The Surprising Secret to Managing Overexcitabilities

Daffodils - The Surprising Secret to Managing Overexcitabilities - Laugh Love Learn

Have you ever felt happiness so intense, you just had to move your body? Or whoop with joy?

Most people only feel that good when they win the lottery or their favourite team beats their arch-rivals. But when you have overexcitabilities, you don’t need a big win to feel on top of the world.

Depending on your combination of OEs, everyday experiences like listening to music, skimming stones on a lake, or engrossing yourself in a story or hobby can all trigger euphoric states.

For me yesterday, it was walking my dogs on a beautiful spring day as hundreds of daffodils danced joyfully beside me in the breeze.

When you feel so good you have to skip

I’m not exaggerating when I say that my body was filled with such intense joy, I wanted to skip, dance, sing, and shout.

I smiled as I imagined what my fellow pedestrians would think if I followed my impulses. I contented myself with little bursts of jogging: ‘They’ll probably just think I’m in a hurry.’ 😉

Later, I got to thinking how children with OEs might feel:

The 11-year-old who’s so buzzing with excitement about a topic he’s researching that he can’t stop talking about it.

The 4-year-old who’s created a whole imaginary world with her toys.

The 7-year-old who wants to jump and sing and spin.

Learning to tone ourselves down

I thought about what it’s like to be a child. How would I have felt on my joyful walk if someone had suddenly demanded that I stop and sit down quietly?

I’d have struggled to comply. The energy inside me was so intense, I just had to move. If I had tried to stop, I’d have been acting against powerful inner guidance.  Maybe I shouldn’t trust my feelings? But they felt so good… Perhaps I shouldn’t trust the person telling me to suppress them? Over time, I might end up mistrusting both myself and the people telling me to tone myself down.

Managing OEs takes willpower and practice

When OEs are part of your wiring, they’re not something you can easily switch off or turn down –  at least not without a lot of internal stress.

No wonder these children ‘over’-react. When you’re using enormous amounts of willpower to contain your OEs, you don’t have much left to deal with the little upsets other children take in their stride.

As an adult, I know when it’s appropriate to tone down my intensity. And I have years of experience in doing so.

On my joyful walk, I knew to save my skipping for when I’d left the suburban street and was walking in the woods, with only my dogs to regard me quizzically as I danced and sang.

Straight afterwards, I had to take my car to the garage.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to focus while I was giddy with spring excitement, so to calm myself I switched off my music and focused on my breathing for a few minutes.

How can we help our kids learn these kind of skills?

Why children need to enjoy their OEs before they can manage them

My intense experience gave me fresh insight into how we can help children modulate their intensities:

1. Create opportunities for them to enjoy their intensity

We need to help children recognise and appreciate the joy their overexcitabilities can bring.

Kids with intense OEs get so much negative feedback about their behaviour, they can end up feeling as if they have to suppress their intensity all the time.

But when they have the chance to enjoy their OEs, they can begin to embrace their authentic natures. This is the first step towards calibrating  and managing their overexcitabilities.

We can support them by building into our children’s schedules plenty of opportunities for them to experience the joy their OEs can bring. And we can provide (physically and emotionally) safe spaces for the  expressions  intensity inspires.

2. Grow willpower, but reduce the need for it

Managing OEs costs willpower. We can minimise the drain on our children’s reserves by:

  • giving them as much autonomy and control over their schedules and their environments as possible, and
  • when they need to be calm, helping reduce the (internal and external) sensory stimulation that cranks up their intensities.

To prepare them for times when they have to use willpower to control their OEs, we can encourage children to identify and do things that increase their window of stress tolerance.

Finally, we can teach strategies for modulating their intensities, such as breathing techniques or engaging their rational brains to calm their emotions.

* * *

Bringing up children with OEs is hard work. We want our kids to become well-adjusted adults who can lead ’normal’ lives, so it’s not surprising that we focus on getting them to tone down their extremes.

But intense is these children’s normal.

So let’s help them appreciate the joy their intense natures can bring. Doing so might just be the quickest way for them to harness their awesome power – and use it to serve themselves and the world.

The Purpose of your life is joy - managing overexcitabilities - Laugh Love Learn

Do you ever skip in the woods?

How do your children enjoy their OEs?

