Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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Childhood Trauma, Psychotherapy, Courage, and Your Gifted Self

photo courtesy of Sammie Vasquez, Unsplash

You are in therapy. Grieving for your little child self. The one who thought it was her fault that her father was so angry. That her mother spent hours alone in a dark room. The curious child who was bullied in school because he excitedly answered all the questions and hid in the library during recess. The responsible child who needed to save the family. It has taken a long time to feel compassion for that little one. To make the connections from your traumatic early years to your struggles today. To start to change deeply held beliefs, patterns, and habits. To trust that change is possible. That love is possible.

But what does it mean to heal from the past? Does it mean that you’ll become a happy, boring, mediocre, normal person? That you’ll lose your quirky, creative, angsty complexity?

Heck, no.

Therapy will not make you normal.

Instead, if you give it enough time, if you dive deep enough, it will transform the fear and shame. The self-hatred. It will slowly, tenderly, turn it into love. Self-compassion. You will pick healthier friends and partners. Set better boundaries with toxic people. Be more confident.  Be a better parent. Your future life paths will become clearer. Your intuition stronger. You’ll be rich and famous. Your health will improve. You will feel more peaceful. You will stop the legacy of abuse in your family line. You will find your voice.

And instead of normal, you will be more of your true self. The person you were born to be. Curious. Enthusiastic. Creative. Insightful. Quirky. Empowered. Intuitive. And you will love that self. Less fear and shame. More love and light. You will understand what you are here to do. You will feel safe to expand into your full rainforestness!

I’m serious.

And if you don’t believe me, here’s an interview with the RFM phenomenal singer-performer Pink, talking about the benefits of therapy! (starts at about the last 6 minutes) And, come on, if Pink says it works, well then.

But, it does take courage. It is scary to dive into the abyss. Scary to examine your beliefs and patterns. Scary to drop into your grief. Scary to change.

And, because you have many, many layers, this is likely to be a lifelong journey. Especially if your childhood was particularly traumatic and terrifying. I know that doesn’t sound too appealing. But it doesn’t take years and years before you feel the benefits. And the therapy can take many forms. You will work with different practitioners as you receive what each person has to offer and then move on to the next therapeutic adventure. You will be seen. You will be heard. You will be loved.

And If I can do it, so can you.

With some inspiration. From Pink. Take a listen. (From her album Hurts 2B Human.)

Titled, what else? Courage.

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To my bloggEEs: Let us know about your experiences in therapy. Your questions. Successes. Failures. Stories. If you are looking for more articles on psychotherapy, check out these posts and go to The School of Life’s site. 

Thank you to the client who inspired this post and to all of the clients I am so honored to know.

And if you want to know more about your fabulous rainforest mind, my new book is now available. Look for it here. And my first book, a deeper look at your giftedness via case studies of clients in therapy along with many resources, is here. And, if you do read one or both, I’d be most grateful if you’d write an Amazon review!

 


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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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The Lonely World of the Gifted Adult — Too Smart, Too Sensitive, Too Emotional, Too Curious

photo courtesy of Danny via Unsplash

It is part of the mythology of giftedness that super smart people have it made. That they are successful, rich, and appreciated for their cleverness. That they don’t really need much companionship because they are totally content in their labs studying fruit flies or in the library immersed in piles of books on obscure philosophical theories.

In my experience, this is not the case. These adults are often lonely. Granted, I’m a psychotherapist. Most of the gifted clients I see have lived through some sort of childhood trauma. Nevertheless, I suspect that many of the non-traumatized gifted souls among us would be telling me similar tales.

When you have a rainforest mind, it can be hard to find others who truly, deeply get you.

Some examples:

~ You are at your job, being conscientious, and caring. It is important to you that your coworkers are respected and understood. You feel responsible to both the organization and the humans you  supervise. Meetings are challenging. You problem solve quickly and typically end up waiting for the group to catch up. You grow tired of explaining what is obvious to you. At your evaluation, your boss tells you that coworkers say you are arrogant, condescending, and judgmental. Your boss is intimidated by you. You slow your speech and smile more. You don’t share your innovative ideas or your questions. You leave homemade gluten-free cookies in the staff room. It doesn’t help.

