Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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What Does Gifted Look Like in My World?

photo courtesy of rawpixel on Unsplash

The controversy is intense.

How do we explain giftedness? Is it high achievement? Talent? Productivity? Eminence? IQ? Financial success? 4.0 grade point average? 10,000 hours of practice?

Nooooooooo. 

I shriek.

Politely.

I mean, it might include any of those things. Sure. But it doesn’t have to.

Instead. Here is my explanation.

Totally anecdotal. If you want data, you can stop reading now. Or skip to the end and the link to neuroscience.

If you want experience, I’m your gal.

Gifted looks like 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 Netflix. Some teachers think she’s arrogant. Feels a spiritual and intuitive connection to the ocean and the ravens. Lonely for a friend who gets her and who has read Lord of the Rings 11 times.

Gifted looks like Carlos. Forty-two. Self-taught, successful IT expert. Highly sensitive, empathetic, and emotional (although he hides it well). 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. Learning to dance the Argentine tango so that he can finally experience being followed.

Gifted looks like Martin. Eight. Energetic. Extremely curious and kind. Wants to be Richard Feynman for Halloween. Refuses to complete worksheets of arithmetic problems that he already knows. Teachers complain that he must be ADHD and not particularly bright but he can concentrate for hours at home building complex lego contraptions or reading Popular Science. Sleeps with a dictionary when he does sleep, which he resists mightily. Exhausts his parents with his emotions and his need for creative and intellectual activity.

Gifted looks like 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’s in her latest job working as a city planner. She’s considering going back to school for another Masters degree because she’s always wanted to be an art therapist or a landscape architect or a stand-up comedian. She thinks she’s flakey or shallow because she’s walked so many different career paths. Her sense of social responsibility keeps her awake most nights. Her intuitive abilities frighten her.

Gifted looks like Carmen. Thirty-six. A successful social worker and loving mom who promotes energy efficiency everywhere she goes. Been in therapy for years courageously addressing serious trauma from her family of origin. Dealing with complex physical symptoms due to chronic anxiety from growing up terrified and abused. In spite of her own pain, able to be generous, empathetic, optimistic, spiritual, and accomplished. Working on setting better boundaries with people who want her to rescue them. Learning how to create reliable, sweet friendships where she receives as much as she gives.

That’s what gifted looks like in my world.

And, if you really want to know, gifted looks like a rain forest. (Note: If people are like ecosystems, some are meadows. Some deserts. Some oceans. Some rain forests. All are necessary and beautiful.)

In his must-read book, We Rise: The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement that Restores the Planet by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, the tropical rain forest is described:

“The feeling of being in the rain forest is the feeling of being surrounded by life. It’s home for hundreds of thousands of animals, and their survival is connected to the survival of us all. The magnificence of the rain forest is something powerfully sacred, something so clearly worth protecting...the rain forest is one of the most important biomes on the planet for human survival…it offers us an unbelievable abundance of nourishment and resources…” 

Right?

Sounds just like you.

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To my bloggEEs: You’ve been doing an amazing job adding your comments to my posts. Thank you so much. Let us hear from you now. What does your giftedness look like?

(Note: For those of you who are persnickety, and who among you isn’t, I have a confession. I made rain forest into an adjective, as in rainforest mind, and then made it one word. You may have been wondering about that for a long time. You’ve noticed my inconsistency. The truth is finally revealed.)

(Another note: The people described above are composites of clients, students, and other assorted gifted folks I’ve known. Names, of course, have been changed.)

For those articles on neuroscience and giftedness, click on this link.

 

 


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I Have to Know it Before I Learn It — A Gifted Kid’s Conundrum

photo courtesy of Talen de St Croix, Unsplash

My 16-year-old client, I’ll call him Ben, was struggling in school. No one thought he was gifted. His grades were average. He didn’t turn in many assignments. He didn’t get high test scores. He was so anxious, he’d miss many days of school. His parents were confused. They knew he was capable of completing the homework. Why didn’t he just do it?

Because I’d seen many kids like this, I could tell that Ben was, indeed, gifted. He asked penetrating questions. Had multiple interests. Spent hours online researching musical genres , computer coding, bike repair, mathematics, psychological theories, and on and on.  He was highly sensitive and empathetic with all plants, animals, and humans.

Ben had difficulty relating to youngsters his age. The friends he did have, he wanted to rescue. They were often the troubled kids. He could feel their hopelessness and their anger and felt a responsibility to intervene. He didn’t understand why they didn’t respond well to his help or why they weren’t interested in his intellectual pursuits.

