Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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What Does Gifted Look Like in My World?

photo courtesy of rawpixel on Unsplash

The controversy is intense.

How do we explain giftedness? Is it high achievement? Talent? Productivity? Eminence? IQ? Financial success? 4.0 grade point average? 10,000 hours of practice?

Nooooooooo. 

I shriek.

Politely.

I mean, it might include any of those things. Sure. But it doesn’t have to.

Instead. Here is my explanation.

Totally anecdotal. If you want data, you can stop reading now. Or skip to the end and the link to neuroscience.

If you want experience, I’m your gal.

Gifted looks like Ebony. Sixteen. Intense. Talks fast, thinks fast, moves fast. Asks questions no one can answer. Struggles in school: Doesn’t turn in papers that aren’t up to her standards. Procrastinates to avoid feeling like a failure if she gets less than an A. Tries to engage her classmates in some intellectual repartee when all they want is to watch Netflix. Some teachers think she’s arrogant. Feels a spiritual and intuitive connection to the ocean and the ravens. Lonely for a friend who gets her and who has read Lord of the Rings 11 times.

Gifted looks like Carlos. Forty-two. Self-taught, successful IT expert. Highly sensitive, empathetic, and emotional (although he hides it well). Bullied in school because he preferred grasshoppers and string theory to football. Spends hours writing a three sentence e-mail. Repeats himself often in an effort to be deeply understood and to calm his anxiety. Researches for days in order to make a decision. A slower, deliberate, deep thinker and processor. Learning to dance the Argentine tango so that he can finally experience being followed.

Gifted looks like Martin. Eight. Energetic. Extremely curious and kind. Wants to be Richard Feynman for Halloween. Refuses to complete worksheets of arithmetic problems that he already knows. Teachers complain that he must be ADHD and not particularly bright but he can concentrate for hours at home building complex lego contraptions or reading Popular Science. Sleeps with a dictionary when he does sleep, which he resists mightily. Exhausts his parents with his emotions and his need for creative and intellectual activity.

Gifted looks like Frances.  Fifty-nine. After running her own children’s bookstore, raising two kids and their friends, volunteering on the board for the ballet, and remodeling her home, she’s in her latest job working as a city planner. She’s considering going back to school for another Masters degree because she’s always wanted to be an art therapist or a landscape architect or a stand-up comedian. She thinks she’s flakey or shallow because she’s walked so many different career paths. Her sense of social responsibility keeps her awake most nights. Her intuitive abilities frighten her.

Gifted looks like Carmen. Thirty-six. A successful social worker and loving mom who promotes energy efficiency everywhere she goes. Been in therapy for years courageously addressing serious trauma from her family of origin. Dealing with complex physical symptoms due to chronic anxiety from growing up terrified and abused. In spite of her own pain, able to be generous, empathetic, optimistic, spiritual, and accomplished. Working on setting better boundaries with people who want her to rescue them. Learning how to create reliable, sweet friendships where she receives as much as she gives.

That’s what gifted looks like in my world.

And, if you really want to know, gifted looks like a rain forest. (Note: If people are like ecosystems, some are meadows. Some deserts. Some oceans. Some rain forests. All are necessary and beautiful.)

In his must-read book, We Rise: The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement that Restores the Planet by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, the tropical rain forest is described:

“The feeling of being in the rain forest is the feeling of being surrounded by life. It’s home for hundreds of thousands of animals, and their survival is connected to the survival of us all. The magnificence of the rain forest is something powerfully sacred, something so clearly worth protecting...the rain forest is one of the most important biomes on the planet for human survival…it offers us an unbelievable abundance of nourishment and resources…” 

Right?

Sounds just like you.

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To my bloggEEs: You’ve been doing an amazing job adding your comments to my posts. Thank you so much. Let us hear from you now. What does your giftedness look like?

(Note: For those of you who are persnickety, and who among you isn’t, I have a confession. I made rain forest into an adjective, as in rainforest mind, and then made it one word. You may have been wondering about that for a long time. You’ve noticed my inconsistency. The truth is finally revealed.)

