Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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Tips for Aging Well When You Have a Rainforest Mind (And Overexcitable Hair)

Me and my overexcitable hair

I am in my sixties. That sounds OLD to me. AARP. Medicare. Senior discounts. Golf. Geezerville.

But I don’t feel OLD. In fact, other than some possible hidden creeping potential decrepitude (!), I think 60-something is kind of fine. Pretty great, actually.

You, too, can have a pretty-great-actually time into your 60s and beyond. Here’s how:

~ Get plenty of psychotherapy. (You knew that was coming.) You will need to address the old family patterns and beliefs that were handed down to you, especially if there was abuse or neglect. This will not stop your skin from sagging. But it will reduce your anxieties and build your self-confidence. At its best, it will heal any shame that you have carried for years and allow you to live more as your true Self. To find meaning and purpose in your life. Maybe even to explore several career paths that are extremely satisfying. Maybe even to find love and sweet intimacy with a partner. (I’m still waiting for that last one. Even though I’ve had fulfilling partnerships over the years, I am now prepared for the deepest most lovingest one yet.) I have been a client in various therapies since my 30s. It has made a huge difference.

~ Create a strong network of friends. You may need to work at this because your rainforest mind makes friend-finding complicated. Start by doing activities that you enjoy and look for potential friends there. Initiate contact. Nourish the connections, even if the people you find are busy. (which they probably are) Eventually, they will realize that you have done them a huge favor and they will love you forever for all of the effort you made to woo them. Don’t believe me? Ask my friends. They will tell you that they will love me forever.

~ Dance the Argentine tango. (If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you also saw that one coming.) The tango appeals to smart people because it is complicated and creative. It requires sensitivity and depth. It might be the first time you experience someone following you. But also, and most important, you can be approaching geezerhood and still attract attention. People will watch you with admiration. They will think that you are beautiful. They will ask to embrace you. Here is a sample of me dancing so you can watch…with admiration!

~ Let your free range, overexcitable, out-of-control, expressive, wild hair be itself. (You may want to buy expensive hair products before trying this.) I am finally much more appreciative of my curls. Not only do other people envy their boldness but folks also wish for the excessive quantity that people with thinner less boisterous hair are losing as they age. If you start to love your overexcitable hair, you, too, will find more self-acceptance for the you-ness that has always felt like tooooo much.

~ Give yourself permission to constantly be working on yourself in various ways. This is not narcissism. Your purpose is to be a more loving, compassionate, contributing human, right? In addition to the years of psychotherapy, experiment with other healing modalities. Acupuncture, energy medicine, 12-Steps, bodywork, time in nature, meditation, yoga, spiritual practices, massage, journal writing, visual art, music, dance, reading, martial arts, running, astrology, biking…and more. I have experienced many of these and can enthusiastically vouch for their effectiveness.

~ Avoid mirrors when you have your reading glasses on.

~ Pay attention to your posture. Seriously. Learn about Katy Bowman’s “nutritious movement.”

~ Find people from all over the planet who are creating a better world. Connect with some of them. Support them. Speak out about injustice. Find your particular way to step up.

~ Find a career path(s) that allows you to age gracefully. One where you don’t have to move much and where the older you are, the more in demand you will be. Being a psychotherapist, blogger, consultant, and author, I’ve realized that I managed to find work that I love and that will take me into old age with ease. People don’t mind that I am older or that my knees are creaking. In fact, they think I am wise.

~ Build a spiritual practice that soothes your nervous system, guides your intuition, and connects you beyond the visible world to a larger, loving, spiritual energy field that is all about Love. This is particularly important as you age and begin to think about your legacy. Many RFMs find Spirit through connecting to Nature. I am still developing my spirituality. I find dancing, singing, and journaling to be my way into the invisible spiritual realms. 

~ Maintain your sense of humor.

~ Don’t run out of hair products.

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To my bloggEEs: What are you doing as you grow older to age gracefully? Which of these ideas appeal to you? What questions do you have? Thank you, as always, for being here.

And don’t forget that you can help me age even more gracefully, if you buy my books! (and write reviews) Ahem. Thank you.


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The Gifted Extrovert

photo courtesy of Emile Guillemot

I’ve been ignoring you. Those of you who are extroverts. My last post favored introverts. As did this one on Rebelle Society (adapted from the blog post). And I wrote a piece on IntrovertDear that will be out February 1st. ( How I Found a Career That Had Introvert Written All Over It ) You’ll want to read that one. It describes my personal trek “from extrovert wannabe to introvert queen.” Which, you see, is the thing. My bias. I’m a wholehearted, full-throated, undeniable introvert.

