Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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If I’m So Smart, Why Do I Feel Like A Failure?

photo courtesy of Vanessa Bumbeers, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy of Vanessa Bumbeers, Unsplash, CC

Was this you? You were told repeatedly that you were so smart; that you had a high IQ. You were the top student. Your parents and teachers praised you often for your abilities and achievements. School was easy so you could get high grades without studying. You won awards. Teachers said that you were gifted. Your parents said that you’d do great things when you reached adulthood; That you could do anything you wanted. Expectations were high. 

And so was the pressure. But you didn’t realize it at the time. Until you got to college. Suddenly, you were surrounded by smart kids. You were no longer the star. Not only that. Some of your classes were hard; studying was required. Studying? What’s that? You got your first “C.” You loved psychology and philosophy but you’d never faced a workload like this. No one else seemed to be having trouble. You started procrastinating, as usual, but last minute finishes didn’t work anymore. It was confusing and overwhelming. Your identity was crumbling; you became anxious and depressed.

In your mind, it became clear that you’d been faking your smarts all of these years. You weren’t gifted. Never had been. You’d gotten by on your charm. Now charm wasn’t enough. You were a failure. Every little mistake, every question you couldn’t answer. Failure.

Is this you? Or someone you know?

Let me give you a hug and an explanation.

Kids who are gifted are often told, repeatedly, how smart they are, by well-meaning adults. High grades and other achievements may be praised excessively. This can lead children to believe that they’re loved because they’re “so smart.” Their identity becomes dependent, then, on their capacity to continue to show their advanced abilities and on the praise and attention they receive.

This can lead to unhealthy perfectionism: fear of failure, avoidance of activities that don’t guarantee success, impostor syndrome and procrastination. It can lead to anxiety and depression. Being smart becomes a static thing. You either are or your aren’t. And because you’re used to learning many things quickly, you think that’s the way all learning should be. If you don’t get it fast, well, it just proves that you’re not gifted. Not gifted? Not lovable.

What can you do?

Understand that your worth as a human isn’t due to your accomplishments. Your worth is about who you are, not what you do. It will take time to really believe this.

Make a list of your values. What do you appreciate about others? Compassion? Generosity? Sense of humor? Can you admire these values in yourself?

Imagine your life as a work in progress or as a form of artistic expression. Focus on the journey or the process instead of the product or the outcome.

If you’re in school, design a plan for studying and completing assignments. Break projects down into smaller steps. Look for resources online about dealing with procrastination, perfectionism, expectations, and fear of failure.

Learn about Dweck’s more recent work on mindsets. Even if giftedness is the way your brain is wired, that doesn’t mean it’s an all or nothing phenomenon. You can still have strengths and weaknesses. You can make mistakes and still be a lovely human. You can have high standards and not be perfect.

Make a list of your thoughts and beliefs about your “failures.” Are they rational? Replace your irrational beliefs with what’s actually true. If you’re really struggling, try this book. The book includes ways to self-soothe and calm your anxiety.

Read biographies of eminent people and make note of their struggles, mistakes and failures. Elon Musk and Steve Jobs failed multiple times.

If you’re a parent, avoid praise. It’s often meaningless. Instead, encourage your children by giving specific feedback and asking questions. “I noticed how kind you were to that boy.” “I’m enjoying the details about the characters in your story.” “How was it for you when your team worked so well together?”

If you’re a parent, encourage your child to engage in activities where they need to struggle. They will learn how to deal with mistakes, failures and set backs and will form a stronger sense of self.

And finally, hold on to your dreams!  Even if you feel discouraged and anxious some of the time, or a lot of the time, there is love in you. There is beauty in you. You can do this.

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To my bloggEEs: Thank you to the reader who inspired this post. Share your thoughts, feelings, questions and dreams here, please. We all benefit from your experiences!


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Your Gifted Child And School — Ten Suggestions For Parents

photo courtesy Pixabay, CC

photo courtesy Pixabay, CC

Eight-year-old Bobby wanted to be Richard Feynman for Halloween.

Could he be gifted? Hm?

There were many other signs: Enormous enthusiasm for learning, especially history, science, and language; emotional intensity, difficulty maintaining friendships with children his age, trouble with motivation in school, writing insightful poetry and detailed stories, stacks of books he longed to read, advanced verbal ability, over-thinking tests so that he misunderstood simple problems and scored poorly on exams, great interest in mathematics but not arithmetic, high sensitivity and empathy, frustration with the slowness of handwriting, distressed by the repetition in school, extremely active and curious mind, quirky sense of humor.