(Another note: The people described above are composites of clients, students, and other assorted gifted folks I’ve known. Names, of course, have been changed.)

For those articles on neuroscience and giftedness, click on this link.

 

 

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I Have to Know it Before I Learn It — A Gifted Kid’s Conundrum

photo courtesy of Talen de St Croix, Unsplash

My 16-year-old client, I’ll call him Ben, was struggling in school. No one thought he was gifted. His grades were average. He didn’t turn in many assignments. He didn’t get high test scores. He was so anxious, he’d miss many days of school. His parents were confused. They knew he was capable of completing the homework. Why didn’t he just do it?

Because I’d seen many kids like this, I could tell that Ben was, indeed, gifted. He asked penetrating questions. Had multiple interests. Spent hours online researching musical genres , computer coding, bike repair, mathematics, psychological theories, and on and on.  He was highly sensitive and empathetic with all plants, animals, and humans.

Ben had difficulty relating to youngsters his age. The friends he did have, he wanted to rescue. They were often the troubled kids. He could feel their hopelessness and their anger and felt a responsibility to intervene. He didn’t understand why they didn’t respond well to his help or why they weren’t interested in his intellectual pursuits.

Ben wanted to learn what he wanted to learn and when he mastered, say, a new guitar playing technique, he’d raise the bar and keep questing for the next big thing. He’d spend many hours worrying about the future of the planet and how he might make an impact.

These are the traits of a gifted human; a person with a rainforest mind.

One day he said to me, I have to know everything before I learn it.

What?

I have to know everything before I learn it.

It took me some time to understand what he meant and why this was his experience.

Like many gifted children, Ben learned how to read at an early age. No one taught him to read. He just started reading. Learning was easy. He’d read and he’d remember. He could watch someone riding a bike and be successful on the first try. He taught himself guitar. When he started school, he already knew the material. He knew it before he learned it.

This was the conundrum.

He came to believe that all learning should come easily. If it didn’t, there was something terribly wrong. Ben never learned how to study. Or that it was normal for some learning to be a struggle. Ironically, even though he felt like a failure and like he wasn’t smart because of his experiences in school, he also believed that he shouldn’t have to study something to understand it. This created confusion, anxiety, paralysis, and avoidance when there was a chance that he might not grasp a concept fast enough or succeed at a task. If it wasn’t easy, he didn’t do it.

With gifted kids who, unlike Ben, have been told repeatedly that they’re so smart, this is still a problem. They also know it before they learn it. And they can feel great pressure to achieve, to please the adults who are praising them, and to prove their worth through their accomplishments. So, for them, if they’re facing a difficult task, their identity is threatened. And they, too, can experience confusion, anxiety, paralysis, and avoidance.

Either way, having to know it before you learn it, is a tricky proposition.

And you wondered why it was so hard to parent these kids?

Or to be one yourself?

Welcome to your rainforest mind.

And to one of its many tangled, multi-layered, sticky, complicated conundrums.

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To my bloggEEs: Was this you? Tell us how you dealt with the pressure to always know it before you learned it. To have the right answer. To prove how smart you were. Do you avoid activities where you might not succeed? Did you learn how to study? We’d love to hear from you. Your experiences make this blog so much richer. And thank you, dearest ones, for being here.

And for more information about gifted kids, here’s a recent podcast interview with me and Kathleen Casper of the Florida Association for the Gifted. We’re talking about the social, emotional, and academic issues gifted children face. Join us!

 

 


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The Woman Whose Hair Refused To Be Controlled — A Journaling Technique for Self-Discovery

Wearing a hat is a minimally effective tool for hair control

One of my favorite tools for self-acceptance and healing is my trusty journal.  I’ve used it for years. It’s how I figure out what’s going on when I’m depressed, anxious, lonely, or craving another hot fudge sundae. I gain insight, process emotion, and receive guidance. I’m going to share one technique with you here, including a sample entry from my journal from a few years ago. Thus the title of this post.

