Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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“The Problem, Officer, Is That My Sister Is An Intellectual…”* –A Quick Guide To Your Rainforest Mind

(*quote adapted from the inspiring talk Surviving as an Organizational Heretic ; by Carmen Medina TEDx talk)

(photo courtesy of Fabio Fistarol, Unsplash)

Have you been identified as the problem in your family? Is your finely tuned sensitivity, unending research, probing curiosity, exquisite empathy, passionate creativity, accurate intuition, in-depth analysis, sweet optimism, and driven social conscience, misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and mystifying?

Do your parents, siblings, teachers, therapists, friends, neighbors, and pets, look at you with wonder, or confusion, or anger, or fear, or jealousy, or awe? (OK. Maybe your pets look at you with, well, unconditional love. Unless they are cats. Cats may look at you with disdain. Not because you are gifted, though. But just because.) Do you reject the notion you are gifted because you know how much you don’t know or because you were not a straight-A student or because it feels arrogant, elitist, and unfair?

I thought so.

Then, of course, there is the pressure. Oh, the pressure. If you are so smart, then, well, you better reach your potential. Wasted potential is not an option. You ought to be great at everything you try at all times. Maybe even “insanely great.” Mistakes, then, become failures and failures are unbearable.  

No wonder you would like to hide out rather than shine too brightly. No wonder. But honestly? You can not really hide. Not really. You can try. But at some point, your rainforest mind will sneak out from under your cloak. The truth of who you are will be revealed. How? Well, for starters, it could be that any one or more of the following occur:

The foundation of your house finally cracks under the weight of all of those darn books. You can’t stop crying over nature’s fecundity.  It takes you 11 years to get through college because you keep changing your major, start two businesses, learn the Argentine tango, join the board of an arts organzation, travel to Nepal to lead treks, teach yourself watercolor painting, and write a screenplay. You still reread Jane Austen, Ursula LeGuin, and Toni Morrison, again and again. You raise a gifted child. You start a nonprofit, or three. You become an overworked, underpaid, and adored-by-your-students middle school teacher. You swoon over your fascination with fungi. You dive deeply into psychotherapy to heal from your traumatic childhood. (Yeah, I know. You thought I’d say, you win a Nobel prize. And, perhaps, you do that, too. But prizes are not required for rainforest mind membership.)

In other words, because you have a rainforest mind, you have an extra large, perhaps enormous, capacity to think, feel, know, perceive, analyze, evaluate, discern, observe, empathize, intuit, create, imagine, and love. All humans have these abilities to greater and lesser degrees, of course. Your capacities are just much deeper, wider, and multi-faceted. You experience layers and levels and complexities and controversies and visions and worries and energies and influences that others may not. 

This is not arrogant, elitist, or unfair.

It is just you.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you need to find more self-acceptance and understanding? If you experience conflict in your family or in other relationships, it could be, at least in part, because of these differences. Let us hear from you. Thank you for sharing your comments, feelings, thoughts, and questions. They add so much. Love to you! (Note: If you get a chance, watch Carmen Medina‘s TED talk. She explains how to create change in an organization and you can hear the whole story from her about what her brother said!)


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Young, Male, Gifted, And Black In Canada

Thomas is 24. Born in Canada, his parents emigrated from Cameroon. He wrote to me while reading my first book. I suggested he write and tell me about his rainforest mind. His words speak for themselves. (Note: English is not his first language.)

photo courtesy Taylor Grote, Unsplash

Intensity, Sensitivity

“…From what I’ve been told all my life, I am somehow very intense, which I don’t realize at all…I am really sensitive, but I’ve learned how and when to express it…sometimes I feel things when I should think about it a bit more and sometimes I think about it when I should feel it. So it makes my love life and friendships quite complicated…”

“I am really sensitive to sounds, noises, and touch. I am very aware of my environment. It can be very overwhelming…”

“As I was growing up, I never really thought I was different. I still don’t really think I am that much different…but one thing I remember clearly from a young age, it’s the firm belief of being an alien.”

