Personality Cafe banner

1 - 12 of 12 Posts

·
Banned
Joined
·
3,624 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Curious how much any of you relate to this article? many of you have probably seen it before. I find the 'gifted' label kind of funny :\

I thought I'd bring this up because Yalom's four central issues (death, freedom, isolation and meaninglessness), well more the latter 3, seem to be central concerns on the infp subforum.




It has been my experience that gifted and talented persons are more likely to experience a type of depression referred to as existential depression. Although an episode of existential depression may be precipitated in anyone by a major loss or the threat of a loss which highlights the transient nature of life, persons of higher intellectual ability are more prone to experience existential depression spontaneously. Sometimes this existential depression is tied into the positive disintegration experience referred to by Dabrowski (1996).

Existential depression is a depression that arises when an individual confronts certain basic issues of existence. Yalom (1980) describes four such issues (or "ultimate concerns")--death, freedom, isolation and meaninglessness. Death is an inevitable occurrence. Freedom, in an existential sense, refers to the absence of external structure. That is, humans do not enter a world which is inherently structured. We must give the world a structure which we ourselves create. Isolation recognizes that no matter how close we become to another person, a gap always remains, and we are nonetheless alone. Meaninglessness stems from the first three. If we must die, if we construct our own world, and if each of us is ultimately alone, then what meaning does life have?

Why should such existential concerns occur disproportionately among gifted persons? Partially, it is because substantial thought and reflection must occur to even consider such notions, rather than simply focusing on superficial day-to-day aspects of life. Other more specific characteristics of gifted children are important predisposers as well.

Because gifted children are able to consider the possibilities of how things might be, they tend to be idealists. However, they are simultaneously able to see that the world is falling short of how it might be. Because they are intense, gifted children feel keenly the disappointment and frustration which occurs when ideals are not reached. Similarly, these youngsters quickly spot the inconsistencies, arbitrariness and absurdities in society and in the behaviors of those around them. Traditions are questioned or challenged. For example, why do we put such tight sex-role or age-role restrictions on people? Why do people engage in hypocritical behaviors in which they say one thing and then do another? Why do people say things they really do not mean at all? Why are so many people so unthinking and uncaring in their dealings with others? How much difference in the world can one person's life make?

When gifted children try to share these concerns with others, they are usually met with reactions ranging from puzzlement to hostility. They discover that others, particularly of their age, clearly do not share these concerns, but instead are focused on more concrete issues and on fitting in with others' expectations. Often by even first grade, these youngsters, particularly the more highly gifted ones, feel isolated from their peers and perhaps from their families as they find that others are not prepared to discuss such weighty concerns.

When their intensity is combined with multi-potentiality, these youngsters become particularly frustrated with the existential limitations of space and time. There simply aren't enough hours in the day to develop all of the talents that many of these children have. Making choices among the possibilities is indeed arbitrary; there is no "ultimately right" choice. Even choosing a vocation can be difficult if one is trying to make a career decision between essentially equal passion, talents and potential in violin, neurology, theoretical mathematics and international relations.

The reaction of gifted youngsters (again with intensity) to these frustrations is often one of anger. But they quickly discover that their anger is futile, for it is really directed at "fate" or at other matters which they are not able to control. Anger that is powerless evolves quickly into depression.

In such depression, gifted children typically try to find some sense of meaning, some anchor point which they can grasp to pull themselves out of the mire of "unfairness." Often, though, the more they try to pull themselves out, the more they become acutely aware that their life is finite and brief, that they are alone and are only one very small organism in a quite large world, and that there is a frightening freedom regarding how one chooses to live one's life. It is at this point that they question life's meaning and ask, "Is this all there is to life? Is there not ultimate meaning? Does life only have meaning if I give it meaning? I am a small, insignificant organism who is alone in an absurd, arbitrary and capricious world where my life can have little impact, and then I die. Is this all there is?"

Such concerns are not too surprising in thoughtful adults who are going through mid-life crises. However, it is a matter of great concern when these existential questions are foremost in the mind of a twelve or fifteen year old. Such existential depressions deserve careful attention, since they can be precursors to suicide.

How can we help our bright youngsters cope with these questions? We cannot do much about the finiteness of our existence. However, we can help youngsters learn to feel that they are understood and not so alone and that there are ways to manage their freedom and their sense of isolation.

The isolation is helped to a degree by simply communicating to the youngster that someone else understands the issues that he/she is grappling with. Even though your experience is not exactly the same as mine, I feel far less alone if I know that you have had experiences that are reasonably similar. This is why relationships are so extremely important in the long-term adjustment of gifted children (Webb, Meckstroth and Tolan, 1982).

