Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

Are You A Multipotentialite*?

64 Comments

I am not a multipotentialite. But I’ve known many. Many. I’ve lived with one. Most of my counseling clients fit the bill. Several friends. I suspect that I’m not one so that I can better help all of you who are. If I were one, too, well, things could get messy.

CC Flickr Martin Lambe

CC Flickr Martin Lambe

For those of you who are new to the term, let me explain. In an earlier post, I described how you may be overwhelmed  by your extraordinary curiosity. Not only that. You may, in fact, be as capable in the field of chemistry as you are in philosophy or as skilled in music as you are in literature. And you want to do it all. Depth and diversity are exciting, stimulating and necessary.

You’re afflicted with multipotentiality. Thus, you are a multipotentialite. (a term coined by Emilie Wapnick*, thanks Emilie)

You may be like my client. I’ll call her Rachel. She was interested in writing, sociology, literature, theology, politics, international relations, medicine, parenting, public speaking, feminism and math. For starters. At age 25, she was working in educational consulting at a university. It was a secure job with good benefits. She enjoyed it at first as she learned the ropes, did lots of public speaking and traveled internationally. But after about three years, there was nothing new to learn and she grew frustrated. She came to counseling looking for guidance.

CC Flickr Markus Stöber

CC Flickr Markus Stöber

It became apparent that Rachel was intellectually gifted. (like many multipotentialites) She was highly sensitive, articulate, an avid reader, creative, perfectionistic, passionate about learning, analytical, fast thinking and intense. When I explained multipotentiality, she was distressed and said, “It’s shattering to realize that there’s not the shining beacon of a single path.” She felt lost in “a shadowy empty forest that had too many paths that went off far into the foggy distance.”

Knowing that she was a multipotentialite was not good news.

She had to grieve the notion that she had one particular calling and that all she had to do was find it and do it. Multipotentiality was so much more complicated and frightening.

But as we talked more, she began to accept and appreciate her gifted rainforest mind. And we started planning her next career move. I suggested she read Barbara Sher’s Refuse to Choose, examine other resources and join Emilie’s community. She began to see that being a multipotentialite could work.

But she was torn between being practical and going for her dreams. She was afraid that she was just hoping for some unreachable “pie in the sky.”

I asked her to consider that there was pie available. And she didn’t have to go to the sky to get it.

________________________________

To my blogEEs: Thanks, as always, for your sweet attention. If this post speaks to you, click on the links to Emilie Wapnick’s website. She’s bubbling over with practical and creative ideas. (and thanks to the reader who originally told me about Emilie)

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Author: Paula Prober

I'm a psychotherapist in private practice in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in counseling gifted adults and consulting with parents of gifted children. The label "gifted" is often controversial and confusing. I use the metaphor of the rain forest to describe this population. Like the rain forest, these individuals are quite complex, highly sensitive, intense, multi-layered, and misunderstood. They're also curious, idealistic, highly intelligent, creative, perfectionistic, and they love learning. I've been an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I've written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, and Advanced Development Journal. My book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, was released in June 2016 by GHF Press and is available on Amazon or at your independent bookstore.

64 thoughts on “Are You A Multipotentialite*?

  1. Reblogged this on Darleen's Edu News and commented:
    I met this lovely woman at the SENG conference and and now enjoying her blog. Though you might too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am a multipotentialite. It drives me up the wall! Few employers are looking for multipotentialites and jobs are often constricted to a tiny area. Is anyone looking for a database administrator who also has strong skills in writing, physics, chemistry, historical analysis, religious studies, economics, etc.? Nope. But doing only one of those leaves me unsatisfied! And so I continue in a job that pays the bills nicely and provides some freedom to explore the strengths and interests on the side. It’s the best compromise for now.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Hi Paula … I came to your blog via another follower (Darleen Saunders) who is an enthusiastic, highly knowledgeable advocate for the gifted. This is a very relatable article (for me, personally) and interestingly enough this morning as I was out on my morning walk I was thinking about how I approach learning, in such a hodgepodgian fashion … a little from this book, a little from another, a lecture, a thesis, a paper, travel, etc. It is akin to learning multiple languages, it takes longer, but in the end, you’re multi-lingual. I’m perceiving multipotentiality similarly. Rather than one life mission, so to speak, there are multiple lanes upon which we travel. It is like a dance of sorts: two-stepping one’s way through life to multiple tunes. Neuroscientists claim that we only process one thought at a time, and this may indeed be true on a micro-biologically energetic level, but for many of us, while we are processing that ‘one’ thought, we are simultaneously processing other intelligences – be them creative, musical, lyrical, poetic, sensory, or otherwise. The potential lies in stepping back and seeing that while lanes appear parallel, they rarely remain as such … at some point, there is a cross-over … a merging of lanes, if only temporarily. And it is at that precise moment that our multipotentiality, our multiprocessing resembles one really big processor with multiple layers of complexity that when brought together resonate in a way that single trajectory travelers sometimes fail to perceive. There are two paths, both equally viable for the individual. However, being of this particular camp, I very much appreciated your article and for what it’s worth, am thoroughly enjoying all the lanes! [message typed while observing hummingbirds feeding on my Bugambilias, smelling flowers, sipping coffee, thinking about my next artwork, ruminating on a philosophical theory, and realizing that it’s time to take the dog out again!] ;))

