Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

Multipotentiality: Are You Overwhelmed By Your Too Muchness?


photo courtesy of Timothy Paul Smith, Unsplash

When you were five, you were asked what you wanted to be when you grew up. You answered something like: a paleontologist entomologist astronaut photographer hula hoop champion. And today? Not much has changed. Except now, you want to be a marine biologist musician organic farmer poet yoga instructor former hula hoop champion.

It didn’t help that people told you, “You can do and be anything you want! You’re so lucky!”

You didn’t feel lucky. You still don’t.

You feel overwhelmed. Guilty. Frozen.

You are afflicted with multipotentiality. Or as Emilie Wapnick says, “You’re a multipotentialite.”

It’s one of your too muchnesses. Kind of like how you have so much enthusiasm for learning, gobs of intensity, 100s of ideas for new projects, extraordinary perception, extreme curiosity, deep sensitivity, wide empathy, a gazillion questions. See? Kind of like that. (Sometimes these are called overexcitabilities. Find out about OEs here.)

You’re the fire hose to everyone else’s garden hose.

When it comes to multipotentiality, it means that you might have changed your major in college several times or you were in college an extra several years or you didn’t go to college because you couldn’t choose just one.

It means that you can’t “follow your bliss” or “find your passion” because there are just too many so where the heck do you start?

And it means that you feel guilty. It’s embarrassing. Too much of a good thing. People want what you have. How can you complain about having multiple interests and abilities? It means that you believe (falsely) that you must not do anything very deeply since you’re such a busy dabbler. It means that your resume is suspect because you change jobs every 2-5 years when you get bored and need to move on.

Here’s the thing: It’s time to realize that a rainforest mind is very very full of life. And all of that life is important to the well-being of the planet. So, it’s not something to reject, or shrink, or chop down. It’s something to manage, understand and celebrate.  

For specific ideas on what to do, read this postthis post and this one. And if you want to join a community of multipotentialites, check out Emily Wapnick’s site.

And, of course, know that here at Your Rainforest Mind, we love and are grateful for all of your many muchnesses.


To my bloggEEs: Are you a multipotentialite? What’s that like for you? How else do you feel like too much?

This post is part of a blog hop from the wonderful resource for parents of gifted kids: hoagiesgifted. See many other great posts about multipotentiality by clicking on the image.

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.

95 thoughts on “Multipotentiality: Are You Overwhelmed By Your Too Muchness?

  1. Dear Paula, thank you for your wonderful articles! As a multipotentialite I have learnt to appreciate my multiple abilities, although I’m still searching for a better way of using them. Emotional overwhelm, however, is something that I still find quite difficult to deal with, especially when I’m around other people who don’t quite understand what’s going on.

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  2. School “helped” me decide that science wasn’t for me. All subjects science-related in high school were taught by teachers who were either absent all the time, not really there (I had a Maths teacher who painted her nails in class! and her classes were basically, do ex. 1 to 20 on pages XXX-XXX) or explained just the very basics. My older brother went to a school with an orientation in science, and I was really wowed at the complexity of the books he studied. I might borrow them one of these days to take a look! But I had the idea that it was difficult. I was smart, but not that much.
    If I have to be honest, school also taught me bad habits. I was intellectually curious (always been, always will be) but I also knew I didn’t really have to study to pass tests. So, most of the time, I didn’t. I just reviewed the material a couple of hours before the exam, and that was enough. This had the unintended effect that, in college, whenever there was some intellectual challenge that seemed too hard, I backed out in panic.
    At age eighteen, I was faced with three distinct options. Literature (I always wanted to be a writer), translation (reading and languages have always been my passion) and psychology (the human mind has always fascinated me). In the end, I chose translation for the simple reason that, if reading is my top hobby, and writing my second, I could get paid for doing the two things I loved the most. I could also specialize in any field(s) of choice, and hopefully be able to change when bored.
    It was a good choice. I’ve learned a lot and derived lots of satisfaction from my translation job. I also worked as an English teacher for many years, met lots of great people and learned from them.
    However, the frustration of having too many options available and not having time to pursue them all is still on the horizon. I have this constantly nagging feeling I should sit down and write a novel, but I keep procrastinating. Still, I always give my mind some challenges. I learned Italian and Portuguese on my own (Internet is great for this) and now, for example, I’m watching neuroscience videos in Italian so I can kill two birds with one stone. 🙂

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    • I’ve heard that often, backing out in panic when something might be too hard, because you didn’t have an opportunity to work hard at something(s) at an early age. It can be scary to “lose” your identity as a fast learner. I love that idea, watching neuroscience videos in a language that you’re learning! Ha! Thank you for commenting, Carina.

