Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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What Is A Rainforest Mind? How Do You Know If You Have One? — The Interview

“I love the rainforest mind metaphor – a rainforest feels big enough to encompass all the messy, strange and beautiful aspects of who I am, including trauma. Part of me did want to change it to “mind-like-a-flock-of-colorful-noisy-birds”, but they can hang out in the rainforest too…” (from a blog comment)

If you have felt messy, strange, beautiful, and “like a flock of colorful noisy birds,” you may have a rainforest mind.

Instead of writing about it this time, here is a recent 45 minute video interview where I tell you about it! My interviewer was the fabulous Ben Koch from NuMinds Enrichment.

Thank you for watching! And, here is why you need to know this from a bloggEE who read my first book:

“…I bombed tests, failed classes, etc, and was never identified as gifted…It took me a long time to get out of the wreckage and into life…Your book also helped me think bigger! It helped me see how abuse [in my family of origin] was part (though not a determinative one) of my rainforest mind ecosystem. It helped me see that my range of interests – from doing a PhD in string theory, writing a book, learning multiple languages, making weird art, “deep scanning” literature/philosophy/baroque music/computer science, etc – was probably not manic, and my difficulties settling on a career probably not flakiness. It helped me contextualize my idiosyncratic way of feeling/seeing/thinking, my often unreceivable intensity, and the loneliness that results. But most importantly, it gave me hope to know that there are other people out there going through the same thing, living life with an intensity that is sometimes painful, but never dull.”

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To my bloggEEs: Are you living life with an “unreceivable intensity” that is “sometimes painful but never dull?” Please tell us about it. These are particularly difficult times worldwide. For some good news, Van Jones, civil rights leader here in N. America, is calling this time The Great Awakening. Click on the link to see what he is talking about.

Thank you, as always, for being here. And thank you to the bloggEE who is quoted above.

(the above bird photo is courtesy of zdenek machacek from Unsplash)


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When Crying Is The Right Answer — High Sensitivity, Despair, Overwhelm, And Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

photo courtesy of Anthony Tran, Unsplash

Some days it is just too much. Some days it is all too sad. Some days your optimism gets crushed and left to rot under the sofa. Some days you wonder about human nature and if greed, rage, hatred, and fear are written somewhere in the genetic code. Some days you realize you came to the wrong planet.

Some days you have macaroni and cheese for dinner and strawberry rhubarb pie for dessert. And breakfast. Some days you need to tell the world Happy Motherf*ckers Day. Some days you fall off the cliff, collapse into a heap, and are grateful for nothing. Some days your pile of cool books to read just depresses you. Some days your playlist is out of tune. Some days your cozy chenille emotional support animal sweater makes you sweat. Some days you think maybe you should have chosen a husband, two and a half kids, and a picket fence. Some days humans’ vast neediness is terrifying. Some days you can not tolerate another person unwilling to examine their own ignorance. 

Some days you notice the guilt you feel for your despair when your life is full of privilege and you have a great job, can afford to pay your bills, and can buy strawberry rhubarb pie whenever you want, so you are probably contributing in a big way to the problems yourself. And, in this moment, you. do. not. care.

You just need to cry.

And cry some more. 

Join me.

We will have a crying party. 

I’ll bring the pie.

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To my blogEEs: Can you tell what I am feeling right now? I am glad that I can share it with you. Sometimes crying, giving up, grieving and falling apart is a way to find your path, your next steps, your creativity, and your spiritual guidance. And sometimes, it’s just crying. Sending you much love and appreciation for your willingness to feel and to deepen your self-understanding and your purpose here on this planet, even if it’s not the planet you thought you were coming to. Let us know how you are doing. And for those of you who are struggling with Mother’s Day because your mother was inadequate or depressed or abusive or alcoholic or sadistic or neglectful or not there, this is my favorite mothering song. Much love to you all.


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Now Would Be A Great Time To Start Appreciating Super Smart People

photo courtesy of Dave, Unsplash

Today I am sending love and light to all of the super smart people in the world. We need our visionaries, empaths, scientists, healers, researchers, seekers, philosophers, perfectionists, intuitives, and overthinkers, now more than ever. Don’t you agree? We need the people who stand up for justice, honesty, and integrity. Who can compassionately and intelligently articulate the complex challenges and opportunities of our times. The artists and journalists who seek out and speak the truth. The kind, sensitive souls who strive to create a better world. 

