Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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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.)


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Gifted In Finland — What Are Gifted Adults Like Across Cultures?

photo courtesy of tapio haaja, Unsplash

Kaisa, 26, shows all the signs of being gifted. Maybe even exceptionally so. What are the signs?

“…I learned to read at a young age and have always been an avid reader and super curious about everything. I have always been overly sensitive but was quickly told by parents and environment to shut down my sensitiveness. In kindergarten I was asked what I wanted for Christmas and I answered, ‘peace and love for the world.’ I was 5. I was also very concerned about hunger in developing countries and the waste produced by plastic bags…”

At an early age: Avid reading, intense curiosity, high sensitivity, concern about justice and environmental issues

“…I’m now at university also where I face people telling me that it is not worth it to think so much. To me it is like telling a bird to stop flying…”

Being accused of overthinking when it is actually deep, analytical, creative awareness, and curiosity. An extremely active mind. You are just *over* when compared to regular thinkers. You may be anxious and start ruminating but this is different from your capacity to think. With anxiety, you will want to learn how to self-soothe and calm your nervous system. With thinking, well, I say, keep flying.

“…I sometimes get so excited about an idea or theory that I cannot continue reading or thinking because it causes my body to get super energetic and I have an urge to move. The other day I was looking at DNA structures for one course and I almost started crying because they looked so beautiful and I got shivers when thinking about how the world is so beautifully organized from the tiniest particles. People tell me I’m intense, too serious (I’m rarely serious. I find myself quite funny.) too much, idealistic. I have had problems finishing my degree (mainly because I’m unmotivated there as I am not challenged enough). My problem is also I have a strong artistic and a strong intellectual side of me, I weigh them as equals and I feel like I need to explain myself to people all the time…I’m planning to inspire and serve the world…I know I could talk myself out of it but then it feels like self betrayal.”

Intellectual excitement that stimulates body responses can be explained via Dabrowski’s overexcitabiity theory. There can be somatic/sensual high abilities along with the intellectual, emotional, and imaginational. You have the capacity to deeply appreciate and respond to life’s complexities and subtle beauty. Sense of humor and idealism may not be understood by others. School may not be challenging and so motivation is difficult. Often you feel the drive to be of service or create a better world.

“…Finnish culture teaches people to be humble so if one excels at something and one is proud of it they are looked upon as… arrogant, etc. Multipotentiality or multitalented is not yet understood or supported by the society that well…in general the response from the culture has been ‘who do you think you are’…”

You have many interests and abilities and are told you need to focus and pick just one thing, which is impossible, stifling, and ridiculous. It is not unusual to be called arrogant even if you are trying to hide your achievements and your interests.

These are the signs of giftedness. In Kaisa. In Finland. And around the world.

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To my bloggEEs: Well, my frequent flyers, who do you think know you are?? Isn’t it fascinating to see the similarities across cultures? Thank you to Kaisa and all of you for sharing your experiences. I welcome your comments here and your emails from around the world. Here is an article on exceptional/profound giftedness for those of you who suspect you might be at that end of the spectrum. And, speaking of flying, if you need a lift because these times are particularly hard, listen to this and start defying gravity! 

 


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What Are The Challenges Gifted Adults Have In Common? — A Therapist’s Perspective

photo courtesy of christina wocintechchat, Unsplash

I am a psychotherapist who counsels and consults with highly intelligent, sensitive, empathetic, creative humans. (Yes, I love my job.) Even though they are all complicated in their multiple uniquenesses and differing backgrounds, I often hear recurring themes. 

