The Loneliness of the Gifted and Genius

NOTE: I use the words “gifted” and “genius” in the place of “extremely sensitive” and “so extremely sensitive that there are not too many of them in this world.” I believe these definitions work better than the results of IQ tests because there is much more to these people than their intellectual overexcitability.

“It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.”
– Albert Einstein

Being born into the one percent of the population that is extremely sensitive not only comes with many great advantages, but also many challenging difficulties.

One of the most challenging difficulties experienced by gifted individuals and geniuses is loneliness.

A Beautiful Mind

[ Russell Crowe as John Forbes Nash in “A Beautiful Mind” ]

Psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski identified five areas of “overexcitabilities” in gifted individuals. We experience both the “bright side” and the “dark side” of these overexcitabilities:

Overexcitability

Bright Side

Dark Side

Psychomotor • Extremely active
• Surplus of energy
• Workaholism
• Defining ourselves by what we DO, not by who we are
• Difficulty sitting still, relaxing, sleeping
Sensual • Heightened awareness of all five senses • Constant physical discomfort
• Seeing, hearing disturbing things (not seen, heard by others)
Intellectual • Extremely smart
• Love of knowledge and learning
• Thoughts, logic, reasoning that hardly anyone understands
• Workaholic mind
• Existential depression
Imaginational • Extremely imaginative
• Vivid dreams
• Imagining disturbing events (not imagined by others)
• Fear of the unknown
Emotional • Great depth of emotions
• Concern for others, empathy
• Intense emotions that hardly anyone understands
• Depression
• Fear of our own intense emotions

Just like everyone else, we go through hard times. Just like everyone else, we experience painful thoughts and feelings. And just like everyone else, we would like to have someone who would listen to us, understand us, validate our experiences, and care for the things we care about.

Sadly, while the rest of the world gets this kind of understanding and care from their loved ones, many gifted people and geniuses are famished in this area. When we struggle with our “dark side,” the rest of the world tells us that we are wrong to see, think, and feel what we see, think, and feel. The rest of the world tells us that we are being too extreme, too dramatic, and too crazy. The rest of the world sees us as being disordered and labels us with ADHD, OCD, OCPD, schizophrenia, etc. By the way, before you go on accepting any diagnosis, be sure to read this first. The rest of the world leaves us to “professionals” who put us on medication that kills our “bright side” along with our “dark side” so that we become more “normal,” more like everyone else. In order to avoid the pain that comes with being misunderstood and outcasted by others, so many of us have trained ourselves to be “normal” on the outside while still experiencing our unsharable intense thoughts and feelings inside. We are accepted by others on the condition that we continue to pretend to be people we are not.

This loneliness is the root cause of the painful depression experienced by many gifted individuals and geniuses. Well-meaning friends and family members who think they understand this kind of depression then advise us to just be more optimistic – but how does a roof over my head or my many talents address the issue of how incredibly lonely I feel?

Many gifted individuals and geniuses then choose to distract themselves from their loneliness with an obsessive, all-consuming pursuit of excellence. But no matter how big of a dent we create in the universe, no matter how excellently we perform, our loneliness still exists and it kills us inside. Those of us who are not distracted enough are at a very high risk of committing suicide.

SO WHAT NOW?

HOW TO HELP YOUR GIFTED/GENIUS FRIEND FEEL LESS LONELY (OTHERS):
Resist judging your friend’s experience. Rather than thinking that your friend is wrong or crazy, be open to the idea that your friend is just “different.” Even if you cannot relate to your friend’s experience, still try to show that you care. If you do not have the right words (if you are less sensitive than your gifted/genius friend, you probably do not have the right words), use physical touch. A caring hug can make your friend feel much less lonely.

HOW TO ADDRESS YOUR LONELINESS (GIFTED INDIVIDUALS/GENIUSES):
First of all, acknowledge your loneliness and recognize the pointlessness of living an exhausting life of moving from one distraction to another. Put an end to your distractions and forms of false intimacy. Face your loneliness once and for all. Stop agreeing with the thoughts in your head about how no one understands you. Work hard at reversing those thoughts. If no one around you is able to give you the sense of intimacy that you long for because of their lack of sensitivity toward your differences, find a professional therapist who is trained to give you that sense of intimacy through the patient-therapist relationship. For me, what eliminated my loneliness was choosing to believe in an omniscient God who not only knows all the things that I think and feel, but also cares about all the things that I think and feel.

This message was approved and shared by American Mensa (the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world)

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64 thoughts on “The Loneliness of the Gifted and Genius

  1. Aaron says:

    Good read again, thanks Dan! Was just talking to my Aunt about your works and blog and how we have so much things in common that every word you ink on every page of your blog seems like my own experience printed similarly.

    Continue being you and cheers to us all!

