Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

Answering Simple Questions When You Are A Deep Thinker or What Do You And Jon Stewart Have In Common?


Difficult questions for many of the rainforest-minded include: How are you? What is your favorite book? What do you do for a living? Where did you put your keys?

In your experience, the answers to these questions require time and thought and nuance. Except maybe the keys question. That one requires attention to what you might consider mundane, boring details that take your attention away from the captivating worlds of philosophical profundities, scientific anomalies, and Jane Austen.

Jon Stewart

As an RFM, you are a deep thinker, a divergent creator, a questioner, a curiosity junkie. You say, “It depends” a lot or “It’s not that simple.” Analyzing, debating, and swimming in the depths of an idea or a creative pursuit might be your favorite pastime. And yet. This can make relationships challenging. Friends and family may not want to hear your musings over the latest discoveries in epigenetics or your angst over the extinction of the western black rhinoceros.

It can be a lonely existence unless you find others who welcome your mental contortions and who are enthralled by your drive for meaning and excellence.

So, I am here to tell you that you are in good company. You are not alone. There are others out there just like you. I know this because I talk to them every day. They are all over the world. Granted, there are not large numbers of them on Planet Earth yet. But, if you are patient, and if you are on your introspective self-compassion socially responsible journey finding your paths to meaning and purpose, you will eventually run into one or two or even more. Here are some specific suggestions on how to find them.

If all else fails, you can craft a career that attracts them, like, say, psychotherapy and consulting for smart people. But if you are not convinced, that, one, you can find others like you, and two, your particular style of answering seemingly simple questions is actually quite common among the big thinkers of the world, enjoy this clip of two seriously rainforest-y men as one of them grapples with the difficult question: What is the best sandwich? (the question comes up at about the 2.50 minute mark)


To my bloggEEs: Don’t you just love these men? They are such great examples of rainforest-minded intelligence, sensitivity, social responsibility, and humor. Tell us your experiences with finding friends and partners and with the challenging questions of life. And don’t give up on discovering your own Jon Stewart + Stephen Colbert relationship.

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.

28 thoughts on “Answering Simple Questions When You Are A Deep Thinker or What Do You And Jon Stewart Have In Common?

  1. This is so perfect. I watched this clip the other day and loved it so much—the humor, sure, but also seeing into the mind of someone who must regularly answer “it depends.” Good company, indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I needed this laugh. Jon friggin Stewart – so funny!!! So rainforesty.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is so great to hear and see! I’m a Jon Stewart! 🤣
    Oh, the sandwich! Perfect! And even more accurate in my personal life: the cat.. unfortunately I apparently give that sentiment subconsciously to Indie, my beagle, because he also can’t stand them.. I’ve really tried! And the worst part is: cats love me! Eh… why??? Because I don’t give them the time of day? No attention at all (before I had Indie, that is).. hm.. another musing coming!

    Oh, my own experiences with the “simple” questions asked by people who don’t really know me.. the most difficult question for me is “tell me about yourself”, or an even more tough one “who are you?”… especially in a jobinterview.. my mind goes to all places, thinking what will interest them enough, where I don’t give away any sensitive information at the same time. I end up giving the most lame answer, because my mind goes blank after exploring so many possibilities in my head that it just can’t focus anymore. Obviously I never get those jobs 🙈🙈
    But when those interviewers just have a conversation with me about anything, really, they will see the real me, and mostly we end up having the longest interview in their careers. Laughing and joking but also serious stuff. Those I love! Getting to see how another persons mind works, what lines they follow, and how different and similar we are.
    I’m lucky to know that I have a couple of friends who are RFM’s themselves, and they get me and I get them.
    To meet new RFM’s is a whole different story, though! I can see some people just zone out when they talk to me, and that is a very lonely feeling… they just can’t or don’t see the connections or the meaning of what I’m trying to say. Or worse, they just don’t care..

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have heard from others about the mind going blank, which makes the other person think you are not so bright. But it is just the opposite! Good to hear you have a couple of RFM friends, clignett! Thanks for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Many, so-called, easy questions are many faceted and the asker would do well to narrow it down to the specific area they are interested in. This rarely happens. For me, finding someone with whom I am able to have a real conversation with someone who understands what I am saying, and I understand him/her us extraordinarily rare. IF we exclude closest family who lives on a different continent, the last one was almost two years ago when I was visiting South Africa. The time before that? ….. 30 years? I am doubtful there are enough, like me, for me to have much hope of just running into them in serendipitous fashion. But ‘Hope springs eternal.”

    Liked by 3 people

  5. You hit the nail on the head with this one, Paula! The dreaded “How are you?”

    I’m an acupuncturist, kinda like a psychotherapist, I get to talk to patients all day about their deep stuff (amazing!) But how the heck to answer “How are you?” I hate lying and saying fine when I’m having a bad day – or a great day – or giving any short simple answer. It all feels like a lie. Yet, when patients come in, this time is all about them, not about me, so it’s inappropriate to give the answer I really want to give.
    This feels like a no win situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My clients will ask me that, too, Ev. I think of it this way. Clients are likely asking how I am in relation to them. Kind of like “are you here for me.” So, I can honestly say, “I am well, thanks” because in this moment with them, I am. And in most cases I think that’s what they are asking. When it’s a habit some people have of automatically saying it, that can be frustrating in general for sure. Interestingly, I think in French, the greeting many people use, is both hello/how are you–Ça va?– but there isn’t an expectation of a response to the how are you part. You just respond with Ça va. (French speakers is this true?) Anyway, yes, when we RFMs ask that question, we are seeking a real answer!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I would definitely have a similar problem if I was asked, “What is the best sandwich?”. I am so used to being criticised for not giving a simple straightforward answer. A related issue is that I am reluctant to commit to a straight “yes” or a “no” unless I am 100% sure. My answer is often, “Probably”, “I think so”, “It depends”, or “I’ll have to think about that for a bit”. The truthful straight answer to “How are you?” is normally, “I’m a mixture”.

