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Gifted and Creative Individuals

I would love to hear your thoughts on this perspective of gifted and creative individuals.

The article is The Application of Dabrowski’s Theory to the Gifted by Kevin J. O’Connor and was published in the book Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Children: What Do We Know?.

Here are a few quotes from the article to give you a taste of its content:

Dabrowski observed that gifted and creative individuals are often in conflict with the demands and expectations of their environment…

Many in the gifted community believe Dabrowski’s overexcitabilites, as they contribute to developmental potential, are a measure and indicator of giftedness.

Overexcitabilities are enhanced modes of being in the world. The word ‘over’ used in connection with ‘excitability’ connotes responses to stimuli that are beyond normal and often different in quality. Dabrowski identified “psychic overexcitability” in five forms: psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, imaginational and emotional.

While the concept of developmental potential emphasizes the positive aspects of experiencing life with greater intensity and sensitivity, these same characteristics may also be experienced in negative ways. Individuals with elevated overexcitabilities are more susceptible to being misunderstood and alienated by those who don’t share or understand their unique personality traits.

Parents of gifted children and gifted individuals themselves may find that Dabrowski’s ideas provide a useful “framework for understanding and explaining the developmental patterns and challenges that occur for those of high ability.”

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The Social Synapse

The Social Synapse

 

Look closely at the body and you will discover layer upon layer of highly complex interlocking systems. As you examine each layer, you will discover countless individual cells (neurons in the nervous system) that differentiate and migrate to specific locations throughout the body. These cells, in turn, grow into an infinite variety of forms, organize into functional systems, integrate with other systems, and, ultimately, creating an individual. This we accept easily; but what about the notion that nature used this same strategy to connect individual animals (humans) into a larger biological organism called a species?

Individual neurons are separated by small gaps, or synapses. These synapses are not empty spaces by any means for they are inhabited by a variety of chemical substances engaging in complex interactions that result in synaptic transmission. It is this synaptic transmission that stimulates each neuron to survive, to grow, and to be sculpted by experience. In fact, the activity within synapses is just as important as what takes place within the neurons themselves. Over vast expanses of evolutionary time, neural or synaptic transmission has grown ever more intricate to meet the needs of an increasingly complex brain.

We know that neurons communicate via these chemical signals, activating and influencing one another through the transmission of multiple biochemical messengers. When it comes right down to it, doesn’t communication between people, as complex as it is, consist of the same basic building blocks? When we smile, wave, and say hello, these behaviors are sent through the space between us via sight and sound. These electrical and mechanical messages are received by our senses and converted into electrochemical signals within our nervous systems and sent to our brains. These internal signals generate chemical changes, electrical activation, and new behaviors which, in turn, transmit messages back across the social synapse.

The social synapse is the space between us. It is also the medium through which we are linked together into larger organisms such as families, tribes, societies, and the human species as a whole. Because our lives are lived at the border of this synapse and because so much communication is automatic and below conscious awareness, most of what goes on is invisible to us and taken for granted.


Neuron found at the Slog
Tree mandala by Woven Essence

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Keep Your Brain Entertained


An interesting npr segment on how active our brain gets when we are bored. Daydreams can suck us into an ever-interesting world of distraction. According to this article, if you want to stay engaged with the content at hand, keep your body engaged on something such as doodling. Don’t let the mental activity get the best of you if you want to continue focusing, give your hands something else to do.

When the brain lacks sufficient stimulation, it essentially goes on the prowl and scavenges for something to think about. Typically what happens in this situation is that the brain ends up manufacturing its own material.

In other words, the brain turns to daydreams, fantasies of Oscar acceptance speeches and million-dollar lottery wins. But those daydreams take up an enormous amount of energy.

The function of doodling, according to Andrade, who recently published a study on doodling in Applied Cognitive Psychology, is to provide just enough cognitive stimulation during an otherwise boring task to prevent the mind from taking the more radical step of totally opting out of the situation and running off into a fantasy world.

