Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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A Short Guide to the Complicated Life of Gifted Adolescents or Young Adults

photo courtesy of Christian Joudrey, Unsplash

Maybe you wonder how you can be so smart and so dumb at the same time. Perhaps you feel like too much and not enough.  Maybe you are terrified of both failure and success. Perhaps you love learning but are frustrated with schooling. Maybe you live by the highest standards for excellence but can never find your shoes. Well, my darlings, you are not alone. Welcome to your rainforest mind.

Here is your short guide to being a gifted adolescent or a young adult. Click on the link to read the entire post.

I Have to Know it Before I Learn It: A Gifted Kids’ Conundrum

“…He came to believe that all learning should come easily. If it didn’t, there was something terribly wrong. Ben never learned how to study. Or that it was normal for some learning to be a struggle. Ironically, even though he felt like a failure and like he wasn’t smart because of his experiences in school, he also believed that he shouldn’t have to study something to understand it. This created confusion, anxiety, paralysis, and avoidance when there was a chance that he might not grasp a concept fast enough or succeed at a task. If it wasn’t easy, he didn’t do it…”

When Perfectionism, Anxiety, and Giftedness Go To College

“…Suddenly, Ellen was on her own. Not only dealing with coursework that was more difficult but also planning her schedule, choosing classes, and managing: study time/homework, new friends, dorm life, exercise, sleep, meals, fun activities, laundry, and all those other daily decisions that you can’t predict. Not to mention, she still wanted to excel in all of her classes. She said that she didn’t know how to do it any other way. If she didn’t give 100%, she felt lazy. Or, she thought, maybe she wasn’t so smart after all. Her identity would teeter on the edge. Anxiety overload. Perfectionism paralysis…”

A Gifted Kid’s Conundrum — Part Two — Anxiety and Perfectionism

“…Understand that your perfectionism and anxiety might exist not because of something that you’ve done wrong but because of the nature of growing up gifted. The complications begin at an early age. You have a right to take the time to focus on your self-understanding and growth…”

What Do Gifted Teens Say About Their Struggles?

“…Then again, I’m scared to death of college. I’m not sure what I’d do if I were put in a class with really smart kids. What if the work is too hard? What if I don’t have all the answers? What’ll I do? Who am I then? How do I study for a test? I haven’t really had to crack a book yet. What if I can’t get the answers fast? And, what will I major in? I have so many interests. They say I can do anything I want like that’s a great thing. But all I feel is pressure and anxiety. How do I choose just one thing? What if I’m really not so smart and I’ve just been able to fake it all this time?..”

For Gifted Kids and Their Teachers: Strategies for Success

Maybe you are an enthusiastic, hungry learner. You have so many questions and so many answers; your drive to analyze and create is massive and never ending. Your intense curiosity annoys your fellow students and rattles your teachers…”

Social Responsibility and Your Super Smart Sensitive Soul 

“…Get in touch with the activities and skills that bring you joy, meaning, and fulfillment. Then, use your creativity to turn one or more of them into a community building or global-oriented service project that will change minds and hearts. Design a project that will spread more love. That will soften the divide and reduce the fear. It doesn’t have to grow into a global phenomenon. But it can. You may hesitate because you feel that whatever you do won’t be grand enough. Won’t be perfect enough. Don’t let that stop you…”

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To my bloggEEs: I thought it might be helpful to organize a collection of posts for the youngsters among you or for the parents of the youngsters. Or for those of you who were adolescents and young adults long ago. If you’ve been a bloggEE for a while, these posts will be familiar. Let us know what you think. Your comments add so much. And thank you, as always, for being here.


