Tag Archives: Emotional OE

How to Use Emotional Overexcitability to Nourish Your Soul

emotional overexcitabiity

Self care is a necessity, not a luxury, for those of us blessed with parenting differently-wired children.

Raising and advocating for our kids in a world not designed for them can take its toll, especially if we have sensitivities of our own.

Most of us are all too aware of the challenges overexcitabilities bring, but let’s not forget that OEs also allow us to experience the good things in life more intensely.

This post is the first in a series looking at self care through the lens of each of the OEs, starting today with emotional overexcitability.

Soul-nourishment for people with emotional overexcitability

We folk with emotional overexcitability feel things intensely.

Even a short errand can leave us feeling drained after we see a homeless guy begging outside the supermarket and a frazzled mum shouting at her toddler in the checkout line.

We’d love to be able to give the homeless man a warm bed for the night and to scoop up that toddler and tell her it’s not her fault her mummy yelled.

We can’t right all the wrongs in the world in one day. But by being compassionate with ourselves we’ll find ways we can make a difference – even if it’s just by being the kindest, wisest parents we’re capable of being.

10 Ways to use your emotional OE to nourish your soul

(1) Take 5 minutes to meditate on an uplifting emotion

Choose a positive emotion – fun, peaceful and playful are among my favourites. Slowly repeat the word to yourself, enjoying the memory of times you felt that way. You might be surprised at how the word – and the feeling – pop up at random times later in the day.

I do this before I get out of bed every morning – before any negative momentum has had a chance to get going.

Bonus: List as many positive emotion words as you can and make them into a word cloud. I felt wonderful after making the one above!

(2) Spread a little joy by performing an act of random kindness

Research shows that kindness makes us happier, boosts our immune systems and improves our relationships by elevating our oxytocin levels.

The random element is important here. People with emotional OE are drawn to helping others, and when our reserves are low we risk draining our own resources in the process.

By looking for opportunities to be randomly kind, we introduce an element of playfulness that shakes away resentment and rewards us with a healthy hit of feel-good chemicals.

(3) Tap into the healing power of animals

Spend time with a loyal pet, do a google search for ‘cute baby your favourite animal’ images, or watch an OE-friendly nature documentary with your kids (ie not one where the baby gazelle gets picked off by the cheetah).

Even watching cat videos boosts energy and positive emotions, with studies showing that the emotional payoff outweighs any feelings of guilt over time-wasting.

Being mindful of your intentions is key here. Cleaning out the cat litter or hamster cage doesn’t count, though brushing or walking the dog might.

(4) Tune into the good news

By most accounts the world is a safer, better place now than it ever has been – but you wouldn’t know that from the mainstream media.

When you need reminding of all that’s good in the world, turn off the TV and spend five minutes looking at the heart-warming stories over at The Good News Network.

(5) Drop through negative emotions

When you feel overwhelmed by negative emotions, try this exercise I use with my therapy clients:

First ask yourself, ‘What’s the name of the emotion I’m feeling right now?

Don’t think too hard – whatever comes to mind first is okay. Name the emotion out loud.

Then ask, ‘If I were to drop through this emotion, what’s the emotion underneath that?

Close your eyes and imagine yourself physically dropping through the emotion. Repeat these two questions until you find relief.

I’ve had clients drop through layers of emotions for between 5 and 45 minutes. Eventually they always get to the feeling of peace that is at the core of who we all are.

(6) Keep a list of positive aspects

Make a note of nice things that happen or that you appreciate in a List of Positive Aspects. Mine includes entries like, ‘Ate the first tomato from this year’s plants’, ‘Nice email from C’s French teacher’ and ‘Beautiful autumn trees’.

Both the act of writing and looking back over my list help nourish my soul.

(7) Make a regular date with your partner

When you have kids, it’s easy to find your life running in parallel from your partner’s. A few months ago my husband and I decided to get intentional about spending regular quality time with one another. (Quality time as in, not slumped in front of the TV together after a busy day at work.)

Every Sunday morning we now walk our dogs together then have coffee at an outdoor cafe. (A treat for me because my husband doesn’t really understand the point of having coffee out, so I feel loved just by him being there with me!)

