Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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Gifted, Sensitive, Curious Children In School — What Can Parents And Teachers Do?

photo courtesy of Les Anderson, Unsplash

You would think that kids who love literature, enjoy mathematical puzzles and scientific enigmas and who are curious beyond measure, would be high achievers in school and a teacher’s dream.

There are times when this is the case: When curriculum is challenging and engaging. When teachers are sensitive, enthusiastic, kind, creative, smart, flexible and organized. When classes are reasonable sizes. When administrators are supportive. When teachers get plenty of massages, dark chocolate, sleep.

And when giftedness is understood and appreciated.

Let me help you with that.

Meet six-year-old Ben. Eager to enter school, he was reading at age 4 and fascinated by the BBC documentaries on Planet Earth. He asked complicated questions about natural disasters, climate change, ancient Egypt and bacteria and told anyone who would listen about his discoveries. Ben cried easily when children or animals were hurt. He was bullied for his sensitivity and empathy. He didn’t understand why he had to practice his addition facts when he was multiplying fractions. Ben dreamed of becoming an astronaut-paleontologist-artist-poet when he grew up. He wanted to be Richard Feynman for Halloween.

Meet Louise. She loved reading and learning but was overwhelmed by middle school. Overcrowded classrooms, buzzing lights, strange odors, disrespectful students who didn’t care about learning, frustrated teachers, mean girls and the pressure to be perfect all triggered her extreme anxiety and her existential depression. She appeared confident and arrogant. She was neither. She refused to go back to school.

Meet Carmen. Even though she was an exceptional writer and former straight-A student, she was failing high school English and math. She’d become discouraged over the years with the repetitive assignments and excessive homework. But she wasn’t turning in her writing for another reason this time. Carmen had very high expectations for herself and spent hours agonizing over particular words and the interconnections within her research. There were so many ideas demanding her attention that a 5 page paper turned into a doctoral thesis. But no one ever knew. She never turned it in.

These are just a few of the gifted children that I’ve known.

What can teachers do?

Get to know all of the faces of giftedness and the ways gifted children might look ungifted. Don’t assume that these kids are lazy or arrogant or immature or ADHD if they’re not achieving. Make the time (I know you don’t have much time. It’ll be worth it.) to talk individually with them. Be curious and listen to what they tell you. Problem solve together. Be flexible with deadlines and curriculum. If you use the multiple intelligences model in your classroom, all students will expect that some assignments might be different for some kids. Reduce the amount of rote learning and repetition for the students who don’t need it. Fight for better funding for schools. Get enough massages, dark chocolate and sleep.

What can parents do?

Get involved at the school and be supportive of staff. Look for the sensitive, flexible teachers and bribe them explain nicely why your child ought to be in their class. Help your older children advocate for themselves by helping them talk directly to teachers about concerns and needs. Access school counselors and former teachers who loved your youngster, so they can be advocates. If you run into lots of roadblocks, there are options. Explore acceleration, charter schools, private schools, micro schools, homeschooling, early graduation, early college, online classes, part-time school, and tutoring. Join an online parent support group. Fight for better funding for schools. Get enough massages, dark chocolate and sleep.

There are more tips for teachers in this post. More suggestions for parents are here.

Gifted children like Ben, Louise and Carmen are extremely curious, eager learners. They can appear to be ungifted when their sensitivities, intensities, divergent thinking and perfectionism are misunderstood. They can appear to be ungifted when they resist certain assignments, suffer from anxiety or depression and stop achieving.

Teachers who understand this and appreciate these children? Teachers who are sensitive, enthusiastic, kind, creative, smart, flexible and organized? Well, they will be a gifted kid’s dream. They will be loved beyond measure.

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your experiences with your kids or yourself in school. What challenges did you face? What successes? If you’re a teacher, let us know what it’s like for you. As always, thank you all for being here.

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The Contradictions Of Giftedness

Photo courtesy NASA, Unsplash

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.”     

It appears that Walt Whitman knew something about rainforest minds.

You are large. You contain multitudes.

