Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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Managing Your Young Gifted Child’s (And Your) Emotional Intensity

photo courtesy of Jordan Whitt, Unsplash

You would think that a super smart person would be cool, calm, and collected. Capable of handling emotion when it infrequently and inconveniently trickled out. Analytically above the fray. Lost in thought about bosons, quarks, and string theory. Logical. Not particularly emotionally expressive.

You would think.

But the gifted children and grownups that I know, well, they have EMOTIONS. Their capacity for intense, deep, effervescent feeling is enormous. Granted, if they are males, this sensitivity often goes underground when they reach adolescence. (For more on this, go here.) But if you are raising a gifted little boy, you know what I’m talking about. EMOTIONS. People are just a bit more understanding when our girls express emotion. But, if females are too passionate, too angry, too critical, too sad, too joyful, or too assertive, well, that is also seen as unacceptable.

You have probably heard about Dabrowski’s study of giftedness and his explanation of overexcitabilities (OEs). He said that it is part of the nature of a gifted person to have intensities in many areas, including emotion, sensation, intellect, psychomotor, and imagination.

So, you can relax. You haven’t ruined your children.  And you aren’t an anomaly. Or a weirdo. There’s just a lot going on in the rainforest. A LOT.

So, what can you do?

Start with self-understanding. Your emotions are an important part of who you are. Make time to nourish yourself. Soothe your anxiety. Calm your nervous system. Find others who appreciate your depth. Remember that you have a rainforest mind which means that you are highly sensitive with high expectations and standards for your behavior. Then you can stay calmer when your child’s emotions are splashing around or bursting out in embarrassing ways at the restaurant, or the library, or in front of your in-laws.

Acknowledge your child’s emotions so that your child feels seen and understood. After that, it will be easier to problem solve with your child and to set appropriate limits and boundaries.  “I see that you’re feeling frustrated right now because you can’t get what you want.” “I wonder if you’re feeling sad about that.” “I hear you when you say that you’re ‘stupid’ because you didn’t do well on the test. Can you tell me more about that?” “I see that you’re mad and want to hit someone. Hitting is not OK. Use your words to tell me how you feel. I can help.” 

Try the container method. Explain to your child, during a calm period, how there are times when it is important to put big feelings into a container when it’s not safe or appropriate to express them. Then they can let the feelings out when they are safe at home. An eight-year-old I worked with decided he’d put his angry feelings into a coconut when he was in school where he was being bullied. On days when the coconut wasn’t enough, he’d reinforce it with diamonds and make it as large as a truck. When he arrived at home, he could draw pictures of his feelings and explain them to his parents.

Practice self-soothing strategies. A gifted child’s constant questions, verbal agility, and need for intellectual stimulation can be exhausting. Make a list of tools to calm your child and yourself. Tell your child that you are learning how to take good care of yourself, too.  Your child can even remind you when they notice you’re stressed. Slow breathing, calming music, positive self-talk, singing, getting out into nature, exercise, taking a bath, massage, essential oils, and listening to a story or podcast can help. There are meditation apps such as Insight Timer for when you get some alone time. See the resources below for more ideas. Your sensitive child will feel and may react when you are out-of-whack so you’ll want to stay in-whack as much as you can.

Get therapy if you are frequently over-reacting to your child’s intense emotions. If you’ve grown up with any kind of abuse, trauma, or neglect, you’ll likely be triggered by your child’s emotional outbursts, particularly when your child reaches an age when you experienced a traumatic event. It can be hard to find the right psychotherapist so give yourself time to shop around. There are some suggestions here. The School of Life in the UK is also a good resource.

More resources: If you only have time to read one book, I’d recommend Eileen Kennedy-Moore’s Smart Parenting for Smart Kids. She writes about very specific issues that might not be addressed in general parenting books. If you have time for more, check out Mary Kurcinka’s Raising Your Spirited Child. Also Living with Intensity by Daniels and Piechowski. Psychologist Gail Post‘s blog. Tina Bryson and Dan Siegel’s books and websites. Tina Harlow and her free ebook: Helping Gifted Kids ThriveChristine Fonseca‘s book on emotional intensity. Facebook groups on parenting gifted and 2e kids.

