Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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Managing Your Young Gifted Child’s (And Your) Emotional Intensity

photo courtesy of Jordan Whitt, Unsplash

You would think that a super smart person would be cool, calm, and collected. Capable of handling emotion when it infrequently and inconveniently trickled out. Analytically above the fray. Lost in thought about bosons, quarks, and string theory. Logical. Not particularly emotionally expressive.

You would think.

But the gifted children and grownups that I know, well, they have EMOTIONS. Their capacity for intense, deep, effervescent feeling is enormous. Granted, if they are males, this sensitivity often goes underground when they reach adolescence. (For more on this, go here.) But if you are raising a gifted little boy, you know what I’m talking about. EMOTIONS. People are just a bit more understanding when our girls express emotion. But, if females are too passionate, too angry, too critical, too sad, too joyful, or too assertive, well, that is also seen as unacceptable.

You have probably heard about Dabrowski’s study of giftedness and his explanation of overexcitabilities (OEs). He said that it is part of the nature of a gifted person to have intensities in many areas, including emotion, sensation, intellect, psychomotor, and imagination.

So, you can relax. You haven’t ruined your children.  And you aren’t an anomaly. Or a weirdo. There’s just a lot going on in the rainforest. A LOT.

So, what can you do?

Start with self-understanding. Your emotions are an important part of who you are. Make time to nourish yourself. Soothe your anxiety. Calm your nervous system. Find others who appreciate your depth. Remember that you have a rainforest mind which means that you are highly sensitive with high expectations and standards for your behavior. Then you can stay calmer when your child’s emotions are splashing around or bursting out in embarrassing ways at the restaurant, or the library, or in front of your in-laws.

Acknowledge your child’s emotions so that your child feels seen and understood. After that, it will be easier to problem solve with your child and to set appropriate limits and boundaries.  “I see that you’re feeling frustrated right now because you can’t get what you want.” “I wonder if you’re feeling sad about that.” “I hear you when you say that you’re ‘stupid’ because you didn’t do well on the test. Can you tell me more about that?” “I see that you’re mad and want to hit someone. Hitting is not OK. Use your words to tell me how you feel. I can help.” 

Try the container method. Explain to your child, during a calm period, how there are times when it is important to put big feelings into a container when it’s not safe or appropriate to express them. Then they can let the feelings out when they are safe at home. An eight-year-old I worked with decided he’d put his angry feelings into a coconut when he was in school where he was being bullied. On days when the coconut wasn’t enough, he’d reinforce it with diamonds and make it as large as a truck. When he arrived at home, he could draw pictures of his feelings and explain them to his parents.

Practice self-soothing strategies. A gifted child’s constant questions, verbal agility, and need for intellectual stimulation can be exhausting. Make a list of tools to calm your child and yourself. Tell your child that you are learning how to take good care of yourself, too.  Your child can even remind you when they notice you’re stressed. Slow breathing, calming music, positive self-talk, singing, getting out into nature, exercise, taking a bath, massage, essential oils, and listening to a story or podcast can help. There are meditation apps such as Insight Timer for when you get some alone time. See the resources below for more ideas. Your sensitive child will feel and may react when you are out-of-whack so you’ll want to stay in-whack as much as you can.

Get therapy if you are frequently over-reacting to your child’s intense emotions. If you’ve grown up with any kind of abuse, trauma, or neglect, you’ll likely be triggered by your child’s emotional outbursts, particularly when your child reaches an age when you experienced a traumatic event. It can be hard to find the right psychotherapist so give yourself time to shop around. There are some suggestions here. The School of Life in the UK is also a good resource.

More resources: If you only have time to read one book, I’d recommend Eileen Kennedy-Moore’s Smart Parenting for Smart Kids. She writes about very specific issues that might not be addressed in general parenting books. If you have time for more, check out Mary Kurcinka’s Raising Your Spirited Child. Also Living with Intensity by Daniels and Piechowski. Psychologist Gail Post‘s blog. Tina Bryson and Dan Siegel’s books and websites. Tina Harlow and her free ebook: Helping Gifted Kids ThriveChristine Fonseca‘s book on emotional intensity. Facebook groups on parenting gifted and 2e kids.

