Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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Face Your Demons. Slay Your Dragons. Mend Your Broken Heart.

“We all have the dark, ignorant shadow inside us. I have worked endlessly to reveal it and heal it in me.” ~ Anne Lamott

Psychotherapy has been described as the opportunity to explore with a compassionate, experienced guide what is often called the dark night of the soul. It is the journey to face your demons. Slay your dragons. Mend your broken heart.

photo courtesy of Timo Volz, Unsplash

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Well, OK, maybe not fun. But necessary. Courageous. A way to unravel your family legacy of, say, abandonment, loss, abuse, trauma, and/or denial, and to make an actual contribution to world peace (I’m serious.) because you are no longer unconsciously re-enacting patterns set up by your crazy (not a technical term) or neurotic or abusive or delusional ancestors and projecting them onto innocent bystanders, including your children. In fact, you will, instead, be repairing the damage, disrupting the legacy, soothing your worn out nervous system, learning self-compassion, and discovering your particular path(s) to love and to creating a better world.

Granted, I am a psychotherapist, so I see most things through this lens. But I am guessing you will agree, we have a whole lot of unconscious, delusional, re-enactment going on these days. Some might say, we always have; it is just more obvious now. I would have to agree. And I recognize there are a lot of different opinions about how best to address the shadow side of humanity mayhem. In my view, there is no one particular right path or one answer for everyone. And yet. For those of you who see your own demons and dragons running amok, those of you who are brave enough to notice you do, in fact, have a broken heart to mend, this might be a journey you are ready to take.

What I have seen in myself and my clients as we dig ourselves out from under the rubble of our early lives (oh so many therapy metaphors!), is that you build a new foundation. You build a safe home where you can learn to trust and love yourself so you can trust and love others. Gradually, your outer life improves as your inner life is healed. And then, your rainforest mind is free to express itself in its fullest, overexcitable-est, idealistic-est, creative-est ways. I mean it.

Your ancestors will thank you. Your children will thank you. Your demons and dragons will run amok marathons for charitable causes.

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To my dearest bloggEEs: Just so you know, this is not an advertisement for my therapy services! I am only licensed to provide therapy in Oregon. (I do consult worldwide but that is not therapy.) Here is a short list of therapists to start your search. And, if you are not interested in therapy at this time (or if you have lost your job due to COVID), there are other ways to do inner work. Several of those resources are described in my first book. (If you want therapy but can not afford it, find a good person and ask for a sliding scale.)

If you have been particularly distressed by recent events in N. America, here are some encouraging words from Van Jones: “Breakdowns can lead to breakthroughs if you use them right. Maybe, just maybe, this much disunity can open the door for unity.” Here is an uplifting song: The Keep Going Song by the Bengsons. And here is an organization working to heal the divisions.

Let us know in the comments how you are doing (avoiding specific political rants–those are not really helpful here–but I surely understand the need to rant). Have you found a good therapist? What else do you do for self-healing? Have you found a furry friend? Do you wear your emotional support sweater? Do you let yourself cry? I am sending love to all of you to help you mend your broken hearts and to give you courage during these difficult times. Thank you for being here. Your love sustains me.


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Finding Meaningful Friendships When You Are (Annoyingly) Perceptive And (Excruciatingly) Sensitive

How do you find deeply satisfying friendships when you are an excruciatingly sensitive, annoyingly perceptive, unendingly persnickety, frighteningly intense, multi-dimensionally intelligent, divergently thinking, quirkily funny, unrealistically idealistic, gently demanding, ravenously researching, mysteriously intuitive human being? (otherwise known as rainforest-minded)

photo courtesy of thought catalog, Unsplash

No wonder friends are hard to find. Right?

But, face it honey. This is a perfect description of you.

And we are all better off because this is who you are.

Now, you just need to believe it. You need to love all of your rainforest-y ways. And, amazingly enough, this is a key to the discovery of other rainforest-minded souls. (But you knew that.)

Of course, they probably will not magically appear even if you are basking in self-compassion. (although they might) You most likely will need to be creative about where you look and you will have to take the initiative and make the first moves. I have specific suggestions here. And, here. (With adjustments for the pandemic. Sorry, no tango dancing.)

As you may know, there are more and more online groups and communities for just about anything you can imagine. I recently discovered Livingroom Conversations for the pacifist-activists among you and the Evolutionary Collective if you are looking for a spiritually evolving experience. For an intergenerational group involved with social change, there’s Encore. There is your silent book club. And Soul Collage.

