Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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Exceptional and Profound Giftedness In Adults — What Does It Look Like? Why Should We Care?

photo courtesy of naveen kumar, Unsplash

Diya, 35, was struggling with anxiety, career decisions, graduate school, and loneliness. She left a prestigious professional school in the final year because it was too rigid and restrictive. Professors and other students ridiculed her and left her feeling embarrassed, particularly when she asked penetrating questions. At times she felt compelled not to ask questions or even go to class because she did not want to stand out. When she contacted me, she had recently graduated with a more open-ended degree from a different prestigious university where she had hoped to find intellectual freedom, deep human connections, out-of-the-box thinkers, and most importantly, people like herself. This school was more open to her creativity and needs for a flexible, interdisciplinary approach but she was still disappointed with the restricted and inadequate levels of intellectual opportunities and the conformity of many of the other students.

It became clear as we talked, that Diya was exceptionally, probably profoundly, gifted. Her interests were many and varied and she excelled in all of them, ranging from the sciences to languages, religion, and the fine arts. Her speech was fast and her thinking faster. She struggled with repetitive tasks and was often forgetting things because her mind was constantly reading and processing new information.

Diya felt a lot of pressure from her intensity of thought and worked best independently in a non-structured environment. Her perfectionist tendencies made it difficult for her to work quickly, and she often felt a lag time between her mind and her body. She had a deep emotional intensity, often feeling emotions that were complex and layered as well as visions and insights that were intuitive and wholistic.

Like many of my clients, though, she didn’t recognize herself as gifted. This may have been partly because she was slower at test taking and at answering simple questions. She did not score well on standardized or IQ tests. With multiple choice tests, she could explain why all of the answers could be correct. When professors asked her to explain her reasoning for a problem, she often couldn’t break down the non-linear jumps or easily explain the patterns that she found. Or it would take too long to respond to a simple question because of all the possible answers, causing teachers to grow impatient or think that she didn’t know the “right” answer. In her mind, everything was related. How could she finish anything when there was always more to consider and how could she determine the right answer when there were so many possibilities existing within constantly evolving frameworks? She was always looking for better models or better words to respond to the questions. At the same time, she was a high achiever in school and was able to build friendships. But the relationships were not satisfying. People could not keep up with her and she often found herself speaking on a different wave length and not being understood. 

Diya loved the fine arts, including performing music and dancing. She found pleasure in learning the Argentine tango because of the depth of connection she could create with the right partner. In the tango, she did not need to worry about her partner getting lost in her verbal complexity. This was an intimate collaboration that was successful and less complicated, unlike at school or in the workplace. She was relieved when I told her that collaborating in general might be difficult because of her facility with grasping and integrating ideas; an entrepreneurial path might work best for her. She thrived in designing her own way and not following others’ directions. She was in the process of creating a startup that would weave together a number of her interests.

Diya’s South Asian background exposed her at an early age to yoga, tai chi, chanting, meditation, and other eastern practices. These were quite helpful spiritually and on a body level, particularly when she felt disconnected and alone. Spiritual practices worked in tandem with performing music to help her stay physically grounded, express her visual mental imagery, and sustain her through her distress around relationships and schooling. 

Diya, had a highly developed sensitivity. She could pick up what her friends and colleagues were feeling, and often knew intuitively how to help them, but struggled with not getting emotionally and mentally drained by the needs of others and with knowing where and how to set boundaries. She was concerned with ethics and justice, within relationships, but also in the larger world where she was driven to make a positive impact. 

As we talked, I could see that Diya was relieved to finally have a “diagnosis.” To have it explained to her that her difficulties with schooling, peers, career decisions, and anxiety, could all be understood within the context and framework of living at the highest end of the gifted spectrum. She finally understood why she felt so different and now could start learning how better to survive and thrive in a world that did not easily reflect her. 

I recommended articles from Intergifted and exploring their services. The research of Miraca Gross. This article from the Triple Nine Society. I suggested connecting with Femke Hovinga in the Netherlands and Sue Jackson in British Columbia. Tom Clynes’ book on the profoundly gifted Taylor Wilson and The Gifted Adult were also excellent resources, along with the SENG organization

Getting to know Diya was an opportunity for me to see, once more, the vast potential of the human mind-heart-soul. This is what gives me hope and purpose. In these times of great uncertainty, upheaval, and change, it is of the utmost importance that we all understand, nourish, support, and love the most evolved among us.

Our survival may depend on it. 

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To my bloggEEs: What do you think? How are you similar to Diya? How are you different?  We want to hear from you. Your comments add so much. Sending you all big love during these most challenging of times. And thank you to the client who gave me permission to share her story.

Attention Spanish speakers! I have been in touch with a wonderful RFM woman in Spain who would love to find other Spanish speaking RFMs. Her name is Miryam. You can contact her at midorenedo@hotmail.com. 

