Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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A Gifted Multipotentialite in Germany

” At 19, I was so, so utterly lost. I had no idea what to study in college, who to be, what to do. Everyone else felt like by choosing a major, their life was taking shape and finally starting for real. I felt like by choosing, I had to accomplish the impossible.”

Luisa is now 26. She wrote to me about her struggles in school trying to decide what to study when she had so many interests. “I have basically been having a recurring existential crisis over what subject to study, who to become. How for years, I have been working on maybe, somehow, some day, not being devastated about not being able to become everything I could see myself becoming one day. I wanted to study: chemistry, physics, mathematics, music, Latin, philosophy, medicine, psychology, writing, and so much more…”

(photo brooke cagle, unsplash)

She did not know she was gifted until a college counselor suggested she take an IQ test. The result put her on the road to reading everything she could find about giftedness.

“I was struggling to think of myself as gifted because I didn’t fit the idea of it that I carried with me. I did have many friends, I was sociable, kind, I enjoyed watching soccer, taking walks in the woods, drinking coffee with my friends, shopping for nice dresses–in short, I was nothing special. Of course at the same time, in many other ways, I was an absolute weirdo. But I disregarded that fact when thinking about who or what I would have to be to fit the gifted criteria.”

It took a lot of research to convince her. She wrote to me that finding out about rainforest minds changed everything. “…sometimes I felt like you understood what’s going on inside my brain better than I did. Things, little by little, started to make sense…”

Luisa began to be more self-accepting as she was able to see she was not alone, that her struggles were due to the complexities of her rainforest mind, particularly her multipotentiality. But she continues to grapple with career decisions and the pressure to choose one thing, her worries about the roads not taken, the what ifs, “this raging desire to go somewhere else, be something else, be everybody or, even better, be nobody.” She expressed gratitude for her good life. But the multipotentiality frightened and exhausted her.

“…In so many other aspects of my life, I am so perfectly fine with my oddities, intensity, and my rainforestmindedness. I have friends who I love and who love me. I have played all the instruments, learned all the languages, hitchhiked through Scotland, Sweden, France and Spain, slept out in the wild, laid naked in the sand of the Cote Catalane. I have tried my best to not beat myself up over not being perfect and I think I’m doing good. I like who I am. But these doubts about my profession, my choices, being a doctor or pharmacist or psychologist…See people often say that it’s not true that once you decide on a major, you have basically made a career choice you can’t revise. And I know how they mean it, I know of the many possibilities career paths offer these days. But it’s also a bit true that there are things you won’t be, can’t be, then…But to me, it’s the one big thing I can’t come to terms with…I am tired of being frightened that I may look back on this stage of my life later on, thinking, I wish I had made different choices. Tired of being mad at myself for not being able to enjoy what I have, what I am doing, rather than be stuck pondering all the things I am not. …”

So, I told Luisa– All of the rainforest-minded multipotentialites around the world are nodding their heads in solidarity. They are crying with you over the distress. They are grieving with you for the choices that they had to let go of. They understand the exhaustion and the fear. And yet, they also know that there is time to follow many paths and each one will have its own rewards and pitfalls. They know that in today’s world, career changes are expected; particularly among the more creative. And along any of the career paths will be options for hobbies and side projects, new music to play, beaches to lie upon, travels to take. (Many of these multipods are in the Puttyverse.)

I also suggested that Luisa start a meditation practice where she imagines she meets an inner advisor or a spiritual guide or her future self. That she learn to tune into her deeper knowing, her intuition. Maybe she writes in a journal or walks in nature. But she builds her ability to tune into herself to aid in her decision making. What does her inner advisor want her to know? What path opens her heart right now? It may take some time to learn to listen. But the process is a powerful one.

And, finally, I wondered with Luisa, if what might be most important, is who you become. No matter what you choose and how often you change career paths, the person you become is not dependent on your careers. You get to decide who you are regardless of the many paths you take. And maybe you are her, already. You are Luisa. The deep thinking, highly sensitive, seriously creative, endlessly curious, big-hearted, constantly seeking, glorious human.

And that will never change.

