Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

The Less Obvious Traits of Giftedness — Intense Emotions, Intuition, and Empathy


photo courtesy of Chayene Rafaela, Unsplash

“…And it also surprises me how people can’t see the interactions between things, and the affects they have on other things. The ecology of the everything, the intertwining of the systems. It is so natural to me that I’ve only realized in the past few years that other people either don’t have this ability at all, or if they do, they can’t see the ripples go out half as far as I do. I have more than once predicted someone’s life playing out decades down the road based on a set of habits and choices – I feel like a wizard with a pointless magic, because I can’t warn them or help them down a better path, and I am still kind of surprised when it plays out the way I predicted…”  ~blog comment

Do you feel like “a wizard with a pointless magic?”  Do you see “the ecology of the everything, the intertwining of systems, …the ripples…” that no one else sees? Does your empathy overwhelm you at times? Is it hard to trust your intuition? Does all of this sensitivity make you feel a wee bit crazy? Are you wondering what all of this has to do with giftedness?

When we think of a gifted human, we may think of a straight-A student, a brilliant mathematician, or an acclaimed scientist. But giftedness is often much more than that. Although it can include great achievements, astonishing talents, or scientific breakthroughs, it might not include those things. Some of the less obvious traits we do not often associate with giftedness are intense emotions, deep empathy, and powerful intuition. So, even if you are not a typical high achiever, your intellectual capacity is still vast and complex and yet you may overlook or discount it if these other aspects are prominent. Let me explain.

Intense Emotions

Many parents of gifted children ask me why their children are so immature when they are so smart. While this can be explained as asynchrony, the idea that these kids are developmentally uneven, it is also the nature of the rainforest mind to have big emotions. It is not immaturity, it is giftedness. The depth and range of feelings can be as wide and deep as the intellect. The expectation might be that because these children are so articulate, they ought to be able to control their emotions and have fewer meltdowns. It is often quite the opposite.

You may have been that child. Perhaps you were labeled dramatic or overly sensitive. And now, as an adult, you may still be grappling with crying jags or moods swinging from despair to awe. Over the years, you may have learned to manage those emotions in a healthy way or you may judge yourself for them (especially if you are male). Managing the highs and lows via self-soothing and self-compassion is important. You don’t want your emotions to run amok at inopportune times. But you will need to learn to respect them, too, as a part of your beautiful depth and complexity.

Empathy and Intuition

Rainforest-minded souls are born with an abundance of empathy. You can see it when, at an early age, they are helping other children or are deeply concerned about the well-being of animals, plants, and the planet. They have a creative capacity to see how all things are connected. I remember the teen client who had difficulty completing papers in school because she could not narrow a topic down. All things were related. She couldn’t turn in the paper, not because she was lazy, as some people thought, but because there was no end to what she needed to research.

You may have been that teen. Not only that. In school, you may also have been overwhelmed by what you were sensing from the other kids and your teachers. You could feel their stress, anxiety, and fear. It was hard to discern what was yours and what was theirs. It still is. And yet, you want to help, to be of service. But it is tricky. You might not know when to stop or how to set appropriate boundaries. And if your empathy is extensive, you likely have a strong intuitive sense as well. An in-depth knowing that can be a reliable guidance system for your own decisions and provide insight into others’ needs and issues.

It is a lot to manage.  A lot to live with. Particularly in these tumultuous times.

What Can You Do?

It just so happens that there is a free online summit just waiting for you the week of March 9-13, 2020. It is hosted by The Shift Network, an organization of smart, sensitive, socially responsible folks. The link to find out more is here. And for those of you who are curious to hear more of my thoughts on this, I am on the program on March 11!


To my dear bloggEEs: Do you experience any of these traits? How? What is difficult for you? How do you manage? If you sign up for Evolved Empath, let us know what you think. Thank you as always for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us and for being your intensely emotional, empathic, and intuitive self! (And thank you to the bloggEE who contributed the initial inspiring comment.)





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.