 

 

 


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Why Care About Gifted Children?

photo courtesy of eye-for-ebony, Unsplash

Talking about giftedness is tricky. It can sound like discrimination or elitism. And it is discrimination when kids of color are ignored and excluded from gifted programs in schools, which, sadly, they still are in many places. In my mind, it is a no-brainer to understand that giftedness comes in all races, religions, cultures, and ethnic groups. But not everyone agrees. 

And even when I talk about giftedness in children, including kids of color, it might still be said that I am creating an elite group of smart people and discriminating against the children who are not as intellectually advanced. That I am saying that the gifted are better humans, somehow superior to others.

Nooooooo. Puleeze. I am not saying that. 

So, what am I saying? 

Some background: This misunderstanding has existed as long as I have been in this field. Which is a long time. I started teaching gifted children in the mid-’70s. Yes, that long. And, yes, it is surely awkward to say that some children are more intelligent, faster learners, and more complex, deeper thinkers and feelers. But it is not unlike saying that some children are naturally much more talented at athletics. Most of us will never be a Michael Jordan or a Serena Williams, no matter how many hours we practice. And we are fine with that. 

But when it comes to intellectual giftedness we are not so fine. 

In my experience, all 35-ish years of it, gifted children are naturally passionate about learning, thinking, feeling, arguing, creating, perceiving, and empathizing. At an early age, they ask probing questions, feel for others’ suffering, and grasp complex ideas. Their favorite places are often the library, the bookstore, and their vivid imaginations. Of course, these kids are also all different and unique based on multiple factors, but, they often have many of these characteristics in common. Even with differences in race, religion, and culture, many of these gifted traits are still apparent. 

OK, then, some people say. Sounds like these gifted kids have so many advantages. Why bother? There are more important issues out there that need our attention. 

Well, yes, there are so many important issues. So many.

But, I don’t have to convince you, dear blog readers. You understand why I bother.

I do not need to remind you of the years of serious bullying in school because you were super enthusiastic about learning and wanted to answer all the questions. Because you spent every recess hiding in the library, your only safe place. Because some of your teachers were annoyed by your relentless curiosity. Because your passions for classical music, paleontology, Richard Feynman, BBC documentaries, Van Gogh, and brain specimen coasters were not understood by the other eight-year-olds. Because you spent weeks waiting to learn something new

Because the loneliness and rejection you felt then, is still with you. It shows up in the workplace when you are waiting for your coworkers to grasp what you are saying. For a supervisor to be a faster thinker and better leader than you are. For colleagues to have more integrity. It shows up in your sensitivity to injustice and your compassion for suffering humans and for a planet in crisis.

You feel it when the pressure to be smart means you are paralyzed by a fear of failure, of disappointing others, of never living up to your potential. You feel it when you can’t find a partner who knows how to listen or who is willing to dive into the depths with you. You feel it when your intuition and spirituality are dismissed as irrational and irrelevant. You feel it when you have to slow your thoughts, limit your vocabulary, numb your sensitivities, and hide your true self.

That is why I bother.

And if you are part of a marginalized group, if you are a person of color, there is more. There is racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and sexism. Socio-economic disparities. Climate injustice. It is a long list. It can be quite discouraging and overwhelming.

So, here is a thought.

What if, then, what if we could agree that this is the perfect time to embrace our gifted children. Because if there ever was a time to let them flourish, it would be now. To encourage their curiosity, creativity, and sensitivities. To nourish their capacity to seek answers to complicated questions. To appreciate their intuition and larger spirituality. To support their quest for justice for all. 

Let us deepen our understanding of giftedness in ourselves and our kids. And together, we will build a more just and peaceful world.

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To my bloggEEs: If you are looking for resources on giftedness and people of color, here are a few that I know of. Thank you, as always, for being here. We would love to hear from you. 

The G Word Film  due for release in 2021

“Defying popular myths that assume most gifted people are wealthy, white, and will do fine on their own, THE G WORD reveals the economic, cultural and gender diversity of our nation’s gifted and talented population at every stage of life, highlighting their educational challenges, social isolation, and deep emotional sensitivities…It also reveals a large and lively community of people around them working hard to meet their needs while challenging the prejudice that comes with being labeled “smart” in the 21st century.”  from the website

Bright, Talented, & Black: A Guide for Families of African American Gifted Learners by Joy Lawson Davis

“Being gifted and talented and also African American makes children double minorities, and the issues they face can be different from those faced by most other gifted children. This book provides helpful insights and guidelines for the parenting and education of Black gifted children. In addition to the challenges that are frequently experienced by many gifted children, …Black gifted children often must also deal with issues like discrimination and low expectations of them…”  from the publisher

Running the Long Race in Gifted Education edited by Joy M. Scott-Carrol and Anthony Sparks

“The editors have assembled authors representing a range of racial, ethnic, regional and cultural backgrounds. Their narratives reveal a wealth of successes, challenges, inspirations. Speaking in their unique voices, these culturally diverse and gifted adults describe…:  from Amazon


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A Short Guide to the Complicated Life of Gifted Adolescents or Young Adults

photo courtesy of Christian Joudrey, Unsplash

Maybe you wonder how you can be so smart and so dumb at the same time. Perhaps you feel like too much and not enough.  Maybe you are terrified of both failure and success. Perhaps you love learning but are frustrated with schooling. Maybe you live by the highest standards for excellence but can never find your shoes. Well, my darlings, you are not alone. Welcome to your rainforest mind.

