NOTE: I use the words “gifted” and “genius” in the place of “extremely sensitive” and “so extremely sensitive that there are not too many of them in this world.” I believe these definitions work better than the results of IQ tests because there is much more to these people than their intellectual overexcitability.
“It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.”
- Albert Einstein
Being born into the one percent of the population that is extremely sensitive not only comes with many great advantages, but also many challenging difficulties.
One of the most challenging difficulties experienced by gifted individuals and geniuses is loneliness.
[ Russell Crowe as John Forbes Nash in "A Beautiful Mind" ]
Psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski identified five areas of “overexcitabilities” in gifted individuals. We experience both the “bright side” and the “dark side” of these overexcitabilities:
|Psychomotor||• Extremely active
• Surplus of energy
• Defining ourselves by what we DO, not by who we are
• Difficulty sitting still, relaxing, sleeping
|Sensual||• Heightened awareness of all five senses||• Constant physical discomfort
• Seeing, hearing disturbing things (not seen, heard by others)
|Intellectual||• Extremely smart
• Love of knowledge and learning
|• Thoughts, logic, reasoning that hardly anyone understands
• Workaholic mind
• Existential depression
|Imaginational||• Extremely imaginative
• Vivid dreams
|• Imagining disturbing events (not imagined by others)
• Fear of the unknown
|Emotional||• Great depth of emotions
• Concern for others, empathy
|• Intense emotions that hardly anyone understands
• Fear of our own intense emotions
Just like everyone else, we go through hard times. Just like everyone else, we experience painful thoughts and feelings. And just like everyone else, we would like to have someone who would listen to us, understand us, validate our experiences, and care for the things we care about.
Sadly, while the rest of the world gets this kind of understanding and care from their loved ones, many gifted people and geniuses are famished in this area. When we struggle with our “dark side,” the rest of the world tells us that we are wrong to see, think, and feel what we see, think, and feel. The rest of the world tells us that we are being too extreme, too dramatic, and too crazy. The rest of the world sees us as being disordered and labels us with ADHD, OCD, OCPD, schizophrenia, etc. By the way, before you go on accepting any diagnosis, be sure to read this first. The rest of the world leaves us to “professionals” who put us on medication that kills our “bright side” along with our “dark side” so that we become more “normal,” more like everyone else. In order to avoid the pain that comes with being misunderstood and outcasted by others, so many of us have trained ourselves to be “normal” on the outside while still experiencing our unsharable intense thoughts and feelings inside. We are accepted by others on the condition that we continue to pretend to be people we are not.
This loneliness is the root cause of the painful depression experienced by many gifted individuals and geniuses. Well-meaning friends and family members who think they understand this kind of depression then advise us to just be more optimistic – but how does a roof over my head or my many talents address the issue of how incredibly lonely I feel?
Many gifted individuals and geniuses then choose to distract themselves from their loneliness with an obsessive, all-consuming pursuit of excellence. But no matter how big of a dent we create in the universe, no matter how excellently we perform, our loneliness still exists and it kills us inside. Those of us who are not distracted enough are at a very high risk of committing suicide.
SO WHAT NOW?
HOW TO HELP YOUR GIFTED/GENIUS FRIEND FEEL LESS LONELY (OTHERS):
Resist judging your friend’s experience. Rather than thinking that your friend is wrong or crazy, be open to the idea that your friend is just “different.” Even if you cannot relate to your friend’s experience, still try to show that you care. If you do not have the right words (if you are less sensitive than your gifted/genius friend, you probably do not have the right words), use physical touch. A caring hug can make your friend feel much less lonely.
HOW TO ADDRESS YOUR LONELINESS (GIFTED INDIVIDUALS/GENIUSES):
First of all, acknowledge your loneliness and recognize the pointlessness of living an exhausting life of moving from one distraction to another. Put an end to your distractions and forms of false intimacy. Face your loneliness once and for all. Stop agreeing with the thoughts in your head about how no one understands you. Work hard at reversing those thoughts. If no one around you is able to give you the sense of intimacy that you long for because of their lack of sensitivity toward your differences, find a professional therapist who is trained to give you that sense of intimacy through the patient-therapist relationship. For me, what eliminated my loneliness was choosing to believe in an omniscient God who not only knows all the things that I think and feel, but also cares about all the things that I think and feel.
This message was approved and shared by American Mensa (the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world)