Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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A Gifted Kid’s Conundrum — Part Two — Anxiety and Perfectionism

photo courtesy of Thought Catalog, Unsplash

You may have read about Ben. He’s the gifted teen who said “I have to know it before I learn it.” He learned to read early. No one taught him. Learning was easy. He knew what they were teaching in school before they taught it. He came to believe that all learning happened this way. He didn’t feel particularly smart, though. Doesn’t everyone remember everything that they read? Isn’t everyone fascinated by fractals? Doesn’t everyone want to be an anthropologist-poet-engineer-actor-scuba diver when they grow up? 

It’s assumed that these kids will be fine because they’re so smart.

Not Ben. Not the gifted kids I know.

Anxiety. Perfectionism. Expectations. Pressure.

To the max.

Does this sound like you or your kids?

“I should be good at everything. I feel lost, empty, and helpless when I don’t know something. When I was very little, I was frustrated when adults didn’t respect me. I didn’t have the words to express my intense feelings and I felt powerless and angry. My body couldn’t accomplish what my mind could imagine. I can still feel that helplessness. Probably why I need so much control now.”

“They kept saying that I was so smart so I felt that if I didn’t get high grades, I’d disappoint them. Or worse. They’d see that I wasn’t so smart. And that would be devastating. Who was I if I was average? Or mediocre? I couldn’t even bake a cake without worrying that I’d make a mistake.”

“I feel everything so intensely. That includes frustration. Sadness. Empathy. All of it. No wonder I’m anxious.”

“…I am so afraid of failure. I tend to work on skills privately to protect my self-image. If it’s not ready for prime time, no one sees…”

“Up to a certain point, most things came easily. When I didn’t automatically know what to do, I watched or mimicked a few times and then the information or process was stored for good. But if I didn’t think I’d be successful at something in a short period of time (or at all), I wouldn’t even try…”

“…when you can imagine the ideal creation in greater detail…(or when you can imagine so many more different VERSIONS of perfection) then it’s much harder, emotionally, when you inevitably fall short…The scary thing about actually working to achieve something is that there’s always the possibility that, even if you work hard, the product could be mediocre…” 

“…I’m now in my forties and have multiple advanced degrees, but I still struggle with forgiving myself when learning doesn’t come easily. My daughter exhibits similar behaviors, and as I help her learn about how her brain functions, I’m finding the compassion to help myself…”

What, then, are some ways that you can help yourself and your kids?

• Understand that your perfectionism and anxiety might exist not because of something that you’ve done wrong but because of the nature of growing up gifted. The complications begin at an early age. You have a right to take the time to focus on your self-understanding and growth.

•  Make a list of self-soothing techniques that work for you. Try the different apps that exist such as Calm, Insight Timer, and Headspace. It often helps to create a daily meditation practice or exercise plan. Some people have found morning pages from The Artist’s Way to be useful. Notice if food sensitivities or hormones are a factor. Get help from a smart, sensitive practitioner, such as a bodyworker, acupuncturist, naturopath, or therapist.

• Make a list of calming reminders. Here are some items on one teen client’s list: I’m a fallible human. I make mistakes, like everyone. I’m learning. I’m experimenting. Making a mistake does not make me a bad person. Am I catastrophizing? Do I need to be this upset? My body tends to be anxious, but I’m actually safe. It’s going to be OK. I’m older now and I have more control over my experiences. Now that I’m older, it makes sense that there will be many things that I won’t know. 

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Bourne is a good resource if you need many specific techniques.

Procrastination by Burka and Yuen is a good resource for perfectionism and procrastination.

•  If you’re a parent, share these ideas with your children. Listen to them as they share their frustrations and fears. Careful listening and reflection often works better than advice giving or rescuing. If they’re very young, give them the specific words for their emotions.

• You have great compassion for others. Let yourself receive some of that sweetness, too. Forgive yourself for not being perfect.

And remember, above all, your kids and you will learn more from your mistakes than from your successes. And your memoir will be much more fascinating because of your failures, your foibles, and even your fears. Where would David Sedaris be today without failures, foibles, and fears?

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To my bloggEEs: You may notice that some of these quotes come from your comments. Thank you so much. What else do you have to say about anxiety and perfectionism? Clearly, sharing your experiences helps us all! And thank you to the client who inspired this post and gave me permission to use some of her words.

