Sunday, 27 July 2014

"Everyone is a genius...."

Everyone is a genius. 
But if you judge a fish on it's ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.
- Often attributed (falsely) to Albert Einstein, source unknown.

This post could alternatively be titled "All the reasons I'm not stupid". 

This is going to be a highly personal post. I may waffle and I might occasionally swear. Consider yourselves warned. 

I've mentioned several times in past posts the cognitive effects of Fibromyalgia - the dysphasia, brain fog and struggle with short term memory and straight up brain-being-on-strike moments. I wrote at length somewhat painfully here about dysphasia in particular. I admitted it was something I have trouble dealing with.

It still is. My worry of being seen as stupid because of the way it affects my speech and thought processes continues to weigh on me far more heavily than it probably should do.

To qualify that I should probably provide some background. Despite earning A levels that would have secured me a place at most universities in the UK, I chose not to go. One major reason was financial, and another was personal. Given the same timing of circumstances all over again I doubt very much my decision would alter. I made my choice and I can't say that I regret it - I've forged my way in my chosen career path successfully regardless and I'm quite proud of that.

However, when my partner occasionally points out that I have something of a chip on my shoulder about it he isn't incorrect. I do. Since leaving college I've worked in a field mired in academic snobbery and spent a fair amount of time around people more qualified than me. Most are too sensible to bat an eyelid at this - some few have made a point of it though. I always describe it as being as if the other person's opinion of my intelligence has fallen through the floor on hearing the words "I didn't go to university". 

Said partner doesn't agree that this is as much of a problem as I perceive it to be, and there's a fair chance that's true. I suspect after years of examples there's a certain expectation of mine that I subconsciously overlay on situations. That doesn't mean to say it isn't a legitimate concern over something that does actually happen however. 

Everyone has restrictions they feel they work against in regard to the expectations of others. Mine is the feeling that with some people at least there's a stumbling block named "lack of a degree" in the way of my being accepted as a clever person - which I am, truth be told. I don't like to blow my own trumpet, but I am at the end of the day pretty sharp. I'm not the sort of smart that's going to make any paradigm-destroying discoveries or take humanity forward into the previously unknown, but I am the much humbler kind you might like to have along for a pub quiz.

(I used to always say I knew plenty of useless trivia. This was before I discovered that all that trivia is actually just the thing for quizzes. Also yay for Scrabble!)

So with all that in mind it possibly makes more sense that I'm still fighting with the cognitive aspects of my situation. False assumptions are hardly disproved by an inability to find the words you want or form a coherent sentence. 

What do I do about this? Well, if I'm honest outside of people I am very comfortable with I let myself fade into the background of conversations if I'm starting to feel overwhelmed with the dysphasia or confusion. I can laugh at it with those closest in my confidence, but it's horribly difficult for me to do so outside of them. An unnecessary element of personal pride? Probably. 

One of the ways this manifests is that I can't successfully debate. I have well formed opinions, but I can't think on my feet quickly enough usually unless it's a topic about which I'm particularly knowledgeable. It was never a skill I had much practice with and I tend to want to go away and think about all angles of something. So, I'm not much good in that kind of scenario and particularly not with all Petunia's quirks.

Happily I can say some things survive mostly unscathed. My recall for facts is still very quick and my general knowledge is very good (hence the quizzes). I can still learn quickly and my creative abilities are all still there. I'm still something of a Constant English Literature Student - my brain won't stop analysing what I read for patterns and layers even when I'd rather it shut up.

These are all skills individual to me and you can also argue that they are forms of intelligence. We all have them, and they're all different.

Now, to wrap up the waffle. Given my feelings about my own intelligence and certain barriers therewith, I view intelligence as a gift. Having my natural ability compromised has brought that lesson home all the harder.

It stands to reason then that my biggest hatred in this context is reserved for people who use their intelligence of whatever degree to make others around them feel bad or look stupid. 

I don't care the context, there's just no need for it. If you're the sort of person who needs to do that to justify your self worth then you need to take a heck of a long look at yourself. It's pathetic.

