Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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Coping Strategies for Super Smart, Highly Sensitive Souls

photo courtesy of christinawocintechchat, Unsplash

But surely, super smart (aka gifted) people don’t need coping strategies. They are smart so they can use their brainiac brains to solve anything, right? They are all too busy building rocket ships to Mars, anyway. And gifted people aren’t sensitive, right? Aren’t they all science nerdified, anti-social, and unemotional?

Noooooooooooo!!!!!

In fact, gifted humans of the rainforest-minded variety are not simply cognitively advanced. They, that means you, are extremely: sensitive, intuitive, empathetic, perceptive, analytical, curious, and creative. Not to mention, you are an advanced ruminator.

And, unlike many regular humans, you also have a constant need for intellectual stimulation. Like most folks need food, you need libraries.

Not only that. If you were raised by wolves in a seriously dysfunctional family (sorry, nothing against wolves), then you may feel particularly vulnerable, especially now. If you have complex PTSD, then any situation that threatens your safety or well-being, such as pandemics, wildfires, hurricanes, racism, poverty, anti-Semitism, climate change, and sociopathic politicians (not mentioning any names), can trigger traumatic memories.

Thus the need for coping strategies.

Here are some ideas:

You know about the standard recommendations. These are helpful: Crying, hiding under a blanket, watching mindless TV, baking, more crying, exercise, meditation, warm baths, screaming in your car, journal writing, hot tea, binge watching Modern Love, Trader Joe’s organic peanut butter mini-crackers, reading, massage, support groups, Brain Pickings, independent bookstore browsing, acupuncture, yoga, gardening, listening to music, prayer, denial and compartmentalization, wild dancing, tai chi, inspiring podcasts, apps such as Calm and Headspace, essential oils, rescue remedy, snuggling with your kitty/puppy, time away from the kids, hugging your kids, psychotherapy, gratitude lists, texting your friends, hiking, cleaning your home, time in nature, helping someone in need, taking political/climate action, voting.

For you in particular: Keep looking for other RFMs; even just one will make a difference. Build a list of skilled, sensitive practitioners who will support you through hard times: naturopaths, acupuncturists, physical/massage therapists, psychotherapists, energy healers, astrologers, artists, mentors, and teachers. Learn something new, like a craft or a language or how to build a guitar. Give yourself permission to grieve for the losses that no one else you know feels. Develop your spiritual practice and your intuition; this can help you tune into new possibilities. Find someone who laughs at your jokes. Check out Patricia Albere‘s community, the Evolutionary Collective. (I recently discovered her work. She has a powerful and beautiful vision of the future.)

And, most important: Keep learning about your rainforest mind so you can really truly accept who you are, in all of your gorgeous multidimensional complexity. And so you can live the authentic, love-filled, socially responsible life you are here to live.

And don’t forget the wise words of Jon Stewart:

“My brain is not a brain that does well with downtime. So if I have a lot of down time, it will start out like “You’ve had a really rewarding career” and end up with “You’ve failed everyone that ever loved you.”

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To my bloggEEs: These are very challenging times. I am in Eugene, Oregon, USA, and have been dealing with unprecedented wildfires, along with the pandemic. I am grateful to be safe/healthy and I hope all of you are, too. What have you been dealing with? How are you coping? Are you finding more acceptance for and understanding of your rainforest mind? Sending you all much love. Thank you so much for being here.


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Gifted And Lonely In Belgium

photo courtesy of Hector Martinez, Unsplash

Just yesterday, 26 people in Bangladesh and 9 in Qatar were reading my blog. 10 in South Africa, 12 in Turkey, 1 in Kenya, and 6 in Sudan, among many others, around the world. We are not alone, my dearest rainforest-minded darlings. We are not alone.

Of course, you may still feel lonely. Like Elien, in Belgium. An “outsider.” Learning came easily when she was younger but she was bullied by the other students and even by teachers for her enthusiasm. For knowing the answers and wanting to share them. As in many countries, schooling was focused on the slower learners, so she was frustrated, waiting for others to catch up. Waiting to learn something new. Waiting for someone who could understand her musings.