Here are some of those themes. In their own words (with a few edits): 

On Waiting and More Waiting

“…when I get into difficulties because my mental functioning runs at 95 mph and the people around me are functioning at 35 mph, I get told that I should be content to wait around for them because I shouldn’t vibe in a rush and I should be patient. I get told that if we all operated more slowly the world would be a better place. It seems to me that being ‘too much’ in terms of mental functioning gets lumped together with always being busy and in a hurry…the onus on me is to slow down to their level and to ‘grin and bear it’ or be dismissed as emotional and thus irrational…”

On Creativity, Communication, and Electrical Storms

“My imagination is already so active, my brain is so full of ideas, it feels like an electrical storm sometimes, so many thoughts happening at once. It’s hard to imagine narrowing something down. It takes a lot of energy just to have one thought at a time. There’s so much happening at once; I can think fast, in pictures, and I can get solutions in feelings, it’s stimulating, it’s exciting, it’s frustrating, it’s difficult to explain…” 

“…to function in society and communicate with other people I have to downshift. I have to find some way to slow things down enough and put them in a linear narrative order so that other people can actually understand what the heck is going on with me…I can see the way the dots connect but most people can’t. I sound like a crazy person. I’m always the weird one. It’s exhausting and lonely…”

On Multipotentiality and Impossible Choices

“I don’t know what it’s like for other people, when they’re asked the question ‘if you could do anything what would you do?’ This kind of question feels impossible for me, like the universe is so big and the possibilities so endless, how can I possibly choose one or even four or twelve..?”

On Schooling and Untied Shoes

“I often was just not interested in the things at school. I can still recount how over the top invested I got into the subjects of dinosaurs, animals’ evolutionary traits, the theory of evolution, what it means to be funny, philosophy, religious origins, and theology, to name a few weird topics. The problem was that I would primarily be thinking about those topics while I was supposed to be listening in school…I excelled at all subjects academically. I would get straight A’s on tough assignments then lose interest…I would always do jusssttt enough to accomplish what I wanted. I was oblivious to the point of ridiculous, always had my shoes untied, extremely disorganized…always had a messy room/workstation/life, would constantly lose things…I got a perfect score on the logic section of the LSAT. I ended up getting into William and Mary Law School and passing the bar at age 26.”

On Overthinking, Anxiety, and Over-talking

“All my life I’ve been told I was a worrier, I was smart, I was artistic, and an over-talker according to my first teachers and my mother and sister, the latter of which still claim that today…All my life I’ve never felt that I fit in with anyone anywhere…I’ve been an overthinker to the point of chronic anxiety and at times panic attacks…I’ve eschewed what was popular in favor of alternatives…I’ve never felt adequate because I’ve underachieved financially…yet I’ve overachieved with regard to reading and retaining, observing, loving, meeting new people, taking small risks (or sometimes larger ones), and seeking to please others. Today, I seek balance and to love myself rather than expect others to love me. This is a scary new journey…”

On Social Responsibility, Empathy, and Superheroes

“…There is a guilt that returns again and again, the guilt that I can’t always help the people I know are suffering. Or there’s the guilt that comes from believing I should have solved all the problems of suffering in the world by now.  Totally completely reasonable. I mean, if I could just evolve faster maybe, write the ultimate book, turn into an enlightened superhero, something like that, then all the suffering would vanish. Yep Haha, that’s so ridiculous, but I know in my heart I still actually feel that way a little…” 

On Relationships, Sensitivity, and the Abyss

“…It feels desperately sad sometimes when I show up to deeply connect and I am not even met halfway – even when others have the intention of doing so. I feel as though I’m reaching and full of hope, but my arms aren’t long enough. Frustration sets in, then the feeling of isolation, and I sink into an abyss all the while still reaching. I have this voice saying – you are full of yourself, you are so wrong to assume things, you are crazy. Then I tell that voice – I know YOU are, but what am I?  I am gifted, flawed, beautiful, often suffering (in one way or many) and expanding always. But I feel one thing that is beyond my imagination is how to make sense of these gifts in a fleeting life – from within, another voice tells me I already make sense.”

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us what you have experienced within these themes. What else might you include as an issue that challenges you? What solutions have you found? Your comments add so much. If you click on the links above, you will find other posts that provide some helpful suggestions! Thank you to the readers who shared these experiences either in comments or in emails to me. I am so fortunate to have you all here. 


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Gifted In Spain — How Are Rainforest Minds Similar And Different Across Cultures? #2

photo courtesy of mubariz mehdizadeh, Unsplash

Meet Manuel. He is 29. Living in Spain.

