Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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No Better Time To Share Your Complicated Colorful Self With The World

Every day when I wake up and turn on NPR, I hear another disturbing story. I do not need to tell you. You hear it, too. You feel it. You grieve for the people. The animals. The plants. For the planet. Some days you try denial for a while. I know I do. Many days you compartmentalize. Me, too. Some weeks you wear your emotional support sweater. Every day. You sleep in it. Well, OK, I don’t sleep in my emotional support sweater. But, I’m leaving the option open, just in case.

You may be wondering what you can do. How does a highly sensitive, empathetic, emotional, persnickety, somewhat indecisive, seemingly overthinking book lover manage in this world? Where does a rainforest-minded human who is driven to make a difference even start?

Well. I have some ideas.

I’ll begin with the obvious ones. The ones you are probably already doing.

Voting. Financially supporting important causes. Running for office. Supporting BIPOC businesses, writers, and artists. Getting therapy. Paying it forward. Examining your own biases. Following Van Jones on Instagram. Raising compassionate children. Volunteering your time. Setting healthy boundaries with toxic family members. Living more sustainably. Writing influential articles and books. Being kind. Becoming an activist. Starting a silent book club. Housing a refugee family. Starting a nonprofit. Having conversations with people you disagree with. Educating yourself about the climate crisis and what can be done. Following Glennon Doyle on Instagram. Fighting the urge to feel powerless or hopeless. Stopping the legacy of abuse in your family of origin. Maintaining your capacity for optimism and idealism. Developing your intuition and letting your creativity out of the box. Deepening your spiritual practice. Reviving your sense of humor.

That would be a great start.

And here is what I really want to say. This is what I am going to nag you about for the rest of my days.

Step up NOW to who you truly are. Yes, now. No time to waste. It is no longer appropriate to dilly dally. Procrastination is not an option. These times require all of us who are capable to step up and do the work we are here to do.

Open the doors to your destiny and charge on in!

How do you determine your destiny, you may ask. How do you find your purpose? There are ideas in this post and this one. Some great resources for this are here. It is a project for sure. But what could be more important? Honey, you have a rainforest mind. You were born for this. Your sensitivity, creativity, compassionate heart, intelligence. Your passion for justice and love for planet earth. Now is your time.

And if you are still not convinced, there is this:

“…You have worlds inside you — swirling, colorful, mournful, generous, soaring, hopeful, searing, heartbreaking worlds. You cannot offer just a tiny slice of you. You cannot hold back the flood. You want to share those worlds. You are way too big, too complicated, too glorious and infinitely sad and unspeakably divine. You have to share all of it...” Heather Havrilesky

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To my bloggEEs: I know I am obsessed with this topic. (I hope I don’t sound too preachy.) What are you doing to find your purpose and live more of your authentic life? What questions do you have? What resources do you use that help you? These are such challenging times. Sending you so much love and appreciation for your courage.


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What Do Rainforest-Minded (Gifted) Humans Want?

Here it is. In a nutshell.

(photo by Ed Robertson, Unsplash)

“I’m drowning in a sea of well meaning phrases like ‘I’m in awe of the scope of your thinking’ … oh do fuck off with your awe, I don’t want it or need it. I’m bored, and sick to death of making myself accessible to other people. I want someone to see me, to understand me, and to leap with me through a wonderland of ideas. You know the conversations where we talk about everything, leaping effortlessly from poetry to feminism, through politics, fact and fiction, and the evolution of language and anthropology, ecology and neuropsychology and aliens. You know those late night conversations when it’s moonlight and crickets and magic and the guards are down and things just flow and words feel electric and it seems inconceivable that 26 letters can catapult you from ecstasy to despair but the combinations seem infinite and that in and of itself is a glorious magic.” (a blog/book reader)

What else is there to say?

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To my bloggEEs: This may be the shortest blog post that ever lived. But it is so well said, don’t you think? Of course, I have written about how to find other humans who leap effortlessly and who catapult you. This post. And this one. On friendships. And this one about your/my quest for partnership. I know there is more that you want. World peace, the end of the climate crisis, no more hate, for example. But some glorious magic would be a good start. (Thank you to the reader quoted above.) In the comments, tell us what you want. And thank you, as always.


