Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

Realizing That You Are Gifted — Will It Make a Difference?

53 Comments

photo courtesy of vlad tchompalov, Unsplash

Realizing that you are gifted. That you are of the rainforest-minded clan.

Explains a lot.

It explains why you are so darned sensitive. So darned empathetic.  You see, your feelings and perceptions are as vast as your intellect. You are not only thinking, analyzing, and synthesizing on many levels at once and pretty much all of the time, even when you are sleeping, but you are also deeply emotional and empathetic. Knowing that it is your nature to be this way, stops you from misdiagnosing and pathologizing these traits and behaviors. Reduces your self-doubt. Increases your self-acceptance.

It explains why people label you an overthinker. To them, you are thinking too much. But it comes naturally to you. And, yes, if you are super anxious and ruminating, you need some strategies to soothe your nervous system, to calm yourself. But your “overthinking” is just a whole lot of analysis, observation, wondering, questioning, answering, creating, daydreaming, and evaluating. The nature of your rainforest mind. Better than underthinking, if you ask me.

It explains why you are lonely. There aren’t all that many RFMs roaming the planet yet, as far as I can tell. It can be hard to find others who want to dive as deeply as you do. Who are fascinated by philosophical inquiries. Who want to study yet another language. Who feel driven to manifest their purpose(s). Who are able to grasp any of the complicated connections that you make between multiple seemingly discombobulated phenomena.

It explains why school may not have gone so well. It wasn’t that you were lazy or arrogant. It wasn’t that you were a know-it-all, even though you already knew the material that was being taught at the time. If you weren’t an A student, it may have been because your particular need to learn something new, was not recognized, much less accommodated. If you were an A student, it may have been disconcerting because you had higher standards than some of your teachers.

It even explains why you are stuck. You see, when you have many ideas, paths, and possibilities, plus a sense of huge responsibility for oh, everything, decision making can be daunting. Choosing one direction, one job, one book, one color, one anything, might feel impossible. You choose one, you lose many. So you don’t choose any.

Realizing that you are gifted, then, does make a difference.

But that’s not the end of the story.  What if you do accept that you are gifted? What then?

Accepting that you are gifted, can lead to extraordinary pressure to prove it. To yourself and to others. Pressure to be a super achiever. To be the next Elon Musk. It can link your worthiness as a human to your accomplishments or to your lack of them. It can mean that you have to achieve something “insanely great” or your life has no meaning. This can, then, lead to extreme anxiety, depression, unhealthy perfectionism, and addictions. You may feel that you can never fail because your identity is at stake. You may be unwilling to try anything where you imagine that you might make a mistake.

So, it’s tricky.

But, hey. You rainforest-minders. Do you see? The benefits outweigh the difficulties. Especially, if you learn more about this pressure thing and what you can do about it. You can find out more about it as you read my blog and my, um, books. (Ask your local library to carry them!) Let me be your emotional support animal person. Let me help you realize that you are indeed gifted.

And, yes, realizing this will make a difference for you. For everyone you know. And maybe even people that you don’t know. And, well, perhaps, for the planet itself.

________________________________________________

To my bloggEEs: Are you able to accept your rainforest-mindedness? In what ways might your life change, if you knew for certain that you were gifted? How might this knowing support you in contributing to creating a better world? Thank you for being here. Much love and appreciation to all of you.

(Note: Not all gifted folks are of the rainforest-minded variety. They might be more purely cognitive, for example, so they may have fewer of the sensitivities. They may not have the emotional intelligence/empathy that you have. But, just to clarify one more time, all RFMs are, yes, gifted.)

 

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.

53 thoughts on “Realizing That You Are Gifted — Will It Make a Difference?

  1. I grew up in a factory town with a factory school system that produced factory workers. No place for the gifted.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. love this post! thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you Paula!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I just picked up this book from my library (in Beaverton). Looking forward to reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Deeply emotional and empathetic. Yup, that’s me. Thanks for this post. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I want to do everything at once and no one wants me to. They think I can’t focus. They want me to do one thing and do it for them the way they want it done..and it is so hard to climb the ladder unless you ‘participate properly’… just keep getting knocked down again and again.

    When I do ‘focus’ my brain is bursting at the seams. It is ‘loud’ and repetitive and always running in the background. I don’t feel ‘smart’. I feel mentally ‘harnessed’ all day and then after work I feel too tired to soar like I want. The anxiety builds up, and then I just feel alone in an ocean of humans, doubting that I’m even one of them. It’s been like this since I was very young, but now I can’t just run away and hide – I have to be an adult, a mom, an employee and hardly ever myself.

