Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


32 Comments

Loving the Wounded Gifted Child Within

photo courtesy of chinh le duc, Unsplash

When you were a little tyke, you probably had passions, curiosities, quirks, and quests.

You may have corrected the adults who didn’t know the difference between crimson and red. You may have wondered why the other kids wanted to be bunny rabbits for Halloween when they could be Richard Feynman. You may have corrected your teacher’s spelling. You may have cried when you heard a Bach concerto. You may have read every Ray Bradbury book you could find. You may have preferred BBC documentaries to Mickey Mouse. You may have questioned why the other five-year-olds were so immature and what it was about birthday parties that they loved so much. You may have organized a fund drive for the homeless kids in your town.

If you grew up in a dysfunctional or abusive home, you may have protected your siblings from harm. You may have hidden your sensitivities while fine-tuning your capacity for vigilance.  You may have been the most responsible one in the family. You may have become an expert nurturer of others and a lousy self-carer. You may have become a super-achiever. You may have been lost in a swamp of depression, anxiety, too-many-decisions, troubled relationships, and convoluted potential. You may have expected yourself to heal your parent’s addictions single-handedly; To be perfectly perfect at all times.

That little tyke? Needs your love.

You might think that it should be easy to love that child.

It’s not that simple.

Sure, you have lots of empathy. For others. But when it comes to yourself, you may feel judgment, criticism, doubt, and despair. You may feel that your child self is too emotional, too needy, too scared, too bossy. Too noisy. Too powerful. Maybe you will be overwhelmed with grief or anger if you acknowledge that little one. Or you will get stuck in the past when you think you should be letting go and moving on. Or you will be too vulnerable.

What you need to know is that the wounded gifted child in you is waiting. For your attention. Validation. Company. The wounded child doesn’t need much really. From you. Your understanding of what they have been through. Of why they get frightened or feel out of control or want to hide. Of why they need security and predictability now. Your empathy. Your patience. Your acceptance.

But that may be hard for you until you have been in therapy for a while and experienced what healthy validation feels like. From a loving, reliable adult who knows the journey. Who has rescued their own lost gifted child self. A therapist who knows that the road to heal a family legacy of abuse and neglect, generations of trauma, takes courage and time.

A therapist who loves your passions, curiosities, quirks, and quests.

Who loves you.

And their own little tyke.

__________________________________________

To my bloggEEs: I understand that it might take time to find the right therapist. Here are some places to look. In the meantime, there are some things you can do. Look for articles and books about Internal Family Systems Therapy. Or books about inner child work or Jungian active imagination. Keep a journal where you start a relationship with the many parts of yourself. Gather photos and special objects and build a small altar to your younger self.

In the comments, let us know if you have done any inner child work and what that has been like. We all benefit from your sweet sharing.

And, your inner child might like my latest book. Find it here. My first book has examples of inner child work in therapy in the case studies, if you’d like to learn more. And hugs and love to you and your sensitive, passionate, curious, smart, quirky little ones.

 


21 Comments

Childhood Trauma, Psychotherapy, Courage, and Your Gifted Self

photo courtesy of Sammie Vasquez, Unsplash

You are in therapy. Grieving for your little child self. The one who thought it was her fault that her father was so angry. That her mother spent hours alone in a dark room. The curious child who was bullied in school because he excitedly answered all the questions and hid in the library during recess. The responsible child who needed to save the family. It has taken a long time to feel compassion for that little one. To make the connections from your traumatic early years to your struggles today. To start to change deeply held beliefs, patterns, and habits. To trust that change is possible. That love is possible.

But what does it mean to heal from the past? Does it mean that you’ll become a happy, boring, mediocre, normal person? That you’ll lose your quirky, creative, angsty complexity?

Heck, no.

Therapy will not make you normal.

Instead, if you give it enough time, if you dive deep enough, it will transform the fear and shame. The self-hatred. It will slowly, tenderly, turn it into love. Self-compassion. You will pick healthier friends and partners. Set better boundaries with toxic people. Be more confident.  Be a better parent. Your future life paths will become clearer. Your intuition stronger. You’ll be rich and famous. Your health will improve. You will feel more peaceful. You will stop the legacy of abuse in your family line. You will find your voice.

And instead of normal, you will be more of your true self. The person you were born to be. Curious. Enthusiastic. Creative. Insightful. Quirky. Empowered. Intuitive. And you will love that self. Less fear and shame. More love and light. You will understand what you are here to do. You will feel safe to expand into your full rainforestness!

