Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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What My Twice-Exceptional Client Taught Me

I totally missed it. In my enthusiastic desire to avoid at all costs the all-too-often misdiagnoses of gifted kids and adults, I did not see what was right in front of me. 

(photo courtesy of David Clode, Unsplash)

I had worked with Jenny off and on, every other week, for about two years. She came to me after a difficult first year in college away from home, returning to a university in her hometown. She openly shared her struggles with anxiety, depression, and relationships. Her need for structure and routines, and trouble with transitions. Her extroversion and difficulty with friendships. The early years of bullying; her love of learning and desire to achieve in school. 

I had written about her on my blog. This one on anxiety and perfectionism. And I quoted her in this one. I saw it all as the typical challenges gifted young people face. And it was.

Until it wasn’t. 

Jenny had a boyfriend, Glen, who lived with her. He had been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and, with him, it was easy to see the signs. He had severe executive functioning problems and anxiety. He was not doing well in school or keeping up with chores at home; he had strong opinions that could not be changed. Jenny would remind him about homework and his responsibilities, but he would often procrastinate or say he would get to it but not follow through. He was particularly socially awkward. Compared to Glen, Jenny appeared to be a regular gifted kid with the typical rainforest-y struggles. She was conscientious about her schoolwork, kept her house clean, and was quite personable. She was insightful, sensitive, and kind. Yes, Jenny talked nonstop in our sessions but so did many of my clients. 

But, in our session last week, Jenny told me she had recently realized she was an “aspie girl.” She said she had been masking her ASD traits like many girls do, and that she was exhausted. The isolation and stress of the pandemic had finally overwhelmed her so she had gone on a search for answers and had come up with her own ASD diagnosis. Jenny explained she had severe anxiety with transitions and a strong need for plans and routines. When she was living with her parents, they provided the structure she needed. On her own, it was extremely challenging. She identified this as the executive functioning issues that can come with ASD.  She said she was quite anxious in new situations until she knew the rules and that she had learned over the years to imitate others so she would look appropriate. She described sensory issues and some self-stimulation that helped calm her; also physical clumsiness and fine motor difficulties. She told me about “obsessions” she had as a young child with Wizard of Oz, Dr. Who, and Lord of the Rings

The tricky thing is, I know many regular gifted kids in love with Dr. Who and J.R.R. Tolkien. Many who are sensually sensitive to textures, smells, tastes, and sounds. Who suffer from anxiety and depression. Who deal with loneliness, bullying, and communication issues.

But this was different. And Jenny’s research confirmed it. She was an aspie girl. She was twice exceptional (2e). She disclosed that as a young child, she developed scripts or rules for interactions with others and would get very upset if they did not follow them. Which they usually didn’t. Jenny said she learned by observation and from her mother to let other people talk and to ask them questions, to talk less about her own interests, and to manage her emotions when plans suddenly changed. Jenny was educating me, and herself, about ASD. It became clear she needed to find a different practitioner. And, in true form, she already had. She had already met with a psychologist for an initial assessment. 

Jenny told me she had benefitted from our time together. I had shared techniques she continued to use to calm her anxiety and manage her depression. My descriptions of rainforest minds reassured her that some of her difficulties in school and with other kids were based in her fast, divergent, and deep thinking, her sensitivities, and her greater capacity for learning. Her rainforest mind.

But I was quite aware of the irony. Many clients over the years have told me their practitioners had misdiagnosed them because there are similarities between the gifted traits and ADHD, OCD, ASD, and even bipolar disorder. Or they told me stories of how their doctors were mystified by their symptoms and they had to diagnose themselves without the help of the so-called experts.

Ouch. Eek. It was humbling to experience being one of those practitioners.

And so, yes, you can be rainforest-minded and ASD or ADHD or anything else, really. You can be twice exceptional. Maybe even 3e? 4e?

And, thus, just when you thought having a rainforest mind was complicated enough, well, there are even more tangled vines, insects, and monkeys than you can imagine.

And to Jenny: Thank you for your patience with me and your determination to make sense of your world. And for helping me make more sense of mine.

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To my bloggEEs: Have you been misdiagnosed? Do you identify with being twice-exceptional? Have you had experiences like Jenny? Let us know in the comments. Your thoughts, feelings, resources, and questions, add so much. Thank you, as always, for being here.

Resources for twice-exceptionality include: http://www.brightandquirky.com; http://www.withunderstandingcomescalm.com; http://www.summitcenter.us; These are mostly for parents of gifted 2e children but the information is still helpful for adults.