It can be challenging to be the parent of a gifted child. You might be particularly hard on yourself and extra anxious and you may feel super responsible for all children everywhere because of your own rainforest mind. So hear me when I say that you really need to understand your own giftedness and make the time to nourish yourself. You will become a better parent, your children will benefit, and all children everywhere will thank you. 

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To my dear bloggEEs: If you are a parent, what ideas and resources have been helpful? What challenges have you faced?  If you are not a parent, what do you wish your parents had said to you or helped you with? What are your suggestions for parents of gifted children? As always, thank you for being here. And thank you to the family with the 8-year-old and the coconut.

 

 


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You Are Not Complaining. Being Gifted is a Gift. But It Can Also Be Terribly Lonely.

photo courtesy of Dexter Fernandes, Unsplash

You are not complaining. You are not saying it is awful to be a very smart person. Advanced intelligence is a fine thing. You know this. You are grateful for it. Being gifted is, well, a gift.

It’s just that, oh, it’s complicated.

It is not all easy street.

There are serious misunderstandings. Communication chasms. Damaging misdiagnoses. Long excruciating periods of boredom/waiting. Hyper-awareness. Piles of responsibility. Nonstop thinking. Teeming emotion. Disabling perfectionism. Excessive worry. Astonishing intuition. Unquenchable thirst for learning. Pressure to always know the right answer. Impostor syndrome. Expectations to be super smart in all things. Multiple complicated sensitivities. More boredom/waiting. Anxiety. Depression. Despair.

Intolerable loneliness.

How do you cope in the classroom when none of the other students care about learning and you already know the material? How do you handle failure when everyone, including you, expects perfection? Who do you talk with about your frustrations with your clueless coworkers? How do you explain to your boss that you know how to run the company better than she does? How do you find solace when everyone relies on you for support? What do you do when you face a problem you can’t solve? What do you say when friends can’t keep up with you? How do you find a partner who loves your intensity and your fascination with quarks? What do you do when no one really gets you?

Who sympathizes with you when you are overwhelmed by too many interests? How do you set healthy boundaries when people are depending on you? Who do you talk to about the challenges of raising your gifted kids? How do you feel pride in your accomplishments when you are accused of being arrogant?  How do you find practitioners who know more than you do? How do you know when to reduce your intensity and when to go full speed ahead? How do you end human, animal, and plant suffering and resolve climate change? How do you deal with the shame that arises when you think you actually might be gifted?

I told you it was complicated.

So, what about the loneliness?

How do you tell someone that you are so lonely because you are smarter than everyone you know?

OK. That’s probably not a great idea.

But it may be the truth.

I remember listening to an interview with the gifted Maria Popova of Brain Pickings when she said,“… most of my friends are dead people.” Not unlike this statement from The School of Life: “…We may just have to accept that our best friends could have died 250 years ago – and be chatting to us via dabs of paint or within rhyming pentameters…”

Maybe you have also found solace and connection with dead writers, artists, and poets.

But I know that you can find living friends, too.

This is my collection of posts on ways to find living friends.

And if you are also looking for partnership?

Well. One final word.

The rainforest-minded writer, 60-something Anne Lamott, just married for the first time this year. Here is her advice: “If you’re paying attention and making your own life as beautiful and rich and fun as it can be, you might just attract someone who’s doing the same thing…Never give up, no matter how things look or how long they take. Don’t quit before the miracle.”

And remember. You. Actually. Are. The. Miracle.

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your quest for friends and partners. How do you find people who understand and love you? Are there activities or places or websites where you’ve found other rainforest minds? What are the challenges you’re experiencing?

One place to meet other rainforest minds is at the SENG conference, July 18-21, 2019, in Houston, Texas. I’ll be there presenting and would love to meet you!