        Some of the problem is “small talk” and in particular the “etiquette of simulation”, where we’re socialised to simulate interest in each other, and give simple formulaic answers that aren’t particularly honest. “How are you?” is the most obvious and common example in my experience (where “Fine” is expected), but there are others as well.

        Liked by 3 people

      • My experience with French people is that when they ask you “how are you?” (Ça va? – literally “you ok?”), that you have a couple of choices to answer the dreaded question. The most common and maybe socially expected is “ça va” (I’m ok) or “ça va bien” (I’m good), but equally acceptable is “comme ci comme ça” (so-so or mediocre). It is the choice of the person asking to follow up, and if they do, it is your choice to answer the follow-up question. Both equally acceptable, and no hard feelings on either side.

        My experience with Americans is that it is mostly a question they don’t realize that it has impact on the other person. Especially RFM’s.. it’s more a sentence they use instead of saying “goodmorning” for example. I had a manager, American, fresh from the States and just moved to The Netherlands on his first day of being my new manager. He asked it every day. And got a different reply every day. Until he understood that the “simple” question wasn’t so simple for me. I gave him the truth, every day again, and every day different. It was an eye opener for him, a good one. Needless to say that he still is one of the favorite managers I’ve encountered!

        Here in The Netherlands, it’s sometimes (most of the time) a question people really don’t want to hear an honest answer to. Which drives me crazy, because I’m not ok every day, but at the same time I don’t want everyone to know that. Although they can tell by my face, but still.. usually I end up saying “ok” or “mwah” for lack of actual words.. And then change the subject quickly 🤦‍♀️ (I equally don’t care how they are, but I won’t insult them by asking and then not remember their answer next time I see them).

        Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s especially difficult for me when asked to answer questions that require a binary or finite answer, like those in assessment scales administered by psychologists and medical practitioners.

    Dr: “Do you feel hopeless?”

    Me: Define hopeless. Define the time frame… ever? today? Within the last five minutes? Define feel. Do you mean emotional feelings? Irrational feelings or sound ones supported by fact? Or do you really mean my intellectual assessment of an improbable or impossible win?

    Dr: So would you say that’s a yes… or a no?


    Liked by 4 people

    • YES!!! Such a great example. Thank you, lackosleep!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh my goodness! I have been mentally poked and prodded over the years, trying to treat my chronic depression. Those questionnaires are the WORST for an RFM! I agonize over every answer, thinking “My only hope is answering every question (oral or written) perfectly. And I wonder what they’re thinking when I actually pause to consider each question before giving an unsatisfactory (in my mind) answer.

      The good news is that since discovering this blog (through my therapist asking me if I had ever been considered gifted), I’m beginning to realize that much that feeds my depression is me trying to fit in, instead of honouring who I really am.

      Thank you Paula, for opening up this new world for me. 💜

      Liked by 2 people

      • Sounds like you’ve found a good therapist, dontstandsoclosetome! And you are so welcome.


      • I empathize with your plight. I spent much of my life trying to fit in, and have suffered tremendous personal consequences, both emotional and physical, for resisting acceptance of my fate, or “giftedness”. At 57, I feel like I am finally starting to heal, or at least on the right path. Folks like Paula, Linda Silverman and other gifted specialists have been a real life saver in my journey. I’m also soooo glad that many others will benefit by their good work, by finding these invaluable resources much earlier in their lives and hopefully spared the isolation, anguish and desperation that so often accompanies the highly sensitive, RFM gifted.

        Liked by 3 people

  7. Right? Depending on who’s asking, the “What do you do for a living?” question can present a real challenge. Because of my age, I can use the escape door and simply say, “I’m retired”. Otherwise, my response is four hours minimum…with multiple follow-up sessions. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Good morning everyone! Paula, every time I read a post from you I think, “yep this is the one the most life-affirming and true reflection of what it is like to be me.” Then a re-read some of the previous posts and realize that I am in a Jon Stewart best sandwich question predicament!! Since I was about 4 years old, I answered questions this way and I don’t need to tell anyone here how much rejection I experienced. I am 58 years old and it has only been about a decade or so since I have gotten a handle on what people expect from “small talk”, emphasis on ” small”! I still mess up a lot, but I’m still trying. I recently came up with a solution that I was sure would help in social situations. I started by rehearsing canned answers to typical questions and pushed myself on some of the tricky ones like, ” What do you do?”, (true answer, everything!).
    There is a particular answer to a question I am inevitably asked every time my husband tells one of our favorite travel stories! It goes like this, hubby tells his side of the story, filled with jokes at my expense and embellishments about the inconveniences we suffered. Then I tell my side, which goes without saying is very different! That should be warning enough to most people that you might not want to mess with this girl, she’s different!! But nooooo, someone asked, why I had not become a citizen of the U.S. Talk about one’s mind going blank! I actually grimaced as I tried to remember the answer I had rehearsed. I ended up saying out loud, ” Damn, I practiced the answer to that question and now I am completely blank”. Let’s just say, backing out of this gracefully was no longer an option!! I laugh my butt off every time I think about this!!! (Come to think of it, maybe I will blog about the answer to that question one day!!) The truth is I don’t really care about the people that don’t know me, I may never lay eyes on them again. None of my closest friends are rain-foresty, yet we share wonderful times together, full of laughter and good times! Yes, I drive them nuts sometimes, but things balance out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Touching the Dirt!! Maybe if we all remember when those questions are asked that we are in a “Jon Stewart best sandwich question predicament” it will be easier to relax and laugh as we fumble around to find an answer.

      Liked by 1 person

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 )

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.