Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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The Woman Who Did Not Know Herself – A Journaling Technique

(To my bloggEEs: The following is a recent journal entry of mine. It is a technique I use to figure something out that is bothering me. I always start with “Once upon a time there was a woman who…” and then I write about the thing that is upsetting me, or about the question I have. I let the story unfold and keep writing until an answer appears or I have a shift in my irritability. Here is my example. Give it a try and let us know how it went or what questions you have. I will be storing this post also on my Personal Musings page.)

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Once upon a time there was a woman who was lost and confused. She had a good life. Fulfilling job. A sweet, safe home. Reliable, loving friends. A popular blog. Left-wing relatives. Healthy body. Stable income. Published books. Effervescent hair. Intelligence. Creativity. A good heart. 

But something was out of whack. 

She worried. Who the heck was she really?  In spite of her quite good life, it seemed she did not really know who she was. Just so you know she did realize this was a “first world” problem. And she was truly grateful for all she had. But, as part of her drive to grow and contribute, she knew addressing her out-of-whackitude was essential. 

So, one day, she made a list. 

Who was she?

  • Psychotherapist to smart people?
  • Tango dancing blogger?
  • Shy homebody?
  • Jewish girl from Delaware?
  • Belly dancer wannabe?
  • Former amateur actress-singer-dancer?
  • Oldest blogger ever?
  • Therapy junkie?
  • Spiritual seeker and highly sensitive person?
  • International consultant to gifted humans?
  • Kind, open-hearted soul?
  • Mediocre sister?
  • Quirky auntie?
  • Rainy day appreciator?
  • Dysfunctional family survivor?
  • Journal writer? Author?
  • Obsessed introspector?
  • Secret fangirl of Broadway musicals?
  • Reluctant cook?
  • Book and music lover?
  • Anxiety-prone, melancholic, emotional, post-menopausal witch?
  • Singer of songs from other dimensions?
  • Writer of self-help books for brainiacs?
  • Emerging Instagram video queen?
  • Overeater on lonely nights?
  • Undercover and driven change-the-world activist?
  • Introverted persnickety boundary setter?
  • Seeker of her soul’s mate?
  • Accidental human?
  • Impostor earthling?
  • Rainforest minder?
  • Deep, divergent overthinker?
  • Underachieving priestess?

The length of the list surprised her. It was encouraging. It turned out she was not at a loss for identity at all. She had many. Like Walt Whitman said. Multitudes. And, of course, she knew she did not have to pick just one. She could be all of those things. And more.

Well. 

This was a relief. This knowledge put her back in whack. It suddenly became clear that she did not know herself because she was trying to be, well, normal.

But trying to be normal, she realized, was just wacky. 

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To my bloggEEs: What do you think of the journaling technique? Did you try it? You might also make a list of your own multitudes. It could help on the days you feel out of whack. Or just plain wacky. Thank you, as always, for being here. Love to you all.


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My Quirky Journey From Introverted Psychotherapy Nerd To Introverted Psychotherapist Tango Dancing Blogger Author Nerd

I am an introverted psychotherapy nerd.

I know there are other ways to live. But I don’t care.

I have been a client in some type of therapy since I turned 31. I have tried it all.

Rebirthing. Holotropic breath work. Support groups. Talk. Journaling. Attachment theory. Jungian analysis. Enneagram. CBT. EMDR. EFT. Acupressure. Energywork. Hakomi. Shamanic journeying. Grief Work. Reiki. Fly fishing. Bioenergetics. Art. Nature. Naturopathy. Dance. Acupuncture. Psychodrama. Astrology. Couples counseling. Somatic experiencing. Massage. Cranial-Sacral. Soul collage. Meditation. Psychodynamic. Mindfulness. Yoga. Dreamwork. Diving into the abyss. Blogging.

Okay, blogging isn’t therapy per se, although it has been therapeutic for me. (a life saver, if you want to know the truth)

I used to think I was deficient because I spent most of my time introspecting. I didn’t have much of an outer life. I didn’t join a bowling league. Or get season tickets to the opera. I didn’t follow the Grateful Dead around the country. I didn’t own a blender or a table cloth. I didn’t send my nonexistent kids to college. I almost didn’t have partners.

