Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


40 Comments

The Benefits Of Being Gifted

photo courtesy of Rowan Heuvel, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy of Rowan Heuvel, Unsplash, CC

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m focusing on all of the many challenges that can exist when you have a rainforest mind. What about all of the good stuff, you might ask. Are there benefits to having a rainforest mind and, if there are, can you acknowledge them? And not feel guilty?

I imagine that you experience, on a daily basis, how it’s not easy being green gifted. But many people assume that it’s a perfectly fabulous life of great achievement and private jets that fly you to your second home mansion on your personal island paradise every other weekend. Maybe you also believed that, and so, because your life isn’t perfectly fabulous, you assumed that you weren’t gifted.

And it may be hard to speak about your actual strengths and accomplishments, without being seen as arrogant, conceited or insensitive. Without feeling guilty. That you don’t deserve these abilities and achievements. That it was a fluke that you got that award or that promotion. And it’s weird that people keep asking you how you know so much. When you know how much you don’t know.

How, then, can you identify your strengths, accept them, and be comfortable in your intense, emotional, supersmart, sensitive skin?

For starters: Here’s my handy dandy list of ways your rainforest mind is beneficial:

Sensitivity: Makes you a better parent, healer, therapist, colleague, cook, artist, political activist, dancer, musician, teacher, spouse, medical professional, realtor, electrician, plumber, neighbor, everything. You see? Whatever you do. Being sensitive makes you better at it. You’re perceptive. You notice things others don’t. You have deep emotions. You care. Think of it this way: Would you prefer working with a sensitive dentist or an insensitive one?

Intensity: You’re passionate, mysterious, and fascinating. You can get a lot done in a short amount of time. You scare away people you’d rather not talk to anyway.

Fast, deep, and wide learning; Curiosity: The world needs more people who actually know something, think deeply, ask questions, seek answers and analyze possibilities. When things get dull, you can always captivate yourself.

Sense of humor: You are fun to have around in uncomfortable situations. People will overlook your quirks.

Creativity: Whether it’s art, music, inventing, problem solving, designing, filming, synthesizing, rocket launching, brainstorming, writing, parenting, teaching, knitting or something else, your creating is medicine.

Perfectionism: You have the intrinsic driving need to create beauty, harmony, balance and justice. If you’re a surgeon, you’re very popular.

Empathy: See sensitivity. It makes you a better everything. You understand and feel the hearts of humans, animals and plants. You’ll probably never start a war.

Multipotentiality: You can change jobs easily when things get dull. There are countless ways that you are useful. Your children will appreciate how entertaining you are. Your memoir will be a bestseller.

Social conscience: You need to make the world a better place. And because of your sensitivity, intensity, learning capacity, curiosity, sense of humor, creativity, perfectionism, empathy and multipotentiality, you will make it so.

_______________________________

Thank you to the bloggEE who requested this topic. I’m open to other topic suggestions as well. In what ways do you appreciate your rainforest traits? Make a list of your strengths. How have you and others benefitted from your giftedness? Your comments, questions, and ideas are most welcome!

 


28 Comments

Fifteen Quick Reminders To Help You Make It Through The ‘Holidaze’

photo courtesy of Jim Lukach, Flickr, CC

photo courtesy of Jim Lukach, Flickr, CC

(This post was first published on intergifted, a great site for gifted adults.)

1  You’re not too sensitive if you’re easily overwhelmed by the holiday muzak, the florescent lights, the crowds, the frenetic meaningless pace, the likely psychopathic Santa and the smell of stale popcorn at the shopping mall.

2  You’re not a failure as a human being if your siblings went to Stanford and are all doctors and have two and a half kids and you’re still wondering what to do when you grow up because you took a detour into drug treatment and psychotherapy because your soft heart and gentle spirit needed to heal.

3  You’re not lacking in empathy if you’re frustrated and irritated, well, OK, enraged by society’s focus on the status of having more and more stuff, the bigger the better, while they’re oblivious to the impact of said stuff.

4  You’re not socially inept or paranoid if you have to abruptly leave a gathering of people who seem happy and charming and delightful but who make your stomach ache because unbeknownst to your conscious mind, they’re really miserable.

