Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

What Does Gifted Look Like in My World?

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The controversy is intense.

How do we explain giftedness? Is it high achievement? Talent? Productivity? Eminence? IQ? Financial success? 4.0 grade point average? 10,000 hours of practice?

Nooooooooo. 

I shriek.

Politely.

I mean, it might include any of those things. Sure. But it doesn’t have to.

Instead. Here is my explanation.

Totally anecdotal. If you want data, you can stop reading now. Or skip to the end and the link to neuroscience.

If you want experience, I’m your gal.

Gifted looks like Ebony. Sixteen. Intense. Talks fast, thinks fast, moves fast. Asks questions no one can answer. Struggles in school: Doesn’t turn in papers that aren’t up to her standards. Procrastinates to avoid feeling like a failure if she gets less than an A. Tries to engage her classmates in some intellectual repartee when all they want is to watch Netflix. Some teachers think she’s arrogant. Feels a spiritual and intuitive connection to the ocean and the ravens. Lonely for a friend who gets her and who has read Lord of the Rings 11 times.

Gifted looks like Carlos. Forty-two. Self-taught, successful IT expert. Highly sensitive, empathetic, and emotional (although he hides it well). Bullied in school because he preferred grasshoppers and string theory to football. Spends hours writing a three sentence e-mail. Repeats himself often in an effort to be deeply understood and to calm his anxiety. Researches for days in order to make a decision. A slower, deliberate, deep thinker and processor. Learning to dance the Argentine tango so that he can finally experience being followed.

Gifted looks like Martin. Eight. Energetic. Extremely curious and kind. Wants to be Richard Feynman for Halloween. Refuses to complete worksheets of arithmetic problems that he already knows. Teachers complain that he must be ADHD and not particularly bright but he can concentrate for hours at home building complex lego contraptions or reading Popular Science. Sleeps with a dictionary when he does sleep, which he resists mightily. Exhausts his parents with his emotions and his need for creative and intellectual activity.

Gifted looks like Frances.  Fifty-nine. After running her own children’s bookstore, raising two kids and their friends, volunteering on the board for the ballet, and remodeling her home, she’s in her latest job working as a city planner. She’s considering going back to school for another Masters degree because she’s always wanted to be an art therapist or a landscape architect or a stand-up comedian. She thinks she’s flakey or shallow because she’s walked so many different career paths. Her sense of social responsibility keeps her awake most nights. Her intuitive abilities frighten her.

Gifted looks like Carmen. Thirty-six. A successful social worker and loving mom who promotes energy efficiency everywhere she goes. Been in therapy for years courageously addressing serious trauma from her family of origin. Dealing with complex physical symptoms due to chronic anxiety from growing up terrified and abused. In spite of her own pain, able to be generous, empathetic, optimistic, spiritual, and accomplished. Working on setting better boundaries with people who want her to rescue them. Learning how to create reliable, sweet friendships where she receives as much as she gives.

That’s what gifted looks like in my world.

And, if you really want to know, gifted looks like a rain forest. (Note: If people are like ecosystems, some are meadows. Some deserts. Some oceans. Some rain forests. All are necessary and beautiful.)

In his must-read book, We Rise: The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement that Restores the Planet by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, the tropical rain forest is described:

“The feeling of being in the rain forest is the feeling of being surrounded by life. It’s home for hundreds of thousands of animals, and their survival is connected to the survival of us all. The magnificence of the rain forest is something powerfully sacred, something so clearly worth protecting...the rain forest is one of the most important biomes on the planet for human survival…it offers us an unbelievable abundance of nourishment and resources…” 

Right?

Sounds just like you.

______________________________________________________

To my bloggEEs: You’ve been doing an amazing job adding your comments to my posts. Thank you so much. Let us hear from you now. What does your giftedness look like?

(Note: For those of you who are persnickety, and who among you isn’t, I have a confession. I made rain forest into an adjective, as in rainforest mind, and then made it one word. You may have been wondering about that for a long time. You’ve noticed my inconsistency. The truth is finally revealed.)

(Another note: The people described above are composites of clients, students, and other assorted gifted folks I’ve known. Names, of course, have been changed.)

For those articles on neuroscience and giftedness, click on this link.

