deeply regret that due to a significant increase in my family commitments,
I'm going to be unable to write 'Dynamic Living' myself for several
months. Instead, I'm hoping that each month I'll be able to find
an article which is in keeping with the general philosophy of this
e-zine and pass that along to you. cjc.
this month's issue:
not presented in this way, this month's featured article contributes
valuable insights to building emotional intelligence. It has particular
reference to gifted adults, but even if you're not sure whether
you're gifted it will be of value to you and may help you recognize
your giftedness. It offers practical ways to understand and apply
your giftedness - and that of your children - in a productive way.
article is written from a counseling perspective, in an academic
style, but don't let that deter you: if you seek through the forest
of references I promise you you'll find yourself and some life-improving
author is Deidre V. Lovecky, Ph.D, who has had a number of very
important things to say about being gifted. The article was first
published by the American Counseling Association in 'Journal of
Counseling and Development', May 1986. Its message remains true
The Resident Quotation:
from Martha Graham
You Hear the Flower sing? Issues
for Gifted Adults,
D. Lovecky Ph.D
Parting Reminder: from
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forward this e-zine to your friends if you find it fun or interesting.
It's very encouraging to see the subscription figures grow.
The Resident Quotation
The Resident Quotation is repeated with
each issue. It is chosen for its directness and clarity, and for
its ability to combine thought and a basis for action in a way that
is both reassuring and empowering.
The current Resident, from the innovative,
courageous and dynamic dancer and choreographer Martha Graham, exemplifies
the essence and context of living dynamically:
"There is a vitality,
a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action,
and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression
is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any
other medium and be lost. The world will not have it.
"It is not your
business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor
how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep
it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do
not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep
yourself open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.
Keep the channel open."
Quoted by biographer Agnes de Mille in "Martha: The Life and
Work of Martha Graham"
Can you hear the
for Gifted Adults
Deidre V. Lovecky, Ph.D, Director of The
Gifted Resource Center of New England
has been comparatively little focus in the literature on the characteristics
and social and emotional needs of gifted adults. Using observational
data, the author attempts to delineate some of the positive and
negative social effects of traits displayed by gifted adults. Five
traits (divergency, excitability, sensitivity, perceptivity, and
entelechy) seem to produce potential interpersonal and intrapersonal
gifted adults learn to value themselves and find support, identity
conflicts and depression may result. Emphasis on self-growth through
knowing and accepting self leads to the discovery of sources of
personal power. Nurturing relationships through realistic expectations
and learning to share oneself provides a supportive environment
in which gifted adults can grow and flourish.
the personality traits and social and emotional needs of gifted
children have been widely described (Erlich, 1982; Terman, 1925;
Torrance, 1962; Webb, Meckstroth, & Tolan, 1982), there has
been comparatively little focus on gifted adults.
longitudinal studies have indicated that the early advantage experienced
by gifted children continues into adulthood and that gifted children
become adults of superior vocational achievement, generally satisfied
with themselves and their lives (Oden, 1968; Terman & Oden,
by age 62, most gifted men have experienced the same dissatisfactions
with family life as have most people (R.R. Sears, 1977). The gifted
women reported to be happiest have been those with the best coping
skills, which are dependent on early experience (P.S. Sears &
Barbee, 1977). In fact, the effects of early experience, particularly
in terms of early educational advantage, seem to be one of the most
important contributory factors in later adult achievement (Bloom,
1964; Oden, 1968; Terman, 1925).
studies of male scientists (Roe, 1952), creative artists and writers
(Cattell, 1971), female mathematicians (Helson, 1971), and architects
(MacKinnon, 1962), among others, the predominant characteristics
found included impulsivity, curiosity, high need for independence,
high energy level, introversion, intuitiveness, emotional sensitivity,
the most part, the literature on gifted adults does not address
the social impact of the various traits described. Piechowski and
Colangelo (1984) indicated that certain modes of mental functioning
are not socially valued because their expression causes discomfort
in others. These traits were termed overexcitabilities, that is,
wider and more intense experiences in psychomotor, sensual, intellectual,
imaginational, and emotional areas. Gifted adults seem to be characterized
by imaginational, intellectual, and emotional overexcitabilities.
