When we think of gifted individuals, we rarely think of “slow”. They have fast thoughts, fast learning, fast emotional reactions. Nor do we think of “calm”. They have moving bodies, moving mouths, moving excited energy. And all this fast energy and movement can be great. It can be life-giving and innovative. It can also be overwhelming and paralyzing.
My oldest was about 4 when he started trying to share the metacognitive inner workings of his brain with us. He compared his brain to a castle. “And mom,” he said, “there’s an army of a bazillion thoughts always trying to push their way into my castle. And I don’t have any guards out there to choose which ones get to come in, so they’re all just climbing all over it’s a mess. I need a guard . . . (insert thoughtful face) . . . maybe two.”
It’s shown up with different metaphors and different words, but time and time again I have heard the gifted kids and teens I work with (and more than a few adults, too!) asking for the same thing. They need a guard.
It can be exhausting to have five million and three thoughts racing through your mind all at the same time. It can be shame-inducing to have intense emotions catapult you into behaviors you don’t want to do before you even know you’re doing them. It can be anxiety producing to have energy rush through your body and have no outlet. We need guards.
And so, as my end of the traditional school year present . . . I give to you . . . 2 guards.
Guard 1 hales from Deep Within and is as old as the beginning of life. She’s that one neighbor who is ALWAYS hanging around. She can be quite shallow, which gets your stress level up, because who wants to make shallow conversation all the time, really?! But, she can also be deep and full of life and peace. Meet . . . . Your Breath!
Your Breath is the first level of defense. She’s on call 24 hours a day and all you need to do is intentionally help her be deep and she’ll slow that pesky, approaching army down in its tracks. You’ll know when she’s deep and at her protective post when you feel your belly rise as she moves in and fall as she moves out. Your Breath creates enough space and slows the thought army down enough that your brain can decide which one thought to focus on.
Which brings us to Guard 2! Guard 2 is known throughout the world. Never late or early, Guard 2 is always right on time. He doesn’t do much, but he’s always there. Meet . . . . . Mind Ful!
Mind Ful stands side by side with Your Breath. He helps to focus attention on what’s happening right now, right in front of the castle. Because he doesn’t judge it, he simply notices, it allows time for the brain to reflect on how it wants to respond to the thoughts and which of the thoughts to focus on first.
Truth be told, the people inside the castle have a hard time utilizing these 2 guards. It’s easy to get panicked or for gifted brains to want to pay attention to all the things all the time. So, it takes practice. Practice taking those deep breaths. Practice paying attention to this very moment in time. Daily practice.
Summer is a great opportunity to practice slowing things down. Use an app like Calm or Stop, Breathe, Think. Sit outside and simply notice what your senses are taking in for a moment. Take 3 deep breaths every time you reach the end of the chapter in your beach read.
Employing Your Breath and Mind Ful will most definitely not come naturally to most gifted brains. But, the more they are used, the stronger they become, the more skilled they are, and the less frequently the castle will be overrun by the thought brigade.
Gifted @ Home
Heather Boorman, MSW, LCSW