Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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What My Twice-Exceptional Client Taught Me

I totally missed it. In my enthusiastic desire to avoid at all costs the all-too-often misdiagnoses of gifted kids and adults, I did not see what was right in front of me. 

(photo courtesy of David Clode, Unsplash)

I had worked with Jenny off and on, every other week, for about two years. She came to me after a difficult first year in college away from home, returning to a university in her hometown. She openly shared her struggles with anxiety, depression, and relationships. Her need for structure and routines, and trouble with transitions. Her extroversion and difficulty with friendships. The early years of bullying; her love of learning and desire to achieve in school. 

I had written about her on my blog. This one on anxiety and perfectionism. And I quoted her in this one. I saw it all as the typical challenges gifted young people face. And it was.

Until it wasn’t. 

Jenny had a boyfriend, Glen, who lived with her. He had been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and, with him, it was easy to see the signs. He had severe executive functioning problems and anxiety. He was not doing well in school or keeping up with chores at home; he had strong opinions that could not be changed. Jenny would remind him about homework and his responsibilities, but he would often procrastinate or say he would get to it but not follow through. He was particularly socially awkward. Compared to Glen, Jenny appeared to be a regular gifted kid with the typical rainforest-y struggles. She was conscientious about her schoolwork, kept her house clean, and was quite personable. She was insightful, sensitive, and kind. Yes, Jenny talked nonstop in our sessions but so did many of my clients. 

But, in our session last week, Jenny told me she had recently realized she was an “aspie girl.” She said she had been masking her ASD traits like many girls do, and that she was exhausted. The isolation and stress of the pandemic had finally overwhelmed her so she had gone on a search for answers and had come up with her own ASD diagnosis. Jenny explained she had severe anxiety with transitions and a strong need for plans and routines. When she was living with her parents, they provided the structure she needed. On her own, it was extremely challenging. She identified this as the executive functioning issues that can come with ASD.  She said she was quite anxious in new situations until she knew the rules and that she had learned over the years to imitate others so she would look appropriate. She described sensory issues and some self-stimulation that helped calm her; also physical clumsiness and fine motor difficulties. She told me about “obsessions” she had as a young child with Wizard of Oz, Dr. Who, and Lord of the Rings

The tricky thing is, I know many regular gifted kids in love with Dr. Who and J.R.R. Tolkien. Many who are sensually sensitive to textures, smells, tastes, and sounds. Who suffer from anxiety and depression. Who deal with loneliness, bullying, and communication issues.

But this was different. And Jenny’s research confirmed it. She was an aspie girl. She was twice exceptional (2e). She disclosed that as a young child, she developed scripts or rules for interactions with others and would get very upset if they did not follow them. Which they usually didn’t. Jenny said she learned by observation and from her mother to let other people talk and to ask them questions, to talk less about her own interests, and to manage her emotions when plans suddenly changed. Jenny was educating me, and herself, about ASD. It became clear she needed to find a different practitioner. And, in true form, she already had. She had already met with a psychologist for an initial assessment. 

Jenny told me she had benefitted from our time together. I had shared techniques she continued to use to calm her anxiety and manage her depression. My descriptions of rainforest minds reassured her that some of her difficulties in school and with other kids were based in her fast, divergent, and deep thinking, her sensitivities, and her greater capacity for learning. Her rainforest mind.

But I was quite aware of the irony. Many clients over the years have told me their practitioners had misdiagnosed them because there are similarities between the gifted traits and ADHD, OCD, ASD, and even bipolar disorder. Or they told me stories of how their doctors were mystified by their symptoms and they had to diagnose themselves without the help of the so-called experts.

Ouch. Eek. It was humbling to experience being one of those practitioners.

And so, yes, you can be rainforest-minded and ASD or ADHD or anything else, really. You can be twice exceptional. Maybe even 3e? 4e?

And, thus, just when you thought having a rainforest mind was complicated enough, well, there are even more tangled vines, insects, and monkeys than you can imagine.

And to Jenny: Thank you for your patience with me and your determination to make sense of your world. And for helping me make more sense of mine.

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To my bloggEEs: Have you been misdiagnosed? Do you identify with being twice-exceptional? Have you had experiences like Jenny? Let us know in the comments. Your thoughts, feelings, resources, and questions, add so much. Thank you, as always, for being here.

Resources for twice-exceptionality include: http://www.brightandquirky.com; http://www.withunderstandingcomescalm.com; http://www.summitcenter.us; These are mostly for parents of gifted 2e children but the information is still helpful for adults.