    Liked by 5 people

  4. And so I sit here in a semi-paralyzed state… Afraid of the next move. Afraid of failure. Afraid of success. If I fail, people will know. If I succeed, I will be expected to do more, or better, and expected to continue doing whatever ‘it’ is. Afraid of hurting the people around me who learning does not come as easy for. I wild racing mind full of endless possibilities can soon become a place of worry and doom. And then there’s the physical aspect. Due to some physical conditions (adolescent onset of psoriatic arthritis, bursitis, and other painful inflammatory conditions) it actually hurts to endeavor in my many interests. So again, I am paralyzed. Your blog and my mentor are helping me to make strides in regaining some movement, and I am starting to become ‘involved’ again, but it’s a long process and fear holds my hand every step of the way.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Paula! Yes I know the multipotential feeling…I read an awesome book earlier about women and giftedness and multipotentiality is that a word? 🙂 I think the knowledge that one is good at something doesn’t mean we need to pursue that. I received 100 % in my nursing EA course and wouldn’t want to do that eeew. But for me it is what do I like best and right now it is teaching and English and language. But I want to be a motivational speaker and a famous blessed enchanting Shakespearean actor and movie star and published author and musician! So there you go plenty of things! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. *Thank you for this.* For years I wondered why no one particular career stood out to me. I’ve perused college class catalogs as if they were a Christmas wish catalog. I have already had two totally different careers (and did well in each). I am now in my 4th year of a third career while considering taking college classes to work towards a degree for something else. I have a side business in something else. Which do I like best? I have truly *enjoyed them all*. For most of them, I have been self-employed so that my perfectionist tendencies could run free but not amok.

    Multiple interests and talents is a fascinating way to live. It’s very rich at times but disappointing at others. I’ve found that it also seems to confuse other people who have taken a more traditional path through life and career. It made it necessary that I keep various groups of friends that share one of my interests, instead of all of them. I couldn’t imagine it any other way!

    I took gifted classes through school but never understood the huge down side of being so inclined. The curse of the gift. No counselor *ever* mentioned it. But they sure spent quite a bit of time talking to me about my “potential”. My indecision at a clear path because of multiple deep interests was met with deaf ears that had no idea on how to guide me. I only wish that this post by you was standard reading for anyone who works with the gifted and talented as an educator or counselor.

    At this point in my life, I find myself not being able to let people know about any giftedness that was or is with myself. Through the years, a few people have mistaken my attempts at helpfulness for somehow being a “know-it-all”. I keep my achievements under wraps. It reminds me of not telling my high school friends that I was in gifted classes to prevent being picked on or singled out. Or stepping away from a personal invitation to the college honor society because it was to be widely publicized on campus. How sad that I don’t feel the freedom to just be proud when it’s totally appropriate. I didn’t stop achieving. I am just very, very careful who I tell about it.

    These resources may be of help to others in a similar situation:
    http://www.amazon.com/One-Person-Multiple-Careers-Success/dp/0446696978/
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Renaissance-Soul-Design-Passions/dp/0767920880/

    Common Attributes of Giftedness: • motivation • advanced interests • communication skills • problem-solving ability • well-developed memory • inquiry • insight • reasoning • imagination/creativity • sense of humor • advanced ability to deal with symbol systems ((Frasier & Passow, 1994)

    Characteristic Strengths: Advanced vocabulary use, Exceptional analytic abilities, High levels of creativity, Advanced problem solving skills, Ability to think of divergent ideas and solutions, Specific aptitude (artistic, musical, or mechanical), Wide variety of interests, Good memory, Task commitment, Spatial abilities

    Best of luck to you all with your multifaceted journeys!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the resources and for your description of your experiences. I know readers here will relate. You don’ t have to keep your achievements “under wraps” here and we won’t say you’re a “know it all” when you’re just sharing your enthusiasm. We get you!

