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Myths About Giftedness

~ by Mary Rocamora, M.A. ~

There are many myths about the gifted that are held in the mainstream culture. They permeate conventional parenting and our educational system, including private education.  These misconceptions and attitudes drift along in the mainstream mindset unnoticed, except perhaps by gifted people trying to accomplish something meaningful in their lives when they run up against them.  Because these attitudes are easily internalized, they inhibit many gifted people from fulfilling their lives fully and completely.  Let’s take some of the most common ones point by point:

The gifted can make it by themselves -- they don’t need any extra attention, either as children or as adults.

Actually, gifted children and adults need more mirroring and mentoring  than most people because there is more inside that is yearning to be lived.  It is well known in the gifted research literature that stifled creativity turns into chronic depression, and mirroring throughout the life is seen as crucial to full self-actualization.  For a gifted introvert, it might be only a few people who get it; for someone with a public destiny, mirroring comes from public acknowledgment and involvement.  For someone whose giftedness lies in an area that is not socially valued and appreciated, it might go largely unnoticed for a whole lifetime.  Writers need readers, artists need shows, gifted leaders need followers, and gifted mechanics need thank you notes from their customers whose cars are now humming a new tune.

Even if you have extraordinary talents, keep your light under a bushel.

One should never feel too good about one’s abilities or show them off except when invited or alone.  It’s the Judeo-Christian tradition in the West that values modesty above all things.  A lot of gifted people have very intense personalities and inner drives, however, and that light isn’t going to fit under a bushel.  But there is often disapproval awaiting those that dare to step outside of that electrified fence into a more expansive life, especially if you are one of those people that isn’t especially graceful or charismatic, or you have bad teeth.  And for those who were shamed as a child for standing out, you will have to overcome the inner shame pattern to be free to expose your talents to the world to see.

You can be gifted on your own time.

After you have done everything you “should” do, you will finally be free to do something meaningful or creative.  But the next “should” is lurking in the hallway, trying to get your attention by scraping its fingernails on the wall.  Your life is endlessly filled with these kinds of distractions, including having to make a living.  This means your talents have to suffer development during your tired time or at the crack of dawn. In the awareness work we offer, the gifted are moved irrevocably away from the obligatory demands of family, friends, being a “good person,” and even our ideas about survival.  In that process, they are encouraged to make their giftedness the centerpiece of their existence, and then assess how their priorities have been reconfigured.  Ideally, we want to be free of the tyranny of obligation and have everything we do in the day be in service to what we feel our true paths are.

You can’t earn a living being who you are.

The misalignment between conventional definitions of supporting a life and the inner drive to achieve an inner vision becomes a toxic stew when mixed with fear.  It creates paralysis and settling for less than a fully congruent life.  It is a function of the ego pattern and all of its limiting patterns, and that is why getting free of it to explore how life is lived in the free state is a matter of life or death. The well-known heightened sensitivity in gifted people compounds the suffering they endure from trying to fit in.  For the introvert, being around people too much can require recovery time, and for the person who is extremely open and feels it all, acquired introversion is frequently a path sought out of necessity.

If you get too big, you’ll die.

There is a deep belief embedded in our culture that makes us terrified of the limitless expansiveness of an open heart.  People are attracted to it, but also want to annihilate it.  Our most gifted spiritual and political leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King offered that kind of vision to the masses, the promise of living a more evolved life as a society.  But they were assassinated before their dream for us could fully take root in our hearts.  Or in the case of other visionaries, they got co-opted by the collective ego when they got too big, and ended up trapped by bargaining with the status quo.  The full power of their open heart dulled and we who once believed were once again disappointed and left in a state of separation.

The path to realization for the gifted is littered with land mines.

In a personal context, gifted people that feel naturally expansive need mirroring to dare to fully allow themselves out into their own field of vision.  They must be willing to risk death, both psychologically and metaphorically, in order to fully be.  Because the gifted are distinguished from mainstream people by being defined from within, that definition must be cultivated even before stepping onto the high wire. Many gifted people in history in the past have jumped onto their life paths without any consciousness awareness, sometimes with disastrous results.  We tend to remember those historical figures because they serve as a reminder of the dangers of going down that road for gifted people.  And those who have the misfortune to be born female or impoverished, there is no path at all. Most of the gifted people I know see that self-examination is the place to begin a mine-sweeping operation.  As there is less and less inner clutter, the path smooths out ahead.  Soon, they realize they don’t need better armored vehicles because it’s only pebbles now, and they don’t blow up. Authenticity means different things to different people, and one’s sense of it continues to evolve over the lifetime.  It is ultimately the place to begin, shrinking the disparity between “what is” and “what could be.”   For those who dare to embrace it, it is a source of inspiration to everyone.

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