Perfectionism, Empathy, Racism

“I have been a perfectionist for multiple reasons throughout my life…Since I was young it was a struggle for my parents. I needed the proper clothes, it needed to fit perfectly with everything. The colors, the patterns…Also perfectionism became part of proving myself to be worthy to others based on my race. I’ve always felt that if I wasn’t perfect, I wouldn’t be heard or loved…Also for my parents, it was part of what they learned from their experience as immigrants. They couldn’t be less than irreproachable all the time…It was really heavy, draining, and felt like I was wearing a mask all the time. I didn’t really know who I was anymore. I was just the perfect reflection of what people expected from me… I was able to use my empathy in order to feel and understand others and reflect what they needed…”

“…what I am trying to say is that most people don’t believe Black giftedness actually exists or that it is possible. I’ve been confronted many times by people that were blatantly shocked by who I was. Although younger it felt like a compliment, now it just makes me horribly sad. I gave up long ago about being recognized, praised, or proving myself… All I want is to raise awareness to all kinds of giftedness that Black people possess…”

I Just Get It, Schooling

“…When I asked my mother why I skipped a year in school, she explained that since I was a kid, I was always kind of too fast for my age. A bit too mature and very kind. My kindness and empathy was shut down by my father who saw it as a weakness for a man…There was a lot of bullying. I thought in my head, well, everyone must be racist, probably there were some, but I now think that a lot of people were rather intimidated by me because everything has always been easy. That is the difficulty of my life I guess. Whether in school or sports or with people, I just get it. Although school is a different challenge. I haven’t finished my undergrad degree and it’s my fifth year, lol. To my defense, I’ve been working full-time…”

Social Responsibility, Psychotherapy

“…I do believe I have a part to play in the world…I’ve learned to stay still. Accept that I can’t do everything, I can’t fight everything. I will lose some. I will win some. I will fail. I will succeed. I will be wrong. I will be right. However, most of the time, it doesn’t really matter...Luckily for me, most of the time, I want to smile, have fun, create, write, discover, read, help, pray, love, and be loved. It’s OK for me to not be perfect. I don’t believe perfection exists anymore. I do believe that there is such a thing as the truth…living by the feeling, by intuition, or by what is right at the time…”

“I believe that therapy really helped me have a more humorous perspective on perfectionism and on life. Which greatly helped. Seeing the humor, the absurdity, sometimes dropped a lot of pressure. I was able to figure out what I really wanted, without all the real or false expectations of me. I was finally seeking the truth, which is what I was idealizing since I was young, not a better world, not change the world. Rather I want people to liberate themselves, to be more themselves. I am tired of people being lost. I am tired of people who don’t dream or give up on dreaming. I am tired of seeing people miserable. I want people to be free, happy, to believe and feel love, joy, and happiness. I would like to see people less angry, hungry, or as tired as me! I really do want to contribute to a better world, a better society, the best way I can…”

Thank you, Thomas, for sharing your beautiful rainforest mind with us. I am quite certain you shall create a better world as you continue to liberate yourself to dream, to feel love, to find truth, and to be more and more yourself.

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To my bloggEEs: What parts of what Thomas is saying do you relate to? Have you had to deal with racism? What is it like to be gifted in your country? Thank you for sharing. Your comments add so much, as you know! Oh, and, did you know I have an Instagram account? I don’t post often but I’m thinking I may start to make short videos and post them there. Check it out! There is a video there now. And thank you so very much to Thomas.


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The Pressure To Always Be The Smartest One In The Room

It is embarrassing. Nerve wracking. Anxiety provoking. I do not know what I am doing. I am not in control. Everyone else has it figured out. Except me.

photo courtesy of Ospan Ali, Unsplash

What was I thinking when I signed up for this class?

I would drop it right now but somewhere in me I know I need it. I know if I can stand being the not-very-smart one, if I can deal with my own creative rumination that tells me I am drowning in my incompetence, I know it will be worth it. Maybe extremely worth it.

