Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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A Gifted Multipotentialite in Germany

” At 19, I was so, so utterly lost. I had no idea what to study in college, who to be, what to do. Everyone else felt like by choosing a major, their life was taking shape and finally starting for real. I felt like by choosing, I had to accomplish the impossible.”

Luisa is now 26. She wrote to me about her struggles in school trying to decide what to study when she had so many interests. “I have basically been having a recurring existential crisis over what subject to study, who to become. How for years, I have been working on maybe, somehow, some day, not being devastated about not being able to become everything I could see myself becoming one day. I wanted to study: chemistry, physics, mathematics, music, Latin, philosophy, medicine, psychology, writing, and so much more…”

(photo brooke cagle, unsplash)

She did not know she was gifted until a college counselor suggested she take an IQ test. The result put her on the road to reading everything she could find about giftedness.

“I was struggling to think of myself as gifted because I didn’t fit the idea of it that I carried with me. I did have many friends, I was sociable, kind, I enjoyed watching soccer, taking walks in the woods, drinking coffee with my friends, shopping for nice dresses–in short, I was nothing special. Of course at the same time, in many other ways, I was an absolute weirdo. But I disregarded that fact when thinking about who or what I would have to be to fit the gifted criteria.”

It took a lot of research to convince her. She wrote to me that finding out about rainforest minds changed everything. “…sometimes I felt like you understood what’s going on inside my brain better than I did. Things, little by little, started to make sense…”

Luisa began to be more self-accepting as she was able to see she was not alone, that her struggles were due to the complexities of her rainforest mind, particularly her multipotentiality. But she continues to grapple with career decisions and the pressure to choose one thing, her worries about the roads not taken, the what ifs, “this raging desire to go somewhere else, be something else, be everybody or, even better, be nobody.” She expressed gratitude for her good life. But the multipotentiality frightened and exhausted her.

“…In so many other aspects of my life, I am so perfectly fine with my oddities, intensity, and my rainforestmindedness. I have friends who I love and who love me. I have played all the instruments, learned all the languages, hitchhiked through Scotland, Sweden, France and Spain, slept out in the wild, laid naked in the sand of the Cote Catalane. I have tried my best to not beat myself up over not being perfect and I think I’m doing good. I like who I am. But these doubts about my profession, my choices, being a doctor or pharmacist or psychologist…See people often say that it’s not true that once you decide on a major, you have basically made a career choice you can’t revise. And I know how they mean it, I know of the many possibilities career paths offer these days. But it’s also a bit true that there are things you won’t be, can’t be, then…But to me, it’s the one big thing I can’t come to terms with…I am tired of being frightened that I may look back on this stage of my life later on, thinking, I wish I had made different choices. Tired of being mad at myself for not being able to enjoy what I have, what I am doing, rather than be stuck pondering all the things I am not. …”

So, I told Luisa– All of the rainforest-minded multipotentialites around the world are nodding their heads in solidarity. They are crying with you over the distress. They are grieving with you for the choices that they had to let go of. They understand the exhaustion and the fear. And yet, they also know that there is time to follow many paths and each one will have its own rewards and pitfalls. They know that in today’s world, career changes are expected; particularly among the more creative. And along any of the career paths will be options for hobbies and side projects, new music to play, beaches to lie upon, travels to take. (Many of these multipods are in the Puttyverse.)

I also suggested that Luisa start a meditation practice where she imagines she meets an inner advisor or a spiritual guide or her future self. That she learn to tune into her deeper knowing, her intuition. Maybe she writes in a journal or walks in nature. But she builds her ability to tune into herself to aid in her decision making. What does her inner advisor want her to know? What path opens her heart right now? It may take some time to learn to listen. But the process is a powerful one.

And, finally, I wondered with Luisa, if what might be most important, is who you become. No matter what you choose and how often you change career paths, the person you become is not dependent on your careers. You get to decide who you are regardless of the many paths you take. And maybe you are her, already. You are Luisa. The deep thinking, highly sensitive, seriously creative, endlessly curious, big-hearted, constantly seeking, glorious human.

And that will never change.

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To my bloggEEs: Let Luisa know how you relate to her struggles in the comments. And thank you, as always, for your sweet, smart sensitivity. By the way, I so appreciate the emails from those of you sharing your experiences with love and partnering. See this post for details. I also want to hear from those of you who are happily single or are single and seeking partners. It might even be therapeutic for you to think about this and write about it. So, write to me! paula@rainforestmind.com.


