High, Exceptional & Profound Giftedness

Relatively little that has been written about the unique experience and cognition of highly, exceptionally and profoundly gifted people. In this article, InterGifted's founding director Jennifer Harvey Sallin explores how high+ cognition is defined by meta-thinking and mind-matricing, and illustrates the particular internal and social experiences of the rarely found highly, exceptionally and profoundly gifted minds.


written by Jennifer Harvey Sallin | originally published on Rediscovering Yourself

updated January 2022


Giftedness is averaged to make up well less than 5% of the general population, and within that small number, there are subclassifications: mild, moderate, high, exceptional and profound giftedness. The latter three types make up only a very small portion of that less than 5%. The relatively little that has been written about the experience and cognition of the highly, exceptionally or profoundly gifted is proportionally consistent with the incidence of the phenomena, but the unfortunate result is that the net is cast wide in the existing literature on giftedness.

With various levels and concepts of “giftedness” often grouped together into a one-size-fits-all description, the highly, exceptionally and profoundly gifted are misrepresented in important ways. We all know that a mild or moderately gifted person can feel a strong sense of being an “alien” in a group of non-gifted people; so too can a highly, exceptionally or profoundly gifted person feel a strong sense of being an “alien” in a group of mild or moderately gifted people (the same is true between profoundly and highly gifted too, and so on).

Through my work, I’ve sought to understand and explore the cognitive process and phenomenological experience of how gifted people at various “levels” take in, make sense of, see, and “feel” the world – as well as the sometimes vast differences between the experience of average (non-gifted) cognition and gifted cognition at the various levels. For the sake of simplicity, I have focused on what I refer to as average (non-gifted) cognition, mild+ gifted cognition (mild and moderate giftedness), and high+ gifted cognition (high, exceptional, and profound giftedness). This is not to make the same mistake in misrepresenting or under-representing the exceptionally and profoundly gifted among us, by lumping them into lower categories. In considering their experience, it appears that their cognitive pattern is very similar to that of the highly and exceptionally gifted, but simply more extensive and speedy.

Level IQ Range Prevalence
Mildly (or basically) Gifted 115 – 129 1:6 – 1:44
Moderately Gifted 130 – 144 1:44 – 1:1,000
Highly Gifted 145 – 159 1:1,000 – 1:10,000
Exceptionally Gifted 160 – 179 1:10,000 – 1:1 million
Profoundly Gifted 180+ Fewer than 1:1 million
Source: http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/underserved.htm, Exceptionally and Profoundly Gifted Students: An Underserved Population by Miraca U.M. Gross

Traditionally, levels of giftedness are defined by IQ scores, but anyone who knows me and my work knows that I struggle to define any level of giftedness by intellectual intelligence measures alone, though I admit that intellectual intelligence is an obviously important factor in the make-up of a gifted person. My own model of giftedness is based on a very holistic view of intelligence, one which includes: intellectual, emotional, sensual, creative, physical and existential varieties of intelligence, rather than relying on intellectual intelligence alone. In my model, you could be highly, exceptionally or profoundly gifted in some areas and not in others. Each gifted person is like a variation on a theme.


First, for context, a basic review of concrete vs. abstract reasoning (cognition); it will be helpful for readers who haven’t spent a whole lot of time thinking about the differences between the two. Whereas concrete reasoning allows us to think about what is here and now, in front of our eyes and in our hands, abstract reasoning allows us to conceptualize or generalize, understanding that each concrete object, experience or concept can have multiple meanings and be seen as just a part in a great matrix of complicated associations. Time, for example can be understood as a concrete concept: 60 seconds equals one minute, 60 minutes equal one hour, and so on. Or it can be understood as an abstraction: time is a psychological concept overlaid onto some sort of phenomenological reality, and represents change, but is not a concrete thing in itself. The ability to see time as a mental construct, rather than just in the concrete meaning it has for us humans in organizing events, allows us to see patterns beyond the obvious, and allows us to use these patterns to guide us toward understanding a variety of ideas or clues to ultimately understand the bigger picture and to solve larger problems.
Or, in the interpretation of art, a concrete thinker sees a painting of a mother holding her child and interprets the painting as, simply, a mother holding a child by such-and-such artist. The abstract thinker sees the painting perhaps in terms of the cultural context of the painter who painted the work, the painter’s personality and life circumstances, the archetypes of ‘mother’ and ‘child’ in history and art, and the expression of human experience. In the high+ gifted, this abstract thinking might continue on to, for example, connect colors, the experience of the human eye, the nature of art, the nature of objects, the nature of emotion, the nature of seeing, the nature of perception, the interconnection of any and all aspects of the world, as expressed through the one present moment of looking at that painting. In some sense, it is as though all of life would be experienced in just one moment (“the whole is in the part,” or the holographic view of life).