Kind of like learning the Argentine tango. I hated it. In the beginning. Everyone was gliding around the room. Effortlessly. Flicking their legs to and fro. Perfectly balanced strides. Unity. One body, four legs.

I was clueless. Clumsy. Nervous. Lost and confused. But, as you know, if you have been reading my blog for a while, it was extremely worth it. It took more than two years of study, practice, and more practice before I felt any sense of cluefulness. And then, more study and practice to get to the stage of maybe-I-can-do-this. And now (after even more years) I experience moments of extreme pleasure. Of unity. Sublime unity.*

You need to hear this.

I know you avoid trying new things because you have to be the smartest one at all costs. Your identity depends on your ingenuity, your winning, your solving the problem, your clever come-back. You have been told you are very smart for many years. You have such great potential. Now you have to keep proving it. Or who are you? Your sense of self has been built on your intelligence and achievements. Praise for your accomplishments. Pressure to be the best. Expectations you now place on yourself.

Am I right?

So, it is risky to try something where you are not guaranteed speedy success. Quite risky, if you want to know the truth. Not only is it terribly uncomfortable, it also proves what you secretly believe to be the case. That you are not as smart as everyone says. You are an impostor. You have been faking it all these years. You have been lucky. The work has been easy. Your teachers liked you.

You are no Elon Musk.

I feel you.

And I am here to tell you there is no better time to take that risk. Be the not-very-smart one. Experience clumsy. Try on clueless. Get lost and confused. Take that class. Dance that tango.

It just might be sublime.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you tend to avoid trying something when you are not sure of success? Tell us about it. It is odd, isn’t it? You love learning but your fears of failure hold you back. Let us know if this is true for you (or your kids) and what it’s like. And, as always, thank you for being here. Your comments add so much.

(*Note: Sadly, I am not actually dancing now due to the pandemic.)


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Exceptional and Profound Giftedness In Adults — What Does It Look Like? Why Should We Care?

photo courtesy of naveen kumar, Unsplash

Diya, 35, was struggling with anxiety, career decisions, graduate school, and loneliness. She left a prestigious professional school in the final year because it was too rigid and restrictive. Professors and other students ridiculed her and left her feeling embarrassed, particularly when she asked penetrating questions. At times she felt compelled not to ask questions or even go to class because she did not want to stand out. When she contacted me, she had recently graduated with a more open-ended degree from a different prestigious university where she had hoped to find intellectual freedom, deep human connections, out-of-the-box thinkers, and most importantly, people like herself. This school was more open to her creativity and needs for a flexible, interdisciplinary approach but she was still disappointed with the restricted and inadequate levels of intellectual opportunities and the conformity of many of the other students.

It became clear as we talked, that Diya was exceptionally, probably profoundly, gifted. Her interests were many and varied and she excelled in all of them, ranging from the sciences to languages, religion, and the fine arts. Her speech was fast and her thinking faster. She struggled with repetitive tasks and was often forgetting things because her mind was constantly reading and processing new information.

Diya felt a lot of pressure from her intensity of thought and worked best independently in a non-structured environment. Her perfectionist tendencies made it difficult for her to work quickly, and she often felt a lag time between her mind and her body. She had a deep emotional intensity, often feeling emotions that were complex and layered as well as visions and insights that were intuitive and wholistic.

Like many of my clients, though, she didn’t recognize herself as gifted. This may have been partly because she was slower at test taking and at answering simple questions. She did not score well on standardized or IQ tests. With multiple choice tests, she could explain why all of the answers could be correct. When professors asked her to explain her reasoning for a problem, she often couldn’t break down the non-linear jumps or easily explain the patterns that she found. Or it would take too long to respond to a simple question because of all the possible answers, causing teachers to grow impatient or think that she didn’t know the “right” answer. In her mind, everything was related. How could she finish anything when there was always more to consider and how could she determine the right answer when there were so many possibilities existing within constantly evolving frameworks? She was always looking for better models or better words to respond to the questions. At the same time, she was a high achiever in school and was able to build friendships. But the relationships were not satisfying. People could not keep up with her and she often found herself speaking on a different wave length and not being understood. 