5  You’re not an arrogant know-it-all if you choose to wrap the kids’ gifts in newspaper, or if you give your precocious nieces homemade light switch plates instead of Barbie dolls, or if you choose funding a homeless family over yet another plastic giraffe for your adorable nephew.

6  You’re not a bad daughter/son if you have mixed feelings about attending the family event and if you make a plan to leave early when your alcoholic relative starts to berate you about your political or religious beliefs or about why you didn’t go to Harvard when you had so much potential.

7  You are not being inauthentic if you consciously avoid certain topics with family members who you know will react with anger or misunderstanding to your attempt to explain, say, your logical reasons for changing your college major for the fifth time.

8  You’re not too persnickety if you start your own holiday rituals and don’t allow your toddler to watch reality TV, use your iPad, or learn how to operate a cell phone.

9  You’re not a failure as a parent if your holiday meal is a flop, if your kids throw their biggest tantrums ever just when the grandparents arrive, if you still haven’t gotten your hair cut or trained your dog not to beg for food.

10  You’re not an oddball if you question the traditions, religion or the obsession with television that organizes your extended family members. Well, maybe you are an oddball in that regard but there are times when oddballs are needed. This might be one of those times.

11  You’re not rude and obsessive if you are still avoiding eating the jello marshmallow carrot salad that your Aunt Gracie always makes.

12  You’re not too dramatic if you cry when your relatives tease you, well, OK, bully you, because you’re following yet another career path, you’ve stopped straightening your hair and you’re still single.

13  You’re not too intense if you can’t totally enjoy the holiday because people around the globe are suffering, the ice caps are melting and you’re distracted by your need to find and manifest your purpose on the planet.

14  You’re not too idealistic if you believe that it’s still possible for a transformation to occur where the peoples of the world embrace compassion over fear.

15  You’re not alone if you dread the stresses of the holiday season and look forward to the end of said season. And, you’re not wrong if you understand the following to be true: You are successfully sensitive, effervescently empathetic, indescribably intense, awesomely authentic, prudently persnickety, illustriously idealistic, and resplendently rainforest-minded. (And, hey, when you get a chance, could you send me the recipe for Aunt Gracie’s jello marshmallow carrot salad?)

____________________________

To my bloggEEs: Tell us what the holiday season is like for you. If you have coping strategies for the challenging times, let us know what they are. And, if you have totally joyous experiences during the holiday season, we love you, too! Oh, and the 16th reminder, my book would make a great gift for your teens, your friends, your parents, your therapist, your sensitive Uncle Phil, and your sweet self.


17 Comments

Will My Gifted Kid Ever Be Truly Happy?

photo courtesy of London Scout, Unsplash

photo courtesy of London Scout, Unsplash

It’s complicated. Your children think, feel, analyze, imagine, worry, debate, empathize and perceive more than average kiddos. That’s life in the rainforest mind. MOREness.

And, with super high standards, high expectations and a tendency to keep raising the bar, there’s not much time to appreciate an accomplishment before they’re onto the next thing. Add to that a tendency toward self-criticism due to an innate desire for excellence and an ability to notice and remember, for all eternity, every tiny mistake. This is not what happiness looks like.

Not to mention, curiosity and interests in, well, everything, so that your children are in constant motion gobbling up every intellectually appealing thing in sight. Is there time for happiness? Maybe not. Too busy gobbling.

Of course, yes, your children will experience happiness. But it’s not that simple. They will likely feel glee and zeal and despair and rage. Maybe all in the same day. The same hour. They can feel excitement, guilt, existential depression, enthusiasm and anxiety. And happiness, yes. But it may not be the simple, peaceful, one-size-fits-all variety of happiness.*

And, that’s OK. The way it should be. Maybe happiness is over-rated. Perhaps we ought to aim for something else. Curiosity. Gratitude. Occasional Irrepressible Glee.

Really.

So, next time your in-laws ask you why your children aren’t happy, you can tell them, “We’re not aiming for happiness, doncha know. Pfft. That is soooo 20th century. Curiosity, gratitude and occasional irrepressible glee are the new happiness.”