Here’s how it works: I write a story about me in the third person. I always title it The Woman Who…. based on what I’m grappling with at the time. I stay open to what might appear and I just start writing until I come to a conclusion that usually surprises me. I try to include humor and not take myself too seriously. Titles have included: The Woman Who Was a Mystery to Herself. The Woman Who Lived with a Bear. The Woman Who Couldn’t Stop Crying. The Woman Who was Afraid of a House.

You get the idea.

So, here’s an entry from around 2012. In the days before blogging, when my life was not as effervescent as it is now. (Please excuse the occasional expletive.)

The Woman Whose Hair Refused To Be Controlled

It was in her hair. The control. If she let her hair be free, all hell would break loose. If her hair was free, she couldn’t hide. She’d walk into a room and people would notice her. She’d walk into a room and people would see how unappealingly ethnic she looked. She’d walk into a room and people would be appalled at her bold, expressive, obnoxious, overexcitable hair. She’d walk into a room and people would ask her to be responsible for something.

And then what? Her safe, secure, smallish world might explode on her, shattering her melancholy somewhat uneventful life. And who knows what might emerge from there? Surely something large, loud, slimy and smelly. Which would be intolerable. At least her melancholy somewhat uneventful life was not large, loud, slimy and smelly. There was that.

And she liked control. She. Loved. It. Who doesn’t? Anyone who grows up in any sort of moderately to severely dysfunctional family craves the sweetness of control. Of being out from under the fuckedupedness. Into one’s own world. Creating one’s own path. Away from the neediness, the unspoken rage, the cold criticism. Even if one’s own path leads to fuckedupedness. It’s your very own fuckedupedness. And that was fine. She could live with that.

Almost. Except for the fact that her hair kept popping out of its containers. No matter the conditioners, the gels, the paraben-free shampoos. The clips. The braids. The hats. The avocado-banana-yogurt masks. Her hair could not be contained. It screeched LOOK AT ME at every turn. It cried I AM HERE. It yelped I’M A REBEL AND I’M PROUD.

Oh boy.

What to do? What to do?

Well, of course, there was the obvious. Cut it all off. I’m kidding. That was not an option. She could let it unravel and see what happened. It’s possible that she could still maintain a modicum of control even with her rude hair showing its true self. And, she had to admit that other people didn’t see it as obnoxious or overexcitable. They seemed to like it. They even wanted it for themselves.

Maybe it was time. She wasn’t getting any younger. What if she was seen? What if people noticed? What if she claimed that she was alive, rebellious and proud? What if her true self screeched, I AM HERE. Would that be so bad? What if she came to love her control AND her unruly hair. Maybe they could coexist.

Maybe she’d have MORE control if she let her hair go.  Would that be possible? Was she misguided all this time? Was there true control in no control? Was she getting a little too Buddhist here? Maybe saying YES to her hair, she was saying YES to life. Perhaps there was even room to expand, to grow, to evolve, from her melancholy somewhat uneventful life.

Perhaps her effervescent, expansive, evolving hair could lead the way.

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To my bloggEEs: What do you think? If you try this technique for yourself, let us know how it goes. Do you keep a journal? What works for you? And, by the way, if I were to design an online class for us, what might you want included? Thank you as always for being here. Sending you much unruly love.

(Note: If you’re reading my book, ahem, I’d so appreciate a review on Amazon. It doesn’t have to be long or perfect. Thank you!)

 


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Even Though You’ve Been Told You’re Too Bright, Now is the Time to Shine Your Light

photo courtesy of Joshua Hibbert, Unsplash

“When you dim your light, the whole world gets darker.” *

How do you shine your Light if you’ve been told repeatedly that you shine too bright. That your Light will blind others. That your Light isn’t really Light but is actually bipolar disorder and you are arrogant to think otherwise. That it’s only fair that you keep your Light dim because people will feel bad if you outshine them. That your Light will expose the truth in your family and that’s dangerous. That your Light threatens to shake up the world order. 