this article I attempt to delineate some of the social aspects (both
positive and negative) of traits displayed by gifted adults. I selected
gifted adults from among my colleagues, acquaintances, friends,
and psychotherapy clients. Of the 15 gifted adults included, 6 were
therapy clients. There were 8 women and 7 men ranging in age from
20 to 79. Of these, 6 were doctoral-level professionals, 4 were
master's-level professionals, and 3 were students.
of endeavor included the social sciences, education, medicine, the
biological sciences, business and computers, art, literature, and
history. Identification of giftedness was based on a variety of
criteria, including identification of giftedness in childhood, memory
of scores on achievement or IQ tests, SAT scores, current professional
achievement, or attainment of national recognition for achievement.
anecdotal and observational material as a basis, I describe five
traits that seem to be present in gifted adults and that seem to
be central features of their giftedness. The goal is to generate
a group of hypotheses about gifted adults and their interactions
with others. Further explorations of these preliminary ideas, using
more refined research methodology, will undoubtedly provide a more
elaborate explanation of the impact of giftedness on the lives of
of Gifted Adults
There seem to be five traits that produce potential interpersonal
and intrapersonal conflict: divergency, excitability, sensitivity,
perceptivity, and entelechy. The first three traits have been derived
from Torrance's (1961, 1962, 1965) descriptions of creatively gifted
children. The last two traits were developed from discussions with
traits seem to be an integral part of giftedness; however, the behavioral
manifestations of these traits may vary depending on other physiological
and personality factors, such as tolerance for ambiguity, degree
of introversion or extroversion, and preference for particular types
of sensory input. Gifted adults may exhibit several of the traits.
The gifted adults who served as a basis for this article all exhibited
at least three (divergency, excitability, and sensitivity).
the traits in themselves are neutral, their behavioral manifestations
make them socially and emotionally significant. For example, the
trait of sensitivity can be manifested as empathy, commitment, touchiness,
intensity, or vulnerability. Thus, in any individual, the sum of
the behavioral manifestations may be viewed as positive or negative.
A preference for unusual, original, and creative responses is characteristic
of divergent thinkers. The positive side of the trait includes people
who are often high achievers, innovative in a number of fields,
task committed, self-starters, and highly independent. Many theoretical
scientists, writers, artists, composers, and philosophers are divergent
thinkers. Einstein, Freud, and the French impressionists are examples
of gifted adults successful in using their divergent thinking ability.
thinking has positive social and emotional value. Gifted adults
possessing this trait are able to find creative solutions to a wide
variety of problems, including interpersonal problems, and are able
to see several aspects of any situation. In an organization, they
are often the "idea" people who bring challenge and enthusiasm
to others. They find deep personal satisfaction in the development
of new ideas. Divergent thinkers challenge stereotypes. Socially,
they bring color to the lives of others, who may use their example
to find the courage to break the bonds of conformity and decrease
the effects of prejudice.
the negative side, divergent thinkers encounter difficulty in situations
in which group consensus is important. They are often dedicated
to their own ideas and find it difficult to support ideas they find
foolish. The usual rewards may not motivate divergent thinkers.
In fact, they may ignore a reward system imposed by others to work
on their own.
social situations, divergent thinkers may not fit in. Common social
rules, such as not criticizing others publicly or not disagreeing
with one perceived by the majority to be influential, may be disregarded.
The dilemma of the divergent thinker is one of maintaining identity
in the face of pressure to conform. A highly divergent thinker is
often a minority of one. If no one else hears the flowers singing,
the divergent thinker may experience alienation and eventually an
High energy level, emotional reactivity, and high nervous system
arousal characterize the trait of excitability. Although excitability
and hyperactivity may seem to be similar, they are fundamentally
different in that gifted adults with the trait of excitability are
able to focus their attention and concentration for long periods
of time, to use their energy productively in a wide variety of interests,
and to do many things well.
gifted adults enjoy the excitement of taking risks and meeting challenges.
This risk taking is dissimilar to that found in mania or impulsivity
in that the gifted adult (a) is aware of the consequences of the
risk, (b) takes risks in the form of challenges rather than reckless
activities, and (c) knows when to stop.
high energy level of these gifted adults allows them to produce
prodigiously in whatever most captures their interest. They often
pave the way for others to follow with refinements of their innovative
ideas. Many inventors and entrepreneurs have the trait of excitability.
