Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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“If I Admit I Am Gifted, I Will Have To Do Something Great” (A Rainforest Mind In Austria)

Has this crossed your mind? If you are gifted, you need to do something great? Create a better world? Well. I am here to tell you that it is sort of true. Sorry. But it does not have to be insanely great. It can just be kinda great. Or somewhat great. Or relatively great. Or great-ish.

Before you get all freaked out on me, let me explain.

I was talking with a wonderful woman in Austria the other day. She was having a hard time acknowledging her giftedness. Like many of you, she kind of garbled the word when she said it. Mggifffttd. Even though she found my quiz to be incredibly revealing and she scored extremely high on the test in the book The Gifted Adult, she was still not sure.

(photo courtesy of Alina Sofia, Unsplash)

But I saw so many signs. Here they are:

~ Ava is an electrical engineer and teaches engineering students. Her students do not always appreciate her. She is assuming they are as capable as she is. She doesn’t realize that what is common sense to her, may actually be confusing to them. They may need her to slow down and repeat her explanations more than once.

~ Ava spends extra time giving her students detailed feedback about assignments. She is particularly conscientious and empathetic.

~ She is an avid reader and researcher and has so many interests, she is often overwhelmed. Ava found me through an article I wrote on Emilie Wapnick’s site, the Puttyverse. She has since joined their community of multipotentialites to get support for managing her interests and choosing directions.

~ One of Ava’s favorite things to do is explore AI. On her own. For fun. To reassure her, I told her that the definition of fun for an RFM is not the same as for the masses. She was also learning Sanskrit in her spare time and had an emotional response to the beauty of robotic theory.

Have I convinced you yet that Ava is Mggiffttd? Have I convinced Ava?

There’s more.

~ Ava does not like small talk. She told me she is so relieved that when she is at the hair dresser, she can read instead of chatting about the latest neighborhood scandal.

~ Off and on throughout her life, she has been called arrogant.

~ Ava loved her seventh grade math teacher who appreciated her advanced abilities and helped her enroll at the university for math classes.

~ Colleagues talk to her and repeat themselves because they think she is not understanding them. Sure they are speaking in her non-native tongue but what is actually happening is she is thinking ahead of them and of the implications of what they are saying.

~ Ava finishes an assignment at work that is supposed to last 8 hours in 6. She feels guilty if she spends the rest of the time doing something for herself.

There is plenty of evidence, then, that Ava has a rainforest mind. Right?

But then, in our latest conversation, Ava shared her dilemma. She admitted she might still be denying her giftedness because she believes she would have to achieve eminence or win a Pulitzer or change the world if she was so smart. And that pressure to achieve would be just too much to bear.

Oh.

Of course.

Pressure to achieve. Pressure to live up to your potential. Pressure to win, to be the smartest one, to know it all. To make a difference on the planet.

The pressure is real. If you are so smart, they say, why aren’t you rich, famous, inventing the next iPhone, and solving homelessness, pandemics, racism, and the climate crisis?

No wonder Ava is not sure she is gifted.

So here is what I think.

You were born with a rainforest mind for a reason. Your job is to figure out what that reason is. And then live out that purpose in the best way you can.

How? What activities, skills, and topics open your heart and bring your life meaning, fulfillment, and maybe even joy? You may need to experiment and explore to answer this. It could take some time because there are so many things. That’s OK. Maybe environmental law? Climate science? AI Ethics? Medical intuition? ArtPoetryMusic? Dance therapy? Energy healing? Politics? Use that super creative brain of yours to turn them into a career path(s) or hobbies or nonprofits or podcasts or books or a political campaign or blog or parenthood or food cart or a unique-to-your-quirky-self side hustle.

Be sure to include ‘spread more love’ in your mission statement.

And maybe it is as simple as that. You were born to spread more love.

So do it. And be gifted.

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To my bloggEEs: What thoughts, feelings, questions, and inspirations does this post stir up? I so appreciate all of you. And thank you to Ava for sharing herself with us.