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To my bloggEEs: Let Luisa know how you relate to her struggles in the comments. And thank you, as always, for your sweet, smart sensitivity. By the way, I so appreciate the emails from those of you sharing your experiences with love and partnering. See this post for details. I also want to hear from those of you who are happily single or are single and seeking partners. It might even be therapeutic for you to think about this and write about it. So, write to me! paula@rainforestmind.com.


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Tango Lessons — The Benefits of Being Klutzy

It was 1999. I needed something new. A creative outlet. A way to meet new people and improve my social skills. I had always been attracted to dancing but had never taken classes, unless you include my brief stint with ballet at age 11 with the strict, intimidating Russian woman who terrified me. I decided to try ballroom dancing at our local community college.

It was a gentle beginning. A nonthreatening potpourri of dance genres and styles. Kinda fun. While in the class, I learned about other dance opportunities in town. There was west coast swing on Mondays, salsa on Tuesdays, contra dancing on Saturdays, ecstatic dance on Wednesdays, and Argentine tango on Sundays. And so, I ventured out into the eclectic dance world of Eugene, Oregon.

(Note: If you have been reading my blog for a while, you have come across the adventures of Andrei and my Tango Therapy. But this is not that story.)

I first tried West Coast Swing (where I met Andrei) but I couldn’t quite get the hang of it. And the community of dancers was a bit too competitive and kind of clique-ish.

So, next, I experimented with salsa. I loved the beat of the music and had a certain knack for it. But the dance events didn’t even start until 10pm and everyone there looked to be about 14 years old. So I didn’t stick with it.

(Another note: I skipped over contra and ecstatic dancing. I admit to an unfair bias. My town is known for being what might affectionately be called hippie dippy. I appreciate the progressive leanings of that population for sure but not the garlic scent that can accompany some of the dancers. Apologies to my readers who are garlic lovers or who identify as hippies.)

Then, there was the Argentine tango.

I remember the first day. I slipped into the room, standing in the shadows, hiding, just to see what was up. It looked impossible. I watched the dancers moving gracefully around the floor. Striding. Legs flicking to the haunting music. Bodies glued together. How did they do that?

But something was telling me to give it a try. And yet. I do not like looking like a klutz. Or a beginner. Or stupid. Or uncool.

Not that I was ever cool.

So. I decided to risk klutziness and stupidity, in spite of myself. And it worked. In a short few months, I was obsessed. (It took much longer to get unklutzy and smart-ish.) I mean really. Here we are now in a pandemic where no one is likely dancing the Argentine tango and I am still writing about it. That obsessed. Over time, I even experienced moments of pure astonishing unity when I was so connected with my partner, we were one body, one heart, and 4 legs.

You may ask, then, what does this have to do with you. Right? Surely I am not asking you to wrap your arms around total strangers and breathe on them during a pandemic!

That is correct. Read on.

I want you to try something new. Something you have always wanted to do. I want you to risk looking like a klutz, a beginner, stupid, or uncool. I know it will be hard. You are used to learning quickly whatever you try. If you might fail or even make mistakes along the way, you avoid it. Am I right?

This is typical rainforest-minded behavior. If your identity is linked deeply to being smart and the best at whatever you try, because that is what got you attention, or why you thought you were loved, then having to struggle, to not know something, even to have to practice to build your skills, may feel intimidating, uncomfortable, and even terrifying.

But, I am here to tell you that the risks are worth it. They really are. If you have kids, you will be saving them from those same fears if you show them it is OK to make mistakes or even fail. If you care about the future of the planet, and I know you do, breaking through your limits can expand your reach and your impact. It can build your confidence and open new doors to unknown possibilities.

It might even bring you pure astonishing unklutzified unity.

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us about any fears you might have of trying something new. Are you used to being the best or of knowing it before you learn it? Do you have anxiety around mistakes or failure? What might you be willing to try to expand your horizons?


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You Agree, You Are Gifted — Now What?

I rant a lot about how you need to recognize you have a rainforest mind so you can find greater self-acceptance, self-confidence, and move ahead into your fulfilling, meaningful, creative life. Right? But what if you already know you are gifted? What then?