I’m serious.

And if you don’t believe me, here’s an interview with the RFM phenomenal singer-performer Pink, talking about the benefits of therapy! (starts at about the last 6 minutes) And, come on, if Pink says it works, well then.

But, it does take courage. It is scary to dive into the abyss. Scary to examine your beliefs and patterns. Scary to drop into your grief. Scary to change.

And, because you have many, many layers, this is likely to be a lifelong journey. Especially if your childhood was particularly traumatic and terrifying. I know that doesn’t sound too appealing. But it doesn’t take years and years before you feel the benefits. And the therapy can take many forms. You will work with different practitioners as you receive what each person has to offer and then move on to the next therapeutic adventure. You will be seen. You will be heard. You will be loved.

And If I can do it, so can you.

With some inspiration. From Pink. Take a listen. (From her album Hurts 2B Human.)

Titled, what else? Courage.

_____________________________________________

To my bloggEEs: Let us know about your experiences in therapy. Your questions. Successes. Failures. Stories. If you are looking for more articles on psychotherapy, check out these posts and go to The School of Life’s site. 

Thank you to the client who inspired this post and to all of the clients I am so honored to know.

And if you want to know more about your fabulous rainforest mind, my new book is now available. Look for it here. And my first book, a deeper look at your giftedness via case studies of clients in therapy along with many resources, is here. And, if you do read one or both, I’d be most grateful if you’d write an Amazon review!

 


16 Comments

Just Released! Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens…

It is finally here! The book you have been waiting for! The best of my blog (2014-2018) all organized into a sweet little field guide that you can carry with you in times of stress, despair, and boredom. A book with more ideas to help you dive into your depths and find the jewels. A book that is entertaining and light-hearted enough that even your most reluctant teenager might take a look. A book that will help your therapists, teachers, doctors, and your insufferable Aunt Charlotte understand you.

While my first book is full of in-depth case studies and details that you may be reading more than once, over time, because it is a lot to take in at once, this one is full of explanations, reminders, humor, and suggestions that are easy to ingest and grok and do. Your favorite blog posts will appear like old friends ready to give you big hugs and kisses.

Of course, if you don’t yet have my first book, you will need to get that one, too, while you’re at it. And, you might even want to write a review. (Don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be long or perfect or brilliant. But it can be.)

And speaking of reviews, here is one from the super rainforest-y Dr. Melanie Hayes, the founder and director of the Big Minds Unschool in California. (a great resource for families with twice-exceptional kids)

“For those of you who have had the pleasure (and profound reassurance) of reading Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, this companion book deepens your sojourn into your mental wilderness. Paula Prober’s wisdom and experience is evident on every page. You will find no better guide to help you examine all of the complex nuances of having a mind that is teeming with inexplicable life! Each chapter looks at ways in which gifted persons are uniquely sensitive, creative, and expressive; and gives them multiple signposts and pathways to find appropriate support. Reading this book will leave you feeling validated, accommodated, and celebrated; ready to fully explore what is waiting for you in your own rainforest mind.”

So, my darling bloggEEs, time to “fully explore what is waiting for you.” Go here and get yourself some love, and some hugs and kisses. You will be glad you did. And I will be enormously grateful.

 

 


38 Comments

The Lonely World of the Gifted Adult — Too Smart, Too Sensitive, Too Emotional, Too Curious

photo courtesy of Danny via Unsplash

It is part of the mythology of giftedness that super smart people have it made. That they are successful, rich, and appreciated for their cleverness. That they don’t really need much companionship because they are totally content in their labs studying fruit flies or in the library immersed in piles of books on obscure philosophical theories.

In my experience, this is not the case. These adults are often lonely. Granted, I’m a psychotherapist. Most of the gifted clients I see have lived through some sort of childhood trauma. Nevertheless, I suspect that many of the non-traumatized gifted souls among us would be telling me similar tales.

When you have a rainforest mind, it can be hard to find others who truly, deeply get you.

Some examples:

~ You are at your job, being conscientious, and caring. It is important to you that your coworkers are respected and understood. You feel responsible to both the organization and the humans you  supervise. Meetings are challenging. You problem solve quickly and typically end up waiting for the group to catch up. You grow tired of explaining what is obvious to you. At your evaluation, your boss tells you that coworkers say you are arrogant, condescending, and judgmental. Your boss is intimidated by you. You slow your speech and smile more. You don’t share your innovative ideas or your questions. You leave homemade gluten-free cookies in the staff room. It doesn’t help.