That said, like many of you, she did not believe she was gifted. She never managed to find success in higher education, and so, was underestimated by others, and by herself. She dealt with a disabling fear of failure. She was told she was “too much, too sensitive, too intense, a dreamer, an idealist, naive…” and more. Sound familiar? She wrote, “…The suffering in the world affects me so deeply that I sometimes have to shut myself off completely.”

Elien was looking for purpose. She wanted to trust herself. She tried therapy because, she said, “…I have a lot of trauma attached to the misunderstanding and loneliness I felt as a child and the fact that I got emotionally neglected and never learned to trust in myself and my abilities…”

In therapy, she felt something was missing because her therapist did not recognize her particular complexity and the issues that arose very specifically due to her rainforest mind. The issues you know so well: high sensitivity, emotionality, and intensity, pressure to achieve at high levels, excessive fear of failure, thirst for learning and meaning, schooling disappointments, multiple interests and abilities, painful personal and planetary empathy, and the extreme loneliness of being misunderstood and unseen.

Elien told me finding my blog/books and recognizing herself in them was a very emotional experience. Crying “intensely” and reading “in stages.” Accepting that she might be highly gifted, was a game changer. She wrote, “I believed I was an outsider who would always be lonely, there was this invisible wall and I couldn’t figure out why…Now I know why I have such a problem with structure, with authority, why I have this high sense of justice that many others don’t understand…I need to be and work free and autonomously…why I struggle with communication, although I am outgoing and social, why I rarely truly get along with someone and always had to tone down my energy…my urge for deep conversation and my spirit for intense humor and connection…I gave a deep sigh of relief in discovering this…I cried quite a bit, too, for all the years that I have been deeply frustrated, angry at myself, talked myself down, deeply doubted myself…”

And so, my RFMs in Belgium, Bangladesh, Qatar, and, oh, everywhere, do not despair. As you realize who you really are, as you start to celebrate your magnificent rainforest-ness in all of its deep, lush, colorful, powerful, passionate beauty, you will be found. You Will Be Found.

Thank you to the American musical, Dear Evan Hansen

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To my bloggEEs: I am so grateful for you. I hope you are all safe and healthy. Tell us about your loneliness or about how you have been found. Here is an older post about ways to find friends, although it was written before the pandemic so will need to be adapted. And if you have a therapist who needs help understanding your rainforest-ness, share this post. And my books. Sending you all much love and strength.

(Note: Thank you, Elien, for sharing your story. And dears, if you are outside of the US…sorry N. Americans…and wish to share your experiences in a post, please email me. I would love to write stories from a wide variety of cultures.)

(Another note: I’m using a new version of WordPress so you may see some changes. It’s a little frustrating but I hope to figure it out soon!)


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My Overexcitable, Effervescent, Unruly Rainforest Hair, I Mean, Mind — The Video

My dearest BloggEEs. I know these times are challenging, frightening, and stressful. Your sensitivity, empathy, intuition, intellect, and sense of social responsibility may make it all feel extremely overwhelming. You may be unclear about what type of action to take. I wanted to give you some support, love, and a little humor to help you through. And let you meet the person behind the words…um, me! So here it is (about 4 minutes). I hope you enjoy seeing me grapple with my overexcitable rainforest hair mind. I mention PG (profoundly gifted) levels but what I’m saying applies to the whole rainforest mind spectrum! And, as usual, my message is to continue your courageous journey to finding and expressing your True Self, your authentic voice, and your purpose(s). Let us know what you think/feel in the comments. Thank you for being here. Much love to you all.

(Note: The book I mention is by Patricia Albere.)

Meet Me And My Overexcitable Hair


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A Gifted Teen In Malaysia — What Is Normal?

photo courtesy of satria hutama, Unsplash

I am on a quest to see what rainforest-mindedness looks like around the world. So far, we’ve “visited” Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands and Finland. Today, we are in Malaysia.

