Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

My Quirky Journey From Introverted Psychotherapy Nerd To Introverted Psychotherapist Tango Dancing Blogger Author Nerd

29 Comments

I am an introverted psychotherapy nerd.

I know there are other ways to live. But I don’t care.

I have been a client in some type of therapy since I turned 31. I have tried it all.

Rebirthing. Holotropic breath work. Support groups. Talk. Journaling. Attachment theory. Jungian analysis. Enneagram. CBT. EMDR. EFT. Acupressure. Energywork. Hakomi. Shamanic journeying. Grief Work. Reiki. Fly fishing. Bioenergetics. Art. Nature. Naturopathy. Dance. Acupuncture. Psychodrama. Astrology. Couples counseling. Somatic experiencing. Massage. Cranial-Sacral. Soul collage. Meditation. Psychodynamic. Mindfulness. Yoga. Dreamwork. Diving into the abyss. Blogging.

Okay, blogging isn’t therapy per se, although it has been therapeutic for me. (a life saver, if you want to know the truth)

I used to think I was deficient because I spent most of my time introspecting. I didn’t have much of an outer life. I didn’t join a bowling league. Or get season tickets to the opera. I didn’t follow the Grateful Dead around the country. I didn’t own a blender or a table cloth. I didn’t send my nonexistent kids to college. I almost didn’t have partners.

Okay, I’m exaggerating. A little. I did take breaks from introspection. I was a teacher of gifted children for a number of years. An actress in community theater for about a decade. Learned the Argentine tango and danced in Paris. Built relationships with a bevy of friends and wrote angsty emails to them regularly. Married. Divorced. Watched my most adorable niece and nephew grow up.

I have loved. I have been loved.

See, I’ve done stuff.

But I can’t deny the truth. When it comes down to it, I am excessively, undeniably, inner-focused. And it can appear a little quirky. I get it. But hey, there is a heck of a lot going on in my psyche. It is really lively in there. Very entertaining.

But I digress.

So, back in my later 30’s, after about ten years as a client in therapies, it occurred to me that I ought to just become a psychotherapist. I had so much experience! And this would be the ideal career path for an introverted psychotherapy nerd.

So, that’s exactly what I did.

And, because of my background teaching gifted kids, I decided to specialize in counseling the gifted. Not only that. I came up with the brilliant, if I do say so myself, metaphor to explain them to themselves. They have rainforest minds. Like the rainforest, they are deeply complex, highly sensitive, smart, and capable of making a contribution to the planet if they aren’t cut down and forced to be something that they’re not.

And now that I have been a psychotherapist for some time, I have a good reason to continue to be living the introspective lifestyle. I get to put my experience as a client to good use. I get to guide brave souls into their abyss and show them around. So they see what they need to see. Feel what they need to feel. Find out who they really are. Then I guide them out of their abyss to live their authentic life and find their purpose(s).

One person at a time. Deep diving. No small talk.

Then, about seven years ago, I discovered blogging. Writing a blog for rainforest-minded folks is also a fine way to be an introverted psychotherapy nerd. I get to meet fabulous humans living all over the world who want to deeply understand their own nerdly-ness. And I don’t have to leave my living room. I developed a consulting practice to serve these beautiful souls. (You know who you are.)

What could be better?

The blog led to book writing. Also a very introverted introspective nerd-ish thing to do. 

But why am I writing all of this, you ask? Am I justifying my somewhat unconventional life to you? Am I a teensy weensy defensive because I still don’t have a table cloth?

And what does this have to do with being gifted? Are all rainforest-minded souls introverted, introspective abyss-divers?

No. Some are extraverted, introspective abyss-divers.

The rainforest-minded are complex thinkers. Deep feelers. Analytical. Seeking self-understanding. Questioning. Empathetic. Highly sensitive. Lovers of learning. Multipotentialites. Striving to live meaningful lives. Wanting to create a better world.

But I understand. They aren’t necessarily in therapy. Or introverted. They may have very active, even conventional, outer lives. Kids. Opera tickets. Blenders.

But still, here’s the thing. If you have a rainforest mind, if you have one quirky obsession or many, if you feel weird and a bit out of sync, if you are leading an unconventional life, and if you never get that table cloth or that blender, well, meet me in Oregon.

We’ll go bowling.

