This week we're digging into intelligence. And believe me, it's not what you were taught! If you've struggled with comparing yourself to others, feeling inadequate, or unsure of your unique gifts (and that's pretty much all of us), you don't want to miss this episode!
Here's what we cover:
1. What is intelligence?
2. Why it's different than what you were taught
3. 9 different types of intelligence
4. 2 toxic consequences of comparing ourselves to others
5. 9 ways to connect with God
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Do you have questions for Dr. Alison? Leave them here
Episode 3: What Is Self-Love And Should I Really Love Myself?
More on Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences
Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas
The Best of You Podcast:
With Dr. Alison Cook
Episode 50: Favorite Psychology Tools
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Alison: Hey everyone. I'm Dr. Alison, and I'm so glad you are here to discover what brings out the best of you. This podcast is all about breaking free from painful patterns, mending the past, and discovering our true selves in God. I can't wait to get started, as we learn together how to become the best version of who we are with God's help.
Hey everyone, and welcome back to today's episode of The Best of You podcast. I am so glad you're here. We are in a new series on my favorite psychology tools and I [00:01:46] like to think of that word, psychology, that prefix psyche. Traditionally, historically, it was always interpreted as soul. So psychology is literally the study of the soul.
Now, in the 20th century, psyche came to be more understood as the mind. But I really like that translation of the soul, where we're talking about all of the elements. The mental, the emotional, the spiritual, and even the physical. Including the nervous system and the body in that study of the psyche, insofar as it helps us understand ourselves.
Now, on this podcast, if you've been around for a while or if you're new, I always bring that study of psychology into partnership with something from the Bible, from theology, from religious studies. Because I believe we don't really know ourselves fully unless we are also, intimately, connected with the One who made us. And, frankly, you could also add into that, insofar as we are also connected to the people around us. There's this trinity of relationships between the self, God, and others, all of which contribute to who we are.
As a psychologist, I tend to emphasize this relationship with the self. Trying to understand who you are, your individual needs, your individual differences, your individual makeup. But, again, we understand that much more fully in the context of understanding the God who made us and understanding other people in our lives.
Now, before we get started, if you have questions for me that you want me to answer. Please locate the question Doc in the episode Show Notes, right here wherever you're listening to your podcast.
Or you can go to the episode web page on my website that's at dralisandcook.com. You'll find the full transcription of every episode, as well as all the links to resources I mention in each podcast episode there. And you will find that Question Doc link and you can leave me questions there, and I'll answer some of them in future episodes.
Finally, you can also listen to this podcast now on YouTube. It's still just audio. I don't have the capacity right now to do video. But if you're someone who doesn't really like apps, you can find The Best of You podcast on YouTube, and just play it and listen to it right there.
Today we're going to talk about intelligence. How it's measured? What it is? How you cultivate it? How you care for your cognitive life? Which is really important because we want to be able to process all the data that is flying at us. We have so much data coming in to us, through nonstop news streaming, and social media, and the Internet. We have so much information coming at us, that we don't often stop to think about how we're thinking about things. How we're arriving at conclusions.
So, today, I'm going to give you more of a bird's eye view of differences in types of intelligence. As well as how those may impact our spiritual life and how we relate to God. And then next week, I'm going to get into cognitive distortions, and ways that our thinking can betray us and start to lead us astray. And how it's actually fairly simple with some intention to restructure and reframe our thought life.
So I want to start off by defining the term cognitive function. Which refers to those mental processes and abilities, that are evolved in processing information. Storing information, which is memory. Focusing on information, decision-making, problem-solving, even creativity.
It's the M in that MEPS. If you go back to episode three, where I talk about self-love. I give you a MEPS exercise, which can be a daily check-in where you check in with your Mental, Emotional, Physical, and Spiritual health. Because we have all of those dimensions operating on any given day. This is a focus on that M. What am I thinking about?
Do I feel clear?
Do I feel foggy?