When I host small Friendship Groups with students, I often put a bowl of rocks, shells, stick, cones into the middle of the circle in case anyone needs something to fiddle with. A group the other day began building with the objects while we were discussing some of their problems and concerns. Their sculptures were beautiful and inspiring and a nice example for this article! One child preferred the erasers!

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Brains, Beauty, Love, Learning and Celebration

For the next three days I’ll be attending the Learning and the Brain Conference which is focusing on social brain research. It is very exciting to be learning more about the science and neurology that underscores much of the theoretical philosophies and intuitive knowings that are the foundations for much of my work and inspiration. I hope to learn more about mirror neurons, theory of mind, emotional regulation, memory and wisdom, and promoting social and emotional intelligence.

The last couple of days I’ve been hanging out with the remarkable Amy Lenzo. Amy has created an enticing world over at the Beauty Dialogues. I greatly appreciate Amy’s willingness to recognize the beauty and potential not only in the physical world around her, but also in the human world. She has been a pivotal supporter in encouraging many creative hearts to find their voice of expression and share it with the world. I am very grateful to have benefited so much from her recognition of and encouragement towards Easily Amazed finding ways to grow into all it can be! Thanks, girl!

Over the next few days I will be paying attention to how beauty and allurement fit into this world of social and emotional brain research. Brian Swimme suggests that love begins as allurement and attraction. We know that attraction and allurement between a baby and its parent propel the relationship between them and this relationship fundamentally shapes the development of the child. As Mary Gordon so aptly states, “Love grows brains.”

And we can never have too much love in our world. On Sunday, my friend Tracy Davis, took me to the incredibly inspiring and healing Glide Memorial Church, a place that is actively promoting the forces of love, celebration, inclusion and equality in a spiritually and culturally uplifting way. This was a beautiful expression of social, emotional and spiritual wisdom deep at play. I’ll leave you with a poem that is Glide’s Core Values:

The Ground We Stand On

Radically Inclusive
We welcome everyone. We value our differences.
We respect everyone.

Truth Telling
We each tell our story. We each speak our truth.
We listen.

Loving and Hopeful
We are all in recovery. We are a healing community.
We love unconditionally.

For the People
We break through barriers. We serve each other.
We change the world.

Celebration
We sing. We dance. We laugh together.
We celebrate life!

looking up at mom by dolanh

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The Committed Parent

I’ve been catching up on my online reading tonight… returning to the open tabs that have been patiently waiting for my attention. This last hour I’ve been captivated reading Mark Brady over at The Committed Parent. My mind is spinning with thoughts about synaesthesia, the many different ways that our brains work, the value of teaching children about deeply listening to their bodies and honoring what they hear, “the importance of creative allies – significant people who “get” us in ways that allow us to feel embraced and welcomed in all our weirdness and divergence.” I am deeply moved by the loving story of the death of a dear heart and the impact of taking the time to teach someone to dance, and my mind is so curious about all the different brain functions and conditions like heterotopagnosia.

Mark is a talented writer that marries storytelling, science, education, art and inquiry into very inspiring offerings. Do check him out… and thank you, Mark.

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Living with Radical Honesty

Living With Radical Honesty by Brad Blanton
Re-posted from Charity Focus

I learned that the primary cause of most human stress, the primary cause of most conflict between couples and the primary cause of most both psychological and physical illness is being trapped in your mind and removed from your experience. What keeps you trapped in your mind and removed from your experience is lying and we all lie […] all the time. We’re taught systematically to lie, to pretend, to maintain a pretense because we’re taught that who we are is our performance. Our schools teach us to lie, our parents teach us to lie. We’re all suffering from mistaken identity.

