Your Rainforest Mind

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The Gifted Extrovert

38 Comments

photo courtesy of Emile Guillemot

I’ve been ignoring you. Those of you who are extroverts. My last post favored introverts. As did this one on Rebelle Society (adapted from the blog post). And I wrote a piece on IntrovertDear that will be out February 1st. ( How I Found a Career That Had Introvert Written All Over It ) You’ll want to read that one. It describes my personal trek “from extrovert wannabe to introvert queen.” Which, you see, is the thing. My bias. I’m a wholehearted, full-throated, undeniable introvert.

Even though it may be that more introverts choose therapy, so those are the people I spend most of my days with, I’ve met enough extroverts in my practice and personal life that I can tell you about them.

(Note: You may not identify as either extrovert or introvert. You might say that it depends on the context. That you’re multifaceted. OK. Then you might be an ambivert. Very rainforest-y of you.)

I love extroverts. I wanted to be one. In many cases (there are always exceptions): You carry the conversation. Get me out of my house. Have fascinating stories to tell.  Introduce me to your friends. Chair the meeting. Run for office. Organize the bake sale. Set up the Go Fund Me campaign. Attend the political protests. You are energetic, dynamic, and witty collaborators.

But it’s not all that simple when extroverts have rainforest minds.

I remember Rosemary. She was a grad student in the music department at our local university. Articulate, generous, and brilliant. Rosemary yearned for friends and mentors. But she was several steps ahead of everyone she met. Even her professors couldn’t keep up. Rosemary loved collaborations. She depended on them. But it was hard to find people who wanted to work with her. She had more experience and knowledge than her peers and ran out of patience when they didn’t measure up to her expectations. She would “pump the brakes” to slow herself down, but it usually wasn’t enough.

I remember when she told me about finally finding a couple of cohorts who agreed to go out for drinks after class. She was looking forward to deeply invigorating analysis, debate, and fun. But it didn’t happen. She said she was so disappointed, but not surprised. Her level of intellect and enthusiasm wasn’t matched. She was hitting her stride at 1am when they were heading home. The constant experience of loneliness was overwhelming.

Another client, Jill, said that her introvert friends enjoyed movies alone or were irritated by interruptions during a film. For her, movie going was a shared experience. Both during the film and after. Noticing the reactions and responses of her friends. Analysis on the way home. The film was an opportunity for human interaction. Jill also loved big musical events for what she described as “mirroring my experience, a tethering” and an essential experience of existence and belonging. She liked to be anonymous where no one asked anything of her. She could dive into the crowd and experience the “organism.” Feeling a part of humanity and being nourished by the large, pulsing energy of the group.

Loneliness is an issue for all rainforest minds. But it’s so much trickier for extroverts.  As you can see, extroverts are energized by groups of people. Humans are your fuel. Also, if you’re an external processor, which many of you are, you need a person to externally process with. It’s not very satisfying to talk out loud to yourself! And if the few people you do find, can’t keep up with you, even when you pump your brakes, you have no reliable source of rejuvenation and nourishment.

What this means, then, is that it’s essential that you understand yourself as someone with a rainforest mind and then use your charm and verbal skills to find your pack. I know you may feel discouraged and hopeless after years of trying. But other gifted extroverts are out there! Here are some suggestions on how to find them. Another source I’ve found recently is The School of Life based in the UK.

So, my dears, whether you’re an extrovert, introvert, or ambivert, we’re all in the rainforest mind clan. So dive in. Get nourished. You belong here.

__________________________________________________

To my bloggEEs: Are you an extrovert? Can you give us some examples of what that means to you and how you grapple with loneliness? We also want to hear from the introverts and ambiverts who are here. What are your thoughts, feelings, and questions? And, I realize that you live all over the world. So if my descriptions aren’t accurate for cultural or other reasons, please let me know! And let us know where you live. What are the attitudes toward rainforest-mindedness in your country?

Thanks to the clients who inspired this post. And thank you to you all. Click on this link to read more posts from professionals and parents about giftedness and belonging.

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Author: Paula Prober

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

38 thoughts on “The Gifted Extrovert

  1. Humans are your fuel….yup. Connection is my fuel. Usually.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you. I think it’s getting clearer to me that I’m an ambivert. I tend to fit a little in so many places and not so much in any that I get quite lost and feel I’m just an imposter. Any step to more clarity is a great step to stop thinking of myself as probably just weird (although I still have a long way to go before dropping the “weird” label).