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    • School does that to a lot of people. It kind of blows your mind when you realise that school has never been about education, or learning, or personal growth; it has always been about controlling the populace. Sounds crazy, I know, but it’s true. Obviously, there are amazing teachers who do their best within a system that is fundamentally oppressive, and sometimes kids’ talents are genuinely nurtured, but that seems to be the exception. Check out John Taylor Gatto’s book Dumbing Us Down, and also this awesome Ted talk by Sir Ken Robinson:

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      • YES! One of my fav TED talks was How Schools Kill Creativity. Ken Robinson so nails it!
        I used to be an English teacher who provided in-company training. My best experiences were at places where I was NOT expected to follow a strict syllabus of X units (or a whole book) in a year. When I was allowed to spend a whole class on a single page (sometimes barely finishing a single exercise, or not even opening the book at all!) because some interesting topic came up and the students could discuss in depth, and I could teach related vocabulary and make corrections here and there but basically let the discussion flow wherever it went. When I was pushed to “produce” measurable results that were simply not realistic (nor according to my rainforest mind which likes to go off on tangents, LOL), neither me nor the students had such a rich learning experience. When teachers and students are given freedom, you create an environment where *more* actual learning takes place. Positive emotional memories will also increase your appetite for more learning. 🙂

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        • Hear, hear! I briefly considered teaching as a profession (after receiving one of the most wonderful compliments I’ve ever received, which is that I’d be a good teacher because I was so enthusiastic about a subject and enjoyed sharing it with people…never mind that I didn’t major in the subject!), but I know so many people who went into the field and had their souls crushed by standardized tests and preset curricula. These days, I’m indulging my interest in what Barbara Sher calls “popularizing” – which is very close to teaching – by putting together talks on subjects that interest me and giving them to interested audiences in places with pretty low barriers to entry. This is so energizing! Just imagine if proper teaching could be like that….

          I went to a Montessori school through 4th grade, and was shocked when I got to regular public school that we had to sit there and all do the same thing. I told my mom I had a stomach ache every day for a year. Truly awful. And it doesn’t get much better. I recommend a book called Excellent Sheep to see what a non-creative approach to education creates in terms of “elite college students” – it speaks to the results of the intellectual dependency that Gatto cites (judging from comments on his book on Amazon; I’ve not read it, but thank you for sharing it!)

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      • Thanks for sharing, Holly. I’ve heard of Gatto and am now curious to find out more. I’ve seen a TED talk by Robinson and loved it.


    • Carina, you sound like you would be an excellent mentor for a young person struggling with multipotentiality. It’s great that you were able to find a way to put together a few of your interests. In my case, I wanted to be a writer, and was interested in everything else as well, so I tried to figure out how to do get paid while I wrote about everything. I wish I’d known someone who did science writing or something…but instead I opted to just get a job that Pays The Bills and seemed compatible with writing – library science. It was a so-so match for me, but your way of thinking about it would have led me to something even better, I think.

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      • I also wanted to be a writer more than anything. I started writing when I was eight, and a year or two later I finished a “novel” that was around 70 pages long, typed on an old Remington. It was probably rubbish, but I’m amazed about how at that time in my life I so believed in my dream. Little by little, self-doubts about my talent and passion began to take over. My imagination didn’t get crushed by my fears (my characters still talk to each other and share their “lives” with me, so to speak), but I lost the habit of writing down my thoughts and eventually this became fully blocked. I wish I’d had some understanding person (mentor, therapist) to share my struggles with. Perhaps I would have remained confident about in my creative writing skills. The worst part is that deep down a part of me knows I could make it. The potential is there. But I keep procrastinating and not facing my fears. Yes, having a mentor can be so important, especially when you have a dream which feels gigantic and you feel so little!

        I don’t know if I would be such a good mentor myself, but I know that my struggles are not that uncommon because when I share them I get a lot of Me toos. I have the hope that by talking about them, some other people will somehow relate, feel less lonely or weird, and perhaps even feel inspired to share their own difficulties. No, we are not nuts at all. 🙂

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  3. Paula, I really like how you reframe multipotentiality as something to manage and celebrate to offset the guilt and burden so many of the people experience. Great ideas.

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  4. Multipotentntiality, a blessing or curse? As a blessing, it allows gifted persons, both physically gifted and intellectually to move about a verity of disciplines with some ease. As a curse, those intellectually gifted persons have a tendency to become bored or distracted easily, thereby hampering higher development or acknowledgement in a single field. I am not sure there is a so called “good fit” for any intellectual or physically gifted person. Chronic curiosity may have killed the cat, but it also distracts most gifted persons from excelling in a single discipline! Thank you Paula. Richard

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    • What about excelling in multiple disciplines?? 🙂 Thanks, Richard.

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      • I don’t know, it would probably depend on one’s interpretation of what it means to excel, or to be exceptional at a given activity or subject. But I do get your point! Thanks, Paula.

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        • “Chronic curiosity may have killed the cat”. Grin. I cannot tell you just how much time I’ve spent on “research time” in Google to avoid the very task I’m too scared to tackle. 😉 If I wasn’t able to concentrate for extended periods (though I’m easily bored and usually won’t) I would think I have ADD. And technology feeds my addiction to reading just one more article. I mean, it’s so easy…

          Incidentally, that curiosity once landed me the perfect job. Because I had self-taught myself Portuguese, I was offered a job opportunity needing proficiency in that language which was amazing and well-paid. So you never know where your apparently “just for the sake of it” pursuits may pay off even financially. I also like to think that every time I learn something new, I acquire some soft skills and develop my brain in ways that may be only indirectly related to my job or life, but will still be helpful. And sometimes the very satisfaction of knowledge is enough. Though success in multiple disciplines would be great! 🙂

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        • The other thing multipotentiality brings if you let it keep going is an understanding of the connections between subjects. My husband and I are both blessed/cursed with it, depending on your point of view, as is our eldest. It can make decision-making at certain junctures difficult, but over-specializing can be a bit dangerous. From my perspective, too much focus on one part of one subject seems like going about life wearing blinkers. You’re going to miss a lot, and some of it is probably important. All of us also have diverse and creative hobbies, as life is not all about work.

