Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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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.


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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.


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The Pressure To Always Be The Smartest One In The Room

It is embarrassing. Nerve wracking. Anxiety provoking. I do not know what I am doing. I am not in control. Everyone else has it figured out. Except me.

photo courtesy of Ospan Ali, Unsplash

What was I thinking when I signed up for this class?

I would drop it right now but somewhere in me I know I need it. I know if I can stand being the not-very-smart one, if I can deal with my own creative rumination that tells me I am drowning in my incompetence, I know it will be worth it. Maybe extremely worth it.

Kind of like learning the Argentine tango. I hated it. In the beginning. Everyone was gliding around the room. Effortlessly. Flicking their legs to and fro. Perfectly balanced strides. Unity. One body, four legs.

I was clueless. Clumsy. Nervous. Lost and confused. But, as you know, if you have been reading my blog for a while, it was extremely worth it. It took more than two years of study, practice, and more practice before I felt any sense of cluefulness. And then, more study and practice to get to the stage of maybe-I-can-do-this. And now (after even more years) I experience moments of extreme pleasure. Of unity. Sublime unity.*

You need to hear this.

I know you avoid trying new things because you have to be the smartest one at all costs. Your identity depends on your ingenuity, your winning, your solving the problem, your clever come-back. You have been told you are very smart for many years. You have such great potential. Now you have to keep proving it. Or who are you? Your sense of self has been built on your intelligence and achievements. Praise for your accomplishments. Pressure to be the best. Expectations you now place on yourself.

Am I right?

So, it is risky to try something where you are not guaranteed speedy success. Quite risky, if you want to know the truth. Not only is it terribly uncomfortable, it also proves what you secretly believe to be the case. That you are not as smart as everyone says. You are an impostor. You have been faking it all these years. You have been lucky. The work has been easy. Your teachers liked you.

You are no Elon Musk.

I feel you.

And I am here to tell you there is no better time to take that risk. Be the not-very-smart one. Experience clumsy. Try on clueless. Get lost and confused. Take that class. Dance that tango.

It just might be sublime.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you tend to avoid trying something when you are not sure of success? Tell us about it. It is odd, isn’t it? You love learning but your fears of failure hold you back. Let us know if this is true for you (or your kids) and what it’s like. And, as always, thank you for being here. Your comments add so much.

(*Note: Sadly, I am not actually dancing now due to the pandemic.)


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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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“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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Realizing That You Are Gifted — Will It Make a Difference?

photo courtesy of vlad tchompalov, Unsplash

Realizing that you are gifted. That you are of the rainforest-minded clan.

Explains a lot.

It explains why you are so darned sensitive. So darned empathetic.  You see, your feelings and perceptions are as vast as your intellect. You are not only thinking, analyzing, and synthesizing on many levels at once and pretty much all of the time, even when you are sleeping, but you are also deeply emotional and empathetic. Knowing that it is your nature to be this way, stops you from misdiagnosing and pathologizing these traits and behaviors. Reduces your self-doubt. Increases your self-acceptance.

It explains why people label you an overthinker. To them, you are thinking too much. But it comes naturally to you. And, yes, if you are super anxious and ruminating, you need some strategies to soothe your nervous system, to calm yourself. But your “overthinking” is just a whole lot of analysis, observation, wondering, questioning, answering, creating, daydreaming, and evaluating. The nature of your rainforest mind. Better than underthinking, if you ask me.

It explains why you are lonely. There aren’t all that many RFMs roaming the planet yet, as far as I can tell. It can be hard to find others who want to dive as deeply as you do. Who are fascinated by philosophical inquiries. Who want to study yet another language. Who feel driven to manifest their purpose(s). Who are able to grasp any of the complicated connections that you make between multiple seemingly discombobulated phenomena.

It explains why school may not have gone so well. It wasn’t that you were lazy or arrogant. It wasn’t that you were a know-it-all, even though you already knew the material that was being taught at the time. If you weren’t an A student, it may have been because your particular need to learn something new, was not recognized, much less accommodated. If you were an A student, it may have been disconcerting because you had higher standards than some of your teachers.

It even explains why you are stuck. You see, when you have many ideas, paths, and possibilities, plus a sense of huge responsibility for oh, everything, decision making can be daunting. Choosing one direction, one job, one book, one color, one anything, might feel impossible. You choose one, you lose many. So you don’t choose any.

