Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


53 Comments

It’s Time We Talked About Trauma, Resilience, Intuition, And Spirituality

I was asked on a recent podcast about my work with clients who experienced trauma as children. Are rainforest-minded clients more traumatized than non-rainforest-minded clients when there is abuse in the family? Are they more resilient? Is there a difference between a highly sensitive, intuitive, gifted child and a regular more typical child when it comes to growing up in a seriously dysfunctional family? What about intuition and spirituality? How do they play a part in the life of a rainforest mind experiencing trauma?

(photo by Jeremy Bishop, Unsplash)

Well. As usual, I can only speak anecdotally. But I have worked as a therapist since 1992 so that is quite a few years of anecdotes!

That said, as you might imagine, the answer is not simple. And because I work exclusively with rainforest minds (RFMs), I have no real concrete means of comparison. So, those of you with a more skeptical, analytical bent, bear with me. I am simply sharing what I have seen and I am open to hearing your thoughts.

Another thing. The population of gifted humans I know is also a particular group of folks who want therapy, can afford therapy, and are actively choosing self-examination. So, I will be speaking about a fairly select group.

Yet another thing. I do realize that people write volumes on each of these topics and here I am writing an itty bitty blog post. Apologies.

Eek. One final thing for new readers. Not all gifted folks have rainforest minds. But all rainforest minds are gifted.

Phew. Disclaimers aside. Here ya go.

Over the years, I have worked with many clients who were abused in their families of origin. There are clear impacts that can include: intense anxiety and hypervigilance, depression, safety-trust-control issues, self-doubt, self-hatred, low self-esteem, codependency, boundary problems, relationships that repeat the unhealthy patterns in the family, somatic symptoms, PTSD, and delayed achievement in career paths. And more. Clearly, RFMs are deeply impacted by early trauma.

One might think a highly sensitive child would be more affected in an unsafe environment than someone less aware or less sensitive. And, yes, these kids are likely more vulnerable due to their keen awareness, empathy, and sensitivity. And yet. What has surprised me, even with the greater vulnerability, has been the quality of resilience. In spite of the severe abuse that many of my clients experienced, I have not seen them becoming abusers themselves. They do not develop serious personality disorders. They still maintain their powerful empathy, sensitivity, moral compass, and mental agility.

How is this possible?

I have theories.

Many of my clients tell me that at a very early age, they knew something was wrong with their parents so that they were less likely to fully blame themselves for the abuse. There was a certain capacity for observation or, perhaps, metacognition or intuition. This awareness may have provided some protection from the intense self-hatred and acting out behaviors that many children develop in these circumstances, that can lead to more severe outcomes including serious addictions and deep-seated mental disturbances such as narcissism or psychopathology.

There is more.

The intuition and spirituality that comes with a rainforest mind is a natural resilience builder. RFMs are often quite intuitive. They know things and do not necessarily know where the knowing comes from. They receive ideas, direction, and support from particular intuitive insights or psychic capacities. There is often an unusually strong spirituality including a mystical connection with Spirit or Guidance or Nature or the Universe or God. Clients have told me that when they were quite young, they felt the presence of angels or spiritual guides providing protection, support, and love during those early years.

Many RFMs seek meaning outside of traditional religious circles. Some explore Buddhist practices, earth-centered beliefs, or shamanic influences. They often find peace, a sense of belonging, and wisdom when they spend time in the natural world, communicating with animals, trees, rivers, and plants. One way to think about it is that this intuitive and spiritual circuitry provides a strong safety net when a rainforest-minded human is threatened.

On occasion, I have mused that RFMs might be old souls and all of those lifetimes contributed to their set of unique traits and to their resilience. And, more recently, it has occurred to me, that perhaps these clients are born with a crystalline strength that runs through the center of their body-minds that not even the most horrific abuser can touch, much less break.

Certainly, many rainforest-minded clients have a long, complicated grieving process in therapy to heal from the serious traumas and the devastating losses they have experienced. But they are not broken. At their center remains a powerful, tenacious, enduring, robust, resplendent Light.

And that Light saves them. And just might save us all.

___________________________________

To my bloggEEs: As you can tell, I am a little anxious about this post (Did the 5 disclaimers give it away???) I am not sure why except that, perhaps, this is an even more complicated and controversial topic than usual. And then, I realized I’ve written about this before. Here. Go figure. Please share your personal stories in the comments. Your insights and experiences are so valuable. If you know of good resources about trauma, resilience, intuition, and spirituality, please tell us about them. Here are a few worth looking into: Spirituality: Tara Brach. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. On Being by Krista Tippett. The Evolutionary Collective. Trauma: Judith Blackstone. Complex PTSD. Healing Trauma. Sending you much love.