__________________________________________

To my bloggEEs: So, as you can see, here is another post with the focus on me! It will be stored on my Personal Musings page. Your comments are welcome. Does my sharing more of my background help you understand yourself? Is it helpful to get an inside look at the person behind the blog?? Thank you, as always for your thoughtful comments and questions. Much love to you all.

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.

29 thoughts on “My Quirky Journey From Introverted Psychotherapy Nerd To Introverted Psychotherapist Tango Dancing Blogger Author Nerd

  1. FYI, tablecloths are overrated, as my husband says (and rightly so), they merely cover up the beautiful wood beneath them.
    Yay to embracing our differences!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Paula, this post was really fun to read. I haven’t tried many of the things you have, actually tried a few and except dancing, none worked hahaha. But I totally relate to this introversion, constant self-analysis. I’m a born psychologist and actually considered studying psychology, but decided I was too crazy and I’d probably hurt my patients with my oddities and my traumas. I studied translation because of the Impostor Syndrome. I wanted to study Literature and be a writer.
    I have found a lot of jewels in my personal journeys. The first was that: EQ is more important than IQ, so I set out on my search for wisdom rather than smart-alec kind of intellectuallism. I’m still not as mature as I would like, but have taken great strides and most people find my speech and my writing inspiring. Which is awesome. My two cents shared and actually multiplying as I give them away.

    My novel is still unwritten. My blog abandoned. But I write every day. With passion. I talk a lot (and bore some people hahaha). I actually think I am what Susan Cain calls an “ambivert”. I learn a lot on my own, and I learn just as much by connecting with people. I love socializing like an extrovert, but then I love Me Time. BTW, for those of you who don’t know her, here’s an intro. https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts

    That TED talk was, wow! A huge validation from a “fellow citizen”. I don’t have to be the most popular girl in the class. I can be great even if I’m bullied and misunderstood by all! I CAN sit in a corner and read and reflect and find meaning in things most people find meaningless, connections between things people would never understand. I’ve had the “you’re-definitely-psychotic” look thrown at me when I try to explain things that really went over people’s heads, even though I try to explain my reasoning in a very logical, step-by-step, kindergarten teacher manner. And many don’t even let me finish, because they don’t like my level of depth.

    I taught English as a foreign language, and Spanish for foreigners, for years. I found myself “being a counsellor” very often. Using the language I was teaching to talk about life, because the book was a springboard for fascinating conversations. Some loved my very philosophical attitude, and the hope and affirmation I shared. I’ve heard very sad stories, because many people sensed they could trust me and used the class as a therapy session where I would empathise and give the best advice I could think of, but mostly an open ear, which is a luxury these days. I love people.

    More inspiring people who have helped me on my very personal. Barbara Sher. Hey, it’s OK to be a polymath/scanner/jack-of-all-trades/encyclopedic kind of mind! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2rG4Dg6xyI

    Brene Brown. It’s OK to be vulnerable… as long as you take calculated risks and not overshare with the wrong people, which I typically do, oops. https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_the_power_of_vulnerability

    I think most of your bloggees will find these talks inspiring.
    Thank you Paula for helping us navigate our own forests!

    Liked by 5 people

    • Nice to learn more about you, Carina, and to see some of the resources you recommend. I’m glad this was fun to read!

      Like

      • Thanks, Paula! I hope I didn’t sound too much like a “have-it-all-together” kind of person. I have actually had to navigate through a thousand insecurities and beat-myself-up moments in order to be where I’m at right now, and I still need to remind myself that a healthy, balanced self-esteem is fundamental to being able to be who I want to be. I have had many painful experiences and if there’s one thing I hate it’s stumbling over the same stones again and again (which I typically did!), so I’ve really had to take mental note of all the learnings I collected along the way.