          I started in the arts and humanities and moved to math at the point that math became all about logic and proving one’s case rather than about calculations. Because I’m comfortable with writing, I’m able to incorporate it into the math courses I teach in an effective manner. Disciplinary blending such as the incorporation of writing and such as building learning communities (linking courses from multiple disciplines together so that the students can tackle linked problems from a variety of angles) has been shown to have a high positive impact on learning in STEM and has a stronger effect on learners from under-represented groups. My ability to work across disciplinary lines has made me a more effective teacher at the post-secondary level.

          My husband flitted around STEM and, after earning his PhD in chemical physics, settled on high performance computing. His background makes him quite valuable, as he understands what traits the scientists and engineers using the high performance machines will find useful. This allows him to build flexible systems that fit their needs well. It also means that he can communicate well across disciplines, helping scientists from other fields understand the benefits and limitations of different programming approaches and different system architectures.

          I’m interested to see how my son blends his passions and talents in his studies and, later, in his career.

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  5. Can’t hear this enough. Thanks again Paula for reminding us of the positivity in having many potentials.

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  6. “You’re the fire hose to everyone else’s garden hose.” What a great description! And, yes, thanks for mentioning the embarrassment. So many people interpret honesty about one’s multipotentialities as bragging, when honestly, myself and most multipotentialites I know struggle with claiming it all.

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    • Heather, you’ve made such an interesting point about bragging. First day in first grade, I bragged to the teacher that I’d taught myself how to read though I’d received no formal training either in kinder or by my family. She rolled her eyes. My classmates didn’t take it too well either. I soon learned the lesson, and it didn’t take long to feel very inadequate about being so different from the rest. Feeling superior in a sense because learning seemed so easy to me, and at the same time so socially awkward. Being bullied at school and misunderstood by my parents didn’t help. 😦

      From my own experience and what I’ve read, gifted girls (I suppose some men too) tend to undervalue their own intelligence from about age six, and then hide their talents to fit in. Many grow unaware of their own giftedness. I was aware because my parents were always pointing that out and showing me off among friends and neighbors, and yet because of my parents’ lack of knowledge about giftedness (aside from the media stereotypes which show a very simplistic view), the emotional oversensitivity of giftedness became a big issue.

      As a young girl, I also seriously believed that boys were smarter than girls, and that’s why most scientists were men. My parents never even thought that I could pursue a similar education to my brother (something I probably wouldn’t have chosen anyway, but now I consider a fascinating, unchartered territory). For me, they chose the business orientation, my least favorite option. I still liked school because I love learning in general, but I’m thinking how much better it is to encourage our children to explore THEIR interests, and see where that leads them. I believe we should work hard to encourage girls especially, who seem to need it the most.

      Nowadays, I obviously don’t go about saying I’m smart or multitalented… I just speak my mind (cautiously, never revealing too much) and some people notice. I work hard and strive for excellence, but I because of my lack of confidence and not really knowing how to “market myself” I must have lost many job opportunities. Yes, it’s a struggle, not only because we have insecurities, but because we also know that when we stand out too much, the monster of envy raises its ugly head. I once lost a job for that very reason.

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      • Carina. I wonder if when you were in first grade if you weren’t bragging but just proud of yourself. As a 6 year old, you just may have been excited about it and thought that your teacher would be, too. I’m glad to hear that you’re speaking your mind now and we’re all benefitting here from your sharing. So, thanks!


        • Of course, you’re right there! Though a part of my motives were “See how outstanding I am”, it is also true that I was unaware I was bragging, and excitement was probably the main reason while I “spilled the beans”. I also think I was in a sense compensating for a deep-seated insecurity. I wanted to be valued and accepted, and it seemed what was valued the most at home (especially by my dad, the family genius) was my intelligence, so I just assumed smart was cool for everyone else.

          Nowadays, while I love being intellectually gifted and admire people who are much smarter than me (I’m among the moderate bunch who may not make it to Mensa if tested), I consider intelligence is only one side of who I am. I believe our gift can be used to make the world a better place or it can also prove destructive (and self-destructive) if not handled correctly. So all in all, my life goal is to use all of the gifts I have (and the ones I can develop), not just my IQ, to make a difference in people. I will show my gift when it’s useful but I try to remember it’s not (just) about me but about making life better for other people who are struggling, just as I am, to make sense of life. 🙂

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    • Yes, I don’t see much bragging going on either. Thanks for the comment Heather.


  7. My doctor says: “If only we could somehow get you 10 million dollars and a laboratory on an island with lots of nature and privacy, you’d be fine. You’d get busy churning out all kinds of great things.” He gets me and he also gets that most others don’t, and that this is a constant source of loneliness, guilt and shame.

    To me, one of the things about multipotentiality that is both a gift and a curse is that you can see a much bigger picture than most “specialists”, who may have somewhat tunnel vision.

    It is a gift because it allows you to connect seemingly unconnected things together, which makes problem solving and innovation easier, which can be fun, fulfilling, and if you’re lucky, financially rewarding.

    But it is a curse because it can make you into an iconoclast for whom little of the human-made world contains much value or meaning, and this can offend or irritate even the most open-minded people.

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    • I’m so happy that you have a doc who gets you, Mark.


      • Not so fast…when he finds that 10 million bucks for me, THEN we can celebrate! haha

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          • He’s the first doctor I ever saw who questioned the prevailing thinking that one must be “disordered” to have anxiety, depression, ADHD, etc. It has taken us a long time to get to this point, but many others also get misdiagnosed multiple times before their giftedness is recognized, if ever, which of course is a tragedy. So I am thankful for people like him, and for you too of course!

