The KDT Drama of the Gifted Child through Karpman's, Piaget's and Erikson's Filters
"If development is perceived as a life-long process, giftedness can
then be understood as producing atypical development throughout the lifespan in
terms of awareness, perceptions, emotional responses, and life experiences.
This places the gifted individual developmentally out of sync both internally,
in relation to the different aspects of development, and externally, in
relation to cultural expectations." -- Martha Morelock
Thesis of my comments to Morelock's complete article below:
Stephen Karpman's "drama triangle," as well as Jean Piaget's and Erik Erikson's developmental stages figure mightily in "asynchronous
development" and help to bring the concepts explained in Morelock's
article into much sharper focus. Especially for those who "get" Karpman, Piaget and
Erikson in depth because we have utilized their nosologies to help ourselves
and our patients understand the developmental course that has brought them to
the seat across the table.
(Do I need to explain again how vital it is to understand
the patient's developmental course? I have seen such understanding provide the essential release from
the parent-, peer- and common culture-induced shame, guilt, anxiety, worry,
remorse, and regret hiding immediately behind the patient's denial /
pre-contemplation and resistance to treatment. Suffice it for the
moment to simply say this: When patients come to see that they did not invent
their neurosis, but rather, "bought" it quite innocently from the agents of the common culture, they
often become energized by a reactive resentment that can be steered very
usefully into introspection, "extrospection," understanding and
de-fusion from their self-destructive ego defenses.)
"Kaylyn" is a devised amalgam of several people I
have known, including myself. She is a poster child of asynchronous development of the gifted
child. She comes from a bootstrapping working-to-middle-class family headed by
an entrepreneural mother and a craftsman father locked in a wholly denied, but
nevertheless co-dependent, rat race around the Karpman Drama Triangle. Mother's
fast-growing business also provided an effective means of distraction from the
upshots on the children of a textbook classic alcoholic father who vomited his
own developmental deficits upon them (see Anonymous, and Woititz).
Kaylyn's IQ was professionally estimated
at "approximately 165" when she was three years old. Her behavior was
classically precocious (see Jankech-Caretta), relentlessly energy-discharging
and (unfortnately) seen as hugely over-stimulating by her grossly insensitive, "restless,
irritable and discontented" father (see Wilson). She grew up to be the
classic case of intellectual and professional achievement combined with
emotional dyscontrol, obsession to control others, relentless anxiety
(expressed as something like "eternal, hyper-dramatic adolescence"),
and recurring episodes of disabling panic attacks.
I will refer further to Kaylyn in my comments below in dark red;
Morelock's text is in black. Before moving into Morelock's work, however, I want to run down the characteristics of "precociously intellectual children" as developed by Terrassier, et al:
Very high memory
Categorical thought much higher than normal
Very good abstract thought
Attracted by what is more complex
Uninterested by what appears simple and repetitive
“Embarrassing clearness,” over-anticipates
Revolts strongly against perceived injustice
Devalues self, too conscious of own limits
Badly manages aggressiveness
Centered on adult, who readily answers his questions
Inclined to rationalisation
Sometime conforms excessively to his entourage
Often very passionate, but sometimes hides it at school
Internal Dys-synchrony: between intelligence and emotion, intelligence and motor functioning, real age and mental age
External Dys-synchrony: between
intelligence and social development
Signs of intellectually gifted children, according to
Learned how to read before the first primary school year
Read a lot and quickly without attaching importance
Expressed an interest in dictionaries, thesaureses and encyclopedias
Read quickly but finds more difficulties in writing
Likes talking with adults
Asks lots of questions, that are varied, original, and/or
Wants to know “Why”
Can make relevant observations, even if he seems not to be
listening or paying attention
Readily judges other people, especially adults
Annoyed by routine and repetitive activities, especially
when they are easy
Very sensitive to injustice
Has a sense of humor
Has a very rich vocabulary, but the level of thought is
Likes and is successful in complex games
Popular, especially in small classes
Prefers to work alone
Interested in the origin of man and the universe
Is at the top of the class without making an effort
Has a strong sense of very developed aesthetics
Not passionate about one hobby, often changes
- - -
Morelock, Martha J.:
Understanding Our Gifted
Open Space Communications,
Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 1, 11-15,
This article by Martha Morelock introduces the Columbus
Group's definition of giftedness as asynchronous development. The reader is
also given a developmental picture of giftedness that extends beyond
achievement. The author focuses on giftedness "from the inside out,"
demonstrating how advanced cognitive development shapes the rest of the
Ten-year-old Greg Barnes was acknowledged by
school personnel as highly gifted. His scholastic achievement test scores
placed him in the 99.9th percentile, as did his score on the Stanford-Binet
Intelligence Scale. On this particular day, when he returned home from school,
Mrs. Barnes knew immediately from his despondent expression that the day had
been less than ideal.