Of course, you can always start a blog or write a book. I have found some of my favorite humans through my writing. One of them, Tina, would win the girlfriend of the year contest, if such a thing existed. She lives 1,254.1 miles away from me. Is 18 years younger. (OMG. I could be her mother.) Has two teenage kids and a hubby. But that doesn’t stop her. Or me. You see? You can think outside the box when it comes to friendships. You will need to. Because of the wonders of technology, though, it is possible to experience a deeply satisfying, sweet, loving, even daily connection. The daily part has been important to me. Being single, I have longed for a person who checks in every day. And so, it seems, does Tina. It is a long-distance-but-that-doesn’t-matter girlfriend love fest.

If I can do it, so can you.

Just remember, from the wise words of a bloggEE: “We never stop being who we are. We may run from it, but it won’t stop running behind us. If we’re open, and patient enough, we will notice, and eventually collect, like minds.”

So, notice and collect your like minds. Find your Tina.

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To my bloggEEs: Where and how have you found friends? Do you have a Tina in your life? What has made it hard for you to build friendships? We all appreciate your comments. They add so much. Thank you, as always, for being here.

The holiday season can be a particularly difficult time if you are lonely. And with this pandemic and other events, you may be struggling, frightened, and grieving. Here is a beautiful, uplifting short film just for you: Alone during a pandemic film Sending much love to you all.


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The Pressure To Always Be The Smartest One In The Room

It is embarrassing. Nerve wracking. Anxiety provoking. I do not know what I am doing. I am not in control. Everyone else has it figured out. Except me.

photo courtesy of Ospan Ali, Unsplash

What was I thinking when I signed up for this class?

I would drop it right now but somewhere in me I know I need it. I know if I can stand being the not-very-smart one, if I can deal with my own creative rumination that tells me I am drowning in my incompetence, I know it will be worth it. Maybe extremely worth it.

Kind of like learning the Argentine tango. I hated it. In the beginning. Everyone was gliding around the room. Effortlessly. Flicking their legs to and fro. Perfectly balanced strides. Unity. One body, four legs.

I was clueless. Clumsy. Nervous. Lost and confused. But, as you know, if you have been reading my blog for a while, it was extremely worth it. It took more than two years of study, practice, and more practice before I felt any sense of cluefulness. And then, more study and practice to get to the stage of maybe-I-can-do-this. And now (after even more years) I experience moments of extreme pleasure. Of unity. Sublime unity.*

You need to hear this.

I know you avoid trying new things because you have to be the smartest one at all costs. Your identity depends on your ingenuity, your winning, your solving the problem, your clever come-back. You have been told you are very smart for many years. You have such great potential. Now you have to keep proving it. Or who are you? Your sense of self has been built on your intelligence and achievements. Praise for your accomplishments. Pressure to be the best. Expectations you now place on yourself.

Am I right?

So, it is risky to try something where you are not guaranteed speedy success. Quite risky, if you want to know the truth. Not only is it terribly uncomfortable, it also proves what you secretly believe to be the case. That you are not as smart as everyone says. You are an impostor. You have been faking it all these years. You have been lucky. The work has been easy. Your teachers liked you.

You are no Elon Musk.

I feel you.

And I am here to tell you there is no better time to take that risk. Be the not-very-smart one. Experience clumsy. Try on clueless. Get lost and confused. Take that class. Dance that tango.

It just might be sublime.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you tend to avoid trying something when you are not sure of success? Tell us about it. It is odd, isn’t it? You love learning but your fears of failure hold you back. Let us know if this is true for you (or your kids) and what it’s like. And, as always, thank you for being here. Your comments add so much.

(*Note: Sadly, I am not actually dancing now due to the pandemic.)


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A Gifted Multipotentialite* in Chile

Daniela is 36. She is a writer, designer, artist, communicator, entrepreneur, journalist, radio broadcaster, mother, and Instagram rising star. An “introvert bookworm” as a child, she would spend hours in her school library, writing poems and stories and loving painting, acting, singing, guitar, beauty, and the freedom to create.