60 thoughts on “The Less Obvious Traits of Giftedness — Intense Emotions, Intuition, and Empathy

  1. It’s a delicate balance too. While gifted intuitives can have this ability to see how things might evolve for people based on their current perspectives and choices – if we believe in these knowings too much, then we discount the nature of all things. All things change and evolve, some people change from morning to night, and really – there’s nothing to fix and no one to save, only choices to be made. If we empaths and intuitives over-interpret our impressions, or attach them to our own stories, then we may not see a new person residing inside the one we assumed to know.

    To follow our intuition, we must be able to shed our previous knowings and see anew. I find intuition very much resides in the present moment (which includes both the future and the past, but is anything but frozen or decided).

    Just a thought that popped up – not even sure it really fits. 🙂

    Looking forward to the summit!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh yes, my mum told me I would cry out loud when she bought me a pair of shoes with slightly different shade of pink, because I tried to match all my outfit with a specific pink I fond of! and I couldn’t eat chicken because I saw them being slaughtered, etc etc. Never thought of these things are actually a kind of those intensities other than a bunch of troubles for my mum.. and, I don’t know if this is related, but I tend to have difficulty to enjoy achievements. I felt so anxious, uneasy, unsettling, i wanted to scream but couldn’t, these happened last night after I got an excellent result for my national exams. I didn’t know how to deal with this almost-going-mad mode,,

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Spot-on assessment of the discrepancy of high intellect and empathy and being labeled as immature and/or overly-sensitive (in a negative way). Also, the frustrating expectation or stereotype of the gifted as all being super-brainiacs who ace every subject and topic known to humankind. Much more awareness is needed, especially for educators who may not “get” gifted kids. Thanks for blogging about these points and I look forward to listening to the program next week.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is me!!! When I was in 5th grade, my teacher was getting a divorce and had two little girls, and I worried about them so much all year that it was sometimes hard to focus on my classwork. If she ever started to cry or get frustrated I felt absolutely horrible. Somehow, I see patterns and how everything fits together. Now it’s the political landscape and how that fits with my past social work experiences and the various places I’ve lived around the country. I see how it all fits together and have strong beliefs about which presidential candidate we “should” be supporting. It’s so intense and overwhelming….and I can’t understand why others don’t see what I do and refuse to listen to me. I’m a major Cassandra and it’s a really frustrating position to be in.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I always thought there were not many of us who did see the interconnectedness of all things… I wonder now how many of us do see it and be silent about it because of fear of being called weird or worse… I’ve given up on warning people.. I just watch in silence as things play out.. wondering if I could have done anything to prevent it. Granted, not everything is bad.. I also see good things happening…

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m thinking that it might be good if more and more folks talk about how everything is connected. It’s a perspective that is needed right now!
      It can be tricky to have intuition/premonitions. Hard to know what’s accurate and what’s not and then whether to speak up. Hard to determine one’s level of responsibility, too. It’s complicated!

      Liked by 4 people

  6. I find it odd that not having strong feelings or expressing them is seen as a sign of maturity. I ran into this one as a parent, and found it frustrating and infuriating. to see narrowness and lack of intensity as desirable! To equate indifference with maturity! there’ is so much wrong with this outlook. Thanks for what you’ve shared in this post, its a good antidote.

    Liked by 6 people

  7. This is definitely something that happens to me all the time. In fact, making decisions is very difficult for me because I know EXACTLY how others are going to feel about. Sometimes this makes me look weak, because I take too much time to make a decision, or I avoid it. On the other hand, I have learned to be very diplomatic, and to find solutions that suit all parties concerned. Pros and cons 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Being “out of sync” is perhaps the most obvious aspect of giftedness, but it is a vast landscape of asynchrony–every aspect of the human mind and spirit may be part of it. Dabrowski had a handle on this, but even his view was limited in some ways. The assumption that giftedness is solely a matter of extreme intellect is wildly outdated, but when the focus is solely on “education” rather than supporting the whole child, and continuing to recognize and value the whole person, some of humanity’s most valuable gifts get ignored, or worse–suppressed. The good thing is that so much has changed in my lifetime! And the change will go on being exponential as long as humanity is here. Evolution is an “upward spiral,” whether it always seems so or not. It’s my belief that optimism is far more valuable over time than its opposite.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for this, Stef. We need our optimism now for sure.