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When Perfectionism, Anxiety, Empathy, and Expectations Collide — Gifted in Portugal

photo courtesy of Ronny Sison, Unsplash (not Ricardo)

Some thoughts from Ricardo of Portugal:

“All my life I was driven, motivated, sensitive, intense, and hyperactive. I always cried easily with  music, a memory, a movie or a person or animal suffering. I have always searched for beauty in my life and I always felt different, emotionally and cognitively. I always liked the positive things about myself – the energy and intensity of feeling, the intelligence of my out of the box arguments – but I always wanted to eradicate my anxiety and my worries. In a way, I guess that I have been afraid of my brain – its intensity and its hyperactivity in making so many driven thoughts…”

“I’m afraid to lose all the intense feelings I have about all the things that make me happy: the love I feel with my beloved wife, my sense of wonder about the world, my joy about beauty, my deep feelings about others, etc. My perfectionism makes me put my standards high enough to protect all the things I love. I need to feel always very good, I need to feel always connected to the world and with the people I love, I need to feel always alive at full throttle, I need to be the best in everything I do, I need to feel always deep, I need to feel always with energy. If I don’t feel good, I wonder if something is wrong with me. I have to be always high, never low. If any problem emerges in my life I can fix it with confidence and trust but if some fear (about disease or an idea about losing my joy and my positive intense feelings) get in my head, I worry and worry and start to get anxious…”

“Are you saying that rainforestminds can develop a perfectionism linked to the way that they need to feel, enjoy life and protect the emotions that they value? Why do I have such intolerance to anxiety, pain, diseases, sadness, and everything that can make me suffer?…”

My Response to Ricardo:

Dearest Ricardo. Because we haven’t met, I shall respond to your questions in general terms. Take what resonates and leave the rest.

Afraid of Your Own Brain

As odd as it may sound, being afraid of your own brain makes sense when you are such an intense thinker and feeler. So driven. So full throttle. Imagine that your capacity for intelligence, for thinking, feeling, and knowing, means that you might experience worry and fear at a similar scale. Full throttle worry and fear. Understanding what it means to be gifted will be important so you don’t mislabel yourself. Also, you will likely need to practice self-soothing and relaxation techniques. This won’t eradicate your anxiety but it can contain it and reduce it. Some sort of regular spiritual/meditation practice would be important if you also have trauma in your background. (or even if you don’t) Trauma stays in your body over time so a daily practice would be beneficial, along with some type of therapy, to reduce and reconfigure unhealthy patterns, beliefs, and habits.

Intrinsic (Healthy) Perfectionism

There can be two types of perfectionism in the gifted. The type that is innate can be described as the deep need for beauty, balance, harmony, precision, and justice. This is not something dysfunctional that needs to be healed. It needs to be understood and appreciated. There will be times when prioritizing and compromises will be needed, though, because on many occasions, something just needs to get done, and it can actually still be excellent, if not perfect. Emails to plumbers, for example, don’t need to take three hours to write.

Pressure to be Perfect

If you have a rainforest mind, you’ll often find a self-imposed or societal expectation to be gifted at all times at everything. This is impossible. There is nothing wrong with you if you make a mistake, can’t solve all problems, or if you are not the best at everything. You will have many moments of doubt, fear, failure, and confusion. There will be talents that you do not have and people who know more than you do about certain things. For example, narwhals.

Loss, Empathy

It may be a universal human experience to be afraid to lose what we have, in particular, for many people, losing love or material wealth. For the gifted, that might include fears of losing wonder, intensity, joy, and passions. Losses of freedom to question, to find beauty, and to be intellectually fed. We can’t avoid pain and grief in life but I suspect that, even so, you will maintain your intensity and your sense of wonder and your love of beauty, and more, regardless. When you are gifted, you can not become ungifted.

Chances are, though, you are also dealing with an abundance of empathy. That might be a reason you can be overwhelmed by sadness and pain. Perhaps you are feeling more than just your own grief. Maybe you are tapping into the suffering of others. It will be important to find ways to nourish yourself, develop healthy boundaries, and appreciate the loving presence that is you.

Thank you, Ricardo, for showing us your big-hearted, beautiful, complicated rainforest mind.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you relate to what Ricardo is saying? Let us know your similar or different experiences and also can you tell us where you are from? I suspect that these experiences are international in scope. I’m thinking that I might include more examples like this from emails that I receive. Do you like that idea? If you want to send me your questions and thoughts for possible blog posts, you can contact me through the form on the About page. No guarantees that I’ll post your questions but let me know if I have your permission. Thank you, as always, for being here. And, thank you for reviewing my books on Amazon!

This post is part of a blog hop. Click on the link to see more posts on this topic!