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Gifted In Serbia

“I can hear and feel with such an intensity. I can understand what people are feeling just by their look or presence. I can very often predict what they are going to say. Bad styling and bad architecture are literally killing me. I am looking for details in stuff that are meaningless for others. I am passionate about learning and thinking. And yes, my worth definitely depends on my achievements and I do feel like a failure…I would looove to find someone with who I could really talk about depth of everything and be able to say what I really mean knowing that the person is going to understand it without calling me crazy…”

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know I am writing about some of the beautiful rainforest-minded souls (RFMs) who contact me from around the world. I have wondered what giftedness looks like in various cultures. What are the similarities? What are the differences? Some of the profiles have been from RFMs in Finland, Spain, Brazil, Malaysia, Belgium, Chile, Lebanon, Netherlands, Canada (via Cameroon), Portugal, Germany, Austria, and India. I would love to hear from those of you in countries not yet on this list, although, of course, anyone is welcome to contact me for a consultation!

(photo by Christopher Campbell, Unsplash)

Today, meet Sara, a 30 year old female, born during the tumultuous years of the break up of Yugoslavia. She contacted me for a consultation after reading my books so she might find her “true voice” and live her “real life.” Like so many of the RFMs I meet, she is struggling to manage her extraordinarily active mind and her many varied interests and abilities. She grapples with the conflict between being practical and realistic, everyday choices of career paths, lifestyles, relationships, and laundry, versus expanding into her “higher vibration” of intuition and spirituality.

Like every multipotentialite I know, Sara’s interests and abilities are vast and varied. When she was in high school, she was skilled in math, physics, chemistry, writing, languages, orchestra, choir, history, poetry, theatre, and volleyball. Because she did not know this was normal for an RFM, she doubted herself and said, “I did everything but I wasn’t great in anything.” And this: “…if they only knew how manipulative, lucky, and unknowing I am. I just calculate what is important, memorize it quickly, and somehow get through…I never went deep enough.” In fact, Sara can not help but dive deep into whatever she does. Her capacity is both wide and deep. Rainforest-y for sure.

There is more. Sara is driven to learn and experience life to the fullest and then some. Presently, she is trying to sort out how to choose among all of her interests and insights. How does she deal with her job at the pharmacy when she has visions of dramatically changing the health care system? When does she find time to learn ten languages, create a clothing line, build sustainable affordable homes, enter a song contest, publish her poems, make movies, and become a mother? How does she explain to others the powerful loneliness and grief she feels trying to shrink herself into a more typical way of being and living?

Sara has a strong spirituality that sustains her. She said, “I do believe we are all one and connected to the source energy. I believe in energy and vibration, parallel realities and that we are all creating our own personal world. Everything out there–it’s me. The term starseed also resonated with me. It helped me understand myself better. I see it as a spiritual equivalent to your term rainforest mind. My soul has probably a lot of different experiences all across the universe right now because there is only this moment in time…

As you can imagine, it has been difficult for Sara to find others who can keep up with her, who love her depth and sensitivity, her intellect and spirituality. Like many RFMs, she wondered, if she was so smart, why was she not “successful.” She was not sure how to organize her day to accomplish basic tasks. She expressed fears of stepping into her true self and leaving everyone she loves behind.

I reassured her that these are indeed the struggles of the rainforest-minded. We agreed, it was time to grasp a more accurate view of herself.

Then we spoke about how she might find a regular time to tune into her spirituality and intuition. She knew her answers were all within if she could just trust herself.

Sara shared another of her spiritual insights, “I believe we are living in a beautiful time of a great awakening and the collapse that we are seeing is just the step before creating a new, wonderful world.”

So, Sara, you are not crazy. You very clearly have a magnificent rainforest mind. And, as you step into your vision of a new, wonderful world, we will be right with you, traveling the vast starry universe. Together.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you have similar experiences? Please let us know about them. Your comments make such a difference. And thank you, Sara, for sharing your story and your heart with us.


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It’s Time We Talked About Trauma, Resilience, Intuition, And Spirituality

I was asked on a recent podcast about my work with clients who experienced trauma as children. Are rainforest-minded clients more traumatized than non-rainforest-minded clients when there is abuse in the family? Are they more resilient? Is there a difference between a highly sensitive, intuitive, gifted child and a regular more typical child when it comes to growing up in a seriously dysfunctional family? What about intuition and spirituality? How do they play a part in the life of a rainforest mind experiencing trauma?