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Gifted In Finland — What Are Gifted Adults Like Across Cultures?

photo courtesy of tapio haaja, Unsplash

Kaisa, 26, shows all the signs of being gifted. Maybe even exceptionally so. What are the signs?

“…I learned to read at a young age and have always been an avid reader and super curious about everything. I have always been overly sensitive but was quickly told by parents and environment to shut down my sensitiveness. In kindergarten I was asked what I wanted for Christmas and I answered, ‘peace and love for the world.’ I was 5. I was also very concerned about hunger in developing countries and the waste produced by plastic bags…”

At an early age: Avid reading, intense curiosity, high sensitivity, concern about justice and environmental issues

“…I’m now at university also where I face people telling me that it is not worth it to think so much. To me it is like telling a bird to stop flying…”

Being accused of overthinking when it is actually deep, analytical, creative awareness, and curiosity. An extremely active mind. You are just *over* when compared to regular thinkers. You may be anxious and start ruminating but this is different from your capacity to think. With anxiety, you will want to learn how to self-soothe and calm your nervous system. With thinking, well, I say, keep flying.

“…I sometimes get so excited about an idea or theory that I cannot continue reading or thinking because it causes my body to get super energetic and I have an urge to move. The other day I was looking at DNA structures for one course and I almost started crying because they looked so beautiful and I got shivers when thinking about how the world is so beautifully organized from the tiniest particles. People tell me I’m intense, too serious (I’m rarely serious. I find myself quite funny.) too much, idealistic. I have had problems finishing my degree (mainly because I’m unmotivated there as I am not challenged enough). My problem is also I have a strong artistic and a strong intellectual side of me, I weigh them as equals and I feel like I need to explain myself to people all the time…I’m planning to inspire and serve the world…I know I could talk myself out of it but then it feels like self betrayal.”

Intellectual excitement that stimulates body responses can be explained via Dabrowski’s overexcitabiity theory. There can be somatic/sensual high abilities along with the intellectual, emotional, and imaginational. You have the capacity to deeply appreciate and respond to life’s complexities and subtle beauty. Sense of humor and idealism may not be understood by others. School may not be challenging and so motivation is difficult. Often you feel the drive to be of service or create a better world.

“…Finnish culture teaches people to be humble so if one excels at something and one is proud of it they are looked upon as… arrogant, etc. Multipotentiality or multitalented is not yet understood or supported by the society that well…in general the response from the culture has been ‘who do you think you are’…”

You have many interests and abilities and are told you need to focus and pick just one thing, which is impossible, stifling, and ridiculous. It is not unusual to be called arrogant even if you are trying to hide your achievements and your interests.

These are the signs of giftedness. In Kaisa. In Finland. And around the world.

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To my bloggEEs: Well, my frequent flyers, who do you think know you are?? Isn’t it fascinating to see the similarities across cultures? Thank you to Kaisa and all of you for sharing your experiences. I welcome your comments here and your emails from around the world. Here is an article on exceptional/profound giftedness for those of you who suspect you might be at that end of the spectrum. And, speaking of flying, if you need a lift because these times are particularly hard, listen to this and start defying gravity! 

 


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Gifted In Spain — How Are Rainforest Minds Similar And Different Across Cultures? #2

photo courtesy of mubariz mehdizadeh, Unsplash

Meet Manuel. He is 29. Living in Spain.

“… I have always struggled with authority, peers, and almost everything because I think out of the box. I am told constantly that I am too intense and too focused in my interests, which I have a wide range of them, which is quite frustrating for me and others because I don’t know how to handle it. I’m told that I’m too idealistic (as if it was something bad), which I take always as a compliment…I am a constant seeker of beauty, harmony, justice, equality and knowledge, which leads me to be very spiritual because I know that my standards are not possible in this broken world. I have to cope with anxiety everyday because of noises, smells, colors, a sudden scent that brings deep feelings to my mind, a poor person in the street, the environment, politics, lies, books I’d like to read, things I’d love to do…I want to be a saint, a philosopher, an artist, an advocate for the most unfortunate people, a scientist, a writer, and more things.”

Manuel told me he did not think he was gifted. And yet, here he is describing his multipotentiality, idealism, creativity, intensity, intrinsic perfectionism, spirituality, highest standards, and sensitivities. His desire to help others. His struggles with peers. 

