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Gifted adults are perfectionists.

When combined with hyper-sensitivity the results can be painful.

In fact, they can almost be self-defeating. . .

Sensory overload of bliss

A beautiful scene of the sweeping beach at Bournemouth

A glorious invitation to blend into sea, sand and sky

Sunday morning, early.

The sky was the translucent watercolor blue of the northern hemisphere. The air was cool and clean.

I ran down to the beach. Bournemouth beach. Much vaunted as one of Europe’s finest.

The sea was doing its seductive thing, winking at me as its waves broke softly along eight miles of fine beige sand.

I headed into the rising sun and settled into my steady-state pace, relaxing into the soft embrace of the moment.

I was in bliss.

Sensory overload of despair

A gifted adult seagull stands on the beach with his head in a discarded cup.

Some people can't get off the ground until they've finished yesterday's latte.

Then I noticed that someone had pushed over a wheelie bin, put there to hold the trash of thousands of visitors.

The garbage, strewn over the promenade and the sand, was being picked over by the seagulls who seemed to delight in the poisonous residue of take-away meals and beer cans.

Despite their millions of years on the planet the birds seem to have forgotten the virtues of the paleolithic diet. Ketchup and kebabs prevailed.

I ran on and realised that the next bin had been turned over. And the one after that. In all I counted 32 large garbage containers whose contents had been redistributed overnight.

It hurt to see it. My hyper-sensitive gifted awareness triggered such a powerful spasm of despair that I stumbled and almost stopped running. This was too awful. Humanity is too awful. Our future is hopeless. The planet is doomed. Etc Etc.

Gifted scorn and self-realization

But I kicked on and my despair turned into anger and contempt.

Upturned wheelie bins are the sign that vandals have been to the beach

A minor insult to the planet - and to themselves

What kinds of animals would do this?

Where were the police? In my day (yes, I did find myself thinking it) there were bobbies who’d included the beach on their beat.

And how did I know this? Mmm. Bit hard to admit it but . . . it was because I once had to watch out for them as we lads worked off our overdoses of testosterone on the beachfront in North Kent. Swinging from lamposts; clambering over benches; shouting raucously into the night.

I don’t remember turning over any litter bins, though. Come to think of it, I don’t think there were any  . . .

Gifted rationalization

But that was then and this is now and as the metres stretched away behind my padding feet I moved beyond my anger into a place of philosophy.

A doll's head lies among toys and beer cans on a garbage heap.

Trash on the surface. Rich soil, perhaps, beneath.

This, after all, was only surface trash. The sand and planet underneath it were undamaged – broadly speaking – and everything has scum on the top: the sea, the banks, the political parties – why, what we have here is a repeating characteristic of nature.

Scum floats on the top. And everything creates its own form of scum.

That was very comforting. The trash was nothing to worry about. Just a natural process that nature has been supporting for billions of years.

My tension eased and I extended my step slightly . . .

Gifted insight

I turned round at Hengistbury Head, a sandy peninsula whose name I find irresistibly romantic.

Perhaps my ancestors arrived with Hengist and Horsa from mainland Europe in the fifth century. I feel the place alive with hairy men, short and broad, clad in what today we would call all-natural organic wool dresses.

A view of Bournemouth Bay from Hengistbury Head

The way home from Hengistbury Head

With the sun now behind me, the wind was full in my face. It kept strengthening as the land warmed and drew the sea breeze ashore. I had to increase my effort to maintain my pace. But I was cheerful. I was halfway there. My legs were strong.

I ran on.

Past the man allowing his labrador to defecate in the sand;

overtaking the couple clouding the fresh morning air with cigarette smoke;

sidestepping to avoid the styrofoam cups being thrown out of a camper van as its occupants finished breakfast.

And as I started to turn sour again I suffered an irresistible realization: this was all about me.

Gifted self-questioning

I couldn’t resist asking myself: How was it that I was only noticing the garbage?

How could I ignore the hawk circling above my head, seeking the voles that live in the scrubby slope of the east cliff? Or the dazzling beauty of the sun igniting the white cliffs of Purbeck as they rose from an indigo sea seven miles away?

A healthy man is buried under a pile of fast food wrappers

"Let he who is without Macsin throw the first cup."

The answer? Partly, it’s to do with being gifted, highly sensitive and a perfectionist. It’s true that this rubbish is damaging for all of us and that the attitude behind it is even more damaging. So it’s natural to be resentful of it.

But I also had to admit that it’s mostly to do with me. That was the clue to the intensity of my response. What I was seeing was a snapshot of how I feel, in part, about myself.

I realised that I, in all my human superiority, am an object of nature. Which means – er, hmm – that I must have a layer of scum, too.

It seems I’m tarnished, just like everyone else.

But am I a scumball or just a little tacky?

And what is my scum?

Gifted surface irritation

I immediately thought of the sweat gently soaking into my running vest. But that seemed too obvious and too natural and desirable to trigger such a depth of loathing.

So I opened the door to all the psychospiritual scum that felt as hopeless and as unforgiveable to me as tossing a litter bin onto a beach.

My stained and shudderworthy debris included:

  • Failures of integrity
  • Acts of expediency
  • Times of excess – food, drink, wildness
  • Thoughts of hostility
  • Paralysing guilt
  • Bullying, forcing, disregarding others’ needs
  • Neglect of self, of other
  • Failures of compassion
  • Agonising shame and self-contempt

Gifted litter-gathering

Gee! If I could shed that lot by dumping a load of garbage on a beach I’d be on my way to do it right now.

So maybe the villains of the night knew something that I didn’t. Maybe we can act out self-absolution by passing on our sins to others to clear up.

Maybe. But I still don’t think I could bring myself to do it.

152 people stand under a giant shower at Bournemouth

Not all gifted but certainly clean at the beach. The most people ever under one shower.

As I came back onto the part of the promenade that I had left over an hour earlier, I noticed that the wheelie bins were once again upright and returned to their steel-pipe ‘nests’.

The garbage was mostly gone.

There was a group of half a dozen wo/men clearing the remaining residue from beach and prom.

I was glad to see them and wanted to say thank you for taking that job. Then I figured it might seem a little haut-seigneurial so kept my words to myself.

In any case, I thought, it seemed a pretty rewarding job. Out in the early morning on the beach, improving the world for the thousands who would arrive later.

I just wished they’d wear gloves . . . .

Don’t reinfect yourself

And so it is with us. When we seek to rid ourselves of the scum of ‘things we’re not proud of’ we need to wear gloves.

Or we simply recorrupt ourselves.

A sign warns gifted adults to wear gloves when dealing with their own trash

It's easy to protect yourself from the risk of reinfection

Cursing myself for my moral failures is a moral failure in itself. Scorning myself for contempting on others is to nourish contempt. Hating myself for failures to love is to force love further away.

Moreover, all these things foster a seed-bed from which further abuses will arise.

The answer is simply to let it go and begin again.

That’s the natural way.

Gifted re-creation

Each moment we are renewed.

Each day, 100 billion blood cells alone are replaced in our bodies. In beach terms, that’s a lot of styrofoam cups. Or a lot of jolts of self-contempt.

Being gifted and demanding, we tend to be pretty unforgiving of ourselves but if we could truly let go of yesterday and start each day afresh, we would see that we are as clean as Bournemouth’s Blue Flag beach.

Gifted day a-dawning

Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields knew the value of moving on when they wrote:

“Nothing’s impossible, I have found.
For when my chin is on the ground,
I pick myself up, dust myself off,
Start all over again.”

You can achieve this simply by framing your own renewal affirmation and repeating it every morning on waking.

Something like: “I am wholly new. The universe is wholly new.”

It’s true. Yesterday is just a fictional memory and counts for nothing today.

And if you’re feeling energetic and want to dance it, here’s how:

Gifted perfectionists rejoice!

Wouldn’t you love to leave a room like that?

If gifted people want to fit in, they obviously need sufficient Gifted Space.

Even gifted people look like everyone else from far enough away

Do you fit in? Alone or in clumps it looks like it from here

How much do you need?

Read on . . .

Take a seat in the sky and look down at people on the move. See how they respond when they get physically closer to each other. In Japan they’ll touch. In Texas they’ll stand a foot apart

Yet these are minor differences. The basic process of flowing around each other and occasionally clumping into groups seems to be a mutually understood way that humans transport themselves.

From up here in the sky, in other words, all of humanity appears much the same.

Suspect the visual

For most of us, seeing is believing.

The words say one thing or another depending on how you read them

Seeing doesn't always make it clear what you should be believing.

This means that because we all look much the same we can easily fall into a dangerously false assumption: that we actually are all the same.

Even though we’re obviously not all alike, the ‘uniform’ myth can appear to have some validity.

After all, vast industries are founded on it.

Pharmaceutical companies, aeroplane manufacturers, clothing manufacturers, defense contractors all build their offerings around a ‘standard’ human being.

Services such as banking, law, and psychology all structure themselves round the assumption that we want the same things: money, justice, understanding.

Yet we aren’t the same and we don’t want the same things.

Commercial gain, individual loss

These broad brush commercial and political approaches to assessing the human being work within limited objectives.

A tree is covered with dollar bills

Seeing humanity as a money tree makes it hard to have a meaningful conversation.

The organizations concerned are not seeking truth but sales.