"Something wrong?" she probed
"Yeah," he said in a tone of
thorough disgust, "I got into trouble. We'll have to see the principal
"I got into a fight with Joe and beat
Mrs. Barnes was shocked. Greg was not an
aggressive child. He had never reported such an incident before. In fact, he was
an extraordinarily sensitive boy who genuinely cared about other people.
"What happened?" she inquired
Greg explained that he and Joe had exchanged
insults during music class. Both boys, Greg insisted, were at fault. Later, Joe
had cornered Greg by the lockers, taunting him, threatening to beat him up, and
egging Greg on to fight. Greg responded by punching Joe, who punched Greg back.
When the teacher came onto the scene, Joe was crying while Greg continued to
rain punches upon him.
"Well, it sounds like you stood up
for yourself…" began Mrs. Barnes. She was surprised at Greg's immediate
and heated denial.
"No, Mom - it wasn't that
"But wasn't he threatening to beat
"No, Mom! You don't understand!"
Greg was getting visibly more upset as Mrs.
Barnes attempted to convey that she was not being judgmental. Unable to
comprehend why her efforts to convey caring and understanding were being met
with mounting frustration, Mrs. Barnes decided to defuse the issue.
"OK. Why don't you write down what
happened and explain how you feel about it. Obviously you were there and you
know why it happened better than I do."
Greg willingly took a seat at the typewriter
and laboriously typed out his story and explanation. An hour and a half later,
he handed the pages to his mother: "It all began in third grade..."
started the first paragraph. Greg went on to describe in careful detail how he
and Joe had met and embarked upon a rocky friendship. At certain times, Joe
seemed to want to be friends. At other times, Joe refused to allow Greg to
participate in ongoing playground activities. Greg admitted to sometimes
levelling "insults" at Joe in retaliation for these playground
Greg listed incidents from 3rd and 4th grades
as well as the 5th grade incident that precipitated the immediate problem. For
each incident, he detailed each child's behaviours with painful accuracy in an
effort to render an objective view of what had happened. Greg's outburst was, according to him, not only a response to the day's
happenings, but a reaction to the entire pattern of incidents composing their
relationship over the past two years. The argument of the day was simply
"the straw that broke the camel's back".
The next day, Joe, too, wrote out his version
of the fight. He wrote simply, "Greg hit me and then I hit him back and he
kept hitting me."
RG: At ten years of age, Greg and Joe can be
expected to be dealing with the challenges of Erikson's late Initiative,
mid-Competence and (possibly) early Identity stages of development. They can
also be expected to be essentially Concrete Operational, but the observant
mental health professional will see that Greg is well into Formal Operational
The diversion here is essentially that while Joe seems to be
age-appropriately working through Competence with Concrete Operational
cognitive processing skills, Greg is trying to deal with Autonomy, Initiative,
Competence and Identity issues with Formal Operational processing that is
beyond Joe's grasp, as well as Greg's emotional maturity and capacities for self-control under stress. Joe is likely to see Greg as running the gamut from
disgustingly immature to mystifyingly "nerdy" because Joe's Concrete
Operational skills limit his ability to hypothesize and test theories about
Greg's behavior. Greg, on the other hand, becomes disgusted with Joe's inability
to hypothesize and test when Greg is operating in Identity, but dependent upon
(and even anxiously attached to?) Joe for support and protection.
