Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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Realizing That You Are Gifted — Will It Make a Difference?

photo courtesy of vlad tchompalov, Unsplash

Realizing that you are gifted. That you are of the rainforest-minded clan.

Explains a lot.

It explains why you are so darned sensitive. So darned empathetic.  You see, your feelings and perceptions are as vast as your intellect. You are not only thinking, analyzing, and synthesizing on many levels at once and pretty much all of the time, even when you are sleeping, but you are also deeply emotional and empathetic. Knowing that it is your nature to be this way, stops you from misdiagnosing and pathologizing these traits and behaviors. Reduces your self-doubt. Increases your self-acceptance.

It explains why people label you an overthinker. To them, you are thinking too much. But it comes naturally to you. And, yes, if you are super anxious and ruminating, you need some strategies to soothe your nervous system, to calm yourself. But your “overthinking” is just a whole lot of analysis, observation, wondering, questioning, answering, creating, daydreaming, and evaluating. The nature of your rainforest mind. Better than underthinking, if you ask me.

It explains why you are lonely. There aren’t all that many RFMs roaming the planet yet, as far as I can tell. It can be hard to find others who want to dive as deeply as you do. Who are fascinated by philosophical inquiries. Who want to study yet another language. Who feel driven to manifest their purpose(s). Who are able to grasp any of the complicated connections that you make between multiple seemingly discombobulated phenomena.

It explains why school may not have gone so well. It wasn’t that you were lazy or arrogant. It wasn’t that you were a know-it-all, even though you already knew the material that was being taught at the time. If you weren’t an A student, it may have been because your particular need to learn something new, was not recognized, much less accommodated. If you were an A student, it may have been disconcerting because you had higher standards than some of your teachers.

It even explains why you are stuck. You see, when you have many ideas, paths, and possibilities, plus a sense of huge responsibility for oh, everything, decision making can be daunting. Choosing one direction, one job, one book, one color, one anything, might feel impossible. You choose one, you lose many. So you don’t choose any.

Realizing that you are gifted, then, does make a difference.

But that’s not the end of the story.  What if you do accept that you are gifted? What then?

Accepting that you are gifted, can lead to extraordinary pressure to prove it. To yourself and to others. Pressure to be a super achiever. To be the next Elon Musk. It can link your worthiness as a human to your accomplishments or to your lack of them. It can mean that you have to achieve something “insanely great” or your life has no meaning. This can, then, lead to extreme anxiety, depression, unhealthy perfectionism, and addictions. You may feel that you can never fail because your identity is at stake. You may be unwilling to try anything where you imagine that you might make a mistake.

So, it’s tricky.

But, hey. You rainforest-minders. Do you see? The benefits outweigh the difficulties. Especially, if you learn more about this pressure thing and what you can do about it. You can find out more about it as you read my blog and my, um, books. (Ask your local library to carry them!) Let me be your emotional support animal person. Let me help you realize that you are indeed gifted.

And, yes, realizing this will make a difference for you. For everyone you know. And maybe even people that you don’t know. And, well, perhaps, for the planet itself.

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To my bloggEEs: Are you able to accept your rainforest-mindedness? In what ways might your life change, if you knew for certain that you were gifted? How might this knowing support you in contributing to creating a better world? Thank you for being here. Much love and appreciation to all of you.

(Note: Not all gifted folks are of the rainforest-minded variety. They might be more purely cognitive, for example, so they may have fewer of the sensitivities. They may not have the emotional intelligence/empathy that you have. But, just to clarify one more time, all RFMs are, yes, gifted.)

 


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The Lonely World of the Gifted Adult — Too Smart, Too Sensitive, Too Emotional, Too Curious

photo courtesy of Danny via Unsplash

It is part of the mythology of giftedness that super smart people have it made. That they are successful, rich, and appreciated for their cleverness. That they don’t really need much companionship because they are totally content in their labs studying fruit flies or in the library immersed in piles of books on obscure philosophical theories.

In my experience, this is not the case. These adults are often lonely. Granted, I’m a psychotherapist. Most of the gifted clients I see have lived through some sort of childhood trauma. Nevertheless, I suspect that many of the non-traumatized gifted souls among us would be telling me similar tales.

When you have a rainforest mind, it can be hard to find others who truly, deeply get you.