23 Comments

Gifted In Lebanon

Candide is 22. She has been reading my blog for some time. She said it is one of her “favorite places.” Candide wrote to me to reach out to other rainforest minds for support. She is struggling. It sounds like both the country and her family are extremely challenging places to live, particularly as a sensitive soul.

She wrote about some of the daily assault on her senses.

“…The typical Lebanese citizen honks when stuck in a traffic jam…I dread the noise, the chaos, and the hostile competition that I have to face whenever I’m in a car…For the introverts among us, Lebanon is too much–too sunny, too hot, too noisy, too chatty. It’s not harmonious enough…” This does not include the explosions that she said are frequent, the economic distress, as well as her concerns for her safety.

Her issues in school will be familiar to many of you.

(photo by allef vinicius Unsplash)

“For most of the time I was top of my class. But I didn’t really enjoy it because I dread competition. So, at some point, I got tired and started self-sabotaging. I stopped taking notes in class because I was a perfectionist and had to ‘know it before I learned it.’ I was also too passionate, when everyone else, including teachers, only cared about standardized test scores.” She is an HSP and introvert, sensitive “to sound, light, smell, and taste.”

Living with so much sensitivity in a country in economic collapse and chaos, she feels overwhelmed with pain and loneliness.

“…I wonder if the solution is to get rid of my heart like it’s a dangerous tumor that grew too big. But is it even possible for RFMs to get rid of their heart?…”

No, Candide, it is not possible. And we are all grateful for your big heart. We want to support you in protecting and appreciating it.

I asked Candide what she looked to for hope. How she might protect her tender heart. She said, “…nature has a healing power.” She mentioned these three Lebanese activist women. Warde Bou Daher, Hiba Dandachli, Joumana Haddad and the writer/poet Khalil Gibran. And this blog. She has also found like-minds with INTPs online, Imi Lo’s writings on giftedness, and various researchers who study topics of interest to her curious mind. Even though access to the internet can be unreliable, it is a lifeline. Candide also told me she is planning to study Applied Data Science in the UK in the fall. Clearly, the power of her rainforest mind is what is getting her through.

I wonder what it is like for those of you living in countries, like Candide, where there is much upheaval, chaos, and economic distress. How do you manage when you are sensitive, empathetic, and driven to make a difference? How do you take care of yourself? Have you found activists and artists who give you hope and energy? Do you spend time in nature and connect via a spiritual practice? Are you finding other rainforest minds to be with, in person or online? Are you finding your own voice and joining with others to create a path(s) that is right for you?

Candide told me, Gibran says, “Love one another, but make not a bond of love. Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.”

He may have been referring to partner love but, no matter. Let our big-hearted rainforest-y selves acknowledge and celebrate the strength that dwells in our capacity to love and to feel so very much in that moving sea. Our love is here for you, too, Candide, and for us all.

___________________________________

To my bloggEEs: I wrote this some time ago but Candide was not ready for me to post it. Now with the invasion of Ukraine, it seems timely, and she is willing. To all of you living in war zones, unsafe environments, and suffering in other ways, there may be no adequate words. But you are in our hearts. And, thank you, Candide, for your great courage and for sharing your story. (I’m sure she would appreciate any comments of support.)

(Note: For those of you in Spain, I just heard about this very active organization for the gifted. You might want to check into it.)

(Another note: If you have been thinking about writing to me about all forms of love, relationships, and your rainforest mind, there is no better time than the present. Send your inner procrastinating perfectionist out to lunch and write to me!)


44 Comments

Just Because You Can Do The Task Better, Does Not Mean You Have To Do The Task — And Other Important Reminders For Your Gifted Soul

Just because you can do the task faster, better, and more completely, does not mean you have to agree to do that task.

Just because you were told you must live up to your great potential, does not mean you have to be the best whatever who ever lived, win all the awards before you are 30, and never ever let all of those well-meaning but misguided, unimaginative people be disappointed that you chose yourself over your potential.

Just because all of your relatives and friends have chosen one long career path, does not mean you cannot change jobs, career paths, hobbies, and maybe even relationships over your richly varied lifetime.

