Episode 25: Experiences Being Profoundly Gifted, Part 1

Chris Wells & Emma Nicholson with guests Nth Bar-Fields and Joi Lin

Release date: January 3, 2023

In episode 25, Chris and Emma were joined by Nth Bar-Fields and Joi Lin. This fascinating and fun discussion was too long for one episode, so we’ve split it into two for your listening enjoyment!

Nth is a co-founder of Elysian Trust, and Joi is a doctoral student in Gifted Education Leadership at the University of Denver. Chris joined Nth and Joi in March 2022 for a panel session called Experiences Being Highly and Profoundly Gifted at the DU Gifted Education Policy Symposium and Conference. This episode is a product of that collaboration, and covers some of the same ground.

We talked about what it means to be profoundly gifted (PG), which we defined as the 99.9th percentile of intelligence. Joi and Nth introduced themselves and shared their PG journeys, and talked about the challenges involved in this difference. We also discussed breaking socialization and transcending boundaries as outliers, including what that means for gender identity and gender differences.

Part one concludes with a discussion of the various types of intuition. We discuss how intuitive thinking applies to being gifted and how this type of thinking can lead to challenges and impostor syndrome.

Make sure you join us again for part two of this conversation!

Nth's bio: Nathan “Nth” Bar-Fields is the founder of Elysian Trust. He originally worked in the nonprofit management sector. There, he helped organizations with worthwhile causes achieve their missions while remaining solvent. Aside from his past work as a fundraiser and data analyst for several organizations, he worked as a nuclear engineering tech for the US Navy and was a team leader for the think tanks, Idea-Connection and Hard Problems Consulting. Nth has been tested and studied for high-range cognitive abilities at U.C. Berkeley, MIT, and the University of Virginia—a few of which demonstrated the highest possible score on the tests administered.

Joi's bio: Joi Lin is finishing her last year as a PhD student of Gifted Education Leadership at the University of Denver, where she works to support the career development and well-being of the gifted, and the professionals who support us. And fun fact, Joi first met Dr. Chris Wells, in 2018, at an OEQ-II training offered by the Gifted Development Center.

Links for this episode

Elysian Trust

Experiences Being HG/PG Panel at DU’s 2022 GEPSC

Mensa

Davidson Institute

**Thank you, Bee Mayhew, for editing this transcript!**

Transcript:

Emma: Welcome to Positive Disintegration, A Path to Authenticity. This episode is the first in a two part series in which we're going to be talking to Nth Bar-Fields and Joi Lin about the experiences of being profoundly gifted. In this episode, we're gonna to talk about what profoundly gifted is and what it means to individuals, why it can make you a little bit different and some of the challenges involved in being profoundly gifted. We'll also talk about breaking socialization and transcending boundaries and what it can mean to be an outlier in society. We'll talk about emotional and social intelligence as well as intellectual intelligence and we'll also talk about intuition and the role that it can play in your life if you are gifted. So stick with us. I think you'll find it really interesting if you are a gifted person. And I hope you'll rejoin us again for the second part of this conversation.

Hello, listeners. Welcome back to the Positive Disintegration Podcast. I'm your host, Emma Nicholson, and with me is my co-host, Dr. Chris Wells. Hi, Chris.

Chris: Hi, Emma. Nice to be back with you again.

Emma: We've got two guests today, which is a bit of an unusual one for us. And I believe you worked with both of our guests on a panel.

Chris: That's right. We were on a panel together at the Gifted Education Policy Summit and Conference in March 2022 at the University of Denver, we talked about our experiences being profoundly gifted. When we did that, it occurred to me that it would make a great podcast episode, so here they are to revisit the topic. I'm going to have them talk more than me in this episode about my experiences being PG, I am really looking forward to it.

Emma: Excellent. So let's bring our guests on without further ado. First of all, we have Nth Barfield. Nth is founder of the Elysian Trust and has worked with the nonprofit sector, helping organizations with worthwhile causes achieve their missions while remaining solvent. Nth has also worked as a nuclear engineering tech for the U.S. Navy and was a team leader for think tanks, Idea-Connection and Hard Problems Consulting..We also have Joi Lin, and Joi is finishing her last year as a PhD student of Gifted Education Leadership at the University of Denver, where she works to support the career development and well-being of the gifted and professionals who support us. Joi was also an integral part of putting together the 2022 Dabrowski Conference, which I was very grateful for. And a fun fact, Joi first met Chris in 2018 at an OEQ2 training session offered by the Gifted Development Center. So welcome Nth and welcome Joi.

Nth: Thank you.

Joi: Glad to be here.

Chris: Yeah, welcome to both of you. Let's use a little bit of the same format that we used for that panel. So Joi, if you would like to kick us off and talk a little bit about who you are, and your gifted story, however you'd like to tell it.

Joi: Hello, everyone. I'm Joi. I use she/her pronouns. I identify as a multi racial, multicultural, multipotentialite, who is a profoundly gifted woman of colors. I really resonate with a two-spirit concept, but I still identify as a woman. My whole life has been a series of being told who I am and who I'm not, usually by society.

