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Language and Resistance: Am I Gifted, Bright, Normal or Dull, and Does it Even Matter?

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Many people with beautiful minds hide it under a bushel basket. This stems not only from a longing for acceptance in a society that values egalitarianism, but also from resistance to facing the prospect of glorious existence.

It takes courage to look at the highs and lows of our various capacities.

And the reticence of the adult gifted and twice-exceptional to be open and honest about how their mind works perpetuates a climate in which gifted and 2e children do not feel fully invited to shine.

I remain sad and perplexed after many  in the gifted field provide what seems to be an obligatory reluctance to use the word “gifted” (thankfully, a blog hop from GHF changes this trend).  Yet no replacement term captures the fullness of the gifted experience; nothing else points to the creativity, intensity, complexity, and depth that often resides in the gifted mind.

The new term “eXtra intelligent” seems silly. I might have a little extra ketchup on my fries, but intelligence is not a commodity with a sweet spot of utility beyond which there is no marginal value. I want all I can have.

I feel the deepest gratitude for Dr. Linda Kreger Silverman’s book “Giftedness 101.” This primer could be fundamental to introducing caring adults to the modifications required for educating, counseling, parenting and loving gifted people, as called for in the Columbus Group’s definition of giftedness as asynchronous development. And, even with her book, I would like to see a broader consideration of neurodiversity.

I would like each individual to have a sense of what is beautiful about their mind. Yes, some minds are quantitatively and qualitatively different from the norm.

And that difference matters.

When a person says they have a beautiful (or fascinating) mind, ask for more information. Say “Tell me about it” instead of “How dare you say that!”

Any self-reflective person has already taken an honest look at self-doubt, and they need the fundamental validation that they have an interesting existence in the world before they can take on any subtle challenges about how to reach others and have their intended impact.

One person being gifted does not cause another person to be dull, just as one person being athletic or tall does not cause another person to gain or lose those traits. The world has highs and lows, and we should recognize and serve each instead of presuming they equal out in a global balance.

In fact, we have a world of individuals with differences, and neither the field nor the players are equal.

Although all people matter and have dignity, honesty about gifts and challenges is necessary to harness the gifts and overcome the challenges. If you happen to be typical or dull, maybe don’t stress about it. If you are gifted or brilliant, I would weep if you don’t pay attention. Your glory, and the world’s benefit from your brilliance, is at stake.

{ 18 comments… add one }
  • nadbugs November 8, 2013, 7:04 am

    I heard an expression when I was in Japan — the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.

  • Jade Rivera November 8, 2013, 12:44 pm

    This made my heart sing! Although I’m pretty sure we live in a world that only pays lip-service to egalitarianism, which is even worse if you ask me.

    • byamtich November 8, 2013, 9:37 pm

      Agreed, the lip service is crazy making! More sadly, can undermine people that need upbuilding.

  • V.Wiggin November 10, 2013, 6:17 pm

    The SENG FB page pointed me here. Loved Silverman’s book! I wish there wasn’t such a ridiculous stigma attached to the word ‘gifted.’ As you say, it explains so much better than other more limited words.

    • byamtich November 10, 2013, 6:25 pm

      And “gifted” invites further exploration; perhaps people fear it has a stagnant finality to it. Hurrah again for Dr. Silverman; I hope her voice carries the day.

  • Rebecca Trotter November 13, 2013, 9:56 am

    Learning about and claiming my own giftedness made such a difference in my life. I thought everyone was pretty much like me before and could never understand why people often reacted strangely to me. I’ve been sure to teach my own kids about theigiftedness

    • byamtich November 13, 2013, 11:11 am

      Yay! I agree that open communication within families means so much. Family may not only be the place of greatest acceptance, love and warmth, but often the place of most significant similarity. Also, even if the traits of giftedness show up differently in various family members, a sense of open curiosity will inspire a sense of safety and trust. When you talk with your kids about how their minds work, do they experience relief from being understood?

  • Care September 21, 2014, 1:38 am

    Ready for this one? I do share how my mind works. I try to do it frequently, as it explains a lot of misunderstandings, logical leaps, intuitive leaps and that thing where you start typing one sentence and a whole different one comes out at the end, and neither makes sense as written.

    The last time I tried, I was telling someone about how my mind works, how Mad Natter’s mind seems to work, and how this is actually very much ‘normal’ in the world of gifted people. I was told that I needed to find a “normal” job or hobby, because being this focused on GT issues was going to make me insane, and I’d be worth nothing to anyone while in an institution. Is it really any wonder that as much as we might want to share, to help, to present options to the kids coming up now, most people just keep their mouths shut?

    • byamtich September 21, 2014, 5:19 am

      The whole point of blending humility (your sharing how your mind works) with advocacy (your outreach) is to avoid institutions. It’s hard to rest in one’s tribe with your mouth shut, and sometimes it is the very focus you speak of which can allow eventual lightness and ease. The world of gifted people isn’t yet famous for lightness and ease, right? I trust your open conversations with Mad Natter are helping a next generation come up stronger.

  • Kathleen December 28, 2015, 4:01 pm

    Beautifully said, Bob. I love your point about adults being willing to talk about their gifted / 2e -ness helping their children. If we don’t talk about it, who will?

  • Linda Nel December 29, 2015, 10:37 am

    Well said! I live in a country where very few people know about giftedness. When they hear the word, most consider it elitist or feel that we are trying to outshine them or think we’re better than them. It is a very lonely road if you haven’t found your tribe yet.

    • byamtich January 3, 2016, 12:16 am

      Yes! Finding one’s tribe helps not only with connection, but also with having developmentally appropriate challenges for growth. I recently spent time with an old friend who has beat me many times at a board game (Settlers of Catan), and there were certain coping skills I couldn’t work on until I met my match in that field. The desire to “be fully met” can be about needs for belonging and self-actualization.

  • Tracy January 3, 2016, 10:43 pm

    Thanks for this post. My son is only 5, but we have already struggled with people thinking we are bragging when we discuss his learning or they ask me tips to help their kids learn to read. I should refer them to my son since I have not a clue how he taught himself to read, understand fractions, or memorize songs and poems long term. And don’t get me started on having to be silent when people try to encourage him with reading readiness activities because they don’t know he reads at least at a middle school level. This would be so much harder without homeschooling. We have not yet discussed his intelligence with him in a formal way but I think he gets it and just needs us to confirm it and help him figure out what to do with it, not as his decider but more like a consultant, I think.

    • byamtich January 3, 2016, 11:41 pm

      It helps to know who you are talking with before offering encouragement, for sure. In some ways, a consultant waits and watches. I trust your continued advocacy for your son will pay dividends in his sense of choice and dignity, as well as a sense of connection with you.

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