Abstract thinking allows us to see connections between seemingly divergent aspects of life, to solve problems in more creative ways (thinking “outside of the box”), and at its best, to connect all aspects of “here and now” (feeling, thinking, intuiting, experiencing) to all aspects of “everywhere and nowhere” (being, existence, meaning, and the unknown). Without the ability to think abstractly, people generally have difficulty making conceptual decisions, moral judgments or solving complex problems. For these matters, those of average cognition classically rely on the system they belong to, and within it, the authorities that dictate moral or ethical choices, such as their country, their religion, their culture, etc. Those of mild+ or high+ giftedness do not so easily rely on any such “authority”.

The real difference in the way the three types think can be seen in their respective cognitive patterns:

Average cognition reasons in a step-by-step fashion

that is, one step at a time.

Mild+ gifted cognition tends toward “skip-thinking”

grouping steps together to be more efficient and quick.

High+ gifted cognition works in “meta-thinking”

finding simple patterns in complex information, perceiving relationships among various seemingly unrelated aspects, and detecting and creatively resolving logical discrepancies and practical problems in non-linear ways. In meta-thinking, one can think about one’s own thinking, one’s ways of learning, knowing, remembering and understanding, and can apply one’s thoughts to “big picture” or “non-linear” vision and insight.

While the mild+ gifted are better than average at discerning and summarizing abstractions, and generalizing from specifics to larger classes, the high+ gifted are known for creating their own complex matrices in order to understand large amounts of concrete information and give a very rich context to any one experience, feeling, thought, relationship, idea or object. They are able to see complex logical connections among very different types of information, and able to organize this data into larger self-constructed matrices, which are then available for use in future actions, reflections, analyses, and problem-solving.

Meta-thinking tends toward seeing everything in terms of metaphors, analogies, paradoxes and puzzles to be resolved by eventual abstraction. Because of this, the high+ gifted are often able to relatively quickly grasp the essential part of highly complex ideas. They are then able to reason through any given idea in relationship to their developed matrix – in the process, adding not only the given complex idea to the matrix, but also adding the complex relationships between the given idea and the existing matrix, as well as the new relationships that form in the synergistic interaction of the idea with the matrix. As a result, the reasoning processes, interests, behaviors and sense of humor of the high+ gifted can sometimes be particularly multi-layered, complex, and difficult for the people around them to follow or intuit.


To clarify, mild+ gifted “skip-thinking” does include finding patterns in complex information and perceiving relationships among seemingly unrelated aspects. After all, all gifted people are considered independent thinkers who detect patterns and problems and creatively find ways to innovate and solve dilemmas. However, there seems to be a “good enough” point for the mild+ gifted that the high+ gifted don’t experience; there is a moment (or moments) when the mild+ gifted experience the feeling of having enough information to “stay still” for a bit. For the high+ gifted, however, it is the extreme quality of these cognitive processes that sets them apart. For them, there really is no “good enough” point; everything is subject to change and question! There is never a place to stay, never real ground beneath their feet. Every supposed answer only generates a series of new questions, as though what most consider knowledge and facts were only a portal to more mystery and intrigue. Life for the high+ gifted is like a never-ending puzzle!

Many high+ gifted clients report to me that they might meet a fellow gifted person (mild+, in this case) and feel energized by the synergy of thought they share with the other person; however, sooner or later, they come to feel quite or very disappointed that the other person’s openness of mind and curiosity seemed to stop at some arbitrary point. It is as if the questioning and exploration became “enough” for their peer, while for the high+ gifted person, they were “just getting started.” For high+ gifted people, this “arbitrary stopping point” of curiosity and questioning of mild+ gifted people seems to happen much too quickly in relationships. Just as a mild+ gifted person seems to feel they have to shift down gears, hold back or go slow with those of average cognition, so too do the high+ gifted feel with their mild+ gifted peers after a certain point.

