Dabrowski's Imaginational Overexcitability of Gifted Children

Little girl walking through imaginary forest toward imaginary door
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Polish psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski developed a theory of moral development called "The Theory of Positive Disintegration." The theory includes what he called "overexcitabilities" or "super sensitivities." These are intensities in five different areas: the intellect, the imagination, the emotions, the five senses, and the neuromuscular system. Each overexcitability creates traits that are easily recognized in many gifted children.

What is Imaginational Overexcitability?

The imaginational overexcitability is characterized by a rich, vivid, and active imagination. Children who have this overexcitability have unusual visualization abilities. They may have elaborate dreams, which are often in color. Not all dreams are pleasant, though. Their vivid imaginations can often lead to vivid nightmares

Children with the imaginational overexcitability may find it difficult to express their thoughts verbally because they often think in images, and when they do express their thoughts, they do so in so much detail that their point is often lost in the details. It's like losing sight of the forest because each individual tree is being described in intricate detail. It may even seem as though children with this overexcitability don't have a point, but are simply describing what they see and think for the sake of describing it. 

Young children display this overexcitability with their creation of imaginary playmates.

 Gifted children are more likely than other children to have imaginary playmates and they tend to have more of them. Rather than one playmate, they may create whole families of imaginary people.

The Upside of the Imaginational Overecitability

These children enjoy poetry and drama, not just reading and watching it, but also writing and participating in it.

They thoroughly enjoy activities that feed their imagination. They also tend to be good with metaphors and other figurative language.  And because they often think in images and enjoy describing what they see in their minds in great detail, children with this overexcitability can be excellent poets and creative writers. They enjoy creating their own private worlds, dramatizing events filled with imaginary characters.

The Downside of the Imaginational Overexcitability

As children with the imaginational OE describe what is in their minds, they often weave reality and fiction together. If they are writing a short story, that's not much of a problem. But it is when they are recounting a real event and embellish it with details from their imagination. It may seem as though theytheye are lying, but aren't really. They can have a hard time distinguishing reality from fiction.

In school, they may find it difficult to focus on tasks that do not allow them to use their imaginations. To escape boredom, they may retreat into their own private world and daydream, or they might write stories or draw pictures.


What You Can Do as a Parent

If your child has the Imaginational OE, you will want to help her learn to distinguish between reality and fiction. It's not that your child actually confuses the two but rather that the details in each realm get mixed up.One way to do that is to ask your child to write down the basic facts of an event before adding details to it.

Perhaps a better way is to tell your child to create mental "road signs" that they can imagine as they tell their stories. For instance, they can picture a sign that says "fact" whenever they are relaying a fact and a sign that says "fiction" when they are adding made up details. Of course, they may be in much to big of a hurry to do that, so you can have them imagine other signs like "yield, "slow down," or "stop" to give them time to consider which part of the story they're telling is real and which part is made up.

Your child's imagination can also be helpful with the vivid nightmares these children have. If they can imagine the scary things, they can also imagine creatures, heros, or heroines to battle the scary things. They can imagine their imaginary allies coming to their aid whenever they are feeling frightened, and they can also make appearances in their nightmares.

Finally, if your child has the imaginational OE, nurture that imagination!  One way is through pretend play and another is by encouraging your child to write stories and poems.

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