Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

It’s Complicated: Your Rainforest (Gifted) Mind


The rainforest mind runs wide and deep. Think of the Amazon. The astonishing number of different species and the variety among each species. The lush, fertile, saturated richness decomposing and transforming. Maybe millions of plants, insects and micro-organisms still undiscovered.

Just like you:

Astonishing amount of thinking, ideas, emotions, sensations, perceptions. Depth, sensitivity, creativity, disintegrating and transforming. Maybe millions of thoughts, ideas, emotions, sensations, perceptions and selves still undiscovered.

Flickr, Creative Commons, Shigenobu Sugito

Flickr, Creative Commons, Shigenobu Sugito

And no, not everyone is like this.

You may think that anyone can be like you or do what you can do. Perhaps they just aren’t trying. Or they haven’t practiced enough.  Or they aren’t interested. But if they put their minds to it, they could do what you do, see what you see, feel what you feel. Or maybe they’re demonstrating a complicated psycho-neuro-bio-political strategy that you can’t quite grasp.

After all, they’re confident. They make quick decisions. They’re understood. They don’t dilly dally in serious self-doubt. Surely, they’re the smart ones.

Not necessarily.

Now you’re a teensy weensy uncomfortable. I get it. I’m not saying this to proclaim your superiority. I’m saying this to help you understand and accept yourself. Deeply. To clear up your misconceptions. Because, then, I’m guessing that you’ll be better able to figure out what you’re here to do.

And you’ll get on with it.

(Note: This post was inspired by comments from my lovely readers. You know who you are. Thank you.)


To my blogEEs: I’ve been at this blogging gig for about a year and a half. It’s so gratifying to hear from you and to have you share your reactions and ideas here, with each other and with me privately. Knowing that you’re out there leaves me a little breathless. And a lot grateful.

If you want to read more posts on the topic of the depth and breadth of giftedness among children and adults, click on this link, and go to the blog hop coordinated by Gifted Homeschoolers Forum12119902_10156207736040002_1255473259586434778_o

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 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.

36 thoughts on “It’s Complicated: Your Rainforest (Gifted) Mind

  1. You mean others dilly dally with their self-worth, too?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So true – complex minds are different. Not superior – just different. The sooner complex thinkers can all recognize this, whether about themselves or others, the easier it is to harness the energy these minds possess, and avoid self-doubt about their abilities. Great points in your post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, Gail. That’s what I’m aiming for with this blog. Recognize and accept the differences so you can feel more confident and live a meaningful life. I know there are many reasons why someone might feel self-doubt but certainly part of it is due to the misconceptions about giftedness. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Discovering the Depth and Breadth of Giftedness GHF

  4. Deserts, tundras, rainforests–all ecosystems are beautiful in their own ways and, more important, necessary for stasis on our precious planet. I love your rainforest metaphor because it’s NOT hierarchical or quantitative, and I have long struggled with feeling superior to some minds and deeply inferior to others. I’d like to point out, furthermore, the differences *among* rainforests (Amazon vs. Olympic) and *within* them (perimeter vs. heart–surely there are technical terms for those regions, but I don’t know them!). All of us have much to offer; there’s no need for passing such brutal judgment on ourselves or on others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been wondering about how to include the differences among the rain forests and within them in this analogy but haven’t figured it out yet. More of your thoughts on this are welcome! And, yes, all ecosystems are essential!


  5. So much! This has been one of the greatest struggles of acceptance for me. The realization that the way I think, the way I can consider multiple interacting variables in an n-dimensional image in my mind… That example was actually my first hint that I was this different. I was in college by the time it happened. The fact that I can’t make decisions without more information, I need a projection with clearly outlined downsides

    Then the real kicker came. Explaining to others. Picking up new skills in hours or days and then trying to relay that same information in a helpful and quick way only to be told repeatedly that – other people can’t understand it the way I do and I need to “step it down” for them. Wow! I mean it just never really occurred to me that with people willing to learn something that it would be “too hard” when it’s so straight forward once you understand a few basic concepts and connect them together. I’m still working on this.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I recently watched the PBS documentary about E.O. Wilson called “Of Ants and Men” (
    In it, biologist Ed Wilson discusses many things including how he went from studying one dominant “eusocial species” — ants, to another: humans. In the process he developed his theory of Sociolbiology that proposes much of human behavior is instinctual, the result of evolution. This was controversial when it first came to light 40 years ago (and to some it still is).

    Wilson feels the driving force in human evolution is tribalism, that genes are selected not just based on the healthiness of individuals but by the healthiness of the group and how it altruistically cooperates together to dominate its surroundings. Tribalism is the glue that binds people together, and those who are excluded feel pain. So far so good as far as understanding the theory and why gifted people hurt.