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Resources for Inspiration, Information, and Introspection for Your Curious, Compassionate, and Overwhelmed Mind and Heart

“…i suspect the future will be shaped by all that we are feeling in the present. i believe that asking each other for help is self-love, and answering honestly is self-love, and giving what we can is community love. and love is what will reshape the pattern of humanity. even through the tears, i know that…” adrienne maree brown

I am thinking of you today as 2021 is drawing to a close. It has been another hard year here on planet earth. I have been so grateful to have all of you to talk with. When life has felt lonely or mildly catastrophic, there was always you, my peeps, my bloggEEs, my friends.

So, it is a good time to share some resources I use that might help you in the coming year and beyond.

Creating a Better World

When you have a rainforest mind, you are naturally drawn to finding ways to make a positive impact in both your personal life and in the larger spheres. Right now, I am reading and following: Resmaa Menakem, Van Jones, (racism, justice) Kim Nicholas, Gen Dread, Emma Watson, adrienne maree brown (climate crisis, vision/change), the evolutionary collective: Patricia Albere, (transformation, evolution, unity)

Inner Work

You know I am a big believer in introspection. Doing your inner work is one powerful way to heal yourself and your family and to have an impact on the larger human interconnected web. There is psychotherapy. A list of practitioners in the US who understand giftedness is here. If you do not want or need therapy or can not find a good match, there are these excellent self-help books the come with journaling guides: Glennon Doyle, Untamed, Get Untamed: The Journal; Lori Gottlieb, Maybe You Should Talk To Someone, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: The Workbook.

Memoirs, Novels, Stories, Podcasts, Movies

Of course, as a therapist, I love to read memoirs. The memoirs I am reading are Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad, Smile by Sarah Ruhl, and Unbound by Tarana Burke. I don’t have suggestions right now in the other categories but hope you will fill those in when you comment below!

Music, Dance, Joy

How could we get through life without music? I used to be a corny Broadway musicals kind of person. I still am. But these days I am soothed by Josh Groban and Dougie MacLean and energized by Pink. This year, I am taking an online singing class with two Australian musician brothers who are big-hearted beautiful humans. The Brothers Koren. This song is theirs: The Joy Generation. I recommend a daily practice of this song, with free-range dancing included.

What else?

For a welcoming and productive community of multipotentialites: Join the Puttyverse.

To find other rainforest minds (until it’s safe to tango) look for a silent book club in your town or start one.

If you are a parent of a gifted child and want to connect with other parents, explore GHF Learners.

If you want to learn more about twice exceptionality, contact Julie Skolnick (kids and adults) or Debbie Steinberg-Kuntz (kids) or Summit Center.

And most of all, remember to sing, dance, and look for (and create) the joy.

“We dance and we love. We dance and we feel. We dance and we play. We dance and we heal. We open our eyes. We reach for the sun. We dance to be joy. We dance to be one. We are the joy generation.” the Brothers Koren

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To my bloggEEs: What are the books, podcasts, websites, people, music, and other resources that are helping you manage the stressful, tumultuous issues of our times and that help you find hope, inspiration, action, and direction? And, thank you, thank you, thank you.


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If You Were Gifted, Wouldn’t You Be An Arrogant Know-It-All With Two PHDs in Astrophysics?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Click here to watch me pontificating (briefly) on the subject.

In case you do not want to watch me pontificate and you would rather read a more detailed version of my pontification, here ya go:

I have met a whole lot of gifted folks in my somewhat quirkified life. I realize this is unusual. But somehow I fell onto this career path when I was a youngster in my 20’s teaching in a public school. Colleagues noticed I was teaching in a somewhat unconventional way and suggested that gifted children would respond well to my flexible, creative, project-centered, self-paced, empathy-oriented classroom. Not really knowing what a gifted child was, I went for it anyway, and found a job teaching in a gifted pullout program in a middle school.

(photo Cancer Institute, Unsplash)

Those colleagues were right. It was my dream job. The kids were eager to learn, divergent thinkers, funny, sensitive, super smart, kind-hearted, and Star Wars and Shakespeare fanatics. None of them were arrogant know-it-alls. None of them. (although a few of them are likely to have PHDs now, maybe even in astrophysics)

Then, in my late 30’s, I left teaching to pursue my passion for all things psychotherapeutic. I had been a client in counseling for a while and found the process fascinating. Even though I was diving into the abyss of my somewhat miserable childhood, I loved the attention and companionship of a skillful, compassionate guide. I was determined to retrieve all of the pieces of my broken heart and live a more whole, authentic, meaningful, confident, make-a-difference life. It was a no-brainer, then, to go back to school for a counseling degree and start a private practice.