Okay, I’m exaggerating. A little. I did take breaks from introspection. I was a teacher of gifted children for a number of years. An actress in community theater for about a decade. Learned the Argentine tango and danced in Paris. Built relationships with a bevy of friends and wrote angsty emails to them regularly. Married. Divorced. Watched my most adorable niece and nephew grow up.

I have loved. I have been loved.

See, I’ve done stuff.

But I can’t deny the truth. When it comes down to it, I am excessively, undeniably, inner-focused. And it can appear a little quirky. I get it. But hey, there is a heck of a lot going on in my psyche. It is really lively in there. Very entertaining.

But I digress.

So, back in my later 30’s, after about ten years as a client in therapies, it occurred to me that I ought to just become a psychotherapist. I had so much experience! And this would be the ideal career path for an introverted psychotherapy nerd.

So, that’s exactly what I did.

And, because of my background teaching gifted kids, I decided to specialize in counseling the gifted. Not only that. I came up with the brilliant, if I do say so myself, metaphor to explain them to themselves. They have rainforest minds. Like the rainforest, they are deeply complex, highly sensitive, smart, and capable of making a contribution to the planet if they aren’t cut down and forced to be something that they’re not.

And now that I have been a psychotherapist for some time, I have a good reason to continue to be living the introspective lifestyle. I get to put my experience as a client to good use. I get to guide brave souls into their abyss and show them around. So they see what they need to see. Feel what they need to feel. Find out who they really are. Then I guide them out of their abyss to live their authentic life and find their purpose(s).

One person at a time. Deep diving. No small talk.

Then, about seven years ago, I discovered blogging. Writing a blog for rainforest-minded folks is also a fine way to be an introverted psychotherapy nerd. I get to meet fabulous humans living all over the world who want to deeply understand their own nerdly-ness. And I don’t have to leave my living room. I developed a consulting practice to serve these beautiful souls. (You know who you are.)

What could be better?

The blog led to book writing. Also a very introverted introspective nerd-ish thing to do. 

But why am I writing all of this, you ask? Am I justifying my somewhat unconventional life to you? Am I a teensy weensy defensive because I still don’t have a table cloth?

And what does this have to do with being gifted? Are all rainforest-minded souls introverted, introspective abyss-divers?

No. Some are extraverted, introspective abyss-divers.

The rainforest-minded are complex thinkers. Deep feelers. Analytical. Seeking self-understanding. Questioning. Empathetic. Highly sensitive. Lovers of learning. Multipotentialites. Striving to live meaningful lives. Wanting to create a better world.

But I understand. They aren’t necessarily in therapy. Or introverted. They may have very active, even conventional, outer lives. Kids. Opera tickets. Blenders.

But still, here’s the thing. If you have a rainforest mind, if you have one quirky obsession or many, if you feel weird and a bit out of sync, if you are leading an unconventional life, and if you never get that table cloth or that blender, well, meet me in Oregon.

We’ll go bowling.

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To my bloggEEs: So, as you can see, here is another post with the focus on me! It will be stored on my Personal Musings page. Your comments are welcome. Does my sharing more of my background help you understand yourself? Is it helpful to get an inside look at the person behind the blog?? Thank you, as always for your thoughtful comments and questions. Much love to you all.


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Face Your Demons. Slay Your Dragons. Mend Your Broken Heart.

“We all have the dark, ignorant shadow inside us. I have worked endlessly to reveal it and heal it in me.” ~ Anne Lamott

Psychotherapy has been described as the opportunity to explore with a compassionate, experienced guide what is often called the dark night of the soul. It is the journey to face your demons. Slay your dragons. Mend your broken heart.

photo courtesy of Timo Volz, Unsplash

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Well, OK, maybe not fun. But necessary. Courageous. A way to unravel your family legacy of, say, abandonment, loss, abuse, trauma, and/or denial, and to make an actual contribution to world peace (I’m serious.) because you are no longer unconsciously re-enacting patterns set up by your crazy (not a technical term) or neurotic or abusive or delusional ancestors and projecting them onto innocent bystanders, including your children. In fact, you will, instead, be repairing the damage, disrupting the legacy, soothing your worn out nervous system, learning self-compassion, and discovering your particular path(s) to love and to creating a better world.