Yup.

___________________________

To my bloggEEs: What do you think about happiness? For your kids? For yourself? Let us know your thoughts, feelings and questions. And thank you, as always, for being here. Just a friendly reminder: MY BOOK will be available around June 27. Details are here. And I’ll be talking about it online in July at Intergifted.

*Note: If you have a male child or if you are a male, all of this may be even more complicated by the societal rules against sensitivity and emotional expression in boys and men. But that’s a whole other blog post.

 


25 Comments

Sensitivity, Empathy and Compassion Fatigue — What Can You Do?

photo courtesy of Anne Allanketner

photo courtesy of Anne Allanketner

“…Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors. To seek enlightenment is to seek annihilation, rebirth, and the taking up of burdens. You must become prepared to touch and be touched by every thing in heaven and hell.”

(from Daily Afflictions: The Agony of Being Connected to Everything in the Universe by Andrew Boyd)

This would be you. Am I right? Connected to everything in the universe? With your super-sensitivity, empathy and compassion and your capacity to perceive more, question more and feel more?

I’m guessing that you could probably do with a little less more-ness. A little less super-sensitivity-empathy-compassion. But it’s who you are. You’re stuck with it. And, yes, we need you. We need you. This planet needs its rainforest minds.

So. Are there any advantages to being able to “feel connected to everything?” And, how do you get through each day on the roller coaster of annihilation and rebirth?

Advantages:

You’re not alone. Because you’re actually a part of everyone and everything. Rethink your loneliness. Your connectedness allows you to know you’re a part of the mysterious magical whole. Tune into the magic.

Your connectedness is your superpower. Opening to it, softening around it, welcoming it will bring more insight, intuition and creativity into your life and onto the planet. And, yes, there will be sorrow. Welcome it. Feeling the sorrow will bring more insight, intuition and creativity into your life and onto the planet. Believe it.

How to get through each day:

Find ways to know and express your deepest self. Whether through an art form, a physical outlet, a nature experience, a spiritual practice, a nonprofit, or a career path. Don’t wait any longer.

Turn your rage and despair into art. Dance it. Paint it. Write it. Sing it.

Limit your exposure to the news. Read novels instead of the comments on Facebook.

Get support from other humans who have rainforest minds. Know your limits and set boundaries when needed. Just because you’re capable, doesn’t mean that you have to take care of everyone.

Nourish your sense of humor. Snarkiness, silliness, reading Calvin and Hobbes and binge watching Jon Stewart can be beneficial.

And, from Lin-Manuel Miranda, words to soothe your sweet sensitive soul:

“…When senseless acts of tragedy remind us /That nothing here is promised, not one day. /This show is proof that history remembers/ We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger;/ We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longerAnd love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside./ I sing Vanessa’s symphony, Eliza tells her story/ Now fill the world with music, love and pride.”

______________________

To my dearest bloggEEs: How do you manage your sensitivity and empathy? How do you stay compassionate in such a tumultuous world? Share your experiences, thoughts and feelings with us. We’re listening.

Book release update: My book is scheduled for release June 27, 2016! Details are here.

 

 


11 Comments

Intense Kids, Intense Parents — Tips for Managing the Mayhem

photo courtesy of London Scout, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy of London Scout, Unsplash, CC

How do you manage your emotions and your sensitivities while raising your super intense super smart children? How do you raise your children without unconsciously repeating the patterns set down by your own parents?

I’m guessing that you think about this a lot. Especially at 3am when you’re desperately trying to sleep. Or when you hear your mother’s criticism spewing out of your own mouth directed at your 4-year-old. Or when you notice your father’s rage lurking behind your eyes.

Living with rainforest-minded kids when you yourself have those same traits can be overwhelming and even a tad frightening. All of that energy and sensitivity roiling around. All of your kids’ questions, curiosities and meltdowns flying hither and thither. Not to mention the less-than-ideal parenting you may have received. Or the judgment from other parents who think you have it easy. Or the judgment from yourself that you aren’t the perfect parent. That’s a lot to handle.

