responsibility for their age and not overprotect them too much from the world and the consequences of their actions. Remember that first they are children and then they are gifted. Do not expect them to be "little adults." Games, fun and leisure are essential activities for them to acquire strong emotional development.

Finally, the advice of preventive professionals should be sought if appropriate; That is important both to support your healthy emotional development, and to prevent social and emotional problems.

We can help our emotionally intense gifted children to accept their inner world of experiences and see it as a strong point.

This often means that we have to accept and see our own emotional experiences and feelings so that we are a positive role model for them.

Talking about our emotions and knowing how to recognize them can be very difficult to do in this society that values ​​above all rational and logical reasoning. and that he understands emotions as the opposite of the rational. However, if emotional intensity is seen by parents and teachers as a strong point and is presented as something positive, children are helped to understand and value this gift.

In this way, emotionally intense children will be given the power to express their own exceptionalness in the world and to use their gifts and talents with self-confidence and happiness.


Spanish translation of the original text of:

Lesley Kay Sword, Director - Gifted and Creative Services Australia.
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  • Piechowski, M.M. (1991) Emotional Development and Emotional Giftedness. In N. Colangelo & G. Davis (Eds.), Handbook of Gifted Education. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon
  • Piechowski, M.M. (1979) Developmental Potential. In N. Colangelo & T. Zaffran (Eds.), New Voices