A blog reader put it this way:

(photo from Unsplash)

“…NOW WHAT? What do I do with that knowledge? How do I find more/others (friends?)? How do I honor this part of myself without making other people feel awkward (without making myself feel awkward)? How do I trust that my perspective is wanted/needed when the messages I often got were that I was too much? How do I stay open to my gifts when they don’t result in actual success, but are often a source of pain and indecision and overwhelm?…”

What a great bunch of questions. Here are my answers:

What do I do with that knowledge?

You use it to finally make sense of and love the complicated jungle of fabuliciousness that is you.

How do I find more/others (friends)?

Gifted folks are hard to find. And even when you find one, they may not be quite right for you. I have written about it here. And here. One basic strategy: Take what you know about rainforest-mindedness and look for others while doing things you love. Use your intuition to sniff out the gifted souls. Then take the brave step of introducing yourself and asking them to coffee or tea or to the library. If they look at you like you are out of your mind, then move on, giving yourself credit for your courage and knowing it is sad for them that they will never know the amazing you, and they must be a muggle disguised as a wizard. If they say, yes, you still may need to court them for a while if they have busy lives. But it will be worth it if they are a good catch. Eventually, they will thank you for it. One way to improve the odds of finding someone is to start or join a Silent Book Club. Reading, of course, is likely to attract many RFMs which will make your job much easier. It is never too late to find your besties.

How do I honor this part of myself without making other people (and myself) feel awkward?

You honor yourself by learning to trust yourself, no matter what others think, and regardless of any looming imaginary or real failures. Or potential successes. That said, you will need to be cautious when talking about giftedness. Using the G word could trigger resentment, ridicule, or rejection. Using the rainforest metaphor when explaining who you are, might make it easier, especially if you use my quiz as a way to add some humor. But even that requires some finesse. One approach would be to avoid using any label and just talk about your traits. In other words, talk about how you are super analytical, a divergent thinker, a lover of learning so many things, and so on. Sharing who you truly are with close friends and caring family is important. It just takes some delicate navigation. Then again, when you find like minds, little or no finesse is required.

How do I trust that my perspective is wanted/needed when the messages I often got were that I was too much?

It depends on the circumstances. You will probably need to evaluate each particular situation for the other person’s readiness for your perspective. The reality is, with advanced intelligence, others may not be able to keep up with you or even understand the depth or the complexity of what you are sharing. This may be the too muchness they are referring to. It is not your fault. You may need to ask if they want to hear your thoughts. Use your intuition to decide if the timing is right. Then again, if you were told you were too much by dysfunctional family members and you are now living with people who know and appreciate you, it is likely you can be yourself with abandon.

How do I stay open to my gifts when they don’t result in actual success, but are often a source of pain and indecision and overwhelm?

Take plenty of time for introspection to examine and heal the pain. Journaling and therapy might help, along with time in nature and a spiritual practice. With indecision, you may need to work on perfectionism and self-doubt but also give yourself credit for your creative mind that comes up with so many possibilities. Learning to trust your intuition helps with indecision. For the overwhelm, start a regular self-soothing or meditation practice. Recognize your sensitivities as strengths, because they are.

And, well. I will embrace your giftedness, your complicated jungle of fabuliciousness, until you can. OK?

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To my bloggEEs: Please share your thoughts, feelings, and questions. You know how much your comments enrich this blog. Much love to you all. And thank you to the bloggEE who posed these questions!

(Note: If you are feeling anxious about the upcoming holiday season, here and here are my favorite posts. Read them and know you are not alone!)


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If You Were Gifted, Wouldn’t You Be An Arrogant Know-It-All With Two PHDs in Astrophysics?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Click here to watch me pontificating (briefly) on the subject.

In case you do not want to watch me pontificate and you would rather read a more detailed version of my pontification, here ya go:

I have met a whole lot of gifted folks in my somewhat quirkified life. I realize this is unusual. But somehow I fell onto this career path when I was a youngster in my 20’s teaching in a public school. Colleagues noticed I was teaching in a somewhat unconventional way and suggested that gifted children would respond well to my flexible, creative, project-centered, self-paced, empathy-oriented classroom. Not really knowing what a gifted child was, I went for it anyway, and found a job teaching in a gifted pullout program in a middle school.