~ You are in graduate school. You were so excited to join what was supposed to be a cohort of deeply intellectual lovers of research and thinkers of complex ideas.  But your advisor no longer cares. He has tenure and has lost interest in academic pursuits and in you. The politics within your department is disturbing. You wonder how there can be peace on earth when your colleagues in academia can’t even agree on the schedule for the next term. You feel bereft. No one shares your curiosity and your enthusiasm for Nietzsche, Virginia Woolf, quarks, Bach, the universe, and everything.

~ You are highly intuitive. You have been an empath since you were quite young. You feel a responsibility to help others. It is hard to know if friends are attracted to you for you or if they just want you to help them heal their emphysema or contact their dead Uncle George. It is hard to have simple relationships because you can sense what others are feeling and they either put you on a pedestal or they avoid you. If you haven’t been able to set healthy boundaries because you have been told that you have a gift and are responsible for sharing it, you may overwork and ignore your body’s distress signals.

~ You have a deep sense of social responsibility. It is hard not to obsess about the level of suffering that you see all around the world. Your friends and relatives tell you to lighten up and stop worrying so much. But every time an extreme weather event happens somewhere or you see another homeless person, your heart breaks.

~ You are the parent of a gifted child. This child is bursting with energy, questions, curiosity, and emotion. You can’t keep up with them and are exhausted at the end of the day. You feel a deep sense of responsibility to raise a compassionate, sensitive human. To give your child what you did not get. Finding an appropriate school has been grueling. Other parents think it is easy to raise such a smart child. It is not.

Can you relate to any of these examples? Many of them?

What can you do about the loneliness you feel?

You can read these other blog posts. I’ve written about this before. There are things that you can do.

For today, though, I want to share the words of the courageous RFM, Charles Eisenstein. You’ll want to read the entire article. He presents a fascinating perspective on living consciously in today’s world. The quote below is particularly uplifting and spiritually sensitive.

You are not alone.

“The beings we have excluded from our reality, the beings we have diminished in our perception into non-beings, they are still there waiting for us. Even with all my inherited disbelief (my inner cynic, educated in science, mathematics, and analytic philosophy, is at least as strident as yours), if I allow myself a few moments of attentive quiet, I can feel those beings gathering. Ever hopeful, they draw close to the attentiveness. Can you feel them too? Amid the doubt, maybe, and without wishful thinking, can you feel them? It is the same feeling as being in a forest and suddenly realizing as if for the first time: the forest is alive. The sun is watching me. And I am not alone.”     Charles Eisenstein

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To my bloggEEs: Of course, I feel less alone because I have you! Thank you so much for being here. Let us know about your experiences of loneliness and what soothes you and how you find people (and spiritual guides? Nature? the Force? higher consciousness? intuitive visions? God? ) who get you. Do you have a spiritual practice/belief where you can feel connected?

My new book is almost here! It will launch near the end of June. Stay tuned! If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, I’ll be announcing it there first. (and here, of course) You will now have your favorite blog posts in a book (a love letter to you) to soothe your lonely soul.

 


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“Beam Me Up, Scotty.” Social Responsibility and Your Super Smart, Sensitive Soul

photo courtesy of Dino Reichmuth, Unsplash

Remember this from Star Trek? “Beam me up, Scotty.” Sometimes don’t you just want to be beamed up?

Me, too.

Why?

Super Sensitivity. Extreme Empathy. Pressure. Expectations. Overthinking. Perfectionism. Intuition. Loneliness. Social responsibility. Bad Hair Days.

Not to mention childhood trauma. Anxiety. Depression. Despair. Climate change. Ignorance. Racism. anti-Semitism. Sexism. Poverty. Narcissistic politicians. And more.

It can be overwhelming. You can feel powerless.

What can one person do? Even one super smart, sensitive, empathetic person?

Here’s an idea. Something you can do.