 


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The Dark Night of the Soul — How Psychotherapy Can Help You Through

photo courtesy of Annie Spratt, Unsplash

I know about the Dark Night. I’ve been through my own. More than once. Now I join my counseling clients in their Dark Nights. I go with them because I know the territory. I have flashlights and provisions. It doesn’t scare me like it used to. And I know what comes after the Dark Night that makes it worth the journey.

There could be all sorts of reasons for your Dark Night(s). But chances are, there’s a connection to your early years. Your experiences in your family of origin. It’s often painful to discover and understand the roots of your distress. And yet, that process can be the key to your healing.

Let me explain.

We’re totally helpless when we’re born. You know this. But you might not consider the implications. We’re dependent. Open. Vulnerable. Learning, growing, and experiencing. Our brains are being wired. We’re forming our sense of who we are.

So, of course, our parents influence us. Their words, behaviors, thoughts, feelings, fears, hopes, anxieties, dreams, loves, hates, insecurities, and shame are absorbed by us. We can’t help it. Even though we have our own personalities, temperaments, and spiritual paths, we spend many years drenched in the crazy soup of our original families.

Drenched in the crazy soup.

Some soup is crazier than others.

Granted, all parents make mistakes and have insecurities. And yet, kids will be resilient if parents are mostly loving and kind. If they apologize for their blunders. If they have healthy boundaries. If they are striving for awareness and insight into their own patterns. Rainforest-minded children who tend toward perfectionism will benefit from parents who openly admit errors and make amends. Kids will learn that no one is perfect. And they will learn what to do when they inevitably make their own mistakes.

But if there’s abuse, neglect, abandonment, alcoholism, or shame, then, it gets tricky. There will be a huge impact including: anxiety, self-hatred, depression, poor choices in relationships and career paths, boundary issues, addictions, and more. And, if you were a highly sensitive gifted kid, you may become the family caretaker, sacrificing your own needs for everyone else. Learning that your needs and desires don’t matter. That you must be fine because you’re so smart. You’re seen as the one who made it out unscathed.

You aren’t unscathed.

Psychotherapy can be the answer. Not the only answer. Not for everyone. But an essential step for many toward healing and creating a fulfilling life. It’s the depth approach that your multidimensional rainforest-y self needs.

By taking the courageous step into psychotherapy, you can find your way through the Dark Night and back to Love.

In good psychotherapy, you– Gently unravel and understand your past. Experience trustworthy, compassionate companionship for the journey.  Rebuild a sense of safety and trust. Acknowledge and mourn your losses. Stop the legacy of trauma in your ancestral line. Heal, grow, and, ultimately blossom. Find self-acceptance and your authentic voice.

And, wouldn’t ya know, all of that takes time. But, hey. You’ve spent years learning and embodying your family’s legacy, right? Years. Shouldn’t it take some years to recover? And just for the record, a year of therapy, at most, is 52 hours, if you go weekly. Basically a long weekend. So, in reality, if you’ve been in therapy for 2 years, that’s actually 2 long weekends. Not all that much time if your crazy soup was terrifying and traumatizing.

Don’t just take my word for it. The School of Life, based in London, has a lot to say about therapy and is a fascinating resource for rainforest minds. They produce lots of articles and videos on self-awareness, growth, and relationships. They even have a global community that might help you find other RFMs. And they have therapists who work online. (I haven’t met them personally so, as always, you’ll need to evaluate them for yourself.)

“Psychotherapy is one of the most valuable inventions of the last hundred years, with an exceptional power to raise our levels of emotional well-being, improve our relationships, redeem the atmosphere in our families and assist us in mining our professional potential.

But it is also profoundly misunderstood and the subject of a host of unhelpful fantasies, hopes and suspicions. Its logic is rarely explained and its voice seldom heard with sufficient directness.” The Book of Life from The School of Life

And so, my courageous ones, if you’re in a Dark Night, have faith. You can do this. It might take several long weekends of therapy but you will survive. You will thrive. You will come back to Love.

And on those darkest nights, remember to look up at the stars. They’ll be at their brightest. Shining for you.

