Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


55 Comments

Who Were You Before You Learned That You Are Supposed To Be Normal?

photo courtesy of Annie Spratt, Unsplash

“I have been trying to run myself on the do-your-best-to-fit-in-with-normal-people operating system. It’s not my original operating system. It’s the one I adopted when I was abused in various ways for being myself. I perfected it in school and at work, forcing myself to do all the boring and pointless things and to make myself take up less space.

What do I remember of the original proto-version? I was dreamy. I wandered in the woods. I read fantasy. I read entries in the encyclopedia. I loved puzzles and make-believe. I wrote stories and poetry. I did math for fun. I felt connected to the wild…”  ~BP

Who were you before you learned that you were too much and not enough? Who were you before you stopped singing, dancing, and asking questions with unself-conscious glee? Who were you before you learned that voracious reading instead of homework was unacceptable? Who were you before you stopped crying?

Might it be time to rejuvenate that person? Bring that person back to life? Time to say the hell with normal?

You betcha.

There is no better time. Normal isn’t looking so good these days.

So where do you begin? It might be a frightening prospect if you had a chainsaw family or if you were told that you were crazy or inadequate. Or if you experienced bullying or abandonment or racism. Or if you were told that your intelligence was hurting others or that you should feel guilty because you’re so smart or if you believed them when they called you a know-it-all and a show-off.

So, let’s start small-ish. Make a list of reminders and steps that you can take today. Here are examples adapted from one rainforest mind’s list.

~ Binge read with abandon.

~ Engage with creativity. Make things. Make music. Dance. Be bad at it.

~ It is not elitist or selfish to make sure that what I do is worthy of my precious time and energy.

~ Allow time for deep dives. It’s OK to be obsessive with my research and learning. It’s how I tick.

~ Spend time in beauty. Let nature hold the complexity; let indoors hold a beautiful simplicity.

~ Minimize boring work. Either ask for help, find better tools, or question whether it needs to be done.

~ Be kinder to myself. Stop putting everyone else first. Set healthy boundaries. Take time to rest. Take some of the pressure off. Stop burning the candle at multiple ends. Feel my gratitude in the present moment.

~ Notice when I feel the compulsion to get online. Am I needing self-soothing? Am I bored? Am I lonely? Is there another choice I could make that would be more expansive, connecting, and real?

~ Find and nourish important friendships. Tend those friendships with people who are truly supportive, are not threatened by me, and who laugh at my jokes.

~ Connect to the wild.

~ Let resentment or rage or terror be a sign that I’m being triggered. It may be an old response, borne of being a helpless rainforest-minded kid in a chainsaw world. Remind myself that I’m no longer powerless. People in authority are not my parents. Soothe and love my child-self. I have great respect for myself for the courage it takes to be in therapy.

~ Follow my weird. I must actualize the beauty and power inside me.

~ Get back to being idealistic, optimistic, funny, and intuitive. It’s time to acknowledge and open more to my strengths. I can find my particular rainforest-y way to make the world a better place.

~ Listen to the original cast albums of Dear Evan Hansen and Hamilton over and over. Sing with You Will Be Found.

~ Be dreamy. Take up plenty of space. Return to my glee. Say a fond farewell to normal.

_______________________________________________

To my bloggEEs: Did you make your own list? Can you share some of your list with us? Thank you, as always, for being here. I’m sending love and appreciation from my heart to yours. And thank you to the reader who provided the inspiration and the content of much of this post.

I think there’s still room in the Gifted Women Symposium in Denver, June 2, 2018. I’d love to see some of you there. And July 20-22, 2018, there’s the SENG conference in San Diego. Not only will I be presenting but Tom Clynes of The Boy Who Played With Fusion is a keynoter. Please come find me if you attend!

 

Advertisements


17 Comments

What Do Political Activism, Giftedness, and Your Dysfunctional Family Have in Common?

photo courtesy of Alice Donovan Rouse, Unsplash

Your rainforest mind is often thinking or overthinking or maybe even obsessing about changing the world. Perhaps you were told that because you’re so smart, you have a responsibility to do something important. Or maybe you’ve just felt responsible on your own. Since you were 5, or thereabouts.