(photo by jeffery erhunse, unsplash)

Just because your parents want you to join the family business and continue their legacy of alcoholism and denial because, they say, you owe it to them, does not mean you have to follow in their footsteps. What they do not know is that your choice to step out of alcoholism and denial will change the trajectory of their lives even though they may never actually know it, feel it, or acknowledge it. And it will surely change yours. For the better.

Just because you are the best acupuncturist in town and sick people are clamoring for your attention, does not mean you have to exhaust yourself to accommodate them.

Just because you are great with children, does not mean you have to create any of your own.

Just because you are highly sensitive to visual stimuli, sounds, tastes, textures, emotions, smells, chemicals, and obnoxious neighbors, does not mean you have a diagnosis or a disability. And it does not mean you have to let yourself be bombarded by said sensitivities when there are ways to avoid, reduce, and manage them even if other humans will judge you and say how diva-like you are.

Just because you can always make your projects better, does not mean you have to raise the bar after you finish said projects so that you never really celebrate the finishing.

Just because you can intuit what people, animals, and plants are thinking and feeling and sense when they are unhappy even when they say they are happy, does not mean you are delusional or psychotic or a witch. (Although you may be a witch, and that would be a good thing, we need more witches.)

Just because you have 13 thrilling unread books by your bed, 8 podcasts you long to download, 4 new apps you want to design, plus numerous poems to write, songs to compose, and trees to plant, does not mean you are having an unusually difficult day. In fact, the difficult days are when you do not have ten items on your plate while juggling six more and looking forward to the items on those other plates you have yet to meet.

Just because you color code your sweaters, organize your books by author, and are repainting your bedroom for the fourteenth time, does not mean you are obsessive compulsive.

Just because you are extremely articulate and can describe your deep existential depression and anxiety in great detail to your therapist while being successful at your job, does not mean you must be fine and not actually need therapy.

Just because you think about the climate crisis, racism, and poverty most every day does not mean you can not also find joy when you are hiking the trail on a sunny afternoon.

Just because you think deeply and often about the meaning, purpose, and quality of life on earth does not mean you are a neurotic, self-absorbed, overthinking mess. And, even if you are, on occasion, a neurotic, self-absorbed, overthinking mess, it is much better than being a neurotic, self-absorbed, underthinking mess.

Just because even simple decisions are almost impossible because you wonder about the implications, the variables, and the impact of said decisions, and you put pressure on yourself to always be right, does not mean you are not as smart as everyone says you are. In fact, you may not score well on multiple choice tests because you see all of the reasons each answer might be correct, as only a smart person can.

Just because you have been single most of your adult life, does not mean you have missed the Love Boat and will be bereft and alone forever and ever. In fact, it may mean you have been on the Love Boat all along, it just doesn’t look like two and half kids, a partner, and a picket fence.

_________________________________

To my bloggEEs: Can you add a “just because” to this list? Which ones fit for you? Tell us why. And much love and gratitude to you all, as always.

Speaking of your gifted soul, if you have not yet heard about The G Word Film, check it out. It is in post-production and needs funding to get to completion. If you want to donate any amount, the film makers would greatly appreciate it. This full length feature film will be a game changer.


55 Comments

Are You Crazy or Are You Just Gifted?

I was talking with a client the other day about her pain and frustration with her colleagues and friends who do not see the nuance, the complexities, the layers, the connections, the subtleties, the intricacies– that she experiences all the time. All the time. And in today’s divisive, angry, not-nuanced environment, she is not sure when to speak up or how to explain her perspective for fear of being misunderstood, ridiculed, or even cancelled.

When you have a rainforest mind, this is your life.

(photo courtesy Bud Helisson, Unsplash)

How do you explain to someone who does not have the capacity to see what you see that there is something else going on, something more, something that matters. Maybe even something beautiful. Or touching. Or astonishing. Or terrifying.

Take the color white, for example. It is obvious to you that the plain old white wall in the cafe is actually sand-beige with a touch of off-white-ecru-yellow-ivory and green undertones. And that is just under artificial light. On sunny days, it all changes. Right? Certainly, it is not just white. And what is white anyway? And what about moonlight? You think, how can they NOT see it. They must be lazy or too distracted or pretending for some reason that perplexes you. But, in fact, it is quite likely that they do not see it.

This is what you need to understand. They just see white. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with seeing white. It is what is actually there in their world. But in your world, there is so much more.

This might be a reason you feel crazy. You think, Of course they see it. They must see it. It is so obvious.

They don’t.