They are essentially systems for converting the energy of individual need into a more flexible energy: money. They know they can appeal to a big enough chunk of the population to grow year by year. That is the limit of their interest in the human animal.

You and I might see the great mass of population the same way. People with visions of huge consumer empires, such as Rupert Murdoch and Sam Walton, must do.

But seeing ‘us’ this way isn’t going to help you meet the perfect partner and fall in love. Or even help you get to know yourself better.

So take a closer look

A picture of a bearded man wearing a red dress.

Sometimes a man in a red dress is not a soldier.

Generalizing won’t offer guidance in selecting a sports team or even a specific lawyer for a specific task.

Clearly, some human activities cannot be conducted on a global scale.

In close-up, our superficial differences of height, clothing choices, and speed of movement become more significant. The dress on that woman is sending a signal. And (to avoid further accusations of sexism) so does the one on that man.

At a more intimate level, we see a human and its appurtenances. We make a judgement based on past experience. We think we have a workable idea of who s/he is.

And we’re usually wrong.

Who do you think you are?

If the visual/behavioral view of humans was comprehensive it would be easy for the world population to divide itself up into happy like-minded enclaves.

All the men in red dresses would line up here. All the women in black trousers line up over there.

Then subdivide: all the men in red dresses who are soldiers form a group here. Of these, all who abstain from alcohol can group there. Those who don’t smoke either, go there.

Play this game of group-by-category to its conclusion and you end up with one person in each group – and the world goes back to looking a lot like it does today.

What’s this got to do with being gifted?

Gifted individuals have a hard time, as they put it, fitting in.

A Miss England winner who is a soldier in a red dress

What's weird about a soldier in a red dress? Meet Corporal Hodge.

Well, trust me, so does a teetotal male soldier in a red dress.

Yet when you see him in his uniform marching along with thousand of other soldiers you’d never know it.

And perhaps when he’s in marching mode he feels as if he’s fitting in just fine.

I think therein lies the lesson for us gifted folk.

The person is not the picture

The point is that the soldier is not a man in a red dress or a man in a uniform. He isn’t anything you can see to judge at all. Not even in his material expression.

He’s just like you and me: a notional space.

As we saw at the start, we each occupy a space. However, this is not just the volume of our body and the air/energy buffer around it. We are more than 8 cubic feet of flesh and bone.

Ours is a notional space that includes ourselves and our perception of our position in the world.

We could call it a sphere of interests.

It is likely to be greater than our sphere of influence.

I think it’s most useful to see it as our sphere of potential. This is where we ‘see’ ourselves operating.

I also believe that if it’s in your sphere, you can do it.

Volume of a space

Gifted adults need the kind of space only available in a vast grand ballroom.

If this is your natural space, how will you ever squeeze it into a suburban living room?

The volume of this space is directly related to giftedness. It is not measurable by ruler or calibrated beaker.

Instead, it is measurable by topic, or awareness, or understanding.

Go to a party. Listen to the conversations. Strip out any that are specialized because of work relatedness.

Your gifted friend is not the one discussing the quality of the peanuts in the bowl – unless it’s to link them to the spread of aflatoxins in the general population and some garden birds.

The general talk swings from the weather to the need to bring back capital punishment for children under ten.

Meanwhile, the gifted group is having fun exploring the likelihood that blocktime might offer the first credible basis for a scientific proof of astrological predictions.

Or enjoying the way a curtain’s shadow creates a profound feeling of warmth and suggestibility within them.

Unfortunately these things are discussed only within your space because you’re the only gifted person there.

So you’re bored out of your mind – which you’re filling with alcohol or cheese and crackers in a desperate attempt to achieve equanimity within and affinity without.

You’ve resigned yourself to another evening of failure to make contact; more self-condemnation for being inadequate with small talk; more self-hatred for being an alien etc etc.

Why can’t you be like everybody else?

A gifted woman sits on her own looking depressed

"What on earth did I come for? I knew it would feel like a punishment."

“I’m a bit of a geek,”; “I’m such a nerd,”; “I’m something of an oddball.” and, most of all: “I’ve never really seemed to fit in.”

These are statements I hear all the time. Sadly, they often come in the form of self-condemnation, as if difference were a crime or at least a major societal defect.

In fairness, these words are not often said with conviction. You can tell there’s doubt behind the words, as if the speaker’s really saying: “I don’t actually think I’m a geek but I must be because I don’t know how else to explain how I feel.”

Over-sized sphere of potential

The truth is, of course, that you really don’t fit in.

If you could see the size and shape of your notional space you’d see it filled the room. So either there’s only room for yours or no room for yours.

And your space is you.

So there might as well be a sign saying: “Please leave yourself at the door.”

Having met that request by numbing yourself one way or another, you’re left bereft of anything to say. So your healthy pursuit of social interaction peters out once again.

And you go home kicking yourself for your awkwardness.

What’s to be done?

Our cross-dressing soldier might be able to help.

A marching band of scottish soldiers in kilts

Can you spot the soldier in the red dress?

His ability to ‘fit in’ with the troops offers a guide to enjoying social interaction without having to poison yourself with ‘comforting’ substances or just sitting abjectly in the corner.

Before heading anywhere social:

  • Start by calling up that wonderful resource: your giftedness;
  • Envision yourself, not as free to roam the full extent of your space but as a soldier, temporarily subject to external and limiting regulation;
  • Think about where you’re going, its nature, its awareness level;
  • Ask what you want from it (this deserves a book in itself but if you have a clear idea where you’re headed you won’t expect too much) ;
  • Strategize and stay focused on your goal.

In other words, instead of trying to fit the whole of your space into a room too small for it, select a subset of space relevant to your environment and use it to its full.

A girl touches the ankle of a quiet looking man

"I've always been fascinated with human sensitivity. Can you feel this?"

To make this easier – and have more fun – you can build your space selection around a purpose. This can be as simple as talking to anyone who’s wearing white above the waist.

Or you might conduct a survey in such a way that your respondents are unaware of your intent but flattered by your attention.

Basically, it’s all about lowering your expectations. You are rare, so the chances of finding a soulmate are few. However, if you simply want to feel like an acceptable part of the human race, you can bring that about.

How to mess up

As in all things, it’s wise to take care.

When I set out to a gathering with the intention of feeling popular, or being loved or important, I almost invariably screw up.

A nerdy boy holds a weird looking machine

"Let me delight you with my new invention! . . . Please!!"

I try too hard to show how interesting I am. I join too quickly onto someone else’s thread of conversation, pushing them away. I know too much about others’ subjects, effectively stealing their thunder without drawing admiration for my own.

As I head home afterwards I kick myself for being such a conversation hog, for being so insensitive, for forgetting my own instructions to myself.

It usually happens when I’m most anxious about the gathering in question.

However, when I go with the intention of making others feel good about themselves it’s a different story. I enjoy seeing them relaxing into a warm sense of their own lovability.

I may even have the fun of having them flirt with me.

And I go home – often quite early – with a warm feeling derived from the pleasure I’ve absorbed from others’ enjoyment of my words.

Job done. Reward received.

In conclusion

Know your space. Know the volume of potential you occupy in the world.

Then operate from a subset of that space depending on your immediate social environment. Make your choice of subset conscious, or you will feel distressed.

A texas longhorn stands in a field with its horns spread wide

"When it comes to long-term relationships I insist on finding an exact match for all my space."

When you start to become successful at this you might start to think you can do it ad infinitum, but be warned: you can temporarily operate from a small space but you cannot do it on a permanent basis.

It will probably be hard to find a like-sphered partner but it is essential – in love or in work – for ongoing happiness and growth.

And if you ever find yourself in a room – or even a virtual ‘space’ – with a gifted equal you will discover that rooms have no walls and that the virtual can be real.

Go seek!

Luxury and the gifted do not always sit comfortably together.

A mouse shows that parties can be dull

Could it be that giftedeness needs another dimension to free its joy?

We are intense. We are obsessive. Our work ethic can make us dismissive of others.

Especially others whose casual ease with luxury can seem a moral insult.

Yet by denying ourselves the same ease we also deny ourselves some access to love and perhaps to the full extent of our potential.

How? I suspect that to achieve the profound connection and love we deserve, we must learn to embrace luxury. To indulge ourselves. To seek ease, comfort, and the benefits of riches.

Open to everything – including love

I am so conditioned into believing that personal denial is the only path to truth that it was almost impossible for me to write: “benefits of riches”.

But I don’t trust the message of my own conditioning. It doesn’t ring true.

So I’m going to suggest that every gifted person needs to discover the benefits of luxury.

And hopefully I’ll convince myself at the same time . . .

Excess is essential

Here’s a bit of autobiography. It helps explain my early conditioning around luxury. It may have echoes for you, even if in different ways at different times.

I was born in the UK, just after WWII when shortages were at their peak.

The label that showed a garment was approved utility

Not a label from a jail uniform but approved Civilian Clothing 1941

The world I entered was marked by rationing, the utility label and – more importantly – the moral ethos such things evoked.

It was definitely ‘good’ to do without and to make the most of what you had. Every self-sacrifice benefited society and honored those who had died or been wounded.

It was therefore definitely ‘bad’ to be self-indulgent. Especially when so many of the wealthy were identified as having profited from the deaths and the shortages of war.

There is a corollary today in the thousands of lives that have been ruined by the actions of the banks and the governments that support them.

Moral puff-ball

I find it almost impossible not to be self-righteous about all this.