Realizing that you are gifted, then, does make a difference.

But that’s not the end of the story.  What if you do accept that you are gifted? What then?

Accepting that you are gifted, can lead to extraordinary pressure to prove it. To yourself and to others. Pressure to be a super achiever. To be the next Elon Musk. It can link your worthiness as a human to your accomplishments or to your lack of them. It can mean that you have to achieve something “insanely great” or your life has no meaning. This can, then, lead to extreme anxiety, depression, unhealthy perfectionism, and addictions. You may feel that you can never fail because your identity is at stake. You may be unwilling to try anything where you imagine that you might make a mistake.

So, it’s tricky.

But, hey. You rainforest-minders. Do you see? The benefits outweigh the difficulties. Especially, if you learn more about this pressure thing and what you can do about it. You can find out more about it as you read my blog and my, um, books. (Ask your local library to carry them!) Let me be your emotional support animal person. Let me help you realize that you are indeed gifted.

And, yes, realizing this will make a difference for you. For everyone you know. And maybe even people that you don’t know. And, well, perhaps, for the planet itself.

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To my bloggEEs: Are you able to accept your rainforest-mindedness? In what ways might your life change, if you knew for certain that you were gifted? How might this knowing support you in contributing to creating a better world? Thank you for being here. Much love and appreciation to all of you.

(Note: Not all gifted folks are of the rainforest-minded variety. They might be more purely cognitive, for example, so they may have fewer of the sensitivities. They may not have the emotional intelligence/empathy that you have. But, just to clarify one more time, all RFMs are, yes, gifted.)

 


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Why Do Gifted Adults Often Deny They Are Gifted?

There are many reasons why you might not believe that you are gifted. Here is what Virginia has to say about it. Does she sound like you?

First of all, just so you know, I’m not gifted. I don’t even like the word. What does it mean? Is it fair to say that some people are gifted and some aren’t?

The truth is it never really did me any good to be labeled gifted when I was a kid. Yeah, they tested me for the gifted program in school but I just got bullied. And I spent a lot of time waiting. Waiting for other kids to catch up. Waiting for the teacher to teach something I didn’t know. Waiting to find a friend who could keep up with me. Who could understand me. I’m still waiting for that friend.

But I’m not gifted. I didn’t get great grades in school. I’m not a walking dictionary. I wasn’t the valedictorian. I even started failing classes in high school. There wasn’t enough time to think. Sure I got good test scores. But the tests were easy. Don’t gifted people get all A’s all the time? I didn’t always get A’s.

Really. I’m not gifted. I haven’t won the Nobel Prize. I haven’t won any prize. Well, there was the spelling bee in third grade. Does that count? I’m just a regular person. True, they called me a geek, nerd, showoff, and a know-it-all. But, geez, I don’t know it all. Far from it. I’d LOVE to know it all! But that’s impossible. I’d love to know it all. I want to learn everything about everything. I’ve got all of this unbridled enthusiasm about learning stuff. People find it very annoying, you know. Why can’t I just be satisfied with a good football game or with watching The Bachelor on TV?

But I know I’m not gifted. I worry all the time. Am I saying the right thing? Doing the right thing? I can’t sleep at night because there’s so much rumination. So many thoughts in so many different directions. I can’t turn off my brain. Surely, if I were smart, I’d be able to stop worrying and figure things out. I’d be able to meditate easily and find enlightenment, for heaven’s sake! But, no. There’s so much thinking. They called me an overthinker when I was five! And I’m still overthinking.

I’m not gifted. I can’t make decisions. There are always so many variables and variables within variables. I can’t even decide what color to paint the living room. I’ve painted it 12 times in the past 4 years and it still isn’t right. And, well, I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. I’m overwhelmed by the number of interests I have. I changed majors 4 times in college and took 7 years to graduate. Don’t gifted people know what they know? And take clear confident action? Aren’t they all prodigies and have a clear direction from the time they’re born? Well, that’s not me.

