Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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Surviving The Hectic, Harrowing, Holiday Season Hoopla

photo courtesy of Nathan Lemon, Unsplash

The holiday season has arrived. It’s a busy time for psychotherapists. Or it will be: In January when all of the retraumatized, triggered, overwhelmed, lonely, exhausted, disappointed humans reach out for help.

No one is immune to the hectic harrowing holiday season hoopla. You may think that you’re the only one bewildered, lonely or sad. You aren’t. And if you’re super sensitive and if you have high ethical standards and a social conscience, this may be a particularly tough time. It’s a crazy world right now. And if you’re like me, single and childfree, you might have mixed feelings while you watch the frenetic humans running hither and  yon.

But whether you’re single and childfree or not, here are my recommendations:

• If this is a difficult, anxious time of the year for you, know that you’re not alone. Even those people with the big seemingly-happy families that you see on Facebook, are probably actually not that perky. They most likely have one or two or ten obnoxious relatives who dominate the conversation, drink too much, bully the children and bring an orange jello mold to every event.

• Now is a great time to rethink your holiday traditions, habits or expectations. What is it that you really want to do? Who do you really want to be with? What if this were your last holiday season? How would you spend it? Don’t wait until next year.

• Design a spiritual practice that supports your particular quirky connection to the Force. Maybe it includes a tree with ornaments. Maybe it includes the score to the musical Hamilton. Maybe it includes candles and wine. Perhaps you sit with the oak in your yard or you do tai chi by the lake. Whatever it is, make it yours. Let the Force be with you.

• Appreciate the quiet and peace in your home. Notice your exquisite woodwork.

• Order takeout for your holiday meal. Do not feel guilty.

• Start a blog. It’s a great way to express yourself and to feel loved. Ahem.

• Move your body in ways that work for you. This can include exercise. It’s not a great idea to spend the holiday season curled up under blankets eating pie. I recently discovered Katy Bowman’s Nutritious Movement. You might also find it a good alternative to sitting through too many episodes of Longmire.

• If you’re single, get the book Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics. The author, Sasha Cagen must have a rainforest mind. She’s sensitive, funny and she dances the Argentine tango. Sasha created a movement for single folks who cherish their solitude, want to find a mate, but who would rather be alone than settle for just anyone.

• Find some young, deeply cared-for children. They might be family members or friends’ or neighbors’ kids. Watch them as they unselfconsciously sing and dance to the songs from Moana. It will give you hope for the future. This is what love looks like.

Chances are, you won’t be able to avoid the hectic, harrowing holiday season hoopla. But you can use it as an opportunity to reassess your life. Your choices. The meaning you want to make. The influence you want to have. Instead of being among the frenetic and the retraumatized, use this time to find your voice. To build your path to a better world.

With or without the orange jello mold.

(Note: If you need ideas on building your path and haven’t read my book yet, that would be a good place to start!)

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Thank you to little dancers Sydney, Shane and Bodhi and their fabulous parents for their sweetness and light.

To my bloggEEs: What are the holidays like for you? What are some ways that you’ve managed to celebrate that have been sweet or peaceful? What are ways that you might make changes? And if you’re lonely this holiday season, I’m sending you an extra hug. Thank you commenters for taking the time to share your thoughts, especially if you’re a perfectionist and it takes you an hour to write two sentences. Ha! I know you. And if you’re not commenting because it takes you an hour to write two sentences, I understand. Just keep reading.

 

 

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Gifted Boys To Men — How To Thrive In A World That Misunderstands Your Sensitivities

photo courtesy of Abhinay Omkar, Flickr

What happens to super smart, sensitive, curious, empathetic, talkative, emotional little boys when they become men? Where does all of that emotion go? All of that empathy? All of that energetic curiosity? How do gifted men thrive in a world that doesn’t understand or appreciate their sensitive natures?

I wrote about this in a post two years ago. I’m going to recycle that post with a few changes because I couldn’t have said it better myself. Oh wait. I did say it myself… Anyway it’s worth sending out again!