(Note: In case you missed it, I am linking here to a new experimental project of mine. I call it Sound Memes for Your Rainforest Mind. You might say this project is a glimpse into my exploration of singing and spirituality. The description on the site will tell you more. This project also might inspire you to take your own leap into that thing you have been avoiding for years for fear of being seen as a teensy weensy bit beyond the pale. Or extremely outlier-ish. Or even weirder than everyone thought. OK? Do it. Be gifted.)


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Depressed? Anxious? Gifted? Get Yourself Some Intellectual And Creative Stimulation Pronto!

There might be many reasons you are feeling depressed or anxious. So many reasons. From trauma in your childhood to racism, pandemics, losses of loved ones, homophobia, climate change, illness, poverty, corrupt politicians, antisemitism, all of the other isms, and more.

So many reasons. 

I might even include some lesser but occasionally significant depression and anxiety influencers like hormones, food sensitivities, allergies, and bad hair days. (OK. That last one is very lesser.)

(photo courtesy of Drew Graham, Unsplash)

Because you are the sensitive, perceptive human that you are, your awareness of these factors is pretty much somewhere in your brain at all times, unless you have mastered the art of denial, which, in some cases, can come in handy. Denial can be a useful coping strategy in these tumultuous times as long as it is not used excessively. Or when your curious toddler is wandering out into the street. Therapists do not usually recommend denial. And, I don’t either. Most of the time. But I have found it has come in handy recently.

That said, for you, my little chickadees, there is another reason you might feel depressed and anxious. And this one, I am happy to say, is more easily resolvable. 

Having a rainforest mind means you want intellectual and creative stimulation like others want pizza and ice cream. You NEED it. You may not realize it but if you don’t have enough, you might feel depressed or anxious. Regular people might not care so much about learning new stuff or creating cool solutions to problems or composing a new tune on the ukelele or analyzing impact ionization or creating a better world. But you, well, it is your bread and butter. Or your kale and quinoa, as it were.

The remedy is clear. Where can you find intellectual and creative excitement? If it is not readily available, here are some options for starters: You can browse your independent bookstore, take the online class, do that internet search, buy those paints, join the dance troupe, start a podcast or a blog, get another degree, volunteer at a nonprofit that needs your direction, get lost in Wikipedia, learn a new musical instrument, study your next language, start a business, deepen your spiritual practice, initiate a conversation with the magical creatures in your garden, read and research with abandon, get therapy, and/or try that thing that makes you feel weird but you’ve always wanted to do. And, this is important, in all of these activities, look for the other rainforest-minded humans that might be lurking. Sweetly draw them into your web.

Granted, there will still be many daunting challenges in your inner and outer worlds. But, getting your intellectual and creative needs met will not only lift some of your depression and ease some of your anxiety. It might also become the foundation and inspiration for your paths to your greater Self, your stronger voice, more cool solutions, and, perhaps even creating a better world.

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To my bloggEEs: Can you relate to a lack of intellectual and creative stimulation? Tell us about it. Where have you found some? One source for creative inspiration, particularly in the arts, is this podcast/website called Art Church. It is just getting started but promises to become a unique community for spiritually inclined artist-types. And this SoundCloud link is my newest project. (Song Memes for Your Rainforest Mind) It is the weird thing I mention above.


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Gifted Adults Around The World — What Do They Have In Common? Meet Alice In Brazil

The more rainforest-minded souls I meet, the more hope I have for humanity. No matter where in the world they happen to be, I see similar traits. Big-hearted, creative, deep-thinking, sensitive souls. Humans who are so darned smart and who are driven to use their superpowers for good.

In case you missed them, profiles so far come from:

Brazil, Finland, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Malaysia, India, Chile, Canada (via Cameroon) (If you are from a country not yet represented and would like to be profiled, email me!) Of course, most of my experiences are with N. Americans. I feel so grateful to be able to learn and share this expanded view.

Today we are meeting Alice, a 25 year old Brazilian female. She came across my quiz and gifted information after searching for “people who don’t fit at school.” She ordered and quickly read my first book and The Gifted Adult, then she contacted me. Like so many of you, Alice was struggling with intensity, being misunderstood, passions for learning everything, depression, anxiety, and loneliness. The restrictions imposed by COVID-19 and the political tensions in her country, made it even harder for her to find direction for her future and the relief she would normally feel in the natural world.