Diya loved the fine arts, including performing music and dancing. She found pleasure in learning the Argentine tango because of the depth of connection she could create with the right partner. In the tango, she did not need to worry about her partner getting lost in her verbal complexity. This was an intimate collaboration that was successful and less complicated, unlike at school or in the workplace. She was relieved when I told her that collaborating in general might be difficult because of her facility with grasping and integrating ideas; an entrepreneurial path might work best for her. She thrived in designing her own way and not following others’ directions. She was in the process of creating a startup that would weave together a number of her interests.

Diya’s South Asian background exposed her at an early age to yoga, tai chi, chanting, meditation, and other eastern practices. These were quite helpful spiritually and on a body level, particularly when she felt disconnected and alone. Spiritual practices worked in tandem with performing music to help her stay physically grounded, express her visual mental imagery, and sustain her through her distress around relationships and schooling. 

Diya, had a highly developed sensitivity. She could pick up what her friends and colleagues were feeling, and often knew intuitively how to help them, but struggled with not getting emotionally and mentally drained by the needs of others and with knowing where and how to set boundaries. She was concerned with ethics and justice, within relationships, but also in the larger world where she was driven to make a positive impact. 

As we talked, I could see that Diya was relieved to finally have a “diagnosis.” To have it explained to her that her difficulties with schooling, peers, career decisions, and anxiety, could all be understood within the context and framework of living at the highest end of the gifted spectrum. She finally understood why she felt so different and now could start learning how better to survive and thrive in a world that did not easily reflect her. 

I recommended the research of Miraca Gross. This article from the Triple Nine Society. I suggested connecting with Femke Hovinga in the Netherlands and Sue Jackson in British Columbia. Tom Clynes’ book on the profoundly gifted Taylor Wilson and The Gifted Adult were also excellent resources, along with the SENG organization

Getting to know Diya was an opportunity for me to see, once more, the vast potential of the human mind-heart-soul. This is what gives me hope and purpose. In these times of great uncertainty, upheaval, and change, it is of the utmost importance that we all understand, nourish, support, and love the most evolved among us.

Our survival may depend on it. 

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To my bloggEEs: What do you think? How are you similar to Diya? How are you different?  We want to hear from you. Your comments add so much. Sending you all big love during these most challenging of times. And thank you to the client who gave me permission to share her story.

Attention Spanish speakers! I have been in touch with a wonderful RFM woman in Spain who would love to find other Spanish speaking RFMs. Her name is Miryam. You can contact her at midorenedo@hotmail.com. 

 

 

 


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Understanding Your Rainforest Mind or I’m Not Gifted, I’m Just An Overthinker — The YouTube Video!

Screen Shot from Video (apologies for blurriness)

I spoke to a group of 100 gifted folks in the Netherlands last week. On Zoom, of course. Thanks to Femke Hovinga-Tiller for sponsoring the event and recording the 60 minute talk. (See below.)

Issues and Resources in the talk include:

~ Anxiety, Intensity, Existential depression

Living with Intensity by Daniels, Piechowski. The HeartMath Solution by Childre. Full Catastrophe Living by Kabat-Zinn. Books by Pema Chodron. Insight Timer, Calm, and Buddhify apps. The work of Tara Brach and Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

~ Relationships / Loneliness


The Gifted Adult by Jacobsen. Gifted Grownups by Streznewski. (Those two books cover all topics.) Books by J. Welwood. Rebels at Work by Medina & Kelly. The School of Life website. The work of Esther Perel. The work of Dr. Sue Johnson.

~ Multipotentiality


How to Be Everything by Wapnick. Refuse to Choose by Sher. puttylike.com.

~ Social responsibility, Justice issues

A New Republic of the Heart by Patten. The Parent’s Guide to Climate Revolution by DeMocker. The More Beautiful World That We Know is Possible by Eisenstein. This Changes Everything by Klein. Soulcraft by Plotkin. TheGWord film. The works of Rebecca Solnit & Van Jones.