Now would be a great time to start appreciating these humans. 

But I don’t have to convince you. You are aching to find them and experience their brilliance. Because. You are lonely. You are one of these super smart people. We might even say you are gifted, although I know you still feel awkward using that word. So, I am sending love and light to you. Because, at the very least, we need you to start appreciating yourself. To see who you really are. To identify why you struggle. To allow yourself to love your depth, sensitivity, and your extraordinarily active, fascinating mind.

It would be a good place to start.

As you may know, I am a big believer in introspection. It is one of my favorite pastimes. Facing your fears and doubts. Understanding the roots of your despair and anxiety. Gaining clarity about how your gifted mind works so that you stop misdiagnosing and misunderstanding yourself.

Many of the rainforest-minded souls I meet have been ridiculed or rejected because of their layers of complexities. Your passions for learning, books, research, libraries, bookstores, meaning, purpose, justice, and knowledge. For starters. Maybe you were the child who was rejected for their questioning, effervescent curiosity. And now you are the adult who feels guilty and confused because you can master most things you try but have not found a career path that is satisfying or a college curriculum that feeds your soul. 

And then, to make matters even more complicated, many of you grew up in homes that were neglectful or abusive. You were not safe in your own home. And, to cope, you may now minimize the impact or explain how others had it so much worse. Perhaps, you have been told you should just put all of that in the past and move on. After all, aren’t you so smart? Can’t you think your way out of it? 

Ugh. It’s just not that simple.

Of course, I have written a lot about the benefits of psychotherapy. You can find some of the posts here.

And now, now that we are in a pandemic, you may feel like you are back in trauma territory. You may feel those fears, doubts, despair, and anxiety rising up all around you, and in you. An event like this, in itself, is frightening and disturbing for many reasons. But it can also trigger old unconscious memories of being out of control, unsafe, and threatened. 

You may feel extra hypervigilant, overwhelmed, and exhausted.

What, then, can you do?

Well, it depends on your circumstances. You may only have the energy and resources for basic survival strategies right now. If that is the case, I am sending you extra love.

If you can do more, here are some ideas:

Give yourself permission to be introspective. To be deeply curious and to investigate your own patterns and family history. Journal. Do art. Try Soul Collage. Read. Rest. Develop your spirituality. Deepen your connection to Nature and the larger, loving, invisible world. Trust the guidance you find there.

You may have heard about the.holistic.psychologist on Instagram. She does a fine job explaining the way childhood experiences influence your sense of self and she provides tools for her community of #selfhealers. You might also look for a therapist in your town through the Psychology Today therapist directory

And, finally, send love and light and appreciation to all of the super smart people in the world.

One of them looks a lot like you.

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To my bloggEEs: How are you managing during this pandemic? I hope you are staying safe, healthy, and employed. Let us know where you are in the world and what it is like. What are the ways you are coping and finding hope and meaning? Are you noticing old anxieties resurfacing? What ways are you allowing yourself to be introspective? How are you taking care of yourself? How are you getting help? Your comments make my blog so much richer. 

And, by the way, writing to you is surely sustaining me right now. In addition to my chenille emotional support animal sweater, I have you. Thank you so very much for being here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Finding Emotional Support During Difficult Times

My chenille sweater is my other emotional support animal.

These days we all need emotional support. I mean, really. Just when you thought politics and the climate crisis were enough, along comes the coronavirus. Seriously? A pandemic? Now? I try to avoid expletives on my blog. But this moment really requires several WTFs.

I am sure you are reading articles from all of the people trying to put a positive spin on this. Me, too. And, I do hope and expect there is a longer term positive outcome or two that we can’t imagine in this moment when the tension is so high. Did you read the one about how Issac Newton understood gravity when he was working from home because of the plague? This did not soothe my worried soul. Although, you smart people might want to think about it. (No pressure.) Because you have lots more time to think right now. Unless, of course, you have children and they are not in school and you are desperately looking for ways to entertain them. Unless, of course, you or someone you love is vulnerable or has the virus. Then, none of this is very funny. (Apologies, as I try to be funny.)