Ben wanted to learn what he wanted to learn and when he mastered, say, a new guitar playing technique, he’d raise the bar and keep questing for the next big thing. He’d spend many hours worrying about the future of the planet and how he might make an impact.

These are the traits of a gifted human; a person with a rainforest mind.

One day he said to me, I have to know everything before I learn it.

What?

I have to know everything before I learn it.

It took me some time to understand what he meant and why this was his experience.

Like many gifted children, Ben learned how to read at an early age. No one taught him to read. He just started reading. Learning was easy. He’d read and he’d remember. He could watch someone riding a bike and be successful on the first try. He taught himself guitar. When he started school, he already knew the material. He knew it before he learned it.

This was the conundrum.

He came to believe that all learning should come easily. If it didn’t, there was something terribly wrong. Ben never learned how to study. Or that it was normal for some learning to be a struggle. Ironically, even though he felt like a failure and like he wasn’t smart because of his experiences in school, he also believed that he shouldn’t have to study something to understand it. This created confusion, anxiety, paralysis, and avoidance when there was a chance that he might not grasp a concept fast enough or succeed at a task. If it wasn’t easy, he didn’t do it.

With gifted kids who, unlike Ben, have been told repeatedly that they’re so smart, this is still a problem. They also know it before they learn it. And they can feel great pressure to achieve, to please the adults who are praising them, and to prove their worth through their accomplishments. So, for them, if they’re facing a difficult task, their identity is threatened. And they, too, can experience confusion, anxiety, paralysis, and avoidance.

Either way, having to know it before you learn it, is a tricky proposition.

And you wondered why it was so hard to parent these kids?

Or to be one yourself?

Welcome to your rainforest mind.

And to one of its many tangled, multi-layered, sticky, complicated conundrums.

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To my bloggEEs: Was this you? Tell us how you dealt with the pressure to always know it before you learned it. To have the right answer. To prove how smart you were. Do you avoid activities where you might not succeed? Did you learn how to study? We’d love to hear from you. Your experiences make this blog so much richer. And thank you, dearest ones, for being here.

And for more information about gifted kids, here’s a recent podcast interview with me and Kathleen Casper of the Florida Association for the Gifted. We’re talking about the social, emotional, and academic issues gifted children face. Join us!

 

 


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Even Though You’ve Been Told You’re Too Bright, Now is the Time to Shine Your Light

photo courtesy of Joshua Hibbert, Unsplash

“When you dim your light, the whole world gets darker.” *

How do you shine your Light if you’ve been told repeatedly that you shine too bright. That your Light will blind others. That your Light isn’t really Light but is actually bipolar disorder and you are arrogant to think otherwise. That it’s only fair that you keep your Light dim because people will feel bad if you outshine them. That your Light will expose the truth in your family and that’s dangerous. That your Light threatens to shake up the world order. 

How do you shine your Light anyway?

How do you expand your Light even further than you ever thought possible?

What do you do if your Light scares the heck out of YOU?

Well, dearest friends. Here’s a theory:

What if there’s so much turmoil in the world right now because there’s so much Light shining? The Light is showing us where the darkness** still lurks. What if we’re more aware of the crazy because there’s more enLightenment, not less? What if our job is to create more Light because it will eventually shine so bright that Light/Love will win?

(** Just for the record, I’m not really fond of the light versus dark analogy. It can indirectly support the whole light is good and dark is bad paradigm, which can then be ignorantly applied to people. In my opinion, “dark” can symbolize beauty, fertility, lush, green, wet, incubation, rest, power, balance, healing, growth, death/rebirth, transformation…and so on. Where would the rainforest be without the dark? But I digress.)

Where was I?

Oh yeah. How can you shine your Light in spite of the bullies, the critics, the misdiagnoses, the chainsaw family members, and your own fears of failure, success, overwhelm, and, oh, annihilation?

It’s complicated.

First, you have to realize that you have Light to shine. It’s time to recognize your strengths. That you indeed do have a rainforest mind. That you’re resonating with this blog because you belong here. So. In your journal, make a list of your strengths and write an ode to your rainforestness. Or draw a huge mindmap of your strengths, interests, and accomplishments. Prepare to be impressed.

Then, accept that your fears make sense, considering your experiences. If you’ve been told to hide your Light multiple times, in various ways, it can be discouraging and demoralizing. It can convince you that you’re crazy, and certainly not gifted. Of course, you have doubts. Your rainforest mind can create millions of doubts.

