Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

Finding Your *Wild Self* and Living Your Deeper Life


photo courtesy of Caique Silva, Unsplash

“The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.”
Clarissa Pinkola Estés

What is your door to your “wild Self?”

Now would be a good time to find that door and walk through it. Don’t you agree?

But first, you might need to understand who your wild Self is.

Get your journal and your imagination and write/draw. Your wild Self is your Essence, your Authenticity, your Wisdom. Some people call it your higher Self.

I know.

How in heaven’s name are you supposed to describe that? Much less feel it. Or be it.

And if you’re anything like me, there may be fear involved.

Strange as it sounds, I think we can be afraid to be our Big Selves. Even though we know that it’s where our Wisdom lives, there’s something scary about that much expansion. Maybe it’s fear of the unknown. Or: Fear of the loss of our small ego self. Fear of going crazy. Fear of loneliness. Fear of loss of control. Fear of being seen. Fear of being overwhelmed by all of the suffering on the planet. Fear of too much love.

So many opportunities for fear.

Here’s an idea: What if you talk to your fear and see what it has to say. Write a conversation in your journal. Ask your fear to tell you about itself and to tell you what it needs so that you can grow bigger and wilder. Bigger and wilder in your particular unique way. Not what everyone says you’re supposed to be. Not who everyone else is. But who you know in your heart is the real you. The real, sensitive, smart, curious, intense, rainforest-y you.

This process may take time. Examining your fear requires patience and courage. Maybe you’ll need a guide: A psychotherapist. A good book. A meditation practice. A hot fudge sundae.

Take your time. This may be some of your most important work. When you expand into Authenticity, you tap into a larger level of awareness. What Dr. Larry Dossey calls One Mind. The place where he says we are more than our human selves, where we are transcendent, where we experience our spiritual intelligence. The place where we open to our life’s purpose.

See what I mean?

Take a breath. And another.

When the timing feels right, come back to your journal and your imagination. Feel into your heart. Do you see a door? Describe the door.

Are you ready to open it?


To my bloggEEs: You may have noticed that I’m spending some time with these complex questions of spirituality and deep inner work. I feel drawn here because of my own process and because of the tumultuous events on the planet. Let us know what you think and how you understand Self and spirituality. Are you feeling pressure to “use your gifts?” Are you wondering how you might have a larger impact? Do you feel fear about expanding into a more wild Self? Thank you for sharing your feelings, thoughts, and questions. Thank you for being here.

(Note: If the idea of the Self intrigues you, there’s a model of therapy you might want to explore called Internal Family Systems. Find out more about it here. One resource for finding your life’s purpose would be Martha Beck.)









Author: Paula Prober

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

36 thoughts on “Finding Your *Wild Self* and Living Your Deeper Life

  1. This is maybe my favorite post. The idea of the door to the wild true self being through scars, fear, the very sensitivity that makes the world agonizingly beautiful. Thanks for writing and encouraging me to be brave.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I fear loving my creative expression so much, and for its own sake, that I lose my toehold on conformity. For so long, the yardstick by which I’ve measured my worth has been one of “How well am I blending in?” and “Do I pass (for ——, ——, as —–, ——, and not —– …. )??”. I have been least rejected whilst playing pretend.

    Very recently, I began painting. And I can’t stop. In less than a week I begin working towards my creative writing diploma. I like this wild woman who creates things. There is paint on my fingernails and on my shins as I write this.

    I definitely feel a drive this year, to jump into my (previously desiccated) creative life; to come alive.

    Thank you for this beautiful post, Paula. Hoping you will continue to write on these matters.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Hi Paula,

    I love the deep diving into the complex world and I am grateful that it stems from your journey. Nothing is as authentic as a sharing that comes straight from one’s heart. Thank you 🙏

    I believe this year I am making wild leaps in my journey with my higher self. I agree it’s scary. I am afraid how much things seem clearer, I am scared at how much I can intuit, I am afraid of losing control – this i believe is very familiar, I am apprehensive of losing connections with others. At the same time, it’s amazing and exciting to see the world through a different lens, multidimensional at times. It’s joyful to experience the wide breadth emotional experience and how rich it feels. The world seems to take back seat when you focus on what moves you the most. I don’t know if that’s the higher self.

    A lot of Hindu philosophy is based on oneness of knowledge and mind. We believe that all souls are knowledgeable and one in the collective wisdom. It does resonate well. Of course, Hindu philosophy has also been diluted by racist, classist, patriarchal views in last few centuries. The core talks about oneness.