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To my bloggEEs: You’ll need to select your therapist very carefully. Give yourself time to find the right fit. This post will help. And this one. Even though I would like to be therapist to each and every one of you, I’m only licensed to practice in Oregon. And, for dark-night-of-the-soul therapy, it’s best to find someone you can work with face-to-face. You can contact me for a consultation, though, about your rainforest mind and the non-family-of-origin concerns you might have, particularly about being a wizard in a muggle world. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, concerns, feelings, and questions here. They add so much.

And if you’re wondering about my book, it’s going to stay on sale with GHF Press. If you read it, a review on Amazon would be lovely. Thank you!

 

 

 


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When Perfectionism, Anxiety, and Giftedness Go To College

photo courtesy jeshoots, unsplash

Ellen was a fast talking, deep feeling, super insightful 20 year old. She’d been a high achiever throughout her public school years. The work was easy. She could listen to one teacher while she did her homework for another. She was conscientious and energetic. Curious and imaginative.

She was also anxious. Her active rainforest mind came up with so many worries and then worried about her worrying. She was also a perfectionist. She had an innate desire to create beauty, harmony, justice, and precision. What I call intrinsic (healthy) perfectionism. And she also experienced the extrinsic (unhealthy) variety of perfectionism. She questioned her worth as a human being if she didn’t perform at the top of the pack at all times.

Throughout public school, Ellen had managed her anxiety and perfectionism. She had loving parents who didn’t pressure her to achieve and she didn’t run into much that she couldn’t figure out quickly. But she put plenty of pressure on herself. Excelling in school was intricately linked to Ellen’s sense of self. She was not particularly athletic and often had trouble maintaining friendships. She would be frustrated when other kids didn’t respond well to her complicated play. She didn’t have the same interests as her peers.

Because her early schooling was not intellectually challenging, Ellen came to believe that all learning ought to come quickly and easily. She thought that she ought to “know it before I learn it.” She didn’t learn how to struggle with a concept or how to study for an exam. Ellen also didn’t learn how to manage her time. She never had to. Ellen wanted to be the best. Always get A’s. Be as thorough as possible in all things. And she was successful.

Until college.

Suddenly, Ellen was on her own. Not only dealing with coursework that was more difficult but also planning her schedule, choosing classes, and managing: study time/homework, new friends, dorm life, exercise, sleep, meals, fun activities, laundry, and all those other daily decisions that you can’t predict. Not to mention, she still wanted to excel in all of her classes. She said that she didn’t know how to do it any other way. If she didn’t give 100%, she felt lazy. Or, she thought, maybe she wasn’t so smart after all. Her identity would teeter on the edge. Anxiety overload. Perfectionism paralysis.

What did I suggest to Ellen?

What insights will help the anxious college-attending perfectionists in your life?

~ An extremely active, thinking, analytical, imaginative mind mixed with multiple sensitivities and extraordinary empathy will most assuredly create anxiety. How could it not?

~ Intrinsic perfectionism comes naturally to rainforest minds. High standards and expectations along with an appreciation for beauty, harmony, justice, and precision are inborn. You need to appreciate this about yourself and then find ways to prioritize assignments so that you can manage your workload. What is truly important? Does your chemistry lab report have to be beautiful? Do you need to rewrite your lit paper yet again because you didn’t research every single related subtopic that you thought of? Will your professors still appreciate you if you get an A-?

~ Will giving less than 100% on occasion make you a lazy slacker or is it a realistic way to make time to rest and to feed your soul, which will ultimately allow you to be more productive and kinder to others and yourself?

~ There are some good apps for reducing anxiety: Insight Timer, Calm, and Headspace. There are many other suggestions for calming your worries in this post.

~ Get to know what it means to have a rainforest mind. Read more posts from this blog!

~ Chapter 3 in my book goes into depth about the types of perfectionism and provides guidance and resources. Read it!

~ It’s possible that your anxiety might be affected by particular foods or hormone imbalances. Meet with a doctor or naturopath to explore this. Acupuncture, exercise, or neurofeedback can help. If your anxiety is frequently intense and overwhelming, medication might be an option. It can provide enough temporary relief so that you can put some relaxation techniques in place and feel the results.

After a while, Ellen began to speak more confidently about her rainforest mind. She had a greater understanding of her anxiety and perfectionism and was developing ways to manage them.

