FEELINGS OF ALIENATION
Many gifted people describe feeling, or experiencing themselves as “somehow different” than others. This is because they keep experiencing, consciously or unconsciously, the fact that their perception of the world as well as their interests and judgements are often not shared by others. A gifted child may, for example, start speaking to their grammar school mates about a topic that interests them, but their classmates won’t join in. Maybe they will be occupied with something that the gifted child perceives as irrelevant. Other examples are that their concept of morality may differ, or, if the gifted individual is also highly sensitive, that other people do not even take notice of things and stimuli that the gifted individual perceives as stressful. This isolates the gifted in their experience. They have no explanation for these differences and hence perceive them as strange and incomprehensible.
Another aspect is that some societal convictions and rules are just not right to the gifted person. As an example: It is seen as desirable and normal that you need to make an effort in school and show your abilities. This behavior is supposed to be rewarded. Yet, gifted children often do not need to make an effort and it is not always welcomed when they do. In fact, this may have very negative consequences.
Misunderstandings can occur when the gifted individual is not aware of their deviation from the norm. A gifted first-grader, for example, felt very uncomfortable in his class. He thought that his classmates were dishonest. When asked why he thought that way, he answered: “They always pretend like they didn’t understand and make up questions, because the teacher said in the beginning that she likes when we ask questions. And they call me a nerd, even though I often don’t even participate in class, because I secretly solve math problems.”
Another, gifted women believed for a long time that pretending to not understand it is a kind of politeness form. She made an effort to find out the respective rules to this form, for example, how long do you have to wait until you can signal that you understood something.
Another example: Instead of an exam, students were asked to create a poster on a specific subject. The teacher gave his students as much time as they would “normally need when studying for an exam.” The gifted child felt pressured, because it takes her usually maximum 20 minutes to study for an exam, and she had no way of knowing it could be different for others. She handed in a very simple poster, but being very angry at the other students for not complying to the rules, as she thought. The feedback she received was that she was called lazy and hadn’t put enough effort into the poster and consequentially received a bad grade.
This is why it is very helpful if gifted individuals are able to estimate and exchange ideas about the difference between themselves and the norm in their environment.
© Frauke Niehues