Dr. Nicole A. Tetreault is a psychologist and researcher specializing in the field of neurodiversity. She has conducted extensive research on topics such as giftedness, neurodiversity, and the brain differences associated with these conditions. She is also the author of “Insights into a Bright Mind,” a book that delves into the intersection of neurodivergent traits, giftedness, and sensory sensitivities.
During the interview, we discussed the concept of neurodiversity and explored various ways of processing and experiencing the world. Nicole shared that she personally identified as dyslexic later in life,We also touched upon my own personal experiences with sensitivities and health conditions. Additionally, we briefly discussed the term “emotional giftedness,” which refers to heightened emotional experiences often observed in gifted individuals.
Our conversation also veered into a casual discussion, including the impact of AI on the world.
Nicole Tetreault, Ph.D., is a compassionate neuroscientist, author, meditation teacher, and international speaker on topics of neurodiversity, neurodevelopment, creativity, mental health, and wellness. Her book, Insight into a Bright Mind, explores groundbreaking research examining the experiences of unique, creative, and intense brains through interviews, storytelling, and literary science, while advocating for new directions of human diversity and neurodiversity.
Nicole’s website: www.nicoletetreault.com
Imi Lo: Hi, Dr. Nicole. How would you like to be addressed? Nicole?
Nicole: Yeah, however you like.
Imi Lo: [inaudible]. Yeah? Okay. All right. I’ll just call you Nicole, if that’s okay.
Nicole: That sounds great.
Imi Lo: Thank you for being here. You have one of the most thorough books on giftedness that I’ve ever seen. I love that you touch on … I mean there are not a lot of book out out there for gifted adults anyway, but they don’t usually touch on things in such a thorough and whole-body way. We’ll get into it later, but it actually covers things that I’m personally a geek on, things like microbiota, holistic health. We can get into all of that later, but thank you for being here.
Nicole: Thank you so much for having me and the work that you do.
Imi Lo: I have your hard copy in the other room. I might grab it later. But in any case, let’s begin. How would you define neurodiversity? I know people have all sorts of debates about the terms and what it should and shouldn’t include. What are some of your thoughts on that?
Nicole: Well, neurodiversity is a wide umbrella of basically individuals that have unique brain wiring and unique behaviors, and also unique ways of processing and experiencing in the world. And so, when I think about neurodiversity, it really encompasses usually about one in five people, which is people that are on the autism spectrum, attention hyperactivity giftedness is the way that Matthew Matthew C. Fugate likes to talk about it. I would also include giftedness in that as well, people with sensory processing and also alternative forms of speech and communication, so people on the autism spectrum as well.
When you think about that … And then in my book, I also added in mental health considerations as well because there’s often co-occurrences that happen where people with anxiety and depression actually are going to be communicating and responding to the world differently as well.
Imi Lo: One in five? That statistic shocks me. It shocks me a bit. I guess I thought it would be less. Although I mean, Elaine Aron, if you include the highly sensitive people as a part of being neurodivergent there’s one in five. Yeah. I guess because people who are usually feel like they’re such a minority.
Nicole: Well, I think that there’s different degrees. A lot of people who are gifted tend to have hypersensitivity intensities, and as well when you think about people who are on the autism spectrum or have ADHD as well, there are going to be sensory sensitivities that come along with that. And so, there’s going to be different ways that they process the world in a heightened way.
Imi Lo: I mean your book explores the experiences of people with different neurological differences. I think that’s what makes it so unique, because people don’t usually go that deep into the neurological stuff. So you’ve touched on things like ADHD, autism, and even synesthesia. I can never pronounce it right.
So I’m interested … I should probably ask that as a first question, but I know you also identify yourself as neurodivergent. Can you tell us a bit more about your own story, how you’ve come to this, and what labels, let’s say, would you categorize yourself as?
Nicole: Yeah, that’s a great question. So for me, I was really late to my identification. Actually I didn’t include dyslexia and dysgraphia in the umbrella I was talking about earlier.
Imi Lo: What is dysgraphia?
Nicole: Dysgraphia is people who have challenge with writing, or production of writing. So it may not just be a motor function, but it could be a processing function in their brain where getting words onto paper becomes challenging. So similar to somebody who has trouble speaking. And so, there could be varying degrees.
