Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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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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You Are Not Complaining. Being Gifted is a Gift. But It Can Also Be Terribly Lonely.

photo courtesy of Dexter Fernandes, Unsplash

You are not complaining. You are not saying it is awful to be a very smart person. Advanced intelligence is a fine thing. You know this. You are grateful for it. Being gifted is, well, a gift.

It’s just that, oh, it’s complicated.

It is not all easy street.

There are serious misunderstandings. Communication chasms. Damaging misdiagnoses. Long excruciating periods of boredom/waiting. Hyper-awareness. Piles of responsibility. Nonstop thinking. Teeming emotion. Disabling perfectionism. Excessive worry. Astonishing intuition. Unquenchable thirst for learning. Pressure to always know the right answer. Impostor syndrome. Expectations to be super smart in all things. Multiple complicated sensitivities. More boredom/waiting. Anxiety. Depression. Despair.

Intolerable loneliness.

How do you cope in the classroom when none of the other students care about learning and you already know the material? How do you handle failure when everyone, including you, expects perfection? Who do you talk with about your frustrations with your clueless coworkers? How do you explain to your boss that you know how to run the company better than she does? How do you find solace when everyone relies on you for support? What do you do when you face a problem you can’t solve? What do you say when friends can’t keep up with you? How do you find a partner who loves your intensity and your fascination with quarks? What do you do when no one really gets you?

Who sympathizes with you when you are overwhelmed by too many interests? How do you set healthy boundaries when people are depending on you? Who do you talk to about the challenges of raising your gifted kids? How do you feel pride in your accomplishments when you are accused of being arrogant?  How do you find practitioners who know more than you do? How do you know when to reduce your intensity and when to go full speed ahead? How do you end human, animal, and plant suffering and resolve climate change? How do you deal with the shame that arises when you think you actually might be gifted?

I told you it was complicated.

So, what about the loneliness?

How do you tell someone that you are so lonely because you are smarter than everyone you know?

OK. That’s probably not a great idea.

But it may be the truth.

I remember listening to an interview with the gifted Maria Popova of Brain Pickings when she said,“… most of my friends are dead people.” Not unlike this statement from The School of Life: “…We may just have to accept that our best friends could have died 250 years ago – and be chatting to us via dabs of paint or within rhyming pentameters…”

Maybe you have also found solace and connection with dead writers, artists, and poets.

But I know that you can find living friends, too.

This is my collection of posts on ways to find living friends.

And if you are also looking for partnership?

Well. One final word.

The rainforest-minded writer, 60-something Anne Lamott, just married for the first time this year. Here is her advice: “If you’re paying attention and making your own life as beautiful and rich and fun as it can be, you might just attract someone who’s doing the same thing…Never give up, no matter how things look or how long they take. Don’t quit before the miracle.”

And remember. You. Actually. Are. The. Miracle.

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your quest for friends and partners. How do you find people who understand and love you? Are there activities or places or websites where you’ve found other rainforest minds? What are the challenges you’re experiencing?

One place to meet other rainforest minds is at the SENG conference, July 18-21, 2019, in Houston, Texas. I’ll be there presenting and would love to meet you!

 

 


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Gifted Children and Adults — Why Are They So Misunderstood?

photo courtesy of ketan rajput, Unsplash

A gifted child is:

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

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

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

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

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

You were one of those kids.

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

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

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

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

It will explain why you are constantly misunderstood.

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

And then you can show us your brain specimen coasters.

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 


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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Giftedness, Multipotentiality, and Your Fear of Losing Interest (FOLI)

photo courtesy of Alfred Aloushy, Unsplash

You’ve heard of FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out. It’s a thing.

Well, if you have multipotentiality. Which you know you do. You may suffer from FOLI. Fear Of Losing Interest.

What is FOLI?

First, you have to understand multipotentiality. Does this describe you?

You have soooo many interests. Since you were a little tyke, you’ve been a ravenous learner.  Reading voraciously. Researching endlessly. Starving for new ideas. Debating with anyone who was available. Captivated by complexity. Thrilled by the thesaurus. Curious about life, the universe, and everything.

You would dive into your latest passion. With your heart and soul. For weeks you would eat and breathe whatever it was. Dinosaurs. The solar system. Butterflies. Jane Austen. Elvis. Then, suddenly, one day it was over. You were satiated. Done. And the next interest would appear and you’d be off again. Until you were done. And onto the next.

Some of you would be into several things at once. You would be exploring complex guitar strumming patterns, studying Latin, designing your dream house, writing a novel, learning computer coding, knitting gifts for friends, watching neuroscience videos in your second language, and so on.

In either form, this is multipotentiality. Misunderstood by relatives, teachers, friends, and you. Especially when it means that you are in college for four extra years because you keep changing your major. Or when you change jobs every three years because you’re no longer interested once you master the skills required. Or when you think that you’re lazy because it looks like you can’t focus or that you never finish anything.

