Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


18 Comments

A Totally Anecdotal Unscientific Explanation of a Particular Variety of High Intelligence from an Absolutely Nonacademic Tango Dancing Psychotherapist

Did you know that if you search for scholarly articles that define intelligence you will find 46,200,000 of them? If you look for articles defining giftedness, you will find 7,550,000. So, it is probably appropriate that I do not write one of those. Instead, I will tell you what I have seen after working with a particular variety of highly intelligent (gifted) humans for, oh, more years than you want to know. (Let’s just say, I was in my 20’s when I started in gifted education and now I am, gulp, in my 60’s.)

(photo courtesy of Boudhayan Bardhan)

The particular variety of high intelligence I know and love is, what I have called, the rainforest-minded. Not all gifted folks have the traits I will be describing and truly all rainforest-y souls are unique, complex, creative, highly sensitive, mosquito-ish, and extraordinary. (Think jungle.) That said, there are some characteristics and issues I have seen through the years that many of these complex creatures have. And it is important to examine, understand, and explain these particularities so that the rainforest-minded can thrive. After all, they provide us with oxygen when we don’t chop them down or burn them up. Right? And, in today’s world, we need our oxygen more than ever.

People argue over the definitions (thus 7,550,000 articles) but I often find it easy to identify these folks. I mean, really. When your eight-year-old says he wants to be Richard Feynman for Halloween, do you really need more evidence than that? When your four-year old is crying over the beauty of a Mozart concerto? When your ten-year-old screams when you take away her BBC documentaries? When your six-year-old is reading Harry Potter?

And what do those behaviors reveal? Passion for learning. High levels of sensitivity and empathy. Depth and breadth in understanding advanced concepts. Early acquisition of certain skills.

And there is more. Much more: Divergent thinking, perfectionism, intuition, seeking deep meaning and spirituality, difficulty with decision-making, multiple interests and abilities, many career paths, social responsibility, making connections between seemingly unrelated objects, unending curiosity, nonstop thinking, intense emotions, driven curiosity, existential depression, anxiety, difficulty finding suitable friends and partners.

Take Ebony. Sixteen. Intense. Talks fast, thinks fast, moves fast. Asks questions no one can answer. Struggles in school: Doesn’t turn in papers that aren’t up to her standards. Procrastinates to avoid feeling like a failure if she gets less than an A. Tries to engage her classmates in some intellectual repartee when all they want is to watch Survivor. Feels a spiritual and intuitive connection to the ocean and ravens. Lonely for a friend who gets her and who has read Lord of the Rings 11 times.

Or Carlos. Forty-two. Self-taught, successful IT expert. Highly sensitive, empathetic, and emotional. Bullied in school because he preferred grasshoppers and string theory to football. Spends hours writing a three sentence e-mail. Repeats himself often in an effort to be deeply understood and to calm his anxiety. Researches for days in order to make a decision. A slower, deliberate, deep thinker and processor. Wants to learn to dance the Argentine tango so that he can finally experience being followed.

Meet Frances. Fifty-nine. After running her own children’s bookstore, raising two kids and their friends, volunteering on the board for the ballet, and remodeling her home, she is in her latest job working as a city planner. She is considering going back to school for another degree because she has always wanted to be an art therapist or a landscape architect or a stand-up comedian. She thinks she is flakey or shallow because she has walked so many different career paths. Her sense of social responsibility keeps her awake most nights. Her intuitive abilities frighten her.

Ebony, Carlos, and Frances. They are the rainforest mind variety of gifted. If you find some gifted folks who are linear-sequential thinkers, who are super competitive, who thrive in school, in the corporate world, and in more traditional environments, we love them but they are not Ebony, Carlos, or Frances. They don’t live the jungle life.

But you do. Anecdotally. Unscientifically. Absolutely.

_____________________________________

To my bloggEEs: Do you know people who might be gifted but not rainforest-y? Do you live the jungle life? Tell us all about it. Your comments are so lush, fertile, wet, tangled, valuable. Thank you, as always, for being here.


56 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.