I know that some people are saying that this is part of a much needed awakening for humanity. Kind of like the breakdown before the breakthrough. The caterpillar becoming the butterfly. I like those ideas but do not particularly look forward to being the post-caterpillar goo. That does not sound appealing. That said, here is a potential positive outcome not yet mentioned in the news: People who have been avoiding therapy for years may finally realize they need it. The anxiety could be great enough to overwhelm their resistance. And this could mean that more dysfunctional families are healed. That deep-seated ancestral patterns of abuse get interrupted, processed, and released. That your neurotic Aunt Nellie is no longer offended when you don’t eat the lime jello mold with marshmallows that she always brings to family functions. This would clearly be a positive outcome. 

So, in the meantime, in the immediate stress of it all, I have some advice. Get yourself an emotional support animal. It can be an actual animal. Or, as in my case, it can be a blog. Blogging is my emotional support animal. Since I found blogging (six years ago!), I have come here for meaning, purpose, creativity, humor, companionship, and love. And, if that is not emotional support, well, what is? 

For those of you who don’t blog or are allergic to dogs, cats, and the like, what gives you comfort? Lately, I have been wearing my soft, cozy, black chenille sweater. (See photo.) I have been wearing it every day hoping my clients don’t notice. (Of course they do. They notice everything.) Do you have a chenille sweater? Music you love? Friends who make you peanut butter cookies? A spiritual practice? Partners who make you laugh? Angels who sing to you at night? Books you long to read? Devas in your garden? A therapist who reminds you that your light shines even when you are frightened?

Get yourself some emotional support. 

And if you want to understand gravity or some such thing while you are at it, please do.

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To my bloggEEs: These times are getting stressier. (future word for the urban dictionary) How are you taking care of yourself and others? Where are you finding emotional support? As usual, please try and stay supportive and compassionate with each other. I am sending you big hugs and much love. 

While I am confined for these next weeks, I am seeing clients online and am available for consultations. So get in touch if you want a session. I’m also thinking about how I might provide some video support for you all. If I did that, what kinds of things would you want me to talk about? 

Below you will find a link to my interview from last week’s Evolved Empath Summit. Take a listen! (recorded in January 2020)

This interview is part of the Evolved Empath Summit, a free online event featuring how to turn your empathic gifts into your greatest strength. For more information, please visit https://evolvedempathsummit.com. This recording is a copyright of The Shift Network. All rights reserved.


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Counseling Gifted Adults — A Quick Guide for Therapists

photo courtesy of Christopher Lemercier, Unsplash

What do you do with the clients you suspect are super smart? Clients who talk fast, think fast, and ask probing questions. Who are so articulate and high functioning, you can’t understand why they say they are depressed and anxious. Who are paralyzed by fears of failure and the pressures of their “great potential.” Who have exceedingly high standards and expectations for themselves and others. Who change jobs frequently and express frustration, impatience, and confusion with slower thinking coworkers. Who feel a deep, unrelenting loneliness even if they have many friends and are in partnerships. Who have been bullied and bored in schooling situations while they clearly have an enormous passion for learning. Who have an unusual number of sensitivities to sounds, textures, visual stimulation, chemicals, and emotions. Who feel a responsibility for making a difference on the planet, have extraordinary empathy, and feel despair and idealism about the future. Who have experienced serious trauma in childhood but appear to be unscathed. Who can sense when your attention is drifting, are afraid of overwhelming you, and who, in fact, do overwhelm you with their intensity, depth, intuition, and levels of awareness.

These are some of the contradictions and confusions that therapists experience with their gifted clients.

Who is gifted?

Defining giftedness is difficult and controversial. Concerns over justice and equality can make this discussion tense and uncomfortable. Here is one way to think about it: All humans ought to be valued and appreciated. All humans are worthy of love and respect. All humans differ in their strengths, weaknesses, learning styles, intellectual capacities, sensitivities, curiosities, preferences, talents, temperaments, experiences, and desires. It can get tricky when we talk about intellectual differences. And yet, intellectual differences exist. Giftedness exists. Awkward, I know. But true. 

That said, you don’t actually need a clear, concise, undisputed definition to serve clients who fit into this category in one way or another. You just need to understand what they may be dealing with if they have some of these traits. 

And just to add to the confusion, there are also many differences among these humans. I am writing about a particular variety of gifted that I call rainforest-minded. You may run into highly intelligent clients who do not fit my description. But there will be many who do. I promise.

Why do you need to know this?