(photo by Jeremy Bishop, Unsplash)

Well. As usual, I can only speak anecdotally. But I have worked as a therapist since 1992 so that is quite a few years of anecdotes!

That said, as you might imagine, the answer is not simple. And because I work exclusively with rainforest minds (RFMs), I have no real concrete means of comparison. So, those of you with a more skeptical, analytical bent, bear with me. I am simply sharing what I have seen and I am open to hearing your thoughts.

Another thing. The population of gifted humans I know is also a particular group of folks who want therapy, can afford therapy, and are actively choosing self-examination. So, I will be speaking about a fairly select group.

Yet another thing. I do realize that people write volumes on each of these topics and here I am writing an itty bitty blog post. Apologies.

Eek. One final thing for new readers. Not all gifted folks have rainforest minds. But all rainforest minds are gifted.

Phew. Disclaimers aside. Here ya go.

Over the years, I have worked with many clients who were abused in their families of origin. There are clear impacts that can include: intense anxiety and hypervigilance, depression, safety-trust-control issues, self-doubt, self-hatred, low self-esteem, codependency, boundary problems, relationships that repeat the unhealthy patterns in the family, somatic symptoms, PTSD, and delayed achievement in career paths. And more. Clearly, RFMs are deeply impacted by early trauma.

One might think a highly sensitive child would be more affected in an unsafe environment than someone less aware or less sensitive. And, yes, these kids are likely more vulnerable due to their keen awareness, empathy, and sensitivity. And yet. What has surprised me, even with the greater vulnerability, has been the quality of resilience. In spite of the severe abuse that many of my clients experienced, I have not seen them becoming abusers themselves. They do not develop serious personality disorders. They still maintain their powerful empathy, sensitivity, moral compass, and mental agility.

How is this possible?

I have theories.

Many of my clients tell me that at a very early age, they knew something was wrong with their parents so that they were less likely to fully blame themselves for the abuse. There was a certain capacity for observation or, perhaps, metacognition or intuition. This awareness may have provided some protection from the intense self-hatred and acting out behaviors that many children develop in these circumstances, that can lead to more severe outcomes including serious addictions and deep-seated mental disturbances such as narcissism or psychopathology.

There is more.

The intuition and spirituality that comes with a rainforest mind is a natural resilience builder. RFMs are often quite intuitive. They know things and do not necessarily know where the knowing comes from. They receive ideas, direction, and support from particular intuitive insights or psychic capacities. There is often an unusually strong spirituality including a mystical connection with Spirit or Guidance or Nature or the Universe or God. Clients have told me that when they were quite young, they felt the presence of angels or spiritual guides providing protection, support, and love during those early years.

Many RFMs seek meaning outside of traditional religious circles. Some explore Buddhist practices, earth-centered beliefs, or shamanic influences. They often find peace, a sense of belonging, and wisdom when they spend time in the natural world, communicating with animals, trees, rivers, and plants. One way to think about it is that this intuitive and spiritual circuitry provides a strong safety net when a rainforest-minded human is threatened.

On occasion, I have mused that RFMs might be old souls and all of those lifetimes contributed to their set of unique traits and to their resilience. And, more recently, it has occurred to me, that perhaps these clients are born with a crystalline strength that runs through the center of their body-minds that not even the most horrific abuser can touch, much less break.

Certainly, many rainforest-minded clients have a long, complicated grieving process in therapy to heal from the serious traumas and the devastating losses they have experienced. But they are not broken. At their center remains a powerful, tenacious, enduring, robust, resplendent Light.

And that Light saves them. And just might save us all.

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To my bloggEEs: As you can tell, I am a little anxious about this post (Did the 5 disclaimers give it away???) I am not sure why except that, perhaps, this is an even more complicated and controversial topic than usual. And then, I realized I’ve written about this before. Here. Go figure. Please share your personal stories in the comments. Your insights and experiences are so valuable. If you know of good resources about trauma, resilience, intuition, and spirituality, please tell us about them. Here are a few worth looking into: Spirituality: Tara Brach. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. On Being by Krista Tippett. The Evolutionary Collective. Trauma: Judith Blackstone. Complex PTSD. Healing Trauma. Sending you much love.


