Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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The Roots Of Unhealthy Perfectionism And What To Do About It

photo by Dylan Siebel, Unsplash

What if, from the time that you were 2 years old, you were told how smart you were. Over and over. Enthusiastically. By (well-meaning) parents and doting relatives. What if they praised you repeatedly for your many achievements and your perfect grades. What if you could tell that your parents needed you to be smart; that they felt better about themselves because you were so capable. What if you were so persuasive that they gave you too much control and not enough limits.

What if, when you arrived at elementary school, the work was too easy. You knew it before you were taught it. You learned things without really trying. What if you could get perfect scores on tests without studying and your scores were held up as an example for your fellow students. What if you were told by your teachers that you were the best student they’d ever had.

Do you think that you might grow up terrified of failure? Afraid to disappoint others? Hiding mistakes? Paralyzed by anxiety? Believing that if you aren’t a super achiever or the best at everything that you’re a failure? Thinking that all learning must be quick and easy or else it means that you’re not smart? You’re an impostor? A fake?

Do you think that you might grow up thinking that you should know everything before you learn it so that practicing or studying or effort feels boring or scary or unfamiliar? That you have to be mature and adult-like at all times? That you can’t tell anyone that you don’t know something because you have to know everything?

Well, my dears, this, yes this, may be the root of your unhealthy perfectionism. This may be the root of your (possibly unconscious) belief that you have to be super smart at all times or you’re worthless and unlovable. 

By the way, parents, relatives and educators aren’t conspiring against you. They don’t realize the effects of their reactions. Responses like these are very common. (In another post, I explain this more and suggest what parents can do.)

Understanding this root is the first step in changing its effects. 

So, now what?

This is not easy to change, especially if you’ve been living with these beliefs for a long time.

Know this: You are more than your grades, your achievements, your intellectual abilities. So much more. You are worthy of love, whether you write the perfect essay, win the competition, enter the elite school, get the high paying job, make the right decision, invent the iPhone or if you don’t achieve these things.

Somewhere deep inside yourself you know your worth. You know who you really are. So, here’s an idea:

Imagine that there’s a place in you that isn’t about achievement or accolades or winning or losing. This place is just about Love. Just Love. It’s radiant and joyful. Maybe it’s a very young child part of you. Maybe it’s an old wise part. Maybe it’s in your heart. Maybe it’s in your gut. But trust me. It’s there. Waiting for you to notice.

In a journal or in your mind, write to or picture this part of yourself. Take your time. You may be skeptical. You may need to meditate first or sit by your favorite tree. Write a letter to this Radiance. Ask it to show itself to you. Ask it for help. Then write or hear its response. It might come quickly or you might need to wait for a while. Start a relationship.

I’m betting that finding the Love will soften you up. It’ll remind you of what’s really true.

And of who you really are.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you struggle with unhealthy perfectionism? Tell us about it. What have you done that helps? We all appreciate hearing from you.

Note: There is a healthy form of perfectionism. You were born with it. I don’t know any rainforest minds who don’t have it. It’s your innate deep need for beauty, balance, harmony, precision and justice. It can create challenges for you but it’s not something you need to heal. I write about it here.

Another note: This will be extra hard or more complicated if you had chainsaw parents. If so, you might need therapy, too.

A final note: If you need more assistance, here’s a lovely book by Christina Baldwin.

A final final note: Thank you to the clients who inspired this post.


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It’s Never Too Late To Be Your Gifted Self — Part Two

Me. Still dancing the tango.

A 35-year-old client told me that she thought it was too late for her to find a fulfilling career and a meaningful life.

I tried to control my facial expression.

35.

I’m here to tell all of you 20-30-40-50-60-70-80+ somethings, that it’s never too late. Never. Too. Late.

I can say this because I’m 65. I started my counseling practice at 41. I began dancing the Argentine tango at 47. I started appreciating my mind-of-its-own free-range hair at 53. I discovered my sense of humor at 55. I created this blog at 62. My first book was published at 64.

And I’m not finished yet.

But, I’ll admit it. 65 sounds old to me. 65. Medicare. Social security. AARP.

I almost didn’t want to tell you.

But luckily, I’m in a profession (counseling / consulting) where you improve with age. You benefit from experience. You don’t have to move much.

And as a blogger and author, no one notices my post-menopausal moods or my creaking knees.

Granted, I’ve been lucky or blessed to be in excellent health. I attribute that to genetics, years of obsessive self-care, a child-free-so-much-less-stressful life and white middle class privilege.

My self-care includes psychotherapy, acupuncture, energy healing, naturopathy, sweet deep friendships, easy access to organic food, intermittent exercise, more psychotherapy, massage, singing, a spotty yet well-intentioned meditation practice, uncontrolled book buying, astrology, dancing, journaling, Netflix, rolfing, the Canadian Tenors, spiritual connections, avoiding toxic people and breathing. Oh, and hearing from you, my fabulous bloggEE fan club.