I was adopted and then naturalized as an American citizen. I lived overseas for a while. My father was in the military. I think every time I went to a new community, a new culture, as much as I could share things in common, I was always very, very aware of my differences and how I didn't fully blend in and how I stood out. When I was a little child, my teachers viewed me as precocious, but they didn't know anything about giftedness exactly, and I certainly didn't know as an elementary school child. So while my teachers sometimes advocated for some gifted education, no one had a conversation with me. There was no understanding about what that meant on the inside.

I worked as a secondary math teacher. I've worked in professional learning in different organizations as well and through some of my work experiences, I found myself really, really struggling at work. There were a lot of things going on in hindsight, but I took a Mensa admissions test to see if IQ was what was weird, and it turns out it was. When I tested on the Mensa test, I got two scores in the 98th and 99th percentile. That allowed me admissions to Mensa and also to Intertel, a 99th percentile high IQ organization.

Through that, I started to study ‘gifted' a little bit and do my Google search. One of the first articles I found was Linda Silverman's ‘The Construct of Asynchrony’, where she talks about the Columbus Group definition of asynchronous development for giftedness. I just remember crying as that article explained so much of my intensities and vulnerabilities and struggles I'd had to date. Impassioned by that, I went back to grad school. I earned my master's in industrial and organizational psychology, where I looked at cognitive ability testing in the workplace, angling toward that gifted adult at work. Then in 2018, I enrolled at the University of Denver to study gifted education, and have been really blessed to be in the field and have an opportunity to learn more not only about myself, but about my special tribe, this population of gifted neurodivergent people. And all of a sudden, as much as I don't fit in in my other identity roles, this gifted role, this gifted identity is starting to really feel like my own and feel like something that does represent me. So I'm happy to be here and share a little bit about me and some of my experiences, especially regarding positive disintegration as we continue.

Nth: That was great.

Chris: Thanks, Joi.

Nth: Yeah, I enjoyed hearing that. I learned quite a bit about you there. So, my name is Nth Bar-Fields and I was born and raised in the United States. I'm African American, like most African Americans when you take a DNA test, it shows you a little bit of everything. In my case, it was such a wide mix of stuff that shows up in my DNA tests, so you name it, I probably have at least one ancestor that comes from that region. I grew up in California, which was at the time anyway, was pretty Bohemian. I lived in the San Francisco area and this is before the tech boom, so I was always raised around a wide variety of cultures and people from various parts of the world, different ethnic backgrounds and that all impacted me and I didn't even realize it growing up. It gave me a much more holistic understanding of this world than is probably common for most human beings.

As a kid, I had a somewhat chimerical life in the sense that before I even started school, before I started kindergarten, I was able to do mental calculations in my head. It's how I used to entertain myself. So while my mom was cleaning the church, I was playing with her pocket calculator and predicting what the numbers were going to be before they showed up on the screen after you hit a plus or minus or multiplication symbol. That's actually how I got the nickname ‘Nth’. It's because later on it turned out I had a knack for intuiting the nth terms of a sequence or series.

However, I was also dyslexic, so by the time in kindergarten I was able to do these huge calculations in my head but I couldn't write a number string out. I couldn't write 12, the number 12 out, without flipping the numbers, so I was actually held back pretty much all my educational life until 10th grade. By 10th grade, I was very grateful to have a teacher who intercepted my life. She was my math teacher, and it was her first year of teaching in the United States. She came from India. She was the first one that was like, yeah… “you're in the wrong classes. You're actually, you should be way ahead”. With her help and with her championing for me, before you know it, I wound up being a year behind in most subjects in 10th grade to being in all advanced classes in 12th grade. That definitely changed the trajectory of my life. From there, instead of going to community college, I wound up being accepted to every university I applied to. I couldn't afford it, though, because I came from a low-income family, so I joined the Navy and I took their test, it's called the ASVAB, and I maxed out. And they were like, oh, you're definitely going to be in nuclear engineering tech.

I did not see that coming for my life, but it was a great time period. After that, I wound up studying chemical engineering and biomathematics. It really looked like my life was going to go towards the science and engineering realm. Every once in a while I still help in that domain, but that's not my bread and butter these days. As an adult, I started finding my niche in the fields of, I guess you could call it, social enterprise.

We're trying to use brain power and any other resource, marshaling every resource you can pull to try to make this world better. I largely found that through Elysian Trust (I'm the co-founder and the chief visionary officer for it), I was able to find a wide array of human beings on this planet who each have something remarkable about their mind. It may be IQ. It may be they have remarkable intuition or high emotional intelligence or high tenacity, but beyond that, they all are either directly trying to do something to make this world better or they're there to support people who do. So in a way, we've kind of become, we found, our own tribe. What I found over and over again is that despite all of us coming from such different worlds, we didn't realize that we never really truly fit in, for different reasons. It could be because maybe you're autistic or you're dealing with schizophrenia or you just have an abnormally high IQ. You just never know. But whatever the case may be, we wound up finding our own tribe.