Greg's need for support and protection likely stem from the unfinished business at Autonomy, Initiative and Competence that are so
characteristic of many "Precocious Poindexters" well into their 20s
and even beyond. Many of these children and adolescents are both too separation-seeking, driven and capable...
and too attachment-seeking, afraid to initiate and (at least seemingly)
in-capable and (socially) incompetent. To their less precocious and typically
more Concrete Operational parents and peers, they are very confusing.
The Different Reality that Marks Giftedness
Greg and Joe had participated in the same
fight. Yet, Greg was fighting over a broader and more complex issue than was
Joe. Greg had an unusually retentive memory and an
extraordinary ability to analyse the roles played by both boys in an
ongoing series of incidents composing a two year relationship. Joe, a child
with more average cognitive abilities, lived each incident as it occurred and
forgot it when it was resolved for the day. Apparently Greg and Joe were
reacting to very different and individual realities.
- - -
Or, consider four-year-old Jennie. Jennie's
grandfather died several months ago; Jennie is asking questions about death and
showing evidence of emotional upset. Her mother tries to reassure her by
telling her that she need not worry - she and Mommy and Daddy will live a long
time. She will grow up and have children and Mommy will be a grandmother.
Jennie responds in trembling voice, "But you don't know, Mommy. Even
children die sometimes. Nobody knows for sure...
Most four year olds would simply accept the
mother's reassurance. Jennie, however, like Greg, is highly gifted. Consequently, her logical
and abstract reasoning abilities far exceed those of most four year
olds. They create for her a reality more complex and
threatening than that facing her age mates. Like average four year olds,
she needs to believe her mother in order to feel emotionally secure. However, her advanced cognitive capacities allow her to see too
clearly the faulty logic. She is left vulnerable and bereft of comfort.
RG: Probably because Kaylyn's mother very
regularly modeled a remarkable capacity to deny and/or forgive her alcoholic
husband's rage-vomiting tirades, Kaylyn herself acquired a second-hand version
of her mother's reality denial. At first, she focused on developing an almost schizoid
obsession with crafts-level artisanship (not unlike her mother's). But as an
adolescent, she found drugs and boys. Sporadic revisits to her previous
creativity took place, but until she was married and herself a mother, her
interests in artistic productivity waned. She direly needed an escape from the
verbal abuse at home, as well as across the street at her aunt's. (The aunt
loathed Kaylyn's father, ranting on about him in front of all who'd listen,
including Kaylyn, but was herself a boistrous control freak.)
Possibly as the result of daily cannabis ingestion, Kaylyn's obvious
capacities for Formal Operation seemed to go sub-rosa behind a mask of
co-dependent, go-along-to-get-along Concrete Operation... and her path through
Autonomy became split into too much and too little, as did her Initiative and
Competence. Her sense of Identity looked like a borderline-organized tussle
between wall-eyed teenage hussy and secret observer of the (to her facile mind)
"obvious insanity all around her." Kaylyn became a "social
submarine" (insofar as anyone other than her very closest friend was
concerned) and remained that way into her early 30s.
as Asynchronous Development
and Jennie exhibit a lack of synchronicity in the rates of their cognitive,
emotional and physical development. Jennie's physical development is similar to
that of an average four year old, while her cognitive development more nearly
approximates that of a child at least twice her age (Morelock, 1991). The
emotional needs that must be fulfilled for Jennie's healthy emotional
development to take place are similar to those of other four year olds. In
order to feel secure, to trust in the world and to begin to develop her own
identity, Jennie requires a certain comfortable
predictability in her daily existence. She also needs
to have a simple, solid trust in the strength and reliability of her parents.
However, the fulfilment of those four-year-old emotional needs is complicated
by Jennie's extraordinary capacity for abstract thought.
Her internally imposed demand for logical consistency
leaves her emotionally unable to accept anything
contradicting it. Children do die. Mommies and Daddies aren't omnipotent
and omniscient. For Jennie -- and for other gifted children like her -- the
world can threaten to dissolve into unpredictable and frightening chaos.