    Thank you Paula! It’s amazing how different yet similar we all are!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. “Live in the moment.”
    “Live as if every minute is your last.”
    “Think outside the box.”
    “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
    “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”
    “Dance as if no one is watching.”
    “Regurgitate platitudes to make yourself look fearless, independent and deep.”

    OK, I admit I made up the last quote up. But I added it because judging by what’s popular in the media and on the internet, you’d think people really do value a wild, uninhibited, spontaneous, creative life.

    Except they don’t. It’s mostly B.S. Not those great ideas mind you, but how much people actually believe in them. Because research has shown most people really don’t value freedom or creativity or spontaneity nearly as highly as they claim to.

    Especially if those principles are embodied by a living, breathing human being, someone who reminds them that they are not as free and wild and non-conformist as they’d like to think themselves or have others think them to be. That can make them angry, fearful or even vindictive. And if you’re one of those people who threaten their self-delusion of uninhibited freedom then you may become their target. I’ve been there. I learned the hard way the definition of “frenemy”.

    I really was a wild child. I lived those principles embodied in quotes that people share like recipes. Now that I am middle-aged, I still am pretty wild…which makes me even more of an outlier. But while being wild can help you succeed, it can also put you at risk because – to borrow a Japanese phrase – the nail that sticks out must be hammered down, and if you are also very sensitive the hammer may very well succeed. I have felt the heavy blows of the hammer many times, so I feel lucky to still be here, my head still sticking up if just a bit.

    I was chased out of sports despite my extraordinary talents, intensity and passion because being good is not enough. In sports one must also be compliant and obedient to authority no matter how illegitimate or unreasonable it may be. So I retreated to the seemingly free world of art only to find that rules and conformity and aggressive peer pressure to be nearly as prevalent there as it was in sports. So I now work alone trying to create a world of my own imagining free from the restraints of others, a world that welcomes and encourages and embraces other misfits desperate to express their own wildness.

    None of this is intended to be an admission of defeat nor an attempt to dodge the responsibilities of fixing a life that was ruined in many ways by people who think it is justified to treat us wildlings as if we are inhuman (please excuse the Game of Thrones references). But blame must be placed where it belongs, because no matter how much faith or hope you put in the future, I believe it is hard to solve a problem without first assessing and acknowledging its roots.

    I am working hard to reclaim my rightful status as a wildling. I am coughing, coughing, coughing….heaving! Desperately trying to dislodge the induced blockage in my throat that has kept me from screaming my joy, my pain and above all, the fact I AM STILL ALIVE, I AM AN INDIVIDUAL, AND I HAVE A VOICE at the top of my lungs.

    Thanks for reading my long, somewhat wild rant.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Mark. Sure glad to have you ALIVE and here with us.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I wrote my comments last night as quickly as I could to try to short-circuit my habit of self-censorship. It’s scary putting your true thoughts and feelings out there, especially if you really feel alienated from the prevaling culture, but also because being very intense (which of course is equated with wildness), means risking overwhelming or putting off others.

        Thanks Paula, this post is meaningful to me.

        P.S. as to the second part of your entry regarding spirituality, I think from the age of four or five I was already becoming aware of a deep sense of being on some kind of mission, perhaps to serve in some way. I had no idea what it meant (I kept those thoughts a secret to myself), and I even tried to put them out of my mind through my youth and early adulthood but it was always lurking there and came back very strong when I was around 30.

        I’ve been through a lot, but something tells me I had to experience our culture from both perspectives, first as a “winner”, and then as someone who is down and out. Perhaps to better understand? To have more empathy? To then share those experiences and shine a light on the damage it does not only to those who are suffering most but to everyone? Hmmmm…

        Liked by 3 people

    • I can identify with a lot of this.

      Liked by 2 people

    • At the risk of “overdoing it”, I have to add the following since this post about wildness really speaks to me:

      Something I do not talk about much is when a psychiatrist put me on anti-psychotics when I was in my 20’s. That was a turning point in my life. It was a significant enough time that my pharmacist even expressed concern about the dangers the cocktail of meds I was on presented – it is very unusual for a pharmacist to openly question a doctor’s care with the patient – because in addition to the anti-psychotics I was also taking antidepressants, benzos for anxiety, and amphetamines intended to combat the extreme lethargy and sleepiness the other drugs created (they did not, instead I sometimes took them if I needed to feel calm enough to sleep). The anti-psychotics caused me to gain 60 pounds in just a few months, and I had to get my blood tested once per week to ensure the anti-psychotics were not at levels high enough to lethally poison me. (!!)

      The doctor’s justification for all those meds was that I exhibited the “negative” effects of schizophrenia, in particular my struggles to feel motivated and mentally engaged.