So here’s another thing to do: Make a list of books, websites, and people who can provide support, insight, and guidance. Then, make time to read, research, and receive the understanding and love. Remind yourself that being in a healing and growth process is important for yourself, your family, your ancestors, and the planet.

Then find small ways and big ways to shine. And imagine that you can shine even brighter. That it’s safe now to get brighter. That you’ve only just begun to know the extent of your reach.

Together. Let’s shake up the world order.

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To my bloggEEs: Please share your resources for personal and planetary support, insight and guidance in the comments. (You can share your Odes, too!) For example, I’m reading two great books right now that are positive and powerful guides to action on climate change. The Parent’s Guide to Climate Revolution by Mary DeMocker and We Rise: The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement that Restores the Planet by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez. What are you reading? And thank you, as always, for your wonderful beingness.

And, hey. I’m thinking about designing an online class for rainforest minds. What do you think? What would you like me to include in the class?

I’ll be at the SENG conference July 19-22, 2018. If you attend, please find me and introduce yourself!

*Christiane Northrup

 

 

 


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A Love Letter to You and Your Rainforest Mind

Me in Paris airport 2005 throwing you a kiss

Dear One.

Yes, you. With that dazzlingly intense rainforest mind.

You have so much Courage.

To be here, on this planet, during such tumultuous times. To stay sensitive, empathetic, and compassionate. To perceive and feel the human layers of suffering, despair, rage, fear, and sorrow. To stay open to your deepest emotions. To speak out against injustice. To develop your intuitive abilities even when not-knowing might make your life easier.

You have so much Strength.

To be willing to face your own demons. To persistently uncover the painful patterns of shame, depression, and anxiety handed down to you from your parents and their parents before them. To unravel the legacy of abuse within your ancestral line so that the generations after you experience greater self-acceptance and inner peace. To understand and process your own fear and rage. To choose the extraordinarily long hard road of introspection and analysis so that you might live authentically and compassionately and so that all children might have better lives.

You have so much Intellect.

To allow your curiosity to run free through the multiple pathways of your effervescent layers. To gobble up as much learning as you can manage. To know that “you think too much” translates into “you breathe too much” and, no, there can never be too much air thinking. To use your capacity to problem solve for healing yourself, your family, and your community while maintaining healthy boundaries and limits and time for the seventeen books piled next to your bed.

You have so much Sensitivity.

To appreciate and trust the intricate beauty and power of the natural world. To maintain your idealism and optimism in spite of the evidence. To let your awarenesses enhance your creativity. To persist in finding your particular art form as a way to express and soothe your sweet soul and the soul of the world.

You have so much Spirit.

To keep looking for Love in spite of the bullies, in spite of your difficulty communicating with the multitudes of slower, simpler thinkers. In spite of your lonely heart. To expand your awareness into the invisible world. To receive the powerful Love and guidance from the Universe. To build your particularly rainforest-y spiritual practice. To allow yourself to become all that you can be; More than you ever thought possible.

More than you ever thought possible.

Dear One. Yes, you. With that dazzlingly intense rainforest mind.

We. Love. You.

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To my bloggEEs: I am so moved by each of you as I read your comments and your emails and as I meet you online and in my practice. I’m so honored to be able to provide you with support. This love letter comes from me with a little help from my own spiritual network of Guides. I have a sense that there are loving Beings in the Universe who are cheering us on. They’re saying thank you, right now, as we speak.

And for a little treat, I want to show you one of my “art forms.” I found an old video of me taking a tango lesson from 2004. As you know, I recommend the Argentine tango for RFMs looking to find each other and connect. Here’s a chance to see what it’s like! Enjoy!

 


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Don’t Give Up On Yourself And Your Rainforest Mind

photo courtesy of Nadim Merrikh, Unsplash

Don’t quit. Don’t stop striving. Don’t stop growing. Don’t stop believing.

Don’t give up on yourself.

Even if you grew up in a family of chainsaws. Even if you have been told over and over and over that you’re too sensitive, too dramatic, too smart, too quiet, too noisy, or too weird. Even if you think you’re too old or too young or too whatever. Even if you’re overwhelmed by politics or racism or natural disasters or anxiety or depression or physical disabilities. Even if you procrastinate. Even if you’ve changed jobs multiple times and never learned how to build rocketships and send them to the international space station. Even if your hair is curly and free range. Even if you don’t look like George Clooney or Beyoncé.