    Liked by 5 people

  8. How true! I feel as if all these words were just written for me. Thanks for this post!
    It’s a nice and concise recap of our complexities, opportunities and more.

    You are powerful, Paula: Despite the many different types of personalities and character traits of gifted individuals, you manage to write for us all in a very precise (and even personalized, I am tempted to say) manner. And that is lovely and awesome at the same time 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Your posts always make me feel so much better!! Thank you! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What next?

    I’ve been creating a list of my qualities where my unique brain wiring diverges from others around me. I can find no information to help me find the skills I need to create points of intersection and commonality to reduce the conflicts that occur from being gifted. Ways to help others to come to see my gifted qualities as different from not better than. Suggestions?

    Beyond acceptance, I also need tools and techniques to more effectively utilize the gifted qualities thereby reducing my internal conflicts as I work.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. On a very pragmatic level, my ‘coming out’ as a gifted person as totally impacted the career transition / journey I’m now on. At 90% of the jobs I’ve had, I’ve felt out of place. As I learned that my mind is wired in a certain way, or should I say my soul is wired a certain way?, I now understand that that’s because of my so-called overexcitability. For others, it might be a different reason. But my enthusiasm and brightness definitely seemed weird to a lot of co-workers. Anyway – now I am beginning to embrace my total self, and feel more brave to show my real self in interviews. Age may have something to do with that, too. I no longer want to compromise my self.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I like to think in terms of being “the Necessary Other.” Our biggest challenge can be accepting not just the “otherness” that can cause friction, but the necessity that put us into this life as we are.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. On the one hand, having an explanation 8 years ago set me free. On the other hand, the root cause of my feelings of isolation hasn’t changed and won’t. I have an essential different-ness.
    I’m grateful for the friendships I have but I think I will always long to be part of the in-crowd, while the very essence of who I am precludes that.
    Double-edged sword. I’m also not at all sure I’ll ever isolate the kind of work that can bring me fulfillment. But at least knowing that my different-ness isn’t my fault clears me of the guilt I used to feel for not being able to figure that out.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad that you’ve let go of the guilt, Sarah. I’d encourage you to imagine that you can still find fulfillment. Maybe it won’t be exactly in your work but where might it be??

      Liked by 1 person

    • I feel the exact same way now, Sarah. I think, I’m beginning to understand that with relationships, work and just being in the world, I had best let go of that need for things to be perfect and derive as much pleasure, fulfillment and whatnot from what I can get from my peers and this entire existence. (works better on some days than others).

      Liked by 1 person

    • Someone somewhere else coined the term “terminal aloneness”. While being a somewhat devastating assessment, I found the term to fit and describe my feelings about the trait to a T. It gets hard to resonate with others so darn infrequently… (other than here, I mean, and referring to the non-HSP world at large)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, this. Terminal aloneness. Before I understood RFM (and myself) I thought my dad was just an antisocial curmudgeon. Now I recognize that he just rarely finds people who are worth opening up to. When he does, he goes to town. It would be so much easier if all RFMs were alike, but instead, it seems that we’re all passionate about different things, so even if we can relate to the feeling of being different, we’re still “out there.”

        Liked by 2 people

        • I see what you’re saying, Sarah. Just finding a RFM isn’t necessarily the answer.

          Liked by 1 person

          • … which is my own finding as well, yes. I seem to find it more “productive” to “sample” that our peers, which we resonate with, HSP/RFM or not. I thought it would be easier to feel a sense of connection when trying to seek out HSPs/RFMs for the most part. And while it CAN result in that, it’s still as much mere “lucking out” as to finding commonality as with anyone.

            The other aspect that I find relevant is that much of the literature and coaching and counseling revolves around getting along with “the other 75%”, isn’t it? If so, then trying to get along with whom we interact with seems like a good exercise to accomplish just that. I just completed watching a video with the late Dr. Ted Zeff on Melissa Schwartz’s Sensitiivity Summit, where he addresses exactly that (need to communicate and interact well with non-HSPs). I think, the latter is key in applying our particular gifts in ways that foster mutual undestanding and well being in society and our particular communities at large.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I’ll look for that interview, renovatio06. My next post may be on that topic. Thanks!