“… I have always struggled with authority, peers, and almost everything because I think out of the box. I am told constantly that I am too intense and too focused in my interests, which I have a wide range of them, which is quite frustrating for me and others because I don’t know how to handle it. I’m told that I’m too idealistic (as if it was something bad), which I take always as a compliment…I am a constant seeker of beauty, harmony, justice, equality and knowledge, which leads me to be very spiritual because I know that my standards are not possible in this broken world. I have to cope with anxiety everyday because of noises, smells, colors, a sudden scent that brings deep feelings to my mind, a poor person in the street, the environment, politics, lies, books I’d like to read, things I’d love to do…I want to be a saint, a philosopher, an artist, an advocate for the most unfortunate people, a scientist, a writer, and more things.”

Manuel told me he did not think he was gifted. And yet, here he is describing his multipotentiality, idealism, creativity, intensity, intrinsic perfectionism, spirituality, highest standards, and sensitivities. His desire to help others. His struggles with peers. 

“Since I was a kid I had a strong sensibility for beauty, staring at the sunset and crying out loud how beautiful the snow was…People often tell me I’m overwhelming, that I talk too much and that I don’t stick to the conversation. I hate small-talk, makes me feel depressed…” 

Sensitive to beauty at a young age. Overwhelming to others. Aversion to small-talk. What do you think? Does Manuel have a rainforest mind? Not sure? What about this:

“..I need nature… I need and crave for alone time…I made it to college, but I drop out almost when I was about to finish my degree in Chinese and Japanese Philology, doing very good in Chinese even though I barely attended classes ( I was the third top student and I was told by teachers that I was very good but I was lazy)…”

And finally:

“…I have felt sometimes connected to the world, like I was one with everything, it was amazing and painful at the same time…”

Welcome to the rainforest mind clan, Manuel. 

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To my bloggEEs: Can you relate to what Manuel (not his real name) is saying? Let him know in the comments. I’m thinking of writing more specifically about those of you around the world to see what we all have in common and what might be different. If you’d like to be profiled on my blog, and if you live outside N. America, send me an email via my About page and tell me about yourself and your location. And thank you all, as always, for your love of beauty, your care for the less fortunate, and your connection to everything. And thank you, Manuel, for sharing your story.

(Note: Of course, if you live in N. America, you can also write to me (!), I am just looking to learn more about other cultures for future blog posts!)

(Another note: Find the first article specifically on cross-cultural adults, Gifted In Portugal, here.


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The Many Faces Of Giftedness — Beyond Sheldon And Sherlock

photo courtesy of Science in HD, Unsplash

Pardon me while I rant.

I just saw a preview on TV for a show that is highlighting “elite gifted athletes” and showcasing their particularly astonishing abilities. Oh boy. Then, I thought, how do we honor intellectually gifted folks on TV?

We don’t. Or we think we do because we watch people on Jeopardy competitions to see who has memorized the most facts. And we think, these are the smartest people. They know lots of trivia. Or we watch characters like Sheldon on Big Bang Theory or Sherlock on PBS. These people, we say, are what gifted looks like. Argh. Grrrrr. Expletive! (Note: I haven’t actually watched much of The Big Bang Theory. You can correct me in the comments, if you must.) 

Rant over.

I spend much of my day with gifted humans in my therapy and consulting practice. I will tell you what I see. 

Gifted is–

Suzanne, college junior, perfectionist and extrovert. Suzanne was bullied in elementary school because she was outspoken, an enthusiastic student, and a fast learner. The years of bullying and her inborn capacity to think of many options, choices, variables, and catastrophes combined to generate disabling anxiety. Her intensity, complex thinking, and extroversion left her frustrated and lonely. Conscientious about completing assignments with at least 120% effort, she got bogged down in her need for quality and accuracy. In therapy, understanding that the source of much of her self-criticism came from years of rejection from peers and misunderstanding of her own rainforest mind, Suzanne began to feel more self-compassion. She was determined to learn tools to calm her anxiety, ease her depressed moods, and find a way to make a difference in the world. 