In terms of supporting each other inside of Elysian Trust, one of the things we realized that people often need is money to fund their projects. So we started the grant writing service and contract writing service, and we've been able to raise… actually this year we crossed the $30 million mark. Matter of fact, yesterday. was the day we crossed the $30 million mark for our clients. And it's great because now we're building each other up and we really do believe, like, once any of us, me or anybody else, if we build ourselves up, we can go back to our communities, to whatever underserved population or overlooked community that we belong to. We're a natural resource for it, and we can actually be something of a bellwether to accelerate growth in that aspect of community. So overall, I found out that's not just what I do for a living, that is my passion and my calling. And that's partly why I'm here today. I do appreciate you inviting me here.

Chris: We're glad to have you with us. Thanks so much to both of you for those great introductions.

Nth: Thank you.

Chris: I was just sitting here thinking while you were talking that it's amazing to have the opportunity to talk with other PG people and to shed light on this experience that's so… unusual. Who knows how many people I knew that met that criteria. I feel like we need to say, like explicitly in name, Profoundly Gifted, it means something different to different people, but when we were talking about it around the panel in March, we decided to just go with the Davidson criteria of over 145 IQ, which is three standard deviations from the mean, just for our listeners, so you know what we're talking about. Some people consider it four or more standard deviations from the mean. Really, once you hit 145 and over, I think that that's profoundly different from the norm enough, in my opinion.

Nth: I would say so. You're talking about someone, one person out of a thousand at the three sigma level. And then it gets even rarer. I think it's 1 in 30,000 at the 4 sigma and 1 in 3.5 million at the 5 sigma. Yeah, if you have a brain that's that rare, it's going to impact other aspects of your life for sure. And in the area of learning, you're just going to have to accept that maybe the traditional route to learn something isn't going to work for you as opposed to [how] it would for the average person. And that's okay. It's not a bad thing. As long as you know what you're working with and what to do with it.

 Joi: And I'll add, since this is also for posterity, I tested later on the WAIS as an adult and scored at a 148 IQ, which was like 99.94 percentile and I, even getting involved as a doctoral student studying giftedness and gifted ed, I was very hesitant to embrace the title of ‘profoundly gifted’. Maybe ‘exceptionally gifted’ the title at least resonates with me a little more but using the Davidson criteria, I'm staunchly in this tribe and it's been interesting reflecting on my differences, even with other gifted adults, now that I know what I'm looking for.

Nth: Can I add something to that? Because you just made me think of something, Joi. A lot, for me, there was a lot of hesitance to acknowledge it, largely because of the community I came from. In the Black and Latino community, there is a reticence regarding the whole subject of IQ, let alone having an unusually high one, so you'd often hear, “oh, they're trying to be white”, or something along those lines. And so I, to some extent, had to play down my own IQ scores and more importantly the implications of those scores growing up, for multiple reasons. First of all, my school didn't know what to do with it, so it was an interesting trivia, but it didn't mean anything to them. Secondly, it almost alienated me against a lot of the people, other Black Americans- at my school and there were very few of us there… I never really succumbed to peer pressure, but I also did not want to be an isolated target either. Secondly, later,  I mean thirdly- later on when I got older, when I wanted to help elevate other gifted kids, especially the ones that come from underserved populations, I often found myself dropping the whole IQ thing because even though they themselves had unusually high IQ, they couldn't understand it. I was speaking a different language to them. I was telling them that they were trying to be white or they thought they were better than other people and so forth and so on.  I had to get really creative. I'm not sure if that's been your experience too. I know our backgrounds are similar but they're not identical.

Joi: For me, at least, I didn't know the terminology worked as a label for me until I was in my 30s, even. So, I didn't have that hesitance as a child. I spent a lot of energy blending in badly with my peers. People would always call me out. I even saw a neurologist recently and after 20 seconds, he's like, what do you do? You're a smart cookie. I'm like, oh my gosh, I've barely talked to you at all. But he could see it. So for me, especially as I've gotten involved in the field and the profession, which does acknowledge the stigma that comes with the gifted label, that does acknowledge the pervasive myths of gifted as elitism, etc. You know, I go ahead and I try to acknowledge it plainly, clearly, just… matter of factly, I try to do that in a way to make it safer for other people in my community to be able to say it too.

Nth: I hear you.

Joi: I do have a lot of issue with the terminology and I would update and edit things if I could, but it's a lot of effort to do that at a social scale.

Nth: Sure. Yeah.

Chris: So, next I thought, you know, you already talked a bit, both of you about your educational experiences. And so let's go to social and emotional intelligence next. In this category, you know, you can go wherever you want with it. But one thing that I think is interesting about both of you, and also me, is that we all have gender differences. And so I wonder if you would be interested in saying anything about that. You know, Joi, you mentioned feeling like two-spirit aligns with you, even though you also identify as a woman.

