Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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(Almost) Everything You Need To Know About Psychotherapy And Giftedness

photo courtesy of Semir Ahmed Douibi

Is this you? You’re articulate, insightful, sensitive, and extremely capable. But your anxiety keeps you awake nights. You feel unmotivated or sad much of the time. You question the purpose of your life and wonder if it’s pointless. You get frequent migraines or weird physical symptoms. Your self-criticism is out of control.

You’re aware that you were raised in a dysfunctional family and you can analyze the chaos with calm accuracy. You’re clear that you don’t want to repeat the patterns of abuse or neglect handed down to you. So, you’ve tried numerous ways to improve your life: exercise, antidepressants, chocolate, support groups, massage, journaling, yoga, art, Argentine tango, more chocolate, hiking, fly fishing, meditation, and hiding under the bed with your cat.

These techniques help. But they aren’t enough.

So, you finally get up the courage to try therapy.

But where do you start? How do you find the right person? What type of therapy will work for you? How are you different from regular clients and how do you share that with your therapist?

Well, my dears, I’ve compiled five of my older posts to answer these burning questions. Click on the links to get to the full articles. And, if you’re already in therapy, share this post with your counselor.

It can be scary and frustrating to start the psychotherapy journey. But I promise you, it’s so worth it. I’ve been in and out of therapies for many years, working with different folks as my needs changed. I started in my 30’s. And, if you must know, I was a mess back then. And I am so much less of a mess now. Ask my sister. She’ll corroborate my story. And, hey. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for the children in your life, in your community, and in your world. Stopping your family’s dysfunctional legacy will heal future and past generations. It just might make the world much less of a mess. You never know. 

 

What Psychotherapists Need To Know About Gifted Clients 

“If you are a counselor or other mental health practitioner or if you’re gifted and want to see a psychotherapist, there are some things that you need to know.

The rainforest mind is complicated. Like the jungle, it’s breathtaking in its capacity to create: Thoughts, emotions, questions, sensitivities, worries, beauty, and iPhones. It’s intense and overwhelming.

The rainforest mind, in counseling, needs deep, empathetic, authentic understanding of its fascinating and convoluted intricacies…”

 

How To Find A Psychotherapist Who Loves Your Rainforest Mind

“How do you find a psychotherapist who isn’t overwhelmed by your fast talking, fast thinking, complex emotions, difficult questions and multiple sensitivities?

How do you find a psychotherapist who isn’t frightened by your uncanny ability to notice when s/he’s distracted or slightly out of whack?

How do you you find a psychotherapist who isn’t fooled by your articulate insight, your wit and your idealism; a psychotherapist who sees beneath the surface to the deep pain and shame that suffocates you?…”

 

If I’m So Smart, Why Do I Need Psychotherapy 

“…The thing is, you probably took on lots of responsibility in your family when you were younger. If things were dysfunctional or traumatic, you may have been the one who picked up the pieces. Or protected your siblings. Made everyone laugh. Or got out as soon as you could. You were likely quite resilient at the time and developed very effective coping strategies.

But now you may notice that you’re anxious or depressed. Maybe you keep picking the wrong partners. Or you’re way too angry at your kids. So, of course, you say you should know better. Smart people don’t fall into painful patterns that are the result of early losses—losses of confidence, identity, safety or trust. 

Oh, yes they do…”

 

If I’m So Smart, Why Do I Need Psychotherapy, Part Two 

“…What if you start. With yourself. And your family. What if you take some time to examine your very own fears, doubts and despair. What if you take a trip into your past to understand the legacy your dysfunctional family handed to you. Locate your true Self. And pull her/him out from under the rubble. Think about it. If all humans would recover the self-acceptance, compassion and creativity that was smooshed or buried or broken or clobbered during those early years, might we create a path to a better world?…”

 