Granted, I am a psychotherapist, so I see most things through this lens. But I am guessing you will agree, we have a whole lot of unconscious, delusional, re-enactment going on these days. Some might say, we always have; it is just more obvious now. I would have to agree. And I recognize there are a lot of different opinions about how best to address the shadow side of humanity mayhem. In my view, there is no one particular right path or one answer for everyone. And yet. For those of you who see your own demons and dragons running amok, those of you who are brave enough to notice you do, in fact, have a broken heart to mend, this might be a journey you are ready to take.

What I have seen in myself and my clients as we dig ourselves out from under the rubble of our early lives (oh so many therapy metaphors!), is that you build a new foundation. You build a safe home where you can learn to trust and love yourself so you can trust and love others. Gradually, your outer life improves as your inner life is healed. And then, your rainforest mind is free to express itself in its fullest, overexcitable-est, idealistic-est, creative-est ways. I mean it.

Your ancestors will thank you. Your children will thank you. Your demons and dragons will run amok marathons for charitable causes.

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To my dearest bloggEEs: Just so you know, this is not an advertisement for my therapy services! I am only licensed to provide therapy in Oregon. (I do consult worldwide but that is not therapy.) Here is a short list of therapists to start your search. And, if you are not interested in therapy at this time (or if you have lost your job due to COVID), there are other ways to do inner work. Several of those resources are described in my first book. (If you want therapy but can not afford it, find a good person and ask for a sliding scale.)

If you have been particularly distressed by recent events in N. America, here are some encouraging words from Van Jones: “Breakdowns can lead to breakthroughs if you use them right. Maybe, just maybe, this much disunity can open the door for unity.” Here is an uplifting song: The Keep Going Song by the Bengsons. And here is an organization working to heal the divisions.

Let us know in the comments how you are doing (avoiding specific political rants–those are not really helpful here–but I surely understand the need to rant). Have you found a good therapist? What else do you do for self-healing? Have you found a furry friend? Do you wear your emotional support sweater? Do you let yourself cry? I am sending love to all of you to help you mend your broken hearts and to give you courage during these difficult times. Thank you for being here. Your love sustains me.


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Gifted In The Netherlands

photo courtesy of Robin Benzrihem, Unsplash

Lieke, 20, lives in the Netherlands. Like many of you, she is not sure she is gifted but she relates to the traits of the rainforest mind. As I read her description of herself, I wondered, once again, why humans are so uncomfortable with the super smart. Or even the very smart. The ones who are deep divers into their hearts, minds, and souls. And into meaning, purpose, and justice.

And speaking of diving, I had a counseling client this week who was pressuring herself to “get over” the trauma of her childhood. Why was it taking so long to unravel her past and heal the mistaken beliefs she’d acquired at an early age?  She was told by friends to let go of the “story” she was telling herself and move on. To stop being so intense and introspective. I told her there are folks who are water skiers, snorkelers, and scuba divers in life. She, and I, and the RFMs I know are the deep divers. They are compelled to examine themselves and their worlds thoroughly because they strive to live authentic, compassionate, meaningful lives — for themselves, their communities, and for the planet. They know that “diving into the wreck,” as Adrienne Rich called it, will lead to the discovery of the hidden treasures that have been buried under the generations of trauma, loss, and fear. And this will change everything.

Lieke is a diver.

“I learned to hide my feelings which were pretty intense. They still are. Deep down I am a perfectionist and idealist. Always thinking about what is happening in the world, always trying to understand what is going on. I like to observe and I discuss everything in my head. My mind is always working. Always. Even when I sleep. I think people around me don’t really know what I know about them and how I understand them, because I am always acting like a typical average person. Maybe I am. I don’t know. But I do know that there is always more going on in my head than other people can imagine. I just adapt very quickly…I love being surrounded by beauty. I enjoy watching the sun set and I thrive when I can have deep conversations about meaningful things. Sometimes when I feel really comfortable, I can show my crazy and intense self, too. These moments are rare, though…”

We love your “crazy and intense self,” Lieke.