Some examples:

~ You are at your job, being conscientious, and caring. It is important to you that your coworkers are respected and understood. You feel responsible to both the organization and the humans you  supervise. Meetings are challenging. You problem solve quickly and typically end up waiting for the group to catch up. You grow tired of explaining what is obvious to you. At your evaluation, your boss tells you that coworkers say you are arrogant, condescending, and judgmental. Your boss is intimidated by you. You slow your speech and smile more. You don’t share your innovative ideas or your questions. You leave homemade gluten-free cookies in the staff room. It doesn’t help.

~ You are in graduate school. You were so excited to join what was supposed to be a cohort of deeply intellectual lovers of research and thinkers of complex ideas.  But your advisor no longer cares. He has tenure and has lost interest in academic pursuits and in you. The politics within your department is disturbing. You wonder how there can be peace on earth when your colleagues in academia can’t even agree on the schedule for the next term. You feel bereft. No one shares your curiosity and your enthusiasm for Nietzsche, Virginia Woolf, quarks, Bach, the universe, and everything.

~ You are highly intuitive. You have been an empath since you were quite young. You feel a responsibility to help others. It is hard to know if friends are attracted to you for you or if they just want you to help them heal their emphysema or contact their dead Uncle George. It is hard to have simple relationships because you can sense what others are feeling and they either put you on a pedestal or they avoid you. If you haven’t been able to set healthy boundaries because you have been told that you have a gift and are responsible for sharing it, you may overwork and ignore your body’s distress signals.

~ You have a deep sense of social responsibility. It is hard not to obsess about the level of suffering that you see all around the world. Your friends and relatives tell you to lighten up and stop worrying so much. But every time an extreme weather event happens somewhere or you see another homeless person, your heart breaks.

~ You are the parent of a gifted child. This child is bursting with energy, questions, curiosity, and emotion. You can’t keep up with them and are exhausted at the end of the day. You feel a deep sense of responsibility to raise a compassionate, sensitive human. To give your child what you did not get. Finding an appropriate school has been grueling. Other parents think it is easy to raise such a smart child. It is not.

Can you relate to any of these examples? Many of them?

What can you do about the loneliness you feel?

You can read these other blog posts. I’ve written about this before. There are things that you can do.

For today, though, I want to share the words of the courageous RFM, Charles Eisenstein. You’ll want to read the entire article. He presents a fascinating perspective on living consciously in today’s world. The quote below is particularly uplifting and spiritually sensitive.

You are not alone.

“The beings we have excluded from our reality, the beings we have diminished in our perception into non-beings, they are still there waiting for us. Even with all my inherited disbelief (my inner cynic, educated in science, mathematics, and analytic philosophy, is at least as strident as yours), if I allow myself a few moments of attentive quiet, I can feel those beings gathering. Ever hopeful, they draw close to the attentiveness. Can you feel them too? Amid the doubt, maybe, and without wishful thinking, can you feel them? It is the same feeling as being in a forest and suddenly realizing as if for the first time: the forest is alive. The sun is watching me. And I am not alone.”     Charles Eisenstein

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To my bloggEEs: Of course, I feel less alone because I have you! Thank you so much for being here. Let us know about your experiences of loneliness and what soothes you and how you find people (and spiritual guides? Nature? the Force? higher consciousness? intuitive visions? God? ) who get you. Do you have a spiritual practice/belief where you can feel connected?

My new book is almost here! It will launch near the end of June. Stay tuned! If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, I’ll be announcing it there first. (and here, of course) You will now have your favorite blog posts in a book (a love letter to you) to soothe your lonely soul.

 


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You Are Not Complaining. Being Gifted is a Gift. But It Can Also Be Terribly Lonely.

photo courtesy of Dexter Fernandes, Unsplash

You are not complaining. You are not saying it is awful to be a very smart person. Advanced intelligence is a fine thing. You know this. You are grateful for it. Being gifted is, well, a gift.

It’s just that, oh, it’s complicated.

It is not all easy street.

There are serious misunderstandings. Communication chasms. Damaging misdiagnoses. Long excruciating periods of boredom/waiting. Hyper-awareness. Piles of responsibility. Nonstop thinking. Teeming emotion. Disabling perfectionism. Excessive worry. Astonishing intuition. Unquenchable thirst for learning. Pressure to always know the right answer. Impostor syndrome. Expectations to be super smart in all things. Multiple complicated sensitivities. More boredom/waiting. Anxiety. Depression. Despair.

Intolerable loneliness.