(photo Cancer Institute, Unsplash)

Those colleagues were right. It was my dream job. The kids were eager to learn, divergent thinkers, funny, sensitive, super smart, kind-hearted, and Star Wars and Shakespeare fanatics. None of them were arrogant know-it-alls. None of them. (although a few of them are likely to have PHDs now, maybe even in astrophysics)

Then, in my late 30’s, I left teaching to pursue my passion for all things psychotherapeutic. I had been a client in counseling for a while and found the process fascinating. Even though I was diving into the abyss of my somewhat miserable childhood, I loved the attention and companionship of a skillful, compassionate guide. I was determined to retrieve all of the pieces of my broken heart and live a more whole, authentic, meaningful, confident, make-a-difference life. It was a no-brainer, then, to go back to school for a counseling degree and start a private practice.

It became clear pretty quickly that I ought to specialize in working with gifted souls. They had particular traits, sensitivities, and experiences that required a finely tuned, informed, sensitive, and aware approach. I imagined that their tendencies to be introspective and their desires for depth, healing, insight, and transformation, would be a good match for my therapeutic style and interests.

I was right. Another dream job that fit my quirkified life well. Then, many years later, I started this blog. And because of the blog, I expanded my practice to include international consulting. And guess what? Still. No arrogant know-it-alls. After all these years. All around the world.

( Note: OK. I realize it is possible that gifted arrogant know-it-alls exist but don’t go to therapy or do not want to consult with me. It is possible. Or, perhaps, I have some magical powers that keep them at bay. So, there is that.)

But, if you are still not convinced, here is a little more proof. As you know, if you have been reading my blog for a while, the gifted humans I see still stumble over the G word. Many of them know how much they don’t know and do not realize how much they do know. They do not see their very high standards and expectations, their complex sensitivities, their creative thinking, and their rage to learn as indications of giftedness. And so, they prefer to describe themselves as rainforest-minded. It feels more appropriate, more equitable, and more descriptive. Not g-g-gifted. Just rainforest-minded.

Not arrogant. Not know-it-alled.

Pontification. Over and out.

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To my bloggEEs: What do you think? Do you agree? Are there arrogant know-it-alls in your life? Are they gifted? Have you heard about the study that looked at how quite intelligent people underestimate their capacities and less intelligent people overestimate their intelligence? That might account for some of the arrogance you run into. OK. I’m sure there is some gifted arrogant know-it-alling out there, y’all. Just not in the overwhelming numbers that the myth would have you believe. What other myths of giftedness are you aware of? Let us know your thoughts. And thank you, as always, for being here.

And, if you are interested in learning about your empathy and sensitivity, there is a Summit coming in November 15-19, 2021 sponsored by The Shift Network. I am one of the speakers! It is one of those events that is free to attend and then you can pay to have it permanently. The links here are affiliate.


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A Totally Anecdotal Unscientific Explanation of a Particular Variety of High Intelligence from an Absolutely Nonacademic Tango Dancing Psychotherapist

Did you know that if you search for scholarly articles that define intelligence you will find 46,200,000 of them? If you look for articles defining giftedness, you will find 7,550,000. So, it is probably appropriate that I do not write one of those. Instead, I will tell you what I have seen after working with a particular variety of highly intelligent (gifted) humans for, oh, more years than you want to know. (Let’s just say, I was in my 20’s when I started in gifted education and now I am, gulp, in my 60’s.)

(photo courtesy of Boudhayan Bardhan)

The particular variety of high intelligence I know and love is, what I have called, the rainforest-minded. Not all gifted folks have the traits I will be describing and truly all rainforest-y souls are unique, complex, creative, highly sensitive, mosquito-ish, and extraordinary. (Think jungle.) That said, there are some characteristics and issues I have seen through the years that many of these complex creatures have. And it is important to examine, understand, and explain these particularities so that the rainforest-minded can thrive. After all, they provide us with oxygen when we don’t chop them down or burn them up. Right? And, in today’s world, we need our oxygen more than ever.