Of course, 65 is the new 55. So I’m really just middle-aged.

But here’s the thing. Many of you are just realizing that you have rainforest minds. And, with that realization and understanding, there will be new discoveries. New horizons. What confused you in the past, when you thought you were ADHD or OCD or bipolar or a freak or a slacker, will become clearer.

In the process, though, you may feel despair over all of the time lost, thinking that you were crazy. You may feel anger over all of the missed opportunities. You may grieve because you’re 35 and you think your life is over.

Fear not, my lovelies. You’re just getting started. It’ll only get better from here. There is still time. The planet needs your sensitivity, your intellect, your empathy, your optimism, your humor, your you-ness. No matter how old you are.

And, in case you’re wondering, you can’t become ungifted.

Thirty-five or sixty-five, it’s not too late.

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To my bloggEEs: Have I mentioned that I love you? Thank you so much for being here. Let us know if you’ve ever worried that it’s too late. Tell us your concerns about aging. And, for more posts about aging and the gifted from the wonderful people at Hoagiesgifted, click on the image. (And if you want to read part one of this post click here. Be sure to read the comments.)


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If I’m So Smart, Why Can’t I Make A Decision?

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

You would think that a smart person would find decision-making easy. But, no. It’s often quite the opposite. 

There are gazillions of reasons for this. Well, maybe not gazillions. But lots. Here are just a few:

You want to make the right decision but you can think of arguments for all sides of the issue.

You see how everything is related to everything else.

You’re not sure which choice is the most in line with your ethical stance. And ethics matter.

You want to choose the right thing but then you have to let go of all the other things you didn’t choose. And that’s painful.

You’re concerned about how your decisions will affect others. Not just family members. Everyone.

You’re easily overwhelmed by the number of options.

You feel pressure to do the right thing because that’s what everyone expects and you can’t disappoint them.

From the time you were a toddler, you were tuning in to what others needed and trying to please them. You’re still trying to please them.

You have a pile of books by your bed but you can’t decide which one to read first because you want to know everything– NOW.

You grew up in a chainsaw family so it was life-threatening or humiliating to make a wrong choice.

You care deeply about social justice so you want to be fair to everyone.

You are a multipotentialite.

You like keeping things open-ended because there’s always new information on the way.

You believe that you’re a complete failure if you make a wrong decision.

You’re terrified of screwing up your children.

So, what can you do?

You’ll find some ideas in this earlier post. The emphasis there is on developing and trusting your intuition. Writing dialogues with parts of yourself. Meditating. Tai Chi. Time in nature. Building a spiritual practice. (Be sure to read the comments.)

Those ideas work well for big decisions. What about the every day choices?

This is tricky. But I’ve made a list of mantras that you can say to yourself when you need them. Keep the list handy. It helps to breathe, too. When faced with a “simple” choice or decision, say to yourself one or more of these:

~ No one will die.

~ Mistakes will make me more likable.

~ I can change my mind at any time.

~ Perfection is over-rated.

~ Maybe I was never prom queen/king, but I’m still an extremely cool person.

~ My kids will grow up healthier if I model resilience.

~ I can comfort the child part of me who is the one who is freaking out. The adult part of me knows what to do.

~ It’s all a grand experiment.

~ I am a dynamic work of art. In process.

~ No one else will even notice.

~ I’m more critical of myself than anyone I know.

~ My memoir will be much more fascinating if I make some ridiculous decisions.

And, if all else fails, remember the wisdom of Donald Antrim:

“The simple question “What color do you want to paint that upstairs room?” might, if we follow things to their logical conclusions, be stated, “How do I live, knowing that I will one day die and leave you?”

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To my bloggEEs: A person on a Facebook site about giftedness said that she thinks that the comments on this blog are the best comments on the whole internet! I have to agree. Keep ’em coming. And thank you. What decisions are hard for you? What helps you make them?

(Oh, and you may have noticed that I have some new photos. If you want to see my latest look, go to my About page! You can even see my over-excitable, effervescent hair in its free state.)

 


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How Can I Be Authentic When I Overwhelm Everyone?

photo courtesy Brian Mann, Unsplash

Authenticity.

You want it. You need it. You gotta have it.

But what does authenticity mean when you have a rainforest mind? When you have so many monkeys swinging from your branches? When your terrain is so lively, emotional and intense?

How do you live authentically in all of your jungle glory and not overwhelm the humans more used to the meadow life? How do you live authentically when you’re made up of layers upon layers that you haven’t even uncovered yourself?

It’s complicated.

Authenticity for the rainforest-minded does NOT mean that you have to show all of who you are all of the time. Instead, it means being real and true to yourself.