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A Gifted Woman From India

photo courtesy of Viktor Forgacs, Unsplash

Anu did not think she was smart. She did not excel in mathematics. In India, where she grew up, the gifted ones were the math stars. If you loved music, art, theatre, and literature, like Anu did, you were not considered particularly intelligent, much less gifted. If you were restless, highly imaginative, sensitive, and curious, like Anu, you were told to quiet down and calm down. Anu was punished and insulted by educators. She said, “School was a nightmare.” Even though Anu loved classical dance, singing, reading, and poetry, even though she was a curious, avid reader, this was not enough for her teachers.

Anu wrote: “I have observed in India intelligence is always acknowledged with accomplishments. Anything less than an engineer or doctor is considered low. Comparing your kids’ grades with your neighbor’s kids is a common practice and shaming you if your grades are lower. Nobody tries to understand there are kids who may not be able to thrive in the rote education method, but want it presented in a more interactive, fun, interesting way, as they have a more beautiful and passionate inner world…a beautiful bird or a sunset can evoke a thousand emotions and colors in our brain. We can get excited over things that don’t even make sense to others, but we are not overdramatic. We love life and this world more than anyone can imagine…” 

Anu came to N. America from India when she was 26. She is now 39, in an arranged marriage with two children and a Masters degree in microbiology. She found my blog and books five years ago and said she “found solace in that there are people who think and feel like me. I can live my life without shame and guilt…” It has been a long journey for her to find self-acceptance and to understand that she does, indeed, have a rainforest mind. 

“It took me so many years to realize that I do like to study. In my 30’s, I have been spending time learning anthropology, neurobiology, and studying Egyptian and Indian history…If I could have had this interest sparked in me many years back, my life would not have turned out like this and I could have had a career that is lined with passion…In spite of my passions being subdued by the society, I have lived life happily and spread my compassion and passion into my family. I have pursued reading, studying, dancing, and singing at an age where it may not make me a career, but at least keeps your inner world happy and engaged.”

I told Anu she has many years left to create a career that is fulfilling, if that is a goal of hers. I told her that the rainforest-minded often explore many lifestyles, including parenting, partnering, and multiple jobs/careers, hobbies, and interests over their lifespans. Just in case she felt too old, I reminded her that my blogging career began when I was, oh, 62.

You are not alone, Anu. Keep appreciating your imaginative, passionate, colorful inner world. Your rainforest mind clan is here, dancing and singing with you.

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To my bloggEEs: Let us know if you have had experiences similar to Anu. Tell us where you live and what the school system was like in your country. How did you find out about your rainforest mind? Did you find your path(s) later in life? Thank you, as always, for your sensitive comments and for your open hearts. And many thanks to Anu for sharing your story with us.


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Face Your Demons. Slay Your Dragons. Mend Your Broken Heart.

“We all have the dark, ignorant shadow inside us. I have worked endlessly to reveal it and heal it in me.” ~ Anne Lamott

Psychotherapy has been described as the opportunity to explore with a compassionate, experienced guide what is often called the dark night of the soul. It is the journey to face your demons. Slay your dragons. Mend your broken heart.

photo courtesy of Timo Volz, Unsplash

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Well, OK, maybe not fun. But necessary. Courageous. A way to unravel your family legacy of, say, abandonment, loss, abuse, trauma, and/or denial, and to make an actual contribution to world peace (I’m serious.) because you are no longer unconsciously re-enacting patterns set up by your crazy (not a technical term) or neurotic or abusive or delusional ancestors and projecting them onto innocent bystanders, including your children. In fact, you will, instead, be repairing the damage, disrupting the legacy, soothing your worn out nervous system, learning self-compassion, and discovering your particular path(s) to love and to creating a better world.

Granted, I am a psychotherapist, so I see most things through this lens. But I am guessing you will agree, we have a whole lot of unconscious, delusional, re-enactment going on these days. Some might say, we always have; it is just more obvious now. I would have to agree. And I recognize there are a lot of different opinions about how best to address the shadow side of humanity mayhem. In my view, there is no one particular right path or one answer for everyone. And yet. For those of you who see your own demons and dragons running amok, those of you who are brave enough to notice you do, in fact, have a broken heart to mend, this might be a journey you are ready to take.

What I have seen in myself and my clients as we dig ourselves out from under the rubble of our early lives (oh so many therapy metaphors!), is that you build a new foundation. You build a safe home where you can learn to trust and love yourself so you can trust and love others. Gradually, your outer life improves as your inner life is healed. And then, your rainforest mind is free to express itself in its fullest, overexcitable-est, idealistic-est, creative-est ways. I mean it.