The world needs you. And all of its deep divers.

Wherever you may be.

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To my bloggEEs: If you are in the Netherlands, and even if you aren’t, you might want to explore these resources. Femke Hovinga-Tiller runs an organization for the highly/profoundly gifted. Annelie Neuteboom is a therapist for gifted families. And Noks Nauta is a writer and researcher. Do you relate to what Lieke is saying here? Does it help to understand that there is nothing wrong with you if you live your life as a scuba diver? Do you know many water skiers or snorkelers? Share with us what being gifted is like in your country. (here in the comments or in an email to me for a future post) And thank you to Lieke for sharing your experiences. And thank you all for being here.

(Note: Those of you who are fans of Barbara Sher’s work, know that she refers to divers and scanners in her book Refuse to Choose. My reference to diving is not what she is talking about. Using her definition, RFMs are both divers and scanners. The book is a good one for multipotentialites!)

(Another note: If you are feeling particularly overwhelmed right now by the pandemic and general upheaval and uncertainty, here is an older post that might help. And here’s another.)

 


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What Are The Challenges Gifted Adults Have In Common? — A Therapist’s Perspective

photo courtesy of christina wocintechchat, Unsplash

I am a psychotherapist who counsels and consults with highly intelligent, sensitive, empathetic, creative humans. (Yes, I love my job.) Even though they are all complicated in their multiple uniquenesses and differing backgrounds, I often hear recurring themes. 

Here are some of those themes. In their own words (with a few edits): 

On Waiting and More Waiting

“…when I get into difficulties because my mental functioning runs at 95 mph and the people around me are functioning at 35 mph, I get told that I should be content to wait around for them because I shouldn’t vibe in a rush and I should be patient. I get told that if we all operated more slowly the world would be a better place. It seems to me that being ‘too much’ in terms of mental functioning gets lumped together with always being busy and in a hurry…the onus on me is to slow down to their level and to ‘grin and bear it’ or be dismissed as emotional and thus irrational…”

On Creativity, Communication, and Electrical Storms

“My imagination is already so active, my brain is so full of ideas, it feels like an electrical storm sometimes, so many thoughts happening at once. It’s hard to imagine narrowing something down. It takes a lot of energy just to have one thought at a time. There’s so much happening at once; I can think fast, in pictures, and I can get solutions in feelings, it’s stimulating, it’s exciting, it’s frustrating, it’s difficult to explain…” 

“…to function in society and communicate with other people I have to downshift. I have to find some way to slow things down enough and put them in a linear narrative order so that other people can actually understand what the heck is going on with me…I can see the way the dots connect but most people can’t. I sound like a crazy person. I’m always the weird one. It’s exhausting and lonely…”

On Multipotentiality and Impossible Choices

“I don’t know what it’s like for other people, when they’re asked the question ‘if you could do anything what would you do?’ This kind of question feels impossible for me, like the universe is so big and the possibilities so endless, how can I possibly choose one or even four or twelve..?”

On Schooling and Untied Shoes

“I often was just not interested in the things at school. I can still recount how over the top invested I got into the subjects of dinosaurs, animals’ evolutionary traits, the theory of evolution, what it means to be funny, philosophy, religious origins, and theology, to name a few weird topics. The problem was that I would primarily be thinking about those topics while I was supposed to be listening in school…I excelled at all subjects academically. I would get straight A’s on tough assignments then lose interest…I would always do jusssttt enough to accomplish what I wanted. I was oblivious to the point of ridiculous, always had my shoes untied, extremely disorganized…always had a messy room/workstation/life, would constantly lose things…I got a perfect score on the logic section of the LSAT. I ended up getting into William and Mary Law School and passing the bar at age 26.”

