This is the eternal balancing act: being grateful for the superpowers we have as gifted humans and practicing self-love, patience, and perspective when our intensities take over our brains and bodies. In the end, it’s my hope that gifted people realize their giftedness as a gift rather than a guillotine.
I love the question posed in this inaugural issue of The GHF Dialogue, “How do gifted people feel about their giftedness?” Any time the words gifted and feeling are in the same sentence, you can practically see the static electricity shooting off the page. Gifted people certainly do have feelings—BIG feelings! If gifted and twice-exceptional (gifted with a learning difference) people don’t understand that their intense emotions are organic to their profile, they tend to travel down a self-critical spiral, wondering why they are so different from others.
So often gifted and twice-exceptional people feel different, out of sync, and lonely. Other people seem not to understand or worse, misunderstand gifted and twice-exceptional people’s intentions and reactions. This results in gifted and twice-exceptional people asking themselves, “What’s wrong with me?”
It’s important for gifted and twice-exceptional people to understand their own profiles—to know that their reactions to things are neurologically based and come from the super antenna in their head. Parents and gifted adults describe their children’s or their own experience with intensities as a deluge of emotions. Like most things, nature loves balance. So it stands to reason that with great strengths and skills come challenges and struggles. As with all things, we need to shore up the areas that cause us pain or fear and celebrate and engage with our talents. To grow inner strength, we need to practice self-awareness, self-love, and self-care.
Self-awareness may come in many forms. In this past US presidential election, there were several articles in the gifted press warning its readers to minimize watching the debates. They were too acrimonious, the gifted press said, for many gifted people to experience. It would have made them feel mad, sad, or powerless. They might have felt paralyzed and exhausted.
My client’s seventeen-year-old’s parents described why he wanted to drop a particular class; The high school senior had an A in this course, but because the teacher ignored his comments and questions, because the teacher seemed not invested in any creative thinking or extension of the curriculum, and because the student felt he had more knowledge on the topic than the teacher, he expressed the anger he felt when in that class. He felt as though he was wasting valuable time and was demoralized by the lack of investment on the teacher’s part. Another parent-client described her ten-year-old daughter’s reaction to sounds, smells, and social complexities in the school cafeteria. Literally combat-crawling to escape, this student described the pain she felt in her body. Yet another parent described her four-year-old son’s response to the birth of his baby sibling by expressing to his grandparents that “95 percent of Mommy’s time is spent with my brother.”
Gifted and twice-exceptional children describe feeling over-the-top, palpable emotions from elation to anger to existential strife. Oftentimes, gifted and twice-exceptional people self-define as annoying, different, or having trouble making friends. Rather than wondering, “What is wrong with me?” their time is better spent anticipating their needs and practicing strategies to both honor their emotions and calibrate them. This is not an easy task and requires self-forgiveness and recognizing that tempering emotions is a slow process of learning. that Success will come more quickly when the underlying emotions are respected and acknowledged. When gifted and twice-exceptional people learn about their own profile, their asynchronous development, and the intensities or overexcitabilities, then they have context and can work on strategies to mitigate their emotions and turn reactions into responses. Until this understanding happens, however, their energy is spent on feeling powerless to redirect or assuage their emotions.
A gifted adult client asked, “Would I have the ‘good’ intensities if I didn’t have the ‘bad’ intensities?” He expressed that he celebrates the good ones, such as floating away in music at concerts, loving his wife deeply, making connections, and seeing how and why things happen. But he wondered whether he had to experience the ‘bad’ intensities, which had him worry about things like his health, the state of the planet, and how some people could do bad things, in order to enjoy the good intensities. He was looking for a way to accept his challenging emotions. There really is no answer to this question, and I prefer to reframe in this way: How can you manage living in a body that can experience such broad emotions?
This is the eternal balancing act: being grateful for the superpowers we have as gifted humans and practicing self-love, patience, and perspective when our intensities take over our brains and bodies. In the end, it’s my hope that gifted people realize their giftedness as a gift rather than a guillotine. I wish for families and educators to respond to their gifted and twice-exceptional students by slowing down, making themselves calm, and allowing the gifted student to ride that intense emotional wave before delving into what lies behind the behavior. I wish for gifted adults to practice self-love, take risks, and realize the incredible way they plug into the universe with their gifted neurology. When the intensities take you somewhere beautiful and allow you to experience an event in a deeper way, grab hold and ride the beauty of this ability to connect and FEEL the universe.