Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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The Less Obvious Traits of Giftedness — Intense Emotions, Intuition, and Empathy

photo courtesy of Chayene Rafaela, Unsplash

“…And it also surprises me how people can’t see the interactions between things, and the affects they have on other things. The ecology of the everything, the intertwining of the systems. It is so natural to me that I’ve only realized in the past few years that other people either don’t have this ability at all, or if they do, they can’t see the ripples go out half as far as I do. I have more than once predicted someone’s life playing out decades down the road based on a set of habits and choices – I feel like a wizard with a pointless magic, because I can’t warn them or help them down a better path, and I am still kind of surprised when it plays out the way I predicted…”  ~blog comment

Do you feel like “a wizard with a pointless magic?”  Do you see “the ecology of the everything, the intertwining of systems, …the ripples…” that no one else sees? Does your empathy overwhelm you at times? Is it hard to trust your intuition? Does all of this sensitivity make you feel a wee bit crazy? Are you wondering what all of this has to do with giftedness?

When we think of a gifted human, we may think of a straight-A student, a brilliant mathematician, or an acclaimed scientist. But giftedness is often much more than that. Although it can include great achievements, astonishing talents, or scientific breakthroughs, it might not include those things. Some of the less obvious traits we do not often associate with giftedness are intense emotions, deep empathy, and powerful intuition. So, even if you are not a typical high achiever, your intellectual capacity is still vast and complex and yet you may overlook or discount it if these other aspects are prominent. Let me explain.

Intense Emotions

Many parents of gifted children ask me why their children are so immature when they are so smart. While this can be explained as asynchrony, the idea that these kids are developmentally uneven, it is also the nature of the rainforest mind to have big emotions. It is not immaturity, it is giftedness. The depth and range of feelings can be as wide and deep as the intellect. The expectation might be that because these children are so articulate, they ought to be able to control their emotions and have fewer meltdowns. It is often quite the opposite.

You may have been that child. Perhaps you were labeled dramatic or overly sensitive. And now, as an adult, you may still be grappling with crying jags or moods swinging from despair to awe. Over the years, you may have learned to manage those emotions in a healthy way or you may judge yourself for them (especially if you are male). Managing the highs and lows via self-soothing and self-compassion is important. You don’t want your emotions to run amok at inopportune times. But you will need to learn to respect them, too, as a part of your beautiful depth and complexity.

Empathy and Intuition

Rainforest-minded souls are born with an abundance of empathy. You can see it when, at an early age, they are helping other children or are deeply concerned about the well-being of animals, plants, and the planet. They have a creative capacity to see how all things are connected. I remember the teen client who had difficulty completing papers in school because she could not narrow a topic down. All things were related. She couldn’t turn in the paper, not because she was lazy, as some people thought, but because there was no end to what she needed to research.

You may have been that teen. Not only that. In school, you may also have been overwhelmed by what you were sensing from the other kids and your teachers. You could feel their stress, anxiety, and fear. It was hard to discern what was yours and what was theirs. It still is. And yet, you want to help, to be of service. But it is tricky. You might not know when to stop or how to set appropriate boundaries. And if your empathy is extensive, you likely have a strong intuitive sense as well. An in-depth knowing that can be a reliable guidance system for your own decisions and provide insight into others’ needs and issues.

It is a lot to manage.  A lot to live with. Particularly in these tumultuous times.

What Can You Do?

It just so happens that there is a free online summit just waiting for you the week of March 9-13, 2020. It is hosted by The Shift Network, an organization of smart, sensitive, socially responsible folks. The link to find out more is here. And for those of you who are curious to hear more of my thoughts on this, I am on the program on March 11!

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To my dear bloggEEs: Do you experience any of these traits? How? What is difficult for you? How do you manage? If you sign up for Evolved Empath, let us know what you think. Thank you as always for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us and for being your intensely emotional, empathic, and intuitive self! (And thank you to the bloggEE who contributed the initial inspiring comment.)

 

 

 

 


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It Is Time To Stop Denying You Are Gifted — Part Two

photo courtesy of Hannah Grace, Unsplash

I have written about the reasons you may be denying you are gifted. But I missed one.

What if you are denying you are gifted because, if you admit you actually are gifted, then, you have to let the not-gifted humans off the hook. You have to not expect so much of them. You can’t be irritated or angry at their slow pace or their lack of capacity to grasp what you have to offer. You have to be responsible for all of the not-gifted humans forever and ever. And you will be alone for the rest of your days.

I love how dramatic you are.

I get why you think this. And there is a teensy weensy bit of truth in it. But here is what is really going on.