I get that you want to be totally direct, sincere and clear. All of the time. Everywhere.

Am I right?

And yet. If you’re around chainsaw humans, particularly if they’re family members, it’s authentic to protect yourself. This may mean that you limit your time with them or that you only share small bits of yourself. If you’re around humans who get overwhelmed by your intensity and intellect, you may need to slow your pace and select activities that allow for less talk and more action. You may need to switch from fire hose to garden hose.

And if you’re being strategic in your relationships as a way to improve your experiences with others or as a way to cope with difficult people, you’re being authentic. (By strategic I mean thinking carefully about how you interact. This is not being manipulative, in case you’re wondering. It’s being analytical and sensitive.) You can be both sincere and strategic at the same time. You are consciously making the most compassionate choice in the moment.

Make sense?

If this news is discouraging, I understand. Find other gifted humans with whom you can be your deep, sensitive, complicated self. I’ve written about where to find them on other posts. Remember the silent reading party? There are ways to find others who live in the rain forest. You can also express your authenticity, for example, through an art form, in your garden, raising children, in your house remodel, or on your blog. Or on my blog.

But, honey, as long as you’re being real and true to yourself, your authenticity is intact.

Trust me on this. Your monkeys will thank you.

__________________________

To my bloggEEs: What does authenticity mean to you? How are you authentic in relationships and with yourself? Do you agree with the idea that you need to be strategic some of the time? Your comments deepen everyone’s experience of my blog. Thank you for reading and contributing.

You may not hear from me as often over the next few weeks. I’m preparing my talk for the SENG conference in Chicago, USA, in August. If you get there, please find me and introduce yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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How To Deal With Under-Thinkers When You’re An Over-Thinker

photo courtesy Yeshi Kangrang, Unsplash

You’ve been called an over-thinker. You never. stop. thinking. Deep, wide, fast thinking comes naturally to your rainforest mind. You may need to learn to appreciate your capacity for complexity, analysis, synthesis, and learning instead of seeing yourself as obsessive, neurotic and diagnosable.

But what about the under-thinkers in the world? I’m not mentioning any names. How do you manage to work with them? To befriend them?  To live with them?

I realize that this is a tricky topic. I’ll try not to offend.

You may have been frustrated in your interactions because you experience many humans as slowish or lazy or rigid.  You think that they could do what you do or understand what you understand. If they tried harder. If they listened better. If they read the books you’re reading. You don’t realize that what’s obvious to you may be baffling to them.

Maybe you think everyone loves to wonder about dark matter.

Maybe you think everyone’s happy place is the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Maybe you think everyone would like to teach themselves chess for fun.

Maybe you think everyone in the Air Force could also learn Arabic if they wanted to.

Uh huh.

Here’s how I see it: Your capacity for thinking, wondering, knowing and feeling is large. You were born that way. The under-thinkers just have less capacity. A less powerful operating system. They’re meadows not rain forests. I don’t know the brain equivalent. Maybe you have more neurons firing? More synapses connecting? (If there’s a neuroscientist reading this, please help me out by commenting below.)

This I do know. It’s not about trying harder.

This is not to say under-thinkers are lesser humans. Noooooo. And actually, they’re just under-thinkers in relation to you. Most of them are regular, normal, fine upstanding thinkers.

All that said, understanding this may not decrease your frustration with regular, normal, fine upstanding thinkers. (formerly known as under-thinkers) It may still be hard for you to wait for them to catch up with you in a business meeting. It may still be hard for you to watch their eyes glaze over when you gush about neutrinos. It may still be hard for you to listen to your self-righteous colleagues explain feminist theory and dismiss your questions as a sign of your missing PhD-ness.

So, I don’t have any specific suggestions right now on how to deal with regular, normal, fine upstanding thinkers. But at least you can stop pathologizing yourself. You can stop trying to undo your over-thinking. You can find other rainforest minds and jump into the depths with them. You can seek a career path that values your complexity. You can find an online group that loves curiosity. You can express your frustration using the art form that you’ve avoided all these years. You can go to a conference where other rainforest-y folks mingle. You can learn self-soothing techniques for when you overwhelm yourself and others.

And when you meet humans formerly known as under-thinkers and they harass you because you think too much, remind yourself that you’re actually a deep, wide, fast thinking rainforest-minded fine upstanding human.

Formerly known as an over-thinker.

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To my bloggEEs: Giftedness may be about being differently wired. What do you think? Do you know of any recent resources/articles that would explain this well? How do you deal with the under-thinkers in your life?

And, by the way, I will be presenting at that conference I mention above that’s in Chicago, USA, August 4-6, 2017. Just imagine, a whole conference full of rainforest minds. If you go, I’d love to meet you!

