Embracing Our Gifted Potential
by Mark Cammack May 2, 2019
What is giftedness?
Few educators or professionals seem to know what giftedness is. They often do not recognize it when they see it. The child that is labeled hyperactive might actually be healthily learning with much creative energy. What is called attention deficit may be boredom and the need for a faster and more stimulating learning environment. Adults face similar issues. We are all unique with different abilities that can lead to fulfilling lives and careers. These qualities need to be seen as what they are instead of what they are not.
What are various characteristics of the gifted state?
Curiosity - happiness and emotional joy associated with learning - compassion for others - ability to love dearly - high moral standards - awareness of one's self, others, the world, and patterns - comprehends quickly - large vocabulary that represents concepts - creativity and creative ideas - self-motivation - drive to develop and improve - need for quality relationships vs. superficial ones - can work well as a collaborator with others or professionals while not being dictated to - needs personal time for thinking - high levels of performance under specific conditions - ability to draw from and understand many academic fields to find solutions -
What we have just described is a developed human being. They are aware and alive to the world with much to give. These traits are normal and positive for persons experiencing gifted abilities, and should not be mistaken for anything otherwise.
There is a difference between saying someone is a gifted person and the state of giftedness. If we say someone is gifted, it implies that a permanent level of ability is present all the time. The state of giftedness suggests that a person is performing at a high level under certain conditions. Which of these can we believe to be true?
Gifted ability may be dependent on neural affectors, the controllable factors that affect a person's functioning. Let us look at examples. If we have a gifted athlete, and they cease practicing their sport, what happens to their skill level? It will drop. If we have a gifted musician or science type, and they stop participating, what is the outcome? Abilities are lessened. Performance is not a static state, but a dynamic one dependent on what we do and the environment we are in that maintains it. Neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain's anatomy to change based on environments and inputs, is key. We can either encourage or halt the developmental process.
Labeling is a means of control is an axiom I heard from sociologists. When we go to the grocery store we rely on product labels to accurately tell us what the food item is. At times there are recalls of items because they were mislabeled. What was inside was not what the label said. When people label people, they may identify a person as something they are not. It can be done out of ignorance and ineptitude, laziness, by having an agenda, or deliberately to someone who is not favored. In these cases, the label should be recalled.
Psychologist Dr. Jack Nottingham repeatedly proclaimed,"Life is not fair." During university discussions the gifted topic arose. Participants chimed in regarding society's perceptions and the monetary bias: If a person is gifted or seen as eccentric, and they are wealthy or from a wealthy family, they tend to do well and generally have respect. They can become leaders in their fields and contribute greatly to society due to having supportive resources. If a person has the same abilities but is from a family without wealth, they are often labeled in a negative way, and not treated as well by society. A wealthy high IQ person is a genius, one without money a nut.
A Gifted Awareness Program (GAP) is needed to bridge the abyss between misunderstanding and reality. To mislabel a person, whether child or adult, can be damaging to both the individual and ultimately to society. This is what happens to many who exhibit gifted ability. It is environmentally dependent. The child who happily likes learning as part of their natural development process, and is in a positive nurturing environment, may show increasing aptitude to the point of giftedness. What occurs all-too-often is that systems and people end this happiness. This can be due to making negative associations with learning and often a desire to over-control. Some persons are afraid of losing their positions of power if another asks insightful questions and has a form of superior ability. It would mean that a new standard of excellence could emerge. Responsibility would have to be taken to improve above the current level.
"Beware of ignorant people with power" - Dr. William B. Dragoin, psychologist, expert in human behavior and intelligence, and my former instructor.
A child, teenager, or adult can find themselves in schools, colleges, or organizations that teach them what to believe instead of how to creatively think and accomplish. Exceptions to this may include home schooling with good parents and educators, Montessori schools, and quality private facilities. Some, but not all, of the public educational settings are similar to indoctrination courses. They try to manage masses of students based on statistical averages, instead of providing quality education for each person's unique developmental needs. The student is often taught to sit, conform, and unquestioningly recreate the same. Many come to dislike learning due to the way certain educational systems are. Asking questions about subjects or schooling can lead to reprisal. The great physics teacher Paul Hewitt stated that telling a child not to ask questions is the way to destroy a genius.
What would happen if what we consider as gifted ability is attainable by many? What would life be like if the gifted state is simply a developmental level that is largely being prevented by the way society is operating?
The right group in the right place and time needs creative persons who can find solutions or provide value. These are often the entrepreneurs, technology oriented and progressive businesses, scientific and health research centers, foundations for artists, and better universities. The wrong group in the wrong place and time marginalizes or is outright aggressive toward intelligent creative persons. What is rewarded in one spot is penalized in another. Having a favorable environment that endorses development as a human being is important.
It is common that gifted level performance can be appreciated in music, acting, and sport. The public sees value in entertainment. These are areas where supporters admire the performer and appreciate the ability. The spectators do not feel threatened but rather enlivened. The enjoyment is immediate. A surgeon capable of a gifted grade operation may not be appreciated as much until it is time for them to save someone's life. Persons working in research in the hopes of solving health or scientific dilemmas may find limited backing, unless they are appreciated by a specific organization, or someone or their family member in dire need of a solution. Competitive businesses or people can actually try to undermine gifted peers. They think that they will look or be better if a high-performer is not around. A better approach and use of energy is self-improvement rather than ill will or jealously.
Can you spot the gifted persons in this picture? Greying out is a type of blending in. The photo on the left limits what is seen. It is harder to see the uniqueness of each individual. The full color image to the right reveals the richness of life.