    But I was eventually disappointed to find that at no time during the documentary does Wilson or anyone else mention those of us who do NOT fit readily into the group BECAUSE we have some exceptional genetic qualities, qualities that arguably could make any individual or group stronger– that is IF the group accepted them.

    The whole thing made me feel even more of an outsider, because evolutionary biologists seem to disregard the role of the gifted within society, especially if that giftedness makes fitting in very difficult.

    I’d love to hear some comments or interpretations of this seeming paradox. -Mark

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fascinating, Mark. I’m guessing some readers will respond. There’s a lot here to think about. I wish there was a way you could ask that question to E.O. Wilson.

      Liked by 1 person

      • To be fair, Wilson states at the beginning of the documentary that he believes humans to be a “dysfunctional” species, and that figuring out why this is so is high on his list of priorities.

        He also suffered major backlash to his sociobiology theories — some of it even violent — as they were initially misinterpreted as being supportive of racism and other forms of inequality. But despite the costs to him both personally and professionally, he stuck to his guns feeling he was right.

        So I suppose one could assume he DOES know what it is like to be a gifted outsider, and the value that outsiders can have to the rest of (this dysfunctional) society. But the question remains: few of us are eminent scientists! So where does OUR value lay? 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m curious about this documentary. Thanks for the link. I hope to watch it when I get a chance.


          • I don’t have a ton of time today, but here are some quick thoughts that I have (will try to say more later). Please feel free to push back:

            In general, I just don’t think “majority tribes” are going to be quick to yield perceived power and control to non-majority “tribes”. Imagine if Martin Luther King Jr. felt he needed acceptance from the majority culture in the South before he started his fight for racial equality. And yet, he had a prophetic word for all humans. I think we, as rainforest minds, can begin to create a stronger society whether we are accepted by society or not. I think it starts with each of us:

            1. Courageously pursuing our own individual healing.
            2. Working together to heal our community and support our wounded.
            3. Becoming coordinated in our efforts to effect positive change, not just for Rainforest Minds, but for all marginalized communities.

            Tribalism seems to suggest that although humans are a tribe, humanity is also a tribe of tribeS. It isn’t helpful to look to the majority culture to find our sense of value and worth. We have to consider which tribes we want to affiliate with and which ones we don’t. I affiliate with the human tribe when I contemplate the universality of human suffering, but I look to my Rainforest Tribe when I contemplate the variety of sufferings common to other Rainforest Minds.

            Liked by 3 people

            • Whoops. Posted this in the wrong spot. 😦

              Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, it starts with each of us. I like your “To Do” list, holbart. Where did you want to post this?


            • You bring up some important points:”1. Courageously pursuing our own individual healing.
              2. Working together to heal our community and support our wounded.”

              These past few years I have really come to appreciate the “wounded healer” principle, the idea that through healing our own wounds we help heal the wounds of others and increase the mental health and morale of the group. It is an ancient archetype that perhaps goes as far back as we do as a species, and I believe it is as powerful and valuable today as it was when tribes were smaller and isolated.

              Looked at from this perspective, the pain of being an outsider may not simply be an unwanted or inconvenient affliction, but could potentially be crucial stage in both the individual’s and the group’s mental/spiritual evolution.

              Liked by 2 people

              • Wounded healer. Yes. Very possible, eh? Humans evolving.


              • Mark,

                My first mental association re: the “wounded healer” is actually Henry Nouwen’s book by the same name, so thanks for associating it with archetypal thinking. I haven’t read much of Jung. I did have to chuckle at one of the references on Wikipedia (have to read the primary sources later): “In Greek mythology, the centaur Chiron was a “Wounded Healer”, after being poisoned with an incurable wound by one of Hercules’s arrows.[4][5] Jung mentioned the Chiron myth “wounding by one’s own arrow means, first of all, the state of introversion”;[6][7]” What introverted rainforest mind couldn’t identify with the idea of wounding oneself with one’s own arrow?!? Lol

                I have received therapy from a therapist who is a wounded healer and one who seems to have little capacity to tolerate his own woundedness. Wikipedia described this type of helper this way: “Jungians warn of the dangers of inflation and splitting in the helping professions, involving projection of the ‘wounded’ pole of the archetype onto the patient alone, with the analyst safely separated off as ‘healer’.[11]” I very much appreciate how Paula makes recommendations about finding a therapist who has done his/her own work. I think it’s critical. A people helper who can’t stay aware and present with his/her own woundedness isn’t a very safe people helper, IMHO. Neither is one who is over-identified with his/her own pain, but at least this type of helper is less likely to project and displace responsibility for what he/she has ownership of onto the client. I’ve met uneducated recovering alcoholics who far surpass some PhD-level professionals when it comes to mental/spiritual evolution. I’m not discounting good, professional training, but simply challenging what our society deems valuable in order to put things in perspective.