~ You are in graduate school. You were so excited to join what was supposed to be a cohort of deeply intellectual lovers of research and thinkers of complex ideas.  But your advisor no longer cares. He has tenure and has lost interest in academic pursuits and in you. The politics within your department is disturbing. You wonder how there can be peace on earth when your colleagues in academia can’t even agree on the schedule for the next term. You feel bereft. No one shares your curiosity and your enthusiasm for Nietzsche, Virginia Woolf, quarks, Bach, the universe, and everything.

~ You are highly intuitive. You have been an empath since you were quite young. You feel a responsibility to help others. It is hard to know if friends are attracted to you for you or if they just want you to help them heal their emphysema or contact their dead Uncle George. It is hard to have simple relationships because you can sense what others are feeling and they either put you on a pedestal or they avoid you. If you haven’t been able to set healthy boundaries because you have been told that you have a gift and are responsible for sharing it, you may overwork and ignore your body’s distress signals.

~ You have a deep sense of social responsibility. It is hard not to obsess about the level of suffering that you see all around the world. Your friends and relatives tell you to lighten up and stop worrying so much. But every time an extreme weather event happens somewhere or you see another homeless person, your heart breaks.

~ You are the parent of a gifted child. This child is bursting with energy, questions, curiosity, and emotion. You can’t keep up with them and are exhausted at the end of the day. You feel a deep sense of responsibility to raise a compassionate, sensitive human. To give your child what you did not get. Finding an appropriate school has been grueling. Other parents think it is easy to raise such a smart child. It is not.

Can you relate to any of these examples? Many of them?

What can you do about the loneliness you feel?

You can read these other blog posts. I’ve written about this before. There are things that you can do.

For today, though, I want to share the words of the courageous RFM, Charles Eisenstein. You’ll want to read the entire article. He presents a fascinating perspective on living consciously in today’s world. The quote below is particularly uplifting and spiritually sensitive.

You are not alone.

“The beings we have excluded from our reality, the beings we have diminished in our perception into non-beings, they are still there waiting for us. Even with all my inherited disbelief (my inner cynic, educated in science, mathematics, and analytic philosophy, is at least as strident as yours), if I allow myself a few moments of attentive quiet, I can feel those beings gathering. Ever hopeful, they draw close to the attentiveness. Can you feel them too? Amid the doubt, maybe, and without wishful thinking, can you feel them? It is the same feeling as being in a forest and suddenly realizing as if for the first time: the forest is alive. The sun is watching me. And I am not alone.”     Charles Eisenstein

_______________________________________________________

To my bloggEEs: Of course, I feel less alone because I have you! Thank you so much for being here. Let us know about your experiences of loneliness and what soothes you and how you find people (and spiritual guides? Nature? the Force? higher consciousness? intuitive visions? God? ) who get you. Do you have a spiritual practice/belief where you can feel connected?

My new book is almost here! It will launch near the end of June. Stay tuned! If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, I’ll be announcing it there first. (and here, of course) You will now have your favorite blog posts in a book (a love letter to you) to soothe your lonely soul.

 


12 Comments

New Book Coming Soon! More Guidance for Your Overthinking, Sensitive, Curious, Gifted Self

My next book is almost here!

What? A new book? What’s it about? you might ask.

Well. This one came from you.

You have asked that my blog to be turned into a book. You have wanted my posts to be organized by topic. You have needed more specific suggestions on how to deepen your understanding of your complexities. You have wanted a companion to my first book: A book that is a faster, more light-hearted read. One that your relatives, friends, teachers, and your therapists might be more willing to peruse to gain a greater understanding of your rainforest-mindedness.

Well, my darlings, your book is almost here. I wanted you to be the first to know. It doesn’t replace Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth. That book is my first child. And it is still the in-depth look at giftedness in adults and youth, via case studies and stories of real rainforest-minded humans, with lots of resources for further study. This new book contains my most popular blog posts from 2014-2018 along with journal-writing and other suggestions to take you further into your inner worlds.

I’m going indie with this one, with the help of Luminare Press here in Eugene, Oregon, USA, so it will be available in paper and ebook on Amazon. But you will be able to order it from your favorite independent bookstore, too. I’m hoping to launch before the end of June 2019.