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            • I’d love to see your doctor, Mark! Honestly, I’ve known depression, anxiety, mood swings and other undesired companions for as long as I remember. I had some happy and some horrible moments during my childhood, and my teenage years were terrible. Deep down, I had the feeling that I was or was going crazy. It was a slow but steady progression to the darker sides of giftedness, because emotions were very badly managed, fears (some wildly irrational) were not spoken out and the sense of abnormality was growing ever stronger until I almost did literally go crazy.

              If I had known then what I know now, how much heartbreak could I have saved my poor soul? If I’d known some of the challenges we face do not mean at all we’re crazy, but just like we’re struggling with a mind that can go into overdrive and have issues that are are inherent and *normal* in giftedness, issues which *can* be managed with reasonable success (though indeed it can be oh so painful!), I would have accepted the thorns that came with the rose. I wouldn’t have beaten myself up and hated myself for a madness that existed only in my mind.

              I was misdiagnosed by the second therapist who saw me. The first one didn’t help much but didn’t hurt either. The second one made a mess of an already confused mind, and in came panic attacks and the fear that I would end up really going seriously psychotic and need meds for life. But finally I was free, and for the last +15 years my life has been proving his ideas were very wrong. 🙂 🙂 Now it would be great to find a doctor who really gets it and can help me with the challenges I still face!

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              • I got my present doctor (a GP) fresh from completing his residency, so he had yet to be fully indoctrinated into the “disease model” of mental/emotional difficulties. The first or second time I saw him he told me he went through my history chart and was struck by how an intelligent, seemingly healthy guy was languishing on welfare.

                He asked me point blank “Why are you on disability, and why did all your psychiatrists give up trying to help you?”
                I said that over the course of the past decade I had been misdiagnosed several times, and that I had been in the hospital a few time. I had been given almost every known psychiatric drug, none of which had any positive effect, though many of them had horrible, even potentially lethal side effects.

                I told him of the day I had an argument with my last psychiatrist who was convinced I was “getting better”, even though I knew I was not, and that 10 years on welfare for no good reason will drive anyone mad. So I went home and angrily flushed all my meds down the toilet and toughed out the brutal withdrawal effects for the next two weeks. Once the drugs were out of my system, I felt no different, so that was proof that my psychiatrist was using me as a lab rat, and was not listening to me, so I fired him.

                The worst thing about being misdiagnosed is that it confirms the worst fears you have about yourself, the fears that drag you down to the point that you decide to walk into a psychiatrist’s office and put all your trust into their hands. Unfortunately that trust can be abused — even if not intentionally, as was the case with that one doctor — and you are left even worse off than before you ever decided to see a psychiatrist.

                To my current GP’s credit, he even acknowledged this, and just this past Tuesday apologized to me on behalf of all the other doctors: “I’m so sorry we all let you down so badly Mark. I have to hand it to you, you have been very brave and patient throughout all this, and if you’ll excuse my language, I think you’re one tough badass.”

                I guess I am. I had a huge industry trying to tell me I am damaged goods but I eventually said “Enough!”, and stopped the madness. I still have significant anxiety and depression, but I now know I don’t need a psychiatrist to keep me alive. And that’s a BIG step. I am glad to hear you have also made that step. Thanks for your comment Carina. -Mark

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                • Psychotropic drugs. I want to be balanced and say that in certain cases, these are necessary and they help patients who otherwise wouldn’t be able to have a quality of life that’s close to normal. Granted. However, they’re overprescribed and wrongly prescribed much too often. My brother had suicidal thoughts at 18 and the psychiatrist my parents turned to basically put him to sleep for eight months. When you misdiagnose a gifted patient with ADHD and give them Ritalin, you may lose part of the brightness of their lamp. It’s even worse when you give such drugs to brains that are not yet fully developed. I get it. Some children do need them. But they’re not candy. These drugs have side effects. They may cause much more damage than good. But doctors usually take for granted that they know what’s wrong with us. Their preconceived ideas, and the brainwashing some of them have experienced from the pharmaceutical industry that keeps pushing their products for profit… Don’t get me started! And you’re right. It’s our desperate need for help at the worst moments in our life that leads us to falling into the trap of trusting too much.

                  You know, I think what saved me during this two-year treatment with my shrink was that I didn’t trust him all that much (quite a bit, yes, because I was so vulnerable, but not blindly!) and I resisted the treatment and especially the labels. As soon as I felt I was a bit back from the “psychotic cloud” (which was caused by Prozac more than any other reason), I started to lower the dose of the drugs I was being given, and was always pushing for full withdrawal. Treatment took its toll but it could have been worse if I had allowed him to convince me that I suffered from schizophrenia or some other similar disease.

                  No, we are not damaged goods. We may be far from perfect. We may experience seasons of depression and hopelessness. Who wouldn’t, in such a tough world such as this? You have to be a bit pathologically optimistic or unempathetic to never grieve over the pain of so many people, and the stupidity and/or greed of many who are destroying our planet and its inhabitants. I think the first step to “changing the world”, to being able to really make a difference in other people’s lives, and being healthy ourselves, is to admit that there is significant pain all around, and that trying to be happy, happy, happy always is neither realistic nor sane. There is a time for grieving, for being mad at the state of things, even to question ourselves because sometimes we need to make life changes and if we were always content, we wouldn’t get out of our comfort zones.