A particular way of breaking through the sense of isolation is through touch. In the same way that infants need to be held and touched, so do persons who are experiencing existential aloneness. Touch seems to be a fundamental and instinctual aspect of existence, as evidenced by mother-infant bonding or "failure to thrive" syndrome. Often, I have "prescribed" daily hugs for a youngster suffering existential depression and have advised parents of reluctant teenagers to say, "I know that you may not want a hug, but I need a hug." A hug, a touch on the arm, playful jostling, or even a "high five" can be very important to such a youngster, because it establishes at least some physical connection.

The issues and choices involved in managing one's freedom are more intellectual, as opposed to the reassuring aspects of touch as a sensory solution to an emotional crisis. Gifted children who feel overwhelmed by the myriad choices of an unstructured world can find a great deal of comfort in studying and exploring alternate ways in which other people have structured their lives. Through reading about people who have chosen specific paths to greatness and fulfillment, these youngsters can begin to use bibliotherapy as a method of understanding that choices are merely forks in the road of life, each of which can lead them to their own sense of fulfillment and accomplishment (Halsted, 1994). We all need to build our own personal philosophy of beliefs and values which will form meaningful frameworks for our lives.

It is such existential issues that lead many of our gifted individuals to bury themselves so intensively in "causes" (whether these causes are academics, political or social causes, or cults). Unfortunately, these existential issues can also prompt periods of depression, often mixed with desperate, thrashing attempts to "belong." Helping these individuals to recognize the basic existential issues may help, but only if done in a kind and accepting way. In addition, these youngsters will need to understand that existential issues are not ones that can be dealt with only once, but rather ones that will need frequent revisiting and reconsideration.

In essence, then, we can help many persons with existential depressions if we can get them to realize that they are not so alone and if we can encourage them to adopt the message of hope written by the African-American poet, Langston Hughes:

Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die,
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams.
For if dreams go,
Life is a barren field
Covered with snow.


Langston Hughes

Author: James T. Webb
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
28 Posts
Thanks for the article. I found it really interesting, though I'm not sure whether it really relates to me very much. There were certain moments that resonated with me, though- like being troubled by the notion of death at a young age.

Being sensitive in nature, I experienced teenage anxiety issues and "fitting in" earlier than most, but I'm unsure whether I could label my behavior as being "gifted". My train of thought was definitely not as concise or articulated as the way in which the author makes early existentialist depression out to be, but the underlying feelings were the same so I'm inclined to believe that I may have had some traits of this.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
13,780 Posts
I'm not sure if this speaks only to those gifted.

I have been fighting with this since the teenage years. Not sure if it's because i had time to think or because I'm predisposed to do so by my nature as an INFP. Having a perfectionist mindset makes it even harder to deal with issues like the overwhelming range of choice, especially when you have to consider the social and economical limitations of family and country.

Not sure about others but I tend to see the big picture and a general tendency of ppl is the here and now. They don't seem to think really long term and usually wake up to the consequences of their actions/ways of thinking at the very end when problems that could have been so easily predicted arise. At one point i was extremely angry at humanity and it did lead to a depression that i somehow managed to handle.

Oh dang did i get side tracked? Hmm let's take it one step at a time.

The issue of Death - i think it is a fear of the unknown. Will i end as myself? Do i continue on in some way? The time i spend living is not enough! Questions that are left unanswered because we simply just do not know. I was out against religion once because of the obvious failures of the church and organised religion but in time i came to realise that it is people who fail, but religion in itself is meant to preserve the sanity of an individual.

Faith is the key and answer to dealing with issues of death and the limitations of being alive for such a short amount of time. I know it may sound strange to some people. Don't get me wrong I'm saying this from a psychological point of view. We simply don't know and finding out seems rather difficult. In such a case religion and faith is there to stop us from falling into madness which is imo the real form of hell. Loosing your mind to despair and the internal hauntings of your own demons/thoughts is in reality the road to your own personal and possibly everlasting (thou I hope not) hell. The road to hell is not paved with good intentions but insanity. Don't ever allow yourself to fall :). PS: I'm speaking in images, metaphors and such don't take it literally, thou it could be true even like that.

The issue of Freedom - honestly we are free to do whatever is possible within the limits of nature. This in itself is sort of frustrating because of the limits of nature itself. Things that might cause problems are the limit of time and economical, social limits. We abide by social limits because there is a line and if that is crossed adverse negative effects will be upon us :). Economical limits are a problem until we can override them. Another problem is the codependency thing which....ok i could go on and on seriously. Fact is we cage ourselves sometimes for good reason and other times things become frustrating obstacles. For better or for worse problems are there to be solved.

I in my 24 years have come across many things that have forced me to limit myself and not having control over these things is probably the most frustrating thing. I do not feel fully free at all.