“Since I was a kid I had a strong sensibility for beauty, staring at the sunset and crying out loud how beautiful the snow was…People often tell me I’m overwhelming, that I talk too much and that I don’t stick to the conversation. I hate small-talk, makes me feel depressed…” 

Sensitive to beauty at a young age. Overwhelming to others. Aversion to small-talk. What do you think? Does Manuel have a rainforest mind? Not sure? What about this:

“..I need nature… I need and crave for alone time…I made it to college, but I drop out almost when I was about to finish my degree in Chinese and Japanese Philology, doing very good in Chinese even though I barely attended classes ( I was the third top student and I was told by teachers that I was very good but I was lazy)…”

And finally:

“…I have felt sometimes connected to the world, like I was one with everything, it was amazing and painful at the same time…”

Welcome to the rainforest mind clan, Manuel. 

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To my bloggEEs: Can you relate to what Manuel (not his real name) is saying? Let him know in the comments. I’m thinking of writing more specifically about those of you around the world to see what we all have in common and what might be different. If you’d like to be profiled on my blog, and if you live outside N. America, send me an email via my About page and tell me about yourself and your location. And thank you all, as always, for your love of beauty, your care for the less fortunate, and your connection to everything. And thank you, Manuel, for sharing your story.

(Note: Of course, if you live in N. America, you can also write to me (!), I am just looking to learn more about other cultures for future blog posts!)

(Another note: Find the first article specifically on cross-cultural adults, Gifted In Portugal, here.


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Now Would Be A Great Time To Start Appreciating Super Smart People

photo courtesy of Dave, Unsplash

Today I am sending love and light to all of the super smart people in the world. We need our visionaries, empaths, scientists, healers, researchers, seekers, philosophers, perfectionists, intuitives, and overthinkers, now more than ever. Don’t you agree? We need the people who stand up for justice, honesty, and integrity. Who can compassionately and intelligently articulate the complex challenges and opportunities of our times. The artists and journalists who seek out and speak the truth. The kind, sensitive souls who strive to create a better world. 

Now would be a great time to start appreciating these humans. 

But I don’t have to convince you. You are aching to find them and experience their brilliance. Because. You are lonely. You are one of these super smart people. We might even say you are gifted, although I know you still feel awkward using that word. So, I am sending love and light to you. Because, at the very least, we need you to start appreciating yourself. To see who you really are. To identify why you struggle. To allow yourself to love your depth, sensitivity, and your extraordinarily active, fascinating mind.

It would be a good place to start.

As you may know, I am a big believer in introspection. It is one of my favorite pastimes. Facing your fears and doubts. Understanding the roots of your despair and anxiety. Gaining clarity about how your gifted mind works so that you stop misdiagnosing and misunderstanding yourself.

Many of the rainforest-minded souls I meet have been ridiculed or rejected because of their layers of complexities. Your passions for learning, books, research, libraries, bookstores, meaning, purpose, justice, and knowledge. For starters. Maybe you were the child who was rejected for their questioning, effervescent curiosity. And now you are the adult who feels guilty and confused because you can master most things you try but have not found a career path that is satisfying or a college curriculum that feeds your soul. 

And then, to make matters even more complicated, many of you grew up in homes that were neglectful or abusive. You were not safe in your own home. And, to cope, you may now minimize the impact or explain how others had it so much worse. Perhaps, you have been told you should just put all of that in the past and move on. After all, aren’t you so smart? Can’t you think your way out of it? 

Ugh. It’s just not that simple.

Of course, I have written a lot about the benefits of psychotherapy. You can find some of the posts here.

And now, now that we are in a pandemic, you may feel like you are back in trauma territory. You may feel those fears, doubts, despair, and anxiety rising up all around you, and in you. An event like this, in itself, is frightening and disturbing for many reasons. But it can also trigger old unconscious memories of being out of control, unsafe, and threatened. 

You may feel extra hypervigilant, overwhelmed, and exhausted.

What, then, can you do?

Well, it depends on your circumstances. You may only have the energy and resources for basic survival strategies right now. If that is the case, I am sending you extra love.

If you can do more, here are some ideas:

Give yourself permission to be introspective. To be deeply curious and to investigate your own patterns and family history. Journal. Do art. Try Soul Collage. Read. Rest. Develop your spirituality. Deepen your connection to Nature and the larger, loving, invisible world. Trust the guidance you find there.

You may have heard about the.holistic.psychologist on Instagram. She does a fine job explaining the way childhood experiences influence your sense of self and she provides tools for her community of #selfhealers. You might also look for a therapist in your town through the Psychology Today therapist directory

And, finally, send love and light and appreciation to all of the super smart people in the world.

One of them looks a lot like you.

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To my bloggEEs: How are you managing during this pandemic? I hope you are staying safe, healthy, and employed. Let us know where you are in the world and what it is like. What are the ways you are coping and finding hope and meaning? Are you noticing old anxieties resurfacing? What ways are you allowing yourself to be introspective? How are you taking care of yourself? How are you getting help? Your comments make my blog so much richer. 