You may be using all of your very effective methods with these clients and yet something is not working. You know you are missing a very important piece of their puzzle. But, what? Giftedness is a phenomenon that has its own set of complications. These clients desperately need you to see all of who they are and all of who they want to be. They need to be able to feel safe to be vulnerable and to trust that you can handle their exuberance, intense emotions, questions, contradictions, complexities, fears, intuition, sensitivities, and, yes, their brilliance. 

What can you do?

Get familiar with the traits that often accompany giftedness. Learn to differentiate the issues that come with giftedness from the effects of growing up in a dysfunctional family. Look for ways your clients are masking their pain because they are used to practitioners who assume they are just fine and friends and family members who rely on them but don’t reciprocate. They may need to talk a lot without being linear or chronological; take notes if it helps you keep track. Be authentic and sensitive. Get your own therapy. Be careful that you don’t misdiagnosegiftedness can look like ADHD, Aspergers, OCD, and even bipolar disorder. (Note: Some clients can be gifted and also have a mental health diagnosis or learning disability, called twice-exceptional or 2e.) Know your limits and refer if you are frequently overwhelmed.

What resources are available?

These blog posts provide an overview for you and your clients, along with the rest of my blog. Use this quiz with your clients as a light-hearted way to explore the issues. And as luck would have it, my books are the easiest way for you to educate yourself. Your Rainforest Mind is filled with case studies and detailed descriptions of clients, their traits and issues, and the therapy process. Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind is a collection of my most popular blog posts and can be used as a workbook for clients as well as a quick guide for you. And, here are a few more excellent resources. An organization supporting the gifted. A documentaryAnd, a blog on gifted children.

What else?

If you can identify who among your clients has a rainforest mind and grasp their particular challenges, it will make a big difference in the power and effectiveness of the therapy. You will be seeing and understanding them in a way that very few others, if any, have.

And that will change everything.

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To my bloggEEs: Share this post far and wide and anywhere you feel therapists might be lurking. And, of course, share it with your therapist, if you’d like, and let us know how it goes. Let me know what else I ought to have included here. Tell us your therapy experiences and let us know any questions you have. Thank you, as always, for being here.

Oh, and, I am part of a free online event coming up March 9-13, 2020. The Shift Network is an organization promoting personal transformation to “help create a sustainable, peaceful, healthy, and prosperous world for all.” I am one of the speakers! Here is a link for more information. It is called the Evolved Empath Summit. Cool, eh?


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Relationships For Creative, Sensitive, Intuitive, Analytical Overthinkers — Where Do You Start?

photo courtesy of Omar Lopez, Unsplash

You think a lot. Some would say that you overthink. You feel deeply. Some would say that you over-feel. You love learning. Some would say that you over-research and over-read. You have very high standards and expectations. Some would say that you over-analyze. You are concerned about the future of the planet. Some would say that you over-worry.

My friend Felice would say that she was in her “overs” when she felt she was overdoing anything. Which happened quite a lot. She was intense. Sensitive. Brilliant. Busy.

So. Is being in your overs a bad thing? Or is it just your normal? Your rainforest mind doing what it does.

Is everyone else in their unders?

Well. They are in their unders just compared to you. But it is your nature to be living at a faster, deeper, wider pace. Your personhood naturally questions, analyses, creates, emotes, and imagines in atypical ways. Your drive to know, to understand, and to influence is vast. It is a difference in capacity. The rainforest has extraordinary capacity.

How, then, do you have relationships with humans who might be overcome by your overdrive. Or who might be overloaded by your over-the-top tendencies. Or who might feel overdosed on your overt intuitive insights. (Is that too many overs?)

What I see over and over is that RFMs don’t realize that everyone doesn’t have similar capacity. Even though you feel you don’t fit comfortably in many places, you think: Doesn’t everyone question the meaning of life every darn day and night? Um, no. You don’t realize that your difficulty with relationships is at least in part because of your more complex thinking, feeling, and knowing.

You may also have difficulty in relationships because you have trouble making chitchat. You feel awkward in social situations. What interests you is too complex for many of the other humans. You are excited to watch the BBC documentary Attenborough and the Giant Elephant while they are chattering about Sex and the City. And, perhaps, you are tired of counseling everyone else when no one knows how to listen to you.

And I get it. There’s more.

If you acknowledge that you do indeed have a larger capacity, then, not only do you confirm that you are an oddball, but then you have to prove it and live up to it. And that sounds overwhelming. Maybe even terrifying. (Not to prove that you are an oddball. But that you are gifted.)

