Most people experience strong feelings occasionally, unless they are depressed. But for some, their emotional reactions are especially intense.
Psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski (1902 – 1980) developed a theory of personality that is often used to understand gifted children and adults.
One of his ideas is Emotional Overexcitability (or Excitability), which can include intense feelings, extremes of complex emotions, empathy with other people, vivid emotional memory, and strong reactions to injustice and social issues.
Hilary Swank, it seems to me, is a wonderful example. She makes use of emotional excitability in her work, and expresses herself with deep feelings in these two interview clips (below).
In her interview for Inside the Actors Studio, she talks about a very difficult scene in Boys Don’t Cry, and her feelings about the hatred often shown toward transgender people.
In this clip from a 60 Minutes interview about her film Million Dollar Baby, she is distraught about not being able to save a man who suffered a heart attack.
Journalist Mike Wallace makes a nice comment at the end: “Her emotions are always close to the surface. It has helped make her one of Hollywood’s best actors.”