Your teen walks through life with intensities – intellectual, sensual, physical, creative, emotional, existential. Some experience hyperfocus and can feel hyperscattered. They feel different from the neuromajority, and they’ve camouflaged to ‘fit in’. They want to feel connected to people, relax and laugh with them. They can be burdened with perfectionism and anxiety, and they love it when there is ease and flow. They’re complex, and they like complexity. 

Improv for 2e+ Teens is a place where your teens can be themselves in all their facets. They’ll laugh and get to use all of their strengths. They’ll laugh some more and feel accepted no matter what happens. They’ll come to greater self-acceptance and self-trust. They will have the experience of shedding the masks they’ve worn. 

Improv is built on two primary principles: Yes, And & Got Your Back. Yes, And means that whatever your teen brings will be received and built upon. Got Your Back means that the whole group will support each other to keep things flowing no matter what happens. There are no mistakes in Improv. We use everything. It’s not about trying to be funny. It’s about allowing the next thing to fall out of your mouth, and that’s what makes the funny! (More about What Improv Is and How It Helps is below.)

Gordon Smith of Gifted and Growing, and Lisa Bany, Chief Improv Officer of Improv Therapy Group have collaborated to develop an experience focused on the specific needs of Twice-Exceptional Teens. Gifted? Yup. Spectrum? Awesome. Characteristics of ADHD? Fantastic. Assortment of learning differences? Bring it. Your neurodivergences are amazing, and we want you to come out and play. 

This class offers an eight-week experience in which we come together (on zoom) with 2e+ peers to explore, experiment, and play. Through Improv games and exercises we cultivate openness & playfulness, relaxation & self-care, emotional intelligence & empathy, and creative storytelling & expression.

Eight consecutive Sundays begin March 19, 2023 from 1pm – 2:15pm Eastern Time.

$360 for the whole series.

Email me at giftedimprov@gmail.com to ask me anything and/or get registered! Subject Line: 2e Improv

LOTS MORE INFO BELOW

Improv, what it is and how it helps

Improv can be defined “as the form of theatre, often comedy, in which most or all of what is performed is unplanned or unscripted: created spontaneously by the performers.” Through a series of structured scenarios, participants contribute spontaneously. Improv operates under two central principles: “Yes, and” and “Got your back”. ‘Yes, and’ means that we accept whatever our scene partners are offering, and then build upon it. This principle creates a culture of acceptance, affirmation, and the impossibility of making mistakes. ‘Got your back’ means that your scene partners and ensemble are going to support you no matter what happens. This principle creates a culture that facilitates risk-taking, letting go of perfectionism, and trusting others.

I’ve been offering an Improv for Gifted Adults series for over a year. Most of the participants identified as 2e or 2e+, and we have seen remarkable results. In addition to folks coming back again and again, they have reported marked increases in self-trust, self-acceptance, cognitive flexibility, tolerance of uncertainty, social connectedness, and fun in their lives. They have also reported decreased anxiety, worry, and perfectionism. The strength of the community has led to friendships outside of the Improv structure, an ongoing Facebook community of current and past participants, and plans for future in-person gatherings to improvise and nurture these relationships.

Improv, the research

There is a lot of work yet to be done in this area, and we already have some research we can use. Here are some key takeaways from various studies:

Thera-prov: a pilot study of improv used to treat anxiety and depression

Conclusion: “The results of this study indicate that a brief intervention based on improv exercises may provide a strong and efficient treatment for patients with anxiety and depression.”

Social Competence Intervention Program (SCIP): A pilot study of a creative drama program for youth with social difficulties

“The treatment group showed significant improvement in key domains of observed social behavior in a natural setting compared to the clinical control group. Parents and children in the SCIP condition reported multiple positive changes in social functioning.”

“Yes, and”: Acceptance, Resistance, and Change in Improv, Aikido, and Psychotherapy

“Improv training, in particular, appears to be a powerful and relatively accessible way of incorporating a yes, and approach into daily life.”

Improvisational Theater Games as an Intervention for Anxiety, Depression and Perfectionism – Capstone Paper, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, Walter Watson Swift, April 18, 2017

“It is feasible to develop, conduct, and evaluate an improv intervention in the clinical treatment of anxiety and depression. Moreover, because improv directly harnesses uncertainty, it may be particularly useful with patients who live with high levels of Intolerance of Uncertainty.”