Because you have a rainforest mind, your capacity to learn, see, know, feel, smell, hear, taste, and intuit is larger than average. Maybe a lot larger. You were born that way. It is not your fault. Of course, this does not mean you must be capable in all areas all of the time, or even some areas all of the time, or all areas some of the time. Or that everything should be easy. You have your strengths and weaknesses. Your misinterpretations. Your confusions. Your particular interests and disinterests. Your self-doubt. Your failures. This does not even guarantee you are a high achiever, although you could be. And if you grew up with abuse/trauma or bullying, you have developed coping strategies and/or you may have acquired post-traumatic stress symptoms, like anxiety and depression, that distort your ability to see who you really are and live your fully rainforested life.

But, what about those not-gifted humans in your family. Your community. Your workplace. Your world. What about them?

(This is so tricky. It is hard not to sound arrogant with this one. But this is not arrogance and we need to talk about it.)

Do you have to lower your expectations? Probably. But do you even know what reasonable expectations are for most people? After all, your own super high standards may feel normal to you.

So, here is an idea. What if, on a case by case basis, you experiment with your expectations. How? Get to know the person. Do they have a rainforest mind? If yes, then relating might be easier. If no, what are their strengths and weaknesses? What can they handle? Where are their limits? What type of relationship and communication makes the most sense? If you do create different expectations, how do you still hold them accountable? You may need to be flexible, strategic, and creative in your approach. You may need to practice setting boundaries. You may need to limit contact.

Give yourself permission to feel irritated and angry. It can be extremely frustrating and lonely to always be the one with the solutions or the supportive response. You do not have to be the compassionate and understanding one every time, even if you are naturally inclined that way. Find healthy ways to release your frustrations and anger. You only have so much energy. Be aware of how much you give and how much you receive so that there is more balance in your life. Deepen your spiritual practice.

Then, make sure you look everywhere for other RFMs. I am living proof that they exist because I talk to them every day. My practice is thriving. They read my blog and books! You can find them, too. You do not have to be alone for the rest of your days.

And, just in case you were worried: You are not responsible for saving, healing, rescuing, and transforming all of the not-gifted humans out there. They are on their own paths, making the right choices for them. Or the wrong choices for them. It is your job to save, heal, rescue, and transform yourself. 

So, stop denying you are gifted.

Do you hear me?

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To my bloggEEs: I understand you may feel a need to contribute to creating a better world. Of course you do. I do, too. I am just saying that you do not need to save everyone. You do not need to sacrifice yourself for others, especially those who will not benefit from your generosity. It is OK to choose carefully how you make a difference here on planet earth. So, what do you think? Are you gifted? How does this post resonate with you? As always, your comments add so much. Thank you!

And here is an upcoming event that you might enjoy. I am participating in a free online conference via The Shift Network called Evolved Empath 2020. Check it out!


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Counseling Gifted Adults — A Quick Guide for Therapists

photo courtesy of Christopher Lemercier, Unsplash

What do you do with the clients you suspect are super smart? Clients who talk fast, think fast, and ask probing questions. Who are so articulate and high functioning, you can’t understand why they say they are depressed and anxious. Who are paralyzed by fears of failure and the pressures of their “great potential.” Who have exceedingly high standards and expectations for themselves and others. Who change jobs frequently and express frustration, impatience, and confusion with slower thinking coworkers. Who feel a deep, unrelenting loneliness even if they have many friends and are in partnerships. Who have been bullied and bored in schooling situations while they clearly have an enormous passion for learning. Who have an unusual number of sensitivities to sounds, textures, visual stimulation, chemicals, and emotions. Who feel a responsibility for making a difference on the planet, have extraordinary empathy, and feel despair and idealism about the future. Who have experienced serious trauma in childhood but appear to be unscathed. Who can sense when your attention is drifting, are afraid of overwhelming you, and who, in fact, do overwhelm you with their intensity, depth, intuition, and levels of awareness.

These are some of the contradictions and confusions that therapists experience with their gifted clients.

Who is gifted?

Defining giftedness is difficult and controversial. Concerns over justice and equality can make this discussion tense and uncomfortable. Here is one way to think about it: All humans ought to be valued and appreciated. All humans are worthy of love and respect. All humans differ in their strengths, weaknesses, learning styles, intellectual capacities, sensitivities, curiosities, preferences, talents, temperaments, experiences, and desires. It can get tricky when we talk about intellectual differences. And yet, intellectual differences exist. Giftedness exists. Awkward, I know. But true. 

That said, you don’t actually need a clear, concise, undisputed definition to serve clients who fit into this category in one way or another. You just need to understand what they may be dealing with if they have some of these traits. 

