The Perfect Words Won’t Come
I want to be clear. I am not arrogantly proclaiming that I am some paragon of the disenfranchised, the tortured soul who knows some deep truth about existence and uses some professed inner pain to gain notoriety; my feelings are quite the opposite. I have always viewed myself in less “interesting” terms: more of the common one, the runt of the litter, who lacks something essential that everyone else seems to have that makes them able to do what they do so well. My problem is very simple, deceptively so, but the implications are extensive: I cannot tell you about myself, my inner experience, or what I think or feel. Not because I believe you will not understand, I would never admit something as narcissistic as that, nor is it because I am stupid or simpleminded; the problem lies with me and only me. I experience an extreme disconnect between my ability to communicate and my ability to think and feel. True to form, I cannot explain beyond that…yet… I have so much to say that I often feel an intense, clawing pressure harrying my mind if I don’t say something but the perfect words won’t come. No matter how hard I try, every attempt at verbal communication comes off as prosaic, lacking my true essence and showing a dearth of intellectual commentary.
Now my language here may be self-deprecating and I am intending it to be so. I am using such language and tone to stop you from continuing to read. I said before that I would never admit to anything narcissistic in my character but I am sure you guessed by now that was a jab at myself. I have learned of the profound effects that my little problem has had on my life without my approval. Confronted by a world where I could not act on my environment; earn a desired accomplishment or accolade, or connect with the friends I so desperately wanted, I learned to withdraw from it all. I shied away from group activities though underneath I wanted to lead because I feared people would learn that I could not give them what they wanted. I learned that a sense of hostility toward things that brought my vulnerability to the surface precluded my pain. I now recognize the extent of my acceptance of my inability to express myself as a driving force behind much of how I define myself. I was confronted by incompetence in myself that I could not accept and thus strove to be strong, but how could I be strong if I couldn’t make things happen in my life. Even my identity as a man is in jeopardy.
My self-deprecating manner is not to elicit sympathy in any way. I loathe the sympathy that I have unwittingly engendered in my life because I could not face the hard work it would take to develop myself beyond my expectations as the quiet fool. I write words of demeaning value because I am angry and even that is not true. In truth I am deeply sad because now I am a counselor for brilliant people that have very similar experiences. Often this vulnerability is masked in aggressive behaviors in young kids and counterculture rantings of the young adult; they try desperately to get their point across but always come up short in their view and the eyes of others. What I have learned through my work is that this process and vulnerability of self-expression is varying and can be rooted in complex neurodevelopment; it is not a moral failing. I am now in a counseling room with brilliant individuals who cannot get others to understand who they are and are slowly starting to believe themselves unworthy. I am sad because I know– even if I can’t explain it verbally.
As cliché as it sounds, I am uplifted by my experiences with these individuals in my work. Not because it makes me feel less alone but because I have the necessary skills to be there for those individuals who can’t explain why they feel less than. All evidence may point to the contrary but they (we) still feel it. I will never shy away from this intense work because I am now learning how my vulnerability can become my greatest strength. I will not offer words of comfort to those that I work with, particularly because it will be lost on both of us, but I can offer my silence and understanding. Don’t misinterpret my statement, I am far from mute in my work and I do plenty of the necessaries to be called a counselor. Talking, discussing, analyzing, supporting–but what makes me feel most effective is when I can offer my support when no words are needed or possible. I will provide the words when necessary but I know the struggle, and sometimes the perfect words do not exist and I must know when to be there for my clients on another level. This is how I have evolved my process far beyond the norm to adjust for the variance of the complex development that is the gifted person. I know that the myriad vulnerabilities involved with self-expression; be it social, academic or professional, can be progressed through.
I said that I shied away from groups, because the pressure to perform on a verbal level in complex group settings exposed a deep fear in me. I now run many groups at the Center for Identity Potential and it is my most desired form of counseling interaction and one I am increasingly proficient at. Once I understood my vulnerability on a complex developmental level I could no longer run from it and I will no longer accept it. I have always wanted to be a man of strength, and integrity and now I have the tools to start developing myself in line with who I actually am.
I will conclude with the observation that the irony of expressing my struggle with self-expression through a verbal (written) medium is not lost on me. However, that point really portrays the complexity of gifted development. It requires an ever expanding notion of what individuals are capable of, especially when provided the means to do so.