Found 1 comment on HN
tokenadult · 2013-07-21 · Original thread
From the article, which is about a topic I discuss frequently in other online communities (including online communities hosted by the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that operates the website hosting the submitted article):

"In essence, then, we can help many persons with existential depressions if we can get them to realize that they are not so alone"

And this is why I strenuously oppose the term "existential depression" as a supposed designation of something that is rare in most people and more common among people who are "gifted." There is no evidence of such a thing. Rather, treating giftedness as a condition of life different from what most of our fellow human beings experience magnifies the sense of aloneness that too much of the gifted education literature promotes among people identified as gifted.

When I was young, I read a science fiction story by author Philip K. Dick in which he made a statement I have seen made in much the same form by many of the lousier authors on gifted education: that if your IQ is high, you are as different from above-average people as retarded persons are from normal people. That's baloney. The social distance hypothesis of IQ has little empirical support, and seems mostly to be a cultural hang-up of twentieth century America. When I lived in east Asia (after majoring in Chinese language at university) as a young adult, I discovered a new cultural perspective, the cultural perspective that if a person is smart, there is hardly anything better to do with the smarts than to learn how to get along with other people. As Confucius said, 三人行,必有我師焉 ("wherever three persons are walking, my teacher is surely among them"). Whatever my IQ score, I have plenty to learn from essentially everyone, and plenty of reason to feel kinship with my fellow human beings.

There is, however, a kind of isolation of the gifted that must be specifically counteracted. And that is the isolation of the gifted education literature, like the article kindly submitted here (by an author I have met at several conferences on gifted education) from the mainstream literature of psychology. Most gifted education gurus, and the author of this article is a salient example, have their highest formal degrees in education, from schools of education (such as from a "directional state university" that historically was a "normal school" for training teachers). The most rigorous research on human psychology--and psychologists have recently been painfully aware that all too little research on psychology is rigorous at all--

is gained by persons whose highest formal degree is in psychology, from a major research university. Very little of the best insights gained from recent decades of psychological research seeps into schools of education, especially those schools of education that have programs in gifted education.

The late author Dabrowski mentioned promptly in the article kindly submitted here and in much gifted education literature is an admittedly obscure writer (as acknowledged in the only book that collects commentary on his ideas,

which I read part of recently) who produced essentially no testable hypotheses. Dabrowski's ideas are vague and open-ended enough to allow making up dozens of anecdotes when speaking at conferences on gifted education, but provide no guidance whatsoever to help young people face tough issues in personal development.

The bottom line: the term "existential depression" is a euphemism used in the gifted education community for the same depression experienced by many people of varied IQ levels. The correct statement in the article submitted here is the statement that you help people experiencing depression by encouraging them to feel less isolated from the rest of humankind. And one of the best ways to do that for gifted people is to emphasize their commonality with the rest of humankind, rather than their IQ scores or poor fit age-graded school programs.

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