Book Review: Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength

After reading the last book on introversion which was a real disappointment, I ordered this book Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, which I enjoyed Immensely.

This book is written by psychologist Laurie Helgoe, PhD. and is a very enlightening book, not nearly as strident as quiet about the extroverts. It is actually surprising according to research by the developers of the Myers and Briggs personality test, that introverts may actually be slightly in the advantage. It may well be that over the last years the stigma associated with being an introvert is starting to lift. Being an introvert might be cool. In some ways there may be more introverts who are very social who you wouldn’t think are. Of course there are also the Shadow Dwellers, who can seem more asocial or people such as the goth teens, who may have been victims of abuse, which are she shadow in Jungian terminology. These people can also include your geek types.

She also refutes what people may mistake about introverts: We are not antisocial, but some may be asocial. The difference is substantial. A person who has an antisocial personality disorder is a person with real problems that don’t have positive outcomes. A person who is asocial may just not enjoy interacting with people much. Extroverts may think we are snobs, but is not nearly the truth, perhaps it’s just an incorrect interpretation.

For those who are not aware of Carl Jung’s Personality theory, the positive potential in introversion has been found in his work. Jung would suggest that we all have both introvert and extrovert aspects of our personality, how much of each is what matters. She suggests that being able to accept the opposite and try to use some of it is a good thing. Yes we need time alone to recover, and you don’t need to love parties, but putting yourself out there a little more can be to your advantage. The shadow in Jung’s work is the dark side that we don’t show in our personality, with the caveat that what we don’t accept and embrace may come out in a odd way.  an example of the shadow is you may have a person who seems kind, but turns out to be abusive.

She suggests our real power is in what’s inside us, in our inner world.  the majority of the book is focused on us, our strengths, and how to have a good life.

 

Malcolm Gladwell: Arrogant and Insensitive.

First before I start, I want to say, before everyone jumps to his defense, Malcolm Gladwell is definitely gifted and I found his earlier books “The Tipping Point” and “What the Dog Saw” very interesting and though provoking, and this is not a full out attack on him or his writing. His books are often full of little interesting snippets of information.

His book “Outliers” is another story. I started reading it with interest, after reading the other books, but found myself turned off, not sure why but I knew something was wrong. I like his idea of the 10,000 hours needed to learn a skill and to get to a highly proficient level in any field, and there is something to say about it.

He writes a book, acting as an expert on education, though he has done no real research and has no advanced degree in education. It seems like his knowledge is more about sports, for example the time of year most hockey players were born. He wrote an interesting article in The New Yorker about the problem of professional football, which was excellent, but he is not an educator. I was listening to an interview by the radiolab guys.  Radiolab, a program produced by WNYC in New York, that is syndicated across public radio. I first heard them on The science show. They interviewed Gladwell talk about the interaction between destiny and determination. Robert Krulwich asked him whether he denied giftedness  or did he hate the gifted? I thought this was a good question and the book and his discussion does raise these questions. He argues that gifted education is about picking high achievers, which is most definitely not the case. Of course high achievers are among the gifted, but he totally dismisses the challenges that gifted children deal with, particularly those who are twice exceptional. I was a student before gifted education was established and I hated being in the wrong classes, being in boring classes, which were a torment. Maybe he also missed gifted education like myself and resents those who got it.

This book perpetuated and created idea that giftedness is a myth. For instance this article in New York Magazine, it’s all about testing and preparing your children for the test. But it ignores the reality of testing, and IQ and the New York system, where there are limited opportunities to get into the gifted system. Gifted children need to be engaged in school, and often don’t get those needs met in normal classes. This problem goes far beyond New York or any other location for that matter.

Another problem is that Gladwell references, old out of date material. Terman’s Termites was research done many years ago and is largely out-of-date with respect to current thinking about intelligence and giftedness. During its time, the research was good, but Terman started researching in 1929, many many years ago. He starts critiquing one of many intelligence tests. Many of the tests have issues, but he picks Raven’s Progressive Matrices  and not the more widely used Wescheler or Stanford Binet tests which are the standard, and most researched, used and understood tests. He misses what IQ measurement is about, i.e. mental processing power.

According to Eric Wargo, writer for The Observer, a publication of the association for psychological science, in an article  he wrote, Gladwell had a dream of becoming a gold medal runner, and suggests he was a Prodigy who didn’t wind up later going on to stardom. Clearly for him it’s about becoming a star, or observations, that graduates from gifted programs didn’t become superstars or become the next Einstein. The differences between those who become stars in sports and those who are purely amateurs is very different than about intelligence. Living with Being gifted and growing up gifted is not about stardom, but more trying to find your way in the world, trying to be able to fully use your abilities. Which I think goes to what Gladwell is more about Elitism, Stardom, how the few exceptions become who they are. Gifted people may become high achievers, but that’s not what it’s about. Just because you can’t  become a star don’t dump on us.