Daniela had a sweet and supported childhood. But once she became an adult, her struggles began. She explained, “I felt alone, weird, incapable, dumb, frustrated, and most of all, broken…Everything I did, I was good at, but every time I decided to quit and start something new, I would feel (and hear) those threatening eyes around me saying things like ‘You are studying AGAIN?’ ‘Why can’t you commit?’ I would start a new thing, I was good at it, and a couple of years later, I felt like I needed a new challenge…”

Daniela studied journalism, radio/voice over acting, and design in school. She had many careers over the years. Some of them, in no particular order: She started a business baking cupcakes for events. Was employed as an online editor for a large art and interior design blog and marketplace. She made knot cushions by hand to sell in stores. Sold clothes purchased abroad.

A large department store invited her to design an accessory line for them. She started practicing hand lettering and taught water color lettering through a craft store. She worked in radio.

Family members wanted her to focus. Therapists told her she needed to pick one job and stick with it. Teachers told her she was daydreaming too much; perhaps she had ADD. So, Daniela felt the joy she experienced in doing so many different things must be terribly wrong.

About two years ago, she found *Emilie Wapnick’s work which gave her an identity (rather than a pathology) as a multipotentialite. This information was life changing.

A year ago she launched her website where she teaches lettering/ calligraphy courses and sells her products. She was asked to speak at an online event about women entrepreneurs and chose the topic–what else–multipotentiality. And now she is writing a book about it.

Which is how she found me. “I read about your rainforest mind definition and you were really speaking directly to me!”

Now, Daniela knows she has a rainforest mind. Now, she knows her multipotentiality is only one aspect of an even more complex personhood. She is a fast deep-thinking learner. Divergent, creative problem solver. She is highly sensitive, empathetic, and intuitive. Emotional. Curious. Analytical. Questioning. Passionate about life, literature, and making a difference for others.

With this new information about her rainforest mind, Daniela realizes she can step into her whole, intense, imaginative self with confidence. She can allow herself to find her joy again and know her joy is not wrong.

In fact, it is very, very right.

(Note: Another excellent resource for all of you RFMs cavorting around your multiple career paths is Marci Alboher’s One Person/Multiple Careers. And if you are wanting some guidance as you head into mid-life and beyond, check out The Encore Career Handbook, also by Alboher.)

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To my dear bloggEEs: I wish there was a way we could all gather in person and just cry together in love and relief. Life is so upsettingly craaazy these days, no matter where you are in the world. I hope you are deepening your connection to your self-compassion and your tender hearts, and you are finding solace, spirituality, and creative ideas via your deep inner knowing and your connections to Source or Guidance or Nature or Universal Love or Evolutionary Consciousness, or God or Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. Oh, and, let us know in the comments about your experiences with your multipotentiality and multiple careers. Thank you for being here. Much love to you. And thank you so much to Daniela for sharing your story.


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Coping Strategies for Super Smart, Highly Sensitive Souls

photo courtesy of christinawocintechchat, Unsplash

But surely, super smart (aka gifted) people don’t need coping strategies. They are smart so they can use their brainiac brains to solve anything, right? They are all too busy building rocket ships to Mars, anyway. And gifted people aren’t sensitive, right? Aren’t they all science nerdified, anti-social, and unemotional?

Noooooooooooo!!!!!

In fact, gifted humans of the rainforest-minded variety are not simply cognitively advanced. They, that means you, are extremely: sensitive, intuitive, empathetic, perceptive, analytical, curious, and creative. Not to mention, you are an advanced ruminator.

And, unlike many regular humans, you also have a constant need for intellectual stimulation. Like most folks need food, you need libraries.

Not only that. If you were raised by wolves in a seriously dysfunctional family (sorry, nothing against wolves), then you may feel particularly vulnerable, especially now. If you have complex PTSD, then any situation that threatens your safety or well-being, such as pandemics, wildfires, hurricanes, racism, poverty, anti-Semitism, climate change, and sociopathic politicians (not mentioning any names), can trigger traumatic memories.

Thus the need for coping strategies.

Here are some ideas:

You know about the standard recommendations. These are helpful: Crying, hiding under a blanket, watching mindless TV, baking, more crying, exercise, meditation, warm baths, screaming in your car, journal writing, hot tea, binge watching Modern Love, Trader Joe’s organic peanut butter mini-crackers, reading, massage, support groups, Brain Pickings, independent bookstore browsing, acupuncture, yoga, gardening, listening to music, prayer, denial and compartmentalization, wild dancing, tai chi, inspiring podcasts, apps such as Calm and Headspace, essential oils, rescue remedy, snuggling with your kitty/puppy, time away from the kids, hugging your kids, psychotherapy, gratitude lists, texting your friends, hiking, cleaning your home, time in nature, helping someone in need, taking political/climate action, voting.

