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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?

12 Responses to “Gifted and picked up at the beach”

  1. phil. says:

    Hi Chris.

    WOW ! Super post.
    I am feeling down, so this post has arrived at a good time for me.
    Its just what I needed to recieve.
    Its great to get a more objective perspective on things.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. Jessica says:

    Great post! I do that getting angry thing all the time. Like when I walk up the street from my house and see all the trash, graffiti, and orher vandalism. All so mindless and thoughtless, and it causes the rest of us money, work, and discomfort .
    Now I’m doing it again, just thinking about it! I will try to take in your words of wisdom so I can feel more at peace with it. I figure I should either do something about it or learn to live with it!

  3. s.k.jha says:

    oh! you made my day dear-excellent presentation and depiction of an aweful careless approach.Where is giftedness?-missing in disguise- my experience with cosmos is different-it gives-it nurtures and in excesses-it slaps-irrespective of what we are ,whwere we are amd who we are.great auto instinct-reaction and maoling in future

  4. Cindy says:

    Hi Chris:

    So very good to hear from you. Have been missing your posts so this was a nice surprise today and as with the case of Phil, was needed very much as well.
    In this post you made very good points. Definite words to ponder. Bullying others or ourselves accomplishes little but hurt feelings. I also think giftedness allows us to see the effects of our actions, maybe not all the time, yet most of the time. We’re much like the Native Americans at the zenith of their culture, before being herded into the reservations. When an important decision had to be made, the elders had to be of “one heart” in that a decision had to feel right to all of them. Furthermore, the decision was taken from a point of consideration of how seven generations would be effected.
    As I’m sure you remember from living in the US, instant gratification is a big characteristic of the culture here (I’d love to know how different it is in the UK). We also are a throw-it-away culture albeit recycling is expanding more in some areas (thank God).
    One of the reasons I moved back to Oregon was that I missed being able to recycle. In the very heart of the Midwest where I spent last summer garbage pickup wasn’t organized for that. Trash pickup was just that; the picking up of wet garbage, cans, glass, paper, etc. all in one trash bin. I thought it was blasphemous and was looked at oddly for saying that I missed separating the trash as I had while in Oregon. I was also looked at oddly and suspiciously for declaring myself as a Democrat yet that is another story in itself.
    While it can be said that my individual efforts at trash recycling aren’t going to save an entire forest, I do what I can that is within my power and hope that somehow that my recycling efforts may somehow add to what Rupert Sheldrake calls morphic resonance or the “100th Monkey effect”.
    In the end I can only control my actions (with hopefully less “scum”) as I believe us gifties are more cognizant of many kinds of waste and its effects. It is a part of moral and ethical being that goes with the gifted territory. Yet by awaking each day anew, perhaps we can be happier and can add some positive energy that will reduce the effects of the collection scum so to say.
    I’m climbing off my soapbox now. When it gets worn out I can add it to the trash can for paper and plastics. May everyone be blessed and have an exceptional day!

  5. Maria says:

    I nearly laughed when I read this.
    I do this all the time and don’t realise it.

    Funnily enough where it led me in my reflections

    was that the perfection and sensitivity can block

    the experience of giving/ recieving love! The
    perfectionism has most definitely got in the way
    of accepting both myself and others!
    It’s lovely to see how it plays out !
    Thanks for your post, :)

  6. Damian says:

    Hi Chris,

    Thank you for another brilliant post. As others have mentioned you appear to possess excellent timing when publishing these reflections of yours.


  7. I have missed your posts, and so thoroughly enjoyed reading this one.

    Beautifully written, and as usual you hit the nail right on the head:)

  8. Cathy in NZ says:

    I feel quite the opposite about certain types of trash of late…okay, I’m against mindless trash, as per your beach run/bins. An example here in my city in New Zealand is the cost factor of putting out a garbage bag (costs to buy empty one) is that more and more people are leaving either one unofficial bag or a pile of trash in my street, never in front of actual house (this street is mixture: business/residential). Recently, I happened to be in the street when the garbage truck came and I think I have made a friend of the guy – because I notice he takes it all now!

    Sorry off track about why I like certain types of trash :-) – I have just changed leisure occupations and now I’m in the ‘market’ for leftovers that I can incorporate in my ‘art work’ – last week I found a broken car brand shield and a plastic cake topper – the week before some interesting little boxes. I also like looking at creative art that people place on buildings – I’m not talking about random tags – although sometimes they are intriguing as well…

  9. Miguel from Canada says:

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the blog post. I enjoyed reading it very much.
    For some time now I’ve been trying to apply Buddhist acceptance to what impinges upon my life. I find it gives me perspective. Your story reminded me about this. Thank you.

    Take care,


  10. Orah (from South Africa) says:

    Interesting post and replies.
    What I “got” from this post is that entropy is a multiulayered concept that extends across all aspects of human existence – emotional, spiritual, physical, mental, societal, economic, governmental, environmental, planetary…. It is, however, something that we can reverse if we have the will. That is what makes us different from every other species on the planet. The will to resist, reverse or rectify entropy where we don’t like its effects. The will starts at individual level but has to overflow into the collective level in order to achieve results at that level. There needs to be a political will to achieve societal reform. There must be a general societal will to not be corrupt and to eliminate corruption. There must be a group of people who are prepared to clean the garbage off a beach. What frustrates me is that everywhere I look I see the lack of it…the listless, ineffectual, hypocritical lack of the individual and the collective will to resist the many different forms of entropy that sicken our planet and our society. Yes we can design our individual internal environments to avoid the discomfort our external environments cause us. Yes we can choose to see the good in others. Yes we can choose to see that the glass is half-full…but that won’t take the garbage off the beach until it is too late. In some areas we lack the luxury of the time it takes to develop societal memes. There is a fine line between positive thinking and avoidance of the truth because it is too painful.

    Thanks for the post. It makes the extreme loneliness a little easier to bear.


  11. Adaneth says:

    THank you for this site! This site alone has told me more about myself than a whole months worth of searching the internet.

    I’ve been going crazy hour after hour for a whole month trying to find out where I belong, or who I am.

    I’ve taken so many personality tests, and read so many forums and career listings, my mind i mush.

    But I can totally relate to how you felt on the beach.

    My life is filled with these emotions and information and sensations, I feel like I’m about to explode. When I do, I feel guilty. Like a psychotic person who is always anal about everything and every rule, every stupid thing that people do.

    And I feel like no one sees these things or understands how their actions can affect the whole world. It’s either they are ignorant or they don’t care.

    After reading your site, I wrote this on my Facebook page. “Is perfectionism a virtue, or a disease of the mind?”

    I feel like I can be anything I want to be. But can be good in mostly everything, so I don’t know which is really me.

    It is good to know that there are others out there like me.

    I’m either gifted, or maybe I’m seriously misguided. :0(

  12. Faith Morgan says:

    You are holding up a mirror! I’m only newly “diagnosed”, and have always been so intense about injustices to the earth, and find myself having that kind of dialog all the time. I’ve always felt everyone else should be as intense, and it has driven me crazy for 52 years. I’m always doing armchair activism….. Beginning to be able to smile at myself. TY.

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