People argue over the definitions (thus 7,550,000 articles) but I often find it easy to identify these folks. I mean, really. When your eight-year-old says he wants to be Richard Feynman for Halloween, do you really need more evidence than that? When your four-year old is crying over the beauty of a Mozart concerto? When your ten-year-old screams when you take away her BBC documentaries? When your six-year-old is reading Harry Potter?

And what do those behaviors reveal? Passion for learning. High levels of sensitivity and empathy. Depth and breadth in understanding advanced concepts. Early acquisition of certain skills.

And there is more. Much more: Divergent thinking, perfectionism, intuition, seeking deep meaning and spirituality, difficulty with decision-making, multiple interests and abilities, many career paths, social responsibility, making connections between seemingly unrelated objects, unending curiosity, nonstop thinking, intense emotions, driven curiosity, existential depression, anxiety, difficulty finding suitable friends and partners.

Take Ebony. Sixteen. Intense. Talks fast, thinks fast, moves fast. Asks questions no one can answer. Struggles in school: Doesn’t turn in papers that aren’t up to her standards. Procrastinates to avoid feeling like a failure if she gets less than an A. Tries to engage her classmates in some intellectual repartee when all they want is to watch Survivor. Feels a spiritual and intuitive connection to the ocean and ravens. Lonely for a friend who gets her and who has read Lord of the Rings 11 times.

Or Carlos. Forty-two. Self-taught, successful IT expert. Highly sensitive, empathetic, and emotional. Bullied in school because he preferred grasshoppers and string theory to football. Spends hours writing a three sentence e-mail. Repeats himself often in an effort to be deeply understood and to calm his anxiety. Researches for days in order to make a decision. A slower, deliberate, deep thinker and processor. Wants to learn to dance the Argentine tango so that he can finally experience being followed.

Meet Frances. Fifty-nine. After running her own children’s bookstore, raising two kids and their friends, volunteering on the board for the ballet, and remodeling her home, she is in her latest job working as a city planner. She is considering going back to school for another degree because she has always wanted to be an art therapist or a landscape architect or a stand-up comedian. She thinks she is flakey or shallow because she has walked so many different career paths. Her sense of social responsibility keeps her awake most nights. Her intuitive abilities frighten her.

Ebony, Carlos, and Frances. They are the rainforest mind variety of gifted. If you find some gifted folks who are linear-sequential thinkers, who are super competitive, who thrive in school, in the corporate world, and in more traditional environments, we love them but they are not Ebony, Carlos, or Frances. They don’t live the jungle life.

But you do. Anecdotally. Unscientifically. Absolutely.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you know people who might be gifted but not rainforest-y? Do you live the jungle life? Tell us all about it. Your comments are so lush, fertile, wet, tangled, valuable. Thank you, as always, for being here.


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There Is No Better Time To Step Fully Into Your Rainforest-Mindedness

Some of you may know I have been experimenting with video and going a little wild on Instagram. If you haven’t found me there yet, here is the link. I am learning all about memes and having a fine time extracting them from my blog posts. It seems contraindicated that a rainforest-y person would appreciate a good meme since you are all so lovey-dovey with complexity. But, so far, so good. I am a little impressed with my technological skills, if I do say so myself, seeing as I might be the oldest video-maker and meme queen that you will ever find on IG.

The video you see here, from IG, restates a theme I have written about before. (It is a really good post. And don’t miss the amazing comments!) It is never too late to be your gifted self, yes? There is still time to understand and clarify what you have misinterpreted about your giftedness all these years. There is still time to find yet another career path. There is still time to dive into the abyss of your past trauma and find the buried treasure that is you. There is still time to learn how to make Instagram videos! And yet. I have been told by clients that one of the reasons you are reluctant to embrace your rainforest-mindedness fully is because it feels like a daunting responsibility. To acknowledge your actual capacity for knowing, feeling, perceiving, analyzing, creating, observing, loving, and intuiting means you have to do something about it. Preferably something monumental. And that paralyzes you. I even say it in the video. “It’s not too late to do great things.”

You were fine until I said that. Right?

I am so sorry. I should know better.

One of you explained it this way:

“…And then as a gifted person the expectations are at least twice as high. When all throughout high school you are top of the class and at the end you receive an award for ‘most promising student’ and people keep telling you you must have a great calling to be blessed with so many talents, it creates this HUGE burden of responsibility. You are not allowed to ‘waste’ your amazing potential.