 

 

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Author: Paula Prober

I'm a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in counseling gifted adults and consulting with parents of gifted children. The label "gifted" is often controversial and confusing. I use the metaphor of the rain forest to describe this population. Like the rain forest, these individuals are quite complex, highly sensitive, intense, multi-layered, and misunderstood. They're also curious, idealistic, highly intelligent, creative, perfectionistic, and they love learning. I've been an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I've written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, and Advanced Development Journal. My book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, was released in June 2016 by GHF Press and is available on Amazon or at your independent bookstore.

56 thoughts on “What Does Gifted Look Like in My World?

  1. This is such a great post. I am Frances x Carmen. And there should be added the urge to save the planet, wildlife, endangered species. Not humans really per se.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Absolutely, Marlies. Thankfully, the urge to save the planet.

      Like

      • My son is 6 has been expelled from two schools is highly sensitive, finds school life boring, high emotions, can build anything with Lego, taught himself to read, high sence of injustice, IQ score 128 with everything very superior but one part visual memory low ( lowering overall score) will it get better to be able to be in school ?

        Liked by 1 person

        • There can be challenges with school. It often depends on the individual teacher and what else might be going on with the child and the family, Louise. There are parent groups on Facebook that you might find helpful or try http://www.giftedhomeschoolers.org. It can also be helpful to check for twice-exceptionality and to teach self-soothing techniques.

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          • We are awaiting pead follow up appointments, they have ruled out autism , but looking into ADHD , he can be great in school especially when interested in what is being taught … solar system topic was a hit and he behaved throughout, he occassionly corrects the teacher he also likes to sit where he can see all classmates, and dislikes writing.
            He is sadly not in any provision as schools refuse to take him , we are in UK

            Liked by 1 person

            • This woman in the UK has researched giftedness. She might be a resource. http://www.joanfreeman.com

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              • Thank you I read her bio , she believes emotional problems in gifted children are a myth , do you agree with that ?

                Liked by 1 person

                • I think it depends on how she meant that, Louise. I write often about how gifted folks are dealing with multiple challenges. I heard that she was a strong proponent of gifted children so would have to reread her website to see what you mean. But, if she doesn’t sound like a good fit for you, then it makes sense to keep looking for help. It could be good for you to go to Facebook and try one of the parent groups. I think there’s a UK group. It may be called Parenting High Potential, or something like that.

                  Like

  2. Giftedness looks like starting out as a cook, transforming yourself and pursue an IT career.. not because of the technology (which is kinda cool but meh..) but because of the creative ways you can solve problems with it. And then drop all that and start a whole new career in humanities or cultural sciences.

    Giftedness looks like looking for friends willing to talk about the weather system, the aesthetic value of visual art, the way literature (poems and prose alike) can transform entire civilisations, the complexity of heavy metal music in comparison to classical music or just dreaming away with you when looking at a 60’s VW van.

    Giftedness looks like yearning to learn new things, understanding the way the world works, what makes people tick, how organisations can improve themselves.

    Giftedness looks like finding out where in the universe you belong. If at all.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Hi Paula – how can you tell the difference between giftedness and autism (or when someone has both)? Do you have resources that I could research? What might an autistic person struggle with that a gifted person does not? Or are individuals so unique it’s impossible to say 100%?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Giftedness looks like a girl, age 6. Bottles up all the frustrations that stem from not being challenged in school to let them out only when she’s safely at home. Loves doing experiments with the chemistry set she got and making bows and arrows with dad. Is convinced she can’t build anything with her legos without instructions, but imagines the most amazing adventures for her dragons. Is convinced she’ll never learn new things and shrugs it off when she eventually does learn them.

    Giftedness looks like a boy, age 8. Is a walking animal encyclopedia and knows more about exotic animals than any grown up I ever encountered. Creates tales filled with adventures and makes Lego constructions to support his tales. Is puzzled by hypocrisy and thinks time tables are ridiculously difficult.

    Giftedness looks like having a mind that constantly wants to be challenged and starts to harm itself when that isn’t the case. It’s getting a masters degree and not being able to stay away from formal education for more than 2 years in a row, even if you have to combine it with a job and a family. It’s tutoring 10 courses at university level and being both mentally exhausted and o so happy when you’ve had 8 hours of challenging questions.