We chat about each others’ weeks, the children, and then once all that’s out of the way we usually find ourselves talking about something completely different and really interesting, which reminds me why we married each other and makes me feel excited about sharing the rest of my life with this man.

smiling couple in autumn woods - emotional overexcitability

Bonus: Take a selfie on each date. Did you know that taking selfies can increase happiness and gratitude, decrease stress and deepen connections?

(8) Watch an episode of your favourite comedy show

The Big Bang Theory, The Middle, Modern Family, Friends… Writers of these shows are paid big bucks to activate our feel-good systems.

I challenge you not to feel better after watching an episode!

(9) Connect with an uplifting friend

If, like me, you’re an intense type who’s inclined to spend every moment you’re not with your kids being ‘productive’ (working (paid or voluntary), doing admin, organising the home or practising cello), you may have a tendency to let friendships slide.

People who have emotional OE have the ability to enjoy deep, lasting friendships. Be sure to make time for the uplifting people in your life – and be willing to let go of those who have the opposite effect.

(10) Feel awe

When I posted this photo on Instagram, I captioned it: ‘Sometimes I feel so full of awe at the magnificence of nature. I feel at once tiny and insignificant and yet extraordinarily loved, as if nature is putting on a spectacular event just for me.’

beach at sunset - emotional overexcitability

Later I discovered that psychologists consider awe to be ‘one of the most pleasurable and motivating positive emotions’ (Jane McGonigal, Superbetter).

Awe also changes our perception of time. When we feel awe for a moment or two, we feel we have more time for our own goals, are less impatient, and are more likely to volunteer time to help others.

The good news is that we don’t have to wait until we happen to see a beautiful sunset or magnificent waterfall to feel awe – we can also enjoy the effect by watching videos of things we find awe-inspiring, or by writing a few sentences about a time we experienced awe.

Resources and hat tips

Top 3 tips to up your energy and resilience level (if you have emotional OE) PowerWood (article)

5 Side Effects of Kindness David Hamilton (article)

Watching cat videos boosts energy and positive emotions The Independent (article)

The Good News Network (website)

SuperBetter Jane McGonigal (book)

How taking selfies and these types of photos can increase happiness and gratitude, decrease stress and deepen connections Hey, Sigmund (article)

Living With Intensity Susan Daniels and Michael Piechowski (book)

Your Rainforest Mind Paula Prober (book – see my review)

What are overexcitabilities? (article on this blog)

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Do you have emotional OE?

How do you nourish your soul?

I’d love to hear from you!

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This post is part of a series on how we can use our overexcitabilities to nourish our souls. See also:

How to use imaginational overexcitability to nourish your soul

14 Delightful Ways to Use Sensual Overexcitability to Nourish Your Soul

34 Ways to Nourish Your Intellectual Overexcitability

How to use psychomotor overexcitability to nourish your soul (coming soon)

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I’d love you to join me learning how to have fun in a sensitive and intense family. To receive my weekly posts direct to your inbox, leave your email address in the Follow by Email box at the top of the page. 🙂


The Mistake Most of Us Make When Our Children Feel Sad

when our children feel sad

‘Why does my child react hysterically to sad parts in books, and get obsessed with that page (or the book) coming to an end? I said “Spot the dog was sad” and he was bawling even though I was trying to move forward and show he was happy in the end.’

This wonderful example of emotional overexcitability was posted by a mother on the PowerWood Facebook group. Her son was just 18 months old. (The mum kindly gave me permission to share her words here.)

As adults we find it unfathomable that a child could be rendered hysterical by a story about Spot the dog. But even very young children with emotional OE experience deeper, more complex emotions than many adults realise is possible.

I remember being baffled when my own four-year-old daughter shouted at me to turn off a Barbie movie she’d begged to watch. And similarly shocked when she began sobbing as we played her favourite High School Musical CD in the car.   (She later explained that ‘Barbie’s stepmother and sisters were really mean to her’ and that ’Troy just sounds so sad in that song (sob)’.)

Our children’s sadness triggers our pain

The heightened compassion, empathy and sensitivity that our emotionally OE children possess are hereditary personality traits. So if your child has emotional OE, you may well have it, too.