Maybe you’ve become politically active. Joined an organization. Run for office. Or perhaps you’re more introverted and quietly spreading compassion around in your family and community. Or you might be composing a concerto or inventing a more efficient battery.

If you’ve chosen an extraverted, activist approach, I have some ideas that might help:

Being a political activist can be discouraging, disturbing, and discombobulating. For so many reasons. The work is often thankless, exhausting, and endless.

You’ve likely heard of the need for self-care. That you should take time to rest your weary bones and nourish your aching soul. That if you’re depleted and despairing, you will not be the most effective or influential.

Perhaps you understand this and are able to take breaks and find ways to stay energized and hopeful. Good. But even self-care may not be enough.

If you find that you’re constantly angry, frustrated, and fearful, and if your fellow activists are often acting like your dysfunctional family, I have a suggestion for you.

You know what I’m about to say.

Try psychotherapy.

Now I know what you may be thinking: I don’t have the time or the money for years of analysis. Or: I know that my family was full of crazies. Why do I need to rehash old stories? What good will it do? Or: The past is over. Live in the now. Think positive thoughts. People in therapy are too self-absorbed.

I get it. And I know that I’m biased. I’m a psychotherapist, after all. But let me tell you what I’ve seen. In myself and my clients.

Our families shape our perceptions of ourselves. If our parents are fearful, shame-based, angry, or abusive, our vulnerable young selves can’t help but absorb variations of that same fear, shame, and anger. We can’t help but interpret the dysfunction to mean that there’s something wrong with us or that we’re at fault because we are being abused or neglected or misunderstood. The effects can be deep and lasting because our parents are all-powerful to us, we’re in these families for years, and our sense of identity is heavily influenced by the behaviors, beliefs, and emotions of our caretakers.

What often happens when we become adults, is that we relive and re-enact these patterns and beliefs, even when we swear we’ll never be like our parents and we move miles away from them. We may unconsciously pick abusive partners, passive-aggressive friends, or angry bosses. We may live in fear of disappointing our parents, have recurring panic attacks, abuse substances, hate our jobs, or live depressed and desperate lives always seeking but never finding the parental acceptance and love that we were denied.

What can you do? Not only for yourself but for the world that you’re out to change?

Unravel this misunderstanding of who you are. Undo the damage. Heal your broken heart. 

And, in my humble opinion, that includes good psychotherapy. Or Diving into the Wreck as poet Adrienne Rich describes it.

This can be a scary proposition. Diving into your wreck. It can take time. Even if you’re a fast learner. The process is often slow and complicated. You may get impatient and think you’re doing it wrong. You may have times when you’re feeling overwhelming sadness. You may wonder why the hell you thought that hanging out in a wreck was such a good idea.

But, eventually, you’ll find that it’s worth the time, money, and tears. You’ll notice changes in your inner and outer worlds. Healthy relationships. Less anxiety. Good boundaries. Moments of gratitude and joy. Well-adjusted kids. Expanded creativity, intuition, and spirituality.

You’ll discover who you really are. Your authentic, smart, creative self. You will have stopped the legacy of dysfunction that was handed down to you from your parents and their parents before them. You will have interrupted deep-seated unhealthy patterns in your family line.

And trust me. This is a big accomplishment.

And that’s not all.

As a social change-maker, your energy and enthusiasm will return. You’ll be more effective. You will act out of this healthier place rather than from a place of need, rage, fear, or guilt. Your fellow activists will stop acting like your dysfunctional family.

And even if your cohorts still do look a little like your needy mother or your angry father, it’ll be OK. You’ll be OK. Because, while swimming around in your wreck, you will have found the jewels.

And they are magnificent.

__________________________________

To my bloggEEs: As you know, I’m not wanting us to get into a specific political discussion. But I do suspect that some of you are experiencing the frustrations of activism and the challenges interacting with other humans who also want to change the world. Let us know how you deal with your particular brand of social responsibility. And if you’d like more thoughts about psychotherapy that are not written by a psychotherapist, go to this Ask Polly column. Thank you, as always, for being here.