For you in particular: Keep looking for other RFMs; even just one will make a difference. Build a list of skilled, sensitive practitioners who will support you through hard times: naturopaths, acupuncturists, physical/massage therapists, psychotherapists, energy healers, astrologers, artists, mentors, and teachers. Learn something new, like a craft or a language or how to build a guitar. Give yourself permission to grieve for the losses that no one else you know feels. Develop your spiritual practice and your intuition; this can help you tune into new possibilities. Find someone who laughs at your jokes. Check out Patricia Albere‘s community, the Evolutionary Collective. (I recently discovered her work. She has a powerful and beautiful vision of the future.)

And, most important: Keep learning about your rainforest mind so you can really truly accept who you are, in all of your gorgeous multidimensional complexity. And so you can live the authentic, love-filled, socially responsible life you are here to live.

And don’t forget the wise words of Jon Stewart:

“My brain is not a brain that does well with downtime. So if I have a lot of down time, it will start out like “You’ve had a really rewarding career” and end up with “You’ve failed everyone that ever loved you.”

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To my bloggEEs: These are very challenging times. I am in Eugene, Oregon, USA, and have been dealing with unprecedented wildfires, along with the pandemic. I am grateful to be safe/healthy and I hope all of you are, too. What have you been dealing with? How are you coping? Are you finding more acceptance for and understanding of your rainforest mind? Sending you all much love. Thank you so much for being here.


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My Overexcitable, Effervescent, Unruly Rainforest Hair, I Mean, Mind — The Video

My dearest BloggEEs. I know these times are challenging, frightening, and stressful. Your sensitivity, empathy, intuition, intellect, and sense of social responsibility may make it all feel extremely overwhelming. You may be unclear about what type of action to take. I wanted to give you some support, love, and a little humor to help you through. And let you meet the person behind the words…um, me! So here it is (about 4 minutes). I hope you enjoy seeing me grapple with my overexcitable rainforest hair mind. I mention PG (profoundly gifted) levels but what I’m saying applies to the whole rainforest mind spectrum! And, as usual, my message is to continue your courageous journey to finding and expressing your True Self, your authentic voice, and your purpose(s). Let us know what you think/feel in the comments. Thank you for being here. Much love to you all.

(Note: The book I mention is by Patricia Albere.)

Meet Me And My Overexcitable Hair


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Gifted In The Netherlands

photo courtesy of Robin Benzrihem, Unsplash

Lieke, 20, lives in the Netherlands. Like many of you, she is not sure she is gifted but she relates to the traits of the rainforest mind. As I read her description of herself, I wondered, once again, why humans are so uncomfortable with the super smart. Or even the very smart. The ones who are deep divers into their hearts, minds, and souls. And into meaning, purpose, and justice.

And speaking of diving, I had a counseling client this week who was pressuring herself to “get over” the trauma of her childhood. Why was it taking so long to unravel her past and heal the mistaken beliefs she’d acquired at an early age?  She was told by friends to let go of the “story” she was telling herself and move on. To stop being so intense and introspective. I told her there are folks who are water skiers, snorkelers, and scuba divers in life. She, and I, and the RFMs I know are the deep divers. They are compelled to examine themselves and their worlds thoroughly because they strive to live authentic, compassionate, meaningful lives — for themselves, their communities, and for the planet. They know that “diving into the wreck,” as Adrienne Rich called it, will lead to the discovery of the hidden treasures that have been buried under the generations of trauma, loss, and fear. And this will change everything.

Lieke is a diver.

“I learned to hide my feelings which were pretty intense. They still are. Deep down I am a perfectionist and idealist. Always thinking about what is happening in the world, always trying to understand what is going on. I like to observe and I discuss everything in my head. My mind is always working. Always. Even when I sleep. I think people around me don’t really know what I know about them and how I understand them, because I am always acting like a typical average person. Maybe I am. I don’t know. But I do know that there is always more going on in my head than other people can imagine. I just adapt very quickly…I love being surrounded by beauty. I enjoy watching the sun set and I thrive when I can have deep conversations about meaningful things. Sometimes when I feel really comfortable, I can show my crazy and intense self, too. These moments are rare, though…”

We love your “crazy and intense self,” Lieke.

The world needs you. And all of its deep divers.

