Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

Smart Sensitive Men Are In Trouble


Flickr, Creative Commons, Kamil Porembinski

Flickr, Creative Commons, Kamil Porembinski

Smart sensitive men are in trouble.

You know what I’m talking about.

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

I think 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?

Like I said. Smart sensitive men. In trouble.

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 and Zeff 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.

Flickr, Creative Commons, Abhinay Omkar

Flickr, Creative Commons, Abhinay Omkar

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 that he’s perfect just the way he is.


To my dear bloggEEs: As usual, let us know your thoughts, questions and feelings. Are there books you’d recommend? Other ideas? Thank you for reading and sharing. A post for women will be coming soon-ish.







Author: Paula Prober

I'm a psychotherapist and consultant 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 rainforest to describe this population. Like the rainforest, 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 first 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. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists, was released in June 2019.

49 thoughts on “Smart Sensitive Men Are In Trouble

  1. Love this, Paula. These are the men I’ve always fallen for (either romantically or in friendship) — the boys who sat in the back of the classroom reading literature and writing poetry and examining grasshoppers. 🙂

    I’ve always been so passionate about creating a world where concepts of masculinity and femininity are redefined. And I really love the call for some rainforest-minded man to write the book on gifted men. Yes! Wouldn’t that be incredible?!

    Thanks for writing this!!! It really spoke to me.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love your article! I see most of the work of manhood as information management: discerning which stimuli to attend to with the emotion, empathy, and awareness that you speak of. It’s all about priorities and daily effort. Also, it may take two to tango, but it only takes one to aikido. If I could level up in anything, it would be baseball and bean bag tossing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Bob. Interesting, information management, priorities, effort. And oh yes, martial arts can be so helpful for self-care and self-therapy. Not sure what you mean by “level up.” ??


      • Paula, “level up” is a concept from Dungeons and Dragons type role-playing games. With life experiences, from completing adventures or slaying demons, a character can improve strength, wisdom, charisma, and other attributes. I was trying to add to the list of positive activities other than computer games.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. How serendipitous that this comes on a day when I was thinking about my brother (now deceased). He was not able to accept his smart sensitivity and became a heavy smoker and drinker, very sarcastic and aggressive. How sad that he was not allowed to be who he was.
    When men can accept their sensitivities as masculine, it is going to allow women to accept our strengths as feminine. We won’t need to define characteristics by gender; we can move to seeing them as personal.
    I hope the man who writes this book that Paula proposes is doing so right now!

    Liked by 1 person

    • So sorry to hear about your brother. Sadly, too many men follow that path because society can’t support their smart sensitivity. Yes, I want to meet the man who’s writing the book!


  4. You are describing my son to a T! I wrote this about him 2 years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I know so many guys like this and like one of the commenters above, these are the ones I always find most inspiring, fun, and attractive to be around.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Reblogged this on Creative Catapult Coaching and commented:
    This is a great thought for emotional, well rounded, men.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As a sensitive male I felt somewhat blessed to be able to succeed in the rough and tumble macho world of sports, at least ON the field of play. My athletic talent was my passport into the mainstream world that I otherwise felt I did not belong to. On the other hand, OFF the field of play my seemingly incongruous sensitivity and eccentricities made me stick out like a sore thumb which often felt like a curse. So in retrospect, perhaps spending time in that world exposed me to even more trauma than I would have been had I no athletic talent or interest in sports?

    Anyway, I am not sure if this is directly related to this particular topic, but I was wondering what you think about the modern self-help/positive thinking/motivational messages that are everywhere these days? It seems to me with a lot of the new “wisdom” that is widely proclaimed and shared that there is an underlying message of “there are no excuses for failing to succeed or fit in”, and that this has the potential to be more harmful than helpful to those of us who simply do not fit the typical mental/emotional mold.

    Liked by 1 person

    • For some gifted males, it’s been helpful to have athletic ability because they’re then seen as more acceptable to the mainstream. But it sounds like that wasn’t your experience. It made you stick out more? Were you more vulnerable because you weren’t able to hide? Thanks for sharing, Mark. Can you say more about the other topic? I think it’s a good one to write about in a post. How does the popular positive thinking message affect the gifted person? My quick answer is that those messages are often simplistic and miss the subtleties of a real human’s experiences, particularly a complicated rainforest-minded person. There’s some value in the idea of focusing on positive thoughts and attitudes and yet if we deny and repress grief, for example, it can come out in unhelpful, passive-aggressive or even aggressive ways. There’s a book titled Healing Through the Dark Emotions that talks about the value of “negative” feelings. That’s my short answer!


      • Hey thanks. I have a million things swirling in my head that I want to touch on but I’ll try and keep it brief.

        An example of what I was getting at is how every day on social media someone is sharing some quote or video by some “motivational speaker”, “leadership expert”, or “life coach” who rambles on about how to achieve “excellence”, “discipline”, “life effectiveness”, blah, blah, blah…. (I once knew one of these guys from my sports days. Apart from his success in sports, the guy can’t think his way out of a paper bag, but I digress.)

