In a very poignant scene at the end of the movie “The Imitation Game” computer scientist Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) has been undergoing court-mandated hormone therapy to “cure” him of his homosexuality, a treatment that left him very ill but allowed him to continue his work rather than going to prison.
One of the most talented members of his team of codebreakers at Bletchley Park (outside London, during WWII), Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) responds to his lamenting he is not “normal enough” –
Joan Clarke: “But no one normal could have done this” (gesturing to the computer that successfully broke the German’s Enigma code).
“This morning I took a train through a city that would not exist if it wasn’t for you. I bought a ticket from a man who would likely be dead if it wasn’t for you. I read up on my work, a whole field of scientific inquiry that only exists because of you.
“If you wish you could have been ‘normal’, I can promise you, I do not. The world is an infinitely better place precisely because you weren’t.”
Alan Turing: “Is that what you think?”
Joan Clarke: “I think that sometimes it is the very people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”
[Quotes are from the movie script.]
Photo of Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley is from article: The Imitation Game’s False Ending by Kevin O’Keeffe, The Atlantic.
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A newspaper article notes, “In hindsight, several commentators have suggested that Turing’s personality traits probably placed him somewhere on the Asperger’s spectrum. Mr. Cumberbatch, who prepared for the part by talking to Turing’s relatives and some of his colleagues, said he was wary of that label. ‘The more I researched it, the more I came to think he was just a very brilliant, very sensitive human being,’ he said.”
[The Riddle Who Unlocked the Enigma, by Charles McGrath, New York Times, Oct. 30, 2014.]
See more on high sensitivity below.
A few related articles:
Asperger’s: Clearly Bright and Imaginative – Professor S. Barry Cooper writes that Alan Turing “was a strange man, who never felt at ease in any place…He randomly adopted some conventions of his class, but rejected with no regret and hesitation most of their habits and ideas. And unfortunately the academic world’s customs, which could have sheltered him, disconcerted and deeply bored him.
“It is still very common for geekishly irritating little boys and girls to suffer misunderstanding and routine bullying at school. Nowadays Alan would probably have been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.”
Do you ever feel depressed, anxious, obsessed, compulsive, too sensitive – or just out of it? Does that mean you’re really crazy? What does ‘crazy’ mean anymore, with so many categories of mental disorder? What does ‘normal’ even mean?
Peter D. Kramer, clinical professor of psychiatry at Brown University, notes “Diagnostic labels are proliferating, and mental disorders seem to be annexing ever more territory. At the same time, many people with diagnosable conditions are forging their own original takes on what’s normal.”
Gifted People and their Problems By Francis Heylighen, PhD.
“Highly gifted people have a number of personality traits that set them apart, and that are not obviously connected to the traits of intelligence, IQ, or creativity that are most often used to define the category.
“Many of these traits have to do with their particularly intense feelings and emotions, others with their sometimes awkward social interactions.
“These traits make that these people are typically misunderstood and underestimated by peers, by society, and usually even by themselves. As such, most of their gifts are actually underutilized, and they rarely fulfill their full creative potential.
“This is particularly true for gifted women, as they don’t fit the stereotypes that society has either of women or of gifted people (typically seen as men).”
High Sensitivity and the Undervalued Self
In her book The Undervalued Self, Elaine Aron writes about some of the potentially deep impacts our trait of high sensitivity can have on our lives, including feeling “wrong” for not being “normal” – whatever that is.
Here is an excerpt:
Many people who are highly sensitive undervalue themselves, basically because they do not understand why they feel so different and think they have an invisible weakness or flaw.
High sensitivity is my term for what extensive research has found to be a completely normal innate trait found in 20% of the population as well as in most higher animals.
Why the Highly Sensitive Tend to Undervalue Themselves
Although this trait can be a great asset, most highly sensitive people do not feel good about themselves, for a number of reasons.
First, while no one performs well or feels good when overstimulated, the highly sensitive become overstimulated much more easily than others because of their greater awareness of everything going on around them.
Thus, in situations in which they are being observed or tested, they may do worse than others and worse than they themselves expect… Further, the highly sensitive are more affected by feedback. They observe and learn from their mistakes more than others do, and this requires them to care about their mistakes more than others.
But sometimes they care so much that their overall self-worth drops drastically…
Finally, high sensitivity increases the impact of all emotionally tinged events, making childhood trauma particularly scarring.
Read more of Dr. Aron’s quotes in post:
High Sensitivity and the Undervalued Self
“Often viewed as a hindrance, having a quirky or socially awkward approach to life may be the key to becoming a great artist, composer or inventor.”
From article “Odd behavior and creativity may go hand-in-hand” By Melanie Moran – see more quotes and link on the Eccentricity page – multiple quotes, links to books, articles.