Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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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.


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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.

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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!

 


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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?)

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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.


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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.

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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.

 


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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.”

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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.

 

 


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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.

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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.