Thank you to those of you who’ve read my book. If you could write an imperfect review on Amazon, I’d be so grateful. And if you don’t have my book yet, well, ahem, what are you waitin’ for? And, if you go to my About page, you’ll see I’ve added a podcast and an interview about parenting gifted kids. Sending you all much love.

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My Life as an Introverted Psychotherapy Nerd

photo courtesy of Jan Traid, Unsplash

I’m an introverted psychotherapy nerd.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have loved. I’ve been loved.

See. I’ve done stuff.

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

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

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

What could be better?

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

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

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

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

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

But still.

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

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

Meet me in Oregon. We’ll go bowling.

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

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

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

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

 


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What Does Gifted Look Like in My World?

photo courtesy of rawpixel on Unsplash

The controversy is intense.

How do we explain giftedness? Is it high achievement? Talent? Productivity? Eminence? IQ? Financial success? 4.0 grade point average? 10,000 hours of practice?

Nooooooooo. 

I shriek.

Politely.

I mean, it might include any of those things. Sure. But it doesn’t have to.

Instead. Here is my explanation.

Totally anecdotal. If you want data, you can stop reading now. Or skip to the end and the link to neuroscience.

If you want experience, I’m your gal.

Gifted looks like Ebony. Sixteen. Intense. Talks fast, thinks fast, moves fast. Asks questions no one can answer. Struggles in school: Doesn’t turn in papers that aren’t up to her standards. Procrastinates to avoid feeling like a failure if she gets less than an A. Tries to engage her classmates in some intellectual repartee when all they want is to watch Netflix. Some teachers think she’s arrogant. Feels a spiritual and intuitive connection to the ocean and the ravens. Lonely for a friend who gets her and who has read Lord of the Rings 11 times.

Gifted looks like Carlos. Forty-two. Self-taught, successful IT expert. Highly sensitive, empathetic, and emotional (although he hides it well). Bullied in school because he preferred grasshoppers and string theory to football. Spends hours writing a three sentence e-mail. Repeats himself often in an effort to be deeply understood and to calm his anxiety. Researches for days in order to make a decision. A slower, deliberate, deep thinker and processor. Learning to dance the Argentine tango so that he can finally experience being followed.

Gifted looks like Martin. Eight. Energetic. Extremely curious and kind. Wants to be Richard Feynman for Halloween. Refuses to complete worksheets of arithmetic problems that he already knows. Teachers complain that he must be ADHD and not particularly bright but he can concentrate for hours at home building complex lego contraptions or reading Popular Science. Sleeps with a dictionary when he does sleep, which he resists mightily. Exhausts his parents with his emotions and his need for creative and intellectual activity.

Gifted looks like Frances.  Fifty-nine. After running her own children’s bookstore, raising two kids and their friends, volunteering on the board for the ballet, and remodeling her home, she’s in her latest job working as a city planner. She’s considering going back to school for another Masters degree because she’s always wanted to be an art therapist or a landscape architect or a stand-up comedian. She thinks she’s flakey or shallow because she’s walked so many different career paths. Her sense of social responsibility keeps her awake most nights. Her intuitive abilities frighten her.

Gifted looks like Carmen. Thirty-six. A successful social worker and loving mom who promotes energy efficiency everywhere she goes. Been in therapy for years courageously addressing serious trauma from her family of origin. Dealing with complex physical symptoms due to chronic anxiety from growing up terrified and abused. In spite of her own pain, able to be generous, empathetic, optimistic, spiritual, and accomplished. Working on setting better boundaries with people who want her to rescue them. Learning how to create reliable, sweet friendships where she receives as much as she gives.

That’s what gifted looks like in my world.

And, if you really want to know, gifted looks like a rain forest. (Note: If people are like ecosystems, some are meadows. Some deserts. Some oceans. Some rain forests. All are necessary and beautiful.)

In his must-read book, We Rise: The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement that Restores the Planet by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, the tropical rain forest is described:

“The feeling of being in the rain forest is the feeling of being surrounded by life. It’s home for hundreds of thousands of animals, and their survival is connected to the survival of us all. The magnificence of the rain forest is something powerfully sacred, something so clearly worth protecting...the rain forest is one of the most important biomes on the planet for human survival…it offers us an unbelievable abundance of nourishment and resources…” 

Right?