    • vivian says:

      THE SAME THING HAPPENS TO ME

    • pilar gutierrez says:

      No se de que terapeutas hablan, pase casi 20 años de mi vida de terapeuta en terapeuta y con lo unico que me encontré fue con gente que displicentemente te etiqueta tus neurosis e intenta que te des cuenta que estas haciendo algo equivocado por eso te va en tal mal, por eso no tienes pareja, por eso te cuestan tanto las relaciones! Por supuesto que todo esto esto viene con una patina de gentileza, de aparente valoracion y gestos afectuosos que nos hacen sentir menos solos….PATRAÑAS! PURAS MENTIRAS Y ENRIEDOS OIGAN….ESTO ES SENCILLO solo acepten que son diferentes y en lugar de darle de comer a gente que ejerce una profesion arcaica, y anacronica busquen relacionarse con pares, las redes deberian usarse para eso, no para lamentarnos porque aunque sé mejor que nadie, que es la angustia de la soledad y el rechazo, ESTO es algo que por el camino de los “normales” no vamos a remediar nunca. Sentimientos como la envidia, la necesidad de poder y dominio sobre otros, y el goce en los fracasos ajenos son parte de la gente comun que siente que esos sentimientos son justificables porque su inerpretacion de las acciones de los demas siempre es negaTiva y autocentrada. Nosotros simplemente somos diferentes porque nuestros cerebros funcionan diferentes y esa diferencia solo desaparece con la bondad y el amor, existen personas simples, de mente sencilla pero que su bondad y empatia hacen que nos comprendan, porque la coneccion viene de una zona mas profunda. No significa que nosotros no tengamos emociones dañinas porque somos mas buenos o mejores….SOMOS DIFERENTES…un persona que piensa constantemente en crear, encontrar soluciones a problemas, embellecer o asistir, o simplemente en saber y adquirir conocimientos no tiene espacio ni tiempo para elucubraciones dañinas, ni vengativas, ni para dedicarse al juzgamiento de cada una de las acciones de los que lo rodean, esto último obra altamente en nuesto perjuicio porque esa falta de atención nos convierte en en presas faciles para los depredadores, . GENTE, LA UNION HACE LA FUERZA, DESDE JESUS HASTA EL ULTIMO DE LOS FISICOS CUANTICOS LO HAN DICHO Y CORROBORADO.

  2. Eddie says:

    This is good stuff Dan.

  3. Ianthe Exall says:

    Excellent article- thankfully does not apply to me.

  4. Uyen says:

    I’m just wondering, what if we’re not even gifted or even a genius? I mean I still feel lonely anyways…And I know others that aren’t gifted in the sense that you described it in the post? I’m just curious is all~

    • Daniel Kim says:

      Of course other people can experience loneliness. Loneliness is not owned by the gifted and genius. This article just focuses on the type of loneliness that this sensitive group is likely to go through.

  5. K.O. says:

    Great post Dan. What makes me help go through the dark times is to think of people like us who made it. When you think you can’t cooperate with other people, think that somehow Steve Jobs was able to put it up with hundreds of probably less bright people daily. He didn’t surround himself with a bunch of OCPD people, he just surrounded himself with a bunch of amazing people. Find your passion, surround yourself with the right people who share the same passion and utilize your strengths to build something great.

  6. Carrohan says:

    I honestly cannot thank you enough for this post. I’ve always known that my brothers felt similar things to me, but being the most emotional (perhaps due to being an only girl and a youngest?) I never was quite able to connect with them. I’ve never quite been able to explain what’s ‘wrong’ with me, and I could never quite get the point across that even though I’m stressed I feel like I have to keep doing more because I have to distract myself. Understanding the psychology behind it is not only interesting, but hopefully will help with dealing with friends when they’re facing this, and during my own periods. Again, thank you so much.

  7. a. says:

    when you’re a genius, you know it. But we don’t call ourselves G’s as society speculates.
    Ignorance would be bliss.

  8. Steph says:

    I have read all of your articles and it has “saved my sanity” knowing someone can relate practically spot on. Thanks so much for the most detailed and beautiful description that sheds the postive because with “this” it can never prosper in negative.

  9. Daniel, you believe in God?

  10. Rokas asked the apt question….Daniel, you believe in God???? I was thinking of the same question and saw Rokas ‘s post….Yes….if you really believe in GOD then believe me the humility comes automatically because then we know that we are not Genius but GOD made us a genius….similar to GOD has made a girl beautiful,…or GOD has made someone more physically strong…..So, if GOD has made her beautiful then what is so great about being so beautiful…after all she is just destined to be more beautiful….So when there is nothing great about it then she will not feel uncomfortable relating to other girls…But when she feels and believes that she is beautiful as if it is her own merit, that is when the vanity sets in which upsets the comfort level while relating to others….So I would say your problem is not that you are a Genius(if at all you are) but your own attitude towards your being a Genius….Think about it in depth along these lines and if you really are an intellectual as you claim to be then you will find your own answers….Even I had the same problems till I realized I was fucking wrong and the world was after all right that I am just a nut case…Though some do say I too am very intelligent too …I am myself a member of a dozen odd high IQ societies world over and I used to walk around as if I am some rare species or a nobel laureate….Then obviously people will find it difficult relating with me and then I am bound to feel lonely…..So you see, the problem lies with me and my attitude and not those around me…..If you do not address your problems soon then you sure will need psychiatric help in the near future….( Please….No hard feelings intended….)

    • Daniel Kim says:

      Actually I don’t think humility comes automatically with the belief in God. One can believe in God but not yet comprehend the height of God’s excellence. If this is the case, one’s own human excellence appears to exceed that of his or her peers significantly. When one truly understands the excellence of God, he or she realizes that his or her comparison with others is as pointless as ants comparing themselves with other ants. But what from my writing caused you to believe that I look down at others? Do you know what thoughts are going in my mind. No you do not.

      This loneliness does not come from pridefully “walking around like I am some rare species.” As I have written, it comes from experiencing extreme emotions and thoughts that most do not experience and then being told most of one’s life that he or she is wrong to feel, think, and see what he or she feels, thinks, and sees. Please enlighten me on how your “humility” can help people who feel disturbing emotions that hardly anyone feels, who hear disturbing audible voices that no one else hears, who imagine catastrophic events in their mind that no one else imagines.

