Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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Loving the Wounded Gifted Child Within

photo courtesy of chinh le duc, Unsplash

When you were a little tyke, you probably had passions, curiosities, quirks, and quests.

You may have corrected the adults who didn’t know the difference between crimson and red. You may have wondered why the other kids wanted to be bunny rabbits for Halloween when they could be Richard Feynman. You may have corrected your teacher’s spelling. You may have cried when you heard a Bach concerto. You may have read every Ray Bradbury book you could find. You may have preferred BBC documentaries to Mickey Mouse. You may have questioned why the other five-year-olds were so immature and what it was about birthday parties that they loved so much. You may have organized a fund drive for the homeless kids in your town.

If you grew up in a dysfunctional or abusive home, you may have protected your siblings from harm. You may have hidden your sensitivities while fine-tuning your capacity for vigilance.  You may have been the most responsible one in the family. You may have become an expert nurturer of others and a lousy self-carer. You may have become a super-achiever. You may have been lost in a swamp of depression, anxiety, too-many-decisions, troubled relationships, and convoluted potential. You may have expected yourself to heal your parent’s addictions single-handedly; To be perfectly perfect at all times.

That little tyke? Needs your love.

You might think that it should be easy to love that child.

It’s not that simple.

Sure, you have lots of empathy. For others. But when it comes to yourself, you may feel judgment, criticism, doubt, and despair. You may feel that your child self is too emotional, too needy, too scared, too bossy. Too noisy. Too powerful. Maybe you will be overwhelmed with grief or anger if you acknowledge that little one. Or you will get stuck in the past when you think you should be letting go and moving on. Or you will be too vulnerable.

What you need to know is that the wounded gifted child in you is waiting. For your attention. Validation. Company. The wounded child doesn’t need much really. From you. Your understanding of what they have been through. Of why they get frightened or feel out of control or want to hide. Of why they need security and predictability now. Your empathy. Your patience. Your acceptance.

But that may be hard for you until you have been in therapy for a while and experienced what healthy validation feels like. From a loving, reliable adult who knows the journey. Who has rescued their own lost gifted child self. A therapist who knows that the road to heal a family legacy of abuse and neglect, generations of trauma, takes courage and time.

A therapist who loves your passions, curiosities, quirks, and quests.

Who loves you.

And their own little tyke.

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To my bloggEEs: I understand that it might take time to find the right therapist. Here are some places to look. In the meantime, there are some things you can do. Look for articles and books about Internal Family Systems Therapy. Or books about inner child work or Jungian active imagination. Keep a journal where you start a relationship with the many parts of yourself. Gather photos and special objects and build a small altar to your younger self.

In the comments, let us know if you have done any inner child work and what that has been like. We all benefit from your sweet sharing.

And, your inner child might like my latest book. Find it here. My first book has examples of inner child work in therapy in the case studies, if you’d like to learn more. And hugs and love to you and your sensitive, passionate, curious, smart, quirky little ones.

 


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Just Released! Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens…

It is finally here! The book you have been waiting for! The best of my blog (2014-2018) all organized into a sweet little field guide that you can carry with you in times of stress, despair, and boredom. A book with more ideas to help you dive into your depths and find the jewels. A book that is entertaining and light-hearted enough that even your most reluctant teenager might take a look. A book that will help your therapists, teachers, doctors, and your insufferable Aunt Charlotte understand you.

While my first book is full of in-depth case studies and details that you may be reading more than once, over time, because it is a lot to take in at once, this one is full of explanations, reminders, humor, and suggestions that are easy to ingest and grok and do. Your favorite blog posts will appear like old friends ready to give you big hugs and kisses.

Of course, if you don’t yet have my first book, you will need to get that one, too, while you’re at it. And, you might even want to write a review. (Don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be long or perfect or brilliant. But it can be.)

And speaking of reviews, here is one from the super rainforest-y Dr. Melanie Hayes, the founder and director of the Big Minds Unschool in California. (a great resource for families with twice-exceptional kids)

“For those of you who have had the pleasure (and profound reassurance) of reading Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, this companion book deepens your sojourn into your mental wilderness. Paula Prober’s wisdom and experience is evident on every page. You will find no better guide to help you examine all of the complex nuances of having a mind that is teeming with inexplicable life! Each chapter looks at ways in which gifted persons are uniquely sensitive, creative, and expressive; and gives them multiple signposts and pathways to find appropriate support. Reading this book will leave you feeling validated, accommodated, and celebrated; ready to fully explore what is waiting for you in your own rainforest mind.”

