July 23, 2018

Be aware – your intelligence may be hurting you


Our culture values intelligence. After all, this is what helped us rise above the animal world. This is especially true now when the word ‘nerd’ has suddenly lost its original negative meaning and became a badge of distinction.

Yet, the numbers are in. Highly intelligent people are 20% more likely to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), 80% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, 83% more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety, and 182% more likely to develop at least one mood disorder.

Interestingly, high intelligence hurts not just the mind, but also the body. People with high IQ are 213% more likely to have environmental allergies, 108% more likely to have asthma, and 84% more likely to have an autoimmune disease. 

The connection here is getting fixated on things and worrying. Unsurprisingly, high IQ people do a lot of both.

If you are reading these lines, chances are your IQ is higher than average. Otherwise, the topic wouldn’t interest you.

What about all the wise men in the movies (like Yoda)? The enlightenment? Is high intelligence not necessary to achieve all that?

Turns out intelligence and wisdom are two distinctly different things that do not correlate with each other. Intelligence is set at birth, while wisdom is acquired. And – lo and behold – there is a positive correlation between wisdom and health. Turns out becoming wise is the way to stop your intelligence from ruining you.

The article at wisdomination.com I quoted earlier likens intelligence to computer’s processing power and wisdom to software. I would like to make a slightly different metaphor.

Imagine that several people are given a car each to drive. Somebody gets a golf cart, somebody else a small city car. And someone gets a Ferrari.

Now imagine none of these people has any idea how to drive a car.

While you won’t get very far in a golf car, your chances of hurting yourself or others are small. Not so for the Ferrari driver. Unless that person is extremely careful from the start, it’s very likely that somebody gets seriously hurt.

As you’ve guessed, intelligence is the engine power, while wisdom is the ability to drive the car.

Intelligence is a gift, but also a big responsibility. If you have been blessed with high intelligence, be careful. Take care in how you treat others. Remember the old children’s rhyme ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never break me’? Turns out it’s not true. Words hurt just like sticks and stones  And, unsurprisingly, words from a high IQ person hurt a lot more, as they will see the vulnerabilities of the other person more clearly and will know just how to hurt them. Accept that your tongue is a weapon, and try not to use it by accident, hurting other people.

So take care of other people – but also be aware that the single person your intelligence threatens most is you.

Even as we grow up, our society still mistakenly rewards us for our abilities and not for our efforts. It’s easy to excel in school when you have high intelligence. That doesn’t, however, help to cultivate persistence and stamina needed to excel later in life.

High intelligence can allow you to justify to yourself any of the stupid things you choose to do. It can also help avoid good advice since you can effectively question it.

Getting fixated on things and worrying can seriously damage the psyche of an intelligent person. Add to that frustration with the society caused by lack of patience for the people operating at a different speed.

If you consider yourself gifted with high intelligence – beware. You have a great resource at your disposal, but it can hurt you just as much as it can help you. Let go of arrogance and learn to be humble. Treat others with respect – everyone has the right to a space in this world.

And if you are frustrated with the world and questioning where you fit in, remember that there is a space for you too.

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