Let me give you a hug right now. For starters. You are not alone. This is not easy. Hug.

Here are some thoughts:

  1. There’s a lot of empathy for you online from parents who are right there with you. You can read their experiences, guidance and resources here and here. Read a sampling of their blogs and bookmark your favorites. There’s also a psychologist online who has raised gifted kids. Find her blog here.
  2. Make a list of ways to soothe yourself, to relax, and to find nourishment. Then DO THEM. Your kids will benefit. You know this but you still don’t do it. Am I right? Remind yourself that your self-care will be good modeling for your kids. When you feel guilty, tell yourself that you’re doing it for your them.
  3. When you lose your cool, which you will, apologize. Your children will not be damaged irrevocably when you blow it. The apology allows your children to see that they don’t have to be perfect and that they can apologize when they’re not perfect. Imagine how your life would be different if your parents had apologized to you for their mistakes.
  4. When it comes to not repeating the patterns of your parents, well, it’s complicated. And depending on how dysfunctional things were, it can feel overwhelming or impossible. As you can imagine, there’s no quick fix. But you can change the patterns. You probably already have to some extent. Of course, you know I’m going to recommend good therapy if you were raised with any kind of abuse. That said, there are many creative self-help tools for you to explore. Some are: Seena Frost’s Soul Collage, journaling, yoga and other body therapies, mindfulness techniques, making art/ playing music, spiritual practices, and treks into nature.
  5. To get coaching support for your giftedness and to find like-minded adults, join this growing international community.
  6. And, finally, read my bookYour Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth to be released mid-June 2016. Along with untangling the complexities of the rainforest mind, I describe client cases from my counseling practice and explain how we addressed both their childhood issues and their giftedness. There are many self-help strategies and resources included. Buy copies for your therapist, relatives, kids, teachers, neighbors, physician, ex-partner, mail carrier and anyone else who might need help understanding you.

________________________

To my dear bloggEEs: Let us know about your parenting challenges and successes. What resources would you suggest to help with parenting and with breaking patterns from childhood trauma? And thank you, as always, for reading, commenting and sharing.


42 Comments

Your Rainforest Mind — The Book — Released!!

Image - Version 2

The Author–That Would Be Me

My book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is available NOW! (June 20, 2016) Here are some highlights:

A few questions from the highly unscientific quiz determining if you, in fact, have a rainforest mind:

  • Do people tell you to lighten up when you are just trying to enlighten them?
  • Are you overwhelmed by breathtaking sunsets, itchy clothes, strong perfumes, clashing colors, bad architecture, buzzing that no one else hears, angry strangers, needy friends, or global hunger?
  • Do you see ecru, beige, and sand where others see only white?
  • Do you spend hours looking for the exact word, precise flavor, smoothest texture, right note, perfect gift, finest color, most meaningful discussion, fairest solution, or deepest connection?
  • Have you ever called yourself ADHD because you are easily distracted by new ideas or intricate cobwebs, or OCD because you alphabetize your home library or color-code your sweaters, or bipolar because you go from ecstasy to despair in 10 minutes?
  • Are you passionate about learning, reading, and research, yet perplexed, perturbed and perspiring about schooling?

From the introduction:

In the following pages, you will meet excessively curious, idealistic, sensitive, highly intelligent humans—individuals with rainforest minds (RFM). You will meet Billy, an adolescent with extraordinary empathy for all beings and a deep desire for precision, ethics, and excellence. His multiple sensitivities and his complicated perfectionism were misunderstood by teachers, peers, family, and himself. As a result, he felt that something was terribly wrong with him, nothing he did was ever good enough. You will also get to know Gina, a twenty-something grad student whose brain ran faster, wider, and deeper than many of her university professors. She overwhelmed and alienated her less effervescent peers, so Gina watched TV and smoked pot to find comfort, procrastinate, and feel normal. 