I’ve known many gifted children with similar characteristics. Like Bobby, they’re often misunderstood. Their sensitivity and big emotions are mistaken for immaturity. Mediocre test scores are interpreted as average ability or laziness. Loneliness is seen as lack of empathy. Intense curiosity looks like arrogance.

School personnel didn’t recognize Bobby’s rainforest mind. Is this scenario familiar?

If so, here’s what you can do:

— Explain to your child what it means to have a rainforest mind.

— Ask your child to create an imaginary container for his emotions to use when it’s not safe to express them in public. (Bobby used a coconut reinforced with diamonds that was “as big as a truck.”) One resource for helping with anxiety, depression and intensities is Charlotte Reznick‘s work.

— Find a specialist in gifted education who can test your child if the school needs proof of giftedness so that your child’s anxiety and creativity will be taken into consideration as her test results are interpreted.

— Request persistently and repeatedly that your child be matched with the more sensitive, creative and flexible teachers who, ideally, have training in gifted education. Did I mention, be persistent? Convince administrators that this is an easy solution, because it is. Understand the pressures that educators are under and provide support where you can. Bring bribes caffeinated beverages to overworked teachers. Let difficult administrators know that you have superpowers and you’re not afraid to use them. Remind yourself that when you speak out for your child, other gifted kids will benefit.

— Teach your child social skills, if needed, through role playing. Rainforest-y kids can be bossy and impatient because they don’t realize that other children don’t think as fast or don’t have the same interests. (Explain this to them.) Invite children over for play dates and provide guidance, if needed.

— Share this post with educators. It offers simple teaching techniques that work in the classroom along with inexpensive practical resources for teachers.

— Problem solve as a family. Brainstorm ideas. Your children will come up with creative solutions to assorted problems and they’ll appreciate your trust in them. Remember that healthy limits and consistency are important, especially if your child is testing boundaries. Take time to nourish yourself.

— If you have a rainforest mind and had difficulty in school, find ways to process your feelings through journaling, coaching or counseling. This post might help.

— Read about what other parents are doing and, if needed, look into homeschooling. Join a parenting support group in your town or on Facebook. Attend a SENG or NAGC conference.

— Work to change the system. Join innovative educators like Jade Rivera, the educators at NuMinds and organizations like 4pt0.org.

All of our children, in fact, the entire planet, will benefit if our gifted kids are provided with a stimulating, compassionate and meaningful schooling experience.

I’m sure Richard Feynman would agree.

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your schooling experiences or about how your kids are doing in school. What frustrations did you have? Was there a teacher who made a difference for you? How? Thank you for sharing. My blog is so much richer because of your comments. See you in 2017! Let me know if there are topics you’d like me to cover in future posts.


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Blogs On Gifted Kids That You Will Love

photo courtesy of Justin Luebke, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy of Justin Luebke, Unsplash, CC

Below are links to some of my favorite blogs. I have to admit, my dear readers, that I have a not-so-hidden agenda. All of these fabulous bloggers have reviewed my book. You get a two for one deal: Recommendations for great blogs on giftedness plus sensitive thoughtful reviews of my book.

Thus, if you’re still wondering if my book is worth the price, you can see what these fine humans have to say. Then you might want to sign on and follow these bloggers. After that, you can bike to your neighborhood bookstore or to Amazon and buy copies for yourself, your teens, your therapist, your favorite teachers and your eccentric Aunt Maxine.

Here we go:

Pamela Price writes a fascinating blog that covers multiple topics including raising gifted children, education, bullying, self-care, food security and elder care. She’s written a book on homeschooling  and another on bullying. Here’s her review, plus an interview with me.

Gail Post is a psychologist in PA, USA. Her writing is very clear and concise. She has both professional and parenting experience and writes about underachievement, perfectionism, schooling, advocacy, social isolation and so much more. Here is her interview with me.

Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley is a mother of three young rainforest minds. You’ll notice her resourcefulness as you scroll through her site and wonder how she manages to homeschool, share her insight and find so many incredible resources to recommend to other parents. You’ll also find her at the Huff Post. Her review is here.

Lucinda Leo is based in the UK. She’s been a lawyer, a cognitive hypnotherapist and is now a dedicated mum of two energetic gifted kids. She writes  a lot about intensities, sensitivity and overexcitabilities. Here is her lovely, personal, detailed review!