Even though it may be that more introverts choose therapy, so those are the people I spend most of my days with, I’ve met enough extroverts in my practice and personal life that I can tell you about them.

(Note: You may not identify as either extrovert or introvert. You might say that it depends on the context. That you’re multifaceted. OK. Then you might be an ambivert. Very rainforest-y of you.)

I love extroverts. I wanted to be one. In many cases (there are always exceptions): You carry the conversation. Get me out of my house. Have fascinating stories to tell.  Introduce me to your friends. Chair the meeting. Run for office. Organize the bake sale. Set up the Go Fund Me campaign. Attend the political protests. You are energetic, dynamic, and witty collaborators.

But it’s not all that simple when extroverts have rainforest minds.

I remember Rosemary. She was a grad student in the music department at our local university. Articulate, generous, and brilliant. Rosemary yearned for friends and mentors. But she was several steps ahead of everyone she met. Even her professors couldn’t keep up. Rosemary loved collaborations. She depended on them. But it was hard to find people who wanted to work with her. She had more experience and knowledge than her peers and ran out of patience when they didn’t measure up to her expectations. She would “pump the brakes” to slow herself down, but it usually wasn’t enough.

I remember when she told me about finally finding a couple of cohorts who agreed to go out for drinks after class. She was looking forward to deeply invigorating analysis, debate, and fun. But it didn’t happen. She said she was so disappointed, but not surprised. Her level of intellect and enthusiasm wasn’t matched. She was hitting her stride at 1am when they were heading home. The constant experience of loneliness was overwhelming.

Another client, Jill, said that her introvert friends enjoyed movies alone or were irritated by interruptions during a film. For her, movie going was a shared experience. Both during the film and after. Noticing the reactions and responses of her friends. Analysis on the way home. The film was an opportunity for human interaction. Jill also loved big musical events for what she described as “mirroring my experience, a tethering” and an essential experience of existence and belonging. She liked to be anonymous where no one asked anything of her. She could dive into the crowd and experience the “organism.” Feeling a part of humanity and being nourished by the large, pulsing energy of the group.

Loneliness is an issue for all rainforest minds. But it’s so much trickier for extroverts.  As you can see, extroverts are energized by groups of people. Humans are your fuel. Also, if you’re an external processor, which many of you are, you need a person to externally process with. It’s not very satisfying to talk out loud to yourself! And if the few people you do find, can’t keep up with you, even when you pump your brakes, you have no reliable source of rejuvenation and nourishment.

What this means, then, is that it’s essential that you understand yourself as someone with a rainforest mind and then use your charm and verbal skills to find your pack. I know you may feel discouraged and hopeless after years of trying. But other gifted extroverts are out there! Here are some suggestions on how to find them. Another source I’ve found recently is The School of Life based in the UK.

So, my dears, whether you’re an extrovert, introvert, or ambivert, we’re all in the rainforest mind clan. So dive in. Get nourished. You belong here.

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To my bloggEEs: Are you an extrovert? Can you give us some examples of what that means to you and how you grapple with loneliness? We also want to hear from the introverts and ambiverts who are here. What are your thoughts, feelings, and questions? And, I realize that you live all over the world. So if my descriptions aren’t accurate for cultural or other reasons, please let me know! And let us know where you live. What are the attitudes toward rainforest-mindedness in your country?

Thanks to the clients who inspired this post. And thank you to you all. Click on this link to read more posts from professionals and parents about giftedness and belonging.

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Some of My Best Friends Are Introverted, Sensitive, Introspective, Smart, Empathetic, Overthinking Perfectionists

photo courtesy of iam-se7en, Unsplash

Have I told you that I love people who are all of these things? Introverted, highly sensitive, introspective, super smart, and empathetic?

I also love “overthinking” perfectionists who obsess about creating a better world through raising the consciousness of humans, healing the dysfunction in their families and communities, parenting compassionate children, or finding loving-kindness in the chaos.

And let’s face it. If you’re reading this, you are an introverted, sensitive, introspective, smart, empathetic, overthinking, perfectionist. Am I right? (For those of you new to this blog, this means that you have a rainforest mind. (RFM)*)

And, even though you could be one of my best friends, well, you may still be anxious, lonely, overwhelmed, or in despair.