We've all encountered this sort of person. They have the answers to everything (or certainly think they do) and deliver it all in the sanctimonious manner of assumption that they are always correct. Worse still if they can point out when you're wrong or make you look silly as a result of an honest mistake then they'll never miss the chance to take that opportunity up. They might correct your grammar as you speak, or interrupt you constantly at the slightest slip up. Excuse me for being blunt, but it's what I like to call really sodding rude.

If we hold intellect and knowledge to be skills, then like any other skill they can be turned to positive and negative effects. There's nothing big or clever in turning your own skill into something to attack others with when it would be as easy to use it positively to help rather than hinder.

If someone is mistaken, instead of laughing at them you could teach them. One of the reasons I like listening to people talk about things they are passionate about is that they're the kind of people you learn from - they'll tell you as much or as little as you like from sheer enjoyment of the topic.

(Image from

It's often said that what you have to say about others tells an onlooker more about you than it does the person you're speaking of. So it is in this example - using intelligence to make fun of others DEFINITELY illustrates more about you than the person you're attacking, and it doesn't speak well in the slightest. If you're about to laugh at someone's lack of knowledge, it might be worth remembering that none of us can know everything there is to know no matter how hard we might try. That person you're looking down your nose at would probably outstrip you on a different subject purely because all our interests are different.

I don't respect intelligence and skill for their own sake half as much as I do what people choose to do with them. I've listed above the various things I cannot do well or at all with my own brain. I don't necessarily like it, but everyone should self examine honestly sometimes.

What I can do however is write. I could write negative and hurtful things in elegant prose, or I put said elegance to better use and try to entertain and inform as best I can.

This probably tells you something about me, and that something is that I'm an idealist whose expectations are often too high.

Sigh. Somebody had to take the job...

Any thoughts on cognitive symptoms or how they make you feel?

Wishing you many spoons xxx


  1. Empathy: Yup! to all of it. Brain Injury, aphasia, alexia, initiation deficit, construction apraxia, almost no working memory, and an inability to control my sleep cycle. Added to Narcolepsy, and Rhuematoid arthritis and Migraines which I have been dealing with most of my life.

    Sounds like many people you are around are not very emotionally mature. Empathy, and interaction skills are difficult to learn, and not many people are willing to put in the effort. But have you asked people not to suggest a word ("my brain is running slow today, please be patient"). Have you known these people long enough that if you are having one of your off days that they chime in? Or are they doing it on autopilot since they have been around you so long, and they just want to get onto the next thing?

    Fluid intelligence vs crystallized intelligence. The difference between word searching, and not knowing the word at all. If the people are incapable of understanding the difference, it's your choice to continue to be victimized by their interaction (annoyed, vs it being all encompassing). And when I say your choice, you said you chose the education/career path.

    There is also the facet of staying in an environment that you and everyone else knows you are beyond encourages that type amount of condescending behavior in others. "Good Will Hunting" comes time mind.

    The key is to separate how you want to be treated for being intelligent, vs societal expectation of "if you are so intelligent, why don't you have a degree". Also how people who spent the money feel threatened by those who are those who have done just as well without.

    If you are capable of doing more but do not have the education that will allow you to utilize your abilities, then getting the education is not a financial risk. its just really annoying when you are doing the work from memory, and explaining concepts to your professors.

    But that can also be sorta fun. ;-)

  2. Yup, I completely hear you on a number of levels. I didn't go to university despite obtaining good A Level grades. In my case it was down to personal circumstances in my family and me being needed at home. Sadly when life had changed sufficiently for me to think about attending university, fees and financial problems stand firmly in my way.

    I consider myself to be pretty intelligent. I am a member of Mensa scoring in the top 1%, but there are some subjects I quite readily admit I know absolutely nothing about (which is something I find shameful hence me always trying to learn new things).

    The brain fog, especially not being able to find the correct words is maddening!! Something that used to be one of my stronger traits (words and language) is now something that works considerably slower than I would like.

    My friend Leah, who comments on your blog sometimes is a very intelligent lady and I don't think she'd mind me saying that she didn't attend university either. The brain fog is hard for her also, but she constantly strives to beat it and runs and popular and insightful blog.

    As for those who are 'so' intelligent they feel the need to belittle others and seem to love the excuse to illustrate their own intelligence, I know a couple and they would argue until the cows come home that there was nothing wrong with how they are. Others should simply educate themselves..... Tsk....