    Liked by 3 people

  3. What an amazing, timely post! My friend Deb shared it with me, and it just hit home immediately. As an ambivert, I deal with this all the time. After my very extraverted job (sales/customer service), I need the quiet of small groups. But I want those groups to be engaged, intelligent, and enthusiastic. My wife and I were talking last night about how I have spent almost all of my life “putting on the brakes” to avoid upsetting people who couldn’t keep up. I’m going to have to unpack this a little more. Followed, and I’ll find you on FB. Like the way you think, lady! 😀

    Liked by 3 people

    • Welcome, Deb. Interesting that you say you need the quiet “of small groups.” Hm…that still sounds extroverted to me! (introvert that I am…I go for the quiet of solitude) Thanks to your friend for bringing you here.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My 12-year-old is highly gifted, particularly in the social realm. She gets very lonely and could benefit from a group for tweens/ teens….even online. Do you have any recommendations?

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Oh hey! Trying to find people who will “go deep” but are still somewhat social is needle-in-a-haystack frustrating. I always wanted to be an introvert—in my family the introverts were the smart interesting ones and I was the awkward garrulous chatty one (at least, that’s how I felt). Introverts always seemed more “cool” to me: solitary, interesting, mysterious loners who didn’t seem to need people the way I did.
    I’ve ended up being the friend to a lot of introverts whom I love, but it can be hard to find people to venture out into the world with, especially in a group. Thanks for sharing this piece and reminding me I still count as a RFM, even if I’m not “cool and mysterious!”

    Liked by 3 people

  6. we put subtitles on in films so we can have all the witty quips and analysing as we go and still follow the dialogue…

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I know I Rosemary just like yours – also a music major. (Rosemary T, from Canada?) She still has not slowed down one bit. Her emails to me are always written at 1am-2am in the morning. I know not to call before 9.
    I’m a severe introvert, homeschooling a CRAZY extrovert. It’s so exhausting to keep up with him.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve long defined myself as an introverted extrovert. And while I find my alone time painting and writing to be very fulfilling, the time I spend with others is often very surface level and disappointing. Or worse yet, I leave happy and then agonize later on hypothesised misunderstandings.
    I’ve joined many Facebook groups since having children -because their needs as gifted individuals have widened that gap… but internet interactions are far from fulfilling.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Ha! I’ve done ALL of these!
    “You carry the conversation. Get me out of my house. Have fascinating stories to tell. Introduce me to your friends. Chair the meeting. Run for office. Organize the bake sale. Set up the Go Fund Me campaign. Attend the political protests. You are energetic, dynamic, and witty collaborators.”

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I am returning to my own blog…LOVE your posts!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. It’s good to see the gifted extrovert addressed. For almost a decade, it’s been popular to celebrate the introvert while also explicitly impugning the extrovert. I’ve spent my life as a highly verbal external processor who was often dismissed as a smartypants know-it-all as a child when I was really just trying to put all of the pieces together. As an adult, it’s been a long journey to learning how to reach my professional potential while also not exhausting coworkers and annoying supervisors.

    I recently started a new job and discovered a kindred spirit, a brilliant professional (with textbook gifted intensities) with 35 years of experience in the field. Shortly after I started, he was working through some strategy for a shared project and after several minutes of talking, he apologized for “pontificating.” I smiled and said “you’re not pontificating, you’re processing and we’re making good progress.” It was literally the first time in this man’s professional life that any one recognized it for what it was. What a shame. I mean I get it, but it’s a shame.

    I’m lucky to have strong ambivalent tendencies when it comes to socializing and recharging. That helps with the loneliness a great deal. But my dearest friend is an extreme gifted extrovert, and I watch her struggle mightily with loneliness and isolation. Thank you for giving us some attention.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Oh Paula, yes, what a timely and awesome article! It’s helping me understand my seemingly contradictory self, because although I consider my core self an Introvert, I still have a strong need to also share my enthusiasm and curiosity with others. I’d like to share a relevant experience with you. Last summer I volunteered at the main branch of my city’s public library, in the Humanities Section. (I just had to insert a descriptive sentence here — it was our city’s first museum, and its fascinating and endless collections, not to mention its glorious architecture, thrill me every time I step through its doors!) Our local newspaper had donated 2 huge boxes of wonderful photographs from the mid 1980s, and so as a volunteer I was tasked with helping organize these photos, describe them, and enter data into a big database. I worked alone in a large room, where a few other longtime volunteers worked on other projects. One fellow sat near me, and I enjoyed chatting with him (more superficially most of the time).