Puffed up pigeon looking absurd

"If it weren't for my moral superiority you'd think I was just a silly bird."

The puffed-up moral judge inside me declares: “THEY did it. THEY are the evil men.” and points to the generals, the politicians, the bankers, the black marketeers. Or to the women who proudly set them on their ‘evil’ paths.

All the people who apparently profit from the suffering inherent in vast human tragedies.

But the reality is so much harder to accept: that death and suffering from war and depression are caused by ignorance, by fear, by the ubiquitous limitations of human nature.

And we’re all in that soup together.

So there are no evil people. Or good ones. There are just people.

Despite my knee-jerk need to deny it, luxury is not a moral issue but an interesting behavioral phenomenon. And the fact that it exists suggests to me that we need it.

Giftedness is all about being excessive

Luxury and giftedness have one thing very much in common. They both appear excessive to the mainstream of society.

  • Gifted individuals push whatever they are doing to the limit.
  • They don’t see the point of just going for a run: their exercise has to fit into a planned training program.
  • They can’t just stand at a party discussing bling. They have to be recruiting for their campaign to save something that others haven’t even noticed yet.
  • They can’t just buy something – it has to be the right thing. They have little tolerance for a half-measure solution, knowing that it will just irritate on a daily basis. They’d rather go without.

A quick scan of my etymological dictionary tells me that luxury has its root in luxuria, meaning excess.

A huge old tree dwarfs the man looking at it.

"You bad, bad tree! Won't you ever learn enough is enough?"

And that’s certainly the sense in which ‘luxury’ is usually used.

It basically implies something more than is needed.

But I ask: says whom? Who is the great assessor of who needs what?

I haven’t bothered to check but I wouldn’t mind betting that the first people to ‘discover’ that you’d be better off poor were the religious leaders.

“They say: “Send your money to the Lord”/ But they give you their address.” as Hank Williams Jnr sang so profoundly.

And it’s a rich tradition to try to buy your way into Heaven. Or at least to hedge your bets by sending a donation to the Pope or some similar after-life insurance broker.

Who needs things?

The close alignment between fear and wealth has been explicitly recognized at least since the Buddha took to the road.

Yet the trappings of the wealthy – and sometimes their means of acquiring wealth – can leave them outside the circle of sympathy that we readily apply to the less materially fortunate.

“What’s s/he got to worry about?” we ask. And: “We’re all miserable but at least s/he’s rich.”

As if it made any difference.

Pain is pain. Fear is fear. Death is the end.

And they all bypass the means test.

the world's most expensive handbag

"Come on Chanel! At $261,000 you ought to include the pooch."

So if you need to carry a pedigree puppy in a £6,000.00 handbag in order to stave off the terrors, that’s fine by me.

And if you, you gifted ascetic, need to wear a wealth-rejecting hair shirt to stave off your own terrors that’s fine, too.

But I think there’s a better solution for both:

Embrace luxury, discover love.

Trust replaces hurt

The rich person – especially the inheritor of wealth – has a hard time learning to trust love.

It’s not just that s/he attracts gold-diggers. It’s because the daily privileging of external objects over internal ones leaves him or her untrained in matters of emotion.

The gifted person – especially the one whose sensitivity and idealism have led them into many painful encounters – also has a hard time learning to trust love.

Gifted individuals have a set of expectations – logical enough in their way – that the objects of their love rarely reciprocate.

And the gifted also mistrust their own attraction to wealth because they are so unfamiliar with managing its seductions.

After all, you fear, if you were really really rich, just think of all those books you’d buy. Far more than you could ever read. Just like those hundreds of pairs of shoes that Trust-fund Trudy will never wear.

Barricades against the banshees

So where am I going with all this? To this:

Whether gifted with wealth or giftedness, start seeing luxury not as something shameful and excessive but as a natural outcropping of a particular natural climate.

Zug is the place where billionaires gather

Zug's climate and gold ethos make it the rain-forest for billionaires.

Luxuriant growth is simply profuse growth, whether we’re talking rain-forest shrubs or Zug billionaires.

Gifted people are all about profuse growth – of knowledge, of talent, of human understanding, and even, sometimes, of material wealth.

The ‘particular natural climate’ that promotes profuse vegetation growth tends to be a bit extreme and excessive when measured against climatic norms.

And the ‘particular natural climate’ that promotes the growth of gifted humans is a complex mix in which we, as individuals, play only a small part.

So trust your luxurious urges. They’re totally natural.

Surrender to your desires

Virgil, an acute observer of human nature, wrote:

“Trahit sua quemque voluptas.” Broadly, “Everyone is drawn on by their own longing.”

So if you wish to be drawn on, to develop your potential to the utmost, you most open yourself to your longing.

This means ALL your longing(s). Not just the bits you regard as morally superior.

Trust the process

It’s safer than you might think.

If your heart be reasonably pure your longings will be reasonably constructive, even if they come under the heading of ‘wicked indulgence’ in your internalized Book of Judgments.

Also, the outcome of allowing your longings will be reasonably constructive even if, at the outset, you have no idea that there will even be an outcome.

Look:

Archimedes took a bath and discovered what made us float.

A fishing trawler called Eureka

"Eureka" indeed. Afloat, of course.

I don’t know whether the bath was a luxurious jacuzzi but it might well have been. Without that indulgence we’d have no “Eureka!” moments – and ships might sink.

Robert Louis Stevenson neglected the family orange plantation while he sat under a tree and imagined – “Treasure Island”.

Isaac Newton did the same in an apple orchard and came up with gravity. (Or should that be down?)

Christian Dior said “Poof!” to post-war fabric restrictions and came up with the New Look and a whole new industry and art form.

Not just material luxury

I want to urge you (and me) to seize your excess and see what comes of it.

super luxury bus

"I've embraced luxury, but I'm still taking the 'bus."

There are many who find it hard to permit themselves to indulge their material fantasies while there are so many in the world living below the poverty level.

There’s probably no connection between the two things but guilt isn’t rational.

First, therefore, seek to negate that irrational guilt.

If that fails, look to indulge yourself in forms of luxury that don’t trigger guilt. For example:

  • Give yourself some time.
  • Take in that exhibit that you glimpse as you hurry past on your way to work every morning.
  • Give yourself the effort to find a parking place so you can take a walk in the park.
  • Take two minutes longer in the shower so you can really reward yourself for your efforts in the gym.
  • Pay a bit more for that shirt or top so its feel and fabric will remind you every time you wear it what a special person you are – and what a joy it can be to be simply human.

And on the subject of clothes, cut those scratchy labels out. Their cheapness and nastiness only serves as an uncomfortable reminder that you could be the unwitting beneficiary of some sweatshop in China.

  • Open yourself to luxury because luxury begets creativity.

Even fierce Ludwig could see it:

“Music is the wine which inspires one to new generative processes, and I am Bacchus who presses out this glorious wine for mankind and makes them spiritually drunken.”

Surely, if indulgence was good enough for Beethoven it must be justifiable and valuable for the rest of us?

And finally . . .

Despite all the above, do you still think Lack is Virtue?

The Nash gallery in Buckingham Palace

The enduring interdependence of luxury and art: the Queen's collection

If so, don’t be hard on yourself. There is such a long tradition of the virtues of asceticism that we can be forgiven for believing ourselves to be better off by being worse off.

By denying ourselves the rewards of luxury, the thinking goes, we are contributing to the forces of truth and probably helping to save the planet at the same time.

But . . . no wealthy, indulgent patron means no truth, no art.

Just ask Michaelangelo da Vinci.

You never heard of him?

Precisely!

Now I’m off to indulge myself, repeating:

  • Luxury is nutritious; luxury is good;
  • Luxury is natural; luxury is good;
  • Luxury is fruitful; luxury is good;
  • Luxury is gifted’s twin; luxury is good.

Luxuriate!

 

I like marriage.

A rat rests on a sleeping cat's back showiing the triumph of love over fear

Which one's Kate? The triumph of love over fear.

It can be a painfully distorted condition.

But at its best it’s the most powerful statement a couple can make as to their mutual faith in the power of love over fear.

I’m happy for William and Katherine, royal bride and groom.

I hope they’re able to build something of sense in the nonsense of their societal context.

And therein lies the rub.

No gifts for the gifted

I wish I could doff a union jack hat

An alcoholic Bacchus continues to drink on his birthday.

Happy birthday, big guy! You're looking great!

and join the Royal Wedding Party.

 

But I can’t. It would feel like sharing a bottle of scotch with a chronic alcoholic in order to celebrate his birthday.

Typically gifted, I can’t bring myself to support destructive behavior when it is clear before me.

And the royal wedding is emblematic of the destructive nature of the English monarchy.

To try and explain

The value of the monarchy can be challenged on four grounds, of which I think the fourth is the most significant:

  • Morality. It is unfair. And even if nature is unfair that’s no reason to build unfairness into human institutions.
  • Absurdity. The idea that the desired qualities of a head of state can be passed on genetically is nonsensical. Just look at your children – or your neighbor’s children – to see how different they are from their parents.
  • Democracy. Democracy, a delicate flower at best, can only exist within a meritocracy. Once people are granted powerful positions by right of birth, or by association with it, any hope of democracy goes out the window.
  • National wellbeing. This is the reason that drives me most powerfully. It is also the one that will probably speak loudest to other gifted individuals because we tend to be highly motivated to correct those things that we see to be causing damage.

