There are some who say that the smarter you are, the more isolated you get. When you imagine someone who's hyper intelligent, what kind of person do you picture? Are they friendly and easy to talk to or troubled and misunderstood? Hello everyone and welcome to thebestmind.net. In this article, we're going to answer a very interesting question: do smart people feel more lonely?
Many of talented people isolated themselves from friends and family. They struggled with mental illnesses like depression and bipolar disorder. They seemed to only find solace and company in their work, whether it be painting, writing or unlocking the secrets of the universe. It's no surprise that people think loneliness and brilliance go hand-in-hand, but did their intelligence lead them down this lonely road are smart people actually lonelier than everyone else.
First, let's take a step back. So far, we've been using the terms intelligent and genius interchangeably. The truth is, there's a pretty large distinction. Only a tiny portion of the most intelligent people actually qualify as geniuses. If you want to see whether or not you have genius-level intelligence, you typically need to know your intelligence quotient or IQ. If you score upwards of 160, it means you're part of an elite group of exceptionally gifted people. You're smarter than 99.9997% of the entire population, but here's the thing about IQ scores and intelligence as a whole.
They're unreliable and frankly inconsistent. You can be amazing at one thing and terrible at another. You can have an IQ of 130 yet be less successful than some 140 points lower than you. The first person to notice this also happen to be a pioneer of the IQ test, a psychologist named: Lewis Terman.
After developing the stanford-binet intelligence scales,Terman wanted to test if someone's IQ could predict their future. To study this, he rounded up a group of intelligent children, who he called the termites. These kids weren't picked because they were geniuses. The termites IQ all fell north of 135, which isn't in the genius range.
Thurman's goal here was never to prove that all geniuses become tortured souls. He didn't intend to weigh in on whether people like Van Gogh or Turing were actually victims of their own intelligence, but in a way, he kind of did. His actual aim was to simply watch how the termites lives played out? He wanted to see for himself if smarter people had any advantages in life? Do smart people have a higher chance of being wealthy? Are smart people prone to mental illness? Terman would answer these questions and more over the next 70 years of his study, making it one of the longest in history.
For us Herman's most important discovery didn't come until decades after the experiment begun. To make this study work, researchers had to consistently survey each termite about their lives. When they compared their answers throughout the years, they noticed something unusual, something that shines a different light on the stereotype of the tortured genius.
The researchers found that termites weren't any lonelier than the average person. In fact, most of them were happily married with loving families. They had no trouble forming lasting friendships. They excelled in high ranking social positions. For some, their whole job revolved around connecting with other people.
My point is that the termites intelligence didn't stop them from relating to the world around them. With this in mind, you can look back through history and re-examine some of those lonely outcasts. For example, Virginia Woolf was happily married for most of her life. The last thing she ever wrote actually highlighted how happy her husband made her. Albert Einstein, another well-known genius, was upbeat social and had countless friends. He was one of the most revolutionary thinkers of all time, while maintaining a healthy and fulfilling social life.
So, does that mean smart people aren't really any lonelier? All these intelligent people lived relatively normal lives. So, does that mean the tormented genius is a myth? What if we've been looking at the question the wrong way? What if you're not lonely because you're smart, you're lonely because you're a specific kind of smart.
A few years ago, a renowned analyst who happens to have an IQ of 185 explained what it's like to walk a mile in her shoes. As she discussed her relationships and career, she made one thing very clear. Despite having a normal social life, she has always felt somewhat lonely, but it wasn't because she was too good at her job or feared that people would dislike her for her intelligence.
She felt lonely because the majority of society doesn't think the way she does. No one in her life made connections, conclusions and solved problems like she did. No one used the same cognitive models that she uses everyday. Things that seemed obvious to her made no sense to everyone else. In the end, she concluded that intelligent people just see the world in a way few others do. So, what kind of intelligence is this? what does it take to change your fundamental understanding of the world?
Around you, it's not something you can measure in grades degrees or networth. In this context, intelligence is your capacity to look inward. It's your ability to honestly reflect on and deconstruct your own thoughts. This is sometimes called emotional intelligence.
At its core, emotional intelligence is understanding your feelings and the feelings of the people around you. If you have average emotional intelligence, you should have at least three different skills:
- Emotional awareness or your ability to identify feelings.
- Emotional application, which is when you can apply your emotions to thoughts and behaviors.
- Emotional management otherwise known as emotional regulation this means keeping your emotions in check when you need to.
All of these sound pretty normal because emotional intelligence isn't something we usually think about or measure. There's actually no official scale to test someone's emotional aptitude. Maybe that's because a lot of scientists don't really think emotional intelligence exists or maybe, much like intelligence as a whole, it's too diverse to put on paper.
Either way, emotional intelligence is a powerful gift. It's probably best explained through art, which has been a powerful medium for emotionally intelligent people for thousands of years. Imagine you're standing in an art gallery, you're staring at a painting of a sunrise, but to you it doesn't seem like anything special. A few minutes later, a guy walks up next to you. He's immediately moved by the artwork almost like he's seeing something you're not. What if he actually is?
Many people with high emotional intelligence have described their isolation in a very similar way. Your intellect lets you think deep about who we are, what we do and how we feel, but unlike discovering some advanced mathematical equation you don't discover new things. You explore feelings and experiences that all of us have, but don't pay attention to.
Ralph Waldo Emerson puts it best when he says: in every work of genius, we recognize our own rejected thoughts. Emotionally intelligent people look for that meaning hiding under the surface and it goes further than just our feelings. You might find yourself breaking down commonly accepted ideas, like social norms and expectations. So, while others see a bland sunrise, you may be experiencing something deeper.
These emotional realizations can be enlightening, but equally isolating. When you tear down ordinary constructs, you may start to see them as meaningless or maybe the connections you made now feel hollow. While everyone else happily goes about their daily life, you're stuck questioning things like love, altruism and identity. It's not like you can just ignore these thoughts once you see something deeper. If one day you understood the deeper meaning of that painting, could you go back to seeing it as a boring sunrise?
The strangest thing about emotional intelligence is that it doesn't take some profound genius to get here. Whether you have a high IQ or not, you may be feeling lonely in your life because you're a certain kind of smart. The kind that lets you analyze and understand things that no one else does. Intelligence doesn't make you antisocial troubled or crazy, but it can make you feel lonely.
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