Wherever you may be.

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To my bloggEEs: If you are in the Netherlands, and even if you aren’t, you might want to explore these resources. Femke Hovinga-Tiller runs an organization for the highly/profoundly gifted. Annelie Neuteboom is a therapist for gifted families. And Noks Nauta is a writer and researcher. Do you relate to what Lieke is saying here? Does it help to understand that there is nothing wrong with you if you live your life as a scuba diver? Do you know many water skiers or snorkelers? Share with us what being gifted is like in your country. (here in the comments or in an email to me for a future post) And thank you to Lieke for sharing your experiences. And thank you all for being here.

(Note: Those of you who are fans of Barbara Sher’s work, know that she refers to divers and scanners in her book Refuse to Choose. My reference to diving is not what she is talking about. Using her definition, RFMs are both divers and scanners. The book is a good one for multipotentialites!)

(Another note: If you are feeling particularly overwhelmed right now by the pandemic and general upheaval and uncertainty, here is an older post that might help. And here’s another.)

 


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Now Would Be A Great Time To Start Appreciating Super Smart People

photo courtesy of Dave, Unsplash

Today I am sending love and light to all of the super smart people in the world. We need our visionaries, empaths, scientists, healers, researchers, seekers, philosophers, perfectionists, intuitives, and overthinkers, now more than ever. Don’t you agree? We need the people who stand up for justice, honesty, and integrity. Who can compassionately and intelligently articulate the complex challenges and opportunities of our times. The artists and journalists who seek out and speak the truth. The kind, sensitive souls who strive to create a better world. 

Now would be a great time to start appreciating these humans. 

But I don’t have to convince you. You are aching to find them and experience their brilliance. Because. You are lonely. You are one of these super smart people. We might even say you are gifted, although I know you still feel awkward using that word. So, I am sending love and light to you. Because, at the very least, we need you to start appreciating yourself. To see who you really are. To identify why you struggle. To allow yourself to love your depth, sensitivity, and your extraordinarily active, fascinating mind.

It would be a good place to start.

As you may know, I am a big believer in introspection. It is one of my favorite pastimes. Facing your fears and doubts. Understanding the roots of your despair and anxiety. Gaining clarity about how your gifted mind works so that you stop misdiagnosing and misunderstanding yourself.

Many of the rainforest-minded souls I meet have been ridiculed or rejected because of their layers of complexities. Your passions for learning, books, research, libraries, bookstores, meaning, purpose, justice, and knowledge. For starters. Maybe you were the child who was rejected for their questioning, effervescent curiosity. And now you are the adult who feels guilty and confused because you can master most things you try but have not found a career path that is satisfying or a college curriculum that feeds your soul. 

And then, to make matters even more complicated, many of you grew up in homes that were neglectful or abusive. You were not safe in your own home. And, to cope, you may now minimize the impact or explain how others had it so much worse. Perhaps, you have been told you should just put all of that in the past and move on. After all, aren’t you so smart? Can’t you think your way out of it? 

Ugh. It’s just not that simple.

Of course, I have written a lot about the benefits of psychotherapy. You can find some of the posts here.

And now, now that we are in a pandemic, you may feel like you are back in trauma territory. You may feel those fears, doubts, despair, and anxiety rising up all around you, and in you. An event like this, in itself, is frightening and disturbing for many reasons. But it can also trigger old unconscious memories of being out of control, unsafe, and threatened. 

You may feel extra hypervigilant, overwhelmed, and exhausted.

What, then, can you do?

Well, it depends on your circumstances. You may only have the energy and resources for basic survival strategies right now. If that is the case, I am sending you extra love.

If you can do more, here are some ideas:

Give yourself permission to be introspective. To be deeply curious and to investigate your own patterns and family history. Journal. Do art. Try Soul Collage. Read. Rest. Develop your spirituality. Deepen your connection to Nature and the larger, loving, invisible world. Trust the guidance you find there.

You may have heard about the.holistic.psychologist on Instagram. She does a fine job explaining the way childhood experiences influence your sense of self and she provides tools for her community of #selfhealers. You might also look for a therapist in your town through the Psychology Today therapist directory

And, finally, send love and light and appreciation to all of the super smart people in the world.

One of them looks a lot like you.