And just as our children absorb the pain of others, so we are acutely sensitive to their feelings. When one of my children is upset, I can become deeply uncomfortable and feel an intense urge to make them feel better as quickly as possible.

As the Facebook mum eloquently put it, ‘his heartbroken crying is like a reflection of my darkest moments.’

Why we shouldn’t always follow our instincts

But although the urge to make our child feel better seems like an instinct, we’re better off pausing before we rush in to reassure our child that ‘it’s only a story’ and that ‘everything turns out in the end’.

When we’re upset we revert unconsciously to the parenting model we inherited from our own childhoods. And for the many of us who were trained as children by the well-meaning big people in our lives not to show negative emotion, that’s not helpful.

Mindfulness author Sandy Newbigging spoke about this at a conference I recently attended.

‘We tell our kids, “Don’t be sad!”’ says Newbigging.  ‘But sadness is okay. It’s conflict with an emotion that causes suffering and stress.’

Instead of rushing our children on from sadness, he suggests that we allow them the freedom to fully experience and process their emotions.

Can you imagine how scary and isolating it must feel to a young child to be gripped by a strong emotion and to feel that no one else gets it? (‘What’s wrong with me?’) Or worse, to see us becoming stressed? (‘There must be something really wrong!’)

Our sensitive children need to know that we understand how they’re feeling, and that those feelings are okay.

Compassion = Love + Wisdom

In his talk Sandy Newbigging illustrated what compassion (love + wisdom) looks like with a cute series of stick man drawings something like this:

when our children feel sad - parent looking at child stuck in hole stickman drawing
It’s hard when we see our child stuck in a difficult place …


stick man parent & child stuck in hole - when our children feel sad
… but when we join them, we’re stuck too
when our children feel sad - giving stickman in hole a ladder
If we can put aside our judgements and love them wherever they are, we can access our wisdom…


when our children feel sad - stick men beside hole
…to help them to get unstuck and move on.

How not to get triggered when our children feel sad

It takes time and practice to be able to hold space for our children without getting triggered ourselves.

We need to take care of our needs and do the work to heal our own unprocessed pain. And when we acknowledge that expressing all their emotions is a healthy part of our children’s development, we take a big step forward in that healing process.

“It’s important to remember that … you can’t actually hold space for long if you haven’t also received the same kind of loving space yourself.”

Holding Space (Mothers Awakening)

So when intense feelings overwhelm our emotionally OE children, let’s not jump into negativity with them.

Let’s rejoice that they feel safe expressing themselves. Let’s give them time to process their big emotions. And let’s remember that these young people’s sensitivity and empathy will lead them into deep and fulfilling relationships throughout their lives and probably help make the world a better place.

Focusing on these positives might just give us the strength we need stay present and give our children what they need most – a loving container for their big feelings.


Emotional OE

15 Things your child with emotional overexcitability might say – LLL blog post

An Introduction to OE – PowerWood flyer

Living With Intensity, Susan Daniels & Michael Piechowski – book

PowerWood Facebook group – a place to share ideas, information and encouragement about intensity, super-sensitivity and hyper-reactivity (OEs).

Holding Space

Holding space (Mothers Awakening) – article

What it really means to hold space for someone – article

Sandy Newbigging

Find out more about Sandy Newbigging’s ‘Calmology’ work and his six no.1 bestselling books here.

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Has your child ever cried at a picture book, a Barbie movie, or a Disney soundtrack?

How do you stay connected without jumping in the hole with them?

I’d love to hear from you!

* * *

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Why Sensitive People Need to Find Our Balance Before We Can Make a Difference in the World

Why sensitive people need to find our balancebefore we can make a difference

Most people with emotional overexcitability care passionately about making the world a better place. But if we’re not careful, our acute sensitivity to injustice and tragedy can leave us flooded by negative emotion.

So how do we find out what’s going on in the world so we can contribute positively without feeling  overwhelmed?  And how do we teach our sensitive children to find their balance?

One evening last week my 11-year-old son came to me in tears.

“I keep thinking our plane’s going to crash or the boat’s going to sink when we go on holiday.”

Despite his imaginational and emotional OE, Jasper isn’t prone to these kind of worries, so I was curious what had triggered him. He told me that after we upgraded his computer to Windows 10, world news stories had begun appearing automatically on his home screen. (“I see all the murders – everywhere!”)

