Assertions About a Rough Life

Cover for Profoundly Gifted Survival Guide

A boilerplate claim

In academic papers in identity politics, there is a standard, introductory, boilerplate, footnoteless assertion towards the beginning which shows the author could not imagine that any other group in the whole world could have life as rough as them.

I would expect, pending evidence to the contrary, that the lowest rung on the ladder of victimization belongs to people with multiple statuses. But I have not seen a claim that people in one's own demographic, and additionally other demographics that are perhaps less important, have life worst of all.

But I would like to explore a couple of issues related to this in regards to profound giftedness.

Shoddy philosophy

In a Cambridge companion to philosophy, there was an entry for persecution. But as it unfolded, it was of persecution against philosophers; the only case where persecution by philosophers was mentioned was in the case of persecution of philosophers by philosophers. And if I am going to make a case that the profoundly gifted experience can be difficult (a point of consensus among the profoundly gifted I have known), there are some things I should like to say first.

If there is an atrocity with a body count over one million, someone profoundly gifted, like Marx or Hitler, has probably been at work. I imagine that intellectually disabled individuals are just as capable of being evil as the profoundly gifted, but their most evil plans never have such broad reach or work so effectively. And profoundly gifted have much to be humble about, that a profoundly gifted person who is wrong can do epically more damage.

A too-brief note about culture shock

The second thing I should mention is that the profoundly gifted cause something like culture shock, just by their normal default behavior, even apart from the intimidation issues explored in The Wagon, the Blackbird, and the Saab. That is something more to be humble about.

The issue of suicide

That stated, in Frankincense, Gold, and Myrrh: A Look at Profound Giftedness Through Orthodox Anthropology, I wrote,

This study makes the briefest passing mention that one of Terman 1925's very few profoundly gifted subjects "took his own life," without the briefest passing suggestion of any way this tragedy might be something to learn from, might be something related to the profoundly gifted experience, or could even be preventable. (Statistical analysis is impossible for a small sample, but if one person in a twenty-nine person sample committed suicide, this is hundreds of times higher than the population at large, or even demographics like those suffering from major depression.)

And in Profoundly Gifted Survival Guide,

But this did not moderate their earlier position (compare 1 in 10,000 general public incidence at the time), when perhaps the small profoundly gifted sample size limits the effectiveness of statistics, the res ipsa loquitur facts should have come across as a "WTF?" in fifteen feet high blinking neon letters.

One friend knows, among people very high up in the gifted range, two who attempted suicide, and two people who successfully committed suicide. One of them, suffering from terminal boredom, built a sports car from parts in a junkyard and ran it into a brick wall at something like a hundred miles per hour. (The largest portion of him that was recovered was a hand.)

One additional statistic that I searched for but failed to trace or find again was a statistic stating that profoundly gifted had a 27% psychiatric hospitalization rate. That is higher than any meaningful demographic I have heard besides "people who have been psychiatrically hospitalized," and significantly higher than people suffering from major mental illness.

For a comparison with disability in general, I would again quote Frankincense, Gold, and Myrrh: A Look at Profound Giftedness Through Orthodox Anthropology:

Doreen Freeman suggests of disability, "How often we hear people say they would 'rather be dead than disabled' yet the suicide rates of the disabled do not reflect this pessimistic view."[60] Disability is a different condition viewed from the inside and the outside, and so is giftedness, for which the suicide rates are apparently higher.

The question or illustration that has been made of giftedness in general asks the reader to imagine what the effect would be on a child of normal intelligence placed in a world where very few people have an IQ above 70. And giftedness has been found to be an at-risk factor for mental illness.

Modifying the boilerplate assertion

I shy back from parroting the boilerplate assertion as regards profound giftedness. I have provided a couple of references, and I would really, really like to footnote the article stating a 27% psychiatric hospitalization rate for profound giftedness. I also would suspect that people who have it worst on the ladder of victimization have multiple statuses, perhaps people who have additionally suffered harassment, abuse, or sexual violence (and I would suggest The Wagon, the Blackbird, and the Saab suggests a mechanism for why people can and do behave more abusively in dealing with the profoundly gifted than people who are nonthreatening).

So I provide a modification to the standard boilerplate assertion, and it is one that I add as a last addition to a long-unmodified Profoundly Gifted Survival Guide, being something I thought of years after its first assembly, and a seed that started to grow not about profoundly gifted people having it rough but about something of a flipside that profoundly gifted people cause culture shock or something like it, and this is a point that really should be taken into account. Culture shock is a top 10 cause of suicide, up with factors such as divorce, and people interested in having profoundly gifted people treated better would be about the difficult task of being yourself while not needlessly shocking or intimidating John Q. Public. I have said earlier that it would be nice if instead of pride, we could pursue a profoundly gifted humility. I think we would be best off if we could also mitigate causing culture shock unless it is for a point.

For what it's worth.

Author: C.J.S. Hayward

C.J.S. Hayward is an Orthodox author and Renaissance man with master's degrees bridging math and computers (UIUC) and theology and philosophy (Cambridge). His most prized work is what he writes in Eastern Orthodox, Christian theology and apologetics. Readers of apologists like C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and Peter Kreeft, contemporary Orthodox authors such as Met. KALLISTOS Ware, and classic authors like St. John Chrysostom will find much food for spiritual reflection.