Giftedness, Therapy, and Your Dysfunctional Family — Diving Into The Abyss 

“…As a child, you were so vulnerable, that you had to believe what your parents told you. It was inevitable that you’d misinterpret their dysfunction to mean that something was wrong with you. Even though you were smart, the intensity of parental shame, fear, rage and who-knows-what got transmitted to you. So this is what needs to be dismantled: Your misunderstanding of who you are. And that requires diving into the abyss. Poet Adrienne Rich calls it Diving into the Wreck…”

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To my blogEEs: Tell us about your experiences with therapy. I know that some of you have had bad experiences or have had trouble finding someone. I hope these posts give you some ideas that help. Those of you who have had positive experiences, let us know how you found the person and what they did that worked for you. If you want more details about therapy, check out my book! Sending you all love and appreciation as we move together into 2018.

(Note: For those of you who are wondering, I’m only licensed in Oregon as a psychotherapist so can’t practice outside of the state. It’s best for you to find someone local for counseling. I do, however, consult internationally. You can find details here.)

 

 

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Gifted Boys To Men — How To Thrive In A World That Misunderstands Your Sensitivities

photo courtesy of Abhinay Omkar, Flickr

What happens to super smart, sensitive, curious, empathetic, talkative, emotional little boys when they become men? Where does all of that emotion go? All of that empathy? All of that energetic curiosity? How do gifted men thrive in a world that doesn’t understand or appreciate their sensitive natures?

I wrote about this in a post two years ago. I’m going to recycle that post with a few changes because I couldn’t have said it better myself. Oh wait. I did say it myself… Anyway it’s worth sending out again!

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What do you do with all of that emotion? All of that empathy? All of that awareness?

How do you handle your grief? Your love of art or poetry or pink? Your despair over the violence you see in the world? Your tears?

It’s hard for many men to fit into the rigid view of masculinity. But for rainforest-minded men, there are extra tangled vines and more mosquitoes.

I wonder if you were a little tyke who had intense meltdowns. Maybe you expressed your fears and your joys with gusto. You didn’t know about The Boy Code yet. And because you were smart, adults expected you to be more logical and less emotional. Your expressiveness looked like immaturity to them. How can my 7-year-old who plays chess and beats his uncle every time, be so immature? But what if you were born with an unusual capacity to feel deeply? What if your sensitivity was just as large as your intellect? What if you seemed younger than your age peers because you purposely wanted to avoid the weight and hypocrisy of adulthood?

Then there was school. You may have been bullied because you were eager to learn. At recess you preferred examining the grasshoppers to throwing the balls. Maybe you felt more comfortable with girls.

Am I on the right track?

And now, there are the expectations. Oh, yes. If you’re so smart, then, you’re supposed to be able to do anything. Be a high achiever. Make lots of money. Be a good provider. Be tough and man up. But what if the pressure leaves you paralyzed? What if you feel like a failure each time someone close to you is disappointed? What if you’re looking successful but dying inside? What if you were criticized by a father who was full of shame over his own sensitivity? Or what if you feel responsible for living up to some potential that you can’t find and don’t believe you ever had?

What, then, can you do?

1. Redefine masculinity. I mean it. Use that creative brain of yours to design a new model. One where sensitivity, tenderness and wonder are signs of strength and achievement. Because they are.

2. Recognize that because you have a rainforest mind, you’re hardwired to be extra sensitive and soft-hearted. Blame your operating system.

3. Read about giftedness (Jacobsen) and realize that she is describing you. There aren’t many books that I know of on gifted boys/men specifically except by Kerr,  Zeff  and me, but there are some on raising boys that could also be helpful.

4. Write the book on gifted men.

5. Allow yourself to get support, help and guidance. Don’t think that you have to tough it out alone. You hear me? Help comes in many forms: counseling, 12-step groups, spiritual practices, music, acupuncture, yoga, massage, tango, book groups, camping, poetry, hiking, meditation, star-gazing, physical activity, art. It’s a sign of strength to ask for help.

6. With a counselor or in a journal or both, meet with your sweet, enthusiastic, curious little tyke self. Listen to him. Hold him close. Let him cry. Tell him he’s perfect the way he is.