Dyslexia is really … It’s a wide range that involves differences in reading and comprehension and letter decoding. And so, for me, I wasn’t identified being dyslexic until I was in college. I took an organic chemistry class. I wanted to be an organic chemist actually and design medications because my mother had Parkinson’s disease. I was tutoring people, I knew the stuff, and I got to this exam. By the time we got to the end of the exam, I didn’t finish the last problem.
I got my exam back. I was devastated. I think I got a 53. I went to the professor and I’m like, “What’s happened? I knew all this information. I couldn’t finish the exam.” He said, “Oh, no big deal. The class average. I think, was a 50.” He’s like, “So you passed.” I said, “No, but something’s wrong.”
So then I went to the student services at UC Davis and they recommended that I get tested. Then I was tested and I had … Which was not known to me at the time. I had some areas in the 99th percentile. Then I also had discrepancies of being in the 40th percentile for visual processing. And so, they only told me that I was dyslexic. I didn’t know I was gifted at the time. But I had overcompensated my whole life.
And so, finally I was able to have notes, where I had recordings, and I had alternative forms of … I had a Spelling Ace with me at the time. We didn’t really … Because a lot of the exams were still handwritten. And so, I learned a little bit about the accommodations.
When I was applying to graduate school, that was one of my stories within a story was, well, there’s this discrepancy you see in my grades earlier on because I was not identified in getting the appropriate accommodations and services.
Imi Lo: Was it lonely? I mean did you have anyone in your life who also shared a similar experience, or were you the first one, really?
Nicole: I felt really isolated. I think that aside from that, when I start to break it out even more … I had always been a kid that I wore uniforms at school and the tags would irritate me. Somebody who would be-
Imi Lo: Yes. Oh my god, I understand that.
Nicole: Yeah. Right? I would be in the classroom and somebody would be banging their pencil. It would be very distracting. So I had a lot of these sensitivities that I didn’t really know or understand, and no one ever talked about them.
And so, yeah, I mean for me it was really lonely at times. When I studied, what made me actually a science communicator was my dyslexia, because I read everything and then I actually rewrote it in terms that I could understand by my brain, and then I was able to communicate it. That’s just how it transpired to create a profession for me in a lot of ways. So it’s a superpower, at the same time there was a lot of struggle along the way, too.
Imi Lo: Wow.
Nicole: You were saying you could resonate with tags and sensitivity of-
Imi Lo: Not just that. I really all my life had misophonia, food sensitivities, allergies, migraines, you name it, all the things you covered in your book. I guess I put that … I mean thank you for asking. So I am personally very into things like functional medicine because, in my attempt to find answers for my own difficulties with things like headaches, sound sensitivity, I’ve tried everything and I’ve tried all the diets in the world, like vegan, paleo, keto diet. I’ve done all of it, functional medicine doctors, tapping, supplements, mountains of it. I know all about it. Microbiome, probiotics.
I really find your literature book on topics such as allergies, gut-brain connections, and gifted is really refreshing. So can you say a bit more about it, actually, dig a bit deeper into the unique wiring or the nervous system?
I mean I think most people wouldn’t even have thoughts that gifted people are more likely to have allergies. I just don’t think people think they are related, general public anyway. Yes, at least anecdotally, I don’t know if there are research backing it up, there probably is, at least anecdotally, it is so common. So can you tell us more about are they wired differently? What’s happening in their brain?
Nicole: Yeah. So that’s a really great question. So when I started this investigation, I came in through the lens with looking at neurodiversity, and the first area I looked at was in autism. In autism, there was a lot of co-occurrences of allergies, alterations in the gut microbiome.
Imi Lo: That’s true.
Nicole: That was a little bit of a window to say, hey, something could be going on metabolically in different people with different brain wiring. Then I started investigating literature on ADHD, and there were similarities of increased allergies. Then I met … I’m not sure if you’re familiar with James T. Webb.
Imi Lo: Yes.
Nicole: He was the founder of Social Emotional Needs for Gifted. He had done a SENG study where they had done a questionnaire looking at increased in allergies, especially to environment and food, and they found preliminary studies showing that increase in the population.