For many reasons.

Are you an Introvert? Chances are that you’re not the life of the party. In fact, you avoid parties. Why do people go to those things anyway? What could they possibly enjoy? Small talk? Puleeze. But you may be pressuring yourself to socialize more because that’s what normal people do. But the pile of 15 half-read books by your bed? Now, that makes you giddy. It’s not that you don’t like people. It’s just that more than one at a time is such a bad idea. On so many levels.

Are you Highly Sensitive? You may be easily overwhelmed by things that other people do not even notice. This can be embarrassing, as in, you have to leave the room because the sound of George chewing drives you bonkers, or the smell of Chanel makes you sick, or you’ve painted your living room 12 times and it’s still not right. You also have deep and wide-ranging emotions so you’re often seen as a drama queen or a sissy. Not only that. You’re deeply moved by a starry sky or by a well-crafted TV commercial for auto insurance.

Are you Introspective? You may be seen as self-indulgent, self-absorbed, or even narcissistic. This is frustrating because, in reality, you’re determined to understand the nature of humanity and, in particular, your own inner demons. All of this courageous inner exploration is the generous gift you give your ancestors and future generations. Your willingness to face the dark night of your soul is the opposite of narcissism. Perhaps you’ve been told to be less serious. Have more fun. Don’t they know that introspection is fun? And, hey, you’re saving them from your demons, for heaven’s sake. Where is their gratitude?

Are you Super Smart? I would have used the word gifted here but then you may have stopped reading. Right? But you are gifted. Your capacity for learning and understanding is vast. There are many thoughts going on in your brain and often several at one time. Even if your schooling experiences didn’t result in high grades or spelling bee championships, even if you aren’t a rocket scientist, your thirst for knowledge is unmistakable. You make connections, see relationships, and adore libraries and bookstores. You’re the intellectual fire hose to everyone else’s garden hose.

Are you Empathetic? This might also be spelled empathic. I’m never quite sure. Either way, you may have intuition and compassion that is extraordinary. You experience others’ emotions and burdens and you want to be of service. You might even have psychic talents. Clairvoyance, for example. Dreams that provide answers to your questions. Connections with the metaphysical or shamanic realms. This particular trait may be the one that you hide from the most. Especially, if there are misdiagnoses, religious zealots, or judgmental relatives in your past lives past.

Are you an Overthinker? I’m sure that you’ve been told that you think too much. What’s really happening is that you’re doing what comes naturally. I might even suggest that everyone else is underthinking. Of course, we need to distinguish this from rumination, which you might also do. You may worry excessively because you have a creative mind that can generate many thoughts. Worries, anxieties, and fears among them. But rumination is not the same as your natural capacity for deep, analytical, creative, fabulous overthinking.

Are you a Perfectionist? You can be persnickety to a fault. You may be terrified of mediocrity and failure. You might be a carefully honed procrastinator. Not ideal. You might need therapy to grapple with all of it. (Lucky for you, you’re introspective.) But, that’s not the whole story. You were born with a healthy perfectionism. You’re passionate about beauty, balance, harmony, precision, and justice. And that is ideal. And needed. Now. In these times. Most definitely.

So, my darlings, if you’re anxious, lonely, overwhelmed, or in despair, and if you’re an introverted, sensitive, introspective, smart, empathetic, overthinking, perfectionist. You have a powerful, effervescent, multidimensional rainforest mind. And you, yes you, are among my best friends.

I mean it.

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(*Note: If you are an extroverted RFM, you have all of these traits, except the obvious. You could also be a combination of both. I shall write about you soon-ish.)

To my bloggEEs: Tell us how you fit or don’t fit with these traits.  What are some of your examples of your introversion, sensitivity, or perfectionism? If you’re an extrovert, how are you different? What are your questions and concerns? Thank you, as always, for being here. I so appreciate hearing from you.

 


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My Life as an Introverted Psychotherapy Nerd

photo courtesy of Jan Traid, Unsplash

I’m an introverted psychotherapy nerd.

I know there are other ways to live. But I don’t care.