Joi: So regarding gender, it was always very clear I was a girl. My adopted mother was very into making me the girl of her dreams. At the wedding, we got to reminisce, she talked about just dressing me in pink and how I hated the color pink, how my father had advocated for me to get my first pair of jeans and my first pair of sneakers. With my dad being a Marine, there was definitely an aspect of that hyper-masculinity in my home just a little bit, and the culture of being around military bases growing up as a child. But really, it goes back to an experience I had in Sunday school at church. The Sunday school teacher said something like “men must obey God, blah, blah, blah.” I raised my hand all smart. “Well, I'm a girl. Does that mean I don't have to?” The Sunday school teacher was like, no, that's man as in mankind. That's all of humanity. That actually does apply to you. I was like, fine, because I knew I was supposed to follow the rules. I got it. I got it. It's fine.

As I continued to develop and grow up, when I would hear something that was for men or that was masculinized, I went ahead and would listen to the content anyway. I feel like over time, I ended up ingesting both women and men gender indicators. I remember as a child hearing something about [how] boys do better on tests because they don't second guess their answers and they just leave them. I was like, well, I can just not double check my answers too. I just wonder about that. As an adult, I have shed some stuff and there are things that I was raised with that I definitely do not see as important or critical to my life.  I think it's probably not my first instance of unilevel disintegration, but it was one of the multi levels that began to disintegrate as I began to mature as an adult.

Regarding social and emotional intelligence, I think I also grew up with that weirdness with others and just not getting them. I transitioned a lot, in a lot of different environments. I moved frequently as a military child. This culture, that culture, constant code switching. Anthropology class in undergrad actually sort of shed some light and gave me some energy around my curiosity about different cultures and my willingness to dissolve in and feel what it is like to be of that culture without changing that culture. I don't feel that I have such high emotional IQ that I do everything perfectly, but my emotional IQ is high enough that when I mess up, I can usually break it down pretty clearly. I have a good beat on my own feelings.  I can usually tell you I'm a mixture of angry and sad and frustrated, but a little relieved about something happening. I find that a lot of people I interact with can't do that, one emotion just dominates sometimes.

Then I have chronic problems having deep connections with everyone. And I have found more connection with gifted people, gifted adults, neurodivergent [folks] that are even more gifted, right? So the highly and profoundly gifted group, I end up enjoying those conversations with people and starting to build community with those people over time. Part of my itch and urge for community was also why I joined Mensa.  I wanted to see what is this special little high IQ club? I've learned a lot about people and gifted people as I've been a member. It really is a social organization. And that is why they get together because people have this itch and desire to talk to others that are like minded.

Nth: Yeah. Well, in my case, it's probably best to start where I first discovered my gender difference. It was not evident at birth. There were some clues growing up, but it all came to a head when I was in college and I volunteered for one of the many, many studies I enrolled myself in to pay for college. This one was a DNA test at Boston University. They were looking for African American men to provide DNA samples so that they could perfect their techniques to trace the Y haplotype. which is what's used to find out your father's father's father's father so on down the patrilineal line to find out where you know where they come from. Their origin, like a lot of Black people, I didn't know anything about what part of Africa my ancestors came from so I was gung-ho to do it not just for money, but just for that as well. They gave me an oral swab and I remember that when I came in for the results, the lab tech coming in and telling me, “so when were you going to tell us you're trans?” Well, never because I'm not. And I think they thought I was in denial or… I don't know what was going through their mind. But it took a while for them. I was like, no, I'm definitely male. I was born male. I'm not a woman who transitioned into a man. I was born with everything intact at birth, and I've been in the Navy and so forth and so on. Then after a while, it took quite a few steps and some other tests that probably would bore your audience. But after enough testing, they found out that I am what's called a tetragametic chimera.

Basically, my mother was pregnant with twins, a boy and a girl, and those zygotes fused together into one person, and that one person is me. So consequently, some parts of my DNA will read XX, as in female, and some parts of my DNA will read XY, as in male. There's also some, what they call supernumeracy of organs, which is when you have more than what you normally should. So, I have two extra ribs. I have three kidneys as opposed to two. A few other features like that and that's almost certainly due to the chimerism. More to the point of what you were talking about, Chris, with regards to gender, it didn't just affect me in terms of sex, but also in terms of gender roles. Because growing up, I was often accused of being the effeminate kid, or I thought differently. I even remember someone saying I think hermaphroditically, which in retrospect, that's kind of comical, but they were basically saying that sometimes I think like a guy, sometimes I think like a girl.

Granted, those terms are super loaded, that whole concept is super loaded and we know way more now than we did back then. But I get where they were coming from and I can look back objectively and I see what they're saying. In terms of my own sexuality growing up, it did make things complicated in ways that there just was no textbook for. So in my case, my eyes and ears are attracted to men, but they're not attracted to women. And my nose and mouth are attracted to women, but they're not attracted to men. So it's really, really hard for me to find a human being that all of me is attracted to. I'm almost certain it's because, I don't know this for sure, but I'm pretty certain it's because two of my sensory organs came from one of the zygotes and two of my sensory organs came from the other zygote. In a way, you would think that it would make life really difficult for me, but historically it hasn't.