(For those of you concerned about my spelling: I suspect that over-thinker may actually be two words, over thinker. And under-thinker may actually not be a word at all. I apologize. I know this will annoy some of you. Please forgive me. As you know, I mess with words occasionally. After all, I took “rain forest” and made it into an adjective and spelled it rainforest. Thank you for putting up with me.)

 

 

 

 


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Dumb Down No More

Me, in my younger days, seeking my tree-ness

You may have been told that you ought to keep quiet about your intelligence and your achievements. You may have been told that others will feel bad if you express enthusiasm for something that you know. You may have been called a show-off or a know-it-all.

Well, it’s time to stop dumbing yourself down. You can practice here.

Since this is my blog, I get to go first.

This month, June 2017,  is the one year anniversary of the birth of my book.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the introduction:

“As you better understand the workings of your rainforest mind, you can find greater purpose, meaning, and direction. With a clearer sense of your true self, you can live like the thriving rain forest–in balance, peace, grace, and beauty, and in support of all beings on the planet.” 

“…you will meet excessively curious, idealistic, sensitive, highly intelligent humans–individuals with rainforest minds. You will meet Billy, an adolescent with extraordinary empathy for all beings and a deep desire for precision, ethics, and excellence…Gina, a twenty-something grad student whose brain ran faster, wider, and deeper than many of her university professors. She overwhelmed and alienated her less effervescent peers… Steven [who] longed to find ways to heal his family’s legacy [of abuse] and access the creative and spiritual spark within his heart…”

A review on Amazon:
“I heard Paula Prober talk 20 years ago when my daughter was in the TAG program. I was so impressed that I have been using some of her handouts ever since in my counseling practice. I was delighted when one of my clients came in with her book. I bought copies to lend out and copies for my grown kids. It is inspiring and full of practical ideas for talented and gifted people who have trouble fitting in the success box.”

And for those of you who want to know some of my secrets:

I wrote the article below for an online magazine that you might enjoy. The magazine is called Rebelle Society and describes itself this way: “… a virtual country that gives a home and a voice to the creatively maladjusted rebels with a cause, the nonconformists, dreamers, the expressive troublemakers trying to rise above their circumstances and lead an extraordinary life by creating their lives and inspiring the world with their passion.” Might this sound like a place for you to visit, oh rainforest-minded ones?

I know I don’t share many details about myself here on my blog. So check this out for a peek into me:  Single, Childfree, Petless and Loved.

 

Now it’s your turn:

In the comments, let us know about your achievements, your blogs, articles you recommend, books that you love, your adorable children… Tell us something that you appreciate about you. Feel free to provide links. (Note: I realize that it’s important to select carefully the people with whom you share your intellect, your accomplishments, your deepest self. Some people just won’t be able to handle your radiance, so you’ll need to be discriminating. But here? On this blog? Go for it!)

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To my bloggEEs: You can do it. Share something about you. We want to know. Go ahead. We’re listening. (And I welcome comments about my book and my Rebelle Society article, too!)


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A Party For Book Lovers, Introverts, And Geeks

photo courtesy of Silent Reading Party, Portland

You are not going to believe this.

If you’ve been looking for a way to find other rainforest minds, this may be your answer.

I’m not kidding.

A Silent Reading Party.

You heard me.

A fellow named Christopher Frizzelle, in Seattle, USA, created this event. People come together and read. No small talk. No chitchat. Just bring your book and read. Maybe have a glass of wine. Or coffee. Did I mention, no small talk?

What could be better than that?

“Every first Wednesday of the month at 6:00 p.m., the Fireside Room at the Sorrento Hotel goes quiet and fills with people—crazy-haired, soft-spoken, inscrutable, dorky, NPRish, punk, white, black. The reading public. It fills right away, all these people who don’t know each other, and they sit very closely, sometimes three strangers to a couch. By 7:00 p.m., you can’t get a seat…”  Christopher Frizzelle

He goes on.

“…The insane thing about a party where you’re not supposed to make small talk is that it makes you want to make small talk. You almost can’t not do it. (But what a relief to not have to!)…” Christopher Frizzelle

And from the women who started a Silent Reading Party in Portland, Oregon, USA:

“…And there’s something special about the silence, too. We so rarely sit quietly with strangers. It’s restorative, almost church-like. It’s really beautiful to look around and see a room full of people who’ve made time in their lives to read together. It gives you faith in our species.” (Jeff O’Neal interview of Portland SRP on BookRiot)

Faith in our species.

What could be better than that?

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To my bloggEEs: What do you think of this idea? Wouldn’t it be a safe, fun, cool way to find and be with other rainforest-minded souls? Let us know if you start one and how it goes. (And, if you’re an extravert, you’ll love it, too. Maybe you host a Not-So-Silent Reading Party.)

Thank you to Pamela Price for inspiring this post.