It became clear pretty quickly that I ought to specialize in working with gifted souls. They had particular traits, sensitivities, and experiences that required a finely tuned, informed, sensitive, and aware approach. I imagined that their tendencies to be introspective and their desires for depth, healing, insight, and transformation, would be a good match for my therapeutic style and interests.

I was right. Another dream job that fit my quirkified life well. Then, many years later, I started this blog. And because of the blog, I expanded my practice to include international consulting. And guess what? Still. No arrogant know-it-alls. After all these years. All around the world.

( Note: OK. I realize it is possible that gifted arrogant know-it-alls exist but don’t go to therapy or do not want to consult with me. It is possible. Or, perhaps, I have some magical powers that keep them at bay. So, there is that.)

But, if you are still not convinced, here is a little more proof. As you know, if you have been reading my blog for a while, the gifted humans I see still stumble over the G word. Many of them know how much they don’t know and do not realize how much they do know. They do not see their very high standards and expectations, their complex sensitivities, their creative thinking, and their rage to learn as indications of giftedness. And so, they prefer to describe themselves as rainforest-minded. It feels more appropriate, more equitable, and more descriptive. Not g-g-gifted. Just rainforest-minded.

Not arrogant. Not know-it-alled.

Pontification. Over and out.

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To my bloggEEs: What do you think? Do you agree? Are there arrogant know-it-alls in your life? Are they gifted? Have you heard about the study that looked at how quite intelligent people underestimate their capacities and less intelligent people overestimate their intelligence? That might account for some of the arrogance you run into. OK. I’m sure there is some gifted arrogant know-it-alling out there, y’all. Just not in the overwhelming numbers that the myth would have you believe. What other myths of giftedness are you aware of? Let us know your thoughts. And thank you, as always, for being here.

And, if you are interested in learning about your empathy and sensitivity, there is a Summit coming in November 15-19, 2021 sponsored by The Shift Network. I am one of the speakers! It is one of those events that is free to attend and then you can pay to have it permanently. The links here are affiliate.


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Fear Of Failure, Fear Of Success, Passion For Excellence — The Complexity Of Perfectionism

My 5 minute intro video

Before we get into it, I have to share this moment of insight. Have you struggled with what to say when people ask you, what do you do for a living? Or they want to know, how are you? Or they ask you for your favorite book or your favorite color or your favorite documentary or your favorite anything? Well my friends, here is your one size fits all answer. You say: IT’S COMPLICATED. Then, if they look at you smiling expectantly, you can elaborate. If they glaze over, groan, or walk away mumbling, you know you don’t have to waste your time explaining.

And so it is with perfectionism. Complicated. I’ll never forget the gifted teenage boy I was working with. He wasn’t doing well in school and his parents were trying to figure out why. I don’t remember what I said in the moment but I remember his response. “It’s not that simple. It’s never that simple.” He was so right.

There are two types of perfectionism. Intrinsic or healthy. Extrinsic or unhealthy. I have written about intrinsic before. Here. And extrinsic here. And here.

Today, I am going to give you a new look at the intrinsic variety and then share my thoughts about the client dilemma I mention in the video above. Her fears of failure and success.

Intrinsic perfectionism is the innate version that is your deep, heartfelt striving for beauty, balance, harmony, justice, and precision. It is not ego-driven or pathological. It is what your soul must have to feel nourished, authentic, and met. It comes naturally to you. You may not realize that many others do not have this, so they (and you) may label it obsessive, neurotic, controlling, or compulsive.

It is not any of those things.

I don’t usually use celebrities as examples but I happened upon this YouTube interview of Barbra Streisand. She personifies intrinsic perfectionism. If you know of her acting, singing, and directing, all of it is extremely meticulous, detail oriented, precise– in films, down to each single frame (she says in the interview). And this drive is not just professional. In the video, she talks about her personal need for beauty and how carefully she has designed her home. Colors, textures, sounds, tastes, smells. This is not a wealthy person being self-indulgent. This is a gifted human with the highest standards for beauty, balance, harmony, and precision. And when it comes to justice, she has that, too. Streisand is an outspoken activist who cares deeply and has contributed quite a lot to creating a better world.

Granted, you are probably not a celebrity, but I am betting you can relate to this description. As I say in my video, your job is to embrace this about yourself and appreciate the extraordinary quality that emerges when you live this way. That said, there will be days when you can’t quite satisfy these standards– many moments when there is no time because you still have to do the laundry. Thus, you will need to evaluate the specific situation you are in. Is supreme depth and highest quality really necessary here? Might your standards be lowered in this particular case?