        I found when sharing a bit of these personal struggles, showing myself as a fallible human, taking “calculated risks” of sharing my heart with people (Brene Brown’s experience was very helpful) people would open up to me and there would be some great connections. I always hated and resisted the oft-repeated mantra “You should know everything about your students but students should know nothing about you.” Not that I would sit in a class to talk about myself, but just bits and pieces here and there, enough to build trust, and always considering what I could share with who. There were some very “professional” people who came just for an English/Spanish lesson and hated any personal stuff, even talking about their careers on a business language lesson. I found it very hard to teach such people, and I found those “follow the textbook” lessons very boring. I like deep conversations. Small talks bores me to tears. When I’m at a party and there’s no depth to be found with anyone, just platitudes, I begin to go to the restroom often, start analysing people while saying “Aha”, find inspiration for my novel, then eat and drink and leave quickly hahaha.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this! You have me smiling, laughing and tearful all at the same time! Thank you!!
    I’ve not tried everything (yet) on your list, but coming close. After some 15 years of therapy, hm.. maybe I’ll start my own practice as well, haha! Not a blog, that would be forgotten I’m afraid..
    If I ever have the chance to fly around the world, I’ll come see you! And we go bowling! In a very introverted and introspective kind of way. We’ll be laughing! 😘

    Liked by 2 people

  4. One of my personal ads mentioned that I didn’t own a cell phone, car, TV, or microwave. (3/4 of these are still true). I do own tablecloths (they’re quirky!), but no placemats, and I can bowl, kinda. I own “Opera for Dummies”. I haven’t read it yet. I feel a new personal ad coming on. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  5. This incredible blog is my lifeline that keeps me going, just knowing that, in my own quirky way, I have a tribe. I have a tribe!!

    An extrovert by nature, I have found life so very lonely. People share with me endlessly… total strangers. I think my face must say I care about you and they need someone to trust. So, on one side, I feel such empathy for any given human, but on the flip side the collective selfish, truly evil, mindless harm that people as a whole have caused this planet in the last 50 years weighs so heavily on my soul that I have to keep searching every day for positive hope and amazing humans. Watching what the majority of humans are doing to everything around them, including themselves, requires a fortitude and positive attitude that I truly do not think I could maintain without knowing I have a wonderous tribe of exceptional souls. The most momentous moment of my thoroughly varied 65 years was the day I found this blog and finally discovered that I wasn’t a deformed ‘ugly duckling’ after all but a quintessential rainforest mind swan. No words can ever convey my gratitude to you Paula. And to everyone who shares on this blog.

    I have tried bowling…. I am laughably bad at it, so bad it was quite fun. Like the one time I played golf.
    Warm wishes and Heartfelt hugs to all (except any of you do don’t enjoy hugs of course). 🙂

    Liked by 6 people

  6. Haha Paula. My bowling ball jumped several lanes the only time I played … I think the same as Itssue42, sometimes I am very sad but thanks to you I remember why I feel this way and that there is a tribe that maybe understands me … Lately I’m a little desperate trying to understand what we are in this world for and I think I can’t have a life project beyond small projects … Could you talk to us one day about this, Paula? How can I find meaning in life when many times it seems that we do not do more than overcome obstacles and obtain small earthly pleasures? what are we here for? I’d love to know … don’t get me wrong, in this case they’re not negative ideas, it’s just that I can’t assume that life is just living and dying …

    Liked by 2 people

    • I will think about this, marymarymar8. Are you asking what is the meaning of life? It sounds like your life may be full of obstacles so it’s hard to create something more than just to get through the day? Is that what you’re saying? This, of course, is a big question! You are welcome to email me (see the About page) to give me more information about you and this question so I have a little more to go on. But you have me thinking!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I have been there, desperately and hopelessly so. At the bottom of the darkest pit, even wishing to die at times because I was so unhappy. But there was always a little ray of hope that life HAD meaning, and if there was one thing I would do, I would seek everywhere in order to find it. If there was one such thing as truth, I would learn it and embrace it. I personally reject nihilism because without a purpose, without an ultimate sense of transcendence, life is just surviving, and I have been there and don’t ever want to be there again…

      Liked by 2 people

      • and how did you come back Carina?

        Liked by 1 person

        • This is very personal and I cannot share one-size-fits-all recipes. But I had to recognize that in my case a lot of my unhappiness stemmed from parental abuse of all sorts. Hatred towards my dad (and then my mum, for defending me very weakly, because she was in total denial of how horribly dysfunctional our family was) then turned into self-hatred, self-rejection, self-sabotage, a constant negative self-talk. Like the typical Imposter Syndrome but waaaay worse. I had to look at the situation as if I were an outsider. OK, this person, who happens to be my natural father, is very sick. To this day he is still too proud to admit he shipwrecked his own life and the childhood of all three of his children. I’ve had to understand his story of abuse which apparently was worse than mine, but move on and take a safe distance from his toxicity. I cannot get him to love me in a healthy way, because he can’t love but he actually believes he’s done his best and is a good person. He does have some positive traits but the bottom line is still too negative, from my heart’s point of view. 😦