So, my darling bloggEEs, time to “fully explore what is waiting for you.” Go here and get yourself some love, and some hugs and kisses. You will be glad you did. And I will be enormously grateful.

 

 


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New Book Coming Soon! More Guidance for Your Overthinking, Sensitive, Curious, Gifted Self

My next book is almost here!

What? A new book? What’s it about? you might ask.

Well. This one came from you.

You have asked that my blog to be turned into a book. You have wanted my posts to be organized by topic. You have needed more specific suggestions on how to deepen your understanding of your complexities. You have wanted a companion to my first book: A book that is a faster, more light-hearted read. One that your relatives, friends, teachers, and your therapists might be more willing to peruse to gain a greater understanding of your rainforest-mindedness.

Well, my darlings, your book is almost here. I wanted you to be the first to know. It doesn’t replace Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth. That book is my first child. And it is still the in-depth look at giftedness in adults and youth, via case studies and stories of real rainforest-minded humans, with lots of resources for further study. This new book contains my most popular blog posts from 2014-2018 along with journal-writing and other suggestions to take you further into your inner worlds.

I’m going indie with this one, with the help of Luminare Press here in Eugene, Oregon, USA, so it will be available in paper and ebook on Amazon. But you will be able to order it from your favorite independent bookstore, too. I’m hoping to launch before the end of June 2019.

I’ll announce the birth launch here and on social media as soon as it’s available for purchase. And thank you, in advance, for your rave reviews and for buying copies for your parents, teenagers, cousins, teachers, neighbors, and therapists. Of course, if you still don’t have my first book, it is not too late! Both books together make a fine comprehensive, complimentary pair. (and now my first book has that fabulous cover)

And so, my dear bloggEEs, thank you, as always, for your sensitivity, intensity, curiosity, intuition, idealism, creativity, courage, intellect, failures, doubts, fears, hopes, questions, dreams, and awarenesses. Thank you for joining me in this fascinating adventure. Much love to each of you.


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Managing Your Young Gifted Child’s (And Your) Emotional Intensity

photo courtesy of Jordan Whitt, Unsplash

You would think that a super smart person would be cool, calm, and collected. Capable of handling emotion when it infrequently and inconveniently trickled out. Analytically above the fray. Lost in thought about bosons, quarks, and string theory. Logical. Not particularly emotionally expressive.

You would think.

But the gifted children and grownups that I know, well, they have EMOTIONS. Their capacity for intense, deep, effervescent feeling is enormous. Granted, if they are males, this sensitivity often goes underground when they reach adolescence. (For more on this, go here.) But if you are raising a gifted little boy, you know what I’m talking about. EMOTIONS. People are just a bit more understanding when our girls express emotion. But, if females are too passionate, too angry, too critical, too sad, too joyful, or too assertive, well, that is also seen as unacceptable.

You have probably heard about Dabrowski’s study of giftedness and his explanation of overexcitabilities (OEs). He said that it is part of the nature of a gifted person to have intensities in many areas, including emotion, sensation, intellect, psychomotor, and imagination.

So, you can relax. You haven’t ruined your children.  And you aren’t an anomaly. Or a weirdo. There’s just a lot going on in the rainforest. A LOT.

So, what can you do?

Start with self-understanding. Your emotions are an important part of who you are. Make time to nourish yourself. Soothe your anxiety. Calm your nervous system. Find others who appreciate your depth. Remember that you have a rainforest mind which means that you are highly sensitive with high expectations and standards for your behavior. Then you can stay calmer when your child’s emotions are splashing around or bursting out in embarrassing ways at the restaurant, or the library, or in front of your in-laws.

Acknowledge your child’s emotions so that your child feels seen and understood. After that, it will be easier to problem solve with your child and to set appropriate limits and boundaries.  “I see that you’re feeling frustrated right now because you can’t get what you want.” “I wonder if you’re feeling sad about that.” “I hear you when you say that you’re ‘stupid’ because you didn’t do well on the test. Can you tell me more about that?” “I see that you’re mad and want to hit someone. Hitting is not OK. Use your words to tell me how you feel. I can help.” 