But how do you live with your multitudinous-ness when other humans find you overwhelming. And when you find you overwhelming. How do you manage the contradictions of your youness? The anxieties that often come with the complexities? Your desire to create a better world?

Well, my darlings, pondering those questions is what this whole blog is about.

But today, in this post, I wonder about this:

You are large. You contain multitudes. But does anyone really see you?

Do you ache to be seen? To be known deeply? To connect with another human to feel that glorious sense of Known-ity?

I’m guessing that you do.

Here’s the rub.

If your capacity for learning and being is vast, then other humans may only be able to understand parts of you. Not that they aren’t trying. They may be trying. They just don’t have the capacity. They aren’t as large. They have fewer multitudes.

For example: You may hunger to study contemporary art, post-modern philosophy, celestial navigation, leathercraft, multiple languages, permaculture, world religions, Argentine tango and rock climbing. Today. In your spare time. For fun.

Large.

You may have sensitivities and intuitions that take you to deeper dimensions. You may see and feel mysterious energies that open you to other realities. You may have an empathy that allows you to know and feel others’ emotions and needs. You may connect with a spirituality that doesn’t fit within the expected parameters.

Multitudes.

How does a person like you get seen? Met? Understood?

Two thoughts.

Thought number one: Find people who can grasp a few of your multitudes. Maybe you rock climb with Cynthia. Read Dostoevsky with Joshua. Discuss post-modern philosophy with Latisha. Tango with Alessandro. This is not ideal because I know that you want that one person who can be your everything. But the more multitudes you have, the harder that will be.

Thought number two: Find someone or something larger than yourself. You heard me. This might be a human. But it might be Nature; as in viewing the night sky or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro or swimming with dolphins. It might be spiritual guides who speak to you through your writing or in your dreams or via the devas in your garden. It might be energies from an invisible reality or a parallel universe. It might be your very own Higher Self. It might be God.

One more thought.

Stop fighting with your Largess. Relax into your Multiplicity. When you feel like shrinking, don’t. Instead? Expand.

And be sure to contradict yourself. Daily.

Make Walt proud.

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To my bloggEEs:  Have you found ways to be seen and understood? Do you have a spiritual practice that helps you navigate your contradictions and complexities? We would love to hear from you. Many thanks to the clients who inspired this post.

This post is part of a blog hop from hoagiesgifted.org. For more lovely posts on this topic click on the image below.

 


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Tango With Your Despair

photo courtesy of Konstantin, Flickr, CC

photo courtesy of Konstantin, Flickr, CC

Despair.

Not your favorite emotion. Not how you want to spend your day. Not helpful when your cranky teenager wants the car keys. Not the most uplifting part of your memoir.

But here it is. Dancing the tango. Dragging you around the dance floor. It’s got you in its arms; holding you close. Singing its mournful melodies. You’re vulnerable, barely breathing. Dressed in black. Mesmerized by despair’s mystique. You want to escape the embrace. But there’s something about this tango. This dance partner. Impossible to resist.

Like every good tango dancer knows, the connection is everything. You must tune into your partner’s beating heart. Become one body with four legs. Unity is the goal. Reaching it is just a little joyful. Maybe a lot joyful.

Joy? Despair? What?

Stay with me on this.

Imagine that you can tango with your despair. Rather than push it away or pretend that it doesn’t exist, dance it. Embrace it. Listen to its song. Cry. Rant. Write. Make art. Feel its power in your body as you stride around the dance floor. As your feet connect with the earth beneath the floor. Tango with your despair.

Imagine that in the heart of despair, you’ll find your Self. As you become One with despair, you expand, you deepen, you open to possibilities. If you soften into it, rather than resist it, your dance will improve. You’ll find a way through. Perhaps a creative direction will appear. Maybe your intuition will speak. You might notice a burden lift.

Maybe you’ll even feel a little joyful.

“ Joy doesn’t betray but sustains activism. And when you face a politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated and isolated, joy is a fine act of insurrection. ” ~ Rebecca Solnit

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To my bloggEEs: Sensitive rainforest-minded humans need a little joy right about now. (By the way, this process can work with other painful emotions. Here’s a resource for more ideas.) Thank you for being here and for your compassionate sharing.