And just to add to the confusion, there are also many differences among these humans. I am writing about a particular variety of gifted that I call rainforest-minded. You may run into highly intelligent clients who do not fit my description. But there will be many who do. I promise.

Why do you need to know this?

You may be using all of your very effective methods with these clients and yet something is not working. You know you are missing a very important piece of their puzzle. But, what? Giftedness is a phenomenon that has its own set of complications. These clients desperately need you to see all of who they are and all of who they want to be. They need to be able to feel safe to be vulnerable and to trust that you can handle their exuberance, intense emotions, questions, contradictions, complexities, fears, intuition, sensitivities, and, yes, their brilliance. 

What can you do?

Get familiar with the traits that often accompany giftedness. Learn to differentiate the issues that come with giftedness from the effects of growing up in a dysfunctional family. Look for ways your clients are masking their pain because they are used to practitioners who assume they are just fine and friends and family members who rely on them but don’t reciprocate. They may need to talk a lot without being linear or chronological; take notes if it helps you keep track. Be authentic and sensitive. Get your own therapy. Be careful that you don’t misdiagnosegiftedness can look like ADHD, Aspergers, OCD, and even bipolar disorder. (Note: Some clients can be gifted and also have a mental health diagnosis or learning disability, called twice-exceptional or 2e.) Know your limits and refer if you are frequently overwhelmed.

What resources are available?

These blog posts provide an overview for you and your clients, along with the rest of my blog. Use this quiz with your clients as a light-hearted way to explore the issues. And as luck would have it, my books are the easiest way for you to educate yourself. Your Rainforest Mind is filled with case studies and detailed descriptions of clients, their traits and issues, and the therapy process. Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind is a collection of my most popular blog posts and can be used as a workbook for clients as well as a quick guide for you. And, here are a few more excellent resources. An organization supporting the gifted. A documentaryAnd, a blog on gifted children.

What else?

If you can identify who among your clients has a rainforest mind and grasp their particular challenges, it will make a big difference in the power and effectiveness of the therapy. You will be seeing and understanding them in a way that very few others, if any, have.

And that will change everything.

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To my bloggEEs: Share this post far and wide and anywhere you feel therapists might be lurking. And, of course, share it with your therapist, if you’d like, and let us know how it goes. Let me know what else I ought to have included here. Tell us your therapy experiences and let us know any questions you have. Thank you, as always, for being here.

Oh, and, I am part of a free online event coming up March 9-13, 2020. The Shift Network is an organization promoting personal transformation to “help create a sustainable, peaceful, healthy, and prosperous world for all.” I am one of the speakers! Here is a link for more information. It is called the Evolved Empath Summit. Cool, eh?


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Learning Comes Easily To Gifted Kids And Adults — How Might That Be A Problem?

Photo courtesy of Siora Photography, Unsplash

What if learning has always been easy for you. What if you are successful at pretty much everything you try.

How might that be a problem?

Well, sweetie pie (may I call you sweetie pie?), here ya go:

If you have been recognized as gifted, the one with great potential, and so lucky to be so smart, this may result in some unintended consequences. Even though it is very important that you know you have a rainforest mind so that you understand more clearly who you are from this perspective and what it means, it is tricky terrain to navigate.

Why? Here are some possibilities (in no particular order). Which ones fit for you?

~ If your family and teachers always praised you for being the smart one and emphasized your accomplishments, your identity may now be dependent on achieving. You avoid trying anything that threatens that identity.

~ If something is not easy to learn or achieve, you conclude you are not as smart as everyone says. This can lead to  procrastination, questioning of your self-worth, and to lack of motivation.

~ You believe that smart people should not have to study or practice, so you never learned how to study and you resist practicing. As a result, confronting something difficult is overwhelming or terrifying.

~ You have to hide your frustrations and fears because people keep telling you how lucky you are. You feel guilty when you don’t always feel grateful for your capabilities.

~ You can not admit that you need help because you are supposed to know it all.

~ It is hard to find anyone to help you when you finally do admit that you need it. Because you already know many of the answers, you need to find people who are smarter than you are, and that can be difficult.

~ When you do experience success, it is hard to celebrate. Either you feel like you have not earned it because you were born gifted or you do not want others to feel bad. Or you are too busy raising the bar. Or you then feel extreme pressure to always be successful. At everything. So any success just makes the pressure worse.

~ You feel like an impostor. You have managed to accomplish a lot but you do not know how you did it.

~ Learning has always been easy. You think: Can’t anyone do what I can do?

~ How do you explain how you know what you know? You can see it or hear it once and then you know it. You have a high level of intuition as a way of knowing, too. How do you talk about all that without sounding arrogant?