She explained: “I’m listening more to the calming voice within me. The self-critical voice isn’t quite as loud. I’m learning that I need to be more patient with myself…I can’t do everything. Things take time. Be gentle with myself.”

Be gentle with yourself. Listen to the calming voice within. And be sure to feed your fast talking, deep feeling, super insightful soul.

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Thank you to the clients and readers who inspired this post.

To my bloggEEs: Does this sound familiar? How does your perfectionism show up? What have you done to calm your anxiety? Did this happen to you or your kids in college? By the way, not all perfectionists are high achievers. But that’s the topic for a future post. For more posts on perfectionism from parents of gifted kids and from professionals, click on the link.


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Psychotherapy and the Argentine Tango–A Secret to Successful Aging

Yes, that’s me!

I admit it. I’m sixty-something. Hard to believe, because I was thirty-something yesterday. But I know a secret to success in your post-menopausal or geezer-ish years. And I’m going to share it with you.

Two things:

One: Get lots of psychotherapy and then set up your own practice. (if you can’t set up a practice, still get the therapy…)

Two: Learn the Argentine tango.

Let me explain.

First, the psychotherapy. Most of us don’t make it out of childhood unscathed. Even with the best parents, our hearts are broken on many occasions. When we’re little, we’re totally dependent on these parents. This gives them a lot of power: The power to influence how we feel about ourselves and to determine who we think we are. That much power.

If you’ve grown up with neglect or any type of abuse, then, the understanding of who you are will be distorted and inaccurate. This sets up unhealthy patterns that follow you into adulthood. Anxiety. Depression. Difficult relationships. Lack of self-confidence. Instability. Good therapy will help you understand the impact of these experiences and grieve for your many losses. Then, over time, you can release the negative beliefs and the trauma lodged in your body, find your authenticity and your self-love, and live well. Age well. Be your fully compassionate, powerful, influential rainforest-minded self.

I grew up in a typical, middle class, dysfunctional family: Passive aggression, betrayal, unexpressed rage, boundary violations, trust and safety issues, anxiety, fear, and deep misery. In my own therapy, I came to understand that my anxieties, melancholy, and relationship issues were not the result of my terrible inadequacies as a deeply flawed human being. Instead, my fears, sadnesses, and self-deprecation were normal responses to an unsafe, abusive childhood. Therapy has transformed my self-perceptions and healed my broken heart. Given me the confidence to be seen in the larger world and to have an impact.

Becoming a psychotherapist, then, I know the process from the inside out. Working through many of my mental health issues, I come to the profession with more awareness, empathy, and compassion. Not only that. The career itself is perfect for us older souls (especially if you’re an introvert). Think about it. I get to have deep, intense, sweet relationships. One person at a time. I contribute to creating a better world. All that, and: I don’t have to do any heavy lifting or much actual moving. I get better at it as I gain experience, which means that the older I am, the more in demand I become. Is this the perfect career for older souls? You betcha.

But what does this have to do with the Argentine tango, you ask?

Well. I started dancing the tango at 47. It was shocking. I had no idea that I could experience that much pleasure within my own body and with another person. Learning to dance was a therapy, too, of sorts. To dance well, I had to get to know myself intimately as a human with a body. I had to move with assertiveness and ease while my feet were gliding over the dance floor and my heart was beating in tune with my partner and the music. It was transformative. Insight. Expansion. Grace.

My age? No one cared. I was popular. I was attractive. Men and women watched me dancing with admiration and delight. I am not making this up. What mattered was how well I could tune into my partner, how sensitive and intuitive I was, how grounded I was in my bodiness. And all of that therapy? Only increased my capacity for connection. I can still remember the young, blonde, thirty-something Marine. Watching me dance. Smiling in appreciation. I felt elegant, sensual, and captivating. In my 50’s and now my 60’s.

Not a bad way to age. I recommend it.

Psychotherapy and the Argentine tango.

The secret to a successful old soulfulness.

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To my bloggEEs: I wrote a version of this for ThriveGlobal. I’m wanting to infiltrate other venues with the rainforest mind information. If you click on the link, you’ll see my other articles for them.