36 Comments

Gifted Boys To Men — How To Thrive In A World That Misunderstands Your Sensitivities

photo courtesy of Abhinay Omkar, Flickr

What happens to super smart, sensitive, curious, empathetic, talkative, emotional little boys when they become men? Where does all of that emotion go? All of that empathy? All of that energetic curiosity? How do gifted men thrive in a world that doesn’t understand or appreciate their sensitive natures?

I wrote about this in a post two years ago. I’m going to recycle that post with a few changes because I couldn’t have said it better myself. Oh wait. I did say it myself… Anyway it’s worth sending out again!

______________________

What do you do with all of that emotion? All of that empathy? All of that awareness?

How do you handle your grief? Your love of art or poetry or pink? Your despair over the violence you see in the world? Your tears?

It’s hard for many men to fit into the rigid view of masculinity. But for rainforest-minded men, there are extra tangled vines and more mosquitoes.

I wonder if you were a little tyke who had intense meltdowns. Maybe you expressed your fears and your joys with gusto. You didn’t know about The Boy Code yet. And because you were smart, adults expected you to be more logical and less emotional. Your expressiveness looked like immaturity to them. How can my 7-year-old who plays chess and beats his uncle every time, be so immature? But what if you were born with an unusual capacity to feel deeply? What if your sensitivity was just as large as your intellect? What if you seemed younger than your age peers because you purposely wanted to avoid the weight and hypocrisy of adulthood?

Then there was school. You may have been bullied because you were eager to learn. At recess you preferred examining the grasshoppers to throwing the balls. Maybe you felt more comfortable with girls.

Am I on the right track?

And now, there are the expectations. Oh, yes. If you’re so smart, then, you’re supposed to be able to do anything. Be a high achiever. Make lots of money. Be a good provider. Be tough and man up. But what if the pressure leaves you paralyzed? What if you feel like a failure each time someone close to you is disappointed? What if you’re looking successful but dying inside? What if you were criticized by a father who was full of shame over his own sensitivity? Or what if you feel responsible for living up to some potential that you can’t find and don’t believe you ever had?

What, then, can you do?

1. Redefine masculinity. I mean it. Use that creative brain of yours to design a new model. One where sensitivity, tenderness and wonder are signs of strength and achievement. Because they are.

2. Recognize that because you have a rainforest mind, you’re hardwired to be extra sensitive and soft-hearted. Blame your operating system.

3. Read about giftedness (Jacobsen) and realize that she is describing you. There aren’t many books that I know of on gifted boys/men specifically except by Kerr,  Zeff  and me, but there are some on raising boys that could also be helpful.

4. Write the book on gifted men.

5. Allow yourself to get support, help and guidance. Don’t think that you have to tough it out alone. You hear me? Help comes in many forms: counseling, 12-step groups, spiritual practices, music, acupuncture, yoga, massage, tango, book groups, camping, poetry, hiking, meditation, star-gazing, physical activity, art. It’s a sign of strength to ask for help.

6. With a counselor or in a journal or both, meet with your sweet, enthusiastic, curious little tyke self. Listen to him. Hold him close. Let him cry. Tell him he’s perfect the way he is.

________________________________

To my bloggEEs: Many of you are new here since this post was first written. Let us know what you think and feel. Your comments add so much. And thank you, as always.


24 Comments

Meet Your Muse

photo courtesy Simson Petrol, Unsplash

Muse: an elusive divine-inspired spirit guiding a human to produce great work.  Painters, poets, musicians, writers, film makers, scientists, stay-at-home moms. Creatives.

So, I’m wondering. Do I have a Muse? Do psychotherapists have Muses? Do bloggers?

Well, why not?

Maybe we all have Muses. After all, everyone needs inspiration. No matter what we’re doing. An inspiring spirit with creative ideas? What’s not to like?

Granted. Austen. Lennon. DaVinci. Probably had some darned powerful Muses. MegaMuses.

My Muse? A little less powerful. A little less Mega. OK. Maybe a lot less Mega. Muse-lite.

But still.

I’m here to tell you that even a psychotherapist blogger can be aMused.

Ahem.