Here is your short guide to being a gifted adolescent or a young adult. Click on the link to read the entire post.

I Have to Know it Before I Learn It: A Gifted Kids’ Conundrum

“…He came to believe that all learning should come easily. If it didn’t, there was something terribly wrong. Ben never learned how to study. Or that it was normal for some learning to be a struggle. Ironically, even though he felt like a failure and like he wasn’t smart because of his experiences in school, he also believed that he shouldn’t have to study something to understand it. This created confusion, anxiety, paralysis, and avoidance when there was a chance that he might not grasp a concept fast enough or succeed at a task. If it wasn’t easy, he didn’t do it…”

When Perfectionism, Anxiety, and Giftedness Go To College

“…Suddenly, Ellen was on her own. Not only dealing with coursework that was more difficult but also planning her schedule, choosing classes, and managing: study time/homework, new friends, dorm life, exercise, sleep, meals, fun activities, laundry, and all those other daily decisions that you can’t predict. Not to mention, she still wanted to excel in all of her classes. She said that she didn’t know how to do it any other way. If she didn’t give 100%, she felt lazy. Or, she thought, maybe she wasn’t so smart after all. Her identity would teeter on the edge. Anxiety overload. Perfectionism paralysis…”

A Gifted Kid’s Conundrum — Part Two — Anxiety and Perfectionism

“…Understand that your perfectionism and anxiety might exist not because of something that you’ve done wrong but because of the nature of growing up gifted. The complications begin at an early age. You have a right to take the time to focus on your self-understanding and growth…”

What Do Gifted Teens Say About Their Struggles?

“…Then again, I’m scared to death of college. I’m not sure what I’d do if I were put in a class with really smart kids. What if the work is too hard? What if I don’t have all the answers? What’ll I do? Who am I then? How do I study for a test? I haven’t really had to crack a book yet. What if I can’t get the answers fast? And, what will I major in? I have so many interests. They say I can do anything I want like that’s a great thing. But all I feel is pressure and anxiety. How do I choose just one thing? What if I’m really not so smart and I’ve just been able to fake it all this time?..”

For Gifted Kids and Their Teachers: Strategies for Success

Maybe you are an enthusiastic, hungry learner. You have so many questions and so many answers; your drive to analyze and create is massive and never ending. Your intense curiosity annoys your fellow students and rattles your teachers…”

Social Responsibility and Your Super Smart Sensitive Soul 

“…Get in touch with the activities and skills that bring you joy, meaning, and fulfillment. Then, use your creativity to turn one or more of them into a community building or global-oriented service project that will change minds and hearts. Design a project that will spread more love. That will soften the divide and reduce the fear. It doesn’t have to grow into a global phenomenon. But it can. You may hesitate because you feel that whatever you do won’t be grand enough. Won’t be perfect enough. Don’t let that stop you…”

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To my bloggEEs: I thought it might be helpful to organize a collection of posts for the youngsters among you or for the parents of the youngsters. Or for those of you who were adolescents and young adults long ago. If you’ve been a bloggEE for a while, these posts will be familiar. Let us know what you think. Your comments add so much. And thank you, as always, for being here.


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What Do Gifted Teens Say About Their Struggles?

photo courtesy of Ben White, Unsplash

The gifted adolescents that I have known grapple with existential depression, anxiety, loneliness, perfectionism, sensitivities, empathy, misdiagnoses, bullying, and serious frustrations with the school system. Here is “one” teen’s voice synthesized from the many that I have met over the years. All people will benefit when we take the time to understand our gifted children.

I’m in counseling because my parents are worried. I don’t have any real friends and I spend a lot of time in my room or on my phone. My grades are dropping. I’m actually failing in a couple classes. They’re afraid I’m depressed, maybe even suicidal. My parents are right to be concerned. I don’t know what’s wrong but I’ve been kind of a mess ever since I can remember. And lately, I’ve been wondering, what’s the point?

I remember being in kindergarten and I tried to talk with the other kids, you know, about stuff I’d read like the demise of the dinosaurs or how volcanoes work. They’d just look at me like I was from another planet and go play in the sandbox and I’d wonder what’s wrong with me. What am I missing? How could they not love dinosaurs? How could they not love reading?

Then my kindergarten teacher kept teaching about colors and shapes and counting to ten. And I’m thinking, what about multiplication? What’s wrong with me? I was supposed to sit still and fill in the blanks on the worksheets when what I wanted was to know the size of the universe.