Kaylyn's developmental track seemed to go into "arrest" for a decade
until she followed her mother into something like "mass production
artisanship" and began to design -- as well as produce or oversee the
production of -- an ever-broadening line of craft products that sold like
hotcakes. She remained split between loci of self-esteem via developmental
catch-up through functional Initiative and Competence leading to remarkable
Generativity... and loci of continuing self-criticism at Identity, as well as
criticism on others in increasingly dysfunctional Intimacy. She remained largely Concrete Operational at a social level while moving
well into a sort of spatial-symbolic version of Formal Operational processing
in something resembling "fiercely private schizoidism."
Kaylyn finally broke
out of her self-limitations when her long-time best friend finished college and
became professionally certified. Kaylyn saw the possibilities, went to college
herself, graduated with honors, and is today a highly esteemed professional in
a very challenging workplace... albeit a person with continuing insecurities,
reactive control obsessions, florid anxiety and psychosomatic upshots. Well
into adulthood, Kaylyn remains stuck in unfinished business with respect to
Erikson's Trust, Autonomy, Initiative, Competence, Identity and Intimacy
hurdles, though she is so solidly grounded in psychoeducation and Formal Operational
processing that she can speak expertly on her own developmental
- - -
Roedell (1988) points out that young gifted
readers or children who watch the television news can be exposed to highly
complex, emotionally charged information that they may not be mature enough to
The parent of an intellectually advanced
four year old described how he came upon his daughter looking terrified as she
read the Bible. When he inquired about her concern, she replied, "I'm
reading The Book of Revelations, and it's really scary!"(p. 7)
Children like Jennie, and the four year old
cited by Roedell, lack the life experience necessary for interpreting the
cognitive realities that confront them.
A number of theorists and researchers have independently written about
asynchronous development. Gowan (1974) discussed the implications of cognitive
capacities that outstrip emotional (affective) development. He referred to
asynchronous development as "dysplasia":
.....a disagreement, dissonance, or
disparity either between the age of the individual, which should place him in
one stage, and the ... stage he is actually in, ...or disparity
between the cognitive stage he is in and the affective stage he is in...
Gowan emphasized the trauma that can result
when an individual is thrust prematurely and abruptly into a higher level of
Just as the baby developing within the
womb is surrounded by a placenta, we are all shielded from external reality by
an envelope which protects us from it. Development, hence, consists (in
post-uterine as in prenatal existence) in growth and specialization which will
allow for the appropriate penetration of the placental envelope so that the individual
can gain greater freedom and interaction with the external world. But if this
placental shell is ruptured too soon, then chaos results, and special means are
required to save the individual and nurse him back to healthy development. (p.
Terrassier's (1985) "dyssynchrony," is another related theory. It
includes both internal aspects, involving disparate rates of development among
the various capacities of the child, and social or external aspects, involving
gifted children's resultant relationships with environmental circumstances.
dyssynchrony refers to the lack of natural fit between
the gifted child and a school curriculum geared to average children of
the same chronological age. It also suggests any experience when a gifted child does not "fit" the cultural
expectations of how a child of his or her chronological age "should"
think, feel, or act.
Greg, for example, in the scenario about the fight with Joe. Mrs. Barnes'
initial difficulty in characterizing what had happened stemmed from her viewing
the incident from the perspective she assumed a child Greg's age to have taken.
Greg's emotionally intense denial was a clue that she had to listen more
carefully if she wanted to get a glimpse of Greg's unique personal reality.
Greg's understanding of the incident was out of sync with Mrs. Barnes'
teacher or therapist (or parent) dealing with gifted children and adolescents
simply has to look at and listen to the student or patient -- as well as at his or her own
resonating -- to see and hear where the issues are from both Paigetian and
Eriksonian standpoints. I have seen and heard adolescents who can proceed along
rational ladders of abstraction at light speed owing to IQs above 150, 160 and
even 170, who are clearly snagged again and again by unfinished business at
Trust, Autonomy, Initiative, Competence and Identity. Virtually all of them had
parents who were simply not equipped by education or experience to respond
appropriately to the child's confusing displays of irrefutable and/or authority-challenging logic and disquieting emotional dysregulation. The child
is typically frustrated to the point of rage (via amygdalar > hypothalamic
> pituitary > adrenal triggering into fight or flight) when he or she cannot
make him- or herself understood to those who matter.