I’ll announce the birth launch here and on social media as soon as it’s available for purchase. And thank you, in advance, for your rave reviews and for buying copies for your parents, teenagers, cousins, teachers, neighbors, and therapists. Of course, if you still don’t have my first book, it is not too late! Both books together make a fine comprehensive, complimentary pair. (and now my first book has that fabulous cover)

And so, my dear bloggEEs, thank you, as always, for your sensitivity, intensity, curiosity, intuition, idealism, creativity, courage, intellect, failures, doubts, fears, hopes, questions, dreams, and awarenesses. Thank you for joining me in this fascinating adventure. Much love to each of you.


12 Comments

“Beam Me Up, Scotty.” Social Responsibility and Your Super Smart, Sensitive Soul

photo courtesy of Dino Reichmuth, Unsplash

Remember this from Star Trek? “Beam me up, Scotty.” Sometimes don’t you just want to be beamed up?

Me, too.

Why?

Super Sensitivity. Extreme Empathy. Pressure. Expectations. Overthinking. Perfectionism. Intuition. Loneliness. Social responsibility. Bad Hair Days.

Not to mention childhood trauma. Anxiety. Depression. Despair. Climate change. Ignorance. Racism. anti-Semitism. Sexism. Poverty. Narcissistic politicians. And more.

It can be overwhelming. You can feel powerless.

What can one person do? Even one super smart, sensitive, empathetic person?

Here’s an idea. Something you can do.

Get in touch with the activities and skills that bring you joy, meaning, and fulfillment. Then, use your creativity to turn one or more of them into a community building or global-oriented service project that will change minds and hearts. Design a project that will spread more love. That will soften the divide and reduce the fear. It doesn’t have to grow into a global phenomenon. But it can. You may hesitate because you feel that whatever you do won’t be grand enough. Won’t be perfect enough. Don’t let that stop you. 

Here are some examples. Places to start:

~ Have you heard of the Craftivist Collective? They describe themselves this way: “Our gentle protest approach to craftivism aims to change the world with deliberate, thoughtful actions that provoke reflection and respectful conversation instead of aggression and division.” A similar group is called Badass Herstory. Check them out. I had no idea that craftivism was a thing until a client told me about it. Join them or start a different collective. Maybe a Solar Power Collective or a Gleaners Group. (You just might meet other RFMs there!)

~ I’m guessing that you know about Maria Popova and Brain Pickings. Imagine making a living researching and writing about everything you are curious about with no limits on depth and complexity. She has almost 5 million followers on Facebook. Who says there aren’t any super smart people out there?? Is she influential? You betcha.

~ Start a Silent Book Club in your town. Here’s their description. “We started Silent Book Club because reading with friends is awesome. We love hearing about what people are reading (often in their other book clubs) and we think it’s important to put down our phones and be social. Real, live, breathing-the-same-air social, not hearting-you-on-Instagram social.” Maybe this doesn’t sound like a service project but you never know who you might be saving from despair or desperation. Spreading the love of reading has got to be a good thing.

~ Start a mentorship program in your local middle school. Then let it spread throughout your school district.

~ Get involved with an organization helping refugees around the world.

~ Use art as a way to influence others. Explore organizations that promote the power of art such as this one: … persuade by creating moving experiences that prompt people to question the world as it is, imagine a world as it could be, and join together to make that new world real…”

~ Join with climate activists in your state to find out how to take action that will influence policy and promote real change. Read DeMocker’s book for many suggestions on how to begin.

~ Choose to do some deep psychotherapy around family of origin behaviors, patterns, and beliefs. Stop the cycle of abuse in your family line. Find your strength and your voice so that you can relate to others from your own self-compassionate place.

~ Start a blog and write a book. Become a psychotherapist and work with rainforest-minded souls.

And, remember.

You’ll need nourishment and nurturing so that you can build your social responsibility plan. Here is some good advice from Maria Popova.

Seek out what magnifies your spirit. Patti Smith, in discussing William Blake and her creative influences, talks about writers and artists who magnified her spirit — it’s a beautiful phrase and a beautiful notion. Who are the people, ideas, and books that magnify your spirit? Find them, hold on to them, and visit them often. Use them not only as a remedy once spiritual malaise has already infected your vitality but as a vaccine administered while you are healthy to protect your radiance.”   Maria Popova

_________________________________________________

To my dearest bloggEEs: What people, ideas, and books “magnify your spirit?” Let us know your feelings around social responsibility and if you have project ideas that you want to explore. (Note: I will be deleting any comments that are rants, even though there is a lot to rant about, or that call out specific individuals or political parties. Thank you for understanding.) Sending you all much love and spirit magnification.

 


20 Comments

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. 

______________________________________________

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.