How do you shine your Light anyway?

How do you expand your Light even further than you ever thought possible?

What do you do if your Light scares the heck out of YOU?

Well, dearest friends. Here’s a theory:

What if there’s so much turmoil in the world right now because there’s so much Light shining? The Light is showing us where the darkness** still lurks. What if we’re more aware of the crazy because there’s more enLightenment, not less? What if our job is to create more Light because it will eventually shine so bright that Light/Love will win?

(** Just for the record, I’m not really fond of the light versus dark analogy. It can indirectly support the whole light is good and dark is bad paradigm, which can then be ignorantly applied to people. In my opinion, “dark” can symbolize beauty, fertility, lush, green, wet, incubation, rest, power, balance, healing, growth, death/rebirth, transformation…and so on. Where would the rainforest be without the dark? But I digress.)

Where was I?

Oh yeah. How can you shine your Light in spite of the bullies, the critics, the misdiagnoses, the chainsaw family members, and your own fears of failure, success, overwhelm, and, oh, annihilation?

It’s complicated.

First, you have to realize that you have Light to shine. It’s time to recognize your strengths. That you indeed do have a rainforest mind. That you’re resonating with this blog because you belong here. So. In your journal, make a list of your strengths and write an ode to your rainforestness. Or draw a huge mindmap of your strengths, interests, and accomplishments. Prepare to be impressed.

Then, accept that your fears make sense, considering your experiences. If you’ve been told to hide your Light multiple times, in various ways, it can be discouraging and demoralizing. It can convince you that you’re crazy, and certainly not gifted. Of course, you have doubts. Your rainforest mind can create millions of doubts.

So here’s another thing to do: Make a list of books, websites, and people who can provide support, insight, and guidance. Then, make time to read, research, and receive the understanding and love. Remind yourself that being in a healing and growth process is important for yourself, your family, your ancestors, and the planet.

Then find small ways and big ways to shine. And imagine that you can shine even brighter. That it’s safe now to get brighter. That you’ve only just begun to know the extent of your reach.

Together. Let’s shake up the world order.

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To my bloggEEs: Please share your resources for personal and planetary support, insight and guidance in the comments. (You can share your Odes, too!) For example, I’m reading two great books right now that are positive and powerful guides to action on climate change. The Parent’s Guide to Climate Revolution by Mary DeMocker and We Rise: The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement that Restores the Planet by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez. What are you reading? And thank you, as always, for your wonderful beingness.

And, hey. I’m thinking about designing an online class for rainforest minds. What do you think? What would you like me to include in the class?

I’ll be at the SENG conference July 19-22, 2018. If you attend, please find me and introduce yourself!

*Christiane Northrup

 

 

 


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Finding Your Soul’s Mate, Your Authentic Voice, and the Right Hair Products

photo courtesy of lotte meijer, Unsplash

During tumultuous times, it may be harder to be single. I can attest to this. And I’m a super-introverted, independent type with a sweet gaggle of girlfriends and an Argentine tango habit.

But still.

No one is tracking my whereabouts. There is no daily contact with one particular human. When I travel, there is no responsible person making sure I’ve arrived. If I were to meet my demise, it could be days before anyone started looking for me. Well, OK, my lovely clients would be concerned, when I didn’t answer the door. And, you, dear readers, would start asking, now where the heck is the next blog post after about a week.  Wouldn’t you?

But, there is no designated person whose job it is to notice.

Most of the time, I’m OK with that. I don’t idealize partnerships. I’m a psychotherapist, for heaven’s sake. I’ve been partnered. I’ve seen the re-enactments of childhood trauma or parental discord or other assorted permutations of unaddressed familial legacies. The partnering thing is tricky. Complicated. Even with a mate, you might still go unnoticed. Untracked.

I know this.