Thomas Edison and Leonardo da Vinci are examples of people who possessed
trait of excitability has positive social and emotional value. Productivity
and risk taking create new ideas and innovations. There is energy
to spend on a variety of projects and personal concerns without
the necessity of choosing whether to expend energy on work or self.
Finally, these gifted adults know their feelings, act on the basis
of these feelings, and are unafraid of the appropriate expression
the negative side, gifted adults with this trait may find it difficult
to self-regulate. Boredom and the need for stimulation can produce
a habit of constant activity. Some gifted adults may be unable to
follow through on projects because they crave novelty. A cycle of
high interest and activity for a new venture, followed by loss of
interest when the novelty decreases and details must be addressed,
can leave others feeling frustrated and angry.
addition, some gifted adults may feel little satisfaction with what
has been achieved. Their dilemma is one of always doing but feeling
little gratification because others often reap the rewards accruing
from the long-term development of their initial ideas. A chronic
depression that triggers more activity may be the result. These
gifted adults may know that the flowers sing but may never have
a chance to enjoy them.
A depth of feeling that results in a sense of identification with
others characterizes the trait of sensitivity. Gifted people form
deep attachments and react to the feeling tone of situations; they
think with their feelings.
who are highly sensitive make commitments to other people and to
social causes. They can be enthusiastic and intensely single-minded
about their dedication. Poets, Investigative reporters, Peace Corps
workers, and political and religious leaders are often gifted in
sensitivity. Examples of such people include St. Francis of Assisi,
Elizabeth Blackwell, Emily Dickinson, Ghandi, Martin Luther King,
and Virginia Wolff.
gifted with the trait of sensitivity find positive social and emotional
benefit in their deep concern for the needs and rights of others,
their empathy for the feelings of others, and their desire to help
even at significant cost to themselves.
gifted adults may be unusually aware of the feeling tone of situations
and of the more sensual aspects of the environment, such as color
and shading. They are often aware of their own shortcomings. Some
gifted adults feel a sense of unity with the cosmos, an experience
of a universal sharing of self. Adults gifted with sensitivity tend
to be highly moral people concerned with giving and with doing what
is right for others.
the negative side, these gifted adults may not understand that others
do not feel so deeply or intensely or that others may have different
priorities. They may be very intolerant of the needs of others when
they perceive those needs to be superficial.
gifted in sensitivity may be so sensitive that others may hesitate
to share problems with them. In fact, other people may believe that
the gifted adult experiences their pain more intensely than they
do, and they may feel robbed of their own feelings.
gifted adults must learn to guard their vulnerability while still
remaining sensitive to others, to continue caring in the face of
rejection, and to moderate emotional responsiveness so that they
feel "with" rather than "for." The risk is that
they will become isolates who avoid relationships that could nurture
them. They hear the flowers singing, feel a unity with the universe,
and want everyone else to hear the song as well.
An ability to view several aspects of a situation simultaneously,
to understand several layers of self within another, and to see
quickly to the core of an issue are characteristic of the trait
gifted adults are able to understand the meaning of personal symbols
and to see beyond the superficiality of a situation to the person
beneath. Skilled at understanding motivations, they may be able
to help others to understand themselves. Adults gifted with perceptivity
are those who can hear the flowers singing within others not yet
aware of their own gifts. Their intuition and ability to understand
several layers of feeling simultaneously help them to assess people
and situations rapidly. In fact, they are often skilled at sensing
the incongruency between exhibited social facades and real thoughts
aspect of perceptivity concerns the recognition of and need for
truth. Social facades displayed by others may seem to this gifted
adult to be a sort of lie. Adults gifted in this way detect and
dislike falsehood and hypocrisy.
who are gifted at "seeing" often seem to have a touch
of magic about them. Religious and political leaders, philosophers,
creative therapists, writers, and poets may be especially gifted
with perceptivity. Jane Austen, Langston Hughes, Anne Hutchinson,
William Shakespeare, and Henry David Thoreau are all examples.
social and emotional correlates of the trait of perceptivity include
the ability of these gifted adults to view their own behavior somewhat
objectively, to assess their own as well as others' motivations,
and to base their responses on perceptions of underlying dynamics.
They are aware not only of what their own needs are but also of
the necessity of avoiding internal stress by learning to use their
perceptions to know what they truly want. Often, they will decide
to do what is best for themselves despite the disapproval of others.
the negative side, this trait can present difficulties in interpersonal
relationships because others, unaware of what the gifted adult sees
so clearly, feel both vulnerable and threatened.
the gifted adult, seeing several layers of a person may be confusing.