Better to stay small, hidden, and under the radar than disappoint yourself and everyone else with your catastrophic failures.

But here’s the thing.

You have to understand and accept who the heck you are. That is the bottom line. That is the place where you begin to connect with the human race.

And you’ll just have to calm and reassure the part of you that feels judgmental or critical of others when you recognize your strengths. I know you want to be fair. To everyone.

But c’mon, sweetie pie.

Time to be fair to yourself.

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To my bloggEEs: There are many posts on finding friends, partners, and relating to coworkers on my blog, just in case you were wondering. And, of course, there is even more on relationships in my books! (What terrific holiday gifts for yourself, your teens, educators, therapists, clients, physicians, acupuncturists, and random strangers.)

How have you been challenged in relationships? Are you often in your overs? Where have you found friends and partners? How do you deal with coworkers? Thank you for commenting. As you know, you add so much to this blog! Love to you all.

(Note: Full disclosure. I am binge watching Sex and the City.)

 

 

 

 


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How Can You Tell If You Or Someone You Know Is A Gifted Adult?

photo courtesy of Ava Sol, Unsplash

Gifted kids can be hard to identify. There is a lot of controversy around what giftedness looks like in children. It is even harder to identify giftedness in adults. I’ve worked with gifted adults in my therapy practice for 20+ years. I’ve noticed some common traits.

So. If you’d like to know if you or someone you know is gifted, listen for these types of statements:

“I started writing a blog post about an herb that has now become 80 pages with no end in sight. The writing is about–everything. It’s all connected!”

“…friends and family don’t know what to do with me because I’m always moving onto the next thing. I’ve been told I’m competitive or make people feel bad by my insatiable drive to learn and grow…”

“It’s hard growing up in a family when you experience the world in a radically different way, are criticized for your ‘failures’ that aren’t actually failures and bullied for being ‘too sensitive’ and ‘too serious’…”

“Oh, and the smells, scents, and sounds that other people are not bothered by–me, all the way. I get migraines from those things. I cannot filter them out the way other people seem to.”

“I cannot tell you how often I was scolded for overthinking, and told to ‘stop worrying’ during my various forays into therapy. Oh the self-flagellation!”

“…I have trouble picking one thing, so I currently have a job that allows me the mental space to pursue what I really want to be doing with my mental energies…I’m on career path #4 in less than 20 years and I do part-time paid projects when I have the energy.”

“I was told that my expectations were too high and that I should lower my standards. I shouldn’t be so idealistic. I should ignore human suffering and stop rescuing animals and plants. I’m told I’m over-reacting to the climate crisis.”

“Maybe what I consider small talk isn’t considered small talk by everyone. I don’t want to bore people with ideas they don’t want to engage in but it’s hard to numb myself so often…There is the occasional magic where you realize someone you’ve known for a long time has a really interesting or weird interest, hitherto unknown, which can make for a fascinating hour or so.” 

“Am I crazy or is this a severe case of empathy? Intuition run wild? How do I know what I know?” 

“I crave intellectual stimulation. When I can’t get it, I enjoy amusing myself with translating conversations into one of the several languages that I know. I also love having a song running in my head (from memory, not with headphones) while visualizing the fingering for violin/cello/piano as if I were playing one of the lines. I love replicating the actual fingering in my pocket, just gently tapping, and walking down the street and feeling like I am playing right then and there with the big wave of music flowing through me, while no one around knows.”

“Beauty. Beauty is just so darned overwhelming. I cry at beauty.”

“I never thought I was gifted because I never tested well. I would overthink the questions or come up with too many possibilities within the questions. I never saw the point of certain subjects in school because they were in isolation of the greater world…I’ve been told that I’m gifted but I’m still not sure.”

“I’ve been searching for years for a spiritual community. I find peace, compassion, and guidance in Nature.”

“My whole life, I literally thought something was wrong with me because I’m not like everyone else around me and it’s been a very lonely road.” 

These are the types of statements I hear over and over from my gifted clients. They may be high achievers in an academic field. They may have a long list of accomplishments. They may be rich and famous. Or they may be none of these things.

But if you are writing an 80 page blog post on an herb, if you are on your 4th career path in 20 years, if beauty makes you cry, if you must fight injustice, if you out-think the test questions, if you are driven to learn and grow, if your intuition runs wild, and if you feel deeply connected to the universe and everything, well, then, odds are, it is highly likely, it is totally possible, that you, yes, you, are a gifted adult. That you have a rainforest mind.

