Too Sensitive, Too Dramatic, Too Intense –What Is Emotional Intelligence?

photo courtesy of Swaraj Tiwari, Unsplash, CC
photo courtesy of Swaraj Tiwari, Unsplash, CC

How do we define emotional intelligence when we’re talking about your rainforest mind?  

Maybe you feel that you are the opposite of emotionally intelligent.

Here are some possible reasons:

You feel emotionally UN-intelligent because when you were a youngster, everyone told you that you were too sensitive, too dramatic and way too emotional.

You feel emotionally UN-intelligent because when you were a little tyke you had frequent flamboyant meltdowns.

You feel emotionally UN-intelligent because you’re easily upset by fragrances, chemicals, clashing colors, social media, depressed relatives, ignorant politicians, leaf blowers and bad architecture.

You feel emotionally UN-intelligent because you cry when you watch corny TV commercials or when you watch your child sleeping or when trees are cut down or when you read an angry Facebook post.

But what if all of the above are not indications that you are a histrionic, hysterical, neurotic, emotional cripple? But, instead, are signs of your emotional maturity, your emotional expansiveness, your emotional, yes, intelligence.

Let me explain.

A sign of rainforest-mindedness is depth. Depth, complexity, intensity. That means that you have EMOTIONS. Where your neighbor might feel sad, you feel despair. Where your uncle might feel happy, you feel joyful. Where your partner might feel angry, you feel rage. Where your classmate might feel bored, you feel desperation. Where your friend might feel nothing, you feel awestruck.

See what I mean?

And these feelings aren’t purposeless. No siree. They make you perceptive, insightful and compassionate.

That said, your EMOTIONS might overwhelm you. They may get out of control or stuck. You might feel like you’re drowning or lost or paralyzed or sick. Anxious. Depressed. Frightened.

If that happens, there are strategies. Things you can do. Read this post for some ideas. And here are more resources. And, of course, there’s my book. (And if you’re a male, this is even more complicated. Read about it here.) And, of course, if you feel anxious, depressed or frightened much of the time, seek out a sensitive therapist.

And yet. Remember this: The despair, the joy, the rage, the desperation, the awestruck-ness. None of it makes you emotionally UN-intelligent.

It makes you gifted.

_______________________________

To my bloggEEs: What are your thoughts about emotional intelligence? How do you cope with your intense emotions? How have your found these emotions to be beneficial? If you’re a male, how has your sensitivity been problematic? helpful?

For even more posts on the topic of emotional intelligence click on this link:

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Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

37 responses to “Too Sensitive, Too Dramatic, Too Intense –What Is Emotional Intelligence?”

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  1. Whats Wrong with Jessica?

    […] had that internal GPS. Develop our emotional intelligence, anchor our True North. Celebrate being gifted. Maybe have some chocolate and call it a day, dreaming of winning the next Nobel Peace […]


  2. Adrianne Nguyen Avatar
    Adrianne Nguyen

    Hello again Paula. My name is Adrianne, and I wrote to u not to long ago about how I will not tolerate certain behavioral traits in hyper sensitive people when they do not have it under some type of control or managment. I know one person currently of whom blew up in a rage towards his father because his father hurt his feelings, and the topic was not for someone to become that outraged. Well, I spoke to this person the best way I knew how and told him they were both wrong. I began by telling him that I love his sensitivity and his awesome sense of humor, however, my blatant self told him that he is not wrong to be so sensitive, because you are who you are. I just offered advice to tell him to try to manage it better because I felt in social situations it could go against him and the other party could be affected too. Well, he blew up again, and proceeded to tell me I’m not hypersensitive,and if I am that is what makes me gifted. ( He is gifted with instrumental abilities and other areas) He faught with fury and at that moment could of easily taken Linda Blair’s role in the exorcist. I tried, and I hope I helped.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Here’s an idea, Adrianne. People who have rage reactions or abusive behaviors likely have other issues that they’re not addressing. As you describe it here, it doesn’t just sound like gifted sensitivity.


  3. Adrianne Nguyen Avatar
    Adrianne Nguyen

    Paula, thanks. U speak up around some and this is my personal experience, they become defensive. I am speaking of those that will not bother to manage it when it is extreme. I will not change for over sensitive people, after all I have to be myself. If they don’t manage it on some level, and I’m not tolerant of that, then I steer clear.


  4. Adrianne Nguyen Avatar
    Adrianne Nguyen

    I’ve.been around too many drama Kings or Queens, and I have said enough…. that’s the boundary. It could very well be I’ve been around some that have other mental challenges such as bi- polar intwined with hypersensitivity. I’m done, i do not deal or tolerate certain individuals.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I was wondering if the people who you’re around might have other issues on top of having rainforest minds. Bipolar would definitely add another dimension. Or maybe they’re just hypersensitive but not gifted. Not all sensitive people are gifted.


      1. Adrianne Nguyen Avatar
        Adrianne Nguyen

        Then that would make a lot of sense. I don’t believe I’m necessarily speaking of the gifted sensitive. Thank you very much for your time.


