Gifted, High-Potential, Special…
Whatever the term used « giftedness » has become fashionable and many psychologists and personal development gurus have been quick to exploit this trend. This surge in “gifted” profiles has consolidated in many skeptics’ minds the idea that “giftedness” is nothing more than a psychological sham: if my child misbehaves or can’t keep still for a minute, it’s not become I have failed to educate him or teach him impulse-control but because he is “gifted” or “hyperactive”.
However it would be a great mistake to throw the gifted baby with the bathwater because giftedness is a measurable fact and nothing more than a fancy name for something that has been around for a long time.
Today, the biological and neurological reality of giftedness is no longer a matter of debate.
In short, the brain of a gifted person displays a higher concentration of neurons in the pre-frontal cortex as well as a better quality of neuronal myelin (a substance that surrounds nerve cells and determine the speed at which information is transmitted). These biological trait could be of genetic origin and constitute a case of an adaptive evolution which would have allowed gifted people to process information more quickly and benefit from a better working memory. These biological and neuronal differences also manifest themselves through a set of clearly determined behavioral traits.
The most common and striking aspects of giftedness are: a thirst for knowledge that often manifests itself in childhood, an hyper emotional sensitivity that is often hidden by introvert behavior, above average memory and focus, an intellectual maturity often out-of-sync with the emotional maturity and a tendency to perfectionism that can sometimes become paralyzing.
To summarize, as the association for gifted people Mensa jokingly puts it: “You know you are gifted when you tried at 7 to create your own encyclopedia because the one in your library had things missing in it”.
Historically, the detection of giftedness has been done through IQ tests, the standard behind a score of 130 on the Wechsler scale. However, many specialists consider, as does philosopher and mathematician Nassim Nicholas Taleb, that IQ tests are actually lousy tools to measure the higher dimensions of intelligence and do not accurately reflect the ability to extract and manipulate information in real and complex environments. Actually, the best way to determine whether a person is gifted or not is to observe how his or her brain works in real-time via an IRM. Sadly, for obvious financial and logistical reasons, this method is limited to research activities and cannot be used for widespread testing on a national scale, a constraint that has proved a boon for many a psychologist.
However, direct observation remains the best way to identify a gifted person.
With enough experience and knowing what signs or patterns to look for, you can reasonably assess whether a person is gifted or not after only a few minutes of interaction. In many cases, things are made easier by the fact that gifted people tend to stick together : gifted people tend to marry, work with or befriend other gifted people, even if the members of the group are all unaware of their giftedness and therefore of the fact that it is precisely this trait that has unconsciously brought them together in the first place.
Why is it so important to identify giftedness?
The first reason is psychological.
For many people, finding that they are gifted allows them to put a word on a difference that they have felt and acknowledged for a long time without being able to accurately name or define.
Ironically, when confronted with the fact of their giftedness, the first reaction of many gifted people is to actually reject the label. How can they square always feeling inadequate, underperforming and unsatisfied with the fact of being gifted? The greatest irony of gifted people is that they are actually brilliant because they always feel that they are not good enough.
Knowing that you are gifted is also important for knowing your strengths and weaknesses and avoiding life’s pitfalls. Gifted specialist Christel Petitcollin has extensively written about the fact that gifted people are very vulnerable to manipulation by perverts and psychopaths that act as the gifted person “natural predators”. When you know that you are gifted, you learn to pay attention to red flags and you protect yourself in your private as well as your professional life from people and organizations that are highly toxic for your psychology.
The second reason is political.
In many places, gifted people are, by far, the minority that suffer the most from discrimination.
If some countries such as Switzerland, the USA, Belgium, Russia or Israel have schools or programs dedicated to gifted children, many others such as France, in the name of equality, do not.
The denial and ignorance regarding the specificities of gifted people often lead to underachievement at school and later at work of children who were very eager to learn but whose failure in the traditional school system destroy their self-confidence and engrave in their minds the idea that they can’t excel at something or possess well above average intelligence because they did not do well at school.
