Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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“My Brain Is Bursting At The Seams” — The World Of The Gifted Adult

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photo courtesy of Erwan Hesry, Unsplash

“I want to do everything at once and no one wants me to. They think I can’t focus. They want me to do one thing and do it for them the way they want it done..and it is so hard to climb the ladder unless you ‘participate properly’… just keep getting knocked down again and again.

When I do ‘focus’ my brain is bursting at the seams. It is ‘loud’ and repetitive and always running in the background. I don’t feel ‘smart’. I feel mentally ‘harnessed’ all day and then after work I feel too tired to soar like I want. The anxiety builds up, and then I just feel alone in an ocean of humans, doubting that I’m even one of them. It’s been like this since I was very young, but now I can’t just run away and hide – I have to be an adult, a mom, an employee and hardly ever myself.” (from our blog comments)

Do you feel “mentally harnessed?” Too tired at the end of the day to “soar?” Are you “alone in an ocean of humans?” Do you have a bursting brain?

Welcome to the world of the rainforest-minded.

You are not alone. I get you. And there are many others out there just like you, although they may be hard to find. You are not crazy. You are not a complainer or ungrateful. There is nothing wrong with you. If you are a gifted human, which you are, you are bursting– with thoughts, emotions, questions, ideas, curiosities, hopes, dreams, fears, analyses, creations, and more. There is a huge range of activity in your rainforest mind.

“They think I can’t focus.” What does “focus” even mean if you are gifted? If your brain is running on several tracks at once, maybe you are not meant to think of or do one thing at a time. If you are not a linear sequential thinker, you may have to have multiple projects and activities going at once. You may need to be thinking in more than one language at a time. And it is quite possible that the “proper” way from their perspective is limited by their smaller capacity to imagine possibilities. How do we redefine proper for the gifted mind?

I understand how you might not feel smart. You may not fit the traditional definition of what smart is supposed to be. If you don’t have a long list of achievements that society deems worthy, you may feel quite ungifted. If you are sensitive, idealistic, and optimistic, you may feel less bright because the cynics and the critics have been labeled the intelligent ones. If you have trouble explaining your viewpoint to others because they want quick fixes and easy answers or if you have difficulty making decisions because you are so aware of the multitudes, layers, and implications, you might begin to imagine that your way of thinking is lacking. That you are lacking.

That is why I am here.

To help you see the truth. Because when you realize you are smart, that you are gifted, you can begin to find the energy to soar. You won’t be fighting yourself as much. You will be less anxious. You will find a sturdier ladder to climb. (Or you will climb a mountain, instead.) You will discover the nourishment you need because you will know that you are capable and that you have a right to your expansion, to self-compassion, and to your youness.

And, heaven knows, my darlings, the planet desperately needs more and more soaring rainforest-minded humans.

Come. Fly with me.

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us if your brain is bursting. If you have felt harnessed and unable to soar. What has helped you manage when you have many obligations? If you were to let yourself soar, what would that look like? Thank you so much for being here. Let us know of any resources you have found that are helping you understand your giftedness and that are supporting you through these difficult times. (And, if you are reading my books, please write a review on Amazon. Reviews will draw more attention so that more RFMs will find us! Thank you.)

 

 

 


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Let Bossy Girls and Sensitive Boys Change The World

photo courtesy of Joseph Gonzalez, Unsplash

Admit it. You were either a bossy girl or a sensitive boy.* And, of course, you were more than that. Much more.

But, girls. You had opinions. You knew how the games were played and expected everyone to follow your lead. To do it right. You read all the books voraciously. The library was your happy place. You knew what you knew. Didn’t everyone want to learn the correct way to play hopscotch? And chess? Didn’t your teachers need you to correct their spelling errors? You couldn’t help but express your intellectual enthusiasm.

They said you were bossy. And you were. But this was not a bad thing.

We need more bossy girls.

And boys. You had big emotions. Tears. Meltdowns. Your empathy was deep. You had trouble adhering to the boy code. The pressure to be tough, cool. To squelch your enthusiasm for learning. Your parents were confused because you were multiplying numbers in your head and were so darned articulate. How could you be so smart yet so immature? But you weren’t immature. Your sensitivities were as vast as your intellect. You felt great sadness for hurt children and for endangered animals. You were soft-hearted.

They said you were immature. Not manly enough. They were wrong.

We need more sensitive boys.

Now, I know, my darlings. You are not so bossy anymore. Not so emotional or empathetic. There has been so much pressure to not be you.

But that’s why I’m here.

And it is time.

Time to get your bossy on. Time to express your emotions and empathy again.