But what if I’m not that great in reality? Then I’ll spend my whole life disappointing myself and feeling like I’m not measuring up to what everyone expected.”

Sound familiar?

Maybe we need to define what is meant by “great things.” What, after all, constitutes a great thing?

Or perhaps that is the wrong question.

What if, instead, we asked, how do you step fully into your rainforest-mindedness?

What does your particular rainforest mind look like, feel like, taste like, smell like, sing like, dance like? What directions do you need to go to find meaning and purpose? What are you here on this planet to do? What pulls at your heart and opens your throat? What actions and relationships does your intuition say YES to and what actions and relationships does your intuition say NO to? How do you get greater access to your intuition? When will you set up a regular spiritual practice that will connect you to a Source of love and guidance? What does your flavor of spiritual practice look like? What does your future Self want to tell you? Is there a reality beyond what we see every day that is all about Love?

These are questions to ponder. If you have a journal, write/draw your thoughts. If you don’t have a journal, get one. (I am getting pushier in my old age.)

Why?

We are living in very challenging times. I don’t need to tell you that.

I was talking with a friend this morning about these challenges and she suggested it is not a mistake that you and I are here on the planet now. All of us with rainforest minds. We are here because of these times. We came here for this, she said.

Between you and me, I am not thrilled with that news. There have been many occasions when I have wanted to get outta here and head back to my home planet where there are no politicians, pandemics, prejudices, or polluters. So, I am trying to wrap my head around this notion. Then I remembered that Clarissa Pinkola Estes wrote about this in Do not lose heart, We were made for these times.

She said, “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.” CPE

And: “Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it.” CPE

So, what do you say, my sweetest rainforesters? Time to step more fully into yourself?

I will show my light, if you will show yours.

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To my bloggEEs: Let us know your thoughts, feelings, and questions. Your comments make such a difference. Sending you all much love, light, and a few clever IG memes.


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The Ramifications Of Any Single Thought Are Endless — The Intensity Of Giftedness

One of the painful struggles I see in gifted adults is that in many, perhaps most, situations, they are not free to be fully themselves. For lots of reasons. It is the nature of giftedness, really, because being fully oneself, if you are truly gifted, is kind of fire-hosey. It is tricky, though. Not being free to be fire-hosey, is really no one’s fault. But it is still distressing. And that is an understatement.

You see, when you have a rainforest mind, you have MORE going on in your thoughts, emotions, and sensations. You are more aware, perceptive, observant, and intuitive on multiple levels, including energetically and spiritually. This is your personhood. You were born this way. (Note: This is not the same as saying you are academically high achieving or accomplished at everything you try except maybe bungie jumping. Although you might be high achieving and accomplished at quite a lot of things in many different categories, maybe even bungie jumping, although really, do you think bungie jumping is such a good idea?)

(photo by Omid Armin, Unsplash)

So, you are probably pretty intense. In a particular rainforest-ish way.

For example, here is a comment from a post on this blog:

“…I seem to digress, but in my mind everything is connected to everything, and the ramifications of any single thought are endless. It’s like following links on Wikipedia. You start researching King Amenhotep and you don’t know why suddenly you are reading about chemical reactions in a spider’s body… I need to cut out the time I spend on Google and Wikipedia searches. All the info seems so fascinating. And the thoughts in my mind that are aroused when I watch a butterfly in my garden… An endless source of intellectual and spiritual pleasure. It’s almost addictive to explore so many things. The world is so full of wow stuff….”

The world is so full of wow stuff. Who says that?

You do.

And, of course, you are also quite aware of what else the world is full of. And it can be hard to know what to do with all that awareness and sensitivity because, odds are, you feel it, it keeps you up nights, and you feel somewhat responsible to have a positive, impressive, colossal impact.

You are told to slow down, quiet down, and dumb down because, they say, you are way too much and kind of arrogant and know-it-allish but, oh, in your spare time can you fix the world’s problems because, after all, you are so darned smart.

Ayyeeee!!!

People can be so annoying.

They say you make them feel stupid. I say, they are feeling that way all on their own. You are just being you. And, actually, you are only being a smallish part of you. And they are still feeling stupid.