Then Ruth Karpinski and Audrey Kolb, they did a study with Mensans and they found the same thing, that there was an increase in allergies, autoimmune disease, and also food sensitivities. And so, that’s been a longstanding window into that with questionnaires that people have found.
Then, more recently, looking at research and the studies, we find that people who have these hypersensitive nervous systems are going to have a hypersensitive gut system that’s going to match that physiology. It’s not completely clear environmentally what’s happening with the environment, if epigenetic factors are happening along the way that are changing genes where people become more sensitive over time, but it’s been a common theme where often … Jim would talk about in a subset of his clients that they would have a thing called reactive hypoglycemia-
Imi Lo: Yes.
Nicole: … where basically … Yeah. So you’re familiar with that.
Imi Lo: I have it. Yes. Yes.
Imi Lo: I am a very … Yeah.
Nicole: So you could talk about for you. Yeah. So what was it like?
Imi Lo: I prick my fingers 10 times a day. Yeah. Yeah. I think one of the biggest cause of my migraines, and I didn’t figure it out until last year. It is related. Also, for me, it’s very personal when I … I hope my audience don’t take any of these as medical advices, really, I’m not qualified. I’m just talking about my personal experience. My numbers don’t actually go so low, but I had all the symptoms of hypo. It’s weird.
Nicole: Yeah. So you just have that crash.
Imi Lo: Yeah.
Nicole: And so, it’s usually-
Imi Lo: I just hear these anecdotally from my clients again and again, and very often they get thrown into these basket diagnosis like chronic fatigue, IBS, the things that western medicine doctors just label you as when they don’t know what to do with you, or even personality disorders. It’s very common, very sad.
Nicole: Yeah, you’re-
Imi Lo: That’s why I think it’s very valuable if you can eliminate on the idea of whether or not there’s actually something going on in the brain that makes them react to the world slightly differently. I mean if we have the resources one day to do more research, I would even be curious about do we need to interpret these people’s blood work differently? Is everything just actually different? Do they have a different sense of metric rather than their normal? Because the normal, the American normal, let’s say, is just drawing the normal of the general population, which may not apply when you’re wired differently.
Nicole: Yeah. You raise such an incredible important point in the sense that for standard medications, they’re for 175-pound, six-foot man usually is how medications have been designed in our society.
Imi Lo: Is it?
Nicole: Our physiology is really different. Each individual’s physiology, how they respond to medication based on how their gut is going to be processing nutrients, how they can uptake the nutrients, and then, on top of it, how well does that delivery system cross the blood-brain barrier, for example? Coming back, I just want to back up with reactive hypoglycemia. There’s often a misdiagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder-
Imi Lo: True, true, yes.
Nicole: … or you get pinned in to being a difficult child because basically they’re having a tantrum, because all of a sudden, physiologically, all the dopamine has been flooded out of their system. Then on top of it, all the glucose, they’ve used so much energy in their brain that they’re having difficulty being able to even concentrate. And so, they need to be able to have a quick reboot to have the nutrients back in their brain. That’s something people don’t totally understand.
I think coming back to what you’re saying about these misdiagnoses that happen is I think in western medicine, we’re so quick to want to offer a solution that includes a pill or something very quickly to alleviate symptoms, which really don’t get to the core issue of what the trigger is. That could be simply lights in a classroom that could be activating an individual’s nervous system.
A crazy study that I came across in my book when we think about inflammation is that artificial lights, fluorescent lights-
Imi Lo: I’m allergic to that, too.
Nicole: … activates inflammation. Yeah. They cause inflammation.
Imi Lo: I buy the most expensive blue light-blocking things, fluorescent [inaudible], I think. I wear these red goggles in classes. That will lead to the next one out in that how do we get the world to understand? Because I either don’t ever go to group classes, and bless me as an adult that I can have a choice. But then it is very restrictive, because when I worked in an office, it’s extremely difficult to get my boss or colleague to understand my red glasses problem. So that’s part of the thing. There’s just a social aspect when these struggles can be so invisible.
