Gifted Relationships. The Silver Lining in the Gifted Storm

Giftedness can seem as though it is an inherent gift all would love to have. Yet, gifted advocates, teachers of gifted students, professionals who work with gifted individuals and parents of gifted children who are so misunderstood know that there are many downsides to being born with a gifted mind. Too often, the downsides, the struggles, the injustices seem to be voiced the loudest simply because we want everyone to understand the downsides, to help us minimize the struggles, and to try to reverse the injustices. As with any human being born with gifts and weaknesses, so are intellectually gifted people—giftedness comes with good and bad.

With this, I am choosing to talk about the good—the gifts of giftedness which are most cherished to me—gifted relationships.

Giftedness was never really anything I had thought much about until the last three years when my youngest son’s giftedness made it necessary to seek more educational accommodations at school. Gifted advocacy, which was absolutely nothing I had ever heard of before, suddenly became a centerpiece in my family’s life. Many of you who are parents of gifted children know the struggles of trying to get your child’s school to meet your gifted child’s educational needs.

For us, advocating for our youngest gifted child became a lonely, devastating storm which caused pain and isolation. But, the storm also brought opportunities and realizations which enriched our lives and showed us we were not alone in our efforts to advocate for our son. We were not alone in the storm. There were others and we all seemed to naturally cling together with a mutual understanding of the hardships we all shared, helping each other through this storm full of the ups and downs we all had in common.

These intelligent, sensitive and understanding people, some I’ve met in person, some who have become life-long friends and some I have only met online are all gifts to me. Truly, each and every one. I value these relationships and I learn so much from each one. These are friendships full of compassion, understanding, trust and respect. Each relationship enriches my life more than any one of them will know.

And to think I’ve met them all because we had one huge life situation in common—the gifted storm. But, it is so much more than a misery-loves-company relationship. Because giftedness is truly a contentious topic that is best left unspoken, finding others who understand and share your concerns is such a relief and a gift. Living in a society who, for the most part, has adverse attitudes towards gifted people, finding others who share such a compelling part of your life is gratifying, reassuring and can even save your sanity.

These relationships, every last one of them, are unexpected gifts from an unexpected source. The silver lining in the gifted storm. And each relationship means the world to me.

Have you found meaningful relationships because of your own gifted storm?

Are you feeling alone in your gifted storm? Need help finding gifted relationships to enrich your life and share the problems and the triumphs? Here are two excellent places to look:

Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page

Gifted Homeschoolers Forum

This post is part of Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page’s July Blog Hop, Gifted Relationships. Go see what others have to say about their own gifted relationships.

 

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23 Comments on “Gifted Relationships. The Silver Lining in the Gifted Storm