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To my bloggEEs: Many of you are new here since this post was first written. Let us know what you think and feel. Your comments add so much. And thank you, as always.


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When People Find Your Intellect Intimidating — A Guide For Gifted Women

photo courtesy of Sabrina May, Unsplash

You don’t do it on purpose.

Intimidate people.

You’re just being you.

In fact, you’re holding back. Slowing down. Smiling. Being gracious. Stifling your curiosity and your perceptions. Carefully selecting from the scores of effervescent thoughts that continuously swirl around in your brain.

If they only knew how much you’re NOT showing.

Oh, boy.

And yet, you still scare them.

If they only knew that you just love to learn. You just love reading and research. You’re a pacifist, for heaven’s sake. You slept with the dictionary when you were five. (Unless, of course, your dictionary was on your phone. Then, you slept with Charlotte’s Web and Darwin’s Origin of the Species. But I digress.) How is that scary?

You’re not out to humiliate anyone or prove that you’re a superior being.

It’s just your nature to think a lot, to feel a lot, and to know a lot.

It’s not your fault.

So, you want to know how to be less intimidating?

That’s tricky.

It may not be in your control. It may not actually be necessary. But here are some suggestions, just in case. See if any fit for you.

If you’re interrupting folks with your creative ideas, let them finish before you share your thoughts; imagine designing the next electric car while you’re waiting. If you’re showing how bored you are at meetings when no one can agree on the obvious solution that you shared at the beginning of the meeting, bring your knitting or the New York Times crossword to stay occupied. Let people have their bad grammar and their mixed metaphors; the world will probably not end. Explore various ways to communicate with individuals based on their capacity to receive your insights and view it as a playful intellectual puzzle; there will be some people who won’t be reachable no matter what you do. Exercise your love of debate by running for office. Look for the humor in any situation as a way to entertain yourself and plan your memoir.

If you’ve grown up thinking that you need to be perfect, begin to unravel that belief; your vulnerability will be appealing to others. Feed relatives your terrible cooking. Invite friends to your messy house. Play games that you can’t win. Don’t hide your klutziness. Ask for help from people you trust.

Know that your rainforest-y peeps are out there and they will not be intimidated; they will be thrilled. Keep looking for them.

What I really want to tell you is that as you experience humans finding you scary and intimidating, you may need to accept that not everyone can handle life in the jungle. It’s pretty intense in there with all of those 2,500 different species of vines and 10,000 species of ants. It can be kind of scary, intimidating and overwhelming.

Even to you.

But, remember.

The rainforest also keeps everyone breathing. You are needed and wondrous just as you are. 

(Note: Just in case some of you might be inclined to misinterpret me, I’m not saying that you should change who you are for people who are intimidated. Noooooo. I’m just giving you some suggestions that might help make life easier for you in particular situations where you need them. As you know, I support you in being the fabulous radiant rainforest-y darling that you are. That’s what my blog is all about!!)

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To my dear bloggEEs: Are people intimidated by your intelligence? Have you found any good solutions? How would this post be different if it were the smart man’s guide? How would it be the same? I think gifted men also scare people, but differently. I wonder if the issue for gifted men is more that they can’t show their sensitivity. What do you say, dear readers? Thank you to the bloggEEs who inspired this post. And men, I promise a post just for you, soon.

 

 


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I’m Not Gifted, I’m Just Weird

photo courtesy of Eugenio Mazzone, Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It matters.

Why?

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

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

We won’t survive without them.

We won’t survive without you.

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

 


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The Roots Of Unhealthy Perfectionism And What To Do About It

photo by Dylan Siebel, Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, now what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

And of who you really are.

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

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

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

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

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


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

photo courtesy Yeshi Kangrang, Unsplash

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

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

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

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

Maybe you think everyone loves to wonder about dark matter.

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

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

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

Uh huh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Formerly known as an over-thinker.

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

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

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

 

 

 

 


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Dumb Down No More

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a couple of excerpts from the introduction:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Now it’s your turn:

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

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