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Learn More. This paper proposes to analyse the relationships between depression and high intellectual potential through a multidisciplinary and original approach. Based on their respective experience in psychology and child psychiatry, the authors will focus their analysis on creative potential. Aristotle introduced a quantitative factor, asserting that levels of melancholy and black bile are positively correlated; however, under a given threshold of black bile, it can give rise to an exceptional being.

Second, the case study of Blaise Pascal scientific and philosophical creativity associated with major depressive episodes from childhood will be presented and discussed. This case study sheds light on the paradoxical role of depression in the overinvestment in intellectual and creative spheres as well as on the impact of traumatic events on high intellectual potential.

Third, observations will be reported based on a study conducted on children with high intellectual potential 6—12 years old. Finally, based on these different levels of analysis, it appears that heterogeneity of mental functioning in children with high intellectual potential is at the center of the creative process and it has related psychological vulnerability.

Childhood depression is still a relatively taboo subject in clinical practice, its existence long denied by parents and professionals alike. High intellectual potential is another, idealizing measure leading to both resistance and fascination. Whereas childhood depression is now recognized as a distinct pathopsychological entity, its descriptions are many and various, changing with each new classification and epistemology.

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As for high intellectual potential, although a consensus has been reached over its psychometric definition—an intelligence quotient IQ aboveaccording to the criterion of the World Health Organization WHO —different conceptions continue to exist, depending on the intellectual, developmental, cognitive, factorial, or dimensional model to which one refers. Paradoxically, studies of high potential often focus on young people attending special clinics and who are therefore subject to psychological problems, even though a large proportion of such children seemingly experience no particular difficulties.

This introduces a definite research bias and means that there is little empirical research conducted on the latter population [ 1 ]. For this reason, in our own research on high potential, we have been comparing a group of children referred to the National Center for children with high intellectual potential CNAHP; coordinated by S.

Each group currently comprises around 50 children i. It should be noted that just because has never been referred to a specialist does not mean that he or she has no psychological problems. This article is based on the general data we have collected from our samples so far and on what we know about Blaise Pascal. We explore the implicit link drawn between depression and high potential both longitudinally from antiquity to the present day and transversally looking at the various parallels and interactions that can be established between these two entities.

We cannot regard depression as a manifestation of high potential without immediately evoking the opposite hypothesis whereby high potential is a defensive? According to Tordjman [ 2 ] high potential may be either the cause or the consequence of psychopathological disorders. In the case of children with high potential with problems, two questions spring to mind:.

Or is it the other way round, with disturbed socio-affective development resulting in cognitive overinvestment? It may well be that early social interaction deficits lead children to become socially isolated which, in turn, triggers intellectual hypercathexis. This may lead to the feelings of persecution that are exhibited by many children with high potential in situations of exclusion or victimization.

It is difficult to disentangle the respective contributions of cognitive and affective factors to the development and expression of high intellectual potential, not least because these two aspects may start to feed into each other over time, creating a veritable vicious circle. We therefore highlight the reciprocal incidences of high potential and depression, describing the characteristics of the underlying defensive organization in accordance with the psychodynamic model of child development: impulse—reaction formation defense mechanisms —character formation sublimation.

Above and beyond the extreme or overdeveloped nature of certain aptitudes and certain components of these children's psychological organization, we underscore the heterogeneity of their mental functioning, in terms of excess and deficit, pressure and depression. A link between depressive disorders and literary, artistic, or scientific genius has been drawn since Antiquity. From the very outset, melancholy was assumed to draw its sustenance from the finitude and distress inherent to the human condition, and fuel thinking and philosophizing on the existential enigmas of humanity.

In more recent times, Freud and his successors showed that thinking and fantasizing stem from real and imagined losses. When we move from one developmental stage to the next, we have to relinquish the mode of satisfaction, in what is an entirely normal depressogenic process. This means that certain periods in normal child development, such as early childhood and adolescence, are characterized by particularly acute vulnerability.

As a result, psychopathological studies of depression have tended to focus on infants and adolescents, to the detriment of children. We believe that this heterogeneity, which we have also identified in children with high potential, lies at the heart of the creative process and its relased psychological vulnerability. We reject the hypothesis that such children suffer from affective immaturity, pointing instead to tensions within their mental apparatus:.

While it sometimes als a cognitive dysfunction, more often than not, it masks a heterogeneity inherent to the development of high-level intelligence. Aristotle discusses two points which seem just as relevant as ever, namely, the particularly reactive constitution of exceptional individuals and the manner in which their basic receptivity is triggered by external and internal stimuli.

Providing it does not exceed a given concentration, however, this black bile will give rise to an exceptional being. Alongside this lability of identification, Aristotle appears to describe a sort of intellectual hyperactivity, insofar as genius and melancholy become exponential. The extreme and often disharmonious conduct of children with high potential, and the way in which they seek refuge from depression in intellectualization or sublimation, is all too clearly foregrounded in this seminal text.

Current theories of trauma stemming from excess or deficitfactors which some authors, such as Jean Bergeret [ 9 ], have linked to depression in so-called borderline personality disorder can be traced back to the ideas developed by Aristotle and discussed at the start of this paper. The second stage consists of the sexualization of the first traumatic stage, and may take different forms in different patients […, this I have named the hot nucleus. This excitability potentially opens up breaches that can become traumatic places, but which are necessary if individuals are to be even minimally receptive to relationships, to the world and indeed to their own selves.

These two perspectives are not as diametrically opposed as one might think and apply not just to trauma, but to the whole of clinical psycho-pathopsychology, as well as to the various depressive disorders. For affects, too, have a history, with anxiety anticipating a disquieting future and depression arising from the loss of a satisfaction. Still on the subject of history, Golse [ 11 ] argues that since the fifties, we have witnessed a shift from an orificial psychoanalysis, interested in orifices i.