      Like

      • I’m sorry those links showed up the way they did. I have no idea why they did that. They were just text links to the book pages at Amazon.
        I have no idea why but your comment brings tears to my eyes. Thank you for your understanding and compassion.

        Liked by 1 person

    • “I’ve perused college class catalogs as if they were a Christmas wish catalog.” is such a lovely phrase, and as you can probably guess, one that resonates deeply with me. If I could, I’d be a perpetual student, but I’d drop all those mandatory and ever so boring classes in order to fill my schedule 140 % with courses in music, drama, literature, art, math, sociology, neuropsychology, architecture, accoustics, geology, geography, history (but only the stories, not all the names and dates!), languages (oh, all the languages! But not the grammar, please, and not all that political stuff, just the languages in use), some psychology (if only to pick apart some really strange theories and practices, but there are some interesting bits, too) and… So many things to learn!

      Since I’ve crashed my health by living the multipotentialite life coupled with ADHD and the aftereffects of a youth as shunned and bullied, I now have to content with the Internet. Luckily, it’s a very rich source, and getting richer every day! So what if I have 15 open windows to read, about extremely diverse topics? I thoroughly enjoy this opportunity to learn, learn and learn!

      Liked by 4 people

  7. The book was called Smart Girls Gifted women and I read when I was in university …way enlightening 🙂
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/photo/1978383.Smart_Girls_Gifted_Women_

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Anon, It’s OK about the links. Weird stuff sometimes happens in the digital realm.

    Like

  9. …maybe that’s why I tried to make my career decision only between career paths in a very small field, because I knew I couldn’t decide if I considered every possible option.
    Now I just hope the decision will be okay… I’ll start med school in a couple of weeks and I’m really excited (but sorry, I’m rambling).

    What I wanted to say is, I absolutely do identify with this and it somehow shows me why there are always at least two or three bigger “projects” in my life that don’t really have anything to do with each other but I need them to have something I can put energy and effort into. Otherwise I get moody and angry because I cannot use all the energy that’s in my head.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Puttylike | A Home for Multipotentialites » The Puttyfest Wrap-Up Post (including all of your amazing blog posts)

  11. Reblogged this on Overexcitable and commented:
    She may as well have named her example woman Eirin instead of Rachel…

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m glad this attraction to a wide variety of things is now cleared up for me LOL. These days, with limited physical abilities and health challenges, some interests are limited *for* me.
    I have chosen to live within my means, fiscal and physical, and even with that, my interests are more than I can keep up with.
    For me, the problem seems to be getting my brain to focus, to pick one and stick with it for a while.
    For instance, other needleworkers that I read about do a variety of projects such as quilting, cross stitch, needlepoint, and various other kinds of needlework (crewel, Hardanger, stumpwork). Then there is knitting and crochet, sewing — with tailoring and garment construction and fashion design. The more into a thing I get, the more there is to learn.
    I believe factotum is one word for multipotentialite, or polymath. I think it’s way cool to be interested in herbs, theater, architecture, camping, books, psychology, birding, marine biology, clutures, etc. We live in an amazing world — I’m glad I have curiosity and interest in it.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. You introduced me to this idea a few posts back in a comment (sorry I haven’t been around I just got my Internet connected in Oregon and am still in the process of moving). I just sort of let it sit in the back of my mind. I think I’ve always known this. My father and I switched hobbies together every few years being obsessed with each section at the local Hobby stores in sequence, astronomy, then model trains, RC planes, etc. Even with that, I always thought I would go to college and have one career and that would be that. I even stubbornly finished my degree in a subject that I find incredibly interesting (Wildlife Resources) when it was fairly obvious that my understanding of interrelations in an environment was something my peers could not follow and in the end, the roles I would be assigned would not maintain my interest for long. After 5 years I was bored and at 7 years I was regretting my work, but did not have the degree, nor experience to go farther in my career to those theories that I loved in college and kept me in the program.

    Now, I work for a non-profit and while what I do is neither glamorous, nor pays very well, I think it is the only field where being knowledgeable about everything really gets a chance to shine (that I’ve found so far anyway). I can keep the computer systems running and write a database and the webpages in the down time. I can develop educational trainings for kids and teachers on robotics, teamwork, and scientific thinking. I can do the accounts and anything else needed. I can even design solutions to physical limitations with our equipment and facilities. I can use more of me than in any other outlet I’ve found.