But if this is you, you’re not alone:

From a reader, who says she isn’t gifted: “I write, paint, model figures with clay, and draw. I’m currently teaching myself Chinese (because I’m obsessed with their history and literature). I taught myself English, French and Portuguese. Moreover, I learned the Greek, Russian and Katakana/Hiragana alphabets. And I’m currently learning how to play the Piano (I have composed some simple pieces in the two weeks that I’ve been learning…mathematics, economics…”

From another reader: “…music, drama, literature, art, math, sociology, neuropsychology, architecture, accoustics, geology, geography, history (but only the stories, not all the names and dates!), languages (oh, all the languages! But not the grammar, please, and not all that political stuff, just the languages in use), some psychology (if only to pick apart some really strange theories and practices, but there are some interesting bits, too) and… So many things to learn!”

How, then, does this relate to FOLI? Fear of Losing Interest?

Two possible scenarios: 1. You’re fascinated by so many things. But when you’ve learned all that you want on that topic, you lose interest. You move on. If you, then, interpret this to mean that you’re a lazy ne’er-do-well, it could create on-going anxiety, paralysis, and self-doubt. Why start something if you might abandon it in a year? Future employers might also be wary, when examining your multifaceted resume.

2. This might apply to partnerships. You may be reluctant to commit to an intimate relationship if you fear that there isn’t enough substance, intrigue, or complexity for long term fascination.

Disclaimer 1. If you’re losing motivation due to fears of failure (FOF)or success, (FOS), this is more likely perfectionism. Learn about unhealthy perfectionism. Or, you may not have learned how to struggle with a problem that you can’t solve easily, so you give up too quickly. These are important issues but they are not FOLI.

Disclaimer 2. If you’re avoiding relationships because of fears of intimacy, this is not FOLI. You might want to call your psychotherapist.

What can you do about FOLI?

  • Learn more about multipotentiality. Emilie Wapnick and Barbara Sher are good resources.
  • Some strategies: Understand that intellectual stimulation is like food/water to you. You also need variety and depth. Consider that you lose interest because you’ve learned what you wanted to learn. Now you want to learn something new. And that’s OK!  ~~ Take the time to evaluate the importance of sticking with something even if you’ve lost interest. There might be important longer term benefits or financial reasons.  ~~ Perhaps there are ways to add variety and depth.  ~~ It might be time to change jobs, careers, or majors.  ~~ See your multipotentiality as a strength.
  • Write about your FOLI in your journal. Have a dialogue with your Fear. Let it speak to you. What might be beneath the Fear? Is there something deeper going on? Were you bored in school so any loss of interest triggers memories of being trapped in a classroom? Were you told that you have to finish everything you start no matter what? Was your giftedness not recognized? Ask your Fear to help you. See if it has something to teach you. Ask it to step back so that you can make progress. What’s the worst that can happen if you do lose interest?

Your rainforest mind comes with fears. FOLI, FOF, and FOS. Maybe FOMO. Of course it does. You may feel pressure to always know all of the answers. To be fearless. After all, you’re so smart. But you and I both know that it can be pretty scary in that jungle of yours. So many choices. So many decisions. So much sensitivity. So much awareness. So much curiosity.

So much muchness. Multipotentiality. It’s a thing.

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To my bloggEEs: Thank you to the clients and readers who inspired this post. Your comments continue to enrich my blog. Do you have FOLI? What’s it like for you? How do you deal with it? What other fears does your rainforest mind trigger? Thank you, as always, for being here. Much love to all of you.


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Don’t Show How Smart You Are. Other Kids Will Feel Bad.

photo courtesy of Austin Schmid, Unsplash

Who do you think you are? Don’t ask so many questions. Stop showing off. Nobody likes a know-it-all. Don’t steal my thunder. You think you’re so smart. Don’t show how much you know; the other kids will feel bad. 

Sound familiar?

If you have a rainforest mind, you’ve probably heard this a lot. I mean A LOT. And it’s so discouraging. Because you’re just being you. At least you were. When you were younger. Curious. Enthusiastic. Wanting to know-it-all. Assuming that everyone knew what you knew. Could do what you could do.

That’s what was so confusing. Didn’t the other kindergartners love reading Harry Potter or wondering about negative numbers? Couldn’t everyone feel it when the teacher was so sad? Didn’t all kids cry when a spider was crushed?

We don’t often explain these differences to kids. We don’t know what to say. So, we say, “Slow down so the others can catch up.” or “If you keep talking about Richard Feynman, you won’t have any friends.” Or even, “Why can’t you just be normal?”

Not helpful.

So you shrink. Dumb down. Slow down. Take up less space. Hide your love of words. Ask fewer questions. Over-apologize. Become anxious and depressed. Smoke pot.

Maybe you’re like 40-year-old Joan. Fascinated by so many things. Good at anything she tried: photography, writing, graphic design, event planning, floral design, painting, teaching yoga, running meetings, water skiing, fund raising, parenting, winning whipped cream eating contests and 3-legged races. (although she hasn’t run any 3-legged races recently) Tending to stay behind the scenes and hide her successes. Thrust into leadership positions on the one hand and resented for her creative ideas on the other. Careful not to outshine anyone. (She’ll make exceptions when it comes to whipped cream.)