Get in touch with the activities and skills that bring you joy, meaning, and fulfillment. Then, use your creativity to turn one or more of them into a community building or global-oriented service project that will change minds and hearts. Design a project that will spread more love. That will soften the divide and reduce the fear. It doesn’t have to grow into a global phenomenon. But it can. You may hesitate because you feel that whatever you do won’t be grand enough. Won’t be perfect enough. Don’t let that stop you. 

Here are some examples. Places to start:

~ Have you heard of the Craftivist Collective? They describe themselves this way: “Our gentle protest approach to craftivism aims to change the world with deliberate, thoughtful actions that provoke reflection and respectful conversation instead of aggression and division.” A similar group is called Badass Herstory. Check them out. I had no idea that craftivism was a thing until a client told me about it. Join them or start a different collective. Maybe a Solar Power Collective or a Gleaners Group. (You just might meet other RFMs there!)

~ I’m guessing that you know about Maria Popova and Brain Pickings. Imagine making a living researching and writing about everything you are curious about with no limits on depth and complexity. She has almost 5 million followers on Facebook. Who says there aren’t any super smart people out there?? Is she influential? You betcha.

~ Start a Silent Book Club in your town. Here’s their description. “We started Silent Book Club because reading with friends is awesome. We love hearing about what people are reading (often in their other book clubs) and we think it’s important to put down our phones and be social. Real, live, breathing-the-same-air social, not hearting-you-on-Instagram social.” Maybe this doesn’t sound like a service project but you never know who you might be saving from despair or desperation. Spreading the love of reading has got to be a good thing.

~ Start a mentorship program in your local middle school. Then let it spread throughout your school district.

~ Get involved with an organization helping refugees around the world.

~ Use art as a way to influence others. Explore organizations that promote the power of art such as this one: … persuade by creating moving experiences that prompt people to question the world as it is, imagine a world as it could be, and join together to make that new world real…”

~ Join with climate activists in your state to find out how to take action that will influence policy and promote real change. Read DeMocker’s book for many suggestions on how to begin.

~ Choose to do some deep psychotherapy around family of origin behaviors, patterns, and beliefs. Stop the cycle of abuse in your family line. Find your strength and your voice so that you can relate to others from your own self-compassionate place.

~ Start a blog and write a book. Become a psychotherapist and work with rainforest-minded souls.

And, remember.

You’ll need nourishment and nurturing so that you can build your social responsibility plan. Here is some good advice from Maria Popova.

Seek out what magnifies your spirit. Patti Smith, in discussing William Blake and her creative influences, talks about writers and artists who magnified her spirit — it’s a beautiful phrase and a beautiful notion. Who are the people, ideas, and books that magnify your spirit? Find them, hold on to them, and visit them often. Use them not only as a remedy once spiritual malaise has already infected your vitality but as a vaccine administered while you are healthy to protect your radiance.”   Maria Popova

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To my dearest bloggEEs: What people, ideas, and books “magnify your spirit?” Let us know your feelings around social responsibility and if you have project ideas that you want to explore. (Note: I will be deleting any comments that are rants, even though there is a lot to rant about, or that call out specific individuals or political parties. Thank you for understanding.) Sending you all much love and spirit magnification.

 


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I Ditched the PHD for the Argentine Tango or If I’m so Smart, Why Aren’t I an Astrophysicist?

My First Tango Lesson

I thought I should get a PhD. It made sense. There was a professor who asked to mentor me. I wanted to write a book. So, I thought, why not write a book and get a PhD at the same time? I applied. Was accepted into a program. Got funded.

Then I thought. How many years of my life will this take? What if I die just as I finish? Will I be glad that I spent the last years of my life in a PhD program?

Um. No.

So, I ditched it.

I took Argentine tango lessons instead.

I do not regret this decision.

But I know what you’re thinking. If she were really smart, if she were gifted for heaven’s sake, she’d choose the PhD. She’d be a super achiever. An academic superstar. An Einstein or an Edison. An Elon Musk or a Steve Jobs.* 

Oh wait. Did they even go to college?

But I digress.