              Liked by 1 person

              • Paula, unfortunately those videos are only available for 48 hours and require registering for Melissa Schwartz’s Sensitivity Summit. Just meant to save you from frustration. But she is on Facebook and if you contact her directly, maybe she can make an exception and give you access to the video when 48 hours have elapsed. Just meaning to help O:)

                Liked by 1 person

            • Exactly! I have friends I talk to about education, friends I discuss cultures or literature with, foodie friends, friends who are parents of my children’s friends, friends I go to movies or plays with, and even friends I enjoy arguing with! These groups do not necessarily intersect. Some are RFM, and some are not. There are times though, where I just want to relax and be 100% myself—outside of therapy. And people I can do that with are so difficult to find. But that’s probably true for everyone!

              Liked by 2 people

              • Different friends for different activities. Yes! I just may quote you on my next post, Sarah. 🙂

                Liked by 1 person

              • Sarah, I’m glad to hear that you feel you can relax and 100% be yourself in therapy. I think the main reason I don’t seek out therapy right now is that I doubt I could relax and 100% be myself.

                I went to see someone for psychiatric intake and prescription of anti-depressants and she seemed so unhappy in her job that I felt I had to take care of her. She gave me some leads for therapy, but I just didn’t want to begin with them.

                I have come to notice that the one thing other people really don’t sympathize with is intelligence. I can talk to acquaintances about my children’s struggles and they will smile and nod for most of them. But if I talk about how bored my daughter is with elementary school math, having taught herself most of it already just playing with a calculator, the empathy is shut off and the wisecracks begin: “It must be hard having such brilliant children.”

                A large part of my emotional struggles have to do with the lack of empathy for intelligence, the complications of having a triple-nine IQ in mass society, and the difficulty of parenting profoundly gifted children who still want to go to school among non-gifted peers and teachers. How could I have, at this point in my life, an open conversation with a therapist I didn’t find to be on my level intellectually? And how could I find a therapist who actually is?

                I have had “don’t refer to my intelligence” practically beaten into me at this point. I’m terribly sorry. Shall we change the subject?

                Liked by 3 people

                • I know you really have to “shop around” to find the right therapist, or any practitioner, really, Dr. Dad. And it’s still not OK to talk about your smart kids or your own struggles. There are now some places to go online for support. Have you joined the Triple Nine society or MENSA? I don’t know if either group is helpful and would love to hear from anyone who has tried them. There’s also intergifted.com and a group called Gifted Adults on Facebook. For parents, there are Hoagies Gifted Discussion Group and Parenting Gifted Children. There are also parent groups for 2e kids on FB. I’d say that there are pros and cons to all of these, like there is to anything. But they could be places to start. If you’re in the profoundly gifted range, it’s even harder. But there are programs for PG kids and families. IEAgifted runs summer programs and has resources.. Gifted Development Center has a PG retreat. There are state organizations for gifted kids. And, there’s http://www.sengifted.org. They have resources and conferences where you can learn about your kids and meet other gifted adults.

                  Liked by 2 people

                • Aww, Dr. Dad, your comment brought tears to my eyes. I was lucky enough to find one therapist years ago who was non-judgmental and even fascinated with the gifted and how they/we think. I actually spent a long time with him incognito. It was when I told him about my oldest qualifying for a gifted program and he started with a laundry list of special considerations that I would have to make for him as a parent that I took the risk and asked him of those same considerations could be impacting me.

                  It changed the entire focus of our work together and was a true a-ha moment for both of us. I think maybe I was just lucky. He is now retired and is, to date, the only person I have ever felt I could unleash myself without being judged. I’m lucky enough that my children, both also gifted, are in the right educational environment, at least for now. That was also part luck and part endless work on my part to find the right place and figure out how to make that work for us financially.

                  I do feel your pain, and hope that you can find someone with whom it’s comfortable to talk about those things. It is so hard IRL, but at least for now we have Paula!!

                  Liked by 2 people

                • Been there, done that, Dr. Dad (where it pertains to looking for therapists and/or having booked sessions with some). I soooo resonate with that! I never knew about my potentially being gifted until a year ago myself – and I’m still reluctant to accept THAT gift as well as it gave me nothing but heartache, bullying at school and getting singled out, some more bullying later to the point of losing jobs and whatnot). So… wow, while I don’t have children of my own, I think I am imaginative and empathic enough to feel safe to say that it must be THE hardest job on earth to be a conscentious, mindful, nurturing, supporting parent with highly gifted children! Seriously, major hats off to all you parents who were gifted with – uhm, duh! 🙂 – gifted children!