~ Perfectionism, Expectations, Procrastination, Impostor Syndrome

Procrastination by Burka & Yuen. The War of Art by Pressfield. The Gifted Adult by Jacobsen. The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women by Young.

~ Sensitivity, Empathy, Intuition, Spirituality

Belonging Here: A Guide for the Spiritually Sensitive Person by Blackstone. One Mind by Dossey. Riding the Windhorse by Noble. Institute for the Noetic Sciences, Sounds True. The Shift Network. Susan Cain’s work. highlysensitiverefuge.com. Tara Brach’s work. self-compassion.org. Pema Chodron’s work. Soul Collage by Frost.

~ Schooling

The Boy Who Played With Fusion by Clynes. Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults, by Webb et al. Bright Not Broken by Kennedy & Banks. ghflearners.org. nagc.org. davidsongifted.org. my-little-poppies.com. onlineG3.com. thegwordfilm.com.

~ Parenting

Smart Boys by Kerr. Smart Girls in the 21st Century by Kerr. Smart Parenting for Smart Kids by Kennedy-Moore. Raising Your Spirited Child by Kurcinka. The Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Children by Neihart et al. Bright, Talented, and Black by Davis. Giftedness 101 by Silverman. drdanpeters.com. brightandquirky.com. withunderstandingcomescalm.com. coachingthegifted.net. guidingbright.com. drdansiegel.com.

And, of course, my books!

Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth and Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide For Gifted Adults And Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists.

And here is the video. Enjoy!

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To my bloggEEs: Let us know your thoughts, feelings, questions, and concerns. If you were wondering what I sound like and look like in action, now you know. Eek! One correction in the video: Due to a misunderstanding, my first book will not be translated into Dutch. So sorry, Dutchies! Thank you all for being here, as always, and for being your highly sensitive, intense, curious, introspective, magnificent selves. Love to you all. Stay safe. 


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Learning Comes Easily To Gifted Kids And Adults — How Might That Be A Problem?

Photo courtesy of Siora Photography, Unsplash

What if learning has always been easy for you. What if you are successful at pretty much everything you try.

How might that be a problem?

Well, sweetie pie (may I call you sweetie pie?), here ya go:

If you have been recognized as gifted, the one with great potential, and so lucky to be so smart, this may result in some unintended consequences. Even though it is very important that you know you have a rainforest mind so that you understand more clearly who you are from this perspective and what it means, it is tricky terrain to navigate.

Why? Here are some possibilities (in no particular order). Which ones fit for you?

~ If your family and teachers always praised you for being the smart one and emphasized your accomplishments, your identity may now be dependent on achieving. You avoid trying anything that threatens that identity.

~ If something is not easy to learn or achieve, you conclude you are not as smart as everyone says. This can lead to  procrastination, questioning of your self-worth, and to lack of motivation.

~ You believe that smart people should not have to study or practice, so you never learned how to study and you resist practicing. As a result, confronting something difficult is overwhelming or terrifying.

~ You have to hide your frustrations and fears because people keep telling you how lucky you are. You feel guilty when you don’t always feel grateful for your capabilities.

~ You can not admit that you need help because you are supposed to know it all.

~ It is hard to find anyone to help you when you finally do admit that you need it. Because you already know many of the answers, you need to find people who are smarter than you are, and that can be difficult.

~ When you do experience success, it is hard to celebrate. Either you feel like you have not earned it because you were born gifted or you do not want others to feel bad. Or you are too busy raising the bar. Or you then feel extreme pressure to always be successful. At everything. So any success just makes the pressure worse.

~ You feel like an impostor. You have managed to accomplish a lot but you do not know how you did it.

~ Learning has always been easy. You think: Can’t anyone do what I can do?

~ How do you explain how you know what you know? You can see it or hear it once and then you know it. You have a high level of intuition as a way of knowing, too. How do you talk about all that without sounding arrogant?