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What Is Obvious To You Is A Mystery To Them And What Is Obvious To Them Is A Mystery To You

No wonder you have trouble finding friends and partners. This explains so much, does it not? With your rainforest mind, you are always reading, researching, pondering, diving deep into the mental, emotional, educational, imaginative, intuitive, and spiritual caldron. With glee, I might add, when no one is getting in your way. You are enjoying yourself. It comes easily. So, when you share your thrilling findings, your musings, your perplexifications, they can be, well, dense, thick, multi-syllabic, abstruse, unfathomable, and, thus, impossible for the average muggle human to grok. But, you think to yourself, Why don’t they get it when it’s so obvious?

(photo by Afif Kusuma, Unsplash)

But what about the reverse? How is the obvious to them a mystery to you? Have you heard the expression that the simple is complex and the complex is simple when you are gifted? Well, that’s how. Your talent for deep thinking may lead you to make something more complicated than it actually is. Take multiple choice tests. Unless you figure out what the test designer had in mind, you might score poorly because you can explain how all of the choices could be correct, depending on the circumstances. A simple test stumps you because you naturally create connections or layers or intricacies where there are none. Right? This can also happen in conversations where you are flummoxed at the mundanities you hear being bandied about with such sincerity. You think: Surely, this must be code and these people are secret agents inventing a way to rid the world of single-use plastics. They can not actually care about these things. Can they?

Yes. Then can.

Please do not misunderstand me. (How often do you say that?) I am not wanting to create an us versus them situation here. It is just that you need to grow in your self-understanding and self-acceptance for the welfare of yourself, your family, your community, and the whole darned planet, so I am risking using what might be misconstrued as ridiculification. Apologies. (Oh, I love making up words!)

By the way, I was inspired to write about this from an email I received from a 55 year old female who also wrote a few other things you might relate to. So here are her words:

“… I am faced time and time again with the fact that I am fundamentally different from the people that I find myself surrounded by. I can pretend to be “normal” but it’s grueling and SOOO boring. If I am loved, it feels to me like it’s in spite of who I am, and not because of who I am. In recent days, this has really hit me like a brick over the head. Sometimes, I wish I weren’t so aware. Like REALLY aware. And when I find the places within me that I’m NOT aware of — that I hadn’t seen or understood — I tunnel through those as well. I never stop learning and searching. I can identify discrepancy, tension, and misalignment. I began to hunt for truth when things didn’t make sense as a child in a dysfunctional home with an alcoholic (but sensitive) father and an emotionally absent (but very present) mother. It felt impossible to unfurl. It was a debilitating mission for a sensitive kid like me. I’ve had to fight all my life to feel like I exist…”

And this:

“…But in my defense, I’ve spent most of my life trying to bend into the shape of the person that other people need. Because I care so deeply about other people’s feelings and can easily see their talents and strengths, I’ve advocated for and supported them without asking for anything in return. But part of that “brick over the head” I mentioned referred to the sudden realization that no one has ever treated me in kind. In fact, they’ve treated me quite poorly & I’ve let that be ok. But why? Don’t I deserve to be heard? I think I do.

You do, indeed, dear rainforestista. You do, indeed.

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To my bloggEEs: We would love to hear your thoughts. You, too, deserve to be heard. And there is a lot here to respond to, right? Please do. Your comments add so much! Sending all of you much love as we struggle to find our way through these frightening times.

(Note: I was interviewed by Marije Hofland of the Netherlands for her podcast just out today. Here is the link. Thank you, Marije. After the Dutch introduction, the rest is in English!)


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What Does Exceptional Giftedness Look Like In A Teen?

If you or your people are still wondering if giftedness exists or if identifying gifted children is only a way to create division and increase inequality, let me introduce you to Judith.

She was a 16-year-old high school senior attending honors classes at a local university. Dark-haired, brown-eyed, fast talking, and extremely intense, she came to see me after her mother, Priya, had called to say she was worried Judith was socially isolated, depressed, and not academically challenged.

(photo by agung pratamah, Unsplash)

At our first meeting, Judith said she felt like a freak. She was driven to learn about, oh, everything and extremely lonely. Her peers did not share her passions. Even while attending college classes, she was disappointed to find much of the coursework unchallenging although there were a few professors who pushed her beyond where she thought she could go and who were deeply enthusiastic about their area of study. She loved those teachers.