I wonder if the reason Jasper hadn’t got anxious before is because I stopped following the news a long time ago.

I figure that if anything’s that important I’ll hear about it somehow. I see newspaper headlines at petrol stations and subtitled news programmes at the gym, and every fortnight I read the kids’ newspaper NewsAdemic.

I inform myself politically before I vote, I research which charities to support, and I counter the media’s distorted emphasis on tragedy by subscribing to the Good News Network.

The world needs all kinds of people

Some people can deal with life dispassionately and logically. They aren’t overwhelmed by their negative emotions, even when they look directly at tragic situations. Does that make them bad, uncaring people? Of course not. Society needs people who can respond to crises quickly and practically.

And the world also needs the people who are so sensitive and empathic, whose compassion runs so deep that it takes them a while to find their emotional equilibrium when bad things happen.

How do we find our balance?

Here’s my approach:

(1) Be careful what you’re exposed to. If watching the news on TV leaves you so stressed that you shout at your kids,  don’t watch it. If reading the headlines depresses and drains you, don’t read them. We’re no good to anyone – our families or the wider world – if we don’t take care of our own emotional wellbeing.

(2) Have strategies to help you recover when you’re triggered by upsetting events you read or hear about. Go somewhere green for a walk, watch your favourite comedy show, meditate, chat with an upbeat friend or read a funny novel – whatever works for you.

I’m not suggesting we slap a happy face sticker over our empty fuel tanks. We need to acknowledge and be present to our negative emotions. But we also need to know when and how to reach for better feelings.

(3) Increase your resilience by doing things that nurture your emotional wellbeing as part of your daily routine.

(4) Seek out a life philosophy that helps you make sense of the world. Whether it’s mindfulness, a spiritual faith, transforming pain into art, or finding solace and wisdom in a book – keep searching for what works for you.

Model a powerful outlook to children

I started writing this post to help me process the shock and sadness I felt last Friday when 52% of the population of my country – motivated, it seemed to me, by bigotry and short-sighted greed – voted to leave the European Union.

Cordie (12), who knows a lot about current affairs thanks mainly to the intelligent YouTubers she follows, was disappointed by the referendum result too, but she was puzzled by the intensity of my upset.

“I don’t understand why this is affecting you so much,” she said, with genuine compassion.

“Because … it’s our future,” was all I could reply, still reeling from the implications of what my country had just so casually thrown away.

“But Mummy, everything’s our future.”

Here was my little girl reflecting back to me the outlook I’ve modelled to her throughout her childhood. Life is so much more than one bad news story, however devastating it feels.

I gave myself another hour clicking sad, empathetic emoticons on my friends’ FaceBook feeds, then I sat down to watch The Big Bang Theory with my family.

Politics can wait until I’ve found my balance.

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

John Lennon

Further reading

Sensitivity, Empathy and Compassion Fatigue – What Can You Do?  Your Rainforest Mind

Top 3 Tips to Up Your Energy and Resilience Level – PowerWood

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How do you find your balance when world events  rock your world?

How do you help your children find their balance?

I’d love to hear from you, in the comments on on the Laugh, Love, Learn FaceBook page. 🙂

Don’t forget to leave your email address in the Subscribe by Email box at the bottom of the page if you’d like to receive my weekly posts direct to your inbox!

How I Crashed and Burned Because I Didn’t Follow My Own Advice


This time last week we were excitedly packing our sunglasses and swimsuits, about to jet off for a fortnight in southern Spain. We know El Puerto de Santa María well. We spent a month here early last year, and my 12-year-old did a language course here in October.

Cordie was excited about learning more Spanish and we were all looking forward to relaxing in the sunshine and playing in the sea.

But then …

… the weather took a Freaky Friday turn. While England is basking in sunshine and temperatures in the high 20s (80F), here in Spain we’ve got cool grey skies, rain, and gale force winds, with no let-up forecast until the weekend we’re due to fly home.?

IMG 1387

… because of a lack of other students, Cordie was placed in a Spanish group well below her ability and was panic-stricken at the prospect of not learning anything during her 40 hours of classes.

