As has been mentioned elsewhere on this site, before I started studying film, I was sent to go and see a guidance counselor. Towards the end of one of our later sessions, she sent me an e-mail to which she'd attached a PDF article, and said that I should read it that evening and then go back the next day and let her know what my thoughts were. The article was titled Existential Depression in Gifted Individuals.
The reader is quite welcome to read the article in its entirety, but I've decided to reproduce here only the passages that I found the most striking and/or affecting. It's something I found to be a valuable source of guidance during an extremely pivotal moment in my life, and hopefully it may have the same value for others.
Why should such existential concerns occur disproportionately among gifted persons? Partially, it is because substantial thought and reflection must occur to even consider such notions, rather than simply focusing on superficial day-to-day aspects of life. Other more specific characteristics of gifted children are important predisposers as well.
Because gifted children are able to consider the possibilities of how things might be, they tend to be idealists. However, they are simultaneously able to see that the world is falling short of how it might be. Because they are intense, gifted children feel keenly the disappointment and frustration which occurs when ideals are not reached. Similarly, these youngsters tend to spot the inconsistencies, arbitrariness and absurdities in society and in the behaviors of those around them. Traditions are questioned or challenged. For example, why do we put such tight sex-role or age-role restrictions on people? Why do people engage in hypocritical behaviors in which they say one thing and then do another? Why do people say things they really do not mean at all? Why are so many people so unthinking and uncaring in their dealings with others? How much difference in the world can one person's life make?
When gifted children try to share these concerns with others, they are usually met with reactions ranging from puzzlement to hostility. They discover that others, particularly of their age, clearly do not share these concerns, but instead are focused on more concrete issues and on fitting in with others' expectations. Often even by first grade, these youngsters, particularly the more highly gifted ones, feel isolated from their peers and perhaps from their families as they find that others are not prepared to discuss such weighty concerns.
The reaction of gifted youngsters (again with intensity) to these frustrations is often one of anger. Anger that is powerless evolves quickly into depression.
Such concerns are not too surprising in thoughtful adults who are going through mid-life crises. However, it is a matter of great concern when these existential questions are foremost in the mind of a twelve or fifteen year old. Such existential depressions deserve careful attention, since they can be precursors to suicide.
The issues and choices involved in managing one's freedom are more intellectual. Gifted children who feel overwhelmed by the myriad choices of an unstructured world can find a great deal of comfort in studying and exploring alternate ways in which other people have structured their lives. Through reading about people who have chosen specific paths to greatness and fulfillment, these youngsters can begin to use bibliotherapy as a method of understanding that choices are merely forks in the road of life, each of which can lead them to their own sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. We all need to build our own personal philosophy of beliefs and values which will form meaningful frameworks for our lives.