It can be challenging to be the parent of a gifted child. You might be particularly hard on yourself and extra anxious and you may feel super responsible for all children everywhere because of your own rainforest mind. So hear me when I say that you really need to understand your own giftedness and make the time to nourish yourself. You will become a better parent, your children will benefit, and all children everywhere will thank you. 

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To my dear bloggEEs: If you are a parent, what ideas and resources have been helpful? What challenges have you faced?  If you are not a parent, what do you wish your parents had said to you or helped you with? What are your suggestions for parents of gifted children? As always, thank you for being here. And thank you to the family with the 8-year-old and the coconut.

 

 


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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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The Gifted Human’s Guide To Normal

photo courtesy of Dan Price, Unsplash

You may think that you’re normal because you’ve always been the way that you are. It feels normal to be you. You may not spend much time comparing yourself to others. At the same time, you may often feel weird, left out, and misunderstood. Different. It’s a paradox. You can feel normal and abnormal at the same time.

Let me clear this up right now. You are not normal.

Sorry.

You’ll never be normal.

You may be OK with this now. You may even celebrate it. But I bet when you were a child, this was hard. I hear it from kids. I just want to be normal. Yeah. You wanted to fit in and be one of the gang. It was painful to be an outcast, to be excluded, to be rejected.

But normal for you?

Not gonna happen.

You’ll need to prepare your kids.

And, just for the record, normal isn’t particularly good or bad. It’s just one way to describe what we might see as typical or average or middle-of-the-road or majority or consensus reality. I mean, I must admit, I do wonder if our world would be a more peaceful place if more humans had rainforest minds. But that’s a topic for another day.

My clients struggle with feeling excluded and outcast. Desperate to be embraced by others, to belong, to not be rejected for living beyond normal.

Just this week a client told me about how she felt deeply touched and in wonder, moved to tears, by a moment when she saw light coming through clouds and hitting trees in such an indescribably beautiful way. She was crying at nature’s gorgeousness. Deeply appreciating life in that moment. Moved by a spiritual connection to beauty.

This is not normal.

Chances are, most humans would not notice the light, the clouds, the trees and be awestruck by the wonder of it all. You, on the other hand, see more, feel more, and perceive more than normal. It could be how you’re wired. Or it could be that you’re an old soul. Or both. It could be that humans are evolving to develop the more-ness that you have. To evolve to be less normal.

I’m counting on that.

What do you do in the meantime?

You embrace abnormal! Find your peeps. The ones who also cry when the light comes through the clouds. Use your perceptive and intuitive powers to feel connected to the Force, to your spirituality, to Nature. Use your creativity to discover your next project or path or purpose.

Let go of the belief that you need to be normal.

Normal got us into this mess.

Abnormal can get us out.

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To my bloggEEs: How have you felt rejected because of your rainforest mind? Have you felt the desire to be normal? Are you able to connect with Nature or a spirituality that gives you some of the deep connection that you yearn for? Have you found some peeps who love you just as you are? Well, I’m sending you love right now for all of your rainforest-y abnormality! And if the holiday season is getting you down, this one’s for you.

 


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How Can I Be Authentic When I Overwhelm Everyone?

photo courtesy Brian Mann, Unsplash

Authenticity.

You want it. You need it. You gotta have it.

But what does authenticity mean when you have a rainforest mind? When you have so many monkeys swinging from your branches? When your terrain is so lively, emotional and intense?

How do you live authentically in all of your jungle glory and not overwhelm the humans more used to the meadow life? How do you live authentically when you’re made up of layers upon layers that you haven’t even uncovered yourself?

It’s complicated.

Authenticity for the rainforest-minded does NOT mean that you have to show all of who you are all of the time. Instead, it means being real and true to yourself.

I get that you want to be totally direct, sincere and clear. All of the time. Everywhere.

Am I right?

And yet. If you’re around chainsaw humans, particularly if they’re family members, it’s authentic to protect yourself. This may mean that you limit your time with them or that you only share small bits of yourself. If you’re around humans who get overwhelmed by your intensity and intellect, you may need to slow your pace and select activities that allow for less talk and more action. You may need to switch from fire hose to garden hose.