Maybe you’ve been ruminating like this: If I’m so smart, shouldn’t I get a PhD? Don’t smart people excel at academics? If someone is supposed to be gifted, don’t they become scholars and university professors? If I don’t become an astrophysicist, does that mean that I’m a failure? That I’m not gifted? Will I disappoint my parents, my teachers, and myself if I choose tango lessons instead of a PhD? 

You do tend to ruminate. We know this.

But, here’s what I think.

Yes, some gifted folks choose academia. Some are high achievers. Some even invent things that are “insanely great.” And we love the high achievers. If you are one, we love you.

But you’re not all going to be interested in astrophysics. Or you may be fascinated by it but you also love poetry and violin and languages and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and mycelium, and on and on. Not only that. Schooling might not be so appealing if you had less than fabulous experiences there as a child.

And what does it mean to be gifted anyway? There are so many different definitions. Eminence? Achievement? 10,000 hours of practice? Grit? Talent? Wiring? Motivation? Financial success?

In my world, gifted means rainforest-minded. A human who is bubbling over with intellectual capacity and passion for learning. An effervescent love of beauty. Multi-dimensional creativity. Unending interests and abilities. Intense curiosity. Depth. Finely-tuned sensitivity, intuition, and empathy. A need to make the world a better place and to dance the tango.

A rainforest mind.

So. Maybe you get a PhD. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you learn the tango. Maybe you don’t. Whatever you do with that rainforest mind of yours, what matters most?

Perhaps it’s this.

Maybe it’s all about love. How do you love? How are you Love?

What if you “…measure your life in love.

“Measure your life in love.”

(From the musical Rent by Jonathan Larson. Seasons of Love.)

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your struggles with achievement and identifying yourself as gifted. What are the ways you measure your life?

Thank you to the colleague (getting her PhD) for her inspiration.

(*I know. They’re all white men. They’re the easiest examples to make my point. But I do apologize.)


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Some of My Best Friends Are Introverted, Sensitive, Introspective, Smart, Empathetic, Overthinking Perfectionists

photo courtesy of iam-se7en, Unsplash

Have I told you that I love people who are all of these things? Introverted, highly sensitive, introspective, super smart, and empathetic?

I also love “overthinking” perfectionists who obsess about creating a better world through raising the consciousness of humans, healing the dysfunction in their families and communities, parenting compassionate children, or finding loving-kindness in the chaos.

And let’s face it. If you’re reading this, you are an introverted, sensitive, introspective, smart, empathetic, overthinking, perfectionist. Am I right? (For those of you new to this blog, this means that you have a rainforest mind. (RFM)*)

And, even though you could be one of my best friends, well, you may still be anxious, lonely, overwhelmed, or in despair.

For many reasons.

Are you an Introvert? Chances are that you’re not the life of the party. In fact, you avoid parties. Why do people go to those things anyway? What could they possibly enjoy? Small talk? Puleeze. But you may be pressuring yourself to socialize more because that’s what normal people do. But the pile of 15 half-read books by your bed? Now, that makes you giddy. It’s not that you don’t like people. It’s just that more than one at a time is such a bad idea. On so many levels.

Are you Highly Sensitive? You may be easily overwhelmed by things that other people do not even notice. This can be embarrassing, as in, you have to leave the room because the sound of George chewing drives you bonkers, or the smell of Chanel makes you sick, or you’ve painted your living room 12 times and it’s still not right. You also have deep and wide-ranging emotions so you’re often seen as a drama queen or a sissy. Not only that. You’re deeply moved by a starry sky or by a well-crafted TV commercial for auto insurance.

Are you Introspective? You may be seen as self-indulgent, self-absorbed, or even narcissistic. This is frustrating because, in reality, you’re determined to understand the nature of humanity and, in particular, your own inner demons. All of this courageous inner exploration is the generous gift you give your ancestors and future generations. Your willingness to face the dark night of your soul is the opposite of narcissism. Perhaps you’ve been told to be less serious. Have more fun. Don’t they know that introspection is fun? And, hey, you’re saving them from your demons, for heaven’s sake. Where is their gratitude?

