Gifted and Creative Adults

I owe my friend Jennaviere a lot for sharing a wonderful website with me regarding Gifted and Creative Adults. Lynne Azpeitia, M.A., is the website’s owner, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and AAMFT Supervisor.

After perusing the website for a while, I feel like I’ve just came out of a therapy session where I’m really left feeling understood and encouraged. Like many adults who suspect they might be gifted but were never formally identified as children, I’ve been left with more questions than answers.  I am finally feeling more confident in who I really am.

This website includes an excellent list called Characteristics of Gifted and Creative Adults adapted from Annemarie Roeper’s “Gifted Adults: Their Characteristics and Emotions” .

Many of them apply to me,  but in particular these points ring loudest for me:

  • Gifted adults crave interchanging ideas with other gifted adults and many love to engage in intense intellectual discussions.
  • Gifted adults have an inner urge to fulfill their own expectations and feel very guilty if they cannot even when no one else sees the need to.
  • Gifted adults are often confronted with the problem of having too many abilities in too many areas in which they would like to work, discover and excel.
  • Gifted adults need time for inner life experiences, and to understand themselves. Because it takes quiet time to clarify thoughts and feelings, gifted adults need contemplation, solitude and daydreaming
  • Gifted adults have strong moral convictions and many use their specific talents, insights and knowledge for the betterment of the world.

Many gifted children and adults not only go unrecognized, but misdiagnosed as well. In the article by Ms. Azpeitia, and Mary Rocamora, M.A. The Misdiagnosis of Gifted and Creative Adults, I found this passage noteworthy:

Therapeutic assessment of gifted persons with asynchronous development, heightened levels of awareness, energy and emotional response, and an intense level of inner turmoil often results in their developmental transition being mislabeled as a personality or attentional disorder. Histrionic, dysthymic, cyclothymic, borderline, narcissistic, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) are a few of the diagnostic labels mistakenly used to describe normative stages of positive disintegration.

The results of this type of misdiagnosis can range from benign neglect to misguided counseling strategies that invalidate and attempt to ‘normalize’ the complex inner process of the gifted. When misdiagnosed gifted clients are prescribed medication to suppress the “symptoms of giftedness” there is the danger that the wonderful inner fury of the gifted process will be neutralized, thus minimalizing the potential for a life of accomplishment and fulfillment. As a result, those who have the most to offer society are the least likely to get their therapeutic needs met.

Any of this sound familiar? It sure is familiar to me. I’ve been accused of being dysfunctional in various ways, from the mild barbs of being labeled “the absentminded professor” to the more damaging pronouncement that I must be bi-polar.

Ah, but there is hope for us yet…

In this article about Creativity, I feel validated.

Creativity is the lifeblood of gifted, talented and creative people of all ages.

Creativity may be the most defining characteristic of gifted adults because no matter what they are doing, the multi-talented gifted person is always utilizing their uniqueness, originality and creativity in everything they do.

Furthermore, she goes on to articulate what we may have figured out on our own:

Everyone and every field or business does not look upon creativity, creative ideas or creative people as positive forces—even when they benefit greatly from them.

Most of the time creative ideas and people are misjudged, mistreated, unappreciated and just plain misunderstood– not to mention mislabeled and misdiagnosed as crazy, stupid, etc.

It always takes time, sometimes many years, for others to catch up to where a truly original and creative mind lives, breathes, works and plays.

I take comfort from the words of Jack Kerouac in On The Road:

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

Or put another way, from the Apple Computer Ad:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

We must give ourselves permission to celebrate our creativity, our originality and all the expressions of our giftedness.

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7 Responses to Gifted and Creative Adults

  1. Jennaviere says:

    My sincere thanks.

  2. Mr. RSG says:

    You know, it’s kind of weird how a lot of those things are familiar to me. How I USED to be.

    I really wish I could remember when it died (or I put it on a forgotten shelf not found in these ump-teen years).

    The sad part is that I miss it. I wish I could have the fire I once had to see whatever minute, trivial project I was working on be done competently. I wish I could again feel like I was the “Jack of all trades” and knew a little (no matter how tiny) about just about anything anyone could bring up.

    At some point I’ve just grown not to care I guess. Whether it was just not having things in common to talk about with people, or just losing faith in myself, or just “real” life running over my ability to nurture my “smarts”; I can’t do it anymore.

    I think this is what it would feel like to be lobotomized. I can sympathize with McMurphy at the end of “…Cuckoo’s Nest”: life happens around me and I can watch it and I can know my prison of not being fully in it and I can’t change it.