There are more studies available, and I hope this sampling provides you a general understanding that Improv based interventions are demonstrating significant improvements for its participants.

The Instructors

Lisa Bany is Chief Improv Officer at Improv Therapy Group. Lisa is also an instructor, director and coach at The Second City. She has authored numerous books, including On Stage: Theatre Games and Activities for Kids, which was awarded the Parent’s Choice Approval Seal for Excellence in Education, has been translated into German and Korean, and is sold around the world. She started teaching at The Second City in the early nineties and has directed and taught throughout the Chicagoland area. Lisa was one of the first teachers in the Second City Wellness Program where she has taught Improv for Anxiety, Improv for Parkinson’s Patients and their Caregivers, and Improv for the Autism Spectrum.

A graduate of Columbia College, Lisa has taught improv with The Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, The National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Arlyn School for teens with Anxiety and Autism Spectrum Disorder. She has also created and directed performing arts summer camp programs with Play On, Northlight Theatre, Light Opera Works and the JCCs of Chicago.

Gordon Smith is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and Coach, who has been practicing since 2000. Gordon’s practice is composed of gifted and 2e+ adolescents and adults in locations around the world. He has presented at numerous conferences, including being a presenter at the 2020, 2021, and 2022 SENG Annual Conferences. Gordon has been teaching Improv since 2021 and hopes to expand the reach of Improv to as many gifted people as possible.

Improv for Twice-Exceptional Teens, format, structure, age range, technical needs, cost, and timeline

Improv for 2e Teens is an eight week experience on Zoom, conducted once weekly. In our experience, we’ve found that it takes up to six weeks for a group to reach their maximum cohesion. Successive group offerings, with new games and modules may be offered at the conclusion of the series.

Each session lasts 75 minutes and is composed of several different games each week – a warm-up, an ‘energy pass’, and several games in large and small groups. Each week has a theme, within which new games are played. Below is an example of the weekly themes:

● MAGIC WORDS: Communication and “Yes, and”
● GOT YOUR BACK: Trusting and showing up for others
● PERFECT IS BORING: Embracing Imperfection
● BRAIN YOGA: Cognitive Flexibility, Neuroplasticity and Memory
● I SECOND THAT EMOTION: Emotional Intelligence and Empathy
● OUR STORIES OURSELVES: Creative Storytelling and Expression
● FOLLOW THE FEAR: It’s OK to Fail
● IN THE NOW: Mindfulness and Being Present

Modules can be adapted from week to week and even within sessions depending on the needs of the group. One of the strengths of this modality is its inherent flexibility. Participants aged 13-17 would be invited to attend. Each participant will need a good internet connection, a video and audio enabled device that will allow them to see all participants, and a quiet, private space from which to attend. Minimum group size is six participants and maximum is twelve. Cost for the entire eight week series is $360 per participant.

Email Gordon Smith at giftedimprov@gmail.com to learn more and/or get your teen registered.

There are so many new opportunities for connection popping up right now that I wanted to reach out and share them with you. Gifted? Adult? Teen? Younger? Twice-exceptional? We know that being in meaningful relationships with peers is among the healthiest, most important things you can do for yourself. Below you’ll find info on 2e Empowerment Group for 2e Adults, Autistic Kids’ Makerspace, Teacher and Parent Summit for Gifted and Underrepresented Students, Improv for Gifted Adults, and Improv for Twice-Exceptional Teens. You’re likely to find something here that will expand your mind and relationships in community with other gifted, caring people.

EMPOWERMENT GROUP FOR 2E ADULTS

Registration for this group, hosted by Julie Skolnick over at With Understanding Comes Calm, is open now. Julie’s a font of wisdom, and she’s providing this juicy series for your twice-exceptional self.