… my 11-year-old son, who’s been complaining for months about being forced to come here {we are so evil}, bounces around the tiny apartment we’re renting, letting the entire block know how he feels about being here whenever we suggest he takes a break from his iPad (or – heavens above – come for a walk on the beach).

… and then there’s my dear husband, who’s using his precious holiday allowance away from a stressful work environment, and has spent the week mooching around without a clue what to do with himself.

In Top 3 Tips to Up Your Energy and Resilience Level, Simone de Hoogh writes:

“Emotional OE people have the tendency to put everyone else’s needs before their own, because it is so hard for us to relax when someone else is suffering. The more tired we are, the harder it is to distance ourselves from others’ feelings and to make the distinction between what we feel ourselves and what others are feeling.  So we feel the deep need to fix until we are finally free… “

Boy, did I do that last week!

I talked to the staff at the Spanish school so Cordie wouldn’t feel she’s wasting her time there. Thanks to homeschooling, I’ve never before needed to advocate for my bright, asynchronous daughter, but this week I got a glimpse of what other parents go through and – oh my goodness – how I sympathise! Meanwhile having emotional OE herself, Cordie was horrified at the thought of me upsetting anyone, so I had her stress to contend with on top of my own.

I spent hours alternately entertaining and calming my son, often long after I wanted to be asleep.

I mediated between stressed-out, stir-crazy  family members.

I listened to my husband and racked my brains for ways to help him enjoy himself.

As the only driver here, I chauffered everyone around (driving an unfamiliar car on the ‘wrong’ side of the road).

I helped Cordie with her Spanish homework (usually at 9.30pm, when she felt like doing it).

And as the only Spanish speaker, I did all the grocery shopping, restaurant ordering and negotiating with the apartment staff.

In short, I ran around trying to make everyone else happy.

Guess what? It left me a wreck.

As Simone says,

“But there is always someone in emotional need, whether it is a child, family member, or a pet. If we don’t prioritise ourselves, there will never be a time to recharge and we will end up eternally exhausted and we even might become depressed.”

Because I have emotional OE, my stress was of course compounded by making myself wrong for not appreciating my blessings. How could anyone complain about being on holiday with their healthy loved ones? (We all know how much that kind of thinking helps, right?)

I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that by Thursday I realised quite how low my resilience and energy levels had sunk.

I hate neglecting my family when I can see that they’re in need, but unless I meet my own physical, emotional and intellectual needs, I’m no good to anyone.

So I went back and read my own words about the importance of raising our personal baseline and about how to stay sane as a mum to sensitive, spirited kids.

I listened to Self-Care for Parents as I meditated.

I didn’t beat myself up for not following my own advice; I reminded myself that mistakes are part of learning.

I told myself that I’m doing a good enough job of looking after myself.

And once I felt a bit better, I felt my creativity return and began to think of other ways to meet my needs – like planning a day out in Seville, and signing myself up for Spanish classes next week.

Who knows, maybe the sun will even come out? ☀️

15 Things Your Child With Emotional Overexcitability Might Say

15 Things Your Child With Emotional Overexcitability Might SayPeople with emotional overexcitability feel things intensely. During the course of a single day (or hour) a child with emotional OE might go from dancing with joy to rolling on the floor in the depths of despair and back again. Many are acutely attuned to other people’s feelings and care deeply about loved ones’ wellbeing, sometimes to a degree that gets in the way of them meeting their own needs.

Children with emotional OE experience deeper, more complex emotions than many adults around them realise is possible for a child their age. These are the children who in generations past were told (and sadly sometimes still are) to ‘toughen up’ or ‘stop being so sensitive’.

Some, like my daughter, find it easy to share their feelings verbally. Others struggle to express the extreme emotions going on inside them – even to themselves. These children can grow increasingly frustrated and end up releasing their feelings in a sudden torrent, much to the bewilderment of those around them.

If you have emotional overexcitability you may well have recognised yourself and your child from what I’ve said already. If not, here are some clues.

15 Things your child with emotional overexcitability might say . . .

I love you” Yes, most children say this, but a child with emotional OE will say it as he embraces his best friend so hard that she falls over. Or through eyes brimming with tears as she struggles to contain the intensity of her love. Or, just before she goes to sleep on Christmas Day, in a long and poignant text message, accompanied by 27 multi-coloured hearts.

