The transition between one level of capability (cognitive complexity) to another causes a lot of problems for hidden high potentials (2HiPo) and many of them have to seek therapy. These transitions are so painful for many hidden high potentials that Julian Fairfled has flat out called many of them emotional breakdowns.
Why is this important? I’m saying that these transitions cause psychological problems that lead many to psychotherapies. The psychotherapist rarely has an understanding of what is truly wrong and so treats symptoms that will never change the underlying problem. The way that you think is undergoing a fundamental change, you are losing the ways that worked and yet have not yet gotten new ways. It’s being lost.
Psychotherapist often simply treat various irrelevant issues until so much time has passed that the analysand (the 2HiPo) has passed through the transition. He feels much better, hugs the therapist and everyone is happy. But nothing actually got accomplished and the at his next transition the 2HiPo goes through another emotional breakdown.
This is a complete waste because things can be done better.
If you’re just joining us, take a look at When Being An Underachiever Is Really Just Being Stuck, then read It’s About Time!. It will give you the absolutely necessary background to understand what I am talking about. Really. If you don’t understand that work can be measured, and that there are distinct breaks in it creating levels (as evidenced by whom people call their “real boss”), this is going to just be confusing.
Again, I need to say that I’m not against psychotherapies. I’m against wasting the time and money of people who are in real pain because they don’t understand that who they are. I’ve gotten some real value out of psychotherapeutic approaches, and believe that psychotherapists like the Canadian George Reillywho integrate these findings can be transformative.
First we should talk about what a transition feels like.
Someone — I’ve forgotten who — has described it this way:
When you are solidly in a capability level, it’s like you are standing on a solid island. You know what you believe and think. Sometimes this becomes so solid that you even forget that you are on an island. Solid. Sturdy. Bank of England type of thing, back when that meant something.
Then, something happens.
You barely even notice it, but the island that you are living on begins to crumble. Fall apart. At first, it’s nothing to worry about. But then it really starts sinking.
You’re alone. On a sinking island. With no one around to save you.
What happened? What did you do?
The island continues to disappear. Soon, you are struggling to tread water — it’s completely gone. As you go down for the second time, the tiniest bit of the next island appears. It’s barely there. Barely enough to grasp onto so you don’t completely drown.
My colleague, Andrew Olivier, assures me that transitions can be so well managed that you might not even notice that they have happened. I can’t imagine this. It does not seem to be true.
And the only thing that happened was that you came to that point in your growth trajectory. You went from one discrete level to another. Everything changed.
Transitions are rarely guided — and if you are a high-potential, almost never. You are more likely to be condemned as you change. You lose things. Friends. Faith. One of our colleagues who is quite religious described going from Level 4 to Level 5 as completely losing everything that he ever believed in. All the systems and structures seemed empty, devoid of the spiritual life that had so recently quickened them.
“And yet,” he told me, “my relationship with my God is stronger than ever.”
I pity people who make these transitions and don’t understand them. They think that they are simply going through a rough spot. Their family wonder when they are going to grow up. Their friends wonder why she is talking so strangely, why she has grown so distant.
Most people have a one, maybe two transitions of this type in their adult lives. You people have four or five. Each one can be devastating, causing a complete emotional breakdown. A complete failure of your life.
Let’s talk more about Quests, and why they explain transitions next time.
Until then, if you feel that what I’ve described describes you, take heart: you will get through this time. This, too, shall pass.
And remember that you’re the killer app.
Image Credit: [Clearly going through a transition.] Le Désespéré (Self Portrait) by Gustave Courbet, ca. 1843