Oh, and I’m working on some restructuring of this blog/website. So don’t be surprised if you see some changes soon-ish. It’ll still be me, sending you my love notes.


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A Path Through Your Post-Election Paralysis

photo courtesy of Abigail Keenan, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy of Abigail Keenan, Unsplash, CC

(Warning: Expletives. Do not read to your young children. But, surely, these times require expletives. Future readers: It is post-presidential election 2016.)

I’m guessing that you’re having a hard time right about now. Am I right? Your sensitivity. Your empathy. Your sense of justice and fairness. Yeah. I’m guessing that you’re feeling overwhelmed and maybe just a dollop of despair. OK. Maybe a sh*tload of despair.  Maybe you’re wondering, “Oh boy. I’m supposed to DO something because they say I’m so gifted but, I am frozen in shock at what just happened and what it might mean. What can I possibly do that will make a difference? And, anyway, we all know that I’ve been faking giftedness all these years. I’m not all that smart. So, hey, in actuality, I don’ t need to feel so dang responsible. But I do. Responsible. Guilty. Angry. Overwhelmed. Not Gifted. (Add extra expletive here if needed.)” 

Am I in your head?

If I know you (and I do know you), even in your paralysis, you’re reading up a storm. Perhaps you’ve been following Bill Moyers. Or you’ve read Aaron Sorkin’s letter to his daughter. Or Huff Post articles on what to tell your kids. Garrison Keillor. Van Jones. Calvin and Hobbs. And your usual worry meter is way way off the charts. And, it’s a very big chart.

So what now?

“…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. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale…” Clarissa Pinkola Estes

What part of the world is within your reach? Are you in therapy healing the wounds from your dysfunctional family and stopping the abuse in your ancestral line so that your children are safe and loved and securely attached? Are you in recovery from an addiction and fighting every day to stay clean and sober? Are you president of your neighborhood association and speaking out about the environmental inequality in your city? Are you an active member of the Southern Poverty Law Center or the ACLU or another organization? Are you inviting your mentally ill cousin to your holiday meals?

Good. Yes. And if that doesn’t seem like enough, especially for your rainforest mind, then what?

“…One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity…” Clarissa Pinkola Estes

You’ve heard me talk about this before. Here and here. How do you “show your soul?” What’s your purpose here? What’s your way of being fierce and showing mercy? How do you stay sensitive, compassionate and empathetic in these times? How do you accept the truth of your rainforest mind and then live that life?

You can do it. I know you can. Let’s move forward, together, toward that “enduring good.”

(Here’s the full essay by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.)

(And here’s a somewhat challenging yet compelling viewpoint from Charles Eisenstein. If the opening is hard to read, keep going. It’ll provide a lot of food for thought like: “If we can stare hate in the face and never waver from that knowledge, we will access inexhaustible tools of creative engagement, and hold a compelling invitation to the haters to fulfill their beauty.”)

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To my blogEEs: I want to hug each and every one of you. Wherever you are in the world, these recent election events in the US are deeply upsetting. Let us know how you’re doing and how you might access that bright soul light within you. Please avoid blaming, angry diatribes. Thank you and thanks to the brilliant Ms. Estes. (And I hope I haven’t offended anyone with the expletives!)


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If I’m So Smart, Why Do I Need Psychotherapy? Part Two

photo courtesy of Cheryl Winn-Boujnida, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy of Cheryl Winn-Boujnida, Unsplash, CC

Things are looking kinda crazy these days. It’s hard to know what to think, what to do, or how to be. There are so many issues worldwide that need attention. So many. What should super-sensitive, empathetic, insightful, emotional humans do?

Well. Being the obsessed-with-psychotherapy psychotherapist that I am, you can guess what I’m about to say. Hang in there with me.