More Recent Contributions to the Nature Vs Nurture debate

In more recent discussions, Daniel Shenk’s book “The Genius in All of Us” suggests that we all can be geniuses if we nurture children and have an optimum environment. This is an interesting argument and it’s become understood that environment influences  many outcomes including culture, behavior and intelligence. It’s an interesting response to the Bell Curve. One can clearly support the idea that children should be given a positive environment to grow up in. Lead and other toxins can lead to lowered intelligence and learning disorders, and nutrition is very important, lack of certain vitamins can lead to birth defects. I have seen many exceptions to this, people from questionable, and even problematical backgrounds who show brilliance. Why does this happen. I have also seen in this within large families, numbers of people with giftedness in those families. I doubt gifted people grow up in families with normal or sub-normal intelligence like the television show “Family Guy” would suggest. There may be many cases where giftedness is masked by other problems and one may hide their giftedness from others for fear of ostracism and rejection. I suspect that one’s ability can be enhanced by an enriched environment, but the real differences between gifted and non gifted people are unlikely to be the result of environment solely.

In another book by Steven Pinker, “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature” he reminds us how John Locke’s (1632-1704) idea Tabula Rasa, which suggests we are born a blank slate has permeated social science research and every day beliefs about what contributes to human development and behavior and the world in general. He suggests that we deny human nature. I doubt that we want to see this as an either/or type of situation, but we need to consider how influential Locke’s theory was.

Nature or Nuture: What Contributes to Giftedness

For centuries, theorists have debated what contributes to human behavior, is it how we are born or is it what we learn. John Locke (1632-1704) had a theory called Tabula Rasa or blank slate, which argued that nothing was innate and it was all learned. This perspective influenced social sciences for many years going forward. Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) associated with the development of  genetics as a theory, spawned significant amount of research and theorizing about how genetics influenced human development, however it would be many years before human DNA was sequenced. During the Third Reich, Nazis murdered those with disabilities, those who were different, gay, Jewish, gypsies and communists thanks to beliefs in eugenics. The Nazis thought they were superior and many of the others were inferior racially. This is an example of how science can go terribly wrong.

Twins Studies have been considered the gold standard for considering if traits are genetically predetermined. Monozygotic (MZ) or identical twins share 100% of their DNA as they were from the same egg. Dizygotic (DZ) twins share less common DNA. Comparing identical twins living together and who were raised apart and the differences between MZ and DZ twins, helped develop estimates of heredity. In an article in a professional psychological journal Wendy Johnson, Eric Turkheimer, Irving I. Gottesman, and Thomas J. Bouchard, Jr. authored “Beyond Heritability–Twin Studies in Behavioral Research” in which they suggested that time has come for abandoning twin studies in research into genetic influences. It has become clearer and clearer that environment poses many confounding variables in proving causation. As one would hear in a research class, “Correlation does not mean causation” that just because there is a relationship between two factors, does not mean that one causes the other. There can be many variables that could interfere or confound or cloud research into the relationship. Instead of arguing that A causes B, B could cause A or perhaps they interact. One of the realities that many of us are such a large mixture of various genes and influences that it is hard to know who’s who, and what I got from whom.

After much research, the current state of research suggests estimates of the heredity of Intelligence are in the vicinity of 50 to 80%. Current thinking suggests that genetics interacts with environment in terms of Genes x Environment rather than Genes + Environment. The interaction leads to genetic expression in terms of proteins and amino acids and others, which influence the outcome.

In another example of how science can go wrong (there are many examples), the book published in 1995, the Bell Curve by Harvard Psychologist Richard J. Hernstein and American Enterprise Institute political science researcher Henry Murray suggested that genetics contribute to far more than one would expect. Including African Americans are less intelligent than white people because of genetic differences. This smells a lot like Eugenics to me. This generated a lot of controversy and seems rather questionable. Another book from other scientists was published to refute those findings “Intelligence, Genes, and Success: Scientists Respond to THE BELL CURVE (Statistics for Social Science and Public Policy)” Edited By: Bernie Devlin, Stephen E. Fienberg, Daniel P. Resnick, and Kathryn Roeder. The American Psychological Association formed a task force and developed their official statement on the matter arguing that race, gender are  not correlated to intelligence, but intelligence is related to many factors and influences.