Put in the simplest of terms, the mild+ gifted have an uncommon need to know and understand complex ideas, and the high+ gifted have the greatest need. If the mild+ gifted don’t need imposed structure, the high+ gifted often reject it altogether, and this sometimes violently. Above this, the high+ gifted not only need to make their own structure for their own lives, but they often have a drive to create structures for whole groups, thought-systems, disciplines and cultures – the “external” structures which can then be followed by others.

This is the essence of “meta-thinking”, and in fact, this is what much of my work is devoted to: supporting the high+ gifted in the structuring and development of their own “discipline,” which is usually then followed by others. In this way, high+ gifted people are often leaders, whether they like it or not – their propensity to create their own mold, so to speak, makes them leaders. In coaching, we acknowledge the natural influence of the high+ gifted on others and actively connect this inborn influence to match the client’s highest values. Thus, what has felt for many a curse (having such influence) becomes a life-affirming force majeure, helping the high+ gifted person express essential parts of themselves and influence others positively and profoundly (rather than a destructive force majeure from which they try to run away or hide from others for fear of ultimate rejection).


All of this extreme abstraction, information-matricing and questioning sets the stage for the fact that what seems “simple” or “obvious” for the concrete or mild+ thinker (i.e. time = hours, minutes, seconds, etc.) is quite “complex” for the extremely abstract or high+ thinker (time = a concept, a representation, a paradox, a puzzle). However, once enough patterning has been learned and the high+ gifted person has thoroughly immersed himself in the study of the paradox or puzzle at hand, the complex becomes simple again, and what is then “complex” for the concrete or mild+ thinker (i.e. the relativity of time) is now quite “simple” for the high+ thinker.

This is why high+ gifted people often seem so out of sync with those around them. The question “how are you today?” can feel extremely complex (How am I about which aspect of my life? Why are you asking? How should I be? and so on); but the question “do you believe time is real?” is quick and easy to answer (well, almost!). The first question might exhaust a high+ gifted thinker, whereas the second question might exhaust an average thinker. Mild+ gifted thinkers are, accordingly, somewhere in between. This is one of the main reasons why small talk and typical social niceties are not often considered specialties of high+ gifted people, and why, when two high+ gifted people meet, they can end up talking about theories of the origins of the universe or the concept of numbers or any other complex puzzle without barely knowing each others’ names.

In gifted coaching, it is often amazing to see how quickly we move from “hello” to extremely complex subjects, such as personality processing, intergenerational emotional legacies, and the nature of existence. It is rare that we spend much time on conventional details such as where one lives, one’s age, one’s sexual orientation, one’s parents or one’s personal relationships – unless of course, those elements are integral parts of the client’s personal puzzle we are actively aiming to resolve together. To an outsider, I as a coach might seem callous, as I breeze by the niceties such as asking, “how are you doing today?” or “how are your kids?” and get right to the heart of the matter. My clients might seem the same toward me. But for us, it works!


In coaching and in the real world, learning how to effectively communicate what is inside one’s matrix, or the matrix in its entirety, can be extremely challenging for the high+ gifted. Because of the rarity of true peers that many high+ gifted people have in their lives, many often feel a physical, almost primal need to communicate the extreme mental and emotional intensity they have held back for years in an effort to fit in or not overwhelm or confuse others. Thoughts, ideas, insights, questions and dreams often come tumbling out like a waterfall in early coaching sessions (or in discussions in our HEPG Group), as though a dam had broken and the very universe or their essence of being is pouring out of the high+ gifted person’s mind.

This is because, for many, it is the first time they feel socially safe enough to share their matrix. But after years of holding it in, it often comes out jumbled and confused, and not rarely, the high+ gifted person himself isn’t entirely sure what he needs to communicate or not. In coaching, I help these clients learn to express what’s in their minds to the best of their ability, while at the same time coming to terms with the fact that, no matter how much we talk or write or sing or play music or dance or produce, it is never really possible to communicate everything that is in our minds, and that this is part of the experience and legitimate existential suffering of being an “individuated” adult.

