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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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
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.