        I don’t get along with most of my family. I think they see the disparity between my various abilities and my lack of success plus the fact I suffer from anxiety and depression as evidence that I am a negative person who lacks discipline and motivation. To back their arguments up they often trot out the same kind of pop-psychology platitudes that “gurus” like my motivational-speaker friend does.

        It’s often pretty hard to defend myself from what these days has become almost unassailable “conventional wisdom”, perhaps because I live out there in the rain forest where none of them have ever been and where they can’t see how much faith and positive thinking it takes to create my “magic” (I am very creative in multi-disciplines), and where being someone who is so busy experiencing and learning about everything in the world that they haven’t had time to become a big, well-adjusted success. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s it, Mark. “someone who is so busy experiencing and learning about everything in the world that they haven’t had time to become a big, well-adjusted success” Yes! It could be that the platitudes do work to some extent with people who don’t have such complicated minds. But for a rainforester it’s just not that simple. I may write a post about “success” that could be helpful. (could I quote you?) I appreciate your sharing.


        • Thank you, I’d be honored to be quoted!

          From the outside I think it is easy to look at gifted people and their lack of success and simply assume “they must be doing something wrong”, rather than looking at all the things they may be doing right or differently, and wonder why that does not necessarily lead to success (at least an easily quantifiable version of it).

          Personally I am less concerned with how people might be treating me differently (or indifferently) because of my lack of success, and am much more concerned with how it limits my opportunities to experience, experiment and explore. (The “three Ex’s” ?)

          Liked by 1 person

  8. I love you for putting this in words… my life, my family, and my career. Writing the book indeed! Thank you for this precious gift of compassion and non-judgmental understanding. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Another lovely post, Paula. I, too, love these sorts of fellows and I hope to raise two. Thanks for this!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Beautiful summary of what gifted men experience. So many men hide their feelings. But gifted men often feel more intensely and react with more sensitivity, making it even more difficult to conform to societal norms. What a great article about how they can free themselves from this. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Lovely post, thank you. The first half describes my five year old son and the rest describes my husband, perfectly in each case.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is my dh to a tee! It is the first thing he has read which he has truly related to, thank you! I would love to see more of his “little tyke” self too! More men articles please!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. My gifted husband still examines the grasshoppers. LOL 12-step programs have saved him, emotionally and spiritually. I just read this article to him. In a somewhat disgruntled, protesting manner he says, “I don’t know. I guess some of it applies.” He has such a hard time seeing himself as “perfect the way he is.” I guess I’m just going to have to keep giving him hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

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  16. My husband had the “sensitive” “excited” and “curious” beaten out of him at a young age. Only recently, since we’ve been together, and more so, since we’ve had our son, have these traits come out a lot stronger than what they were before. He does everything possible to ensure our little rainforest minded boy, expresses himself truely & at every opportunity. I can’t wait to see the un-repressed version of my man grow before my eyes!

    Liked by 1 person

    • How wonderful that you and your husband are nourishing and appreciating your sensitive son. It will be healing for your husband to give what he didn’t get. He also may get triggered some of the time by your son’s intensity if he was traumatized, which is sounds like he was. Your husband can learn ways to soothe the child inside himself, if that happens. Your support and understanding will also be a gift to him.


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  18. So thankful to read this. I have a 10 yo son who struggles to fit in. He is compassionate, caring, empathetic, creative, thoughtful, intuitive, spiritual, concerned, sweet, well mannered, kind, musical, poetic, generous and very bright. To the culture, his grandparents, his teachers and his peers, he is not athletic, he is immature, has trouble staying on task in class, not a high achiever for sports and academics, he’s not tough, he’s too sensitive and more. I spend time trying to explain him but he doesn’t fit the mold. Their mold. I’ll be reading more about Rainforest men. This might be him… It’s making me mad that women can aspire to these traits he has but generally men cannot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope that these posts help you find support for your son, Pam, and perhaps, some of the others in his life might read a post or two and begin to shift their thinking. Thank you for writing.


  19. I can redefine it all I want, problem is girls don’t want to have sex with men with these traits, and I have a high libido. And it’s a problem. These traits are in most cases a biological turnoff. That’s why it’s viewed as a problem and it is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I’m so sorry you’re not meeting girls who appreciate your sensitivity and your other gifted traits. But they’re out there. One suggestion I’ve made to help RFMs meet each other is to try social dancing, in particular the Argentine tango. If you like to dance and you like a challenge, the tango is it. And sensitive, empathetic, creative men who learn to lead are often very popular. Just a thought. Thanks for writing.


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  21. I wish I lived closer to where you are. For starters and to modulate the anguish and despair I’ve arrived at I’d start counseling with you. And in person.

    Liked by 1 person

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