    I also find with all that I do, I feel terribly lazy. Like I know I could do so much more. I have wish lists of things I wish to do, stories I long to finish writing and more that want to be written. I want to do stuff with my kids, show them things, teach them stuff. I feel like most of my life is a long list of stuff I can’t get to. At the same time I enjoy my lazy days, so as a result I know I could be doing so much more and think of myself as rather lazy. Lately, more and more people tell me they can’t believe how I do so much. How I do all these things that I do end up doing. I still see myself as lazy and see this huge list of things I’m not doing that I want to, but I choose to be lazy sometimes and that is why. I’d love to see a post on this…. I can’t be the only lazy rainforest minded person who is constantly asked how they do so much – especially when I really don’t do that much.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I will definitely write about this. You are not the only rainforest-minded person who startles people with the amount that they do but feels lazy! No, indeed.

      Like

    • Hi,

      I kind of catch your flow!!! I don’t know if I am a rainforest mind, but I think I am a multipotentialite… like you friends tell me how do you do all those things and have your three children… and I always think do what? these things don’t challenge me.. so being a mom and a wife though stressful, doesn’t challenge me cause I understand my role and function and I just execute it without thought.

      And like you I have three books of bucket list lists.. of one hundred or more on each list and if I have done two out of the entire list is amazing.. and that irks me to my very being.. because I feel like you, that I am being lazy but added to that , that I don’t want to try. But in the same breath I think if I don’t want to die and leave this earth without making a difference in the lives of others and myself… Strange enough my husband says, but J you are making a difference.. I don’t see it.

      I guess we just have to keep living and doing our best at whatever it is we do and take pleasure in that.. regardless of it is million things or just one thing.

      Jeannette

      Liked by 1 person

    • I am the same way! Too much on my list and feel guilty for taking time to just life in bed and get nothing else done. I would also like to see the part on this subject.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Thank you very much for this post! 🙂 I wish our guidance counselor in HS school told me this instead of simply telling me that I can choose any career because my test scores showed high scores in almost all fields. That statement left me even more confused as I stepped into college.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I feel like a “Lost boy” at 37yrs of age like one of the other people says i want to open a business or two i want to succeed, yet I dont want to succeed to the point that people say or expect me to do it all the time because then I don’t want to fail. I have been called ambition-less. lazy to name a few adjectives, but in the same breath I have three degrees, two Masters and One bachelor and many certificates and I am currently doing a course online. But for some reason I feel,, trapped and I am not exactly sure if it has become part of my conscious so now I believe I am. Which hurts me to even think of myself that way, because I know that I am not like that.. It is very confusing and being a mother and married gets so muddy in that I don’t know where or how to turn next because I get bored with routine and want variety, when my husband is a traditionalist, rountinist who loves to stay within the status quo.

    So I feel lost and trapped at this age and I really want to enter 2015 with a bit more direction and happiness!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it would be good, Jeannette, for you to imagine that you do have the rainforestmind traits. It might give you more compassion for your confusion. Even though parenting is difficult, it may not provide the intellectual stimulation that you need. And you might feel some guilt because of the boredom. Then there’s the pressure you’re afraid of if you were to find success in something outside your family. These are all things that rainforest minds grapple with. I hope reading my blog and the resources I suggest will help.

      Like

  16. New to your blog and just reading through past posts.

    Wow! Yes! And I didn’t know there was a name for it! In high school we all took a test that was meant to narrow down our interests and steer us toward a few career options. I was one of two people whose test did not reveal a particular direction. My teacher told me I was a “renaissance woman”.

    I will definitely look into the resources you recommended, because this is something I have been struggling with. I guess it’s time to accept that there isn’t some magical, elusive passion out there somewhere waiting to be discovered. I envy people who know exactly what they want to do. It’s a very frustrating feeling knowing that I have talent and ability, but not having a place where it can land permanently.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Welcome to my blog, Jennifer. Yes, it’s hard to not have a place to “land permanently.” I hope the resources help you feel more comfortable negotiating through your many interests and abilities.

