Positive and negative implications of the term “intense”.
Along with terms like “neurotic”, “toxic” and “difficult”, I’ve been hearing the word “intense” being used with greater frequency to describe people who don’t fit into the categories of “normal” or “well-balanced”. But what exactly does the term connote, and is it derogatory?
If like me, people have often called you intense, I have some good news, and some bad.
Sensitive or Self-absorbed
Being intense often means you’re more sensitive and aware of your own thoughts, feelings, and physical wellbeing or discomfort, as well as by your surroundings and what’s going on in your world. Seen this way, being intense means you sense and feel more than the average person. You are more conscious of your internal dialogue than most, and you have more evolved experience-processing abilities. You are more greatly affected by people, places and things than others, and are perhaps more enlightened or “woke” that your peers. It also means you spend more time thinking or complaining about your own thoughts, feelings, and physical wellbeing or discomfort, as well as by your surroundings and what’s going on in your world, which would make you a highly self-absorbed.
Entertaining or Melodramatic
Intense people are often dramatic and therefore entertaining by default. Sometimes you are so animated that you come across as a caricature of a personality stereotype (the joker, the whiner, the princess, the virago, the player, the suffering artist, the New Age yogi, the wealthy snob etc.). If you’re intense, you probably have big opinions, big emotions, big beliefs, big movements, big facial expressions, and big (possibly explosive) reactions to people, places and things. When you’re in a good place, the world sees you as larger than life, and a delightful sideshow at a dinner party. When you’re not in your groove, you come across as melodramatic, attention seeking, and possibly a windbag.
They call you intense because you do it “with feeling”, and most people would much rather stay comfortably numb.
Intimate or Suffocating
As an intense person, you crave intimacy. It’s connect deeply or don’t connect at all. Forget about small talk, you want to get straight down to discussions about “why all politicians/men/women/dogs/cats are scum” or “why all politicians/men/women/dogs/cats are god’s gift to humanity”. You have a special talent for making generalizations, after all, sweeping statements pack more a punch (you love punching don’t you?) than wishy-washy statements that convey ambiguity. You enjoy lengthy, vigorous and mentally exhausting conversations about why you did what you did, why some other person thinks what they think, or what you learnt during your last sojourn in the psych ward. You take talk of conflict and crisis all the way to home run, and you get really excited when topics that involve bowel movements and bodily fluids come up. For you, conversation is all about fostering closeness. You want to bond, bond, bond. Not just bond, you want to crawl under the other person’s skin and for them to put on yours, not just that, you want to reach right in there wiggle your little fingers all around their innards so they can’t hide anything from you. And you have no issues flaying yourself to reveal all your vulnerabilities to strangers who you will convert into friends. All of this has its charms of course, because who doesn’t like meaningful heart-to-hearts with a passionate and emphatic companion every now and then. You’re not however, very good at small talk or just sitting quietly together with your chosen victim, I mean friend. You’re delightful in small doses, but those close enough to risk telling you the truth often throw up words and phrases like “draining”, “exasperating”, “vexation to the spirit”, and “piece of work”. After too many hours around you, people feel like they can’t breathe, so set a timer on your tête-à-têtes.
Contemplative or Tiring
It’s clear that you do a lot more thinking than most people, even if it’s just about why the ant crawling up your bathroom wall looks like it’s (he’s, she’s?) drunk. Rodin should have had you posing for his masterpiece. You like to think deeply about things, and you can analyze the crap out of anything. For you, there’s meaning to be found everywhere, because you have to connect the dots to make sense of your very confusing and scary world, or go mad. At your best, you are an intelligent and creative philosopher, an artist or inventor, a manic Action Jackson who can turn thoughts into things that will change the world. You fall short when you believe other people care as deeply as you do about what you think, or that they actually give a hoot about what’sreally on your mind. You are at your worse when you are paralyzed or disarmed by all your ideas and hypotheses, and behave like a disgruntled cynic, a victim of circumstance, a sad wannabe, or a deluded demigod. On your less than lovely days, you’re the person who makes everyone’s eyes’ roll. People want to run away from you because you are absolutely exhausting to listen to and be around. There is however, a terrific solution to this: Buy a journal or blog to share your thoughts, and make the world a better place by talking less.
You may be paradise or you may be a war zone, but you ain’t Switzerland. You don’t do neutral, and there’s hardly a dull moment with you. Whatever they say about you, they’ll never say you’re boring. Everything about you screams interesting, maybe eccentric or plain bonkers depending on whose watching. You’ll incite feelings of excitement, immense joy, love or adoration, or feelings of frustration, fury, disgust or despair in others. You might fill those you meet with great ideas, regal them with enthralling tales or spectacular songs and dances, or you might wear them down with your phenomenal stamina for expressing exactly how you feel about everything. However they see and treat you, don’t take any of it too personally. They call you intense because you do it “with feeling”, and most people would much rather stay comfortably numb.