The "zebra", gifted adult, but not only…
Great potential and suffering
This section is specially dedicated to the personal development and happiness of so-called "gifted" people. This is an area that has only recently been explored by psychologists, psychiatrists and neurobiologists, and is little known.
However, "giftedness" concerns about 2% of the world's population.
Highlighting the specificities of "giftedness" has already enabled many precocious children to be detected early and to be able to benefit from special follow-up for their schooling and development. But HP/gifted adultsare very numerous in the ignorance of their giftedness and the specificities of brain function and personality that this implies.
And often encounter, despite a high IQ of birth, sometimes very significant difficulties in many areas of their lives.
I myself am a "zebra".
I had been clearly identified as a "precocious child", from a very young age, and I had only been classified as "gifted at school", with therefore a superior logical intelligence, nothing more. I had no idea of my other specicities, which I felt without being able to put words on them. I didn't understand why I felt different… and then… I have forgotten that label.
The diagnosis of "giftedness" took three years to be made by a psychologist, who one day looked at me and said "I just understood!". I had learned to hide some of my features, and few professionals had the tools to detect HP/gifted people.
And I was already over forty years old…
This discovery was a shock (all "zebras" go through different stages when discovering their "difference", and not only pleasant ones), but also – as I always do – an opportunity to get to know myself better, to see others in a new light, and to understand differently many events in my life.
I will write a lot on this topic, which I continue to research for my own well-being – and that of my clients. This is a surprising area, and it's exciting for anyone interested in brain function and neuroscience. I am mainly interested in adults, but it is a common barter that also applies to children, of course.
As you can see, I use quotation marks around all the terms used to refer to this characteristic. No denomination has ever been a consensus to express this intrinsic peculiarity of the personality, because they are quite connoted, and we are always looking for a more neutral term that would allow us to speak of gifted adults.
We speak of "giftedness", to designate the particularity, of "intellectually precocious" people, which evokes an advance of development in childhood, which is not always true in practice. D,e "gifted", in the sense "more gifted than others".
More recently, the terms "HP" ("high potential"), HPI ("high intellectual potential") and "HQI" ("high intellectual quotient") have arrived, which bother me on two aspects: the fact of using an acronym, as if we had to hide a shame, a defect, something that disturbs. And the fact of limiting the "zebritude" to the level of intelligence quotient only, to be reduced to a number(1). That disturbs just as much.
The terms "virtuoso", "genius" and "prodigy" apply to other definitions, although they may also be gifted.
Why do we talk about "zebras"?
It is precisely to find a more sympathetic and neutral word that the clinical psychologist Jeanne Siaud-Facchin introduced this name in her book Too intelligent to be happy? , published in 2008.
A recognized specialist in the gifted, his book is an Amazon bestseller in the Psychoanalysis collection, which has made it possible to make the concept of gifted known to a wider public. Even if, I realize it in my daily life and in all my meetings, the giftedness is still very little known … The fact of defining oneself as "zebra" pleased me, to detach myself and this characteristic from a connotation and a representation that weighs a lot on the shoulders and on that of other "gifted".
On the site of COGITO'Z,the first French centre for the diagnosis and management of school learning disabilities, created by Jeanne Siaud-Facchin, we find her definition of zebra:
The zebra, this different animal, this equine that is the only one that man cannot tame, that stands out clearly from the others in the savannah while using its stripes to hide, that has a need from others to live and takes a very important care of its young, that is so different while being the same. And then, like our fingerprints, the stripes of the zebras are unique and allow them to recognize each other. Every zebra is different. I will then continue to say and repeat that these "funny zebras" need all our attention to live in harmony in this demanding world. I will continue to defend all these "scratched" people as if these zebras also evoke the claws that life can give them. I will continue to explain to them that their stripes are also great peculiarities that can save them from a large number of traps and dangers. That they are beautiful and that they can be proud of them. serenely.
The gifted adult has several of these characteristics: he distinguishes himself from others, but seeks to hide, to fit into the mold, not to be noticed, because life gives them many more claws than it does for the majority of people.
But knowing oneself and mastering certain aspects of their particularities can, on the contrary, change things, upset their lives, and become a source of pride and no longer of suffering.
The characteristics of the gifted adult
The term "gifted" is a neologism first used in 1946 in Geneva by Dr. Julian de Ajuriaguerra to designate a child "who possesses superior abilities that clearly exceed the average of the abilities of children his age.».
While this definition originally applied to children, we are also talking about gifted adults. The term chosen by the National Education in France is "Intellectually precocious child", but there is no official term that refers to adults.
The "giftedness" is "diagnosed" thanks to IQ test done by with a psychologist specializing in these tests. If this results in a total IQ score equal to or greater than 130 on the Wechsler standard scale, i.e. "intellectual abilities higher than the established norm", one can speak of a gifted individual.
But we will see, as a complex human being endowed with emotions and sensitivity, the zebra is much more than a number on a scale.
In neurobiology, zebras are:
- faster information processing capability and more efficient "working memory" (immediate short-term memory that is used to mobilize knowledge in solving immediate problems)
- Rem sleep that lasts longer, but it is in this phase of sleep that learning and memorization is done. A long REM sleep is an indicator of the ability to collect and store information from the outside
- A different prefrontal cortex (the most "thinking" and "modern" part of our brain): different growth, more neurons and more neuronal connections than in "normal" people (in the sense: "in the norm")
- An activation of different areas of the brain for the same analysis task.
Two other important data are:
- Zebras are born with a high IQ, live with a high IQ, and die with a high IQ, and all their personality characteristics. Giftedness is a characteristic of birth, and one that lasts a lifetime.
- Giftedness is genetic: a gifted child has at least one gifted parent, or one or more grandparents if the giftedness has "skipped" a generation by atavism. It's a family trait…
I will not dwell any longer on the intellectual, cognitive and neuronal abilities of gifted adults, it will be understood, they are higher than in the "normal".
Whether for a zebra, for his entourage, or for non-zebras, what is important to know and understand is their psychology, their difference, their specificities, to develop empathy, acceptance and benevolence. In order to understand each other.
I advise gifted adults to help them get to know each other, appreciate each other, and increase their ability to be happy.
Zebras are not "just a big brain"…
IQ tests make it possible to make a "diagnosis" (in the sense of "balance sheet", because the gifted are not sick people).
But on a psychological and emotional level, the reality of what giftedness covers is much, much broader. It is these characteristics and the suffering they can cause, but also the benefits that can be derived from them, that will be at the heart of the articles in this section.
(1) Different common terms:
- HP → high potential
- HQI → high intelligence quotient
- THQI → very high intelligence quotient (individuals with a total IQ ≥ to 145 on the standard scale)
- TTHQI → very very high intelligence quotient (individuals with a total IQ ≥ 160 on the standard scale and having a new form of intelligence called 'conceptual' – ex: Descartes);
- EIP → intellectually precocious child;
- APIE → Atypical person in intelligence and emotion
- Zebra → term used by Jeanne Siaud-Facchin to refer to gifted people;
- Mental overefficiency → used by the association GAPPESM (Groupement d'aide et de protection des personnes encombrées de sur-efficacité mentale)
- Hyperphrenia → term of psychiatry denoting the highest mental capacities of the population.
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