Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

How Can Sensitive Souls Change the World?


photo courtesy of Teddy Kelley, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy of Teddy Kelley, Unsplash, CC

“We stand on the threshold of a great unknown. Individually and collectively, we launch into an uncertain future—at once, both perilous and saturated with possibility. Our accustomed, culturally-determined roles and identities are inadequate to navigate the sea change of our time. Our collective journey requires a radical shift in the human relationship with the community of all life—a cultural transformation so profound that future humans might regard it as an evolution of consciousness. Safe passage requires each of us to offer our full magnificence to the world.” ~Animas Valley Institute

How do you offer your “full magnificence” to the world?

Because now would be a great time to do such a thing. Don’t you agree?

I have a few ideas:

You have to believe that you have magnificence.

Yes, I know. That won’t be easy. Maybe it feels impossible. But I know that you’ve got it. I’m sure of it. And somewhere, buried deep inside, you know it, too. You’ll need to find a way to dive into your heart or into your soul or into wherever your magnificence lives, and touch it. Gently. Tenderly.

All you need is to get a glimpse of it. For starters. A teensy weensy glimpse.

Perhaps you can find it through yoga or mindfulness practices or painting or dancing or music or acupuncture or martial arts or excursions in nature or prayer or shamanic journeying or poetry or journaling or reading or gazing at the night sky, or Reiki, or running, or watching your child sleep, or psychotherapy or bungee jumping. Or some combination of these or other things.

It could take a while. But it’ll be worth it. Trust me on this.

Once you get a teensy weensy glimpse, you’ll want to expand your connection. To do this, you’ll need to understand that: Your magnificence is something you are, not something you do. And: recognizing your magnificence is not the same as conceit or arrogance or self-centeredness or grandiosity. It’s actually the opposite. It’s finding that place within you that’s all about love. Love and compassion. Love for yourself: your mistakes, your failures, your successes,  your disabilities, your persnicketiness, your idealism, your sensitivities, your intuitions, your overexcitabilities, your obsessions, your perfectionism, your loneliness, and your bad hair days.

And love for your family, your community, your world, and your planet.

I know. I’m asking a lot.

If you’ve grown up in a dysfunctional family with chainsaw relatives, for example, you might feel less than magnificent.

If you were bullied in school or teased for being too sensitive or too curious or too everything, you might feel less than magnificent.

If you don’t fit into the “acceptable” ethnic group or race or sexual orientation or body size or religion or personality or age, you might feel less than magnificent.

So, here’s another idea. This comes from an exercise shared by Jean Houston in a workshop I attended many years ago: Take a quiet moment and create an image of your Wise Self (some people call it your future self). Write and/or draw and describe him/her. In detail. Then feel into him/her deeply with all of your senses.  Picture him/her standing in front of you. What does s/he have to tell you? Then step into him/her and feel that Wise Self in your body. Breathe slowly and deepen your connection. Use all of your senses. Stay with the feeling and notice if s/he has any more messages for you. Know that you can reconnect with your Wise Self at any time. It will get easier with practice.

Once you’ve met and believe in your magnificence (remember this is a process!), I’m betting that it will tell you how to share it with the world. But we can talk about that in a future post!


To my bloggEEs: Let us know your thoughts. Your comments make this blog so much richer. We all appreciate hearing about your feelings and experiences so please share! What did your Wise Self tell you? And for those of you who’ve met your magnificence and are offering it to the world, please share your strategies and guidance with us! And thanks to Animas Institute for the beautiful quote.

Oh, and, if you’re reading my book, let us know how it’s going.





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.

51 thoughts on “How Can Sensitive Souls Change the World?

  1. “Your magnificence is something you are, not something you do. And: recognizing your magnificence is not the same as conceit or arrogance or self-centeredness or grandiosity. It’s actually the opposite.”

