The adult gifted experience

11 Aug 2020

Gifted adults can misinterpret their complex and deep way of thinking as craziness. They can mistake their emotional intensity for emotional immaturity or see it as a character flaw. Because they have never been given information to explain what is “normal for gifted” they frequently experience frustration in the world, alienation, anger, self blame and emptiness. Without an adequate explanation of their gifted difference, they develop a façade with which they cover their authentic self; a face that they show to the world in order to fit in and so avoid disapproval or sanction.

Many gifted people consult a professional because they have difficulty deciding what to do with and in their lives. The traditional approach is to do what you are good at. But what if you are good at many things and don’t want to miss out on exploring as many of them as possible? What if you don’t think you are good enough at anything? What if you feel immobilised by the thought of not picking the “right” career? What if you feel that your life should have meaning and want a vocation and not simply a job? What if you are scared by the thought that no job will provide the stimulation, challenge and new learning that you crave? What if……..?

Because of their unique characteristics, gifted people need a different approach to counselling and career guidance; one based on the individual gifted self. When gifted adults are given information about what is “normal for gifted”, they realise that, while they are statistically in the minority, they are not alone in the world. When gifted people have knowledge about themselves and what they need in order to lead a satisfying life, then they can use their intellectual abilities on ensuring that life provides these needs.

When gifted adults work with a professional on their career, the number one priority should be to construct a theoretical framework within which it is OK to be themselves. Gifted adults have a complex intellect and a burning desire for information. They have high levels of energy, intensity and sensitivity, set exceptionally high standards for themselves and others and are extremely hard on themselves. They are very independent and perceptive, like to be in control, are frequently driven, full of self doubt and often feel they must be self sufficient.

Despite the enormous diversity within the gifted population, the goal of professional work should always be the same: for the gifted adults to re-encounter, explore and value the gifted self and allow it to grow in its own unique way. It is the professional’s job to provide whatever each gifted individual needs in order for this to happen. Working with gifted adults ideally requires specialised theoretical knowledge, intellectual flexibility, emotional strength, spiritual development, high levels of sensitivity and empathy, a love of spirited discussion and above all, a great sense of humour. Professionals working with gifted adults strive for this ideal even though they will never attain it and so they continue to learn.


Further information
Andrew S. Mahoney –
Bill Tiller –

Stephanie Tolan –
Deborah Ruff –
Center For Highly Sensitive People –

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