Given the essentially Germanistic and
authoritarian values of our culture, most parents (who grew up themselves with
such parents, after all) resort to demands, restrictions, limitations and
punishments (verbal as well as physical). And the reciprocal reactivity (a.k.a.
"parataxic integration," see Sullivan) is underway, often leading
over time to very unfortunate piling on of mutual resentment, resulting
mis-communication and wholesale dis-connection. The gifted child sees him- or
herself as a victim, and sees the parents as persecutors -- and the parents see
themselves as frustrated rescuers forced into victimhood -- in a never-ending,
but disturbingly culturally normal power struggle on the Karpman Drama
Triangle. A few years of this can be expected to produce the symptoms of
post-traumatic stress disorder I have seen again and again in these families,
albeit typically far more severely in the adolescent and young adult offspring thereof.
cultural expectations aspect of external dyssynchrony is also exemplified in
the story that one mother told about trying to find books for her
three-year-old son who was reading on a second grade level. She recounted her
frustration when she discovered that the books available on his reading level
all dealt with stories about experiences common to older children, such as
losing one's first tooth or going to school. The cultural expectations with
regard to which story themes would be appropriate for a child reading on a
second grade level were simply out of sync with the needs of her preschooler.
addition, external dyssynchrony involves problems gifted children have in
developing friendships. When gifted children find other
children who have similar intellectual abilities and interests, their newfound
companions are likely to be older and more physically mature
(Terrassier, 1985). In such cases, the older child will have considerable
advantage in terms of real-world experience and physical capabilities.
Stephanie Tolan has indicated, asynchronous development places gifted
individuals outside normal developmental patterns from birth to adulthood.
Their experiences are dramatically different from the norm because of their expanded awareness. Additionally, they may never get
feedback corroborating and validating their perceptions. This can lead to
self-doubt and a precarious sense of self.
scenario above, Greg was especially fortunate in that he could convey through
his writing his precise view of the incident with Joe.
his previous experience with his mother and his principal led him to feel
confident that his version of reality would be taken seriously by the adults in
his life. It was this trust that freed him to write the story exactly as he had
in order to help children like Greg and Jennie, we need to explore their inner
worlds - the inner experience and reality of giftedness. Clearly as well we
cannot hope to understand the nature of giftedness without understanding those
however, up until now, definitions of giftedness,
and research based on those definitions, have dealt
minimally with reality as seen through the eyes of the gifted. In a
recent major book covering contemporary conceptions of giftedness, all of the
approaches mentioned emerged out of definitions based on some aspect of
achievement or performance (Sternberg & Davidson, 1986). Nevertheless, some
researchers have begun to investigate giftedness from an internal perspective.
These studies deal mainly with the emotional lives of the gifted.
and the Gifted
in Jennie's and Greg's responses to the issues confronting them is an intensity of emotion. Both of them felt an emotionally infused need to understand the truth of
their situation and to communicate that truth to others.
This was manifested in Jennie's fearful yet strong insistence that her mother
acknowledge the limits of what she could promise in the way of longevity. It
was manifested as well in Greg's frustration when the account his mother
offered did not agree with what he knew to be the truth. It was also manifested
in the intensity with which he committed himself to the writing of his story.
(1972) found emotional intensity and sensitivity to be the predominant characteristics of the
intellectually and artistically gifted. He outlined five dimensions through
which this intensity can be displayed and called them "forms of psychic
over-excitability" to underline the enhancement and intensification of
mental activity much beyond the ordinary:
PSYCHOMOTOR - an augmented capacity for
being active and energetic, expressed as movement,
SENSUAL - an enhanced differentiation and
aliveness of sensual experience
INTELLECTUAL - avidity
for knowledge and the search for truth -
expressed as discovery, questioning, and love of ideas
and theoretical analysis
IMAGINATIONAL - the power of thought
creation - expressed through vividness of imagery, richness of association,
liking for the unusual, and a facility for dreams, fantasies, and inventions
EMOTIONAL - the heart - recognized in the
great depth and intensity of emotional life
expressed through a wide range of feelings,
attachments, compassion, heightened sense of responsibility, and scrupulous
self-examination. (Piechowski, 1991, p. 287)
Dabrowski introduced the concept of
"developmental potential", which he saw as talents and intellectual
abilities infused and motivated through the psychic over-excitabilities. The stronger these psychic over-excitabilities are in a
particular individual, the more developmental potential
he or she possesses.