Meet Mila*, who is Muslim and 18.

“..I was too sensitive, too easy to cry, too easy to fall sick, and an unstoppable chatterbox…I struggled a lot at 14…I couldn’t understand why do we exist, what do we want from this short span of life, why should we work hard to earn money when death is inevitable, and why are my friends putting so much effort to make good grades? It is meaningless…I felt like I was about to lose my mind…They don’t really think about life, about the world, about the society…why don’t they search for something more meaningful…? Why don’t they want to understand the learning materials more deeply? Why don’t they care when war is still happening? …I lost my hope in humanity…Don’t you have the urge to be the best version of yourself, to make changes in this world?…”

Existential questions at an early age can turn into existential depression. Concerns about justice issues beyond your self can leave you anxious, hopeless, and lonely.

“…School was really frustrating….I prefer to study on my own, with my own method. I am not academic smart but my unquenchable thirst for learning is not shallow. None of my classmates understood what I was doing, nor my teacher, and it always ended up with ‘just follow the steps that I teach you’…I was seen as arrogant when I asked ‘unanswerable’ questions…My teacher says I am too abstract, when it is so crystal clear to me…”

Love for learning does not necessarily equal love for schooling.

“…it is exhausting to have feelings. Deep feelings…I cried for an hour after finishing a documentary about a politician who was corrupt..it took me a week to recover, to have hope again, for it to be crushed all over again and again…it’s hard to feel the pain of people, literally painful…It’s tiring…It is tiring to see human beings argue for the smallest matter that can be solved with five minutes discussion…It is more tiring when people don’t understand why I am tired…”

Sensitivity. Compassion. Emotion = Exhaustion.

“…I love humanities, art, and science. I still don’t have any idea what to major in but I want to know how technology works, internet AI, security…Mostly I lean more to maths, physics, chemistry, computer science, psychology, philosophy, drawing, and languages. If I have time, I would like to attend a sewing course…”

Multipotentiality is not flakiness, indecisiveness, arrogance, or ADHD.

” I have one best friend, two close friends, and many dead friends, ranging from dead classical composers, mathematicians, philosophers, and psychologists…”

Finding other RFMs can be difficult. Like Maria Popova said, “…most of my friends are dead people.”

“…I would label myself as a lifelong learner, who wishes to reduce the ignorance in myself, aspire to be the best version of myself, so that I can help other people; to achieve a meaningful life, that is giving positive value to other people no matter how small the number …I need to enrich my knowledge. I need to understand. I need to change something. I need to. I have to.

Is this normal?”

This is normal, Mila. For you. Your rainforest mind. And all of us, with you, around the world. With our very own (very alive!) rainforest-y minds, hearts, souls, and spirits.

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To my bloggEEs: Where are you in the world? Can you relate to what Mila is saying? If you would like to share your story in more detail on my blog, send me an email. paula@rainforestmind.com. I’m particularly looking for countries I have yet to write about. And thank you to Mila for sharing so much of yourself with us.

Spanish speakers! Lovely Miryam in Spain would like to hear from you. She is creating an opportunity for RFMs around the world who speak Spanish to support each other. You can contact her at midorenedo@hotmail.com.

(*Note: Photos on the blog are not of the actual person described and names are changed.)


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Exceptional and Profound Giftedness In Adults — What Does It Look Like? Why Should We Care?

photo courtesy of naveen kumar, Unsplash

Diya, 35, was struggling with anxiety, career decisions, graduate school, and loneliness. She left a prestigious professional school in the final year because it was too rigid and restrictive. Professors and other students ridiculed her and left her feeling embarrassed, particularly when she asked penetrating questions. At times she felt compelled not to ask questions or even go to class because she did not want to stand out. When she contacted me, she had recently graduated with a more open-ended degree from a different prestigious university where she had hoped to find intellectual freedom, deep human connections, out-of-the-box thinkers, and most importantly, people like herself. This school was more open to her creativity and needs for a flexible, interdisciplinary approach but she was still disappointed with the restricted and inadequate levels of intellectual opportunities and the conformity of many of the other students.

