Special Needs of Gifted and Creative People


In "The Royal Tenenbaums," Royal (Gene Hackman) and Etheline (Anjelica Huston) preside over a brood of prodigies who grow up to be losers. Richie (Luke Wilson), a junior tennis champion, inexplicably breaks down in the middle of a big match and retires from the game. His sister, Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), who received a $50,000 playwriting grant while in the ninth grade, now sits in a bathtub all day painting her toenails.

In Hollywood, you can never be too rich or too thin, but you can be too smart. It's OK to have a beautiful face. It's less OK to have a beautiful mind, especially for a woman. Smart people are routinely portrayed as socially inept, inward-looking and compulsive. In the land-of-make-believe, geniuses have to be stereotypically troubled - that way, everyone else gets to feel better about themselves.

In the real world, ability does not always lead to high achievement, nor will talent always overcome all obstacles.  Circumstantial and psychological factors can adversely affect the self-actualization of the gifted. To avoid a life of underachievement, a special person sometimes needs special help.

Movies, the arts and media have always absorbed their fair share of talented extrovert oddballs. The InfoTech revolution now provides fulfilling opportunities for gifted introverts.  Gifted people however, are vulnerable to relationship difficulties at home, work, school and in the community. Gifts can be both a blessing and a curse.

Beyond oversimplified stereotyping, there has been comparatively little focus on the needs of gifted adults. The gifted adult frequently has perceptions that are so different, it often requires extraordinary courage to hold true to them in the face of society’s norms and expectations.

Now, cyberspace tantalizes with a virtual solution to being misunderstood; life in a Virtual World. For a monthly fee, typically about $20, you can buy the right to exist in these privately-run existences. Worlds such as Sony’s EverQuest, colloquially known as "Evercrack," among users aware of the addictive allure of a virtual life. "The sad truth is that, in many ways, EverQuest is better than real life," one 36-year-old female player told the Guardian newspaper. "It is easier to succeed in EQ, I can be beautiful, fit and healthy in EQ - in real life I am chronically ill and there isn't much fun or achievement to be had."

What if you are luckier than her and not chronically ill, just a bit (or a lot) different from other people? The language of cyberspace casts the first doubt over the satisfaction to be gained from fantasy utopias. It is a ‘virtual world,’ that is, by definition, ‘not real’ or ‘not quite.’ A world that does not engage all the senses: no touch and no taste; your head but not your body, brain but no loins – in other words disembodied. I’d hazard a guess that what many gifted people need is to get out of their heads a little more often.

Greatness stems from the combination of the desire to excel, talent, and action. The burning and painful question is how to harness these three to the one wagon. It is a painful question because to be really successful it entails some self-examination. But then again the head knows:

 'The unexamined life is not worth living.'


Gifted adults are at least lucky to have the potential, at the end of the process, to achieve an outstanding degree of self-actualization.