Consider, then, there will be times when you will need to prioritize. Otherwise, some important tasks may be missed. Relationships may be neglected. For example: Do you really need to send the perfect email to your friend? Does the apple pie need to look gorgeous as long as it tastes delicious? Will your three year old really notice if the birthday party is skipped this year? Does the newsletter you design and write for your electric utility job need to be visually stunning and comprehensive so that you have to work overtime to complete it when, chances are, your customers will toss it in the recycle bin unread?

Priorities.

Got it?

Now, referring to my client’s fears of failure and success, what did I tell her as she was unable to learn the new painting technique quickly and easily? When she was tempted to quit because she did not feel she had natural talent and was not used to having to work at something, having to practice, and struggle to learn?

This: It’s complicated. You are not used to struggling because typically you learn many things quickly. But it is good and appropriate that some things take time and practice. This is how it is for most people. You may want to quit because this struggle may confirm in your mind that you are not gifted after all. But giftedness does not equal advanced abilities in all areas all the time! And you need to model for your kids that patience, practice, struggle, and setbacks are all part of growth and learning. Sometimes the greatest satisfaction comes after an achievement borne of struggle.

My client looked at me. Not particularly convinced by my explanation.

What did I tell my client about her desire to hide her accomplishments for fear of criticism, jealousy, and rejection by others?

This: It’s complicated. It is true that you may need to select carefully who you tell about your achievements. Not everyone will celebrate your successes. But that does not mean you should not achieve or that you should not strive for excellence. (Excellence, not perfection.) Your job is to be you. To shine your light. It will be important to find at least a few humans who love that you are so prolific or so talented or so accomplished or so kind-hearted. Build a team, however small, of advocates who are not threatened but who are thrilled by your pure, authentic, magnificent youness.

My client looked at me. She will think about it.

And, I imagine, my dearest magnificent complicated rainforesters, that you will think about it, too.

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To my blogEEs: This one took me a while to write. Do I think I’m a perfectionist? Do you relate to many of these complications? We would love to hear from you. As always, thank you for being here. Much love!


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Being Interested In, Oh, Everything — The Gifted Multipotentialite Booknerd

My friend, Jade, came to my home to spend the weekend. It is an annual event. As part of the visit, she asked to return to my town’s fabulous used bookstore. Being an extremely rainforest-minded human, she was happily in her element. I could have left her there for hours, days maybe.

When I saw the pile of books she selected, I couldn’t help but gasp, smile knowingly, sigh, snort, ask the most important question of all: Can I write about you on my blog?

Jade had selected books on a number of wide-ranging topics:

Botanical Art Techniques, The Nile, Pre-Colombian Art, Archtypal Patterns in Poetry, William Blake, Ghost Towns in the West, Mycotopia, The 99% Invisible City, and an Octavia Butler novel.

This is rainforest-minded multipotentialite-ness at its bookiest.

I would have gathered my own set of deliciousness but I had just received a stack from Powells bookstore so I restrained myself. Well, except for the three books Jade mentioned were great for kids. I had said I was looking to see what I might find for my niece and nephew’s young kids. These books by Julia Rothman were so pretty I couldn’t resist.

You know what I’m talking about. Right?

I wrote about it in my last post. How books and therapies can contribute to soothing your existential angst. How books and therapies can help you understand and embrace your beautifully rainforest-y ways and guide you toward your meaningful, authentic life. How it is normal for you to be passionate about learning (not necessarily schooling) which often includes massive, some might say obsessive, amounts of reading and/or research.

In other posts, I have written about multipotentiality. This is the trait that can be misinterpreted as jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none or you-never-finish-anything or why-can’t-you-pick-one-thing-and-stay-with-it-forever or why-don’t-you-have-a-real-job.

Sound familiar?

Jade is a good example of this. She was an art/poetry major in college and graduated with a degree in chemistry. She worked in the chemistry field for a while but then became interested in gifted/2e kids and opened her own micro-school (and is writing a book about it). She closed the school recently and is now developing a tarot reading business on Instagram (you can follow her) along with creating a small literary zine online. In her spare time, she is enrolled in a doctoral program in cognitive diversity where she is an academic advisor. (To find out more from her on education and cognitive diversity, follow her on Twitter.) She has two cats, a husband, a weight lifting hobby, and a burning desire to visit every ghost town in N. America. She is 42. This is just the beginning.

And you? If you are a gifted multipotentialite booknerd like Jade, and, I admit, like me, you are not alone! My advice? Find your local independent bookstore and geek out. Find other passionate readers in your town and join them at a Silent Book Club. Explain to skeptics how your multi-dimensional career paths make total sense and how they will spark your creativity and benefit their nieces and nephews in unexpected ways.