      But here’s where the doctor made his biggest mistake which sent me down the rabbit hole: I never lack motivation when I am properly stimulated. I am simply not motivated by the same things most other people are. I didn’t care much about getting attention, having a job or establishing a career, making money, getting awards and trophies, etc.

      Even when I was a successful athlete, I didn’t care much about winning other than if it was a gateway to new, exciting experiences.

      Because I AM motivated to have novel experiences, especially ones where I can express my curiosity, creativity, experimental nature and that intangible “wildness” that made me so good at sports, art and other areas that always set me apart from…well, less extreme people. But most of the time I struggle to feel awake and alert, almost always feeling smothered and stifled by the rules, routines and repetitiveness of modern society. I have a really hard time getting into any of it. And sometimes I wonder: “Why should I?”

      In retrospect I understand how this was confusing and disturbing to doctors, and I made a very unfortunate decision to allow them to pathologize my wild nature, or as my ex-doctor finally admitted, the “free-spiritedness” that he found so difficult to understand in me.

      I only wish he had not been so quick to drug me up as a knee-jerk response to his lack of understanding and was instead looking for the POSITIVE aspects of my personality.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. BTW after investigating the link to the author of the leading quote, I hope I am not barging in on a conversation meant for women.

    It’s important for women to feel their wildness. I grew up in the punk rock scene when being part of that scene could get you beat up or worse. It was hard enough for most of us guys so I imagine it was even harder for the girls who were really pushing gender expectations (even the hippies expected women to be peaceful and loving). It was radical to walk through the doors of the shady halls or bars where the bands were playing to see women being as uninhibited as the guys, or to see them up on stage being as fierce and fearless.

    Here’s a nice quote that doesn’t just apply to punk:
    “People forget the punk thing was really good for women. It motivated them to pick up a guitar rather than be a chanteuse. It allowed us to be aggressive.” – Siouxsie Sioux

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Learning how to move away from people who require me to be small, and who will try to cut metaphorical bits off me to keep me small enough for their comfort.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I think I have found my door. but to get thru it I need the prepare, and give up the job and position I have now. For me that isnt a problem, but people around me seem to be more attached to my status as doctor then I am. and the money is nice as well. once thru the door I expect to still earn enough to live on, but not that much anymore. so no more expensive hollidays, in stead hopefullly a good life every day and not so much stress that I NEED that holliday.
    So yes I am scared, and worried, and saving like mad. But even worse, I am fighting the expectations of everybody around me. They want and expect me to stay a doctor and do my job and not rock the boat.
    And all I want is to go swimming. forget the boat.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This the realm my mind often resides. I am starting a business online, and to be safe – I made it about “mindful productivity.” I love systems and strategies, and some very unique personal systems to share with others. However, I know I’m doing it because sharing who I really am has always felt so alienating. Explaining how I think seems to overwhelm the average person in the average conversation – so I often hold back. When the time is “right,” and someone has come to me with a problem that could use a profound or spiritual answer – we connect. I let the energy flow, and we both shine. I’m taking a break from writing about mindful productivity to reorient myself. The call from inside won’t let me stay where I am, so deeper I will go – more vulnerable, more willing to receive.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. What a great post and what great comments 💖
    I finally feel (almost 100%) free … free from the system, from authority and that gives enormous amounts of zen and radiant energy to dance through life. With and through this energy I sometimes feel so focused when working that my inner voice tells me it is good and it will succeed … biggest struggle still is the huge insecurity about the future … what if success doesn’t knock on my door … on these fearful days I always look for signs like I am superstitious only then. Maybe I should look for signs every day.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I wasn’t going to reply here for a bit because I felt like I overdid it last time, but well – that’s kind of the point of this post, isn’t it?

    Like Mark, I don’t think I was ever socialized into mainstream culture. My mother is pretty wild herself, and then my father died suddenly when I was seven, and well – yeah. I’ve never been able to accept a meaning that someone else came up with.

    Speaking of my mother, I am definitely her child. Last night she texted me out of nowhere, “Does the universe have an end? What do you think is beyond the universe? Do you think there’s other life out there?”

    I guess my fear is…that what happened in the Sims community when I didn’t know any better than to be myself there will happen again. That people will turn on me and abandon me and some of them will stalk me for years, and I’ll feel like I don’t know how to be human right and that I am not good enough at being human to deserve to exist.

    I really didn’t know about conformity or social pressure until I got online. It’s hard learning about all this as an adult and trying to figure out a culture and a way of being that you’ve never known and that you have no experience with, but if you get it wrong, or maybe if you get it right sometimes and you tell them about themselves, they attack you in vicious packs.