It became clear as we talked, that Diya was exceptionally, probably profoundly, gifted. Her interests were many and varied and she excelled in all of them, ranging from the sciences to languages, religion, and the fine arts. Her speech was fast and her thinking faster. She struggled with repetitive tasks and was often forgetting things because her mind was constantly reading and processing new information.

Diya felt a lot of pressure from her intensity of thought and worked best independently in a non-structured environment. Her perfectionist tendencies made it difficult for her to work quickly, and she often felt a lag time between her mind and her body. She had a deep emotional intensity, often feeling emotions that were complex and layered as well as visions and insights that were intuitive and wholistic.

Like many of my clients, though, she didn’t recognize herself as gifted. This may have been partly because she was slower at test taking and at answering simple questions. She did not score well on standardized or IQ tests. With multiple choice tests, she could explain why all of the answers could be correct. When professors asked her to explain her reasoning for a problem, she often couldn’t break down the non-linear jumps or easily explain the patterns that she found. Or it would take too long to respond to a simple question because of all the possible answers, causing teachers to grow impatient or think that she didn’t know the “right” answer. In her mind, everything was related. How could she finish anything when there was always more to consider and how could she determine the right answer when there were so many possibilities existing within constantly evolving frameworks? She was always looking for better models or better words to respond to the questions. At the same time, she was a high achiever in school and was able to build friendships. But the relationships were not satisfying. People could not keep up with her and she often found herself speaking on a different wave length and not being understood. 

Diya loved the fine arts, including performing music and dancing. She found pleasure in learning the Argentine tango because of the depth of connection she could create with the right partner. In the tango, she did not need to worry about her partner getting lost in her verbal complexity. This was an intimate collaboration that was successful and less complicated, unlike at school or in the workplace. She was relieved when I told her that collaborating in general might be difficult because of her facility with grasping and integrating ideas; an entrepreneurial path might work best for her. She thrived in designing her own way and not following others’ directions. She was in the process of creating a startup that would weave together a number of her interests.

Diya’s South Asian background exposed her at an early age to yoga, tai chi, chanting, meditation, and other eastern practices. These were quite helpful spiritually and on a body level, particularly when she felt disconnected and alone. Spiritual practices worked in tandem with performing music to help her stay physically grounded, express her visual mental imagery, and sustain her through her distress around relationships and schooling. 

Diya, had a highly developed sensitivity. She could pick up what her friends and colleagues were feeling, and often knew intuitively how to help them, but struggled with not getting emotionally and mentally drained by the needs of others and with knowing where and how to set boundaries. She was concerned with ethics and justice, within relationships, but also in the larger world where she was driven to make a positive impact. 

As we talked, I could see that Diya was relieved to finally have a “diagnosis.” To have it explained to her that her difficulties with schooling, peers, career decisions, and anxiety, could all be understood within the context and framework of living at the highest end of the gifted spectrum. She finally understood why she felt so different and now could start learning how better to survive and thrive in a world that did not easily reflect her. 

I recommended the research of Miraca Gross. This article from the Triple Nine Society. I suggested connecting with Femke Hovinga in the Netherlands and Sue Jackson in British Columbia. Tom Clynes’ book on the profoundly gifted Taylor Wilson and The Gifted Adult were also excellent resources, along with the SENG organization

Getting to know Diya was an opportunity for me to see, once more, the vast potential of the human mind-heart-soul. This is what gives me hope and purpose. In these times of great uncertainty, upheaval, and change, it is of the utmost importance that we all understand, nourish, support, and love the most evolved among us.

Our survival may depend on it. 