Because with your bossy, with your sensitivities, with your trust in your true self, you can change the world.

Let’s change the world.

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To my bloggEEs: Were you a bossy girl or a sensitive boy? Tell us stories about your early days and how you have been able to trust yourself again or how you are struggling. And, by the way, I know it is the holiday season. So I’m sending you this post to help you make it through, if it is a difficult or lonely time. Much love to you all.

(*maybe you were/are nonbinary, but that’s a topic for a future post…)

(Note: Of course, you all know that our gifted girls are also highly sensitive and empathetic. But this was not the focus of this post. Just in case any of you were wondering.)


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Relationships For Creative, Sensitive, Intuitive, Analytical Overthinkers — Where Do You Start?

photo courtesy of Omar Lopez, Unsplash

You think a lot. Some would say that you overthink. You feel deeply. Some would say that you over-feel. You love learning. Some would say that you over-research and over-read. You have very high standards and expectations. Some would say that you over-analyze. You are concerned about the future of the planet. Some would say that you over-worry.

My friend Felice would say that she was in her “overs” when she felt she was overdoing anything. Which happened quite a lot. She was intense. Sensitive. Brilliant. Busy.

So. Is being in your overs a bad thing? Or is it just your normal? Your rainforest mind doing what it does.

Is everyone else in their unders?

Well. They are in their unders just compared to you. But it is your nature to be living at a faster, deeper, wider pace. Your personhood naturally questions, analyses, creates, emotes, and imagines in atypical ways. Your drive to know, to understand, and to influence is vast. It is a difference in capacity. The rainforest has extraordinary capacity.

How, then, do you have relationships with humans who might be overcome by your overdrive. Or who might be overloaded by your over-the-top tendencies. Or who might feel overdosed on your overt intuitive insights. (Is that too many overs?)

What I see over and over is that RFMs don’t realize that everyone doesn’t have similar capacity. Even though you feel you don’t fit comfortably in many places, you think: Doesn’t everyone question the meaning of life every darn day and night? Um, no. You don’t realize that your difficulty with relationships is at least in part because of your more complex thinking, feeling, and knowing.

You may also have difficulty in relationships because you have trouble making chitchat. You feel awkward in social situations. What interests you is too complex for many of the other humans. You are excited to watch the BBC documentary Attenborough and the Giant Elephant while they are chattering about Sex and the City. And, perhaps, you are tired of counseling everyone else when no one knows how to listen to you.

And I get it. There’s more.

If you acknowledge that you do indeed have a larger capacity, then, not only do you confirm that you are an oddball, but then you have to prove it and live up to it. And that sounds overwhelming. Maybe even terrifying. (Not to prove that you are an oddball. But that you are gifted.)

Better to stay small, hidden, and under the radar than disappoint yourself and everyone else with your catastrophic failures.

But here’s the thing.

You have to understand and accept who the heck you are. That is the bottom line. That is the place where you begin to connect with the human race.

And you’ll just have to calm and reassure the part of you that feels judgmental or critical of others when you recognize your strengths. I know you want to be fair. To everyone.

But c’mon, sweetie pie.

Time to be fair to yourself.

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To my bloggEEs: There are many posts on finding friends, partners, and relating to coworkers on my blog, just in case you were wondering. And, of course, there is even more on relationships in my books! (What terrific holiday gifts for yourself, your teens, educators, therapists, clients, physicians, acupuncturists, and random strangers.)

How have you been challenged in relationships? Are you often in your overs? Where have you found friends and partners? How do you deal with coworkers? Thank you for commenting. As you know, you add so much to this blog! Love to you all.

(Note: Full disclosure. I am binge watching Sex and the City.)

 

 

 

 


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Living Your Authentic Life May Mean You Look Or Sound Or Feel A Little Weird

This photo will make sense when you read the post.

I know that authenticity is important to you. Truth. Clarity. Open-heartedness. Depth. Beauty. Integrity. Knowing who you are. Living the life you were born to live.

But how do you manage to be authentic when your natural intensity overwhelms others? When you are told to slow down and stop asking so many questions. When no one you know really cares about the holographic universe or the film Fantastic Fungi. When your family denies that there is an alcoholic in their midst. When your listeners get lost in your detailed nonlinear multi-layered explanations; your exciting expeditions down the never-ending supply of rabbit holes. When your imaginative ideas are seen as bordering on the bizarre. When your sensitivities are seen as annoying weirdnesses. When overly-needy people are clamoring for your empathy. When you are driven to find your purpose.

Is it possible to have a rainforest mind and be authentic at the same time?

You betcha.

And, yet.