What if you start. With yourself. And your family. What if you take some time to examine your very own fears, doubts and despair. What if you take a trip into your past to understand the legacy your dysfunctional family handed to you. Locate your true Self. And pull her/him out from under the rubble. Think about it. If all humans would recover the self-acceptance, compassion and creativity that was smooshed or buried or broken or clobbered during those early years, might we create a path to a better world?

Heck, yeah.

Now, I know that what I’m asking isn’t easy. It takes great courage to make this journey. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And, in case you’re wondering: Examining the multiple ways you were clobbered isn’t about blaming your parents willy-nilly or irreverently dismantling the lovely coping strategies you’ve so cleverly designed or slashing open old wounds so that you bleed for years all over your so-impractical white sofa. No. It’s not that.

It is, however, about understanding what happened so that you can put the puzzle pieces together and answer the questions that have plagued you for years. Questions about your fears and doubts and despair. Questions like: If I’m so smart, why am I scared all the time?  If I’m so smart, why are my relationships so difficult? If I’m so smart, why do I feel like a worthless crazy catastrophizing ne’er-do-well? Questions like that.

You may say: But I do understand what happened and that hasn’t changed anything. I know. That’s because it’s not just about intellectual understanding. Although that’s the place to start.  It’s also about a safe supported grieving process. An opportunity to process the sadness, anger, shame and regrets that live in your broken heart. An opportunity to find and love those child parts of you that have been abandoned and trampled.

By the way? This is a big deal.

How big? Well. You ‘re stopping the legacy of dysfunction in your family line. Handed down through generations. The dysfunction stops with you. That big.

Not only that. In a deep therapeutic process, you’re healing your portion of the psycho-spiritual web. Where we’re all connected. So it’s not even just your family line. It’s all of us.

I mean it.

And just when you thought that was quite enough, there’s more. I am not making this up. Along with the sweet child parts that you rescue from the abyss, you will be astonished by spurts of creativity and sparks of intuition. (the voice of your true Self!) Expansion of your softened heart. An even greater compassion for others. Energy and inspirations.

And there’s your path. Better world?

Indeed.

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To my bloggEEs: If you’re wondering how to find a good therapist who understands your rainforest mind look here. If you need to help your therapist understand your giftedness, show him/her this. And if you didn’t grow up in a dysfunctional family, we still love you and you can skip this post! Thank you for reading and sharing. Please tell us your thoughts about psychotherapy and other ways you’ve found to heal from past trauma, abuse and dysfunction.

Impostor, Scholar, Procrastinator, Healer — Your Multidimensional Self

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photo courtesy of Kimson Doan, Unsplash, cc

photo courtesy of Kimson Doan, Unsplash, cc

 

 

What if your multidimensionality could be divided into specific peopled-parts that you could identify, name, converse with, and learn from. What if you could bring all of those parts into a conference room and sit them down at a table for a discussion. (or for you more nature-y types to an ocean around a campfire) You may have heard of Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy. This is a version of that. Useful for exploring your psyche, processing problems and gaining insight.

Let’s say you’re stuck in a pattern of sabotaging your success. Invite the Saboteur to the table. Perhaps your perfectionism is keeping you from starting that project. Let the Perfectionist pull up a chair. Maybe you get anxious when you try to initiate a friendship. Make space for the Ruminator.

But, hey, these parts of you (also called subpersonalities) are not all neurotic or troubled! Who else is in your psyche waiting to be set free? Are you intuitive and a little witchy? Is there an Artist, a Goddess, a Weaver, or an Athlete? A Seeker? A Hermit?

Make a list of all of your many parts. Don’t forget the Traumatized Child or the Caretaker or the Couch Potato or the Shining Light.

Because you have a rainforest mind, you very likely have many parts. (Your very own inner community!) Don’t be shy. Make the list and, then, write a little description after each.

You see, this way, you don’t have to define yourself as depressed or anxious or hopeless. Instead, you get to see that a part of you is, say, depressed. And you can get to know that part and find out what it’s trying to tell you or teach you. But depressed is not all of who you are. It may feel like that on your worst days, but it’s not all of you. It’s a part that you can work with and grow to understand.

And that understanding can help you feel more self-accepting and hopeful.

