Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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What Might Exceptional Giftedness Look Like in Kids and Adults?

photo courtesy of Graham Hunt, Unsplash

When Carol was three years old, she taught herself to read. At age six, she gave her Barbie a lobotomy. At seven, she picked Rembrandt as the person she respected most, because of his use of light. When she was eight, she refused to say the pledge of allegiance in school because she didn’t agree that all people were united under God. And who was God, anyway? At nine, she was reading Ray Bradbury. At ten, she insisted that she volunteer at a home for the elderly.

Growing up in an abusive environment, Carol worked out elaborate plans to calm her fears, including siding with the “bad guys” to ease their loneliness. In sixth grade, OMNI magazines were her entertainment. Her dreams were often vivid and at age 12, she taught herself to lucid dream. She thought often about the effects and influences of patterns and cycles in life and in nature and philosophized with Sartre and Nietzsche. She explained, “I didn’t want to be another person endlessly repeating cycles of suffering in a world where truth and beauty were so mangled and abused.”

Carol won many contests in school and her work was held up as an example for others. But that didn’t matter to her as much as standing with the children who were bullied or ignored. She was curious about religion and the paranormal and, at a young age, took a bus to church on her own. Her empathy and intuition were finely tuned. She would pick up accurate information about people that they didn’t openly share with her but would confirm later.

In high school, Carol experimented with goth/punk, poetry, art, tarot, photography, philosophy, sexual identity, and LSD. One of her favorite books was Ideas and Opinions by Einstein and her preoccupation was with finding true meaning. She always had a strong sense of spirituality. Recently, she said, “I believe no goal is higher than manifesting ultimate love and compassion. All I have done in my life has been ultimately in the name of opening my heart…It’s important to me to keep pushing the boundary, exploring my connection to the unseen and the energy that connects all things.”

Carol has a rainforest mind. She’s managed to continue to be compassionate, sensitive, intuitive, and productive in spite of growing up with serious abuse and neglect. Carol will tell you that she’s not special; that she’s not particularly unusual.

But she is. Unusual. Gifted. Exceptionally so.

Carol, now in her late 30’s, is beginning to understand that her quirks, her obsessions, and her constant questioning of the status quo, is not pathological. Not something to hide. She’s starting to use her talents to design a unique career path. To fulfill her long-time desire to create a better world.

Shall we join with Carol?  Open our hearts? Manifest ultimate love and compassion? Explore our connection with the unseen and the energy that connects all things?

How could we not.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you resonate with Carol’s profile? How are you like her? How are you different? There is a spectrum when it comes to giftedness. And, of course, great variety and complexity. Where might you be on the spectrum? (You will notice that Carol hasn’t won a Nobel prize or invented the newest electric car. And, yet, she is still exceptionally gifted.) What’s your experience with “the unseen and the energy that connects all things?” Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. Thank you to the client who inspired this post.

(Note: My book publisher may be closing its doors so my plan is to take back my rights and become an Indie Press! This is not absolutely confirmed yet but is most likely. The book won’t be available soon while I figure out the logistics but I’m hoping that won’t take too long. I’m going to redo the cover, which I’ve never been crazy about, but not make many other changes. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll see the updates.)

(Book update: The publisher is trying to stay afloat so nothing is changing right now. This could be a good time to stock up! 🙂 )


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Life is Calling You to Embrace Your Intense, Insightful, Introspective Path(s)

photo courtesy of Jeremy Thomas, Unsplash

“Your unusual life path is a summon from Life.  Intense people are positioned to be the game-changers, the truth-tellers, and the fierce lovers of the world. By nature, you are the pioneers and the questioners and the progressives whose role in the world is to bring forth the realities which others do not yet see or understand.  You can deny it, fight it, but in the end, you would not be able to deny or suppress your unique insights and perspectives. Although you might not have chosen this path, it is your path.”  Imi Lo* 

It is not a mistake that you are here now. You with your glowing rainforest mind. You may think that you don’t belong here. That you’re a great pretender. Certainly not a “game-changer” or “truth teller.” You may feel small, insignificant, not particularly super intelligent. Overpowered by what looks like reality. Unable to trust your heart. To express what’s obscured by your fears.

But, my darling, Life is calling you to stop hiding. Life wants you to shine your light. Life says, what have you got to lose? 

Easy for Life to say.

You may feel that you have a lot to lose. I understand. Losing control comes to mind. Safety. Financial stability. Hair products. You may be anxious. There’s a lot of that going around these days. Fear of ridicule. Of loneliness. Of failure. Of success. Of politicians. Did I mention loss of control?