On Overthinking, Anxiety, and Over-talking

“All my life I’ve been told I was a worrier, I was smart, I was artistic, and an over-talker according to my first teachers and my mother and sister, the latter of which still claim that today…All my life I’ve never felt that I fit in with anyone anywhere…I’ve been an overthinker to the point of chronic anxiety and at times panic attacks…I’ve eschewed what was popular in favor of alternatives…I’ve never felt adequate because I’ve underachieved financially…yet I’ve overachieved with regard to reading and retaining, observing, loving, meeting new people, taking small risks (or sometimes larger ones), and seeking to please others. Today, I seek balance and to love myself rather than expect others to love me. This is a scary new journey…”

On Social Responsibility, Empathy, and Superheroes

“…There is a guilt that returns again and again, the guilt that I can’t always help the people I know are suffering. Or there’s the guilt that comes from believing I should have solved all the problems of suffering in the world by now.  Totally completely reasonable. I mean, if I could just evolve faster maybe, write the ultimate book, turn into an enlightened superhero, something like that, then all the suffering would vanish. Yep Haha, that’s so ridiculous, but I know in my heart I still actually feel that way a little…” 

On Relationships, Sensitivity, and the Abyss

“…It feels desperately sad sometimes when I show up to deeply connect and I am not even met halfway – even when others have the intention of doing so. I feel as though I’m reaching and full of hope, but my arms aren’t long enough. Frustration sets in, then the feeling of isolation, and I sink into an abyss all the while still reaching. I have this voice saying – you are full of yourself, you are so wrong to assume things, you are crazy. Then I tell that voice – I know YOU are, but what am I?  I am gifted, flawed, beautiful, often suffering (in one way or many) and expanding always. But I feel one thing that is beyond my imagination is how to make sense of these gifts in a fleeting life – from within, another voice tells me I already make sense.”

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us what you have experienced within these themes. What else might you include as an issue that challenges you? What solutions have you found? Your comments add so much. If you click on the links above, you will find other posts that provide some helpful suggestions! Thank you to the readers who shared these experiences either in comments or in emails to me. I am so fortunate to have you all here. 


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Finding Emotional Support During Difficult Times

My chenille sweater is my other emotional support animal.

These days we all need emotional support. I mean, really. Just when you thought politics and the climate crisis were enough, along comes the coronavirus. Seriously? A pandemic? Now? I try to avoid expletives on my blog. But this moment really requires several WTFs.

I am sure you are reading articles from all of the people trying to put a positive spin on this. Me, too. And, I do hope and expect there is a longer term positive outcome or two that we can’t imagine in this moment when the tension is so high. Did you read the one about how Issac Newton understood gravity when he was working from home because of the plague? This did not soothe my worried soul. Although, you smart people might want to think about it. (No pressure.) Because you have lots more time to think right now. Unless, of course, you have children and they are not in school and you are desperately looking for ways to entertain them. Unless, of course, you or someone you love is vulnerable or has the virus. Then, none of this is very funny. (Apologies, as I try to be funny.)

I know that some people are saying that this is part of a much needed awakening for humanity. Kind of like the breakdown before the breakthrough. The caterpillar becoming the butterfly. I like those ideas but do not particularly look forward to being the post-caterpillar goo. That does not sound appealing. That said, here is a potential positive outcome not yet mentioned in the news: People who have been avoiding therapy for years may finally realize they need it. The anxiety could be great enough to overwhelm their resistance. And this could mean that more dysfunctional families are healed. That deep-seated ancestral patterns of abuse get interrupted, processed, and released. That your neurotic Aunt Nellie is no longer offended when you don’t eat the lime jello mold with marshmallows that she always brings to family functions. This would clearly be a positive outcome. 

So, in the meantime, in the immediate stress of it all, I have some advice. Get yourself an emotional support animal. It can be an actual animal. Or, as in my case, it can be a blog. Blogging is my emotional support animal. Since I found blogging (six years ago!), I have come here for meaning, purpose, creativity, humor, companionship, and love. And, if that is not emotional support, well, what is? 

For those of you who don’t blog or are allergic to dogs, cats, and the like, what gives you comfort? Lately, I have been wearing my soft, cozy, black chenille sweater. (See photo.) I have been wearing it every day hoping my clients don’t notice. (Of course they do. They notice everything.) Do you have a chenille sweater? Music you love? Friends who make you peanut butter cookies? A spiritual practice? Partners who make you laugh? Angels who sing to you at night? Books you long to read? Devas in your garden? A therapist who reminds you that your light shines even when you are frightened?