And if you’re being strategic in your relationships as a way to improve your experiences with others or as a way to cope with difficult people, you’re being authentic. (By strategic I mean thinking carefully about how you interact. This is not being manipulative, in case you’re wondering. It’s being analytical and sensitive.) You can be both sincere and strategic at the same time. You are consciously making the most compassionate choice in the moment.

Make sense?

If this news is discouraging, I understand. Find other gifted humans with whom you can be your deep, sensitive, complicated self. I’ve written about where to find them on other posts. Remember the silent reading party? There are ways to find others who live in the rain forest. You can also express your authenticity, for example, through an art form, in your garden, raising children, in your house remodel, or on your blog. Or on my blog.

But, honey, as long as you’re being real and true to yourself, your authenticity is intact.

Trust me on this. Your monkeys will thank you.

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To my bloggEEs: What does authenticity mean to you? How are you authentic in relationships and with yourself? Do you agree with the idea that you need to be strategic some of the time? Your comments deepen everyone’s experience of my blog. Thank you for reading and contributing.

You may not hear from me as often over the next few weeks. I’m preparing my talk for the SENG conference in Chicago, USA, in August. If you get there, please find me and introduce yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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The World Needs More Overthinkers

photo courtesy of Unsplash, Tachina Lee

Thinking has gotten a bad rap. If you do a lot of it, which you know you do, you’re called an overthinker. And that’s something you’re supposed to avoid.

Personally, I know people who are under-thinkers. I bet you do, too. Don’t you just wish those under-thinkers would overthink once in a while? I know I do.

Granted, you can think so much that you get super anxious. You can think so much that you don’t score well on multiple choice tests because you can explain why all of the choices are correct. You can think so much that you never finish painting your bedroom. You can think so much that you don’t have time to sleep. You can think so much that you forget to tie your shoes.

Too much thinking can become a problem. We know this.

But, honey, you’re kinda stuck with it. It’s how your brain works. Your big brain is very very active. All of the time. So, for you, it’s not overthinking. It’s just thinking. Or being. It’s curiosity. Analysis. Wondering. Creating. It’s the quest for the holy grail.

It’s you being you.

And yet, your colleagues, friends, relatives, partners, teachers, therapists and maybe even your children would like you to STOP THINKING SO MUCH.

Yeah. I get it.

And maybe you also tell yourself to stop thinking so much.

I think you need to rethink thinking.

And, of course, find ways to take care of yourself when your thoughts turn into anxiety or paralysis or sleeplessness. Give yourself permission to self-soothe. Whatever that looks like for you. If you need some ideas, try this post on anxiety and this one on worry.

But don’t stop “over”thinking, wondering, creating, and analyzing. Seeking the holy.

Being. You.

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To my bloggEEs: Have you been accused of overthinking? When is it a problem for you? How is it beneficial? Do you have a way to explain it to others? Thank you for sharing your feelings, experiences and complexities. All are welcome here.

You can find more posts on this topic from the fabulous bloggers with hoagiesgifted.org. Click on the graphic.


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Gifted: The Movie — A Review of Sorts

photo used with permission from Fox Searchlight

I confess. I love sweet sentimental movies with happy endings. Call me crazy. Or old. But, hey. In today’s world? We all need some happy endings.

Not only that. If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I’m all about giftedness. I write about it. Talk about it. Think about it. Dream about it. Sing about it. (OK. I don’t sing about it.) Giftedness grabbed me when I was a young lass of 25 and didn’t let go.

Don’t ask why. I don’t know. After all, I didn’t raise a gifted child. Didn’t grow up in a gifted family. And, truth be told, I’m barely gifted myself, as far as I can tell. But, as many of you know, I started teaching gifted kids back in my young lass days. Now I’m a counselor/consultant for gifted adults slowly gaining notoriety for my oh-so-witty blog, my fresh-off-the-press book, and my capacity to nurture the intense, questioning, emotional, sensitive, perfectionistic, brilliant humans who are my clients.

But, wait. Back to the topic at hand.

The film, Gifted. It was more than sentimental. More than a happy ending. It brought up important issues that those of us in the field grapple with every day. Issues that real gifted folks face. Go, Hollywood! Some of my lovely blogging colleagues (and moms of gifted children) have written reviews that, I have to say, have more substance than what I’ve read in the mainstream media. Here are a few: Pamela, HeatherCaitlin and Jen.