And, if you’ve grown up in a chainsaw family, well, you might not even know that you have “unique insights and perspectives” to suppress. You might think you’re just a freak, a weirdo, or a lost cause. You might have to battle depression, disabling anxiety, or chronic pain. You might need safety and control because you had neither growing up.

But Life has a plan for you.

And there is no better time to open to it than right now. Because you are needed. Your compassion. Your questions. Your sensitivities. Your curly free-range hair. Your vision. Your sense of humor.

And even though you might feel an urgency to act, it’s OK to take it slow. To be cautious. This is not about retraumatization. This is beyond time. This is about knowing the Truth of who you are. Feeling into that knowing. Becoming yourself. Being on your particular path(s). Not the path of your parents. Or their parents. Not the path of your Facebook friends. Or the uncurious. Or the surface-skimmers.

Your path(s). Your you-ness. The deep dive track. The intensely introspective route. The I’m-going-in-and-not-sure-if-I’ll-survive-it road.

Because whether you know it or not, “you are positioned to be [one of] the game-changers, the truth-tellers, and the fierce lovers of the world.” You are designed “to bring forth the realities which others do not yet see or understand.” 

Time to answer LIfe’s call.

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*Imi Lo is a writer and psychotherapist in the UK. Her insightful book, Emotional Sensitivity and Intensity, was published in May 2018. Thank you, Imi.

To my bloggEEs: Just so you know, I wrote this post for myself as well as for you! What do you think? What were your thoughts and feelings as you read this? As always, thank you for being here. Just a little reminder, my book is a good resource for you and your teenage children to help you celebrate and facilitate your deep-diving, intense, introspective, truth-telling, game-changer lives.

 


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Creative, Sensitive, Deep Thinkers in the Workplace — A Tricky Proposition

photo courtesy of Easton Oliver, Unsplash

“…Your high-strung nature, your baggage, your achievements, your defenses, even your garrulous, confident nature — all of these things are often interpreted as a selfish inability to play nicely with others…Your complexity makes you untrustworthy. Your sharp mind makes you suspicious. Your separateness makes you unlikable. And even a supernatural effort to be friendlier, better, simpler, sweeter, quieter, and more agreeable will only make it worse. You will only seem fake. You will try too hard…” Heather Havrilesky,  Ask Polly

Having a rainforest mind at work. It’s a tricky proposition. More questions than answers. Here are some.

When do you speak up? When do you stay quiet? How do you deal with boring, repetitive tasks? How do you tell your boss that there’s a better way? What do you do with the extra time when you’ve finished an assignment but are tired of fixing your co-workers’ mistakes? How do you get your boss to trust you with the tasks you find more stimulating? What about colleagues who don’t like you because the answers come easily to you and they think that you’re arrogant? What about employees who complain that you’re overly demanding and unrealistic? When do you let your perfectionism run wild and when do you rein it in?

How do you cope when you do all of the work and someone else gets all of the credit? What do you do when no one wants to implement your creative, forward-thinking ideas? What about the colleagues who steal your suggestions? How do you cope with unethical behaviors? What if you’re sincerely interested in doing a thorough job and your co-workers just care about the paycheck? How do you deal with a narcissistic, charismatic boss who everyone loves but you? What happens when your co-workers and boss act an awful lot like your dysfunctional siblings and parents?

What if you’ve been labeled Troublemaker? Renegade? Rebel? How do you change the system when you’re overwhelmed? What if you want to fit in with colleagues and be invited to their Fridays-at-4 but are conflicted because you also feel frustrated, impatient, and annoyed by them?

Lots of questions.

But you knew that.

For now, let’s sit together in the questions. You’re not alone if you’ve been accused of “a selfish inability to play nicely with others.”

You can play here with us. We love your sharp mind.

“…Because you have so much energy, so much emotion, so many wild, brilliant thoughts in your great big head, and you can achieve anything you set your mind to. You are focused, and you don’t mind working hard, and underneath all of this people-pleasing, you really don’t give a fuck. You are a raccoon with hearts bursting over your head, but your claws are ready to strike. They should be envious, and they should also be afraid. Forgive them for not caring that much. Forgive them for not knowing how formidable you are…”  Heather Havrilesky, Ask Polly

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To my bloggEEs:  Tell us about your experiences at work. Share your thoughts, feelings, answers to these questions or more questions. Thank you to the reader who sent me this Ask Polly article. It’s worth reading the entire piece. A great resource, especially if you want support making changes within your workplace, is Rebels At Work. Check it out!