      Also, I have been receiving psychiatric help and I love it! I love how I get to explore and study the depth of my emotions and thoughts with a professional. I do not see therapy as something negative at all. I believe all people could benefit from it. I feel very lucky to have it in my life 🙂

  11. Chi Eldridge says:

    Daniel, I am curious to know how you use your gifted-ness in the real world. I saw your Pop Danthology on YouTube, but because the song rights were owned by others you said you didn’t get any money from that, am I reading it correctly? Do you have other projects that you are paid for, or a regular job for pay and you’re working on special projects with your real talents and will cross over into doing that full time when money allows?

    I am just wondering what we can do with our talents that will help us get by financially. I am in an outstanding band, and I know we can make it big if we just stay focused on the band and our music and getting in front of the right people, but a couple of us are feeling real pressure from our parents and girlfriends to “grow up and get a real job.” I just want to be able to explain to them that the band is our real talent and passion, and I know we are going to be successful.

    • Daniel Kim says:

      Yes you are right, I didn’t make a single cent off of Pop Danthology. But it did open up some doors and a month after I had a paid project with America’s #1 electro/dance music record label. I don’t put 100% of my time into my passion anymore. I do part-time paid work that I have absolutely no passion in (just enough to cover basic needs) and then spend the remaining time in my passions.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I was not aware that OCPD was a gift, or had anything to do with giftedness. The gifted experience tends to cause a great deal of stress for genuinely gifted people. Added to that is enough insight to know you’re different, with accompanying anxiety from trying to “fit in”.
    As a personality disorder, OCPD doesn’t allow insight that any behaviors or perspectives due to their condition are maladaptive. Personality disorders are also not inherently stressful to those suffering from them. And while there are doubtless gifted individuals suffering with OCPD, having OCPD is not synonymous with giftedness.
    And I’m confused as to why you post a picture of John Nash, who while a genius and very ill, did not have a personality disorder (Nash was delusional enough to hallucinate a college roommate for himself!).
    You will probably delete this, so consider it an exercise in detachment ♥ Peace.

    • Daniel Kim says:

      A lot of gifted people/geniuses/extremely sensitive people/whatever you want to call them, suffer from anxiety because their extreme emotional sensitivity causes them to feel very intense, overwhelming emotions. People with OCPD suffer from anxiety because their extreme emotional sensitivity causes them to feel very intense, overwhelming emotions. Do you see the connection now?

      How did you get the idea that personality disorders are not inherently stressful to those suffering from them? People with OCPD are quite the stressed out group of people.

      Although the title of my blog happens to have the word “gift” in it, I do not think that the title, this post, nor any of my other posts makes the claim that OCPD is synonymous with giftedness. This article is about gifted people and geniuses and how they often get misdiagnosed. This article was never about personality disorders. I talk about OCD as another common misdiagnosis and that’s not categorized as a personality disorder either. I posted a picture of John Nash because I am writing about gifted people/geniuses and how extreme sensitivity can even cause what we label as schizophrenia.

      It appears to me that your idea of personality disorders is quite fixed. I actually disagree with so much of the research and studies that have been done on personality disorders. That is why I started this blog. I do not delete others’ misunderstanding of my writing or their reiteration of popular, commonly held beliefs. I like to keep them so that my clarification can benefit all my readers 🙂

      • I am so glad that you clarified this confusion. With existential anxiety and a gifted mind, I was so glad to find your articles; however, as a retired Licensed Professional Counselor, I was also confused as to how you put the disorder together with the loneliness of a genius…. I am glad for your blog, but wish you had separated the disorder from the genius part…. I have been an intelligent loner and know so much more why; however, I can shift into a charismatic leader to put positive energies together to serve people and God…. Sometimes ideas, and insights come to me from an unknown place (only from God) but still amazing. I am 72 years old and my talents, and strengths are more strong and provocative than ever before. I truly believe that solitude, though lonely, is the only way to go…. Creative processes are taking nothing to something and that is giving birth to a newness that brings insights and healing…. what do you think? Thank you for your blog…. I needed this.

  13. Chianti says:

    This is such a beautiful article. I have OCPD and I have struggled with it for a long time. What I like and relate to most is your personal relationship with an omniscient God. I have experienced every negative thing you can with this gift, and I have known the positives that come with enduring the curse. I have come to appreciate and love my own inner thoughts and feelings while keeping boundaries that controls the anxiety that loops in my head. You are such an inspiration to me…..Thank you!!!

  14. Shyloe says:

    Bang on!!! And I found that belief in God helped me, too!! Crazy cause I resisted it for so long… as intelligent as I was, God never made any sense… at least not logically. However, I am happier than I have ever been in my life now that I have this Higher Power on my side… one of my own understanding… that resides inside of me as well, who knows me, loves me and guides me. None of this hell and damnation sh*t. Nope. Haven’t found a faith practice that really resonates with my experience of God. My God is all about love, connection, community and doing what’s “right” for me. He/She’s got my back. Booyah!!!!

  15. AvengerSentinel says:

    Thank you for this article. It’s almost as if you decided to sum up my life. I really, really appreciate you writing this. Take care.

  16. Lemuel says:

    I’ve recently stumbled upon this blog and feel that this particular post hits close to home for me. In fact it seems to have captured features of my personality precisely. I haven’t read much of your other posts nor have I been officially diagnosed with any kind of “disorder” but I do know that I am very compulsive with 100% certainty. I for one believe that ALL people who have OCD or related symptoms have a greater potential than the average person to accomplish more in their field, due to an abnormal ability to dwell on ideas for long durations of time and theirin lies the essense of what makes their gift so invaluable.