Nicole: Yeah. I think it has to do with education and allowing for diversity, equity, and inclusion for neurodiverse people, and to not have it be seen as something that’s wrong or bad, or being pigeonholed as being difficult or different, but being seen as, oh, this is the spectrum and the range of human beings and, oh, we have a colleague who’s wearing glasses that are filtering out lights that are inflammatory to their nervous system. Now they can have a cohesive conversation with me and I could say, “Cool glasses.”
And so, it has to do with really shifting our dialogue and our communication about it, and really accepting people and allowing people to be who they are rather than pigeonholing and saying you have to fit in this box, because a lot of neurodiverse people need alternative forms of communication, production, work scenarios.
The biggest thing in a work setting and in a school setting is safety. I mean when you think about Maslow’s hierarchy, the first thing is safety. If a person doesn’t feel safe in their environment, they’re going to be operating off the stress response and they’re not going to be in a position-
Imi Lo: [inaudible].
Nicole: Yeah, or even present because they’re going to be flooded with anxiety and cortisol. And so, we have to create inclusive environments based on universal design, where it includes all human beings to be safe and then comfortable in their environment.
Imi Lo: Yeah. Let’s lay out some of the things people might struggle with.
Nicole: Yeah. So the sensory sensitivities could fall along really any sensation. So even when we’re talking about food sensitivities, it could be in response to texture. Some individuals really, in coming back to texture and touch, we force our kids to hug their aunts and uncles, and they may not like physical touch. It could actually feel painful for them. Really what you’re talking about, the range of these sensitivities, they could be from ecstasy all the way to physical pain, and that’s something that people don’t really understand. It could be in relation to loud noises, garbage trucks, really unnatural sounds like those blowers for gardening could be very painful.
Imi Lo: I know. The mowing stuff.
Nicole: Yeah, very painful for people.
Imi Lo: [inaudible].
Nicole: Yeah. And so, it could be sensations of scent. Some individuals really have a quick response to different sense where it could cause, a, an allergy, but, second, it can really cause them dizziness or give them a headache. And so, when we think about all these different elements that people could struggle with. Then also for visual, people can see prints, where print on a piece of paper can cause them to have dizziness and a migraine, for example. So there’s a lot.
Imi Lo: It’s really painful when even people, the closest to them, misunderstand them, like in the examples you gave. Like the parents might think they’re just trying to be intentionally difficult, or the partner is like, “Oh, it’s so inconvenient to go to restaurants with you.” I remember finding it really hard to find places to go on dates. It’s everywhere. I just don’t enjoy talking in a noisy cafe. I have clients who struggle with very similar things. So what kind of social and relational challenges do you think that can cause?
Nicole: Oh, I think it could cause isolation. I feel that when people are trying to connect with others, they may not understand that going to a place like an amusement park … People think amusement parks are fun and exciting, and for a child or adult, there could be … The sounds of the rollercoaster could be painful, the crowds can be overwhelming, the music, the food.
All of it could just be so overstimulating that I think a lot of these adults and kids tow the line between social isolation and solitude. Social isolation could feed into the longing for connection. Then I think a coping and a resilient skill is being in solitude and having restorative elements, like being able to read a book, walk in nature rather than go to a busy cafe.
I think people really don’t understand that even just sitting in a restaurant … I was talking to a group the other day and a mother says, “Our son only eats Italian food. There’s only two restaurants he’ll go to because the rest of the restaurants in our city are way too over stimulating. Sometimes he’ll need to get up and go outside and recollect himself because the environment is just too much.”
And so, I think, again, a lot of people can otherize or minimize the struggle that somebody can be having, which seems to be a “normal” circumstance that … For me, the way that they put tables together is brutal. I mean you’re sitting next to other people and you can’t really block out their conversation, especially if you have auditory processing and high sensitivity.
Imi Lo: Do you personally have any of these struggles? Can you share a bit more? How do you find understanding in this world?
Nicole: Yeah. Well, for me, I definitely have auditory processing where sounds can be extremely painful. When people chew at the dinner table, it’s very … Sounds at the dinner table, a fork or a knife can be really harsh on a plate.
Imi Lo: Yeah. It’s interesting.
Nicole: I feel that unnatural sounds really can activate my nervous system and I can … So I do carry earbuds or-
Imi Lo: Me, too.