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What do you do with all of that emotion? All of that empathy? All of that awareness?

How do you handle your grief? Your love of art or poetry or pink? Your despair over the violence you see in the world? Your tears?

It’s hard for many men to fit into the rigid view of masculinity. But for rainforest-minded men, there are extra tangled vines and more mosquitoes.

I wonder if you were a little tyke who had intense meltdowns. Maybe you expressed your fears and your joys with gusto. You didn’t know about The Boy Code yet. And because you were smart, adults expected you to be more logical and less emotional. Your expressiveness looked like immaturity to them. How can my 7-year-old who plays chess and beats his uncle every time, be so immature? But what if you were born with an unusual capacity to feel deeply? What if your sensitivity was just as large as your intellect? What if you seemed younger than your age peers because you purposely wanted to avoid the weight and hypocrisy of adulthood?

Then there was school. You may have been bullied because you were eager to learn. At recess you preferred examining the grasshoppers to throwing the balls. Maybe you felt more comfortable with girls.

Am I on the right track?

And now, there are the expectations. Oh, yes. If you’re so smart, then, you’re supposed to be able to do anything. Be a high achiever. Make lots of money. Be a good provider. Be tough and man up. But what if the pressure leaves you paralyzed? What if you feel like a failure each time someone close to you is disappointed? What if you’re looking successful but dying inside? What if you were criticized by a father who was full of shame over his own sensitivity? Or what if you feel responsible for living up to some potential that you can’t find and don’t believe you ever had?

What, then, can you do?

1. Redefine masculinity. I mean it. Use that creative brain of yours to design a new model. One where sensitivity, tenderness and wonder are signs of strength and achievement. Because they are.

2. Recognize that because you have a rainforest mind, you’re hardwired to be extra sensitive and soft-hearted. Blame your operating system.

3. Read about giftedness (Jacobsen) and realize that she is describing you. There aren’t many books that I know of on gifted boys/men specifically except by Kerr,  Zeff  and me, but there are some on raising boys that could also be helpful.

4. Write the book on gifted men.

5. Allow yourself to get support, help and guidance. Don’t think that you have to tough it out alone. You hear me? Help comes in many forms: counseling, 12-step groups, spiritual practices, music, acupuncture, yoga, massage, tango, book groups, camping, poetry, hiking, meditation, star-gazing, physical activity, art. It’s a sign of strength to ask for help.

6. With a counselor or in a journal or both, meet with your sweet, enthusiastic, curious little tyke self. Listen to him. Hold him close. Let him cry. Tell him he’s perfect the way he is.

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To my bloggEEs: Many of you are new here since this post was first written. Let us know what you think and feel. Your comments add so much. And thank you, as always.


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When People Find Your Intellect Intimidating — A Guide For Gifted Women

photo courtesy of Sabrina May, Unsplash

You don’t do it on purpose.

Intimidate people.

You’re just being you.

In fact, you’re holding back. Slowing down. Smiling. Being gracious. Stifling your curiosity and your perceptions. Carefully selecting from the scores of effervescent thoughts that continuously swirl around in your brain.

If they only knew how much you’re NOT showing.

Oh, boy.

And yet, you still scare them.

If they only knew that you just love to learn. You just love reading and research. You’re a pacifist, for heaven’s sake. You slept with the dictionary when you were five. (Unless, of course, your dictionary was on your phone. Then, you slept with Charlotte’s Web and Darwin’s Origin of the Species. But I digress.) How is that scary?

You’re not out to humiliate anyone or prove that you’re a superior being.

It’s just your nature to think a lot, to feel a lot, and to know a lot.

It’s not your fault.

So, you want to know how to be less intimidating?

That’s tricky.

It may not be in your control. It may not actually be necessary. But here are some suggestions, just in case. See if any fit for you.