Sounds just like you.

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To my bloggEEs: You’ve been doing an amazing job adding your comments to my posts. Thank you so much. Let us hear from you now. What does your giftedness look like?

(Note: For those of you who are persnickety, and who among you isn’t, I have a confession. I made rain forest into an adjective, as in rainforest mind, and then made it one word. You may have been wondering about that for a long time. You’ve noticed my inconsistency. The truth is finally revealed.)

(Another note: The people described above are composites of clients, students, and other assorted gifted folks I’ve known. Names, of course, have been changed.)

For those articles on neuroscience and giftedness, click on this link.

 

 


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The Woman Whose Hair Refused To Be Controlled — A Journaling Technique for Self-Discovery

Wearing a hat is a minimally effective tool for hair control

One of my favorite tools for self-acceptance and healing is my trusty journal.  I’ve used it for years. It’s how I figure out what’s going on when I’m depressed, anxious, lonely, or craving another hot fudge sundae. I gain insight, process emotion, and receive guidance. I’m going to share one technique with you here, including a sample entry from my journal from a few years ago. Thus the title of this post.

Here’s how it works: I write a story about me in the third person. I always title it The Woman Who…. based on what I’m grappling with at the time. I stay open to what might appear and I just start writing until I come to a conclusion that usually surprises me. I try to include humor and not take myself too seriously. Titles have included: The Woman Who Was a Mystery to Herself. The Woman Who Lived with a Bear. The Woman Who Couldn’t Stop Crying. The Woman Who was Afraid of a House.

You get the idea.

So, here’s an entry from around 2012. In the days before blogging, when my life was not as effervescent as it is now. (Please excuse the occasional expletive.)

The Woman Whose Hair Refused To Be Controlled

It was in her hair. The control. If she let her hair be free, all hell would break loose. If her hair was free, she couldn’t hide. She’d walk into a room and people would notice her. She’d walk into a room and people would see how unappealingly ethnic she looked. She’d walk into a room and people would be appalled at her bold, expressive, obnoxious, overexcitable hair. She’d walk into a room and people would ask her to be responsible for something.

And then what? Her safe, secure, smallish world might explode on her, shattering her melancholy somewhat uneventful life. And who knows what might emerge from there? Surely something large, loud, slimy and smelly. Which would be intolerable. At least her melancholy somewhat uneventful life was not large, loud, slimy and smelly. There was that.

And she liked control. She. Loved. It. Who doesn’t? Anyone who grows up in any sort of moderately to severely dysfunctional family craves the sweetness of control. Of being out from under the fuckedupedness. Into one’s own world. Creating one’s own path. Away from the neediness, the unspoken rage, the cold criticism. Even if one’s own path leads to fuckedupedness. It’s your very own fuckedupedness. And that was fine. She could live with that.

Almost. Except for the fact that her hair kept popping out of its containers. No matter the conditioners, the gels, the paraben-free shampoos. The clips. The braids. The hats. The avocado-banana-yogurt masks. Her hair could not be contained. It screeched LOOK AT ME at every turn. It cried I AM HERE. It yelped I’M A REBEL AND I’M PROUD.

Oh boy.

What to do? What to do?

Well, of course, there was the obvious. Cut it all off. I’m kidding. That was not an option. She could let it unravel and see what happened. It’s possible that she could still maintain a modicum of control even with her rude hair showing its true self. And, she had to admit that other people didn’t see it as obnoxious or overexcitable. They seemed to like it. They even wanted it for themselves.

Maybe it was time. She wasn’t getting any younger. What if she was seen? What if people noticed? What if she claimed that she was alive, rebellious and proud? What if her true self screeched, I AM HERE. Would that be so bad? What if she came to love her control AND her unruly hair. Maybe they could coexist.

Maybe she’d have MORE control if she let her hair go.  Would that be possible? Was she misguided all this time? Was there true control in no control? Was she getting a little too Buddhist here? Maybe saying YES to her hair, she was saying YES to life. Perhaps there was even room to expand, to grow, to evolve, from her melancholy somewhat uneventful life.