What are your thoughts about therapy? Aging? Have you tried dancing the tango? What else might help as you move into your older soul years? Let us know your experiences, questions, and feelings. We love hearing from you. Oh, and, here’s what the Argentine tango looks like. Me in 2004 dancing. (to non-tango music). You’ll see what I’m talkin’ about!

Here’s a link on how to find a psychotherapist. Here’s one on what your therapist needs to know about your rainforest mind. My book can help you until you find a therapist, then you can give her/him a copy. And, by the way, I only counsel in Oregon but I consult worldwide on how to love life and your rainforest mind. Contact me! 


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A Gifted Kid’s Conundrum — Part Two — Anxiety and Perfectionism

photo courtesy of Thought Catalog, Unsplash

You may have read about Ben. He’s the gifted teen who said “I have to know it before I learn it.” He learned to read early. No one taught him. Learning was easy. He knew what they were teaching in school before they taught it. He came to believe that all learning happened this way. He didn’t feel particularly smart, though. Doesn’t everyone remember everything that they read? Isn’t everyone fascinated by fractals? Doesn’t everyone want to be an anthropologist-poet-engineer-actor-scuba diver when they grow up? 

It’s assumed that these kids will be fine because they’re so smart.

Not Ben. Not the gifted kids I know.

Anxiety. Perfectionism. Expectations. Pressure.

To the max.

Does this sound like you or your kids?

“I should be good at everything. I feel lost, empty, and helpless when I don’t know something. When I was very little, I was frustrated when adults didn’t respect me. I didn’t have the words to express my intense feelings and I felt powerless and angry. My body couldn’t accomplish what my mind could imagine. I can still feel that helplessness. Probably why I need so much control now.”

“They kept saying that I was so smart so I felt that if I didn’t get high grades, I’d disappoint them. Or worse. They’d see that I wasn’t so smart. And that would be devastating. Who was I if I was average? Or mediocre? I couldn’t even bake a cake without worrying that I’d make a mistake.”

“I feel everything so intensely. That includes frustration. Sadness. Empathy. All of it. No wonder I’m anxious.”

“…I am so afraid of failure. I tend to work on skills privately to protect my self-image. If it’s not ready for prime time, no one sees…”

“Up to a certain point, most things came easily. When I didn’t automatically know what to do, I watched or mimicked a few times and then the information or process was stored for good. But if I didn’t think I’d be successful at something in a short period of time (or at all), I wouldn’t even try…”

“…when you can imagine the ideal creation in greater detail…(or when you can imagine so many more different VERSIONS of perfection) then it’s much harder, emotionally, when you inevitably fall short…The scary thing about actually working to achieve something is that there’s always the possibility that, even if you work hard, the product could be mediocre…” 

“…I’m now in my forties and have multiple advanced degrees, but I still struggle with forgiving myself when learning doesn’t come easily. My daughter exhibits similar behaviors, and as I help her learn about how her brain functions, I’m finding the compassion to help myself…”

What, then, are some ways that you can help yourself and your kids?

• Understand that your perfectionism and anxiety might exist not because of something that you’ve done wrong but because of the nature of growing up gifted. The complications begin at an early age. You have a right to take the time to focus on your self-understanding and growth.

•  Make a list of self-soothing techniques that work for you. Try the different apps that exist such as Calm, Insight Timer, and Headspace. It often helps to create a daily meditation practice or exercise plan. Some people have found morning pages from The Artist’s Way to be useful. Notice if food sensitivities or hormones are a factor. Get help from a smart, sensitive practitioner, such as a bodyworker, acupuncturist, naturopath, or therapist.

• Make a list of calming reminders. Here are some items on one teen client’s list: I’m a fallible human. I make mistakes, like everyone. I’m learning. I’m experimenting. Making a mistake does not make me a bad person. Am I catastrophizing? Do I need to be this upset? My body tends to be anxious, but I’m actually safe. It’s going to be OK. I’m older now and I have more control over my experiences. Now that I’m older, it makes sense that there will be many things that I won’t know. 

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Bourne is a good resource if you need many specific techniques.

Procrastination by Burka and Yuen is a good resource for perfectionism and procrastination.

•  If you’re a parent, share these ideas with your children. Listen to them as they share their frustrations and fears. Careful listening and reflection often works better than advice giving or rescuing. If they’re very young, give them the specific words for their emotions.