This brings us to Blaise Pascal, as we know that he enjoyed a passionate and possibly even incestuous relationship with his sister, after losing his mother at an early age. Blaise's childhood prefigured a destiny of excess and lack. Pascal's biographers report that he was saved from the cold hand of death by a scalding poultice applied by a bonesetter. Pascal's scientific and philosophical thinking was antitraumatic, in that he worked on the very subjects that caused him anxiety and uncertainty, namely, emptiness, probability, and the transformation of liquids, solids, and gases which, according to Anzieu [ 5 ], correspond to the urine, flatulence, and excrement that flow uncontrolled and uncontrollable from the body of a tiny.

We can speculate that the young Blaise had a constitutional hyperreactivity that rendered him particularly receptive, with the result that normal situations, such as the loving relationship between his parents, became wounding ones to him. If that was the case, we can easily imagine the impact of his mother's death when he was just three years old.

As Bailly [ 13 ] has written:. He babbles, but she does not come. He cries, but she does not come. He screams, but she does not come. She no longer comes. She will never come again. According to Bailly this type of traumatic loss questions sometimes even damages infantile sexual theories. However, these theories can also be intensified by the omnipotence of thought. From a very early age, Pascal displayed true scientific and philosophical genius. A precocious mathematician, he developed the theory of probability, which he later applied to his metaphysical concerns about the existence of God, in his famous Wager.

Pascal the physicist tackled the problem of loss by seeking to demonstrate the existence of vacuum, and Pascal the theologian by attempting to prove the existence of God, possibly as an antidote to that vacuum. We believe that the origins of his overdeveloped scientific and metaphysical thinking lay in the depression he suffered in early childhood and which continued to gnaw away at him throughout his short life, mobilizing extreme narcissistic defenses to the point of no return he attacked his own body.

According to Ferenczi [ 1617 ], children develop wisdom beyond their years in response to adults' inability to satisfy their needs. This may involve not only an absence of love, but also inadequate, excessive, or abusive forms of adult love for. Freud's colleague had come up with his theory as a result of his clinical experience with patients who had been physically or sexually traumatized and extended this notion of abuse to cover other distortions in the parent-child relationship. The fear of the uninhibited, almost mad adults, changes the child, so to speak, into a psychiatrist.

To protect himself from the danger represented by the uninhibited adults, he must know how to identify himself completely with them. The mortification that the adult Blaise Pascal inflicted upon himself was doubtless a way of recentering himself and containing his anxieties [ 18 ]. As we do not see high intellectual potential as a distinct nosographic entity, we selected our participants on the basis of a single criterion and did not prejudge the homogeneity of our sample.

This criterion was psychometric and quantitative, namely an IQ aboveeven though researchers have started to make a distinction between academic and nonacademic e. Every child initially underwent an in-depth psychological investigation deed to objectivize high intellectual and creative potential and assess overall mental functioning, by means of clinical interviews, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children WISCPiagetian tests, projective tests Children's Apperception Test CAT or Thematic Apperception Test TAT and Rorschach, drawings child's family, Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure Test, Dame de Fayand a psycho-affective assessment depression, self-esteem, and anxiety questionnaires.

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In addition, a direct observation of the child completed by a parental interview was conducted by two child psychiatrists. It is noteworthy that this high frequency of major depressive disorder was observed in the children with high intellectual potential who came to the CNAHP for psychoaffective problems, but also in the children with high intellectual potential who came to private practice for psychological assessments to skip a grade.

This finding underlines the importance to study the relationships between depression and high intellectual potential. However, this high frequency of major depressive disorder concerns only children with high potential who came for professional advice, and therefore this result should not be extended to all the children with high potential.

These children favor their own mental representations, which not only form the bedrock of their identity and identification, with all its attendant vagaries, but also constitute one of the conditions for creativity, if not genius. At the clinical level, the rejection of models may manifest itself in poor writing and copying skills, noncompliance with school rules, and a reluctance to draw or to play symbolic games. Trial and error is not permitted, as it represents the gap between the model to be attained—the ideal—and the limitations of the child's ego. Ours is a heterogeneous population covering the whole range of psychopathological classifications, from variations of normality to the most severe disorders.

Our experience shows also that most of the requests for consultations we receive from families with high potential children concern separation difficulties, ranging from very slight to extremely severe. Sets of depressive symptoms may also vary according to the children's personality development and organization, taking the form of action and oppositionality, withdrawal and inhibition, or somatic disorders and school, social, or familial maladjustment. These can be divided further into depressive behavior, antidepressive behavior, depressive equivalents, masked depressions, and so on, regardless of whether the depression is neurotic, psychotic, or borderline, or takes the form of a major depressive episode.

One of the hotly debated topics at the present time concerns the nature of depressive affect. Should it be viewed as a basic affect, in line with John Bowlby's attachment model or, as Denis claims [ 21 ], as working-over, based more on a model linked to relational development? Whatever the case, given that depressive symptomatology changes with age, it is important to distinguish between depression in infants, children and adolescents. To complicate matters further, we have shown that high intellectual potential is accompanied by precocious psychosexual development, with children displaying the affective characteristics of adolescents [ 1415 ].

In every case, the diagnosis of depressive disorders requires a two-pronged approach. This investigation may bring depressive aspects to light that were hitherto masked by what can be extremely polymorphous symptoms. Adopting a psychoanalytic angle, an attempt is made to link the depressive disorder to a neurotic, borderline, or psychotic organization.

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