The film doesn’t dive deep but it opens the door. To these questions: Can a gifted child be a “normal” kid? Might it be appropriate not to shoot for normal but, rather, for authentic? What are the best ways to balance a child’s intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical lives when the child is wired gifted? How do we help them find friends?What are the options for education? How can educators support these youngsters? What pressures to achieve do gifted children experience? When does the pressure become so great that the person considers suicide? How do we support the emotional needs of the gifted, including their intense sensitivity and empathy? What kind of support do parents need to raise these kids? What types of giftedness exist in addition to math prodigies?

And I’m just getting started. You will likely come up with even more questions. And for answers? Well, the bloggers I mention above. Me, of course. More bloggers and resources here and here. If you’re a conference goer, check this out. (I’ll be there presenting!) And you’ll want to know about a documentary in the making titled The G Word from the filmmaker Marc Smolowitz. It’s in process right now and I’m confident that it’ll be both inspirational and informative.

So, my dears, go see the film. Take your kids. (There’s just a little profanity and a little sex.)  Then talk to your kiddos, your educators, your psychotherapists, your relatives and your one-eyed-cats about what being gifted (or, as I call it, having a rainforest mind) might mean.

Go get yourself some sweet sentiment and a happy ending.

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To my bloggEEs: Let us know if you see the film and what you think. And thank you, as always, for your you-ness.


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Your Precocious Kid Was So Adorable. Now, At 15? Not So Adorable.

photo courtesy of Annie Spratt, Unsplash, CC

Your daughter, Jenny, is editor of the school newspaper. She’s a math whiz, a voracious reader, and a star athlete. At 15, she looks destined for a great life.

Why, then, is she freaking out over what looks like nothing? Why is she still having meltdowns? Why is she screeching at you about your fundamentally inadequate parenting?

She was so darned cute when she was three.

But now, school is a struggle. She questions her teachers’ authority and refuses to turn in assignments that aren’t up to her standards. She criticizes the values of her so-called friends. Even though she has great empathy for the suffering multitudes, there’s no empathy for you. None. Nada. Zilch.

Welcome to adolescence. Welcome to GiftedKid 2.0.

I’m exaggerating. A little. In fact, she really does have empathy for you. Believe it or not, she feels guilty for her outbursts and hides a pressing need to please you. She worries that she’s a disappointment and that she’ll never live up to your expectations. (or her own) Her burning need for intellectual stimulation and her loneliness at not being deeply seen, also trigger her emotional reactivity.

Not to mention, um, hormones.

And, of course, your teen may not be like this at all. Gifted kids come in all shapes, sizes and varieties. But if you relate to the above, you’re not alone.

What can you do? Besides escape to a deserted island until she’s 21?

• Remind yourself that overexcitabilities (OEs) are part of the rainforest-minded  package. Gifted kids are naturally more intense emotionally as well as intellectually.

• Notice if you have your own set of OEs and learn how to nourish yourself, soothe your soul and get your own intellectual needs met.

• Try your best not to take the criticism personally. This is not easy. Breathe. Learn to meditate. Get exercise. Try therapy if your childhood pain is being triggered.

• Listen and reflect her feelings during the emotional turmoil. Problem solve later. No advice. No criticism. Listening is key. It’s a simple idea but not easy to do.

• Read Eileen Kennedy-Moore’s book Smart Parenting for Smart Kids and, ahem, my book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth. 

And, when all else fails, take comfort in the words of Andrew Solomon:

“Like parents of children who are severely challenged, parents of exceptionally talented children are custodians of children beyond their comprehension.”

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To my bloggEEs: For those of you who are parents, let us know how you experience your precocious adolescents. If you’re a gifted teen, does this sound like you? Or if you were a gifted teen, does this sound familiar? In a future post, I’ll focus on teen boys. But the suggestions apply if you have boys, as well. Thank you all, as always, for being here. Note: Just to clarify. I’m not saying that it’s not OK to question authority, to have high standards or to examine your friends’ values. Heavens, no. OK? Just clarifying.