Knowing this helps to reduce the sense of isolation and longing that many (if not all) high+ gifted feel, and makes communication more functional and less idealistic (this applies across all levels of giftedness). Still, communicating even smaller, selected aspects of the whole – or more importantly, representations of the whole – often remains challenging and is considered by me (and many others) to be one of the main sources of real “work” for the high+ gifted. At any moment, a high+ gifted person may be speaking, be aware of what they are saying, and at the same time, have another ongoing voice (or voices) or awareness in their own mind analyzing what they are saying, as well as actively presenting the possible counterarguments that could be waged on what they are saying or how they are saying it (or writing, or otherwise expressing). As usual for them, they are seeing their argument or subject matter from myriad possible angles and further questions are being generated as they speak or write.

And that can be very frustrating, because high+ gifted people can rarely (if ever) fully agree with what they are saying or have said – there are always exceptions, caveats, missing data, and further exploration to do! How can they communicate what is always changing? They can thus get stuck in thought-loop “black holes” where their need for clarification and precision, finding “just the right word” or explanation, or keeping their argument 100% airtight ironically actually prevents them from making important life decisions, expressing themselves adequately, creating or producing viable work to share (and income to live), or otherwise moving forward with their desires in relationships and life.

When I consult with high+ gifted clients who struggle intensely to express themselves, it is often because they believe that what they have to say is “unacceptable” or “inaccurate” since it necessarily only presents a small fraction of the whole; it is therefore “too simple,” or needs much more clarification before they can share their thoughts, ideas or desires. This can be agonizing, but as I said above, it is incredibly important to accept that all communication is necessarily flawed. We have to choose to say this instead of that, and commit to arbitrary borders in order to communicate concepts and models, when there might be a combination of truth, untruth and subtleties to both “this” and “that” and truths outside of the arbitrary borders we have chosen. One helpful example to remember is how beginning physics teachers teach that the atom is like the solar system, with electrons revolving around a nucleus. This is not true, but for the beginner’s mind, it is much easier to conceptualize this than to understand probability waves. Later, distinctions can be made, as understanding of basic concepts advances.

The high+ gifted person’s stringency with themselves and their own reasoning is only half of the problem: in reality, this stringency very often spills out onto their expectations of others, something very linked to a dysfunctional behavior of the gifted that I’ve termed binocular behavior in coaching. This is because many high+ gifted people do not realize they are high+ gifted, and thinking others should more or less experience the world as they do, they expect others to be as precise and holistic as they are. They expect others to work as hard as they do at finding “just the right word” or at deciphering layers of meaning. When they try to express as much of the whole picture as possible, or as precisely as possible, and when they expect or try to incite others to do so by demanding precision and higher-order analysis, they often find that it is very overwhelming for the person interacting with them.

What they often do not realize is that many people are simply unable (not necessarily unwilling, as it sometimes feels to the high+ gifted person) to engage at that level of abstraction and precision. The other person can go into overwhelm with all of the information given by or expected from the high+ gifted person. This helps us understand what is often perceived by non high+ gifted people as perfectionism or unrealistically high standards, and helps high+ gifted people to find compassion and respect for their non-gifted or mild+ gifted peers. When they realize that their intensity can be as disturbing to others as others’ lack of intensity can be to them, it becomes easier for the high+ gifted to relax a bit and connect better “across the divide.”


I have struggled personally with all of the things I’ve talked about it this article – a lot. It’s why I’ve obsessed for years over learning as much as I could about giftedness and high+ giftedness, to make sense of my mind and why my life experience always seemed to be so drastically different than that of most of the people around me. Now that I’ve been coaching gifted people for nearly a decade, have written extensively about the phenomenon, and have started InterGifted, I can honestly say that I no longer feel crazy or trapped in my mind (most of the time). I’ve come to see my mind as a variation on a theme, with its own particular resistances to work with (everyone has resistances within which to evolve, mine are mostly linked to the way my mind complexifies things, or sees the complexity of things). I can also say I have found a certain measure of peace of mind, even considering my mind’s non-stop push to expand its inner matrix. With a lot of intentional work and support, I’ve learned to slow down my inner process enough to produce good work and make a very positive difference in the lives of others (especially in the lives of my gifted peers around the world).

This all, despite the fact that the questions and doubts still continue to arise all day long, every day. I’ve learned to experience the non-stop complexity, questioning, doubting, imposter syndrome, and often too-insistent curiosity, much like the noise of a flowing river. It is always there, and has never left me, not even in my moments of meditative bliss. I’ve learned to tap into it when it is useful, much the way Eckhart Tolle suggests using the mind as a helpful tool when you need to accomplish something, but not letting the mind use you as a tool: "The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive. To put it more accurately, it is not so much that you use your mind wrongly—you usually don’t use it at all. It uses you."