It is a process. It takes strategizing. It takes expanding the definition. It takes risking failure and embarrassment. It takes finding your own self-understanding and accepting what it means to be gifted.

For example:

Strategizing: There will be times when you need to adapt your talking speed and content to your audience. If you want to communicate effectively, it will make sense to turn down your intensity. This does not mean you are being phony, condescending, manipulative, or insincere. Or that your intensity is wrong. It means that you want to communicate effectively. Of course, you will also need to be sure to find people who can keep up with you and who love your beautiful weirdnesses. But just know that strategizing is an authentic way to be seen and heard and possibly understood when you are with people who are not RFMs.

If there is dysfunction in your family of origin, strategizing might mean that you learn how to set healthy boundaries with toxic family members. How much do you share? Where do you set limits? When do you walk away? In this case, being authentic may mean being true to yourself.

Expanding the definition: See strategizing.

Risking failure and embarrassment: Some of the projects that you undertake as you explore your authenticity might be challenging in ways that you are not used to. You may need to stretch out of your comfort zone and experiment and explore new horizons where you are not the smartest person in the room. You may have to lead, speak up, and step out onto an uncomfortable edge. You may have to take action where you are not guaranteed success. This will be particularly difficult if you are used to knowing all the answers and if you were praised since you were a little tyke for your smartness. Your identity may have been based on your early astonishing achievements so that now, a small mistake feels like a total failure. Becoming more authentic will require grappling with this and understanding the root and implications of both types of perfectionism. Give yourself time. This is a big deal.

Self-understanding and acceptance:

The journey to understand and express your authenticity can be long, complicated, fascinating, and at times, weird. It is not a clear cut proposition. It is a work in progress. You are a work in progress. Seeking authenticity, you will likely be letting go of old patterns and inaccurate beliefs. If you had to cope with family trauma or deep distress, much of your authenticity may have gone underground. You may need psychotherapy or another form of introspective work to find yourself. Even without early childhood family dysfunction, you may have had to hide your rainforest-y enthusiasm for all of those reasons I mentioned above. But there is no better time than now to be on this road.

So, why bother? What are the benefits of authenticity? Why not live an unexamined life? 

I don’t have to answer that because I know you. An unexamined life is not an option. Authenticity is a basic need of yours. You’ve seen the list?

Basic human (RFM) needs: Air, water, food, intellectual stimulation, authenticity. Oh, and love! (thank you cmd1122)

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(Note: For more on authenticity, check out this post for the great comments.)

To my bloggEEs: Speaking of living the life you are supposed to live, I have some news. Some of you may know that as part of my authenticity journey, I have been tapping into my spirituality through a kind of channeled singing. Well. A gifted musician friend recorded some of it and added music underneath. Here it is: Spirits of Your Rainforest Mind. This is me looking and sounding and feeling a little weird.

Let us know about your experiences with authenticity. Your comments make this blog so rich. And, tell us what my song conjures up for you. Thank you a million times for being here.


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What’s Joy Got To Do With It?

Photo by Preslie Hirsch on Unsplash

My 29-year-old, almost-too-pretty, super smart acupuncturist told me I need to find joy.

Joy shmoy,” I said. Not to her. She’s so young.

But, really. Joy? When California is burning? Polar ice caps are melting?  Birds are disappearing?

Maybe especially because of these events.

I was telling my almost-too-pretty super smart acupuncturist, let’s call her Kat, that I am interested in finding a male companion, a partner, a mate. I have been single for about 5 years now and am enjoying my sweet life. I have no complaints. In fact, I am mastering the art of gratitude. Being older, it is easy to be grateful for what is NOT happening. No slipped discs. No auto-immune illnesses. No artificial hips. No hearing loss. Well, maybe a little hearing loss. So, I feel a little guilty that I am asking for more. (But not too guilty. Guilty shmilty.)

And, being a psychotherapist, I am quite clear that partnering is not some ideal, smooth, romantic ride into the sunset. Quite clear.

And yet.

I was telling Kat that I missed the deep intimacy that partnership can provide. The tracking that your person does of your whereabouts. The thrilling adventure of loving another human in particularly dynamic, vulnerable, and fascinating ways. The comfort of having your mate with you during tumultuous times.

And yet.

I know that I have been a role model for some of you. Those of you who are looking for a single, childfree, older, somewhat-accomplished female. And if that is who I continue to be into my elderhood, well, that will be fine. Excellent, really. After all, there is love in my life. Great love. Friends. Family. Clients. Blog followers. (You know who you are.) Fans of my books. Spiritual energies. Acupuncturists.