  1. Well, as always, you found the positive on this one, Celi. For so many posts, I have said, and still say, that being “gifted” is more a curse than a gift. Perhaps, as you have said, that’s because I have endured more than most people would normally. So I don’t say that it’s 100% a curse, because it isn’t. It can range anywhere from 90-10 one day to 10-90 another, but most days are somewhere in between. So I call it “Cursed, but with upsides”.
    The upsides make the curse worth the costs, when I am calm and not having a “PTSD moment”. Anti-anxiety drugs are great that way, and I am on a really good one, that has stabilized my mood, more or less. I am also getting a lot of positive feedback just about being me — and re-discovering “me” after four years of Hell. Even moreso, I am getting feedback from a website (quora.com) where I am able to answer tech questions, and get positive feedback (not surprisingly, I am an I.T. consultant). Not as much as I’d like, but it’s not the only source.
    I spent four years fending off (1) a bully-by-proxy who used his sister to bully and attack me for “daring” to want to be a MENSA member despite being “only” a gas-station attendant at the time; (2) a workplace mobbing by staff of a non-profit because of my definite predilection for being a tall poppy; and (3) being defenestrated (chucked out a window, figuratively speaking) from a tech discussion group whose development and coming to fruition had about 70% to do with me, but where the guy who thought up the tech group — who only did a third of the work — hated the idea of sharing the limelight, and essentially bullied me out of the group before it even had its first meeting. Number (1) was the worst of the three by 10x the other two.
    It helps to know that because the bullying knocked the psychological wind out of me over my four years of Hell (2010-2014), and led me to two hospitalizations for exhaustion, that that cognitive state of exhaustion was temporary.
    I am over my depression, and can see a light at the end of the tunnel for my PTSD, though I still have many issues to resolve.
    The key has been the fact that more than 95% of the people to whom I’ve revealed my “exceptionally gifted” status have been supportive and non-judgmental. After all, they could have gently said that i had a “first world problem” (i.e., not a serious or worthwhile problem) and could have gently told me how ridiculous I was to have taken the bullies seriously. But I did take the bullies seriously, and few people have taken the “oh, just forget about it; it’s in the past, you’re no longer friends with her” attitude. The professionals (nurses in the hospital, Occupational Therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and the like) have been kind, empathetic and supportive.
    What was really crucial has been the response of people who have NOT been professionals, or even been “gifted”, in the various support groups I attend, (with some helpful exceptions, who themselves indicated they were gifted); that response has also been supportive and non-judgemental. Perhaps not so much with the giftedness part, but rather sympathy and empathy for my having been bullied, for which one does NOT have to be gifted in order to receive bullying’s heavenly delights.
    And my friendships with some amazingly, brilliantly, supremely intelligent people has always been a beacon of hope and intellect in a sea of hockey-lovers and people who can’t get enough of the stars on People Magazine, but whom, upon looking heavenward, on a starry night, see only “pretty lights” and not the vastness of an expanding universe created by a Creator who may or may not exist (but I believe He does exist); What of them? These bright lights in my life (including you, Celi) are G0d-sends. So is my wonderful wife, one of the several brilliant women I have known, and one with whom I fell in love; her intensity, her sensibility and rock-solid rationality has been a huge attractant. And I have loved my wife only,since falling in love, both because she is who she is, and where the HELL am I going to find another woman as smart, clever, and simply delightful as she is?
    Is it all rotten eggs, horked-up spittle, harumphing dismissals, and all the rest, the inarticulate, inconsistent and inchoate ways that tormentors and bullies have in store for the gifted? I think not. The problem is that one may meet twenty people who admire intelligence; but chance upon one such Einsteinian “mediocre mind” raging against a Great Spirit (namely, me), and one is in for a world of pain. We are wired to remember the painful far more than the pleasant. It’s an evolutionary survival strategy, but a very miserable one.
    Bullies get a lot more mileage from bullying gifted people because of their inherent sensitivity, and intensity. Gifted people take things too seriously, and tremendously over-think problems, trying to use that brain to logic their way out of the stubbornly illogical and unchangeable.
    I’ve never met an “anti-Gifted” type who magically one day, saw the error of their ways and converted to “our” point-of-view. It’s impossible. They are damaged souls, and even if repair is possible, will not allow themselves to be repaired, if only because of the loss of “face”, having to admit that really smart people really are that smart, didn’t choose that way, didn’t get high grades by being the teacher’s pet, but rather became the teacher’s pet because of their giftedness.
    For such people, the ‘pointy-heads’ are the enemy, And they will use our smart-phone inventions, value our website innovations, relish the creatively hilarious screen-writing of a great comedy, be ever-so-thankful to the (nerd) surgeon who saved their or their loved one’s life. But they will NEVER, EVER admit that their lives would be far nastier, far less pleasant, far shorter, and far more miserable without the geniuses they so hate.

    They are a minority, fortunately. By contrast, we, the gifted, are a fortunate minority.

    The pain and sorrow, the hatred the anti-Gifteds bring is overshadowed by the positives that not only gifted people, but the non-gifted and non-damaged can see.
    For myself, having come through a tremendously traumatic last few years, I will only admit that that overshadowing is a 51/49 split. Perhaps, in time, for me, the ratio in favour of the benefits of the upside will once again starkly outweigh the cursed darkness.

    • Relationships for a gifted person can be good and bad, and sometimes the bad does outweigh the good. Wouldn’t that be a revelation for the ones who believe giftedness is a net-positive?