Week 1: Introductions and “2e: Myths and Misunderstandings” with Julie Skolnick
Week 2: 
You need a break! Breakout room madness – spending meaningful time together
Week 3: 
Love stinks (or does it?) – spending Valentine’s day with Dr. Matt Zakreski
Week 4: 
Dr. Maggie Brown “Crafting an Exceptional Life that Works”
Week 5: 
“Filling Your Toolbox” – we’ll discuss your Adult 2e Toolbox (One of Your Free Perks!)
Week 6: 
Improv with Gordon Smith – Leaving you with laughter

AUTISTIC KIDS’ MAKERSPACE WITH DANIELLE MAXON

The next Makerspace is scheduled in Asheville, NC on Feb. 11, 2023 with an orientation for caregivers on Feb. 4. Danielle is offering this amazing experience that she describes like this:

Makerspace is a pop-up community arts event for autistic kids and families to play, belong, create, share, and celebrate our differences. We are a proudly neurodiversity-affirming community that embraces ALL of the ways humans sense, feel, think, socialize, create, move, play, and communicate. Ableism, neurodiscrimination, and other forms of bullying are NOT welcome to our party! Makerspace centers the needs of autistic children; however, formal diagnosis is not a requirement to participate. Many participating are highly sensitive (HSP), ADHD, and/or gifted, as well as having autistic traits.

Each Makerspace will invite a small, loosely age- and interest-matched group to create in a shared community space with plenty of adult support on hand. Children with accessibility needs and those who have struggled socially, emotionally, or behaviorally in school or traditional extracurricular settings are welcomed with open arms!

I-URGGE TEACHER AND PARENT SUMMIT

Join leading gifted education scholars in a 3-part series discussing culturally responsive practices to support diverse gifted students. You can attend 1, 2, or all 3 sessions.

Three 1.5 hour sessions will be hosted with experts from The Consortium for Inclusion of Underrepresented Racial Groups in Gifted Education (I-URGGE). Attend one, two, or all three sessions. Click the date to see attendance and pricing options. Single sessions are $30. For great savings, attend the entire series for $75. A live question and answer session will follow each presentation. Sessions will be recorded and available for 30 days.

IMPROV FOR GIFTED ADULTS AND IMPROV FOR 2E+ TEENS

The next ensembles for gifted adults and teens will begin March 19, 2023. I’ll update this post as soon as registration is open. For now, mark your calendars and/or reach out to me to let me know you’re interested. Improv is helping gifted people find community, self-trust, spontaneity, and lots of laughs through structured play. I lead these groups along with Chief Improv Officer and Second City Director, Lisa Bany, who has nearly 30 years of experience teaching people to practice play as a path to self-development and joy. The groups are eight-week experiences where gifted people join in transcending perfectionism and being in the moment with each other. It’s fun every time!

Your teen walks through life with intensities – intellectual, sensual, physical, creative, emotional, existential. Some experience hyperfocus and can feel hyperscattered. They feel different from the neuromajority, and they’ve camouflaged to ‘fit in’. They want to feel connected to people, relax and laugh with them. They can be burdened with perfectionism and anxiety, and they love it when there is ease and flow. They’re complex, and they like complexity. 

Improv for 2e+ Teens is a place where your teens can be themselves in all their facets. They’ll laugh and get to use all of their strengths. They’ll laugh some more and feel accepted no matter what happens. They’ll come to greater self-acceptance and self-trust. They will have the experience of shedding the masks they’ve worn. 

Improv is built on two primary principles: Yes, And & Got Your Back. Yes, And means that whatever your teen brings will be received and built upon. Got Your Back means that the whole group will support each other to keep things flowing no matter what happens. There are no mistakes in Improv. We use everything. It’s not about trying to be funny. It’s about allowing the next thing to fall out of your mouth, and that’s what makes the funny! (More about What Improv Is and How It Helps is below.)

Gordon Smith of Gifted and Growing, and Lisa Bany, Chief Improv Officer of Improv Therapy Group have collaborated to develop an experience focused on the specific needs of Twice-Exceptional Teens. Gifted? Yup. Spectrum? Awesome. Characteristics of ADHD? Fantastic. Assortment of learning differences? Bring it. Your neurodivergences are amazing, and we want you to come out and play. 

This class offers an eight-week experience in which we come together (on zoom) with 2e+ peers to explore, experiment, and play. Through Improv games and exercises we cultivate openness & playfulness, relaxation & self-care, emotional intelligence & empathy, and creative storytelling & expression.

Eight consecutive Sundays begin Jan. 8, 2023 from 1pm – 2:15pm Eastern Time.

$360 for the whole series.