 

 


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Self-Help for the Super Smart, Persnickety Perfectionist

(Apologies to Kondo fans, especially if she didn’t really say this.)

I know you. You are a deep thinker. Introspective. You seek growth, healing, and self-actualization. It is important for you to live a meaningful life and to contribute something to make the world better. You have strong perfectionist tendencies. Some might say you are persnickety or, on a bad day, well, impatient, demanding, and a little annoying.

It’s tricky, then, for you to find resources that can help you through the hard times. You have particular needs and tastes. The typical self-help books are too simplistic, repetitive, or predictable. Some make ridiculous claims. Or they are poorly written. Or they are written by people who are too pretty. With trust funds. Where the biggest trauma in their lives was not making the cheerleading squad. (No offense to cheerleaders, trust funds, or to pretty people.)

Maybe you finally find a self-help book or program that is written by someone who seems to have substance, complex ideas, and true compassion. But, then, you become disillusioned when you discover they live in a mega-mansion in Beverly Hills. Near Kim Kardashian.

What do you do? How do you find guidance that is valuable? Guidance that passes your rainforest-minded complexity test?

Here’s an idea:

Design your own custom-made self-help program. Take bits and pieces from many programs and combine them into a plan that works for you. Embrace the parts that make sense, reject the parts that don’t. Allow yourself to have a nonlinear approach where you are working on a few different projects at once. Just because, for example, mindfulness practices are the latest craze, there’s nothing wrong with you if you prefer tai chi or gardening or doing tai chi in your garden.

Here are some self-help programs and books that clients of mine have explored and combined:

Kristin Neff’s self-compassion model uses meditation, mindfulness, and journal writing. Seena Frost’s Soul Collage taps your creativity and intuition to design a personalized tarot-like deck of cards for deep processing of issues. Pema Chodron teaches a meditation technique called tonglen that reaches beyond the personal to the universal. Internal Family Systems is a model that guides you to identify and accept your many sub-personalities while deepening a connection to your higher Self. Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person is an oldie but goodie. Bibliotherapy recommends particular novels for insight into yourself. Larry Dossey’s One Mind can help you  explore a view of consciousness and spirituality. The app Insight Timer has many free guided meditations from which to choose plus a network of meditators.

Of course, there is always my book! (with the spiffy new cover) But you knew that. (Reviews on Amazon are greatly appreciated, by the way. Even very short imperfect ones.)

So, my dearest super smart, persnickety perfectionists, do not despair. There is a self-help plan that is right for you.

And, it includes keeping 30 books–on your nightstand.

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To my bloggEEs: What self-help tools have worked for you? How do you custom design plans to meet your complexity needs? Thank you to the clients who inspired this post.

I attended our town’s annual library used book sale today and picked up The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Ben Zander. I’ve just started it but it’s looking like another good resource.

Want to hear me talk? I’m presenting a webinar via SENG on April 30, 2019, 4:30 PST. Join me online for: The Complex, Contradictory, Creative, Crushing World of the Gifted Adult.

I’m also speaking in Houston, Texas at the SENG conference July 19-21, 2019. I’d love to meet you there.

 


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Resources for Building a Better World and Finding Your Purpose(s)

“…It was so humbling to acknowledge that as humans, we all seem to share the wound of not having felt loved just as we are! …Our deepest wounds call out to be faced, felt, made peace with, tenderly held and integrated so that we can allow our essence to fully penetrate our lives. We are invited into a spirituality that does not seek to transcend our pain but to fully feel, meet, and embrace all of our beautiful, raw, messy humanity…”                                      Science and Nonduality

There’s a whole lot of messy humanity out there these days. A whole lot. I must admit that it has me kinda discouraged, if you must know. It doesn’t help that I’m recovering from a bout with the flu. And when I’m sick, I can leap from anxiety into catastrophizing. It goes like this: Even though I know my body has bounced back from various illnesses, this time will be different. I’ll never recover from this and it’ll only get worse. In fact, I’ll become so disabled, I won’t be able to work. My income will dry up. My friends and family will abandon me and I’ll become a crochety homeless old bag lady with really bad hair. Then, the summer fire season will be upon us and my town will go up in flames and I will not have access to clean water or the internet and I will have to stop blogging. Life will lose all meaning…

It goes like that.