Look. I’m just not gifted. I tend to go from job to job. Still trying to find my path. I learn a job in about two years, or less, and then get bored and want to try something new. I have a resume that’s all over the place. Coworkers aren’t very fond of me, either. I get frustrated at meetings while I’m waiting for them to figure out what I told them at the beginning of the meeting or two months ago. I’m not patient or a good team player. Other people are so lazy or they don’t listen to me. I get irritated easily. Not very gifted, if you ask me.

I’m telling you, I’m not gifted. Anyway, it’s too much responsibility. I mean, if I were gifted, wouldn’t I have to change the world? Like Elon Musk, I’d have to build electric cars, send rockets to the international space station and run a solar electric company? All at the same time? I’m just a mom. Raising a kid who is still throwing tantrums and she’s eight years old. She’s so sensitive and so emotional. See, I’m a failing parent at that. Oh boy. I am so not gifted.

Really. Truly. I’m not gifted. I just have very high standards and expectations and think everyone ought to live up to them. No biggie. It’s important to keep raising that bar, don’t you think? How else will civilization evolve? Of course, I probably shouldn’t take an hour to write a 3 sentence email. Sure. That might be a teensy weensy excessive. But, still. Standards, morals, ethics, expectations. I can’t lower my standards.

I can tell you for sure that I’m not gifted. Professionals have told me so. And they should know, right? I’ve been diagnosed OCD, ADHD, and bipolar disordered. But no one has ever diagnosed me with gifted disorder. Wouldn’t my doctor and my shrink tell me if I had it?

I may be crazy but I’m not gifted. I go nuts when the lights are buzzing and no one else hears them. When the leaf blowers are blowing. When I smell someone rotting who needs a root canal. When I know someone who is depressed and faking it. I talk to trees and they talk back to me. Crazy, right? But really trees, rivers, birds. They’re the sane ones. They’re gifted.

OK. I know I may a little sound intense. People say I talk too fast. But I’m actually cranking back my intensity right now and I’m not talking as quickly as I’m thinking. Just so you know. But even though I’m not gifted, I may fit some of the characteristics of the rainforest mind. I can relate to that analogy. My brain does feel like a jungle. I’m complicated. Sensitive. Colorful. Maybe creative. Overwhelming for sure. Dense. Green. And I’ve definitely run into chainsaws in my life. People have clearly wanted me to be cut down and turned into something I’m not. That’s for certain. Sad but true. Not that I’m complaining. I’m grateful for this life and for what I’ve got. Very grateful.

It’s just that sometimes, those chain saws. Sometimes they’re just too much. And if I were gifted, which I’m not, but if I were, I’d want to send the gift back to the manufacturer, for a refund. Unwrap the gift and send it back.

Yeah. But I’m Not Gifted.

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To my bloggEEs: This was taken from my new book Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists. The book is a compilation of my most popular blog posts 2014-2018 organized by topic. It includes suggestions for further exploration to guide you to greater self-acceptance, meaning, and purpose! It is a light-hearted look at rainforest-mindedness so it is a good gift book for teens, educators, friends, and therapists! (My first book is more in-depth via case studies, strategies, and resources. You can find out more here.)

Did you relate to this post? Do you deny that you’re gifted? Why? Why not? Your comments are greatly appreciated. Thank you for being here. As always, much love to you!


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Gifted Children and Adults — Why Are They So Misunderstood?

photo courtesy of ketan rajput, Unsplash

A gifted child is:

The four year old who says the car is not red, it’s crimson. The five-year-old who is lonely because the other kids don’t understand the complex worlds and creatures she invents. The six-year-old who explains the difference between a laceration and a contusion. The seven-year-old who chooses Rembrandt as the person she respects most because of his use of light. The eight-year-old who cares for the hurt children on the playground. The nine-year-old who complains when his parent confuses the words precision and accuracy.  The ten-year-old who cries when he reads about injustice in his community and around the world. The eleven-year-old who is an environmental activist. The twelve-year-old who wants brain specimen coasters for her birthday.

These children are not show-offs or arrogant know-it-alls.  They sincerely and enthusiastically love learning, language, analysis, debate, creativity, beauty, exploration, and accuracy. (or is that precision?) They are being themselves. Naturally curious, hungry for new ideas and intellectual exchanges, emotionally intense, and highly sensitive and empathetic.

