If I’m So Smart, Why Do I Feel So Lost and Alone?

photo courtesy of Morgan Basham

There are times when you just want to scream.

Even though you’re a pacifist. Even though your instinct is to be compassionate and understanding. Even though you have empathy that overwhelms you. There are those days when you just want to say, “Why are there so many f—ed up, insensitive, clueless, exasperating people in the world?”

Am I right?

But this is not something that you can say to your cousin Randy, your neighbor Millie, or your friendly plumber, Rupert. Even if you’ve been unsure of your intelligence. Even if you think you’re also insensitive, clueless, and exasperating. You wonder how your coworkers can take so much time solving a problem when the answer is obvious to you. You don’t understand how your relatives can be satisfied watching mindless TV all afternoon or reading one book every few months. You question why your friends stay in one job for thirty years. You don’t grok why introspection isn’t as important as football.

Some of you may have known all along that you were gifted. You may have been frustrated since you were five with the kids who still couldn’t read Harry Potter or who didn’t know the earth’s distance from the sun. You may have had a hard time not throwing a chair when your teacher told you that you must wait for the others to catch up, again. You may have wondered why teachers didn’t appreciate your corrections of their spelling or why they ignored your raised hand. Perhaps, you felt that it was your duty to explain to the other kids how they weren’t playing the games correctly. You were sure they’d appreciate your direction.

They didn’t.

And now, as an adult, you’re still frustrated and lonely. Because you have high standards for accuracy, justice, and quality, you are enraged irritated by the shoddy workmanship of your contractor, by the irresponsibility of your supervisors, or by the petty arguments among your colleagues and relatives. How could they not know what is so obvious to you? How could they miss all of those details? How could they not care about the environmental impact of their actions? How could they be lacking in empathy, awareness, and sensitivity? How could they not consider the multiple many-faceted implications of life, the universe, and everything instead of their ridiculously simplistic, narrow-minded assumptions?

Perhaps, you have felt lost and alone for a long, long time.

I hear you.

What can you do?

  • Use that vast capacity you have for knowing, thinking, and feeling to expand your connection to sensation in your body-mind-heart. You might find great pleasure just by sinking into yourself and your connection to peace and beauty within and around you. If you need guidance, try a mindfulness app, a spiritual practice, Judith Blackstone’s Realization Process, or hikes in the forest or by the ocean. Feel your connection to Everything. Let your intuitive, empathic abilities expand.
  • Get enough psychotherapy so that you calm the fears of your traumatized inner child. Then, imagine that you have one year to live. What do you just have to do? What do you have to create? What is your purpose here on earth? What do you want to leave for the next generations?

We humans can be extraordinarily frustrating, irritating, fearful, narrow-minded, and confusing. You may still want to throw a chair.

I get it.

Let us scream together. Then, take a moment. Breathe. Feel your connection to rainforest minds around the world.

To the Universe.

To Everything.


To my bloggEEs:  What are some ways that you take care of yourself when you experience exasperating humans and difficult events? In what ways are you developing your intuition? How are you building your self-confidence so that you can take action in the world? Do you have a spiritual practice where you feel a connection to Everything?

Thank you to the reader and client who inspired this.

I’ve started experimenting with recording my posts. If you’d like to listen, click here. But don’t worry. I won’t stop writing. I love it too much. And, I love you too much.



Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

28 responses to “If I’m So Smart, Why Do I Feel So Lost and Alone?”

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  1. Rochelle Avatar

    I have been on a retrospective journey into giftedness for the last 9 years, after our daughter was identified as gifted as a young child. So many things started to click into place and finally make sense to me. Initially I consumed book after book on giftedness, blog after blog. Until I was ‘sated’. 🙂

    If I had to pick only one single book on giftedness (a challenge for someone as ‘bookish’ as me!), I would – without hesitation – recommend ‘Your Rainforest Mind’. I can’t tell you how much comfort or peace I gain from your work Paula. Deep and heartfelt appreciation.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you so much, Rochelle! 🙂

  2. Bostonian Avatar

    Hi Paula. I don’t feel frustrated and lonely anymore, because I spend less time with other people now. I think I felt lonelier when I worked all day, surrounded by normal people. I figured out how to get myself in a better situation – what is being smart good for, if you can’t accomplish that? Now most of my interactions are with family and a small number of friends, and I get hours to myself every day. Alone, not lonely. The desire to scream has entirely faded.