                  I’m really glad that many of us are finding some peace with ourselves, regardless of what certain “experts” think of us.

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                  • We’re getting a bit of the topic of giftedness specifically but I assume Paula will agree that our disappointing experiences (to put it mildly) with psychiatry are not at all unique within the gifted population.

                    Like you, I am not 100% anti-psychiatry because I cannot speak for others’ experiences. But one of the biggest problems with psychiatry now that it is primarily medication-based, is that it has positioned itself as a scientific approach to mental health while not holding itself to the same scientific rigors as other disciplines.

                    This is because it is still based on the patient’s own reporting on how well the medications are working, and on the doctor’s observations of the patient, neither of which are scientific. And as we both know, doctors can get it wrong, horribly wrong in some cases. I also suffered some extreme effects from certain medications and have physical scars as reminders. I still sometimes worry if there are or will be lasting mental and emotional effects from years of being medicated.

                    In the bigger picture, psychiatry may be failing society because it is turning mental health patients into mere consumers (of pharmaceuticals) rather than as active participants in their own spiritual/emotional evolution, and because it often attempts to medicate what may be normal variables in human behavior.

                    There are others who are more insistent that psychiatry poses a real danger, and that it is attempting to eliminate non-compliance in society at a time when what society really needs is MORE misfits, rebels and radical healers. Seth Farber and Bruce Levine are just two psychologists whose written works aim to warn of these dangers. Check them out.

                    I’m with you: the current trend of trying to be “happy, happy, happy” is indeed another sign the world has gone crazy. And yet I still have to keep reminding myself that my ADHD, anxiety, depression and other “eccentricities” are not signs of madness but may indeed be very normal, sane reactions to a world gone mad and that I should not judge myself so harshly for not being able to better fit into that world.

                    Thanks for such an engaging conversation!

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                    • I couldn’t agree more! Thanks to you, too! I hope you’ll soon get your 10 millions so you can spend lots of time discovering some hidden formula or something that will help us all! 🙂
                      Thanks, Paula, for letting us share our thoughts.
                      I believe if only we will get rid of any wrong labels that have limited us for so long, our multiple talents will flourish. Sometimes you have to trust your instincts. 🙂
                      All the best to you both!

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                    • I appreciate you, Mark, and Carina, sharing some of your experiences with the psychiatric and pharmaceutical worlds and that you present your thoughts in a balanced, personal and considerate way. As you know, these issues are complex and in this forum, it’s helpful to speak thoughtfully and honor multiple opinions, as we learn from each other and appreciate our differences. Thanks for sharing in this way.


                    • Mark and Carina, let me also add my thanks for sharing all of that. I haven’t had quite the rough time that you both described, but I have had enough experiences that made me pick up Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration and see tremendous value in it. Your stories also remind me of my dad’s, which also wasn’t that bad, but he did have a therapist (a very good, kind lady who thought highly of him) who kept suggesting psychological diagnoses to him, but he knew they weren’t really right. I think he just provided an outlet for her after feeling misunderstood for a long time. I ended up writing a blog post about my dad and how I think he probably was highly or maybe profoundly gifted. (I hope Paula will forgive what may qualify as link spam, but I thought you guys might actually be interested: ) Unfortunately I didn’t even think about this possibility until someone made a comment at his funeral last year, after he had a sudden heart attack. I wish I could have this discussion with him….

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                    • Jessie. I’m happy to have the link to your blog here. No problem!


                    • I just want to be sure that blog readers hear that there are times when medication is the right choice. Bipolar disorder, for instance, or severe depression, schizophrenia. For those disorders, correctly diagnosed, of course, medication can make all the difference. I know that all of you aren’t denying that, I just wanted to make a specific comment about it so as not to mislead folks.


                  • Carina, I couldn’t have said it better! Both you and Mark had a very informative exchange. Thank you both! I was 64 years old by the time a “highly gifted counselor” peered over the top of her rim horned glasses secured by a silver chain draped gently over her shoulders and announced “you’re not mentally disturbed, you’re gifted”. Truly a life changing moment! I will be highlighting the need for heightened awareness when I speak this year at Seng Annual Conference. We must bring about advancements in AWARENESS not medications! We’re fine the way we are! Thanks. Richard

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                    • Thank you, Paula and Richard, for your encouraging words!

                      You know, while I always knew I was higher than average in intelligence, it was only one year ago that I began to research the topic and had an epiphany like yours. I had the classical stereotype of the math genius in mind. I knew I was pretty good but not amazing in math. So I figured I was probably not that smart. Where I flourished the most was language. Perfect spelling. Ability to soak up my non-native English so easily. That part was great growing up. But all the other things that came with the package… My extreme emotional sensitivity and mood swings. My existential doubts. My irrational fears and sometimes obsessive thoughts. My overactive imagination which sometimes led me to temporarily disconnect from a boring or tough situation and make up stories in my mind. Things that sometimes were difficult to talk about, because I was aware not many people could relate or even have a clue what I was talking about.

                      I also have a neurological disorder (that may or may not be related to giftedness) which I thought, I must be the only person in the planet who suffers this. Until I read an article in the NYT about it. When I began to do research on this condition (it’s called misophonia) and on giftedness I had such a sense of relief. It was a confirmation that I’m not crazy. It felt like a validation of my individuality, which has some complex and potentially negative sides which can make life difficult and which I need to manage carefully. But the peculiarities and challenges of giftedness don’t mean we’re “weird” in a deprecatory way. We’re, well, interesting people. 🙂

                      Liked by 1 person

            • To back up Paula’s statement, I am not suggesting people avoid psychiatrists or their medicines at all costs. After all, “You gotta do what you gotta do”, which was my mantra back when I first went into it when there was still a lot of stigma regarding mental illness.