Are you Super Smart? I would have used the word gifted here but then you may have stopped reading. Right? But you are gifted. Your capacity for learning and understanding is vast. There are many thoughts going on in your brain and often several at one time. Even if your schooling experiences didn’t result in high grades or spelling bee championships, even if you aren’t a rocket scientist, your thirst for knowledge is unmistakable. You make connections, see relationships, and adore libraries and bookstores. You’re the intellectual fire hose to everyone else’s garden hose.

Are you Empathetic? This might also be spelled empathic. I’m never quite sure. Either way, you may have intuition and compassion that is extraordinary. You experience others’ emotions and burdens and you want to be of service. You might even have psychic talents. Clairvoyance, for example. Dreams that provide answers to your questions. Connections with the metaphysical or shamanic realms. This particular trait may be the one that you hide from the most. Especially, if there are misdiagnoses, religious zealots, or judgmental relatives in your past lives past.

Are you an Overthinker? I’m sure that you’ve been told that you think too much. What’s really happening is that you’re doing what comes naturally. I might even suggest that everyone else is underthinking. Of course, we need to distinguish this from rumination, which you might also do. You may worry excessively because you have a creative mind that can generate many thoughts. Worries, anxieties, and fears among them. But rumination is not the same as your natural capacity for deep, analytical, creative, fabulous overthinking.

Are you a Perfectionist? You can be persnickety to a fault. You may be terrified of mediocrity and failure. You might be a carefully honed procrastinator. Not ideal. You might need therapy to grapple with all of it. (Lucky for you, you’re introspective.) But, that’s not the whole story. You were born with a healthy perfectionism. You’re passionate about beauty, balance, harmony, precision, and justice. And that is ideal. And needed. Now. In these times. Most definitely.

So, my darlings, if you’re anxious, lonely, overwhelmed, or in despair, and if you’re an introverted, sensitive, introspective, smart, empathetic, overthinking, perfectionist. You have a powerful, effervescent, multidimensional rainforest mind. And you, yes you, are among my best friends.

I mean it.

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(*Note: If you are an extroverted RFM, you have all of these traits, except the obvious. You could also be a combination of both. I shall write about you soon-ish.)

To my bloggEEs: Tell us how you fit or don’t fit with these traits.  What are some of your examples of your introversion, sensitivity, or perfectionism? If you’re an extrovert, how are you different? What are your questions and concerns? Thank you, as always, for being here. I so appreciate hearing from you.

 


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If You Have a Rainforest Mind, You’ve Got Hopepunk

photo courtesy of Natalie Grainger, Unsplash

Have you heard of it? Hopepunk? If you haven’t, listen up.

It’s got your name written all over it. Seriously.

Hopepunk is about strength through kindness, optimism, and empathy. Power through gentleness and intelligent compassion. It’s about ethics, justice, and standing up. Speaking out for love.

If that doesn’t describe a rainforest mind, well, I don’t know what does.

Hopepunk.

It’s Harry Potter. It’s Frodo and Sam.

It’s Dear Evan Hansen. The musical. The song You Will Be Found.

The School of Life. “The School of Life is a global organisation dedicated to developing emotional intelligence.”

It’s Lin Manuel-Miranda.

On Being. “…an independent non-profit public life and media initiative. We pursue deep thinking and social courage, moral imagination and joy, to renew inner life, outer life, and life together.”

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and Earth Guardians. “We empower young people by providing them with leadership opportunities and tools to bring their innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing issues.”

It’s good psychotherapy.

March for Our Lives.

Rebecca Solnit.

Rebels At Work. “This is a place of ideas, stories, and resources for Rebels At Work, those of us trying to improve, change, and innovate at work…”

Brain Pickings.

It’s The Parents’ Guide to Climate Revolution by Mary DeMocker

Love Army“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Hopepunk.

It’s a new term that was coined on Tumblr by Alexandra Rowland in 2017 for the fantasy and sci-fi communities of readers and writers and shared by Rebecca Solnit on Facebook. It’s growing from there. To my blog. To you.

Carry on, hopepunkers. Carry on.

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To my bloggEEs: Share the books, songs, movies, and organizations that represent hopepunk in your life. This will be our gift to each other as we enter 2019. Much love and hopepunk to you all.