I actively dive into “the river” of my intense curiosity, thoughts, analysis, meta-thinking and questioning, in a very conscious way, when I have a temporary goal I want to pursue or when swimming around there is simply a pleasure, which it often is. There are many other moments, however, that swimming around there is anything but a pleasure: big ugly fish of social judgment, risk-perception, and existential angst seem to be hungrily biting at my feet, and I am just swimming around in circles tiring myself out. These are moments that I choose to float on a raft on the surface of the water, sit next to “the river” and simply watch and listen to it as a whole, take a walk with its whooshing sound as my soundtrack, or let it lull me into a state of meditative trance or to sleep.

What big ugly fish am I talking about? As I write this article, in the background, I hear the threats from the river that I’m going to look arrogant to any and all who read my thoughts; I see the faces of all my classmates from 20 years ago laughing at how stupid I am to believe I’m gifted even though I’m “obviously nothing special”; I see all the gifted specialists out there tearing apart my arguments and proving to me that I’ve not done enough research to even have a clue of what I’m talking about; I see future me’s giving up and erasing everything I’ve ever written, throwing my computer out the window, selling all my belongings and going to live as a hermit to avoid this paradox of having something important to say but having as much doubt as I do certainty that it is valid at the moment. At the same time, I see the faces of all the gifted clients I’ve helped in profound ways over the years, thanking me and encouraging me to continue; I see my husband’s face, and his love for me; I see my parents’ faces, who, despite everything, have come to love me for my crazy gifted self, and who are proud of me and the person I’ve become, especially in light of my peculiar challenges.

So, I see all of that and so much more as I type these words. It is the river of my mind, rushing, rushing, and making a lot of distracting and clamorous noise. Yet, over many years, with much help from people who have cared deeply about me and have taken dedicated years and much compassion to help me understand my own mind construction and heal from the intense feelings of loneliness and craziness I used to feel, I’ve learned to listen to it with relative calm. I can listen calmly because I’ve come to understand that I can’t take my mind out of my head. It’s always there been there, with all its noise, and I’ve come to peace with the fact that, unless I suffer a serious brain injury, it will be there till I die. It is, in some way, my constant companion, and instead of the love-hate relationship I had with it for most of my life, I’ve come to think of it in less black and white terms. It is not, in fact, a thing, as much as it is a process (like Max Tegmark’s Braid in Spacetime). The “river” is the accompaniment of me becoming. And most of the time now, that feels okay.


Find a coach or mentor

It is thanks to my mentor and a number of key people who have seen my giftedness (and its accompanying legitimate suffering) and have dedicated themselves to helping me channel it, that I am able to sit down and write any of the above thoughts. In my early 20’s I was stuck living someone else’s life (a life based on others’ expectations and my lack of knowledge of my giftedness) and I became crippled by social anxiety and a kind of panicked existential depression in which I had come to feel that my mind was a liability and that there was no way I would ever be able to do anything positive with my life. Along with some very courageous life choices, it was my mentor's guidance that helped me to accept my giftedness and figure out how to live a healthy – if not conventional – life with it. If you are ready to work with a coach or mentor, visit our coaching page to see if one of us is a good fit for work with you.

Learn about how your mind is structured

Learn about your ever-expanding cognitive matrix map. A qualitative giftedness assessment with me or one of the assessors I've trained is an ideal place to start, along gifted coaching and integration work. Our articles here and on my site Rediscovering Yourself are also helpful places to explore.

Learn to meditate

Not in a cliché way. Actively study your mind and learn how it operates, so you can have more control over where you direct your attention. I cannot overemphasize the importance of this step. Notice what voices repeat themselves over and over again; study the enemy within, get to know it, so that you can fight it with dignity or simply learn to ignore its empty threats. Notice what truly inspires you within your mind, and dive into that. Expand what gives you pleasure in your mind, study what gives you pain. Learn to differentiate between the two, and actively train yourself to value the pleasure over the pain. Join our partner project The Gifted Mindfulness Collective to learn about and practice gifted-specific mindfulness in a community of gifted peers.

Connect with other high+ gifted peers

Find like-minded peers. As a first step, you may find our main community a good place to start connecting with fellow gifted people. For the high+ gifted, I've also created a group called the "HEPG Group". This group is open to active members of our main community. You can learn more about that group here.