Email me at giftedimprov@gmail.com to ask me anything and/or get registered! Subject Line: 2e Improv

LOTS MORE INFO BELOW

Improv, what it is and how it helps

Improv can be defined “as the form of theatre, often comedy, in which most or all of what is performed is unplanned or unscripted: created spontaneously by the performers.” Through a series of structured scenarios, participants contribute spontaneously. Improv operates under two central principles: “Yes, and” and “Got your back”. ‘Yes, and’ means that we accept whatever our scene partners are offering, and then build upon it. This principle creates a culture of acceptance, affirmation, and the impossibility of making mistakes. ‘Got your back’ means that your scene partners and ensemble are going to support you no matter what happens. This principle creates a culture that facilitates risk-taking, letting go of perfectionism, and trusting others.

I’ve been offering an Improv for Gifted Adults series for over a year. Most of the participants identified as 2e or 2e+, and we have seen remarkable results. In addition to folks coming back again and again, they have reported marked increases in self-trust, self-acceptance, cognitive flexibility, tolerance of uncertainty, social connectedness, and fun in their lives. They have also reported decreased anxiety, worry, and perfectionism. The strength of the community has led to friendships outside of the Improv structure, an ongoing Facebook community of current and past participants, and plans for future in-person gatherings to improvise and nurture these relationships.

Improv, the research

There is a lot of work yet to be done in this area, and we already have some research we can use. Here are some key takeaways from various studies:

Thera-prov: a pilot study of improv used to treat anxiety and depression

Conclusion: “The results of this study indicate that a brief intervention based on improv exercises may provide a strong and efficient treatment for patients with anxiety and depression.”

Social Competence Intervention Program (SCIP): A pilot study of a creative drama program for youth with social difficulties

“The treatment group showed significant improvement in key domains of observed social behavior in a natural setting compared to the clinical control group. Parents and children in the SCIP condition reported multiple positive changes in social functioning.”

“Yes, and”: Acceptance, Resistance, and Change in Improv, Aikido, and Psychotherapy

“Improv training, in particular, appears to be a powerful and relatively accessible way of incorporating a yes, and approach into daily life.”

Improvisational Theater Games as an Intervention for Anxiety, Depression and Perfectionism – Capstone Paper, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, Walter Watson Swift, April 18, 2017

“It is feasible to develop, conduct, and evaluate an improv intervention in the clinical treatment of anxiety and depression. Moreover, because improv directly harnesses uncertainty, it may be particularly useful with patients who live with high levels of Intolerance of Uncertainty.”

There are more studies available, and I hope this sampling provides you a general understanding that Improv based interventions are demonstrating significant improvements for its participants.

The Instructors

Lisa Bany is Chief Improv Officer at Improv Therapy Group. Lisa is also an instructor, director and coach at The Second City. She has authored numerous books, including On Stage: Theatre Games and Activities for Kids, which was awarded the Parent’s Choice Approval Seal for Excellence in Education, has been translated into German and Korean, and is sold around the world. She started teaching at The Second City in the early nineties and has directed and taught throughout the Chicagoland area. Lisa was one of the first teachers in the Second City Wellness Program where she has taught Improv for Anxiety, Improv for Parkinson’s Patients and their Caregivers, and Improv for the Autism Spectrum.

A graduate of Columbia College, Lisa has taught improv with The Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, The National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Arlyn School for teens with Anxiety and Autism Spectrum Disorder. She has also created and directed performing arts summer camp programs with Play On, Northlight Theatre, Light Opera Works and the JCCs of Chicago.

Gordon Smith is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and Coach, who has been practicing since 2000. Gordon’s practice is composed of gifted and 2e+ adolescents and adults in locations around the world. He has presented at numerous conferences, including being a presenter at the 2020, 2021, and 2022 SENG Annual Conferences. Gordon has been teaching Improv since 2021 and hopes to expand the reach of Improv to as many gifted people as possible.

Improv for Twice-Exceptional Teens, format, structure, age range, technical needs, cost, and timeline

Improv for 2e Teens is an eight week experience on Zoom, conducted once weekly. In our experience, we’ve found that it takes up to six weeks for a group to reach their maximum cohesion. Successive group offerings, with new games and modules may be offered at the conclusion of the series.