If you’re interrupting folks with your creative ideas, let them finish before you share your thoughts; imagine designing the next electric car while you’re waiting. If you’re showing how bored you are at meetings when no one can agree on the obvious solution that you shared at the beginning of the meeting, bring your knitting or the New York Times crossword to stay occupied. Let people have their bad grammar and their mixed metaphors; the world will probably not end. Explore various ways to communicate with individuals based on their capacity to receive your insights and view it as a playful intellectual puzzle; there will be some people who won’t be reachable no matter what you do. Exercise your love of debate by running for office. Look for the humor in any situation as a way to entertain yourself and plan your memoir.

If you’ve grown up thinking that you need to be perfect, begin to unravel that belief; your vulnerability will be appealing to others. Feed relatives your terrible cooking. Invite friends to your messy house. Play games that you can’t win. Don’t hide your klutziness. Ask for help from people you trust.

Know that your rainforest-y peeps are out there and they will not be intimidated; they will be thrilled. Keep looking for them.

What I really want to tell you is that as you experience humans finding you scary and intimidating, you may need to accept that not everyone can handle life in the jungle. It’s pretty intense in there with all of those 2,500 different species of vines and 10,000 species of ants. It can be kind of scary, intimidating and overwhelming.

Even to you.

But, remember.

The rainforest also keeps everyone breathing. You are needed and wondrous just as you are. 

(Note: Just in case some of you might be inclined to misinterpret me, I’m not saying that you should change who you are for people who are intimidated. Noooooo. I’m just giving you some suggestions that might help make life easier for you in particular situations where you need them. As you know, I support you in being the fabulous radiant rainforest-y darling that you are. That’s what my blog is all about!!)

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To my dear bloggEEs: Are people intimidated by your intelligence? Have you found any good solutions? How would this post be different if it were the smart man’s guide? How would it be the same? I think gifted men also scare people, but differently. I wonder if the issue for gifted men is more that they can’t show their sensitivity. What do you say, dear readers? Thank you to the bloggEEs who inspired this post. And men, I promise a post just for you, soon.

 

 


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Educators: What To Do About The G Word (#Gifted)

logo courtesy of The G Word film

You don’t have to use the G Word.

Even though, let’s face it, you use it for athletes, artists and your quirky Aunt Millie.

But you do have to recognize that gifted children exist in your school.

Because they do.

I’m talking about the kids you know who, from a very early age, are faster learners, deeper thinkers and more sensitive feelers. Who ask questions you can’t answer. Who correct your spelling. Who know more than you do about black holes. Who cry when other children are hurt on the playground. Who are overwhelmed at birthday parties. Who annoyingly hang out at your desk because they’d rather talk to you about Darwin than talk to the other six-year-olds about the letter A.

You know who I’m talking about.

This is not about loving these kids more or singling them out as superstars. They don’t want that. That doesn’t help them.

If they’re told things like: You’re so smart. You can do anything. You’re so lucky. Or Why did you get that B? Learning should always be easy for you. Or Stop asking so many questions. Nobody likes a know-it-all. Or No, you can’t read ahead. They’ll get anxious.

They’ll feel like they can’t ask for help. Like they can’t make mistakes. Like they have to know everything before they learn it. Like they’ll disappoint you if they don’t live up to your expectations. Like they have to hide their abilities and their enthusiasm.

But, still.

You don’t have to use the G Word.

But you do have to find ways to meet their academic needs and to understand their extra-sensitivities. Some of those ways are described in this post and this one. It’s not as hard as it seems. In fact, these kids will love you if you make the time to listen to them. Start an after school club for philosophers or mathematicians. Nourish their interests and let them read ahead! Don’t assume that they aren’t doing the homework because they’re lazy or defiant. Get creative with your curriculum. Use Carol Dweck’s work on mindsets to reduce the pressure on your (gifted) students. Explore Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences model if you want to help all of your students understand learning differences and abilities.

And one more thing.

I’m not saying that you can’t use the G Word.

In fact, it could help.

One of my students, years ago, was relieved to hear that he was gifted. His response, Oh, that’s what’s wrong with me. He had his own label. Several of them: weirdo, alien, nerd, crybaby, loner, freak, crazy.

But. You don’t have to use the G Word.