~ You may have grown up believing you are either smart or you are not smart. This mindset can lead to unhealthy perfectionism, particularly, extreme fear of failure. Even with an inborn level of intellect or capacity, there is room for growth, skill development, acquiring new knowledge, expanding creativity, developing sensitivities, mastering talents, studying new material, spiritual expansion, trauma healing, building relationships, and strengthening neural pathways.

~ You have been told you are arrogant too many times so you hide your achievements.

~ School may have been terribly frustrating, year after year, if you already knew what was being taught in your classroom and if your teachers did not appreciate or understand you.

~ If you knew the material in school before it was taught, you may have believed that you always have to know something before you actually learn it. This can create confusion and avoidance particularly in college and beyond.

~ You feel like a total failure if you have not had any particularly spectacular achievements.

See what I mean?

So, darling (may I call you darling?), you are not alone if you feel discomfort, angst, anxiety, and grief over the expectation that it must be wonderful to be so smart. To learn so quickly. To be so successful.

Like my teen client said to me when I tried to understand his discomfort, angst, anxiety, and grief, “It’s not that simple. It’s never that simple.”

Indeed.

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To my bloggEEs: Has learning been easy for you? What has that been like? Which of the above descriptions are familiar? Let us know your experiences. Your comments add so much. Sending much love and appreciation to you.

 

 

 

 


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Living Your Authentic Life May Mean You Look Or Sound Or Feel A Little Weird

This photo will make sense when you read the post.

I know that authenticity is important to you. Truth. Clarity. Open-heartedness. Depth. Beauty. Integrity. Knowing who you are. Living the life you were born to live.

But how do you manage to be authentic when your natural intensity overwhelms others? When you are told to slow down and stop asking so many questions. When no one you know really cares about the holographic universe or the film Fantastic Fungi. When your family denies that there is an alcoholic in their midst. When your listeners get lost in your detailed nonlinear multi-layered explanations; your exciting expeditions down the never-ending supply of rabbit holes. When your imaginative ideas are seen as bordering on the bizarre. When your sensitivities are seen as annoying weirdnesses. When overly-needy people are clamoring for your empathy. When you are driven to find your purpose.

Is it possible to have a rainforest mind and be authentic at the same time?

You betcha.

And, yet.

It is a process. It takes strategizing. It takes expanding the definition. It takes risking failure and embarrassment. It takes finding your own self-understanding and accepting what it means to be gifted.

For example:

Strategizing: There will be times when you need to adapt your talking speed and content to your audience. If you want to communicate effectively, it will make sense to turn down your intensity. This does not mean you are being phony, condescending, manipulative, or insincere. Or that your intensity is wrong. It means that you want to communicate effectively. Of course, you will also need to be sure to find people who can keep up with you and who love your beautiful weirdnesses. But just know that strategizing is an authentic way to be seen and heard and possibly understood when you are with people who are not RFMs.

If there is dysfunction in your family of origin, strategizing might mean that you learn how to set healthy boundaries with toxic family members. How much do you share? Where do you set limits? When do you walk away? In this case, being authentic may mean being true to yourself.

Expanding the definition: See strategizing.

Risking failure and embarrassment: Some of the projects that you undertake as you explore your authenticity might be challenging in ways that you are not used to. You may need to stretch out of your comfort zone and experiment and explore new horizons where you are not the smartest person in the room. You may have to lead, speak up, and step out onto an uncomfortable edge. You may have to take action where you are not guaranteed success. This will be particularly difficult if you are used to knowing all the answers and if you were praised since you were a little tyke for your smartness. Your identity may have been based on your early astonishing achievements so that now, a small mistake feels like a total failure. Becoming more authentic will require grappling with this and understanding the root and implications of both types of perfectionism. Give yourself time. This is a big deal.

