Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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The Gifted Extrovert

photo courtesy of Emile Guillemot

I’ve been ignoring you. Those of you who are extroverts. My last post favored introverts. As did this one on Rebelle Society (adapted from the blog post). And I wrote a piece on IntrovertDear that will be out February 1st. ( How I Found a Career That Had Introvert Written All Over It ) You’ll want to read that one. It describes my personal trek “from extrovert wannabe to introvert queen.” Which, you see, is the thing. My bias. I’m a wholehearted, full-throated, undeniable introvert.

Even though it may be that more introverts choose therapy, so those are the people I spend most of my days with, I’ve met enough extroverts in my practice and personal life that I can tell you about them.

(Note: You may not identify as either extrovert or introvert. You might say that it depends on the context. That you’re multifaceted. OK. Then you might be an ambivert. Very rainforest-y of you.)

I love extroverts. I wanted to be one. In many cases (there are always exceptions): You carry the conversation. Get me out of my house. Have fascinating stories to tell.  Introduce me to your friends. Chair the meeting. Run for office. Organize the bake sale. Set up the Go Fund Me campaign. Attend the political protests. You are energetic, dynamic, and witty collaborators.

But it’s not all that simple when extroverts have rainforest minds.

I remember Rosemary. She was a grad student in the music department at our local university. Articulate, generous, and brilliant. Rosemary yearned for friends and mentors. But she was several steps ahead of everyone she met. Even her professors couldn’t keep up. Rosemary loved collaborations. She depended on them. But it was hard to find people who wanted to work with her. She had more experience and knowledge than her peers and ran out of patience when they didn’t measure up to her expectations. She would “pump the brakes” to slow herself down, but it usually wasn’t enough.

I remember when she told me about finally finding a couple of cohorts who agreed to go out for drinks after class. She was looking forward to deeply invigorating analysis, debate, and fun. But it didn’t happen. She said she was so disappointed, but not surprised. Her level of intellect and enthusiasm wasn’t matched. She was hitting her stride at 1am when they were heading home. The constant experience of loneliness was overwhelming.

Another client, Jill, said that her introvert friends enjoyed movies alone or were irritated by interruptions during a film. For her, movie going was a shared experience. Both during the film and after. Noticing the reactions and responses of her friends. Analysis on the way home. The film was an opportunity for human interaction. Jill also loved big musical events for what she described as “mirroring my experience, a tethering” and an essential experience of existence and belonging. She liked to be anonymous where no one asked anything of her. She could dive into the crowd and experience the “organism.” Feeling a part of humanity and being nourished by the large, pulsing energy of the group.

Loneliness is an issue for all rainforest minds. But it’s so much trickier for extroverts.  As you can see, extroverts are energized by groups of people. Humans are your fuel. Also, if you’re an external processor, which many of you are, you need a person to externally process with. It’s not very satisfying to talk out loud to yourself! And if the few people you do find, can’t keep up with you, even when you pump your brakes, you have no reliable source of rejuvenation and nourishment.

What this means, then, is that it’s essential that you understand yourself as someone with a rainforest mind and then use your charm and verbal skills to find your pack. I know you may feel discouraged and hopeless after years of trying. But other gifted extroverts are out there! Here are some suggestions on how to find them. Another source I’ve found recently is The School of Life based in the UK.

So, my dears, whether you’re an extrovert, introvert, or ambivert, we’re all in the rainforest mind clan. So dive in. Get nourished. You belong here.

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To my bloggEEs: Are you an extrovert? Can you give us some examples of what that means to you and how you grapple with loneliness? We also want to hear from the introverts and ambiverts who are here. What are your thoughts, feelings, and questions? And, I realize that you live all over the world. So if my descriptions aren’t accurate for cultural or other reasons, please let me know! And let us know where you live. What are the attitudes toward rainforest-mindedness in your country?

Thanks to the clients who inspired this post. And thank you to you all.


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How To Deal With Under-Thinkers When You’re An Over-Thinker

photo courtesy Yeshi Kangrang, Unsplash

You’ve been called an over-thinker. You never. stop. thinking. Deep, wide, fast thinking comes naturally to your rainforest mind. You may need to learn to appreciate your capacity for complexity, analysis, synthesis, and learning instead of seeing yourself as obsessive, neurotic and diagnosable.

But what about the under-thinkers in the world? I’m not mentioning any names. How do you manage to work with them? To befriend them?  To live with them?

I realize that this is a tricky topic. I’ll try not to offend.

You may have been frustrated in your interactions because you experience many humans as slowish or lazy or rigid.  You think that they could do what you do or understand what you understand. If they tried harder. If they listened better. If they read the books you’re reading. You don’t realize that what’s obvious to you may be baffling to them.

Maybe you think everyone loves to wonder about dark matter.

Maybe you think everyone’s happy place is the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Maybe you think everyone would like to teach themselves chess for fun.

Maybe you think everyone in the Air Force could also learn Arabic if they wanted to.

Uh huh.

Here’s how I see it: Your capacity for thinking, wondering, knowing and feeling is large. You were born that way. The under-thinkers just have less capacity. A less powerful operating system. They’re meadows not rain forests. I don’t know the brain equivalent. Maybe you have more neurons firing? More synapses connecting? (If there’s a neuroscientist reading this, please help me out by commenting below.)

This I do know. It’s not about trying harder.

This is not to say under-thinkers are lesser humans. Noooooo. And actually, they’re just under-thinkers in relation to you. Most of them are regular, normal, fine upstanding thinkers.

All that said, understanding this may not decrease your frustration with regular, normal, fine upstanding thinkers. (formerly known as under-thinkers) It may still be hard for you to wait for them to catch up with you in a business meeting. It may still be hard for you to watch their eyes glaze over when you gush about neutrinos. It may still be hard for you to listen to your self-righteous colleagues explain feminist theory and dismiss your questions as a sign of your missing PhD-ness.

So, I don’t have any specific suggestions right now on how to deal with regular, normal, fine upstanding thinkers. But at least you can stop pathologizing yourself. You can stop trying to undo your over-thinking. You can find other rainforest minds and jump into the depths with them. You can seek a career path that values your complexity. You can find an online group that loves curiosity. You can express your frustration using the art form that you’ve avoided all these years. You can go to a conference where other rainforest-y folks mingle. You can learn self-soothing techniques for when you overwhelm yourself and others.

And when you meet humans formerly known as under-thinkers and they harass you because you think too much, remind yourself that you’re actually a deep, wide, fast thinking rainforest-minded fine upstanding human.

Formerly known as an over-thinker.

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To my bloggEEs: Giftedness may be about being differently wired. What do you think? Do you know of any recent resources/articles that would explain this well? How do you deal with the under-thinkers in your life?

And, by the way, I will be presenting at that conference I mention above that’s in Chicago, USA, August 4-6, 2017. Just imagine, a whole conference full of rainforest minds. If you go, I’d love to meet you!

(For those of you concerned about my spelling: I suspect that over-thinker may actually be two words, over thinker. And under-thinker may actually not be a word at all. I apologize. I know this will annoy some of you. Please forgive me. As you know, I mess with words occasionally. After all, I took “rain forest” and made it into an adjective and spelled it rainforest. Thank you for putting up with me.)