Do you feel different from other people? Maybe more intense, sensitive, or just a bit weird?
When I was a little girl I knew I was different. I thought there must be something wrong with me. Why else did adults so often tell me to stop being so sensitive, or ask me, ‘Why are you so intense?’
I learned to squash my eccentricities, revealing my true self to only a few trusted friends. I did this so well I ended up in a job I hated, which everyone said I’d be mad to give up because I’d trained for so long to get there.
My sensitive and intense family
Then I had children. Two distinct personalities, parented quite differently from how I’d been brought up, and they were different from other children, too.
One wanted to join in every group activity and try every craft project she came across. The other couldn’t be in a group for more than fifteen minutes without having a meltdown. He was happiest playing in his own imaginary worlds from morning until night.
My firstborn was intense but extroverted. Except for the occasional outburst, she fitted with the way our society says kids should be. By contrast, we spent years trailing my second child around ‘experts,’ trying to figure out what was going on with him and how we could help him fit into society better.
Those explorations eventually led me to a workshop in which all was revealed, not just about him but about my daughter and myself, too.
What was this well-kept secret?
My children and I have nervous systems that are more sensitive than average. We have strong reactions to things other people don’t even notice. We’re easily overwhelmed by our emotions. And we generally experience life at a more intense level.
Psychologists call this combination of innate personality traits ‘overexcitability’ (OE for short).
Over the last nine months I’ve thrown myself into finding out as much about overexcitability as I can. What I’ve discovered has helped me understand not only my children but also myself on a whole new level. The sense peace this has given me is profound.
Since that first OE workshop I’ve worked as a volunteer with PowerWood, a not-for-profit social venture which supports families living with OE, founded and led by my heroine Simone de Hoogh. I’ve also written about OE in parenting magazines, and of course I share stories about how to live positively with intensity and sensitivity here on this blog.
All this has left little time for my home-education blog, Navigating By Joy. I love being part of the blogging community, but I’ve often wanted to share more personal stories that I hoped would touch and encourage other people.
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