          My journey out of the pit was snail-paced. I met a great guy, got married, had one son and many years later our second boy. I found a refuge in Christian churches… But there was always a missing piece. I was still trapped by self-doubt. Beating myself up all the time. Feeling awful for the one thing I did wrong and not feeling any real sense of accomplishment for the maybe nine things I did right. I tried to believe in the beautiful spiritual truths I heard. “Yeah, that’s great for everyone else, but I am too rebellious/clumsy/foolish, etc.” I wanted to achieve something, and had many things in my life that should make me happy or even proud of having actually survived and achieved anything at all considering the awful lies I’d been told about my identity. But I still hated myself deep down. No praise, positive feedback, word of comfort I could receive would really help boost my self-esteem. I had to “face my monsters”. I had a series of long, hard talks with my mum where I could finally get her to understand the hell I’d been through. She honestly had no idea. Getting it off my chest helped. Then prayer and crying my guts out (against, this is very personal, it’s MY experience). Talking to my husband and some really supportive people who showed me they really cared about me, really liked me and validated what I felt, and I COULD be finally vulnerable with them and not get hurt.

          And then I realized my greatest gift, and what really makes me very happy is to do the exact opposite of what my father did. He was (and is) constantly critisizing. I’m constantly praising. Not flattering people, but finding good things people do (or even the color of clothes they are wearing, anything) and giving specific words of affirmation that put a smile on people’s faces. I love motivating people, supporting them, encouraging them, lifting them up when they begin to beat themselves up, helping them reach their goals, reaching out for the lonely. I like helping people out. Noticing when someone is tired and saying, Hey, how can I help? and a little act of service. Hugging. Being thankful for the many things that are great in my life and not complaining about the things that aren’t working. Believing what is not right will eventually get sorted out some way or other, or I’ll find a way to live with it.

          Not sure any of this will help you. Perhaps your discouragement stems from very different reasons. But I believe there IS purpose for each of our lives. I think that communities, tribes like this help us not feel so isolated, and loving each other heals and helps us thrive. I hope that makes sense and you find your missing piece. Hugs!

          Liked by 3 people

          • Thank you, Carina. Early childhood experiences are powerful influences over how we feel about ourselves and life in general as adults. I appreciate your sharing your story and your strength. ❤

            Like

            • Thank you, Paula! I guess if I hadn’t suffered so much I wouldn’t have this fighter’s spirit and strength I do have. I had to make a choice between becoming strong and brave, against all odds, or continuing to live an automaton’s life of no real risks with people. I could share a lot about my life except what I really needed to say. Even on my therapy experiences, I showed the “tip of the iceberg” and resisted any attempt to get to the root of my pathos.

              It was very lonely inside my shell. It felt safe, yes, but the books I read and online learnings and discoveries and my fantasy world of the characters I would one day like to write about were merely covering my wounds with a Band-Aid. At one point I had to take another chance at believing there were some good people who were not monsters with a hidden knife to stab me in the back. Vulnerability. Baby steps out of my shell. One day at a time.

              Still making blunders. Many. Still having to remind myself I need to be more merciful and forgiving with myself. Yes, I have serious issues, but I’m not garbage. I am far from my ideal me… But I’m not who I could have been if I hadn’t had the courage to say, I have to get any help I can because I want to be a good, loving, supportive mum with my children, and a mum who defends her cubs when their daddy, who has his own issues to work on, has any attitude that resembles mistreatment. I have a full plate of things to work on and pray about hahaha. But it’s way better now. I have a great support network. Not alone or lonely anymore. ❤❤❤❤

              Liked by 2 people

          • I am very sorry for what you tell Carina, it is very sad that people are not capable of being who they really could be because of the experiences they lived as children. At least I am happy for you, because you have overcome such a difficult stage and have been able to analyze so much and isolate the situation. It is also great that you have been able to count on your husband and those trusted people. It is true that it is not my case and I will not be able to focus on finding a meaning for my life like that, but what your answer has in common with Paula’s from my point of view and what I think can help me is that you have enhanced spirituality. I have some pretty strong ideas in that regard and I think that if I immerse myself in them, perhaps with the idea that Paula has contributed, it can help me find a goal that satisfies me. Thank you very much for telling your story