(Note: And now that you are almost kind of absolutely sure that you are gifted, my books will tell you what to do next so that you can do what you are here on the planet to do. No pressure. Just sayin.’)

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To my bloggEEs: What have you said that might be a clue that you, too, are gifted? Thank you to the bloggEEs who provided these (edited) examples.

Here is a short recent video of me interviewed by Tina Harlow if you are wondering what I sound like and look like and why you should buy my books! And here is a recent review of my first book from Kirkus Reviews. And, by the way, I’d love a review from YOU, too! (on Amazon) As always, thank you for being here. Big love to you.


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Parents of Gifted Children — Who Needs the Counseling?

my first book, new cover

Parents come to me worried about their gifted kids. Anxiety, existential depression, trouble in school, sensitivities, loneliness, empathy, perfectionism, social responsibility. I describe the typical social-emotional traits of gifted children and the challenges they often experience. We strategize. This information is a relief for parents who are overwhelmed by these super intense, extremely curious, highly sensitive beings.  Then I tell them: “Your child doesn’t need counseling. You do.” 

That doesn’t always go over so well.

But it is often true*. Parents who understand their own beliefs, behaviors, patterns, and pasts will be better able to care for their children. Experiences you have in childhood have a huge impact on self-esteem and self-confidence. This seems obvious to me but many people still don’t seem to get it. Even if you were raised in a healthy family, if you were also a gifted child, you may be overly reactive to your kids’ struggles. And if you were raised in any sort of abusive home, the effects will impact how you raise your own children. It will be important, then, to make the time to address your own doubts and sense of self to see where you need guidance. Your sensitive children will pick up on your unexpressed distress, even if you think you are hiding it well. When you are introspective and gain self-awareness, they will learn that self-examination and self-compassion matter.

Of course, counseling can come in many forms. Psychotherapy will be particularly important if there was abuse, neglect, or addictions in your family of origin. There are also 12-Step and other support groups, self-help books, coaches, online courses, and Instagram therapists. There are Facebook groups for parents with twice-exceptional kids (2e).

Where, then, do you start?

I’m glad you asked. I have two books to recommend. OK. Full disclosure. These are my books. I wrote them because there isn’t much out there specifically for gifted adults. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, includes many case studies of my psychotherapy clients so that you can see what the counseling issues are and also how they might be addressed in therapy. It also lists quite a few resources and strategies and covers perfectionism, sensitivities, relationships, multipotentiality, anxiety, and more.

From a reader: “…I see this book as a beacon to those who are ready to expand into a deeper knowing of themselves, as a portal to liberating the gifts of those with rainforest minds so we can self-actualize – become whole – awaken to the truth of who we are…”

My second book is a compilation of my most popular blog posts from 2014-2018 organized by topic. It includes exercises at the end of every chapter that will help you understand and accept your own giftedness. It is an easier read so it makes a great gift for friends, educators, therapists, relatives, and your busy teenagers.

From Dr. Melanie Hayes founder of Big Minds Unschool: “…You will find no better guide to help you examine all of the complex nuances of having a mind that is teeming with inexplicable life!…”

If you’d like to see me in action and learn more about my books, here’s a short video with a heart-felt review from the lovely Dr. Amber Siler.

And here is a link to psychotherapist and fabulous human Tina Harlow’s free ebook on parenting gifted children that contains statements from many experts in the field of giftedness. Including me.

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To my bloggEEs: Many of you have read my books. Thank you! I would be most grateful if you would write a review on Amazon. (It doesn’t need to be long or perfect!) And let us know in the comments what you think. If you are a parent, can you make time for introspection and self-healing? What has worked for you? What are your questions?

(*Note: Of course, there are times when your child does need counseling.)


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Gifted and Resilient — When You Grow Up With Abuse or Neglect

photo courtesy of Ian Stauffer, Unsplash

As a psychotherapist, I know trauma.

Every day I counsel dear rainforest-minded (RFM) souls who were seriously traumatized by their parents.  What is remarkable is that I have found, consistently, that they have not become abusive as a result. They have clearly been impacted deeply. And yet, they have somehow managed, even with unspeakable pain, to become compassionate, loving, sensitive humans. Working hard to prevent the legacy of abuse from being passed on to the next generation.