Gifted people find often themselves further discriminated against at work where they can become the scapegoat, the loner, the oddball or the workaholic who is keeping single-handedly the whole department or company afloat. Asking questions that nobody asks, seeing things that nobody sees and often rejecting illegitimate authority, gifted people often find themselves in open conflict with a professional world which, on paper, celebrates diversity and out-of-the box thinking but actually rejects and condemns it when it becomes something more than an empty slogan for human resources managers. Although there are now many HR people, entrepreneurs, managers and recruitment companies who are aware of the unique skill sets and benefits that gifted people can bring, giftedness is currently the only form of diversity that is not promoted and advertised in the corporate world.
However, the issues raised by giftedness go beyond personal or professional well-being.
It is a civilizational matter.
My years spent studying and working on giftedness have convinced me that gifted people can be found on all continents and in all ethnic groups. However, my research has also revealed that some ethnic groups seem to possess a higher gifted people concentration than others and, more importantly, that some groups possess a culture in which the unique and latent qualities of gifted people can truly bloom.
Such was the case of Western civilization.
The history of Western civlization is the history of a civilization of gifted people and the history of France, for instance, is the history of a nation of gifted people that until recently had managed to attract gifted people from all over the world and offer them a home. To some extent, the same can be said for the USA.
Outside Europe, countries such as Israel and Japan have respectively tried to maintain the homogeneity of populations with a seemingly high concentration of gifted people whereas China and Russia have created social systems where gifted people are heavily concentrated at the top of the social hierarchy.
For obvious reasons, it is very difficult to test these assumptions-it would require thousands of IRM brain scans from population samples from each country- but in the future, genetic testing might provide a more efficient and cost-effective way to assess the prevalence of giftedness in different ethnic groups.
However, in the short run, Western societies should be more concerned with the fact that they are currently creating environments that that are becoming increasingly toxic and unpleasant for gifted people, a true canary-in-the coal-mine situation.
Through my work, I have met gifted and burnt-out police officers sick of the cowardice of politicians and the impunity enjoyed by criminals, gifted civil servants who become despondent because they witness daily how public services are increasingly and stealthily sold out to private interests and gifted business developers and entrepreneurs who can’t stand anymore seeing their efforts thwarted and impeded by bureaucrats and people without skin in the game. And let’s not forget gifted people who are bullied at school, sometimes until they commit suicide, and all the gifted writers, thinkers and journalists who are banned from the airwaves and hounded by the new inquisitors of the “progressive” establishment.
To explain the current state of the Western world, I offer the following theory:
Western civilization owes its greatness to the fact that for centuries, it successfully provided a social, political and philosophical framework in which the talent of gifted people could bloom. However, since the middle of the 20th century, technological and social factors have created a world where the autonomy of gifted people is increasingly limited, their specificity denied and where anyone truly capable of thinking outside the box is increasingly punished for doing so.
In today’s society, gifted peoples defining traits such as critical thinking, the tendency to ask embarrassing questions, the passion for independence and self-reliance and most importantly, the commitment to the common good are not just no longer praised as virtues but they often get vilified and often lead to social stigma and exclusion. In addition, widespread access to higher education has diluted the concentration of gifted people in universities whereas until the 1950’s, higher education was, with some exceptions, the de facto and exclusive province of gifted people.
Instead of harnessing and channeling the talents of gifted people as it had managed to do in the past, Western civilization is currently smothering and even, in some cases, downright killing the very people who helped it achieve its supremacy. Worst, it now promotes and praises mediocrity while waging a ruthless war against all things truly special.
In many Western countries, things still hold together because a minority of overlooked, overworked and overachieving gifted people are keeping the companies, the police stations, the farms, the hospitals and the army barracks running. One a massive scale, this situation is a text-book case of the nice and naïve gifted being exploited by sociopathic perverts who use every trick in the book to manipulate them, using guilt to prevent the victims from breaking out of the vicious circle of abuse.
But a lot of gifted people are at the end of their ropes.
At this juncture, the gifted either give up and kill themselves or they open their eyes and realize the extent of the abuse, the manipulation and the lies. In that case, hell hath no fury like a gifted scorned.
Given the high-concentration of gifted people in Western societies, the so-called “elites” would do well to fear the wrath of the people.
Translated an adapted from French by the author.
The original article can be found here.