Seriously?

It is a conundrum.

I wish I could give you an easy solution. But in the world of rainforests, nothing is simple. But maybe you will at least stop blaming yourself for the miscommunications and criticism you hear from others who are overwhelmed by the hyperlinks in your brain and your enthusiastic approach to the wow stuff. Maybe you will be more comfortable slowing down a bit in situations where communication matters. And, of course, keep looking for other RFMs because, yes, they are out there.

Perhaps you can find an outlet where your intensity is welcome. Music? Theatre? Art? Writing? Tango dancing? Running marathons? Running a restaurant? Running rivers? Open heart surgery?

Bungie jumping?

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To my bloggEEs: Have you experienced judgment and misunderstanding from others because of your intellectual, emotional, intuitive, physical, and spiritual intensities? Tell us about it. How do you find places where you can be your fully intense self? And thank you, as always, for being here. Sending you fire-hosey love. (And thank you to the bloggEE who I quote above and to the client who inspired this post.)


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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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Why Do You Need To Know You Have A Rainforest Mind?

You are a big thinker. A deep thinker. A constant thinker. An analytical and creative thinker. Some might call you an overthinker.

photo courtesy of Kazi Mizan, Unsplash

You are a big feeler. A deep feeler. A constant feeler. (Unless you have learned your emotions are a sign of weakness. Or you have learned to repress them because of disturbing childhood events) An analytical and creative feeler. Some might call you an overfeeler.

You are a big perceiver/intuiter. A deep perceiver/intuiter. A constant perceiver/intuiter. An analytical and creative perceiver/intuiter. Some might call you an overperceiver/intuiter.

You have probably tried to be less of an *over* person. You may have seen it as a flaw or something you had to control or hide. Certainly not a strength or a sign of giftedness. You may have been bullied in school because of all of your questions and all of your answers. You may have lost friends because they thought you were bossy when you told them the correct way to play chess or conceited when you won the spelling bee for the third year in a row or weird when you swooned over The Lord of the Rings trilogy. As an adult, you may have been seen as irresponsible when you changed careers five times before you were 35 or too picky because you painted your living room twelve times in four years. Or judgmental when you grew impatient waiting for your coworkers to catch up.

But the truth is, your rainforest mind is enormous in its capacity to think, feel, perceive, and intuit. It is not a better mind than a meadow mind or a desert mind. It is just more vast or more complex or more hooked up or more connected. Or all of those things. It means you are managing a personhood that has a heck of a lot going on in its brain-mind-heart-body-spirit. A heck of a lot. That is why it is called a rainforest, doncha know.

And this enormous capacity is tricky. Not only does it mean you have difficulty finding others who understand you and want to geek out with you about the spiritual meaning of fractals and Foucault, it puts pressure on you to be a super high achiever in, oh, all areas, oh, all of the time. Not to mention, save the world.

That is a lot of pressure.

But rainforest-mindedness is not about achievement. At least not in the traditional sense. It is not about a 4.0 GPA or a six-figure salary at a Fortune 500 company. It is not about an Olympic gold medal or a viral video. It is not about being capable in all areas all of the time. Face it. Your garage is a disaster and you still can not find your keys. You are a wreck when your child scrapes their knee and you never can remember your sister-in-law’s third husband’s name. You read romance novels and binge watch The Bachelor. You have not solved the climate crisis.

You are not perfect.

But you need to acknowledge you have a rainforest mind. You might even use the word gifted, if you can manage it. Because that is who you are. You are the rainforest-minded variety of gifted. This is because you not only have advanced intelligence, but you also have a great deal of empathy, intuition, creativity, and multipotentiality. And you need to contribute in some way to create a better world.

By the way, not all who are gifted, have these other traits. In my experience, many do. But not all.

And if you accept your place in the rainforest mind clan, then, you can rethink your critical assessment of your thinking, feeling, perceiving, and intuiting. You will stop trying to be less of an *over* person.

When you accept that your *over* is your normal and it is quite fine just as it is, then who knows what might happen. Imagine thinking, feeling, perceiving, and intuiting to your heart’s content. Letting your creativity run amok. Analyzing. Inventing. Geeking out over fractals and Foucault. Creating a better world.