(photo courtesy of Bruno Dias, Unsplash)

Alice described her experience this way: “I just want to follow my multiple and endless passions. I just want to be FREE to create and to travel the world. It feels like I’ve spent my whole life being a dormant volcano, without knowing what’s been going on inside of me. My anxiety and depression feel like lava. It seems to burn me inside and it hurts. I internalized that being the way that I am is a terrible flaw…When I was identified gifted, all of my traits seem to have erupted. The hidden, real, and even more intense Alice came out. I’ve been dealing with a kind of new me.

“…Oh, how unfair this world is! I hate this world! But, how can I love this world the way I do? I love the Nature SO MUCH that it hurts. I love you Planet Earth! I love Jupiter and its moons. I wanted to be a National Geographic photographer, a solo traveler, a documentarist, a multi-instrumentalist, a singer, an author, a visual artist and paint maker, a polyglot, a dancer, an athlete, I wanted to help people, wild animals and plants, etc. etc…I wanted to learn more about history, geology, archaeology, biology, astronomy…I wanted to do hundreds of things, I also wanted to live in many different places and experience diverse cultures.

Like most (all?) of you, Alice is a multipotentialite but she could not tell anyone for fear of criticism and rejection:

“…I can’t let them know my interests. I can’t let them know that I want to speak 10 languages one day, without being judged, without them thinking I am arrogant, without them telling me to be less, to question less, without them telling me not to share my interests, my vulnerabilities, my sense of justice…’keep that just for you, Alice, otherwise they won’t like you’…They’ve been treating me differently and I can feel it. But I just love learning 8,459,238 things at the same time. And also because I have no time to dedicate specially to one thing, and I always struggle with choices and procrastination, I often think I’m incapable, incompetent, and very unlikely to succeed…”

So many of you can relate to being called arrogant or being told you are too much, too sensitive, too intense. You’ve heard the complaints of others: Why can’t you focus? Why can’t you be happy with one language, one job, one book!?!

Alice was working so hard to understand where she might fit and who she actually is. She wondered where she stood on the gifted spectrum and how she might move forward in her life.

“…I just don’t want to be so afraid of being myself. I just don’t want to feel so much need for others’ approval. I just don’t want to be so afraid of the critics…I don’t want to be so afraid of success, too. I want to find at least a balance between my natural optimism and pessimism. I’ve written a lot about my pains, but I’ve had the opportunity to experience many, many beautiful moments, too…”

Like many of you, in spite of the challenges and pressures that would often overwhelm her, she could see the beauty in life and appreciate the little things, love them so much that it hurt.

As Alice and I talked, she was able to get a better understanding of how her struggles were not based in her own inadequacies but rather connected to her gifted traits. Because I had already written about two Brazilian young women, I suggested she try and reach them and the other Brazilian commenters through my blog, as a way to reduce her isolation.

Because she had experienced traumatic events in addition to the struggles of being gifted, I recommended she look for a therapist where she might get regular support and work through the traumas. Believe it or not, around the time I was speaking with Alice, I was contacted by Giovanna Strobel, a psychotherapist in Brazil who specializes in giftedness! How amazing is that?! (For those of you who speak Portuguese, check her out!.)

So, now, Alice is reaching out to Giovanna and her team. She is starting to understand more about the beauty and power of her rainforest mind. And I hope, one day, loving herself so much that it hurts.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you relate to Alice’s experiences? How are your feelings similar? Different? Remember in the comments not to give advice to others but rather to speak about your own experiences and insights. Thank you so much for being here. Much love to you all. And thank you to Alice for sharing your big-hearted, sensitive, creative, deep-thinking, rainforest mind with us.

(Note: Giovanna and I will be doing a live interview on July 3, 2021, 1pm PT. I’m not sure if it is on Instagram or somewhere else. If you follow her on Instagram or me, you will hear about it. Join us!)

(Another note: I was reviewing my first article on Brazilians and was reminded of another practitioner in Brazil who shared in the comments. Adriana Vazzoler-Mendoca. Sounds like she would be another good resource for Brazilians looking for a mentor or coach!)


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Are You Ready To Admit You Are Gifted? Yes? What, Then, Are The Benefits?