    That’s right, I believe OCD thoughts are a gift, it’s not a matter of just being gifted with OCD. Considering this, eliminating the OCD should never be the focus, but redirecting it to more producitive applications. This is difficult because for most people who have OCD this will require professional help in learning how to nurture their minds in a way that caters to their abilities and helps them to explore their passions. This leads to a profound dilemma, which is that many “professionals” don’t see it as a gift so how can they truly help? Additionally, many will have a vague understanding of your circumstances given a lack of personal experience with the matter themselves, although I imagine the best of them must share experiences with compulsion, for this is required to some degree to reach the height of exellence in your field.

    My reply is most specific to OCD thoughts rather than individuals suffering from hyperactivity as it relates to an inability to remain still or other such neurological difficulties.
    I think the primary problem with OCD thoughts is the lack of nurturement provided to those who have it, as a result they are more prone to various forms of addicitons such as Gambling, Sexual Addictions, and endlessly pondering negative thoughts as you alluded to in a previous post. However, if individuals with OCD thoughts specifically can harness their gifts in the right direction that is their compulsion in areas that require detailed analysis of a problem then they will have exerted their abilities in the right direction. As a Math major and web developer, I have learned to control my mind much better and focusing on these subjects has been very rewarding given so.

    Thanks for the post 🙂

  17. 49928 says:

    Something From The Third World

    Ideas, theories = Stupidity, craziness, too much thinking.

    Act = Constant debate, demoralisation, something worthless.

    During the day = Wear a mask just to be accepted by the society. Quick nap. Try out some ideas and try to fault them.

    During the night = Do all the things that you imagine inside your head during the day. Do it silently and discreetly so they won’t notice. Do it fast, do it as much as possible just to get some peace of mind.

    People ask “why?” not to understand nor learn but just to start an argument in which they surely win due to their huge supporters. Seems to them only things that can generate a lot of money are worth doing.

    Mysteries of life are only should be left to god.

    When loneliness strike. You would normally start to ask yourself;
    “Why am I like this?”
    “Why nobody sees what I see?”
    “Am I really crazy and stubborn like they said?”
    “How can I change myself?”
    “Am I going to be like this until the day that I die?”
    Eventually the realisation of the fact that there’s nothing that can be done to change how your mind operate sets in in which will be your only source of motivation to wear a “thicker mask”, work more silently until the cycle starts over with another argument or debate on how stupid and crazy you are.

    All I want is for me to gave up.

    Have a nice life
    Black&White

  18. At 72 years of age and a life long loner, yet a genius at the same time…..I was glad to find this site…. Important for all younger than me to know is that a close relationship with God is the best friend one can find…..Wrap yourself up in God’s protection and never ever think that you are less than pure gold…..Sooner or later, your sufferings will reveal to you a rewarding freedom that comes with the reality of life as great and good as opposed to a classification from the insecure mass trying to please the sameness of mass media…

    Keep hopes, and dreams and never let them go….

  19. smarterkitty says:

    I read. I cried. Thank you.

  20. Nick Toney says:

    Quite simply one of the top three articles I have EVER read. Am going to print this and frame it.

  21. Maureen says:

    As someone who recently switched careers (from fine arts to psychotherapy) I had a chuckle when I read about the dxs gifted are often given. In my class on assessment and diagnosis, I recall reviewing the various personality disorders, and reading the criteria for OCPD, thinking- what’s wrong with that? sounded perfectly normal and well adjusted to me 🙂

  22. Loneliness never effected or affected me as truth is a sweet teacher and what does God remember about hell makes a great property from possession that is so noisy. I have a 152 Verbal IQ.

  23. Jeff Wong says:

    Hi Dan, Powerful article. I can completely relate and going through a lot of this in a deep way right now behind the scenes–it’s been very difficult. The aloneness is compounded because, as you known since we met, I’m both a pastor, planter of a unique church and an artist/musician, which I’m certain is related to being gifted. This article gave me a lot to think about, pray about and talk about with people I trust and who can help process this with me.

    On a different note, I love how you are able channel your OCPD to understand yourself and God better, create a tool with your blog for a bigger cause than yourself by helping others and use that blog to connect yourself and others to other people they can relate to and not feel as alone. I don’t know if that was intentional or unintentional on your part (although I’m sure it was on God’s part), but it sure was “genius.” 🙂

  24. Rab says:

    All of this applies to me. I’m pretty sure I’m going to change the world, but it’s a lonely road indeed.

  25. Serge says:

    This article applies only to introverts.

    Being just smart is not enough. You have to be smart enough to love yourself. The more you love yourself the more others will love you. Once you loved by others, you will never be alone.

  26. Great article, and so helpful until I got to the belief in God. That is how I got to where I’m at. I suddenly realized through all my research as a Christian that there is no God separate from me. It is within me, and all up to me, which is very lonely indeed. God is the energy but I am the creator. See, now I am alone and crazy to boot. lol you have to laugh. that gets me through.

  27. Candice says:

    This article helped me a lot, thank you.

  28. Reply left says:

    I have found a new kind of sense or ilusion of intimacy with myself only the moments when I’m creating. Only to get out of my inner world and feel this excrusiating loneliness, then the feelling synchs into my innerworld, and when I get back in it I felt it scalated. Then I heal, have the ilusion of intimacy creating and repeat the cicle. I have felt sense of belonging while in love. It does not make any sense to be so deep extremely sensitive, I think is beautiful to imagine someone like me. Maybe the real gift is to have this ability to heal like a fenix. -EMPATHY is not our choice- but is magic being able to mantain purity in your soul.