These days, sadly, I don’t have to be sick to feel anxious. I just listen to NPR. You know what I’m talking about. And if you are a highly sensitive, empathetic, smart person, which you know you are, then, you, too, are anxious. Maybe even catastrophizing. And you don’t even have the flu.

I get it.

I’m here to help.

First of all, as you may have noticed, the above quote is referring to each of us looking at our own “beautiful, raw, messy humanity.” And, I agree. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ve heard it many times. It’s an act of courage and a gift to the planet for you to face your fear, shame, and despair, and walk through your dark night of the soul. You can use psychotherapy, spiritual practices, personal growth groups, energy healing, scientific analysis, bodywork, vision quests, shamanism, art-music-writing-dance, 12 Steps, political activism, prayer, tonglen, or, better yet, some combination of these things.

Of course, you’ll also need to recognize that you do, in fact, have a rainforest mind. You are going to need it. So accept it. Love it.

You heard me.

Then, look for people, organizations, books, and resources who are taking action to create a better world. This will remind you that you are not alone and will provide support for your own actions. There are lovely people out there who are making a difference. You can start with Mary DeMocker‘s excellent book The Parent’s Guide to Climate Revolution. And Rebecca Solnit‘s Hope in the Dark. You can also follow Solnit on Facebook. There are organizations that have a larger view of what’s possible like The Institute of Noetic Sciences. There are books helping you find your purpose(s) such as my book (with the new cover coming in a few days!!) and others.

Finally, if you find your purpose(s) and live that larger life, you are doing what you are here on the planet to do. In my humble opinion, I don’t think you can do much more than that.

Unless, of course, I become a crochety old bag lady with really bad hair. Then you can also make sure I have access to a laptop and the internet.

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To my bloggEEs: Let’s generate a long list of resources for creating a better world and for finding your purpose(s). What people, books, music, films, therapies, artists, and organizations are out there that you recommend? Please avoid specific political rants. Thank you, as always, for being here. You are not alone.

And here’s link to a kickstarter campaign for a documentary on giftedness that’s in the works for 2020. (I’m on the advisory board.) This documentary surely belongs on our list of resources for creating a better world.

 

 


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My Book is Getting a New Look — Coming Soon!

design by Claire Flint Last, Luminare Press

My book cover is getting an upgrade. The content will be the same but my book will now have a fabulous cover, too. (designed by Claire Flint Last of Luminare Press here in Eugene, Oregon) When it’s available for purchase, I’ll announce it on Facebook and Twitter. And here.

If you haven’t decided if you want to read it, here’s one person’s insightful opinion:

“Why read Your Rainforest Mind?

– Because the countless examples of what it’s like to be an RFM will make you laugh and cry and feel validated for the amazing being that you are
– Because the book is filled with practical strategies to help with the everyday challenges RFMs face
– Because of the dozens of links to books, articles and websites for further research
– Because after reading it you’ll be a hundred steps closer to knowing your place in this world
– If you’re bringing up a young RFM, you’ll worry less and enjoy your child more

When you grow up believing there’s something wrong with you because you’re so different from other people, you get used to camouflaging yourself to be accepted. Buried deep within, your authentic self yearns to be heard – and yet you don’t even realise the extent to which you’re denying it. Then you read stories like the ones that fill this book, and you nod and you cry as you realise you’re not the only one who feels this way. And gradually that hidden self begins to feel safe to come out and be seen.

