The Gifted Adult

Intensity: quantitatively different

Mary-Elaine Jacobsen


ListlessExhilarated by lifeWired
Numbs out with substancesFrequent peaks of experienceThrill seeker; addicted to excitement
Under-stimulated and boredEnriched by the five sensesRaw and overstimulated
Depressed or sullenRobustOverwhelmed or harried

Verbal agility

Dodges controversy; steers toward popular opinionEngaging conversationalist; comfortable with intense discussionIntractable opinions; dominates conversations
Dull and unimaginative speech; can’t hold the floorColorful storyteller; sincere spokespersonEmbellishes the truth; poses embarrassing questions
Vague; spineless fence straddlerPersuasiveCoercive; lectures and corrects others
Substitutes mindless banter for in-depth conversationArticulate; stimulatingCaustic; uses words as weapons

Strong sense of humor

Silly and inane; never seriousQuick-witted and exuberantClowns for attention; obnoxious prankster
Whiny or peevishSkillfully navigates life’s tragedies and comedies with appropriate expressionSarcastic; cynical
Prim and drabAppreciates life’s absurdities and human foiblesInappropriate hilarity; feigns happiness
Deprecates self as laughingstockJoyous; congenialJokingly mocks and humiliates others

Exceptional concentration

Dabbler; cannot sustain focus or momentumDiscriminatingly attentiveAutomation; consumed by projects
All plans and no progress; dreams fade awayAccomplished and fulfilledExhausted and burned out
Noncommittal, indifferent, or capriciousCommittedBitter workaholic with a martyr complex
ScatteredContemplative and conscientiousPreoccupied or obsessed


Insensitive, hard, or mercilessCompassionateSelf-destructive martyrdom
Self-absorbed and distantConcernedInvasive; “feels others’ feelings” for them
Detached loner; fears intimacyInterdependent; capable of healthy intimacyPromotes codependency
ApatheticHumanisticCarries the weight of the world

Emotional sensitivity

Cold and remoteGuidance from within; able to reassure self and othersNever seeks guidance; chronically over-confident
Closed off; rationalizes feelings awayOpen and receptiveToo trusting; easily wounded; transparent and gullible
Inhibited; blurred identity; impostorismAuthentic; expressiveArtificial; impersonates to camouflage true self
Melancholic and despairingEmotionally fluent; comfortable with wide range of emotionCrisis-driven alarmist

High energy

Restlessly inactive; squirrelyFull of life; animatedFrenzied risk taker in perpetual overdrive
Creates obstacles; wet-blankets vitality and possibilityInspiring; uplifting charismatic; revitalizes people and situationsProvocateur; wears others out
Devitalized; drained or indolentArtfully allocates energyRandomly disperses energy; capabilities ungoverned and squandered
Overcontrolled; trapped in deadening routineKnows when to control and when to let goOut of control; self-indulgent; defies authority and ducks responsibility


Jacobsen, M. (1999). The gifted adult: a revolution guide for liberating everyday genius. [Kindle version]. Toronto: Random House, Inc.