  5. Adrianne Nguyen Avatar
    Adrianne Nguyen

    My thoughts are this, I am around too many of them and too many that do not manager their hypersensitive side, they can make you feel like you are walking on eggshells, cannot always take a joke, then you cannot feel like you can completely be yourself. Folks that are too sensitive, yes, you have some good points, but please get a grip on it and manage it, people cannot change who they are for you so that you don’t have a meltdown.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Sounds like you’ve had some trouble handling the sensitivities, Adrianne. It certainly can be challenging to be around intense and emotional folks. Maybe if you keep reading, you’ll gain a better understanding of what’s going on and be able to appreciate the sensitivity, while also learning how to speak up for yourself when you need to set limits or take breaks.


      1. Adrianne Nguyen Avatar
        Adrianne Nguyen

        Paula, thanks. U speak up around some and this is my personal experience, they become defensive. I am speaking of those that will not bother to manage it when it is extreme. I will not change for over sensitive people, after all I have to be myself. If they don’t manage it on some level, and I’m not tolerant of that, then I steer clear.


    2. Mark V Avatar
      Mark V

      I have always had problems with my feet. Some shoes and boots feel like torture devices, I always wear socks because I can’t stand the friction of sweaty feet rubbing against the insides of shoes, and I can often feel the smallest grain of sand rolling around the inside my shoe.

      People have told me I should be tougher when it comes to things that irritate my feet, because it’s tiresome to them whenever I have to stop to take my shoe off to empty out whatever flotsam has entered. And so I really DO try. And yet sometimes no matter how hard I try, an offensive piece of debris will inevitably get in my shoe that will drive me crazy.


      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Sensitivity definitely can include sensory issues like clothing textures, smells, lighting, sounds, or small grains in a shoe!


  6. Gabi Montoya-Eyerman Avatar
    Gabi Montoya-Eyerman

    Laughing can help. My sensitive six year old and I had a good giggle this morning. Time alone is vital. Just stopping to feel the sun on my face. Turning away from things that I know will trigger (yes, even bad architecture or just offensive political stuff). It’s a gift. While I was in the military and in a less than optimal relationship I buried the feelings, so I was quite robotic. Not a real way to be for an extended period and led to all kinds of issues. Now I let myself feel the things and find ways to deal. I particularly like that Dune quote “Fear is the mind killer. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” by Frank Herbert


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for sharing, Gabi. That quote is wonderful.


  7. Kristi Avatar
    Kristi

    Yes, all of this, exactly! It’s like you’ve been eavesdropping on my self-talk.

    What helps me most — journaling, praying, crying (like a storm that leaves the sky clear and air fresh).

    Thanks, Paula . . . you’re a gift.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, Kristi. That’s a wonderful way to think about crying!


  8. auroraremember Avatar
    auroraremember

    So true! That intensity of emotional experience can be one of our greatest gifts!


  9. Mark V Avatar
    Mark V

    Being sensitive and having intense emotions is like living next to a volcano: the soil is super fertile, but the eruptions can be catastrophic.


    1. Mark V Avatar
      Mark V

      ^The volcano analogy was all I could come up with when I wanted to write something because this issue…well, everything written above really hits home, so thanks Paula.

      A notoriously thin-skinned man is running for public office and this has brought up some painful feelings for me because I have found a lot of people confuse high-sensitivity with the narcissism of someone whose giant ego cannot take criticism, opposition or even helpful advice.

      Basically the assumption is that high sensitivity/intensity/emotionalism are seen as symptoms of some disorder for a man who should be able to simply “cowboy up”, and I have written before about how this even throws most therapists off. In spite of that I am getting better at accepting myself, but integrating that person into the world is still a huge challenge.

      Many thanks again for an excellent post!


      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Always good to hear from you, Mark. Did you see the link to the post on sensitivity in men? You’ve probably seen that post already. But I think it’s extra difficult for men to be sensitive/emotional. Interesting to see what you say about the confusion with narcissism. Let’s hope the thin-skinned man doesn’t get elected.


        1. Mark V Avatar
          Mark V

          Yes I’ve read that blog entry plus several books, and I belonged to other blogs and forums for HSPs, and while it has all been enlightening and comforting, the problem is emotions often seem to exist somewhere separated from the intellect. So sometimes before the brain has even had a couple of seconds to process an event and decide whether it is worth getting upset/scared/excited over, the emotions have already taken over the nervous system and raised the alert to DEFCON 1. haha

          It is hard to be your own person, a gifted person that can sometimes see how silly many social conventions and values are (especially in places such as here where old ways of thinking are held on to so tenaciously), so it is hard to disregard many of them and go your own way without coming off as having a giant, selfish ego that doesn’t care about anyone else.

          I don’t know. The idea of narcissism is horrifying to me. I don’t even like to talk about it. I want to do the right thing for people, even if it means going against the grain (my Myers-Briggs personality type is INFP).