If anything, I guess this ties into being gifted. You look at this unusual puzzle that is your life and you figure out a way to solve it. You just look at it and say, okay, what was the puzzle? What can I do here? Especially if you are lucky enough to separate the emotional component to it because a lot of times that is the part that stumps people when they're confronted with something perplexing. It's not the actual logic of the situation. It is the social or the cultural element to it. So thankfully, I never really caught on to cultural cues, for better or worse. Sometimes that's hurt me, sometimes it hasn't. In this context it didn't. I never experienced that type of dread that a lot of LGBT people experience. I never dealt with any of that. This is reality, and this is how my life is, this is how I'm gonna have to navigate my life around romantic relationships and stuff like that.

Also, I just have to be prepared for certain surprises. Last year I had to have a mammogram because I am at risk for breast cancer, like a lot of women. I have to be on the lookout for ovarian cancer because I do have ovatesis, it's these little things like that. I'm very grateful that not only am I equipped to handle it, I developed a community of people around me who are smart enough, not just mentally or intellectually, but also emotionally, to support it too. A lot of my friends, they don't have any judgment. They're just like, oh, this is like a weird science project, let's find out what's the new discovery. That's where it stops, and I love it. That's pretty much my whole gender experience in a nutshell.

Joi: Yeah, and I appreciate you sharing your story so matter-of-factly because it's real. It's just real.

Nth: Yeah, it's reality.

Joi: The observation you were making, Chris, around gender fluidity in our PG population, I see it so strongly. When you think about Dabrowski, we were told these very clear-ish rules for what men and women were supposed to be like growing up as a child. And then we have started to pull that apart and disintegrate that and reintegrate what our new vision of who we are is. I've seen that so frequently. I even met a 19-year-old PG person recently who explained their gender fluidity to me too. I see it as prevalent because I see our population as knowing they don't need to choose all of column A or all of column B. This is like a buffet. Let's pick and choose and move forward.

I think our social pressure now allows us to do that with less social pressure than there has been for that conformity. It's not perfect, but I think now people can be more free. We talked about gender, but I will touch on sexuality because that is basically my highlight story for uni-level disintegration. I grew up as a very religious evangelical Christian, non-denominational, and went to private religious schools from preschool through my junior year of college. In high school, I used to lead Christian teen retreats with my buddy. My buddy, later in college, came out to me, and I started crying, and I was like, you're going to hell. He was crying, and he's like, well, if God is love, then why can't I love? Why is my love so bad? And I did not have a good answer for him. We're still friends to this day, but it was a hard moment for me because my worldview was shattering. He was having a moment because he was telling me his vulnerability, but that was that first little loose thread. I started to pull at that throughout college and young adulthood and really started to question if the code book that I had been following really applied and fit every situation. I was finding that it didn't, at least not in a literal, legalistic sense, the way Christianity is often wielded nowadays.

Chris: Thanks to both of you for sharing so honestly. We really appreciate it.

Emma: Joi, particularly what you were talking about resonated very strongly with me with the whole growing up and hating pink thing. I also hear what you're saying about the column A and column B because I was in that situation too where, you know, I liked rainbows and kittens and unicorns and flowers, but I also liked lightsabers and robots and all these other things. I didn't want to be crammed into a box and that whole thing about Dabrowski and talking about the socialization, there comes a point in your life where you start to realize that that narrow pigeonhole that everybody's trying to cram you into is the problem and the problem isn't with you.

It does take a lot of unwinding because that socialization that Dabrowski talks about, whether it's coming from religion or culture, is really hard to break out of, particularly when everybody else around you seems to be happy in that situation. One thing I'm getting from this conversation is this common thing around giftedness is being beyond those borders of definition and trying to figure out that the issue's not with you, the issue is with the definition.

Joi: Thanks for that, Emma, yeah.

Nth: One of the things that came to mind from what’s recently mentioned is, yeah, a lot of times the problem is with society itself, with the categories themselves. I understand how they came to exist because you're dealing with the general population and that's where societies or religions or whatever you're talking about, they're geared towards managing the average human being. I think instead of seeing us as, and by “us”, I mean people who are profoundly gifted, or who diverge from the norm in other ways, even if they're not necessarily gifted. But instead of seeing us as a problem to erase or to beat down or to force fit, I think it's an opportunity for society to have a paradigm shift change, to have a breakthrough that's much needed, and basically to evolve into something that is better suited to not just reality but to the whole species’ survival.

Secondly, I wanted to say that, at least in terms of me, what I've seen is that a lot of profoundly gifted people, they often wind up having a lot of traits in common with people who are autistic or on the spectrum to some extent. There's a huge overlap of people who have unusually high IQs and people who are autistic. In both cases, though, I wonder if it's really that whole concept of, well, you're bad at social cues, is that really what's going on? Or is it maybe something that this is or maybe you're bad at kowtowing to the social norms? I think there may be a little bit of both. There's also maybe a bit of obliviousness to any social norm or any type of aspect of that that does not make sense in both cases. So I think, again, it would be an opportunity to come up with a better society and not just try to basically go back to a conservative route. I'm not saying conservative in the political sense. I'm saying in the literal sense here. That's the only thing I would strongly encourage our audience to consider to entertain and to explore.

