“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know”. (- Ernest Hemingway, author and journalist, Nobel laureate (1899-1961)

Hemingway, commited suicide in 1961, knew the crystal clear relation of both intelligent people and unhappiness. He lived through two world wars, the Great Depression, had four wives and an unknown number of failed romantic relationships, none of which would help him to develop happiness. As Hemingway’s quote was based on his life experience, I will base the following speculation on both my personal and my professional experience as a sociologist.

Western society is not set up to nurture intelligent children and adults, the way it developes over athletes and sports figures, especially the outstanding ones. While we have the odd famous personality such as Albert Einstein, we also have many extremely intelligent people working in occupations that are considered among the lowliest, as may be displayed by a review of the membership lists of Mensa (the club for the top two percent on intelligence scales). Education systems in countries whose primary interest is in wealth accumulation encourage heroes in movies, war and sports, but not in intellectual development. Super intelligent people manage, but few reach the top of the business or social ladder.

Children develop along four streams: intellectual, physical, and emotional and social. In classrooms, the smartest kids tend to be left out of more activities by other children than they are included in. They are “odd,” they are the nerds or the geeks; they are “Social Outsiders”. In other words, they do not develop socially as well as they may develop intellectually or even physically where opportunities may exist for more progress for average children. Their emotional development, characterized by their ability to cope with stressful situations, especially over long periods of time, also lags behind that of the average person.

Adults tend to believe that intelligent kids can deal with anything because they are intellectually superior. In fact, they face situations where the intelligent kids have neither knowledge nor skills to many their emotional balance. They go through the hard or tough times alone. Adults don’t understand that they need help and other kids don’t want to associate with kids the social leaders say are outsiders.

As a result, we have many highly intelligent people whose social development progresses much slower than that of most people and they have trouble coping with the daily stressors of life. It should come as no surprise that the vast majority of prisoners are socially and emotionally underdeveloped or maldeveloped and large percentages of them are more intelligent than the ordinary people.

This may be changing in the 21st century as the geeks gain recognition as people with great potential, especially as people who might make their fortune in the world of high technology. Geeks may be more socially accepted than in the past, but they do not receive more assistance with their social and emotional development, most are destined to be unhappy as they mature in the world of adults.  People with high intelligence; be they are children or adults, still rank as social outsiders in most situations, including their skills to be good mates and parents.


Source: Writing by Bill Allin,

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