It may be difficult to pair the response obtained with what the
situation seemed to indicate was required. The more discrepancy
between the inner self and outer face, the more uncomfortable the
gifted adult may feel.
dilemma of this gifted adult is whether to hide the insights and
respond superficially to the social facade or to use the gift and
risk rejection. Either course may produce constraint and difficulty
with spontaneity. Finding interpersonal support is a major priority
for these gifted adults; the risk is fear of closeness and intimacy.
From the Greek word for having a goal, entelechy bespeaks a particular
type of motivation, inner strength, and vital force directing life
and growth to become all the self is capable of being.
gifted in entelechy are highly attractive to others who feel drawn
to openness, warmth, and closeness. Being near someone with this
trait gives others hope and motivation to achieve their own self-actualization.
Teachers, therapists, physicians, and social reformers may be among
those so gifted. Examples include Helen Keller, Carl Rogers, and
gifted in entelechy bring deep feelings to a relationship. By spontaneously
expressing feelings, they encourage others to do so as well. Their
example of overcoming obstacles and their continuing support and
interest encourage others to grow. They not only hear the flowers
singing but invite others to hear them too.
gifted in entelechy are capable of creating "golden moments"
of friendship, those special times when two people are truly their
best selves and able to share on a deep level (N. Jenckes, personal
communication, December 26, 1984).
adults may find sources of rare intimacy; however, they may also
find an overwhelming number of people who want contact but have
little to offer in return. They may feel vulnerable to and intruded
on by the demands of others who may feel cheated that the promise
implied in the initial sharing cannot continue. The dilemma of these
gifted adults is to find ways to nurture the self through others
while avoiding the expenditure of vital personal resources on others'
needs. The risk is anxiety about requests from others and avoidance
of closeness in interpersonal relationships.
For Self Growth
five traits described may lead to crises; gifted adults continuously
face choices that seem to lead either to denial of gifts or rejection
by others. Unless they learn to value self and find support from
others, these adults will experience identity crises whenever the
conflict resurfaces. This process entraps creative energy, which
is then lost to creative production.
adults can learn to deal creatively with their conflicts. Although
many use the resources of psychotherapy, one of the primary traits
of adult giftedness is a need for independence. Thus, they may wish
to find their own unique ways to nurture themselves and to develop
supportive relationships. Some options to be considered might include
the Self. Knowing and loving all aspects of oneself enables
one to find and use sources of personal power.
oneself. Discovering personal symbols can help gifted people
understand and value their insights and intuitions. Personal symbols
can be explored in a variety of ways, including daydreaming, analysis
of dreams, poetry writing, sketching, and the use of imagery and
visualization techniques. Lazarus (1977) described visualization
techniques and Moffat and Painter (1974) described the use of journal
writing to define and maintain self in a sometimes hostile world.
oneself. Valuing their uniqueness is necessary for gifted
adults in accepting themselves. Valuing and accepting negative traits
can be a means of freeing energy to deal creatively with life. If
the gifted adult is able to accept faults and vulnerabilities, then
the positive sides of these traits can come to light. Energy will
not be focused on feeling unhappy about self or on denying faults
creativity develops from the energy found in discontent; using discomfort
as a sign that creative energy is available allows for the taking
charge of self rather than for feeling fated to misfortune.
sources of personal power. Freeing oneself from the constraints
that inhibit use of creativity by listening to inner messages is
one means of finding personal power. Learning to use loneliness
rather than avoiding or fearing it can be an important means of
increasing personal power (C.A. Martin, personal communication,
June 12, 1984).
gifted adults are lonely because of a lack of true peers. Feeling
comfortable with oneself, having a wide variety of interests, knowing
that there are some people who value at least parts of themselves,
and viewing lonely times as a chance of further self-care and self-exploration
are ways of growing in personal power.
Interpersonal Relationships. Having realistic and sensitive
expectations for oneself and others and being able to share oneself
with others are vital to the development of supportive interpersonal
adults often have high expectations for themselves and others. Sometimes
they forget that other people are not gifted in the ways they are.