      Yes, I spoke of the relationships, the silver linings, I met through my family’s gifted storm. You are one of my silver linings, John. We’ve all learned so much from your comments here, and although your giftedness has brought you more pain than most, your story continues to remind us that we have to keep fighting for society and schools to one day understand that gifted children are as much a special needs student population as children on the other side of the bell curve.

      I hope the upsides of giftedness continue to tip the scales for you until they are in a much larger majority!

      Thank you, John!

  2. Celi, I really like your term “gifted storm.” It sums it up so clearly. The storm we all weather takes us by surprise, but we meet a lot of amazing people along the way. The gifted advocates I have met, starting with the parents in my community who all formed a gifted advocacy group, have been amazing. We understand what it’s like, and can provide the support and wisdom that help us become better parents. Thanks for another great post.

    • Thanks, Gail. Gifted advocacy and parent support groups are so important. The storm is a little more tolerable when you can interact, share and support other parents going through the same thing. I’m very envious you have one in your community, but I am certainly thankful for the support I found online!

  3. Thank you for a wonderful post, Celi! I love your description of relationships as the silver lining in the gifted storm.
    You certainly are a brilliant silver lining for me and many, many more of your readers.

  4. Thank you for a very heart felt post Ceci. Very often I feel alone in this gifted storm, and more now that when I realized that I may be gifted as my child..and it hits me so hard. When I share my views and the conversations we have in the gifted community (mostly online), with family or friends, they just do not see it that way… even my beloved husband that adores our kid, sometimes makes some remarks that just breaks my heart deeply, and I feel so lonely because I know he does not mean it. So yes, it is lonely. But there is this resilience that keeps me on going, the love and commitment to protect the gift of this beautiful child, his soul and being. Spirituality keeps me strong and hopeful, because I have come to realize that after every storm, there is always the sun light with new opportunities and the prospective of us coming out stronger and wiser. I do have loving caring friends, people that are always there, but it hurts more that I feel lonely even when I am with them because they can’t see what I see. I have faith that I will find “our people”; the journey has just started.

    • “Spirituality keeps me strong and hopeful, because I have come to realize that after every storm, there is always the sun light with new opportunities and the prospective of us coming out stronger and wiser.” That is it exactly and is probably what keeps us all moving forward. I was once told that with giftedness, the valleys are lower, but the mountains will be higher.

      Keep looking for the sun and the mountain tops! <3

  5. A friend shared this post with me and I really enjoyed it. She and I have become allies in helping her children, and my grandchildren weave their way through growing up gifted. We both homeschool, so are able to share part of what we do, but also are part of a larger homeschool circle where the emphasis is more about getting through high school than really digging in and learning. We live in a rural area where the majority of children being homeschooled are doing it for religous reasons almost entirely. We do, very much enjoy the children and parents in this larger group, but have found our children want and need more academically, and we as their teachers, want to encourage their excitement in learning more and more.

    Having this friendship has been invaluable to me. I grew up stuffing myself into this “normal” persona, and never using my abilities ’til I was grown and married, and too, too frustrated with life. Finding a good friend then who encouraged me to be myself, has made so much difference in my life. My children grew up encouraged and now I’m hoping I can teach my grandchildren how wonderful life can be when you can let loose and be the questioning, intense, excited, gifted person God created you to be. Thank you so much for your good message!