    Giftedness looks like professors discussing if you really deserved the grade you got when you graduated, because you didn’t seem like such a promising student the first couple of years. It’s creating a program that is used world wide by scientists in your field of expertise. It’s the need to start on side projects every so often, because even a challenging job loses a big part of its spark after a couple of months.

    Giftedness looks like a lot of our friends, even if the word is never uttered. Giftedness looks like a bunch of misfits that fit together.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I relate so much to the people described above.

    So, do you have suggestions of how/where to find RFM peers? I wonder if other readers have the same question.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Giftedness looks like a five year old girl whose mother feels so threatened by her, that she shuts out her daughter emotionally and physically. It looks like the little girl who can’t complete her schoolwork because she can’t come out of daydreaming long enough to focus. She daydreams about being loved by her mother. But she learns.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. For me giftedness is living in a reality of your own. It’s not a reality that is detached and deluded, but rather painfully clear, on the other hand more wondrous than any story. It is having no role models, or any obvious answers or solutions growing up. It is about undoing a lot of education and re-educating yourself, when you are ready. Bit by bit you work at it, until you arrive at the very scary conclusion, that despite your life long insecurity, confusion and lack of confidence, you are a leader, not a follower.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Just beautiful Sweet Paula! It me and so many I know all over! 💕 Thank you!!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. BAM! You covered it, except of course, we could shift any of the descriptors around in multiple ways and have even more characterisations of ‘what Giftedness looks like’.
    Our dilemma in public schooling is who is ready to accept, nurture, advocate for, and support giftedness-really???
    Thanks for sharing, Paula!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I resonate with all these descriptions! So lovely. My dad is gifted and he really made sure that I was allowed to explore my interests, be it drawing, science (he gave me a microscope when I was 11), or in how to fix things. I am so grateful to him for my brain being the way it is now, even if other’s don’t get it 🙂 I am grateful to my mom for her love of reading and encouraging me to do so as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Giftedness is 24/7 for a Lifetime | Crushing Tall Poppies

  12. as a kid my giftednes looked like Martin. My mother still has schoolwork with a big fat 1 on it because I refused to make the same sum 20 times ( adding up to 10? how did they even make up 20 sums?)
    Now my giftednes looks like paralysis, I do not know what to do. stay in the job I have right now, I make good money but there are lots of things in this job I do not like anymore. worst part, the thing I consider my job I still like, but the company politics, crazy constantly changing laws, and power plays. URGG.

    the new job of choice? starting my own company, is constantly made harder, again by weird laws, local politicians who need to prove themselfs and financing companies who do not trust smart women.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Somehow, *all* of the theoretical people in your post sound like me. o_O

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Anyone else have repeating life patterns like mine? I’m curious to hear similar experiences about how giftedness looks.

    In the decades before I understood about giftedness I’d tell friends and intimate partners that I observed, analyzed, and expressed everything around me in different ways from other people. They would then make passionate arguments trying to convince me that I did not. Then one day some miscellaneous event would occur and I’d observe, analyze, and express my experience with it and they would become angry with me for not accepting it like everyone else. I’d remind them how I’d told them I did things differently and they’d insist I should stop. Looking back I understand those to be catalyst events that lead to eventual partings.

    Two summers ago (anniversary month, woohoo) when I discovered I was 2E I shared that information with everyone and especially my friends that are educators. The consistency of reaction with the educator friends has been remarkable. First each one has said they have never heard of 2E. Next, they tell me I couldn’t possibly be 2E. Finally, I’ve not heard from a single one of them in well over a year. To recap, they don’t know anything about 2E, I’m not one, and they’ve gone radio silent. So very curious.

    Do these experiences resonate?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I not 2e, but the part about friends going “radio silent” has happened twice in my adult life. I considered both of these friends to be close friends and they indicated that considered me as a close friend. Then … nothing.

      I hugged one goodbye and we were all smiles. When I got home, she had blocked me from every method of communication other than USPS. I never knew why.

