Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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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!

 

 

 


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

photo courtesy of Cheryl Winn-Boujnida, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy of Cheryl Winn-Boujnida, Unsplash, CC

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

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

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

Heck, yeah.

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

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

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

By the way? This is a big deal.

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

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

I mean it.

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

And there’s your path. Better world?

Indeed.

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

Impostor, Scholar, Procrastinator, Healer — Your Multidimensional Self

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photo courtesy of Kimson Doan, Unsplash, cc

photo courtesy of Kimson Doan, Unsplash, cc

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Your Rainforest Mind — The Book — Released!!

Image - Version 2

The Author–That Would Be Me

My book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is available NOW! (June 20, 2016) Here are some highlights:

A few questions from the highly unscientific quiz determining if you, in fact, have a rainforest mind:

  • Do people tell you to lighten up when you are just trying to enlighten them?
  • Are you overwhelmed by breathtaking sunsets, itchy clothes, strong perfumes, clashing colors, bad architecture, buzzing that no one else hears, angry strangers, needy friends, or global hunger?
  • Do you see ecru, beige, and sand where others see only white?
  • Do you spend hours looking for the exact word, precise flavor, smoothest texture, right note, perfect gift, finest color, most meaningful discussion, fairest solution, or deepest connection?
  • Have you ever called yourself ADHD because you are easily distracted by new ideas or intricate cobwebs, or OCD because you alphabetize your home library or color-code your sweaters, or bipolar because you go from ecstasy to despair in 10 minutes?
  • Are you passionate about learning, reading, and research, yet perplexed, perturbed and perspiring about schooling?

From the introduction:

In the following pages, you will meet excessively curious, idealistic, sensitive, highly intelligent humans—individuals with rainforest minds (RFM). You will meet Billy, an adolescent with extraordinary empathy for all beings and a deep desire for precision, ethics, and excellence. His multiple sensitivities and his complicated perfectionism were misunderstood by teachers, peers, family, and himself. As a result, he felt that something was terribly wrong with him, nothing he did was ever good enough. You will also get to know Gina, a twenty-something grad student whose brain ran faster, wider, and deeper than many of her university professors. She overwhelmed and alienated her less effervescent peers, so Gina watched TV and smoked pot to find comfort, procrastinate, and feel normal. 

You will meet Gwen, who at 52 completed an interdisciplinary PhD in anthropology, history, art, and feminism. Lonely since childhood, she had an early awareness of human suffering. Her lifetime of divergent interests led her into many endeavors but she had not found a partner who matched her intellect or emotional range. You will also meet Steven, a 35-year-old single parent who was deeply troubled by his difficulty controlling his anger at his son, Tim. Steven expressed frustration with educators when Tim was acting out in school and feared that he would repeat the patterns of his abusive alcoholic father. Steven longed to find ways to heal his family’s legacy and access the creative and spiritual spark within his heart. 

In this book, you will meet these and other RFMs, clients with whom I have worked in my counseling practice over the last 25 years. Some entered therapy to examine the roots of their depression, despair, or anxiety. Others wanted to understand their frustrations with relationships, schooling, or career paths. Many experienced trauma in childhood. All of them felt the pressures, pleasures, and peculiarities of living inside the highly intense and complicated rainforest mind…

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To my bloggEEs: And that’s just the beginning! You can buy the paperback or ebook on Amazon, Amazon UK, Amazon Australia (only ebook) and the Nook version on Barnes and Noble or order it from your favorite independent bookstore. It’ll also be found at the GHF Press website. As you can imagine, I’m excited and nervous about this and having occasional severe bouts of impostor syndrome! The book’s style is different from the blog but I hope that you’ll find it informative and inspiring. (Note: All clients’ names and identities are changed.) Let us know your questions and thoughts in the comments. And thank you, as always.


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Afflicted With Too Much Talent

photo courtesy of Glen Noble, Unsplash

photo courtesy of Glen Noble, Unsplash

When you were a teen, did you hear this?

“You’re so lucky. You can do anything you want, when you grow up. You could be a doctor, lawyer, musician, engineer, professor, IT professional, journalist, artist, anthropologist–anything. Aren’t you lucky!”

You didn’t feel lucky.

You felt confused and overwhelmed. Guilty and ungrateful. Paralyzed and like a failure. Did I mention that you didn’t feel lucky?

And what happened to that kid who used to be full of excitement and enthusiasm? Reading voraciously. Sleeping with the encyclopedia. Dancing spontaneously. Curious beyond measure. What happened?

Let me guess.

Maybe it was school. Maybe it was your dysfunctional family and your chainsaw parents. You’re complicated so it was probably more than one thing. But just for today, let’s look at your unending number of interests and abilities. Your passion for learning new things. Your boredom with something once you’ve mastered it. Your multipotentiality.

You are afflicted with multipotentiality. Or, as Emilie Wapnick calls it in her TED talk, you’re a multipotentialite.

Yes, indeed. I’ve known many rainforest-minded folks with this affliction. And you won’t get any sympathy from the masses. Too much talent just doesn’t bring out the compassion. But, for you, it can stop you in your tracks. How do you choose just one thing? How do you make a career out of psychoneuromusicalanthrobiocomedy? Not to mention being a psychoneuromusicalanthrobiocomedic parent.