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(Note: Whether you label or not, gifted kids will need help understanding their complexities. Their perfectionism, sensitivities/ empathy, loneliness, existential depression and anxieties. Their rainforest minds. Send them or their parents to this blog, for a place to start. And thank you, dear teachers, for your caring hearts.)

Thank you to my niece, Alicia, for inspiring this post and for being an extraordinary teacher and human.

Speaking of The G Word, a powerful documentary on that topic will be released in 2019. Here’s some information about it.

To my bloggEEs: My niece sent me this video from Stanford professor, Jo Boaler. It inspired this post. Let us know what you think. Thank you, as always, for being here.


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Communicating — When Your Mind Travels At Warp Speed

photo courtesy Mubariz Mehdizadeh, Unsplash

You have a lot to say. A gazillion ideas run through your head. Insight. Analysis. Book reviews. Strong opinions. Inventions. Songs. Stories. Responsibilities. Poems. To Do Lists. Intuitions. Worries. Self-criticism. Images of catastrophes yet to unfold.

You may have trouble communicating these ideas. Being heard. Feeling understood.

For several possible reasons:

How do you choose which of the gazillion to share? It’s hard to grab onto any one idea when they’re flying so fast. You don’t know anyone who cares about dark matter. You could pontificate excitedly for hours about your latest research but even your dog falls asleep after ten minutes. You can’t control your urge to correct people’s errors. You were told girls shouldn’t look too smart. You were seen as the trouble-maker in your family. Teachers ignored you when you raised your hand for the 50th time that day. You were told boys shouldn’t have so many feelings. You’re an introvert. You’re an extravert. You’re not speaking your native language. You’ve been bullied for your smartness. You talk really, really fast.

So what do you do?

Well, first, darlings, depending on your interests and your depth and who you’re trying to communicate with, you may have to practice limiting your sharing and slowing your speech. I’m so sorry to tell you this. What you need to understand, though, is that it’s not because you are flawed in some despicable way. Quite the opposite. It’s more likely because you’re ahead of your time. I’m hoping that more humans are being born every day whose minds travel at warp speed. You just might be a trail blazer. And that can be a lonely place.

What else? Practice active listening with people you care about. Listening deeply is a great way to reach someone and it’s more likely that they’ll reciprocate.  And if you’re a better writer than speaker, try writing a note to get your message across. And, remember: Don’t waste your time with the toxic people.

Then, look for activities where you can nourish yourself and let your mind fly.

Here’s a partial list:

Start a blog. Keep a journal. Write a book. Get another degree. Become a researcher for wikipedia. Learn to meditate. Study a martial art. Become an indexer. Learn NVC. (nonviolent communication) Become an entrepreneur. Get involved in activities you love and use your intuition to find other RFMs. Learn the Argentine tango. Become a college professor. Talk to trees and rivers. Paint. Read and contact your favorite authors. Find a therapist who loves smart people. Write comments on a blog for rainforest minds.

You have a lot to say.

And the world needs to hear it.

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To my bloggEEs: Have I told you that I love you? I feel so honored to be able to help you see what amazing beings you are. Tell us your experiences with communication and what you’ve found that helps. And thank you to the bloggEEs who suggested this topic.


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I’m Not Gifted, I’m Just Weird

photo courtesy of Eugenio Mazzone, Unsplash

You’d think that gifted people would know how smart they are. You’d think that gifted individuals would find life to be smooth and easy. You’d think that gifted folks would feel superior and judgmental of all non-gifted humans everywhere.

Nope. No way. Not the ones I know. And I’ve known a lot of them. I’m that old. (My former middle school students are turning 50. Yeah. Old. OK. Old-ish.)

Granted, I work with a particular variety of gifted souls. The rainforest-minded (RFM). Not all gifted folks are the RFM type. Some can be cognitively advanced but not highly sensitive or empathetic. Some can be very academic and scholarly, but not have multipotentiality. So, yes. Maybe some of the non-RFM-gifted know how smart they are, find life to be easy, and are judgmental. Maybe.