          1. Paula Prober Avatar
            Paula Prober

            I’m sure you’ve read about ways to calm your brain-body, Mark. Yes, it can be that your nervous system takes over at times. And, you may also know that the real narcissist isn’t aware of his narcissism much less horrified by the possibility!


            1. Mark V Avatar
              Mark V

              You’re right. Sorry, but I keep forgetting that. I had a bad experience with a doctor when I was young many years ago, and it still comes back to haunt me.

              Maybe I’m just being too dramatic… 😉


        2. Mark V Avatar
          Mark V

          Well, unfortunately the thin-(orange)-skinned man somehow did win. That’s a big blow to many of us, not just for political reasons or because of what that man may be capable of doing (let alone what he has already threatened to do). But because of the bigger picture for gifted people: America seemed to be sending the message that they don’t like or trust smart people. They dislike smart people so much they elected an obnoxious moron (who might even be a sociopath according to the ghost writer of his famous autobiography). These are dark times.

          I think it’s obvious that I am not usually the type to “look on the bright side”. But perhaps in a moment of serendipity, just before the election I read a fitting passage in a book that connects ancient shamans to modern artists and performers.

          The whole principle of shamanism is about transformation. The shaman – as Carl Jung would dub one of his archetypes – is a “wounded healer”, a person who must heal the wounds that separate them from others by descending to the “Underworld” where they encounter the demons that cause the middle-world’s problems, only to return transformed. Transformation must always happen in the underworld. This transformation in turn helps heal others.

          It usually only happens to individuals or small groups of individuals. But perhaps these dark times (the underworld is dark) signify the potential for healing and transformation on a mass scale to happen. Here’s the passage:

          “As Western culture succumbed to the fascination of the new (scientific) way of thinking, it simultaneously began its own descent into Hell……Progress is now a ‘demon’ before which many of us feel to stand naked and unprotected….The shaman’s genius lies in his ability to penetrate the Underworld and return intact. But for our culture the journey is proving extraordinarily difficult, as if we no longer remember where ‘home’ is. Our whole culture has gone down to hell, as if to be initiated (or wounded in the tradition of the singular shaman-Mark). Hell has risen up to become our normal world.”

          That book went out of print in the 80’s but it could have been written today. Many of us thought there is “no way in hell” Trump could ever get elected. But maybe “hell” is the point (or more accurately the Underworld). This could indeed be very painful. But looking at things the way a shaman might, perhaps passing through the Underworld is the only way towards real widespread transformation. -Mark


          1. Paula Prober Avatar
            Paula Prober

            Oh, thank you Mark. I agree with you and Carl Jung. Did you say the quote is his? What’s the book title? Would you be OK if I used it in a future post? (of course, I want my blog to be a political-free zone, but the idea that’s presented here is one that needs to be addressed–hard to know how to do that without references to recent events)


            1. Mark V Avatar
              Mark V

              Sorry if I made it confusing. The actual passage I quoted was from a book called “The Death And Resurrection Show: From Shaman To Superstar” by Rogan P. Taylor.

              I mentioned Jung because I have come across the wounded healer archetype many times in other literature and media, and my interest in shamanism arose simply because shamans appear to be the very first wounded healers capable of healing themselves. Of course this discovery had great appeal to me because of my long history of being disappointed and/or misdiagnosed by other healers (present company excepted of course).

              I’d be honored if you want to use any of what I have written, and let me know if there is anything else I can do.


  10. Gail Post, Ph.D. Avatar
    Gail Post, Ph.D.

    Paula, Great points about how gifted people so frequently minimize their feelings and discount what they feel. So validating and clear.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, Gail. Always lovely to hear from you.


  11. Nimue Brown Avatar
    Nimue Brown

    I came to the conclusion a long time ago that my emotional spectrum just isn’t what most people do, and that it either causes offence (too much, too difficult) or that it strikes people as ridiculous and melodramatic. I’ve learned to allow the feeling while muting the representation of it, to keep the people around me comfortable. I love those spaces where I can afford to remove the mute.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      You are welcome here to “remove the mute!” Thanks for writing, Nimue.


  12.  Avatar
    Anonymous

    “…because you’re easily upset by fragrances, chemicals, clashing colors, social media, depressed relatives, ignorant politicians, leaf blowers and bad architecture.”…YES, exactly! (especially leaf blowers 😉 )


  13. Heather Boorman Avatar
    Heather Boorman

    Yes! So often gifted individuals are shamed for their big emotions . . . love that you reinforce the normalcy and upside of emotional intensity.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Heather. Good to have you here!


  14. Colleen Kessler Avatar
    Colleen Kessler

    Yes! EMOTIONS — big, crazy, full emotions. Thanks for this, Paula.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I just read your post, Colleen. You are such a great resource for parents!


  15. My Little Poppies Avatar
    My Little Poppies

    I always love your posts, Paula. Thank you.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks Cait. The feeling is mutual!

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