Try the container method. Explain to your child, during a calm period, how there are times when it is important to put big feelings into a container when it’s not safe or appropriate to express them. Then they can let the feelings out when they are safe at home. An eight-year-old I worked with decided he’d put his angry feelings into a coconut when he was in school where he was being bullied. On days when the coconut wasn’t enough, he’d reinforce it with diamonds and make it as large as a truck. When he arrived at home, he could draw pictures of his feelings and explain them to his parents.

Practice self-soothing strategies. A gifted child’s constant questions, verbal agility, and need for intellectual stimulation can be exhausting. Make a list of tools to calm your child and yourself. Tell your child that you are learning how to take good care of yourself, too.  Your child can even remind you when they notice you’re stressed. Slow breathing, calming music, positive self-talk, singing, getting out into nature, exercise, taking a bath, massage, essential oils, and listening to a story or podcast can help. There are meditation apps such as Insight Timer for when you get some alone time. See the resources below for more ideas. Your sensitive child will feel and may react when you are out-of-whack so you’ll want to stay in-whack as much as you can.

Get therapy if you are frequently over-reacting to your child’s intense emotions. If you’ve grown up with any kind of abuse, trauma, or neglect, you’ll likely be triggered by your child’s emotional outbursts, particularly when your child reaches an age when you experienced a traumatic event. It can be hard to find the right psychotherapist so give yourself time to shop around. There are some suggestions here. The School of Life in the UK is also a good resource.

More resources: If you only have time to read one book, I’d recommend Eileen Kennedy-Moore’s Smart Parenting for Smart Kids. She writes about very specific issues that might not be addressed in general parenting books. If you have time for more, check out Mary Kurcinka’s Raising Your Spirited Child. Also Living with Intensity by Daniels and Piechowski. Psychologist Gail Post‘s blog. Tina Bryson and Dan Siegel’s books and websites. Tina Harlow and her free ebook: Helping Gifted Kids ThriveChristine Fonseca‘s book on emotional intensity. Facebook groups on parenting gifted and 2e kids.

It can be challenging to be the parent of a gifted child. You might be particularly hard on yourself and extra anxious and you may feel super responsible for all children everywhere because of your own rainforest mind. So hear me when I say that you really need to understand your own giftedness and make the time to nourish yourself. You will become a better parent, your children will benefit, and all children everywhere will thank you. 

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To my dear bloggEEs: If you are a parent, what ideas and resources have been helpful? What challenges have you faced?  If you are not a parent, what do you wish your parents had said to you or helped you with? What are your suggestions for parents of gifted children? As always, thank you for being here. And thank you to the family with the 8-year-old and the coconut.

 

 


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Gifted Children and Adults — Why Are They So Misunderstood?

photo courtesy of ketan rajput, Unsplash

A gifted child is:

The four year old who says the car is not red, it’s crimson. The five-year-old who is lonely because the other kids don’t understand the complex worlds and creatures she invents. The six-year-old who explains the difference between a laceration and a contusion. The seven-year-old who chooses Rembrandt as the person she respects most because of his use of light. The eight-year-old who cares for the hurt children on the playground. The nine-year-old who complains when his parent confuses the words precision and accuracy.  The ten-year-old who cries when he reads about injustice in his community and around the world. The eleven-year-old who is an environmental activist. The twelve-year-old who wants brain specimen coasters for her birthday.

These children are not show-offs or arrogant know-it-alls.  They sincerely and enthusiastically love learning, language, analysis, debate, creativity, beauty, exploration, and accuracy. (or is that precision?) They are being themselves. Naturally curious, hungry for new ideas and intellectual exchanges, emotionally intense, and highly sensitive and empathetic.

They don’t necessarily know they are intellectually advanced. Even when parents acknowledge their traits and abilities, they may still just feel out of sync and freakish. Or, when there’s excessive praise for their smartness, they may feel pressure to achieve. Pressure to please those adults. Pressure to live up to their great potential. Pressure to be perfect.

How we respond to them, understand them, educate them, and love them, matters.

But, just as walking into a tropical rainforest is an intense sensory, emotional, and intellectual extravaganza, so is being with a gifted child. A child who is gushing with questions, intellect, sensitivities, empathy, and emotion.

You were one of those kids.

But it may be hard for you to acknowledge that you are, in fact, gifted. You assume that everyone can do what you can do; they just aren’t trying. You don’t realize that the mental, emotional, and intuitive/spiritual capacity you have is larger than average. Maybe even enormous.

