In his theory of multiple intelligences, Howard Gardner posits the existence of at least eight different intelligences in the human mind.  Why are we good at one intelligence and not so good in other?  I’ve dealt with this issue in another recent post, but in this one I’d like to zero in on one of the potential reasons we’re not good at a specific intelligence.  This may come about in the course of our lives when someone or something interferes with our demonstrating an intelligence and this causes us to shut it down.  I call these ”paralyzing experiences.”

You’ll recognize such experiences  They’re when, for example, our first grade teacher holds up the drawing or painting that we have so lovingly and patiently labored at, and tells the whole ”here is an example of what NOT to do!”  Well, thank you very much, we say to ourselves, I’m certainly not going to do THAT anymore.  And we just seal off that kind of activity (Picture Smart) from our life.  Or when we find pots and pans under the kitchen sink and start banging on them making rhythms like Buddy Rich or Ringo Starr only wished they could make.  Then our parent comes barrelling into the room shouting, ”you’re waking up the neighbors, stop that horrid music IMMEDIATELY!”  Out goes our rhythmic intelligence (Music Smart) in a flash.

To be sure, we don’t usually let any single disappointment or humiliation stop us from growing an intelligence, but in truth all it takes is one defeat at the right time and place in our lives to have a devastating effect on how we choose to express ourselves in the world.  I’m reminded of something the progressive educator Maria Montessori once said:  ”“The child is like a soul in a dark dungeon striving to come out into the light… And, all the while, there is standing by a gigantic being of enormous power waiting to pounce upon it and crush it.”  That may sound a bit extreme to some people, but for many children it is a psychic fact.  So, what were the ”paralyzing experiences” in your own life?  Which intelligence(s) did they manage to stifle or shut down entirely?

For more information about Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, get my practical guides to multiple intelligences for:

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Cover of book 7 Kinds of SmartBook cover of Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, 4th edition by Thomas ArmstrongCover of book In Their Own Way: Discovering and Encouraging Your Child's Multiple Intelligences

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I’m the author of 20 books including my latest, a novel called Childless, which you can order from Amazon.

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