But wait. What does all of this have to do with my rainforest mind? you ask. Has this blog become something else while I wasn’t looking? Is Paula using her blog for her very own Match.com? 

Well, hey. It is my blog, doncha know.

So, maybe. A little.

But here’s the thing.

I think Kat was saying that if I go deeply enough into my own soulfulness. Below the loneliness, the anxiety, the distress about the planet. Deep into the center of my center. I will find the Love and the Unity. Of the Universe and Everything. And joy. Joy will be lurking there, too. Waiting for me to find it. And to spread it around. I think Kat believes that the joy-spreading may be the energetic call that my man needs to show up. And who am I to argue with a 29-year-old almost-too-pretty super smart acupuncturist? I mean really. Anything is possible.

Carolyn North, writer and visionary describes her take on joy:

“…It is about knowing in our whole beings the deep joy of the Mystery that underlies all phenomena of our physical world, the Mystery that is love itself. It is an energy, a vibration, a consciousness, a gratitude, a feeling that we all have intuitive access to…Once we recognize the high frequency ‘feel’ of this joy, we can find our way back to it easily when those who are threatened by it try to regain control by shaming us…All we need is fifty-one percent of the people accessing the higher vibrations of authentic joy to save us all from going over the brink…Just fifty-one percent of us who know how to love can save the world.”

So, let us all find joy. It lurks in the center of your center, too. Trust me on this one.

And if you run into my soul’s companion while you are spreading joy, well, you know where to find me.

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To my bloggEEs: Are there ways you tap into joy? Nature? Laughing children? Music? Researching obscure topics for wikipedia entries? Martial arts? Meditating? Blogging? Playing matchmaker? Let us know in the comments. Your contributions make this blog so much better. Thank you, as always, for being here.

(Note: If you are having a lot of trouble finding joy because of the climate crisis, I just started reading Terry Patten’s book A New Republic of the Heart: An Ethos for Revolutionaries. It looks good.)

(Another note: If you are having trouble finding joy because you are grappling with trauma from your past, read this post and check out the.holistic.psychologist on Instagram.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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How Can You Tell If You Or Someone You Know Is A Gifted Adult?

photo courtesy of Ava Sol, Unsplash

Gifted kids can be hard to identify. There is a lot of controversy around what giftedness looks like in children. It is even harder to identify giftedness in adults. I’ve worked with gifted adults in my therapy practice for 20+ years. I’ve noticed some common traits.

So. If you’d like to know if you or someone you know is gifted, listen for these types of statements:

“I started writing a blog post about an herb that has now become 80 pages with no end in sight. The writing is about–everything. It’s all connected!”

“…friends and family don’t know what to do with me because I’m always moving onto the next thing. I’ve been told I’m competitive or make people feel bad by my insatiable drive to learn and grow…”

“It’s hard growing up in a family when you experience the world in a radically different way, are criticized for your ‘failures’ that aren’t actually failures and bullied for being ‘too sensitive’ and ‘too serious’…”

“Oh, and the smells, scents, and sounds that other people are not bothered by–me, all the way. I get migraines from those things. I cannot filter them out the way other people seem to.”

“I cannot tell you how often I was scolded for overthinking, and told to ‘stop worrying’ during my various forays into therapy. Oh the self-flagellation!”

“…I have trouble picking one thing, so I currently have a job that allows me the mental space to pursue what I really want to be doing with my mental energies…I’m on career path #4 in less than 20 years and I do part-time paid projects when I have the energy.”

“I was told that my expectations were too high and that I should lower my standards. I shouldn’t be so idealistic. I should ignore human suffering and stop rescuing animals and plants. I’m told I’m over-reacting to the climate crisis.”

“Maybe what I consider small talk isn’t considered small talk by everyone. I don’t want to bore people with ideas they don’t want to engage in but it’s hard to numb myself so often…There is the occasional magic where you realize someone you’ve known for a long time has a really interesting or weird interest, hitherto unknown, which can make for a fascinating hour or so.” 

“Am I crazy or is this a severe case of empathy? Intuition run wild? How do I know what I know?” 

“I crave intellectual stimulation. When I can’t get it, I enjoy amusing myself with translating conversations into one of the several languages that I know. I also love having a song running in my head (from memory, not with headphones) while visualizing the fingering for violin/cello/piano as if I were playing one of the lines. I love replicating the actual fingering in my pocket, just gently tapping, and walking down the street and feeling like I am playing right then and there with the big wave of music flowing through me, while no one around knows.”

“Beauty. Beauty is just so darned overwhelming. I cry at beauty.”