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“…Your Fierce and Unbreakable Light…”

If you’ve been raised in a seriously dysfunctional family or your compassionate, smart, sensitive, rainforest mind has experienced other chainsaws over the years, or both, it’ll be important for you to mend your broken heart.

The mending takes time, patience, and care.

You will likely need help on the journey. Let yourself get help. Granted, because you have a rainforest mind, you’ll have to select your helpers carefully. If you try psychotherapy, (which would be a great idea, by the way), you’ll want to find someone who is sensitive and smart, and who is on their own healing path. There will be things your therapist will need to know. Such as:

The rainforest mind is complicated. Like the jungle, it’s breathtaking in its capacity to create: Thoughts, emotions, questions, dreams, equations, mosquitoes,  theories, visions, stories, inventions, worries, beauty, more worries, and poetry. It’s intense, lush, and vast.

The rainforest mind, in counseling, needs deep, empathetic, authentic understanding of its fascinating and convoluted intricacies.

You will be learning to grieve your losses, build self-confidence, appreciate your courage and resilience, set better boundaries, choose appropriate friends and partners, raise healthy kids, take back your power, speak your truth, stop the legacy of abuse in your family line. Trust your intuition. Discover your creativity. Love yourself. Find your path(s) to creating a better world.

There are more ways to mend: Build a spiritual/meditation practice. Design a multi-dimensional approach that could include: coaching, bodywork, acupuncture, energy work, martial arts, functional medicine, binge reading, and support groups. Give yourself permission to try things and leave if they’re not right for you. (except we all know that binge reading is always right…)

There are books that will help with your healing process: Soul Collage by Seena Frost for a creative, visual, and intuitive approach. Self Therapy by Jay Earley for an Internal Family Systems approach. My book for guidance in understanding and appreciating your rainforest mind.

And, there is poetry~ this one by Anne Allanketner, poet and therapist in Portland, Oregon, USA.

The No-Fault Insurance of Love 

photo courtesy of Dawid Soboleski, Unsplash

I am writing you a policy
which covers everything,
no matter what happened to you.
You have all rights and privileges:
to receive help, to rest, to correct damage
to heal loss.

In time, you must re-member yourself
to be One with The Holy

I have experienced
your fierce and unbreakable light
which never leaves you,
even on the worst day

You are not at fault.
That old idea is a red herring
swimming towards you
to distract you
from the cluster of pearls
hidden under and behind
this recent fiasco.

Feeling completely innocent
as you dive towards beauty and truth,
piercing confusion’s thick waters and
calling loudly for help-
That is your sacred work.

In clever self-examination you may find
clues that cannot be seen
without the eyes of kindness and thus
you cannot afford to swim around
in the cloudy murk of shame.

If you did make mistakes, that too
is covered by the policy
for your heart was always true to love
and being loved.
Honor that and know
that you will be protected
from the world’s
dissonant judgments, that have rattled and echoed,
too near your exquisite, tender soul.

This journey is harrowing,
which is always the case in matters of arising
and sacred repair.
Somehow amidst the smoke and brokenness
your soul has hidden pieces of Herself
which she is even now
(and despite all seductive illusions)
retrieving from crevasses and underground caves.

You, beloved, are the sparkling gem
pressed between the rocks
your story began before, Before.
Now, we can begin to see
that what is courageous in you, and what is ever pure,
is only becoming more beautiful, more condensed and potent
under this terrible pressure
where diamonds are made.

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To my bloggEEs: Does this poem speak to you? Can you recognize your “fierce and unbreakable light?” What have you done to heal from your chainsaw experiences? Are there any resources that you recommend? And, dears, if you’re feeling despair about events here on earth, here’s a gathering of poets that will inspire and uplift you, from Maria Popova.

This month marks four years since the birth of my blog. Thank you for sharing the journey with me. I’m sending you all hugs, kisses, and much gratitude! And thank you to Anne Allanketner for her beautiful poetry and radiant soul. If you want to hear the poet read this poem along with original music from musician Ron Gordon, click here.


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I’m Not Gifted, I’m Just Weird

photo courtesy of Eugenio Mazzone, Unsplash

You’d think that gifted people would know how smart they are. You’d think that gifted individuals would find life to be smooth and easy. You’d think that gifted folks would feel superior and judgmental of all non-gifted humans everywhere.

Nope. No way. Not the ones I know. And I’ve known a lot of them. I’m that old. (My former middle school students are turning 50. Yeah. Old. OK. Old-ish.)