43 Comments

The Ramifications Of Any Single Thought Are Endless — The Intensity Of Giftedness

One of the painful struggles I see in gifted adults is that in many, perhaps most, situations, they are not free to be fully themselves. For lots of reasons. It is the nature of giftedness, really, because being fully oneself, if you are truly gifted, is kind of fire-hosey. It is tricky, though. Not being free to be fire-hosey, is really no one’s fault. But it is still distressing. And that is an understatement.

You see, when you have a rainforest mind, you have MORE going on in your thoughts, emotions, and sensations. You are more aware, perceptive, observant, and intuitive on multiple levels, including energetically and spiritually. This is your personhood. You were born this way. (Note: This is not the same as saying you are academically high achieving or accomplished at everything you try except maybe bungie jumping. Although you might be high achieving and accomplished at quite a lot of things in many different categories, maybe even bungie jumping, although really, do you think bungie jumping is such a good idea?)

(photo by Omid Armin, Unsplash)

So, you are probably pretty intense. In a particular rainforest-ish way.

For example, here is a comment from a post on this blog:

“…I seem to digress, but in my mind everything is connected to everything, and the ramifications of any single thought are endless. It’s like following links on Wikipedia. You start researching King Amenhotep and you don’t know why suddenly you are reading about chemical reactions in a spider’s body… I need to cut out the time I spend on Google and Wikipedia searches. All the info seems so fascinating. And the thoughts in my mind that are aroused when I watch a butterfly in my garden… An endless source of intellectual and spiritual pleasure. It’s almost addictive to explore so many things. The world is so full of wow stuff….”

The world is so full of wow stuff. Who says that?

You do.

And, of course, you are also quite aware of what else the world is full of. And it can be hard to know what to do with all that awareness and sensitivity because, odds are, you feel it, it keeps you up nights, and you feel somewhat responsible to have a positive, impressive, colossal impact.

You are told to slow down, quiet down, and dumb down because, they say, you are way too much and kind of arrogant and know-it-allish but, oh, in your spare time can you fix the world’s problems because, after all, you are so darned smart.

Ayyeeee!!!

People can be so annoying.

They say you make them feel stupid. I say, they are feeling that way all on their own. You are just being you. And, actually, you are only being a smallish part of you. And they are still feeling stupid.

Seriously?

It is a conundrum.

I wish I could give you an easy solution. But in the world of rainforests, nothing is simple. But maybe you will at least stop blaming yourself for the miscommunications and criticism you hear from others who are overwhelmed by the hyperlinks in your brain and your enthusiastic approach to the wow stuff. Maybe you will be more comfortable slowing down a bit in situations where communication matters. And, of course, keep looking for other RFMs because, yes, they are out there.

Perhaps you can find an outlet where your intensity is welcome. Music? Theatre? Art? Writing? Tango dancing? Running marathons? Running a restaurant? Running rivers? Open heart surgery?

Bungie jumping?

________________________________________________

To my bloggEEs: Have you experienced judgment and misunderstanding from others because of your intellectual, emotional, intuitive, physical, and spiritual intensities? Tell us about it. How do you find places where you can be your fully intense self? And thank you, as always, for being here. Sending you fire-hosey love. (And thank you to the bloggEE who I quote above and to the client who inspired this post.)


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.


34 Comments

“If I Admit I Am Gifted, I Will Have To Do Something Great” (A Rainforest Mind In Austria)

Has this crossed your mind? If you are gifted, you need to do something great? Create a better world? Well. I am here to tell you that it is sort of true. Sorry. But it does not have to be insanely great. It can just be kinda great. Or somewhat great. Or relatively great. Or great-ish.

Before you get all freaked out on me, let me explain.

I was talking with a wonderful woman in Austria the other day. She was having a hard time acknowledging her giftedness. Like many of you, she kind of garbled the word when she said it. Mggifffttd. Even though she found my quiz to be incredibly revealing and she scored extremely high on the test in the book The Gifted Adult, she was still not sure.

(photo courtesy of Alina Sofia, Unsplash)

But I saw so many signs. Here they are:

~ Ava is an electrical engineer and teaches engineering students. Her students do not always appreciate her. She is assuming they are as capable as she is. She doesn’t realize that what is common sense to her, may actually be confusing to them. They may need her to slow down and repeat her explanations more than once.

~ Ava spends extra time giving her students detailed feedback about assignments. She is particularly conscientious and empathetic.