A necessary caveat

When it comes to the English royal family it’s almost impossible to separate the people from the posts.

Calls to end the monarchy are often greeted with responses such as: “But the Queen’s a wonderful woman and does an impossible job incredibly well.”

Indeed she is and does. But it’s not a job that she should be required to do. Or her offspring.

It’s hard to look desperate when you’ve two palaces and a couple of castles to run and hide in. But the reality is that the royal family is locked into an impossible (as in non reality-based) situation by determinants way beyond its control.

And the collective English public responds in a classically co-dependent way to take care of them.

Let Wikipedia explain:

A teddy bear is smiling even though it is trapped behind bars

Trapped into a fiction. The ever-smiling Windsors in the co-dependent zoo.

Wikipedia includes, as part of its definition of co-dependence: “It [codependency] also often involves putting one’s needs at a lower priority than others while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others.”

The English public demeans its own needs by embracing a form of social structure in which inherited wealth and, in particular, inherited titles are recognized as being of higher social standing than real-life achievements.

This is anathema to the gifted. And, I believe, poison to all the healthy.

Bowing and scraping

The English routinely put their own healthy needs aside to maintain the fiction of the superiority of the royal family.

Lady gaga bows to the queen

Gender confusion? More bow than curtsey but still the achiever deferring to the inheritor.

At royal events, powerful achievers from many domains demean themselves as they bow or curtsey to a royal person who has done nothing to earn his or her position.

The goal of a knighthood or some other royal-bestowed honor is a singular focus for legions of politicians, business-people, and even entertainers.

And this means that their behavior and their methods are constrained because in the end their actions can’t be allowed to threaten the possibility of the desired  outcome.

What a neurotic and codependent way to force conformity.

What a brilliant way to ensure that nobody of real excellence or creativity will ever get close to power.

And yes, that includes you and me, fellow gifteds.

A new king at (tennis) court

People have a lot of difficulty with the idea that the monarchy is so destructive.

So here’s an analogy to try to explain how fundamental the problem is: how it ultimately distorts the psyche of every cogniscent being.

Imagine this:

Rafael Nadal wins the men’s tennis championship at Wimbledon. As he lifts the cup over his head he proclaims:

Rafael Nadal in a tuxedo holds up his Wimbledon Championship cup

King Rafael I. By Divine Right, with all his successors, Eternal Champion of Wimbledon and all other tennis venues.

“From now on, this cup will be won each year by me or one of my children and by one of their children thereafter down through the generations.”

The spectators cheer.

The officials nod their approval.

King Rafa is born.

And from now on into eternity the rules of the game and the reporting of the game will have to be constantly amended to keep up the appearance that King Rafael and his offspring are indeed the best fitted to be the crowned heads of Wimbledon.

  • Better players will have to be persuaded to take second place or take up another game.
  • Promoters will constantly have to present the Nadals as the highest tennis family in the world.
  • Legions of amateur players must be taught to start seeing themselves as subjects of the tennis monarch, a personage whose athletic supremacy cannot be questioned even if s/he’s in a wheel chair.
  • Millions of people must distort their thinking and build aberrations into their inner psychological architecture so as to accommodate the tennis fiction.

This is exactly what’s happened in the English game called “Head of State.”

Its ramifications are destructive from the highest family in the land to the lowest (to borrow a royal designator).

Also, though it may not seem relevant, this perverse structure threatens the integrity of everyone in the world.

Humans cannot tolerate an unlimited number of logical inconsistencies and, let’s face it, the English queen is pretty much queen for the world.

Create your context

As with all things gifted, we must develop strategies in order to remain unaffected by this massive daily absurdity.

To protect yourself, first recognize that you didn’t create this situation and that there is something you can do about changing it: http://www.republic.org.uk/

Change won’t happen fast but it’s very relieving to make a healthy assertion in the face of a suffocating national neurosis.

Then recognize that you are unique and that if you adopted the same labelling system as the royal family your uniqueness would be as obvious in your name as it is in theirs.

Not just Tom, Dick or Harry but Thomas I, Richard III and Henry VIII. One only of each.

Selling your birth . . . right

The Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha family – or the Windsors, to use their alias –  have done a brilliant job of selling their birth up, making it into a luxury brand that supersedes all others.

Keith Tyson's large field array exemplifies the bold originality of each of us

Each one a bold and unique work of art. Keith Tyson's "Large Field Array"

And you can do the same. Make of your giftedness a golden crown of specialness. Be grateful for it and humble in your accepting of it. Noblesse oblige.

Too often we gifted individuals suffer so much that we become angry and resentful (Moi? Surely not!).

Instead, we can try to be gracious, recognizing that we have been given much.

Don’t let the sheer size of the world’s population defeat you. Instead of seeing yourself as lost in a crowd, or a loner outside the crowd, imagine yourself as a unique object in a collection of unique objects: an original artwork of the MaPa school.

And wait, there’s more . . .

Do the other things the royal family does.

  • Epithet yourself. To differentiate yourself is to take power. I’ll be Christopher the Gifted, worthy successor to Ethelred the Unready or William the Conqueror. And happy counterpoint to dreary Edward the Confessor. When you pick your own designator make sure it feels just a litle bit ostentatious or surprising. Ivar the Boneless might not sound too terrifying (except in a Stephen King kind of way) but he was a potent Viking whom we still remember.
  • Point to the Divine Right of the Gifted. This is your source of power. Put simply, it means you recognise that you are a child of the universe and it is to the universe that you owe your accountability. And no-one else.
  • Publicize yourself and your message. Put: “By the grace of the universe, Gifted and Defender of the Truth” on your metaphorical coinage.
  • Have a Gifted Wedding. Learn to appease the multitude – or your immediate family – with flags and geegaws while you get on with the serious business of consolidating your power.

You will not perpetuate codependency by doing these things. Unlike the poor old royal family, you have fundamental truth on your side. Truth – as in natural law – must ultimately prevail. Even when we don’t know what it is.

A toast to the happy couple

And so a toast, to send them on their way:

Portrait of Oliver Cromwell

"I wish I'd been less of a gent, more of a Robespierre. For the good of the country, of course."

“Good luck to you both.

“May you have a long and happy marriage.

“And I hope you, William, will never be king and you, Kate, will never be queen.

“I hope you’re freed to head off and enjoy the billions you’ll inherit without fear of paparazzi or having to live within the constricting shell of a forced persona.

“If this happy state of affairs should come about, please recognize the debt you owe to the gifted who’ve been pushing for it for centuries. John Ball; Oliver Cromwell; Thomas Paine and all the rest.

“Set up an Institute to Promote the Interests of the Gifted.

“And I’ll forego the Baronetcy.

“Ciao!”

cjc

It is easy to write. You simply arrange words in an acceptable form and walk away.

It is much harder to write authentically.

Before you start you have to feel yourself inside your authenticity.

A swan takes off after a long run.

"If only I could stop running I could really fly."

You must feel an undeviating connection with universal law and know that you are presenting your unique vision of truth as only you can experience it.

You must feel it pass through you, untrammeled and unquestioned.

You must allow it its own life.

And that’s hard to do when you’re running for your own.

Uncertainty impedes access to truth

My last few months have demonstrated some truths about gifted functioning and have also confirmed – for me at least – the truth of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

The primary truth is that gifted adults need environmental stability in order to maintain a sense of their gifted identity.

And here’s how I found out:

Last October, Susan and I moved from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Bournemouth, UK. It was a big move.

Not only did we have to move ourselves, our belongings and our cats, we also had to sell our house, car, and loads of ‘stuff’. A coordinating nightmare.

I also had to start a new practice in a new location as soon as I arrived.

Maslow’s pyramid of . . . woe?

A major transition of this kind is a real test of persistence and resilience.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Maslow was right: upstairs is more fun.

For us, higher life issues such as meaning and spirituality went out of the window as we dropped down through the layers of Maslow’s  hierarchy, finally touching bottom in the basic food and shelter section.

As the corporate bods are prone to say: “When you’re up to your neck in alligators it’s hard to remember that your original intention was to drain the swamp”.

Only now, four months and a few days after we drove out of Tulsa, do I feel I’ve reduced the alligator population sufficiently to be able to write anything more thoughtful than an angry note to the telephone company.

What has this to do with being gifted?

The gifted population doesn’t take kindly to being forced to dwell for extended periods in the hand-to-mouth domain.

Our talents and drives push us rapidly up the requirements scale with a powerful need to satisfy our lust for original thought, creative action, and the joy of connection to the universe.

This doesn’t sit well with the need to restrain one’s impatience with a slow-witted clerk at Sky HQ who’s never heard of anyone installing two separate telephones in their house before.

Or the utility company that can’t tell you whether it supplies you or not.

We lost hundreds of valuable hours in ought-to-be trivial pursuits that were made significant by the poor planning, customer contempt and systemic stupidity of the institutions we were forced to deal with.

G – r – r- r – r – r!

No identity, gifted or otherwise

While battling unseen enemies, I continued to function at a reasonably high level. I was organizing, working, planning, ‘moving in’.

A beautiful piece of shattered glass

"Can you see the real me?" 'Quadrophenia', The Who.

But from a gifted perspective, I felt “I”  had completely disappeared.

My true self had been fragmented by a hail of logistical and administrative shrapnel.