Nicole: … noise-canceling headphones and earplugs. I definitely have light sensitivity. I can get a migraine if I’m in too long of artificial light, if I don’t have glasses. So, yeah, I mean I think it’s the whole gamut. Certain fabrics feel like … They could feel like burlap on my skin. So I have to be very cognizant.
Imi Lo: I was wearing my clothes inside out.
Nicole: Oh, wow. Yeah. So you don’t feel the seams.
Imi Lo: Yeah. The seams really get to me.
Nicole: Wow. Yeah.
Imi Lo: I don’t even care what people think these days. I think it’s a very good stoic practice of trying to not care so much about what the world thinks. So I just wear what I want and wear my red glasses. I’m just used to it now.
Nicole: Yeah. At the same time, you’re able to navigate through the world and enjoy it, which I mean I think is … Enjoy it more than being under attack and feeling not safe.
Imi Lo: I think I feel … When I think about my school years in kindergarten even was hell. I think it’s probably very likely related to a lot of the things you said. I feel very, very grateful and privileged now to be able to work for myself. At the same time I work hard for it and it’s a simple thing I could do. I think that’s what a lot of people ask.
I mean let’s talk about giftedness and this word that we started in the beginning before we jumped onto the recording. This is a dirty, dirty word, this word gifted. In your book, you also mentioned something called hyper brain. Talk a bit more about your perception. What do you see in people, their relationship to this work, and what’s the hyper brain?
Nicole: Yeah. Well, giftedness really is … I mean it gets so misunderstood in our society because people always want to think about the prodigy, “Oh, I know someone who’s gifted,” or they think about somebody with academic success. They misunderstand that gifted really is a spectrum of the human existence that can range from emotional giftedness, and that it really is a synchrony in development in a lot of ways, that you’re going to have these great brain developments and expansions for processing information in a way. At the same time, it could also be overstimulating and overwhelming.
Really, Ruth Karpinski came up with the idea of this hyper brain, hyper body when she did … And she brought it really from the autism movement in a lot of ways, from when she did the study in Mensans. What really looking into that … Aside from what we know from the physiological brain differences, for example. There’s 11 that I talk about in my book, ranging from increased flow, increased area expansions, greater communication across brain regions, so on and so forth.
But when she’s really talking about the hyper brain, hyper body is the connection between what we’re seeing in not just the brain anatomy, but also the physiology, where we’re seeing increases, like we talked about a little bit with increased allergies and food sensitivities, and really this increased ability for receiving the world and then processing it. When you’re receiving the world in this heightened ability, it can be a really overstimulating world.
And so, that’s what she was really looking into. Then also finding the co-occurrences for mental health conditions related to it, with the increase in anxiety and depression and OCD that could come along with it.
Imi Lo: Hyper brain is … So it’s coming from a book called … You mentioned it earlier, Hyper-
Nicole: Oh, hyper brain, hyper body is coming from the original article from the study done by Ruth Karpinski. I could send you it.
Imi Lo: Yeah, I’ll put it in the notes.
Nicole: Yeah, and then you could also look at it. It talks about the study that she did with Mensans.
Imi Lo: Mensans. Both you and I in our work talk about something called emotional giftedness. How would you define it? Because it’s, again, not something that is in a lot of official literatures.
Nicole: Yeah. The way that I really think about it is … In a couple of ways. First, when we think about emotional abilities, we have our primal emotions with the limbic centers, and then we have this dorsolateral prefrontal cortex that’s really expanded for emotional awareness and understanding.
That area is really expanded in gifted individuals. On top of it, we know that gifted individuals do have a greater sense … They report greater sense of justice, empathy, and compassion for others. That was something really that James T. Webb looked into with a lot of gifted individuals. This emotional giftedness really is having this greater awareness that almost, I would say, teeters on being able to experience others’ emotions to a heightened level, where almost, I would say, those mirror neurons we have in our brain are on overwork and on overdrive in a lot of ways.
Imi Lo: Got you. What would it look like from a day-to-day level and in relationships?
Nicole: Well, in relationships, I think it would be really a sense of an emotional depth where they can sense other people’s level of anxiety and maybe even depression. They can-
Imi Lo: Is that from a young age, even before they have the words for it?