Judith told me she was bullied in elementary school. Her enthusiasm for learning was misinterpreted as bossiness or condescension by educators and the other children. She would turn in book reports that were much longer than required and wrote 50 page prologues to highly imaginative novels she wrote in her spare time. She designed complex games at recess that confused the other kids.

Like many gifted humans I have known, Judith needed intellectual stimulation as much as she needed air. Even though she was clear about that need, she resisted the gifted label. She would explain that she was intensely aware of her shortcomings. She was also offended by what she called the “elitism” of the word.

At one session, in her fast-paced, animated style, Judith explained her love of philosophy, sciences, and mathematics. I did the best I could to comprehend the theories and examples and wished I could have provided more feedback on the substance of what she was saying, but her grasp of these topics was beyond me. It was easy to see how lonely her world might be. Many adults, including me, had little or no exposure to this level of intellectual content and complexity. I wondered if I really was capable of helping this young woman, whose Corvette mind could leave my VW bus brain in the dust.

And with whom could she share her excitement about the prospect of taking free MIT classes online? Where could she talk about her intuitive insights and her deep spiritual connection with nature? Where could she disclose her extraordinary fear of failure or her avoidance of activities she could not master quickly? Probably not with the other kids spending hours on TikTok.

Like other gifted kids I have known, Judith’s emotions were explosive at times and she struggled with perfectionism and procrastination. She said, “I don’t want to turn in crappy work that isn’t up to my one hundred percent.” She would also run out of time on assignments when she would get caught up in exploring something intellectually fascinating. Educators and parents often misinterpret these high standards and curiosity as laziness or obstinance. The powerful emotions can be misjudged as immaturity.

In our sessions, we talked about the beauty of and value in exquisite quality and yet we also looked for ways to determine what assignments and projects needed the highest standards, and which ones could just get completed adequately and efficiently. We made lists of ways to self-soothe and manage frustration and anger, including looking at triggers, emotional needs, sensitivities, and hormones. We used her own creativity and intuitive depth to concoct visual and auditory experiences that were both comforting and empowering.

Judith needed self-acceptance and a sense of her own worth and agency to navigate a world that often misunderstood and even rejected her. She was slowly building more resilience. Her love and knowledge of astronomy, physics, language, and philosophy, along with her intuition and spirituality, began to strengthen her sense of self and her place in the world. After meeting with me over a few months, Judith was also able to understand the importance, even necessity, of acknowledging her identity as a gifted human.

In fact, it made all the difference.

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To my bloggEEs: How has knowing you are gifted (have a rainforest mind) helped you navigate the challenges in your life? What was it like before you knew? Thank you so much for being here, for finding me, and for your commitment to self-understanding and creating a more compassionate world. Much love to you.


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Your Rainforest Mind — The Latest Podcast Interview

Here is the link to an hour long interview of me with Australian, Sophia Elliott, of Our Gifted Kids. You will get to hear my sultry voice, learn the reason I devised the rainforest metaphor, and visit the challenges gifted adults navigate. Walk my path from public school teacher to psychotherapist, blogger, author, consultant, and Instagram wizard! Unfortunately, we did not talk about my years as an Argentine tango dancer or how I’ve spent my life trying to tame my overexcitable hair. (with very little success, I might add) And once you are on the site, you might enjoy some of the other interviews, especially if you are a parent of gifted children.

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To my bloggEEs: Thank you for listening! Share your thoughts, feelings, questions, and answers. I always look forward to hearing from you and your comments add so much. Big love to you all.

(Note: For more (!) inspiration, here is a link to a beautiful conversation between the rainforest minds of Senator Cory Booker and Jon Stewart on racism in N. America)

(Another note: Still procrastinating on writing your thoughts to me about seeking love, finding love, losing love, and loving love as the complexified rainforester that you are?? Wait no longer, my darlings. –paula at rainforestmind dot com– And thank you to those who have written so far!)


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Gifted In Lebanon

Candide is 22. She has been reading my blog for some time. She said it is one of her “favorite places.” Candide wrote to me to reach out to other rainforest minds for support. She is struggling. It sounds like both the country and her family are extremely challenging places to live, particularly as a sensitive soul.

She wrote about some of the daily assault on her senses.

“…The typical Lebanese citizen honks when stuck in a traffic jam…I dread the noise, the chaos, and the hostile competition that I have to face whenever I’m in a car…For the introverts among us, Lebanon is too much–too sunny, too hot, too noisy, too chatty. It’s not harmonious enough…” This does not include the explosions that she said are frequent, the economic distress, as well as her concerns for her safety.