~ She is an avid reader and researcher and has so many interests, she is often overwhelmed. Ava found me through an article I wrote on Emilie Wapnick’s site, the Puttyverse. She has since joined their community of multipotentialites to get support for managing her interests and choosing directions.

~ One of Ava’s favorite things to do is explore AI. On her own. For fun. To reassure her, I told her that the definition of fun for an RFM is not the same as for the masses. She was also learning Sanskrit in her spare time and had an emotional response to the beauty of robotic theory.

Have I convinced you yet that Ava is Mggiffttd? Have I convinced Ava?

There’s more.

~ Ava does not like small talk. She told me she is so relieved that when she is at the hair dresser, she can read instead of chatting about the latest neighborhood scandal.

~ Off and on throughout her life, she has been called arrogant.

~ Ava loved her seventh grade math teacher who appreciated her advanced abilities and helped her enroll at the university for math classes.

~ Colleagues talk to her and repeat themselves because they think she is not understanding them. Sure they are speaking in her non-native tongue but what is actually happening is she is thinking ahead of them and of the implications of what they are saying.

~ Ava finishes an assignment at work that is supposed to last 8 hours in 6. She feels guilty if she spends the rest of the time doing something for herself.

There is plenty of evidence, then, that Ava has a rainforest mind. Right?

But then, in our latest conversation, Ava shared her dilemma. She admitted she might still be denying her giftedness because she believes she would have to achieve eminence or win a Pulitzer or change the world if she was so smart. And that pressure to achieve would be just too much to bear.

Oh.

Of course.

Pressure to achieve. Pressure to live up to your potential. Pressure to win, to be the smartest one, to know it all. To make a difference on the planet.

The pressure is real. If you are so smart, they say, why aren’t you rich, famous, inventing the next iPhone, and solving homelessness, pandemics, racism, and the climate crisis?

No wonder Ava is not sure she is gifted.

So here is what I think.

You were born with a rainforest mind for a reason. Your job is to figure out what that reason is. And then live out that purpose in the best way you can.

How? What activities, skills, and topics open your heart and bring your life meaning, fulfillment, and maybe even joy? You may need to experiment and explore to answer this. It could take some time because there are so many things. That’s OK. Maybe environmental law? Climate science? AI Ethics? Medical intuition? ArtPoetryMusic? Dance therapy? Energy healing? Politics? Use that super creative brain of yours to turn them into a career path(s) or hobbies or nonprofits or podcasts or books or a political campaign or blog or parenthood or food cart or a unique-to-your-quirky-self side hustle.

Be sure to include ‘spread more love’ in your mission statement.

And maybe it is as simple as that. You were born to spread more love.

So do it. And be gifted.

___________________________________________

To my bloggEEs: What thoughts, feelings, questions, and inspirations does this post stir up? I so appreciate all of you. And thank you to Ava for sharing herself with us.

(Note: In case you missed it, I am linking here to a new experimental project of mine. I call it Sound Memes for Your Rainforest Mind. You might say this project is a glimpse into my exploration of singing and spirituality. The description on the site will tell you more. This project also might inspire you to take your own leap into that thing you have been avoiding for years for fear of being seen as a teensy weensy bit beyond the pale. Or extremely outlier-ish. Or even weirder than everyone thought. OK? Do it. Be gifted.)


26 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!)


91 Comments

You Know You Have A Rainforest Mind When…

There are seventeen unread or partially read books piled next to your bed. And you are browsing on the powells.com website just in case.

(photo courtesy of Gaelle Marcel, Unsplash)

You have been told that what is obvious to you is not apparent to everyone. Really? But it is so simple, you declare with dismay.

Your thinking and your style of communication is like a fire hose to everyone else’s garden hose.

You are hearing sounds and smelling smells that no one else hears or smells.

You start writing the paper for school the night before and still get the highest grade in the class. Contrary to the myth that you must be arrogant, you are actually uncomfortable so you hide your grades and start failing classes on purpose.

People much older than you are running the nonprofit where you volunteer and are asking your opinions and putting you in charge. You are appalled at how disorganized they are so you take over.

You are fascinated by, oh, everything, and never want to stop learning.

People who have been on the job much longer than you, resent the fact that you learned the ropes faster and mastered the job in a few weeks. And now you are bored.