Nicole: Yeah, I feel that they come out that way. It’s like a genetic blueprint in some ways. It’s a karmic blueprint where an individual really has that in-tune emotional awareness where they can sense maybe there’s a disruption in the family or with a sibling or with an aunt or an uncle. They can, as an adult, see in their children or their spouse, really being able to understand others’ emotions.
At the same time, I think that the big thing is teaching these individuals how to communicate about their emotions and really teach them self-compassion and ways to care for themselves, because I think feeling … I think in some ways it’s like they almost are feeling other people’s energies and then they can pick them up, and it could get a little confusing. They can take on other people’s emotional settings as their own. And so, they have to be able to learn that awareness, that there’s this undercurrent of emotional currency happening across all beings and that they need to contain themselves in some ways.
Imi Lo: Yeah. I would suspect that that would give them a very unique family role, either conscious or not, from the get-go.
Nicole: Yeah. I would say they’re the wise soul, maybe. They’re the ones that are the peacekeepers. They’re the ones that are the caretakers. They would probably have the most empathy, even for somebody who may have treated them a little rotten.
Imi Lo: Yeah. I think they are more prone to things like codependency and parentification. People who follow my work and the podcast would probably not be unfamiliar with these subjects, but they’re still worth repeating. It’s not your fault. It’s the fact that you are more sensitive. You have a hyper brain. You can’t help but pick up on all these signals from around you and you feel the compulsion to do something to help people you love.
Nicole: Yeah. I think that’s a really important thing you’re pointing out, and that’s why I really love the Buddhist compassion practice in the sense that it’s compassion for others and yourself, but also it’s compassion in the sense of skillful means. So you’re really choosing the right action rather than what you think. One way that I think working with individuals, because Jack Kornfield talks about this. It could be idiot compassion, where you’re not actually doing something that’s relieving suffering for yourself or the other being. One thing that I really start to practice for myself in making decisions in helping others and helping myself is is this coming from a love-based emotion or a fear-based emotion?
Imi Lo: Oh, very good. Yeah.
Nicole: When I can align the love-based emotion, it’s fluid. But if I’m doing something out of guilt or out of fear, then that’s not going to be the most compassionate action.
Imi Lo: Yes, I like that. Then you have the quick question you can immediately ask yourself, is this love-based or fear-based, that whacks you out of a zone.
Imi Lo: Any other suggestions or ideas or words of affirmations that you can give to people who find themselves very emotionally whorish, lacking in boundaries, picking up from the energies from everyone around? How do you help them?
Nicole: Yeah. I mean I think it would be for them to really begin to pay attention and tune into their awareness of … In some ways become a little bit curious how they feel around certain people and inquire does this person … Each time I’m around them, are they pushing me in my boundaries? Are they respecting me? Asking those kind of questions, I think, are really important.
At the same time, one thing that I practice is sometimes you have to say no. Saying no to somebody else is actually saying yes to yourself. And really finding ways, holistic ways, to nurture yourself. If you feel depleted and you need solitude and alone time, trust yourself that you need that. You don’t have to go out to a party or a dinner if you need to rest and take care of yourself. There’s nothing wrong with it.
I think, also, you already know this, is going out into nature is highly restorative for your nervous system. Just being in nature for 20 minutes a day reduces your stress and rejuvenates you. It’s not just human beings that we’re connected to. We’re connected to this entire earth. The trees feed us and we feed the trees, and we begin to see these healthy synergistic relationships. It’s really important. And to really recognize when you’re feeling depleted in people around you, or you feel that you’re becoming that parent or the codependent one, to figure out just maybe little by little ways that you could detangle yourself from that.
Imi Lo: Wow. Wow. Have you done this work yourself?
Nicole: Oh, yes.
Imi Lo: [inaudible] question.
Nicole: It’s a process. I’m still-
Imi Lo: Yeah. If you don’t mind sharing, I would ask you, because I think people sometimes have not very realistic expectations on themselves. How long did it take you to [inaudible]?
Nicole: I’m still doing it.
Imi Lo: Yeah. Good answer. Good answer. I know, I know.