I’ve been a client in some type of therapy since I turned 31. I’ve tried it all. Rebirthing. Holotropic breath work. Support groups. 12 Steps. Talk. Journaling. Polarity. Attachment theory. Jungian analysis. Enneagram. CBT. EMDR. EFT. HRT. Tango. Bodywork. Reading. Acupressure. Energywork. Process work. Hakomi. Fly fishing. Shamanic journeying. Grief work. Reiki. Bioenergetics. Art. Nature. Naturopathy. Psychodrama. Astrology. Couples counseling. Somatic experiencing. Massage. Soul collage. Meditation. Mindfulness. Yoga. Dreamwork. Diving into the abyss. Blogging.

Well, maybe not all. I haven’t tried antidepressants. Or ayahuasca.*

And, OK, blogging isn’t therapy. Per se. Although, it’s therapeutic. For me. If you must know.

I used to think that I was deficient because I spent all most of my time introspecting. I didn’t have much of an outer life. I didn’t join a bowling league. Or get season tickets to the opera. I didn’t follow the Grateful Dead around the country. (Hey. I live in Oregon.) I didn’t own a blender or a table cloth. I didn’t send my nonexistent kids to college. I almost didn’t have partners.

OK. I’m exaggerating. A little. I did take breaks from introspection. I was a teacher of gifted children for a number of years. An actress in community theatre for about a decade. Danced the Argentine tango in Paris. Wrote angst-y emails to attentive girlfriends. Married. Divorced. Watched my niece and nephew grow up.

I have loved. I’ve been loved.

See. I’ve done stuff.

But I can’t deny the truth. When it comes down to it, I am excessively, undeniably, inner focused. And it can appear a little weird. But, hey. There is a heck of a lot going on in my psyche. It’s really lively in there. Very entertaining.

And now that I’m a psychotherapist, I have a good reason to continue to be obsessed living this lifestyle. I get to put my experience as a client to good use. I get to guide brave souls into their abyss and show them around. So they see what they need to see. Feel what they need to feel. Find out who they really are. Then I guide them out of their abyss to live their authentic life and find their purpose(s).

Not only that. Now that I have my blog and book, I get to meet fabulous humans living all over the world who want to understand their own nerdly-ness. And I don’t have to leave my living room.

What could be better?

But why am I writing this, you ask? Am I justifying my somewhat unconventional life to you? Am I a teensy weensy defensive because I still don’t have a table cloth?

And what does this have to do with being gifted? Are all rainforest-minded souls introverted, introspective, abyss divers?

No. Some of you are extraverted, introspective, abyss divers.

The rainforest-minded are complex thinkers. Deep feelers. Analytical. Seeking self-understanding. Questioning. Empathetic. Highly sensitive. Striving to live meaningful lives. Wanting to create a better world.

But I understand. You aren’t necessarily in therapy. You may have very active, even conventional, outer lives. Kids. Opera tickets. Blenders.

But still.

If you’re introverted. If you have one nerd-like obsession or many. If you feel weird and deficient. If you’re leading an unconventional life.

And if you never get that table cloth or that blender.

Meet me in Oregon. We’ll go bowling.

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(*Note: Ayahuasca is not actually therapy. I wrote that for the humor factor. I don’t recommend it. Ayahuasca. I do recommend humor.)

(Another note: If you want to know more about psychotherapy and giftedness, click on this link. If you want to read a great description of why therapy matters, not written by me but by Heather Havrilesky, click here.)

(Last note: In case you’re wondering, I’m not writing this to surreptitiously influence you to see me for therapy. I actually am only licensed to practice in Oregon. I can, however, meet you for a consultation that would be focused on questions around your giftedness. OK? No surreptitiousness here, my darlings.)

To my bloggEEs: So happy to have you here. Your comments provide so much depth and beauty. I’m so appreciative. Are you introverted? What’s that been like for you? How have you created a life that respects your introverted needs? If you’re extraverted, how do you grapple with your needs for human contact? And: Having a rainforest mind can feel weird no matter what. That’s why we’re here. What are you feeling nerd-ly about these days?

 


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A Party For Book Lovers, Introverts, And Geeks

photo courtesy of Silent Reading Party, Portland

You are not going to believe this.

If you’ve been looking for a way to find other rainforest minds, this may be your answer.

I’m not kidding.

A Silent Reading Party.

You heard me.

A fellow named Christopher Frizzelle, in Seattle, USA, created this event. People come together and read. No small talk. No chitchat. Just bring your book and read. Maybe have a glass of wine. Or coffee. Did I mention, no small talk?

