Friday, 24 May 2019

Gifted children and adults: The Albatross Complex (Inhibition of Intelligence)

Gifted adults and children Section

The Albatross Complex (Inhibition of Intelligence),

When the child loses the liberty of flying in the heights of splendid landscapes...

The "albatross complex" is the expression coined by Dr. Alain Gauvrit, a psychiatrist in Toulouse, who detected the intelligence inhibition process in some children with academic difficulties or even existential issues. This study was exposed in his 2001 conference under the auspices of the GARSEP (Academic Research Group on early childhood education) in Toulouse. According to him and colleagues, some children believe that their faculties are forbidden and to banish, as they feel shame or ridicule. The process is thus compared to the albatross that gives up on flying in the heights, no more admiring the splendid landscapes. He feels as if such a natural ability were cursed. 

To defend oneself or to forbid oneself? This is the question asked by Dr. Alain Gauvrit.
The "albatross complex" was identified regarding some gifted children's behaviours. They seemed to inhibit and hide intellectual faculties by putting a mask of derision so that they look stupid. This process is symbolized by an albatross that, flying too high in comparison with the other birds around, crops its wings in order to be at the same height as the others. Except that, without his wings, where could it head for? Only the fall awaits the albatross. The bird is neither albatross nor little bird, it is nothing, because it is forbidden to be the albatross it used to be. And it is very difficult to get bored in narrow spaces, as well as it is difficult to explore vast landscapes when they have not learned to fly for a long time.

Where does the prohibition come from? 
On the one hand, the reason of that could originate from family's various problems. On the other hand, the school plays a major role in either letting the children express themselves or hindering them because of an established status quo and a sense of so-called normality. 
By the way, what is normal? What should be? The problem is experienced by many, not only by the gifted children. 
Anyway, it matters that these "albatross children" ' esteem is broken. 

How to describe the complex? 
It is comparable to a wounded bird that has crucified itself. He is deeply hurt from not being able to discover his intrinsic beauty, believing himself ugly, and consequently resentful and bitter. This ends up in a devastating narcissistic injury indeed : we well know how much these children's thoughts and sensations are particularly keen, exacerbated, and therefore devastating when their emotional world is shattered. It is like a violent cataclysm happening in the brain, since it is a keen and vivid thinking machine. 

What happens next ? 
From his cage, the bird secretly hopes that somebody will see who he is, so as to free him, rescue and encourage him. He does not know how to find his own strength. His vital energy is trapped in the net of  narcissistic failure and rupture. The latter looks like a canyon. If the bird does not find help, his strong system of negative beliefs can annihilate his energy for a long time, if not for good. His life becomes a reflection of his own thought and emotivity: a complex world. The prediction of an adult life doomed to failure. Indeed, if he does not remember who he is at the bottom of the heart, if he never develops his faculties, he finds himself stuck, disabled in a way, and at the same time he aims to ideals that he cannot reach. As a result, he is uprooted from his deep self. The present escapes him, because his eyes are often like broken prisms: they are mental swirlings conditioned by psycho-emotional complexes.

What a mess !

It is common for these children to lose interest and develop attention disorders, with or without hyperactivity (ADHD). This deficit is not necessarily genetic, it can develop when a malaise is underlying. Indeed, emotional intelligence directly influences the intellectual faculties and self-realization. A wobbly emotional life leads to a more or less accentuated fatigue of the limbic system and of cognition. It also affects their lucidity and vital libido, the latter signifying the desire to live and significant motivation. Anxiety disorders will therefore arise. 
Fortunately, it is cured when diagnosed. Nowadays High potential children are recognized. They get support from associations specialised in this matter, and more and more psychologists are trained to respond to this population.

What about the intelligence quotient? It has been proven that these children tend to lose concentration capacities. It follows that the I.Q. does not correspond to their real faculties. The results generally show trends such as heterogeneous performances during the test. 
If they are helped out the bird cage and given an environment conducive to their development, they reconcile with life and gain confidence. They set their abilities in motion. Later, Q.I. tests show a significant increase, sometimes a leap in the results revealing the giftedness. This has been the experience conducted by Dr. Gauvrit's team. 