There are resources where you can find out more about this technique. You can find it in books about journal dialogues or in the book Self Therapy. You can get the therapy theory in the book by Richard Schwartz, the originator of this model.

One more aspect to IFS, perhaps the most important, is this: Schwartz says that we all have an Essence or a big Self or a Divine Self. That is who we really are. The subpersonalities are how we most often deal with the world but at our core is our True Nature. The goal is to live as often as we can from that Self. You might be familiar with this if you’ve read Carl Jung. It makes so much sense but isn’t easy to achieve.

Knowing your Essence is an on-going process. When do you feel peaceful? Joyful? Deeply compassionate? Chances are, at those times, you’re in touch with your True Self. Make a list of those experiences. Are you painting, writing, meditating, singing, gardening, hiking, blogging, running? Practice deepening those moments as you gain awareness of your body-mind-spirit. Notice when a subpersonality shows up. Welcome him/her. Sit by the fire for a chat.

Getting to know all of your selves along with your Divine Self is one way to better navigate your rainforest mind. And to live as the fully complicated, adorable, multidimensional being that you are.

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To my bloggEEs: Some of you have asked for more specific resources and ideas. I hope this helps. Let us know if you try it and what you discover. Thank you from my Blogger self. Big hugs and kisses from my Essence!

14063786_10208929148198523_1648417606332075114_nThis post is part of a blog hop via Hoagiesgifted.org. For more posts on the topic of Community click here or on the image.


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Existential Depression in Gifted Teens

photo courtesy Magnus Lindvall, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy Magnus Lindvall, Unsplash, CC

Beth came to see me for counseling when she was 16. Unlike many teens who might be reluctant to seek counseling, she asked her mother to find her a therapist. She knew she was in trouble. When her mom contacted me, she said that Beth used to be energetic, motivated, athletic and a high achiever in school. When she was nine, she planned her future: running for President of the United States. Lately, she’d become depressed and lethargic. Her grades were dropping. Life had become pointless. What happened?

Beth told me that she was lonely. Her one friend, Maddie, was unreliable, using Beth as her counselor but never reciprocating. Beth said that kids her age weren’t interested in politics or philosophy. They weren’t asking existential questions. And, for Beth, finding a boyfriend always ended up in disappointment. The boys would accuse her of over-thinking or of being too serious. School was disappointing as well. In one instance, she said that she’d read 1984 in English class and spent hours analyzing the implications of the book and rewriting her essays. Her classmates dismissed the book. It was “stupid.”

Beth was a worrier. She was searching for meaning in her life and in the world at large. She questioned everything: the importance of grades, whether college would be worth the money, her “laziness,” internet censorship, GMOs, how she would find a meaningful career, the “enormity of the universe,” how to deal with climate change and on and on.

And yet, Beth didn’t know that she was gifted. Even though she scored well on tests, she didn’t see herself as particularly smart. She hadn’t been identified as gifted in school. She didn’t see that her problems were related to her rainforest mind.

So, I explained it to her.

I told her that she fit the profile to a tee: Extreme curiosity, constant questioning, intense sensitivity, loneliness, unusual empathy, perfectionism, intuition, passion for learning, multiple interests and abilities, anxiety and existential depression. Yep. Rainforest mind.

It took a while to convince her. She said that she was “average” and didn’t want to seem critical of others or ungrateful. But eventually, she believed me. She wasn’t a freak or lazy or a misfit. She was gifted. And now that she knew who she was and what to look for, she could find intellectual peers and look for people and organizations that also wanted to change the world. She could accept that these rainforest-y traits were positive qualities. She could research many career paths and build a life that mattered.

And, perhaps, she’d decide to run for President after all.

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Adapted from my forthcoming book: Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth available in June 2016.

To my dear bloggEEs: Oh my gosh. Where were your comments on my last post? Where did you all go? Was there something in the post that discouraged your responses?

Have you known a teen like Beth or were you a teen like Beth? Did you experience existential depression? Do you still? Did anyone tell you that you were gifted? How does it feel to know it now?