You probably hear more, too. Those buzzing lights. The clunking ice maker in the refrigerator. The expletive leaf blower. The upstairs apartment neighbors who walk with shoes on their wood floors. Your partner chewing.

Not to mention the smells. The perfumes. Air fresheners. Detergents. The oil refinery thirty miles away. Your office colleague’s lunch. Garlic breath. The person who needs the root canal.

Shall I go on?

No? You get the idea? I thought so. You catch on quickly.

Yeah.

What I am here to tell you is that you are not crazy. It is just that your world is larger. Deeper. Wider. Nuanced. Intricate. Complex. Intense. Tangled. Lush. Fertile. Rich.

Kinda like a rainforest.

__________________________________

To my bloggEEs: What are the ways you notice you are different in your capacity to feel, see, smell, taste, touch, intuit, know, experience, and more? Have you felt crazy? Thank you, as always, for being here and for your love, depth, complexity, and sweetness.


58 Comments

Why Bother Understanding Giftedness — Won’t They All Be Fine Because They Are So Smart?

No. Not really. Nah. Nope. It’s complicated. The gifted kids and adults I have known over the years have much more going on than just “smartness” — smartness, that is often defined as excelling in school, getting high grades, winning academic awards, attending Ivy League college, or becoming the wealthy corporate CEO. And that is where the problem often begins. We need to get more specific about what being smart, or better yet, what being gifted, actually is. (Note: It may or may not include those academic, achievement-oriented things and, yet, it is so much more.)

The gifted humans I have known are clearly intellectually advanced, deep thinking, extra-perceptive, quite analytical, creative problem solvers, highly sensitive, and intuitive. There is no doubt they crave learning new ideas, are introspective, compassionate, and make unusual connections between, oh, all the things. Being academic, achieving in a school setting, may not be where they show themselves, if the school environment is not keeping up with their capacity to think, understand, interpret, evaluate, synthesize, create, question, intuit, laugh, and reflect on concepts, ideas, philosophies, theories, emotions, insights, and facts.

Another way to describe these folks, other than by the rainforest mind analogy that we all know and love, is with a hyperlink model. The more gifted, the more hyperlinks. Making multiple connections between what seem to be unrelated ideas. Constant analysis, synthesis, and revelations. Hyperlinks within hyperlinks.

So. How might that feel to them? To you?

Exhilarating. Exhausting. Fascinating. Isolating. Stimulating. Starving. Energizing. Confusing.

Am I right?

I will focus on the challenges here because, well, that is the part where you, and others, need convincing.

Some examples come to mind, in no particular order: Sitting in meetings, day after day, month after month, waiting for coworkers to come to consensus on the conclusion you drew last year, waiting for colleagues to finish debating irrelevant information, waiting for someone to appreciate the nuance you bring to the discussion. Sharing only portions of your vast knowledge and talents in many areas for fear of judgment, rejection, or misunderstanding. Showing only small parts of yourself for fear of overwhelming others with your energy, enthusiasm, and curiosity. Constantly adapting to your environment so you can be understood and accepted. Smelling someone who needs a root canal. Enduring criticism for needing multiple career paths and for doing more than one project at a time. Grappling with learning disabilities that confuse and frustrate your intense appetite for knowledge. Never finding a mentor or guide who knows more than you do. Settling for friendships that are limited in depth and range. Being bullied in school because you want to spend recess in the library. Terrified to make a mistake because in your mind errors mean you actually are not gifted. Listening to audio books and podcasts at faster speeds to avoid boredom. Despairing over the suffering on the planet and being called dramatic by family members. Diagnosing your illness when the doctors can’t. Unable to turn off your thinking and worrying to fall asleep or just relax. Pressured to live up to others’ expectations. Pressured to not disappoint your parents and teachers who rely on you. Achieving mastery in your field(s), winning those awards, and still feeling like you are not enough. Desperate to find even one person for meaningful dialogue and open-hearted relationship.

And, finally:

Considerable self-doubt, self-criticism, and anxiety for many reasons but also because you imagine all of the REAL gifted people are high achieving, valedictorian, Ivy League, confident, super star CEOs who are all fine because, well, they are so darned smart.

_________________________________________

To my bloggEEs: What do you think? Am I describing you? How? What other examples do you have? Is there someone you know who needs to read this? Thank you for sharing your feelings, thoughts, and questions. As you know, my blog wins the prize for best comments ever. Much love to you.