It’s been that way for years. Sitting in a classroom, eager to learn something, anything, and hearing the same song over and over.  I’m so disappointed in people, in teachers. I stopped doing the homework in some of my classes and that’s why my grades are so bad. I just don’t see the point of repeating something I already know. People tell me to just do it, but it’s torture. And then there are the papers to write. Either I do so much research that I can’t possibly put it all in a 5 page paper so I never hand anything in or I know what I write won’t be good enough so I don’t even start. They say I’m lazy. Am I lazy?

There is one teacher, though, Mr. Grey, he keeps me in high school. He loves his subject, English literature, and he loves my curiosity and questions. He started a philosophy club where we could talk about film, literature, politics, anything. I’m usually the only one who shows up but he’s always there, getting my mind working hard. And it gives me hope. Makes life worth living. Someone who loves thinking outside the box; someone who isn’t intimidated or offended or annoyed by my insatiable appetite for learning. I’m really grateful for Mr. Gray.

I used to be very emotional. I cried a lot and my parents called me dramatic. I was also very sensitive to noise, textures and smells. I didn’t like birthday parties because they were so chaotic. I could tell my parents were extremely uncomfortable with this. But I care deeply about things and feel sad when I can see other kids getting hurt. 

And I worry a lot. I worry about climate change, world hunger, poverty, racism. What can I do that will make a difference?  Why am I here? What’s the meaning of life? My brain never stops. It’s exhausting.

You know, I just want someone my age to care, to think with me, to ask questions. I feel like such a freak. Our symphonic band went on a field trip to San Francisco. I was so excited to see the city, the art museums, the culture. All the other kids wanted to do was go to the mall. The mall. Like they’ve never seen a frickin’ mall. I couldn’t stand it and desperately wanted to leave the group but I didn’t want to create a scene so I kept my mouth shut. People think I’m moody and disagreeable but I’m really just incredibly tired of trying to fit in and feeling like a fool. I just want to be normal. I just want to have friends. I’m so lonely.

I guess I should also confess that I feel enormous anxiety when someone asks me to do something I’ve never done before and don’t know if I can do it well, and fast, and the best. You know, like sports for instance. I avoid sports, at all costs. And I quit piano because you have to practice to get good at it. I’m used to being the best and getting approval for it and I’m afraid that I’m really not as smart as everyone says. So, I don’t take any unnecessary risks.

People try and help me and I appreciate it, but it’s mostly inadequate. They come up with quick fixes and easy answers. I try and tell them gently that it’s not that simple. It’s never that simple. But they don’t get it. Sometimes the only thing I find soothing is my dog and a walk in the woods. I feel a deep kinship with nature and a sense of connection with trees and the wind. I still cry at a perfect sunset.

I can’t wait to get to college. Maybe there’ll be kids there I can relate to, who will accept me. Or maybe there’ll be a professor in the music department who can give me the feedback that I’m looking for. See, I’m in these bands at school and I get these awards but they’re meaningless, you know? I don’t deserve them. I make all these mistakes that no one seems to notice.  I don’t get it.  They tell me I’m the best trumpet player they’ve heard in years. But I know how much better I could sound.  What I play is crap. And they don’t hear it.

Then again, I’m scared to death of college. I’m not sure what I’d do if I were put in a class with really smart kids. What if the work is too hard? What if I don’t have all the answers? What’ll I do? Who am I then? How do I study for a test? I haven’t really had to crack a book yet. What if I can’t get the answers fast? And, what will I major in? I have so many interests. They say I can do anything I want like that’s a great thing. But all I feel is pressure and anxiety. How do I choose just one thing? What if I’m really not so smart and I’ve just been able to fake it all this time? 

Maybe I won’t go to college.

They say that I’m gifted but I don’t know. It sure doesn’t feel like a gift to me.

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To my bloggEEs: Does this sound like you? What parts are familiar? Are you raising children who are struggling? How is it for you to see your children dealing with the same challenges you experienced?

This post is adapted from my new book Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists. The book is largely a compilation of my most popular blog posts 2014-2018 organized by topic. It includes suggestions for further exploration to guide you to greater self-acceptance, meaning, and purpose. It is a more light-hearted look at rainforest-mindedness so it is a good gift book for teens, educators, friends, and therapists. (My first book is more in-depth via case studies, strategies, and resources. You can find out more here.)


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When Perfectionism, Anxiety, and Giftedness Go To College

photo courtesy jeshoots, unsplash

Ellen was a fast talking, deep feeling, super insightful 20 year old. She’d been a high achiever throughout her public school years. The work was easy. She could listen to one teacher while she did her homework for another. She was conscientious and energetic. Curious and imaginative.

She was also anxious. Her active rainforest mind came up with so many worries and then worried about her worrying. She was also a perfectionist. She had an innate desire to create beauty, harmony, justice, and precision. What I call intrinsic (healthy) perfectionism. And she also experienced the extrinsic (unhealthy) variety of perfectionism. She questioned her worth as a human being if she didn’t perform at the top of the pack at all times.

