When I was in graduate school, I learned about a psychologist named Piaget. His theories of development were the first to gain widespread acceptance. His insistence that children must pass through certain stages in a certain order were helpful in some ways (lowering expectations for children to be “little adults”) and not so helpful in others (inhibiting gifted children from asynchronous development that is their hallmark). Other psychologists have added to this theory and have created other models to explain how humans pass from one stage of life to the next. Most of these theories of emotional development have not found their way into public vernacular, except perhaps Freud.
Eleven years ago I read the book Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. It was encouraging because it identified specific behaviors that Goleman said would be helpful to success and were not tied to IQ. While others disagree with that, I am glad someone finally got around to writing about behavior for the public. As a special education teacher, I have had many students with emotional and behavioral issues. Anything I could do to enhance their learning interested me. So much of it is common sense. If you are fearful or distracted, learning is going to be much harder for you. Children suffering from physical or sexual abuse are not going to be interested in a history unit about Native Americans. Learning to set firm but nurturing guidelines is essential to all healthy relationships.
More recently, I learned of the work of Kazimierz Dabrowski. His work made good sense to me as well. Individuals who have high intelligence quotients have some pretty distinctive characteristics. It was a relief for me to learn that individuals with an IQ in the top 5% or 10% are quicker to experience emotions. I learned at one conference on Highly Gifted children that they experience pain more strongly (I didn’t think to cite this information at the time). So it may be more turbulent in homes of gifted individuals, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Dabrowski offers a theory to see these disturbances as “positive disintegration.” I like to say that positive disintegration is when you feel your world falling apart around you, but it is really leading you to a better place. In Dabrowski’s theories, it is necessary to pass through these in order to reach a higher level of understanding. I don’t pretend to sum up three centuries of developmental psychology in such a short post, but I do offer it as a ray of hope for families who think things are not going well in their house. The fallacious portrayal of highly gifted individuals as misfits and emotionally disabled does a great deal of harm. If you are concerned, I recommend reading everything you can get your hands on, and don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you think someone needs it. Here are some titles I recommend.
Traits of a Healthy Family, by Dolores Curran
Guiding the Gifted Child, by James T. Webb, Elizabeth Meckstroth and Stephanie Tolan
Parents’ Guide to Raising a Gifted Child, by James Alvino
Enjoying the Gift of Being Uncommon, by Willem Kuipers
The Gifted Kids Survival Guide II, by James Delisle and Judy Galbraith
The Survival Guide for Parents of Gifted Kids, Sally Yahnke Walker
This blog is participating in Hoagies Blog Hop on Emotional IQ