4 Comments

Three Brazilian Psychologists and a North American Talk About Giftedness

I was invited to have a conversation with Giovanna Strobel and her colleagues in Brazil about our work with gifted clients. We found we have so much in common. Whether you have a rainforest mind in N. America or in Brazil, you may experience similar struggles. Hear all about it here. And thank you to Giovanna, Daphne, and Simone!

To my bloggEEs: Let us know the thoughts, feelings, and questions that came up as you watched. Thank you, as always, for being here! And if you are a therapist or coach who works anywhere in the world with gifted clients, let us know who you are and include your contact information. I am starting a list. There is one here for N. Americans but I don’t know of any international referral lists.


27 Comments

Gifted Adults Around The World — What Do They Have In Common? Meet Alice In Brazil

The more rainforest-minded souls I meet, the more hope I have for humanity. No matter where in the world they happen to be, I see similar traits. Big-hearted, creative, deep-thinking, sensitive souls. Humans who are so darned smart and who are driven to use their superpowers for good.

In case you missed them, profiles so far come from:

Brazil, Finland, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Malaysia, India, Chile, Canada (via Cameroon) (If you are from a country not yet represented and would like to be profiled, email me!) Of course, most of my experiences are with N. Americans. I feel so grateful to be able to learn and share this expanded view.

Today we are meeting Alice, a 25 year old Brazilian female. She came across my quiz and gifted information after searching for “people who don’t fit at school.” She ordered and quickly read my first book and The Gifted Adult, then she contacted me. Like so many of you, Alice was struggling with intensity, being misunderstood, passions for learning everything, depression, anxiety, and loneliness. The restrictions imposed by COVID-19 and the political tensions in her country, made it even harder for her to find direction for her future and the relief she would normally feel in the natural world.

(photo courtesy of Bruno Dias, Unsplash)

Alice described her experience this way: “I just want to follow my multiple and endless passions. I just want to be FREE to create and to travel the world. It feels like I’ve spent my whole life being a dormant volcano, without knowing what’s been going on inside of me. My anxiety and depression feel like lava. It seems to burn me inside and it hurts. I internalized that being the way that I am is a terrible flaw…When I was identified gifted, all of my traits seem to have erupted. The hidden, real, and even more intense Alice came out. I’ve been dealing with a kind of new me.

“…Oh, how unfair this world is! I hate this world! But, how can I love this world the way I do? I love the Nature SO MUCH that it hurts. I love you Planet Earth! I love Jupiter and its moons. I wanted to be a National Geographic photographer, a solo traveler, a documentarist, a multi-instrumentalist, a singer, an author, a visual artist and paint maker, a polyglot, a dancer, an athlete, I wanted to help people, wild animals and plants, etc. etc…I wanted to learn more about history, geology, archaeology, biology, astronomy…I wanted to do hundreds of things, I also wanted to live in many different places and experience diverse cultures.

Like most (all?) of you, Alice is a multipotentialite but she could not tell anyone for fear of criticism and rejection:

“…I can’t let them know my interests. I can’t let them know that I want to speak 10 languages one day, without being judged, without them thinking I am arrogant, without them telling me to be less, to question less, without them telling me not to share my interests, my vulnerabilities, my sense of justice…’keep that just for you, Alice, otherwise they won’t like you’…They’ve been treating me differently and I can feel it. But I just love learning 8,459,238 things at the same time. And also because I have no time to dedicate specially to one thing, and I always struggle with choices and procrastination, I often think I’m incapable, incompetent, and very unlikely to succeed…”

So many of you can relate to being called arrogant or being told you are too much, too sensitive, too intense. You’ve heard the complaints of others: Why can’t you focus? Why can’t you be happy with one language, one job, one book!?!

Alice was working so hard to understand where she might fit and who she actually is. She wondered where she stood on the gifted spectrum and how she might move forward in her life.

“…I just don’t want to be so afraid of being myself. I just don’t want to feel so much need for others’ approval. I just don’t want to be so afraid of the critics…I don’t want to be so afraid of success, too. I want to find at least a balance between my natural optimism and pessimism. I’ve written a lot about my pains, but I’ve had the opportunity to experience many, many beautiful moments, too…”

Like many of you, in spite of the challenges and pressures that would often overwhelm her, she could see the beauty in life and appreciate the little things, love them so much that it hurt.

