My thoughts on what it means to be a gifted adult . . . and how it might help you

Imbued with a finely tuned and advanced perceptual system, the gifted adult processes information-of-all-kinds with a voracious appetite, and stunning capacity.

Typically, we associate giftedness in adults with high levels of achievement.

But, like many things…

It is not that simple.

“In fact, the gifted person is as likely to be the high school rebel as she is the valedictorian, the CEO, or the Nobel prize winner (Jacobsen, 1999).”

And whether we are prize-winning leaders, are unseen or rebellious, are living on life’s grandest stage, or thriving behind-the-scenes, we share a common psychology.

In fact, our psychology — our mental characteristics and aptitudes — is often misconstrued and is certainly tangled in misinformation.

We share a psychology that begs for aeration.


It’s a loaded term, and, perhaps, a unfortunate moniker to describe this many-peopled and diverse group.

Read the descriptive phrases below . . .

Sit back . . . see if they fit . . . then decide if this paradigm might shed some light for you . . .


Brilliant. Bright-eyed, shining-like-the-sun brilliant.

Capable of often instantaneous and complex pattern making.

Possessed of uncommon and extraordinary talent, in any number of areas.

Talents may only be strongly evident in one area, or none; it will depend . . .

Conversely, may possess (and have activated) many areas of talent.

It’s tricky.

The activation of innate potential depends: on deep interests, on chance, on available resources, on personal history, on cuing and miscuing variables (in our families, especially in education, and, more broadly, in society), on opportunities, and on recognition.

We can be missed.

We can be so deeply out-of-step with our own potential (and deep interests) that we are truly missing-in-action, even to ourselves . . . (more on that later . . . stay tuned . . .)

Profoundly curious — delightfully, expectantly, deliciously, assiduously curious . . .
Unyielding in our pursuit of knowledge, and of truth.

Open to experience. (Assuming that we have not been squelched in life. And that is a big IF — very unfortunately — for many different reasons. . . )

At our best, we can be observed leaning into novelty with expectancy and verve, although not always with grace, (sometimes a little clumsily in fact). But, we are compelled to learn. We have a “rage to master”. (Winner)

We are hungry for novelty, and the heady feelings associated with learning deeply and widely. It is life-giving. Soul food.

Can integrate diverse elements, relationships, or values, with ease, and delight in doing so. It is play for us.

Capable of broad and nuanced associative learning. 

Can link ideas that reinforce each other, in seemingly endless loops ofunderstanding. While highly stimulating and deeply affirming it can also be exhausting . . . an untameable creature.
.  .  .

Gifted adults are coherence seeking.

Coherence is really, really important to the gifted adult.

Things need to connect, to be internally consistent. Patterns need to make sense.

For the gifted adult, one learned pattern inevitably points to or suggests another pattern, a more complex entity.

Terence McKenna expresses this dynamic of emergence, common to the gifted adult experience:

“I see the cosmos as a kind of novelty-producing engine, a kind of machine that produces complexity in all realms — physical, chemical, social — and then uses that achieved level of complexity as a platform for further complexity.”
.  .  .


Analytical (although not always), intuitive (most often powerfully so), with extraordinary cognitive processing capacities.

Possessed of a storehouse of complex and dynamic emotions which may, or may not, be in play.

We know that emotions need an appreciative audience to develop in healthy ways, to be able to live-out-loud. And the gifted adult needs an arena to play in.

This storehouse, and these emotions, are very, very powerful stuff (more on this later, too).
.  .  .
Imbued with strong sensual appetites.

Richly imaginative.

Wildly, soul-affirmingly wedded to an inner life that feeds them.

An inner life of imagination, of possibilities ; rife with images; suggestive of a life-yet-to-be . . . a world-that-could-be . . . IDEAS THAT WILL NOT DIE: concepts that are wiggling-into-existence, or slamming themselves with authority into our consciousness, seemingly out of nowhere.

“I want my inner truth to be the plumb line for the choices I make about my life -about the work that I do and how I do it, about the relationships I enter into and how I conduct them.”
- Parker Palmer

Passionate, intense (very intense), and sensitive, sometimes inhumanly so.
Most gifted adults are endowed with something psychologists label “High Developmental Potential” which includes intense and nuanced responses to even seemingly neutral stimuli, an autonomous nature (think strong will), and very high intelligence.

Throughout our lives . . .

We will be compelled to explore and live out something deep within our core, not-to-be-ignored, entirely unique to each of us.

Carling Jackson Humanity Art

Among his various possible beings each man always finds one which is his genuine and authentic being. The voice which calls him to that authentic being is what we call “vocation.” But the majority of men devote themselves to silencing that voice of the vocation and refusing to hear it. They manage to make a noise within themselves…to distract their own attention in order not to hear it; and they defraud themselves by substituting for their genuine selves a false course of life.

(Jose Ortega Y Gasset)
.  .  .
We are drawn to the integration of diverse elements, relationships, or values and exceedingly adept at that integration. This integration may take many forms: aesthetic, scientific, through language, using logic or mathematics, using an emotional lens, through movement, music or dance.
.  .  .
“Sooner or later something seems to call us onto a particular path. You may remember this “something” as a signal moment in childhood when an urge out of nowhere, a fascination, a peculiar turn of events struck like an annunciation: This is what I must do, this is what I’ve got to have. This is who I am.”
The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling, James Hillman



In the end, the motivating force that spurs and galvanizes a brilliant man or woman is expressed by Albert Einstein:

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.

“Old Man’s Advice to Youth: ‘Never Lose a Holy Curiosity.’” LIFE Magazine (2 May 1955) p. 64”
Albert Einstein

  1. Susan Jackson, Author
About the Author: P. Susan Jackson, Therapeutic Director of The Daimon Institute for the Highly Gifted in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada. This international institute offers service to highly and profoundly gifted children and adults, supporting the learning needs and overall development of this exceptional population.
Her clinical work spans 25 years, comprising over 40,000 hours of psychotherapy wholly with this exceptional population. She is the author of numerous articles and chapters in the gifted education literature. Her Integral Practice for the Gifted™ model addresses multiple aspects of human functioning – cognitive, emotional, spiritual, physical and talent based dimensions – and explains how advanced cognition influences all of these elements, the Self, and the expression of talent.
In 2010, she produced a short documentary entitled “Exceptionally Gifted Children”, which she received wide acclaim internationally.  In 2013-2014, the Daimon Institute produced “Rise:  The Extraordinary Story of the Exceptionally Gifted” – a 60 minute film on the lives of 12 exceptionally and profoundly gifted persons from all over the globe.
Sue served as the Chair of the Parents and Curriculum Networks Communications Committee and Counseling and Guidance Network (National Association to Support Gifted Children), and is a member of the advisory board for SENG.  She is recognized as an international expert in the field of the Exceptionally and Profoundly Gifted and regularly presents with other leading experts at the international conferences. She is a (nascent) photographer, poet, and nature lover with a passionate interest in advanced development, optimal health and well-being for the Profoundly Gifted populace.