Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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I’m Not Gifted, I’m Just Weird

photo courtesy of Eugenio Mazzone, Unsplash

You’d think that gifted people would know how smart they are. You’d think that gifted individuals would find life to be smooth and easy. You’d think that gifted folks would feel superior and judgmental of all non-gifted humans everywhere.

Nope. No way. Not the ones I know. And I’ve known a lot of them. I’m that old. (My former middle school students are turning 50. Yeah. Old. OK. Old-ish.)

Granted, I work with a particular variety of gifted souls. The rainforest-minded (RFM). Not all gifted folks are the RFM type. Some can be cognitively advanced but not highly sensitive or empathetic. Some can be very academic and scholarly, but not have multipotentiality. So, yes. Maybe some of the non-RFM-gifted know how smart they are, find life to be easy, and are judgmental. Maybe.

But, they weren’t in my classroom when I was a teacher in the mid-’70s and ’80s. They haven’t been in my counseling office for the past 25+ years. The RFMs I’ve known will tell you: I’m not gifted. I’m just weird. And they will struggle. With: Sensitivities. Injustice. Decisions. Choices. Achievement. School. Relationships. Communication. Emotions. Careers. Belonging. Parenting. Anxiety. Depression. Perfectionism. Guilt. Politics. Climate change deniers. Conspicuous consumption. Not enough time to read all of the books ever written.

And that’s if they grew up in a healthy family.

If you throw dysfunctional family into the mix, it gets even more complicated. I’ve written about that here and here. With more to come.

So, if you have a rainforest mind or if you love someone who does or if you work with them or teach them, it’s time to get out of denial.

It matters.

Why?

It matters because everyone will benefit if our rainforest-minded humans understand why they struggle and what to do about it. It matters because RFMs are raising RFM kids. If the parents know who they are, they’ll be better able to support their children. It matters because educators, psychotherapists, doctors and other professionals will stop misdiagnosing their clients and will be more effective practitioners.

It matters because we all need the intelligence, compassion, creativity, and sensitivity that our rainforest-minded beings share with us. Like we all need our tropical rain forests.

We won’t survive without them.

We won’t survive without you.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you recognize your giftedness? How do you struggle? Have you just felt weird much of your life? What would it be like if you accepted yourself as a gifted soul? Thank you, as always, for being here.

 

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The Roots Of Unhealthy Perfectionism And What To Do About It

photo by Dylan Siebel, Unsplash

What if, from the time that you were 2 years old, you were told how smart you were. Over and over. Enthusiastically. By (well-meaning) parents and doting relatives. What if they praised you repeatedly for your many achievements and your perfect grades. What if you could tell that your parents needed you to be smart; that they felt better about themselves because you were so capable. What if you were so persuasive that they gave you too much control and not enough limits.

What if, when you arrived at elementary school, the work was too easy. You knew it before you were taught it. You learned things without really trying. What if you could get perfect scores on tests without studying and your scores were held up as an example for your fellow students. What if you were told by your teachers that you were the best student they’d ever had.

Do you think that you might grow up terrified of failure? Afraid to disappoint others? Hiding mistakes? Paralyzed by anxiety? Believing that if you aren’t a super achiever or the best at everything that you’re a failure? Thinking that all learning must be quick and easy or else it means that you’re not smart? You’re an impostor? A fake?

Do you think that you might grow up thinking that you should know everything before you learn it so that practicing or studying or effort feels boring or scary or unfamiliar? That you have to be mature and adult-like at all times? That you can’t tell anyone that you don’t know something because you have to know everything?

Well, my dears, this, yes this, may be the root of your unhealthy perfectionism. This may be the root of your (possibly unconscious) belief that you have to be super smart at all times or you’re worthless and unlovable. 

By the way, parents, relatives and educators aren’t conspiring against you. They don’t realize the effects of their reactions. Responses like these are very common. (In another post, I explain this more and suggest what parents can do.)

Understanding this root is the first step in changing its effects. 