Many of my clients are still not sure they are gifted. Truth be told, neither am I. So, I am wondering if I explain the reasons you ought to identify as gifted, maybe more of you would be able to accept it. Or believe it. Or even celebrate it. Maybe I would, too. And then we could move on from there. To living our meaningful, purposeful, authentic lives. To using our gifted traits for good!

The Benefits of Admitting You Are Gifted

~ You stop pathologizing your gifted traits.

(photo courtesy of Diego Rosa, Unsplash)

~ You get clearer about your deep, wide, unending, analytical thinking that comes naturally and is beneficial and that people, including you, call overthinking. It is not over. It is not under. It is just your style of thinking. You will distinguish this from rumination, your tendency to worry, because your very active, creative mind can think of multiple catastrophic scenarios, especially if you are a parent. This distinction will help you know when you need to chill (apply self-soothing techniques) versus when you are free to dive (research the hell out of something).

~ It will get easier to make decisions because you will understand how your mind easily conjures up complexities and variables within variables. Not to mention your sense of social responsibility that can complicate your choices. Knowing these tendencies will help you move ahead a bit sooner. Decisions will be a little less fraught.

~ You will realize that your random, divergent, nonlinear thinking style is not ADHD. Your visually sensitive desire for clean surfaces and color-coded sweaters and alphabetized books is not OCD. Your emotionally intense moods are not bipolar disorder. Your sensitivity to clothing textures, food tastes, loud sounds, and violent images, and your desire to tell everyone about your obsession with brain specimen coasters is not autism spectrum disorder. (OK. This is not to say that you can’t be gifted and any one of these other things, too. You certainly can be. That would make you twice-exceptional or 2e. And that is fine, too. But a topic for another post.)

~ You will be better able to find appropriate friends because you will not try to fit in where you do not belong. You will let go of forcing yourself to make small talk. You will not get irritated when people say “how are you” and just want you to say “fine.” You will know how to spot other rainforest minds because you will know what to look for.

~ You will not force yourself to finish one book before you start the next one.

~ You will sort out what traits are the result of giftedness and what traits come from losses and/or traumas in childhood. You might need a therapist to guide you. Asking for help is not a weakness. Smart people need guidance, too.

~ You will set clearer boundaries with people because you know you can be compassionate while at the same time not take on burdens that are not yours. You will acknowledge that your giftedness does carry responsibility but it does not mean you have to rescue people who are obviously not asking to be saved, or people who have their different paths to walk. You will be clearer about what you can control and what you can not control.

~ You will relax your fears around disappointing others because you will apply all of that love, compassion, and acceptance you give to family, friends, and suffering humans everywhere, to yourself as well.

~ You will not freak out when your intuition is accurate and when you feel your connection to a powerful Source of Love and Light.

When you finally admit to yourself that you have a rainforest mind, that you are, indeed, gifted, then, you will be freer to follow your true paths because you will be better able to know where you need to go. You will feel more connected to yourself and what you are here to do and you will look for the right resources for support. You will be more open to receiving love and the sweetness of the larger Universe, of the invisible world. You will be more able to live your meaningful, purposeful, authentic life and to use your gifted traits for the benefit of yourself, your family, your community, and your world.

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To my bloggEEs: I will believe it if you will! Let us know your thoughts, feelings, and questions. Much love and gratitude! (And thank you to the client who inspired this post.)


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You Know You Have A Rainforest Mind When…

There are seventeen unread or partially read books piled next to your bed. And you are browsing on the powells.com website just in case.

(photo courtesy of Gaelle Marcel, Unsplash)

You have been told that what is obvious to you is not apparent to everyone. Really? But it is so simple, you declare with dismay.

Your thinking and your style of communication is like a fire hose to everyone else’s garden hose.

You are hearing sounds and smelling smells that no one else hears or smells.

You start writing the paper for school the night before and still get the highest grade in the class. Contrary to the myth that you must be arrogant, you are actually uncomfortable so you hide your grades and start failing classes on purpose.

People much older than you are running the nonprofit where you volunteer and are asking your opinions and putting you in charge. You are appalled at how disorganized they are so you take over.

You are fascinated by, oh, everything, and never want to stop learning.