Get yourself some emotional support. 

And if you want to understand gravity or some such thing while you are at it, please do.

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To my bloggEEs: These times are getting stressier. (future word for the urban dictionary) How are you taking care of yourself and others? Where are you finding emotional support? As usual, please try and stay supportive and compassionate with each other. I am sending you big hugs and much love. 

While I am confined for these next weeks, I am seeing clients online and am available for consultations. So get in touch if you want a session. I’m also thinking about how I might provide some video support for you all. If I did that, what kinds of things would you want me to talk about? 

Below you will find a link to my interview from last week’s Evolved Empath Summit. Take a listen! (recorded in January 2020)

This interview is part of the Evolved Empath Summit, a free online event featuring how to turn your empathic gifts into your greatest strength. For more information, please visit https://evolvedempathsummit.com. This recording is a copyright of The Shift Network. All rights reserved.


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Counseling Gifted Adults — A Quick Guide for Therapists

photo courtesy of Christopher Lemercier, Unsplash

What do you do with the clients you suspect are super smart? Clients who talk fast, think fast, and ask probing questions. Who are so articulate and high functioning, you can’t understand why they say they are depressed and anxious. Who are paralyzed by fears of failure and the pressures of their “great potential.” Who have exceedingly high standards and expectations for themselves and others. Who change jobs frequently and express frustration, impatience, and confusion with slower thinking coworkers. Who feel a deep, unrelenting loneliness even if they have many friends and are in partnerships. Who have been bullied and bored in schooling situations while they clearly have an enormous passion for learning. Who have an unusual number of sensitivities to sounds, textures, visual stimulation, chemicals, and emotions. Who feel a responsibility for making a difference on the planet, have extraordinary empathy, and feel despair and idealism about the future. Who have experienced serious trauma in childhood but appear to be unscathed. Who can sense when your attention is drifting, are afraid of overwhelming you, and who, in fact, do overwhelm you with their intensity, depth, intuition, and levels of awareness.

These are some of the contradictions and confusions that therapists experience with their gifted clients.

Who is gifted?

Defining giftedness is difficult and controversial. Concerns over justice and equality can make this discussion tense and uncomfortable. Here is one way to think about it: All humans ought to be valued and appreciated. All humans are worthy of love and respect. All humans differ in their strengths, weaknesses, learning styles, intellectual capacities, sensitivities, curiosities, preferences, talents, temperaments, experiences, and desires. It can get tricky when we talk about intellectual differences. And yet, intellectual differences exist. Giftedness exists. Awkward, I know. But true. 

That said, you don’t actually need a clear, concise, undisputed definition to serve clients who fit into this category in one way or another. You just need to understand what they may be dealing with if they have some of these traits. 

And just to add to the confusion, there are also many differences among these humans. I am writing about a particular variety of gifted that I call rainforest-minded. You may run into highly intelligent clients who do not fit my description. But there will be many who do. I promise.

Why do you need to know this?

You may be using all of your very effective methods with these clients and yet something is not working. You know you are missing a very important piece of their puzzle. But, what? Giftedness is a phenomenon that has its own set of complications. These clients desperately need you to see all of who they are and all of who they want to be. They need to be able to feel safe to be vulnerable and to trust that you can handle their exuberance, intense emotions, questions, contradictions, complexities, fears, intuition, sensitivities, and, yes, their brilliance. 

What can you do?

Get familiar with the traits that often accompany giftedness. Learn to differentiate the issues that come with giftedness from the effects of growing up in a dysfunctional family. Look for ways your clients are masking their pain because they are used to practitioners who assume they are just fine and friends and family members who rely on them but don’t reciprocate. They may need to talk a lot without being linear or chronological; take notes if it helps you keep track. Be authentic and sensitive. Get your own therapy. Be careful that you don’t misdiagnosegiftedness can look like ADHD, Aspergers, OCD, and even bipolar disorder. (Note: Some clients can be gifted and also have a mental health diagnosis or learning disability, called twice-exceptional or 2e.) Know your limits and refer if you are frequently overwhelmed.

What resources are available?