Do I feel scattered?
Do I feel distracted?
Is it hard for me to make a decision?
And do I have a problem that I can't figure out how to solve?
And these cognitive functions impact our emotions. When we're stuck with a complicated problem, we can feel really frustrated. We can even get depressed or, conversely, if we're feeling depressed, we can have a really hard time accessing our cognitive function.
So our mind and our emotions are, intimately, tied together. They are also, intimately, linked to our nervous system, to our bodies, and to our spiritual lives. So we're trying to parse out, today, that mental piece. The cognitive piece of that holistic self.
Intelligence is a really complex idea. It's all about how you learn and acquire knowledge. It's about understanding new ideas. It's how you reason and problem-solve. How you adapt to new situations. It involves a lot of the brain. It involves memory. It involves an ability to focus. It also incorporates our emotional intelligence. It incorporates our creativity.
So, in the past, intelligence was often measured by IQ tests, and still to this day it is, although, it's not as popular as it once was. And it's also often measured in all of these tests that our kids are given. College entrance exams such as the SAT, the ACT, graduate school entrance exams. All of these standardized aptitude tests. But the truth is, these tests have a lot of limitations.
There is a theory of intelligence that I really like that I'm going to introduce to you, today. That theorizes there are actually nine different forms of intelligence. The idea of multiple intelligences was first proposed by a Harvard psychologist named Howard Gardner, in the 1980s. He suggested that there were multiple types of intelligence, and he tried to broaden the way that we think of intelligence.
So I'm going to go through the nine types of intelligence that he theorized. As you listen, just think about how this resonates for your own life, for your kids, for family members. And how rethinking intelligence is a helpful way of maximizing our individual differences and our individual strengths?
So, number one, he talked about linguistic intelligence. This is the ability to understand and use language, both in written and spoken words. These are folks who like words. They are very verbal. They might be considered highly articulate. This is often measured in the verbal portion of standardized tests. If you have friends who are just really good with words or can write well, you might consider them to be high in this linguistic intelligence.
Number two is what he called logical-mathematical intelligence. As the name implies, it's a type of intelligence that involves the ability to reason logically and to use mathematical or numeric concepts effectively. So if you're strong in this, you are pretty good at analyzing and solving problems using either logic or quantitative methods.
Folks like this might be more linear and sequential in solving problems. They might excel in math, science, engineering, maybe coding, or accounting. They might be really good at strategy or analyzing problems. These are the two traditional types of intelligence. These are the ones that are most commonly measured in standardized tests, such as the SAT. Where we look at verbal and mathematical intelligence, as it relates primarily to school. These two types of intelligence are often highly correlated with how well we do in school.
In the past, often, the discussion of intelligence stopped here. But, again, Gardner expanded beyond just those two categories.
So, third, he talked about spatial intelligence. This is the ability to visualize and manipulate objects in the mind. When you think of someone who's a visual person or a visual thinker.
Maybe you might have someone in your family, or you might be someone who sees in pictures more than words. These are folks who navigate well through physical spaces. This is someone who would be high in spatial intelligence. And, sometimes, if you're high in spatial intelligence you may not perform as well on a traditional vocabulary or mathematics test.
However, it's a really unique skill set where you can manipulate objects in a three-dimensional space, and you might be really good at art, or architecture, or design. You might also be good at interpreting diagrams, or imagining, or seeing, in your mind, how different things fit together. And, so, you're skilled at using different parts of the brain than folks who are high in other types of intelligence.
Fourth, he talked about bodily or kinesthetic intelligence. Now, this is the ability to control one's body movements and handle objects skillfully. And, again, we talk about folks who just have really good eye-hand coordination. Or you think about elite athletes where a lot of it is training and they've learned to control their body, in that way. And there's just a natural ability to know how to move the body.
If you've ever seen a dancer, even when they're not dancing there's a fluidity to their movement. There's a real intelligence about their body, and they just know how to manipulate or move their body in space in a way that is really heightened.
