Growing up with Intensity: Still Intense as Adults?
Research has shown for quite some time that gifted children are often seen as being "intense" in they way they interact with and process the world. While there is a lot of research on gifted children, there is often much less in terms of what happens to gifted children when they become adults. Gifted children remain gifted throughout their lives. Unfortunately, the supports available during their childhoods (and I will be one of the first to argue that supports for gifted children are too often inadequate!) often disappear entirely when they become adults.
This can leave many adults feeling lonely, isolated, and different. Many may struggle to find like-minded peers. Research from Symanski and Wrenn published in 2019 highlighted the journeys of 5 gifted adults from their gifted childhoods. They found that these adults shared common themes related to hyperawareness, isolation, and finding peers. The authors suggest that more research is needed to help gifted children understand and accept their intenseness. I dare say that the research also highlights the need for more support for gifted adults now, including the establishment of mechanisms and support to enable access to like-minded peers to reduce isolation.
Giftedness is indeed a "gift" but often is seen by those who have it as something that sets them apart. Gifted adults often are hyperaware of how they are different from others; they often quickly recognize they have limited interest in the same things as others in their immediate circles; they likely recognize that they process information much faster than others. They may take many strategies to compensate for their differences including downplaying their own giftedness, masking their abilities, or isolating rather than engaging. Wouldn't it be wonderful if giftedness was celebrated and embraced, and gifted adults had a way to connect with one another to discuss issues of common interest? What if gifted adults didn't have to be alone, but instead could connect with the other gifted adults who were around the world to build a network of support and communication?
Please jump over to the Discussion Forum to introduce yourself if you find that this resonates with you.
Official abstract: "The cognitive perceptions that enable gifted children to process academic information in superior ways also qualitatively impact the psychosocial dimensions of their lives. Overexcitabilities represent common super-sensitive areas in gifted children. However, giftedness does not end with adulthood and neither do the complex processes of intensities. Five successful intense gifted adults shared their journey of development. Themes of hyperawareness, isolation, and finding peers were identified as commonalities among the participants. This study represents the first step in a research agenda that aims to develop programs to help intense gifted children learn to understand and accept their intensities."
Antonia (Toni) Szymanski & Melissa Wrenn (2019) Growing Up With Intensity: Reflections on the Lived Experiences of Intense, Gifted Adults, Roeper Review, 41:4,243-257,DOI:10.1080/02783193.2019.1661054
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