Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

A Totally Anecdotal Unscientific Explanation of a Particular Variety of High Intelligence from an Absolutely Nonacademic Tango Dancing Psychotherapist


Did you know that if you search for scholarly articles that define intelligence you will find 46,200,000 of them? If you look for articles defining giftedness, you will find 7,550,000. So, it is probably appropriate that I do not write one of those. Instead, I will tell you what I have seen after working with a particular variety of highly intelligent (gifted) humans for, oh, more years than you want to know. (Let’s just say, I was in my 20’s when I started in gifted education and now I am, gulp, in my 60’s.)

(photo courtesy of Boudhayan Bardhan)

The particular variety of high intelligence I know and love is, what I have called, the rainforest-minded. Not all gifted folks have the traits I will be describing and truly all rainforest-y souls are unique, complex, creative, highly sensitive, mosquito-ish, and extraordinary. (Think jungle.) That said, there are some characteristics and issues I have seen through the years that many of these complex creatures have. And it is important to examine, understand, and explain these particularities so that the rainforest-minded can thrive. After all, they provide us with oxygen when we don’t chop them down or burn them up. Right? And, in today’s world, we need our oxygen more than ever.

People argue over the definitions (thus 7,550,000 articles) but I often find it easy to identify these folks. I mean, really. When your eight-year-old says he wants to be Richard Feynman for Halloween, do you really need more evidence than that? When your four-year old is crying over the beauty of a Mozart concerto? When your ten-year-old screams when you take away her BBC documentaries? When your six-year-old is reading Harry Potter?

And what do those behaviors reveal? Passion for learning. High levels of sensitivity and empathy. Depth and breadth in understanding advanced concepts. Early acquisition of certain skills.

And there is more. Much more: Divergent thinking, perfectionism, intuition, seeking deep meaning and spirituality, difficulty with decision-making, multiple interests and abilities, many career paths, social responsibility, making connections between seemingly unrelated objects, unending curiosity, nonstop thinking, intense emotions, driven curiosity, existential depression, anxiety, difficulty finding suitable friends and partners.

Take Ebony. Sixteen. Intense. Talks fast, thinks fast, moves fast. Asks questions no one can answer. Struggles in school: Doesn’t turn in papers that aren’t up to her standards. Procrastinates to avoid feeling like a failure if she gets less than an A. Tries to engage her classmates in some intellectual repartee when all they want is to watch Survivor. Feels a spiritual and intuitive connection to the ocean and ravens. Lonely for a friend who gets her and who has read Lord of the Rings 11 times.

Or Carlos. Forty-two. Self-taught, successful IT expert. Highly sensitive, empathetic, and emotional. Bullied in school because he preferred grasshoppers and string theory to football. Spends hours writing a three sentence e-mail. Repeats himself often in an effort to be deeply understood and to calm his anxiety. Researches for days in order to make a decision. A slower, deliberate, deep thinker and processor. Wants to learn to dance the Argentine tango so that he can finally experience being followed.

Meet Frances. Fifty-nine. After running her own children’s bookstore, raising two kids and their friends, volunteering on the board for the ballet, and remodeling her home, she is in her latest job working as a city planner. She is considering going back to school for another degree because she has always wanted to be an art therapist or a landscape architect or a stand-up comedian. She thinks she is flakey or shallow because she has walked so many different career paths. Her sense of social responsibility keeps her awake most nights. Her intuitive abilities frighten her.

Ebony, Carlos, and Frances. They are the rainforest mind variety of gifted. If you find some gifted folks who are linear-sequential thinkers, who are super competitive, who thrive in school, in the corporate world, and in more traditional environments, we love them but they are not Ebony, Carlos, or Frances. They don’t live the jungle life.

But you do. Anecdotally. Unscientifically. Absolutely.


To my bloggEEs: Do you know people who might be gifted but not rainforest-y? Do you live the jungle life? Tell us all about it. Your comments are so lush, fertile, wet, tangled, valuable. Thank you, as always, for being here.

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.