You will meet Gwen, who at 52 completed an interdisciplinary PhD in anthropology, history, art, and feminism. Lonely since childhood, she had an early awareness of human suffering. Her lifetime of divergent interests led her into many endeavors but she had not found a partner who matched her intellect or emotional range. You will also meet Steven, a 35-year-old single parent who was deeply troubled by his difficulty controlling his anger at his son, Tim. Steven expressed frustration with educators when Tim was acting out in school and feared that he would repeat the patterns of his abusive alcoholic father. Steven longed to find ways to heal his family’s legacy and access the creative and spiritual spark within his heart. 

In this book, you will meet these and other RFMs, clients with whom I have worked in my counseling practice over the last 25 years. Some entered therapy to examine the roots of their depression, despair, or anxiety. Others wanted to understand their frustrations with relationships, schooling, or career paths. Many experienced trauma in childhood. All of them felt the pressures, pleasures, and peculiarities of living inside the highly intense and complicated rainforest mind…

______________________________

To my bloggEEs: And that’s just the beginning! You can buy the paperback or ebook on Amazon, Amazon UK, Amazon Australia (only ebook) and the Nook version on Barnes and Noble or order it from your favorite independent bookstore. It’ll also be found at the GHF Press website. As you can imagine, I’m excited and nervous about this and having occasional severe bouts of impostor syndrome! The book’s style is different from the blog but I hope that you’ll find it informative and inspiring. (Note: All clients’ names and identities are changed.) Let us know your questions and thoughts in the comments. And thank you, as always.


42 Comments

Smart, Sensitive, Intense And In Love

80124274

photo courtesy Wilson Sanchez, Unsplash

Do you occasionally overwhelm your partner with your intensity? Does the depth of emotion that comes so naturally to you, scare your sweetie? Is your enthusiasm over your fascinating study of ant behavior not matched by your spouse? Do you find that the love of your life just can’t keep up?

Or is it the reverse? You’re the one who is overwhelmed, can’t keep up, not enticed by the study of ant behavior and frightened by your darling’s emotional intensity?

Or is it this? You’re both super-smart, highly sensitive and terribly intense. It’s thrilling and exhausting to be living in your jungle. Together.

Here’s what not to do: Do not panic. Do not start binge-watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island.*

Instead, here are some things to think about:

~ What do you need from your relationship? Make a list. Verbal intimacy? Shared values? Humor? Love of Reality TV? How many of those needs are met by your partner? How many of them can be met in other ways? How do you take time to celebrate your connection?

~ Is there a balance in what you give and what you receive? How might you create a better balance? Look at careers, child raising, household chores, emotional support, financial support, friendships, extended family, holiday celebrations, spiritual well-being, and other elements of family life. If you have children, how do you make time to nourish your couple-ness?

~ How important is intellectual equality? Where might you and your partner get your intellectual needs met outside of your relationship? Can you feel nourished and supported by your partner without being intellectually similar? Or is intellectual compatibility necessary for you to feel fed by the relationship?

~ If you often communicate like a fire hose and your partner gets overwhelmed, set up a signal so that you can change to a garden-hose-communicator (GHC) when needed. Decide how often you’re being asked to be a GHC and if you’re OK with that.

~ Have your partner read some of my blog posts. Talk about them. What parts fit? What parts don’t fit? If you wrote your own post for this blog, what would it say?

~ Remember what first brought you together. Share those early stories with each other. If you’ve lost your sense of humor, go find it.

~ Share books on relationships by John Gottman, Sue Johnson and John Welwood. Learn more about what draws particular people to each other. Find strategies in the books that will improve your communication skills and deepen your intimacy.

~ If you or your partner have experienced trauma, your relationship will be that much more complicated. Working through past traumatic experiences with a professional will soothe your soul and allow you to open more deeply to love.

~ If you have some differences that are particularly challenging, look for a good couples counselor, preferably one who understands rainforest minds.

Note: Thanks to Anne Allanketner, poet and couples counselor in Portland, Oregon, USA, for her help with this post.

(*For those of you too young or from outside the USA, this was a really ridiculous North American TV show.)

_________________________

To my blogEEs: If you’re in a partnership, tell us how you navigate your differences and your similarities. How do you manage your intensities, sensitivities and intellectual curiosity? What are the benefits of rainforest-minded partners and what are the downsides? Thank you for sharing your thoughts. They add so much to my blog!