People who have been on the job much longer than you, resent the fact that you learned the ropes faster and mastered the job in a few weeks. And now you are bored.

Your empathy runs amok.

You have spent more time waiting for others to catch up than you have spent sleeping.

You had eight (or more) different careers before you were thirty.

People tell you that you care too much, you are too idealistic, too sensitive, and you can’t change the world. Sometimes you believe them but deep in your heart, you know they are wrong.

You took seven years to get through college because you changed your major 4 times. And you added two minors. You would have stayed longer if it wasn’t so darned expensive.

You have painted your living room 12 times in 4 years, and it is still not right.

People tell you how smart you are but you feel like a failure most of the time.

You slept with (and loved) the dictionary when you were a child and you are secretly annoyed that Google, Alexa, Siri, and Whoever are answering your kids’ questions.

People keep telling you to lower your extremely high expectations and you wonder why they are not raising theirs.

You learned to dance and lead the Argentine tango because it was challenging, creative, and intimate, and for the first time in your life others figured out how to follow you.

You see ecru, beige, ivory, and eggshell when everyone else sees white.

You not only know a lot because you research pretty constantly, even in your sleep, but you also have an intuitive capacity that is so particularly accurate at times, it is a little unnerving.

People tell you that you talk too fast, even when you are speaking your third language.

When you read this list you think, isn’t everyone like this?

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To my bloggEEs: Can you add to this list in the comments? How do you know you have a rainforest mind? Thank you for being here and for your love. Loving you back, as always. Knowing you are reading my blog has totally saved me during this pandemic. Welcome to my happy place. Stay safe everyone.


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Do Not Stop Caring — Fifteen Reminders For Tender-Hearted Smart People

Do not stop caring. No matter if your co-workers scoff at you for your idealistic enthusiasm.

(photo courtesy of Kevin Quezada, Unsplash)

Do not stop caring. Ignore the cynics and pessimists who say all is lost.

Do not stop caring. Remind yourself that the truly intelligent ones are the optimists-with-ideas

Do not stop caring. Even when your colleagues and family members suggest that smart people do not love so indiscriminately.

Do not stop caring. When your empathy has you exhausted, take breaks and fill yourself back up.

Do not stop caring. If you have been told that the masculine thing to do is to toughen up. (Are we still saying that in 2021?) Give that little child in you a big hug and tell them tenderness is the real strength.

Do not stop caring. If you have been told that the feminine thing to do is to be quiet and look pretty. (Are we still saying that in 2021?) Give that little child in you a big hug and tell them to start singing their songs, loudly and with abandon.

Do not stop caring. Even if you are the only one you know who sees deeply into the complexity of the situation. Even if humans are always disappointing you.

Do not stop caring. You are an art-work-in-progress. You do not need to be perfect. You can not please everyone; you are not supposed to.

Do not stop caring. Remember that song? Measure your life in love.

Do not stop caring. Even when you are ready to quit because everyone is depending on you and you are so tired of it. Remember that setting boundaries and having limits are both very healthy and necessary behaviors. Even if you are able to do the thing, that does not mean you have to do the thing.

Do not stop caring. Remember to let your spiritual practice, Nature, your Aunt Gretchen, and your trusty puppy Fido nourish you.

Do not stop caring. Even if you still haven’t found the right therapist and you are having a bad hair day.

Do not stop caring. You may be on the leading edge of exploring higher consciousness with your awareness, intuition, perception, and longing for justice for all races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, cultures, and ethnicities. Keep seeking other rainforest minds to join you in your vision.

Do not stop caring. Even if ordinary reality looks kinda bleak at times. Remember that non-ordinary reality also exists and it is quite amazing.

Do not stop caring. When you are not sure what actions to take to create a better world, ask your Heart what it wants to say and do. Trust your Heart.

And, if you need to get a boost for your overwhelmed, aching, languishing, tender heart, watch this powerful short video from the international kids video troupe, the World Hope Project. It will lift you up. (And for you Spanish speakers, here is Dear Mother Earth in Spanish!)

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To my dearest bloggEEs: Are you tired? Overwhelmed? Wondering what to do next? Let us know how you are doing. What are you thinking, feeling, and doing that helps you care when others don’t? Sending much love to you.


