For Complex Thinkers

Complex Thinking: Taming the Tiger

by Rebecca Hein

Complex thinking, a form of creative energy, can cause problems until it is contained. Complex thinkers typically wander off into their own interconnected thoughts, so losing themselves in this labyrinth that hours pass before they regain their attention for other things.

In addition, complex thinking can mire the gifted child down in a multiplicity of options. Which idea is most important to pursue? If there are several hundred, and each of these has its own combinations and permutations, the complex thinker works slowly or even becomes paralyzed.

Fortunately, this problem responds to proper handling. Complex thinking is nearly an independent force, and if it’s given free play, can settle down, disentangle itself, and work for gifted children rather than against them.

Free play can take different forms depending on the discipline or academic subject, but the principle is the same. The overpowering energy of complex thought must be allowed to spend itself. In writing, a helpful activity is to spend large blocks of time on undirected writing, for practice only. In math or physics, hours spent working problems for fun or exploration works well—to satisfy curiosity or to follow an interesting line of thinking. No goal, purpose, or standard of quality should be imposed on these free-play activities.

Although this strategy may take time away from a more structured curriculum and will probably have to be pursued outside of school, the payoff can be huge. Imagine being able to make order of your voluminous thoughts and ideas; to use them in tangible, logical ways that make sense to others, and to be able to complete other worthwhile tasks. All these achievements are possible when the force of complex energy is indulged to the full, not just once but as a regular habit of learning.

Read “Our Children Are Not Normal,” a full sample chapter of Rebecca Hein’s A Case of Brilliance.


2 Responses to For Complex Thinkers

  1. psam ordener says:

    Complex thinking can be a real problem in elementary school. My son had decided that he was stupid in third grade because “the other children all know which answer she wants, and I can’t figure out how they do that.” Elementary teachers are notably non-rigorous in stating questions as they only expect one answer, and a child who sees three or four based on different interpretations of the question can be quite lost. We worked with him for quite a while trying to get him to see that the first, most obvious answer was probably what she wanted. He was shocked to learn that other kids – even the one he thought was the smartest kid in the class – only thought of one answer to the question.


    • Rebecca Hein says:

      that’s the hardest part about being a complex thinker–being so different from others around you, seeing connections you don’t see, and not always realizing that not everyone’s brain works the way yours does.


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