I have been known to tell parents and teachers that some gifted students will have difficulty finding good friends; like-minded individuals who will understand them. “If you look at the normal curve,” I say, “there may be one other student in 100 who are their intellectual counterpart and the odds of them being of similar gender and interests are working against them.” It’s part of the platform of our pull-in program, that we give these students the opportunity to meet with like-minded individuals, so we pull them together for eight days a year and while there definitely is a sense of familiarity, it doesn’t quite feel like enough. For myself, I also look forward to the times when I can meet with “like minded”colleagues who are working through some of the same issues as myself which is why I was really looking forward to the 11th Annual International Dabrowski Congress held in Canmore AB last week.
There were 95 people from all over the world attending with many sessions dedicated to understanding both Dabrowski and how his work relates to giftedness. In the last session where some of the keynote speakers were delivering their final thoughts, Dr. Linda Silverman commented on just how diverse our group was despite the fact that many of us were working in the gifted community and all had an interest in the work of this one psychologist. While some individuals commented on how the conference felt like a “homecoming”, Dabrowski’s work was taken up in so many different ways that it was still possible to feel a sense of “distinction”. However, if there is one thing that was shared, it was the passion of the presenters in communicating not only their understanding but their belief that the Theory of Positive Disintegration offers us a powerful framework for supporting individuals in crisis.
Since the conference I have been reflecting a lot on this notion of “like-mindedness”, how it relates to friendships and finding our “peeps”. Without going into Dabrowski’s theory too much, there is a place in it where he speaks of our getting to the place in our mental development where we become involved the autonomous process of creating our “personality”. Through authentically claiming our difference we allow others their differences as well and the process of exploring and celebrating these differences can be the basis for a different kind of relationship rooted in empathy as opposed to like-mindedness. We are all on different journeys and our travels will inform us in unique ways. So how does this help our children/students? Sometimes we do everything we can to help them “fit in” and “make friends”. If instead we encouraged them to claim their “uniqueness”, celebrate their difference and build on their strengths, we set them on the path to authenticity where their comfort with themselves allows them to be comfortable with the differences in others…even if they’re not like-minded mathematicians, bookworms or philosophers. Sure, it may take time to find that elusive “soul-mate” but then again, I have found some of my “peeps” in the most unexpected places! Click on the image below to read more about gifted friendships.