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Awareness, Awe, and Your Wild Rainforest Mind

(This post was inspired by the writer, visionary, and extraordinarily rainforest-minded Geneen Marie Haugen*)

…I grieve and wonder why so many of our human kin don’t seem to recognize the astonishing miracle of our mutual existence on this precious, exquisite, watery planet that we share not only with fantastically diverse cultures, but also with our companion communities of humpback whales, hummingbirds, giraffes. Is such experiential awareness and awe not available to all of us?…” Geneen Marie Haugen

(photo courtesy of Dev Asangbam, Unsplash)

Maybe not. Awareness and awe seem to exist at different levels and intensities for each of us. Our capacity for awareness and awe might be related to how curious, sensitive, intuitive, empathetic, and perceptive we are.

When you have a rainforest mind, though, you are guaranteed to be living with high levels of both.

Let me explain.

~ Awareness ~

There are many things you see, feel, know, and intuit that others don’t. You may not even realize this. You are normal to you. But when you run into a conflict with someone, it might be because something is obvious to you but not apparent to them. You may think they are lazy or just not paying attention. But it could be they are not seeing what you see. My example from the RFM quiz applies here: Do you see ecru, beige, sand, and eggshell when others see only white? You experience multiple layers and several subtleties. Complexities. Maybe you hear the buzzing florescent lights no one else hears. Or the chewing person in the theatre drives you crazy. Perhaps you grok the solution to the architectural design flaw before anyone else realizes there is a flaw. Or maybe you can tell by the way someone smells that they need a root canal.

These types of awarenesses may seem odd to the non-rainforest-minded among us. They may seem odd to you, too. But they actually come naturally with your larger capacity for being. For knowing.

~ Awe ~

Because of your deeper perceptions and your capacity to appreciate beauty and wonder, chances are you do not take life’s opportunities for granted. Of course, you get irritable, frustrated, despairing, fearful, and angry. You are not always grateful or spiritually in tune. But there may be a sense of awe that always lives in your heart. Geneen Marie Haugen‘s connection with Nature is such a prime example. Here she is describing water.

“…am still in a mad love trance with water, still dripping, still sensing the body of that muscular river: clear, deep, sinuous, insisting on a mutual embrace. A wild adoration of water…” GMH

See what I mean?

This is the intense experience of the rainforest-minded life.

Can you relate?

And yet. You may be exhausted by all of the intensity. You may feel terribly lonely if you are the only one you know who is in a “mad love trance with water.”

But your awareness, your capacity for awe, can also bring you visions of possibilities:

“…I can see a possible world where human ventures are created in accordance with living systems, where (bio)diversity is cherished, where all voices and pretenses are honored, where individual human beings are nourished and encouraged by their communities and by elders to bring forth their unique expressions and offerings. This world is so near that I can even smell and taste it. Millions–maybe even billions–of others have seen and felt the shimmers of a possible world, too…” GMH

Not only that:

“…The circumstances or places in which we find ourselves most radiantly alive almost certainly nourish the wild soul who inhabits the depths far below the surface of our ordinary, everyday consciousness. Tending and cultivating the emergences of the wild soul may be a primary way toward revitalizing human existence on this great planet.” GMH

So, dear rainforesters, keep noticing those shimmers.

And do not forget to carefully tend and cultivate your deeply radiant rainforest-y wild soul.

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To my bloggEEs: Can you relate to being aware and in awe? Let us know how this fits or does not fit in your life. What are the shimmers you are noticing? What are your thoughts? Feelings? Experiences? Questions? And, thank you so much to Geneen for sharing your wild soul with us!

*Geneen Marie Haugen, PhD, grew up as a free-range wildish kid with a run amok imagination.  She is a guide to the experiential, intertwined mysteries of nature and psyche with the Animas Valley Institute (www.animas.org) and has been on the faculty of the Esalen Institute, Schumacher College, and the Fox Institute for Creation Spirituality.  Her writing has appeared many publications including Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth; Thomas Berry: Dreamer of the Earth; Parabola; Kosmos Journal; Ecopsychology; The Artist’s Field Guide to Yellowstone, and others.  