I loved the book’s exploration of perfectionism – both intrinsic and extrinsic – and its link to procrastination. I loved the discussion about how choices, possibilities and multipotentiality can be overwhelming. I loved the practical strategies for dealing with the big and small challenges gifted individuals face. I resonated with the chapter on loneliness, and resolved to take action to connect with other RFMs. And I adored the chapter on ‘Authenticity, Creativity and Spirituality’ which finally made me realise that my lifelong search for spiritual meaning isn’t an aberration from my intelligence, but a part of it.

I whole-heartedly agree with the reviewer who says this book rises to the top of the giftedness literature for its holistic approach to understanding gifted people.”

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To my bloggEEs: Have you read my book yet? What did you learn about yourself? If you’ve read it already but want the one with the spiffy new cover, give the old one to a friend or to your therapist and treat yourself to the pretty book. And thank you, my darlings, for your courage, curiosity, intensity, and sensitivity! (and an extra thank you if you write a review on Amazon) And if you haven’t read my book yet, well, stop procrastinating, sweetie pie.

With appreciation to LL, for this wonderful review. Gratitude to Celi Trepanier and the new GHF Press for their willingness to make this change.


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You Have a Right to Say NO — Tips for Deep Thinkers, Perfectionists, Empaths, and HSPs

photo courtesy of yogi madhav, Unsplash

It is easy for me to say NO. In fact, it’s one of my favorite words. No, I will not run a marathon. No, I will not go camping with you for two weeks in Antarctica. No, I will not go to that month-long silent kundalini yoga retreat. (I live in Eugene, Oregon, USA. People here do these things.) No, I will not become your perfect-in-every-way child’s babysitter. No, I will not marry you and your alcoholic family. No, I will not start a business with your homicidal, narcissistic, bankrupt, cousin George.

It has always been easy for me to say NO. I’m not sure why. My goal is to learn how to say YES more often. But I work with many rainforest-minded humans (RFMs) who do not say NO when they should. They are super smart, highly empathetic, and socially responsible.

And that’s the problem.

Do you have a hard time saying NO?

You would think that you’d be capable of a simple NO, being smart and all. But there are a few complicating factors.

RFMs are usually very good at problem solving. You may find an answer before everyone else knows the question. You might be able to fix the issue faster and more easily than anyone else. If you have insight and skill that will solve a problem, aren’t you obligated to do it?

RFMs often feel a need to be of service. Your intuition and empathy are highly developed. Shouldn’t you report what you know when it could make a difference for someone’s health or well-being? If you’re in a healing profession this can be particularly difficult. Friends and relatives may expect free treatments. Clients may call in crisis. When you have a sense that a person could run into serious trouble if they stay on their path, aren’t you obligated to intervene?

You may have been told that you are so blessed because of your gifts. That you must give back. That you owe the world because you were born with so many advantages. Don’t you owe the world?

And that’s not all. If you grew up in a chainsaw family, it may have been dangerous to say NO or to ask for what you needed. You may have been the caretaker for your siblings or parents. You may have learned that the only safe choice was to deny your own needs and to use your abilities to minimize the abuse.  In your psyche, it could still be life-threatening to change that coping strategy.

So. Here’s the thing.

Of course, it makes sense that you use your gifts to benefit others. That you share your insights and solutions. That you respond to your clients during their emergencies.

And yet.

Now, pay attention.

You get to take breaks from changing the world. You get to construct healthy boundaries. You get to relax. You get to watch mindless TV. You get to say NO. You get to let others save themselves and come to their own conclusions. In fact, if you’re always rescuing them, they won’t learn how capable they are. They’ll be dependent on you when they need to learn how to find their own way. It may be their appropriate path to make all of those mistakes. (This is particularly important if you are a parent. It’s complicated for sure. But your kids need healthy boundaries, even if they can argue their case like mini-lawyers.)

When you learn to say NO when needed, then, you will have the energy to address the most important issues. You will keep your own health intact so you can shine your light more effectively. You will take the time you need to heal from your traumatic past so you can be even more fully connected physically, mentally, energetically, emotionally, and spiritually.