How is that possible?

Here is my theory.

I think it is the nature of the RFM to be deeply resilient. Perhaps RFMs are old souls. Empaths. Shamans. Priestesses. Healers. I believe there is a powerful central core of Light and Love that remains untouched. That can not be broken. No matter what. A connection to something greater. To the Mystery. To Spirit. Many of my clients say that they were aware at very young ages that their parents were disturbed. They often became the protectors of their siblings and handled household responsibilities early. Taking care of others, being extremely perceptive and highly sensitive, intuitive, and spiritual. Out-thinking  and overthinking to save themselves and their families.

Sound familiar?

But still, my clients are struggling. You, too?

Excessive anxiety/fears, depression, self-hatred, self-doubts, unhealthy/abusive relationships with partners and friends, unstable career paths, physical illnesses, self-criticism, substance abuse, poverty. These are just some of the results of emotional, verbal, physical, sexual abuse and neglect. The effects of childhood trauma.

Not only that. Because you have a rainforest mind, you may be grappling with this : “If you’re so smart, why can’t you get over it, why aren’t you better by now???  You seem to be doing fine so it must not have been that bad.” You may believe that you should have figured this out already. After all, you are a super fast learner when it comes to many things.

But healing from trauma/abuse is a long, winding road. It takes courage and persistence. When you grow up unsafe in your own home, just living can be a scary, even terrifying, proposition. To survive, you developed beliefs, behaviors, and coping strategies. These beliefs, behaviors, and strategies are etched deep within your brain/ body/ psyche. They served you well by protecting you then. But many of them are no longer helpful.

So what do you do now?

Read this collection of posts. They are an overview of how and why therapy works. You will feel less alone and find some good resources, including The School of Life. In other words, find a good therapist!*

If you can’t afford therapy at this time or if you need to take some steps on your own, here are some ideas. You can also do these things even if you do find a therapist!:

~ Read Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving: A Guide and Map for Recovering from Childhood Trauma by Pete Walker for a good description of the effects of abuse and for some self-help tools. As in most books, not everything will apply or will be right for you. Just accept the parts that resonate. 

~ Don’t skimp on self-care. Chances are, you are better at taking care of everyone else. Make a list of nourishing,  self-soothing, and relaxing activities and give yourself permission to do them. Acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments. Look into Kristin Neff’s self-compassion.

~ Practice setting boundaries. Start with easy people and situations, if this is particularly hard, which it may be if it was dangerous in your family to express your needs. Learn to say no. And in some cases, hell no.

~ Look online for self-help resources. Try your.holistic.psychologist on Instagram.

~ Experiment with yoga, meditation, acupuncture, energy medicine, time in nature, journaling, or bodywork. Hug your puppy, your parakeet, or your kitty.

~ Nurture your sense of humor.

~ Listen to inspiring music. Try Defying Gravity.

~ Go to an uplifting film. Here’s one: Blinded by the Light 

~ And, most importantly, visualize, feel, and breathe into your connection to the Mystery. To the Spiritual. To your Intuition. To the Love that is all around you.

To your radiant, powerful, central core of Light and Love.

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To my old souls, empaths, shamans, priestesses, and healers, I mean, my bloggEEs: Sending you much love. Let us know how you are coping with and healing from the challenges in your families of origin. What resources have you found that have been helpful?

Thank you to the clients who shared some of these resources with me. And, of course, to all of you for your courage.

(Note: I’m not saying that there are no gifted folks who become abusers. Surely, we know there are. It’s just that in my experience, the humans who are the RFM variety of gifted, don’t.)

(*Another note: It’s best to find a therapist you can work with in person. This post might help you find someone. That said, there are therapists who work online. I can only see therapy clients in Oregon because of the restrictions on my license. The therapists at The School of Life in the UK work internationally as does Maggie Brown in New Zealand. I do see clients worldwide but just for short term consultations more focused on giftedness topics such as those described on the blog and in my books.)