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“The Problem, Officer, Is That My Sister Is An Intellectual…”* –A Quick Guide To Your Rainforest Mind

(*quote adapted from the inspiring talk Surviving as an Organizational Heretic ; by Carmen Medina TEDx talk)

(photo courtesy of Fabio Fistarol, Unsplash)

Have you been identified as the problem in your family? Is your finely tuned sensitivity, unending research, probing curiosity, exquisite empathy, passionate creativity, accurate intuition, in-depth analysis, sweet optimism, and driven social conscience, misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and mystifying?

Do your parents, siblings, teachers, therapists, friends, neighbors, and pets, look at you with wonder, or confusion, or anger, or fear, or jealousy, or awe? (OK. Maybe your pets look at you with, well, unconditional love. Unless they are cats. Cats may look at you with disdain. Not because you are gifted, though. But just because.) Do you reject the notion you are gifted because you know how much you don’t know or because you were not a straight-A student or because it feels arrogant, elitist, and unfair?

I thought so.

Then, of course, there is the pressure. Oh, the pressure. If you are so smart, then, well, you better reach your potential. Wasted potential is not an option. You ought to be great at everything you try at all times. Maybe even “insanely great.” Mistakes, then, become failures and failures are unbearable.  

No wonder you would like to hide out rather than shine too brightly. No wonder. But honestly? You can not really hide. Not really. You can try. But at some point, your rainforest mind will sneak out from under your cloak. The truth of who you are will be revealed. How? Well, for starters, it could be that any one or more of the following occur:

The foundation of your house finally cracks under the weight of all of those darn books. You can’t stop crying over nature’s fecundity.  It takes you 11 years to get through college because you keep changing your major, start two businesses, learn the Argentine tango, join the board of an arts organzation, travel to Nepal to lead treks, teach yourself watercolor painting, and write a screenplay. You still reread Jane Austen, Ursula LeGuin, and Toni Morrison, again and again. You raise a gifted child. You start a nonprofit, or three. You become an overworked, underpaid, and adored-by-your-students middle school teacher. You swoon over your fascination with fungi. You dive deeply into psychotherapy to heal from your traumatic childhood. (Yeah, I know. You thought I’d say, you win a Nobel prize. And, perhaps, you do that, too. But prizes are not required for rainforest mind membership.)

In other words, because you have a rainforest mind, you have an extra large, perhaps enormous, capacity to think, feel, know, perceive, analyze, evaluate, discern, observe, empathize, intuit, create, imagine, and love. All humans have these abilities to greater and lesser degrees, of course. Your capacities are just much deeper, wider, and multi-faceted. You experience layers and levels and complexities and controversies and visions and worries and energies and influences that others may not. 

This is not arrogant, elitist, or unfair.

It is just you.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you need to find more self-acceptance and understanding? If you experience conflict in your family or in other relationships, it could be, at least in part, because of these differences. Let us hear from you. Thank you for sharing your comments, feelings, thoughts, and questions. They add so much. Love to you! (Note: If you get a chance, watch Carmen Medina‘s TED talk. She explains how to create change in an organization and you can hear the whole story from her about what her brother said!)


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What My Twice-Exceptional Client Taught Me

I totally missed it. In my enthusiastic desire to avoid at all costs the all-too-often misdiagnoses of gifted kids and adults, I did not see what was right in front of me. 

(photo courtesy of David Clode, Unsplash)

I had worked with Jenny off and on, every other week, for about two years. She came to me after a difficult first year in college away from home, returning to a university in her hometown. She openly shared her struggles with anxiety, depression, and relationships. Her need for structure and routines, and trouble with transitions. Her extroversion and difficulty with friendships. The early years of bullying; her love of learning and desire to achieve in school. 

I had written about her on my blog. This one on anxiety and perfectionism. And I quoted her in this one. I saw it all as the typical challenges gifted young people face. And it was.

Until it wasn’t. 