    I liked your post about waiting. It describes my childhood well. I had to wait quite a lot in school. At home, my mother never made me wait. If I wanted to learn to read at three, okay. If I wanted to read college textbooks at ten, okay. This helped because it lead me never to see the problem as with myself, so much as the institutions in which I was trapped. Eventually I reached escape velocity, and was accepted to college at fifteen. I liked college, and graduate school, much more than school.

    I developed a strange adaptation to the slow speed of the world around me by changing paths every few years. It was always much more interesting to learn something new again and again than to do the same thing so long that they stuck me in management. I learned different languages, worked in different countries, developed different specialities. Eventually I reached escape velocity again and left my career to stay at home with my kids, which is much more fun.

    Of course, my kids have their own incompatibilities, but being there for them has been wonderful for all of us. I homeschooled my son for five years, after he got frustrated they weren’t teaching exponents in first grade. After a few bumps, he’s now at an excellent progressive school that differentiates brilliantly, so he can do math at his own speed a few years ahead of schedule, and college-level work in English, while feeding his soul with theatre, music, and companionship. No screaming required.

    I solved my problems. If I’m the odd man out, then I’m out, and I’ll be odd by myself, thank you very much. No screaming required. The topic of greater interest to me now is taking care of my kids in such a way that they’ll learn to take care of themselves as well. This has been challenging at times. This is one reason why, although I believe most schools are particularly terrible for gifted kids, I am happy my kids are both in school now, in heterogeneously-grouped classrooms, learning how to coexist with a variety of people — because that’s what the rest of their lives holds.

    I don’t know what I’ll do when they leave home. I feel lucky my youngest is still only seven.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      This is such a great example, Bostonian. Thank you for sharing. I’m guessing that by the time your seven year old leaves home that you’ll have come up with a great plan for that next stage of your life. No screaming required. 🙂

  3. M. J. Cuthbertson Avatar
    M. J. Cuthbertson

    Are you stuck in your head? I was until two years ago. I was lost because I was using the wrong map. Empathy always kept me aware of the wonderful multitude of feelings people have in a situation and allowed me to connect with where they found themselves in their feelings. It did not aid in my understanding of why I thought about the situation so differently from everyone.

    I couldn’t understand why my thinking about something seemed so varied. The internal dialogue was something like, if I’m not seeing this as everyone else is I must be doing it wrong. I knew people would be varied in their thinking, but no one seemed to share or even get in the neighborhood of my thinking. My conclusion was that something internal was at best, a bad connection, at worst, entirely broken. I was lost and felt alone.

    Two years ago I put together I was a gifted learner with learning problems. When I read how small and varied that population is I realized for the 56 years prior everyone including myself had been using the wrong map. All that time I’d been stuck in my head thinking it was a variation on others heads. Once I understood the structural differences between my wiring and others wiring, I’ve been able to apply the same sort of understanding I’d always done with feelings for thinking. Using the correct map, allows getting out of my own head and not feeling so lost all the time. The map lead me here and other places, all aiding in being less alone.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Sounds like you’ve discovered that you’re twice exceptional, M.J. Gifted and something else. There’s more and more information about 2e issues that you can find online. So glad that you’ve found your map.

  4. Alex Avatar

    Watching House Md has been therapeutic in many ways.
    He’s gifted, sensitive and got troubles with his sensitivity.

    Understanding that your over-sensitivity/excitability doesn’t mean you have to act with compassion all the time.
    To be empathetic/compassionate can lead you to an emotional burn-out.
    NO! Don’t be a jerk or harsh with people like Gregory House does… but recognize that acting compassionately can lead you to an emotional disaster. Find a balance!

    I can’t recommend enough the Headspace App.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Alex. Yes to balance. Good to hear that the Headspace App is a good one.

  5. Aurora Dancing Avatar
    Aurora Dancing

    You’ve written exactly my frustration. Thank you. I write. I walk in the boreal forest. I read. I think those are my best coping mechanisms. I suffer from what I call “Injustice Intolerance.” My blood pressure literally rises to dangerous levels when I sense injustice occurring. My doctor was considering BP meds, but since my regular monitoring showed that I had normal blood pressure, meds were not an option. So she sent me to someone to work on mindfulness. My “Injustice Intolerance” problem is improving. A couple years ago I suffered a bad concussion. I had never known a life when my brain was not working 24/7, multi-tasking, problem-solving. I am now writing about the experience of it all and the path back through healing. Healing is usually a blessing, but for me I grieved the loss of my much simpler life. This is a “gift” they say. All I want sometimes is to throw it at others, hurl it out a window, I don’t want this stinkin’ gift! Have it! Let’s see how you like it! It’s good to just let it out. And now I have settled back, for the time being anyway, into this life that I have been given. I write. I walk in the boreal forest. I read. And then I write some more.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      This is beautiful, Aurora Dancing. Thank you.