~ You may have grown up believing you are either smart or you are not smart. This mindset can lead to unhealthy perfectionism, particularly, extreme fear of failure. Even with an inborn level of intellect or capacity, there is room for growth, skill development, acquiring new knowledge, expanding creativity, developing sensitivities, mastering talents, studying new material, spiritual expansion, trauma healing, building relationships, and strengthening neural pathways.

~ You have been told you are arrogant too many times so you hide your achievements.

~ School may have been terribly frustrating, year after year, if you already knew what was being taught in your classroom and if your teachers did not appreciate or understand you.

~ If you knew the material in school before it was taught, you may have believed that you always have to know something before you actually learn it. This can create confusion and avoidance particularly in college and beyond.

~ You feel like a total failure if you have not had any particularly spectacular achievements.

See what I mean?

So, darling (may I call you darling?), you are not alone if you feel discomfort, angst, anxiety, and grief over the expectation that it must be wonderful to be so smart. To learn so quickly. To be so successful.

Like my teen client said to me when I tried to understand his discomfort, angst, anxiety, and grief, “It’s not that simple. It’s never that simple.”

Indeed.

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To my bloggEEs: Has learning been easy for you? What has that been like? Which of the above descriptions are familiar? Let us know your experiences. Your comments add so much. Sending much love and appreciation to you.

 

 

 

 


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It Is Time To Stop Denying You Are Gifted

Photo courtesy of Miguel Bruna, Unsplash

“Humanity’s most consequential decade is now upon us. Your permission to play small has been permanently revoked.”   Van Jones

I know you may not think you are gifted. Perhaps, if you have been following my blog for a while, I have convinced you that you have a rainforest mind. But you may still question yourself because you did not do well in math or you dropped out of college or you are a stay-at-home mom or learning 5 languages was easy. Anyone can learn 5 languages easily, right? The Katakana/Hiragana alphabets? Can’t everyone teach themselves software engineering? Isn’t everyone a ravenous researcher-reader?

Um, no.

I understand. You do not want to be a narcissist. To be accused of arrogance. You want to recognize everyone’s talents. You still do not know what you want to do when you grow up and you are 50. You are not famous. You have met people smarter than you. You do not finish one project before you start another. You change jobs every few years. You can not decide what color to paint your bedroom. You feel distress when asked the question: How are you?

Distress? How are you?

Heck, yeah.

Then again, you may be denying your giftedness because it feels safer to “play small.” Being the smart kid was not so great. You may have been bullied for your intellectual enthusiasm. Parents may have assumed you would be fine, so you were the neglected child. The pressure to be a high achiever may be the reason for your endless anxiety. No one understood why you cried so much. You heard “who do you think you are” too many times. You may have been burned at the stake in a former life.

And, who can you tell you are gifted if you finally decide you are???

Honestly?

No one.

Well, you can tell me. Your partner should know. It will explain a lot. Your close friends. Who may also be gifted. Your acupuncturist, if she is also gifted. Your psychotherapist. Your gifted kids.

What’s most important is that YOU know. It will explain a lot.

And then. And then, you need to stop playing small.

Because, as you are aware, this is the decade where we all need to step up. Hiding is no longer an option. You have to risk the bullying and the neglect. You have to learn how to soothe your anxiety and appreciate your intuition. You have to reignite your intellectual enthusiasm.

And then?

From the wise words of Clarissa Pinkola Estes:

“…One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these — to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do…”

You need to be “…fully lit.” “…to stand up and show your soul.”

In other words, just be you.

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To my bloggEEs: I know it is not necessarily so easy to “just be you.” You may need some guidance. Maybe some self-compassion work. Encouragement about the future. Activism. Esoteric philosophy. Rebecca Solnit. Climate crisis action.  Soul Collage.  Psychotherapy. Relationship articlesMy books!

I have been reading some old posts and find your comments so deeply sensitive and enlightening. Please continue to share your experiences here. We all benefit so much. Tell us how you feel about accepting your giftedness. Share what you are doing in these challenging times to know your soul and show your soul. And thank you so much for your courage and vulnerability. Sending big love.

 

 

 


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“My Brain Is Bursting At The Seams” — The World Of The Gifted Adult

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photo courtesy of Erwan Hesry, Unsplash

“I want to do everything at once and no one wants me to. They think I can’t focus. They want me to do one thing and do it for them the way they want it done..and it is so hard to climb the ladder unless you ‘participate properly’… just keep getting knocked down again and again.