Throughout public school, Ellen had managed her anxiety and perfectionism. She had loving parents who didn’t pressure her to achieve and she didn’t run into much that she couldn’t figure out quickly. But she put plenty of pressure on herself. Excelling in school was intricately linked to Ellen’s sense of self. She was not particularly athletic and often had trouble maintaining friendships. She would be frustrated when other kids didn’t respond well to her complicated play. She didn’t have the same interests as her peers.

Because her early schooling was not intellectually challenging, Ellen came to believe that all learning ought to come quickly and easily. She thought that she ought to “know it before I learn it.” She didn’t learn how to struggle with a concept or how to study for an exam. Ellen also didn’t learn how to manage her time. She never had to. Ellen wanted to be the best. Always get A’s. Be as thorough as possible in all things. And she was successful.

Until college.

Suddenly, Ellen was on her own. Not only dealing with coursework that was more difficult but also planning her schedule, choosing classes, and managing: study time/homework, new friends, dorm life, exercise, sleep, meals, fun activities, laundry, and all those other daily decisions that you can’t predict. Not to mention, she still wanted to excel in all of her classes. She said that she didn’t know how to do it any other way. If she didn’t give 100%, she felt lazy. Or, she thought, maybe she wasn’t so smart after all. Her identity would teeter on the edge. Anxiety overload. Perfectionism paralysis.

What did I suggest to Ellen?

What insights will help the anxious college-attending perfectionists in your life?

~ An extremely active, thinking, analytical, imaginative mind mixed with multiple sensitivities and extraordinary empathy will most assuredly create anxiety. How could it not?

~ Intrinsic perfectionism comes naturally to rainforest minds. High standards and expectations along with an appreciation for beauty, harmony, justice, and precision are inborn. You need to appreciate this about yourself and then find ways to prioritize assignments so that you can manage your workload. What is truly important? Does your chemistry lab report have to be beautiful? Do you need to rewrite your lit paper yet again because you didn’t research every single related subtopic that you thought of? Will your professors still appreciate you if you get an A-?

~ Will giving less than 100% on occasion make you a lazy slacker or is it a realistic way to make time to rest and to feed your soul, which will ultimately allow you to be more productive and kinder to others and yourself?

~ There are some good apps for reducing anxiety: Insight Timer, Calm, and Headspace. There are many other suggestions for calming your worries in this post.

~ Get to know what it means to have a rainforest mind. Read more posts from this blog!

~ Chapter 3 in my book goes into depth about the types of perfectionism and provides guidance and resources. Read it!

~ It’s possible that your anxiety might be affected by particular foods or hormone imbalances. Meet with a doctor or naturopath to explore this. Acupuncture, exercise, or neurofeedback can help. If your anxiety is frequently intense and overwhelming, medication might be an option. It can provide enough temporary relief so that you can put some relaxation techniques in place and feel the results.

After a while, Ellen began to speak more confidently about her rainforest mind. She had a greater understanding of her anxiety and perfectionism and was developing ways to manage them.

She explained: “I’m listening more to the calming voice within me. The self-critical voice isn’t quite as loud. I’m learning that I need to be more patient with myself…I can’t do everything. Things take time. Be gentle with myself.”

Be gentle with yourself. Listen to the calming voice within. And be sure to feed your fast talking, deep feeling, super insightful soul.

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Thank you to the clients and readers who inspired this post.

To my bloggEEs: Does this sound familiar? How does your perfectionism show up? What have you done to calm your anxiety? Did this happen to you or your kids in college? By the way, not all perfectionists are high achievers. But that’s the topic for a future post. For more posts on perfectionism from parents of gifted kids and from professionals, click on the link.


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If I’m So Smart, Why Do I Feel So Lost and Alone?

photo courtesy of Morgan Basham

There are times when you just want to scream.

Even though you’re a pacifist. Even though your instinct is to be compassionate and understanding. Even though you have empathy that overwhelms you. There are those days when you just want to say, “Why are there so many f—ed up, insensitive, clueless, exasperating people in the world?”

Am I right?

But this is not something that you can say to your cousin Randy, your neighbor Millie, or your friendly plumber, Rupert. Even if you’ve been unsure of your intelligence. Even if you think you’re also insensitive, clueless, and exasperating. You wonder how your coworkers can take so much time solving a problem when the answer is obvious to you. You don’t understand how your relatives can be satisfied watching mindless TV all afternoon or reading one book every few months. You question why your friends stay in one job for thirty years. You don’t grok why introspection isn’t as important as football.

Some of you may have known all along that you were gifted. You may have been frustrated since you were five with the kids who still couldn’t read Harry Potter or who didn’t know the earth’s distance from the sun. You may have had a hard time not throwing a chair when your teacher told you that you must wait for the others to catch up, again. You may have wondered why teachers didn’t appreciate your corrections of their spelling or why they ignored your raised hand. Perhaps, you felt that it was your duty to explain to the other kids how they weren’t playing the games correctly. You were sure they’d appreciate your direction.