Jenny had a boyfriend, Glen, who lived with her. He had been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and, with him, it was easy to see the signs. He had severe executive functioning problems and anxiety. He was not doing well in school or keeping up with chores at home; he had strong opinions that could not be changed. Jenny would remind him about homework and his responsibilities, but he would often procrastinate or say he would get to it but not follow through. He was particularly socially awkward. Compared to Glen, Jenny appeared to be a regular gifted kid with the typical rainforest-y struggles. She was conscientious about her schoolwork, kept her house clean, and was quite personable. She was insightful, sensitive, and kind. Yes, Jenny talked nonstop in our sessions but so did many of my clients. 

But, in our session last week, Jenny told me she had recently realized she was an “aspie girl.” She said she had been masking her ASD traits like many girls do, and that she was exhausted. The isolation and stress of the pandemic had finally overwhelmed her so she had gone on a search for answers and had come up with her own ASD diagnosis. Jenny explained she had severe anxiety with transitions and a strong need for plans and routines. When she was living with her parents, they provided the structure she needed. On her own, it was extremely challenging. She identified this as the executive functioning issues that can come with ASD.  She said she was quite anxious in new situations until she knew the rules and that she had learned over the years to imitate others so she would look appropriate. She described sensory issues and some self-stimulation that helped calm her; also physical clumsiness and fine motor difficulties. She told me about “obsessions” she had as a young child with Wizard of Oz, Dr. Who, and Lord of the Rings

The tricky thing is, I know many regular gifted kids in love with Dr. Who and J.R.R. Tolkien. Many who are sensually sensitive to textures, smells, tastes, and sounds. Who suffer from anxiety and depression. Who deal with loneliness, bullying, and communication issues.

But this was different. And Jenny’s research confirmed it. She was an aspie girl. She was twice exceptional (2e). She disclosed that as a young child, she developed scripts or rules for interactions with others and would get very upset if they did not follow them. Which they usually didn’t. Jenny said she learned by observation and from her mother to let other people talk and to ask them questions, to talk less about her own interests, and to manage her emotions when plans suddenly changed. Jenny was educating me, and herself, about ASD. It became clear she needed to find a different practitioner. And, in true form, she already had. She had already met with a psychologist for an initial assessment. 

Jenny told me she had benefitted from our time together. I had shared techniques she continued to use to calm her anxiety and manage her depression. My descriptions of rainforest minds reassured her that some of her difficulties in school and with other kids were based in her fast, divergent, and deep thinking, her sensitivities, and her greater capacity for learning. Her rainforest mind.

But I was quite aware of the irony. Many clients over the years have told me their practitioners had misdiagnosed them because there are similarities between the gifted traits and ADHD, OCD, ASD, and even bipolar disorder. Or they told me stories of how their doctors were mystified by their symptoms and they had to diagnose themselves without the help of the so-called experts.

Ouch. Eek. It was humbling to experience being one of those practitioners.

And so, yes, you can be rainforest-minded and ASD or ADHD or anything else, really. You can be twice exceptional. Maybe even 3e? 4e?

And, thus, just when you thought having a rainforest mind was complicated enough, well, there are even more tangled vines, insects, and monkeys than you can imagine.

And to Jenny: Thank you for your patience with me and your determination to make sense of your world. And for helping me make more sense of mine.

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To my bloggEEs: Have you been misdiagnosed? Do you identify with being twice-exceptional? Have you had experiences like Jenny? Let us know in the comments. Your thoughts, feelings, resources, and questions, add so much. Thank you, as always, for being here.

Resources for twice-exceptionality include: http://www.brightandquirky.com; http://www.withunderstandingcomescalm.com; http://www.summitcenter.us; These are mostly for parents of gifted 2e children but the information is still helpful for adults.


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Your Rainforest Mind — The January 2021 Interview (with French subtitles!)

I was interviewed for this online conference in France on neurodiversity, January 2021. I shared some of my background as a middle school teacher of gifted children, what therapists need to know about gifted clients, typical issues clients bring to consultations such as multipotentiality and perfectionism, and more. It is about an hour long. Interviewers were the French writer Alban Bourdy and Swiss executive coach Christine Leclerc-Sherling. (Merci!) I am introduced in French but the rest of the interview is in English, with subtitles.

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To my bloggEEs: What are your thoughts, feelings, and questions? You know your comments add so much to my blog. Thank you, as always, for being here. Much love to you. And, again, thank you Alban and Christine, for inviting me to this conference and for your thoughtful questions.