  29. SHEMbedbutitfeelsjustalittlebitbiggernow says:

    You don’t have to feel alone Mr. Daniel, because God is there, secretely embracing you in times of trouble, stress and depression.

  30. Marc De Anda says:

    I am up here at 1:45 am and going through mental anguish. As “Smart” as I have thought myself to be, I never (ego) thought to Google others having a similar plight as mine. I could never put my finger on it then, as a kid, but I knew I was different. This article hit it dead on in most aspects. I have Anxiety (attacks) insomnia, heightened awareness, like I live in a world full of legally blinded children. My verbal in 5th. grade was 11 grade 5th. month level. I have spent my entire life “Pretending” to be AT the level of my peer group. About three years back I decided to just be who I really am, and not handicap myself for the purposes of being graceful to the people I fore knew would not be able to keep up, or I was afraid I would come across as arrogant etc. Well in doing so, I have practically been shunned by almost my entire friend base. Slowly but surely people have vanished from my life with not so much as a explanation or forwarding address, figuratively speaking. I am 40 and I have no clue how to make this transition. My wife says that when I speak, I speak like I am speaking a foreign language. I hate to be notched down by her, or be penalized for having the ability to draft concepts she or others cannot understand. This gift we share really sucks, tell me there IS a light at the end of tunnel…. Post Script: I confided in a friend I was depressed, and she said “Just watch TV, with all the shows there IS on TV these days how could I be depressed”? When I said that TV would not make me UN depressed she snapped at me, like I wasn’t WILLING to take her well intentioned advice. This is the world I live in.

    • Charity says:

      Marc, I can absolutely empathize with what you are going through and I applaud you for being bold and choosing to be yourself whether people accept you or not. I have this insecure need to be accepted by others since I was so shy as a child that I consciously try to speak at a level that everyone can understand me so I can be accepted. When I’m meet a new group of people, they instantly like me and at many times I am almost the life of the party, but 98% of the time, I never really connect with anyone. I became an extrovert as an adult because I prayed passionately as a teenager for God to make me an extrovert and He did. But, it is still rare that I run across someone who truly understands how my mind thinks and processes. It is lonely, but I do rely on God and, yet, we are social beings and social beings require other social beings to help them receive the psychological and validation that they are being accepted and understood. I hope you will find an outlet and with God all things are possible.

    • joy says:

      Dear Marc or anyone who can relate,

      I realize Marc has posted 2 years ago but I figured anyone who reads this might feel some comfort in it. I have struggled my entire life to “transition” to being my authentic self in my interactions with others. I’m 39 now and I can recall my interactions back to when I was 2 years old.
      The following are labels I’ve been given by others since I was 3 years old……”weird, off-center, crazy, overly sensitive, over-dramatic, funny, psychotic, obsessive compulsive, gifted, genius, smart, talented, hilarious, dumb, unaware, borderline, histrionic, ADHD, hyper, lazy, workaholic, too talkative, over inclusive, alternative, edgy, artistic, creative, bubbly, depressive, negative thinker, positive thinker, thoughtful, sweet, genuine, empathetic, un-empathetic, insightful, no insight, too deep, morally strict, whore, unethical, ethical, too serious, not taking things seriously, overly enthusiastic, too loud, strange, normal, judgmental, open minded, non-judgemental, witty, quirky, multi-faceted, Renaissance woman, jack of all trades master of none, overwhelming, friendly, over-achiever, alpha-female, sexy, fun, poetic, exaggerating, dysthymic, bipolar, anxious, neurotic, brave, courageous, hard working, confident, perfectionist, non-filtering, too direct, arrogant, misunderstood, genuine, over analytical, not humble, down to Earth”……you can imagine how confusing and hurtful some of these labels were to hear being said to my face.
      But it’s what happened as a result of my being myself and not pretending.
      I didn’t quite know how “gifted/intelligent” I was until I was in my 20’s. Therefore, I never knew I had to censor my ideas or alter how I present my thoughts because I thought everyone could think or feel “the same way”. I just thought I was weird because I liked art so much and chalked up all the confusion to having a creative mind or from being raised in a strict asian household.
      In my 20’s and 30’s I learned a lot about human behavior and the sciences. I studied architecture in a master’s program at Georgia Tech but after 3 semesters I got extremely depressed from the “pin up” process. This is part of the curriculum where every other day you display the work you’ve done and have the professor criticize it in front of the entire class. I went back to undergrad to do pre-med classes. I then went on to do a Master’s degree in Bio-sciences and a Doctor’s in medicine. I also have a green belt in Karate and Judo. I play the viola. I paint abstract art. I write poetry for fun.
      I now am very aware of the differences between people’s abilities and how I might be perceived by others. It’s a little less lonely now than it was 20 years ago because I understand that it’s not so important to be understood all the time by people. I try to focus on what things people DO UNDERSTAND and NOT FOCUS ON WHAT THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND/relate to/feel. If a person doesn’t share my feelings then I quickly move to the next feeling I have. I have so many anyway. The difficulty still lies in modulating between the feelings I find more profound and back to the ones that I find superficial. That’s where I still find loneliness.