              If you take anything away from my experiences, it is that I belong to a growing legion of ex-patients who can definitely attest to the fact that the cure can be worse than the disease, especially for misdiagnosed gifted folks, and that for many of us their is hope that we can live without being drugged to the gills.

              I know that there are a lot of people out there who avoid me because I like to talk a lot about intense dark, scary things such as the idea that psychiatry is complicit in suppressing the spirits of many wonderful, though unusual people. (Plus I admit I LOOK like an intense, dark, scary guy).

              I suppose the assumption is that I would be much better off — and more fun to be around — if I didn’t spend so much time thinking about “negative” things like that. But I don’t contemplate those things because I have a negative attitude towards the present or future. I contemplate them because I am positive the world can be a much better place and a horrific future can be avoided…but only IF we contemplate those scary, ugly things we would rather not think about.

              Anyway I digress from another rant. Many thanks to all who commented and showed their support for us talking about some of those scary, negative things!

              Liked by 1 person

              • I agree. My reservations as to psychiatrists and the drugs they prescribe are related to misdiagnoses and unnecessary or even harmful medication. I do understand when all other interventions have failed or you are in an emergency situation, these drugs can save countless lives so I’m all for using them in such cases.

                I get your point that contemplating negative things “in the face” may be the only way to solve certain situations. The world needs people who are willing to get their hands “dirty”, so to speak. But they are not really thrilled to talk about these things. If you speak about the world’s problems too often, many will label you as “toxic” and avoid you, because you supposedly drain them of energy. But it’s true that sometimes it’s good to give your brain a break and look at the silver linings. 🙂

                May all of us be able to use our multiple talents for great outcomes!

                Liked by 1 person

                • You’re right…there’s a fine line between being a concerned citizen and a poison-spewing kook. In the past few years I’ve had to cut myself off from friends and relatives who had been saying a lot of racist, bigoted BS, which of course is a growing trend.

                  The problem with being very sensitive and perceptive is it seems to constantly pose a question regarding our values and how they often put us at odds with people: “Is it them or is it me?” When you’re in the minority, it’s a lot harder to remain certain, and one thing us humans crave is certainty.

                  This is another reason my doctor is a gem. He keeps reminding me it ISN’T me, that I’m not crazy, that there really are a lot of narrow-minded, coldhearted people here. He often says “Get out of this redneck industrial town, this is no place for people like you”. 🙂

                  Before I really began to struggle I was much funnier. But anxiety and depression makes you preoccupied with un-funny stuff. If you’re also poor and socially isolated, it gets even harder to be fun and funny. On a personal level, when it comes to making art, it’s a real challenge to create stuff that has deep meaning and says something about the world while not being a total drag. I gotta somehow drag that funnyman out again….

                  Thank you.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • The day before yesterday I was quite convinced I’m going to end this life soon. I can’t take more being hurt now. Yesterday I was reading what you, Carina and Mark, have written here about being misunderstood and misdiagnosed and getting medicin you don’t need, and I was reminded I’m not alone in having such experiences. I’ve tried for 30 years now to get the help I need. I grew up in a dysfunctional family. What I need the most is to be seen, confirmed and welcomed: “you have the same right as everybody else to be her, the same right to have needs and ask for them to be met, welcome to this world”. But what I get is them trying to squeeze me into a mould I don’t fit in, not being interested in seeing the person I am and what I’ve got, not helping me to work on the problems I need to work on. And if I’m questioning something (which is so hard for me to do) or say something about what I need (which is equally hard) I don’t have to come back if I don’t want to…
                    As I was reading and being reminded, I thought I might give it one more try. So today I made a phone call and got an appointment with a therapist. But I’m scared, terrified, of being belittled and wiped out again. I’ve healed myself enough to keep on struggling so many times now, I have no more energy.
                    It’s less than a year since I found information about giftedness and found this is where I seem to fit in. Though, I still find it hard to believe a lot of the time. I red your book Paula, ticking all the questions in the unscientific quiz and relating to so much in it. I red only three or four pages a day, because I wanted it to last for a very long time. I’ve red most of this blog too, but have been too afraid to write anything. I hope this one is ok, and I hope my English is too, it’s not my native language.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Your English is wonderful, K. I’m so glad that you’re here and that my blog and your reading of the comments (esp. Mark and Carina) have given you some hope. I’m so glad that you were able to contact a therapist. Know that if this therapist isn’t right, don’t give up. Try someone else. Sometimes you have to try a few before you find the right fit, OK? Good to have you joining us!


                    • Oh, K, it is for people who are struggling like you that I share my story whenever I sense someone may need to hear it. I feel your hurt because I’ve been there too. Take courage. You’re not alone and the darkness will not last forever.

                      I am glad you have decided to give psychotherapy one more try. I’m also wondering if having someone as “coach” may help me work out some of my current struggles, though I’m nowhere near the existential crises I experienced at different points in my life. I hope you’ll be able to find a professional who truly gets you, and if you don’t, seek another until you get one who truly listens and provides the right support.