• You have great compassion for others. Let yourself receive some of that sweetness, too. Forgive yourself for not being perfect.

And remember, above all, your kids and you will learn more from your mistakes than from your successes. And your memoir will be much more fascinating because of your failures, your foibles, and even your fears. Where would David Sedaris be today without failures, foibles, and fears?

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To my bloggEEs: You may notice that some of these quotes come from your comments. Thank you so much. What else do you have to say about anxiety and perfectionism? Clearly, sharing your experiences helps us all! And thank you to the client who inspired this post and gave me permission to use some of her words.

Thank you to those of you who’ve read my book. If you could write an imperfect review on Amazon, I’d be so grateful. And if you don’t have my book yet, well, ahem, what are you waitin’ for? And, if you go to my About page, you’ll see I’ve added a podcast and an interview about parenting gifted kids. Sending you all much love.


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Dealing with Anxiety When You Are a Highly Sensitive Overthinker*

photo courtesy of Toa Heftiba, Unsplash

There are so many reasons to be anxious these days. So many reasons. What’s a sensitive, empathetic, intuitive, analytical person to do?

I don’t need to tell you what there is to be anxious about. You are quite aware of the little things and the big things and all of the things in between. You could create a very long list. Your capacity for super-thinking and your vast imagination, enormous empathy, and non-stop brain has already added 14 items to your list since you started reading this post.

And, that’s not even taking into consideration that you might be a parent. A person with children. You can just double and triple and quadruple your list of reasons if you made the choice to bring a little vulnerable being into the world. Not that I’m judging you. But, really. What were you thinking? And you thought you were a worrier before you had kids.

I’ve written about this before here and here because it’s such a real phenomenon for people with finely tuned nervous systems, which you know you have. Not to mention, your capacity to feel the suffering of neighbors, trees, children everywhere, and your lonely Aunt Lucille.

Not only that. If you had to start worrying when you were two years old because your mother was screaming obscenities at you and your father was unreliable and self-absorbed, for example, well then, you likely have developed a remarkable ability to become anxious at a moment’s notice. Or to remain anxious all of the time on all occasions (called hypervigilance**) Just in case. You never know. You need to be prepared for the worst.

So, my darlings, you see?  Stop berating yourself for your worrying ways. Stop pressuring yourself to be cool, calm, and collected because you’re so smart. There are reasons for your extraordinary capacity to worry.

I have a suggestion.

In addition to all of the tools and techniques listed in the many articles out there, here’s another that I’ve recently started to practice more regularly. That I’ve found surprisingly helpful.

Here it is.

You know how fear tends to make you want to freeze or shrink or hide or push it away? Instead, notice it and be with it. Where do you feel it in your body? Hello, anxiety. Then, remember that it’s just a part of you. And you are bigger than it. Imagine yourself expanding. Breathe and expand. As odd as it sounds, welcome the anxiety. Bring it on, baby! And keep expanding. You will begin to feel your higher Self and the Love that is in you and around you. Breathe. You might start to notice that you feel lighter and more peaceful. The fear may still be there but you’ve become so large that it becomes insignificant. Imagine that!

The more you practice this, the easier it will be to get into this more peaceful state. And if you want to take it one step further, turn it into a tonglen practice (from Pema Chodron) where you breathe in all of the anxiety all over the world (Seriously!), and you breathe out Love to everyone, including yourself.

Including yourself.

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To my bloggEEs: I’m breathing Love to you right now, my little chickadees. Tell us about your anxiety and your worries. What do you do that is helpful? If you try this technique, let us know how it goes. There may be other, more concrete things, to try first. Sometimes, you need to address the basics first and get spiritual later. Trust yourself. If you grew up with chainsaws, give yourself time to heal via many paths.

*For the perfectionists among us: Is overthinker one word? Should it be hyphenated? Is it two words? I hyphenated it in another post so  should I be consistent? Am I over-thinking over thinking? Oh, brother.

** If you have an extreme case of anxiety, due to early trauma, medication may be an option as well. Sometimes the bio-chemical help is needed so that you can manage your life enough to be able to benefit from the other techniques.