18 thoughts on “A Totally Anecdotal Unscientific Explanation of a Particular Variety of High Intelligence from an Absolutely Nonacademic Tango Dancing Psychotherapist

  1. My not-yet-two-year-old daughter gets tragically upset every time a cat chases a mouse or a dog chases a squirrel in an animated movie. She starts crying that Cinderella is “sad” because her stepmother is “mean.” She refuses to draw on her MagnaDoodle because all she can do is scribble, and she knows that more is possible because Mom can draw dogs and cats and trees and things that actually look like pictures. My little “new growth rainforest” is sprouting up not too far from my canopy. Everything is just a little bit harder when your mind is a rainforest!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. HI Paula, I recently came up with another way of looking at the idea of gifted, or at least as it applies to me, and this revelation has come after a longer lifetime that even yours. It seems so obvious but I have not read about giftedness in these terms. What I discovered is that part of what my giftedness is, is excess capacity. I only learned that now, because for the first time, I have found myself feeling that I have come close to filling that intellectual capacity by becoming immersed in the natural world, seeing the behaviors, interactions, and learning to recognize and id various species of insects, spiders, mammals and bird, and even a very large reptile this week. I even started dreaming about the wildlife large and small. It is very satisfying to feel fully engaged. And I realized that it is a destination I didn’t even know I was aiming at. I am afraid I have taken this in a different direction than you were intending, but what do you think? Does it find a fit with your ideas about gifted?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you, Paula. You keep on point with my intensely curious question: Where are the data on the adult, who is gifted, and followed the path of professionalism? Gifted–born with it. (The Hardware from God/closed system/no changes possible) .Profession–totally chosen and totally within realm of skill up, mentors, etc. Think software. Something you choose or can even create. And that drives me to my other obsessive question: Why do we focus attention on gifted children, mostly? That’s what–16 years? Then there is adulthood, which can go another 6X or 7X children years. What about development of the gifted professional? I’ll keep looking. Literature searches yield very little on that combo: Gifted + adult + professional + communicator. For communicator you can substitute creator, writer, artist, thought leader, author, performer, speaker, listener.

    Liked by 5 people

    • You may have to be the one who studies and writes about this, Georgia! There is a person who does executive coaching in quite high end corporations. Some, maybe many, of her clients are gifted. You might look at her work for ideas. (not sure if that’s what you’re asking but…)

      Liked by 1 person

    • Georgia, you are so absolutely right as far as I’m concerned in wondering about why the data and studies on gifted adults seems to be missing on the literature by and large. When I was made aware of the concept of giftedness by a therapist, whose own children are gifted and who ran an elaborate test with me (which confirmed that I seen to fall into that category hook, line and sinker), I found maybe a handful of books dealing with gifted adults and the many challenges associated with these traits in terms of finding our way in the world, and in addition ideally get to not only get by, but THRIVE, right?

      If you were comfortable, please feel free sharing some sources or starting points for further research with me. Now, that I’m eventually beginning to accept the fact I might be an RFM, naturally I’m dying to find a better way of sharing my qualities with the world and liberate myself from a totally impossible situation I landed in.
      Thanks for raising the issue, I think it’s an important aspect, that disparity between looking at gifted children, but hardly attending to gifted adults (except for Paula, of course, and maybe one or the other coach specializing in that area)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ahhhhhhh! those sound like my kind of people!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Oh, Paula, you did it again! You had me smiling in the beginning (Totally anecdotal unscientific absolutely non-academic), then crying with recognition in the middle (lonely for a friend who gets her, finally experiencing being followed and intuitive abilities frightening), to come to a complete circle at the end – they don’t live the jungle life..

    I absolutely love it!! You make it sound so simple, but the reality of living the jungle life is so harsh sometimes. Reading this makes me see a different point of view, and I realize that I might make my jungle life harder than it has to be. Just by accepting that it is MY jungle life..
    So, thank you, as always, for opening the circle!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I love Nonacademic Tango Dancing Psychotherapist. ❤️ Thank you for the wonderful article.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. My first impulse after reading this is that I’d simply live to give you a hug, that’s how completely seen and acknowledged I feel from your words and the great examples you gave and made! All of that and more!

    Thank you endlessly!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. When you LIVE in the jungle you don’t need science to confirm that you live in the jungle. Keep dancing, nonacademic tango dancer!

    Liked by 1 person

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