What’s your Intense Superpower?
In this article, Lucinda Leo, Founder of Giraffe Life, and Member of The Midlife Hub, asks What’s Your Intense Superpower?
Did you hear any of these phrases when you were growing up?
Stop being so sensitive!
Why do you always over-react?
Stop being such a drama queen!
Stop over-thinking everything!
Get your head out of the clouds and come back down to Earth!
Do you have to make everything into an argument?
If you heard any (or all) of these, you probably grew up with a nagging suspicion that something’s wrong with you. Why else do you get so upset by things other people just brush off? Why do you over-analyse everything – why can’t you just let things go and move on? Why do you always have to be doing something, while those around you can sit and relax?
As children, our survival depends on pleasing our caregivers, so when we’re chastised in these ways, we become ashamed of our intense and sensitive natures. We try not to over-react, painfully blinking back tears at the injustice and suffering we see. We attempt to censor our off-the-wall thoughts before they come out of our mouths. When they slip out anyway we cringe, humiliated. We crave deep, stimulating friendships, and feel heartbroken when others back away from our intensity.
We decide we’re a bit weird, and we spend huge amounts of energy suppressing our intense personalities. We set about presenting to the world a more acceptable, blander version of ourselves.
The Hidden Cost of Toning Ourselves Down.
That was certainly my experience for a large chunk of my adult life. I kept my quirks well-hidden as I studied for a ‘sensible’ degree, and then in my job as a corporate lawyer. Partying and books provided some release, but the stress of almost constantly suppressing my true, effervescent, nature left me close to burn out.
Motherhood offered an escape from an unfulfilling legal career, but was no less stressful. Now I was trying to care for two intense children on scant sleep, all the while trying to appear ‘normal’ enough to fit in with the local mummy-network – a group of women whose babies, unlike mine, seemed to fall effortlessly into easy routines by the time they were a few weeks old.
So successful was I in my attempts to fit in was that by my mid-30’s I found myself a full-time mum to two toddlers in a Surrey commuter-belt town with no idea who I really was and, as a consequence, no true friends around me.
Things got worse before they got better.
Intense Parents have Intense Kids.
While other mums happily drank tea and chatted at playdates as their children played nicely, mine would be climbing the walls or having meltdowns.
One of my sons refused to do anything he was told at school and ended up being home-educated by the age of 5. His older brother soon joined him at home for different reasons – home-education was the only way he could do the myriad activities he craved, while still having some downtime.
It was my search for ways to support my full-on children that led me to the workshop that changed my life. I can still remember the words on the cover of the flyer,
‘Intense? Sensitive? Over-anxious? Easily overwhelmed? Reacts out of proportion?’
I signed up on the spot.
The Relief of Being Understood.
What I learned on that workshop gave me far more than a few parenting tools – it gave me a new understanding of myself.
I discovered that 20% of the population are born with a set of personality traits that mean we experience the world differently from other people.
Our nervous systems are both more sensitive, and more responsive, to stimuli. In other words, we don’t over-react to things. Rather, our strong reactions are an authentic – normal – expression of our inner experience.
We’re not unable to keep still or stop talking because we lack character – we just have an abundance of psychomotor energy.
We don’t lose ourselves in daydreams because we’re not concentrating, but because our imaginations are so vibrant and stimulating.
We’re not being fussy if we can’t focus when it’s noisy or the light is wrong – we’re genuinely less able to filter out sensory input.
And we’re not trying to be argumentative – we just struggle to relax when things aren’t right (according to our exacting standards).
As I sat in the workshop listening to these intense personality traits being described, I felt a sense of validation more profound than anything I’d ever known. Although she had never met me, the presenter was describing me to a T.
I felt seen, heard – known – for who I truly am, for the first time in my life.
What’s Your Intense Superpower?
Since that day I’ve been passionate about sharing what I learned. For several years I wrote a blog about life in an intense family. In my hypnotherapy practice I began specialising in working with intense and sensitive clients. And – back when we were allowed to congregate in groups of more than 6 – I’d give talks and workshops about how to thrive with intensity.
Covid has put a pause on live workshops, but given me time to focus on reaching kindred spirits in new ways. One of my favourites is my ‘What’s Your Intense Superpower?’ Questionnaire, a ten minute set of questions to help you identify which intensities you have.
The five types of intensity are:
Emotional intensity – people with this one feel things more deeply, and experience a more complex range of emotions than most
Psychomotor intensity – characterised by an abundance of physical and/or mental energy
Sensual intensity – people with this intensity are very sensitive to information received through the senses. So sights, sounds, sensations, tastes and/or smells are heightened
Intellectual intensity – brings a deep thirst for knowledge, a need to have things ‘just right’, and a strong aversion to injustice
Imaginational intensity – found in creative daydreamers with rich inner lives, who think outside the box
Some people who have intensity have just one type and a few have all five, while most have a combination of several. And because one in five of us have these traits, even if you don’t have them yourself, chances are that someone you know does.
Whatever your unique intensity blend, people with intensity experience life as more vivid, intense, vibrant and richly textured.
Properly understood and nurtured, these traits can be a wonderful gift. But without self-knowledge, intense individuals are vulnerable. Not knowing they’re experiencing life differently from most, and with phrases like ‘Lighten up!’ and ‘Stop being so sensitive!’ echoing through their heads since childhood, they feel ashamed of their differences and try to conceal them. But it takes a lot of energy to suppress an intense nature, and the cost can be high. Anxiety, addictions and depression are sadly common among intense individuals who lack proper support and understanding.
That’s why I’m passionate about sharing what I know about intensity. I want to free my intense kindred spirits from the burden of trying to change who they are, and empower them to use their extraordinary qualities to create lives – and a world – that they love.
Take the What’s Your Intense Superpower Questionnaire HERE
More about Lucinda Leo
Lucinda Leo, founder of Giraffe Life helps you live your happiest, healthiest life, with a combination of cognitive hypnotherapy and deep coaching.
Cognitive hypnotherapy is an inclusive, evidence-based practise that draws on the latest research in neuroscience, NLP, and positive psychology to bring fast, permanent improvements.
Research suggests that 90% of our behaviour is automatic. This explains why it can be so hard to make changes in our lives using willpower alone.Lucinda doesn’t use labels or diagnoses. Instead she’ll explore with you what’s getting in your way, and update your unconscious programming with your conscious mind’s understanding of reality.
Lucinda runs workshops and 1-1 sessions, both privately and for businesses, giving people the tools and self-understanding that allow them to flourish personally and to fully contribute to the world.
Most clients reach their solution state within an average of 4 – 6 sessions.