Both adults and children with gifted abilities can be advised not to talk about or reveal who they truly are. This advice has hazards. A person cannot be ordered to be something they are not by society and remain healthy. Some try to hide their abilities so that they blend in with general social and work settings in order to survive. This way of living can lead to serious difficulties. From memory of a public talk, the sentiment of Rosalynn Carter Institute Research Associate Dr. D.L. Smith was, "Some of our best minds are being destroyed by our own society. These are the people who have the most to give and many commit suicide due to rejection." What does this mean for the future of such a society?
If a person is true to themselves and the world, they may lose some relationships and gain better ones. Real friends will be congruent at all times. They are glad when things go well and are supportive during difficult life events. They have only one face and that is of caring friendship.
"Keepers of light carry invisible candles of hope, touching hearts and illuminating the souls of friends." - Tom Baker, talented actor who played Doctor Who.
Reasons that gifted ability may not be recognized include the 98% bias, the level of intelligence of the perceiver, limited testing ability, preconceptions, and misattribution. According to current definitions, persons showing gifted ability fall into 2% of the population. This can be questioned because:
1. Many persons hide gifted abilities due to reprisal by others.
2. The typical educator or professional may not know what the gifted state is.
3. Testing environments can affect the outcome of the tests.
4. The statistical model can provide a false expectation.
5. The tests have limited ability to reveal all types of gifted ability.
6. As Dr. Marian Diamond has noted, the brain itself can physically positively change with the presence of an enriched environment or be negatively impacted with a poor environment. Ability can be altered depending upon the conditions a person has been living or working in, life events, nutrition, exercise, amount of sleep and rest, and toxin exposure.
7. Real life performance can vary greatly from that of a brief testing environment.
It can be said that at least 2% of the population is currently considered as having gifted ability. We may suspect that the number of persons with gifted potential is far greater. Much of society is interpreting itself and others by what they have commonly experienced in their own lives and cultures. If someone falls out of that expectation, some persons may not understand and this leads to misunderstandings. They are interpreting the world based on what they have been taught and experienced, and many have not personally encountered what a highly developed state or ability is.
Ironically, it requires a level of intelligence to realize what we do not know. If a person is ignorant of something, they may not be aware that they are. This can lead to misattribution where gifted ability is seen as something else based on someone's limited current reasoning and experience. By contrast, persons with gifted ability realize the need for complete meaningful knowledge. They are aware unknowns exist, and continue exploring, learning, and discovering to find them.
What's more, communication tends to falter between persons with educational and IQ differences. An IQ of 100 is said to be average. If a person has a low educational level or a functional IQ of 85, the vocabulary and concepts they understand will most likely be simpler than someone who is well-read, has a college degree, or IQ of 130. Full communication may not be possible on a practical level. It is like trying to talk by radio on two different frequencies.
A pair of walkie-talkie radios may be seen above. One is tuned to a frequency of 85 MHz and the other to 130 MHz. There will be a communication gap regardless of how much we say or how hard we try. This is similar to IQ, developmental and educational differences. We can either uptune the 85 MHz radio when possible or downtune the 130 MHz radio. Systems that promote excellence focus on helping to uptune people, ones that embrace mediocrity try to downtune high performers to make everyone the same. To make progress, the focus should be on development whether personally or in academic settings. We can all strive to improve our minds and lives, and by doing so may better help others.
These two radios have different communication frequencies. The information from one person to another in daily life is also carried by waves. We are like a radio as we transmit information with our mouths and motions and receive with our ears and eyes. Think of this: Anything and any answer we want to know in life is a potential wave pattern. As you read this, the information is being carried by patterns of light waves. Without waves, life as we know it would not exist.
That high-frequency person who likes to discover new things may be the one who would work in health research and find cures for diseases. They may discover new technologies for energy or help eliminate poverty. Some current systems tend to marginalize the very persons who may provide benefit to themselves and society.
A person depends upon specific environmental factors to function. We all require nutritious food, clean air and water, and a protective shelter. These are the basic physiological survival needs. If these are disrupted, how can we expect a person's performance level to be? A typically gifted person may not function well if they are dehydrated, lacking in nutrition, or have inadequate housing. Abilities are dependent upon environments. The more supportive surroundings are, the better the outcome can be. This may benefit everyone.
My belief is that it is possible to increase IQ and functional ability in a healthy way with quality exercise of brain and body in the right conditions. In many ways this is the continuance of what a developing child would naturally do as they mature if not halted by society. The performance outcome can be proportional to the supportive surroundings and persons present. We need enriched positive environments for health, happiness, and aptitude. An absence of toxins and toxic persons and the presence of quality nutrition is required.
Gifted ability is like a healthy delicious Swiss stevia sweetened chocolate bar. Suppose we meet a person who has never tasted cocoa in any form. We may try to explain how wonderful it is, but until they experience it for themselves they will not comprehend. The bar of rich dark chocolate has no real meaning until it is tasted. Then we know what it is.
The gifted experience is like a delicious Swiss dark chocolate bar. There is joy with each taste of discovery.
IQ and functional states are dynamic entities that can change depending upon a person's environment, brain, and biochemistry. I believe the IQ model will one day be superseded by a more complete view of ability and human development. What would happen if humanity was dedicated to reaching its full potential in a positive way?
Pictures and images on this page are derived and modified works © Copyright 2019 Mark Cammack. All rights reserved. The author is appreciative of the original works and originators which may be found at:
Group with questions: Gerd Altmann of Germany
Neon sign: Belinda Fewings
Bagpiper and passers by: Negative Space
Lovely blond lady with chocolate bar: Petr Kratochvil
© Copyright 2019 Mark Cammack. All rights reserved.