            Liked by 1 person

            • Well, that’s great! WE collectively helped you find one possible avenue of exploration and now you feel a little better. I am glad you didn’t have to go through trauma! But if my experience shows one thing, I think is that we can have a come-back, a resiliency, a fire on the inside that brings us higher even if our circumstances would seem to dictate the opposite. I am an overcomer. I stay in the fight and don’t give up nor give in. And I totally believe that the best is yet to come for me. I hope and pray the same will happen with you. ❤

              Thanks to you both for validation and empathy. Hugs.

              Liked by 2 people

  7. Thank you very much Paula, maybe it’s the meaning of life what I ask, the fact is that I have a quite good life but always feel something is missing…

    Liked by 1 person

    • So, let us open up this question to our RFMs. How do you find meaning in life?

      For me, it is a combination of things. Could it be as simple as learning how to truly love? To give and receive love? To know beauty? I like to explore spiritual ideas and so I imagine that there is a Mystery or a larger Universe that we can connect with. Maybe there are answers there. Sometimes I feel connected there. I have tried to find my purpose here and purpose gives me meaning. I have been blessed really to find it in my work. It is so very satisfying and nourishing. ( I hope to find love in partnership at some point, too.)

      Perhaps humans need to evolve beyond where we are now. You are yearning for a more evolved human race?? Maybe RFMs developing their empathy and sensitivities and intelligence and raising their children are leading the way to a human evolution. There is a group I am in that is practicing a sort of evolutionary “mutual awakening.” That could be leading somewhere. (https://evolutionarycollective.com)

      Those are some of my quick thoughts. Anyone else?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Another thought about the “something is missing” conundrum. In addition to the possibility of childhood trauma or neglect in the family or in the school setting, there might be intellectual or creative stimulation missing as an adult. In other words, you may have been raised well in your family and still feel out of sorts as an adult. Because you have a rainforest mind, you need to find ways to feed your intellect and creativity. So that’s a possible reason for feeling lost and without meaning.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Great point!

          Liked by 1 person

        • I suppose the Paula thing can go around, it is true that I have been studying for a long time, but oppositions, without time for anything else and with an ever-growing list of things to investigate and groups to sign up for. I will also investigate the group you have mentioned, in any case I believe that human beings have a lot to evolve and we must start now. Thank you very much for all your ideas and for being here :).

          Liked by 1 person

  8. You’re my favourite person in the global gifted tribe, Paula. Thank you for what you share, it’s really been an important anchor for me. In my circumstances, I need that very much. Family all gone (and never understood me in the first place), other facets that contend my real-deep-down-me is so easily isolated and unsecure (not INsecure… you probably get the difference and nuance). Your writing you share so generously helps keep me connected with existential truth, it’s the sanctuary of a blanket and jammies on a hard-raining day in juxtaposition with the externals that are anything but ‘home’. I wish you much love and the best always

    Liked by 5 people

  9. I second what smrilke shared (“you’re my favourite person in the global gifted tribe, Paula” and about how your writing is “the sanctuary of a blanket and jammies on a hard-raining day”…sooooo true…, and of course a sanctuary). I also feel the same about what itssue42 shared above about feeling belonging and that on here I can be a swan, that there are indeed others like me out there.
    I am perhaps the worst at keeping up with commenting when your posts are fresh, but I do always read them on the day you post them and find that they bring me much inner peace. Thank you, Paula, and to all the people who are on top of commenting early on, which brings so much depth of experiences to this blog. It is amazing what a ‘place’, that isn’t a physical place, can actually make people feel, despite age, geographical, religious, cultural and other differences. And during this pandemic and the climate and ecological crises, your blog has been extra comforting.
    Wishing all of you safety, people nearby who accept you for who you are, and a bunch of time to engage in your passions and creative pursuits in the environments that you thrive in.

    Liked by 4 people

    • No need to be “keeping up with commenting” cmd1122. It’s always wonderful to hear from you and everyone but there is no obligation to write, of course. This is a sweet blessing from you: “Wishing all of you safety, people nearby who accept you for who you are, and a bunch of time to engage in your passions and creative pursuits in the environments that you thrive in.” Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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.