      • Marc says:

        Joy,
        Your response albeit two years later could not have come at a more perfect time. You made my entire day/night. Thank You! One could go mad figuring out the frequency we operate on, in relation to the average Joes. I am 42 now and coming to accept that although being different can be lonely, and sometime depressing I no longer wish to masquerade as anything I genuinely am not. You know its funny, but I went to a friends birthday party, and didn’t know anyone there but my friend who invited me. Most of those in attendance were engineers from various aerospace companies. I listened to everyone for the most of 2.5 hours. When people insisted I speak, I forget what rant I went on, something geo-political with some emphasis in micro economics, LOL. After Hmmm. 25-35 minutes, I looked up to see nothing but doe eyes. I apparently lost the crowd as if to leave them at the docks wondering if I was speaking Greek or something. This happens a lot. One time I was somewhere in Los Angeles, and I was sitting next to this lady, whom I had no knowledge was an attorney, I spent maybe a good 45 minutes giving a dissertation on various case laws and their implications in our modern era. She asked where I went to law school, as she was impressed. I said, no where I just decided to study law on my own and did so for two solid years until it no longer interested me. We are different and that’s ok, I suppose it has to, we have no other card to play, might as well embrace it.

      • viviana says:

        In my country people do´nt ask where you went to low school, they ask you are you lawyer? if you are not, you are sping stupid thinks

  31. Us says:

    To Marc De Ande who wrote the article above this: I have experienced the same situation. Although I do not have a spouse, my family has no understanding whatsoever or they are in denial (either way it equals out the same), and my friends or people who I thought were my friends have vanished. I cannot get even get a simple “hi” from them, and that’s fine and thier choice, but I still don’t understand. What has helped me and saved my life was giving everything over to GOD and HE keeps me content, settled, and HE is always there no matter what. I actually, in Feb of 2013 stubbled upon theses blog articles that Daniel had written and I already felt connected with him because he was describing me lol, so when he mentioned GOD at the end of this article something hit me and I decided to no longer ignore GOD and HE has changed my life in a way I never thought was possible. I’m not sure how you feel about GOD or if you even believe but just thought I’d share my experience since I can relate point on what you are going through. Hang in there, there is a very bright light at the end of the tunnel. GOD bless 🙂

    • Marc says:

      I believe in a God, however it’s religion that is difficult to contend with. I would love to just be moderately happy. Me and my wife just bought a house in a upscale neighborhood in Southern California, beyond the reach of 95% of my peers, however I feel miserable. I am looking for something more profound than money I suppose.

  32. Bobby says:

    I feel a bit arrogant to think of myself as “gifted”. I’m definitely no Einstein! But still your article has really hit close to home. The loneliness I’ve been feeling, it seems to stem from my inability to find others on my wavelength. The thoughts and ideas I have nobody else seems to care much about. The places I’m drawn to explore through my music and art nobody else seems to have any interest in. The emotional difficulties I experience no-one else seems to share. The things that I want nobody else seems to want.

    I have three responses to this. Firstly, I too believe in God and reminding myself that God understands me absolutely and loves me very much, comforts me a lot. Secondly I wonder whether the problem is not that like-minded souls aren’t out there, but that I’m looking in the wrong places or looking for too high a standard of similarity or just failing to look hard enough. Perhaps I’m even unconsciously failing on purpose, perhaps as a defence mechanism to protect myself from rejection, or from the discovery that I’m not as “gifted” as I’d like to believe. How can you tell if this is the case I wonder?

    And thirdly, if it’s not the case and I truly am on a unique wavelength, then there must be techniques to deal with this. Like, for instance, just because others don’t share the same desires and difficulties as me, doesn’t mean we don’t share SOME things in common and that’s something to be thankful for. All humans share the same basic experience and feel the same core emotions. Aren’t our differences relatively superficial in the grand scheme of things? Also I think comfort can be found in reminding ourselves that in sacrificing intimacy we’ve been given a gift very few other people are given and if given the choice now I would still choose the gift. And one final source of comfort is the hope of serendipity; we never know what’s around the corner, and if we keep searching those like-minded souls we’ve been looking for might just show up when we least expect it.

  33. Charity says:

    Dan, I truly appreciate your article. It is can be quite a challenge to have this gift since people with this gift cannot easily find intellectual connections on a regular basis. I’ve always sensed that I was different and I found great comfort in people who also are gifted. But, they usually cross my path by few and far between. I do take comfort in our Creator, however, I feel we are meant to fellowship and it would be a great blessing to fellowship with people who are in the same situation and possess the same thought processes. I often delight in how my mind processes ideas, but I don’t often have people who I can share these ideas with and who can take the idea that I possess and per example, I would like to use the analogy of a box and for one to open the box and understand the contents with complete comprehension. So I often limit how I think since I desire so greatly to at least have friends to talk to and thus converse at their level and present my ideas at their level. Therefore, I would often feel uncomfortable when I would try to share an idea with a friend who did not think the way that I do and my friend’s eyes possessed no understanding of the idea that I tried to present. I do not want my friends to think that I am abnormal so I would discuss topics that my friend/friends would understand. But, when i would go home to my own thoughts, I would feel unsatisfied because I was not truly being understood. I am aware that I think too much and too fast, but I am thankful that I have this gift, but at times it can be difficult because of my lack of emotional connection with others since we are the minority. I hope somehow people who possess this gift can create a community perhaps via skype or also meet in small groups locally when it is convenient. I thank God for everything that He has given me, but it would be a blessing to have friends who are in the same place in life. 🙂 I hope you will reply.
    Blessings. C

  34. Katherine says:

    Hi Dan, love your articles! This particular one about loneliness really hits home. My younger niece was diagnosed gifted a few years ago, and my sister said that I’ve displayed the exact same traits. I’m 46 now and STILL have the same overexcitabilities, intense emotions, strong moral convictions and loneliness – I just think nobody ever gets me. Friends and family around kind of like, “what’s the point to get diagnosed if you’re gifted? You’re 46 for God’s sakes!!” And, I suck at math so I don’t know if I’m gifted. Call me weird, when I’m lonely (which is often), I’ll just talk to myself.