                  And yes, with regard to therapists, I must concur. I’ve felt the same way: What on earth am I going to discuss with a specialist whom I outthink, outspeak, outfeel on just about anything I bring to the table? Where and how can (s)he help? So yeah, at the risk of coming across as self-praising, I must say, I can relate.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  • I quite enjoyed reading this thread you all have going and I share your frustrations. I agree with renovatio06; hats off to parents in general and major hats off to parents of RFM kids. It is enough work (struggle) just to take care of myself and figure out my needs, let alone those of super sensitive, intelligent humans!

                    Learning about myself thanks to this blog and our dear Paula has done wonders, but I have definitely been reluctant to ‘accept’ RFM knowledge of myself and subsequent implications (I have flip-flopped between acceptance and awe to denial and inventing maaany excuses for my odd brain/heart-/soul-wiring since I found this blog over 2 years ago). I still don’t think I fully ‘understand’. Thank goodness for the internet for access to info at all hours, and to keep in touch with RFM friends who live far away. Finding RFMs in a nearby location with shared passions often seems impossible. Well, as a working adult, just making ANY friends is hard.

                    Yes, sarah, different friends for different interests is the only way to stay sane. The challenge with this is that I don’t end up seeing many of my friends very often and they probably wonder why (I have many interests and I need alone-time to recharge). You, too? I am struggling these days to engage in small talk and have an urge to just jump into idea-based conversation. Humanity really needs some viable solutions for sustainable existence given the state of the world, and that requires conversation and sharing of opinions/ideas about meaningful topics that people so often shy away from, at least here in Canada, but I can’t help but feel that there is simply no time to waste. Maybe what I consider small talk isn’t considered small talk by everyone? I don’t want to bore people with ideas that they don’t want to engage in, but it is hard to ‘numb’ myself during ‘small talk’ so often. As such, I enjoy amusing myself with translating conversations (live time) into one of the several languages I know. I also love having a song running in my head (from memory, not with headphones) while visualizing the fingering for violin/cello/piano as if I were playing one of the lines. I love replicating the actual fingering in my pocket, just gently tapping, and walking down the street and feeling like I am playing right then and there with the big wave of music flowing through me, while no one around knows. And when I am done with one line of the song, I switch to another (melody vs. one of the harmony or bass lines). Well, these are my entertaining ways of amusing myself, when not feeling anxious (about the state of the world, my family, or when I am going to cook myself a hearty dinner between my many activities) or pondering ideas. How do you all amuse yourselves in your heads to avoid feeling numb? Fun tips welcome 😉

                    I haven’t managed to solve the finding a worthwhile local therapist issue, so good luck there.

                    Liked by 2 people

                    • Oh my gosh, cmd1122, these are great examples of ways to keep your mind entertained when you’re stuck in a mind-numbing situation. I will mention some of these in my next post and encourage readers to add others. Thank you for sharing. Yes, I believe there is no time to waste.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Thank you, Paula!! Doodling in staff meetings hasn’t gone over well in the past, but these tricks work well and amuse my mind in more stimulating ways.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    • Wow, cmd1122 – thanks for somewhat “reminding” me of mental devices I used in the past to keep me from being bored out. (I did doodle in school when the teacher wasn’t able to engage us or me – a LOT of doodling….). Interpreting live (and silently) is great! Going over musical lines and even doing the fingering I think is perfect! Must memorize that, too! (I did do that when I was younger and obsessed with becoming a pro musician; I remember doing the exact same thing for guitar and how I’d finger certain chords or runs or trying to figure out what a chord progression was without actually getting to sit down with a guitar or keyboard).

                      As I’m applying for a job to get me back into the “”real world”, memorizing your ideas is certainly going to do me some good at times of being underwhelmed. (And for those other times when people and their emotions become too intense, I guess it will help to remind myself that most of the time it’s not personal and even if it appeared so, reminding myself that they are very likely to project something onto me that I’m not really responsible for; other than that, bringing closed back headphones and my nature sounds /meditative music apps as well as imagination and inner visualization safe, relaxing places, like a remote bach or something). Tea, maybe essential oils if allowed at all.

                      Liked by 1 person

                  • Thanks for the support and good wishes, folks. It’s kind of you.

                    Yes, Paula, I’ve joined the triple nine society, but haven’t so far found it terribly useful. I have a rewarding conversation once in a while, but that’s it. I guess I should try Mensa, which has a bigger membership.