They didn’t.

And now, as an adult, you’re still frustrated and lonely. Because you have high standards for accuracy, justice, and quality, you are enraged irritated by the shoddy workmanship of your contractor, by the irresponsibility of your supervisors, or by the petty arguments among your colleagues and relatives. How could they not know what is so obvious to you? How could they miss all of those details? How could they not care about the environmental impact of their actions? How could they be lacking in empathy, awareness, and sensitivity? How could they not consider the multiple many-faceted implications of life, the universe, and everything instead of their ridiculously simplistic, narrow-minded assumptions?

Perhaps, you have felt lost and alone for a long, long time.

I hear you.

What can you do?

  • Use that vast capacity you have for knowing, thinking, and feeling to expand your connection to sensation in your body-mind-heart. You might find great pleasure just by sinking into yourself and your connection to peace and beauty within and around you. If you need guidance, try a mindfulness app, a spiritual practice, Judith Blackstone’s Realization Process, or hikes in the forest or by the ocean. Feel your connection to Everything. Let your intuitive, empathic abilities expand.
  • Get enough psychotherapy so that you calm the fears of your traumatized inner child. Then, imagine that you have one year to live. What do you just have to do? What do you have to create? What is your purpose here on earth? What do you want to leave for the next generations?

We humans can be extraordinarily frustrating, irritating, fearful, narrow-minded, and confusing. You may still want to throw a chair.

I get it.

Let us scream together. Then, take a moment. Breathe. Feel your connection to rainforest minds around the world.

To the Universe.

To Everything.

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To my bloggEEs:  What are some ways that you take care of yourself when you experience exasperating humans and difficult events? In what ways are you developing your intuition? How are you building your self-confidence so that you can take action in the world? Do you have a spiritual practice where you feel a connection to Everything?

Thank you to the reader and client who inspired this.

I’ve started experimenting with recording my posts. If you’d like to listen, click here. But don’t worry. I won’t stop writing. I love it too much. And, I love you too much.

 

 


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I Have to Know it Before I Learn It — A Gifted Kid’s Conundrum

photo courtesy of Talen de St Croix, Unsplash

My 16-year-old client, I’ll call him Ben, was struggling in school. No one thought he was gifted. His grades were average. He didn’t turn in many assignments. He didn’t get high test scores. He was so anxious, he’d miss many days of school. His parents were confused. They knew he was capable of completing the homework. Why didn’t he just do it?

Because I’d seen many kids like this, I could tell that Ben was, indeed, gifted. He asked penetrating questions. Had multiple interests. Spent hours online researching musical genres , computer coding, bike repair, mathematics, psychological theories, and on and on.  He was highly sensitive and empathetic with all plants, animals, and humans.

Ben had difficulty relating to youngsters his age. The friends he did have, he wanted to rescue. They were often the troubled kids. He could feel their hopelessness and their anger and felt a responsibility to intervene. He didn’t understand why they didn’t respond well to his help or why they weren’t interested in his intellectual pursuits.

Ben wanted to learn what he wanted to learn and when he mastered, say, a new guitar playing technique, he’d raise the bar and keep questing for the next big thing. He’d spend many hours worrying about the future of the planet and how he might make an impact.

These are the traits of a gifted human; a person with a rainforest mind.

One day he said to me, I have to know everything before I learn it.

What?

I have to know everything before I learn it.

It took me some time to understand what he meant and why this was his experience.

Like many gifted children, Ben learned how to read at an early age. No one taught him to read. He just started reading. Learning was easy. He’d read and he’d remember. He could watch someone riding a bike and be successful on the first try. He taught himself guitar. When he started school, he already knew the material. He knew it before he learned it.

This was the conundrum.

He came to believe that all learning should come easily. If it didn’t, there was something terribly wrong. Ben never learned how to study. Or that it was normal for some learning to be a struggle. Ironically, even though he felt like a failure and like he wasn’t smart because of his experiences in school, he also believed that he shouldn’t have to study something to understand it. This created confusion, anxiety, paralysis, and avoidance when there was a chance that he might not grasp a concept fast enough or succeed at a task. If it wasn’t easy, he didn’t do it.

With gifted kids who, unlike Ben, have been told repeatedly that they’re so smart, this is still a problem. They also know it before they learn it. And they can feel great pressure to achieve, to please the adults who are praising them, and to prove their worth through their accomplishments. So, for them, if they’re facing a difficult task, their identity is threatened. And they, too, can experience confusion, anxiety, paralysis, and avoidance.

Either way, having to know it before you learn it, is a tricky proposition.

And you wondered why it was so hard to parent these kids?

Or to be one yourself?

Welcome to your rainforest mind.

And to one of its many tangled, multi-layered, sticky, complicated conundrums.