Even if you haven’t partnered with the person of your dreams and you don’t have perfect, high achieving children. Even if you feel like too much and not enough at the same time. Even if you’re post-menopausal. Even if you’re grieving for the planet and are anxious about the future. Even if you’re gluten-free. Even if you can’t leave your home. Even if you don’t have a home. Even if you haven’t renovated the school system. Even if you didn’t go to Harvard. Even if you did go to Harvard. Even if your curiosity has been misinterpreted as arrogance and know-it-all-ness. Even if you weren’t popular in high school. Even if you can’t decide what to eat for breakfast. Even if you can’t afford psychotherapy. Even if you’ve been in psychotherapy for years. Even if you don’t speak seven languages fluently. Even if you’re seen as extremely successful in your field and yet you still feel bereft and lonely. Even if you haven’t saved the world. Yet.

Don’t stop believing.

You never know. You could be a late bloomer. You could start tango dancing at 47. You might become a blogger at 62. You might get your first book published at 64. You could discover that people around the world love and admire you. You could be helping smart, sensitive people self-actualize and find their purpose(s). You could finally accept and love your curly free-range hair.

You could finally know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that. you. are. gifted.

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To my bloggEEs: I am so inspired by all of you and so grateful for our community. Let us know your thoughts, questions, and reactions to this post. Your comments add so much! And thank you for being here. This post is part of a blog hop from the amazing site hoagiesgifted.org. For more posts on the topic: Things I Wish I Knew Back Then, click on the image below. And for those of you who are parents of gifted children, here’s a little treat. My colleague, Tina Harlow, edited this eBook that has lots of great advice from professionals (including me!) in an easy-to-read format. It’s available free to download.


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If You’re Gifted, Are You Responsible for Everyone and Everything Until the End of Time?

photo courtesy of Ayo Ogunseinde, Unsplash

The following questions can plague the rainforest-minded:

If someone asks you for help, and you have the skills that they need, are you always supposed to say yes to them?

If someone asks you for help, and you have the skills that they need and you say no, should you feel utterly and totally guilty for the rest of your life?

If your intuition is often accurate, and you pick up information about someone, are you responsible for telling that person what you suspect is true about them?

If you can see into someone’s wounded soul and you have compassion for them, but in everyday life they’re toxic, manipulating creeps, do you have to keep being their friend?

There are many other questions, of course. Bazillions of them. But the above questions are in a particular category. It’s: If I’m gifted, I must be responsible for using my gifts to the fullest capacity possible all of the damned time.

That category.

You’ve probably heard this all of your life. From relatives, teachers, religious leaders, and yourself. And I get it. It makes sense that you should develop your gifts; that you want to be of service. That you feel a drive to make a difference. To use your superpowers for good.

It’s why I write this blog. I’m driven to be of service to you. So that you can rediscover your strength and your confidence, and walk your many paths to self-actualization, human evolution, and planetary healing.

But there are limits.

Yes, even you. have. limits.

For example:

You have a body that you must take care of. You actually need to sleep. Your sensitivity, empathy, and intuition need to be protected and nourished. There’s only so much time.

If you grew up in a chainsaw family, you’ll have a young child part who learned that they had to be perfect or risk abandonment or annihilation. That child will need your attention, understanding, and love.

And here are some other things that you may need to learn:

You’ll want to learn the difference between obsession with and excitement over a new project that is so very intellectually stimulating that you forget to eat or bathe for days on end. (Yeah.)

Versus–

When you’re responding to just one more email from your clamoring friend or coworker who just has one last teensy weensy request: that you design, write, and print the programs for their long lost fourth cousin’s memorial gathering and you edit the eulogy and order the flowers after you bake their nephew’s favorite cheesecake and don’t forget that it has to be gluten-free and bring your violin to the service just in case… so that you don’t have time to eat or bathe for days on end. (Nah.)

Not only that.

You’ll want to learn that you can’t possibly say yes to every request that you get, even if you could do it faster and better than anyone else available. Just because you are able to do it, doesn’t mean you have to. It would be impossible to actually do everything that you can do. You will have to say no some of the time.

You’ll want to learn that you have a right to select your friends carefully. If you find yourself doing all of the listening and supporting, you may need to say bye-bye. If you always feel drained or weird after visiting, bid them adieu.