And, if you know of any cool ghost towns anywhere in the world, let me know about them. I will tell Jade.

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To my bloggEEs: Are you a book lover? Do you have multipotentiality? Tell us about it. We love hearing from you. And thanks to Jade for sharing so much of herself here and with me in our sweet friendship. Love to you all.

(Note: I have started reading the books I mentioned in my last post. I would definitely recommend the Nicholas book on climate, the Moorjani book on sensitivity, and the Menakem book on racism.)


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“If I Admit I Am Gifted, I Will Have To Do Something Great” (A Rainforest Mind In Austria)

Has this crossed your mind? If you are gifted, you need to do something great? Create a better world? Well. I am here to tell you that it is sort of true. Sorry. But it does not have to be insanely great. It can just be kinda great. Or somewhat great. Or relatively great. Or great-ish.

Before you get all freaked out on me, let me explain.

I was talking with a wonderful woman in Austria the other day. She was having a hard time acknowledging her giftedness. Like many of you, she kind of garbled the word when she said it. Mggifffttd. Even though she found my quiz to be incredibly revealing and she scored extremely high on the test in the book The Gifted Adult, she was still not sure.

(photo courtesy of Alina Sofia, Unsplash)

But I saw so many signs. Here they are:

~ Ava is an electrical engineer and teaches engineering students. Her students do not always appreciate her. She is assuming they are as capable as she is. She doesn’t realize that what is common sense to her, may actually be confusing to them. They may need her to slow down and repeat her explanations more than once.

~ Ava spends extra time giving her students detailed feedback about assignments. She is particularly conscientious and empathetic.

~ She is an avid reader and researcher and has so many interests, she is often overwhelmed. Ava found me through an article I wrote on Emilie Wapnick’s site, the Puttyverse. She has since joined their community of multipotentialites to get support for managing her interests and choosing directions.

~ One of Ava’s favorite things to do is explore AI. On her own. For fun. To reassure her, I told her that the definition of fun for an RFM is not the same as for the masses. She was also learning Sanskrit in her spare time and had an emotional response to the beauty of robotic theory.

Have I convinced you yet that Ava is Mggiffttd? Have I convinced Ava?

There’s more.

~ Ava does not like small talk. She told me she is so relieved that when she is at the hair dresser, she can read instead of chatting about the latest neighborhood scandal.

~ Off and on throughout her life, she has been called arrogant.

~ Ava loved her seventh grade math teacher who appreciated her advanced abilities and helped her enroll at the university for math classes.

~ Colleagues talk to her and repeat themselves because they think she is not understanding them. Sure they are speaking in her non-native tongue but what is actually happening is she is thinking ahead of them and of the implications of what they are saying.

~ Ava finishes an assignment at work that is supposed to last 8 hours in 6. She feels guilty if she spends the rest of the time doing something for herself.

There is plenty of evidence, then, that Ava has a rainforest mind. Right?

But then, in our latest conversation, Ava shared her dilemma. She admitted she might still be denying her giftedness because she believes she would have to achieve eminence or win a Pulitzer or change the world if she was so smart. And that pressure to achieve would be just too much to bear.

Oh.

Of course.

Pressure to achieve. Pressure to live up to your potential. Pressure to win, to be the smartest one, to know it all. To make a difference on the planet.

The pressure is real. If you are so smart, they say, why aren’t you rich, famous, inventing the next iPhone, and solving homelessness, pandemics, racism, and the climate crisis?

No wonder Ava is not sure she is gifted.

So here is what I think.

You were born with a rainforest mind for a reason. Your job is to figure out what that reason is. And then live out that purpose in the best way you can.

How? What activities, skills, and topics open your heart and bring your life meaning, fulfillment, and maybe even joy? You may need to experiment and explore to answer this. It could take some time because there are so many things. That’s OK. Maybe environmental law? Climate science? AI Ethics? Medical intuition? ArtPoetryMusic? Dance therapy? Energy healing? Politics? Use that super creative brain of yours to turn them into a career path(s) or hobbies or nonprofits or podcasts or books or a political campaign or blog or parenthood or food cart or a unique-to-your-quirky-self side hustle.

Be sure to include ‘spread more love’ in your mission statement.

And maybe it is as simple as that. You were born to spread more love.

So do it. And be gifted.

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To my bloggEEs: What thoughts, feelings, questions, and inspirations does this post stir up? I so appreciate all of you. And thank you to Ava for sharing herself with us.