When I do ‘focus’ my brain is bursting at the seams. It is ‘loud’ and repetitive and always running in the background. I don’t feel ‘smart’. I feel mentally ‘harnessed’ all day and then after work I feel too tired to soar like I want. The anxiety builds up, and then I just feel alone in an ocean of humans, doubting that I’m even one of them. It’s been like this since I was very young, but now I can’t just run away and hide – I have to be an adult, a mom, an employee and hardly ever myself.” (from our blog comments)

Do you feel “mentally harnessed?” Too tired at the end of the day to “soar?” Are you “alone in an ocean of humans?” Do you have a bursting brain?

Welcome to the world of the rainforest-minded.

You are not alone. I get you. And there are many others out there just like you, although they may be hard to find. You are not crazy. You are not a complainer or ungrateful. There is nothing wrong with you. If you are a gifted human, which you are, you are bursting– with thoughts, emotions, questions, ideas, curiosities, hopes, dreams, fears, analyses, creations, and more. There is a huge range of activity in your rainforest mind.

“They think I can’t focus.” What does “focus” even mean if you are gifted? If your brain is running on several tracks at once, maybe you are not meant to think of or do one thing at a time. If you are not a linear sequential thinker, you may have to have multiple projects and activities going at once. You may need to be thinking in more than one language at a time. And it is quite possible that the “proper” way from their perspective is limited by their smaller capacity to imagine possibilities. How do we redefine proper for the gifted mind?

I understand how you might not feel smart. You may not fit the traditional definition of what smart is supposed to be. If you don’t have a long list of achievements that society deems worthy, you may feel quite ungifted. If you are sensitive, idealistic, and optimistic, you may feel less bright because the cynics and the critics have been labeled the intelligent ones. If you have trouble explaining your viewpoint to others because they want quick fixes and easy answers or if you have difficulty making decisions because you are so aware of the multitudes, layers, and implications, you might begin to imagine that your way of thinking is lacking. That you are lacking.

That is why I am here.

To help you see the truth. Because when you realize you are smart, that you are gifted, you can begin to find the energy to soar. You won’t be fighting yourself as much. You will be less anxious. You will find a sturdier ladder to climb. (Or you will climb a mountain, instead.) You will discover the nourishment you need because you will know that you are capable and that you have a right to your expansion, to self-compassion, and to your youness.

And, heaven knows, my darlings, the planet desperately needs more and more soaring rainforest-minded humans.

Come. Fly with me.

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us if your brain is bursting. If you have felt harnessed and unable to soar. What has helped you manage when you have many obligations? If you were to let yourself soar, what would that look like? Thank you so much for being here. Let us know of any resources you have found that are helping you understand your giftedness and that are supporting you through these difficult times. (And, if you are reading my books, please write a review on Amazon. Reviews will draw more attention so that more RFMs will find us! Thank you.)

 

 

 


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Let Bossy Girls and Sensitive Boys Change The World

photo courtesy of Joseph Gonzalez, Unsplash

Admit it. You were either a bossy girl or a sensitive boy.* And, of course, you were more than that. Much more.

But, girls. You had opinions. You knew how the games were played and expected everyone to follow your lead. To do it right. You read all the books voraciously. The library was your happy place. You knew what you knew. Didn’t everyone want to learn the correct way to play hopscotch? And chess? Didn’t your teachers need you to correct their spelling errors? You couldn’t help but express your intellectual enthusiasm.

They said you were bossy. And you were. But this was not a bad thing.

We need more bossy girls.

And boys. You had big emotions. Tears. Meltdowns. Your empathy was deep. You had trouble adhering to the boy code. The pressure to be tough, cool. To squelch your enthusiasm for learning. Your parents were confused because you were multiplying numbers in your head and were so darned articulate. How could you be so smart yet so immature? But you weren’t immature. Your sensitivities were as vast as your intellect. You felt great sadness for hurt children and for endangered animals. You were soft-hearted.

They said you were immature. Not manly enough. They were wrong.

We need more sensitive boys.

Now, I know, my darlings. You are not so bossy anymore. Not so emotional or empathetic. There has been so much pressure to not be you.

But that’s why I’m here.

And it is time.

Time to get your bossy on. Time to express your emotions and empathy again.

Because with your bossy, with your sensitivities, with your trust in your true self, you can change the world.

Let’s change the world.

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To my bloggEEs: Were you a bossy girl or a sensitive boy? Tell us stories about your early days and how you have been able to trust yourself again or how you are struggling. And, by the way, I know it is the holiday season. So I’m sending you this post to help you make it through, if it is a difficult or lonely time. Much love to you all.

(*maybe you were/are nonbinary, but that’s a topic for a future post…)

(Note: Of course, you all know that our gifted girls are also highly sensitive and empathetic. But this was not the focus of this post. Just in case any of you were wondering.)