By PJ Stone
Often envied, those of us who ace exams and easily grasp complex problems seem to have a leg up on the rest. Before you jump to that conclusion, please consider the downside.
INTELLIGENCE CREATES PRESSURE TO SUCCEED
Due to ease of understanding what others may not perceive, an internal pressure builds for a better career, higher income, and loftier social status. When things don’t pan out, and these expectations aren’t met, acceptance is rare. Baffled by life’s diversions or perceived failure, those with high intellect risk extreme self-criticism.
FRIENDSHIP IS ELUSIVE
Most of us seek social and intimate relationships aware that we’ll be expected to offer attention and a bit of ourselves. Water seeks its own level and we can easily find our tribe. Those with great intelligence, though, seldom have a quiet moment in their mind, and miss the social nuances the rest find easy to use. They also dismiss potential friends who don’t display an equal level of insight.
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ANALYTIC OVERLOAD IS TYPICAL
For the highly intelligent, there’s so much cranial activity going on, it’s hard to choose which though to grab first when the desire is to grab all of them at once. Decision making is arduous, stressful. Add to this a tendency to be physically inactive, suffering from frequent lack of sleep, and you’ve got a perfect landscape for depression.
When success is determined early by grade point validation, fear of failure can destroy a true love of learning and a passion to impart knowledge to others. So, tapped to share knowledge with others, those of high intellect are often seen as pretentious. Imagine your brain on full tilt. You efficiently report the facts, only to be frustrated by others’ inability to grasp. Of course you’re tagged a “know-it-all”, clueless to why.
REAL HAPPINESS IS TRICKY
In 1926 psychologist Lewis Terman identified 1500 students in California with an IQ of 140 or more, 80 of whom were above 170. They are being followed to this day. In their summary of life satisfaction, great intellect can actually mean you’re less fulfilled. Chronic “over thinking” leads to social anxiety. An inability to ask for help increases isolation, and the practice to “dumb down” erodes self-esteem.
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We all have our demons, and the super smart, clearly, are no exception. As Carl Jung aptly noted, “The judgement of the intellect is only part of the truth.”