Number five is musical intelligence, the ability to understand and create music. It might include rhythm, an inherent understanding of rhythm. Melody of how to create harmony. And, again, someone who has this type of innate intelligence, has access to a part of the brain in a way that someone else might not. And, again, this may not test out in school or on an aptitude test, but it's a very sophisticated use of a certain part of the brain.
Sixth, is interpersonal intelligence. The ability to understand other people, to relate to other people. To perceive and understand the emotions of another person or even the motivations of another person. If you're high in this, you have a knack for just knowing what to say in a given moment or knowing what someone needs to hear, in a given moment.
You read other people very well and that just comes naturally to you. And if you look back, you have a sense of "This is something that I've just always been pretty good at. Again, it doesn't, necessarily, test out on a standard intelligence test but it is a type of intelligence. It's a way of accessing a part of your brain that allows you to be really smart, as it comes to relating to other people.
Seventh, is intrapersonal intelligence. This is the ability to attend to one's inner life. This is very similar to what psychologists call interoception. It's the ability to pick up on the cues coming from inside of you, to regulate your own emotions. To be aware of your own ah thoughts, your own beliefs, to be cognizant of or conscious of your own behaviors. These are folks who really understand themselves, intuitive, and are really deeply connected to themselves.
Number eight, Gardner talked about naturalistic intelligence. Which relates to your ability to recognize and understand patterns and relationships, in the natural world. For example, with plants, or flowers, or animals. People who are high in this type of intelligence, are able to really observe and classify different aspects of the natural world.
They're really attuned to the natural environment. They might have a deep appreciation for nature. The classic example is you might think of somebody who's really good at gardening. Folks who say, "Well, I just don't have a green thumb." Versus folks who really excel at just being in the garden and knowing how to work, closely, with plants, so that plants thrive.
And, lastly, Gardner talked about existential intelligence. Which is really the ability to grapple with deep philosophical questions, primarily, about meaning, about purpose, about life, about existence. People who are really comfortable and gifted about understanding hard, abstract, topics like death, the meaning of life, even concepts like God.
So, Gardner's theory of intelligence suggests that individuals have different strengths and different weaknesses in each of these areas. That intelligence isn't just one, single, unitary concept. But rather that there are lots of kinds of intelligence, each one using different parts of the brain, and different people are gifted at different types.[00:14:43] < Music >
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Alison: There are a lot of implications for understanding the different types of intelligence. The primary being just understanding yourself better. It reduces shame when we understand, "Wait, I'm really good at this thing. My brain just does this naturally, but I'm not as good at this thing."
So we begin, again, as we said in last week's episode on personality, we begin to work with the grain of who we are. We begin to maximize our strengths and also appreciate the differences in other people.
But, today, I also want to talk about how these different types of intelligence influence our spiritual lives. Because as we have preferences, as things come more easily to us, and we're more natural at certain things. It no doubt bleeds into other areas of our life, including our spiritual life. And one of the things I've noticed is that we naturally gravitate to different types of spiritual practices based on our gifts, and based on where we excel, and there's also no shame in that.
I would argue that each of these types of intelligence could be used as an avenue to understand God better. To comprehend God better. To relate to God better. To bring together the way that God made you with who God is. Because, after all, if God made each of these different types of intelligence and gave us these different gifts. Doesn't he want us to use those gifts and honor those gifts in our spiritual practices?
I've long been a student of a lot of different denominations. A lot of different types of worship. A lot of different faith communities. And one of the things I notice, as a psychologist, who's always got that lens on, is how fascinating it is that different people are drawn to God in different ways. And just to name that, and put that out front, not let that be accidental.
Because sometimes what happens is if we're not somebody who fits, especially in America. Where there are certain ways that church is done, that really do cater to just a couple of these types of intelligences versus all of them. We can feel like there's something wrong with us.