How do you cope in the classroom when none of the other students care about learning and you already know the material? How do you handle failure when everyone, including you, expects perfection? Who do you talk with about your frustrations with your clueless coworkers? How do you explain to your boss that you know how to run the company better than she does? How do you find solace when everyone relies on you for support? What do you do when you face a problem you can’t solve? What do you say when friends can’t keep up with you? How do you find a partner who loves your intensity and your fascination with quarks? What do you do when no one really gets you?

Who sympathizes with you when you are overwhelmed by too many interests? How do you set healthy boundaries when people are depending on you? Who do you talk to about the challenges of raising your gifted kids? How do you feel pride in your accomplishments when you are accused of being arrogant?  How do you find practitioners who know more than you do? How do you know when to reduce your intensity and when to go full speed ahead? How do you end human, animal, and plant suffering and resolve climate change? How do you deal with the shame that arises when you think you actually might be gifted?

I told you it was complicated.

So, what about the loneliness?

How do you tell someone that you are so lonely because you are smarter than everyone you know?

OK. That’s probably not a great idea.

But it may be the truth.

I remember listening to an interview with the gifted Maria Popova of Brain Pickings when she said,“… most of my friends are dead people.” Not unlike this statement from The School of Life: “…We may just have to accept that our best friends could have died 250 years ago – and be chatting to us via dabs of paint or within rhyming pentameters…”

Maybe you have also found solace and connection with dead writers, artists, and poets.

But I know that you can find living friends, too.

This is my collection of posts on ways to find living friends.

And if you are also looking for partnership?

Well. One final word.

The rainforest-minded writer, 60-something Anne Lamott, just married for the first time this year. Here is her advice: “If you’re paying attention and making your own life as beautiful and rich and fun as it can be, you might just attract someone who’s doing the same thing…Never give up, no matter how things look or how long they take. Don’t quit before the miracle.”

And remember. You. Actually. Are. The. Miracle.

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your quest for friends and partners. How do you find people who understand and love you? Are there activities or places or websites where you’ve found other rainforest minds? What are the challenges you’re experiencing?

One place to meet other rainforest minds is at the SENG conference, July 18-21, 2019, in Houston, Texas. I’ll be there presenting and would love to meet 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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Super Sensitive? Super Smart? Super Lonely.

photo courtesy of Julian Howard, Unsplash

Here’s what’s confusing: Learning is easy. Solving a complex problem is fun. Researching and reading into the wee hours of the night is one of your favorite things. Compassion for others comes naturally. Perceiving the suffering of all beings everywhere is what you do after coffee. And before coffee. Seeing subtleties, complexities, layers, connections, meanings, energies, vibrations, and visions are your everyday realities.

Isn’t that just normal? you ask.

Um. No.

You’re still a bit rare among humans.

Which is why you feel lonely.

Not to mention the holiday season. Where everyone looks so frantic happy. So stressed out generous. Terrified excited to be with their dysfunctional extended families.

It’s hard to find other beings with rainforest minds. Maybe you get frustrated by your relatives who dismiss your insights and take your kindness for granted. Perhaps you long for deep conversation and exuberant debate but end up with small talk and platitudes. Maybe you think it’s your job to save everyone so you befriend all comers, willy nilly. Maybe you meet someone who looks like a prospect but when they find out that you speak 4 languages, write music, paint, read books obsessively, and adore quantum physics, they remember that they have a dying uncle in Idaho who needs them. Right away. Maybe you’ve never found a soul who has the same capacity for sorrow and joy.

Don’t stop believing.

There are perhaps 3484+ rainforest minds around the world reading this post today. There are about 500 who will read it tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. See? You can find one. Or two. Maybe more.

For some great suggestions, if I do say so myself, read these posts. Start your own Meetup group or find one. They’re all over the world. Attend or start your own Silent Book Club. They’re also all over the world. Do what you love to do and look for other RFMs. Be brave and approach them. Ask them for coffee/tea. If you don’t know what to say, ask questions about their interests and about sports teams books that they love. Build a network of friends over time who will be grateful for your courage and who will bring you soup when you’re sick. Join the #booklovers and #booknerds on social media. (I’m not going to tell you to learn the Argentine tango. Because I’ve told you that multiple times. You already know that.)

Until you find humans (and after you find them), spend time in nature with the spirits of the trees, rivers, and mountains. They will talk to you, if you let them. They’re good company. Deepen your spiritual connection to your inner guidance. Continue to work on yourself: If you need greater understanding of your sensitivities, read Imi Lo’s book. If you’re looking for a great book on trauma and the body, read Judith Blackstone’s latest book. If you want to understand relationships, read Alain de Botton. For inspiration, read Maria Popova’s gorgeous new book A Velocity of Being. (available 12-31-18) It will nourish your soul and sustain you through the lonely nights. (Popova has 883K followers on Twitter. That’s a lot of rainforest minds!)