Her issues in school will be familiar to many of you.

(photo by allef vinicius Unsplash)

“For most of the time I was top of my class. But I didn’t really enjoy it because I dread competition. So, at some point, I got tired and started self-sabotaging. I stopped taking notes in class because I was a perfectionist and had to ‘know it before I learned it.’ I was also too passionate, when everyone else, including teachers, only cared about standardized test scores.” She is an HSP and introvert, sensitive “to sound, light, smell, and taste.”

Living with so much sensitivity in a country in economic collapse and chaos, she feels overwhelmed with pain and loneliness.

“…I wonder if the solution is to get rid of my heart like it’s a dangerous tumor that grew too big. But is it even possible for RFMs to get rid of their heart?…”

No, Candide, it is not possible. And we are all grateful for your big heart. We want to support you in protecting and appreciating it.

I asked Candide what she looked to for hope. How she might protect her tender heart. She said, “…nature has a healing power.” She mentioned these three Lebanese activist women. Warde Bou Daher, Hiba Dandachli, Joumana Haddad and the writer/poet Khalil Gibran. And this blog. She has also found like-minds with INTPs online, Imi Lo’s writings on giftedness, and various researchers who study topics of interest to her curious mind. Even though access to the internet can be unreliable, it is a lifeline. Candide also told me she is planning to study Applied Data Science in the UK in the fall. Clearly, the power of her rainforest mind is what is getting her through.

I wonder what it is like for those of you living in countries, like Candide, where there is much upheaval, chaos, and economic distress. How do you manage when you are sensitive, empathetic, and driven to make a difference? How do you take care of yourself? Have you found activists and artists who give you hope and energy? Do you spend time in nature and connect via a spiritual practice? Are you finding other rainforest minds to be with, in person or online? Are you finding your own voice and joining with others to create a path(s) that is right for you?

Candide told me, Gibran says, “Love one another, but make not a bond of love. Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.”

He may have been referring to partner love but, no matter. Let our big-hearted rainforest-y selves acknowledge and celebrate the strength that dwells in our capacity to love and to feel so very much in that moving sea. Our love is here for you, too, Candide, and for us all.

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To my bloggEEs: I wrote this some time ago but Candide was not ready for me to post it. Now with the invasion of Ukraine, it seems timely, and she is willing. To all of you living in war zones, unsafe environments, and suffering in other ways, there may be no adequate words. But you are in our hearts. And, thank you, Candide, for your great courage and for sharing your story. (I’m sure she would appreciate any comments of support.)

(Note: For those of you in Spain, I just heard about this very active organization for the gifted. You might want to check into it.)

(Another note: If you have been thinking about writing to me about all forms of love, relationships, and your rainforest mind, there is no better time than the present. Send your inner procrastinating perfectionist out to lunch and write to me!)


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16 Ways to Manage Anxiety in a High Stress World

Could this be a description of you?

~ Feeling more, sensing more, thinking more, knowing more

~ Extreme sensitivity to sounds, smells, tastes, colors, touch, emotions, weather, food, chemicals, energy, bad news, criticism, the invisible world, and beauty

~ A mind that moves at warp speed, seeks meaning, analyzes the hell out of everything, wonders, generates millions of ideas, and watches itself watching itself

~ A heart that weeps at the cruelty humans inflict on one another and on the planet

~ A soul that yearns for knowledge, understanding, and love

And you wonder why you are anxious?

(photo by le minh phuong, unsplash)

Anxiety is such a real phenomenon for people with finely tuned nervous systems, which you know you have. Not to mention, your capacity to feel the suffering of neighbors, trees, children everywhere, and your lonely Aunt Lucille. And, these days, not to mention pandemics, climate crises, racism, civil wars, psychopathic dictators, and more.

And, if you had to start worrying when you were two years old because your mother was screaming obscenities at you and your father was unreliable and self-absorbed, for example, well then, you likely have developed a remarkable ability to become anxious at a moment’s notice. Or to remain anxious all of the time on all occasions. Just in case. You never know. You need to be prepared for the worst.

And so, your anxiety may manifest in many ways:

You want to strangle your neighbor who uses her leaf blower to clear the dust off of her driveway every morning. The chaos at birthday parties leaves you and your child shrieking. Your very active, creative mind imagines unending catastrophes. You can’t stop ruminating about the horrific story you just heard on NPR. You have migraines, allergies, and insomnia.