While the Dabrowskian framework addresses
emotional intensity, the work of Sommers (1981) links
the breadth of emotional responsiveness to cognitive
complexity. She introduced the concept of "emotional
range" to denote the number and variety of emotions experienced by
an individual. Sommers found that college students evidencing advanced
cognitive organization had a wider "emotional range." She concludes:
The picture of the more emotional person,
as it is emerging from this research ... reveals that a high level of emotional
responsiveness may be associated with advanced cognitive organization. All of
the cognitive skills that were found to be related to the ability to respond
with more emotions are marks of a highly organized awareness - an awareness
that might be governed by a well-structured system of values, oughts, and
beliefs, but not by momentary excitements. (p. 560)
Thus, we have the beginnings of internal view
of giftedness. The heightened and broadened emotionality of the gifted, the
role played by a well-structured system of values in evoking emotional
reactions, and the asynchronicity of development leads us to two important
questions. The first is a very practical one, while the second is theoretical:
(1) How does this "view from within" help us to deal with the Jennies
and Gregs of the world? (2) How do we incorporate the "view from
within" into our definition of giftedness?
Practical Implication of the View From Within
view from within allows us to see a three dimensional gifted child
rather than giftedness simply as manifested through "two-dimensional"
achievement criteria. When we set about to teach, counsel, or parent Jennie or
Greg, we do so knowing that we must allow the child to communicate to use that
unique personal reality rich with ascribed meaning constructed by a complex
awareness. When children like Jennie and Greg experience a situation, they superimpose on it their remembrances of past experiences
and their projections of future ramifications
should they act in a number of different ways. They live
life by analysing it step by step while emotionally responding to that analysis.
we allow a Greg to write out his impressions if that is the best way for him to
convey them to us. And we are not impatient with the detail he insists must be
a part of his account. Greg must be helped to see, of course, that others do
not always perceive experiences with such detailed clarity or infused with such
emotional intensity and significance especially other children his age.
Nevertheless, this should not be conveyed as a
defect on his part, such as "oversensitivity" or a
tendency to "carry a grudge." Rather, he needs first to have his view of reality validated, and second, to be
helped to find ways of building bridges with
other children and not faulting them because of their differing level of
awareness. We can think out with Greg what he could have done differently at
various points in the relationship to prevent things from escalating to the
point where a fight occurred. We can also elicit his aid in projecting the best
way to handle his future interactions with Joe.
same time, children like Joe need to be made aware of the role they play in
instigating unnecessary ill feelings. Joe does not have the extensive memory
and keen analytical ability that would allow him to understand the relationship
in the same way Greg does. Nevertheless, we can help him to understand more
completely the dynamics leading to the most recent conflict and to think out
with him what he could have done differently to prevent the fight. We can also
design some clear rules for his future interactions with Greg.
of the differences in Greg's and Joe's reality picture about the fight, these
initial explorations should be conducted separately with each boy. That way, we
can confine - or expand - the discussion to focus on whichever reality we are
if we choose, we can bring the two boys together to talk about the aspect of
the situation that both boys will share - the "rules" for their
interaction in the future.
approach Jennies, we must keep in mind that we must satisfy her advanced
cognitive needs while remaining attuned to her four-year-old emotional ones -
no easy task! In the scenario presented, her mother can point out to Jennie
that everyone in Jennie's family is well, that they have periodic check-ups at
the doctor's office to make sure that they stay well and that there is,
therefore, little probability that anyone will die in the immediate future.
They also keep their car in very good condition, wear their seatbelts, and take
other safety precautions to prevent accidents. Even so, of course, the bottom
line, as Jennie knows on some level, is that "No one knows for sure."
