Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

The Dark Night of the Soul — How Psychotherapy Can Help You Through

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photo courtesy of Annie Spratt, Unsplash

I know about the Dark Night. I’ve been through my own. More than once. Now I join my counseling clients in their Dark Nights. I go with them because I know the territory. I have flashlights and provisions. It doesn’t scare me like it used to. And I know what comes after the Dark Night that makes it worth the journey.

There could be all sorts of reasons for your Dark Night(s). But chances are, there’s a connection to your early years. Your experiences in your family of origin. It’s often painful to discover and understand the roots of your distress. And yet, that process can be the key to your healing.

Let me explain.

We’re totally helpless when we’re born. You know this. But you might not consider the implications. We’re dependent. Open. Vulnerable. Learning, growing, and experiencing. Our brains are being wired. We’re forming our sense of who we are.

So, of course, our parents influence us. Their words, behaviors, thoughts, feelings, fears, hopes, anxieties, dreams, loves, hates, insecurities, and shame are absorbed by us. We can’t help it. Even though we have our own personalities, temperaments, and spiritual paths, we spend many years drenched in the crazy soup of our original families.

Drenched in the crazy soup.

Some soup is crazier than others.

Granted, all parents make mistakes and have insecurities. And yet, kids will be resilient if parents are mostly loving and kind. If they apologize for their blunders. If they have healthy boundaries. If they are striving for awareness and insight into their own patterns. Rainforest-minded children who tend toward perfectionism will benefit from parents who openly admit errors and make amends. Kids will learn that no one is perfect. And they will learn what to do when they inevitably make their own mistakes.

But if there’s abuse, neglect, abandonment, alcoholism, or shame, then, it gets tricky. There will be a huge impact including: anxiety, self-hatred, depression, poor choices in relationships and career paths, boundary issues, addictions, and more. And, if you were a highly sensitive gifted kid, you may become the family caretaker, sacrificing your own needs for everyone else. Learning that your needs and desires don’t matter. That you must be fine because you’re so smart. You’re seen as the one who made it out unscathed.

You aren’t unscathed.

Psychotherapy can be the answer. Not the only answer. Not for everyone. But an essential step for many toward healing and creating a fulfilling life. It’s the depth approach that your multidimensional rainforest-y self needs.

By taking the courageous step into psychotherapy, you can find your way through the Dark Night and back to Love.

In good psychotherapy, you– Gently unravel and understand your past. Experience trustworthy, compassionate companionship for the journey.  Rebuild a sense of safety and trust. Acknowledge and mourn your losses. Stop the legacy of trauma in your ancestral line. Heal, grow, and, ultimately blossom. Find self-acceptance and your authentic voice.

And, wouldn’t ya know, all of that takes time. But, hey. You’ve spent years learning and embodying your family’s legacy, right? Years. Shouldn’t it take some years to recover? And just for the record, a year of therapy, at most, is 52 hours, if you go weekly. Basically a long weekend. So, in reality, if you’ve been in therapy for 2 years, that’s actually 2 long weekends. Not all that much time if your crazy soup was terrifying and traumatizing.

Don’t just take my word for it. The School of Life, based in London, has a lot to say about therapy and is a fascinating resource for rainforest minds. They produce lots of articles and videos on self-awareness, growth, and relationships. They even have a global community that might help you find other RFMs. And they have therapists who work online. (I haven’t met them personally so, as always, you’ll need to evaluate them for yourself.)

“Psychotherapy is one of the most valuable inventions of the last hundred years, with an exceptional power to raise our levels of emotional well-being, improve our relationships, redeem the atmosphere in our families and assist us in mining our professional potential.

But it is also profoundly misunderstood and the subject of a host of unhelpful fantasies, hopes and suspicions. Its logic is rarely explained and its voice seldom heard with sufficient directness.” The Book of Life from The School of Life

And so, my courageous ones, if you’re in a Dark Night, have faith. You can do this. It might take several long weekends of therapy but you will survive. You will thrive. You will come back to Love.

And on those darkest nights, remember to look up at the stars. They’ll be at their brightest. Shining for you.