I hate you” This one will be accompanied by a facial expression that leaves you in no doubt that he really means it! (At least in the moment he’s uttering the words.)

We need to help her” Said about a stray dog, a homeless person begging, or a toddler crying in the park. These children feel what others feel and are deeply affected by those feelings, often giving rise to a compelling urge to help.

What should I do?” The heightened empathy these kids feel can mean they tend to put others’ feelings above their own needs. They might have a strong desire to do something but be paralysed by second-guessing what they believe someone else wants. Meanwhile the other person is completely unaware of the problem because the child doesn’t want to upset them by bringing it up!

My daughter had some coaching last year to help her understand more about her OEs. During one session (which she later shared with me) she talked about the clothes she wears on Scout camps. Being a good mummy, I’d always bought the exact (unisex) items written on the kit lists.

Meanwhile, the other female Scouts had started to wear more fashionable clothes, and Cordie wanted to do the same (we’re talking girl-cut combat trousers here, not high heels). But because she’d always seen me buying the exact items from the list, Cordie felt that practicality and economy were of paramount importance to me, and was afraid to tell me what she really wanted.

Of course once I discovered what was going on, I was able to reassure Cordie that her feelings mattered, and now we both enjoy shopping for pretty-coloured fleeces and cute bobble hats. 🙂

I want things to stay the same” Children with emotional overexcitability can develop deep emotional bonds with family, friends, animals, places and things. As a result, they often want everything to be permanent, and can struggle with changes like moving house or school.

So when you’re planning a trip away you might hear . . .

I can’t go on holiday without Harvey!” [the dog]

And when you suggest pruning their wardrobe . . .

But why can’t I wear this T-shirt any more?” (about a garment whose hem is now just above his navel).  My mum once cut the arms off a cardigan I insisted on wearing long after it had become threadbare. I retrieved the sleeves from the bin and made her take this photograph of me ‘wearing’ the dismembered cardi for the last time.

15 Things Your Child With Emotional Overexcitability Might Say

I’ve said something that upset her” People with emotional overexcitability can spend hours worrying about little things they’ve said that might have upset or caused offence to another person.  (One strategy that can help assuage a child’s anxiety is to acknowledge the validity of her feelings while gently reassuring her that the other person probably isn’t experiencing what happened in the same way.)

You’re my best friend” If you have emotional overexcitability you have a strong need for depth and intensity in relationships. A child might move from one short-lived friendship to another, never feeling fulfilled.  If they’re lucky enough to find a kindred spirit, they will be passionate and loyal friends.

However, their need for depth in relationships can cause them to overstep other people’s boundaries and scare away the people they’re trying to connect with. So you might hear the heart-breaking words …

Why won’t they let me play?”  When a child with emotional OE does experience a friendship intensely, he expects the friendship to last for life and might mourn for months when a new friend doesn’t want to play any more.   He can also become upset when his intense feelings aren’t reciprocated. Even the most confident child with emotional OE can feel lonely and might even be prone to being bullied.

I just want to die” I remember reeling in shock the first time I heard my son say these words. What on earth could lead an eight-year-old to say such an awful thing? I’ve since found out that it’s not at all uncommon for kids with emotional overexcitability to express sentiments like these.

When a child with emotional OE feels completely overwhelmed by a negative emotion, he doesn’t have the experience to know that the feeling will pass, and he feels like it will last forever. Parents of teenagers with emotional OE have told me that, for similar reasons, as these young people get older they can be prone to bouts of ‘what’s the point of living?’ existential depression.

This is the best day ever!” Other times – when he’s won a game, is eating a delicious meal or is about to play with his favourite cousin – your emotionally OE child can light up the house with his radiant gladness. Maybe even on the same day as he’s told you he doesn’t want to go on living.

Which isn’t to say that this young person’s emotions are superficially felt. On the contrary, these children are genuinely capable of experiencing a breathtakingly wide range of intense and complex emotions in a short space of time.

Turn it off!” While children with sensual OE are sensitive to input coming through their senses, kids with emotional OE react strongly to the content of what they experience. These children might be so moved by a story, TV programme or the words of a song that they become quite distressed.