You may have highly developed intuitive abilities. This is particularly tricky. When do you share what you know? How do you protect yourself from people with terrible boundaries who will never get enough no matter how much you give? Use that intuition of yours to know when and how much to share. I just started reading a new book by Christiane Northrup on this topic. It looks good so far. You have a right to protect your intuitive/spiritual self from assault.

Do you hear me?

Sure. You will likely want to create a life of meaning, purpose, and service. You may even be heading toward self-actualization, human evolution, and planetary healing, as we speak.

Just remember, even though you’re gifted, you’re not responsible for everyone and everything until the end of time.

I mean it.

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To my darling blogEEs: Do you feel responsible to help others no matter the cost? Do you have a hard time saying no and setting healthy boundaries? Tell us about it. How have you learned to set limits? Thank you for sharing. Know that I read all of your comments carefully, even if I don’t respond to all of them.


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Who Were You Before You Learned That You Are Supposed To Be Normal?

photo courtesy of Annie Spratt, Unsplash

“I have been trying to run myself on the do-your-best-to-fit-in-with-normal-people operating system. It’s not my original operating system. It’s the one I adopted when I was abused in various ways for being myself. I perfected it in school and at work, forcing myself to do all the boring and pointless things and to make myself take up less space.

What do I remember of the original proto-version? I was dreamy. I wandered in the woods. I read fantasy. I read entries in the encyclopedia. I loved puzzles and make-believe. I wrote stories and poetry. I did math for fun. I felt connected to the wild…”  ~BP

Who were you before you learned that you were too much and not enough? Who were you before you stopped singing, dancing, and asking questions with unself-conscious glee? Who were you before you learned that voracious reading instead of homework was unacceptable? Who were you before you stopped crying?

Might it be time to rejuvenate that person? Bring that person back to life? Time to say the hell with normal?

You betcha.

There is no better time. Normal isn’t looking so good these days.

So where do you begin? It might be a frightening prospect if you had a chainsaw family or if you were told that you were crazy or inadequate. Or if you experienced bullying or abandonment or racism. Or if you were told that your intelligence was hurting others or that you should feel guilty because you’re so smart or if you believed them when they called you a know-it-all and a show-off.

So, let’s start small-ish. Make a list of reminders and steps that you can take today. Here are examples adapted from one rainforest mind’s list.

~ Binge read with abandon.

~ Engage with creativity. Make things. Make music. Dance. Be bad at it.

~ It is not elitist or selfish to make sure that what I do is worthy of my precious time and energy.

~ Allow time for deep dives. It’s OK to be obsessive with my research and learning. It’s how I tick.

~ Spend time in beauty. Let nature hold the complexity; let indoors hold a beautiful simplicity.

~ Minimize boring work. Either ask for help, find better tools, or question whether it needs to be done.

~ Be kinder to myself. Stop putting everyone else first. Set healthy boundaries. Take time to rest. Take some of the pressure off. Stop burning the candle at multiple ends. Feel my gratitude in the present moment.

~ Notice when I feel the compulsion to get online. Am I needing self-soothing? Am I bored? Am I lonely? Is there another choice I could make that would be more expansive, connecting, and real?

~ Find and nourish important friendships. Tend those friendships with people who are truly supportive, are not threatened by me, and who laugh at my jokes.

~ Connect to the wild.

~ Let resentment or rage or terror be a sign that I’m being triggered. It may be an old response, borne of being a helpless rainforest-minded kid in a chainsaw world. Remind myself that I’m no longer powerless. People in authority are not my parents. Soothe and love my child-self. I have great respect for myself for the courage it takes to be in therapy.

~ Follow my weird. I must actualize the beauty and power inside me.

~ Get back to being idealistic, optimistic, funny, and intuitive. It’s time to acknowledge and open more to my strengths. I can find my particular rainforest-y way to make the world a better place.

~ Listen to the original cast albums of Dear Evan Hansen and Hamilton over and over. Sing with You Will Be Found.

~ Be dreamy. Take up plenty of space. Return to my glee. Say a fond farewell to normal.

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To my bloggEEs: Did you make your own list? Can you share some of your list with us? Thank you, as always, for being here. I’m sending love and appreciation from my heart to yours. And thank you to the reader who provided the inspiration and the content of much of this post.

I think there’s still room in the Gifted Women Symposium in Denver, June 2, 2018. I’d love to see some of you there. And July 20-22, 2018, there’s the SENG conference in San Diego. Not only will I be presenting but Tom Clynes of The Boy Who Played With Fusion is a keynoter. Please come find me if you attend!