Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


Gifted and Resilient — When You Grow Up With Abuse or Neglect

photo courtesy of Ian Stauffer, Unsplash

As a psychotherapist, I know trauma.

Every day I counsel dear rainforest-minded (RFM) souls who were seriously traumatized by their parents.  What is remarkable is that I have found, consistently, that they have not become abusive as a result. They have clearly been impacted deeply. And yet, they have somehow managed, even with unspeakable pain, to become compassionate, loving, sensitive humans. Working hard to prevent the legacy of abuse from being passed on to the next generation.

How is that possible?

Here is my theory.

I think it is the nature of the RFM to be deeply resilient. Perhaps RFMs are old souls. Empaths. Shamans. Priestesses. Healers. I believe there is a powerful central core of Light and Love that remains untouched. That can not be broken. No matter what. A connection to something greater. To the Mystery. To Spirit. Many of my clients say that they were aware at very young ages that their parents were disturbed. They often became the protectors of their siblings and handled household responsibilities early. Taking care of others, being extremely perceptive and highly sensitive, intuitive, and spiritual. Out-thinking  and overthinking to save themselves and their families.

Sound familiar?

But still, my clients are struggling. You, too?

Excessive anxiety/fears, depression, self-hatred, self-doubts, unhealthy/abusive relationships with partners and friends, unstable career paths, physical illnesses, self-criticism, substance abuse, poverty. These are just some of the results of emotional, verbal, physical, sexual abuse and neglect. The effects of childhood trauma.

Not only that. Because you have a rainforest mind, you may be grappling with this : “If you’re so smart, why can’t you get over it, why aren’t you better by now???  You seem to be doing fine so it must not have been that bad.” You may believe that you should have figured this out already. After all, you are a super fast learner when it comes to many things.

But healing from trauma/abuse is a long, winding road. It takes courage and persistence. When you grow up unsafe in your own home, just living can be a scary, even terrifying, proposition. To survive, you developed beliefs, behaviors, and coping strategies. These beliefs, behaviors, and strategies are etched deep within your brain/ body/ psyche. They served you well by protecting you then. But many of them are no longer helpful.

So what do you do now?

Read this collection of posts. They are an overview of how and why therapy works. You will feel less alone and find some good resources, including The School of Life. In other words, find a good therapist!*

If you can’t afford therapy at this time or if you need to take some steps on your own, here are some ideas. You can also do these things even if you do find a therapist!:

~ Read Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving: A Guide and Map for Recovering from Childhood Trauma by Pete Walker for a good description of the effects of abuse and for some self-help tools. As in most books, not everything will apply or will be right for you. Just accept the parts that resonate. 

~ Don’t skimp on self-care. Chances are, you are better at taking care of everyone else. Make a list of nourishing,  self-soothing, and relaxing activities and give yourself permission to do them. Acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments. Look into Kristin Neff’s self-compassion.

~ Practice setting boundaries. Start with easy people and situations, if this is particularly hard, which it may be if it was dangerous in your family to express your needs. Learn to say no. And in some cases, hell no.

~ Look online for self-help resources. Try your.holistic.psychologist on Instagram.

~ Experiment with yoga, meditation, acupuncture, energy medicine, time in nature, journaling, or bodywork. Hug your puppy, your parakeet, or your kitty.

~ Nurture your sense of humor.

~ Listen to inspiring music. Try Defying Gravity.

~ Go to an uplifting film. Here’s one: Blinded by the Light 

~ And, most importantly, visualize, feel, and breathe into your connection to the Mystery. To the Spiritual. To your Intuition. To the Love that is all around you.

To your radiant, powerful, central core of Light and Love.


To my old souls, empaths, shamans, priestesses, and healers, I mean, my bloggEEs: Sending you much love. Let us know how you are coping with and healing from the challenges in your families of origin. What resources have you found that have been helpful?

Thank you to the clients who shared some of these resources with me. And, of course, to all of you for your courage.

(Note: I’m not saying that there are no gifted folks who become abusers. Surely, we know there are. It’s just that in my experience, the humans who are the RFM variety of gifted, don’t.)

(*Another note: It’s best to find a therapist you can work with in person. This post might help you find someone. That said, there are therapists who work online. I can only see therapy clients in Oregon because of the restrictions on my license. The therapists at The School of Life in the UK work internationally as does Maggie Brown in New Zealand. I do see clients worldwide but just for short term consultations more focused on giftedness topics such as those described on the blog and in my books.)


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

3282093961_aebeedf676Smart people don’t have problems. Smart people will be fine on their own. Smart people don’t need help.



But that’s what you hear. And that’s probably what you think.

If I were really smart, I would be able to solve it, rise above it, fix it, ignore it, rethink it, or forgive it. Fast.

Not necessarily.

Not when it comes to serious emotional distress, or high levels of sensitivity, or childhood trauma or your crazy Uncle Fred.

The thing is, you probably took on lots of responsibility in your family when you were younger. If things were dysfunctional or traumatic, you may have been the one who picked up the pieces. Or protected your siblings. Made everyone laugh. Or got out as soon as you could. You were likely quite resilient at the time and developed very effective coping strategies.

But now you may notice that you’re anxious or depressed. Maybe you keep picking the wrong partners. Or you’re way too angry at your kids. So, of course, you say you should know better. Smart people don’t fall into painful patterns that are the result of early losses—losses of confidence, identity, safety or trust. 

Oh, yes they do.

Sometimes, even you, with your gorgeous rainforest mind, need to find a guide, a counselor, someone to walk with you on the path when you run into all of those boulders and can’t see how to get past them. Someone who will hold the ladder for you as you climb out of the abyss.

Now I know what you’re thinking.

I’ve always had to solve problems on my own. No one will be able to help. I’ve tried and I can out-think them all. They can’t keep up with me. I’ll overwhelm them. I’ll talk too much. I won’t talk enough. I’ll end up taking care of them. I’ll be bored. I’ll be boring. I won’t do it right. I can’t be that vulnerable. It’s too complicated. The past is past. What’s the point?

Am I right?

I knew it.

Here’s the thing: Therapy is a very helpful process. Especially if you’ve experienced any type of abuse, neglect, trauma or even a garden variety dysfunctional family. At its best, it can provide guidance and support for healing the past and for rediscovering your creativity, your self-acceptance and your authenticity.

But how do you find the right person?

Shop around. Look for someone who understands g-g-giftedness or who is willing to learn about it. Ask your questions and see if they love your intensity or are intimidated by it. They need to love it. Use your intuition and see how you feel when you’re in the office. Find out about the different types of psychotherapy and look for a counselor who practices in the areas that appeal most to you. Make sure the person is highly sensitive and empathetic. Look for a rainforest mind.

Oh, yes, and check to be sure the counselor has been a client in therapy.

And has been to the abyss.



First photo: CC

To my dear blogEEs: I’m a little anxious that you’ll think that this post is an advertisement for myself. Ack! Glug! I suspect that I’m just worrying for no reason, but I had to mention this anyway. Long distance counseling is not particularly effective as far as I know and licensed counselors can’t practice in states where they aren’t licensed. OK?

There are more types of psychotherapy than those listed in the Huffington Post article above. Another resource that explains more about therapy is here.

Thank you for reading. I look forward to hearing from you. If you’d rather write a private comment, there’s a form on the About page.