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To my bloggEEs: How are you managing during this pandemic? I hope you are staying safe, healthy, and employed. Let us know where you are in the world and what it is like. What are the ways you are coping and finding hope and meaning? Are you noticing old anxieties resurfacing? What ways are you allowing yourself to be introspective? How are you taking care of yourself? How are you getting help? Your comments make my blog so much richer. 

And, by the way, writing to you is surely sustaining me right now. In addition to my chenille emotional support animal sweater, I have you. Thank you so very much for being here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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The Less Obvious Traits of Giftedness — Intense Emotions, Intuition, and Empathy

photo courtesy of Chayene Rafaela, Unsplash

“…And it also surprises me how people can’t see the interactions between things, and the affects they have on other things. The ecology of the everything, the intertwining of the systems. It is so natural to me that I’ve only realized in the past few years that other people either don’t have this ability at all, or if they do, they can’t see the ripples go out half as far as I do. I have more than once predicted someone’s life playing out decades down the road based on a set of habits and choices – I feel like a wizard with a pointless magic, because I can’t warn them or help them down a better path, and I am still kind of surprised when it plays out the way I predicted…”  ~blog comment

Do you feel like “a wizard with a pointless magic?”  Do you see “the ecology of the everything, the intertwining of systems, …the ripples…” that no one else sees? Does your empathy overwhelm you at times? Is it hard to trust your intuition? Does all of this sensitivity make you feel a wee bit crazy? Are you wondering what all of this has to do with giftedness?

When we think of a gifted human, we may think of a straight-A student, a brilliant mathematician, or an acclaimed scientist. But giftedness is often much more than that. Although it can include great achievements, astonishing talents, or scientific breakthroughs, it might not include those things. Some of the less obvious traits we do not often associate with giftedness are intense emotions, deep empathy, and powerful intuition. So, even if you are not a typical high achiever, your intellectual capacity is still vast and complex and yet you may overlook or discount it if these other aspects are prominent. Let me explain.

Intense Emotions

Many parents of gifted children ask me why their children are so immature when they are so smart. While this can be explained as asynchrony, the idea that these kids are developmentally uneven, it is also the nature of the rainforest mind to have big emotions. It is not immaturity, it is giftedness. The depth and range of feelings can be as wide and deep as the intellect. The expectation might be that because these children are so articulate, they ought to be able to control their emotions and have fewer meltdowns. It is often quite the opposite.

You may have been that child. Perhaps you were labeled dramatic or overly sensitive. And now, as an adult, you may still be grappling with crying jags or moods swinging from despair to awe. Over the years, you may have learned to manage those emotions in a healthy way or you may judge yourself for them (especially if you are male). Managing the highs and lows via self-soothing and self-compassion is important. You don’t want your emotions to run amok at inopportune times. But you will need to learn to respect them, too, as a part of your beautiful depth and complexity.

Empathy and Intuition

Rainforest-minded souls are born with an abundance of empathy. You can see it when, at an early age, they are helping other children or are deeply concerned about the well-being of animals, plants, and the planet. They have a creative capacity to see how all things are connected. I remember the teen client who had difficulty completing papers in school because she could not narrow a topic down. All things were related. She couldn’t turn in the paper, not because she was lazy, as some people thought, but because there was no end to what she needed to research.

You may have been that teen. Not only that. In school, you may also have been overwhelmed by what you were sensing from the other kids and your teachers. You could feel their stress, anxiety, and fear. It was hard to discern what was yours and what was theirs. It still is. And yet, you want to help, to be of service. But it is tricky. You might not know when to stop or how to set appropriate boundaries. And if your empathy is extensive, you likely have a strong intuitive sense as well. An in-depth knowing that can be a reliable guidance system for your own decisions and provide insight into others’ needs and issues.

It is a lot to manage.  A lot to live with. Particularly in these tumultuous times.

What Can You Do?

It just so happens that there is a free online summit just waiting for you the week of March 9-13, 2020. It is hosted by The Shift Network, an organization of smart, sensitive, socially responsible folks. The link to find out more is here. And for those of you who are curious to hear more of my thoughts on this, I am on the program on March 11!

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To my dear bloggEEs: Do you experience any of these traits? How? What is difficult for you? How do you manage? If you sign up for Evolved Empath, let us know what you think. Thank you as always for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us and for being your intensely emotional, empathic, and intuitive self! (And thank you to the bloggEE who contributed the initial inspiring comment.)