Chris: I agree, and that's interesting, because it goes along with what Emma was saying, too, about the kind of transcending the boundaries of it in some ways. I think that if you are an extreme outlier, you just can't even be contained by the norms of society, you're naturally going to push against them. And yet growing up, we are, in some cases, kind of beaten down by the people around us and, and told that, well, this is how it is. ‘This is how it has to be’. It is tough to break out of our conditioning.

Nth: Oh, absolutely. I mean, you're basically describing my childhood. I don't have animosity or angst around it, but yeah, that's definitely my history. I'm assuming it's the history of almost everyone who would be listening to your podcast. They're like, yeah, “I can see myself in there” [chuckles].

Emma: The funny thing about breaking those boundaries and definitions is that other people cling so desperately to them, and they will go kicking and screaming. We had a situation recently here in Australia where one of the medical forms they'd changed for newborns, the field of mother, to say birthing parent because they wanted it to be more inclusive of trans parents and lesbian couples, to make things more inclusive.

Some woman kicked off on social media and the government were pressured to reverse that because it made a whole lot of other people uncomfortable. They were used to living within the boundaries and they just couldn't have that I guess, Dabrowski's subject-object thinking of thinking how this impacted other people, and basically just put the pressure on the government to go backwards because it made them uncomfortable. And that, I think, is part of the challenge.

Nth: That's a major part of the challenge. It's an integral feature of society being just mainstream. I'm not trying to insult anyone here, but the average person, they don't want to think that much about things that don't particularly, don't specifically affect them or the majority of their neighbors. They don't want to, if it's good enough to, to work for 85% or 90% of the people in their community, including them. And that's the key part, including them, then they're fine. They don't see the point of rabble rousing or rocking the boat or trying to refine the system. It's almost like expecting that ordinary person to take on a scientist's mindset with a humanitarian heart, right? Scientists are never ever thinking, “oh, well, it's good enough. We can stop now.” It may be good enough for the time being, but they always realize whatever their discovery is, whatever their development is, they always are always pushing to refine it. ‘You know what? The data that we have around this, it covers it enough, but we're missing some things. There's these exceptions here and there. So we need to revise the theory.’ That's not how the average person operates.

That's something that you'll find in a lot of people who are profoundly gifted. You'll see that also in a lot of people, I would say, who are emotionally intelligent and sense that they think with their emotions, but their emotions tend to lead them in the right direction. You can also see it in a lot of people who are highly intuitive, and you definitely can see it in people who are remarkably good at critical thinking. It really is just a difference of priorities, unfortunately. But again, I would reemphasize this: it is an opportunity. It's a cleverly disguised opportunity for society as a whole to grow. But it's uncomfortable. Growth isn't necessarily an easy or a straightforward thing. And I think everyone senses that to some extent. What you're going to get, for a lot of people who benefit from the traditionalist route, they're going to push back. Your story that you just shared about the birth certificate issue in Australia, that's a prime example of it.

Joi: I want to piggyback on this, too, with a little thought around mental flexibility and once again, poking at that connection between more giftedness and more developmental potential. I don't think that Dabrowski’s theory applies only to the gifted by any means. I know some gifted people that are not very developed, and I know some people that don't identify as gifted that are trying and thinking about that third factor, that drive is also important. A situation I've been observing is around pronouns. It takes mental flexibility to be able to update your lexicon, to remember, and then to do it, and then to say it, and if you mess up, to correct it. That takes that social and emotional intelligence we've been chatting about, but it also takes some cognitive capacity.

I think in our culture, US American culture nowadays, there's some resistance to acknowledging people's pronouns, people's chosen pronouns, and a resistance to honoring gender and sexuality, diversity, et cetera. I have a friend who has a girl dog, and there's a couple that is older, who's had boy dogs their whole life. And when they see this girl dog, they always say ‘he’ and they apologize: “Oops, sorry!” There's nothing personal about it. It's always been a girl dog, if that should make it any easier, but they just cannot retain [it] and say ‘she’- the ‘he' still comes out. I think that as we prefer and idealize development, that we still have to make space for people that are struggling, for people that can't easily update their lexicon. I think it matters more if they're trying to, if they feel apologetic. Do they have a dynamism about it? Are they trying to do better the next time? But some people really just struggle. It just gives me a perspective, I think, of grace toward our fellow man and woman and non-binary humans as well.

Nth: Yeah.

Chris: Yeah, that's a great point, Joi. Oh my gosh, it's so true. It's unfortunate that it's so politicized, like the whole issue of gender and pronouns right now and that we can't just honor people's wishes to make that choice for themselves. We could do a whole episode just about that.