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To my bloggEEs: What do you think? How are you similar to Diya? How are you different?  We want to hear from you. Your comments add so much. Sending you all big love during these most challenging of times. And thank you to the client who gave me permission to share her story.

Attention Spanish speakers! I have been in touch with a wonderful RFM woman in Spain who would love to find other Spanish speaking RFMs. Her name is Miryam. You can contact her at midorenedo@hotmail.com. 

 

 

 


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Gifted In Finland — What Are Gifted Adults Like Across Cultures?

photo courtesy of tapio haaja, Unsplash

Kaisa, 26, shows all the signs of being gifted. Maybe even exceptionally so. What are the signs?

“…I learned to read at a young age and have always been an avid reader and super curious about everything. I have always been overly sensitive but was quickly told by parents and environment to shut down my sensitiveness. In kindergarten I was asked what I wanted for Christmas and I answered, ‘peace and love for the world.’ I was 5. I was also very concerned about hunger in developing countries and the waste produced by plastic bags…”

At an early age: Avid reading, intense curiosity, high sensitivity, concern about justice and environmental issues

“…I’m now at university also where I face people telling me that it is not worth it to think so much. To me it is like telling a bird to stop flying…”

Being accused of overthinking when it is actually deep, analytical, creative awareness, and curiosity. An extremely active mind. You are just *over* when compared to regular thinkers. You may be anxious and start ruminating but this is different from your capacity to think. With anxiety, you will want to learn how to self-soothe and calm your nervous system. With thinking, well, I say, keep flying.

“…I sometimes get so excited about an idea or theory that I cannot continue reading or thinking because it causes my body to get super energetic and I have an urge to move. The other day I was looking at DNA structures for one course and I almost started crying because they looked so beautiful and I got shivers when thinking about how the world is so beautifully organized from the tiniest particles. People tell me I’m intense, too serious (I’m rarely serious. I find myself quite funny.) too much, idealistic. I have had problems finishing my degree (mainly because I’m unmotivated there as I am not challenged enough). My problem is also I have a strong artistic and a strong intellectual side of me, I weigh them as equals and I feel like I need to explain myself to people all the time…I’m planning to inspire and serve the world…I know I could talk myself out of it but then it feels like self betrayal.”

Intellectual excitement that stimulates body responses can be explained via Dabrowski’s overexcitabiity theory. There can be somatic/sensual high abilities along with the intellectual, emotional, and imaginational. You have the capacity to deeply appreciate and respond to life’s complexities and subtle beauty. Sense of humor and idealism may not be understood by others. School may not be challenging and so motivation is difficult. Often you feel the drive to be of service or create a better world.

“…Finnish culture teaches people to be humble so if one excels at something and one is proud of it they are looked upon as… arrogant, etc. Multipotentiality or multitalented is not yet understood or supported by the society that well…in general the response from the culture has been ‘who do you think you are’…”

You have many interests and abilities and are told you need to focus and pick just one thing, which is impossible, stifling, and ridiculous. It is not unusual to be called arrogant even if you are trying to hide your achievements and your interests.

These are the signs of giftedness. In Kaisa. In Finland. And around the world.

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To my bloggEEs: Well, my frequent flyers, who do you think know you are?? Isn’t it fascinating to see the similarities across cultures? Thank you to Kaisa and all of you for sharing your experiences. I welcome your comments here and your emails from around the world. Here is an article on exceptional/profound giftedness for those of you who suspect you might be at that end of the spectrum. And, speaking of flying, if you need a lift because these times are particularly hard, listen to this and start defying gravity! 

 


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Gifted In The Netherlands

photo courtesy of Robin Benzrihem, Unsplash

Lieke, 20, lives in the Netherlands. Like many of you, she is not sure she is gifted but she relates to the traits of the rainforest mind. As I read her description of herself, I wondered, once again, why humans are so uncomfortable with the super smart. Or even the very smart. The ones who are deep divers into their hearts, minds, and souls. And into meaning, purpose, and justice.