(Note: In case you missed it, I am linking here to a new experimental project of mine. I call it Sound Memes for Your Rainforest Mind. You might say this project is a glimpse into my exploration of singing and spirituality. The description on the site will tell you more. This project also might inspire you to take your own leap into that thing you have been avoiding for years for fear of being seen as a teensy weensy bit beyond the pale. Or extremely outlier-ish. Or even weirder than everyone thought. OK? Do it. Be gifted.)


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My Quirky Journey From Introverted Psychotherapy Nerd To Introverted Psychotherapist Tango Dancing Blogger Author Nerd

I am an introverted psychotherapy nerd.

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

I have been a client in some type of therapy since I turned 31. I have tried it all.

Rebirthing. Holotropic breath work. Support groups. Talk. Journaling. Attachment theory. Jungian analysis. Enneagram. CBT. EMDR. EFT. Acupressure. Energywork. Hakomi. Shamanic journeying. Grief Work. Reiki. Fly fishing. Bioenergetics. Art. Nature. Naturopathy. Dance. Acupuncture. Psychodrama. Astrology. Couples counseling. Somatic experiencing. Massage. Cranial-Sacral. Soul collage. Meditation. Psychodynamic. Mindfulness. Yoga. Dreamwork. Diving into the abyss. Blogging.

Okay, blogging isn’t therapy per se, although it has been therapeutic for me. (a life saver, if you want to know the truth)

I used to think I was deficient because I spent 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. 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.

Okay, 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 theater for about a decade. Learned the Argentine tango and danced in Paris. Built relationships with a bevy of friends and wrote angsty emails to them regularly. Married. Divorced. Watched my most adorable niece and nephew grow up.

I have loved. I have 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 quirky. I get it. But hey, there is a heck of a lot going on in my psyche. It is really lively in there. Very entertaining.

But I digress.

So, back in my later 30’s, after about ten years as a client in therapies, it occurred to me that I ought to just become a psychotherapist. I had so much experience! And this would be the ideal career path for an introverted psychotherapy nerd.

So, that’s exactly what I did.

And, because of my background teaching gifted kids, I decided to specialize in counseling the gifted. Not only that. I came up with the brilliant, if I do say so myself, metaphor to explain them to themselves. They have rainforest minds. Like the rainforest, they are deeply complex, highly sensitive, smart, and capable of making a contribution to the planet if they aren’t cut down and forced to be something that they’re not.

And now that I have been a psychotherapist for some time, I have a good reason to continue to be living the introspective 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).

One person at a time. Deep diving. No small talk.

Then, about seven years ago, I discovered blogging. Writing a blog for rainforest-minded folks is also a fine way to be an introverted psychotherapy nerd. I get to meet fabulous humans living all over the world who want to deeply understand their own nerdly-ness. And I don’t have to leave my living room. I developed a consulting practice to serve these beautiful souls. (You know who you are.)

What could be better?

The blog led to book writing. Also a very introverted introspective nerd-ish thing to do. 

But why am I writing all of 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 are extraverted, introspective abyss-divers.

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

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

But still, here’s the thing. If you have a rainforest mind, if you have one quirky obsession or many, if you feel weird and a bit out of sync, if you are leading an unconventional life, and if you never get that table cloth or that blender, well, meet me in Oregon.

We’ll go bowling.

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To my bloggEEs: So, as you can see, here is another post with the focus on me! It will be stored on my Personal Musings page. Your comments are welcome. Does my sharing more of my background help you understand yourself? Is it helpful to get an inside look at the person behind the blog?? Thank you, as always for your thoughtful comments and questions. Much love to you all.


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Why Do You Need To Know You Have A Rainforest Mind?

You are a big thinker. A deep thinker. A constant thinker. An analytical and creative thinker. Some might call you an overthinker.

photo courtesy of Kazi Mizan, Unsplash

You are a big feeler. A deep feeler. A constant feeler. (Unless you have learned your emotions are a sign of weakness. Or you have learned to repress them because of disturbing childhood events) An analytical and creative feeler. Some might call you an overfeeler.

You are a big perceiver/intuiter. A deep perceiver/intuiter. A constant perceiver/intuiter. An analytical and creative perceiver/intuiter. Some might call you an overperceiver/intuiter.

You have probably tried to be less of an *over* person. You may have seen it as a flaw or something you had to control or hide. Certainly not a strength or a sign of giftedness. You may have been bullied in school because of all of your questions and all of your answers. You may have lost friends because they thought you were bossy when you told them the correct way to play chess or conceited when you won the spelling bee for the third year in a row or weird when you swooned over The Lord of the Rings trilogy. As an adult, you may have been seen as irresponsible when you changed careers five times before you were 35 or too picky because you painted your living room twelve times in four years. Or judgmental when you grew impatient waiting for your coworkers to catch up.