Each session lasts 75 minutes and is composed of several different games each week – a warm-up, an ‘energy pass’, and several games in large and small groups. Each week has a theme, within which new games are played. Below is an example of the weekly themes:

● MAGIC WORDS: Communication and “Yes, and”
● GOT YOUR BACK: Trusting and showing up for others
● PERFECT IS BORING: Embracing Imperfection
● BRAIN YOGA: Cognitive Flexibility, Neuroplasticity and Memory
● I SECOND THAT EMOTION: Emotional Intelligence and Empathy
● OUR STORIES OURSELVES: Creative Storytelling and Expression
● FOLLOW THE FEAR: It’s OK to Fail
● IN THE NOW: Mindfulness and Being Present

Modules can be adapted from week to week and even within sessions depending on the needs of the group. One of the strengths of this modality is its inherent flexibility. Participants aged 13-17 would be invited to attend. Each participant will need a good internet connection, a video and audio enabled device that will allow them to see all participants, and a quiet, private space from which to attend. Minimum group size is six participants and maximum is twelve. Cost for the entire eight week series is $360 per participant.

Email Gordon Smith at giftedimprov@gmail.com to learn more and/or get your teen registered.

On October 2nd, Improv for Gifted Adults begins another run! There are still a few spots left for Level 1 and for Advanced. Get ’em while the gettin’ can still get got!

I offer these courses because they’re making gifted people’s lives better. More self-trust and trust in others. More play and laughter. People discover and rediscover their spontaneity. They do away with self-editing. They find that the Improv experience is something that can be carried out into their lives, and more joy is the result. Come play with us. Guaranteed fun. Follow this link to learn more and to get yourself registered.

“I came into these sessions chewing on a question about gifted aloneness that felt a bit practical—how can gifted people make friends (especially gifted people who are naturally leaders, teachers, and mentors)? I finished our session with meaningful possibilities to explore in regard to that, but, to my amazement, I also experienced a genuine easing of what had previously seemed an insatiable hunger for connection. And, more amazingly, I don’t think that easing is solely the result of getting time each week to hang out with like-minds. It seems that it also came from collaborating on a sort of ritual experiment, communing with the greater spirit of Giftedness of the Intellectual and Sensuous Outlier in an embodied rather than theoretical way that has, to put it bluntly, taught me how to be a better friend to myself.” – R.Z.

People Who Get Me begins again on November 7, 2022. This six week group coaching experience will expand your understanding of giftedness and of yourself. Each week, group members gather for 90 minutes for exploration, learning, and intimate encounters. You’ll receive weekly readings, links to info, food for thought, thematic prompts. These groups are tailored. After each session, I use the themes that emerged to construct the following week’s session. It will be an experience unique to the dynamic of the people in it. I hope you’ll join us.

Email me at gordon@gordonsmithasheville.com to let me know you’d like to be a part of it and/or to ask any questions you might have.

FAQ:

Dates/times: November 7, 14, 21, 28; December 5, 12. 6:15 – 7:45pm Eastern Time

Cost: $299 per person

Am I expected to attend all sessions? It makes the group better if you do.

How many people are in the group? Minimum of four. Maximum of eight.

This group has changed the way I think about my own inner experience of giftedness, and, really, the way I experience myself as a gifted person. Several weeks on I continue to have new insights about my relationship to the topics we discussed. For example, through the group, I gained awareness of how certain parts of my gifted self, such as my high conscientiousness and intense curiosity, show up and affect my daily life. As a result of these insights I now find myself relating to those parts in a more sustainable way. – B.R.

 

People Who Get Me is a group coaching experience for gifted adults that begins on July 18 and runs weekly from 6:15-7:45pm for six weeks. Cost for the entire series is $299. You are invited to be a part of it. Just drop me an email at gordon@gordonsmithasheville.com.
From the introduction to the group:

“Outliers like us can have a hard time finding deeply meaningful connections. Through PWGM, you can expect to come to a deeper understanding of your own giftedness, and you’ll be connecting with each other in a space where we can be fully ourselves and learn more about what that means. As far as I know now, there will be four people (+me) participating – each gifted, each with a different manifestation and expression of their gifted selves.

As is laid plain in the name of the group, our focus will be on the opportunity to relate to one another. Through this process you’ll be learning about yourselves and about what it means to be a gifted person in the world.”

“I’ll share materials weekly as well as food-for-thought items to prime the pump for sessions. The themes for those sessions may change as we learn more about each other and about which areas of focus may be most relevant. Some examples include:

Giftedness writ large

Overexcitabilities, sensitivities, and intensities

Autonomy and Conscientiousness

Twice-Exceptionalities

Perfectionism

Existential sensibilities

Relationships”

New Improv for Gifted Adults (I4GA) group launches on March 27, 2022! Click this link to register. For Gifted Adults, Improv provides a deep, moving, hilarious approach to practicing trust with yourself and others, transcending perfectionism, and feeling an unmatched experience of unconditional support. Participants are surprised at how game-based mirroring and supportive structures so […]

New Improv for Gifted Adults group launches on May 19!