    Lovely! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am already re-reading your book, Paula, because I loved it so much! I wish your blog, book, and metaphor had come into my life sooner, because so much of this I had to figure out the really hard way. Though knowing I was an RFM while growing up helped, it wasn’t until I was in college, and even a few years after, that I found helpful information via books and the internet. However, having done things the harder way and reading your words now, I find it all less urgent and easier to reflect on, and I am finally at a point in my life where I am exploring what I think is my magnificence (teaching and working with youth). Though I still struggle with severe imposter syndrome, I can at least realize that I am making a difference in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad that you can recognize the difference that you’re making, Stephanie, even with the impostor syndrome. And I love that you’re reading and re-reading my book! I’ve heard from other people that they’re reading it more than once. So gratifying!! 🙂


  3. What nice thoughts in the month of the Immaculated Heart of the Virgin Mary

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What nice thoughts in hte month of the Immaculated Heart of the Virgin Mary


  5. Jeez, Paula, it’s like you’re in my head, as always. Thank you so much for sharing inspiration from years of cultivated wisdom!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m already seeing signs that I’m believing in my magnificence more, since reading your book, Paula. This really is a lifelong process, isn’t it? I thought I was pretty sorted already, but I’m noticing the way I present myself to others is subtly evolving, becoming more authentic.

    I share what I notice with my children. Of course they are on their own paths, but I hope that my modelling will help them appreciate themselves more, and earlier. Thank you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely. Lifelong, Lucinda. When you have a rainforest mind, I think there’s always the desire to grow and go deeper and expand. I also see how important a parent’s modeling is for the kids as I work with adults and teens. What you do to understand and take care of yourself makes a huge difference for your kids, even if you don’t see it or talk about it!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I appreciate you sharing this post.Really thank you! Cool.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. im so addicted to this blog its like you have known me all my life! i cant believe there is atleast one person who understands how i think and doesnt think im “dumb”. thank you so much

    ps. where are some common places a 21 year old female would be able to find other rainforest minds?

    Liked by 1 person

    • What I generally tell folks is that one way to find other RFMs is to go do the things you love to do and, now that you know what a RFM is like, use your intuition to find them at that activity. Then get brave and start talking to them. Make sense? Things like audubon groups or astronomical societies can be places to find RFMs. Book groups at independent bookstores. Also, if you like ballroom dancing, you may have read my posts about the Argentine tango.

      If you attend something and most of the people are older, you can still find friends; and once you know them, you might be able to meet their kids who are your age. OK, J? Be open to friends of all ages. I hope this helps. Thanks for reading and sharing!


    • Oh, yes, J. There’s also the online group If you go to their Facebook group, you can introduce yourself and ask if there are any 20-somethings in the group.


  9. Paula, when you posted this I needed time to digest it for awhile. I coincidentally had been recently reading about Greta Garbo who may have been the first person to become famous for being a “Highly Sensitive Person”.

    I think her and I might have a lot in common: highly sensitive and extremely socially reserved, avoiding the spotlight to the point of being reclusive while at the same time having a seemingly incongruous confidence in our talents and ability to become very charismatic in certain circumstances.

    She also suffered the “slings and arrows” of her peers her who either didn’t understand her sensitivity and introversion, or were jealous of her talents and success. Poor Greta felt compelled to retire from the movies at the young age of 36 and subsequently avoided the public eye for nearly 50 years. More often than not I feel like giving up like Greta did.

    But you are right! The world needs sensitive people, maybe now more than ever, and I have made it my mission to somehow help initiate that change. But the paradox of change is that people don’t want change nearly as much as they say they do, and many (if not most) are more apt to be inspired to change by extroverted leaders who have worked their way up within the old system, not introverted loners who remain hopelessly outside of it, which of course is not really change.

    Hmmmm… I hope others share their two cents on this paradox.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark, I haven’t read about Greta Garbo. Very interesting to hear your thoughts about this. Yes, what would an introverted leader look like? Are you familiar with Susan Cain’s work? If not, I wonder if her website/blog would have articles on this. She writes about the benefits of introversion.


      • I was only vaguely aware of the Garbo legend of her being an eccentric hermit. But I recently came across one of her movies and was impressed with how different she was from other movie stars. This inspired me to do some research — it helps me to read about others I can relate to, whether they still be alive or having passed long ago.

        One anecdote I can relate to was when a man asked her on a Friday for a lunch date the next Monday. She replied “How will I know if I will be hungry on Monday?” haha
        I think the underlying meaning of what she was saying was “I don’t know if I will be feeling sociable on Monday.” But of course, how can you ever explain that to someone you don’t know very well without sounding crazy?