About Jennifer Harvey Sallin

Jennifer is founding director of InterGifted and is a psychologist who specializes in providing training and mentoring for gifted coaches and other helping professionals who support the gifted; in performing giftedness assessments; and in mentoring profoundly gifted adults. She writes extensively on giftedness and self-development and you can find her articles here on InterGifted’s blog and on her own blog at Rediscovering Yourself. She is based in Switzerland and works with gifted adults throughout the world. Learn more about Jen here.

27 Responses

  1. Jim Doyle
    | Reply

    Thank you very much,interesting stuff. As a recovering person from ‘Positive Disintegration’
    (read Dabrowski’s Theory,by Sal Mendaglio),I am in rather small boat at present in a not so
    calm sea. I only found out about gifted 18 months ago,and am excited,sometimes confused,
    and a lot of regrets I did not find out sooner;and though I can recognise about the deeper
    aspects of your ‘time’ example,I am not sure about category I would be in. I would be very
    interested in your book when published. Thank you for the information.
    Jim Doyle,

    • Jennifer Harvey Sallin
      | Reply

      Hi Jim, I’m glad you found the article helpful! I know, the discovery journey finding out about giftedness is exciting, confusing, relieving, and saddening all at once. One thing I often remind myself and my clients is that there’s no rush to figure it all out – you’ve got the rest of your life to learn about who you are and who you are becoming. And that is a beautiful thing! Cheers to you on your journey, and I hope we’ll see more of you and be able to guide you on your journey in IG. Best, Jen

  2. […] of giftedness (mild, moderate, high, exceptional and profound), which you can find in my article “High, Exceptional & Profound Giftedness”. This subject is of utmost importance as you are learning about what giftedness is – it helps you […]

  3. […] of giftedness (mild, moderate, high, exceptional and profound), which you can find in my article “High, Exceptional & Profound Giftedness”. This subject is of utmost importance as you are learning about what giftedness is – it helps you […]

  4. […] structuring can feel like a painfully slow process to a gifted person used to being able to ‘skip-step’ or ‘meta-think’ their way through […]

  5. marc
    | Reply

    Dear Jennifer,
    These last mounths, I’ve read a lot about giftedness (i scored very high when i was tested). Your article is one of the most interesting i came to read.
    I would like to tell you one thing and ask a question.
    I’ve also discovered that I can dive intentionaly in that river. I don’t let her capture me anymore. Sometimes, you don’t mention this although i’m quite sure you know about it, the river seems to grow and to be willing to flood everything. I just don’t know why…It simply happens. I do no more feel threathened by this. I let the move happens, I’m always safe (but shaken).
    So, here’s my question…
    I’ve already put in practice all of your advices…Meditation doesn’t work for me (yes, I did graduate for MBSR) but there are many ‘like-conducted’ activities that will have the same results on me (walking, woodworking…). I really would like to find a mentor. Where can I find one?
    Kind regards.

    • Jennifer Harvey Sallin
      | Reply

      Dear Marc,

      I’m so glad you’ve found the article helpful! You are right, that there are times the river seems to have a mind of its own and floods everything…in those moments, I do simply let myself feel shaken until the flood subsides (which it always has so far). Also, regarding meditation, I also meditate while doing activities such as walking in nature or cleaning the dishes. As in school, when I could only concentrate while moving, I find that it helps me to keep my thoughts together much more than if I just sit in the lotus position! Meditation for me is a very wide word (that’s why I suggest in the article to meditate, but not in a cliché way) – it describes getting to know the inner workings of the mind, rather than sitting still for 30 minutes! 😉

      I’ll be happy to help you find a mentor! I’ll private message you now. Wishing you all the best on your giftedness discovery journey!


  6. […] as moderately gifted does from average cognition (for more on this topic, read my article High, Exceptional & Profound Giftedness). It is immensely beneficial to make an honest and objective appraisal of one’s speed and the […]

  7. […] I could about giftedness – what makes a gifted brain different, and how that affects people across the gifted spectrum. Eventually, I started advocating for gifted people, mostly through my coaching work and writing, […]

  8. […] peers with whom they could feel free to be themselves – have their "all-over-the-place" thoughts, meta-insights, complex thinking, and so on. Eventually, I added on the gifted coaching element to InterGifted – a team of hand-picked coaches […]

  9. […] they could feel free to be themselves – have their “all-over-the-place” thoughts, meta-insights, complex thinking, and so on. Eventually, I added on the gifted coaching element to InterGifted – a team of hand-picked […]

  10. Niki Phan
    | Reply


    Thank you for being the lighthouse in this dark dark sea of confusion and self doubt. You should do a podcast!