You see?

If this feels too difficult, start with small steps. Set limits with your golden retriever. Take naps. Stop using the inadequate house cleaner. Assess clients before you commit to seeing them.   Leave the meeting early. Don’t go to the meeting. Let someone else volunteer to coach the team. Set up a chore chart so family members contribute to housework. Learn to take the pressure off when you’re asked to do something, by saying, “Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.” Get therapy if there’s a history of trauma. Get your partner into therapy.

And, if all else fails, promise me. You will not start that business with your homicidal, narcissistic, bankrupt cousin George.

(For the more advanced course, look for You Have a Right to Say F*ck No, coming soon.)

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To my bloggEEs: Do you have trouble saying NO to people? Have you felt responsible for helping, healing, or saving souls? Are you learning how to set limits and have healthy boundaries? How are you making a contribution but not burning yourself out? What do you need to say NO to?


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Gifted Children and Adults — Why Are They So Misunderstood?

photo courtesy of ketan rajput, Unsplash

A gifted child is:

The four year old who says the car is not red, it’s crimson. The five-year-old who is lonely because the other kids don’t understand the complex worlds and creatures she invents. The six-year-old who explains the difference between a laceration and a contusion. The seven-year-old who chooses Rembrandt as the person she respects most because of his use of light. The eight-year-old who cares for the hurt children on the playground. The nine-year-old who complains when his parent confuses the words precision and accuracy.  The ten-year-old who cries when he reads about injustice in his community and around the world. The eleven-year-old who is an environmental activist. The twelve-year-old who wants brain specimen coasters for her birthday.

These children are not show-offs or arrogant know-it-alls.  They sincerely and enthusiastically love learning, language, analysis, debate, creativity, beauty, exploration, and accuracy. (or is that precision?) They are being themselves. Naturally curious, hungry for new ideas and intellectual exchanges, emotionally intense, and highly sensitive and empathetic.

They don’t necessarily know they are intellectually advanced. Even when parents acknowledge their traits and abilities, they may still just feel out of sync and freakish. Or, when there’s excessive praise for their smartness, they may feel pressure to achieve. Pressure to please those adults. Pressure to live up to their great potential. Pressure to be perfect.

How we respond to them, understand them, educate them, and love them, matters.

But, just as walking into a tropical rainforest is an intense sensory, emotional, and intellectual extravaganza, so is being with a gifted child. A child who is gushing with questions, intellect, sensitivities, empathy, and emotion.

You were one of those kids.

But it may be hard for you to acknowledge that you are, in fact, gifted. You assume that everyone can do what you can do; they just aren’t trying. You don’t realize that the mental, emotional, and intuitive/spiritual capacity you have is larger than average. Maybe even enormous.

But I get it. You can’t really tell that to anyone. It wouldn’t make you popular. You may not even acknowledge it to yourself. And if you grew up in a chainsaw family, well, that would add to your confusion.

But you need to know that you are gifted. For yourself.

Knowing that you have a rainforest mind will explain things. It will explain your craving for new ideas and experiences. Your obsession with philosophical questions. Your disabling perfectionism. Your horrible loneliness. Your highest standards. Your multiple career paths. Your beautiful sensitivity. Your stunning intuition. Your intense emotions.

It will explain why you are constantly misunderstood.

And then, you will start to breathe more deeply. You will find other rainforest minds who will understand you. You will start to give yourself permission to grow into the person you are here to be.

And then you can show us your brain specimen coasters.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you have trouble acknowledging your giftedness? Why? What are some examples of how you’ve been misunderstood and how you misunderstand yourself?

One place you can meet other rainforest minds is at the SENG conference in July. This year it’s in Houston. I’ll be presenting my talk on adults, subtitled: Your Rainforest Mind–The Musical. I have a second talk with New Zealand therapist Maggie Brown titled: Gifted Adults Living in Tumultuous Times.  I’d love to meet you there.