So, now what?

This is not easy to change, especially if you’ve been living with these beliefs for a long time.

Know this: You are more than your grades, your achievements, your intellectual abilities. So much more. You are worthy of love, whether you write the perfect essay, win the competition, enter the elite school, get the high paying job, make the right decision, invent the iPhone or if you don’t achieve these things.

Somewhere deep inside yourself you know your worth. You know who you really are. So, here’s an idea:

Imagine that there’s a place in you that isn’t about achievement or accolades or winning or losing. This place is just about Love. Just Love. It’s radiant and joyful. Maybe it’s a very young child part of you. Maybe it’s an old wise part. Maybe it’s in your heart. Maybe it’s in your gut. But trust me. It’s there. Waiting for you to notice.

In a journal or in your mind, write to or picture this part of yourself. Take your time. You may be skeptical. You may need to meditate first or sit by your favorite tree. Write a letter to this Radiance. Ask it to show itself to you. Ask it for help. Then write or hear its response. It might come quickly or you might need to wait for a while. Start a relationship.

I’m betting that finding the Love will soften you up. It’ll remind you of what’s really true.

And of who you really are.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you struggle with unhealthy perfectionism? Tell us about it. What have you done that helps? We all appreciate hearing from you.

Note: There is a healthy form of perfectionism. You were born with it. I don’t know any rainforest minds who don’t have it. It’s your innate deep need for beauty, balance, harmony, precision and justice. It can create challenges for you but it’s not something you need to heal. I write about it here.

Another note: This will be extra hard or more complicated if you had chainsaw parents. If so, you might need therapy, too.

A final note: If you need more assistance, here’s a lovely book by Christina Baldwin.

A final final note: Thank you to the clients who inspired this post.


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How To Deal With Under-Thinkers When You’re An Over-Thinker

photo courtesy Yeshi Kangrang, Unsplash

You’ve been called an over-thinker. You never. stop. thinking. Deep, wide, fast thinking comes naturally to your rainforest mind. You may need to learn to appreciate your capacity for complexity, analysis, synthesis, and learning instead of seeing yourself as obsessive, neurotic and diagnosable.

But what about the under-thinkers in the world? I’m not mentioning any names. How do you manage to work with them? To befriend them?  To live with them?

I realize that this is a tricky topic. I’ll try not to offend.

You may have been frustrated in your interactions because you experience many humans as slowish or lazy or rigid.  You think that they could do what you do or understand what you understand. If they tried harder. If they listened better. If they read the books you’re reading. You don’t realize that what’s obvious to you may be baffling to them.

Maybe you think everyone loves to wonder about dark matter.

Maybe you think everyone’s happy place is the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Maybe you think everyone would like to teach themselves chess for fun.

Maybe you think everyone in the Air Force could also learn Arabic if they wanted to.

Uh huh.

Here’s how I see it: Your capacity for thinking, wondering, knowing and feeling is large. You were born that way. The under-thinkers just have less capacity. A less powerful operating system. They’re meadows not rain forests. I don’t know the brain equivalent. Maybe you have more neurons firing? More synapses connecting? (If there’s a neuroscientist reading this, please help me out by commenting below.)

This I do know. It’s not about trying harder.

This is not to say under-thinkers are lesser humans. Noooooo. And actually, they’re just under-thinkers in relation to you. Most of them are regular, normal, fine upstanding thinkers.

All that said, understanding this may not decrease your frustration with regular, normal, fine upstanding thinkers. (formerly known as under-thinkers) It may still be hard for you to wait for them to catch up with you in a business meeting. It may still be hard for you to watch their eyes glaze over when you gush about neutrinos. It may still be hard for you to listen to your self-righteous colleagues explain feminist theory and dismiss your questions as a sign of your missing PhD-ness.