To maintain balance, I would regularly and consciously regroup and re-centre myself.

However, I found it hard to feel a direct connection with the universe when physically tired, logistically disconnected, and under constant bombardment from the mundane world.

I was a classic case of being out of my comfort zone.

The psychological comfort zone

For the gifted, our ‘comfort zone’ begins with a simple truism: we are super sensitive.

Queen Elizabeth II holds a transparent umbrella

"You might think you can see my carapace but I promise you it's really invisible."

We are as aware and as prone to injury as any sea anemone. And our awareness and vulnerability is even more psychological than physical.

So we develop a psychological protection – an invisible carapace or impermeable membrane designed to enable us to thrive even in risky psychological worlds.

This invisible covering is a structure built from rationalizations, denials, compensations and other  defensive constructs.

We use these as filters to reduce the painful impact of ugly sights, hostile encounters, and our powerlessness in the face of ‘stupidity’.

Because so many of the factors we need to defend against are local and cultural in nature, much of our defense is not universally applicable. It is adapted to our current bio-psychosocial environment.

So when we move to a different environment our existing cover no longer works. We feel raw, exposed, in pain.

Until we’ve built a new one.

Constructing a new comfort zone

From the comfort zone perspective, a major move is actually a process of deconstruction, fragmentation, reconstruction.

A brilliant model of a norman castle

It would have looked silly in Tulsa but it works fine over here.

It is not that “I” have changed. It’s my environment, the things that impinge on me as the simple result of being human.

These include the daily pressures and stimuli, the cultural assumptions and expectations, the impact of the weather, political attitudes, laws, the way ‘they’ dress.

And I experience each of these differences as a separate physical, emotional or  intellectual jab.

As we have seen, the protective covering I created for myself – albeit unconsciously –  in Tulsa doesn’t work at all over here.

Its psychological battlements, curtain walls,  turrets, towers and arrow slits are the wrong height, misplaced or facing the wrong way.

(Not) Feeling the heat

Also, some of the things I had to armour myself against over there do not exist here, and vice versa.

To take a physically-related example, I worked hard to build the mental ability to tolerate the great heat of an Oklahoma summer and even to thrive in it.

For a long time I couldn’t stand it, staying resentfully inside my air-conditioned home

Then I found – or created? –  an inner sense of a pioneering self who would tackle the heat head on, rowing, running and mowing the lawn to the point of heat exhaustion. My sweat was the mark of my heroism.

A man rides through the rain in a British street

Modern British hero?

Perversely, here in the UK, I find no relief in the knowledge that I won’t have to go through that pain again.

Instead, I miss the sense of triumph, the small plank of victory that contributed skeletal support to my amorphous feeling of integrity and identity.

So my inner hero must put aside the Tulsa experience, tolerate a period of uncertainty, and then construct a new victory plank to contribute the same support function.

I’m not sure it’ll be climate related. Somehow, putting on a raincoat and splashing through the grey mush of a soggy English day doesn’t have quite the same heroic feel as sculling into the teeth of the wind in 40C heat.

But give me time and I will find a new structure and a new sense of the same ‘me’.

Recovery time

And maybe this is the point. There are some things that are simply time-dependent.

Physically, we know that it is the time of recovery between workouts that actually builds our muscles and improves our fitness.

I believe it’s the same psychologically.

And I believe we gifted adults are perfectly placed to make our recovery times unusually valuable, because:

  • We are much more conscious of what is going on.
  • We are readier to let go of things that no longer work.
  • We have a zest for life that promotes creative solutions.
  • We can’t tolerate being locked in air-conditioned rooms for long!

Trust the change

A man dances standing on one hand.

Trust the process and your life will become a merry dance.

Not all moves are geographical.

We ‘move’ jobs, partners, belief systems, activities.

We experience ‘moves’ as others come and go, laws change, economies stutter.

But I suspect that all moves follow a similar deconstruction, fragmentation, reconstruction process.

And if you trust your giftedness by allowing your ‘moves’ to happen in a conscious but non-interventionist way, they will serve you well.

And the swamp will be drained.

And I’ll return to blogging again.

Ciao!

[Sorry if this is a bit rough. I accidentally published it before I’d finished editing it. Still, I guess that’s what the universe intended. cjc]

“Nature never repeats herself, and the possibilities of one human soul will never be found in another.” — Elizabeth Cady Stanton

The truth of Mrs Stanton’s words is self-evident. And yet:

  • all education systems are designed to foster conformity;
  • all governments seek to regiment all lives into a single, multiply-cloned, life;
  • the ‘tribe’ demands compliance with its ethics and at least a pretended respect for its rituals.

In other words, the fear of the qualities that make us unique as individual humans constantly overrides our most valuable asset:

  • Our variety and uniqueness in relation to each other.

What’s to fear?

Are you afraid to be different? Or more accurately, are you afraid to reveal your inevitable difference?

In a world where children can be scorned for wearing the ‘wrong’ brand of jeans no-one can be blamed for putting on the cloak of conformity.

Many find it very comforting. Being a willing and obedient member of the group carries tremendous rewards, especially if the requirements of the group aren’t seriously at odds with one’s own uniqueness.

However, this is often not the case, especially for those blessed with gifted integrity. We frequently find our needs at odds with the needs of those around us.

If we try to dismiss our needs in the cause of conformity, then inner conflict gives rise to ‘sickness’. This manifests as unfulfilled potential, actual physical ailments, and psychological distortions such as addictions and compulsions.

All in the interest of avoiding being who and what we really are.

It’s not just accounting

We tend to think of conformity as an establishment thing: accountants are conformists but artists aren’t. Yet that is not a true picture.

Any group that can be described as “a segment of society” comes with its own set of expections and societal assumptions.

Artists aren’t expected (or allowed?) to put on suits and neckties before approaching their easels. (Though Matisse got pretty close.)

It’s less prevalent now, but at one time any group photograph of psychotherapists showed a disproportionate number of beards, Freudian and otherwise.

The rules of clan membership have always included wearing the requisite tartan.

The penalty for difference is harsh

On the CNN news this morning there was a brief story about a young man who’d been forced to stand out in the street with a large sign around his neck reading:

“I don’t behave well in school. If I continue I’ll end up working hard for little money.”

There is a major warning here for gifted children, a huge number of whom end up in special classes because of their ‘bad’ behavior.

Setting aside the abusive nature of this humiliating treatment, the sign exemplifies a great deal of society’s beliefs around conformity:

  • It’s the pupil’s fault (not a failure of parenting or schooling) if s/he doesn’t conform to the required form of behavior;
  • It’s the people in power who define ‘good’ behavior (“The golden rule is: it’s the ones who have the gold who make the rules.”);
  • The pupil will ultimately be punished by having to work hard in unrewarding labor;
  • S/he will be rewarded for conforming (the implication is) by being well paid without working hard.

Which exactly explains what’s wrong with the economy today!

The well-off, by and large, tend to come from the ‘going along to get along’ brigade rather than from those who challenge the status quo and produce creative breakthroughs that change the world.

When everybody’s busy scratching everybody else’s back, who’s going to create the wealth?

However, the reality is that difference of a certain kind is a punishable offence. So maybe we should fear our uniqueness.

Even though the fear is justified

As spiritual teacher Andrew Schneider says: “We are afraid of being ourselves. We are afraid of being unique and different. We are afraid of being individually powerful, and even successful. “

“We want approval from others. We want to be accepted and popular. We seek this comfort to overcome our fear and feel more secure. …So, at times when we conform, we don’t feel the fear of living.”

Schneider accurately summarizes the feeling. Yet I’d suggest that it’s just at this moment – when we are ‘securely’ and fearlessly conforming to a societal blueprint – that we are at greatest risk. Why? Because we’re walking an inauthentic path.

If we should take one step off that path – or get pushed by circumstance – we’ll find ourselves mired and maybe drowned in an environment so alien that our very survival will be threatened.

If you don’t believe me, just look at the hordes of celebrities and other rich and famous people who die before their time in a morass of drugs, debaucheries and other actings out.

They paid the price of trying to be too pleasing to too many.

It’s weird to think of James Dean, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, and all the other dead rock and movie stars as the ultimate conformists but that’s exactly what they were.

Perhaps Rolling Stone Keith Richards put it most succinctly when he said: “I’m like this so you don’t have to be.”

Thanks Keith, for doing it to please all of us. You are the ultimate conformist to society’s requirement for the archetypal rock musician. I wonder who you really are?

Overcoming the fear of being ourselves

Some of us live a compromise for a long time. We try to combine a dependent societal life – be a good employee, for example – with an independent personal life. This ‘independence’ might show in the form of dangerous sporting activities, weekend role-playing or unusual modes of sexual behavior.

However, splitting our lives into parts rather than integrating them is not going to lead to success. We can’t have a sense of adventure, discovery, and enthusiasm for life – but only at weekends.

So how do we overcome the fear of our own difference?

Happily, by recognizing that if success is going to be ours, it will only be through being ourselves.

This may seen counter-intuitive. After all, one oft-recommended technique for achieving success is to copy the behavior of successful people.

Unfortunately, that technique usually doesn’t work.

Successful people are successful because of who they are, not because of what they do. They do not follow a set of “rules for success.”.

Rather, they trust themselves and do what they are compelled to do at the moment they are compelled to act.