You are not *over.* You are not *under.* You are just right.

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To my bloggEEs: So, my darlings, I hope you are staying safe and healthy. Do you deal with the conundrum that if you acknowledge you are gifted, then you have to do something phenomenal? Do you see all of your faults and so that means you are not so smart? Are you struggling to find someone who can keep up with you? Do you have painful memories of being misunderstood and bullied? Let us know your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Thank you so much for being here.


73 Comments

The Loneliness Of The Highly Gifted

Does this remind you of you? At age 4, you made a plan to help the starving children in Mogadishu. At 5, you made a book about deforestation and the poaching of animals. At age 11, you petitioned to save the elephants of Thailand and at age 15, you won a contest with your essay on human trafficking. People told you, you worried too much. They mocked your passion, and told you to go and have fun like the other kids. But you were determined to speak out and you did not understand why your drive was seen as so unusual.

image courtesy of Greg Rakozy, Unsplash

At 29, you are still struggling with being an outspoken outlier and with how to take action in a world that feels so broken. You have long wished there were more than 24 hours in a day. Your family continues to dismiss your striving as unrealistic or unnecessary. These days you avoid talking with them but you have yet to find a place to belong or a clan of like minds.

You may have found one or more career paths that fed some of your intellectual curiosity for a while or provided for your financial security but did not nourish your soul. Or when you mastered a job’s requirements in the first week, you found your coworkers do not respond with appreciation; while you remained frustrated and unfulfilled.

What is often the experience of the highly (exceptionally, profoundly) gifted is that you can be successful and high achieving in a variety of fields.

Dare I say, at everything you try.

Perhaps you learned to play several musical instruments without the usual hours of practice. And you are now fluent in your fifth language. You remodeled your home without any training or schooling. And you diagnosed your own chronic illness when all of the doctors were stymied. You taught yourself quilting, gourmet cooking, fly tying, stock trading, and chess, in your spare time. Not only that. You may have been like Chris who “took up target shooting at the age of 50, took my brand new air pistol out of its box, fired. Had someone ask me if I’d been in the army, I said no, then they asked how long I’d been shooting, and I replied ‘about 5 minutes since I took this out of its box’.”

You are likely really good at pretending you are not so good at things. Or apologizing for your abilities and accomplishments. Or finding a way to build up the other person and minimize your capacities. I wonder if you have memories of teachers telling you to “put your hand down and let others have a turn.” Then, feeling hurt, because your enthusiasm was misinterpreted, you experienced bullying, jealousy, and spiteful comments from peers. You were told to spend your time helping your classmates and you felt guilty because you wanted to be kind but it was torture, day after day after day.

All you ever wanted was to share your fascination with Escher and the latest episode of Planet Earth with someone. Anyone. And have them get it. And love it, too. And love you, too.

“I want to fly. And I want so very much for someone to think that’s really cool when they see me fly…. instead of being angry or jealous or feeling like they’re beneath me. I just want someone some day to love me just for me just the way I am.”

And yet, this is such a tricky topic. Who is going to commiserate with you? Who can you talk with about this struggle? I am not even sure how to write about it without sounding whine-y, complain-y, and ungrateful. Right? Gratitude, of course, is important. And, if you had narcissistic parents, you might be extra cautious about acknowledging your strengths and talents.

But this is a thing. A big thing. You and I know it. And, if nothing else, we can talk about it here. You can be yourself here. You can practice sharing your accomplishments, capacities, and wins here.

You can fly.

And we will all cheer as we watch you soar to greater and greater heights. And even if no one else notices or cares, at first, you will find someone, another rainforest mind, or two or three. I know it. And, as your passion to make a difference still shines, as you still ache for the elephants, know that your flight nourishes us all.

You being you is what this planet needs.

Welcome to your clan.

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To my dearest bloggEEs: Tell us about your many accomplishments and abilities! Have you experienced frustration and rejection? Do you worry that acknowledging your strengths might be a kind of grandiosity? Please share your stories. They add so much. Thank you to the bloggEEs who shared the above examples. Much love and appreciation to you all.