Perhaps her effervescent, expansive, evolving hair could lead the way.

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To my bloggEEs: What do you think? If you try this technique for yourself, let us know how it goes. Do you keep a journal? What works for you? And, by the way, if I were to design an online class for us, what might you want included? Thank you as always for being here. Sending you much unruly love.

(Note: If you’re reading my book, ahem, I’d so appreciate a review on Amazon. It doesn’t have to be long or perfect. Thank you!)

 


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A Love Letter to You and Your Rainforest Mind

Me in Paris airport 2005 throwing you a kiss

Dear One.

Yes, you. With that dazzlingly intense rainforest mind.

You have so much Courage.

To be here, on this planet, during such tumultuous times. To stay sensitive, empathetic, and compassionate. To perceive and feel the human layers of suffering, despair, rage, fear, and sorrow. To stay open to your deepest emotions. To speak out against injustice. To develop your intuitive abilities even when not-knowing might make your life easier.

You have so much Strength.

To be willing to face your own demons. To persistently uncover the painful patterns of shame, depression, and anxiety handed down to you from your parents and their parents before them. To unravel the legacy of abuse within your ancestral line so that the generations after you experience greater self-acceptance and inner peace. To understand and process your own fear and rage. To choose the extraordinarily long hard road of introspection and analysis so that you might live authentically and compassionately and so that all children might have better lives.

You have so much Intellect.

To allow your curiosity to run free through the multiple pathways of your effervescent layers. To gobble up as much learning as you can manage. To know that “you think too much” translates into “you breathe too much” and, no, there can never be too much air thinking. To use your capacity to problem solve for healing yourself, your family, and your community while maintaining healthy boundaries and limits and time for the seventeen books piled next to your bed.

You have so much Sensitivity.

To appreciate and trust the intricate beauty and power of the natural world. To maintain your idealism and optimism in spite of the evidence. To let your awarenesses enhance your creativity. To persist in finding your particular art form as a way to express and soothe your sweet soul and the soul of the world.

You have so much Spirit.

To keep looking for Love in spite of the bullies, in spite of your difficulty communicating with the multitudes of slower, simpler thinkers. In spite of your lonely heart. To expand your awareness into the invisible world. To receive the powerful Love and guidance from the Universe. To build your particularly rainforest-y spiritual practice. To allow yourself to become all that you can be; More than you ever thought possible.

More than you ever thought possible.

Dear One. Yes, you. With that dazzlingly intense rainforest mind.

We. Love. You.

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To my bloggEEs: I am so moved by each of you as I read your comments and your emails and as I meet you online and in my practice. I’m so honored to be able to provide you with support. This love letter comes from me with a little help from my own spiritual network of Guides. I have a sense that there are loving Beings in the Universe who are cheering us on. They’re saying thank you, right now, as we speak.

And for a little treat, I want to show you one of my “art forms.” I found an old video of me taking a tango lesson from 2004. As you know, I recommend the Argentine tango for RFMs looking to find each other and connect. Here’s a chance to see what it’s like! Enjoy!

 


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So, You’re Gifted. Who Cares and Why Does it Matter?

photo courtesy of Jeremy Thomas, Unsplash

It matters. Even if no one else cares. It matters that you know. And that you care.

Why? you ask with that quizzical oh-so-disarming look of yours. (Yes, I know that look.)

Because, my darling:

You will understand that what you imagined were your poor communication skills, was actually your inability to slow your super-speedy thoughts. Not to mention your assumption that everyone thinks as deeply, as quickly, and as multi-dimensionally as you do. They don’t. (This does not make them terrible people. I know. It just means that they might not comprehend your perturbations.)

You will give yourself permission to be the voracious learner that you are. To let yourself dive into the esoteric, obscure, mysterious, complex topics that other people can’t possibly grok and wouldn’t want to.

You will allow yourself to be obsessed with beauty, balance, harmony, precision, and justice. (Your healthy perfectionism.) Even if it means that you don’t get as much done because you’re crying over the majesty of the night sky.

You will have compassion and appreciation for your ridiculously high standards and expectations and your need to ruminate over the exact wording of your email to the plumber.

You will understand why you’ve been lonely all of these years and stop thinking it’s because you don’t smile enough, don’t make small talk, or because you suck at sports.