Self-understanding and acceptance:

The journey to understand and express your authenticity can be long, complicated, fascinating, and at times, weird. It is not a clear cut proposition. It is a work in progress. You are a work in progress. Seeking authenticity, you will likely be letting go of old patterns and inaccurate beliefs. If you had to cope with family trauma or deep distress, much of your authenticity may have gone underground. You may need psychotherapy or another form of introspective work to find yourself. Even without early childhood family dysfunction, you may have had to hide your rainforest-y enthusiasm for all of those reasons I mentioned above. But there is no better time than now to be on this road.

So, why bother? What are the benefits of authenticity? Why not live an unexamined life? 

I don’t have to answer that because I know you. An unexamined life is not an option. Authenticity is a basic need of yours. You’ve seen the list?

Basic human (RFM) needs: Air, water, food, intellectual stimulation, authenticity. Oh, and love! (thank you cmd1122)

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(Note: For more on authenticity, check out this post for the great comments.)

To my bloggEEs: Speaking of living the life you are supposed to live, I have some news. Some of you may know that as part of my authenticity journey, I have been tapping into my spirituality through a kind of channeled singing. Well. A gifted musician friend recorded some of it and added music underneath. Here it is: Spirits of Your Rainforest Mind. This is me looking and sounding and feeling a little weird.

Let us know about your experiences with authenticity. Your comments make this blog so rich. And, tell us what my song conjures up for you. Thank you a million times for being here.


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How Can You Tell If You Or Someone You Know Is A Gifted Adult?

photo courtesy of Ava Sol, Unsplash

Gifted kids can be hard to identify. There is a lot of controversy around what giftedness looks like in children. It is even harder to identify giftedness in adults. I’ve worked with gifted adults in my therapy practice for 20+ years. I’ve noticed some common traits.

So. If you’d like to know if you or someone you know is gifted, listen for these types of statements:

“I started writing a blog post about an herb that has now become 80 pages with no end in sight. The writing is about–everything. It’s all connected!”

“…friends and family don’t know what to do with me because I’m always moving onto the next thing. I’ve been told I’m competitive or make people feel bad by my insatiable drive to learn and grow…”

“It’s hard growing up in a family when you experience the world in a radically different way, are criticized for your ‘failures’ that aren’t actually failures and bullied for being ‘too sensitive’ and ‘too serious’…”

“Oh, and the smells, scents, and sounds that other people are not bothered by–me, all the way. I get migraines from those things. I cannot filter them out the way other people seem to.”

“I cannot tell you how often I was scolded for overthinking, and told to ‘stop worrying’ during my various forays into therapy. Oh the self-flagellation!”

“…I have trouble picking one thing, so I currently have a job that allows me the mental space to pursue what I really want to be doing with my mental energies…I’m on career path #4 in less than 20 years and I do part-time paid projects when I have the energy.”

“I was told that my expectations were too high and that I should lower my standards. I shouldn’t be so idealistic. I should ignore human suffering and stop rescuing animals and plants. I’m told I’m over-reacting to the climate crisis.”

“Maybe what I consider small talk isn’t considered small talk by everyone. I don’t want to bore people with ideas they don’t want to engage in but it’s hard to numb myself so often…There is the occasional magic where you realize someone you’ve known for a long time has a really interesting or weird interest, hitherto unknown, which can make for a fascinating hour or so.” 

“Am I crazy or is this a severe case of empathy? Intuition run wild? How do I know what I know?” 

“I crave intellectual stimulation. When I can’t get it, I enjoy amusing myself with translating conversations into one of the several languages that I know. I also love having a song running in my head (from memory, not with headphones) while visualizing the fingering for violin/cello/piano as if I were playing one of the lines. I love replicating the actual fingering in my pocket, just gently tapping, and walking down the street and feeling like I am playing right then and there with the big wave of music flowing through me, while no one around knows.”

“Beauty. Beauty is just so darned overwhelming. I cry at beauty.”

“I never thought I was gifted because I never tested well. I would overthink the questions or come up with too many possibilities within the questions. I never saw the point of certain subjects in school because they were in isolation of the greater world…I’ve been told that I’m gifted but I’m still not sure.”