Of course, you’re grateful for your skills and abilities. You appreciate your rainforest mind. But you don’t think you’re so smart. There are all those other people smarter than you. You’re not arrogant or full of yourself.

You’re not full of yourself.

You just want to be fully yourself.

And that’s not easy.

I have good news and bad-ish news.

The bad-ish news: You’ll need to be strategic. There will be people who can’t handle your intense emotions or your desire to discuss Dickens for hours. Some of them will be critical, rejecting, or worse. You will need to find healthy ways to cope or to limit your time with these folks. You might want to share some parts of yourself and protect other parts. You might need to monitor your communication to be better understood. There will be people who want to take advantage of your big heart and your problem solving abilities. You’ll need to learn how to set limits and say “no” when needed. To recognize that just because you’re able to do something, doesn’t mean that you have to do it. You may have to redefine what it means to be authentic.

The good news: Your sensitivity, intelligence, and empathy is an extremely valuable resource. Geeks are becoming more popular, respected, and indispensable. Geeking out is now a thing. It’s possible to find other humans with rainforest minds who will appreciate you. (I wouldn’t have a thriving practice without them!) You can be fully yourself with other humans who have rainforest minds. And surely, the planet needs you to be fully yourself. Now, more than ever.

So don’t waste any more time. Show us how smart you are. In your very own strategically authentic Richard Feynman-obsessed, whipped cream eating, geeking out, rainforest-minded way.

The other kids will be OK.

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To my bloggEEs: What messages have you received that told you that you were too much, or that you should hide your giftedness? What keeps you from being fully yourself now? How are you strategic in protecting yourself when needed? What would being fully yourself look like?

Thank you to the clients who inspired this post. And thank you so much to all of you!

 

 

 


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If I’m So Smart, Why Do I Feel So Lost and Alone?

photo courtesy of Morgan Basham

There are times when you just want to scream.

Even though you’re a pacifist. Even though your instinct is to be compassionate and understanding. Even though you have empathy that overwhelms you. There are those days when you just want to say, “Why are there so many f—ed up, insensitive, clueless, exasperating people in the world?”

Am I right?

But this is not something that you can say to your cousin Randy, your neighbor Millie, or your friendly plumber, Rupert. Even if you’ve been unsure of your intelligence. Even if you think you’re also insensitive, clueless, and exasperating. You wonder how your coworkers can take so much time solving a problem when the answer is obvious to you. You don’t understand how your relatives can be satisfied watching mindless TV all afternoon or reading one book every few months. You question why your friends stay in one job for thirty years. You don’t grok why introspection isn’t as important as football.

Some of you may have known all along that you were gifted. You may have been frustrated since you were five with the kids who still couldn’t read Harry Potter or who didn’t know the earth’s distance from the sun. You may have had a hard time not throwing a chair when your teacher told you that you must wait for the others to catch up, again. You may have wondered why teachers didn’t appreciate your corrections of their spelling or why they ignored your raised hand. Perhaps, you felt that it was your duty to explain to the other kids how they weren’t playing the games correctly. You were sure they’d appreciate your direction.

They didn’t.

And now, as an adult, you’re still frustrated and lonely. Because you have high standards for accuracy, justice, and quality, you are enraged irritated by the shoddy workmanship of your contractor, by the irresponsibility of your supervisors, or by the petty arguments among your colleagues and relatives. How could they not know what is so obvious to you? How could they miss all of those details? How could they not care about the environmental impact of their actions? How could they be lacking in empathy, awareness, and sensitivity? How could they not consider the multiple many-faceted implications of life, the universe, and everything instead of their ridiculously simplistic, narrow-minded assumptions?

Perhaps, you have felt lost and alone for a long, long time.

I hear you.

What can you do?

  • Use that vast capacity you have for knowing, thinking, and feeling to expand your connection to sensation in your body-mind-heart. You might find great pleasure just by sinking into yourself and your connection to peace and beauty within and around you. If you need guidance, try a mindfulness app, a spiritual practice, Judith Blackstone’s Realization Process, or hikes in the forest or by the ocean. Feel your connection to Everything. Let your intuitive, empathic abilities expand.
  • Get enough psychotherapy so that you calm the fears of your traumatized inner child. Then, imagine that you have one year to live. What do you just have to do? What do you have to create? What is your purpose here on earth? What do you want to leave for the next generations?

We humans can be extraordinarily frustrating, irritating, fearful, narrow-minded, and confusing. You may still want to throw a chair.

I get it.

Let us scream together. Then, take a moment. Breathe. Feel your connection to rainforest minds around the world.

To the Universe.

To Everything.

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To my bloggEEs:  What are some ways that you take care of yourself when you experience exasperating humans and difficult events? In what ways are you developing your intuition? How are you building your self-confidence so that you can take action in the world? Do you have a spiritual practice where you feel a connection to Everything?

Thank you to the reader and client who inspired this.

I’ve started experimenting with recording my posts. If you’d like to listen, click here. But don’t worry. I won’t stop writing. I love it too much. And, I love you too much.