But these days. I’m feeling some pressure to find a partner. You understand. It’s crazy out there. Hard to face the daily news alone. One can only dance so much tango. Or read so many books on spiritual awakenings. Or email your girlfriends with your latest angst-y rant. Or write another blog post and get fabulous feedback from your adoring fans. At some point, a person has to surrender. Admit that being single when it feels like the sky is falling is not very appealing.

And then a person has to do something.

But, what?

Well, first. If this describes you, too, there are books I recommend. For starters. The Course of Love by Alain de Botton and The Eden Project by James Hollis are both excellent reads on the psychological complexities of partnering. Good to know what you’re getting into. (and actually also great if you’re already in a partnership) Quirkyalone by Sasha Cagen (who is also a tango dancer, by the way) is a funny little book in support of single “uncompromising romantics.” Then, if you’re up for a deep dive and some self-psychoanalysis, try Keeping the Love You Find by Harville Hendrix. It’s an oldie but goodie.

Of course, if these books help you realize that you’re not quite ready for a relationship because of the assorted permutations of your unaddressed familial legacies, then, well. Look for a good therapist. (You knew that was coming.) Or if you’ve had trouble over the years just finding friends because of your rainforest-y traits, read these posts. And, of course, you may prefer the single life! There’s some good research out there about the many benefits.

In my case, as you can imagine, I’ve read the books and been in various therapies for much of my adult life. Deeply diving into the layers of my psyche. Addressing my very own familial legacies. Discovering my authentic voice, accepting my curly overexcitable hair whole Self, and discovering my capacity to blog love along with my long lost sense of humor.

So, dearest readers, I surrender. I’m telling you and the world that I’m ready to meet my designated person whose job it is to notice. Who will track my whereabouts. Who will join me in conjuring spells to keep the sky from falling. Who will appreciate my capacity to blog love and has discovered his own vast capacity to dance tango love. Who has found his long lost sense of humor. And faced his own assorted permutations.

After all, as the saying goes:

~ If you build it announce it on your blog, they will come. ~

And, hey. I’ll be sure to let you know when he does.

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To my most patient and forgiving bloggEEs: I really don’t know where this post came from. I welcome your comments but don’t worry that I’ve gone off the deep end. I think this over-sharing will resolve itself in a few days. Thank you for indulging me. And for those of you already with your mates, let us know how you met!

This post is part of a blog hop created by the dedicated people at Hoagiesgifted. Click on the image to read more posts about relationships and giftedness.

 


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A Love Letter to You and Your Rainforest Mind

Me in Paris airport 2005 throwing you a kiss

Dear One.

Yes, you. With that dazzlingly intense rainforest mind.

You have so much Courage.

To be here, on this planet, during such tumultuous times. To stay sensitive, empathetic, and compassionate. To perceive and feel the human layers of suffering, despair, rage, fear, and sorrow. To stay open to your deepest emotions. To speak out against injustice. To develop your intuitive abilities even when not-knowing might make your life easier.

You have so much Strength.

To be willing to face your own demons. To persistently uncover the painful patterns of shame, depression, and anxiety handed down to you from your parents and their parents before them. To unravel the legacy of abuse within your ancestral line so that the generations after you experience greater self-acceptance and inner peace. To understand and process your own fear and rage. To choose the extraordinarily long hard road of introspection and analysis so that you might live authentically and compassionately and so that all children might have better lives.

You have so much Intellect.

To allow your curiosity to run free through the multiple pathways of your effervescent layers. To gobble up as much learning as you can manage. To know that “you think too much” translates into “you breathe too much” and, no, there can never be too much air thinking. To use your capacity to problem solve for healing yourself, your family, and your community while maintaining healthy boundaries and limits and time for the seventeen books piled next to your bed.

You have so much Sensitivity.

To appreciate and trust the intricate beauty and power of the natural world. To maintain your idealism and optimism in spite of the evidence. To let your awarenesses enhance your creativity. To persist in finding your particular art form as a way to express and soothe your sweet soul and the soul of the world.

You have so much Spirit.