  35. Michael says:

    I do not embrace the fact that loneliness means being alone, in fact the contrary is that lonely people are not alone most of the times, loneliness is the emptiness in one’s heart. What makes one empty in the heart? The feeling that the world despises you, people being callous, possessing selfish egotism, when you feel that no one cares about you, no one loves you, that is the most terrible poverty and loneliness. I used to be thought as a stupid, mentally challenged kid, but as I worked hard I self learned enigmatic mathematics and physics at an graduate/Phd level, now people around view me as a genius, a prodigy. Even then I feel lonely, but I believe that god has relieved much of our sorrows. Peace, has to be the bridge that combines genius and madness into beautiful, conspiring and vehement passion. For god will defend us, under the harshest conditions we ought to realize god will protect us from protrusions protrude and calamity, because still waters run deep, and in a physics sense in the eye of the hurricane, it is always calm, because in a torus the first Chern class where are generalization of an gaussian curvature on differentiable manifolds to higher Riemannian manifold relates to the vector flow whereas in a torus it contains a singularity from the different homology where the sphere would have zero net flow at the poles, we can relate this to a sense that peace works in a way where god’s wonder will protect us and benignly heal our scars.

  36. marilyn milam says:

    I am a 86 year old who seemed to fit your chart above. I was a very social person and would have described myself as caring about others and made friends easily. Despite this I did everything I could to wreck my life.

    In my 40s I reached a point where I gave up, surrendered my ego completely and had a spiritual experience that changed it all. This in spite of not being a religious or spiritual person.Since that time I discovered that I had actually suffered from deep depression and loneliness, and that I had not cared about anyone in my life with any depth of emotion. That in fact that I had been a very self-centered and selfish person. I had treated friends and family badly and/or carelessly.

    A few of the little nooks and crannies of nuttiness are still to be explored but all the big questions are answered and I have been a happy person ever since. I am still not religious, although I would say I am spiritually inclined. That’s where I found answers.

    • Marc says:

      I am there right now myself, 41 and for some unknown reason I’ve been sleeping 18 hour days, doctors say I’m physically fine, but the loneliness or longing to engage in a conversation that’s on my level and the lack thereof of such readily available sources makes the depression cemented.

      • joy says:

        Please know that I actually am serious when I say……are you getting enough sex? I know that sounds like a random joke but it’s not. I always feel depressed if I haven’t had sex in a long time or if the sex is really boring and not often enough. I believe the endorphins made from sexual activity fight against the depressive thoughts. Also it works by proving to your mind that you are not alone because the proof is that you are having a sexual experience shared with another human. God made us with that in mind. God is definitely the original genius. He made our systems fit into each other’s. Each person needs to feel they are part of the same world as others so God made it impossible for us to live in isolation. God made sex, babies, hunger, loneliness, power, ego and selflessness. People will interact with you if you feel confident, are gracious, ask how they are and what they think and like, stay aware of others need for boundaries. Acknowledge that you are not sure about the topic but you believe that…..etc etc. But I think just talking about everyday regular things are the only things people really want to talk to their friends about. or maybe something fun. But most people don’t want to talk about profound things unless they are drunk or the situation calls for it.

  37. KantDoNoOther says:

    Thank you.

    My experience somewhat mirrors what I feel when I read the lyrics to Dylan’s “Is Your Love in Vain?” from ’78.

    “Do you know my world, do you know my kind, or must I explain?”

    Many dismiss the final stanza asking a potential mate if she can “cook and sew, make flowers grow,” if she can “understand his pain?” as somehow sexist. All they know is current dogma and basic tropes. I don’t know if it’s even addressed at a woman at all. He might be asking the question to any and all, from a position of desperate loneliness, “Can we be real friends?” Can we converse and bond on the level Zimmy would like to? Or is this love (or friendship) just another BS exersise where Bob has to run at a slow gallop while his friend or lover sprints to keep pace, all for the (vain?) hope of human intellectual intimacy?

    Projection on my part upon the work of a brilliant poet? Absolutely.

    Really. I am so grateful for the insight in this post. Thanks again!

  38. dark says:

    I Read some posts on your blog and i do find myself in a lot of these descriptions but I don’t think that I have an IQ of 150 or something. Actually I met a few people with fairly high iqs and to me they still seemed pretty limited in their abilities to think, especially to think beyond their own reality and point of view.I mean it could be possible that it was just an subjective impression (like everything actually is) and actually they were extremely intelligent. I don’t think iq tests are reliable either. They are constructed to measure a certain way of thinking for the average kind of human based on standards that are deemed valid at this time in the western society.if humans are so limited why would their test be any good? also I would not say that I am curious anymore and thirsty for knowledge.i used to be though. But since a few years I am lethargic with sudden short bursts of drive but all in all i don’t care anymore for knowledge in the sense of information and theories made by people. In the end what is the worth of knowing something that is not more than just some information. Not wisdom and nothing that will change how you feel in the end. At least not for me. I think I am just depressed because everything bores me. It all seems so limited. I can not talk to anybody except a therapist I had because people most of the time don’t get what I mean or misunderstand me and tell me I think too.much or worry too much and all that. I am really sensitive and often overwhelmed by impressions.Right now I study psychology but I am really unmotivated. It is actually quite interesting but boring at the same time somehow. I often think about mortality at the moment and that everything is changing so quickly. I feel like there is nothing to discover anymore and everything other people consider enlighting is just a confirmation of my own thoughts. I am only 21 but I feel like I am 100 years old. Maybe I am just taking.myself too seriously.i don’t know. English is not.my native language so please excuse the grammatical mistakes and probably not so good expression. I also typed from.my phone so there is probably some misspelling in my text.

