Dealing With the Disads


Many pen and paper roleplaying games include  advantages and disadvantages when you create your character. It’s a system of checks and balances — awesome abilities are tempered with not-so-awesome consequences.

Full frontal geeks that we are, The Hubs ™ and I both see giftedness as an RPG-like advantage. It is such a great advantage: the ability to learn quickly, assimilate information, make connections, intense curiosity. Who wouldn’t want that going through life?

But when you take real hard look at it, there’s the list of disadvantages (disads) that go right along with it — the overexcitabilities; the intensity; the constant misunderstanding by everyone around you etc. And that’s not including the extra disadvantages taken on if you’re twice-exceptional.

Of course, none of this is ever a choice. This is what we were born with. The roll of the dice. Our character generation.

The trouble is that as gifted adults, we both find ourselves spending more energy dealing with the disads of being gifted  than trading on whatever advantage giftedness supposedly grants us.

So what exactly are those disads?

This is how I imagine Gifted Disadvantages would be defined if Real Life were a pen and paper RPG…

Gifted Disad: Societal Expectations

The Gifted advantage brings with it expectations of greatness and achievement among other PCs and NPCs.
 If at any time your character falls short of those expectations, PCs and NPCs may question whether your character is, in fact, Gifted.

Note: Your character will always maintain the Gifted advantage, despite PC and NPC interactions suggesting the opposite.

Non-geek translation: “PCs” (player characters) and “NPCs” (non-player characters) in this context means family, friends, people in society, etc.

Dealing with this Disad in Real Life:

Society has expectations of intelligent individuals, whether we like it or not. An intellectually gifted child is expected to be an apt, attentive learner, a teacher’s pet who gets straight A’s. Similarly, an intellectually gifted adult is expected to be successful at a profession suited to intellectual talents, such as the sciences, medicine or politics. And when you don’t meet those expectations — child or adult — you’re met with a considerable amount of skepticism and misunderstanding.

The underachieving gifted adult is as real as the underachieving gifted child. The difference is that in adulthood, you’ve got bills to pay.

In my mind, this is the worst of the disads because when it comes down to it, you can’t change people’s minds; you can only choose your own reaction. Speaking for myself, it hurts just as much when I believed that I was not “living up to my potential”  in adulthood as it did to see it on my elementary school report card. Eventually, I learned to throw out that arbitrary societal measuring stick and think about my happiness as I pursue what gives me intellectual and emotional pleasure than what society has traditionally said what I “should” be or pursue because of my IQ. It took a long road to get there, though.

Gifted Disad: Overexcitabilities

The Gifted advantage comes with several heightened sensitivities including physical, emotional, sensual, and imagination. Your character will notice things that most other PC and NPCs won’t and you will have to make saving throws to resist the urge to act upon what you notice.

Note: At the GM’s discretion, the target number to resist may gradually decrease as your character gets older.

Non-geek translation: “GM” (Game Master) in this context is either God or Life, take your pick.

Dealing with this Disad in Real Life:

There’s no two ways about it: The Hubs ™ and I have quirks. Lots of them. The Hubs ™ has worn pretty much the same outfit from the day I met him because he cannot physically stand any other t-shirt against his skin. I can be a slave to my routines and I have a very specific limit to noise and touch. I have been known to get so emotionally involved with various pieces of fiction that it’s impeded my ability to deal with every day life. Crowds drive us both mad.

It wasn’t until I started researching giftedness to try to understand TLE better that I learned about Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities. And then I was like, “THIS THIS THIS! OMG THIS!!!” Suddenly, so many things about my childhood — and the way we lived our lives — made sense.

Overexcitabilities never truly go away. Over the years, you just learn to manage them the best you can and hope that it’s enough. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t.

Gifted Disad: Intensity

The Gifted advantage gives your character the drive to focus on a subject of interest, granting your character a faster, deeper knowledge and understanding of that subject** than most other PCs and NPCs.

** Subjects of interest are at the discretion of the GM and may or may not be applicable to the situations your character finds themselves in.

Dealing with this Disad in Real Life:

Intensity isn’t inherently a disad. Intensity is what drives a gifted learner delve deeper, ask more questions, do more than their peers would normally.

The problem comes in when intensity manifests itself as laser sharp focus on less than important things. Intensity is what drove me to teach myself how to read and write Japanese when I was in college in less than a month. It also drove me to research all that I could about one particular anime — ふしぎ遊戯 if you must know — than was probably healthy.  (Certainly far more than was useful.)  My biggest lament more than a decade and a half later is that I wish I’d been that intense over something useful.

* *

In our experience, giftedness is not always a gift. But despite the disads, we still embrace the advantage of giftedness. Giftedness is at its best when it is nurtured correctly and more importantly, understood for the mixed bag that it is. Our struggles with our own unique giftedness informs how we advocate for TLE. We have an idea of what she faces growing up gifted in a world that isn’t always ready to accept her at face value.

So for all the disads we deal with being gifted adults, being able to help our child is by far the greatest advantage.


This post is part of the Gifted Homeschool Forums Blog Hop October 2014 ~ Gifted Grown Ups

GHF Blog Hop - October 2014
GHF Blog Hop – October 2014

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