And speaking of diving, I had a counseling client this week who was pressuring herself to “get over” the trauma of her childhood. Why was it taking so long to unravel her past and heal the mistaken beliefs she’d acquired at an early age?  She was told by friends to let go of the “story” she was telling herself and move on. To stop being so intense and introspective. I told her there are folks who are water skiers, snorkelers, and scuba divers in life. She, and I, and the RFMs I know are the deep divers. They are compelled to examine themselves and their worlds thoroughly because they strive to live authentic, compassionate, meaningful lives — for themselves, their communities, and for the planet. They know that “diving into the wreck,” as Adrienne Rich called it, will lead to the discovery of the hidden treasures that have been buried under the generations of trauma, loss, and fear. And this will change everything.

Lieke is a diver.

“I learned to hide my feelings which were pretty intense. They still are. Deep down I am a perfectionist and idealist. Always thinking about what is happening in the world, always trying to understand what is going on. I like to observe and I discuss everything in my head. My mind is always working. Always. Even when I sleep. I think people around me don’t really know what I know about them and how I understand them, because I am always acting like a typical average person. Maybe I am. I don’t know. But I do know that there is always more going on in my head than other people can imagine. I just adapt very quickly…I love being surrounded by beauty. I enjoy watching the sun set and I thrive when I can have deep conversations about meaningful things. Sometimes when I feel really comfortable, I can show my crazy and intense self, too. These moments are rare, though…”

We love your “crazy and intense self,” Lieke.

The world needs you. And all of its deep divers.

Wherever you may be.

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To my bloggEEs: If you are in the Netherlands, and even if you aren’t, you might want to explore these resources. Femke Hovinga-Tiller runs an organization for the highly/profoundly gifted. Annelie Neuteboom is a therapist for gifted families. And Noks Nauta is a writer and researcher. Do you relate to what Lieke is saying here? Does it help to understand that there is nothing wrong with you if you live your life as a scuba diver? Do you know many water skiers or snorkelers? Share with us what being gifted is like in your country. (here in the comments or in an email to me for a future post) And thank you to Lieke for sharing your experiences. And thank you all for being here.

(Note: Those of you who are fans of Barbara Sher’s work, know that she refers to divers and scanners in her book Refuse to Choose. My reference to diving is not what she is talking about. Using her definition, RFMs are both divers and scanners. The book is a good one for multipotentialites!)

(Another note: If you are feeling particularly overwhelmed right now by the pandemic and general upheaval and uncertainty, here is an older post that might help. And here’s another.)

 


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What Are The Challenges Gifted Adults Have In Common? — A Therapist’s Perspective

photo courtesy of christina wocintechchat, Unsplash

I am a psychotherapist who counsels and consults with highly intelligent, sensitive, empathetic, creative humans. (Yes, I love my job.) Even though they are all complicated in their multiple uniquenesses and differing backgrounds, I often hear recurring themes. 

Here are some of those themes. In their own words (with a few edits): 

On Waiting and More Waiting

“…when I get into difficulties because my mental functioning runs at 95 mph and the people around me are functioning at 35 mph, I get told that I should be content to wait around for them because I shouldn’t vibe in a rush and I should be patient. I get told that if we all operated more slowly the world would be a better place. It seems to me that being ‘too much’ in terms of mental functioning gets lumped together with always being busy and in a hurry…the onus on me is to slow down to their level and to ‘grin and bear it’ or be dismissed as emotional and thus irrational…”

On Creativity, Communication, and Electrical Storms

“My imagination is already so active, my brain is so full of ideas, it feels like an electrical storm sometimes, so many thoughts happening at once. It’s hard to imagine narrowing something down. It takes a lot of energy just to have one thought at a time. There’s so much happening at once; I can think fast, in pictures, and I can get solutions in feelings, it’s stimulating, it’s exciting, it’s frustrating, it’s difficult to explain…” 

“…to function in society and communicate with other people I have to downshift. I have to find some way to slow things down enough and put them in a linear narrative order so that other people can actually understand what the heck is going on with me…I can see the way the dots connect but most people can’t. I sound like a crazy person. I’m always the weird one. It’s exhausting and lonely…”

On Multipotentiality and Impossible Choices

“I don’t know what it’s like for other people, when they’re asked the question ‘if you could do anything what would you do?’ This kind of question feels impossible for me, like the universe is so big and the possibilities so endless, how can I possibly choose one or even four or twelve..?”