They don’t necessarily know they are intellectually advanced. Even when parents acknowledge their traits and abilities, they may still just feel out of sync and freakish. Or, when there’s excessive praise for their smartness, they may feel pressure to achieve. Pressure to please those adults. Pressure to live up to their great potential. Pressure to be perfect.

How we respond to them, understand them, educate them, and love them, matters.

But, just as walking into a tropical rainforest is an intense sensory, emotional, and intellectual extravaganza, so is being with a gifted child. A child who is gushing with questions, intellect, sensitivities, empathy, and emotion.

You were one of those kids.

But it may be hard for you to acknowledge that you are, in fact, gifted. You assume that everyone can do what you can do; they just aren’t trying. You don’t realize that the mental, emotional, and intuitive/spiritual capacity you have is larger than average. Maybe even enormous.

But I get it. You can’t really tell that to anyone. It wouldn’t make you popular. You may not even acknowledge it to yourself. And if you grew up in a chainsaw family, well, that would add to your confusion.

But you need to know that you are gifted. For yourself.

Knowing that you have a rainforest mind will explain things. It will explain your craving for new ideas and experiences. Your obsession with philosophical questions. Your disabling perfectionism. Your horrible loneliness. Your highest standards. Your multiple career paths. Your beautiful sensitivity. Your stunning intuition. Your intense emotions.

It will explain why you are constantly misunderstood.

And then, you will start to breathe more deeply. You will find other rainforest minds who will understand you. You will start to give yourself permission to grow into the person you are here to be.

And then you can show us your brain specimen coasters.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you have trouble acknowledging your giftedness? Why? What are some examples of how you’ve been misunderstood and how you misunderstand yourself?

One place you can meet other rainforest minds is at the SENG conference in July. This year it’s in Houston. I’ll be presenting my talk on adults, subtitled: Your Rainforest Mind–The Musical. I have a second talk with New Zealand therapist Maggie Brown titled: Gifted Adults Living in Tumultuous Times.  I’d love to meet you there.

 

 

 

 

 

 


62 Comments

I Ditched the PHD for the Argentine Tango or If I’m so Smart, Why Aren’t I an Astrophysicist?

My First Tango Lesson

I thought I should get a PhD. It made sense. There was a professor who asked to mentor me. I wanted to write a book. So, I thought, why not write a book and get a PhD at the same time? I applied. Was accepted into a program. Got funded.

Then I thought. How many years of my life will this take? What if I die just as I finish? Will I be glad that I spent the last years of my life in a PhD program?

Um. No.

So, I ditched it.

I took Argentine tango lessons instead.

I do not regret this decision.

But I know what you’re thinking. If she were really smart, if she were gifted for heaven’s sake, she’d choose the PhD. She’d be a super achiever. An academic superstar. An Einstein or an Edison. An Elon Musk or a Steve Jobs.* 

Oh wait. Did they even go to college?

But I digress.

Maybe you’ve been ruminating like this: If I’m so smart, shouldn’t I get a PhD? Don’t smart people excel at academics? If someone is supposed to be gifted, don’t they become scholars and university professors? If I don’t become an astrophysicist, does that mean that I’m a failure? That I’m not gifted? Will I disappoint my parents, my teachers, and myself if I choose tango lessons instead of a PhD? 

You do tend to ruminate. We know this.

But, here’s what I think.

Yes, some gifted folks choose academia. Some are high achievers. Some even invent things that are “insanely great.” And we love the high achievers. If you are one, we love you.

But you’re not all going to be interested in astrophysics. Or you may be fascinated by it but you also love poetry and violin and languages and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and mycelium, and on and on. Not only that. Schooling might not be so appealing if you had less than fabulous experiences there as a child.

And what does it mean to be gifted anyway? There are so many different definitions. Eminence? Achievement? 10,000 hours of practice? Grit? Talent? Wiring? Motivation? Financial success?

In my world, gifted means rainforest-minded. A human who is bubbling over with intellectual capacity and passion for learning. An effervescent love of beauty. Multi-dimensional creativity. Unending interests and abilities. Intense curiosity. Depth. Finely-tuned sensitivity, intuition, and empathy. A need to make the world a better place and to dance the tango.

A rainforest mind.

So. Maybe you get a PhD. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you learn the tango. Maybe you don’t. Whatever you do with that rainforest mind of yours, what matters most?

Perhaps it’s this.