But the truth is, your rainforest mind is enormous in its capacity to think, feel, perceive, and intuit. It is not a better mind than a meadow mind or a desert mind. It is just more vast or more complex or more hooked up or more connected. Or all of those things. It means you are managing a personhood that has a heck of a lot going on in its brain-mind-heart-body-spirit. A heck of a lot. That is why it is called a rainforest, doncha know.

And this enormous capacity is tricky. Not only does it mean you have difficulty finding others who understand you and want to geek out with you about the spiritual meaning of fractals and Foucault, it puts pressure on you to be a super high achiever in, oh, all areas, oh, all of the time. Not to mention, save the world.

That is a lot of pressure.

But rainforest-mindedness is not about achievement. At least not in the traditional sense. It is not about a 4.0 GPA or a six-figure salary at a Fortune 500 company. It is not about an Olympic gold medal or a viral video. It is not about being capable in all areas all of the time. Face it. Your garage is a disaster and you still can not find your keys. You are a wreck when your child scrapes their knee and you never can remember your sister-in-law’s third husband’s name. You read romance novels and binge watch The Bachelor. You have not solved the climate crisis.

You are not perfect.

But you need to acknowledge you have a rainforest mind. You might even use the word gifted, if you can manage it. Because that is who you are. You are the rainforest-minded variety of gifted. This is because you not only have advanced intelligence, but you also have a great deal of empathy, intuition, creativity, and multipotentiality. And you need to contribute in some way to create a better world.

By the way, not all who are gifted, have these other traits. In my experience, many do. But not all.

And if you accept your place in the rainforest mind clan, then, you can rethink your critical assessment of your thinking, feeling, perceiving, and intuiting. You will stop trying to be less of an *over* person.

When you accept that your *over* is your normal and it is quite fine just as it is, then who knows what might happen. Imagine thinking, feeling, perceiving, and intuiting to your heart’s content. Letting your creativity run amok. Analyzing. Inventing. Geeking out over fractals and Foucault. Creating a better world.

You are not *over.* You are not *under.* You are just right.

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To my bloggEEs: So, my darlings, I hope you are staying safe and healthy. Do you deal with the conundrum that if you acknowledge you are gifted, then you have to do something phenomenal? Do you see all of your faults and so that means you are not so smart? Are you struggling to find someone who can keep up with you? Do you have painful memories of being misunderstood and bullied? Let us know your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Thank you so much for being here.


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A Gifted Multipotentialite* in Chile

Daniela is 36. She is a writer, designer, artist, communicator, entrepreneur, journalist, radio broadcaster, mother, and Instagram rising star. An “introvert bookworm” as a child, she would spend hours in her school library, writing poems and stories and loving painting, acting, singing, guitar, beauty, and the freedom to create.

Daniela had a sweet and supported childhood. But once she became an adult, her struggles began. She explained, “I felt alone, weird, incapable, dumb, frustrated, and most of all, broken…Everything I did, I was good at, but every time I decided to quit and start something new, I would feel (and hear) those threatening eyes around me saying things like ‘You are studying AGAIN?’ ‘Why can’t you commit?’ I would start a new thing, I was good at it, and a couple of years later, I felt like I needed a new challenge…”

Daniela studied journalism, radio/voice over acting, and design in school. She had many careers over the years. Some of them, in no particular order: She started a business baking cupcakes for events. Was employed as an online editor for a large art and interior design blog and marketplace. She made knot cushions by hand to sell in stores. Sold clothes purchased abroad.

A large department store invited her to design an accessory line for them. She started practicing hand lettering and taught water color lettering through a craft store. She worked in radio.

Family members wanted her to focus. Therapists told her she needed to pick one job and stick with it. Teachers told her she was daydreaming too much; perhaps she had ADD. So, Daniela felt the joy she experienced in doing so many different things must be terribly wrong.

About two years ago, she found *Emilie Wapnick’s work which gave her an identity (rather than a pathology) as a multipotentialite. This information was life changing.

A year ago she launched her website where she teaches lettering/ calligraphy courses and sells her products. She was asked to speak at an online event about women entrepreneurs and chose the topic–what else–multipotentiality. And now she is writing a book about it.

Which is how she found me. “I read about your rainforest mind definition and you were really speaking directly to me!”

Now, Daniela knows she has a rainforest mind. Now, she knows her multipotentiality is only one aspect of an even more complex personhood. She is a fast deep-thinking learner. Divergent, creative problem solver. She is highly sensitive, empathetic, and intuitive. Emotional. Curious. Analytical. Questioning. Passionate about life, literature, and making a difference for others.