 

 

 

 


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Counseling Gifted Adults — A Quick Guide for Therapists

photo courtesy of Christopher Lemercier, Unsplash

What do you do with the clients you suspect are super smart? Clients who talk fast, think fast, and ask probing questions. Who are so articulate and high functioning, you can’t understand why they say they are depressed and anxious. Who are paralyzed by fears of failure and the pressures of their “great potential.” Who have exceedingly high standards and expectations for themselves and others. Who change jobs frequently and express frustration, impatience, and confusion with slower thinking coworkers. Who feel a deep, unrelenting loneliness even if they have many friends and are in partnerships. Who have been bullied and bored in schooling situations while they clearly have an enormous passion for learning. Who have an unusual number of sensitivities to sounds, textures, visual stimulation, chemicals, and emotions. Who feel a responsibility for making a difference on the planet, have extraordinary empathy, and feel despair and idealism about the future. Who have experienced serious trauma in childhood but appear to be unscathed. Who can sense when your attention is drifting, are afraid of overwhelming you, and who, in fact, do overwhelm you with their intensity, depth, intuition, and levels of awareness.

These are some of the contradictions and confusions that therapists experience with their gifted clients.

Who is gifted?

Defining giftedness is difficult and controversial. Concerns over justice and equality can make this discussion tense and uncomfortable. Here is one way to think about it: All humans ought to be valued and appreciated. All humans are worthy of love and respect. All humans differ in their strengths, weaknesses, learning styles, intellectual capacities, sensitivities, curiosities, preferences, talents, temperaments, experiences, and desires. It can get tricky when we talk about intellectual differences. And yet, intellectual differences exist. Giftedness exists. Awkward, I know. But true. 

That said, you don’t actually need a clear, concise, undisputed definition to serve clients who fit into this category in one way or another. You just need to understand what they may be dealing with if they have some of these traits. 

And just to add to the confusion, there are also many differences among these humans. I am writing about a particular variety of gifted that I call rainforest-minded. You may run into highly intelligent clients who do not fit my description. But there will be many who do. I promise.

Why do you need to know this?

You may be using all of your very effective methods with these clients and yet something is not working. You know you are missing a very important piece of their puzzle. But, what? Giftedness is a phenomenon that has its own set of complications. These clients desperately need you to see all of who they are and all of who they want to be. They need to be able to feel safe to be vulnerable and to trust that you can handle their exuberance, intense emotions, questions, contradictions, complexities, fears, intuition, sensitivities, and, yes, their brilliance. 

What can you do?

Get familiar with the traits that often accompany giftedness. Learn to differentiate the issues that come with giftedness from the effects of growing up in a dysfunctional family. Look for ways your clients are masking their pain because they are used to practitioners who assume they are just fine and friends and family members who rely on them but don’t reciprocate. They may need to talk a lot without being linear or chronological; take notes if it helps you keep track. Be authentic and sensitive. Get your own therapy. Be careful that you don’t misdiagnosegiftedness can look like ADHD, Aspergers, OCD, and even bipolar disorder. (Note: Some clients can be gifted and also have a mental health diagnosis or learning disability, called twice-exceptional or 2e.) Know your limits and refer if you are frequently overwhelmed.

What resources are available?

These blog posts provide an overview for you and your clients, along with the rest of my blog. Use this quiz with your clients as a light-hearted way to explore the issues. And as luck would have it, my books are the easiest way for you to educate yourself. Your Rainforest Mind is filled with case studies and detailed descriptions of clients, their traits and issues, and the therapy process. Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind is a collection of my most popular blog posts and can be used as a workbook for clients as well as a quick guide for you. And, here are a few more excellent resources. An organization supporting the gifted. A documentaryAnd, a blog on gifted children.

What else?

If you can identify who among your clients has a rainforest mind and grasp their particular challenges, it will make a big difference in the power and effectiveness of the therapy. You will be seeing and understanding them in a way that very few others, if any, have.

And that will change everything.

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To my bloggEEs: Share this post far and wide and anywhere you feel therapists might be lurking. And, of course, share it with your therapist, if you’d like, and let us know how it goes. Let me know what else I ought to have included here. Tell us your therapy experiences and let us know any questions you have. Thank you, as always, for being here.

Oh, and, I am part of a free online event coming up March 9-13, 2020. The Shift Network is an organization promoting personal transformation to “help create a sustainable, peaceful, healthy, and prosperous world for all.” I am one of the speakers! Here is a link for more information. It is called the Evolved Empath Summit. Cool, eh?