On Schooling and Untied Shoes

“I often was just not interested in the things at school. I can still recount how over the top invested I got into the subjects of dinosaurs, animals’ evolutionary traits, the theory of evolution, what it means to be funny, philosophy, religious origins, and theology, to name a few weird topics. The problem was that I would primarily be thinking about those topics while I was supposed to be listening in school…I excelled at all subjects academically. I would get straight A’s on tough assignments then lose interest…I would always do jusssttt enough to accomplish what I wanted. I was oblivious to the point of ridiculous, always had my shoes untied, extremely disorganized…always had a messy room/workstation/life, would constantly lose things…I got a perfect score on the logic section of the LSAT. I ended up getting into William and Mary Law School and passing the bar at age 26.”

On Overthinking, Anxiety, and Over-talking

“All my life I’ve been told I was a worrier, I was smart, I was artistic, and an over-talker according to my first teachers and my mother and sister, the latter of which still claim that today…All my life I’ve never felt that I fit in with anyone anywhere…I’ve been an overthinker to the point of chronic anxiety and at times panic attacks…I’ve eschewed what was popular in favor of alternatives…I’ve never felt adequate because I’ve underachieved financially…yet I’ve overachieved with regard to reading and retaining, observing, loving, meeting new people, taking small risks (or sometimes larger ones), and seeking to please others. Today, I seek balance and to love myself rather than expect others to love me. This is a scary new journey…”

On Social Responsibility, Empathy, and Superheroes

“…There is a guilt that returns again and again, the guilt that I can’t always help the people I know are suffering. Or there’s the guilt that comes from believing I should have solved all the problems of suffering in the world by now.  Totally completely reasonable. I mean, if I could just evolve faster maybe, write the ultimate book, turn into an enlightened superhero, something like that, then all the suffering would vanish. Yep Haha, that’s so ridiculous, but I know in my heart I still actually feel that way a little…” 

On Relationships, Sensitivity, and the Abyss

“…It feels desperately sad sometimes when I show up to deeply connect and I am not even met halfway – even when others have the intention of doing so. I feel as though I’m reaching and full of hope, but my arms aren’t long enough. Frustration sets in, then the feeling of isolation, and I sink into an abyss all the while still reaching. I have this voice saying – you are full of yourself, you are so wrong to assume things, you are crazy. Then I tell that voice – I know YOU are, but what am I?  I am gifted, flawed, beautiful, often suffering (in one way or many) and expanding always. But I feel one thing that is beyond my imagination is how to make sense of these gifts in a fleeting life – from within, another voice tells me I already make sense.”

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us what you have experienced within these themes. What else might you include as an issue that challenges you? What solutions have you found? Your comments add so much. If you click on the links above, you will find other posts that provide some helpful suggestions! Thank you to the readers who shared these experiences either in comments or in emails to me. I am so fortunate to have you all here. 


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Gifted In Spain — How Are Rainforest Minds Similar And Different Across Cultures? #2

photo courtesy of mubariz mehdizadeh, Unsplash

Meet Manuel. He is 29. Living in Spain.

“… I have always struggled with authority, peers, and almost everything because I think out of the box. I am told constantly that I am too intense and too focused in my interests, which I have a wide range of them, which is quite frustrating for me and others because I don’t know how to handle it. I’m told that I’m too idealistic (as if it was something bad), which I take always as a compliment…I am a constant seeker of beauty, harmony, justice, equality and knowledge, which leads me to be very spiritual because I know that my standards are not possible in this broken world. I have to cope with anxiety everyday because of noises, smells, colors, a sudden scent that brings deep feelings to my mind, a poor person in the street, the environment, politics, lies, books I’d like to read, things I’d love to do…I want to be a saint, a philosopher, an artist, an advocate for the most unfortunate people, a scientist, a writer, and more things.”