  11. Julie
    | Reply

    Jennifer, there’s so much noise about giftedness on the internet. So much abstract talk of what it entails. Your intimate insight in the workings of a gifted mind are truly invaluable. My SO is profoundly gifted, and you have helped me understand him better. I cannot thank you enough.

  12. Heidi Murphy
    | Reply

    Jennifer, Thank you. Born in 1962 and told I was very smart but broken since birth. Meta cognitive. After the death of my beloved 23 year old son Michael, I experienced Global positive disintegration and found Dubrowski.

  13. Jennifer Bailey
    | Reply

    I cannot express the sheer relief I have experienced reading this article. Especially with regard to the mind-noise, and the difficulties with seemingly promising friendships with people who are only mildly or highly gifted. Also a lot of food for thought here in raising my PG daughter. I will be reading more on this site,and then perhaps looking into coaching, for either or both of us.

  14. SP
    | Reply

    Never thought I was “gifted”, especially regarding those IQ tests, but a dear friend has insisted for a long time that I am gifted. Thus, having spent many, many years trying to figure out what is “wrong” with me, feeling alienated (“different”) and invalidated, I don’t know how but I found myself here exploring this site. What a lovely place to stumble upon – thank you!

    Your mind-river example is what I live on a daily basis, and meditation can be overwhelming (have been meditating, almost daily, for nearly 4 years now – the mind is a wild place!) – thank goodness I have other activities that calm my mind.

    Whether or not I am “gifted”, I am happy to know that there is someone else out there who can describe what I go through on a regular basis.

    Your “What is Giftedness” page aligns with many of my life experiences as well, so thank you.

  15. Bianca Jo
    | Reply

    Thank you for your articles! I’m 32 and just discovering why I’m so different. My boyfriend was diagnosed(assesed?) highly gifted as a child and I fell through the cracks. When we met we instantly launched in to complex ideas and conversation on a level that I have always craved, but didn’t know was possible before that moment. I just wanted to be CLOSE to him. He had never met someone else like him and he opened me to the plausibility that I am just like him. Of course, we come at things from very different angles and we get caught up in needing to say precisely what we mean and sometimes flushing out ideas gets difficult and heated. We’re working on it and your articles are so helpful in learning how to communicate more adequately with each other. Again, thankyou!

  16. […] One of the best ways to tackle SGR is to build a diverse social structure where you engage with many different people, including and especially fellow gifted people (especially those whose giftedness level matches, or comes close to matching, yours). Everyone has an experience, perception or piece of data to offer others, and it is in social situations that we learn and grow as individuals. It is in gifted-matching social situations that we find others who can spot inconsistencies in our logic and challenge our SGR at an intellectual level that gets through our resistance. Sometimes, as gifted people, we can trick (manipulate) less intellectually-agile people into taking our word for it, and thus continue to “fool” ourselves. The more accurate and intellectually-matched data coming your way, the more chances you have to build a mountain of accurate self-knowledge to better yourself in every aspect. If you are constantly on your own, or only on your own among non-gifted or less-gifted peers, then no one will challenge you at your level, and seldom do we challenge ourselves when we are “safe” and “comfortable” in our own realities. You can learn more about the value of interacting with same-level intellectual peers here and more about giftedness levels here. […]

  17. […] was linked above, and if you haven't already read it, my article on High, Exceptional & Profound Giftedness is a good place to start learning more about giftedness […]

  18. […] was linked above, and if you haven’t already read it, my article on High, Exceptional & Profound Giftedness is a good place to start learning more about giftedness […]

  19. Lasya
    | Reply

    Hi Jennifer,
    Does the ability to meta-think mean that you’re likely high+ gifted? I’m under the impression that this trait can be trained in people of any cognitive ability.

    • Jennifer Harvey Sallin
      | Reply

      Hi Lasya,

      An inherent propensity for meta-thinking, in the way I’m describing it in this article, is usually synonymous with high+ cognition, and in general is not something which can be trained if it isn’t inherent to a person’s level of cognition. What can more easily be trained is systems thinking, which is often confounded with meta thinking. And it may be possible that other definitions of meta-thinking reflect a trainable skill, but that wouldn’t fall into the definition I work with.