  6. After moping about today, feeling hot and miserable because the idiot window-washing company that cleans my condo complex’s windows couldn’t be bothered to tell us which building would be washed on which day, combined with my just usual swing from reasonably good mood to miserable, causes me now to want to vent my spleen, if I may.
    So, I have a question: It seems to me that gifted people are often far more aware or sensitive to other’s feelings than the others are to the gifted person’s. Why, then is it incumbent of gifted people to be sensitive to the feelings and needs of the non-gifted, but the reverse is not true? I honestly get the sense that part of this comes from some people’s misunderstanding of the phrase in the US constitution, in the Preamble, that says “All men are created equal”. The idea has leaked up to Canada too; and the misunderstanding is that that phrase means that everyone is basically ‘the same’. i very much doubt that many would question that Thomas Jefferson, who penned that comment, was a genius in his own right. Would a genius truly fall for a foolish idea that everyone is ‘the same’? I do not think so, and I have the historical chops to show it. When Jefferson wrote that, he was a British Subject of His Majesty, King George III. At that time, it was very much the case that different folks could receive different treatments from courts for the same crime. A nobleman who stole might have seen jail (gaol) for a while. A starving orphan boy from the lowest classes could easily expect to be hanged at the gallows. So when Jefferson wrote that “All men are created equal”, he wasn’t saying that everyone is ‘the same’; he was saying that everyone, men and women, rich and poor, are equal BEFORE THE LAW. A radical statement to be sure, but not the one many people take it to mean — for their own convenience, I should think. After all, if you believe that everyone is ‘the same’, it becomes very easy to deny that profoundly mentally handicapped persons are beyond medical remediation, or that giftedness in bright or very bright people even exists.
    it’s rather like putting several people, blindfolded, into a room and telling them that there is no elephant in that room, despite whatever they may come across. Now, if the room is the size of Wrigley Field and the elephant is particularly shy, perhaps they won’t encounter the elephant. But the room we’re talking about is much smaller, and the elephant — giftedness — far less shy than the deniers would prefer.
    No-one wakes up one day and decides, “Today I shall become and be gifted”. It’s something one is born with; mediated by the social, emotional and nutritional environment to be sure, but heritable nonetheless. So why do so many try and pretend that giftedness and genius don’t exist; and concordantly, why then do gifted people have to be apologetic for being gifted? Why do gifted people have to dumb down, or quietly ignore their own gifts so as to avoid being accused of “arrogance” (as I was on an anonymous posting to quora.com, just recently), or worse yet, being bullied and harassed?
    If there is a silver lining to the gifted storm, today, I’m sorry, but I am not seeing it. I realize I am slightly, or perhaps muchly off-topic, as the posting is about the good things that happen in relationships with gifted people. But what is unspoken are these facts: those most able to recognize and thus be appreciative of true genius or giftedness are most likely to be other gifted individuals. It is also the case that the best relationships I have had with other people have been with other gifted people. We ‘get’ each other. I see that with other gifted people I know; their best companions and love-mates tend to be people very similar to themselves intellectually.
    I am resentful, perhaps just for today, that I have to walk tenderly on eggshells around people who aren’t able to rationally separate their feelings from their intellect, or their politics, or their wealth or some other life-circumstances, and who get hugely defensive around me and people like me, because for one reason or another they feel outclassed, outgunned, call it what you will, but for goodness’s sake, don’t call it that they feel outwitted; after all, everyone is “created equal”, aren’t they?
    I am resentful, just for today, perhaps, that bullies get to get away with irrational and utterly incoherent reasoning, but that gifted people are admonished that, “Well, they’re just like that, you have to learn to live with it [bullying or bringing someone down a peg or five, or harassment, or personal invective and insult, etc.]”. We don’t accept at all to say to Black people, “Well, people are just racist, you have to learn to accept it”; we have zero tolerance for that, or for anti-Semitism (unless it’s Israel- and Zionism-bashing, in which case, it’s open season), or sexism or racial hatred. But yet we tolerate that the same people who use a iPhone type smartphone (created by a genius, Steve Jobs), or who marvel at the Internet (created by a bunch of super-smart computer geniuses), or who are amazed at modern medicine and all it has to offer (researched by the very geeks they may have made fun of in school for being so bookish and awkward and socially inept), but who cannot, for the life of them, get it through their thick heads that the people who developed that stuff weren’t ordinary, everyday joe and jane lunch-buckets. They were gifted people.
    And yet, in North America, we tolerate the mediocre, make excuses for it, forgive people who don’t bother to do their best in school and get a good education and then laughingly justify it by saying “I never was good at school”. We see such types (or are supposed to see them) as the normal, accepted, everyday. And when the bright flash of a very smart mind shows up, we are supposed to back away, cringing, wondering what this bizarre creature is and what hell they “must” have gone through because the only way they could have become so smart is to have super-pressuring parents.
    I am just not satisfied with this status quo; I am sick to death of my ruminating over this issue, forced upon me by someone who convinced himself he is a genius but in fact struggled to get through university — and the many, many people like him, who love the outcomes of the work of the gifted, but hate the gifted themselves. Out of what: jealousy? Envy? Hatred? Their own recognition that they will lead ordinary lives (nothing actually wrong with that); that they never will be an Einstein, a Hawking, a Mozart or Rembrandt — or even something close, while we, the gifted, have to make room for their larger-than-life rejection of actual genius or giftedness or call it what you will, I am sick to death of finding an “acceptable” label with which to call such great minds and spirits.
    My apologies if I am being pessimistic today. If that bothers anyone or leaves them miserable, I am sorry for that. But this is what it is, and nothing is going to change just because anyone wishes it so. That’s called “magical thinking”, and in my opinion, that’s the actions of either a child’s mind, or a grown-up fool to believe that wishes can come true merely by wishing it so.
    My apologies, but today, I am not seeing it. I am not seeing the silver lining to the clouds that make up the “gifted storm”. Perhaps tomorrow I might, who knows? Somehow, though, I doubt it, at least for me.