When my daughter was six she loved the movie High School Musical. We were listening to the soundtrack in the car one day when Cordie suddenly stopped singing and shouted “Turn it off!”

I turned round in surprise to see tears streaming down her cheeks. It wasn’t until later that I figured out that her upset had been triggered by the lyrics of a song in which the lead characters break up. (“I’ve got to move on and be who I am. I just don’t belong here, I hope you understand. We might find our place in this world someday. But at least for now, I gotta go my own way…”)

Now she’s 12, my daughter’s learned to be more discerning about what she watches and listens to and is better able to communicate what’s going on inside, but when she was little I had to be very vigilant to help her manage the strong feelings that could be aroused by the most unlikely triggers, like Barbie movies or kids’ picture books.

These children can also be very upset by by real world news events, and may need special care and attention at home if tragic stories have been discussed in school.

My tummy hurts” People with emotional overexcitability often respond physically to their emotions, with anxiety-induced headaches or stomach aches. This can be a useful clue about what’s going on inside a child who has trouble finding the words to describe what they’re feeling.

Arghh!” When their intense feelings become too much for the child to hold in, they might suddenly overreact to a minor setback with disproportionate meltdowns. Kids who have difficulty expressing what they’re feeling are especially prone to this.

“Adults can help these children distinguish between their feelings and behaviours. … There is a delicate balance in honoring a feeling and managing its expression.”

(Living With Intensity)

And then there are the many things children with emotional overexcitability don’t say . . .

You can be sure that for every feeling he verbalises, a child with emotional OE experiences many more emotions that aren’t expressed.

Some children learn to hide their sensitivity to protect themselves, even becoming quite withdrawn. Other children’s intense feelings simmer inside them, causing an increasing amount of inner distress until they suddenly pour out like lava from a volcano.

Even children who never seem to stop talking (like those with psychomotor OE) are likely to feel myriad complex emotions for every one they give voice to.

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The positive side of emotional overexcitability

Of all the OEs, emotional overexcitability is the one I most wish I’d known about when I was growing up. Over time I’ve found strategies for managing my intense emotions – journalling, for instance – but I always thought there was something wrong with me for being so sensitive. It wasn’t until I learned about emotional OE at a PowerWood workshop  last year that I finally began to value this part of myself (yep, there were tears).

As the mother of two children with emotional OE, I’m helping my kids learn how to manage their emotions, but – even more importantly – I want them to know what an asset emotional overexcitability can be. While not every emotionally OE child will grow up to be Gandhi or Mother Theresa, everyone who has this innate personality trait has the drive to improve themselves and make a difference in the world. They were made this way for a reason and the world needs them, just the way they are.

Over to you

  • Do you or your child have emotional overexcitability?
  • How do you help your emotionally OE child with friendships?
  • What are your tips for helping your child to express his emotions?

I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or on the Laugh, Love, Learn Facebook page.

If you have any questions about any of the overexcitabilities please feel free to drop me an email. Psychologist and OE expert Simone de Hoogh is now working with me here at Laugh, Love, Learn. We’d love to know what’s on your mind so we can provide answers to any concerns you might have.

* * * 

This is the final part in my series on the five types of overexcitability. See also:

Part 1: 7 Signs Your Child Has Psychomotor Overexcitability

Part 2: What Is Sensual Overexcitability?

Part 3: The Ups and Downs of Imaginational Overexcitability

Part 4: 6 Things You Need If Your Child Has Intellectual Overexcitability

Next week I’ll be talking about the positive role of overexcitabililties in personal development and how we can teach our children to appreciate their OEs. Fill in the Follow by Email box below to get it straight to your inbox.

15 Things your child with emotional overexcitability might say

Emotional Overexcitability – Resources


PowerWood – Emotional overexcitability

Jade Ann Rivera – How to identify and cope with overexcitabilities, part 1 of 5: Emotional overexcitability

SENG – The gift of emotional overexcitabilities


Living With Intensity: Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitability and Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents and Adults (Daniels and Piechowski)

Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults (James T Webb)

15 Things your child with emotional overexcitability might say

To find out if you or someone in your family has overexcitabilities, take the free online OE questionnaire at the PowerWood website. (Results come back by return email.)

15 Things Your Child With Emotional Overexcitability Might Say

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