                      Never give up! There is hope at the end of the tunnel. 🙂

                      A bear hug to you.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • K, it has been about 30 years since I first sought help as well. I am sorry to hear you have struggled equally as long, but I am glad that sharing my own experiences has helped.

                      I cannot tell you whether you will ever find the right therapist. But I CAN tell you that the more you exercise your freedom and independence to choose a therapist and to disagree with any of them if what they say does not fit with your gut feeling, that you will gain some of your self-respect back.

                      It took decades for me to learn this lesson, but the more I listened to that inner voice, the more I realized that any time a therapist was wrong about me, it weakened me and tore down my self respect, and that the more I stood up for myself and who I believe myself to be, the stronger I felt.

                      For example, the very last time I let a therapist tell me what he thought about me without actually knowing what the hell they were talking about was a couple of years ago. The GP I have been talking about thought one of his colleagues was brilliant and so he might be interested in seeing me, even though he did not have a regular therapy practice nor had any experience with gifted patients (his regular job was as a forensic psychiatrist).

                      Unfortunately, when I finally had a meeting with this psychiatrist, he was plainly not interested in much I had to say, and was instead fixated on some past IQ test scores and how there were some discrepancies between some of the various intelligence scores. While he admitted the tests showed I indeed was gifted, he had never heard the term “asynchronous development”, but more importantly he wasn’t interested in it nor anything else I had to say on the topic of giftedness, creativity, sensitivity or any other related topics.

                      In short, he was ignorant of his own ignorance, so with the kind of cold hubris I’ve seen far too often he blithely suggested that I may be suffering from a few potential neurological disorders and that I should be checked out thoroughly by yet another colleague.

                      I began to feel panic welling up inside. “OH NO! NOT AGAIN!!” I thought. “I cannot let another doctor look at me like I am some mysterious bug to be pulled apart in high school biology class.” Every extra minute in that office was an agonizing eternity. I could not wait to get out of there and home to safety. My gut was screaming at me: “DANGER! GET AWAY from this person!”
                      This time I was listening.

                      I had an emotional meltdown for the next few days (as Paula can attest — thanks again Paula), but then something happened: I felt good that I had the strength to say “NO!”. I may not have said no to that doctor’s face, but I refused to see him again, and that was enough.

                      When I went back to see my GP he asked how my appointment with his psychiatrist friend went. I leaned closer and said in a low, firm voice “F**K THAT GUY. He doesn’t have a clue of what I am all about, and he’s dangerous because of it.” He laughed and said, “You’re probably right. He is so used to picking criminals apart that he often can’t see the person inside, even if they are cooperative like you were. I’m really sorry about that. I’ll never suggest another psychiatrist again. We’ll find another way to help you.”

                      And that was that. My gut feeling was right. Seeing yet another therapist who didn’t “get me” was no longer a deflating failure, it was actually a success because I was able to assert myself despite what an “expert” was trying to tell me, ABOUT ME. The gall… 😛

                      I hope and pray you find the same strength I did. Listen to your gut!

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Thank you Paula, Carina and Mark for your kind and encouraging words. If you read this… Sorry I have not replied sooner. As a child I learnt I should be afraid of people, as they will hurt me. As an adult I’ve been working on overcoming the fear, but all that non-help has now drained me of almost all my energy, so I haven’t got much left to fight the fear. It took me this long to dare checking if I’d got any replies.

                      I saw the therapist, it didn’t work. We both agreed on that. She sent me to another one. That was really bad, felt bulldozed over. But I have contacted another therapist, though she’s quite busy, but I’m on the waiting-list.

                      Yes, that self-respect is so important. Thanks for your long story.
                      And thanks for the hug.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Good to hear from you, K. I’m glad you’re not giving up on finding a therapist. For many people, it takes several tries but the right fit is worth it. ❤


  8. Turning 40 has helped me embrace that I’m a fire hose and love it. I don’t need to water the lawn, or apologize that I can strip the bark off a tree if aimed in the wrong direction. I just need to do what I do best… help people and put out fires.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, Jen! I love your use of the fire hose analogy.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, had I only known I was intellectually gifted at the young age of forty. No more trying to blend or conform into everyone else’s image of normal. I could have spent the last 20 years living outside that crowded gifted closet and stopped the fertile effort of appeasing those who shunned my uniqueness. Hang on tightly to that fire hose as there can be a lot of pressure there. Richard

      Liked by 2 people

      • It’s never too late, right Richard?


        • Right Paula. But one must also acknowledge the difficulties with stepping in to plain view, something your blog dose well! I have always been the preverbal black sheep and to some degree admittedly embrace the distinction. Every day I still feel the gravity of my uniqueness as it tugs at my self-awareness. I must admit, it’s still a little scary to navigate those uncharted waters alone, even for we seasoned captains. As always Paula, thanks for the opportunity!

          Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for the reality check as always, Paula! Multipotentiality has caused some significant struggles in my life, and as I try to make adjustments to live the life I need to live, it’s nice to get reminders that I’m not just nuts.


  10. It’s exhausting, too. And that exhaustion is aggravating. Physical limitations of all kinds are aggravating – the limited hours in a day, sometimes even the need for food and sleep when you really rather be studying or working on a project. Then there’s the inevitable crashes, when you have exhausted all your physical resources, and must take a break – whether you want a break or not. The way I have described it is having a spirit that is way, way too big for a human body to contain and manage it. I wish I had extra hands, extra eyes, extra ears, extra mouths, etc. so I could do more, lol.