If all the children had the chance to be detected and accompanied... But this is not the case.

What happens when an individual maintains this inhibition complex during his adult life? Existence seems like an insurmountable mountain. He grows up without growing up. His inner child remains stuck under the rubble of collapsed pebbles. Sometimes he motivates himself, invents reasons for living, without being able to estimate his substance. Sometimes he drowns, his hand erected above the water, just in case a savior passes by.

No satisfying recognition. The feeling of being ugly. The rejection syndrome perhaps. A desire to die sometimes. Ideals too big for an untrained mind, and ignorant of its true nature. A job that bores him. Hard to stick to a job. The intellect is esquinted? He did not do any major studies? In frustration, he remains on the sidelines, he does not enter the high potential club.
Getting out of the dead end? Yes, because giftedness is no longer taboo. Some help might be possible. Internet networks bring together those who are alike. And the exponentially growing business makes a good profit from this whole business... (that's the downside to the story). 
But too many still remain isolated, alone in the whole world.

Healing may be a slow process, but a necessary one. It's about fighting old demons, regarding one's old beliefs with lucidity, with the courage to stop clinging to them. Because even sadness and melancholy are securities, habits. Leaving them is like risking delusion and deeper fall. There was already this canyon ...

What key can open the bird's cage? The knowledge of vast landscapes is the key. For these beautiful landscapes are somewhere hidden within, in their sacred heart. Self-knowledge and acceptance of one's history are main keys. From that point the wings can unfold, even if it is scary to jump through the big void. It takes guts to take the first step to be as great as we are.
And there is something stronger than oneself: the choice between living and dying. When one chooses life as well as trust in one's destiny, the wings unfold. This is exploring the freedom.
There may still be struggles, desires to give up. A refusal to go to the light. But as soon as human beings understand that in life everything is possible, then they gain enthusiasm. 
I do not pretend that the road suddenly becomes easy, because life is a test. Sometimes we even say that life is a battlefield. And when you feel lighter and risk everything to go higher, life is a game or a challenge.

The marks of the past are indelible, certainly, but the individual can deal with who he is, with his past, present and future.
Then there is this good news: although albatrosses are rare specimens, they are not alone, they meet and hold out their hands.

What about education? 
Many children are deprived of the full expression of their talents, their natural gifts, their potential. High potential, divergent or other birds, children shape the world of tomorrow. Let us see that the wings of freedom can be deployed in every child. After all, in this world, do not we run the risk of being birds with forbidden wings?
The educational task is a noble task.

My conclusion
All in all, each individual is a singular book. When he becomes aware of it, he can create new adventures for his character. Although his novel may be a tragedy in his early chapters, the creator can take the pen and invent the course of the story by choosing the scene and the characters he wants around him. The writing of the last chapter will be like a conclusion signed by the hand of the author. He will take with him the co-signatures of those whose love has made them real.

I have sometimes heard that our books were already written in advance. Is this really true? There is only one way to find out, by putting life to the test!

Baudelaire's Albatross poem  (

Often, to amuse themselves, the men of a crew 
Catch albatrosses, those vast sea birds 
That indolently follow a ship 
As it glides over the deep, briny sea.

Scarcely have they placed them on the deck 
Than these kings of the sky, clumsy, ashamed, 
Pathetically let their great white wings 
Drag beside them like oars.

That winged voyager, how weak and gauche he is, 
So beautiful before, now comic and ugly! 
One man worries his beak with a stubby clay pipe; 
Another limps, mimics the cripple who once flew!

The poet resembles this prince of cloud and sky 
Who frequents the tempest and laughs at the bowman; 
When exiled on the earth, the butt of hoots and jeers, 
His giant wings prevent him from walking.

— translation by William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)
Original poem in French : Les fleurs du mal (Charles Baudelaire)



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