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When Perfectionism, Anxiety, Empathy, and Expectations Collide — Gifted in Portugal

photo courtesy of Ronny Sison, Unsplash (not Ricardo)

Some thoughts from Ricardo of Portugal:

“All my life I was driven, motivated, sensitive, intense, and hyperactive. I always cried easily with  music, a memory, a movie or a person or animal suffering. I have always searched for beauty in my life and I always felt different, emotionally and cognitively. I always liked the positive things about myself – the energy and intensity of feeling, the intelligence of my out of the box arguments – but I always wanted to eradicate my anxiety and my worries. In a way, I guess that I have been afraid of my brain – its intensity and its hyperactivity in making so many driven thoughts…”

“I’m afraid to lose all the intense feelings I have about all the things that make me happy: the love I feel with my beloved wife, my sense of wonder about the world, my joy about beauty, my deep feelings about others, etc. My perfectionism makes me put my standards high enough to protect all the things I love. I need to feel always very good, I need to feel always connected to the world and with the people I love, I need to feel always alive at full throttle, I need to be the best in everything I do, I need to feel always deep, I need to feel always with energy. If I don’t feel good, I wonder if something is wrong with me. I have to be always high, never low. If any problem emerges in my life I can fix it with confidence and trust but if some fear (about disease or an idea about losing my joy and my positive intense feelings) get in my head, I worry and worry and start to get anxious…”

“Are you saying that rainforestminds can develop a perfectionism linked to the way that they need to feel, enjoy life and protect the emotions that they value? Why do I have such intolerance to anxiety, pain, diseases, sadness, and everything that can make me suffer?…”

My Response to Ricardo:

Dearest Ricardo. Because we haven’t met, I shall respond to your questions in general terms. Take what resonates and leave the rest.

Afraid of Your Own Brain

As odd as it may sound, being afraid of your own brain makes sense when you are such an intense thinker and feeler. So driven. So full throttle. Imagine that your capacity for intelligence, for thinking, feeling, and knowing, means that you might experience worry and fear at a similar scale. Full throttle worry and fear. Understanding what it means to be gifted will be important so you don’t mislabel yourself. Also, you will likely need to practice self-soothing and relaxation techniques. This won’t eradicate your anxiety but it can contain it and reduce it. Some sort of regular spiritual/meditation practice would be important if you also have trauma in your background. (or even if you don’t) Trauma stays in your body over time so a daily practice would be beneficial, along with some type of therapy, to reduce and reconfigure unhealthy patterns, beliefs, and habits.

Intrinsic (Healthy) Perfectionism

There can be two types of perfectionism in the gifted. The type that is innate can be described as the deep need for beauty, balance, harmony, precision, and justice. This is not something dysfunctional that needs to be healed. It needs to be understood and appreciated. There will be times when prioritizing and compromises will be needed, though, because on many occasions, something just needs to get done, and it can actually still be excellent, if not perfect. Emails to plumbers, for example, don’t need to take three hours to write.

Pressure to be Perfect

If you have a rainforest mind, you’ll often find a self-imposed or societal expectation to be gifted at all times at everything. This is impossible. There is nothing wrong with you if you make a mistake, can’t solve all problems, or if you are not the best at everything. You will have many moments of doubt, fear, failure, and confusion. There will be talents that you do not have and people who know more than you do about certain things. For example, narwhals.

Loss, Empathy

It may be a universal human experience to be afraid to lose what we have, in particular, for many people, losing love or material wealth. For the gifted, that might include fears of losing wonder, intensity, joy, and passions. Losses of freedom to question, to find beauty, and to be intellectually fed. We can’t avoid pain and grief in life but I suspect that, even so, you will maintain your intensity and your sense of wonder and your love of beauty, and more, regardless. When you are gifted, you can not become ungifted.

Chances are, though, you are also dealing with an abundance of empathy. That might be a reason you can be overwhelmed by sadness and pain. Perhaps you are feeling more than just your own grief. Maybe you are tapping into the suffering of others. It will be important to find ways to nourish yourself, develop healthy boundaries, and appreciate the loving presence that is you.

Thank you, Ricardo, for showing us your big-hearted, beautiful, complicated rainforest mind.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you relate to what Ricardo is saying? Let us know your similar or different experiences and also can you tell us where you are from? I suspect that these experiences are international in scope. I’m thinking that I might include more examples like this from emails that I receive. Do you like that idea? If you want to send me your questions and thoughts for possible blog posts, you can contact me through the form on the About page. No guarantees that I’ll post your questions but let me know if I have your permission. Thank you, as always, for being here. And, thank you for reviewing my books on Amazon!

This post is part of a blog hop. Click on the link to see more posts on this topic!