It is the morning of February 12, 2024, I have been in deep process revisiting ideas around the diversity of individuals and our limited understanding of the brain. I say limited because we really don’t know much after years of study and it seems we continue to make great logical (left brain) understandings, and we are still working at perceiving the integration of neuroscience from a wholistic understanding (right brain).
Today I am integrating psychologist Jennifer Harvey Sallin (https://intergifted.com/what-is-giftedness/), gifted practitioner, and founder of Intergifted. She writes the following:
“Gifted people's minds range from being somewhat to extremely complex: intellectually, creatively, emotionally, sensually, physically, existentially or some combination of these factors. Their level of complexity can be both exhilarating and at times challenging, for themselves and for their social entourage.”
The subtle nuance of the language change is affirming to myself as someone who was not formally diagnosed as a child and sought adult assessment. What is particularly affirming is hearing how there can be a “twice- and multi-exceptionalities, such as autism, learning disabilities, or other neurodivergences (in many cases extended to include mental health issues and physical disability), which add certain challenges or additional "flavors" to the expression of one's high intellectual ability.” Later she states that other facets such a trauma, social context may affect gifted development and expression. In other words, it isn’t a one size fits all paradigm. I am grateful to have stumbled upon this language as my own assessment process was lacking as a child and adult.
As a child I did some testing during 6th grade and was accepted to a gifted program. However, they didn’t give me nor my family any resources for understanding or a diagnosis. I carried to much fear around leaving the known peer group to make the change to a different school. So, I chose to stay where I was. I might add that my younger brother was identified as gifted in kindergarten and placed in the same program, but like many female bodied children I wasn’t identified as gifted. Females are taught to fawn early, and we become great at masking so we can fit into the peer group/classroom setting.
I also had the multi-complexity piece with undiagnosed dyslexia, which was buried under being multi-lingual from growing up in Belgium. Additionally, I had sensory sensitivities most likely due to being premature and placed in an isolate for a few weeks at birth. This is another area I had to integrate, and I currently teach birth trauma work in my craniosacral therapy courses.
Then there was a lot of childhood trauma from growing up with parents who were young, military veteran father with PTSD and substance use as well as codependency and substance use by my mother. I want to name that I believe that both my parents were neurodivergent as well—father with ADHD and mother autistic spectrum (Asperger’s is no longer used).
I am sharing this in hopes to be shining a light for others who may have had similar experiences. Inherently my situation was writhe with trauma overlap. It has taken many years to integrate the overlap of neurocomplex experience, gifted and abuse in the experience growing up, which arise as similar symptoms.
This brings me to the complexity of all the years I have worked and developed my own work with integrating trauma wholistically in the somatic work I have developed working with clients for the last 27 years. This is important as we do need to process are own experiences of being gifted while integrating the trauma experiences so that we are able to live integrated and whole. I am fortunate to have found a multiplicity of resources and support along the way. This doesn’t mean I don’t experience some grief of the loss of the inner child that was not seen or heard within in the constructs of our society, and I know that I am not alone walking this path.
Jennifer writes about the different intellectual types, which one can be a combination this is copy and pasted from her site:
Highly complex and abstract analysis, high focus on knowledge and learning (not always expressed in conventional ways, i.e., through conventional education), unusual skill in complex problem solving, asking probing and deep questions, searching for truth, understanding, knowledge, and discovery, keen intellectual observation and sustained intellectual effort.
Highly complex and deep emotional feelings and relational attachments, understanding a wide range of emotions, strong memory for feelings, often expressing a high concern for others, heightened sense of right, wrong, injustice and hypocrisy, empathy, responsibility, and self-examination.
Highly complex capacity for seeing and expressing the unusual, new, unseen, innovative, divergent and possible. This often manifests in uncommonly strong skills of imagination and visualization, music or arts, and even humor or playfulness (though not always about themes considered "light" - i.e., quirky or dark humor).
Highly complex awareness and experience of the senses (visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile or energetic), often resulting in a deep and nuanced sensual relationship to the world. This can manifest in an uncommon appreciation of beauty, harmony, and the interrelationship between the sensorial elements of life.
Highly complex physical skill or dexterity (i.e., excellence in sports or the technical aspects of music-making). This can also manifest in an unusually complex understanding of the physical elements of reality and their interrelations, such as physics and biology knowledge.
Highly complex awareness and experience of being, meaning, values, ethics, morality, ecological interconnectedness, and the nature of reality (often including a transpersonal awareness of reality as well).
Another complexity that is often not discussed, is that our behavior health system is a model that involves medical insurance in the United States. Therapist make money as well as companies through taking insurance that is aligned with giving a diagnosis through the DSM-5, which is the diagnostic codes and definitions one has to use to give a fill in the blank diagnosis. The DSM-5, in my experience sets us up for a non-wholistic understanding of health. Insurance companies have destroyed our ability to heal under the guise of health. By having these parameters held in place by our system we have moved further away from what it means to me healthy and whole on planet earth in relation with each other. We need more self-pay and pro bono forms of treatment. There is no reason practitioners and clients shouldn’t be able to get support with no questions asked to integrate. Our medical and behavioral health system is broken and I think we need a new system, it is time for long reaching change.
Imagine that without financial stress, you can reach out to a practitioner and receive multilevel treatment from indigenous understanding, embodiment and sensory sensitivity, listening and patience, titration and slowing down with integration. I hope one day we can see medical insurance change to wholistic integrative care and compassion.