So, I don’t have any specific suggestions right now on how to deal with regular, normal, fine upstanding thinkers. But at least you can stop pathologizing yourself. You can stop trying to undo your over-thinking. You can find other rainforest minds and jump into the depths with them. You can seek a career path that values your complexity. You can find an online group that loves curiosity. You can express your frustration using the art form that you’ve avoided all these years. You can go to a conference where other rainforest-y folks mingle. You can learn self-soothing techniques for when you overwhelm yourself and others.

And when you meet humans formerly known as under-thinkers and they harass you because you think too much, remind yourself that you’re actually a deep, wide, fast thinking rainforest-minded fine upstanding human.

Formerly known as an over-thinker.

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To my bloggEEs: Giftedness may be about being differently wired. What do you think? Do you know of any recent resources/articles that would explain this well? How do you deal with the under-thinkers in your life?

And, by the way, I will be presenting at that conference I mention above that’s in Chicago, USA, August 4-6, 2017. Just imagine, a whole conference full of rainforest minds. If you go, I’d love to meet you!

(For those of you concerned about my spelling: I suspect that over-thinker may actually be two words, over thinker. And under-thinker may actually not be a word at all. I apologize. I know this will annoy some of you. Please forgive me. As you know, I mess with words occasionally. After all, I took “rain forest” and made it into an adjective and spelled it rainforest. Thank you for putting up with me.)

 

 

 

 


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Dumb Down No More

Me, in my younger days, seeking my tree-ness

You may have been told that you ought to keep quiet about your intelligence and your achievements. You may have been told that others will feel bad if you express enthusiasm for something that you know. You may have been called a show-off or a know-it-all.

Well, it’s time to stop dumbing yourself down. You can practice here.

Since this is my blog, I get to go first.

This month, June 2017,  is the one year anniversary of the birth of my book.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the introduction:

“As you better understand the workings of your rainforest mind, you can find greater purpose, meaning, and direction. With a clearer sense of your true self, you can live like the thriving rain forest–in balance, peace, grace, and beauty, and in support of all beings on the planet.” 

“…you will meet excessively curious, idealistic, sensitive, highly intelligent humans–individuals with rainforest minds. You will meet Billy, an adolescent with extraordinary empathy for all beings and a deep desire for precision, ethics, and excellence…Gina, a twenty-something grad student whose brain ran faster, wider, and deeper than many of her university professors. She overwhelmed and alienated her less effervescent peers… Steven [who] longed to find ways to heal his family’s legacy [of abuse] and access the creative and spiritual spark within his heart…”

A review on Amazon:
“I heard Paula Prober talk 20 years ago when my daughter was in the TAG program. I was so impressed that I have been using some of her handouts ever since in my counseling practice. I was delighted when one of my clients came in with her book. I bought copies to lend out and copies for my grown kids. It is inspiring and full of practical ideas for talented and gifted people who have trouble fitting in the success box.”

And for those of you who want to know some of my secrets:

I wrote the article below for an online magazine that you might enjoy. The magazine is called Rebelle Society and describes itself this way: “… a virtual country that gives a home and a voice to the creatively maladjusted rebels with a cause, the nonconformists, dreamers, the expressive troublemakers trying to rise above their circumstances and lead an extraordinary life by creating their lives and inspiring the world with their passion.” Might this sound like a place for you to visit, oh rainforest-minded ones?

I know I don’t share many details about myself here on my blog. So check this out for a peek into me:  Single, Childfree, Petless and Loved.

 

Now it’s your turn:

In the comments, let us know about your achievements, your blogs, articles you recommend, books that you love, your adorable children… Tell us something that you appreciate about you. Feel free to provide links. (Note: I realize that it’s important to select carefully the people with whom you share your intellect, your accomplishments, your deepest self. Some people just won’t be able to handle your radiance, so you’ll need to be discriminating. But here? On this blog? Go for it!)

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To my bloggEEs: You can do it. Share something about you. We want to know. Go ahead. We’re listening. (And I welcome comments about my book and my Rebelle Society article, too!)