If we're going to a church that's really heavy on emotional music or emotional language. And we're somebody who really values logic, or reason, or even numbers and math, and we like things orderly and tidy. We can feel like there's something wrong with us, that we're not appreciating that service. That we're not getting a lot out of that service. Maybe we leave that service, that worship experience, feeling empty or cold.
We can feel like, "What's wrong with me?" Or we could go to the other extreme, which is judging, "What's wrong with these people? Why are they doing it this way?" We can either shame ourselves or judge others. Instead of saying, "Oh, that's so interesting. Here's what they're doing, they're really focusing on that particular form of communicating with God, of using their minds to worship God, and the way that I do it is a little bit different." And there's room for all these differences.
So, toward that end, I'm going to draw heavily on a book by Gary Thomas, who's a Christian author, called Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul's Path to God. And he actually describes, in this book, nine Sacred Pathways.
Now, they don't map on exactly to these different forms of intelligence, but there certainly are some overlaps. Enough so that it got me thinking that, "Is it possible that some of our inherent giftedness, the way that God wired us to excel? To use our brains in a way that just comes more naturally to us, might map onto a different sacred pathway. A different way of understanding God."
And, so, I want to touch on those nine pathways that Thomas lays out, in his book. And use them as a way of creating examples of how you could use your innate intelligence, your innate giftedness, as a tool for you to connect more, intimately, with God. The very first one that Gary Thomas talks about is the naturalist. And this reminds me of the naturalistic intelligence that Gardner talks about.
These are people who experience God best through nature and through the outdoors. I have a number of these in my own family. Where they would rather be in the mountains, be in the wilderness, be hiking, be fishing, be studying flowers, be with animals. Whatever it is outside than almost anywhere else on this Earth. There is so much appreciation for the beauty in nature, and that can become a sacred pathway, as we begin to name it.
Now, I'm not suggesting we replace a church service with that. But I am suggesting that if you are somebody who says "Being inside, sitting in a stuffy building for two hours just doesn't do it for me. But, man, when I am in the mountains and I see the trees, and the flowers, and the river, and my heart sings with praise to God."
That is a form of worship that you get to name and own before God, and God understands that. And maybe you still go to church because you believe that it's important, and there are other things that you get out of it, and you want to be part of a community and you want to be a contributing member. And, also, please be sure that you continue to honor, and express your gratitude, and your worship for God as you see God's handiwork all around you, in the natural world.
Number two, Thomas talks about sensates. These are people who experience God through their senses, primarily. They might enjoy incense, for example. You might go to a liturgical church where they have incense, where there are the smells, there's beautiful, sacred, music. Maybe the Eucharist is really important because it's this concrete way that you can actually experience the body.
These are folks who are going to really experience God through their senses. Through what they can see, taste, feel, and touch. It reminds me of Doubting Thomas, who wanted to touch Jesus's hands. He needed to actually see the hands and put his fingers on it, and touch it to believe, and Jesus honored that. Jesus allowed him that opportunity.
Number three are traditionalists. These are people who experience God most through rituals, often in a structured church setting. They want this really traditional, they might like the old hymns. The traditional church service with the sermon and the Scripture reading, and there's a way in which the order and the structure of that service really matters.
They might like the liturgy. If you go to a liturgical church, an Anglican church or a Catholic church, everything in that order of service is thought out completely, and that structure is maintained consistent, over time. There are folks for whom this is very comforting. This really helps them connect to some of the logic of the faith. Sometimes I think of logical folks where they want a logic, they want an order to things. Things should be laid out in a certain way.
And then Thomas talks about the ascetic. These are people who experience God more through solitude, through simplicity, through self-discipline. They're going to be engaged in some of the disciplines of fasting. Things are going to be quieter. They might be more intra-personal than interpersonal.
