Home » Blogs » The Creative Mind » Channeling Intensity Through Creative Expression

Channeling Intensity Through Creative Expression

Russell Crowe in Robin Hood

Jodie Foster once commented about Russell Crowe, “He’s a very light, funny guy. He has a little leprechaun side to him.” But, she added, “He has that glacier intensity. He is truly intense.”

Intensity is one of the reasons we enjoy the performances of acclaimed actors, and it is a key personality quality of many gifted and talented, creative people.

In her post Tips for Working With Emotional Intensity (she notes it is her contribution to SENG’s Blog Tour celebrating their National Parenting Gifted Children week), Christine Fonseca provides a summary:

“Intensity comes in the form of cognitive intensity – those aspects of thinking and processing information that all gifted individuals use to problem solve. It relates to the attributes of focus, sustained attention, creative problem solving, and advanced reasoning skills. Most people think of cognitive intensity as intellect, or ‘being smart’ – all good things.”

She continues, “But a gifted child’s intensity does not stop there. The emotional aspects of a gifted individual are also intense. Emotional intensity refers to the passion gifted people feel daily. It also refers to the extreme highs and lows many gifted people experience throughout their lifetime, causing them to question their own mental stability from time to time.”

She adds, “This type of intensity is a natural aspect of giftedness. However, in my experience, it is also one of the most misunderstood attributes – and it is the reason gifted kids sometimes struggle.”

She is author of Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students: Helping Kids Cope With Explosive Feelings.

A related book: Living With Intensity: Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitability, and the Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Adults – by Susan Daniels and Michael M. Piechowski, Editors.

“Gifted children and adults are often misunderstood. Their excitement is viewed as excessive, their high energy as hyperactivity, their persistence as nagging, their imagination as not paying attention, their passion as being disruptive, their strong emotions and sensitivity as immaturity, their creativity and self-directedness as oppositional. This resource describes these overexcitabilities and strategies for dealing with children and adults who are experiencing them, and provides essential information about Dabrowski s Theory of Positive Disintegration. Learn practical methods for nurturing sensitivity, intensity, perfectionism, and much more.” [Amazon summary]

Gifted kids do grow up – and as adults, we may still experience intensity and its challenges.

J.D. Salinger and peace

In her post Overexcitabilities and the gifted – Living With Intensity (on her raisingsmartgirls blog), author Casey notes that the editors of the book above “remarked that  J.D. Salinger looked everywhere outside himself to find that peace he was searching for relentlessly.”

From my post What do you do with your intensity?

Of course, “peace” is not just a matter of developing a healthy relationship with intensity. But I suspect many of the ways we talk about “non-peace” – things like agitation, irritation, various sorts of upset and overwhelm – relate to emotional intensity or other forms.

Creative people and intensity

Cheryl Arutt, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in creative artist issues, among other topics.

In her guest article on my site: Affect Regulation and the Creative Artist, she notes, “Creating art has always been a way to channel emotional intensity. In a world where destructive acting out is all too frequent…sublimating painful feelings by expressing them in the form of artistic expression allows the artist to choose to ‘act out’ in a way that is constructive.”

You can hear a recent podcast in which she talks about these topics: Dr. Cheryl Arutt on Celebrity Addiction, Rehab and Creativity.

TEDx video – Cheryl Arutt, PsyD – That Good Feeling of Control

‘This talk explores self-regulation as the basis for mental health, how trauma disrupts this, and ways new technology and discoveries are creating exciting opportunities to teach, learn and treasure what one self-regulation pioneer referred to as “that good feeling of control.”‘

Uncommon and intense

Willem Kuipers is author of the book Enjoying the Gift of Being Uncommon: Extra Intelligent, Intense, and Effective.

In a section of the book – Is it a Gift to be Uncommon? – he writes about how people who are Xi [eXtra Intelligent or Intense] may view their exceptional abilities, and notes that “Giftedness refers literally to special talents, somehow provided at birth. Extra intelligence refers literally to an uncommon overdose, compared to standard availability.”

He adds that “many artists feel grateful that talents and inspiration have been bestowed upon them. They feel the urge to share the results with their environment, and their gift is reciprocated through public attention, admiration, official prizes, and, to some extent, through money…”

Read more: Is uncommon intelligence or intensity a gift?

See my earlier Creative Mind post Too Much to Contain – Intensity and Creativity.

Also see multiple posts on my High Ability site in the Category: Intensity

Do you feel intense? Do you use that intensity creatively?

~ ~

Channeling Intensity Through Creative Expression

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
~ ~
Some excerpts from The Creative Mind are included in his newsletter .
~ ~

Emotional Health Resources - Programs, books, articles and sites to improve your emotional wellbeing.

3 comments: View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Eby, D. (2012). Channeling Intensity Through Creative Expression. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 6, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Jun 2012
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.