    I found a new writing community on Tumblr last month, and that’s been really good for me. I was stubborn and I didn’t want to leave the Sims community and I wanted to show the trolls that they couldn’t drive me away, but really sticking around all those triggers wasn’t good for me. I can tell such a difference with this new community. I can let the hypervigilance go a bit, and that feels really good.

    So, hey, maybe that’s part of finding my path. Maybe a new healthy community around writing will help me keep writing and maybe even motivate me to submit more of my work – I’ve had one short story published but I haven’t submitted anything since. But maybe now it’ll be different, because sharing my work won’t be a constant walk through a minefield filled with triggers that could explode on me at any moment. I feel so much lighter without the weight of those years of trauma on my back.

    And also I am trying to use what I learned in the Sims community. I am still being myself, but I’m also being more careful this time around. I know more about humans now, and I have better boundaries and I know a bit more about how to be diplomatic. And since it’s a community of writers they also care about craft, and they have links to possible places to submit, including places that might like weirder less conformist work.

    So, we’ll see what happens.

    Also, a thing I’ve noticed is that they seem to be trying to unlearn a lot of things that I never learned. I’ll take the having less resources available to me if the cost of those resources is having faulty programs installed in your brain’s software.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Medleymisty, your comments are always sensitive and thoughtful, so they’re helpful for others who might have similar experiences. And people can always skip the comments, if they need to. But the feedback that I’m getting is that the comments are valuable and add a lot to my blog. So, your thoughts are welcome!


    • “I wasn’t going to reply here for a bit because I felt like I overdid it last time, but well – that’s kind of the point of this post, isn’t it?”

      I feel like I overdo it all the time too.

      99% of the time I’m fine with not talking or writing with anybody. Then once or twice a day — somewhat akin to what happens to dogs or cats when they get “the crazies”and zoom around the house — I get the urge to purge a lot of thoughts and feelings, especially if something triggers something deep, such as a blog post here. And then when it’s done sometimes I’ll think “well what was that all about?”

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Paula, I have a question for you.

    Do you think it is common for gifted individuals to feel that there is something inside of them that makes them different or distinct from other people?

    I’m having a hard time fitting in; in my own family, or with other people in general. Also, I’ve noticed that making friends is rather difficult for me. I wouldn’t mind having friends, but it seems that there’s an inner pull that is preventing me from actively seeking companionship. Futhermore, I’ve observed in my own self that denying the possibility that I may be gifted seems to cause a lot of anxiety and stress.

    P.S. I’m sorry for the improper sentence structure; English is my second language, and I didn’t do that well at school.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate that you’re writing in your second language, Robert. I suspect that many people, gifted or not, feel different or lonely or like they don’t belong. I imagine that it’s not just the gifted. It’s possible that many people feel like they don’t fit in. That said, the rainforest-minded have a particular set of reasons that they feel different or like they don’t belong. It can be hard to find companionship because of the advanced abilities and sensitivities and the other things I write about here in my blog. There are real differences. And the greater the degree of giftedness, the bigger the difference.


  12. I am often filled with doubt, that there are times, when I cry out in frustration, ” Oh, God, help me! I feel so confused—I know not my own self!”. I have no desire to deceive my self with falsehoods, if my very nature rebels against them, by saying confidently, “I am gifted by God—beyond doubt or reproach!”.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thanks for answering my question, Paula. I truly appreciate it! You’re right that one does not have to be gifted in order to feel alienated or different—there could be other factors (i.e. parental neglect, bullying, personality type [the previous two could adversely affect one’s psychological state], etc.). I am aware that certain types of emotions could affect almost everyone (the frequency and intensity varying from one person to another), but I’ve experienced other things that are harder to explain (i.e. intrinsic perfectionism, multiple artistic and intellectual interests [I grew up in an environment that wouldn’t be considered intellectual], I think constantly without any external pressure to do so [deeply and broadly], etc.). Now, I admit that I wouldn’t be considered a child prodigy; however, it seemed that I was born with a temperament that strongly predisposes me towards certain things (the desire to study or learn, strong drive, introspection, OE, etc.). Is this possible? Is it true that there were many historical figures that would be considered gifted, but didn’t do so well as children? (e.g. Isaac Newton [average or subpar at grammar school], Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill [he failed sixth grade], etc.)

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: Finding Your *Wild Self* and Living Your Deeper Life – The Tie Dyed Hippie Shaman

  15. Its very sad to know we are all sparks of the divine with a special purpose of being here… to simply be ourselves and see that so often our culture encourages us to be something other. The wild self can be seen as too unciviilised which is also so sad. I just devoured Pinkola Estes book when I read it back in 1995. She made so many important points in that book….. this resonated with me.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s