“I never thought I was gifted because I never tested well. I would overthink the questions or come up with too many possibilities within the questions. I never saw the point of certain subjects in school because they were in isolation of the greater world…I’ve been told that I’m gifted but I’m still not sure.”

“I’ve been searching for years for a spiritual community. I find peace, compassion, and guidance in Nature.”

“My whole life, I literally thought something was wrong with me because I’m not like everyone else around me and it’s been a very lonely road.” 

These are the types of statements I hear over and over from my gifted clients. They may be high achievers in an academic field. They may have a long list of accomplishments. They may be rich and famous. Or they may be none of these things.

But if you are writing an 80 page blog post on an herb, if you are on your 4th career path in 20 years, if beauty makes you cry, if you must fight injustice, if you out-think the test questions, if you are driven to learn and grow, if your intuition runs wild, and if you feel deeply connected to the universe and everything, well, then, odds are, it is highly likely, it is totally possible, that you, yes, you, are a gifted adult. That you have a rainforest mind.

(Note: And now that you are almost kind of absolutely sure that you are gifted, my books will tell you what to do next so that you can do what you are here on the planet to do. No pressure. Just sayin.’)

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To my bloggEEs: What have you said that might be a clue that you, too, are gifted? Thank you to the bloggEEs who provided these (edited) examples.

Here is a short recent video of me interviewed by Tina Harlow if you are wondering what I sound like and look like and why you should buy my books! And here is a recent review of my first book from Kirkus Reviews. And, by the way, I’d love a review from YOU, too! (on Amazon) As always, thank you for being here. Big love to you.


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Parents of Gifted Children — Who Needs the Counseling?

my first book, new cover

Parents come to me worried about their gifted kids. Anxiety, existential depression, trouble in school, sensitivities, loneliness, empathy, perfectionism, social responsibility. I describe the typical social-emotional traits of gifted children and the challenges they often experience. We strategize. This information is a relief for parents who are overwhelmed by these super intense, extremely curious, highly sensitive beings.  Then I tell them: “Your child doesn’t need counseling. You do.” 

That doesn’t always go over so well.

But it is often true*. Parents who understand their own beliefs, behaviors, patterns, and pasts will be better able to care for their children. Experiences you have in childhood have a huge impact on self-esteem and self-confidence. This seems obvious to me but many people still don’t seem to get it. Even if you were raised in a healthy family, if you were also a gifted child, you may be overly reactive to your kids’ struggles. And if you were raised in any sort of abusive home, the effects will impact how you raise your own children. It will be important, then, to make the time to address your own doubts and sense of self to see where you need guidance. Your sensitive children will pick up on your unexpressed distress, even if you think you are hiding it well. When you are introspective and gain self-awareness, they will learn that self-examination and self-compassion matter.

Of course, counseling can come in many forms. Psychotherapy will be particularly important if there was abuse, neglect, or addictions in your family of origin. There are also 12-Step and other support groups, self-help books, coaches, online courses, and Instagram therapists. There are Facebook groups for parents with twice-exceptional kids (2e).

Where, then, do you start?

I’m glad you asked. I have two books to recommend. OK. Full disclosure. These are my books. I wrote them because there isn’t much out there specifically for gifted adults. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, includes many case studies of my psychotherapy clients so that you can see what the counseling issues are and also how they might be addressed in therapy. It also lists quite a few resources and strategies and covers perfectionism, sensitivities, relationships, multipotentiality, anxiety, and more.

From a reader: “…I see this book as a beacon to those who are ready to expand into a deeper knowing of themselves, as a portal to liberating the gifts of those with rainforest minds so we can self-actualize – become whole – awaken to the truth of who we are…”

My second book is a compilation of my most popular blog posts from 2014-2018 organized by topic. It includes exercises at the end of every chapter that will help you understand and accept your own giftedness. It is an easier read so it makes a great gift for friends, educators, therapists, relatives, and your busy teenagers.

From Dr. Melanie Hayes founder of Big Minds Unschool: “…You will find no better guide to help you examine all of the complex nuances of having a mind that is teeming with inexplicable life!…”

If you’d like to see me in action and learn more about my books, here’s a short video with a heart-felt review from the lovely Dr. Amber Siler.

And here is a link to psychotherapist and fabulous human Tina Harlow’s free ebook on parenting gifted children that contains statements from many experts in the field of giftedness. Including me.

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To my bloggEEs: Many of you have read my books. Thank you! I would be most grateful if you would write a review on Amazon. (It doesn’t need to be long or perfect!) And let us know in the comments what you think. If you are a parent, can you make time for introspection and self-healing? What has worked for you? What are your questions?

(*Note: Of course, there are times when your child does need counseling.)