Blueberries in woman's hands. c) donatellasimeone. Via Fotolia

More on Your Giftedness Making You Sick

E. Forrest Christian Underachievers 1 Comment

Looking at Marcy’s comment on my last post (Is Your Giftedness Making You Sick?, I admit that what I wrote is almost unreadable. But I’m trying to say something big without having to get into all the ins and outs that I talk about for work.

The point is that if you are what I call in one of the “higher modes” and others generally call “gifted”, it can be hard to develop the deeply affirming relationships. You need someone who is like-minded for that.

This creates psychological stress.

  • If you are really healthy mentally, you can survive this for awhile. Even several years. Then you start collapsing.
  • If you do not have strong mental health, suffering this loneliness in the crowd can make your symptoms even more severe.
  • If you live in a place with little chance of interaction with others who are “like-minded” in this way, you do not get this very important food for your psyche and spirit.
  • If you grew up not having it, you have a deficit that needs filling. It’s like missing out on nutrients as a kid.

The good news is that the brain is a lot more resilient than people used to think. Get some of what I call “Modal Recognition” and you can reclaim a lot of lost ground.

Citing Jesus as a reason to continue to suffer with nothing but people who reject who you fundamentally are (calling you “weird” and other things) is a maladaptive way of thinking. Which is better, to spend you life teaching women how to cope with abusive husbands or eliminate the abusive behaviours? Jesus came to heal the sick, he said, and spent a great deal of time healing suffering. For his followers, persecution or suffering because of their belief in Jesus is expected, but that’s not what this is.

If you know that you are the biggest person in the room, you adjust your expectations appropriately. It’s still psychically draining but not nearly as bad as thinking that the others can understand you. When I was a foreigner, I did not expect the natives to understand me, even when they spoke English. Knowing that I was American, they granted me more leeway to make cultural errors. If you’re the biggest person in the room, you have to step into a leadership role. And have lower expectations of the others vis a vis supporting, see and loving you.

I tell a story in my work practice that describes what I’m saying. My pal, Tom, was in his early-40s and pretty accomplished, with the capability to work at about level 4. He was attached to a consulting gig, and his client contact, Cory, was 26 and capable of working at high level 1 or low level 2. They got invited into a meeting with an executive VP of the company about the $55M project they were trying to bring to completion.

As she talked, Tom could hear that if Cory didn’t give the VP what she wanted, she was going to kill the contract. But each time she talked, Cory would reduce what she wanted to something much smaller and say that he agreed that this was what they needed to do.

The conversation kind of went like this:

VP: “I want this five meters of work.”
Cory: “I hear you. We are going to give you this two meters of work.”
VP: “No, you little twerp. I want this five meters.”
Cory: “I get it. You want this two meters. What’s your problem?”

Tom steps in and translates what the VP is asking for into a set of small steps, each less than two feet and fully comprehended by Cory. The VP is satisfied and she continues to fund the project.

As they were leaving, Tom felt pretty good. He had just saved the contract. Cory felt differently.

“If you ever embarrass me like that in front of one of our executives,” he said, “I’ll make sure that you and your firm never work on this project again.”

The problem is that Cory had no ability to hear what the VP was asking for. He only heard as much as he could understand: 2m instead of 5m.

People do the same in our regular lives. If you are what I call “higher mode”, it means that in our example you can think about bigger sizes. Trying to give that to someone who can think only in a smaller size overloads them and is wrong to do. Unfortunately, people tend to organize their Selves in the largest size of thinking they can do. When you start “sharing”, you get confused looks at best, shot down and condemned normally.

If you have nowhere to fully disclose, you can be led to think that there is something wrong with you when there isn’t. At minimum, you develop these really weird behaviours to obfuscate how big you really are, so that people don’t feel threatened by you.

Marcy had a therapist who wrote a book with probably the leading Adlerian. No wonder someone like her would have enjoyed working with him: he would have lived much of the issues that would plague her, as caused by having this faster, higher trajectory of intellectual growth.

My real point in all of this is: Is it the town that is making all of these things worse? People who can solve bigger problems often leave small towns. It seems like things have never been great there, and people blow her off in ways that make me want to pistol whip them. If she didn’t have to always shoulder this big burden of people not understanding her (and her mental and emotional
experience, as far as I can tell, has a lot in common with other higher-mode people I work with), wouldn’t that make dealing with these other mental health issues easier? And it does seem interesting that the problems got worse coincidental to moving to my lovely state.

It’s like your body: if you live in a warm, dry house, you are more likely to fight off infections than if you live in a basement filled with 20cm of cold water that you have to walk through in your bare feet.

It’s just a thought and it may not be relevant to the real-life Marcy. But it does play out in people who are what others call “gifted”.

Working in an environment like this is known to cause psychological damage, and I have written about it elsewhere. George Reilly has an interesting chapter on it in a recent book on work levels, as does Andrew Olivier, who also describes the psychological damage done by working in jobs too big or small for you in his article “Stress and Our Working Journey.” Google for locations. I believe that a similar problem occurs in our non-work life, especially if you do not understand the gifts that God has given to you and the differences between you and the majority of other people.

There’s a plan for people with this curse of thinking differently. God had a point in creating them other than just ticking everyone off all the time. A lot is required from whom much had been given.

That doesn’t include being miserable all the time.

Image Credit: Blueberries in woman’s hands. © donatellasimeone. Via

About the Author

Forrest Christian

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E. Forrest Christian is a consultant, coach, author, trainer and speaker at The Manasclerk Company who helps individuals and companies find insight and solutions to what seem like insolvable problems. Cited for his "unique ability and insight" by his clients, Forrest has worked with people from almost every background, from artists to programmers to executives to global consultants, both as individuals and as leaders of organizations at least as diverse. [contact]

Comments 1

  1. I am guessing you read and deleted my second comment on the previous post.

    With this one, it’s interesting and yet threatening. You sound just a little bit like you’re advocating Brave New World.

    I suppose it is possible to hold back (speak appropriately to the minions below me) without being condescending, but I’m not quite sure how. And I can imagine that’s one reason Cory was upset.

    Anyway, I am thinking about printing these posts and taking them with me next week.

    I do agree that I need to adjust my expectations of others. But I also need to acknowledge my unmet needs — and learn to live with them somehow.

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