                I remember reading in a book on multicultural people helping about three different ways of being in the world: 1. Being, 2. Being and Becoming, and 3. Action. To me, it seems that we live in a culture dominated by action, which is why the person of importance DOES something of significance, like the eminent scientist you reference. I’m not against action, and probably couldn’t get it out of my system if I wanted to, but what if there is also great value in simply learning to BE what we are, somewhat defiantly, in the face of all the cultural sanctions that seek to suppress the authentic self? Just be what you are.

                We seem to live in a pretty narcissistic age, meaning one in which people are more concerned about their appearance and status rather than the substance of who they actually are. I guess this may be a necessary thing, to some extent, given how fast our society moves and how important first impressions are in this technology-based, global society. But our personas of status and prestige can never really produce the kind of connection rainforest minds long for (think Shel Silverstein’s poem, Masks). I sometimes wonder if Rainforest Minds are actually more lonely or if, to some extent, we are just more aware that we are lonely.
                The pain of being an outsider may be, in part, the pain of seeing reality as it really is. This is the ironic gift of the outsider and, perhaps, why outsiders often become wounded healers.

                Liked by 3 people

                • What deep thoughtful conversation is happening here. Of course! You have rainforest minds. Thank you holbart and everyone so much. If I spent time carefully responding to your content, you can imagine, I wouldn’t get much else done. I know you understand. I’ll provide the stimulus and the venue and you all take it from there.

                  Liked by 1 person

    • Mark – I managed to catch this show when it aired on my local PBS (which doesn’t always come in for me – sadness). I think we just don’t have the answers yet. Our species is also not focused on our own evolutionary success which tends to be an assumption when dealing with other species. Scientists tend to see that the species is working together for the benefit of the whole. I think it would be a very large stretch to say that humans utilize their members to the greatest benefit of the society as a whole with each member filling a necessary role for the betterment of the group. As such, outliers like us, along with many others don’t have a meaningful role in our society.

      Outside of the isolation of our group, I really loved the documentary. It is fascinating to look at eusocial species, especially given that we are the only mammalian example.

      On a related note, I often postulate what it would take to get our society motivated to a common goal. I’m too young to have been involved in the space race, so I naively idolize that as a time when our society came together to accomplish a common goal. I don’t think the goal itself is exactly important (although it would be nice to see it be something that is not destructive to our planet), but what would it take to drive all of us into roles that allow our species to accomplish wonderful feats again? Would doing so give rainforest minded and others a more meaningful cultural role?

      Liked by 3 people

      • Great discussion, you all. Thank you. I hope others chime in. I wonder if climate change will be the motivator.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Maybe the zombie apocalypse will motivate people. Especially when they find out the horrific truth that IT ALREADY HAPPENED! It happened before recorded history, so long ago that we have all but forgotten except in myths across many cultures that feature vampires, werewolves and other monstrous, cannibalistic creatures that used to be human!

          How else to explain zombies’ single-minded drive to destroy and consume everything in their path? How else to explain their widespread apathy, lack of compassion and no self-awareness? How else to explain their hunger for BRAINS!!? You see, if the zombies eat all the big, juicy, powerful brains, then there will be no more smart people left to stop them from completely over-running the earth.

          So lock up your brains, gifted people! The zombies are coming for them and they need to be stopped!! 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

      • KtCallsita wrote: “On a related note, I often postulate what it would take to get our society motivated to a common goal.”

        As a New Zealander, and as the Rugby World Cup is currently playing… I’d have to answer with ‘rugby’.


        Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for your short and sweet post reminding us that it’s important for all of us to understand and accept ourselves, deeply. Love that word, “deeply.” Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Acceptance is so important. Thank you, Paula!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Your Kids Are Gifted. Should You Tell Them? | Your Rainforest Mind

  10. What a beautiful analogy! Im having a hard time to accept that g***** label (sorry, I cant write it) that I discovered now in my late 20´s, and I´m struggling too much to accept. I´m in grad school now, where all your flaws are always reminded in the most cruel way, and my complexity/sensitivity is absolutely not a plus ( I always feel inadequate, “too much”, bosses saying that I need to be different and “grow over it”, etc). And I don´t feel the right to call myself g***** if i´m not the next einstein, people would laugh at me and point me as a ridiculous show off. But I know that a life of pain should have a reason. Now I feel I have an infinite potential, and I want to use that complexity to do something good to the world, but it is still my secret. Keep doing this amazing job!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: If You Haven’t Achieved Greatness, Can You Be Gifted? | Your Rainforest Mind

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