You’ll find an appropriate career path or two or ten.

You’ll protect your sensitivity and empathy from the assault of perfumes, ragers, leaf blowers, chemicals, clamoring hoards, noisy chewers, creepy humans, nasty Facebook messages, boring lectures, and houses that are painted orange.

You will understand that what looks quirky, eccentric, weird, and geeky to others is what makes you fascinating.

You will stop misdiagnosing yourself with labels such as OCD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, Aspergers, slacker, weird, or just-plain-crazy. (And, sure, you may be twice-exceptional, 2e, and have a particular diagnosis along with your rainforest mind, but there’s a whole lot of misdiagnosing goin’ on, too. So you’re gonna stop that now.)

You will appreciate your curiosity and your questioning of everything. And you’ll continue to search for meaning, purpose(s), and justice. This will result in benefits to your children, neighbors, relatives, friends, animals, plants, ancestors, the planet, and humanity at large.

Let me say that again in a different way.

Knowing that you are gifted, matters. It will explain what might otherwise create confusion, self-doubt, anxiety, depression, angst, or despair. It will allow you to blossom into the best human that you can be.

And this will result in benefits to your children, neighbors, relatives, friends, animals, plants, ancestors, the planet, and humanity at large.

Even if they don’t know that they care.

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To my bloggEEs: This is for those of you who may actually accept that you have a rainforest mind but are still wondering why it’s important that you know it. What’s your reaction to this post? What else do you need to know that will help with your self-acceptance? Thank you, as always, for being here. And, I have a request. If you’ve read my book, can you take a moment and write a review on Amazon? It doesn’t have to be long or perfect. 🙂 (And if you haven’t read it, well, now would be the optimal time, doncha know…)

 

 

 


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Don’t Give Up On Yourself And Your Rainforest Mind

photo courtesy of Nadim Merrikh, Unsplash

Don’t quit. Don’t stop striving. Don’t stop growing. Don’t stop believing.

Don’t give up on yourself.

Even if you grew up in a family of chainsaws. Even if you have been told over and over and over that you’re too sensitive, too dramatic, too smart, too quiet, too noisy, or too weird. Even if you think you’re too old or too young or too whatever. Even if you’re overwhelmed by politics or racism or natural disasters or anxiety or depression or physical disabilities. Even if you procrastinate. Even if you’ve changed jobs multiple times and never learned how to build rocketships and send them to the international space station. Even if your hair is curly and free range. Even if you don’t look like George Clooney or Beyoncé.

Even if you haven’t partnered with the person of your dreams and you don’t have perfect, high achieving children. Even if you feel like too much and not enough at the same time. Even if you’re post-menopausal. Even if you’re grieving for the planet and are anxious about the future. Even if you’re gluten-free. Even if you can’t leave your home. Even if you don’t have a home. Even if you haven’t renovated the school system. Even if you didn’t go to Harvard. Even if you did go to Harvard. Even if your curiosity has been misinterpreted as arrogance and know-it-all-ness. Even if you weren’t popular in high school. Even if you can’t decide what to eat for breakfast. Even if you can’t afford psychotherapy. Even if you’ve been in psychotherapy for years. Even if you don’t speak seven languages fluently. Even if you’re seen as extremely successful in your field and yet you still feel bereft and lonely. Even if you haven’t saved the world. Yet.

Don’t stop believing.

You never know. You could be a late bloomer. You could start tango dancing at 47. You might become a blogger at 62. You might get your first book published at 64. You could discover that people around the world love and admire you. You could be helping smart, sensitive people self-actualize and find their purpose(s). You could finally accept and love your curly free-range hair.

You could finally know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that. you. are. gifted.

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To my bloggEEs: I am so inspired by all of you and so grateful for our community. Let us know your thoughts, questions, and reactions to this post. Your comments add so much! And thank you for being here. This post is part of a blog hop from the amazing site hoagiesgifted.org. For more posts on the topic: Things I Wish I Knew Back Then, click on the image below. And for those of you who are parents of gifted children, here’s a little treat. My colleague, Tina Harlow, edited this eBook that has lots of great advice from professionals (including me!) in an easy-to-read format. It’s available free to download.