  6. Mark V Avatar
    Mark V

    That feeling when you’re both terrified and terrifying…

  7. Marlo Avatar

    Thank you. Coming up on 50 years old and still have so much trouble dealing with this. So much. Thank you for a glimmer of hope someone out there “gets” it.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Glad to have you here, Mario.

  8. hksounds Avatar

    Hi Paula, Thanks for this. I can definitely relate to this post in many ways, although, not the title. For me this isn’t the, or even, a question. ‘Lonely’ is the wrong adjective, ‘alone,’ would work better for me as I don’t spend time and emotional energy wishing I had a lot of people around me or that I was in a close relationship and feeling bereft because I didn’t.

    I do what interests me, by myself. I have many passions, including music, reading, following political developments online, and African wildlife, including Safari Live, with two, daily live drives on YouTube, has become a huge part of my life the past year. I have also begun making videos of what I have seen. Yes, sports too, for example, I watched all but two of the entire World Cup, even those that started at 4 am, here.

    So no, I am not frustrated and lonely. Annoyed, irritated and glad I don’t have to spend time with these people who, seemingly, don’t have a clue. I am motivated by principles and a real need for personal integrity. Most people, it seems, need to know the names of the players before they can decide who deserves their support,. Often, seeing only two sides where there are many.

    I am not sure there is a way for me to live in community with those who would destroy the biosphere or with their enablers, who shrug their shoulders and allow it to happen without resisting on a regular basis. And if there were a way, why would I want to?
    Thanks again.

    1. Demus Avatar

      You make a very good point painting out the difference between feeling lonely or alone. I remember Marilyn vos Savant mentioned this once, it seared into my mind. I find feeling lonely is quite rare for me. And feeling and being alone is quite often a desired state. Occasionally I allow myself to long for that one utopistic soul mate partner, I guess those times I feel a bit lonely. Also I’ve come to realise that my sense of isolation has other causes than giftedness as well (especially since I’m definitely not profoundly gifted, like many here), such as gender dysphoria (not a negative thing anymore), bisexuality(for lack of a better term), uncoventional “artistic” personality (though I put on a good act) and imposing, tall and muscular physical appearance that makes me stand out in most settings (causes major contradictions between first impressions and what I’m really like ).

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Thank you for letting us know more about you, Demus. Appreciate hearing from you.

        1. Demus Avatar

          I don’t really want to bore you with this oversharing, I just find blurting it all out on your comment section therapeutic lol

    2. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Hi Joy. I knew it wouldn’t be totally fitting for you. But you were the inspiration for this one. Thank you.

  9. Gail Post, Ph.D. Avatar
    Gail Post, Ph.D.

    Yup! Agree with all of this. Especially that need for justice in an unjust world – particularly relevant these days!! Great recommendations about how to manage the frustration.

  10. Demus Avatar

    Good thing is that I have great affection for people. I feel alone yet have great affection. That makes it better. My affection stems largely from the fact that I understand so well people’s emotions (or so I like to think). I understand that a lot of what might be seen as bad or even evil has its roots in someone’s genuine emotion. So, emotions are a big connector. We all have them. I might face the world rationally, and have nigh total control of my emotions, but I still have them.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Interesting, Demus. Thank you.

    2. Pecheoiseau Avatar

      This reminds me of one of my favorite Linus quotes from Peanuts: “I love mankind! It’s people I can’t stand!”

  11. Springbrookorbillabong Avatar

    Thank you.

  12. Kate Avatar

    Thank you for writing this. Loved reading it.

  13. Themon the Bard Avatar
    Themon the Bard

    Interesting. I just posted something this morning that might be apropos. https://themonthebard.org/2018/10/09/facebook-cleanse/

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Themon. I’ll check it out.

    2. Themon the Bard Avatar
      Themon the Bard

      The reason I thought it might be apropos is that a lot of us see the world through the lens of social media, and I’m increasingly coming to understand what a warped view of the world — and of people — this is.

      It was my experience, growing up gifted, that children are incredibly cruel. Once I reached adulthood, that changed, significantly. But it changed while living among real people in real environments. What I see in the virtual world of social media is like cruel children unleashed, and my exposure to that is not only somewhat “triggering” — to use the new word for it — but it darkens my view of people, and increases the sense of aloneness.

      A good old “cleanse” from social media is rather refreshing….

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        I enjoyed your article, Themon. So well written and so true!! I have appreciated FB because it’s certainly helped me spread the word about my blog and book. But I can totally see the value in the cleanse.

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