These blog posts provide an overview for you and your clients, along with the rest of my blog. Use this quiz with your clients as a light-hearted way to explore the issues. And as luck would have it, my books are the easiest way for you to educate yourself. Your Rainforest Mind is filled with case studies and detailed descriptions of clients, their traits and issues, and the therapy process. Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind is a collection of my most popular blog posts and can be used as a workbook for clients as well as a quick guide for you. And, here are a few more excellent resources. An organization supporting the gifted. A documentaryAnd, a blog on gifted children.

What else?

If you can identify who among your clients has a rainforest mind and grasp their particular challenges, it will make a big difference in the power and effectiveness of the therapy. You will be seeing and understanding them in a way that very few others, if any, have.

And that will change everything.

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To my bloggEEs: Share this post far and wide and anywhere you feel therapists might be lurking. And, of course, share it with your therapist, if you’d like, and let us know how it goes. Let me know what else I ought to have included here. Tell us your therapy experiences and let us know any questions you have. Thank you, as always, for being here.

Oh, and, I am part of a free online event coming up March 9-13, 2020. The Shift Network is an organization promoting personal transformation to “help create a sustainable, peaceful, healthy, and prosperous world for all.” I am one of the speakers! Here is a link for more information. It is called the Evolved Empath Summit. Cool, eh?


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Living Your Authentic Life May Mean You Look Or Sound Or Feel A Little Weird

This photo will make sense when you read the post.

I know that authenticity is important to you. Truth. Clarity. Open-heartedness. Depth. Beauty. Integrity. Knowing who you are. Living the life you were born to live.

But how do you manage to be authentic when your natural intensity overwhelms others? When you are told to slow down and stop asking so many questions. When no one you know really cares about the holographic universe or the film Fantastic Fungi. When your family denies that there is an alcoholic in their midst. When your listeners get lost in your detailed nonlinear multi-layered explanations; your exciting expeditions down the never-ending supply of rabbit holes. When your imaginative ideas are seen as bordering on the bizarre. When your sensitivities are seen as annoying weirdnesses. When overly-needy people are clamoring for your empathy. When you are driven to find your purpose.

Is it possible to have a rainforest mind and be authentic at the same time?

You betcha.

And, yet.

It is a process. It takes strategizing. It takes expanding the definition. It takes risking failure and embarrassment. It takes finding your own self-understanding and accepting what it means to be gifted.

For example:

Strategizing: There will be times when you need to adapt your talking speed and content to your audience. If you want to communicate effectively, it will make sense to turn down your intensity. This does not mean you are being phony, condescending, manipulative, or insincere. Or that your intensity is wrong. It means that you want to communicate effectively. Of course, you will also need to be sure to find people who can keep up with you and who love your beautiful weirdnesses. But just know that strategizing is an authentic way to be seen and heard and possibly understood when you are with people who are not RFMs.

If there is dysfunction in your family of origin, strategizing might mean that you learn how to set healthy boundaries with toxic family members. How much do you share? Where do you set limits? When do you walk away? In this case, being authentic may mean being true to yourself.

Expanding the definition: See strategizing.

Risking failure and embarrassment: Some of the projects that you undertake as you explore your authenticity might be challenging in ways that you are not used to. You may need to stretch out of your comfort zone and experiment and explore new horizons where you are not the smartest person in the room. You may have to lead, speak up, and step out onto an uncomfortable edge. You may have to take action where you are not guaranteed success. This will be particularly difficult if you are used to knowing all the answers and if you were praised since you were a little tyke for your smartness. Your identity may have been based on your early astonishing achievements so that now, a small mistake feels like a total failure. Becoming more authentic will require grappling with this and understanding the root and implications of both types of perfectionism. Give yourself time. This is a big deal.

Self-understanding and acceptance:

The journey to understand and express your authenticity can be long, complicated, fascinating, and at times, weird. It is not a clear cut proposition. It is a work in progress. You are a work in progress. Seeking authenticity, you will likely be letting go of old patterns and inaccurate beliefs. If you had to cope with family trauma or deep distress, much of your authenticity may have gone underground. You may need psychotherapy or another form of introspective work to find yourself. Even without early childhood family dysfunction, you may have had to hide your rainforest-y enthusiasm for all of those reasons I mentioned above. But there is no better time than now to be on this road.