    • Yes!! Thank you so much for this because it’s reassuring to know someone else notices. I am a gifted adult who was identified but never properly supported in childhood, I’m 50 now and there wasn’t much for me back in the 70s and I actually ended up being treated very poorly by the system. I have grown really weary (and wary…) trying to connect with any ‘gifted’ organisations in current time because they make me feel worse. They either neglect the adults because by now I guess we’re all supposed to have gone the academic track and living wildly successful lives with august positions in impressive careers or conversely, ended up complete hot messes that can only be “handled” through a psychotherapeutic lens. I have found that all the gifted orgs online that used to be an oasis to me now seem fallen to populism like the rest of the world, fixated on rationalism and the ‘successful’ (popular…) gifteds. And mostly the focus is on the children, always always children… don’t get me wrong, I’m glad kids are not having to go through what I went through but like, I still exist? (as well presumably do others). It didn’t used to be that way even 5 years ago… And I am still ‘asynchronous’ and unique and what some might call eccentric and it isn’t my intelligence that stands out the most, it’s traits like these but there’s so little out there for me and it’s very challenging to try to navigate this often disturbing world we live in, without companions and some sort of philosophical ‘home’ in life, the locus of which gives a sense of belonging and therefore sense and security. It’s bothered me for some time and I’m fresh out of options where people understand and accept and stick up for us gifteds who are so gifted that we couldn’t be a part of the ‘mainstream’. It troubles me, where did they all go? I know there must be others who are in a similar boat. I’d contemplated making a FB group or something for non-mainstream/non-conformist gifteds but it felt like it would be wasted effort.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. Hi Paula, thanks so much for sharing this. I’m guessing, as with most of these summits, although the initial registration is free there will also be an opportunity to subscribe to download all the talks to watch later, read through manuscripts etc. It’s can be quite tricky to keep up with all the presentations in a summit I’ve realised from past experience! 🙂

    Just wondering if you know what the subscription options cost?

    Many thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi

    Sorry, I didn’t realise you have to register for the free event to see the subscription cost. For anyone else interested, you can subscribe for US$97 to get lifetime access to the presentations, transcripts etc. If you want to access the content for free, the presentations are available for 48 hours.

    Many thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for this information, Rochelle. I’m starting to watch/listen right now. What I’m guessing is that some of the presentations will be helpful and others, not so much. It could sound a little too “new age-y” for some of you. So many of you can listen (most are audio after today) without having to buy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Also, this is about empaths. Not all empaths are RFMs. The presenters may or may not be RFMs. But all RFMs have quite a lot of empathy. So there ought to be information you can take from this but, as usual, you can pick and choose what applies to you.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you. This is a lovely post with some good seeds to think about, and I will check out the opportunity to listen to some of the sessions.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh I guess I can’t edit so I’ll addendum instead… just for background demographics… Haha. I am a 2E PG, hyperlexic (taught myself how to read at 2y), tested off the scale throughout my scholastic years, in grade 3 scored a grade equivalency of 12.9 on scholastic aptitude tests in my country. Which means that at 9 years old I was academically ready for university. I have all my papers here. Nobody ever knew what to do with me and what happened was a story I’ve seen quite a number of times on the periphery of gifted orgs… the teachers expected me to do this rote schoolwork and get constant A’s when it was torture being bound to constantly prove I had mastered these concepts and was thirsting for something to actually _learn_ and explore. I’ve been IQ tested and aptitude tested numerous times throughout my life and the results have been consistent. There’s not many tests that can measure me.

    But I don’t even care about that anymore… it’s these things that Paula so eloquently identifies and explores, the intuition, the empathy (which is much, much more than ‘feeling other’s feelings’, the sensations and events that are essentially precognitive events, you have to be SO careful who you talk about these things with because in the current political climate, many people do not understand and are very harsh because to them, they call it ‘woo woo’ and it isn’t STEM or describable using STEM terms so it’s immediately suspect because ‘science’ has become just as populist as many other things. I do understand that a little because anything that seems even remotely ‘new age’ can be unilaterally dismissed and even mocked. People do not have an inquisitive attitude and if you say something that can be interpreted as being outside the realm of stark rationalism, it can be very problematic. I have withdrawn into my shell so much even though I have also tried to find groups that had an open mind, I have found that mysticism gives me a lot of comfort. But it’s hard to find other people… which is all the more sad because I have so many qualities, gifts, to share with people, born of a tender heart and rainforest soul but they don’t get to come out and play very often. Paula mentioned ‘new agey’ in another comment and that is definitely one of those terms that can be problematic also.