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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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How Can You Be Too Much And Not Enough At The Same Time?

photo courtesy of Joshua Earle, Unsplash

How is it possible to be both too much and not enough at the same time?

Here’s how:

Reasons you think that you are too much:

You question too much. You read too much. You think too much. You feel too much. You talk too much. You research too much. You do too much. You know too much.

You are too intense. Too sensitive. Too empathetic. Too curious. Too obsessive. Too smart. Too geeky. Too emotional. Too self-absorbed. Too compassionate. Too introspective. Too intuitive. Too analytical. Too creative. Too idealistic. Too weird.

Reasons you think that you are not enough:

You’ll never meet your high expectations. You know how much you don’t know. You haven’t won a Nobel prize. You haven’t invented anything “insanely great.” You dropped out of college. You dropped out of elementary school. You couldn’t save your parents from their dysfunctional patterns. You have too many interests. You haven’t settled on one career. You don’t have friends. Your mother said so. You haven’t lived up to “your great potential.” You’re easily overwhelmed. Your friends do so much more than you do. Your gifted child is getting bad grades in school and hitting kids on the playground. You make mistakes.

What is the truth?

If you have a rainforest mind, which you know you do, pretty much everything about you is MORE. It’s not too much. It’s just more. It’s natural for the jungle to be more. More life. More death. More growth. More wild. More you.

But not everyone is comfortable in the jungle. And your moreness probably includes massive amounts of self-analysis, self-criticism and self-awareness.

Which leads you to. You guessed it. Not enoughness.

How paradoxical of you.

Lucky that you have a rainforest mind so that you can appreciate paradox.

And what do you do about it?

Here’s an idea from one of our lovely bloggEEs:

“…I think it’s “ok” to be too much, but have come to understand that the mainstream sometimes needs it organized, categorized, and occasionally drip-fed to be palatable. Sort of a form of self-curation, a rotation of the collections… even the world’s greatest museums don’t have their entire collections on display…”

And here’s another idea from the great rainforest mind of Maya Angelou:

“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”

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To my bloggEEs: Do you struggle with too muchness and not enoughness? How do you handle it? Thank you to the reader who made the above comment and to the reader who inspired this post. Comments are greatly appreciated by all of us. Please. Show us your collection. We can handle it.

And if you’re looking for more support and strategies and haven’t read my book yet, well, what are you waitin’ fer??? And if you have read my book, thank you. Let us know your thoughts.


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Time To Embrace Your Geekly Bookwormish Not-Normal Self

photo courtesy Gaelle Marcel, Unsplash

You just want to be normal.

But do you really?

Sure, you have trouble in relationships. Your intensity is misinterpreted as arrogance or criticism or drama. Your emotions overwhelm you and the people you love. Your only friend is really tired of hearing your perturbations about string theory. You’re frustrated by what you experience as mediocrity or superficiality. Your empathy gives you migraines.

Sure, you wonder why happiness, contentment and simplicity seem out of reach.  Your multidimensional worries keep you up nights. Your highest standards and speedy thought processes create anxiety at your job. Your fears that you’ll screw up your children forever turn you into a shrieking maniac, not unlike your mother. On your good days.

Sure, you feel like a failure because you haven’t achieved “greatness,” just like everyone expected since you were six, when your favorite book was the dictionary which you slept with every night without fail.

But what is normal and why is it so appealing?

Here’s what I tell my clients (with apologies to normal people):

You will never be normal. Let go of normal. Normal is watching The Bachelorette on TV. Normal is thinking one thought at a time. Normal is reading one book at a time. Normal is reading one book a month. Normal is asking one question a day. Normal is going along with the crowd. Normal is having one career your whole life. Normal is accepting the status quo. Normal is certainty that you know all of the answers. Normal is becoming prom king/queen.

See?

Time to rethink your desire for normal.

And, well, OK.

Maybe someday you can still be prom king/queen.

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To my dearest bloggEEs: Have you ever wished that you could be normal? Tell us about it.