So, why bother? What are the benefits of authenticity? Why not live an unexamined life? 

I don’t have to answer that because I know you. An unexamined life is not an option. Authenticity is a basic need of yours. You’ve seen the list?

Basic human (RFM) needs: Air, water, food, intellectual stimulation, authenticity. Oh, and love! (thank you cmd1122)

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(Note: For more on authenticity, check out this post for the great comments.)

To my bloggEEs: Speaking of living the life you are supposed to live, I have some news. Some of you may know that as part of my authenticity journey, I have been tapping into my spirituality through a kind of channeled singing. Well. A gifted musician friend recorded some of it and added music underneath. Here it is: Spirits of Your Rainforest Mind. This is me looking and sounding and feeling a little weird.

Let us know about your experiences with authenticity. Your comments make this blog so rich. And, tell us what my song conjures up for you. Thank you a million times for being here.


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Parents of Gifted Children — Who Needs the Counseling?

my first book, new cover

Parents come to me worried about their gifted kids. Anxiety, existential depression, trouble in school, sensitivities, loneliness, empathy, perfectionism, social responsibility. I describe the typical social-emotional traits of gifted children and the challenges they often experience. We strategize. This information is a relief for parents who are overwhelmed by these super intense, extremely curious, highly sensitive beings.  Then I tell them: “Your child doesn’t need counseling. You do.” 

That doesn’t always go over so well.

But it is often true*. Parents who understand their own beliefs, behaviors, patterns, and pasts will be better able to care for their children. Experiences you have in childhood have a huge impact on self-esteem and self-confidence. This seems obvious to me but many people still don’t seem to get it. Even if you were raised in a healthy family, if you were also a gifted child, you may be overly reactive to your kids’ struggles. And if you were raised in any sort of abusive home, the effects will impact how you raise your own children. It will be important, then, to make the time to address your own doubts and sense of self to see where you need guidance. Your sensitive children will pick up on your unexpressed distress, even if you think you are hiding it well. When you are introspective and gain self-awareness, they will learn that self-examination and self-compassion matter.

Of course, counseling can come in many forms. Psychotherapy will be particularly important if there was abuse, neglect, or addictions in your family of origin. There are also 12-Step and other support groups, self-help books, coaches, online courses, and Instagram therapists. There are Facebook groups for parents with twice-exceptional kids (2e).

Where, then, do you start?

I’m glad you asked. I have two books to recommend. OK. Full disclosure. These are my books. I wrote them because there isn’t much out there specifically for gifted adults. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, includes many case studies of my psychotherapy clients so that you can see what the counseling issues are and also how they might be addressed in therapy. It also lists quite a few resources and strategies and covers perfectionism, sensitivities, relationships, multipotentiality, anxiety, and more.

From a reader: “…I see this book as a beacon to those who are ready to expand into a deeper knowing of themselves, as a portal to liberating the gifts of those with rainforest minds so we can self-actualize – become whole – awaken to the truth of who we are…”

My second book is a compilation of my most popular blog posts from 2014-2018 organized by topic. It includes exercises at the end of every chapter that will help you understand and accept your own giftedness. It is an easier read so it makes a great gift for friends, educators, therapists, relatives, and your busy teenagers.

From Dr. Melanie Hayes founder of Big Minds Unschool: “…You will find no better guide to help you examine all of the complex nuances of having a mind that is teeming with inexplicable life!…”

If you’d like to see me in action and learn more about my books, here’s a short video with a heart-felt review from the lovely Dr. Amber Siler.

And here is a link to psychotherapist and fabulous human Tina Harlow’s free ebook on parenting gifted children that contains statements from many experts in the field of giftedness. Including me.

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To my bloggEEs: Many of you have read my books. Thank you! I would be most grateful if you would write a review on Amazon. (It doesn’t need to be long or perfect!) And let us know in the comments what you think. If you are a parent, can you make time for introspection and self-healing? What has worked for you? What are your questions?

(*Note: Of course, there are times when your child does need counseling.)


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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.

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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.)