Maybe it’s all about love. How do you love? How are you Love?

What if you “…measure your life in love.

“Measure your life in love.”

(From the musical Rent by Jonathan Larson. Seasons of Love.)

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your struggles with achievement and identifying yourself as gifted. What are the ways you measure your life?

Thank you to the colleague (getting her PhD) for her inspiration.

(*I know. They’re all white men. They’re the easiest examples to make my point. But I do apologize.)


66 Comments

If You Still Don’t Believe That You’re Gifted

What will it take to convince you? You’ve been reading my blog for how long and you still think that I’m writing about someone else?

Here are your arguments: I’m not a rocket scientist. I don’t remember what I read. I lose trivia contests all the time (or I win trivia contests but it’s, um, trivial). I watch stupid TV instead of reading Tolstoy. Sure, I know I’m not normal; but I’m not exceptional either. I’m too emotional. I can’t make decisions. I’m not a lawyer, or a doctor, or a neuroscientist. I don’t like chess. I was never good at math. I know people who are much smarter than me. I was in college for seven years and didn’t graduate. I’m not changing the world; I’m just changing the sheets. 

Uh huh.

It looks to me like you’re still under the influence of the mythology around what gifted looks like. You think that gifted equals high levels of achievement. Sure, rocket scientists are probably gifted. Elon Musk and Steve Jobs. Gifted. But what about all of the people you’ve never heard of?

Like Rita. Dedicated and highly sensitive mom of two teenage boys and a golden retriever. Fascinated by and very knowledgable about neuroscience, yoga, floral design, mindfulness meditation, psychotherapy, Reiki, business development and marketing, botany, painting, calligraphy, engineering, creating beautiful spaces, writing, gardening, intuition, event planning, architecture, and organizing anything. Rita didn’t win a Pulitzer prize or a scholarship to Harvard. But talking to her, it was easy to see that she had multipotentiality and a deeply sensitive, thoughtful, analytical, and intelligent way of being. She had ravenous curiosity, strong intuition, sweet sensitivity, sharp intellect, and a sincere desire to impact lives for the better. You can find little stacks of books here and there all over her house and more books, art supplies, and botanical dissecting kits in her car.

In my world, giftedness is a way of being, not a way of doing. It can include high levels of achievement but it doesn’t have to. (And what is achievement anyway? Eh??) Sure, there is a spectrum. You can be at the profoundly gifted level or you can be barely gifted or somewhere in-between. And sure, the rainforest-minded are a certain variety of gifted. Not all gifted folks have your empathy, sensitivity, and multipotentiality.

How then, can I convince you once and for all?

Today, I’ll get some help from two other psychotherapists who work with gifted clients. They are great resources if you’re looking for more evidence.

Here is P. Susan Jackson‘s description. You’ll find much more on her website. Her writing will move you. (She’s located in British Columbia.)

“Imbued with a finely tuned and advanced perceptual system, the gifted adult processes information-of-all-kinds with a voracious appetite, and stunning capacity.” P. Susan Jackson

Here is some inspiration from Imi Lo, a therapist in the UK. She also has some beautiful descriptions of rainforest minds on her website.

“Claiming your place in the world is not just a real act of courage, but also a form of noble public service. By showing up to the world as the sensitive empath that you are, you are championing not just for your rights, but also all the passionate and porous souls that come before and after you. By standing up for yourself when others call you a ‘drama queen’ or ‘too this and that,’ you are helping your soul sisters and brothers to fight against injustice. Being unapologetically honest about your emotional reality is not only personally healing, but also transpersonally meaningful.”    Imi Lo

OK, oh voracious, stunning rainforest-minders. It’s time to claim your place.

We’ll be right there with you.

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Thank you to the clients who inspired this post. And to Sue Jackson and Imi Lo for their important work.

To my bloggEEs: Do you still question your giftedness? Or are you starting to find more self-acceptance? Let us know. As I reread comments, I am so honored to be among you. Thank you so much. Oh, and I have a surprise for you. I’m experimenting with creating an audio blog so people can hear my posts if reading isn’t their preference or for those of you who have been dying to hear my sultry, melodious voice. Click here to listen. Let me know what you think in the comments. Your feedback will be most helpful. And don’t worry, I’ll also keep writing! I love you too much to stop!