Nicole: Yeah, I mean I think it’s a process. I mean I think all of this exploration is a process. Boundaries are confusing and people are complicated. I still have people that I care about that I have to set boundaries with. At the same time, there’s times I need to set boundaries with myself.
Imi Lo: Set boundaries with yourself. Expand on that, please.
Nicole: In terms of maybe not overworking, or overcommitting myself, or trying to be everything to everybody, that coming back to saying no and trusting myself when I get an intuition that things don’t feel right. Coming back to the continuous work I do in this area for myself, is coming back to intuition versus instinct again, is that when am I operating from intuition that in the core, I know I’m using my higher thinking and something doesn’t feel right versus, oh, rushing in and feeling that I need to go fix or change something for someone else.
Imi Lo: Good tips. Thank you so much.
Nicole: Yeah, but it’s a process. I mean have you worked a lot on this for yourself?
Imi Lo: 10 years in weekly coaching, therapy, books. Absolutely. Absolutely. I think it’s really important to not think that you’ve gone back to ground zero when you have a lapse. It’s adopt a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. It’s hard. It’s easier said than done. But every time I have a bit of a setback, I say to myself I’ll come back stronger than my setback. At the same time, just go really, really gentle. Things like trauma with parents, with peers, I think this is a journey of a lifetime. So we need to be really soft and gentle with ourselves, I believe.
Nicole: That’s really beautiful.
Imi Lo: Thank you. Well, I mean time flies, so I think I want to move on to finding more help for people. You did mention in your work that hyper brain people have a greater capacity for creativity, innovation, which doesn’t surprise me, given all the hyperconnectedness in their brains, how do they harness that? Because very often people are so burdened by the internalized shame and being told that they’re too much all their life, which really holds them back.
Nicole: Yeah. Internalized shame can hold them back. Exactly what you’re saying. I think it’s really reprogramming the brain and rewiring it, and allowing an individual who’s really creative. I mean I was lucky to grow up in a household where my dad told me to do what I loved and the rest will follow.
Imi Lo: Wow. Good father.
Nicole: I had a privilege. I mean that’s a really big privilege to have that. A lot of people don’t. I think that I’m telling you to do what you love and the rest will follow. I know it’s words, but the truth is that when we are really using that natural creativity, the world needs it. We have an economy that’s built on creativity, and there’s a lot of money to be made for creative people, and pursuits and innovation. That’s really what makes it.
And so, even if you’re a person that has to work and you’re working a 9:00 to 5:00 job, give yourself the opportunity to practice your creative pursuit for 20 minutes a day, just 20 minutes a day that you get to give yourself for something that you love to do, little by little, the doorways of how you can incorporate that in your everyday life, where it could be your way of life, it will happen. It really comes with practicing and having the faith and also being okay that things may take time.
Imi Lo: Yeah, yeah. Thank you. I have one question on that that might sound very silly. How do you know if you love something?
Nicole: Well, I mean I think the thing is with creative people and gifted people, they love a lot of things. So I think it’s really the thing that brings you joy, that when you think about one thing or two things that you could be doing, it just lights you up. When you’re in it, you get that natural dopamine and flow state happening for you.
Imi Lo: Yeah. I think people can become so disconnected from themselves, that these are things they need to relearn.
Nicole: Yeah, and give themself permission to explore.
Imi Lo: Yeah. Do you think it’s particularly important for gifted people to find a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives?
Nicole: Well, for all people, it is. Rush University showed that the number one key for longevity in life is connection, purpose, and meaning. When people have purpose, they live longer because they … And so, for a gifted individual, I think the struggle that I often hear is that they know something is inside of them. They just haven’t had the avenue to do it. That’s why I’m saying go ahead and just try, because when you have that purpose and meaning, it trumps everything else.
Imi Lo: Thank you. That’s beautiful. Just taking a pause. I think we’re coming to the end of our chat. What is your current passion, meaning, and flow then, if you don’t mind sharing with us, Nicole?
Nicole: Yeah. Right now, I love chanting. So I chant every day. That’s-
Imi Lo: Is there a particular school or approach that you’re doing it with?