James, 35, was overwhelmed by his many interests and abilities and unable to choose a path forward. He had a construction  job that was paying the bills but his heart was in music, composing, electronics, art, design, writing, philosophy, sailing, and more. He longed for a deep connection with a partner and for intellectual discussions around literature, spirituality, and life’s meaning.  He was an avid reader and researcher and loved diving into philosophical exchanges. As a child, his sensitivity, creativity, and curiosity were overlooked and misunderstood. In counseling, James worked to understand how his family of origin influenced his choices in relationships and his difficulty with decision-making. Learning about multipotentiality and giftedness gave him some relief and direction. He was open to exploring many healing modalities to address his complex inner and outer worlds. 

Tenisha, 29, was a profoundly gifted introvert. She excelled in most everything she tried including academics, art, music, dance, and writing. Schooling was frustrating and disappointing because she did not experience the level of intellectual stimulation she needed. It was hard for Tenisha to be with friends and family because she could sense what they were feeling and thinking. And, in turn, they were uncomfortable around her. She longed to find someone who would debate with her or who knew more about a topic than she did. She never felt truly seen. Health problems in her early 20’s confounded her doctors. After doing her own research, she diagnosed herself, correctly, surprising her practitioners, as she had no medical training. Even among the gifted, she felt like an alien. Tenisha had a strong sense of ethics and was deeply troubled by the lack of integrity she experienced in her workplaces. She lost jobs because she was outspoken. Tenisha wondered if she would ever find a career path where she could be herself and contribute to improving life on planet earth. In counseling, she found relief in that she could finally talk about her gifts without fear of rejection or judgment.

These are some of the faces of giftedness. Some of the highly sensitive, empathetic, creative, analytical, perfectionistic, deep thinking, complex, intuitive, intelligent, socially responsible, spiritual souls that I am privileged to work with.

This is what giftedness looks like.

(With apologies to Sheldon, Sherlock, and Jeopardy winners and fans everywhere.)

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To my bloggEEs: How do you describe giftedness? Do you relate to any of these profiles? What are your questions, thoughts, feelings, and curiosities? Your comments add so much. Thank you for being here. Sending much love. And thank you to the clients who are described above.

And if you need more evidence of why we need to understand giftedness, what about this article on the all-girls Afghan robotics team?

Or this short film. Made about loneliness in quarantine. Created by an obvious rainforest mind. Watch it even if you are not alone. It is funny and uplifting.


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What Do Gifted Teens Say About Their Struggles?

photo courtesy of Ben White, Unsplash

The gifted adolescents that I have known grapple with existential depression, anxiety, loneliness, perfectionism, sensitivities, empathy, misdiagnoses, bullying, and serious frustrations with the school system. Here is “one” teen’s voice synthesized from the many that I have met over the years. All people will benefit when we take the time to understand our gifted children.

I’m in counseling because my parents are worried. I don’t have any real friends and I spend a lot of time in my room or on my phone. My grades are dropping. I’m actually failing in a couple classes. They’re afraid I’m depressed, maybe even suicidal. My parents are right to be concerned. I don’t know what’s wrong but I’ve been kind of a mess ever since I can remember. And lately, I’ve been wondering, what’s the point?

I remember being in kindergarten and I tried to talk with the other kids, you know, about stuff I’d read like the demise of the dinosaurs or how volcanoes work. They’d just look at me like I was from another planet and go play in the sandbox and I’d wonder what’s wrong with me. What am I missing? How could they not love dinosaurs? How could they not love reading?

Then my kindergarten teacher kept teaching about colors and shapes and counting to ten. And I’m thinking, what about multiplication? What’s wrong with me? I was supposed to sit still and fill in the blanks on the worksheets when what I wanted was to know the size of the universe.

It’s been that way for years. Sitting in a classroom, eager to learn something, anything, and hearing the same song over and over.  I’m so disappointed in people, in teachers. I stopped doing the homework in some of my classes and that’s why my grades are so bad. I just don’t see the point of repeating something I already know. People tell me to just do it, but it’s torture. And then there are the papers to write. Either I do so much research that I can’t possibly put it all in a 5 page paper so I never hand anything in or I know what I write won’t be good enough so I don’t even start. They say I’m lazy. Am I lazy?