Your empathy runs amok.

You have spent more time waiting for others to catch up than you have spent sleeping.

You had eight (or more) different careers before you were thirty.

People tell you that you care too much, you are too idealistic, too sensitive, and you can’t change the world. Sometimes you believe them but deep in your heart, you know they are wrong.

You took seven years to get through college because you changed your major 4 times. And you added two minors. You would have stayed longer if it wasn’t so darned expensive.

You have painted your living room 12 times in 4 years, and it is still not right.

People tell you how smart you are but you feel like a failure most of the time.

You slept with (and loved) the dictionary when you were a child and you are secretly annoyed that Google, Alexa, Siri, and Whoever are answering your kids’ questions.

People keep telling you to lower your extremely high expectations and you wonder why they are not raising theirs.

You learned to dance and lead the Argentine tango because it was challenging, creative, and intimate, and for the first time in your life others figured out how to follow you.

You see ecru, beige, ivory, and eggshell when everyone else sees white.

You not only know a lot because you research pretty constantly, even in your sleep, but you also have an intuitive capacity that is so particularly accurate at times, it is a little unnerving.

People tell you that you talk too fast, even when you are speaking your third language.

When you read this list you think, isn’t everyone like this?

________________________________________________

To my bloggEEs: Can you add to this list in the comments? How do you know you have a rainforest mind? Thank you for being here and for your love. Loving you back, as always. Knowing you are reading my blog has totally saved me during this pandemic. Welcome to my happy place. Stay safe everyone.


24 Comments

Do Not Stop Caring — Fifteen Reminders For Tender-Hearted Smart People

Do not stop caring. No matter if your co-workers scoff at you for your idealistic enthusiasm.

(photo courtesy of Kevin Quezada, Unsplash)

Do not stop caring. Ignore the cynics and pessimists who say all is lost.

Do not stop caring. Remind yourself that the truly intelligent ones are the optimists-with-ideas

Do not stop caring. Even when your colleagues and family members suggest that smart people do not love so indiscriminately.

Do not stop caring. When your empathy has you exhausted, take breaks and fill yourself back up.

Do not stop caring. If you have been told that the masculine thing to do is to toughen up. (Are we still saying that in 2021?) Give that little child in you a big hug and tell them tenderness is the real strength.

Do not stop caring. If you have been told that the feminine thing to do is to be quiet and look pretty. (Are we still saying that in 2021?) Give that little child in you a big hug and tell them to start singing their songs, loudly and with abandon.

Do not stop caring. Even if you are the only one you know who sees deeply into the complexity of the situation. Even if humans are always disappointing you.

Do not stop caring. You are an art-work-in-progress. You do not need to be perfect. You can not please everyone; you are not supposed to.

Do not stop caring. Remember that song? Measure your life in love.

Do not stop caring. Even when you are ready to quit because everyone is depending on you and you are so tired of it. Remember that setting boundaries and having limits are both very healthy and necessary behaviors. Even if you are able to do the thing, that does not mean you have to do the thing.

Do not stop caring. Remember to let your spiritual practice, Nature, your Aunt Gretchen, and your trusty puppy Fido nourish you.

Do not stop caring. Even if you still haven’t found the right therapist and you are having a bad hair day.

Do not stop caring. You may be on the leading edge of exploring higher consciousness with your awareness, intuition, perception, and longing for justice for all races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, cultures, and ethnicities. Keep seeking other rainforest minds to join you in your vision.

Do not stop caring. Even if ordinary reality looks kinda bleak at times. Remember that non-ordinary reality also exists and it is quite amazing.

Do not stop caring. When you are not sure what actions to take to create a better world, ask your Heart what it wants to say and do. Trust your Heart.

And, if you need to get a boost for your overwhelmed, aching, languishing, tender heart, watch this powerful short video from the international kids video troupe, the World Hope Project. It will lift you up. (And for you Spanish speakers, here is Dear Mother Earth in Spanish!)

_____________________________________

To my dearest bloggEEs: Are you tired? Overwhelmed? Wondering what to do next? Let us know how you are doing. What are you thinking, feeling, and doing that helps you care when others don’t? Sending much love to you.


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!)


38 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.