With this new information about her rainforest mind, Daniela realizes she can step into her whole, intense, imaginative self with confidence. She can allow herself to find her joy again and know her joy is not wrong.

In fact, it is very, very right.

(Note: Another excellent resource for all of you RFMs cavorting around your multiple career paths is Marci Alboher’s One Person/Multiple Careers. And if you are wanting some guidance as you head into mid-life and beyond, check out The Encore Career Handbook, also by Alboher.)

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To my dear bloggEEs: I wish there was a way we could all gather in person and just cry together in love and relief. Life is so upsettingly craaazy these days, no matter where you are in the world. I hope you are deepening your connection to your self-compassion and your tender hearts, and you are finding solace, spirituality, and creative ideas via your deep inner knowing and your connections to Source or Guidance or Nature or Universal Love or Evolutionary Consciousness, or God or Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. Oh, and, let us know in the comments about your experiences with your multipotentiality and multiple careers. Thank you for being here. Much love to you. And thank you so much to Daniela for sharing your story.


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A Gifted Teen In Malaysia — What Is Normal?

photo courtesy of satria hutama, Unsplash

I am on a quest to see what rainforest-mindedness looks like around the world. So far, we’ve “visited” Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands and Finland. Today, we are in Malaysia.

Meet Mila*, who is Muslim and 18.

“..I was too sensitive, too easy to cry, too easy to fall sick, and an unstoppable chatterbox…I struggled a lot at 14…I couldn’t understand why do we exist, what do we want from this short span of life, why should we work hard to earn money when death is inevitable, and why are my friends putting so much effort to make good grades? It is meaningless…I felt like I was about to lose my mind…They don’t really think about life, about the world, about the society…why don’t they search for something more meaningful…? Why don’t they want to understand the learning materials more deeply? Why don’t they care when war is still happening? …I lost my hope in humanity…Don’t you have the urge to be the best version of yourself, to make changes in this world?…”

Existential questions at an early age can turn into existential depression. Concerns about justice issues beyond your self can leave you anxious, hopeless, and lonely.

“…School was really frustrating….I prefer to study on my own, with my own method. I am not academic smart but my unquenchable thirst for learning is not shallow. None of my classmates understood what I was doing, nor my teacher, and it always ended up with ‘just follow the steps that I teach you’…I was seen as arrogant when I asked ‘unanswerable’ questions…My teacher says I am too abstract, when it is so crystal clear to me…”

Love for learning does not necessarily equal love for schooling.

“…it is exhausting to have feelings. Deep feelings…I cried for an hour after finishing a documentary about a politician who was corrupt..it took me a week to recover, to have hope again, for it to be crushed all over again and again…it’s hard to feel the pain of people, literally painful…It’s tiring…It is tiring to see human beings argue for the smallest matter that can be solved with five minutes discussion…It is more tiring when people don’t understand why I am tired…”

Sensitivity. Compassion. Emotion = Exhaustion.

“…I love humanities, art, and science. I still don’t have any idea what to major in but I want to know how technology works, internet AI, security…Mostly I lean more to maths, physics, chemistry, computer science, psychology, philosophy, drawing, and languages. If I have time, I would like to attend a sewing course…”

Multipotentiality is not flakiness, indecisiveness, arrogance, or ADHD.

” I have one best friend, two close friends, and many dead friends, ranging from dead classical composers, mathematicians, philosophers, and psychologists…”

Finding other RFMs can be difficult. Like Maria Popova said, “…most of my friends are dead people.”

“…I would label myself as a lifelong learner, who wishes to reduce the ignorance in myself, aspire to be the best version of myself, so that I can help other people; to achieve a meaningful life, that is giving positive value to other people no matter how small the number …I need to enrich my knowledge. I need to understand. I need to change something. I need to. I have to.

Is this normal?”

This is normal, Mila. For you. Your rainforest mind. And all of us, with you, around the world. With our very own (very alive!) rainforest-y minds, hearts, souls, and spirits.

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To my bloggEEs: Where are you in the world? Can you relate to what Mila is saying? If you would like to share your story in more detail on my blog, send me an email. paula@rainforestmind.com. I’m particularly looking for countries I have yet to write about. And thank you to Mila for sharing so much of yourself with us.

Spanish speakers! Lovely Miryam in Spain would like to hear from you. She is creating an opportunity for RFMs around the world who speak Spanish to support each other. You can contact her at midorenedo@hotmail.com.

(*Note: Photos on the blog are not of the actual person described and names are changed.)