Tag Archives: Hyper-reactivity

Do You Shriek When You’re Startled?

Do You Shriek When You re Startled - Laugh Love Learn - Lucinda Leo

You’re enjoying a moment alone, lost in the rich landscape of your mind. Pondering the meaning of life as you vacuum the bedroom, maybe, or lost among the characters of a gripping story.

You suddenly become aware of someone else in the room, just inches away.

How do you react?

Do you calmly turn to the other person and say, ‘Hi! I didn’t hear you come in?’

Or do your ears ring with startled shrieking, which only moments later you realise is coming from you?

Confession: I’ve always been in the shrieking camp.

I grew up thinking this was a character weakness.  While I wasn’t choosing to scream, I assumed other people must have more self-control than me. How else could they contain their shock and respond so calmly?

Then a few years ago – long before I knew anything about overexcitability – something happened which forever changed the way I thought about being a shrieker.

I was deep in my own world as I scrubbed the shower, when I suddenly heard a voice right beside me.

As usual, I’d jumped a foot in the air and let out a piercing scream before I registered that I was not in fact being accosted by a mad axe wielder intent on chopping me to pieces, but rather being gently approached by my husband wondering if I wanted a cup of tea.

My husband bristled at my shrieks. (Unsurprisingly. One of the evolutionary purposes of screaming is to prepare others for potential impending doom by triggering their own fight or flight response.)

It was then that I noticed the weird taste in my mouth. A bitter, acrid taste.

I turned to my husband. ‘Do you get a bad taste in your mouth when you’re startled?’

‘Er, no.’ he replied, still a bit cross (and deaf), and wondering where this was going.

‘You see, then!’ I replied, excited. ‘It’s not my fault I shriek when I’m startled! I’m having a different physiological reaction from you!’

Not  a very scientific study, perhaps, but it was a huge step in my self-understanding and self-acceptance.

Shrieking and overexcitability

I thought back on that conversation a few years later when I learned about overexcitability, the innate traits that cause some people to react strongly to things others barely notice.

When everyone (including ourselves) erroneously believes that we’re simply behaving differently from other people in the same situation, we’re liable to draw all sorts of other wrong conclusions.

In the example of me being startled by my husband, for instance, we might assume I’m lacking self-control, weak, neurotic or even hysterical.

Meanwhile, a child who lashes out physically when startled by her sibling is likely to be punished for being naughty. The problem is, punishment only adds to the child’s stress and increases the odds of her lashing out next time.

Only when we understand what’s at the root of their behaviour can we properly support sensitive, hyper-reactive children, and help them manage their intense natures.

Patience, love, and kindness reach places punishment never can.

Back to my shrieking. Once I stopped blaming myself for having poor self-control and realised that my body/mind was just having a different experience from other people, I switched my energy away from trying to control my reactions and towards finding other ways to save my family from the knock-on effects.

These days, everyone I live with knows to noisily make their presence known (cue polite coughs, humming, or loud footsteps) from as far away as possible as they approach me. I like to think I’m worth the trouble.

* * *

A note to my kind friends who read regularly

Apologies for the long gap between posts recently. I’ve been dipping my toe into giving talks about overexcitability and rainforest mindedness, which has been hugely fun but – alongside homeschooling an intense teen and tween – rather time-consuming! Once I’m in my stride, though, I hope to use my new material and skills to record a few podcasts and/or videos to help spread the word about OEs. Thank you for hanging in with me. 🙂

* * *

To subscribe to my regular(-ish) posts about life with intensity and sensitivity, don’t forget to leave your email in the Follow By Email box below. You can also follow Laugh Love Learn on Facebook.

{Thanks to Prawny for the cute graphic.}

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...