  20. Denise Lawungkurr Goodfellow
    | Reply

    Thank you, Dr. Sallin. Your article explains my style of reasoning. I tend to think in wide-ranging patterns and often have to be careful when communicating with others not to lose them. However, it’s great for coming up with explanations and even solutions to various issues. Could a comparison be drawn with multiple ways of knowing? My semi-traditional Aboriginal relatives as children are exposed to a range of influences from the role of ‘little parents’ and teachers to other children and great-grandparents and the need to relate to people in dozens of different ‘skin’ relationships, to the natural environment in which many still live.

  21. […] some far-reaching connections. I believe gifted people (perhaps even more so “HEPG”—Highly, Exceptionally and Profoundly Gifted—and twice-exceptional or “2e” people) are singularly affected by our everyday […]

  22. Gnome
    | Reply

    If only it were possible to answer, “How are you?” with, “Exceptionally gifted,” and have the asker understand that that means I can’t answer honestly in less than 15 sentences and don’t want to give a fake answer to play a social game I never signed up for. But it’s not, so I just average the sum of all the positive and negative factors in my life and the world to “good.” Surely if I’m alive and breathing to answer the question, that tips the scales enough toward “good” that’s it’s a reasonable approximation of the truth.

  23. Frédérique Guerin
    | Reply

    Thank you so much for capturing and describing so accurately those inner cognitive processes, which are also so emotional and embedded in our social interaction. I think my difficulties im “communicating the matrix » inside me has been one of my deepest sources of suffering. And the fact that absolutely no one around me has ever felt this problem or been able to understand how that might be a source of suffering in the first place has left me feeling so lonely and isolated. I’m so glad I got to discover your work. I’m looking forward to connecting with your community

  24. romain
    | Reply

    Hi !

    After reading this,

    For anyone guessing how I assume metathinking works – in my case – and how it is very usefull in problem solving ( also in creating structures in any discipline ), I can give here a little bit of an interpretation : Metacognition ( which is in fact more than being able to see how your mind works ), in the abstract realm, it gives the hability to see reality from a more abstract point of view, the logical structure of a solution you have intuited or a range of solutions you have given for a problem ; once you have “seen” that logical structure, you can extract it from the “concrete world of the problem” ( which is for most people, already an abstraction ) and creatively combine that logical structure with other structures and create larger abstract categories ; when a category is well understood, it helps you to solve a great horizon of particular problems within that category. Once you enter that realm, you’re not interested by the solution itself, but rather by the nature of structures that will originate a range of solutions.

    That is why standard IQ tests ( WAIS IV for example ) are very unable to test exceptionnaly gifted minds ; because it makes you play, for a part of the items, in the “subrealm” of solutions and not in the ” logical transcendental ” realm ; and if your psychologist is not at least highly gifted ( according to jennifer’s classification ) he/she will not be able to even imagine what is the inner transcendental realm that precedes concrete solutions you are swimming in.

    I’m not a mathematician, but you come to understand a little bit of an aspect of this realm when you meet, for example, profound mathematics: when things that seems to be only abstract and unliving at a first glance, become organical and living ( here an example of grothendieck’s mathematical works ) : https://img.lemde.fr/2019/05/03/0/0/1680/1272/664/0/75/0/24a9f7a_dl73eFYxifvSMcn5ENX61zfr.jpg

    I would say, that from the exceptionnally gifted range, your mind can enter in contact with the “transcendant” ; and that “transcendant” is sometimes scary because you enter really unknown and unmarked places ; and from those places, one can create entirely new disciplines for the “advancement” of mankind, or simply for the pleasure of self discovery. I guess all great minds in history : Newton, Godel, Aristote ( to cite famous ones ) and many others where playing in that realm, and i guess it explains why ” regular ” or midgifted minds don’t understand how they where able to originate that much unthinkable solutions or abstract spaces.

    Higly gifted minds were designed by reality to teach ( your university lecturer ) to a larger amount of mid gifted or “regular” minds, the findings of exceptionnally gifted people who are swimming in the transcendant ; they can understand structures and use it to a certain degree, but they cannot discover it or create it.

    Jennifer, you can correct me if I’m wrong.


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