What is meant by "giftedness"?

It is unfortunate that the term "gifted" is such a loaded word. There are those who see it as an elitist and narcissistic term, and there are those who have a deep sense of the "imposter syndrome" that they could never self-identify as gifted. After nearly 40 years working with gifted children and adults, I see giftedness as an "amplified way of being." That amplification can be seen intellectually in the areas of strength and passion as the individual is often emotionally excited by learning new information and digging even deeper into a topic. It is seen as an amplification of emotions so that it is obvious the individual takes in more emotionally than the average person, and also emotes in a more intense manner. These people's "zone of proximal development" (the expansiveness of their deep understanding of a topic), in the area of their giftedness, is far beyond their peers, and they have an amplified ability to learn new information at a quicker rate. The amplified way of being of a gifted person is often misunderstood by others and can lead to misdiagnosis by parents, teachers, and doctors. It is important for gifted people to find coaches and therapists who have a deep understanding of this amplification.

Why consider working with a coach?
There is always more one can learn, skills can be refined, and a coach is someone who can see you and direct you in ways you might not be able to experience on your own. The world’s greatest athletes, Olympians and professionals alike, see the value in working with a coach who can help them hone their skills and take them to the next level. Many professions, such as those in medicine, education, and counseling, require an internship supervised under the guidance of a mentor/coach. The same is true for a gifted adult. Whether you are a college student or someone whose college days are far behind you, the partnership you create with a coach enables you to learn more about your giftedness and its impact on your personal and professional life.

What topics might be discussed during a coaching session?
While each coaching experience is a unique exploration of a client’s personal journey, there are often common issues that impact the life of a gifted adult:

  • Multipotentiality
  • Perfectionism
  • Existential depression
  • Anxiety
  • Gifts and challenges of being an outlier
  • Introversion/extroversion
  • Spiritual sensitivity and heart-felt intuition
  • Amplified ways of being
  • Sensitivity and intensity
  • Misdiagnosis and dual diagnosis
  • Mindfulness
  • Authentic self-perception
  • Twice-exceptionality
  • Interpersonal challenges
  • Career challenges
  • Finding personal meaning
  • Creativity
  • And MANY more

What is meant by spiritual sensitivity? 

According to Judith Blackstone, in her book Belonging Here, spiritually sensitive adults and children have these traits in common:

  • Profound empathy and exceptional emotional depth
  • Visionary insight; ability to see the truth of situations
  • A gift for healing
  • May feel alienated from the world around them

What questions might I consider when determining if my child is spiritually sensitive?

Does your child:

  • have profound empathy to the point that he cries when he senses the pain of another person or other living things?
  • talk about feeling uncomfortable around people who make her feel “creepy?”  On the other hand, does your child sense that some people have a nurturing and inviting energy?
  • have insights that make him seem like an “old soul?”
  • often feel like an “odd duckling” who doesn’t fit with her peers because of the depth of her feelings and reactions?
  • feel alive and joyful when out in nature, as though he can feel the wondrous energy of the plants and animals?
  • feel overwhelmed by sights, sounds, textures, and smells?

What strategies mind I employ for myself and/or a child who is spiritually sensitive?

  • Mindful Movements - There is a beautiful little book with an accompanying CD by Thich Nhat Hahn called Mindful Movements: Ten Exercises for Well-Being.  This series of exercises combines body movements with mindfulness and focused breathing and is great for both children and adults.
  • Four Pebble Meditation – Thich Nhat Hahn has a lovely metaphor-based mindful practice for kids that I enjoy doing myself.  It uses four pebbles, and he has a new book for kids coming out this fall describing the process called A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles. These four pebbles are metaphors for our lives.    The first pebble represents a flower: fresh.  The second pebble represents a mountain: solid.  The third pebble represents still water: clarity & authentic reflection.  The fourth pebble represents space: freedom.  I find holding each pebble in my hand with my focus on what that pebble represents to be a really relaxing way to meditate.  Now that my brain has made the connection between the pebbles and the meditation, seeing the pebbles in my little wasabi dish continually reminds me of the four aspects of myself.
  • Sending Love to Others - Once your child knows how to meditate, you can have your child practice sending love to herself, and then to others.  You might begin with a photo of your child when she was a baby, and have your child look at the photo and send love to that person who is still a part of her.  Once your child has had several opportunities to send self-love, your child can shift that focus to another person and/or animal.  The purpose of this activity is to bring loving space to her heart.
  • Gratitude Journal – Sending love to others is one way to help children open their hearts.  Another way is through a gratitude journal.  Having your child focus on what brought her joy that day is a nice way to end an evening and be focused on positive experiences before falling asleep.
  • QiGong for greater awareness of personal energy – Lee Holden has a series of DVDs that include sitting, standing, and moving practices.  I find my chi for energy work particularly strong after doing these exercises.  I believe children who experience their personal energy will be better able to modulate their sensitivities.
  • Spend, Save, Share Jars - Many religious and spiritual groups talk about opening your heart by doing good things for other people.  With the spiritually sensitive child, we are looking for positive outlets for the pain they sometimes feel on behalf of others.  You might consider having your child divide money he receives into three jars for spending soon, saving for later, and sharing with others.  Give your child an opportunity to find an organization that has personal meaning.  It is important for spiritually sensitive children to feel like they are making a difference in the lives of other people and animals.