Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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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.

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Sensitivity Is Your Superpower

In times like these, you may wish that you had less sensitivity. Life as an empathetic soul is often overwhelming. It can be easy to fall into despair or anxiety. And because you are capable in multiple ways, relatives, friends, coworkers, neighbors, strangers, plants and animals may be clamoring for your assistance. 

You may be happy to help. It could be your calling to serve others . But you might feel inadequate because you aren’t the one dragging people out of burning buildings. You aren’t the one rushing into war zones to cover the atrocities.

And the clamoring may make you want to stay in bed. On your good days. On your bad days, it may make you want to pulverize the clamorers, if you know what I mean. ( Just because you’re sensitive doesn’t mean that you never feel drawn to pulverizing. I don’t recommend doing it. I’m just saying… )

You need to understand that your sensitivity is your strength. Being perceptive, empathetic, compassionate and intuitive are skills that the world needs. Desperately.

But because you’re a sensitive soul, there are some things that you need to know.

First: Just because you can sense someone’s pain, doesn’t mean that you’re responsible for fixing it.  Just because you can do something faster, better and more easily than other people, doesn’t mean that you have to do that something. Practice saying no. Think of it like this: There are many helpers out there. You’re giving someone else a chance to step up. You’re helping someone else learn. I’m not saying that you should shirk your responsibilities. I’m just suggesting that it’s healthy to set boundaries and limits. You’re very capable in many areas. It’s impossible and inappropriate for you to do everything you could possibly do. Exhausting yourself? Not recommended. Look for the times when you’re drawn to something because it’s energizing. Head in that direction.

Second: Get toxic people out of your life. They’ll get help elsewhere. You may be enabling them by letting them rely on you; and we all know that enabling is a no-no. And, by the way, the toxic people might include family members. In that case, get them out of your life, too. ( If that sounds harsh, it is. Most certainly, try therapy first and blunt discussions, if you’re so inclined. But for the truly toxic, you may need to say bye-bye.*) You’ll feel guilt. Try to let go of the guilt. Tell yourself that you’re healing the legacy of dysfunction in your family line. That your ancestors are benefitting. Because they are. ( Trust me on that one. ) Everyone benefits when you stand up for yourself.

Third: Self-care is your friend. You are not a wimp if you need to rest.

Finally: Appreciate your sensitivity. It makes you powerful. Your awareness and your capacity for compassion and loving is vast. And surely this planet, your relatives, friends, coworkers, neighbors, strangers, plants, animals and even your politicians, need all of the love and compassion they can get.

Sensitivity is your superpower.

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* I know that in some cases you won’t be able to say good-bye to toxic family members. In those cases, do your best to set limits, protect yourself and get support.

To my dear bloggEEs: Tell us about your sensitivities. How do you protect yourself from the clamorers? Describe how you use your superpower. And thank you, as always, for being here.


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How Can You Be Too Much And Not Enough At The Same Time?

photo courtesy of Joshua Earle, Unsplash

How is it possible to be both too much and not enough at the same time?

Here’s how:

Reasons you think that you are too much:

You question too much. You read too much. You think too much. You feel too much. You talk too much. You research too much. You do too much. You know too much.

You are too intense. Too sensitive. Too empathetic. Too curious. Too obsessive. Too smart. Too geeky. Too emotional. Too self-absorbed. Too compassionate. Too introspective. Too intuitive. Too analytical. Too creative. Too idealistic. Too weird.

Reasons you think that you are not enough:

You’ll never meet your high expectations. You know how much you don’t know. You haven’t won a Nobel prize. You haven’t invented anything “insanely great.” You dropped out of college. You dropped out of elementary school. You couldn’t save your parents from their dysfunctional patterns. You have too many interests. You haven’t settled on one career. You don’t have friends. Your mother said so. You haven’t lived up to “your great potential.” You’re easily overwhelmed. Your friends do so much more than you do. Your gifted child is getting bad grades in school and hitting kids on the playground. You make mistakes.

What is the truth?

If you have a rainforest mind, which you know you do, pretty much everything about you is MORE. It’s not too much. It’s just more. It’s natural for the jungle to be more. More life. More death. More growth. More wild. More you.

But not everyone is comfortable in the jungle. And your moreness probably includes massive amounts of self-analysis, self-criticism and self-awareness.

Which leads you to. You guessed it. Not enoughness.

How paradoxical of you.

Lucky that you have a rainforest mind so that you can appreciate paradox.

And what do you do about it?

Here’s an idea from one of our lovely bloggEEs:

“…I think it’s “ok” to be too much, but have come to understand that the mainstream sometimes needs it organized, categorized, and occasionally drip-fed to be palatable. Sort of a form of self-curation, a rotation of the collections… even the world’s greatest museums don’t have their entire collections on display…”

And here’s another idea from the great rainforest mind of Maya Angelou:

“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”

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To my bloggEEs: Do you struggle with too muchness and not enoughness? How do you handle it? Thank you to the reader who made the above comment and to the reader who inspired this post. Comments are greatly appreciated by all of us. Please. Show us your collection. We can handle it.

And if you’re looking for more support and strategies and haven’t read my book yet, well, what are you waitin’ fer??? And if you have read my book, thank you. Let us know your thoughts.


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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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What Does Gifted Look Like? Clearing Up Your Confusion

photo courtesy Marcus Dall Col, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy Marcus Dall Col, Unsplash, CC

People are astonished by how much you can do. You think you’re lazy. There’s so much that you’re not doing.