    Processing the photos, musing about the nature of information, from how programmers developed the particular software I used, to which words I would choose to describe the photo, to how they were classified by librarian professionals .. well it electrified me! I so wanted to have a processing partner with whom to share my wonderment and intense curiosity! But, beyond a few interesting but brief conversations with the fellow I mentioned above, it was not to be. My supervisor, though she was probably off the scale intelligent, seemed … annoyed, or something, with my energy level. I chalked it up to job stress.

    I’ve been on a quest for over a year now, to help me determine the next best step career-wise, which is why I’ve done some volunteering. My experience at the library taught me that I am energized not only by internal absorbing and processing but also by conveying my excitement and enthusiasm!! It’s funny, as I said I consider myself an Introvert but now having spent some time with the library staff, I guess I’m a bit Extroverted, too!

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Extroverts might want to find a Social Introvert to hang out with! I’m definitely an introvert (INFJ), but I do enjoy *occasional* social time, mostly one on one with a good friend. Once I’m really comfortable with someone, I can seem somewhat extroverted in my behavior. Then I have to withdraw for several days to recharge.

    Paula, I’m new to your blog – thanks to your Introvert Dear article – and look forward to reading and learning more. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • So glad you found me, Bernadette. Thanks for coming here and commenting. Enjoy!

      Like

    • Bernadette, I was going to say the same thing. INFJ’s actually like some social interaction because of our extroverted Feeling. I have even been called “gregarious” by a coworker. Inwardly I laughed but knew they must have interacted with me in a place where I felt I could contribute. I still need that recharge time but still do have that need for occasional people time. I find for myself to enjoy it, there must be a connection to my love for something or even just the people that I know at the event.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Gabriela, the “gregarious” comment made me laugh, but I get it completely. And, yes, people time must be with someone I really click with, or an event I really want to attend, usually something involving music or art. It’s nice to see another INFJ here. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Just had this discussion / arguement with my husband about our 12 year old. He can do really advanced work, but only with a tutor. My husband point was maybe he wasnt ready after all. My point was that he isnt a solo learner and he needs someone to TALK to about it. It energizes him. Internal processing just isnt a love of his.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. This resonated with me in almost all ways alluded to in your article. Learned the term “ambivert” – and I think that’s me to a T. The degree of isolation has become intolerable although I do enjoy quiet/alone time. Every now and then – and that seems to be just the right doesage – I like to connect with people whom I can resonate with, be it for movies, books, music or whatever.

    Over the years, I seem to have found that it is (much) harder for me to enjoy “quality time” with other humans. Since time is the only one thing we don’t possess in excess, I seem to have become a lot more scrutinizing in whom I spend that precious non-alone time with.

    I’m glad I somehow found your blog/writing. If nowhere else, at least here I seem to find “my tribe”. Thanks so much!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Pingback: Paula Prober on: The Gifted Extrovert | Your Rainforest Mind | Late.Shift

  17. Love this! I’m an extrovert with capital E. I’m also an external processor. I can be a lot to handle at times for my introverted friends.

    It can take some time for certain people to get me. Some gifted people don’t recognize me as a peer initially. It’s good that I’m charming though. I usually win them over. 😉

    I thought that I was an ambivert until I read one of the books you recommended about empaths. I’m an extroverted empath. I need the social interaction to be rejuvenated as an extrovert, but have to really monitor who I include in my social environment . Emotional vampires like to suck my energy dry.

    My husband’s even more extroverted than I am. 3 of our 4 boys are introverted. It’s tricky at times for us to grasp the way they think. My husband and I are all, “Why wouldn’t you want to be the center of attention in a room full of strangers?” And they’re like, “Why do you talk to people so much? Why can’t we just go home? ”
    Thanks Paula!
    PS I agree that that more needs to be written about gifted extroverts. I think a lot of researchers and writers are introverted by the nature of the work they do though, and our paths don’t cross often.

    Liked by 1 person

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