Granted, I work with a particular variety of gifted souls. The rainforest-minded (RFM). Not all gifted folks are the RFM type. Some can be cognitively advanced but not highly sensitive or empathetic. Some can be very academic and scholarly, but not have multipotentiality. So, yes. Maybe some of the non-RFM-gifted know how smart they are, find life to be easy, and are judgmental. Maybe.

But, they weren’t in my classroom when I was a teacher in the mid-’70s and ’80s. They haven’t been in my counseling office for the past 25+ years. The RFMs I’ve known will tell you: I’m not gifted. I’m just weird. And they will struggle. With: Sensitivities. Injustice. Decisions. Choices. Achievement. School. Relationships. Communication. Emotions. Careers. Belonging. Parenting. Anxiety. Depression. Perfectionism. Guilt. Politics. Climate change deniers. Conspicuous consumption. Not enough time to read all of the books ever written.

And that’s if they grew up in a healthy family.

If you throw dysfunctional family into the mix, it gets even more complicated. I’ve written about that here and here. With more to come.

So, if you have a rainforest mind or if you love someone who does or if you work with them or teach them, it’s time to get out of denial.

It matters.

Why?

It matters because everyone will benefit if our rainforest-minded humans understand why they struggle and what to do about it. It matters because RFMs are raising RFM kids. If the parents know who they are, they’ll be better able to support their children. It matters because educators, psychotherapists, doctors and other professionals will stop misdiagnosing their clients and will be more effective practitioners.

It matters because we all need the intelligence, compassion, creativity, and sensitivity that our rainforest-minded beings share with us. Like we all need our tropical rain forests.

We won’t survive without them.

We won’t survive without you.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you recognize your giftedness? How do you struggle? Have you just felt weird much of your life? What would it be like if you accepted yourself as a gifted soul? Thank you, as always, for being here.

 


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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.

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* 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.


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Are You A Driven Perfectionist In A Slacker World?

photo courtesy of Andrew Branch, Unsplash

Angela is driven. At her job as a graphic designer and communications coordinator, she works 10-12 hour days, and some weekends. Her standards for her work are well beyond those of her colleagues, including the CEO of the organization. Coworkers depend on her to keep the company functioning but also resent her high expectations, her critiques of their writing and her evaluation of their less than adequate customer service.

Angela didn’t attend college. She was raised in a seriously dysfunctional family. It’s hard to understand how she knows what she knows, unless you realize that she has a rainforest mind: A mind that learns quickly and deeply whatever it finds appealing, fascinating or complicated. A heart that feels extreme empathy for humans, animals and plants.

Coworkers take advantage of Angela. Because her work is always of the highest quality and completed in less than half the time, she’s one person doing a two-three person job. Not only that: Workmates ask her to create invitations to their kids’ birthday parties and to design the programs for their Aunt Matilda’s half-sister’s memorial. In her spare time. For free. She does it because she can and because she can’t say ‘no.’

Angela is a driven perfectionist in a slacker world.

I tell her: “Just because you’re able to do it, doesn’t mean you have to do it. You have a right to set boundaries. To say ‘no.’ To have a life outside of your job.” But her extraordinary abilities, her empathy and her early trauma all tell her ‘no’ is not an option.

I tell her: “Feel your satisfaction-sometimes-joy in finding the perfect phrase and the most striking images. Understand that others may not notice or care. Feel your satisfaction-sometimes-joy anyway.” This is the healthy perfectionism that comes with a rainforest mind. Regular people may not understand it.

I tell her: “If you feel resentment, anger or extra stressed at your job, consider allowing some of your work to be less than extraordinary. Settle for excellent. Notice if you need to excel because it gives you joy or because you have to prove your worth. Or both.” If it’s unworthiness, it’s unhealthy perfectionism. You can thank your dysfunctional family for that. Your therapist can help you detach your sense of worth from your achievements.

Well, then. If you are, like Angela, a driven perfectionist in a slacker world, take heart. Find the places where your drive, idealism and high standards are appreciated and needed. (Your favorite struggling nonprofit? Your gifted kids? Your community garden? Your elderly neighbors?) Spend time in those places.

And, your coworker’s Aunt Matilda’s half-sister? I’m pretty sure she won’t mind if there aren’t any programs at her memorial.

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To my bloggEEs: Does Angela sound like you? Do you find yourself overworked and under-appreciated at your job, at school or at home? Are you a perfectionist? How do you manage your drive, high standards and expectations? How do make time to rest? And, if you’re wanting to improve your work environment , in spite of the slackers, and don’t know where to begin, try the folks at Rebels At Work for ideas and for a community of like-minds. And thank you for being here.