        So to answer your question, yes I have read Susan Cain’s work along with many others on the topic of introversion, sensitivity, shyness etc etc., some of them many times over. I’ve tried meditation, yoga, workbooks, audio tapes, online CBT courses and have probably forgotten many more things that I tried in an effort to come to grips with my sensitivity.

        Many of them were comforting in a broad intellectual sense, but nothing has really “sunk in” as far as giving me any real, practical skills to help me deal with my sensitivity. Eventually I began to wonder if perhaps a fate similar to Garbo’s was unavoidable, and as such the best that I could do was to try and accept this as a challenge that makes me work harder to find a way around. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Keep thinking about this, Mark. I’m intrigued with the idea of introverted leadership. If you continue to do research on the topic, let us know what you find out. How do highly sensitive people have influence beyond their families or communities? Who are the people you’re reading about who are role models for this?? Thanks for sharing.


          • Thank you for your enthusiasm and encouragement. It’s something I have put a lot of thought into. I never thought of myself as a leader but I feel maybe I was put on that path by fate or accident.

            I don’t mean to trash talk extroverts because I have my extroverted moments, I just meant to say extroverts may have an easier time talking their way into positions of influence. Take Trump. Talking seems to be all he does: “I’m a great speaker. I know words. Big words. Tremendous words…”

            IMO the problem with leaders like Trump is that they tell that same old story that basically says “Thinking is hard. Thinking is overrated. Give me the power and I’ll do all that yucky, hard thinking for you.”

            Maybe that is where introverts and sensitive people can lead: by telling stories. New stories about ourselves that replace the old stories that don’t serve us anymore. Stories that inspire and empower people to become more active, independent thinkers that are less likely to be mesmerized by glib leaders.

            There seems to be a small but growing movement of this new kind of storyteller, not just in the arts or entertainment but also in business and elsewhere.

            Liked by 2 people

  10. Mark, Paula, I’m enjoying following this discussion. My son and I are luxuriating in an extremely introverted week together while my extroverted daughter is away with Scouts. It’s got me thinking how content we are with little ‘real life’ social interaction.

    A few years ago when all my energy was taken up caring for little children, I took comfort in Eckhart Tolle’s description of ‘frequency holders’:

    “Some people are called upon to do great things externally in this world by creating some new structure that reflects their awakening consciousness. Other people, whom I call the frequency holders, are not called to go out into the world and create great big things externally. Their purpose is to let consciousness flow into whatever they do – to do everything in a sacred manner.”

    (Source:, and see Tolle’s book A New Earth)

    Now my children are older and I have more free time, I like to think I lead by what I write. And as my kids get older still, I will go back to doing therapy and coaching. I’m not sure this is the kind of leadership you had in mind, Mark, but it’s what comes to my mind when I think of my own desire to change the world.

    I resonate so much with that Garbo quote, btw. I hate committing to social arrangements in advance for precisely the reason!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for reminding me of Tolle’s work. I’m going to see what he’s writing now. I read A New Earth some time ago and found it to be insightful and helpful. Always good to hear from you, Lucinda.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think writing is a great way for introverts to lead by telling new stories that replace the outdated ones. After all, with smartphones, texting and everything on the internet, nearly everyone is a storyteller or is influenced by stories.

      A couple books I have come across about the topic of changing the world through stories are “Winning the Story Wars” (while the techniques are specifically aimed at marketing they are applicable to other areas), and “Telling the Story: the Heart and Soul of Successful Leadership”. I cannot vouch for the second title yet because I just started reading it, but it’s about something the author has dubbed “Narrative Leadership”.

      Here is an example of a story that undermines and replaces outdated assumptions: as you likely know, some gifted people are “twice exceptional” or 2e for short, having giftedness combined with a handicap or learning disability. Many of these 2e people struggle to find or maintain steady employment despite their talents and the intense effort they might put into fitting in or staying positive and hopeful that things will somehow turn around.