And, by the way, writing to you is surely sustaining me right now. In addition to my chenille emotional support animal sweater, I have you. Thank you so very much for being here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Understanding Your Rainforest Mind or I’m Not Gifted, I’m Just An Overthinker — The YouTube Video!

Screen Shot from Video (apologies for blurriness)

I spoke to a group of 100 gifted folks in the Netherlands last week. On Zoom, of course. Thanks to Femke Hovinga-Tiller for sponsoring the event and recording the 60 minute talk. (See below.)

Issues and Resources in the talk include:

~ Anxiety, Intensity, Existential depression

Living with Intensity by Daniels, Piechowski. The HeartMath Solution by Childre. Full Catastrophe Living by Kabat-Zinn. Books by Pema Chodron. Insight Timer, Calm, and Buddhify apps. The work of Tara Brach and Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

~ Relationships / Loneliness


The Gifted Adult by Jacobsen. Gifted Grownups by Streznewski. (Those two books cover all topics.) Books by J. Welwood. Rebels at Work by Medina & Kelly. The School of Life website. The work of Esther Perel. The work of Dr. Sue Johnson.

~ Multipotentiality


How to Be Everything by Wapnick. Refuse to Choose by Sher. puttylike.com.

~ Social responsibility, Justice issues

A New Republic of the Heart by Patten. The Parent’s Guide to Climate Revolution by DeMocker. The More Beautiful World That We Know is Possible by Eisenstein. This Changes Everything by Klein. Soulcraft by Plotkin. TheGWord film. The works of Rebecca Solnit & Van Jones.

~ Perfectionism, Expectations, Procrastination, Impostor Syndrome

Procrastination by Burka & Yuen. The War of Art by Pressfield. The Gifted Adult by Jacobsen. The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women by Young.

~ Sensitivity, Empathy, Intuition, Spirituality

Belonging Here: A Guide for the Spiritually Sensitive Person by Blackstone. One Mind by Dossey. Riding the Windhorse by Noble. Institute for the Noetic Sciences, Sounds True. The Shift Network. Susan Cain’s work. highlysensitiverefuge.com. Tara Brach’s work. self-compassion.org. Pema Chodron’s work. Soul Collage by Frost.

~ Schooling

The Boy Who Played With Fusion by Clynes. Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults, by Webb et al. Bright Not Broken by Kennedy & Banks. ghflearners.org. nagc.org. davidsongifted.org. my-little-poppies.com. onlineG3.com. thegwordfilm.com.

~ Parenting

Smart Boys by Kerr. Smart Girls in the 21st Century by Kerr. Smart Parenting for Smart Kids by Kennedy-Moore. Raising Your Spirited Child by Kurcinka. The Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Children by Neihart et al. Bright, Talented, and Black by Davis. Giftedness 101 by Silverman. drdanpeters.com. brightandquirky.com. withunderstandingcomescalm.com. coachingthegifted.net. guidingbright.com. drdansiegel.com.

And, of course, my books!

Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth and Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide For Gifted Adults And Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists.

And here is the video. Enjoy!

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To my bloggEEs: Let us know your thoughts, feelings, questions, and concerns. If you were wondering what I sound like and look like in action, now you know. Eek! One correction in the video: Due to a misunderstanding, my first book will not be translated into Dutch. So sorry, Dutchies! Thank you all for being here, as always, and for being your highly sensitive, intense, curious, introspective, magnificent selves. Love to you all. Stay safe. 


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Music To Soothe Your Worried Sensitive Soul

photo courtesy of Leio Mclaren, Unsplash

I have discovered playlists. I know. You are rolling your eyes. I realize that playlists have been around for a while now. But you must understand that I was alive when TV was the newest thing. I am that old. But, playlists. OMG. All of my favorite songs in one place. Over and over and over. Maybe playlists will replace therapy. OK. Maybe you will still need therapy. Let’s hope you will still need therapy. I need to have a job, after all. 

I used to have a thing for Broadway musicals. I still do. In fact, right now I’m Defying Gravity. (For those of you not in the know, that is from the musical Wicked.) “My future is unlimited…Flying so high. I’m defying gravity. Everyone deserves the chance to fly…” 

And what does all of this have to do with your rainforest mind?

I am glad you asked.

You are highly sensitive. Empathetic. Deep, complex, smart, analytical. Imaginative. All of which might cause ruminating tendencies. (not to mention the effects of childhood trauma) I suspect that this pandemic experience has you seriously discombobulated. Your ruminating (not to be confused with overthinking) may be taking over. For so many good reasons. And, smart person that you are, you might feel pressure to do something monumental. Which does not help. (although you are welcome to do something monumental if you want)

What, then, can you do about these ruminating tendencies?