This does mean that success can look like a bit of a moving target. After all,

  • There’s no single “right” way to accomplish anything.
  • What works for some people, won’t necessarily work for others.
  • And what is effective today, won’t necessarily be effective tomorrow.

But that’s OK because one person’s idea of success is different from another’s. So if we each follow our own unique success path, we’re sure to arrive there.

Personal differences determine success

We all know successful people. Some are entrepreneurs, some are schoolteachers, some are writers, some are soldiers.

If they exhibit one quality in common it is that they reserve some part of themselves to themselves. It’s a subtle form of asserting: “I’m OK. I’m as I should be.”

It doesn’t mean they don’t have moments of yearning for someone else’s life.

It does mean that they won’t bend themselves out of shape in order to be acceptable to you or me.

If they get on with us, that’s great. If not, they say: “It’s been a pleasure, goodbye.”

This is not dismissal but a respecting of difference that is free both of craving and contempt.

I may not want to be a Miles Gloriosus, proclaiming: “I . . . am a parade!” but neither do I begrudge him the rewards of his calling.

If I were to respond in any other way I would be asserting – implicitly or explicitly – that “the only way to live and be successful is the way I’ve lived and have become successful.”

In fact, it’s highly likely that that would be a recipe for disaster for everybody but me.

Learn from triumph in battle

Military history is a great teacher because the results of acting out human dynamics on this scale are so clear cut.

Sadly, the military and the people they advise seem to be the last to discover this!

However, war teaches us to a greater extent than anything else that the cost of unthinkingly following someone else’s ideas leads straight to defeat.

Thus the WWI followers of Napoleonic “go for it” strategy threw hundreds of thousands of men to death in battle against the trench, the barbed wire and the machine guns that Napoleon never had to face.

Then in WWII the French, having learnt the power of the trench, followed that idea and put their faith in the defensive Maginot line. So all the Germans had to do was fly above and walk right round it.

Please take heed: what worked for your grandma, your grandpa and your parents is not going to work for you.

You have to do it differently even if it annoys them beyond distraction.

Even if it costs you your inheritance.

Your own path is your only path

So now life is easy.

If you’re a business person, don’t copy Jack Welch or Steve Jobs. Do it your way.

If you’re a homemaker, don’t copy Nigella Lawson or her male equivalent. Do it your way.

If you’re a sinner or a saint, an artist or a banker – do it your way.

Then you will always be a success. A triumphant you.

What do I do next?

The fundamental principle that underpins all of this is to trust yourself.

I don’t mean trust yourself because you’ve been a good student and thought a lot and never want to hurt anything, especially dolphins.

I mean trust whatever comes into your motivation.

Trust yourself to be the pure force of universal good that you were designed to be.

And don’t second-guess the universe. You can be a ‘bad’ person in society but a ‘good’ one in the universe. Don’t let ‘them’ tell you you should be other than you are.

I know gifted people who are destroying themselves as they seek to shine as protectors of society – lawyers, firefighters, doctors. It makes them feel good and they’re helping people but – they’re denying themselves.

I’m not convinced that healthy results can come from unhealthful motivation. Sooner or later, karma seems to come around and deposit her poisoned gems.

So I urge you, be self-directed.

Recognize that service to yourself is service to the world.

How do I know?

Because that’s what the universe put you here to do.

That’s the universe. The Universe. The 13 billion year-old behemoth that we don’t understand hardly at all.

Not your parents.

Not your schoolteachers.

Not your neighbors.

Not your spouse.

Not your friends.

Not your priest, vicar, mullah.

Not your therapist.

The Universe is the only one that knows what it needs and it created you exactly as you are. So it’s a shoe-in that you’re exactly what’s needed.

And, even more strangely (from where I sit) it means I’M exactly what’s needed.

Spooky!

I admit it.

"You're outside a book shop? You don't have a pension fund? KEEP WALKING!"

I was channel flipping.

Suddenly, there was Suze Orman, finger pointing toward me and head thrust forward like Uncle Sam or Lord Kitchener in one of those “Your Country Needs YOU” recruitment posters.

“. . . and remember,” Suze was concluding, “People first! Then money! Then things!”

That brief glimpse is all I know of Suze’s ideas on this topic but – like any good consultant, academic, or journalist – I’m going to seize hold of her idea and gratefully make it my own

Gifted adults and the meaning of money

I’m fortunate in that I have the kind of practice that literally covers the financial universe.

Gifted adults: all the same under the skin.

This is because my focus is on psychographics rather than demographics and because working over the telephone means I can work with a much larger client pool than most.

The common factor between the richest and the poorest, the highly energized and the stuck, the tightly-focused and the confused, is their giftedness.

They share the same basic qualities – intuition, awareness, creativity – and are equally fierce in their insistence on maintaining autonomy, asserting their right to their unique vision, and holding on to their sense of identity and integrity.

Yet the financial manifestations of their giftedness vary hugely.

Gifted doesn’t mean gilded

To one gifted person a dollar is something to give to a charity. While to another it is something to add to their personal fortune.

These different actions appear to be at opposite ends of the spectrum but I’d suggest they both have a common source: the need for insurance – or reassurance.

The gold wall that keeps threats out can also imprison us within.

The giver protects himself from a fate worse than death by maintaining multiple layers between himself and the less-fortunate. The keeper protects himself by building a rampart of gold.

The under-performing gifted

Sadly, I think I have to say that the gifted community as a whole tends to underperform financially. This judgement is purely anecdotal and may just be a projection of my personal self-assessment.

However . . . how many times have we looked at someone and thought: “With all they have to offer, how come they aren’t doing better?”

So can Suze help?

Even the most motivated advisor cannot force their mentees to take action.

However, Suze can at least help make something conscious that might otherwise remain unconscious. And she can encourage us to think about our personal balance of money, people and things.

Gifted we may be, but blind spots and asynchronous development can certainly impede our path to greater riches in any one of those categories.

Where’s your emphasis?

What kind of gifted adult money-manager are you?

Let’s take a look at three different prioritizations for some clues:

Money-Things-People (MTP)

This is a popular hierarchy with all groups of people, gifted or not.

Gifted intensity and high success can lead to lofty isolation.

Why? I think it’s because  a ‘money-first’ strategy simplifies decision-making. Also, the emphasis on tangible wealth is very acceptable – even highly admired – within society.

Some people condemn this prioritization as actually being anti-social or just plain ‘wrong’ . But it’s really a perfectly legitimate  way to play life. 

After all, possessions – things – are just toys and/or fetish objects. And we all have a need both to play and to feel secure.  Acquiring them can be a lot of fun, too.

The risk for gifted individuals pursing this path is that they play fiercely when they play at all.

So their intensity and passion for capitalizing on every financial opportunity can drive away people whose commitment to the game is not so great.

This can result in the gifted-and-successful being denied access to the emotional and other resources that might help them live more richly than they can achieve on their own.

Things-People-Money (TPM)

It was hard for me to see how this prioritization might play out.

But then an image came to me of a collector. It was two images, actually. One was a collector at an art auction, spending millions, while the other was of a vast hall full of enthusiasts exchanging Star Trek memorabilia.

A female cat burglar walks along the rooftop with a necklace

Walking the ridge on tip toe? Being captivated by objects can lead to danger.

In both cases, their passion for collecting was paramount in their lives and led them to gather with groups of people. In neither case was the accumulation of money privileged over the things or the people: they just had very different amounts of it.

Someone else who puts things before people and before the accumulation of money is the impulsive thief that takes jewels and other objects rather than cash.

A more altruistic version would be the kind of charity that accepts donations in kind and distributes them among the poor.

The truly gifted TPM person must be the artist, the creator of things. Unfortunately, the creative preoccupation is often to the detriment of their relationships with people and frequently with a total disregard for making money.

I suspect that many gifted individuals fit that picture . . .

People-Money-Things (PMT)

This, as Ms Orman suggests, is the most balanced ordering available to us.

Properly managed, one pool can feed a thousand plants.

To start from the bottom, if we take care of our money by being cautious in our acquisition of things, we’ll have it available for people when they – including ourselves – really need it.

And we won’t hold back from making any necessary expenditure: our stash will be ample and comfortably protected.

It’s surprising how far you can travel in the face of misfortune if you adopt this prioritization.

Which is a comforting thought, given that this order should be fairly easy for gifted individuals to sustain. Despite our fiercely maintained independence, we are often very people-oriented.

However, there is a risk that if your distribution of the three categories is, say, 90-6-4, then your over-emphasis on people is going to be damaging for you and ultimately for everyone else.

So make sure you have plenty in the pot before you give some away – whether to others or even to indulge some expensive need of your own.

And I’m not just talking about money here, but love and compassion, too.

The gifted cash box

I think that for most gifted individuals money is not something to be pursued, hoarded, collected, counted, and managed for its own sake.

I don't care what you do with it! Just shove it under the mattress!

Indeed, most of the wealthy gifted that I know find it irritating to have to deal with the money that’s come to them.

Whether this cash is a by-product of their joy and success at work or something they’ve inherited, its management – not the cash itself – is seen as an obstacle to getting on and doing more interesting, more valuable things.

Gifted people, I suspect, are not typically succesful investors. Their vision tends to be tied to their personal value system and therefore doesn’t resonate with the consumer tastes on which so much wealth depends.

And what about me?

Do I fit Suze Orman’s preferred profile?

Sadly, probably not. I do put people first, certainly, but I also have a tendency to buy things – especially books and boats – before I have my 12 months’ safety fund built up.