Nicole: Yeah. And so, I do vedic chanting. I find it to be a beautiful meditative connection.
Imi Lo: Nice.
Nicole: Yeah. How about you?
Imi Lo: Oh, I don’t know. I’m always interested in multiple things, always going to a bookshop, and it’s just like my church for me. I get drawn to different sections at different times. Right at the moment, I’m not entirely sure, but I’ll think about it and come back to you. There are ongoing things, like food and city life. I like exploring cities, paint, and art. Yeah.
Nicole: You named a lot.
Imi Lo: I know, I know.
Nicole: You have a lot that brings you joy.
Imi Lo: I mean I have been a bit freaked out by the whole AI thing lately, about how much it can do and how much it will change the world. And so, I’ve been looking quite a lot into it.
Nicole: Yeah, it’s very interesting. It’s a new frontier we’re entering.
Imi Lo: Do you have any particular thoughts on that? How is it going to change the work that you do or the landscape that we work in, or does it?
Nicole: I feel that it’s as everything in moderation. I think that there could be a lot of great-
Imi Lo: I’m not sure American cultures are good at that.
Nicole: Yeah. I feel like there … Yeah, exactly, right? I think there could be a lot of great breakthroughs. I think there could be a lot of codependency. I was playing with ChatGPT myself, and I still love writing. So for me, I see how it can help generate ideas that maybe you can be working with. But I feel that there’s an element that humans still need to … I think it could help with creative pursuits, but I also think that individual creativity is a beautiful exploration as well.
Imi Lo: I absolutely agree. I think I went on YouTube and go, like, how to not be replaced by AI, what jobs are going to be gone, just to educate myself. I do think it’s a bit naive to say that it’s not creative. I think it can be, but it does have a limit. I think it’s somewhere in the middle. It’s an underestimation to say, oh, they just grab things from whatever is already there.
I personally … And I’m not an expert in this. I’m just basing this on my personal experience and guesses. I feel like it does seem to be generating new things. However, it’s not the same. It’s not the same. I try to treat it as a therapist and talk to it. It does give me very box standard answers that sometimes makes me want to punch it, like, “Practice mindfulness. Talk to supportive friends and families,” all those things that are on the website in the first five pages of Google. But if I’m really desperate and I just want something to talk to, it’s there.
I don’t know. It’s weird. I mean I felt weird even 10 years back, with all the text-based therapy with BetterHelp and all that anyway, because the way I see these things is it’s a relational process. You really need a deep relationship with someone and let yourself deeply be seen and all that for things to be powerful. That’s my personal belief. So I don’t know, Nicole. We’re in a changing world. As my grandfather always says, the world is changing.
Nicole: It is.
Imi Lo: That’s his mantra, the world is changing. Anyway, thank you so much for today. I really, really appreciate your work and the fact that we get to talk about things that are not usually addressed. Really appreciate you and your work. Any final words for our audience who might have a hyper brain and struggling with all sorts of things?
Nicole: Well, I want to say thank you and I appreciate all the beautiful work. There could never be a computer or AI that could replace you because you’re an amazing soul.
Imi Lo: Oh. Likewise, [inaudible].
Nicole: So, really, the work that you’re doing is helping so many. For your audience who’s hyper brain is, just like me, we’re not too different. You’re not alone. There are more people out there like you. Keep being you. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. You’re an amazing person just being here. There isn’t anything you have to do, anything different. Just be you because there is nobody else that’s you.
Imi Lo: Thank you. That’s really, really beautiful.
Nicole: Thank you.
Imi Lo: Okay. Well, I will let you go and do more chanting. Thank you so much once again. Let’s stay connected.
Nicole: Yeah, I would love that. Thank you so much.
Imi Lo: All right. Namaste.
Imi Lo: Bye. Bye bye, Nicole.
Nicole: Bye bye. Bye.
Imi Lo is a consultant and published author with extensive and international experience in mental health and psychotherapy. Her books Emotional Sensitivity and Intensity and The Gift of Intensity are available worldwide and in multiple languages. Imi has two Master’s degrees; one in Mental Health and one in Buddhist Studies. She works holistically, combining psychological insights with Eastern and Western philosophies such as Buddhism and Stoicism.