The Friday before last I wrote about Sally’s best kept secret that ‘each person is a genius.’ Even though this secret has been confirmed by science, it is remarkable the degree to which the vast majority of individuals still hide away their limitless intelligence. Of course, it is ingenious to hide the light of your intelligence ‘behind a bushel’ because to assert ‘I’m a genius’ is likely to be greeted with ridicule, laughter, judgement and criticism – a fate worse than death!
Children become secure through the mirroring of their genius. However, when other adults who have responsibility for the care and education of children have creatively colluded with the secret, then it would be too threatening for them to affirm their child’s genius; they rightly fear that their child would also be subjected to ridicule. The result is that the best kept secret continues and, alongside adults, children struggle with actively believing in their power beyond measure.
One of the creative confusions that emerged around intelligence and led to learning and work becoming threats to a person’s wellbeing is that knowledge is a measure of intelligence. Typically, children who demonstrate a high knowledge of the three R’s – reading, writing and arithmetic – are rated and labelled as being ‘bright’ or ‘superior’ or ‘genius.’ This confusion creates an addiction to high marks and success, and suicide is not an untypical response to a failure to meet such high expectations.
Knowledge is an index of learning and the readiness and motivation to learn specific subjects is determined by a multiplicity of variables, most importantly emotional security and interest. Emotional security arises principally from unconditional love – a deep loving, celebration and cherishing of the unique presence of the individual person – child or adult. Unconditional love recognises the unique Self that each person is and does not confuse the Self with any of its expressions, including intelligence; neither does unconditional love confuse the Self with any behaviour – academic, athletic, musical, creative, occupational, emotional or social.
Once a person is confused with self-expression, then an addiction to or an avoidance or a rebelliousness will arise in response to that expression. For example, approximately eighty per cent of students go for the average – a reality that makes teaching very challenging; a reality too that has serious outcomes for society in terms of disengagement from work and the avoidance of risk-taking and dynamic creativity and productivity. Going for the average is an avoidance strategy that involves making minimum efforts and achieving average attainments so that the expectations of parents, teachers and employers are reduced from high to average to low. The wonder is that this strategy is ingenious because it reduces or eliminates the greatest threat to a person’s wellbeing – emotional rejection.
Children and adults are not a reservoir of a particular knowledge field, or a particular skill or talent, or an examination result or an academic degree or anything that they do, say, feel or think. Classrooms and workplaces would be far more proactive and adventurous places to be when the unique presence of each member is cherished and where there is an active recognition of the genius that each person possesses. However, until those who manage and are leaders of those four critical social systems – the family, the school, the workplace, the church – redeem their own unique sense of Self and their unique power beyond measure, due to the immense dangers of rejection, ridicule and humiliation, it is unlikely that young people will dare raise their heads above the parapet of mediocrity. In these times of recession, it has become critical that the powerful emotional processes that underlie the major economic downturn be addressed. Major aspects of these emotional processes are one, a confusion of self with what an individual does, resulting in either a fear of failure or an addiction to success and two, the depersonalisation, disempowering and de-individualising of individuals within homes, schools, workplaces and churches. Recessions offer glorious opportunities for reflection, particularly on the issue of man’s protective inhumanity to self and man’s inhumanity to man.
Dr. Tony Humphreys practices as a clinical psychologist and is author of several books on practical psychology, including Work and Worth, take back your life.