As Alice and I talked, she was able to get a better understanding of how her struggles were not based in her own inadequacies but rather connected to her gifted traits. Because I had already written about two Brazilian young women, I suggested she try and reach them and the other Brazilian commenters through my blog, as a way to reduce her isolation.

Because she had experienced traumatic events in addition to the struggles of being gifted, I recommended she look for a therapist where she might get regular support and work through the traumas. Believe it or not, around the time I was speaking with Alice, I was contacted by Giovanna Strobel, a psychotherapist in Brazil who specializes in giftedness! How amazing is that?! (For those of you who speak Portuguese, check her out!.)

So, now, Alice is reaching out to Giovanna and her team. She is starting to understand more about the beauty and power of her rainforest mind. And I hope, one day, loving herself so much that it hurts.

______________________________________________

To my bloggEEs: Do you relate to Alice’s experiences? How are your feelings similar? Different? Remember in the comments not to give advice to others but rather to speak about your own experiences and insights. Thank you so much for being here. Much love to you all. And thank you to Alice for sharing your big-hearted, sensitive, creative, deep-thinking, rainforest mind with us.

(Note: Giovanna and I will be doing a live interview on July 3, 2021, 1pm PT. I’m not sure if it is on Instagram or somewhere else. If you follow her on Instagram or me, you will hear about it. Join us!)

(Another note: I was reviewing my first article on Brazilians and was reminded of another practitioner in Brazil who shared in the comments. Adriana Vazzoler-Mendoca. Sounds like she would be another good resource for Brazilians looking for a mentor or coach!)


13 Comments

Awareness, Awe, and Your Wild Rainforest Mind

(This post was inspired by the writer, visionary, and extraordinarily rainforest-minded Geneen Marie Haugen*)

…I grieve and wonder why so many of our human kin don’t seem to recognize the astonishing miracle of our mutual existence on this precious, exquisite, watery planet that we share not only with fantastically diverse cultures, but also with our companion communities of humpback whales, hummingbirds, giraffes. Is such experiential awareness and awe not available to all of us?…” Geneen Marie Haugen

(photo courtesy of Dev Asangbam, Unsplash)

Maybe not. Awareness and awe seem to exist at different levels and intensities for each of us. Our capacity for awareness and awe might be related to how curious, sensitive, intuitive, empathetic, and perceptive we are.

When you have a rainforest mind, though, you are guaranteed to be living with high levels of both.

Let me explain.

~ Awareness ~

There are many things you see, feel, know, and intuit that others don’t. You may not even realize this. You are normal to you. But when you run into a conflict with someone, it might be because something is obvious to you but not apparent to them. You may think they are lazy or just not paying attention. But it could be they are not seeing what you see. My example from the RFM quiz applies here: Do you see ecru, beige, sand, and eggshell when others see only white? You experience multiple layers and several subtleties. Complexities. Maybe you hear the buzzing florescent lights no one else hears. Or the chewing person in the theatre drives you crazy. Perhaps you grok the solution to the architectural design flaw before anyone else realizes there is a flaw. Or maybe you can tell by the way someone smells that they need a root canal.

These types of awarenesses may seem odd to the non-rainforest-minded among us. They may seem odd to you, too. But they actually come naturally with your larger capacity for being. For knowing.

~ Awe ~

Because of your deeper perceptions and your capacity to appreciate beauty and wonder, chances are you do not take life’s opportunities for granted. Of course, you get irritable, frustrated, despairing, fearful, and angry. You are not always grateful or spiritually in tune. But there may be a sense of awe that always lives in your heart. Geneen Marie Haugen‘s connection with Nature is such a prime example. Here she is describing water.

“…am still in a mad love trance with water, still dripping, still sensing the body of that muscular river: clear, deep, sinuous, insisting on a mutual embrace. A wild adoration of water…” GMH

See what I mean?

This is the intense experience of the rainforest-minded life.

Can you relate?

And yet. You may be exhausted by all of the intensity. You may feel terribly lonely if you are the only one you know who is in a “mad love trance with water.”

But your awareness, your capacity for awe, can also bring you visions of possibilities:

“…I can see a possible world where human ventures are created in accordance with living systems, where (bio)diversity is cherished, where all voices and pretenses are honored, where individual human beings are nourished and encouraged by their communities and by elders to bring forth their unique expressions and offerings. This world is so near that I can even smell and taste it. Millions–maybe even billions–of others have seen and felt the shimmers of a possible world, too…” GMH

Not only that:

“…The circumstances or places in which we find ourselves most radiantly alive almost certainly nourish the wild soul who inhabits the depths far below the surface of our ordinary, everyday consciousness. Tending and cultivating the emergences of the wild soul may be a primary way toward revitalizing human existence on this great planet.” GMH

So, dear rainforesters, keep noticing those shimmers.