For example: When I feel a sense of ease and pleasure writing a blog post and then a Yes when it’s finished. A message from my Muse: Send this out now. Sure, it’s not perfect. Send it anyway. And there it goes. Out to you.

Or, in a therapy session. When I feel particularly compassionate and larger than myself. My Muse shows me a winding path where Grace lives. I just need to breathe and love and stay on the path. In those moments, I am the Muse.

aMusement is pretty wonderful.

I have to admit, though, that my Muse doesn’t always appear. Like now, for instance. I’m sitting here with visions of impostor syndrome dancing in my head. My imposter syndrome says things like: Are you kidding? Do you realize that you are blogging about gifted people? Really, doll face? I can’t believe you’re getting away with that.

Yup.

But nevertheless, I’m persisting. Which is what we do much of the time, right? Trusting that a necessary part of the creative process includes doubt, resistance, bewilderment, plowing ahead, dark chocolate and expressions like doll face.

Not necessarily in that order.

And just in case you don’t believe me, I want you to listen to this TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert. She explains her experience of Muse-ity quite well.

And if you want more, I’ve attached this humorous, poignant TED talk by writer Amy Tan.

My impostor syndrome suggested that I needed some back up.

But that’s OK. Because my Muse has arrived just in time.

So, here we go. Sending my love out to you. Yes!

__________________________________

To my bloggEEs: What’s your experience with creativity and the Muse? How about impostor syndrome? You know that your comments make my blog sing, so we all love hearing from you. And thank you, as always.

This post is part of a blog hop coordinated lovingly by HoagiesGifted. See more posts on creativity by clicking on the image below.

 


26 Comments

Sensitivity Is Your Superpower

In times like these, you may wish that you had less sensitivity. Life as an empathetic soul is often overwhelming. It can be easy to fall into despair or anxiety. And because you are capable in multiple ways, relatives, friends, coworkers, neighbors, strangers, plants and animals may be clamoring for your assistance. 

You may be happy to help. It could be your calling to serve others . But you might feel inadequate because you aren’t the one dragging people out of burning buildings. You aren’t the one rushing into war zones to cover the atrocities.

And the clamoring may make you want to stay in bed. On your good days. On your bad days, it may make you want to pulverize the clamorers, if you know what I mean. ( Just because you’re sensitive doesn’t mean that you never feel drawn to pulverizing. I don’t recommend doing it. I’m just saying… )

You need to understand that your sensitivity is your strength. Being perceptive, empathetic, compassionate and intuitive are skills that the world needs. Desperately.

But because you’re a sensitive soul, there are some things that you need to know.

First: Just because you can sense someone’s pain, doesn’t mean that you’re responsible for fixing it.  Just because you can do something faster, better and more easily than other people, doesn’t mean that you have to do that something. Practice saying no. Think of it like this: There are many helpers out there. You’re giving someone else a chance to step up. You’re helping someone else learn. I’m not saying that you should shirk your responsibilities. I’m just suggesting that it’s healthy to set boundaries and limits. You’re very capable in many areas. It’s impossible and inappropriate for you to do everything you could possibly do. Exhausting yourself? Not recommended. Look for the times when you’re drawn to something because it’s energizing. Head in that direction.

Second: Get toxic people out of your life. They’ll get help elsewhere. You may be enabling them by letting them rely on you; and we all know that enabling is a no-no. And, by the way, the toxic people might include family members. In that case, get them out of your life, too. ( If that sounds harsh, it is. Most certainly, try therapy first and blunt discussions, if you’re so inclined. But for the truly toxic, you may need to say bye-bye.*) You’ll feel guilt. Try to let go of the guilt. Tell yourself that you’re healing the legacy of dysfunction in your family line. That your ancestors are benefitting. Because they are. ( Trust me on that one. ) Everyone benefits when you stand up for yourself.

Third: Self-care is your friend. You are not a wimp if you need to rest.

Finally: Appreciate your sensitivity. It makes you powerful. Your awareness and your capacity for compassion and loving is vast. And surely this planet, your relatives, friends, coworkers, neighbors, strangers, plants, animals and even your politicians, need all of the love and compassion they can get.