Your ancestors will thank you. Your children will thank you. Your demons and dragons will run amok marathons for charitable causes.

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To my dearest bloggEEs: Just so you know, this is not an advertisement for my therapy services! I am only licensed to provide therapy in Oregon. (I do consult worldwide but that is not therapy.) Here is a short list of therapists to start your search. And, if you are not interested in therapy at this time (or if you have lost your job due to COVID), there are other ways to do inner work. Several of those resources are described in my first book. (If you want therapy but can not afford it, find a good person and ask for a sliding scale.)

If you have been particularly distressed by recent events in N. America, here are some encouraging words from Van Jones: “Breakdowns can lead to breakthroughs if you use them right. Maybe, just maybe, this much disunity can open the door for unity.” Here is an uplifting song: The Keep Going Song by the Bengsons. And here is an organization working to heal the divisions.

Let us know in the comments how you are doing (avoiding specific political rants–those are not really helpful here–but I surely understand the need to rant). Have you found a good therapist? What else do you do for self-healing? Have you found a furry friend? Do you wear your emotional support sweater? Do you let yourself cry? I am sending love to all of you to help you mend your broken hearts and to give you courage during these difficult times. Thank you for being here. Your love sustains me.


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Can Gifted Kids Become Ungifted Adults?

Heck no.

Just to be clear.

photo courtesy of joe ciciarelli, Unspash

But. Well. You may feel ungifted now that you are in your 40’s and you haven’t reached the goals you had at seven. At seven, when you were such a star. All that enthusiasm. Curiosity. Creativity. You knew all the answers. You asked all the questions. Everyone said you had so much potential. You were going to be an astronaut-poet-dancer-paleontologist-unicorn.

And now you are just a procrastinating, perfectionistic, ruminating, self-doubting, overwhelmed, unicorn mess.

So, what happened?

Is there a way to explain how you went from shining superstar to must-be-ungifted mess?

Maybe. I have a theory.

Life happened.

Many experiences, traumas, losses, rejections, prejudices, expectations, beliefs, pressures, illnesses, misunderstandings, or unicorn-killers may have intervened over the years.

Chain saws to your rainforest mind.

Here are some examples. In no particular order:

  • The pressure to be highly intelligent was enormous. You were constantly told how smart you were and how you would achieve great things. You felt you would only be loved and acceptable if you excelled at everything. And for a long time, you did. But eventually, the pressure was too great and you fell apart.
  • You were raised in a family with a history of serious trauma. School was your sanctuary and you did well but at home you had to use your rainforest mind to stay safe and sane. Because of this resilience, you are now a compassionate, sensitive adult. You are not passing the trauma legacy on to anyone. But dealing with your Complex-PTSD did not give you much time or energy to invent the iPhone.
  • You were bullied in school and rarely intellectually challenged. Being the smart kid was not appreciated so you hid your abilities and tried to fit in. In college, it was more of the same. And when you did find a class that was difficult, you did not have the study skills you needed to be successful. It didn’t help that your divergent thinking style, your preference for an interdisciplinary approach, your changing majors five times, and your tendency to question your professors, made you unpopular and labeled a know-it-all. You took your intelligence underground.
  • You were twice-exceptional. Your giftedness was complicated by a diagnosis of ADD or autism spectrum issues or sensory processing challenges or dyslexia or ??? The question, “If you’re so smart, why can’t you…” became all too familiar and debilitating.
  • You experienced racism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Semitism, or other discriminatory beliefs/behaviors. You grew up in poverty and/or in an unsafe community.
  • You contracted a serious physical illness. You were in chronic pain.
  • You became a parent.

These are some of the reasons you may not have become the astronaut-poet-dancer-paleontologist-unicorn that you and everyone else expected.

But I have good news. It is not too late.

No pressure. Well, maybe a little pressure.

And, yes, I realize you might not have the time to go to astronaut school. But now that you know what has contributed to your self-perceived ungiftedness, now that you know your rainforest mind is still very much with you, you can start to find your true self again.

And do what you are here to do.

We need all the unicorns we can get.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you remember your enthusiasm, intelligence, and curiosity as a child? Do you feel less gifted now? Ungifted? Which chain saws did you experience? Let us know. Your comments add so much. And thank you for being here. Sending you extra love this week. And this month. For the challenges ahead. Take good care of yourselves. Your light shines even when you think it doesn’t.

(And if you need a little more support, here is a Love Letter I wrote to you in 2018.)


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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.)