Isolation - in my opinion it is the exact opposite. I have found that everything is interconnected. There are patterns to things, actions and reactions. Nothing is by chance and everything is connected in some way, no matter how small the connection might seem. Existence itself is like a network, a living organism. This is imo especially true of inter personal relationships. The problem with it is that the connection is not always positive and constructive. This is the source, this is why we feel isolated and not understood.

I have been trying to find meaningful connections, ppl that understand me and so i arrived even here to the forums to meet you guys :). It is true that i did go through this especially i my family because they just can't seem to understand me. I can understand them thou but can not comply with their wishes. Yet another source of frustration. Why do they have to yell at me and say just go do something when i know that i need time to figure it out properly in order to maintain it long term and not just for the moment. For me if it does not feel right i'm not motivated to do it at all. Honestly offering advice and guidance would be much better then just throwing me out there and shrugging.

Meaninglessness - i believe this is why I'm on the forum, I'm searching to find myself , to find a way around my problems so I can decide on my future in the sort amount of time i got within the limits of where i exist.

I did question life many times but in the end i can't give up. There has to be some meaning to it.

All i have is faith that somehow i will mange and not fall to my own madness. <_< there i said it, i bet the religious ppl are happy now lol.


Conclusion: people who see this and ponder the meaning of life itself, those who walk on the edge of despair need a helping hand. We need faith and guidance. we need meaningful connections and help in choosing our own destiny. Show us a path and we will build a road on it :)! Don't let others fall into despair and hell. So few people really care about more then just the here and now and the I.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
43 Posts
I have nothing to add other then funnily enough, I went through a brief existential crisis in the summer holidays last year. Have many people here been through one, I've never met someone else that's experienced it, and wouldn't even know there was a label for it if it wasn't for a chance encouter with someone over the net.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,308 Posts
This is very close to me. Almost everything you describe applies to me apart from the fact that I have always loved life way too much to ever encounter any form of deep depression. I would not go beyond calling it 'existential sadness'
Yet the issues that have occupied my mind are the same ones you speak of. At times I have felt like a complete alien with no one around me ever getting anywhere close to the real me.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
572 Posts
Though I've never been tested or anything I'm usually considered to be gifted, (mostly in the social sciences, I can barely pass my english essays but I write economic essays at a third year university level) Most of this rings true to me, hell even the hostility when I tried to tell people. I still remember once when I was ten and I first grappled with the issue of there not being a purpose in life, I told my father about it. His reaction was to punch me in the gut, hold me up by my collar and tell me to "Never doubt that God has a plan for us all" Needless to say Nihilism comes very naturaly for me and I used to fight it with everything I had. Now however I embrace it and I've never been happier! I used to be so concerned with being a good person, but now I know that there is no such thing as "good" or "bad" so I don't sweat it. I act like the person I want to be, and I'm satisfied with that.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
897 Posts
I feel this and can relate to this too..
and I think it's kinda interesting to read one description somewhere that says "many of gifted individuals are INFPs"
I'm not even making this up, it's written in a certain webpage about INFP description, you can try to google it up.
Indeed, perhaps this 'gifted' Perceiving, 'Observer' thing is what makes us generally feel so "alone, nobody understand me" , all really similar traits like what the article above said.
It can be both a blessing, and also a curse,..depending on how we view and use it (as a tool).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,177 Posts
Wow this is a comprehensive article and i honestly experienced goosebumps and almost teary eyed. Why?

I can so relate. I don't know if im gifted (i think im not) but for some weird reasons i did experience and ask the same questions when i was a child. It didn't help that i am an only child and lost my father at an early age (3 yrs old) and my mom was working. In fact, i attempted suicide when i was 7 years old because i felt no one could really understand me and felt so alone in life. I tried to communicate my thoughts to my mom but i was scolded and received some harsh words (not blaming my mom she has her own ways of disciplining a child). I think over time, cos i was always turned down, i developed a very low self esteem and thought that i am always not good enough and always fell short of their expectations. Maybe thats the reason why i never came to know what my talents are, much less, failed to develop them. I used yo be always in the honors list til 7 years old til i lost interest (still in top 10 list but slowly losing interest until it reached its peak when i was 1st year h.s.). I had so many questions when i was a child that until now are left unanswered. So yes i think i might have suffered from existential depression as i am highly introspective ever since i was a child - thinking about my environment, my family, the world around me - asking the whys to myself and God.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
159 Posts
I can totally relate to this. I was a gifted child (according to test, anyway) and I was depressed from an early age.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,965 Posts
This actually describes me because this was my depression is like- it is primarily existential. It is also very hard to treat and it never leaves me because it is questions within questions. I also have existential hypomania- where I obsess over my place in the universe in really intense, racing thoughts. Suicidal thoughts and ideation are really strong and it really does almost drive me insane.

 
1 - 12 of 12 Posts
Top