What, then, are some ways you can help yourself?

  • Make a list of self-soothing techniques that work for you. Try the different apps that exist such as Calm, Insight Timer, and Headspace. It often helps to create a daily meditation practice or exercise plan. Some people have found morning pages from The Artist’s Way to be useful. Notice if food sensitivities or hormones are a factor.
  • Make a list of calming reminders. Here are some items on one teen client’s list: I’m a fallible human. I make mistakes, like everyone. I’m learning. I’m experimenting. Making a mistake does not make me a bad person. Am I catastrophizing? Do I need to be this upset? My body tends to be anxious, but I’m actually safe. It’s going to be OK. I’m older now and I have more control over my experiences. It makes sense that there are many things that I don’t know. 
  • Procrastination by Burka and Yuen is a good resource for perfectionism and procrastination.
  • You have great compassion for others. Let yourself receive some of that sweetness, too. Forgive yourself for not being perfect.
  • Understand that your perfectionism and anxiety might exist not because of something you have done wrong but because of the nature of growing up gifted. The complications begin at an early age. You have a right to take the time to focus on your self-understanding and growth.
  • You know how fear tends to make you want to freeze or shrink or hide or push it away? Instead, notice it and be with it. Where do you feel it in your body? Hello, anxiety. Then, remember that it is just a part of you. And you are bigger than it. Imagine yourself expanding. Breathe and expand. As odd as it sounds, welcome the anxiety. Bring it on, baby! And keep expanding. You will begin to feel your higher Self and the Love that is in you and around you. Breathe. You might start to notice that you feel lighter and more peaceful. The fear may still be there but you’ve become so large that it becomes insignificant. Imagine that! The more you practice this, the easier it will be to get into this more peaceful state. And if you want to take it one step further, turn it into a tonglen practice (from Pema Chodron) where you breathe in all of the anxiety all over the world (Seriously!), and you breathe out Love to everyone, including yourself.
  • Move your body. When worried, we tend to freeze. That only increases the anxiety. Try moving. Walk, dance, shake, exercise, sing.
  • If you grew up in a seriously dysfunctional family, get psychotherapy. Events in your present life can trigger PTSD symptoms where you are unconsciously re-experiencing trauma; feeling anxiety that makes no sense. Therapy can help you identify the triggers and learn ways to cope and to heal.
  • Keep a journal and write dialogues with your anxiety. Visualize the anxiety as a person and be curious. Ask why it continues to hang around. You may be surprised by the answers
  • Find your sense of humor. If you are alone in your car, scream obscenities at passing drivers. Avoid eye contact.
  • Try one of the research-based guided imagery CDs produced by psychologist Belleruth Naparstek. She has CDs on anxiety, stress reduction and many more topics. Experiment with emotional freedom techniques (EFT) also called tapping.
  • Read the research from the Heartmath Institute and see if you might want to try one of their devices to improve what they call your “heart rate variability” and reduce your stress.
  • Get hugged by someone you love, including your animals. Breathe and feel the connection deeply in your body.
  •  If you are a parent, share these ideas with your children. Listen to them as they share their frustrations and fears. Careful listening and reflection often works better than advice giving or rescuing. If they are very young, give them the specific words for their emotions. Let them know you will keep them safe. Don’t take their meltdowns personally. Take time away.
  • Consider working with a team of sensitive, capable practitioners (naturopaths, physical therapists, psychotherapists, doctors, acupuncturists, healers, shamans, teachers, artists, etc.) who will help you find the best tools for your particular needs. You are complicated so there is no one practitioner or one technique that will be the perfect answer. You do not have to be alone with your anxiety. Even though you tend to solve problems for others and you may be the smartest person in the room at any particular time, do not give up on finding help for yourself.

You may be naturally inclined to worry. Because you think a lot, it is easy to slip into an anxious state. You have a mind that needs to be active, questioning, and dancing. Imagine that if you get more intellectual stimulation, you will worry less. And, yet, during times like these, anxiety will likely be a frequent visitor.

So, if all else fails, go for beauty. See the gorgeousness of the flower, the rainstorm, the laughing children. And the beauty of you. Worries and all.