Jade Rivera is an innovative educator and compassionate soul who wrote a very practical book about starting a micro school. She blogs for parents of 2e kids and educators. Her review is here.

Numinds Enrichment is a blog for parents and educators written by two enthusiastic, creative educators and a sensitive big-hearted parent. Numinds is a “revolutionary educational enrichment company” based in Dallas, Texas. Emily, the big-hearted parent, wrote this review.

Celi Trepanier is the mother of three gifted boys and writes the popular parenting blog Crushing Tall Poppies. Her excellent book, Educating Your Gifted Child, is published by GHF Press. Her review is here.

Jennifer Harvey Sallin runs the innovative website and FB group, Intergifted, an international home for gifted adults (ok, not kids, but it needed to be here anyway). The website contains well-written articles, courses and opportunities for coaching. Read her comprehensive review here.

Ann Grahl runs the important website Supporting Gifted Learners. Her sensitivity and knowledge is clear in her posts. Here is her review.

Lisa Conrad provides loads of resources and information for parents of gifted kids.. Her weekly Twitter events on gifted topics include lists of related articles, blogs and books. She has a list of professionals here. (therapists worldwide who understand giftedness) You can find her review on Amazon along with several others.

There are even more wonderful blogs on giftedness but I didn’t want to overwhelm you. Look for them on the two excellent websites that have been serving gifted families for years: giftedhomeschoolers.org and hoagiesgifted.org.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you have other resources you’d recommend that have helped you understand your rainforest mind? Thank you, as always, for reading and sharing.


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If I Can Do It, So Can You — Finding Your Purpose(s)

photo courtesy of Chaz Harding, Flickr, CC

photo courtesy of Chaz Harding, Flickr, CC

I have the best job ever. I love deep meaningful conversations with one person at a time. The human psyche is fascinating to me. I’m an introvert. I believe that healing is possible when humans embark on the courageous journey of deep introspection. I want to make a difference in the world. I’m a psychotherapist. It’s the best job ever. For me.

Not only that. I specialize in working with highly sensitive, insightful,  empathetic, super-smart humans. I spend my days with them. It never gets dull.

I get paid to do this.

Today, was a typical day. For example: (Details changed to protect privacy.)

Jenny, in her 40s, is a musician/composer. She’s courageously grieving a history of abuse in childhood, the traumatic death of her mother and a divorce while raising a gifted teen. She’s sensitive, compassionate and determined. Today, she was sharing her experiences of fragility and vulnerability and wondering how to navigate through such unstable terrain. In a moment of insight, she realized that she was finding her voice through her art; that her pain was turning into beauty through the music. And this would empower her and touch everyone who experienced her sound.

Then, I met with the parents of a highly gifted twelve-year-old. These parents, Mary and Craig, are the parents you wish you had. They’re sweet, articulate, smart, devoted to their kids, and kind. Since their daughter entered school, they’ve had to stay involved in her education to be sure her academic needs were met. It hasn’t been easy. Their girl, Stacy, is extremely intense and emotional. A perfectionist. Highly creative. A voracious learner with extraordinary empathy. When I met her parents, they were frustrated and sad. Stacy is highly verbal, full of ideas and worries. She tends to feel overly responsible and has a highly developed social conscience. She’s way ahead of her peers in every subject area. Some teachers love her. Others don’t.

Mary and Craig sympathize with the challenges the educators face, and yet, all they want is for Stacy to be intellectually stimulated and to maintain her motivation to achieve. Arrangements were made to allow Stacy to read advanced material in an independent study program. Not ideal, but a beginning. Stacy was excited and enthusiastically began reading. Sadly, administrators changed their minds and put Stacy back in the torture chamber uninspiring class. Mary and Craig were struggling with what to do next. I was able to encourage them and to remind them that Stacy has a right to an education that meets her needs.

This is what I do all day. (Oh, yes, and I blog, too.) If I can find my purpose in life, so can you. And there’s no better time than the present. We can no longer wait for the perfect moment or for the kids to grow up or for the next iPhone. We can no longer wait for lightening to strike. The planet needs its rainforest minds. Now.

No pressure. Well, maybe a little pressure. OK. A lot of pressure.