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To my bloggEEs: Was this you? Tell us how you dealt with the pressure to always know it before you learned it. To have the right answer. To prove how smart you were. Do you avoid activities where you might not succeed? Did you learn how to study? We’d love to hear from you. Your experiences make this blog so much richer. And thank you, dearest ones, for being here.

And for more information about gifted kids, here’s a recent podcast interview with me and Kathleen Casper of the Florida Association for the Gifted. We’re talking about the social, emotional, and academic issues gifted children face. Join us!

 

 


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Time to Agree: Gifted Kids Exist

 

photo courtesy of Zachary Nelson, Unsplash

• I think it’s time we acknowledged that super smart kids do exist.

The eight year old who wants to be Richard Feynman for Halloween. The five year old reading The Chronicles of Narnia. The four year old who cries listening to Mozart. The ten year old whose favorite pastime is watching BBC documentaries. The six year old who refuses to eat meat for ethical reasons. The nine year old who rescues the grasshoppers on the playground. The ten year old whose poetry breaks your heart. The fourteen year old who’d rather read David Foster Wallace than hang out on social media.

Gifted kids exist. We don’t love them any more than any other kids. All children are precious. But, we have to agree. Most eight years olds don’t aspire to be Richard Feynman.

• I think it’s time that we no longer felt threatened by our super smart kids.

What if we let them correct our spelling errors and appreciated their desire for accuracy? What if we were supportive of their intellectual needs and let them read, research, question and dive as much as they wanted?  What if we didn’t have to know everything that they know about narwhals? What if we don’t need to share their passion for reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy eleven times but we do need to love their intensity and get out of the way? What if we recognize how darned lonely they are as they yearn to meet even just one person who truly gets them?

Gifted kids exist. Sure, a six year old who knows more than you do about the origin of the universe might be a bit unsettling, threatening even, especially if you’re the science teacher. But, we have to agree. It’s OK that I don’t know what narwhals are and that you probably don’t either.

• I think it’s time that we made school a vibrant, nourishing place for our super smart kids.

What if they didn’t have to hide their capacity to get A’s without studying because the work was so challenging that they had to study? What if they didn’t have to underachieve so the other kids wouldn’t feel bad? What if we didn’t put them under pressure because they’re so smart, by over-emphasizing their achievements and their potential?  What if we didn’t ridicule and bully them because we feared their supposed arrogance or were jealous of their abilities? What if we redesigned our school systems so each child’s needs could be met and teachers would be paid the same as George Clooney for his next movie.

Gifted kids exist. They come in all colors, shapes, and sizes.

Let’s all agree. Shall we?

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To my bloggEEs: Please share your reactions, thoughts, feelings, and questions. What were you like when you were a child? If you’re a parent, how do your issues overlap with those of your child? For more on gifted children, here’s a great article from Gail Post, psychologist in eastern Pennsylvania, USA. Her article actually inspired mine. Thanks, Gail!

And for those of you looking for a fun outing on June 2, 2018, Linda Silverman and I will be presenting at our very own one day Gifted Women Symposium in Denver, CO. (Apologies, fellas!) I’d love to meet you. Registration is open now.

And one more thing, a documentary about giftedness, called The G Word, will be coming out sometime in 2019. You won’t want to miss it. Here’s a taste.

 

 


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Educators: What To Do About The G Word (#Gifted)

logo courtesy of The G Word film

You don’t have to use the G Word.

Even though, let’s face it, you use it for athletes, artists and your quirky Aunt Millie.

But you do have to recognize that gifted children exist in your school.

Because they do.

I’m talking about the kids you know who, from a very early age, are faster learners, deeper thinkers and more sensitive feelers. Who ask questions you can’t answer. Who correct your spelling. Who know more than you do about black holes. Who cry when other children are hurt on the playground. Who are overwhelmed at birthday parties. Who annoyingly hang out at your desk because they’d rather talk to you about Darwin than talk to the other six-year-olds about the letter A.

You know who I’m talking about.

This is not about loving these kids more or singling them out as superstars. They don’t want that. That doesn’t help them.

If they’re told things like: You’re so smart. You can do anything. You’re so lucky. Or Why did you get that B? Learning should always be easy for you. Or Stop asking so many questions. Nobody likes a know-it-all. Or No, you can’t read ahead. They’ll get anxious.

They’ll feel like they can’t ask for help. Like they can’t make mistakes. Like they have to know everything before they learn it. Like they’ll disappoint you if they don’t live up to your expectations. Like they have to hide their abilities and their enthusiasm.

But, still.

You don’t have to use the G Word.

But you do have to find ways to meet their academic needs and to understand their extra-sensitivities. Some of those ways are described in this post and this one. It’s not as hard as it seems. In fact, these kids will love you if you make the time to listen to them. Start an after school club for philosophers or mathematicians. Nourish their interests and let them read ahead! Don’t assume that they aren’t doing the homework because they’re lazy or defiant. Get creative with your curriculum. Use Carol Dweck’s work on mindsets to reduce the pressure on your (gifted) students. Explore Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences model if you want to help all of your students understand learning differences and abilities.