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To my bloggEEs: I am sure we are all anxious about the horrific situation in Ukraine. Here is a place you can go to help. For the climate crisis, Jon Stewart is one resource. For racism, look for the work of Resmaa Menakem. I am sending you so much love. Let us know what calms your anxiety. Speaking of love, I am still looking for your thoughts on love and all types of relationships for my new book. And remember to tell me about the many forms of love you experience outside of partnership. Thank you!


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I’m Writing A Book On Love — For Sensitive, Deep Thinking, Creative, Curious, Smart, Persnickety Humans

A big thank you to all of you who have written to me so far with your thoughts, experiences, and questions. This is exciting! I want to encourage more of you to write and I am going to provide a few more guidelines for those of you who need some prompts. (If you have already written but have more to say, please do.) That said, if you do not need guidelines, please write what you need to say, want to say, must say, don’t want to say, or are afraid to say. And do not worry about length. (Email is preferred. paula at rainforestmind dot com) A few of you have told me it has been therapeutic to write about your present partnerships, your past relationships, your search for love, your single life, what love looks like in your life, how you define love, how love in the rainforest is different, and more.

(photo by brigitte tohm, Unsplash)

A couples counselor friend of mine has shared some of her questions for you. (Sorry. She is not taking new clients.) She has identified certain issues that come up when giftedness is part of the equation in a coupled relationship. So here are some questions to contemplate. Looking at the questions, you will get a feel for some of the issues couples bring to her. Pick the ones that fit for you or skip them all and just pour out your heart. I’m listening. (And let me know where you are from. I am hoping for wide multicultural representation.)

  • How do you handle your sensitivities when you are in relationships? Do you have trouble setting boundaries? What types of boundaries do you set? What happens with self-care once you are in a couple? Do you notice any concerns around control or rigidity? What are some strategies you have tried?
  • If you are both in high powered careers, how do you negotiate personal time, free time, job opportunities, and child care? Are there compromises or career choices that have been missed or lost? Is there resentment or frustration? Competition? How do you deal with the stress levels?
  • With your advanced levels of empathy, do you watch each other too closely? Is it hard to know what is intuition and what is a reaction based in anxiety, overwhelm, or past trauma? Are there ways you have learned to talk about it? What about introversion or extraversion?
  • If someone is a perfectionist, is that pressure placed on the relationship? In what ways? How do you talk about it?
  • How do you deal with the frustrations that come with coping in a world that often feels slow, insensitive, underwhelming, overwhelming, frightening, unaware, and selfish? Are you able to provide a safe haven for each other? Does the disappointment and despair create tension between you? What are some ways you cope?
  • What are the advantages when one person is gifted and the other is not? Disadvantages? What if one of you is RFM while the other is gifted but in a more linear-sequential form? What about being twice-exceptional?
  • How have you used your sense of humor to manage your challenges? What other rainforest traits have been helpful?
  • If there is trauma, abuse, neglect, bullying, racism, or anti-Semitism in your past, have you noticed the impact on the relationship? The patterns that are being repeated? Have you been to therapy? What has that been like?
  • What are your experiences of love outside of the traditional model of partnership? With animals? friends? children? Spirit? God? nature? self? passions? your life’s work? emojis from your readers? fan mail?
  • Are there resources you would recommend that have helped you? Books, podcasts, websites, films, music, hobbies?
  • What question did I forget to ask? Answer that one!

What do you want the book to include? I envision a kind of handbook, guide, or journal that has a sense of humor and includes some of my own personal relationship escapades, catastrophes, and searches. I also want to write about the many places love exists outside of partnership so please tell me about the creative, nontraditional ways you give and receive love.

And, for starters, I am sending you love. Right here. Right now. You have my big blog-love comin’ atcha.

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To my bloggEEs: Of course, you can answer some of these questions in the comments. But if you have quite a lot say (you know who you are), best to put it in an email. So many of you are so eloquent, I hope to quote you in the book, not identifying you, of course. But, you do not need to be eloquent. I repeat. No eloquence required. And, don’t procrastinate! I’d love to hear from you SOON. Let me know if you do not wish to be quoted. Thank you, my sweet rainforesters! And more love coming as we navigate the appalling developments in Ukraine. (Here is an excellent article on this by Rebecca Solnit.) Finding your authentic voice and your purpose(s) is one way to send love and healing to the planet and to all of us.