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Friday, February 17, 2006


The Answer is In The Question

I participated in an online conference this week. The keynote speaker was Annemarie Roeper, and it was a very interesting experience. The usual conference protocol is warped by the medium; each participant receives email posts of what the keynote and other participants have posted, meaning the keynote posts get lost in the noise. People are also more likely to ask very individual questions and post multiple times as if it is a small group (there were over 600 registrants!)

What I noticed was the number of parents asking questions about their kids' behaviour that are impossible to address without more context. It would be irresponsible for the keynote or anyone else to offer anything but the most general suggestions. Some people are probably just unaware of how unique each "case" is when you are dealing with the gifted population.

The reason that it's so difficult to get good, informed, and useful advice is because there is a shortage of professionals willing and able to educate themselves about giftedness. It would be wonderful if there were easy answers available that we could give out as a checklist or decision tree, but it doesn't work that way, and I caution you against anyone who tells you otherwise. It takes time to build a relationship with a family and to earn the trust of a gifted individual in pain. These sensitive people are often the "canary" - the person who reacts first and most strongly to imbalances inside themselves, at home, or elsewhere.

So it's a bit like meeting a lawyer at a party and asking for advice about your pending divorce. If you find yourself forming personal questions in your head, your answer is simple; it's time to get professional help, or invest in becoming an expert yourself. It will require research and time and money, but it really is the most efficient way to proceed.

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Which, appropos of nothing, reminds me: did you hear the one about the doctor at a party who complained to another guest, a lawyer, about the person who'd come up to her and bent her ear for free medical advice? "I should charge him", she fumed. "What do you think?" The lawyer agreed, and so the next day, the doctor sent the guy a bill, and the lawyer sent the doctor a bill.

For some reason, the doctor I told that one to didn't seem to think it was all that funny....
These sensitive people are often the "canary" - the person who reacts first and most strongly to imbalances inside themselves, at home, or elsewhere.

Interesting. Yet I wonder how you can go futher maybe, to conceptualise "imbalance". What we see too often today are the most gifted being medicated for purported "imbalances", since any nonconformity implies to more average intellects that something is awry with the person who cannot seem to conform. So, in a way, we are getting a society which is forcing everybody more and more towards an average kind of behaviour and expression of intellect, as the more lively ones are dosed with ADHD drugs, and taught how to conform.

What then is an "imbalance"?

Can those who promote and conform to the excessive use of ADHD drugs be considered to be "imbalanced" in some ways? Perhaps the social forces which push for mass conformity can be seen as producing an imbalance in other areas -- extracting an unseemly cost from the more richer characters amongst us? Perhaps such an imbalance leads to war, when more powerful and insightful intellects are thus stymied in their youth.

All interesting questions about who or what creates an imbalance.
I struggled to find the best term to use in that sentence, Unsane! I came up with imbalance after rejecting problem, inconsistency, tension, hypocrisy, etc. I was thinking particularly of the increased sensitivity gifted people can have to any kind of dysfunction in the external system they must cope with every day. They can also be more sensitive in the same way to internal systems, but more importantly they will be more distressed than most by it.

This negative affect results in the pathologization and medication you speak of. I follow Dabrowski's views on this - that the reaction to discord or imbalance, internal or external, is a necessary and normal part of growth for all people. Annemarie Roeper emphasized throughout the conference that diagnosis and medication must be the last resort, after you have tried everything else you can think of. It is difficult for many people to accept that they may need to make big scary changes like changing schools, changing jobs, or changing their relationship systems. Pathologizing and medicating the "canary" (or Identified Patient) so that things can go on as they are is so much easier.
Thanks for the intelligent answer Jo Jo. I was already aware that your term was well considered. However, as an individual I am driven to push for an agenda of greater global accommodation for those of use we are deeper thinkers, who are often dismissed in a superficial way because we don't immediately take to a system of operation, which we might perceive as manipulative, perhaps.

So many times I haven't fitted in to various workplace situations because I can SEE that I am being manipulated by various techniques and agendas which are overtly transparent to me. Once I have perceived this, the situation I am in does not seem "real" in some fundamental way. I can relate this reaction as a feeling of intellectual and emotional claustriphobia. That is how it seems to me.

However, how I seem to an ordinary outsider in this situation is probably quite different -- perhaps they assume that I can't stay in such a situation because I am a flake? ... Or that I need medication? ... Psychological adjustment training ...?

I have enountered such damaging reactions, too.
"The reason that it's so difficult to get useful advice is because there is a shortage of professionals willing and able to educate themselves about giftedness."

and when people do try to educate themselves they often find a lot of useless information
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