    • John, I get it, and I have felt on many, many occasions that it is unfair. And I have thought often about this unfairness using your exact same reasoning. But, on one hand, we say, “all men are created equal”, and on the other hand we hear, “life is unfair.” Humans are imperfect, thus there is unfairness, inequity, discrimination and unequal treatment.

      Giftedness is a paradoxical condition in which the good and the bad are in constant flux. Yet, those who do not understand giftedness believe we are in a constant state of positive potential and outcomes. I believe that is the crux of it all.

      As with any group of people who have been persecuted, discriminated against, treated unfairly or had their rights infringed on, advocacy was needed to bring to light the issues, and to right the wrongs. Gifted advocacy is critically needed to change society’s opinion of giftedness. Many say our world suffers from anti-intellectualism.

      As far as treading lightly around those who we fear will react negatively to our giftedness, I try to look at it as, we are all humans sharing this Earth and we all need to be considerate and just get along, despite our traits, conditions or “gifts”. Of course, not everybody feels that way, right? If we do live with a consideration of our fellow man, we alter our behavior in many ways so as not to offend our friends, neighbors and the rest of society. We don’t mow our lawn at 2:00 am, we bathe so we don’t offend any one with awful body odors, we watch for children as we drive carefully through neighborhoods, and we try to use good manners and a positive attitude. Not everybody does, and those who don’t may be the ones who bully, drive too aggressively, withhold information at work to improve their standing, or rush to cut in line in front of you at the busy grocery store.

      So, in the end, advocacy for the understanding of gifted people needs to be positive, factual and cognizant of the hurdles we need to jump over to help others understand; if not, we risk offending or alienating those whose opinions we wish to change, and then we lose the battle, maybe even the war.

      But, yeah, giftedness is not a gift.

  7. Interestingly, I met plenty of parents of gifted kids who desperately want their kids to “just be normal” and to fit in. Only a few truly stood up and said, “My child is different and needs to be accommodated”. It’s disappointing when even people who care have a different opinion of what should be done.

    • Natalie, I know what you mean. I’ve done both, and sometimes switched between the two depending on the situation. I know when I got battle-weary advocating for my children at school, I did indeed secretly wish they were not so different. Giftedness is just so full of paradoxes!

      But we all need to always stand up and be able to say, “My child is different and needs to be accommodated”.

      Thank you, Natalie!

  8. Pingback: Gifted relationships | Sprite's Site

  9. Celi, thank you for addressing this issue that’s so close to my heart! Getting to know you has been one of the bright spots of my year. Relationships can make some of the toughest times a little bit easier – feeling understood is one of the greatest experiences for me. I look forward to when we can finally meet in person!

  10. Celi, I always enjoy reading your blogs. You are absolutely right that being part of a community of folks who understand the joys and challenges of having gifted children. I often think of you, and your wise, comforting words at our SENG training in Iowa😄. I will be speaking at the SENG conference in Williamsburg next week. Will you be there?

    • Hi Jackie!!!

      No, unfortunately, I won’t be at SENG yet again. We are moving to Texas soon and will be in transit at that time. Life just keeps getting in the way. I sincerely hope I will catch up with you at another conference soon!

      Thank you for taking the time to write and enjoy the conference with our wonderful gifted community! <3

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