So this leaves my prioritization as:

People-Things-Money

But it’s a pretty close thing. Sort of 60-21-19.

"See what happens when a gifted adult meditates on money!"

I’ve done many motivational tests over the years and they all report that my interest in money is substantially below average. By that, they typically mean that money is not much of a driver for me.

This is true. But it’s not the same as saying I wouldn’t be happy to make loads of it doing something that was motivated by things closer to my heart.

For example, this country (the USA) spends $700 billion a year on ‘defence’.

I don’t want any of it if its goal is to bend others to our will.

However, I’ll be happy to take just one percent if its intent is to help others discover their own true will.

I think that would be a much more effective defence, as well.

And I would be gloriously rich.

So bring it on . . . .

Soon!

I’ve been struggling with my blog. Not for a lack of subjects, but rather for a lack of voice.

A Macedonian phalanx with all spears bristling resembles the tormenting thoughts of the gifted.

"Do we have a message for you?!"

I’ve been jumpy and unable to concentrate, constantly looking over my metaphorical shoulder to see if I’ve overlooked something more important and urgent than attending to these words.

Yet I can’t see anything there beyond a gathered phalanx of self-destructive messages:

“Who do you think you are?”; “Stop trying to be so clever!”; “What makes you so special?”; “What right do you have to pontificate?”.

This experience does seem rather personal but I don’t imagine it’s unique to me. Its insistence tells me it must be what I’m required to address.

What follows is a mixture of fantasy and reality but I hope it’s interesting and useful nevertheless.

The source of self-condemnation

The root of those dismissive messages is not hard to find. Just recently a revered family figure responded to a thoughtful remark of mine by dismissing it to the assembled gathering: “Don’t take any notice. It’s only Christopher.”

And so it is . . .

And only Christopher has his complement in only Jason, only William, and only Andrew; in only Susan, only Sarah and only Britney.

And it’s no coincidence that ‘only’ rhymes with ‘lonely’. There are many lonely gifted people, absent-mindedly kept at arm’s length by the society they strive to subscribe to and support.

Down the street

As I write, my mind offers up a visualization of my inner experience of being haunted by these messages.

I’m in a terraced street, narrowly enclosed by nineteenth-century red-brick and rigid sensibility.

It’s the kind of street that led to these words from William Blake:

A huge ship bloacks the end of a narrow street, giving the gifted just one way to go.

"My way or the highway."

“I wander through each chartered street,
Near where the chartered Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet,
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

“In every cry of every man,
In every infant’s cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forged manacles I hear.”

Yes, ‘Blake’ is an anagram of ‘Bleak’.

I am being driven out of this street by thousands of contemptuous words. The letters race at me, jeer at me. Sentences form and chase me, teasing me as if in a cartoon.

Feeling hurt and betrayed, I see I’ve been marked as a foreign body, an intruder. I try to explain but already I know the assaultive words are in service to the society of the street. I must be expelled to maintain the homogeneity of the larger society ‘they’ call ‘us’.

“You’re not one of us!”  The words are never said but fill the air as I’m pushed from the street. I feel the pain of separation but it’s not my connections I’m being parted from. It’s my efforts at forming connections, my struggle to fit in.

 I never really belonged. These houses were built for those who fit.

And I am unfit.

The imagery fades, its point made. But I can’t stop thinking . . .

It hurts, this virtual exile, but my gifted nature compels me to see through the pain so as to make sense of the experience. It’s odd. I’m being kicked out but I don’t feel like a victim. It’s as if I’ve been given my freedom.

The mutual pursuit of authenticity

Adam and Eve are driven out from Eden by an angry angel with a sword.

"Don't worry! We're leaving! We're destined to taste knowledge rather than live under your protective ignorance!"

Suddenly I see I owe a debt of gratitude to that persistent stream of incomprehension and dismissive disinterest.

By driving me away it protects me from work which, though honorable, I am not suited for. It defends me against relationships doomed to failure. It contains a certain knowledge of the universal benefit of rejecting that which is incompatible.

The fact that the messages are sharp and I experience pain is just a designed-in feature of human nature. It’s a quality that ensures that variations will be forced out into the open.

There they will either thrive or die but at least they will do their part.

We’re always ready to settle for a little comfort so it takes a lot of pain to move us. Especially when the future is unknown. It’s not as if there’s a guarantee of a place where “only Christopher” or “only” anyone else will feel as if they belong.

Nevertheless, we do belong. In the universe, on this planet, at this time. We are that special – and no more.

Just like you.

Your experience of ‘only-ness’ will be different from mine.

Perhaps you were accused of: “Doing a Jonathan” or: “Just being Gemma”.

Possibly your mother said: “Paralegal” every time you said: “Artist”.

Maybe you were condemned as “fresh” or “above yourself”.

A pretty girl is wearing a duck's beak, making her ugly.

"How come the other ducks can't see how beautiful I am?"

The variations are endless. But the message is the same as to the Ugly Duckling:

“Quack! Quack! Get out!
Quack! Quack! Get out!
Quack! Quack! Get out of town!”

Do yourself a favor. Hear the rejecting quacks and don’t try to distort yourself into being a duck just so you can stay.

Better for everybody to be a lonely swan on the lake than a scorned mallard wannabe in a miserable puddle in the gutter.

And it might just turn out to be better than you think . . .

See you at the swannery!

Hundreds of swans gather at a swannery

"There are more of us than you may realize!"

The treadmill’s a bore. The gym – sorry, fitness center – is ugly. The challenge of solving a complex creative problem is much more satisfying than spending time jogging.

For these and other reasons, gifted, talented and creative people often find it hard to raise enthusiasm for exercise. Yet we are precisely the group that benefits the most from it.   Here’s why:

Creative benefits of exercise

The gifted Beethoven is highly energized at the podium.

"If it weren't for my workouts I could never have composed nor conducted my third symphony: 'The Aerobica'."

Gifted individuals live intensely and can benefit from the short term exercise benefits of  increased energy, attention and focus.  After aerobic exercise, we feel more present in our bodies and are able to add greater value and vitality to each moment.

Those gifted individuals who find themselves spinning between different demands will find a regular exercise period provides both stability – a centering event – and a stimulus.

While physically anchored in aerobic activity your mind is opened to new possibilities. You can surrender to what feels like the indulgence of free-floating thoughts, unrestrained by messages that you should be doing something more ‘useful’.

Aerobic exercise also delivers long-term benefits in the form of improved brain function. The increase in blood flow “appears to carry various growth factors from the periphery of the body into the brain to start a molecular cascade there, creating new neurons and brain connections”, says Henriette van Praag, an investigator in the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging.

Less stress = more creativity

Exercise reduces the negative effects of stress.

Queen Elizabeth II sips on a glass of wine.

"Exercise? Creativity? For some of us, life can be stress-free without either."

Stress stops creativity dead in its tracks. Without access to that creativity, gifted individuals can feel bereft, abandoned and lost.

Many – particularly those who demonstrate their creativity through entrepreneurial activity – are highly adept at concealing this sense of loss. They turn their minds to other things. Perhaps too many other things. And their loss of a deeper commitment may go unnoticed because they are so competent that even the ‘busy work” they undertake can look pretty serious.

It’s only at the end of the day, with energies naturally lowered, that they reach for an extra glass of wine or similar comfort in an attempt to fill the incipient emptiness they experience within their lives.

So a reduction in negative stress is essential to experiencing a fully creative life.

Boost that norepinephrine

There is a popular theory that exercise creates a “runner’s high” by releasing a rush of endorphins but the American Psychological Association disputes this.

A silhouette of a woman running

"Freedom's just another word for exercise-increased norepinephrine."

The APA suggests that exercise increases brain concentrations of the neuromodulator norepinephrine, which may help the brain deal with stress more efficiently.

Psychologists don’t think it’s a simple matter of more norepinephrine equals less stress and anxiety. Instead, they think exercise works by enhancing the body’s ability to respond to stress.

Biologically, exercise seems to give the body a chance to practice dealing with stress. It forces the body’s physiological systems – all of which are involved in the stress response – to communicate much more closely than usual.

So the cardiovascular system communicates with the renal system, which communicates with the muscular system. And all of these are controlled by the central and sympathetic nervous systems, which also must communicate with each other.

This workout of the body’s communication system is part of the deeper value of exercise. Remember: the more sedentary we are, the less efficient our bodies become in responding to stress.

So now you know why, what are you going to do?

You’re half-convinced, but the treadmill is still boring and the dogs chase you when you jog down the road. How do you take the next step?

Philip Rabinowitz of S. Africa, age 102, the fastest 100-year-old to ever run the 100 meters (30.86 seconds).