      Similar thing happened with another friend.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Isn’t that incredible? It completely sucks and feels so bad. I’ve never been a fan of negative difficult conflict, but when that causes a relationship to end—it makes understanding the failure have some sense. I’ve been on both sides of relationship drift and I know how life can get in the way and sometimes separate people, but even that’s different then the crickets chirping as if the other person were never there.

        The one salvageable element I’m holding on to is to use the mirror quality of relationship and not ever go radio silent, even if I know my honesty might create conflict.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve found it useful over the years to look deeply at my relationships for patterns and themes, Allison. We often pick friends/partners who will trigger unresolved issues from the past. In understanding and processing our patterns, we can make different choices. That said, it can be hard to see what these are if they are deep and complex. Therapy can help in that case.

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    • I’m so sorry about this, M.J. It could have been important for your educator friends to understand what 2e means, even if they couldn’t apply it to you! Relationships can be challenging for anyone and there are particular issues that can come up for RFMs. I provide a link above to a few posts on the topic in a reply to Allison. See if any of those help. Thanks for sharing. I hope you get more responses from bloggEEs.

      Like

      • Thanks Paula.

        I’m always fascinated when I offer someone a clear explanation of my inner workings to help form their expectations for my future behavior and then they are surprised when it happens. Brains are such funky organs.

        Two surprising elements with the educators was their reactions and the consistency of those reactions across a diverse group of individuals.

        Your phrase “unresolved issues from the past” and my phrase “mirror quality of relationship” are different frames of reference for the same observation. So I understand what your saying.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Another thought, M.J. and Allison, is that you might be running into a challenge where depth is concerned. I find that RFMs are looking for depth, sensitivity, and empathy in their relationships. Other folks, maybe not so much…

          Like

          • Like minded depth can most certainly be rare in others at times. I’ve gotten accustomed to bridging that gap over the years. Although, I sometimes forget and reminders are helpful.

            The funny depth anecdote from my 20’s is hearing someone say they liked all kinds of music. Upon comparison they were talking about liking most things on the Billboard top 40 that week. In comparison we discovered I was talking about forms they’d never experienced, from parts of the planet they were unfamiliar, on instruments they’d not heard before. They were learning from Casey Kasem and I was learning from the Alan Lomax. A truly classic funny depth divide situation.

            Liked by 1 person

  15. Gifted looks like, the fact that I wrote this out 4 times before deciding that I was being too wordy and people wouldn’t want to read my whole diatribe regarding the various systems of influence throughout my gifted life history. But rather than just delete what I wrote, I had to save it in a word document, because maybe I’ll want to use it for something. Then realizing that this too was becoming long winded. What I was really trying to say is giftedness is a life of learning to not only accept yourself, but also of learning to love yourself. Because in order to advocate and best help guide my own two, very different, like night and day, gifted 2e children, I knew I would best serve them by leading by example. Signed, Another gifted, successful, 2e social worker. P.S. #timeisstillmyflaw

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I think for me it’s one of those “I know it when I see it” things.

    Trying to think of what I see when I see it….

    Curiosity, having fun learning, ability to think independently and create your own structure as opposed to borrowing a structure from the people around you, feeling deeply, needing beauty, thinking in both/ands rather than either/ors, etc.

    On Tumblr I hover around the margins of a community I’ve found that’s full of gifted people. I don’t participate, because that’s terrifying after my experiences in the Sims community, but I read, and I write out my own thoughts about their discussions on my little blog that I keep as hidden as I can from search engines.

    Sometimes the subject of giftedness will come up. Many of them had experiences in school both with being identified as gifted and identified as being autistic and put in special education classes. So they get really passionate about it and really angry and they absolutely hate the concept of giftedness and they refuse the label. Every word they write drips with giftedness, but I don’t tell them that because it’s clearly an extremely touchy concept for them.

    One thing they mention is how behavior that was okay and accepted and seen as a sign of being smart and eccentric in their gifted classes was terribly punished in the classes for people with disorders, and that it was seen as a sign of being deficient and not completely human and deserving of abuse in that environment.

    Also one of them has been in and out of institutions and needs in home medical help and she got a feeding tube a few years ago and she doesn’t communicate well verbally, but her blog posts scream for anyone that knows the signs that she’s profoundly gifted. She talks about how people in the medical field tried to convince her that it might be better if she just died rather than get the feeding tube. Because people in her situation can’t be gifted and valuable in a society that can only see abled people as gifted, and that values people on their ability to produce things of value to capitalism and to fit into extremely limited and oppressive social norms.