    As for gifted, because I am middle aged now and there is a lot of ageism these days… I used to see things around like ‘you ARE gifted, it isn’t something you grow out of’, or pretty image macros with quotes from the most excellent Dr. Silverman on, they validated the non-academic gifted qualities but I rarely see things like that anymore. Gifted FB pages seem to only cater to ‘tiger mom’ types a lot of the time, I’ve grown disillusioned. Or they are for the ‘educational establishment’ and it’s just adverts for this or that conference or symposium, which makes me feel bad too because that is not at all my ‘scene’ and I couldn’t go to any of them even if I wanted to. I’ve tried very hard to find some sort of gifted community that is a sanctuary not just for me, but for others in a similar boat and I KNOW I am not the only one but it’s difficult to be optimistic sometimes. But when you see something optimistic and someone who you sense ‘gets it’, it’s like a star twinkling in the vastness of the night sky. Thank you Stef… I needed that today. 🙂

    And sorry, that all kind of came out because it’s been repressed for so long. I’d rather have put them in more suitable places but Stef, your comment was a really helpful launch point. And thank you Paula! Your blog has been a source of much solace over the years. Blessings to you xx

    Liked by 3 people

    • Rilke,
      I see ,hear you.
      I will pray for you to find ways to ‘ let your light shine ‘ .
      As you have said, you have SO MUCH to give and contribute.
      I wish I could help more.
      Let us make the world a better place for people like yourself and others I care for.

      Liked by 2 people

    • There’s a person in New Zealand, Maggie Brown, who is writing her dissertation on gifted adults. She might be someone to reach out to, Rilke.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you Anne, you are very kind. That is a good help, to be _seen_. Best to you too =) xx And thank you for the links, Paula!! I’m excited to see =D

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hi Rilke,

          Much of what you wrote resonated with me (though I’m definitely not as academically gifted as you). I have an inquiring mind – I look for evidence, though also put a lot of trust in my intuition. I prefer to stay open to possibilities rather than close concepts down too soon just because I, or others, don’t understand the mechanism or mechanics by which something works.

          I think there is much to learn still about the flow of life energy (both within us as individuals, and between each of us) that is very much misunderstood or unknown. Just because science hasn’t proven it (yet), doesn’t dim my strong intuition.

          Anyway, I’m not sure how to reach you, but if you’d like someone to bounce ideas off some time, a fellow soul with a curiosity about life, feel free to contact me.


          Liked by 1 person

  13. That is super kind of you Paula. Thank you so much for your generous and kind offer. I have emailed you my details in case Rilke is looking for a ‘penpal’ over here in New Zealand. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’ll tell you, my “rainforest mind” is being crushed by the covid shutdowns right now. All the kids kicked out of school, all the pools and gyms and libraries and ski mountains and restaurants and bars shut down, my kids’ friends shut in by their panicked parents. All this for a disease that I probably already have without any symptoms.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am about to send out a post about the virus, Dr. Dad. What an enormous challenge for parents!


    • Oh.My.God. I’ve been reading this blog for a long time, upside down, inside out and didn’t have the nerve to post. But now, Oh. My. God. I hope what you think is right, Dr. Dad, otherwise… I mean, how stupid these Chinese, these Italians, these Spaniards, right? Please! Please!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. ” my kids’ friends shut in by their panicked parents. All this for a disease that I probably already have without any symptoms.”

    I’m sure I probably misunderstood. Let me tell you what I read:

    My friends panicked and shut their kids in

    All this for a disease that I probably already have without any symptoms – Is it just me or does is sound sooo patronizing, as in this is nothing at all with no consequences at all and we have to do “all this”.