In fact, gifted adults may need to develop an appreciation for the
talents of others.
of others' talents can lead to warm friendships in which different
talents can complement each other. The lives of Salieri and Mozart
might have been completely different had each been able to value
the effects of one's giftedness on others entails a realization
that the same behaviors may elicit different responses from different
people and from the same people at different times. For example,
emotional intensity can be energizing at one time but exhausting
limits may have to be negotiated with individuals (D.K. Baker, personal
communication, December 22,1984). Just as sensitive gifted adults
may cause others to feel robbed of deep feelings, the anxiety expressed
by others may cause the gifted person to feel robbed of the chance
to make decisions about the relationship.
to set clear boundaries and to negotiate particular limits on giving,
expenditure of time and energy, and individual needs for distance
and expression of uniqueness can help gifted adults feel some sense
of choice in a relationship.
of their inner depth and complexity, gifted adults may need to find
a large number of friends, each of whom can meet some needs and
reflect some aspects of self. Gifted adults sometimes expect to
share everything with one person and over-look the special relationships
that can develop around one interest or one facet of self.
one's particular gifts with another can be a source of both self-sustenance
and connectedness to others. Some gifts are easier to share with
individual friends; others may require a larger audience.
kind of sharing occurs in the writing of poetry, as described by
Harrower (1972). She discussed the need to communicate as an integral
part of the experience of writing a poem. Writing poetry is a self-enhancing
process that occurs by connecting the writer in some new way to
other people, it is from this sort of sharing that emotional growth
adults can use their special talents to help others find their own
creativity and their own sources of inner power. Finding ways of
sharing self can enhance both people in a relationship and bring
depth to that relationship as it grows and changes over time.
adults, perhaps more than any other group, have the potential to
achieve a high degree of self-actualization. Despite the problems
that being gifted can bring, the positive social and emotional aspects
of giftedness can more than compensate for the problems. To continue
to hear the flowers singing and to turn visions and dreams to reality
throughout an entire lifetime is a goal to be desired by every gifted
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V.Z. (1982). Gifted children. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
M. (1972). The therapy of poetry. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
R. (1971). Women mathematicians and the creative personality. Journal
of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 36, 210-219.
A. (1977). In the mind's eye. New York: Guilford Press.
D.W. (1962). The nature and nurture of creative talent. American
Psychologist. 17, 484-495.
M.J., & Painter, C. (1974). Diaries of Woman. New York: Random
M.H. (1968). The fulfillment of promise: Forty-year follow-up of
the Terman gifted group. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 77, 3-93.
M.M., & Colangelo, N. (1984). Developmental potential of the
gifted. Gifted Child Quarterly. 28, 80-88.
A. (1952). The making of a scientist. New York: Dodd, Mead.
P.S., & Barbee, A.H. (1977). Career and life satisfaction among
Terman's gifted women. In J.C. Stanley, W.C. George, & C.H.
Solano (Eds.). The gifted and the creative: A fifty-year perspective.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
R.R. (1977). Sources of life satisfaction of the Terman gifted men.
American Psychologist, 32, 119-128.
L.M. (1925). Mental and physical traits of a thousand gifted children.
Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
L.M., & Oden, M.H. (1947). The gifted child grows up. Stanford,
CA: Stanford University Press.
L.M., & Oden. M.H. (1959). The gifted group at midlife. Stanford.
CA: Stanford University Press.
E.P. (1961). Problems of highly creative children. Gifted Child
Quarterly, 5, 31-34.
E.P. (1962). Guiding creative talent. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
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J.T., Meckstroth, E.A., & Tolan, S.S. (1982). Guiding the gifted
child. Columbus: Ohio Psychology Publishing Company.
A Parting Reminder
way to put personal pain into perspective.
you were thirsty, and I took a tablespoon of salt and put it in
a glass of water, then stirred it up and gave it to you to drink,
you would almost certainly reject it.
if I took that same tablespoon of salt and put it in an enormous,
clear mountain lake and then gave you a glass of water from the
lake to drink, you would drink it and enjoy its sweetness.
point is this - the salt isn't the problem. The problem is the spaciousness
of the container.
you think pain has something to do with who you are or what you've
done, then its effect will be like salt in a very small container.
If you think pain has something to do with just simply being alive,
then you become more spacious. And out of that spaciousness comes
freedom and the ability to move and breathe despite the pain."
Muller, founder of the Institute for Engaged Spirituality.
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