      A software developer in Denmark noticed that some autistic people, while completely unsuited to corporate office cultural due to their social difficulties, had characteristics that made them extremely good at testing software. So he began to hire them and made some changes so that they didn’t feel pressured to fit into the social structure of the company, and he found that they easily outperformed the non-autistic people he had previously employed to test software. So he hired more!

      It is important to note that many of these people had been relegated to living their entire lives on welfare or disability until one person ignored their handicaps and focused instead on their strengths, and they not only thrived in their positions but made their employer a lot of money too!

      The current story most of us in the western world tell ourselves is that everybody has to find their own way to a successful, productive life. But this story ignores the fact some people simply do not fit into the current system and its narrow parameters of what is assumes a productive citizen must fit within, so these people need a little bit of “out of the box thinking” by someone willing to ignore that old story in order to write a new one that helps them reveal their true potential.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Mark, your reply was so interesting and also helpful.

        Your story about the Danish software company is just what I was looking for to use in a presentation I’m giving soon. My son is 2e (intense OEs and dysgraphia) – I’ve home-educated him since he was 5 because I didn’t like the story his school was beginning to tell about him.

        And I’ve just downloaded ‘Winning the Story Wars’ as an audiobook – thank you!

        Liked by 2 people

        • Wow that makes me feel good that I can help. It’s amazing how storytelling works. Someone told a new story, then I repeated it, and it in turn inspires you to tell it. Maybe the next person to hear it will be someone who has the power to change education or hiring policies!

          Liked by 2 people

        • OH! I got so lost in my excitement that I forgot to request that you share what you think about the book (if you feel like it)!

          I don’t pretend that book is the answers to all our prayers, I am merely heartened that a book written by marketing people has much more than just sales in mind. No world, no sales. (that’s my clumsy quote).

          Liked by 1 person

          • Now *I’m* feeling positive and excited, LOL. Yes, we never know where our stories will end up.

            I’m enjoying the book very much so far. I like his attention / emotion / credibility ‘formula’ (for want of a better word – I’m tired) and I’ve definitely been guilty of some of the story sins. Looking forward to finding out more, and yes I will come back when I’ve finished it – as long as that’s okay with you, Paula. 😉

            Liked by 2 people

          • I loved ‘Winning the Story Wars’. Listened to much of it multiple times and did all the exercises, which gave me much more clarity to help me with my blogging and presenting. And yes, how refreshing for something like that to come from the marketing world. Thank you so much for recommending it, Mark! How are you finding ‘Telling the Story…’?

            Liked by 2 people

            • Now I’m intrigued! I may have to look into this. 🙂

              Liked by 2 people

            • I’m still on the first few chapters of “Telling the Story”, but my main impression is that the main difference between it and Story Wars is that the focus is not on marketing but on organizations. It is refreshing to notice that right away the author tackles traditional preconceptions of what “leadership” is, and how new ways of defining leadership and implementing it are needed. So this seems right in line with what is being discussed here.

              Liked by 2 people

              • I want to clear up what I said about “Telling the Story” being geared towards organizations.

                The author also states “Drath and Palus (cited authors) talk about leadership as meaning-making in a community of practice which usefully reminds us that leadership has a context and that context is not necessarily an organizational one. I want to reinforce that point, because to restrict it to the domain of organizations is unwittingly to fall back into the dominant discourse of leadership as being ‘an activity developed and played out in interlocking elites of the military, business and politics’, as opposed to being a universal facet of human interaction in which we all participate from time to time.”

                As someone with many ideas, but lacking the extroverted willingness to fight with others in a traditionally structured organization just to have those ideas heard, that is good to hear.