And do not forget to carefully tend and cultivate your deeply radiant rainforest-y wild soul.

_____________________________________________

To my bloggEEs: Can you relate to being aware and in awe? Let us know how this fits or does not fit in your life. What are the shimmers you are noticing? What are your thoughts? Feelings? Experiences? Questions? And, thank you so much to Geneen for sharing your wild soul with us!

*Geneen Marie Haugen, PhD, grew up as a free-range wildish kid with a run amok imagination.  She is a guide to the experiential, intertwined mysteries of nature and psyche with the Animas Valley Institute (www.animas.org) and has been on the faculty of the Esalen Institute, Schumacher College, and the Fox Institute for Creation Spirituality.  Her writing has appeared many publications including Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth; Thomas Berry: Dreamer of the Earth; Parabola; Kosmos Journal; Ecopsychology; The Artist’s Field Guide to Yellowstone, and others.  


33 Comments

“The Problem, Officer, Is That My Sister Is An Intellectual…”* –A Quick Guide To Your Rainforest Mind

(*quote adapted from the inspiring talk Surviving as an Organizational Heretic ; by Carmen Medina TEDx talk)

(photo courtesy of Fabio Fistarol, Unsplash)

Have you been identified as the problem in your family? Is your finely tuned sensitivity, unending research, probing curiosity, exquisite empathy, passionate creativity, accurate intuition, in-depth analysis, sweet optimism, and driven social conscience, misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and mystifying?

Do your parents, siblings, teachers, therapists, friends, neighbors, and pets, look at you with wonder, or confusion, or anger, or fear, or jealousy, or awe? (OK. Maybe your pets look at you with, well, unconditional love. Unless they are cats. Cats may look at you with disdain. Not because you are gifted, though. But just because.) Do you reject the notion you are gifted because you know how much you don’t know or because you were not a straight-A student or because it feels arrogant, elitist, and unfair?

I thought so.

Then, of course, there is the pressure. Oh, the pressure. If you are so smart, then, well, you better reach your potential. Wasted potential is not an option. You ought to be great at everything you try at all times. Maybe even “insanely great.” Mistakes, then, become failures and failures are unbearable.  

No wonder you would like to hide out rather than shine too brightly. No wonder. But honestly? You can not really hide. Not really. You can try. But at some point, your rainforest mind will sneak out from under your cloak. The truth of who you are will be revealed. How? Well, for starters, it could be that any one or more of the following occur:

The foundation of your house finally cracks under the weight of all of those darn books. You can’t stop crying over nature’s fecundity.  It takes you 11 years to get through college because you keep changing your major, start two businesses, learn the Argentine tango, join the board of an arts organzation, travel to Nepal to lead treks, teach yourself watercolor painting, and write a screenplay. You still reread Jane Austen, Ursula LeGuin, and Toni Morrison, again and again. You raise a gifted child. You start a nonprofit, or three. You become an overworked, underpaid, and adored-by-your-students middle school teacher. You swoon over your fascination with fungi. You dive deeply into psychotherapy to heal from your traumatic childhood. (Yeah, I know. You thought I’d say, you win a Nobel prize. And, perhaps, you do that, too. But prizes are not required for rainforest mind membership.)

In other words, because you have a rainforest mind, you have an extra large, perhaps enormous, capacity to think, feel, know, perceive, analyze, evaluate, discern, observe, empathize, intuit, create, imagine, and love. All humans have these abilities to greater and lesser degrees, of course. Your capacities are just much deeper, wider, and multi-faceted. You experience layers and levels and complexities and controversies and visions and worries and energies and influences that others may not. 

This is not arrogant, elitist, or unfair.

It is just you.

_____________________________________________

To my bloggEEs: Do you need to find more self-acceptance and understanding? If you experience conflict in your family or in other relationships, it could be, at least in part, because of these differences. Let us hear from you. Thank you for sharing your comments, feelings, thoughts, and questions. They add so much. Love to you! (Note: If you get a chance, watch Carmen Medina‘s TED talk. She explains how to create change in an organization and you can hear the whole story from her about what her brother said!)