What could be better than that?

“Every first Wednesday of the month at 6:00 p.m., the Fireside Room at the Sorrento Hotel goes quiet and fills with people—crazy-haired, soft-spoken, inscrutable, dorky, NPRish, punk, white, black. The reading public. It fills right away, all these people who don’t know each other, and they sit very closely, sometimes three strangers to a couch. By 7:00 p.m., you can’t get a seat…”  Christopher Frizzelle

He goes on.

“…The insane thing about a party where you’re not supposed to make small talk is that it makes you want to make small talk. You almost can’t not do it. (But what a relief to not have to!)…” Christopher Frizzelle

And from the women who started a Silent Reading Party in Portland, Oregon, USA:

“…And there’s something special about the silence, too. We so rarely sit quietly with strangers. It’s restorative, almost church-like. It’s really beautiful to look around and see a room full of people who’ve made time in their lives to read together. It gives you faith in our species.” (Jeff O’Neal interview of Portland SRP on BookRiot)

Faith in our species.

What could be better than that?

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To my bloggEEs: What do you think of this idea? Wouldn’t it be a safe, fun, cool way to find and be with other rainforest-minded souls? Let us know if you start one and how it goes. (And, if you’re an extravert, you’ll love it, too. Maybe you host a Not-So-Silent Reading Party.)

Thank you to Pamela Price for inspiring this post.

 


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Managing Your Smartness — A Guide For The Underwhelmed And Overwhelmed

photo courtesy of Jakob Boman, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy of Jakob Boman, Unsplash, CC

You’re capable. You’re fast thinking. You draw accurate conclusions when everyone else is still lollygagging. You’re at the finish line when others are just leaving the starting gate.

Your coworkers would benefit from your insight if only they could realize that it’s insight. But they don’t understand your leaps and you’re tired of filling in the blanks. So you sound unreasonable or outlandish.

You’re thorough. You’re deep thinking. You analyze the complicated ramifications when everyone else is preoccupied with, well, shopping. You’re scuba diving when others are water skiing.

Your friends and family members would benefit from your perceptions and sensitivity if only they could realize that it’s your rainforest mind and not an obsessive compulsive disorder. But you’ve been labeled dramatic, depressed and delusional so you’re the one in therapy.

Sound familiar? Am I in your head?

Well, then, of course, you feel like a weirdo, like a freak, like you don’t belong. You’re underwhelmed and overwhelmed.

This is especially true if you were a little tyke in a dysfunctional family. At an early age, you had extra amounts of empathy and intelligence. And you probably felt the weight of responsibility.

You still do.

So, here are some ideas that might help.

First, remind yourself that just because you have lots of skills and abilities and you can solve others’ problems, doesn’t mean that you have to step in and rescue them or take that terrible job or say ‘yes’ to every request.

Do you hear me? Reread that paragraph again, please.

It’s great that you’re so capable but it’s important to have boundaries and limits and to take time to nourish yourself. If you take care of yourself, you’ll be better able to help when the situation is appropriate. Practice this phrase when someone (including your child) asks for something : Oh. Interesting. Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you. Then, take a breath and think about it.

If you’re frustrated at your workplace and looking for support, get a copy of Rebels At Work and join their community. The authors, Medina and Kelly, write and talk about ways creative, complex thinkers can work to change the system. You’ll see that you’re not alone and you’re not delusional.

If you’re a parent, it’s especially important that you know your limits and take time for self-care. The parent bloggers here and here offer great advice.

If you’re introverted, Susan Cain‘s book and community provide support and suggestions. If you’re extroverted, you may be particularly distressed. Because you have greater needs for interactions with humans, and because rainforest minds can be hard to find, you may feel extreme underwhelmedness. Look for activities that appeal to you through meetup.com. Join an online group such as intergifted.com. Start your own meetup group, book group, astronomical society or online community.

Remember: It’s normal for you to be both underwhelmed and overwhelmed because of your effervescent, multi-dimensional, perceptive rainforest mind. Managing your smartness isn’t easy. All of those mosquitoes, monkeys and tangled vines. It’s a very very busy place.

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To my blogEEs: Do you often feel underwhelmed or overwhelmed or both? Do you tend to volunteer to help when you’d really rather not? Do you take on too much responsibility? Is it hard to set limits with others? What resources remind  you to take care of yourself? And thank you for reading and sharing. I love hearing from you!