In addition to using all of the tools that you already know about such as: slow breathing, yoga, meditation, journaling, self-talk, calming apps, time in nature, spiritual practices, warm baths, getting an emotional support animal, intellectual stimulation, self-compassion, and, of course, reading my blog, why not create a pandemic playlist?

What songs might you include?

Maybe Breathe In Breathe Out by Mat Kearney.

“There is a light in your eyes. In your eyes…Breathe in and breathe out…” 

Maybe Courage by Pink.

“Rain it falls. Rain it falls. Sowing the seeds of love and hope…” 

Or “You Will Be Found.” from the musical, Dear Evan Hansen.

“Have you ever felt like nobody was there. Have you ever felt forgotten, in the middle of nowhere…let that lonely feeling wash away, maybe there’s a reason to believe you’ll be ok…even when the dark comes crashing through…you will be found…”

So, my darlings, start defying gravity, breathe in and breathe out, and, I guarantee, you will be found.

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To my bloggEEs: What songs are on your pandemic playlist? Share some of them with us! Sending you all love. And hope.

 


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A Quick Guide To Living With Uncertainty For Super Smart Overthinkers, Perfectionists, And HSPs

photo courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash

Maybe you think that since you are gifted, you are not supposed to freak out about this global pandemic. You may also think some of the following:

You are not allowed to be anxious, confused, or unproductive. You ought to be using all of your time at home creatively while organizing your kitchen utensils, cleaning out your garage, and finally reading Anna Karenina. You should be patiently homeschooling your super excitable children with elaborate science experiments. It is your duty to call your neighbors to see who needs toilet paper. You must order meals from your local restaurants to keep them afloat. You should have gone to medical school like your father wanted so that you could find the cure for this virus because, after all, you are so smart, and you feel so much empathy for the medical professionals who should be you. You ought to be grateful that you have a home, enough food, and a 4.2 GPA and not be crushed because you can not walk at your graduation and all of the important activities you planned for the next months have been cancelled.

Am I in your head?

Meanwhile, your heart is breaking for the humans all over the planet who are dying. You are up nights imagining the implications and the connections and the possibilities that no one else is seeing. Feeling out of control is triggering your childhood trauma so you find yourself repeating old self-deprecating phrases that you thought were long gone. Friends are proposing simplistic scenarios about what is happening that enrage you. You ache for the human touch that you have not felt in weeks. You are anticipating even more complications from the effects of the climate crisis that everyone seems to have forgotten. You are ready to implode from the debilitating combination of boredom and loneliness. You feel helpless, irritable, frightened, and responsible. You are embarrassed to admit that you are secretly hoarding hair gel because just in case your future boyfriend finally appears which is well near impossible considering that you aren’t leaving your house, you have to have your hair under control.

Something has to be under your control. Right?

How about this:

Kindness. Generosity. Love. Light.

“…Our kindness is a light. The more we extend it, the brighter it becomes and the more darkness we illuminate. We can give without any expectations until goodness flows from our depths, presents new possibilities, and expands our sense of purpose…” Jean Houston

You have plenty of that Light. Perhaps you have been hiding it because you were shamed when you were young for glowing too brightly. Perhaps you do not believe in yourself because you were criticized for your enthusiasm for libraries, mycelium, the universe, and everything.

Time to shine anyway. Trust in your Light. See where it takes you. 

Here is an idea: Get quiet and tune into yourself. Breathe slowly and then feel into your body. Imagine that your Light is there. It may be hidden underneath the fears, anxiety, shame, and old dysfunctional family beliefs. Maybe you see/feel it, maybe you don’t. It is there. Believe me. Ask your spiritual network to help you. They are waiting to be asked. Feel your Light glowing. Let it soothe you and speak to you. Draw or write in your journal what you discover.

Now is our time. Our time to shine. Let’s do this.

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To my bloggEEs: What is your Light saying? How are you doing? How is this pandemic affecting you? Can you be kind to yourself as you feel anxious and overwhelmed? How might these times inspire you to create more meaning, purpose, and direction in your life? Sending much love to you all and healing songs if you or someone you love is ill. And shall we share examples of Light in the world? Here’s one. (Playing for Change) And, don’t forget about Maria Popova, Brain Pickings. And here is more emotional support. I’m thinking about how I might reach you all in other ways. Maybe video? Will let you know when I figure something out. But I won’t stop blogging! 


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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!