41 Comments

What My Twice-Exceptional Client Taught Me

I totally missed it. In my enthusiastic desire to avoid at all costs the all-too-often misdiagnoses of gifted kids and adults, I did not see what was right in front of me. 

(photo courtesy of David Clode, Unsplash)

I had worked with Jenny off and on, every other week, for about two years. She came to me after a difficult first year in college away from home, returning to a university in her hometown. She openly shared her struggles with anxiety, depression, and relationships. Her need for structure and routines, and trouble with transitions. Her extroversion and difficulty with friendships. The early years of bullying; her love of learning and desire to achieve in school. 

I had written about her on my blog. This one on anxiety and perfectionism. And I quoted her in this one. I saw it all as the typical challenges gifted young people face. And it was.

Until it wasn’t. 

Jenny had a boyfriend, Glen, who lived with her. He had been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and, with him, it was easy to see the signs. He had severe executive functioning problems and anxiety. He was not doing well in school or keeping up with chores at home; he had strong opinions that could not be changed. Jenny would remind him about homework and his responsibilities, but he would often procrastinate or say he would get to it but not follow through. He was particularly socially awkward. Compared to Glen, Jenny appeared to be a regular gifted kid with the typical rainforest-y struggles. She was conscientious about her schoolwork, kept her house clean, and was quite personable. She was insightful, sensitive, and kind. Yes, Jenny talked nonstop in our sessions but so did many of my clients. 

But, in our session last week, Jenny told me she had recently realized she was an “aspie girl.” She said she had been masking her ASD traits like many girls do, and that she was exhausted. The isolation and stress of the pandemic had finally overwhelmed her so she had gone on a search for answers and had come up with her own ASD diagnosis. Jenny explained she had severe anxiety with transitions and a strong need for plans and routines. When she was living with her parents, they provided the structure she needed. On her own, it was extremely challenging. She identified this as the executive functioning issues that can come with ASD.  She said she was quite anxious in new situations until she knew the rules and that she had learned over the years to imitate others so she would look appropriate. She described sensory issues and some self-stimulation that helped calm her; also physical clumsiness and fine motor difficulties. She told me about “obsessions” she had as a young child with Wizard of Oz, Dr. Who, and Lord of the Rings

The tricky thing is, I know many regular gifted kids in love with Dr. Who and J.R.R. Tolkien. Many who are sensually sensitive to textures, smells, tastes, and sounds. Who suffer from anxiety and depression. Who deal with loneliness, bullying, and communication issues.

But this was different. And Jenny’s research confirmed it. She was an aspie girl. She was twice exceptional (2e). She disclosed that as a young child, she developed scripts or rules for interactions with others and would get very upset if they did not follow them. Which they usually didn’t. Jenny said she learned by observation and from her mother to let other people talk and to ask them questions, to talk less about her own interests, and to manage her emotions when plans suddenly changed. Jenny was educating me, and herself, about ASD. It became clear she needed to find a different practitioner. And, in true form, she already had. She had already met with a psychologist for an initial assessment. 

Jenny told me she had benefitted from our time together. I had shared techniques she continued to use to calm her anxiety and manage her depression. My descriptions of rainforest minds reassured her that some of her difficulties in school and with other kids were based in her fast, divergent, and deep thinking, her sensitivities, and her greater capacity for learning. Her rainforest mind.

But I was quite aware of the irony. Many clients over the years have told me their practitioners had misdiagnosed them because there are similarities between the gifted traits and ADHD, OCD, ASD, and even bipolar disorder. Or they told me stories of how their doctors were mystified by their symptoms and they had to diagnose themselves without the help of the so-called experts.

Ouch. Eek. It was humbling to experience being one of those practitioners.

And so, yes, you can be rainforest-minded and ASD or ADHD or anything else, really. You can be twice exceptional. Maybe even 3e? 4e?

And, thus, just when you thought having a rainforest mind was complicated enough, well, there are even more tangled vines, insects, and monkeys than you can imagine.

And to Jenny: Thank you for your patience with me and your determination to make sense of your world. And for helping me make more sense of mine.

______________________________________

To my bloggEEs: Have you been misdiagnosed? Do you identify with being twice-exceptional? Have you had experiences like Jenny? Let us know in the comments. Your thoughts, feelings, resources, and questions, add so much. Thank you, as always, for being here.

Resources for twice-exceptionality include: http://www.brightandquirky.com; http://www.withunderstandingcomescalm.com; http://www.summitcenter.us; These are mostly for parents of gifted 2e children but the information is still helpful for adults.