For this, all Mom can offer is reassuring hugs, and her conveyed confidence
that all will be well. In Jennie's case, however, the conveyed
confidence must be couched within a context of taking Jennie's questions
very seriously, acknowledging the inevitability and unpredictability of death.
Otherwise, her logic will not allow her to accept the offered comfort.
Giftedness from Within
a meeting of theorists, practitioners, and parents in Columbus, Ohio, proposed
that asynchronous development - and the emotional consequences and altered
quality of life stemming from it - is at the very heart of giftedness (Columbus
Group, 1991). The Columbus Group asserts that the contemporary tendency to
define giftedness as behaviours, achievement, products or school placements,
external to the individual, necessarily misses the essence of giftedness - how
it alters the meaning of life experience for the gifted individual.
Consequently, the Group offers the following preliminary attempt at a
phenomenological definition, which at this point, may apply best to the highly
Giftedness is asynchronous development in
which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness
that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with
higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them
particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and
counselling in order for them to develop optimally. (The Columbus Group, 1991)
If development is perceived as a life-long
process, giftedness can then be understood as producing atypical development
throughout the lifespan in terms of awareness, perceptions, emotional
responses, and life experiences. This places the gifted individual
developmentally out of sync both internally, in relation to the different
aspects of development, and externally, in relation to cultural expectations.
RG: In the realms of both substance abuse and personality disorder treatment, I have encountered numerous examples of astonishingly capable and competent professionals and performing artists who are very obviously "emotional children" (see Goleman). Their capacities for left hemispheric, hypothesis-and-test, Formal Operational processing, as well as right hemispheric insight (see McGilchrist) into the characters they are portraying, doing business with, competing against or contesting in court demonstrate their 130, 140, 150 and higher intelligence quotients.
But their private lives demonstrate the interpersonal crippling they suffered from having been so over-developed intellectually while having flunked out at (for example) observation-based Trust, balanced Autonomy, considered Initiative, interpersonal Competence, and integrated Identity. They over-Trust those who don't deserve it, under-Trust those who do; try way too hard to be Autonomous "individuals" here while crashing into gross co-dependence there (see Mellody, and Schaef); Initiatively work themselves to death for the sake of approval here and give up on what really matters there; become celebratedly Competent at their professions here and media celebrities repeatedly subjected to public ridicule for their lack of Competence there; and either Integrated into narcissistic defensive schemes (see Golomb, and Vaknin) or dis-Integrated into borderlinism (see Gunderson, and Searles) making them social pariahs.
The fast processor processes only as realistically, appropriately, functionally and effectively as his or her programming allows. If Piaget's processor is out of sync with Erikson's developmental programming because that programming on Karpman's drama triangle is inadequate for the processor's capacities, look out.
This definition of giftedness allows
penetration beyond behavioural achievement or non-achievement. Achievement
remains an interesting and significant expression of giftedness, and it
continues to be important to examine whether it occurs and why or why not.
Nevertheless, it is neither the essence of giftedness nor the most important
aspect of it. The Columbus Group definition calls for a shift of focus from the external products
of giftedness to the true nature of the phenomenon
itself. This shift to a view from within is an important move towards both
understanding giftedness and understanding our gifted.
Can the Asynchronously Developed be Re-Synchronized?
RG: In short, yes. But it will take time. Ego defenses that have served them as coping mechanisms will have to be "observed, noticed, recognized, acknowledged, accepted, owned, appreciated and understood" so that a lifetime of unprocessed emotions can be "digested" and systemic cognitive schemata "reframed" in the manner of the 10 Steps of Experiential Processing (10StEP, see Garrett). The modern mindfulness-based cognitive psychotherapies of the millennial era can be adapted for such re-synchronization, but they must be adapted with understanding of the issues described in Morelock's article.
Group (1991, July). Unpublished transcript of the meeting of the Columbus
Group. Columbus, Ohio.
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Labels: Erik Erikson, gifted child, intellectually gifted child, Jean Piaget, Karpman Drama Triangle, precocious child