: full of courage or energy : very lively or determined
More and more has been written about "spirited" children these days, which is a word often easily exchanged for the words "difficult" or "high needs." When you look at the definition of spirited however, there is much more good than bad in the term.
In Raising Your Spirited Child, Mary Sheedy Kurchinka points out the positive qualities that go along with this trait. As she describes, "the word that distinguishes spirited children from other children is more. They are normal children who are more intense, persistent, sensitive, perceptive, and uncomfortable with change than other children." They are "the Super Ball in a room full of rubber balls."
Her definition of spirited is very similar to the description of overexitability in Living with Intensity, written by Susan Daniels and Michael Piechowski. They describe it as "an innate tendency to respond in an intensified manner to various forms of stimuli, both external and internal." In fact, they quote her definition and use the term spirited as another word to describe overexcitability.
Many resources covering spirited or excitable traits revolve around solving this as a "problem" in children. Unfortunately, when we treat this as a "problem" to solve, rather than a power to harness, we end up with spirited adults who either feel out of control or have repressed their spirit to the point where they have created a host of other problems.
Daniels and Piechowski note that Kazimierz Dabrowski, the founder of the term overexcitability (or more literally translated "superstimulability"), "saw inner forces at work that on the one hand generated overstimulation, conflict, and pain, but on the other hand, these factors provoked individuals to search for a way through the pain, strife, and disharmony."
In Dabrowski's research, these traits were linked to "high developmental potential." This makes some degree of sense because if you receive and respond to the world in a more intense way, you are likely to pick up on things that others may not.
There are five types of excitabilities: heightened psychomotor, sensory, intellectual, imaginational and emotional experiences. They can provide unusual stores of energy, perceptiveness, insight, creativity and/or sensitivity. People exhibiting any one or all five of these intensities might be considered spirited.
So think of one trait about yourself that you have labeled as too much. How does that trait serve you when used well? How does that trait look when you feel it is out of control? How does it look when you try to suppress it? Now consider how you can embrace this trait and use it for good!
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