And one more thing.

I’m not saying that you can’t use the G Word.

In fact, it could help.

One of my students, years ago, was relieved to hear that he was gifted. His response, Oh, that’s what’s wrong with me. He had his own label. Several of them: weirdo, alien, nerd, crybaby, loner, freak, crazy.

But. You don’t have to use the G Word.

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(Note: Whether you label or not, gifted kids will need help understanding their complexities. Their perfectionism, sensitivities/ empathy, loneliness, existential depression and anxieties. Their rainforest minds. Send them or their parents to this blog, for a place to start. And thank you, dear teachers, for your caring hearts.)

Thank you to my niece, Alicia, for inspiring this post and for being an extraordinary teacher and human.

Speaking of The G Word, a powerful documentary on that topic will be released in 2019. Here’s some information about it.

To my bloggEEs: My niece sent me this video from Stanford professor, Jo Boaler. It inspired this post. Let us know what you think. Thank you, as always, for being here.


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Gifted, Sensitive, Curious Children In School — What Can Parents And Teachers Do?

photo courtesy of Les Anderson, Unsplash

You would think that kids who love literature, enjoy mathematical puzzles and scientific enigmas and who are curious beyond measure, would be high achievers in school and a teacher’s dream.

There are times when this is the case: When curriculum is challenging and engaging. When teachers are sensitive, enthusiastic, kind, creative, smart, flexible and organized. When classes are reasonable sizes. When administrators are supportive. When teachers get plenty of massages, dark chocolate, sleep.

And when giftedness is understood and appreciated.

Let me help you with that.

Meet six-year-old Ben. Eager to enter school, he was reading at age 4 and fascinated by the BBC documentaries on Planet Earth. He asked complicated questions about natural disasters, climate change, ancient Egypt and bacteria and told anyone who would listen about his discoveries. Ben cried easily when children or animals were hurt. He was bullied for his sensitivity and empathy. He didn’t understand why he had to practice his addition facts when he was multiplying fractions. Ben dreamed of becoming an astronaut-paleontologist-artist-poet when he grew up. He wanted to be Richard Feynman for Halloween.

Meet Louise. She loved reading and learning but was overwhelmed by middle school. Overcrowded classrooms, buzzing lights, strange odors, disrespectful students who didn’t care about learning, frustrated teachers, mean girls and the pressure to be perfect all triggered her extreme anxiety and her existential depression. She appeared confident and arrogant. She was neither. She refused to go back to school.

Meet Carmen. Even though she was an exceptional writer and former straight-A student, she was failing high school English and math. She’d become discouraged over the years with the repetitive assignments and excessive homework. But she wasn’t turning in her writing for another reason this time. Carmen had very high expectations for herself and spent hours agonizing over particular words and the interconnections within her research. There were so many ideas demanding her attention that a 5 page paper turned into a doctoral thesis. But no one ever knew. She never turned it in.

These are just a few of the gifted children that I’ve known.

What can teachers do?

Get to know all of the faces of giftedness and the ways gifted children might look ungifted. Don’t assume that these kids are lazy or arrogant or immature or ADHD if they’re not achieving. Make the time (I know you don’t have much time. It’ll be worth it.) to talk individually with them. Be curious and listen to what they tell you. Problem solve together. Be flexible with deadlines and curriculum. If you use the multiple intelligences model in your classroom, all students will expect that some assignments might be different for some kids. Reduce the amount of rote learning and repetition for the students who don’t need it. Fight for better funding for schools. Get enough massages, dark chocolate and sleep.

What can parents do?

Get involved at the school and be supportive of staff. Look for the sensitive, flexible teachers and bribe them explain nicely why your child ought to be in their class. Help your older children advocate for themselves by helping them talk directly to teachers about concerns and needs. Access school counselors and former teachers who loved your youngster, so they can be advocates. If you run into lots of roadblocks, there are options. Explore acceleration, charter schools, private schools, micro schools, homeschooling, early graduation, early college, online classes, part-time school, and tutoring. Join an online parent support group. Fight for better funding for schools. Get enough massages, dark chocolate and sleep.

There are more tips for teachers in this post. More suggestions for parents are here.

Gifted children like Ben, Louise and Carmen are extremely curious, eager learners. They can appear to be ungifted when their sensitivities, intensities, divergent thinking and perfectionism are misunderstood. They can appear to be ungifted when they resist certain assignments, suffer from anxiety or depression and stop achieving.

Teachers who understand this and appreciate these children? Teachers who are sensitive, enthusiastic, kind, creative, smart, flexible and organized? Well, they will be a gifted kid’s dream. They will be loved beyond measure.

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your experiences with your kids or yourself in school. What challenges did you face? What successes? If you’re a teacher, let us know what it’s like for you. As always, thank you all for being here.