Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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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.

_______________________________

* 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.


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Fifteen Quick Reminders To Help You Make It Through The ‘Holidaze’

photo courtesy of Jim Lukach, Flickr, CC

photo courtesy of Jim Lukach, Flickr, CC

1  You’re not too sensitive if you’re easily overwhelmed by the holiday muzak, the florescent lights, the crowds, the frenetic meaningless pace, the likely psychopathic Santa and the smell of stale popcorn at the shopping mall.

2  You’re not a failure as a human being if your siblings went to Stanford and are all doctors and have two and a half kids and you’re still wondering what to do when you grow up because you took a detour into drug treatment and psychotherapy because your soft heart and gentle spirit needed to heal.

3  You’re not lacking in empathy if you’re frustrated and irritated, well, OK, enraged by society’s focus on the status of having more and more stuff, the bigger the better, while they’re oblivious to the impact of said stuff.

4  You’re not socially inept or paranoid if you have to abruptly leave a gathering of people who seem happy and charming and delightful but who make your stomach ache because unbeknownst to your conscious mind, they’re really miserable.

5  You’re not an arrogant know-it-all if you choose to wrap the kids’ gifts in newspaper, or if you give your precocious nieces homemade light switch plates instead of Barbie dolls, or if you choose funding a homeless family over yet another plastic giraffe for your adorable nephew.

6  You’re not a bad daughter/son if you have mixed feelings about attending the family event and if you make a plan to leave early when your alcoholic relative starts to berate you about your political or religious beliefs or about why you didn’t go to Harvard when you had so much potential.

7  You are not being inauthentic if you consciously avoid certain topics with family members who you know will react with anger or misunderstanding to your attempt to explain, say, your logical reasons for changing your college major for the fifth time.

8  You’re not too persnickety if you start your own holiday rituals and don’t allow your toddler to watch reality TV, use your iPad, or learn how to operate a cell phone.

9  You’re not a failure as a parent if your holiday meal is a flop, if your kids throw their biggest tantrums ever just when the grandparents arrive, if you still haven’t gotten your hair cut or trained your dog not to beg for food.

10  You’re not an oddball if you question the traditions, religion or the obsession with television that organizes your extended family members. Well, maybe you are an oddball in that regard but there are times when oddballs are needed. This might be one of those times.

11  You’re not rude and obsessive if you are still avoiding eating the jello marshmallow carrot salad that your Aunt Gracie always makes.

12  You’re not too dramatic if you cry when your relatives tease you, well, OK, bully you, because you’re following yet another career path, you’ve stopped straightening your hair and you’re still single.

13  You’re not too intense if you can’t totally enjoy the holiday because people around the globe are suffering, the ice caps are melting and you’re distracted by your need to find and manifest your purpose on the planet.

14  You’re not too idealistic if you believe that it’s still possible for a transformation to occur where the peoples of the world embrace compassion over fear.

15  You’re not alone if you dread the stresses of the holiday season and look forward to the end of said season. And, you’re not wrong if you understand the following to be true: You are successfully sensitive, effervescently empathetic, indescribably intense, awesomely authentic, prudently persnickety, illustriously idealistic, and resplendently rainforest-minded. (And, hey, when you get a chance, could you send me the recipe for Aunt Gracie’s jello marshmallow carrot salad?)

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us what the holiday season is like for you. If you have coping strategies for the challenging times, let us know what they are. And, if you have totally joyous experiences during the holiday season, we love you, too! Oh, and the 16th reminder, my book would make a great gift for your teens, your friends, your parents, your therapist, your sensitive Uncle Phil, and your sweet self.


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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.