Come unmasked. Discover yourself in community and in play. Transform perfectionism through spontaneity. Transcend social defenses through trust in your actual peers.

Improv is a unique and hilariously effective avenue for gifted self-development. It’s a place for gifted people to show up openly – laughing together and supporting each other.

I am working with Lisa Bany, Chief Improv Officer of Improv Therapy Group, to develop an improv curriculum focused on the needs of gifted adults. Register here.

This class offers an eight-week experience in which we come together (on zoom) with our gifted peers to explore, experiment, and play. Through Improv games and exercises we cultivate openness & playfulness, relaxation & self-care, emotional intelligence & empathy, and creative storytelling & expression

Together, we practice spontaneous group creativity and connection. A core improv principle is the concept of “Yes, And”. This simple, profound concept gives us a chance to explore parts of ourselves, our minds, and our relationships that gifted people don’t get to do often enough, if at all. Imagine a room full of gifted people, relaxed and laughing together – true social mirroring. It provokes a genuine sense of social safety, and that means you get to be yourself, co-create, and play.

Here are. a few examples of what weekly themes focus on:

Magic words — improv for acknowledging the realities of others, letting ideas be heard, and encouraging spontaneous and exploratory expression

In the now — improv for active listening and reacting in the moment
Perfect is boring — improv for letting go of being right and in control, and enjoying what is imperfectly created

Brain yoga — improv for challenging our habitual ways of thinking and opening up new cognitive pathways

Repeal inhibition – Improv for social openness and playfulness

Heal thyself — Improv for relaxing and taking care of yourself

I second that emotion — Improv for amping up emotional intelligence and empathy

Our stories, ourselves — Improv for creative storytelling and expression

See you there, compatriots!

 

 

 

 

What have you lost to COVID-19? This week, I have spent hours and hours helping people process their grief. Some have lost family members. Some, their health. Some have lost income and work. Some, graduation. Some have lost birthday gatherings. Some, weddings. Some, studies abroad. The grieving is real.

I hear a lot of folks stiff-upper-lipping it. “That’s just the way it is.” “I just have to accept it.” “Nothing I can do about it.”

None of these statements are wrong, and it may be helpful to bear those realities in mind. However, it doesn’t mean we can’t feel sadness and anger at what’s been lost. Grief demands your attention. If it’s ignored, it will make a mess. It will leak out in the guises of irritability, depression, lack of motivation, substance abuse, criticisms…

Also – being the conscientious cadre we are, we’re keenly aware of the suffering of people everywhere, and I’ve heard many folks fall into comparative suffering. “Other people have it so much worse, I shouldn’t complain.” “I feel guilty for being sad over this when others have lost so much more.”

Comparative suffering is a recipe for invalidating our own lived experiences. You’re allowed to be sad and angry about what you’ve lost AND you’re allowed to feel empathy for all the loss going on across the globe. Shutting down your own grief will not make anything better.

Let’s acknowledge that this global pandemic is responsible for losses of all kinds and that each person is bearing their own grief. Let’s hang together in our common experience and support each other through open expression and acceptance.

What have you lost? How are you grieving?

How’s your mental health? Well that’s a tricky question. The term itself is one that begs for a road map, and we all have to become consciousness cartographers if we expect to arrive.

When I’m working with clients, we begin with talking a preferred end-state. Who are you or who will you be when you are mentally healthy? What does that look like? Then we have a look at where things stand today. From there we sometimes dive into repair work from old wounds and sometimes into building on past successes. It’s a process of very intentionally sculpting a vision for mental health that fits you.

Increasing self-awareness is foundational in assessing and improving mental health. Seeing oneself more clearly is a necessary part of making change that is effective and lasting. When you’re gifted, there are some characteristics we know you’re more likely to carry.