    Please tell me I’m wrong. Please tell me I misunderstood. If so, I humbly apologize.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, yes, I think you misunderstood, Maria. I imagine Dr. Dad will see this and also explain. But I don’t think he was saying that the social distancing shouldn’t happen or that the precautions are wrong. Not at all. I think he was just saying that he’s having a hard time managing with his kids home and all of the restrictions. He’s not saying that they aren’t needed. Right, Dr. Dad?


  16. There you go. Sorry then. My bad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No problem, Maria. These times are very difficult right now for all of us. We’re bound to misinterpret each other and be easily triggered or upset. I’m sorry for the confusion. Hope you are staying safe and well.


  17. Sorry, yes, we’re very much on the edge in Spain right now. I’m caring for my elderly parents, one of them with Alzheimer who doesn’t understand why can she go out, and it’s very tiring trying to convince her, and I’m also trying to be with them the least possible, as they are classified as high risk population. Luckily we have a whole house with two floors, I stay upstairs and only join them for lunch. Not easy times. Please stay at home. It’s the only way. Sorry again for being so harsh!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sending you love, Maria. And compassion and hope to us all. ❤


      • sorry to hear that Maria 😦 I wish all of us the best of this time, it’s quite scary. Thank you Paula for being here and being a point of light… I think it’s going to be a lot harder for our cohort than average folks. Hold steady everyone. “They can cut down the flowers but they can’t stop the coming of spring”. It won’t last forever.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you, smrilke. I’m hesitating to post your other comment just because I’m wondering how far to go into this topic. Is it helpful to debate this issue here or is it contributing to the anxiety and discord? I’m not sure. How do we have a safe oasis here but also not pretend these things aren’t happening and impacting all of us? So, I think I won’t post that comment. Hope you understand. 🙂


      • I think we do not need to be excessively worried. We should just take it seriously and avoid being selfish.
        María L. Domínguez: there is particular concern here in Spain indeed (specially in Madrid) but take a look to this article:

        It is in Spanish, so not all readers will be able to understand it… it is about the “good news” of this issue. Espero que te ayude y que podamos tomarnos con calma el tiempo que debemos estar en casa ¡Mucho ánimo! [hope it helps!] 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks, Someti. Can you summarize in English a little of what the article is saying?


          • Thank you all, thank you Someti, for the article. Yes, there’s a bright light at the end of the tunnel. Paula, the article says something like 10 positive things about the virus and enumerates that there are people now recovered in China, we now who the virus is, we know what to do, the vaccine, will come, etc. And I agree with everything. What I’m VERY angry about, and you are going to excuse me, is how slow governments reacted after watching China. We thought it would not happen to us. No way! And even watching Italy, Spain waited and wasted very valuable time. And France, and the UK, and Canada and the USA… Is like the virus is roadrunner and politicians take turtle pace actions!

            Ah! Feel better now. Thanks. Or sorry. Excuse me.

            Liked by 1 person

            • No apologies needed, Maria.


            • María, no need to be sorry (I think), I agree with you. I will not write much more of this topic so as not to mention politics, but… what can you expect from politicians of whichever sign/color (along with herds of uncultured people)? 😉

              Oh! And thanks for the brief translation of the article. Yes: it reminds us that previous dangerous viruses took quite a long time to be “discovered” (some of them took even years after the first case was diagnosed) and this one was identified just around 2 months after the 1st case. Scientific development and virus-related investigations are being very efficient now. Lots of people are now recovered and some of them had very little symptoms… etc. It is an article to calm down people who may be excessively worried.

              All the best for everyone! ❤

              Liked by 1 person

  18. oh pooh… I didn’t mean that emote either, I’m not angry… I was trying to do the ‘oops’ one which is clearly different on wordpress… I think I might run away and hide somewhere at this point. Haha (the oops one is usually : x but I used it and it did that angry thing… I give up)

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Pingback: Why Do We Need A Blog For Super Smart, Sensitive, Creative, and Empathetic (Gifted!) People? | Your Rainforest Mind

  20. Pingback: You Agree, You Are Gifted — Now What? | Your Rainforest Mind

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 )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.