    The closest I can come to an actual time for my loss of “mental agility” is when I lost my first “real” job, bought a house, had a daughter, and finally got a job to pay the bills almost a year later. I used to be in a “smart” crowd at work (smart in that we were all Engineers and also smart as in we were all smart-asses). There would be constant word-play, off-hand movie quotes and references, bizzare stream-of-consciencousness word games. Plus there was occasional travel (I got my Australia trip from there). Things got slow, I got laid-off just after buying a house and finding out we were pregnant w/ Number One. In a short span of time, I went from bread-winner to jobless Mr. Mom with a new home (at least Mrs. was still working).
    Finally, after nearly a year, I got “a job”. Before, I had an Engineering Career; now I had a Pay-Some-Bills Job. I went from working with Engineering Graduates to might-have-a-GED broom-pushers. To help exacerbate matters, I got to work the swing-shift and had a different schedule each week. It wasn’t long on the job before I found out we were expecting Number Two. It’s during this time I went on Zoloft.

    I know this wasn’t a good deal for my intellect – I often mentioned to Wifey (or dw if you tread those types of boards) how I felt my IQ slipping on a daily basis. Although I’ve never taken the formal test, by several self-administered book- or internet-tests, I should be able to join Mensa [the Mensa cut-off is 130; I’ve self-tested at 132, 128, 131, etc. – I never felt I had enough ‘margin’ to be sure to make it, so never pursued it]. Now my conversations dealt with who got “soooo drunk” last weekend and how the dart league went last Tuesday. It’s during this time when I got really into crosswords, cryptic crosswords, sudoku, logic puzzles, ANYTHING to keep my brain from committing suicide.

    I’m finally back to the-Engineering-thing and not on anti-depression meds, but I still don’t have my previous “burn” for my intelligence. I find things that are “interesting” but don’t have anyone to Nerd-out with and discuss. I don’t have repartee or give-and-take of quick-witted word play. I’m now “the old guy” at work (which is sad for being 37) and don’t even fit in with the current generation of nerds apparently. I work, then I come home to my 3 grade- and pre-grade school girls, I sometimes talk to Wifey after they’re in bed, then go to bed and do it again. Wifey doesn’t work (which I have absolutely NO PROBLEM with – for the kids’ benefit of having Mom home I’d work 3 jobs! – Although dw has really been itching to get back into the work force) so I have the responsibility of bread-winning. Without shorting someone else of quality time, I can’t do my own mental thing – and I really don’t want to short ANYONE.

    Whether it’s the job-related communication, lack of similar-intellect friends (and the time to find them), previous-life mental beat-down of being “too smart”, loss of time to prune and nurture my mental bansai – I don’t where my old me went (but I kinda miss him). For now I’ll keep earning money and putting food in our mouths – maybe if I save enough for retirement I can send a search-party for the old me.

    I guess this whole rant-y diatribe is just me saying: if you feel “gifted” (or “different” or “kinda smart”) you should nurture it and don’t turn your back on it. Once it’s gone, it’s hard to dig up again. Like they say: “Use it or lose it!” Don’t feel weird for your brains; it’s OK to not fit in – as long as you can keep stimulated and happy.

  3. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Mr. RSG – I know this is the first time you’ve told this to me so explicitly.

    I guess we’ve let each other down in not challenging each other enough. I do think it gets swept away when we pursue other stimulating matters (not that this is a bad thing).

    I think it’s a start that you’ve been able to articulate it for me. I think recognizing it and articulating it to me is a step in the right direction. Not just IQ scores get you in to Mensa. I believe they take SAT scores too. I’m not sure, but I thought you qualified based on that.

    Perhaps finding a gifted family counselor/therapist might be in order for us. You know we are raising at least two gifties and it would probably help us to get some concrete advice on how to get all of our needs met.

    much love


  4. Tessa says:

    The quote you have there is actually not Jack Kerouac’s words at all. It is always mis-quoted as Jack’s. It is from an Apple ad.
    Jack’s quote is far more poetic and soulful:

    “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

    Just thought you should know.

  5. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Tessa – thanks for the clarification. I wonder why that is mis-attributed to him. Strange.

  6. Jennaviere says:

    Hiya C. You inspired me to make my own post about this. Somewhat about this.

    And I have also been inspired to “set a goal for finishing” (hey, that’s the best I can do right now!) the three posts I have waiting in limbo. Hopefully, I can do the topics justice.

    I love reading your blog, btw.

  7. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Thanks Jennaviere. One of these days I have to slow down posting and get some work done around here!

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