      Like

  17. Reblogged this on patchwork poppies and commented:
    This is a great post by Paula Prober on Multipotentiality. I’ll be touching on this topic on my next blog post that will be published on Monday. I personally have struggled through this most of my adult life. Until this past month I didn’t even know there was a term for it. If it wasn’t for learning about what gifted is and personally identifying with it through traits and characteristics, I don’t know if I would have ever stumbled across this. This is why I believe gifted advocacy is so important. The more we eliminate the misconceptions and bring knowledge to the forefront, more people will understand and unlock the doors in their lives. I just wish I would have known about all of this much earlier in my life. Thank you Paula for a such a great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I just reblogged your post Paula. Thank you for such a great post. Thank you Paula!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Pingback: The other gifted adult | patchwork poppies

  20. Thanks for this thoughtful post. Creative people are complex and multitalented. Along with the benefits of many abilities and passions, there are challenges in realizing so many interests. But many creative people do express many talents – e.g. Viggo Mortensen is an actor, musician, painter, photographer, and founder of a publishing company. See many other quotes and video: “What is a Multipotentialite? Emilie Wapnick explains” in my article “Interested In So Many Things: Creative and Multitalented” (on the site for my main book “Developing Multiple Talents: The personal side of creative expression”) http://developingmultipletalents.com/interested-many-things-creative-multitalented/

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Hi Paula,
    Thanks for this article. “Multipontialities’ reminded me of a term, I heard Alan Watt’s use long ago in a recorded talk, “the omni-potentiallity of youth.” I recognized myself in the idea and I didn’t ever want to give that up. Now, at age 70, I have finally had to set aside a few of the more rigorous, physical possibilities but I still turn eagerly and interestedly to new ideas, books, concerts, travel, etc., and constantly continue my pursuit of knowledge.
    These days I try to instill that in my students but for the most part, I see their ‘omni-potentiallity’ being wiped out by parents, the educational system and society in general, so much so that I doubt it still exists in many of them. If this generation is to have a future then all of us have to do some heavy lifting in order to see the way forward to creating a thriving environment in which all children can explore their multi/omni potential lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Hey guys, I found wonderful site for global multipotentialites to connect. http://multipotentialites.com/

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Pingback: If I’m So Smart, Why Am I So Dumb? Part Two | Your Rainforest Mind

  24. Thank you. I now know what to call myself. This is a relief.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Pingback: Afflicted With Too Much Talent | Your Rainforest Mind

  26. Another term for multipotentialite is polymath but the second more describes what happens to a multipotentialite over time. And that’s the thing – it takes time to cover all the territory. (laughs)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polymath

    Another bit I found useful to understand was the distinction between early risers and late bloomers. Some of the gifted have clarity right out of the gate and start producing early. You describe some of those expectations in other posts. But some are late bloomers. They take time to gather the parts and experiences before things come together.
    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/10/20/late-bloomers-2

    But yeah – I rolled my eyes at or had multiple resumes at different times in my life. Sometimes it sounded implausible.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Pingback: Multipotentiality: Is it a blessing or a curse? – MaSK Media

  28. Pingback: Existential Depression in Gifted Teens | Your Rainforest Mind

  29. Pingback: Si soy inteligente, ¿Por qué me siento tan torpe? | Aa.Cc., LA REBELIÓN DEL TALENTO

  30. Hi! I have only just discovered your blog here and am exploring and reading. Not sure where I fit on the spectrum of things, but what you post that I’ve read so far REALLY resonates with me. I love the term ‘multipotentialite’! I’m currently a homeschooling mom and heavily into volunteering with things like scouts (I have a girl and a boy so I work with both groups) … and I’ve discovered that Scouting really gives opportunities for multipotentiality … there are so many wonderful skills and topics that can fit under the scout umbrella! I think that’s why I’ve stuck with it for nine years now as a volunteer. My mom fits your description too … a look at her resume shows everything from working car rentals to training with Merrill Lynch (way back) to interior decorating, and tons of stuff in-between. She gets bored, she moves on. She often underestimates her true intelligence and gifts … I might have to throw this term at her next time it comes up and let her see it’s a good thing. Thank you for having this blog, and I can’t wait to read more and more.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. “Can You Hear The Flowers Sing – Issues For Gifted Adults” by Deirdre V. Lovecky, Journal of Counseling and Development. This article, although from many years ago (May 1986), explained what I had experienced for years, but never understood about myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Pingback: Multipotentiality: Are You Overwhelmed By Your Too Muchness? | Your Rainforest Mind

  33. Thank you for this. I’ve always known I had lots of talents and interests and always considered that a great asset but it helps that I also felt a powerful calling to be a stay at home mom while my kids are young and so I get to share my talents with my five kids, teaching and mentoring them right now. Somewhere along the way I’ll pick something else to focus on but I’m perfectly happy with my somewhat scattered life.

    Liked by 1 person

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