Making the Choice to Manage Intensity

Fall color

Our family climbs a steep trail up to the top of a ridge every year to look at the fall color in Colorado. Dave and I have been taking the exact same hike, every year, since before the kids were born. We have gorgeous pictures – courtesy of my husband – of golden hued aspen in the background, followed by babies in the backpack, ruddy-faced toddlers with bright eyes, and smiling kids (missing many teeth!) in the foreground. It is one of those wonderful yearly rituals that reminds both Dave and I of the swift passage of time.

This year, as we were hiking a midst picking up interesting leaves and rocks, E wanted to talk about intensities. She, like all of us, struggles with managing her intensities at times, and she wanted to know how we navigated this as adults. Specifically, she wanted to know why she had to learn to manage her intensities at all. It was, and remains, a difficult question for me to answer.

Like most intense adults, I grew up not knowing why I felt things so intensely. Over the course of my lifetime, I have learned to manage my intensities mostly by observing others – seeing their expression change perceptibly when I have gone too far, overwhelmed them with too much information, too much excitement, or too many details. I have watched my message get lost in the delivery – being so enthusiastic about a problem I had finally solved, yet unable to explain it to others in a way that was meaningful to them. I have learned to temper the delivery, keeping the intensity under wraps, so that I can be more effective with the message.

Because of this, being around my family is both wonderful and exhausting. I love being around four other people for whom I do not have to temper the delivery. I can be as intense as I want, and they will volley that intensity right back to me, in a crazy ping-pong of words, movements, emotions, and energy. The flipside is that being around four other intense individuals is mentally exhausting. Our kids’ intensity seems to be a well that never runs dry. It also seems to defy mathematical rules, in that three intense kids together seems to equal more than 3, or 9. The end result is some sort of multiplier that I haven’t quite figured out.

In the end, as we hiked down the mountain, I’m not sure I was able to adequately explain to our daughter why she should learn to manage her intensities. Intensities are such an integral part of my being that I can’t imaging living without them, even if it would make my life easier as a result. I suspect that she will choose, over time, to temper the delivery of her intensities, if only out of sheer necessity. In the end, though, it is our choice, as intense individuals, whether to respond to the widened eyes and sideways glances with anything but a shrug. Thankfully, our family will embrace us – intensities included – at the end of the day, no matter which choice we made.


This post is part of a Blog Hop for Gifted Homeschoolers Forum on Gifted Grownups. Check out the other blog posts here!

6 responses to this post.

  1. I’ve always said that my two intense kids often felt like a half dozen regular kids…


  2. Posted by throughastrongerlens on October 20, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    The intensities at our house can get exhausting, too, but exhilarating at the same time. I love reading the stories of your homeschooling and parenting. Our families are much alike.


  3. Why should I manage intensities for reasons other than ‘fitting in’ is a tough question for adults to answer, let alone kids. Finding a tribe who understands and being able to freely express feelings and intensities is such a relief – I don’t think I’d be able to come up with an adequate answer to that question either.


  4. My husband and I were talking about this over the weekend – saying (again) how thrilled we were that we had found each other, and how horrible it would be to be married to someone we couldn’t be our full (weirdo) selves with. I think tempering intensities is helpful for navigating social & work relationships, but it’s also so important to find a spouse and a few good friends that you can truly be your full self with – intensities and all.


  5. Posted by caitlinfitzpatrickcurley on October 21, 2014 at 8:22 am

    This: “In the end, though, it is our choice, as intense individuals, whether to respond to the widened eyes and sideways glances with anything but a shrug. Thankfully, our family will embrace us – intensities included – at the end of the day, no matter which choice we made.” Beautiful.


  6. I also feel many times that we have a dozen boys at home instead of just two! Sometimes, I wonder how my husband is able to cope with the boys’ intensity, over-excitability and oversensitivity on top of mine! πŸ˜‰


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