But, they weren’t in my classroom when I was a teacher in the mid-’70s and ’80s. They haven’t been in my counseling office for the past 25+ years. The RFMs I’ve known will tell you: I’m not gifted. I’m just weird. And they will struggle. With: Sensitivities. Injustice. Decisions. Choices. Achievement. School. Relationships. Communication. Emotions. Careers. Belonging. Parenting. Anxiety. Depression. Perfectionism. Guilt. Politics. Climate change deniers. Conspicuous consumption. Not enough time to read all of the books ever written.

And that’s if they grew up in a healthy family.

If you throw dysfunctional family into the mix, it gets even more complicated. I’ve written about that here and here. With more to come.

So, if you have a rainforest mind or if you love someone who does or if you work with them or teach them, it’s time to get out of denial.

It matters.

Why?

It matters because everyone will benefit if our rainforest-minded humans understand why they struggle and what to do about it. It matters because RFMs are raising RFM kids. If the parents know who they are, they’ll be better able to support their children. It matters because educators, psychotherapists, doctors and other professionals will stop misdiagnosing their clients and will be more effective practitioners.

It matters because we all need the intelligence, compassion, creativity, and sensitivity that our rainforest-minded beings share with us. Like we all need our tropical rain forests.

We won’t survive without them.

We won’t survive without you.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you recognize your giftedness? How do you struggle? Have you just felt weird much of your life? What would it be like if you accepted yourself as a gifted soul? Thank you, as always, for being here.

 


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When Humans Keep Letting You Down

photo courtesy John Nakamura Remy, Unsplash

Humans disappoint you. They don’t live up to your expectations. Sure you have high standards. But you’re not asking all that much, right? If people just tried harder, they could accomplish quite a lot.

Couldn’t they?

Not just relatives and friends. Not just politicians and educators. But others. Contractors, internet providers, artists, activists, doctors, celebrities and psychotherapists. Disappointing.

What is wrong with humans? Don’t they care about quality? Excellence? Compassion?

Now, I don’t actually know all humans. But I’m guessing that most of them do care. That said, here are some things that you need to know.

When you have a rainforest mind, you have many abilities. A large capacity for learning and a love of knowledge. You may know a lot, in multiple fields; sometimes more than the “experts.” You can also have exceptionally high standards for your work. Producing quality is part of your identity. Being fair and compassionate matters to you. And all of this feels normal. Isn’t everyone like this? 

No. Everyone is not like this.

You may not have any training in home building but you may know that your contractor’s plan for your family room will not work. You may not have a medical degree but you may know that your cardiologist is not seeing the whole picture. You may never have run a nonprofit but in two weeks you could set up a system that would provide for much greater efficiency and productivity. You may not have a psychology degree but you’re a better counselor than your psychotherapy-trained coworkers.

People tell you that you expect too much. That you need to be satisfied with less. That mediocrity is good enough. That you’re an overachiever and an arrogant know-it-all. That you need to “shut up and sing…” (to quote a powerful song from the Dixie Chicks)

These messages and experiences can make you feel a little crazy. A little less than. Maybe a lot less than. Lonely. A little too responsible.

Or you may wonder how to live your best life when people you’d like to depend upon keep dropping the ball.

You’re tired of always picking up the balls.

So darned many balls.

But your family, your community and your world needs you. Your excellence. Your quality. Your compassion. Now, more than ever.*

So you can still sing. Definitely sing.

But don’t shut up.

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To my dearest bloggEEs: How do you deal with this? Are you tired of juggling all the balls? Are there ways you take care of yourself when you feel discouraged or exhausted? Are there people that you’ve found who will show up for you? Where have you found others with rainforest minds? Can you allow yourself to acknowledge your limits and create a healthy balance? This blog post is just the beginning of the discussion. We need to hear from you!

*That said, repeat after me: I am not responsible for everyone’s dropped balls.

Thank you to the bloggEE who suggested this topic.

Here’s the story behind the Dixie Chicks’ song.