To keep looking for Love in spite of the bullies, in spite of your difficulty communicating with the multitudes of slower, simpler thinkers. In spite of your lonely heart. To expand your awareness into the invisible world. To receive the powerful Love and guidance from the Universe. To build your particularly rainforest-y spiritual practice. To allow yourself to become all that you can be; More than you ever thought possible.

More than you ever thought possible.

Dear One. Yes, you. With that dazzlingly intense rainforest mind.

We. Love. You.

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To my bloggEEs: I am so moved by each of you as I read your comments and your emails and as I meet you online and in my practice. I’m so honored to be able to provide you with support. This love letter comes from me with a little help from my own spiritual network of Guides. I have a sense that there are loving Beings in the Universe who are cheering us on. They’re saying thank you, right now, as we speak.

And for a little treat, I want to show you one of my “art forms.” I found an old video of me taking a tango lesson from 2004. As you know, I recommend the Argentine tango for RFMs looking to find each other and connect. Here’s a chance to see what it’s like! Enjoy!

 


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So, You’re Gifted. Who Cares and Why Does it Matter?

photo courtesy of Jeremy Thomas, Unsplash

It matters. Even if no one else cares. It matters that you know. And that you care.

Why? you ask with that quizzical oh-so-disarming look of yours. (Yes, I know that look.)

Because, my darling:

You will understand that what you imagined were your poor communication skills, was actually your inability to slow your super-speedy thoughts. Not to mention your assumption that everyone thinks as deeply, as quickly, and as multi-dimensionally as you do. They don’t. (This does not make them terrible people. I know. It just means that they might not comprehend your perturbations.)

You will give yourself permission to be the voracious learner that you are. To let yourself dive into the esoteric, obscure, mysterious, complex topics that other people can’t possibly grok and wouldn’t want to.

You will allow yourself to be obsessed with beauty, balance, harmony, precision, and justice. (Your healthy perfectionism.) Even if it means that you don’t get as much done because you’re crying over the majesty of the night sky.

You will have compassion and appreciation for your ridiculously high standards and expectations and your need to ruminate over the exact wording of your email to the plumber.

You will understand why you’ve been lonely all of these years and stop thinking it’s because you don’t smile enough, don’t make small talk, or because you suck at sports.

You’ll find an appropriate career path or two or ten.

You’ll protect your sensitivity and empathy from the assault of perfumes, ragers, leaf blowers, chemicals, clamoring hoards, noisy chewers, creepy humans, nasty Facebook messages, boring lectures, and houses that are painted orange.

You will understand that what looks quirky, eccentric, weird, and geeky to others is what makes you fascinating.

You will stop misdiagnosing yourself with labels such as OCD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, Aspergers, slacker, weird, or just-plain-crazy. (And, sure, you may be twice-exceptional, 2e, and have a particular diagnosis along with your rainforest mind, but there’s a whole lot of misdiagnosing goin’ on, too. So you’re gonna stop that now.)

You will appreciate your curiosity and your questioning of everything. And you’ll continue to search for meaning, purpose(s), and justice. This will result in benefits to your children, neighbors, relatives, friends, animals, plants, ancestors, the planet, and humanity at large.

Let me say that again in a different way.

Knowing that you are gifted, matters. It will explain what might otherwise create confusion, self-doubt, anxiety, depression, angst, or despair. It will allow you to blossom into the best human that you can be.

And this will result in benefits to your children, neighbors, relatives, friends, animals, plants, ancestors, the planet, and humanity at large.

Even if they don’t know that they care.

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To my bloggEEs: This is for those of you who may actually accept that you have a rainforest mind but are still wondering why it’s important that you know it. What’s your reaction to this post? What else do you need to know that will help with your self-acceptance? Thank you, as always, for being here. And, I have a request. If you’ve read my book, can you take a moment and write a review on Amazon? It doesn’t have to be long or perfect. 🙂 (And if you haven’t read it, well, now would be the optimal time, doncha know…)