Some years back a teenager was referred to me because she was in danger of being asked to leave school as the result of behavioral problems. She was in her third school system and her parents were at a loss as to where she might go if she was unable to matriculate in this one. They reported that she did not do her schoolwork, often did not go to school, and when she did go, she was attitudinal with teachers and frequently got into fights with other students. Therapy was offered to her as a last resort and she was not exactly happy about it, so our initial sessions were about her frustration and despair. Listening to her, it was apparent that she had taken in a lot of criticism and judgement about her abilities and had come to see herself as stupid, hopeless and incompetent. And it was also apparent that she evidenced an extraordinary amount of insight into the relationship dynamics in her friendships and was gifted with compassion and humor. This girl was by no means lacking intelligence, but she surely was having trouble learning in a traditional educational system. She was unable to effectively assimilate information via the printed word or even in a lecture. Written language and one dimensional sound tracks did not compute well in her system, but experiential processes that allowed her to be actively involved in real time interactions showed her to be very bright. As we continued to explore a more kinesthetic approach to learning, she began to shift her perception and think that maybe she was smart and had viable skills. The tone and pace of our sessions changed dramatically as she developed a framework to make sense of her academic struggles and became able to ask her teachers for what she needed at school to facilitate her comprehension. She graduated high school and went on to make a successful career for herself in a field that optimized her skill base. Her biggest challenge had been to learn how she learned.
Human intelligence manifests in a myriad of ways. We commonly think of left brain logical cognition and right brain emotional processes; those categories are simplistic and possibly not even really accurate. In addition to (or perhaps resultant from) the different physiological and biochemical components of intelligence, there are also huge differences in orientation. Some of us are visually oriented, and often project our own vision onto external reality. And then get disappointed with another doesn't get the same picture. Some people literally think in pictures rather than words. Others are primarily attuned to sound and audio responses. Intuitive and intellectual, they sometimes hear their own inner dialogue louder than external conversations, and are often interpretive and analytic. Kinesthetically oriented people are natural discoverers and learn by doing; they may tend to be overly compassionate with others and dubious of a logical approach. Digital style people lean towards being rational and logical, often scholarly and brilliant, but their heart connection may not be easily accessible. Each orientation is accompanied by both assets and challenges. Picture a digitally oriented father lecturing to a kinesthetically oriented teenage daughter and you can get how easy it is to hit roadblocks in communicating with someone whose style is not the same as yours. When we are able to understand our own learning style, and then how it interfaces with that of someone else, we improve our abilities to communicate, to get our needs met, and to create more of what we want in this life.