The Brain that Changes Itself

The Brain that Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge, M.D. Published 2007 by Penguin Books.

According to Doidge, the common belief in neurology was that if the brain got damaged or missed key developmental milestones, the brain would never improve, and would never get better. More recent research and practical experience has shown that given a stimulating environment that nourishes and causes the brain to create new neurons, substantial changes can develop. This is called neuroplasticity. It seems very promising. Given some of the problems that some gifted people struggle with with Asperger’s for instance, or sensory processing issues, maybe people can find support and assistance that can help them change. I have concerns that people find that while may help, may lead people to feel disappointed and blaming themselves for hoping that change is possible. I think one needs to keep one’s expectations in check. It’s also curious that the author, who comes from the psychoanalytic world view is thinking about neuroplasticity. It had been typical for psychoanalytic people to suggest the best we can have is self-knowledge and much of our struggle will continue, just as ordinary unhappiness.

Author’s Website.

The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You

The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D., published by Broadway Books, 1998.

Elaine N. Aron’s book is aimed at helping people who are highly sensitive, which can include many GT people, especially those with certain Overexcitabilities, though she argues this is not just for gifted people. She suggests that being highly sensitive is not abnormal and such sensitivity, even though it leads to being stigmatized is a gift and not a problem. Her arguments are that people need to take steps to manage their emotions and the circumstances in their lives that overwhelm them. This can be useful, but sometimes can be difficult if the circumstances are such that you can’t make the adjustments. It is good to hear a lot of her comments especially her attempts to reframe and normalize the challenges that we face.

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Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Pracice–A reader

Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Pracice–A reader, By Howard Gardner, published by Basic Books, 1993.

Howard Gardener developed a multiple intelligences theory that argues that their are multiple intelligences, not just the core that most IQ tests measure. He argues that intelligence is more about developed potential and learned by practice and learning, not just something that one is born with that is just there. He is an author that poses an alternative perspective, and suggested that gifted is just about children, as adults grow, it’s more about developed potential. His work has strongly influenced educational reform where it has a lot of promise focusing on developing and helpign students learn and develop their potential, which is useful for all. He does not really account for the problems that gifted and talented people face, especially the emotional and social. In some ways he poses the alternative to the Dabrowski view of multiple overexcitabilities, which are hard wired which accounts for both potential and challenges gifted people face.

Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ

Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ, by Daniel goleman, Published by Bantam, 1995.

Daniel Goleman makes the arguement that understanding how emotions work and knowing about how things play out with others is an important skill, and it may be more important than just IQ. Some gifted and talented people can have difficulty relating to other people, escpecially those more normal. Goleman backs his arguments by research, and argues that increasing this type of skill or intelligence in people can solve many problems in our socidety. The book comes from an scientific basis including research in neuroscience and understanding how the brain works and how emotions and memory. Other arguments made include the costs of not learning about our emotions like depression, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, prejudice, etc. This book has limitations, he could go further and talk further about how to use this information more and applying it and steps to do so.

Gifted Grown Ups: The mixed belessings of extraordinary potential

Gifted Grown Ups: The mixed blessings of extraordinary potential, by Marylou Kelly Streznewski, published by John Wiley & Sons, 1999.

This is a good basic informational book for gifted adults. It covers many basic information. The basic point of the book is “This is who you are and what you have to deal with.” This can be a good book to give to a friend who you want to understand you better. As far as books that may help you take steps to grow and improve yourself and live a better life, this is not the best. For many people this may be a good starting point. This book is also honest about some of the problems that gifted adults face in the world and challenges that we need to deal with.

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The Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius

The Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius by Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, Psy.D., published in Paperback by Ballantine books, 1999.

This book is a very useful book for gifted adults. It normalizes a lot of what gifted and talented people are and deal with and tries to provide a framework that people can use to enhance their lives and develop their potential. Jacobsen acknowledges the challenges GT (Gifted and Talented) people face in a normal world where talents and gifts are viewed as oddness and problems and helps us find ways to use them productively and face less pain in the world. This book is also good for those who aren’t sure they are GT and know more about themselves if they have not known a lot about who they are and why they have struggled with life. She breaks areas of potential into three different levels, collapsed or unexpressed, exagerated where all features are very big and balanced where we are able to use our potential to the fullest, but not be as troubled by it. She also helps normalize some of the criticisms that we have heard and face the reality that many of us create a false-self to avoid pain in dealing with others.

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