Let There Be Complexity

For gifted people, complexity is normal. We view and understand issues from many perspectives, and gather and interpret information at various levels. But not only is it normal for us, we NEED it. Without complexity in our lives, our work can feels fragmented or superficial, and life can feel meaningless. Learn more about your need for complexity and how to fill it in this article by Willem Kuipers.

written by Willem Kuipers | originally published on Ximension

For me, complexity is normal: I’m used to e.g. view and understand important issues from many perspectives, and to gather and interpret information with respect to my interactions at different levels. But it also works the other way around: I am not only able to handle complexity, I need it too. Without complexity my work feels fragmented or superficial and my life becomes insignificant.

How many pins has your connector?complexity

This dexterity and need with regard to complexity is a generally accepted feature of XIPs and the Gifted. I use it as a practical means for recognition. It seems like XIPs and Gifted are innately equipped with a 24-pin connector, while averagely intelligent people have a 6- or 10-pin connector. With either connector you may construct an image of reality, but the 24-pin connector gives a substantially different picture compared to the 6-pin one. Conversely, there are -metaphorically- also 24 areas in an XIP’s brain that are eager to perceive and react to what is being offered at their respective sensor systems. Hence the need for complexity.

Complex, intense, driven?

Complexity is one of three Big Differences that Mary-Elaine Jacobsen in her book The Gifted Adult (1999) has introduced as a characteristic of the “Everyday Genius”. The other two are Intensity and Drive, see my web page on this characteristic. She writes that because of their “complexity” (explanation follows below) the minds of the target group are qualitatively different compared to the minds of more averagely intelligent people. For me, the degree of complexity – and the degree of intensity – is directly linked to the degree of Xi. Be aware that within a group of XIPs there are considerable gradations of handling complexity. The minds of extreme XIPs seem again qualitatively different from the minds of “normal” XIPs.

How does complexity manifest itself?

Jacobsen mentions the following aspects that may be noticeable for every XIP and gifted person in varying degrees:

  • Multiple interests; lifelong avid learner.
  • Keen observation and assessment; having an eye for beauty.
  • Exceptional memory; wide and deep, making smart syntheses and analyses.
  • Originality; comfortable with temporary chaos, innovative.
  • Complex thinker; problem solver, developing concepts.
  • Self Awareness; assessing their own behaviour, acceptance of self and others as work in progress.
  • Intuition; consciously handling non-rational information, honouring paradoxes of life.

Indeed, all these aspects call for quite a number of pins on your connector. Which ones can you recognize for yourself or for loved ones?

Hibernation conceals being extra intelligent

Having this multi-pin connector is also a potential vulnerability: When for a long time nothing happens at many of the pins, the person concerned seems to get into a kind of hibernation state. This state is held until there are enough interesting incentives to wake up again, or until the hunger for stimuli becomes unbearable. In this state of hibernation their environment often does not notice that they are actually XIPs. While in this state of hibernation, they may not know this themselves either, or it may feel like some dull ache in the background.

Waking up and starting to thrive

For example, if the school period is spent in total or semi hibernation, there is little socially accepted proof of being unusually intelligent. On many occasions, this will also have been made quite clear to the person concerned, so that he / she is not readily inclined to consider that alternative. But if the conditions (finally) appear to be fitting to someones learning style, interests, values and skills, his / her natural ability to handle complexity suddenly finds an application and comes to fruition. Finally getting out of hibernation! It is often a big challenge to say goodbye to the limiting beliefs about yourself that you have collected in the past. Can you recognize and acknowledge that you are much more intelligent than you thought, even if it manifests itself differently from expected or taught?

So many ways of dealing with complexity

I have noticed that it is easier to explain that someone has an unusual skill in dealing with complexity, then to explain why he / she is, in spite of bad or mediocre school performance, unusually intelligent. This is partly because there are so many domains in which you may prove yourself excellent in handling relatively complex information. Due to our school system, the domain of abstract scientific concepts and patterns is best known as a marker for complexity handling skills. It is also part of many IQ tests, and Giftedness is often only associated with that domain.

But if you look at the above list of aspects of complexity, you may also encounter XIPs in the domains of sports or music. And what about pragmatic managers of large, complex projects involving many parties, disciplines, and uncertainties. Or visualise some executive secretaries, innovative entrepreneurs, farmers, television stars, writers, artists you may have seen somewhere. In short, you can encounter them in a lot of contexts. And always you may find that these XIPs thrive on complexity and look forward to some next activity that has a similar or even larger amount of it. That makes them recognizable as XIPs, if you perceive them that way.

Why should you want to know this about yourself?

It is like the story of the ugly duckling: As long as the swan assumes being a duck, it persists in being just an ugly duckling. It is not about yearning to be called Mr. or Mrs. Swan. The issue is that Ducks do their daily things differently from what Swans consider normal and useful. So you may be your own biggest obstacle if you do not want to know who / what you actually are.

Let there be complexity, please!


About Willem Kuipers

Willem is a coach and author for giftedness. He lives in the Netherlands and coaches gifted people around the world through their giftedness discovery process. If you have recently found out you are gifted, or have known for a while that you are, but still haven’t integrated that knowledge, Willem can help you come home to your gifted self. Learn more about him here.

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