  • We are more likely to be perfectionistic with resulting anxiety, which can manifest in innumerable ways.
  • We are more likely to feel isolated, which can lead to all kinds of defensive adaptations as we work to belong in our communities.
  • We are more likely to be misdiagnosed with a mental illness because we’re outliers in our intensity and sensitivity.
  • We are asynchronous in our development.
  • We are more likely to have our normal, gifted experience pathologized by the world around us.
  • We are more likely to internalize and take responsibility for others’ distorted views of how we ought to be. This can lead to low self-esteem and poor self-concept.
  • We are more likely to have acute sensory sensitivities that can lead to chronically dysregulated nervous systems and concurrent physical symptoms.

It can feel like a damn minefield! For every hazard, though, there’s an equally powerful opportunity to grow into a strength. We get to be intentional about who we become.

“You’ve known you’re different for a long time. You’ve been told you’re too intense or too sensitive over and over. When things don’t go well, you may find yourself taking more responsibility than others say is rational. When things do go well, you may find yourself crediting success to things outside of yourself and rushing to the next task without enjoying the moment.

You’ve been told “You’re overthinking it” as you seek to understand things that people around you accept without question. Your anxiety manifests in sleeplessness, perfectionism, overwork, and profound feelings of loneliness.

Overthinking, intensity, and sensitivity? These are features of your gifted experience, not bugs. Exploring and accommodating these features is the work of the gifted person. In a world where your strengths have been pathologized and marginalized, your task is to know yourself better and become yourself more fully.

It isn’t easy. The sense of isolation and difference is real. Figuring out how to live your best life when you’re feeling isolated and different as well as multitalented and exceptional? That’s hard work.

The good news is that you have everything you need to make the journey to fulfillment. That powerful consciousness of yours is equipped to learn what it needs to learn in order to flourish, to be mentally healthy, outside of the norm.” – The Simple Truth Of It

While pursuing an ongoing self-awareness practice, you can introduce changes to the way you think, behave, and interact. You can experiment with your consciousness and your life. You can pursue your optimal development – your mental health.

What is mental health, anyway? We’ve got a gazillion mental illness designations, definitions, criteria, and treatment approaches. For mental health, we’ve got various definitions, some more helpful than others.

The Medilexicon Dictionary states that mental health is, “Emotional, behavioral, and social maturity or normality; the absence of a mental or behavioral disorder; a state of psychological well-being in which one has achieved a satisfactory integration of one’s instinctual drives acceptable to both oneself and one’s social milieu; an appropriate balance of love, work, and leisure pursuits.”

Did they just say normality? To gifted people? We’re statistically abnormal in our wiring, yet we have to be normal to be healthy? That doesn’t fly. However, the “well-being”, “integration”, “acceptable” part makes a lot of sense from a subjective well-being viewpoint. Also, from my perspective, “Appropriate balance” is an abundantly squishy term.

The World Health Organization suggests mental health is, “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

In another version of this definition, the world “potential” was replaced with “abilities”. That latter word is much more helpful for gifted people. Our potential? We’re multipotentialites by nature, so defining health by potential-realization isn’t terrifically helpful. See my blog post about “The P Word” here. Using awareness rather than achievement in the definition works much better for we gifted folks. On the whole, the WHO definition works better than Medilexicon’s. It doesn’t ask us to fit inside a neurotypical box of normality. It begins with self-awareness, moves to resilience, and emphasizes work and community. Not bad!

Over in the realm of positive psychology, we’ve got Slade’s Complete State Model (CSM), “The CSM identifies mental health as having a high level of well-being and low level of mental illness (e.g., depression, anxiety, stress). The spotlight here is not on ruling out the mental illness or psychotic symptoms, but on suggesting that well-being and mental illness are separate issues that together structure our mental health.”

Determining mental health by pairing subjective well-being with characteristics of mental illness has its benefits and hazards. Those mental illness criteria are built on notoriously shifting sands. Misdiagnosis of gifted populations is a real problem. At the same time, it can be very helpful for people with chronic illness symptoms to have those validated in a mental health definition.

Whatever definition we settle on, it’s central to the quality of our lives to pursue our own optimal development. That means focusing on becoming as mentally healthy as we can. It’s through our perceptions and consciousness that we experience the world, so the clearer our lens, the more fully we can live.

This is my first time participating in Hoagie’s Gifted Education Blog Hop, and I’m grateful to Carolyn for overcoming some technical difficulties to make it possible. This month’s topic is Mental Health. I hope you’ll hop over to Hoagie’s to read everyone else’s great entries!