____________________________________________________

To my bloggEEs: You’ll need to select your therapist very carefully. Give yourself time to find the right fit. This post will help. And this one. Even though I would like to be therapist to each and every one of you, I’m only licensed to practice in Oregon. And, for dark-night-of-the-soul therapy, it’s best to find someone you can work with face-to-face. You can contact me for a consultation, though, about your rainforest mind and the non-family-of-origin concerns you might have, particularly about being a wizard in a muggle world. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, concerns, feelings, and questions here. They add so much.

And if you’re wondering about my book, it’s going to stay on sale with GHF Press. If you read it, a review on Amazon would be lovely. Thank you!

 

 

 

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.

15 thoughts on “The Dark Night of the Soul — How Psychotherapy Can Help You Through

  1. I was sexually abused by my biological father starting when I was 13 and until I refused as much as I could in participating (but getting verbally and emotionally abused after that). I have been in and out of psychotherapy since age 17 when forced into it by being a ward of the state. Then I was in it voluntarily for many years and still have a counselor now. I cannot stress how important this has been for me. I believe the combination of therapy with meditation and spiritual practices has brought me to a place in life now where the Dark Nights are very far apart now, if not maybe gone (one can never be sure about that). I even have good, healthy boundaries and a relationship with my father as an adult and not a terrified child (the child we all are inside still).

    Liked by 3 people

    • Oh, Michelle, thank you for sharing this. Sexual abuse is such an enormous trauma. Thank you for your courage. And, yes, combining therapy with other practices is often a very effective way to go. I continue to be in some sort of therapy even now. As a therapist, I need to stay aware of my own issues and also to have my own support people.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Paula, thank you. Nicely said. Quick question: what difference exactly do you make between neglect and abandonment?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good question, Cecile. One way I think about it is that abandonment comes in so many forms. Neglect is a type of abandonment. Abuse is abandonment. Someone who wasn’t abused or traumatized can still experience abandonment when parents are well-meaning but fearful or shame-based. (a form of emotional abandonment) There are many degrees of all of these things. Make sense?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. From the bottom and well of my heart: Thank you, Paula!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great article. I’ve just begun reading your book and clearly have a ‘Rainforest Mind’. I’m also a Meyers Briggs INTJ and HSP, which I find to be a very challenging combination of traits to live with. My struggles came to a head in January of this year and, as a result, at the age of 51 years, I’ll soon be going to counselling for the first time in my life. Your title for this blog post reminded me of a wonderful book I’ve read a couple of times: Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life’s Ordeals
    by Thomas Moore

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I have tried therapy a couple of times and found it to be unhelpful and patronizing.

    But I’d try you if you were in my state. I think. I trust you, maybe. So instead I just enjoy your posts from afar. And hmm once in awhile. And keep up the facade of being “the one who made it out unscathed.”

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Why is it so difficult for people to learn to listen? At this particular moment in my life I don’t know a single person that is skilled at listening, but every one I know is desperate to be heard. Having experienced a few instances of individuals that are skilled at listening, occasionally through my life, the differences between those that can and those that cannot becomes wildly apparent.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Imagine how things would change if we just listened to each other. Thank you for sharing, M.J.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Exactly. I should add, I am genuinely curious. If anyone reading has any information about why this seems to be a difficult skill to master, I’d really enjoy knowing. We have the joke clichés of brain surgery or rocket science as being those things that are complex and difficult to accomplish. I’d say by the scarcity of people who have the skill of listening it far exceeds the typical things we consider a rare skill.

        Liked by 3 people

  7. Pingback: Resources for Building a Better World and Finding Your Purpose(s) | Your Rainforest Mind

  8. Among other things, I worry that our culture has become very superficial and simplistic. Fiction sets expectations of quick and violent solutions. I was a licensed psychologist in New York State. Now, I am writing fiction that I hope is immersive but models “adult” ways of thinking and being; e.g., empathy, alternatives thinking, consequences thinking, and self-reflection. In these “legends” the people of the tribe – parents, siblings, and the elders – provide what is essentially psychotherapy to those growing up — and to each other.
    Here’s an example. https://petersironwood.com/2019/04/16/trees-die-at-the-edges/

    Liked by 1 person

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