                    Sarah, I find it peculiar that there is a seventy-four item list of possible specialties in Psychology Today’s find a therapist, and giftedness is not one of them. Once again, we’re just supposed to be fine, and it’s the other kids who need help.

                    Renovatio, yes it is hard to be a parent of gifted children, especially if they have complications like ADHD, SPD, PTSD, etc. I don’t know if being gifted myself makes it easier or harder. On the one hand, I can usually recognize what’s going on and have appropriate (i.e. what other people would consider unreasonable) expectations for my kids. On the other hand, my own negative school experiences can overly color my perception of their school experiences.

                    Trying to navigate problems like my kids wanting to move much faster in math is complex. With my son, I pulled him out, homeschooled him double-time, and put him back into a school that would accept his acceleration. The school is happy to have someone who can win math competition and will bring up their SATs. Now I have to figure out how to support my daughter to accelerate in place without alienating teachers and administrators too much.

                    My kids are both even more ‘too much’ than I am, each in a different way – call it a consequence of assortative mating among the profoundly gifted. My kids are both hilarious in their own ways, and I find our family very rewarding. I know that my wife’s giftedness is essential to our relationship, and that it was foolish of us to imagine our kids would be any more normal than we are.

                    Liked by 3 people

                    • renovatio06, glad to know that you also did the fingering practice–isn’t it fun?
                      All of your other techniques sound very helpful. I like to sketch out my calendar for the week on recycled paper (so I can make the shapes for each day as big as I think they need to be to fit in all my to-dos and ideas); it is a bit of an ‘excuse’ to draw without looking like I am doodling (as that was thoroughly frowned upon at a previous workplace and I was called out on it during a staff meeting and answered that I was still following everything, which wasn’t what my boss wanted to hear in the moment…whoooops…haha.)
                      One more suggestion: put maps on your walls (as relevant to work?)–they are fun to look at. Also: office plants to keep you company 🙂 And finally, I have a scrap of paper right below my computer monitor that says “Sapere aude” (“Dare to know”, or “Dare to be wise”) that helps keep me sane when I need to take a deep breath and re-focus.
                      I wish you all the best with the job applications and finding a job that is a good fit for you.

                      Liked by 2 people

  14. Hmm, I’m not sure what I do in my head. I know I spend a lot of time looking things and people up, to learn more about them. It’s kind of a time-wasting habit, but leaves me with tidbits of info on a lot of topics, which serves to annoy my husband, parents and in-laws and alienate some of my friends, but it’s kind of compulsive. And I enjoy it so I’m not sure I really want to stop. So this week I’ve learned a lot about Ginger Baker, Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander. Oh, and the Texas tradition of homecoming mums. Who knew? Boy moms used to make giant mum corsages for their sons’ homecoming dates. Now they’re mostly ordered from florists or Etsy. They’ve grown into this monstruous phenomenon of gigantic proportions. Next week I’ll be learning about whoever and whatever the news cycle serves up.

    I also tend to always be planning a novel (that I never write) in my head. I never get very far, though, so I’m not sure that counts. Actually, it’s the beginning I’m stumped on. Maybe someday….

    I often zone out during small talk at parties. I hope other people don’t notice, but they might…I never really know what to talk about, and I think the most difficult are people who are acquaintances, who I know a little to well to ask all of the standard intro where are you from type questions, therefore I’m stuck with how was your summer, how were the holidays, etc. Which gets boring so I zone out, smile and move on to the next person. I try to always find something positive to say and I make it through the crowd once and then I leave….it works for me. I do thoroughly enjoy my friends though. This is just cocktail party survival mode I’m talking about.

    There is the occasional magic where you realize someone you’ve known for a long time has a really interesting or weird interest, hitherto unknown, which can make for a fascinating hour or so.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are so rainforest-y, Sarah. Let us know when you write your novel. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • sarah, yes for learning about people and things thanks to the internet. 🙂
      Do try to finish one of those novels. I know it is not easy -I am also struggling with that-, but being more productive recently as I found a writing group that meets in one of the large study rooms at the library. There are 8 of us (different people each time, though some overlap of people) and we sit and write in silence for 1.5 hours (with a break in the middle)–there is a wonderful focused energy in the room and we are surprisingly productive.
      Yes, cocktail party survival mode…I try to avoid going to those, but I hear you on the tactics. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  15. You bet, it makes a difference! I can identify with just about everything you wrote here. I did not even realize for quite some time why I had some of the troubles I had. Thanks for your blog.

    Liked by 2 people

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