    That is one part of why I think it’s important to separate the lived experience/objective physical differences in brain development and structure in giftedness from the cultural conception of it.

    Like of course a culture that only values money and social status is going to say that being gifted means being the best at accumulating money and social status, and it’s going to devalue any expressions of giftedness that don’t fit into that cultural ideal. And when that culture also tends to make it easier for some groups to get money and social status than other groups, the concept of giftedness is going to get tied into that culture’s prejudices and bigotry.

    I don’t know. It’s just I’ve noticed that most of the time when people talk about giftedness, it’s code for what they see as socially valued traits, and they will be very sure and very loud that people who do not display what they see as socially valued traits are not gifted. They are also very sure about their stereotypes and about the fuzzy pictures they’ve picked up from other people and popular culture, like that gifted people can’t have learning disorders and they can’t have problems with mental health and…I don’t even know. It goes on and on and on, and I want to play some Dragon Age today so I have to stop listing Weird Things I’ve Noticed In My Years Of Observing Other Humans Online now.

    You know – we’re all ignorant of most of reality, and I don’t have a problem with that, and I’d be happy to help people learn about the very few bits of reality that I have some experience with and have figured out at least a little bit. It’s when they refuse to learn and they’re so sure and defensive and angry about their ignorance and they go on to hurt other people with their ignorance while refusing to ever consider that their information might be wrong that I get upset.

    And I guess getting upset about things like that is one of the things that giftedness looks like to me. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • So much here to think about, medleymisty. Thank you. I also wonder about all of the reality that I’m ignorant of. I suppose that’s why I qualify my writing with the “in my world” phrase!

      Like

  17. Giftedness looks like a 43 year old teacher having a conversation with a third grader about multiple universes, mirror images, nature vs. nurture, conservation of matter, infinity…and realizing I’m more energized and more myself in this conversation than I am in many conversations with peers. (Two gifted portraits in one anecdote!)

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Being gifted feels like being the elephant appraised by blind men. What did it think of their appraisal?

    Liked by 1 person

  19. To me, being gifted often means being conflicted.

    Case in point: an acquaintance of mine has been very open on social media about his drug addiction and regularly updates us on the progress he makes as he goes through various rehab programs, court dates, halfway houses etc. Now that he has been clean for several months and is taking positive steps towards building a productive life, he has become a bit preachy about how recovery is possible for everyone, that it is just a matter of will power, positive thinking etc etc….

    It’s great that he is taking control of his life and reaping the rewards, so the last thing I want to do is rain on his parade. But then again he is a straight, white, middle class male in a place that is still very much a stronghold for straight, white, middle class males in North America, and so his experiences are not exactly an accurate representation of reality for other people who do not have it so easy.

    For example, many of the homeless people in my inner city neighborhood are indigenous people who are addicted to something or another, many being women who have been the victims of systematic abuse. I had the pleasure of spending a chilly spring afternoon with one of these incredibly strong ladies as I pushed her around the neighborhood in her wheelchair, mere days after she had a leg amputated and was released back on to the street in near-freezing temperatures with no home to go to – an absolutely appalling situation. We made a stop at the liquor store to buy some cheap vodka and we had a couple drinks together in front of the warm exhaust of an office building that towers over one of the homeless shelters.

    So knowing this, I really wanted to say to the recovering addict who has recently found his inner Tony Robbins to go to the inner city and preach his shtick to all the people down there and see what kind of reception he gets.

    But of course I didn’t because I am conflicted. I wish him well, but I also wanted to scream the truth I know in my heart, but I am afraid it will be heard as well as any scream is heard in the vacuum of outer space, and would merely paint a target on my back. And trying to avoid that kind of conflict with people not open to the complexities of many situations makes me feel like a coward, even though I know I am not…. erk.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is such a great example, Nessuno, of how a rainforest mind might think more deeply and broadly about a situation and then not know what to do with it because others would be offended or would get reactive and would not understand the larger picture. You’re not alone! Many RFMs will relate to this. Thanks for sharing.

      Like

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