    • Marc says:

      I can totally relate to what you just posted 100% I am glad you posted too, as it’s always nice to know your not alone in this regard. I can’t even have a 15 minute conversation with my own wife without her saying to me, “I feel like with you I’m in school 24-7” It’s (not) that I’m lecturing or anything, so much as the content of my conversations topics are non status quo, and do not revolve around pop culture of reality shows. I too am put off by learning, it has only distanced me from my peers and people above my peer range. I go through bouts of depression, and I love to teach.

  39. nikkitytom says:

    A lot of this resonates with me. Loneliness? Yes. But I would suggest that most people experience bouts of loneliness, that it’s a human condition. And there are many causes. Extreme abilities or intelligence are frightening to many people and cause isolation. My temporary antidote has always been humor.

    There’s nothing which so quickly shatters fences and connects people. Even if it’s a passing chuckle shared with a stranger. But these moments are passing … flashes of light and then … the depression returns.

    BUT there’s something which very few people want to admit … and no therapist will dare suggest or business will be lost. And that’s the “Tyranny of the Self”. If you listen to a depressed person talk, the subject matter is overwhelmingly the “self”. Not in terms of achievements or bragging, but in terms of complaints, perceived injustices, misunderstandings and so on. That “Tyranny of the Self is crucial to understanding how to move away from depression ( and loneliness …since people tend to avoid depressing people).

    I learned this years ago after my life exploded … I lost my home and country … friends and career. And found myself starting over and horribly depressed and lonely. Every day it was a struggle to wake up and face the hours ahead of me. Then I got involved in an issue over herbicides use on common property when Spring arrived … which had poisoned some pets in the previous year. I took signatures to present to the Mayor. It was bitterly cold and the dead of Montreal winter, I went from house to house explaining the situation and getting those signatures. One night I came home late and tossed my clipboard and mittens on the sofa as I pulled off my heavy winter clothes.

    Suddenly I looked over at the clipboard and realized that for five hours I hadn’t thought ONCE of myself .. nor MY situation. In the next few days I became aware of situations in which the grip of despair seemed to lose its strength. When I played the piano …. when I played a video game. And then when I made some cookies for a neighbor. Then it occurred to me that when one is creating or thinking or involved in something, that pesky “self” disappears.

    Geniuses have thrived … and survived … precisely BECAUSE the lost themselves in their work. Einstein admits his loneliness …. but went right back to his work. Anything which pushes the “self” to the background will prevent that self from taking over ..

    For me, I have learned the sheer joy of using my mind as a perpetual playground. What new thing will I learn today? The Internet is like a magnificent banquet of possibilities. I’ve learned advanced digital graphics, how to format ( and publish) a book, how to write a music score, create web sites, learn Japanese.

    It’s limitless. I gorge on these wonderful delicacies.

    The only state I have no answer for … and which I admit lurks in the background, drawing my attention now and then. And that’s “existential” despair. Then I remind myself that this is all a Cosmic “computer game” and I’m here to learn and find the solution, not to evaluate the game.

  40. Johnny says:

    If you manage to rid the “dark side” you can also read people so well and you can hear there lies and most of the time I take it as entertainment. Plus you can also have mental connections with people you love. Clear the mind enough and try to figure out which loved one is feeling a certain way. It’s like you can feel what they feel.

  41. Habib says:

    Well for me, i just learnt to be as self sufficient as possible, to enjoy my own company, to enjoy nature and the world void of humans. Nature has a stable calming/freeing effect. Islam helped too as a grounding point. To be emotional became a choice which i could use my imagination to re-write my own past and present. Lucid dreaming helped blur the lines between dreams and memories so that painful memories could be muddled with happier alternatives so much so i would know not the difference. I found, a strong grasp on being self-aware/ the ability to re-wire myself to an extent helped change my memory from photgraphic to selective based on my preferences. Academia was only the beginning, the 1% can do so much more. In the beginning i drove myself to sleep deprevation to lessen the gap between us and them, the other 99%. But now i want to shine, fit in no longer at the sake of limiting myself. I have surpassed the cause of loneliness and no longer need people. In saying that, i do have strong family bonds who i can depend on for physical and emotional support so im not alone in that sense. All i need now is a wife, after that i will be complete.

  42. Habib says:

    Btw i also second what Johnny said, although sometimes i let them think i believe their lies, sometimes its better that way for the time being.

  43. Habib says:

    I would also like to say in todays day and age we do not need smarter people, we need people with better characters in control.
    I mean we could collectively push the envelope of what the current understanding of universe but what would it acheive. Think of the work into understanding atoms, the hard work done by scientists but now idiots are running around with a arsenal of nukes pointing at just about anyone who doesnt agree with them. The nuclear threat, we did that, they couldnt have done that on their own. We could have wiped out poverty decades ago if governments and people with money werent too busy supercharging their defences. A strong sense of humanity and stewardship is what we need now.

  44. Marc says:

    Curious,
    How many here have children that exhibit the same traits? My oldest is well above average intellect, and has panic attacks. My middle daughter has already taken the gifted test, and been certified as such. She gobbles up books at a insatiable rate. My youngest has the temperament of a sort of aspergers type personality. Content to be alone, loves computer gaming, and her ability to craft astounds me. All gifted, but three separate types or you might say subsets.

  45. A says:

    This article perfectly describes what I am going though. I am glad to finally know that I am not as alone as I thought. Thank you so much!

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