Meaning they like that solitude, that simplicity, that spaciousness, to attune to the contents of their own soul. And that is a form of inviting God in, and that's more intuitive and more natural for them than being around a lot of people. And a lot of American churches and a lot of Western churches are very extroverted in nature. They're very people-centric, where the aesthetic might want to pull apart and spend a lot of time in quiet contemplation.
Then we move really to the opposite of that which is the caregiver. And these are folks who really connect to God through caring for others, being with others, serving others. These are the folks who might be more interpersonally inclined. They pick up on the needs of others. They pick up on the cues of others. If you are someone like this, and you're at a church service or in a room full of people and you're aware of where the needs are and you intuitively know how to meet them.
And, so, you're able to use that intelligence, that form of giftedness, that God has given you, to serve others more easily. Now, that's not to say that the ascetic doesn't also need to serve others but it might look a little bit different. They might get overwhelmed in a large group. They might not know how to pick up on the needs of others, without being taught what those needs are. But it doesn't mean that they don't also have ways to serve others. But it just may look a little bit different.
And then we move to the enthusiasts; these are the people who experience God through emotional, lively, worship. There's a lot of passion in the way that they relate to God. These are folks who might be musical, who want to express their love for God through music. These could be folks who are kinesthetic, who want to express their love of God through dance. Or these could be people who are very visual, and who want to express their love of God through creating beautiful spaces.
Regardless, they are wanting to experience God through an expression of sorts. Whether an expression of voice, of movement, of beauty. And then we move to the contemplatives; these are folks who, Thomas describes, are people who experience God more through quiet. Maybe through prayer, through reflection, through contemplation.
These are folks who are perhaps, again, more intrapersonally focused. They might be more introspective. They might not be as comfortable with the external expressiveness of some church gatherings. They may prefer to be quietly reflective. They may appreciate forms of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to your own thoughts, to your own emotions. It's healthy for everybody. But folks who are more contemplative may excel more at this intrapersonal ability to reflect on the states of their internal lives and they need more quiet in which to do that.
And, lastly, we have what Thomas called intellectual pathways to God. These are people who experience God through their intellect. They enjoy studying, learning, and analyzing spiritual truths. These might be folks who are more inclined toward those logical or even those linguistic types of intelligence. Where they're wanting to read commentaries, dissect Scripture, talk about ideas, even write out ideas to try to make sense of them. And they're using those particular gifts to help them understand God better.
The bottom line is that there are a lot of ways to honor God with the minds He has given us. Whether you are somebody who loves to analyze, and logic, and reason. Or whether you are somebody that prefers an emotional experience, or an embodied experience, or a musical experience. Or maybe you're somebody who really sees the face of God in the people in front of you. Whether it's your own children, a neighbor, a friend, or the people who you minister to.
Whether you're somebody who likes to be alone, for long periods of time, so that you can really deeply attune to your own soul, and that's what brings you into the arms of God. Or whether you're somebody who finds yourself by a lake, or in the mountains, or in a meadow, and you are just brought to your knees in awe of this God who created all of these things.
You might be somebody who's more philosophical. You ask the hard questions, and your pathway to God is to engage in hard questions and seeing lots of different sides of the coin of different Christian beliefs. Whatever it is you honor God as you turn toward what is good, what is beautiful, and what is pleasing to Him. As Paul writes, "In view of God's mercy, offer your minds, your bodies, your souls, as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - This is your spiritual act of worship.[00:30:02] < Outro >
Thank you for joining me for this week's episode of The Best of You. It would mean so much if you'd take a moment to subscribe. You can go to Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, or wherever you listen to podcasts and click the Plus or Follow button. That will ensure you don't miss an episode, and it helps get the word out to others.
While you're there, I'd love it if you'd leave your five-star review. I look forward to seeing you back here next Thursday. And remember, as you become the best of who you are, you honor God, you heal others, and you stay true to your God-given self.
Romans 12:1-2 – "In view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship."
Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul's Path to God by Gary Thomas
Theory of Multiple Intelligence Howard Gardner
20th April 2023