But I get it. You can’t really tell that to anyone. It wouldn’t make you popular. You may not even acknowledge it to yourself. And if you grew up in a chainsaw family, well, that would add to your confusion.

But you need to know that you are gifted. For yourself.

Knowing that you have a rainforest mind will explain things. It will explain your craving for new ideas and experiences. Your obsession with philosophical questions. Your disabling perfectionism. Your horrible loneliness. Your highest standards. Your multiple career paths. Your beautiful sensitivity. Your stunning intuition. Your intense emotions.

It will explain why you are constantly misunderstood.

And then, you will start to breathe more deeply. You will find other rainforest minds who will understand you. You will start to give yourself permission to grow into the person you are here to be.

And then you can show us your brain specimen coasters.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you have trouble acknowledging your giftedness? Why? What are some examples of how you’ve been misunderstood and how you misunderstand yourself?

One place you can meet other rainforest minds is at the SENG conference in July. This year it’s in Houston. I’ll be presenting my talk on adults, subtitled: Your Rainforest Mind–The Musical. I have a second talk with New Zealand therapist Maggie Brown titled: Gifted Adults Living in Tumultuous Times.  I’d love to meet you there.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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What Might Exceptional Giftedness Look Like in Kids and Adults?

photo courtesy of Graham Hunt, Unsplash

When Carol was three years old, she taught herself to read. At age six, she gave her Barbie a lobotomy. At seven, she picked Rembrandt as the person she respected most, because of his use of light. When she was eight, she refused to say the pledge of allegiance in school because she didn’t agree that all people were united under God. And who was God, anyway? At nine, she was reading Ray Bradbury. At ten, she insisted that she volunteer at a home for the elderly.

Growing up in an abusive environment, Carol worked out elaborate plans to calm her fears, including siding with the “bad guys” to ease their loneliness. In sixth grade, OMNI magazines were her entertainment. Her dreams were often vivid and at age 12, she taught herself to lucid dream. She thought often about the effects and influences of patterns and cycles in life and in nature and philosophized with Sartre and Nietzsche. She explained, “I didn’t want to be another person endlessly repeating cycles of suffering in a world where truth and beauty were so mangled and abused.”

Carol won many contests in school and her work was held up as an example for others. But that didn’t matter to her as much as standing with the children who were bullied or ignored. She was curious about religion and the paranormal and, at a young age, took a bus to church on her own. Her empathy and intuition were finely tuned. She would pick up accurate information about people that they didn’t openly share with her but would confirm later.

In high school, Carol experimented with goth/punk, poetry, art, tarot, photography, philosophy, sexual identity, and LSD. One of her favorite books was Ideas and Opinions by Einstein and her preoccupation was with finding true meaning. She always had a strong sense of spirituality. Recently, she said, “I believe no goal is higher than manifesting ultimate love and compassion. All I have done in my life has been ultimately in the name of opening my heart…It’s important to me to keep pushing the boundary, exploring my connection to the unseen and the energy that connects all things.”

Carol has a rainforest mind. She’s managed to continue to be compassionate, sensitive, intuitive, and productive in spite of growing up with serious abuse and neglect. Carol will tell you that she’s not special; that she’s not particularly unusual.

But she is. Unusual. Gifted. Exceptionally so.

Carol, now in her late 30’s, is beginning to understand that her quirks, her obsessions, and her constant questioning of the status quo, is not pathological. Not something to hide. She’s starting to use her talents to design a unique career path. To fulfill her long-time desire to create a better world.

Shall we join with Carol?  Open our hearts? Manifest ultimate love and compassion? Explore our connection with the unseen and the energy that connects all things?

How could we not.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you resonate with Carol’s profile? How are you like her? How are you different? There is a spectrum when it comes to giftedness. And, of course, great variety and complexity. Where might you be on the spectrum? (You will notice that Carol hasn’t won a Nobel prize or invented the newest electric car. And, yet, she is still exceptionally gifted.) What’s your experience with “the unseen and the energy that connects all things?” Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. Thank you to the client who inspired this post.

(Note: My book publisher may be closing its doors so my plan is to take back my rights and become an Indie Press! This is not absolutely confirmed yet but is most likely. The book won’t be available soon while I figure out the logistics but I’m hoping that won’t take too long. I’m going to redo the cover, which I’ve never been crazy about, but not make many other changes. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll see the updates.)

(Book update: The publisher is trying to stay afloat so nothing is changing right now. This could be a good time to stock up! 🙂 )


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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!