Manuel told me he did not think he was gifted. And yet, here he is describing his multipotentiality, idealism, creativity, intensity, intrinsic perfectionism, spirituality, highest standards, and sensitivities. His desire to help others. His struggles with peers. 

“Since I was a kid I had a strong sensibility for beauty, staring at the sunset and crying out loud how beautiful the snow was…People often tell me I’m overwhelming, that I talk too much and that I don’t stick to the conversation. I hate small-talk, makes me feel depressed…” 

Sensitive to beauty at a young age. Overwhelming to others. Aversion to small-talk. What do you think? Does Manuel have a rainforest mind? Not sure? What about this:

“..I need nature… I need and crave for alone time…I made it to college, but I drop out almost when I was about to finish my degree in Chinese and Japanese Philology, doing very good in Chinese even though I barely attended classes ( I was the third top student and I was told by teachers that I was very good but I was lazy)…”

And finally:

“…I have felt sometimes connected to the world, like I was one with everything, it was amazing and painful at the same time…”

Welcome to the rainforest mind clan, Manuel. 

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To my bloggEEs: Can you relate to what Manuel (not his real name) is saying? Let him know in the comments. I’m thinking of writing more specifically about those of you around the world to see what we all have in common and what might be different. If you’d like to be profiled on my blog, and if you live outside N. America, send me an email via my About page and tell me about yourself and your location. And thank you all, as always, for your love of beauty, your care for the less fortunate, and your connection to everything. And thank you, Manuel, for sharing your story.

(Note: Of course, if you live in N. America, you can also write to me (!), I am just looking to learn more about other cultures for future blog posts!)

(Another note: Find the first article specifically on cross-cultural adults, Gifted In Portugal, here.


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What Is A Rainforest Mind? How Do You Know If You Have One? — The Interview

“I love the rainforest mind metaphor – a rainforest feels big enough to encompass all the messy, strange and beautiful aspects of who I am, including trauma. Part of me did want to change it to “mind-like-a-flock-of-colorful-noisy-birds”, but they can hang out in the rainforest too…” (from a blog comment)

If you have felt messy, strange, beautiful, and “like a flock of colorful noisy birds,” you may have a rainforest mind.

Instead of writing about it this time, here is a recent 45 minute video interview where I tell you about it! My interviewer was the fabulous Ben Koch from NuMinds Enrichment.

Thank you for watching! And, here is why you need to know this from a bloggEE who read my first book:

“…I bombed tests, failed classes, etc, and was never identified as gifted…It took me a long time to get out of the wreckage and into life…Your book also helped me think bigger! It helped me see how abuse [in my family of origin] was part (though not a determinative one) of my rainforest mind ecosystem. It helped me see that my range of interests – from doing a PhD in string theory, writing a book, learning multiple languages, making weird art, “deep scanning” literature/philosophy/baroque music/computer science, etc – was probably not manic, and my difficulties settling on a career probably not flakiness. It helped me contextualize my idiosyncratic way of feeling/seeing/thinking, my often unreceivable intensity, and the loneliness that results. But most importantly, it gave me hope to know that there are other people out there going through the same thing, living life with an intensity that is sometimes painful, but never dull.”

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To my bloggEEs: Are you living life with an “unreceivable intensity” that is “sometimes painful but never dull?” Please tell us about it. These are particularly difficult times worldwide. For some good news, Van Jones, civil rights leader here in N. America, is calling this time The Great Awakening. Click on the link to see what he is talking about.

Thank you, as always, for being here. And thank you to the bloggEE who is quoted above.

(the above bird photo is courtesy of zdenek machacek from Unsplash)