If you’re wondering how to begin or how you’ll know you’ve found it, here are some ideas. Remember it’s a process. (In my case, there were years of psychotherapy and other types of inner work.) I write about accepting and showing your rainforestness here and here. I write about how psychotherapy works here and here.  Career paths here and here. Parenting, here. And I suggest some books here. Maybe you spend time in Nature or you read Pema Chodron or you start a mindfulness practice. Maybe you influence educators at your child’s school. Maybe you turn your pain into art.

Make the time to quiet yourself and listen to your heart.

When your heart sings.

You’ve found it.

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To my blogEEs: I mention “purpose(s)” because you might have more than one purpose over your lifetime. Share your thoughts, feelings and questions here. What makes your heart sing? Let me know how I can help. Thank you for reading and sharing.


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Gifted Kids, Rainforest Minds — Still Misunderstood After All These Years

photo courtesy of London Scout, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy of London Scout, Unsplash, CC

Way back in the later 1970’s, I was teaching in public schools in N. America and feeling the heat of the Does-Giftedness-Matter-Debate.

You know what I’m talkin’ about.

I remember the superintendent at the time saying: “There are no gifted children in our district.” Really? None? Oh boy. But schools in Pennsylvania were mandated to identify their gifted children and meet their needs. In spite of the superintendent, gifted children were, in fact, found. I had the fabulous job of teaching them.

But there was controversy. Discomfort. Misunderstanding. Defensiveness. Anger. Hurt. Bullying. Sadness. Frustration.

And, after about 35 years, there still is. Controversy. Discomfort. Misunderstanding. Defensiveness. Anger. Hurt. Bullying, Sadness. Frustration.

A big concern is this: If some kids are gifted, then others are not. If some children are included in a gifted program in school, others are left out. And being excluded hurts. We want all of our kids to feel special and cherished.

This has been a conundrum for all of the years that I’ve been in the field.

But why label people at all? Why determine that some are gifted? Why not say that we’re all the same? All equal?

Here’s the thing.

We’re not all the same. And isn’t that grand? We have different strengths and weaknesses. Different skills and abilities. Different sizes, shapes and colors. Different beliefs and values. Different languages and religions.

But we’re all equally human. We all deserve respect, compassion, love and opportunity. To be special and cherished.

And: We all know children who are faster and deeper learners, thinkers and feelers. Kids who learn to read when we’re not looking. Who know things we’ve never taught them. Who correct our errors. Who feel our pain. Who perceive sounds or sights or textures or emotions or tastes or intuitions or patterns that the rest of us miss. Who ask questions we can’t answer. Who are wiser than we are.

What do we do with those kids?

Because their particular differences mean that regular schooling may not work very well. That the usual parenting and teaching methods may fail. That some normal life experiences may be overwhelming or disturbing or confusing or devastating.

What do we do with those kids?

First: We all need to calm down. Second: We agree on what’s obvious. That we love all of our children and want the best for them. Third: We use my people-as-ecosystems model to explain their differences and similarities. Then we celebrate all of our kids and determine what they need to thrive. Maybe they have meadow minds, desert minds, river minds or rainforest minds. All of these minds are valuable and beautiful. One mind isn’t better than another. We determine what each of them need to thrive and we give it to them.

And last: We appreciate those intense, complex, super-sensitive rainforest (also known as gifted) minds. We stop cutting them down. We let them do what they’re here to do. Be who they’re here to be.

We will all breathe easier.

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To my bloggEEs: Thank you so much for your support! Let us know what you think of the label “gifted” and how you think we can resolve the controversy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Pressure, Paralysis And Your Great Potential

photo courtesy of Unsplash Jayakumar Ananthan CC

photo courtesy of Unsplash Jayakumar Ananthan CC

Have people repeatedly accused you of not living up to your potential? Were you called an underachiever when your grades in school were not A’s? Are people shocked and disappointed that you didn’t become a Nobel prize winning neurosurgeon? Are you convinced that all of the talk of giftedness was not meant for you and your real IQ test must’ve been eaten by aliens?

Yes? Then, you must be suffering from High Potential Deficit Disorder. (HPDD)

HPDD is a common malady among humans who are super smart but don’t perform up to a standard that society decides equals greatness or eminence. Onset of the condition is usually during early school years when paralysis sets in from an overdose of dullness due to too many worksheets and not enough actual learning. HPDD worsens if you were told, directly or indirectly, that your accomplishments were what made you lovable and worthwhile. 