Let's talk about intuition next, if you don't mind. I think that this is one of the interesting and important topics to touch on. For me, I feel like intuition is something that I've become way more aware of and tried to develop in myself in middle age and something that I didn't necessarily pay much attention to when I was younger just because of my own lack of self-awareness about it. Nth, I know you have a really interesting experience of intuition.

Nth: Yeah, sure. First, I guess we should know what we're talking about in terms of intuition because people define it differently. I'm not talking about instinct. In Elysian, we have a group specifically for people who score unusually high on intuition tests. There's three types of intuition we can talk about here. There's what we call ‘type one intuition’, which comes from lots and lots and lots of exposure to a thing where you get this second nature familiarity to it. without you even consciously thinking about it. Usually, there's a modifier in front of it, right? So it's cop intuition, or mother's intuition, or math intuition, so forth and so on. Then there's what we call ‘type two’ intuition, which is a nonlinear intelligence that allows you to see patterns and connections and relationships and things that are otherwise random or unrelated or chaotic, and you can make sense of it. And then what we call ‘type 3’ intuition, basically what parapsychologists, what they test for in their labs for ESP, or sometimes you hear it called precognition or what have you. Elysian  itself does not have an official stance on any of them, but anyone who scores high on tests for any of them, they're welcome to join.

My history touches pretty much upon all three. With regards to growing up, my mom's side of the family, they're really, really intuitive people. Very artsy types. total opposite of my dad's side of the family, where they're math and physics type people. So growing up, being intuitive, I was raised by my mother and her side of the family, it was just the norm. We didn't think anything was particularly special or interesting about it. It was just a given. I ran into quite a surprise when  I think around seventh grade, I was like 12 years old, or 11, and then moving onward, I was like, oh, okay, so maybe it's more imaginary than I thought, and I never gave it much more thought, even though I always have intuitive pops growing up. Something will just randomly pop in my head, and then sure enough, it'll show up in real life moments later, and it seemed to be beyond the scope of chance.

As I mentioned before, when I was in college, I paid for college by enrolling myself in a wide variety of studies that would pay me. Obviously, the DNA studies, sure, but I also did memory, IQ, sleep studies, and ESP studies. I always scored unusually high on what they call ‘binary presentiment’. Basically, you get an option of either A or B, and you try to predict which one it's going to be. If you're random, you'll get 50% accuracy because the test is randomized, but I would average 70%, which doesn't seem to be much higher. But statistically, it was off the charts.

It started at UC Berkeley. I was an ESP test subject there at their psychophysiological lab. Then I went on to be a test subject at MIT—at MIT it was their Corkin lab. It doesn't exist anymore, unfortunately. Then from MIT, I'm currently an ESP test subject at University of Virginia at their Department of Perceptual Studies. I wasn't sure what all could be done with it though, so it actually wound up becoming my life later on.

I helped work with trying to find missing people. Matter of fact, a couple of the police officers wound up joining Elysian, which has been awesome. And then I wound up getting a job predicting stocks for a stock market company and I did that for a few years and it got me in trouble. It was so weird, right? This intuition thing. It got me in trouble as a kid because I often would not “show my work” at school, right? They give me a math problem or whatever the case may be. It could even be a history thing.  I had no idea what the answer was, but all of the sudden the answer would pop in my head and I’d just write it down because that's the only thing I could think of, and it was right—so I get full credit for having the answer and zero credit for showing no work whatsoever, and so they give me an ‘F’.

I would have loved to have been in an educational system that could have nurtured that intuition, because who knows where it could have been, you know? In Japan, they have an apprenticeship program that works with intuitive kids, specifically when it comes to what they call (ironically, going back to the sex and gender thing) is chick sexing. With baby chickens, it's really hard to tell which ones are male or female, but after enough exposure, you can just look at them. No one knows why it works, but that's what they use. They'll basically teach someone to just intuitively determine the sex of a baby chicken, for farming purposes, and that would be an example of what I earlier called ‘type one’ intuition. It's just lots and lots and lots of exposure. And now, as an adult, I'm trying to, I'm like, okay, this is definitely my strong suit… yeah, great, I have a high IQ, I scored high on the critical thinking test, and the creative thinking test, and kinda high on the emotional intelligence test, but in terms of intuition, that really seems to be where I seem to be immeasurable in that regard.

Looking over, throughout my life, I can say that following my intuition has helped me tremendously in comparison to anything else. Thinking creatively? Yeah, okay. Thinking emotionally? God no, that was horrible. But when it came to thinking intuitively, yeah, it's been phenomenal. So I'm somewhat reshaping my life to maximize that and to use that to help Elysian excel even more, specifically the people inside the group. I'm curious to see where the future goes with it, but I'm also patient and I'm just enjoying the journey. That pretty much in a nutshell is my experience in intuition.

Chris: Thanks so much. That's so interesting. And I'm excited. This is such a different conversation than we've been having with the podcast so far. I think that it'll be an interesting one for our listeners.