Here’s how to start:

  • Embrace the idea. Fully understand that regular exercise (six workouts a week, a mixture of aerobic, strength-building and flexibility)  is much better for you and your performance than the alternative.  Remember, if you and another person are identical in potential, the one who exercises will be the one who achieves more.
  • Acknowledge your resistance. It’s very hard to start an exercise program from scratch. It needs lots of personal drive and external support. Admit that it’s hard but that you want to do it anyway. And start small. When I started jogging it took me longer to “run” a mile than to walk it. But it gave me plenty of time to enjoy being outside, increasing my awareness and – bliss! – allowing my thoughts to travel where they will.
  • Pick a larger goal than exercising just to be fit. Few of us can crank out the miles on an exercise bike just so’s we can be back doing the same thing tomorrow. So we need to look beyond the task to a larger reward. Pick a sport and decide to compete at your age level. Or surrender to the joy of dance and seek to excel. By participating you expand your social group – and thus develop your intellectual and emotional domains – as well as developing your body.
  • Pick something impossibly hard. You’re gifted so you simply must challenge yourself. Don’t allow your rational self to convince you it (whatever it is) can’t be done. If it’s truly beyond you, find out by failing at it rather than by predicting failure from the comfort of your favorite web-surfing armchair. Select your exercise activity for its complexity and limitless scope for improvement.
  • Blow  notions of age and physical limitation out of the window. We’re not all going to emulate Philip Rabinowitz (see picture above) but we can certainly set our own anti-aging records.

Don’t confuse exercise with pastime

Many of us claim not to have time for exercise but spend hours each day on what I would term pastimes. There’s nothing wrong with pastimes, from reading to croquet, but they’re not going to deliver the same benefits as a planned exercise program.

Some activities occupy a grey area in the exercise/pastime continuum.

  • Sailing can be hectic or distinctly sedate depending on the boat and the wind.  Either way, it gets pastime status because it’s too dependent on external factors to deliver reliable benefits.
  • Dancing can be similarly split. An hour of samba would exhaust most of us while 60 minutes of a slow waltz taxes only one’s tolerance for intimacy.
  • Golf qualifies as a pastime because it does nothing to sustain a raised heart rate.
  • Downhill skiing takes place in too-short bursts to be exercise, but its enjoyment depends on fitness so it could be used as the larger goal in an exercise program.
  • Some of the minor sports such as rowing, rock-climbing and martial arts are multi-faceted in their challenges and ideal for the independently-minded, autonomous, gifted individual.
  • Team sports can challenge the gifted maverick in a different way, especially if they call for coordinated efforts. However, they will provide motivational support and teach healthy dependency.

Que, moi?

What do I do? I scull.

Christopher Coulson sculls his single in a race

"Puff! This is hard. Whew! This is hard. Aargh! This is hard.

It looks so easy but it’s so very difficult. It requires physical strength, balance, rhythm and technique. And I don’t have enough of any of these things.

It takes place in a constantly changing environment of air and water. It can be spiritually rewarding and competitively driving. The objects it involves – boat, oars, oarlocks, etc – are beautiful examples of form following function, intelligent and technologically advanced. A 28 foot single scull weighs only 30 pounds.

And I can do it indoors, on my Concept II rowing machine, or outdoors, on the mighty Arkansas River, depending on the weather.

And so to a well-earned rest

Sculling gives me moments of true ecstasy and gratitude for my existence. But that doesn’t mean it will do the same for you.

You must find your own way of manifesting your uniqueness in the physical world, your own way of glorying in the perfect encounter of mind, body and physical environment.

I wish you joy in your exploration and moments of bliss in your application.

A female Pinocchio has a long nose

"After thirty years I can resist my conscience no longer."

The man had long labored under an injustice. For thirty years he’d been held responsible for an act of destruction that had actually resulted from an accidental oversight of his sister’s.

Now the fault was to be remedied . . .

“It was thirty years ago,” he said. “Surely you can tell Mom the truth now?”

“All right,” said the sister, turning to confess to the mother: “It wasn’t him,” she said, “it was me. I let it happen.”

The man felt a wave of relief wash through him. At last the truth was out.

Until: “Oh no it wasn’t, darling,” said the mother briskly, “you’d never do anything like that.”

Both brother and sister were left staring at each other, mouths agape.

For love of the truth

Gifted individuals love the truth.

In the terms of the last post – Essential nutrients for the gifted – the truth supplies essential nutrients to one’s intellectual environment. It is therefore a primary motivator for each of us, gifted or not.

a sign points to Truth or Consequences

There is a place for the truth. But can you pay the price?

However, the gifted are more demanding than average so their passion for the truth – their profound need for the truth – is likely to lead them further down arcane paths than the average person.

It also leads them into acting on the truth – walking their talk – to a greater extent than less-gifted others.

The result of this quest – this compulsive exploration – is where originality, creativity and exceptional results of all kinds spring from.

It is also the path of isolation and loneliness and even possible death. The truth can force us into a community of one – and a hated community at that. Just ask Galileo.

The absolute truth is . . .

Scientists such as Galileo make their observations and report them. But they acknowledge that their current understanding is just that: a snapshot of what things seem to be at the moment.

Galileo is on trial

"Don't look so taken aback, Galileo! We've told you before: the truth is no defense."

There is no way to prove that today’s observations will be the same tomorrow. So all our scientific ‘facts’ are really working assumptions. They are assumptions sometimes supported by a lot of evidence but they are assumptions nevertheless.

Some people use this to argue there’s no such thing as absolute truth, or that everyone’s truth is different. I can’t prove it, but it seems to me there has to be an absolute truth, just as there has to be an absolute set of laws that define the universe.

However, the existence of such absolutes doesn’t mean we know them or can even discover them.

In the absence of knowing such absolutes it seems that we pursue the most convincing working assumptions and refer to them as ‘the truth’.

What about truth-blindness?

The mother in the opening story of this post found it necessary to dismiss the truth even though it was agreed by the only two people present at the original event. What would make her do that, especially if the quest for truth is such a powerful human motivator?

The answer is that she had a huge investment in maintaining the original myth.

To her, women are incapable of doing damage. So to accept that her daughter caused the accident would be to open the door to the possibility that, as a female, she might also have caused accidents.

Her sense of identity was massively dependent on a belief in her own perfection and so such an admission was impossible. Ergo: the original event didn’t happen the way her children said it did.

A rule of thumb, therefore, might be:

We act from truth to the point where the consequences threaten unconsciously held false assumptions that we believe our lives depend on.

Community of fiction

As gifted individuals we may feel with some justification that our ability to live by the truth is greater than average. However, we must be aware that the same constraints apply to us as to everyone else: in humans, psychospiritual needs will always prevail over our truth needs.

The evidence for this is everywhere.

A line of motor carts is more sheepish than sheep

Can you spot the sheep?

To take an obvious example, billions of people hold religious beliefs that are scientifically untenable. Because?

Because belonging to an organized religion meets a whole stack of needs relating to meaning, to community, to easing anxiety about death, to providing a set of moral beliefs, and so on.

On a deep personal level, such beliefs are about identity and a sense of security. For many, being one of the crowd is an essential part of survival. It doesn’t make sense to allow their life-prolonging affiliations to be threatened by the truth. In the animal world, that’s why there are so many cattle in the herd and just a handful of mavericks.

Of course, many of the gifted see such affiliations not as life-prolonging but as life-threatening. They don’t want to be in thrall to those whom they perceive as less competent than themselves. So as far as possible they go their own way.

A huge risk for the gifted

The root of this separatist drive is a wonderful source of joy and excitement for the gifted. It embodies the sense of autonomy and power that feels like a transcendent life in itself.

an underweight woman perceives herself as overweight

"Being gifted, I see things more accurately than anyone else - er - I think."

Yet therein lies the risk. That glorious gifted intelligence and awareness may feel transcendent but it is just as constrained by our psychospiritual limitations as anyone else’s. It’s just that we get further with it before being caught.

This is because the intellect – the digestive system for truth nutrients – is always in the service of deeper forces and drives. As writers such as Antonio Damosio and Jonah Lehrer have made clear to us, we are not rational animals but rationalizing ones. We ignore this at our peril.

Some would argue that the gifted are actually more vulnerable than most because their emotional development is so often in arrears of their intellectual growth. Ironically, the competence of the gifted means they can go a very long way before they discover they’re on their own. And that it hurts.

Also, the gifted powers of intelligence, imagination and originality work as powerfully in creating delusion as they do in opening up the truth. No-one is as dynamically dumb as the genius who unconsciously dedicates his intellect to self-delusion.

Avoiding the quicksand of delusion

Given that the process is unconscious, there’s not much we can do to protect ourselves. However, we can identify the quicksands where we most need to be on guard.

These are the life domains where we are almost certain to delude ourselves.  Here our deep inner processes will drive us to see what they want us to see rather than permit us the clarity of vision and insight we might have when watching someone else. We must beware around:

  • Ourselves
  • Our parents
  • Our children
  • Our siblings and their extended families
  • Our spouses
  • Our friends
  • Our work colleagues
  • Our finances
  • Our physical condition

We constantly delude ourselves around these relationships and concerns. We  have been conditioned at such a deep level it is near-impossible to access our relevant false assumptions.

It therefore makes sense to sharpen our judgment by gaining objectivity with outside help if serious issues arise in these areas.

You are remarkable

As a gifted individual you are truly remarkable.

Einstein reminds us that our thoughts are not necessarily accurate

"The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge." Albert Einstein

You have a remarkable ability to tolerate the adrenalin jolt of new reality.

You are much further along the truth path than your neighbor will ever be because you have learned that you would rather take the truth-hit, fall down, reconstruct yourself and then move on.

You are in a very small percentage of the population.

But even you have your limits.

As you go about your business of life, observing, assessing, responding, please dilute the elixir of your perceived truth with the words of the bumper sticker:

“Don’t believe everything you think.”

Or everything your very convincing gifted friend thinks, either.

And maybe you won’t be fooled again.

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