Sensitivity is your superpower.

_______________________________

* I know that in some cases you won’t be able to say good-bye to toxic family members. In those cases, do your best to set limits, protect yourself and get support.

To my dear bloggEEs: Tell us about your sensitivities. How do you protect yourself from the clamorers? Describe how you use your superpower. And thank you, as always, for being here.


32 Comments

To Achieve Or Not To Achieve — That Is The Question

photo courtesy of Juan Ramos, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy of Juan Ramos, Unsplash, CC

What does it mean to achieve or to be successful?

You’re smart, so you’re a high achiever, right?

Maybe. Not necessarily.

And what is a high achiever anyway?

And then. More questions:

What is a reasonable expectation for your particular abilities and interests? Where can you find adequate feedback? If you’re proud of something you achieve does that make you arrogant? How do you deal with accolades when something was easy for you to achieve; do you feel guilty or undeserving? Does praise for your achievements feel empty? Are you always expected to achieve but the pressure makes your brain turn to jello? Have you decided that it’s easier to go underground rather than risk achievement or risk not meeting expectations? How do you help your kids find a real achievement experience in school if their academic needs aren’t being met? Where do you even begin when there’s so much suffering everywhere you look?

To achieve or not to achieve.

It’s a good thing that you’re smart so you can manage living in this jungle. It’s intense. So many mosquitoes  questions.

Here’s a place to start: You’re asking these questions because your ability to think, understand and process complex ideas is fast, deep and wide. You are not being too dramatic or too sensitive or too obsessive or too self-absorbed. These are real concerns. And the answers will require thinking time, research, chocolate and conversations with others who understand what it means to have a rainforest mind.

Here are some places to look for answers:

Intergifted.com — an online resource for gifted adults; classes, Facebook group, coaching

Paula Wilkes Coaching and Consulting — a coach with many years of experience in gifted education and in working with gifted children and adults, including 2e issues

GHF Press and GHF bloggers — an organization supporting parents of gifted/2e children (particularly homeschoolers) and gifted adults, the publisher of my book

Hoagiesgifted.org — an online website with a gazillion articles and resources, blog hops from parents and professionals

SENGifted.org — an organization supporting the social-emotional needs of gifted kids and adults through articles, webinars and conferences

Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth available now to order at Amazon.com and your favorite independent bookstore by Paula Prober (that would be me)

The Gifted Adult by Mary-Elaine Jacobsen

And, of course, inside your own compassionate intuitive heart.

__________________________________

To my bloggEEs: This is such a complicated topic. What are your thoughts and questions about achievement and success? What other resources are you aware of? Your comments make my blog so much richer! Thank you for sharing. (And if you’re feeling distressed about recent events, my post on sensitivity and compassion is here. Sending you love.)

 

 


41 Comments

Advice for your Sensitive Soul

photo courtesy of Anne Allanketner

photo courtesy of Anne Allanketner

You will never be normal.

And this is good.

You have too much compassion. Too much awareness. Too much curiosity. Too much emotion. Too much thinking. Too much intelligence.

You have an uncontrollable thirst to know. You live with ethical standards that seem excessive to others. You strive for a perfection that only Nature understands.

Your heart breaks when you see others suffering. Your heart sings when beauty sneaks up on you.

You expect yourself to know better. You expect yourself to achieve greatness.

Life is devastating and magnificent. Overwhelming and glorious. Disturbing and transcendent.

You will never be normal.

And this is good.

________________________

To my bloggEEs: Please share your thoughts, feelings and reactions. I can not tell you how grateful I am that you are out there.

(Note: On October 6, 2015, I’ll be presenting a webinar If I’m so Smart, then Why am I so Dumb: Understanding the Complicated World of the Gifted Adult. If you go to the SENG website, you will be able to register for it soon. It’s $40, from 4:30-6pm PST. You’ll receive a copy of the talk whether you can attend at that time or not. As of this writing, registration isn’t open yet but keep checking. I’ll post notes on Facebook and Twitter when registration is open. I’d love to “see” you there. There’s also a slim chance that the webinar will be postponed. Contact SENG for details.)