Joi: I don't have as cool of things to say as Nth [shared laughter], but Nth really does a lot in this field. I always appreciate hearing them talk about it. Anyway, for me, I think about the TV show ‘Psych’, which I think would be a blend of type one and type two intuition, the way Nth was describing, that exposure to things. I did not identify as intuitive until a coworker said I was very intuitive. And I was like, what are you talking about? I am so rational and logical. I can tell you why I'm thinking these things. I can verbally show my work or emotionally show my work if I need to. I realized that my synthesis of everything I was taking in appeared almost mystical to my colleagues that we're not taking all of it in and processing all that data. Because of that, I don't know, I've really reflected on being gifted. 

I think about [how] giftedness sometimes is like people with a larger aperture that are taking in more light per second, more data per second. All of these messages are in the world all around us. They're in the air. And if I'm tapping into that and then using that to inform my decisions, I don't know… I sometimes wonder about the term. I also hadn't heard that term before I was an adult in the workplace. I didn't know ‘abstract’ really or ‘abstraction’. I didn't know ‘intuition’. I didn't know ‘asynchrony’, many people still don't know that. It was just interesting learning a term that then started to explain some of my gut feelings that I'd had. 

I'll share a weird example of this because it just sits with me. I graduated high school in 2001. So 2021 would have been our 20th anniversary.  I had big plans. We were going to do California and Japan and do a dual, you know, a whole thing. Five years prior, which would have been around what, 2016? there was a festival in Okinawa, which is where I went to high school. It was an every five year festival. I declared five years earlier: we're going to do a reunion on this weekend. It'll butt up against this five year Okinawa festival, the Uchinanchu festival. Then I just sat on it and I couldn't get myself to do anything about it.  I wanted to, I liked a party plan. It was weird to me that I wasn't making reservations or event space or booking hotels or flights. And it just kept getting closer and closer and closer and I still just was sitting on it. It gave me a weird feeling that I was ignoring this task. Then the pandemic happened.

It was what? March 2020, I think, when the USA started to acknowledge this thing happening. My school sent us home for two weeks to start, two weeks. And I was like, why would this be over in two weeks? I could not understand why everyone else was acting as though it'd be over so soon. And I remember talking to other Mensans about it. They said “Oh, yeah, you know, as long as we stay on top of it, it can go away quickly” which they probably were still accurate with that. I remember telling someone very early in February or March, even,  I think this is going to go longer because I've had some weirdness planning my reunion. I feel like this is going to knock out October 2021. It ended up still being too touchy to plan an international reunion. This is just a little throwaway example, you know, take what you want from it. But I have these gut feelings sometimes that are so strong, so powerful. Sometimes I don't want to fight against the environment around me too much.

Then I do have high self-efficacy, I can get things done. Sometimes I lean in and override my gut and I do what I logically just want to have happen. It's funny how dissatisfying that usually ends up being and how much I usually regret not listening to what my body, soul, heart already knew to be true. I think as I've continued to age, as I've continued to learn more about intuition, as I've continued to have more conversations with Nth- I now am more open to relying on my own intuition more. I do know where it's coming from, it's not so mystical to me. But also, it's very powerful. It's like the sum of all of the knowledge I've ever encountered and my body has a synthesis, a reintegration of how I should proceed next. I enjoy that.

Nth: I love that.

Emma: I've got this image in my head of like an old-timey pirate or sailor map where they've got “sailor beware here there be sea serpents”—it's like gifted people beware here there be imposter syndrome because if you're one of those people who can do the thing without giving it too much conscious thought or you see the patterns or you can't really show you're working because you've just grasped something that's where imposter syndrome comes from. That's where people can start to doubt themselves because they're doing things intuitively and if you can't backtrack it and explain it or show your work, you can kind of think, well, do I really know the answer or was I just lucky? [laughter]

Nth: Right, I've been there. I totally—I feel that. I grok it, yes.

Chris: Dabrowski thought that intuition was really important. I went through a period of just kind of investigating what he thought about intuition. Michael had mentioned to me, at least on one occasion, that he thought that Dabrowski considered intuition even more important than he included in the theory and that his reluctance to do it was that when he was developing his theory, intuition was really looked down upon. I mean, just like emotions, it was all about rational thinking and positivism. You have to think about when he was formulating it in his mind. He considered intuition to be very closely related to higher levels of development in the theory and that it's a critical part of it. People who are more typical don't experience the kind of intuition that you both were talking about. It's just interesting from the positive disintegration perspective.

Emma: Thanks for joining us for the first part in this two-part series. I'd like to thank our guests, Nth Bar-Fields and Joi Lin for joining us, and also thanks to Chris, my co-host. I also want to thank you, our audience, for sticking with us, and we hope that you'll rejoin us for the second part of this conversation. The Positive Disintegration podcast is funded by the Dabrowski Center. If you like what you've heard, please consider donating through the link in the show notes. And if you're listening to us on Apple or Spotify, give us a rating or leave a review. If you want to get in touch with us, you can email positivedisintegration.pod@gmail.com or find us on Instagram. And until next time, keep walking the path to your authentic self.