HPDD can be particularly intense when accompanied by other conditions such as ADHD, SPD (sensory processing disorder), anxiety or depression. Symptoms include: extreme pressure to be smart or right at all times, eventual avoidance of situations that might be intellectually challenging, chronic loss of curiosity and effervescence, FDE (fear of disappointing everyone), FBM (fear of being misunderstood), and FOB (fear of boredom).

What can you do if you suffer from HPDD?

Decide for yourself how to define achievement. Write your own treatise on what makes a human successful. Record in your journal your memories of what was said about your potential and feel your feelings as you write. Then, design a plan to live according to your own assessment of a life worth living.

If your HPDD feels overwhelming, unmanageable or destructive, there may be another co-existing condition. You may have GUCP. Growing Up with Chainsaw Parents. In that case, find a therapist– One who loves rainforest minds and understands the predicament — the pressure and paralysis of your great potential.

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To my dear blogEEs: Were you told how much potential you had and how you weren’t living up to it? What was that like? What did you do? Does it still affect you? How have you dealt with it? Thank you, as always, for your insight, sensitivity and kindness.

This post is part of a collection of great posts on “other achieving.” To read more click on the link.  12642533_10207269014896228_7155678351495096720_n


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“Extreme Science, Extreme Parenting…” Extreme Giftedness

photo from Tom Clynes

photo courtesy of Tom Clynes

“Since the first moments of his existence, Taylor has complicated, confounded, and chaoticized nearly every detail of his family’s lives.”

So says Tom Clynes, author of the recently released and captivating book– The Boy Who Played With Fusion: Extreme Science, Extreme Parenting And How to Make a Star.

Taylor Wilson, a profoundly gifted child, built a working nuclear fusion reactor at the age of 14.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Stop right there.

Just because you didn’t achieve nuclear fusion at 14 or even at 48, does not mean that you aren’t gifted. You probably, like Taylor, did complicate, confound and chaoticize your family’s life. At least some of the time. Am I right?

Rainforest minds (gifted minds) don’t all become obsessed with science or produce astonishing achievements.

But many do have “manic, metastasizing curiosity” like Taylor–along with a sense of wonder, idealism and a desire to make the world a better place.

Giftedness isn’t one-size-fits-all. The rain forest is ridiculously complex. Taylor is clearly in the genius category and so he is, as Clynes describes him, “scary-smart.” You may not be so scary. Reading Taylor’s story, will be both inspiring and educational no matter where you fall on the continuum.

What makes this book unique is that Clynes combines a compelling “coming-of-age narrative” with articulate well-researched advocacy for gifted kids. He’s a fresh, knowledgeable and welcome voice, especially for those of us who’ve been speaking out on this topic for years.

Here are some of the questions he addresses:

“…what does it take to identify and develop the raw material of talent and turn it into exceptional accomplishment? How do we parent and educate extraordinarily determined and intelligent children and help them reach their potential?”… “And how do we shift the course of an educational culture that has, for the past several decades, underchallenged the children it once regarded as its best hope?”

I’d say these are the important questions.

Not only that. Those of you who are parents will appreciate hearing about the numerous challenges Taylor’s parents faced and how they handled them. And it may soothe your own fears to realize that it could be worse. Chances are, your child isn’t storing radioactive materials in your garage.

Taylor’s parents had to learn how to respond to his irrepressible enthusiasm for learning and for blowing stuff up. “Taylor has always been obsessed with things…Whatever he got interested in, he just went crazy with it, nonstop. Even getting him to eat was a big trick. Sometimes it still is,” said Kenneth, Taylor’s dad.

The Author--Tom Clynes; photo courtesy of Tom Clynes

The Author–Tom Clynes; photo courtesy of Tom Clynes

And you’ll read how they struggled to provide him with an appropriate education, as do many parents of the rainforest-minded. Taylor’s parents wing it. Rather well.

Taylor Wilson and Tom Clynes give us all a little more hope. Clynes provides his “recipe:”

“…parents who are courageous enough to give their children wings and let them fly in the directions they choose; schools that support children as individuals; a society that understands the difference between elitism and individualized education, and that addresses the needs of kids at all levels.”

Taylor’s story just may get us there.

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To my blogEEs: I didn’t plan to write two book reviews in a row, dear readers. It just happened. I hope you’ve found them helpful. Let us know about the books you’re reading that have inspired you. And tell us if you read The Boy Who Played With Fusion. You’ll be glad you did!

This post is part of a collection of great posts from parents of gifted kids and professionals. Click on the link or the image to read more!
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