I’d love to hear from you 🙂 

Main photo credit: LoggaWiggler,

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8 thoughts on “The Surprising Secret to Managing Overexcitabilities

  1. Wonderful post, Lucinda. It would have been nice to read something like this when I was in 7th grade, and was talking excitedly about something in an afterschool program — only to be smacked in the face by another girl who didn’t care and evidently didn’t like that I did. I had braces at the time and my mouth started to bleed….

    I love your guidance to grow willpower, but reduce the need for it. That’s exactly it. I can now avoid going on about things when no one cares about them, but I prefer to spend time with people who do care! And many other examples of that theme.

    1. Hi Jessie and thank you for your kind words! My first reaction when I read your comment was to wince in empathy with your pain – ouch. But then I thought, how wonderful that you were so excited by something school-related!

      I get exactly what you mean in your example. Me too. 🙂

      By the way, I’ve recently been enjoying some posts from your old blog which I came across recently. Some very interesting and thought-provoking articles about gaming!

      1. Oh, you found my old blog! I presume you mean Too Much Information based on the posts (I’ve had various blogs going back to 2000, some of which would not be worth anyone’s time to dig up. 😉 Thanks for reading it and glad you found it interesting. Maybe there’s something there I could republish on my current blog…!

        1. Yes, it was Too Much Information. I always enjoy your thoughtful and thought-provoking writing style – I’d probably enjoy your musings from 17 years ago, too! I’m sure there are many nuggets in there worth sharing with your Counter Narration audience. 🙂

  2. I suspect our son has OEs as people often comment about his enthusiasm for life. A young man at the electronics store said to me, “I don’t think I have ever been excited about anything as he is about everything!” We embrace it and chose unschooling to help our son thrive instead of getting forced to follow arbitrary rules and life schedule. Thank you for your words! Oh by the way, I still skip occasionally or sing Zip-a-dee-do-da as I am walking from the train to my office in downtown city. 🙂

    1. Lynda, I love both the man’s comment about your son, and the vision of you singing and skipping! (Zip-a-dee-do-da is one of my favourites, too!)

      Thank you for sharing your wonderful examples. When I write posts like this, there’s always a little part of me worrying, ‘What if it really is just us?’ Good to know it’s not!😀

  3. I’ve always experienced OEs, and only realised recently since researching the ideas for my daughter, who also has multiple OEs. Realising that you’re not the only one always helps! With Amelia (who’s eight), the issue is nearly always that she talks too much about her stream of ideas, beyond the point when it’s appropriate to stop, with no intuition or awareness of the required social cues to stop talking. So we now have a hand signal for when she needs to stop talking. It’s gentle, everyone around her knows it, and she knows that it doesn’t mean ‘shut up’, it means ‘this is for talking about later’. It’s been so helpful.

    One aspect of OEs that doesn’t ever seem to get covered is that it’s not just the positive impacts that are experienced on such an extreme scale, but negative ones too. So whilst my delight at a piece of music is way beyond anyone else’s that I know, my distress at any given thing is amplified. I cry at every TV programme, I can’t watch the news, and in the same way my imagination can go haywire in a good way, it can also go haywire with devastating outcomes. I’m certain now, at 38, that the depression and self-harm that plagued me well into my twenties were responses to the overwhelming OEs that I’m only just learning to recognise and manage. I’m so pleased I know about them now so that I can help and protect Amelia as she grows up.

    1. Hi Abbie, Thank you for your interesting comment. I’m so sorry for taking so long to reply.

      Yes, it’s wonderful to have lots of ideas, but when you’re caught up in their stream it can be hard to notice that other people aren’t quite as interested as we are! I’m so pleased you and Amelia have found a gentle way of communicating that works for you.

      I agree completely that people with OEs also experience the negatives more intensely. On this blog so far I’ve probably focused more on the positive side of having OEs, to emphasise that they are a complex and multi-faceted character trait rather than a deficit. In my work as well as in my family life, I have come across the more challenging issues people with OEs can face, but it can be difficult to share those stories while being mindful of others’ privacy. However it is something I would like to take on in future, to provide resources for people who are struggling.

      It sounds like you’ve found positive strategies for overcoming the challenges your OEs have brought. I wonder, would you be willing to answer a few interview-style questions that could form the basis of a blog post about depression and self-harm? The post could be general and anonymous and you would have editorial approval. I suspect these are subjects that confront many people with OEs, and from my research many of the resources out there are just not applicable to individuals with OEs. If this is something you might be willing to help me with, do reply to this comment or drop me an email to lucinda at laugh love learn dot co dot uk.

      Amelia is lucky to have such a well-informed mum.

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