Your coping strategies? Procrastination. Depression. Anxiety. Hot Fudge Sundaes.

Not so great.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. You don’t have to stick to one job/career.
  2. Multipotentiality is not a sign of weakness or inability to focus or ADHD or slackeritis.
  3. Use your creativity to craft careers that combine many talents and interests. Good resources for guidance are here and here. (and Emilie)
  4. Look for the book Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher.
  5. Don’t feel guilty anymore for your abundance. It’s not your fault.
  6. If you’re a parent, make a list of all of the ways parenting meets your needs for variety, emotional growth, problem solving, deep loving connection and intellectual stimulation.
  7. Make a list of all of the things you’ve done so far in your jobs/careers and family life to prove to yourself that you’ve accomplished a lot even if you feel like you haven’t. Meet with a coach or career counselor who has also slept with her encyclopedia.
  8. Let yourself grieve over the choices that you don’t take because even though you can do a lot, you probably won’t get to everything in one lifetime. Believe in reincarnation.

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To my bloggEEs: Are you afflicted with too much talent? What do you do about it? Have you created several career paths along the way? Thank you as always for reading and sharing!

 


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Most Popular Posts of 2015

Here are the top six posts of 2015. Thank you so much for reading, commenting, sharing and living your sensitive, intelligent, emotional, curious, compassionate rainforest-y life! Join me, dear bloggEEs, for more treks into the depths in 2016. Let us know, in the comments, how you’re doing and what you’d like to see next year.

Imagine A World Where Gifted Kids Don’t Have To Wait

Photography by Servando from Flickr cc

Photography by Servando from Flickr cc

My Smart Kid Is So Emotional, Am I A Parenting Failure?

photo by Diego Diaz, Flickr, CC

photo by Diego Diaz, Flickr, CC

Still Gifted After All These Years

photo courtesy of Jordan McQueen and Unsplash

photo courtesy of Jordan McQueen and Unsplash

If I’m So Smart, Why Was School Such A Drag?

photo from Flickr, Creative Commons, Phil Roeder

photo from Flickr, CC, Phil Roeder

What Psychotherapists Need To Know About Gifted Clients

photo courtesy of Anne Allanketner

photo courtesy of Anne Allanketner

If I’m So Smart, Why Am I So Dumb? Part Two

Photo by Cindi, Flickr, CC

Photo by Cindi, Flickr, CC


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The Pressure to be Super Smart at all Times

Photo from Flickr, CC

Photo from Flickr, CC

Whether you’re a rainforest-minded child, teen or adult, if you’ve been told that you’re gifted or that you’re super smart, then you probably feel pressure.

Pressure to: live up to the label, always get the best grades, know everything before you learn it, be the winner, always do your best, find all learning to be easy, not disappoint anyone, do the right thing, always be kind, solve all problems, know all the answers first, attend an elite university, win a Nobel prize, be clever and funny, make no mistakes (be perfect), never fail (did I mention, be perfect?), save the world.

That’s a lot of pressure.

A LOT of pressure.

This is not to mention your high standards and intrinsic desire to make most everything beautiful, balanced, just, harmonious and precise. (see my post on intrinsic/positive perfectionism)

I certainly understand why you feel this way. There are many assumptions about what giftedness actually is and what it means. And, it’s likely that people have told you that you carry a certain responsibility because of your abilities. And, even if they don’t say that to you, you say it to yourself.

Am I right?

But this pressure can create problems. Insomnia, anxiety, and depression. For starters.

So, let me see if I can take some of the pressure off.

First. Understanding: You probably got used to learning many things quickly and easily. You came to believe that that’s the way it should always be and anything less than that, means that you’re not so smart. And being not-so-smart is not an option because you’ve come to believe that being very smart is what makes you a worthwhile human being. And you’ve become a little dependent on the praise or the accolades or the attention. (even though the praise or the accolades or the attention might also make you uncomfortable, so much so that you hide your abilities from most people)

Second. More understanding: You probably can’t help having high standards and expectations. You were born that way. This could be something you accept about yourself but learn to adapt here and there when the project isn’t all that important.

Third:

Make a list of traits that make a person a worthwhile human. Make a list of what makes your life worth living. Make a list of ways you put pressure on yourself.

Take these lists and design a plan to reduce the pressure. You can take small steps. Maybe you decide to aim for a ‘B’ on the report. Maybe you try something you know will be challenging. Maybe you risk disappointing someone. Maybe you start doing some of the items on your life-worth-living list.

Then, notice how you feel.

Are you still gifted?

I thought so.

And one more thing. Go back to that list of traits that make a person worthwhile.

Put your name on it.

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To my bloggEEs: I’m not saying that you shouldn’t tell your kids (or yourselves) that they’re gifted. They (You) need this information to better understand themselves (yourselves). I’m just explaining the pressure part in case that’s an issue for them (or you). Let us know if you struggle with pressure to be super smart. How do you reduce the pressure? If you try some of my suggestions, let us know how it went.

This post is part of a blog hop through the great resource HoagiesGifted.org. Click on this link to read more posts on giftedness in children and adults.

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