People tell you how smart you are. You feel dumb. You know how much you don’t know and you still haven’t decided what you want to be when you grow up.

People admire your (musical, artistic, mathematical, linguistic, etc.) talents. You think they’re patronizing you. You notice all of the mistakes you make. Surely, they do, too, but they’re too polite to mention them.

How is it possible that you see yourself as a lazy not-so-smart slacker and others see you as so-lucky-to-be-gifted? How can your sense of yourself be so different from how others see you?

Like life in the rain forest, it’s complicated.

Maybe it’s your super high expectations. You don’t realize that others don’t have similar standards. Doesn’t everyone want to create beauty, balance, harmony and justice all of the time? Don’t all people value precision?

Um, no.

Maybe it’s your enthusiasm for learning about, well, everything. Isn’t everyone obsessed with reading and researching multiple disparate topics instead of sleeping, which is such a waste of time? Aren’t all people thrilled that MIT is offering classes online? Doesn’t everyone dream of changing career paths every 3-5 years?

Not really.

Maybe it’s your capacity for observing and perceiving and noticing. Isn’t everyone bothered by the buzzing florescent lights, the crooked pictures on the wall, the house in your neighborhood that was painted chartreuse?

Nope.

Maybe it’s your extra sensitivity and empathy. Can’t everyone feel the distress in the room? Isn’t everyone overwhelmed by the news? Don’t all humans want to save the world?

Nah.

So, if you’re confused by the difference between the feedback that you get and your own self-perception, time to get unconfused. Maybe it’s your highest standards, your zest for learning, your keen capacity to perceive, your intense sensitivity and your exceptional empathy.

Maybe that is what gifted looks like.

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To my bloggEEs: Thank you to the reader who suggested this topic. Let us know if you’ve lived with this confusion and what you think and feel about it. I appreciate hearing from you! By the way, there’s another factor that might contribute to your confusion: Growing up in a dysfunctional family. Find out more here and here.

There’s a new podcast interview of me. You can find it here. It’s a two-parter from Christy Harvey about gifted adults and parenting gifted kids.

And here’s an earlier podcast, if you haven’t heard it. This one is from Aurora Remember with a focus on me!


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The Benefits Of Being Gifted

photo courtesy of Rowan Heuvel, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy of Rowan Heuvel, Unsplash, CC

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m focusing on all of the many challenges that can exist when you have a rainforest mind. What about all of the good stuff, you might ask. Are there benefits to having a rainforest mind and, if there are, can you acknowledge them? And not feel guilty?

I imagine that you experience, on a daily basis, how it’s not easy being green gifted. But many people assume that it’s a perfectly fabulous life of great achievement and private jets that fly you to your second home mansion on your personal island paradise every other weekend. Maybe you also believed that, and so, because your life isn’t perfectly fabulous, you assumed that you weren’t gifted.

And it may be hard to speak about your actual strengths and accomplishments, without being seen as arrogant, conceited or insensitive. Without feeling guilty. That you don’t deserve these abilities and achievements. That it was a fluke that you got that award or that promotion. And it’s weird that people keep asking you how you know so much. When you know how much you don’t know.

How, then, can you identify your strengths, accept them, and be comfortable in your intense, emotional, supersmart, sensitive skin?

For starters: Here’s my handy dandy list of ways your rainforest mind is beneficial:

Sensitivity: Makes you a better parent, healer, therapist, colleague, cook, artist, political activist, dancer, musician, teacher, spouse, medical professional, realtor, electrician, plumber, neighbor, everything. You see? Whatever you do. Being sensitive makes you better at it. You’re perceptive. You notice things others don’t. You have deep emotions. You care. Think of it this way: Would you prefer working with a sensitive dentist or an insensitive one?

Intensity: You’re passionate, mysterious, and fascinating. You can get a lot done in a short amount of time. You scare away people you’d rather not talk to anyway.

Fast, deep, and wide learning; Curiosity: The world needs more people who actually know something, think deeply, ask questions, seek answers and analyze possibilities. When things get dull, you can always captivate yourself.

Sense of humor: You are fun to have around in uncomfortable situations. People will overlook your quirks.

Creativity: Whether it’s art, music, inventing, problem solving, designing, filming, synthesizing, rocket launching, brainstorming, writing, parenting, teaching, knitting or something else, your creating is medicine.

Perfectionism: You have the intrinsic driving need to create beauty, harmony, balance and justice. If you’re a surgeon, you’re very popular.

Empathy: See sensitivity. It makes you a better everything. You understand and feel the hearts of humans, animals and plants. You’ll probably never start a war.

Multipotentiality: You can change jobs easily when things get dull. There are countless ways that you are useful. Your children will appreciate how entertaining you are. Your memoir will be a bestseller.

Social conscience: You need to make the world a better place. And because of your sensitivity, intensity, learning capacity, curiosity, sense of humor, creativity, perfectionism, empathy and multipotentiality, you will make it so.

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Thank you to the bloggEE who requested this topic. I’m open to other topic suggestions as well. In what ways do you appreciate your rainforest traits? Make a list of your strengths. How have you and others benefitted from your giftedness? Your comments, questions, and ideas are most welcome!

 


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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

(This post was first published on intergifted, a great site for gifted adults.)

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.