    But alas, I am me. And I have found that the best way to calm, tame, and manage my energy is through regular daily meditation, breathing, and detachment (Buddhism). Just taking some time out of the day to think nothing, feel nothing, and be attached to nothing… just to exist, breath, and find my center, my balance… the eye in the center of the storm that is me.

    And take one step at a time… remembering that I can combine anything I already know along the way with what I am learning to create something new… and that this is the true gift of being a “multipotentialite”. Not how much we are capable of knowing, but how much we are capable of creating with what we already know. I may not ever learn everything I want to know, but I most certainly can create everything I want to create based on what I already know. I can keep adding on to it, as well, allowing my creations to grow with my mind. I am a never ending work in progress… and I am ok with that. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Hi Paula!

    I’ve really enjoyed your blog for some time now, and I wanted to thank you for all of the insight and inspiration that you provide to all who read your posts. Some of your posts (including this one) have led me to think that I probably have a bit of a rainforest mind, and have helped me develop a bit more self-awareness. Along the way, this has led to me feeling a bit better about myself. Instead of thinking of myself as scattered, I see myself a bit more as having lots of different ideas, interests, passions, etc.

    Just for background: I never questioned whether I might actually be gifted at all until about two years ago. We had our oldest son tested at the age of 6 because we suspected he might be gifted. He was also a very intense child (still is at 7 1/2, but has developed some of the emotional maturity to help him contend with his “big emotions”). And as we learned about him, it also led me to wonder about myself. And I now look back on my childhood a bit differently.

    In any case, this post (and a few others) inspired me to enjoy some of my untapped interests (I might have wanted to be a children’s librarian as well as a lawyer (which I am), a scientist, an engineer, etc.). So I’ve been spending some of my free time writing a blog about children’s books these past few weeks. I’ve mostly been doing this to put recommendations out to the world because there are so many amazing books out there and it seems that most people aren’t tapping into them enough to get their kids hooked on reading. I hope it gets out there and I can help people give their kids a love of books. But in any case, it’s been wonderful to engage in another pursuit that makes me happy.

    I’m not asking you to check it out or anything (that might be presumptuous), but here’s the link in case you’re interested:

    So again, thank you so much for your blog. It makes a difference!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thanks for posting about this topic that is so meaningful for creative people. Emilie Wapnick explains: “Multipotentialites have no ‘one true calling’ the way specialists do…Multipotentialites thrive on learning, exploring, and mastering new skills. We are excellent at bringing disparate ideas together in creative ways. This makes us incredible innovators and problem solvers.”
    — From my post Resources For Multipotentialite Entrepreneurs

    Liked by 1 person

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  14. Great post.
    I frequently end up depressed and one of the causes is that there are not enough hours in the day to do all the things I’m interested in so I feel frustrated a lot of the time, and resentful of my day job taking up so much of my energy. I also find that people are put off by my intensity at times. I’m an introvert but sometimes I feel like it isn’t by choice but because nobody except my wife really understands my driven and curious nature.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the comment. I’m glad that you have an understanding wife but I hear you when you say that you might not be so introverted if there were more folks who could relate to your intensity.


  15. Last week I turned 31 and my father whom I haven’t seen in 3 years said (in an e-mail) I was a “wonderful girl before I turned 18,” which is apparently “good news, because [I] have potential!” I am working my way back to your Chainsaw posts… Needless to say, I did not respond to that e-mail and have no plans to do so.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. These days, my “too muchness” is more about my personal interests than my career path. For the most part, people look at me a bit strangely when I tell them I don’t read fiction anymore because I want to learn more about everything (history, anthropology, etc.). And I usually also don’t want to volunteer that I’m now listening to science podcasts in Spanish because, well, I can learn about science and practice my Spanish (my third language) at the same time. And I sometimes startle librarians when I can give them ideas of great books for kids (picture books, graphic novels, chapter books, etc.) instead of the other way around.

    And I want to share my intense love of learning with others. I am always compelled to ask others what makes their heart (or brain) sing. I’d love to know if any of them listen to podcasts in other languages to double up on learning so that we could exchange about it. I’m always wanting to tell strangers about Duolingo, because “Did you know you can learn new languages for free?”

    In all honesty, it can be a bit exhausting. Because of course, I am highly emotive as well – When I found an amazing new series of science podcasts in Spanish (Cierta Ciencia) the other day, I nearly cried of happiness. I’m intense about learning, just like I am about so many other things. Such is life, I suppose. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • These are great examples, Raz, of the hunger to learn of the rainforest mind. Thanks for sharing. Glad to have you here.


    • Oh!! I relate to this!! My partner does too. He is a whiz with languages (speaks Chinese well enough to have hosted a TV show in China, taught himself Ancient Greek and Latin, now working on Persian and had a conversation with some people in the Metro the other day) and he has said something in line with this — you have to have content that interests you in a language, because that makes you plow through the boring part of learning all the basics. I’m doing that with Russian and Latin myself, and need to keep my Japanese from getting rusty….

      And I don’t read much fiction for the same reason! Though lately, I want to start working on a novel because it’s the only way I can convey my web of ideas (my essays don’t always go over well with non-rainforest minded people because they don’t like the tangents) without severing the connections. So I should probably read some fiction to get back into that way of thinking….

      Anyway, Raz, your comment got me excited because I could relate to it so much. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Wow, hadn’t realized I was one of the last people to reply to this post. Oops. Oh well, I suppose it’s a subject that really speaks to me… 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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