You are not alone. You are loved. Already. More than you know. But I get it. You want a human or two who truly sees you. Who can match your complexity and intensity. Who is also exhausted by platitudes.

During the holiday season, it can be particularly hard to feel alone. So here’s one last idea: Use that imagination of yours. That colorful and powerful imagination. Play your favorite songs. And on your own. With your own sweet self. Start dancing.

And then, as the saying goes: If you dance it, they will come.

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To my bloggEEs:  How do you find friends? Partners? Intellectual stimulation? What are the holidays like for you? What are the songs that you dance to? Remember that when you’re here, you are among friends. And at times, there might be 3484 of you here on the same day. Thank you, as always. I deeply appreciate your friendship. And your love.

Here’s the latest update on my book: For now, it’s still with GHF Press and available on Amazon and from booksellers. It will probably stay there for now. I’ll announce it on Facebook (and here) if/when that changes.

 


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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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Surviving The Hectic, Harrowing, Holiday Season Hoopla

photo courtesy of Nathan Lemon, Unsplash

The holiday season has arrived. It’s a busy time for psychotherapists. Or it will be: In January when all of the retraumatized, triggered, overwhelmed, lonely, exhausted, disappointed humans reach out for help.

No one is immune to the hectic harrowing holiday season hoopla. You may think that you’re the only one bewildered, lonely or sad. You aren’t. And if you’re super sensitive and if you have high ethical standards and a social conscience, this may be a particularly tough time. It’s a crazy world right now. And if you’re like me, single and childfree, you might have mixed feelings while you watch the frenetic humans running hither and  yon.

But whether you’re single and childfree or not, here are my recommendations:

• If this is a difficult, anxious time of the year for you, know that you’re not alone. Even those people with the big seemingly-happy families that you see on Facebook, are probably actually not that perky. They most likely have one or two or ten obnoxious relatives who dominate the conversation, drink too much, bully the children and bring an orange jello mold to every event.

• Now is a great time to rethink your holiday traditions, habits or expectations. What is it that you really want to do? Who do you really want to be with? What if this were your last holiday season? How would you spend it? Don’t wait until next year.

• Design a spiritual practice that supports your particular quirky connection to the Force. Maybe it includes a tree with ornaments. Maybe it includes the score to the musical Hamilton. Maybe it includes candles and wine. Perhaps you sit with the oak in your yard or you do tai chi by the lake. Whatever it is, make it yours. Let the Force be with you.

• Appreciate the quiet and peace in your home. Notice your exquisite woodwork.

• Order takeout for your holiday meal. Do not feel guilty.

• Start a blog. It’s a great way to express yourself and to feel loved. Ahem.

• Move your body in ways that work for you. This can include exercise. It’s not a great idea to spend the holiday season curled up under blankets eating pie. I recently discovered Katy Bowman’s Nutritious Movement. You might also find it a good alternative to sitting through too many episodes of Longmire.

• If you’re single, get the book Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics. The author, Sasha Cagen must have a rainforest mind. She’s sensitive, funny and she dances the Argentine tango. Sasha created a movement for single folks who cherish their solitude, want to find a mate, but who would rather be alone than settle for just anyone.

• Find some young, deeply cared-for children. They might be family members or friends’ or neighbors’ kids. Watch them as they unselfconsciously sing and dance to the songs from Moana. It will give you hope for the future. This is what love looks like.

Chances are, you won’t be able to avoid the hectic, harrowing holiday season hoopla. But you can use it as an opportunity to reassess your life. Your choices. The meaning you want to make. The influence you want to have. Instead of being among the frenetic and the retraumatized, use this time to find your voice. To build your path to a better world.

With or without the orange jello mold.

(Note: If you need ideas on building your path and haven’t read my book yet, that would be a good place to start!)

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Thank you to little dancers Sydney, Shane and Bodhi and their fabulous parents for their sweetness and light.

To my bloggEEs: What are the holidays like for you? What are some ways that you’ve managed to celebrate that have been sweet or peaceful? What are ways that you might make changes? And if you’re lonely this holiday season, I’m sending you an extra hug. Thank you commenters for taking the time to share your thoughts, especially if you’re a perfectionist and it takes you an hour to write two sentences. Ha! I know you. And if you’re not commenting because it takes you an hour to write two sentences, I understand. Just keep reading.