We think that who we are is our reputation, what the teacher thinks of us, what kind of grades we make, what kind of job we have. We’re constantly spinning our presentation of self, which is a constant process of lying and being trapped in the anticipation of imagining about what other people might think. Our actual identity is as a present tense noticing being. I’m someone sitting here talking on the telephone right now and you’re sitting there talking on the telephone and writing or doing whatever you’re doing. That’s your current identity and this is my current identity and when you start identifying with your current present-tense identity you discover all kinds of things about life that you can’t even see or notice when you’re trapped in the spin doctoring machine of your mind. So radical honesty is about delivering yourself from that constant worrisome preoccupation of, “Oh my god. How am I doing? How am I doing? How am I doing? How am I doing?” Then you can pay attention to what’s going on in your body and in the world and even pay attention to what’s going on in your mind. […]

Just look at what you notice in front of you right now, your environment, wherever you are in an office or wherever it is. Noticing is an entirely different function than thinking and what we do all the time is that we confuse thinking with noticing. When we think something we act as though it has the same validity as something that we see. I’ve got a bumper sticker on my truck that says, “Don’t believe everything you think.” It’s like your thinking just goes on and on and on and on.

–Brad Blanton, Center For Radical Honesty

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Developing New Habits

Can You Become a Creature of New Habits?
By JANET RAE-DUPREE

Rather than dismissing ourselves as unchangeable creatures of habit, we can instead direct our own change by consciously developing new habits. In fact, the more new things we try — the more we step outside our comfort zone — the more inherently creative we become, both in the workplace and in our personal lives.

Brain researchers have discovered that when we consciously develop new habits, we create parallel synaptic paths, and even entirely new brain cells, that can jump our trains of thought onto new, innovative tracks.

But don’t bother trying to kill off old habits; once those ruts of procedure are worn into the hippocampus, they’re there to stay. Instead, the new habits we deliberately ingrain into ourselves create parallel pathways that can bypass those old roads.

“The first thing needed for innovation is a fascination with wonder,” says Dawna Markova, author of “The Open Mind” and an executive change consultant for Professional Thinking Partners. “But we are taught instead to ‘decide,’ just as our president calls himself ‘the Decider.’ ” She adds, however, that “to decide is to kill off all possibilities but one. A good innovational thinker is always exploring the many other possibilities.”

Researchers in the late 1960s discovered that humans are born with the capacity to approach challenges in four primary ways: analytically, procedurally, relationally (or collaboratively) and innovatively. At puberty, however, the brain shuts down half of that capacity, preserving only those modes of thought that have seemed most valuable during the first decade or so of life.

This is where developing new habits comes in. If you’re an analytical or procedural thinker, you learn in different ways than someone who is inherently innovative or collaborative. Figure out what has worked for you when you’ve learned in the past, and you can draw your own map for developing additional skills and behaviors for the future.

“I apprentice myself to someone when I want to learn something new or develop a new habit,” Ms. Ryan says. “Other people read a book about it or take a course. If you have a pathway to learning, use it because that’s going to be easier than creating an entirely new pathway in your brain.”

“Whenever we initiate change, even a positive one, we activate fear in our emotional brain,” Ms. Ryan notes in her book. “If the fear is big enough, the fight-or-flight response will go off and we’ll run from what we’re trying to do. The small steps in kaizen don’t set off fight or flight, but rather keep us in the thinking brain, where we have access to our creativity and playfulness.”

“Try lacing your hands together,” Ms. Markova says. “You habitually do it one way. Now try doing it with the other thumb on top. Feels awkward, doesn’t it? That’s the valuable moment we call confusion, when we fuse the old with the new.”

AFTER the churn of confusion, she says, the brain begins organizing the new input, ultimately creating new synaptic connections if the process is repeated enough.

But if, during creation of that new habit, the “Great Decider” steps in to protest against taking the unfamiliar path, “you get convergence and we keep doing the same thing over and over again,” she says.

“You cannot have innovation,” she adds, “unless you are willing and able to move through the unknown and go from curiosity to wonder.”

All of the text and image is from the New York Times article, Can You Become a Creature of New Habits? Image by Christophe Vorlet

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