There is one teacher, though, Mr. Grey, he keeps me in high school. He loves his subject, English literature, and he loves my curiosity and questions. He started a philosophy club where we could talk about film, literature, politics, anything. I’m usually the only one who shows up but he’s always there, getting my mind working hard. And it gives me hope. Makes life worth living. Someone who loves thinking outside the box; someone who isn’t intimidated or offended or annoyed by my insatiable appetite for learning. I’m really grateful for Mr. Gray.

I used to be very emotional. I cried a lot and my parents called me dramatic. I was also very sensitive to noise, textures and smells. I didn’t like birthday parties because they were so chaotic. I could tell my parents were extremely uncomfortable with this. But I care deeply about things and feel sad when I can see other kids getting hurt. 

And I worry a lot. I worry about climate change, world hunger, poverty, racism. What can I do that will make a difference?  Why am I here? What’s the meaning of life? My brain never stops. It’s exhausting.

You know, I just want someone my age to care, to think with me, to ask questions. I feel like such a freak. Our symphonic band went on a field trip to San Francisco. I was so excited to see the city, the art museums, the culture. All the other kids wanted to do was go to the mall. The mall. Like they’ve never seen a frickin’ mall. I couldn’t stand it and desperately wanted to leave the group but I didn’t want to create a scene so I kept my mouth shut. People think I’m moody and disagreeable but I’m really just incredibly tired of trying to fit in and feeling like a fool. I just want to be normal. I just want to have friends. I’m so lonely.

I guess I should also confess that I feel enormous anxiety when someone asks me to do something I’ve never done before and don’t know if I can do it well, and fast, and the best. You know, like sports for instance. I avoid sports, at all costs. And I quit piano because you have to practice to get good at it. I’m used to being the best and getting approval for it and I’m afraid that I’m really not as smart as everyone says. So, I don’t take any unnecessary risks.

People try and help me and I appreciate it, but it’s mostly inadequate. They come up with quick fixes and easy answers. I try and tell them gently that it’s not that simple. It’s never that simple. But they don’t get it. Sometimes the only thing I find soothing is my dog and a walk in the woods. I feel a deep kinship with nature and a sense of connection with trees and the wind. I still cry at a perfect sunset.

I can’t wait to get to college. Maybe there’ll be kids there I can relate to, who will accept me. Or maybe there’ll be a professor in the music department who can give me the feedback that I’m looking for. See, I’m in these bands at school and I get these awards but they’re meaningless, you know? I don’t deserve them. I make all these mistakes that no one seems to notice.  I don’t get it.  They tell me I’m the best trumpet player they’ve heard in years. But I know how much better I could sound.  What I play is crap. And they don’t hear it.

Then again, I’m scared to death of college. I’m not sure what I’d do if I were put in a class with really smart kids. What if the work is too hard? What if I don’t have all the answers? What’ll I do? Who am I then? How do I study for a test? I haven’t really had to crack a book yet. What if I can’t get the answers fast? And, what will I major in? I have so many interests. They say I can do anything I want like that’s a great thing. But all I feel is pressure and anxiety. How do I choose just one thing? What if I’m really not so smart and I’ve just been able to fake it all this time? 

Maybe I won’t go to college.

They say that I’m gifted but I don’t know. It sure doesn’t feel like a gift to me.

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To my bloggEEs: Does this sound like you? What parts are familiar? Are you raising children who are struggling? How is it for you to see your children dealing with the same challenges you experienced?

This post is adapted from my new book Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists. The book is largely a compilation of my most popular blog posts 2014-2018 organized by topic. It includes suggestions for further exploration to guide you to greater self-acceptance, meaning, and purpose. It is a more light-hearted look at rainforest-mindedness so it is a good gift book for teens, educators, friends, and therapists. (My first book is more in-depth via case studies, strategies, and resources. You can find out more here.)