                Liked by 3 people

  11. Hi Paula, Had really bad day,fell in road and bus stopped 2ft. from my head;got away with swollen right wrist and really shaken nerves. So was NOT expecting to laugh till I saw your words ‘chainsaw relatives!’,Christ,that’s mine to a T. Will read your book for 2nd time to get a lift. I’m guy who said your name of site was ‘bloody cool”, and it still is!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. “create an image of your Wise Self (some people call it your future self). Write and/or draw and describe him/her. In detail”
    What a wonderful suggestion. I think it is something I’ll do.
    But to look more closely at the human condition in the age of extinction and where we stand on the brink of utter destruction by our own hands and inventions, it has occurred to me that part of the problem, for writers in particular, is that our language is a repository of the past. Every word, encapsulates a need, urge, want, desire, imagining from a time when the world seemed limitless and that very unboundedness has now limited our own ability to get across what our entire existence now requires. I don’t know how to evolve our language so that it can assist us rather than being similar to a backward looking lens, forever revealing our past and obscuring our future.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Hello, I’m just catching up on my reading, & if it’s not too late, to offer a suggestion for Mark. I have heard from at least a couple of sources that Abraham Lincoln was a sensitive introvert, in fact validated that observation to my own satisfaction through reading and studying his life. Indeed he was a man who overcame tremendous adversity, becoming an icon of mindful insight, yet still seemed to be able to reflect upon that quiet inner voice of reason and truth. I think his public life took a lot out of him, and his personal life was an equal challenge. I think of his thoughtful influence as we muddle through this strange, loud, incongruous election year. I agree with Paula that we are living in a world that is hungry for the influence of a sensitive introvert who leads. Seems like an oxymoron in ways, but the more I think about it, the more it makes good sense. I can’t wait to learn more about Greta Garbo.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It’s helpful to know this about Abraham Lincoln. Now I’m curious to read more about him. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment and suggestion. Politics was never my thing – I am more interested in people and the underlying forces that inform their politics – but nevertheless I now want to learn more about Lincoln!

      As for leadership, I won’t be standing at a lectern making speeches any time soon. So if I am to be any kind of leader it will be as an artist, which means I may offer (a kind of) leadership, but it is also possible it may not be received well, or if it is it may be long after I am gone.

      I have been reading a lot about this lately. “Brain Pickings” has a lot of articles about this topic. For example, James Baldwin wrote about the artist as “the incorrigible disturber of the peace”: “Baldwin considers the unique position of the artist as a challenger of society’s protective delusions”

      Speaking of artists, disturbing the peace, and Garbo, I am fascinated by her not only because I believe we have a lot in common, but because she broke many of the old rules. (Which is what true leaders do, right?)

      Not much has changed in the better part of a century since she was the biggest star on the planet. It was widely assumed then – as it is now – that successful people should naturally revel in their success. Most people could not understand how the strong, mesmerizing performer they saw onscreen could possibly be so shy and withdrawn in real life.

      But she was, and few were able to make the connection between her sensitivity and her acting ability. Which makes me wonder “how could they NOT?!?” To me, her sensitivity is what enabled her to be so effective as a performer. I mean, just imagine Schwarzenegger trying to play all those action roles with Woody Allen’s physique and mannerisms. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • I honestly think the kind of leader that is so desperately needed wouldn’t be making lectures. We have enough of those! I love the idea of making art that might change the world, it would a new kind of softer, more introspective leadership. The right ideas might encourage sensitive others to come out and speak their truth! Dare we imagine? The arts are a wonderful place to start. We need less lecturing and more inspirational dialogue, beauty, fairness and encouragement to be the change we’re hoping to see.

        I love Brain Pickings and look forward to their weekly articles, musings and encouragement. Maria Popova always makes me wonder, and discover new ways of thinking about things. I understand she has a lovely article on how our dreams illuminate our lives & a reading list on TED:

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Hi Paula, in full disclosure, I haven’t had an opportunity to read your offering to our gifted community (Your Rain Forest Mind) yet. Your readers seem to relate to your warm and fuzzy approach to Adult Giftedness which is obviously rooted in an academic studies opposed to actuality. Giftedness can also be an insidious undiscovered condition that acts as a catalyst for child abuse, depression and social isolation! Sadly, the realties of undiscovered intellectual giftedness is not as marketable as the feel good version.

    Warmest regards,



    • Hi Richard. Certainly, there’s a shadow side to giftedness, like there is to so much in life. I actually do write about depression and social isolation. And I’ve had clients who’ve been abused as children by their highly gifted parents. It’s a very complicated topic. I’m actually not an academic but a practitioner, working with gifted folks over many years. So that’s where my ideas come from. I appreciate hearing your views. And, yep, warm and fuzzy. That’s me!

      Liked by 2 people

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