“I’ve been searching for years for a spiritual community. I find peace, compassion, and guidance in Nature.”

“My whole life, I literally thought something was wrong with me because I’m not like everyone else around me and it’s been a very lonely road.” 

These are the types of statements I hear over and over from my gifted clients. They may be high achievers in an academic field. They may have a long list of accomplishments. They may be rich and famous. Or they may be none of these things.

But if you are writing an 80 page blog post on an herb, if you are on your 4th career path in 20 years, if beauty makes you cry, if you must fight injustice, if you out-think the test questions, if you are driven to learn and grow, if your intuition runs wild, and if you feel deeply connected to the universe and everything, well, then, odds are, it is highly likely, it is totally possible, that you, yes, you, are a gifted adult. That you have a rainforest mind.

(Note: And now that you are almost kind of absolutely sure that you are gifted, my books will tell you what to do next so that you can do what you are here on the planet to do. No pressure. Just sayin.’)

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To my bloggEEs: What have you said that might be a clue that you, too, are gifted? Thank you to the bloggEEs who provided these (edited) examples.

Here is a short recent video of me interviewed by Tina Harlow if you are wondering what I sound like and look like and why you should buy my books! And here is a recent review of my first book from Kirkus Reviews. And, by the way, I’d love a review from YOU, too! (on Amazon) As always, thank you for being here. Big love to you.


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Realizing That You Are Gifted — Will It Make a Difference?

photo courtesy of vlad tchompalov, Unsplash

Realizing that you are gifted. That you are of the rainforest-minded clan.

Explains a lot.

It explains why you are so darned sensitive. So darned empathetic.  You see, your feelings and perceptions are as vast as your intellect. You are not only thinking, analyzing, and synthesizing on many levels at once and pretty much all of the time, even when you are sleeping, but you are also deeply emotional and empathetic. Knowing that it is your nature to be this way, stops you from misdiagnosing and pathologizing these traits and behaviors. Reduces your self-doubt. Increases your self-acceptance.

It explains why people label you an overthinker. To them, you are thinking too much. But it comes naturally to you. And, yes, if you are super anxious and ruminating, you need some strategies to soothe your nervous system, to calm yourself. But your “overthinking” is just a whole lot of analysis, observation, wondering, questioning, answering, creating, daydreaming, and evaluating. The nature of your rainforest mind. Better than underthinking, if you ask me.

It explains why you are lonely. There aren’t all that many RFMs roaming the planet yet, as far as I can tell. It can be hard to find others who want to dive as deeply as you do. Who are fascinated by philosophical inquiries. Who want to study yet another language. Who feel driven to manifest their purpose(s). Who are able to grasp any of the complicated connections that you make between multiple seemingly discombobulated phenomena.

It explains why school may not have gone so well. It wasn’t that you were lazy or arrogant. It wasn’t that you were a know-it-all, even though you already knew the material that was being taught at the time. If you weren’t an A student, it may have been because your particular need to learn something new, was not recognized, much less accommodated. If you were an A student, it may have been disconcerting because you had higher standards than some of your teachers.

It even explains why you are stuck. You see, when you have many ideas, paths, and possibilities, plus a sense of huge responsibility for oh, everything, decision making can be daunting. Choosing one direction, one job, one book, one color, one anything, might feel impossible. You choose one, you lose many. So you don’t choose any.

Realizing that you are gifted, then, does make a difference.

But that’s not the end of the story.  What if you do accept that you are gifted? What then?

Accepting that you are gifted, can lead to extraordinary pressure to prove it. To yourself and to others. Pressure to be a super achiever. To be the next Elon Musk. It can link your worthiness as a human to your accomplishments or to your lack of them. It can mean that you have to achieve something “insanely great” or your life has no meaning. This can, then, lead to extreme anxiety, depression, unhealthy perfectionism, and addictions. You may feel that you can never fail because your identity is at stake. You may be unwilling to try anything where you imagine that you might make a mistake.

So, it’s tricky.

But, hey. You rainforest-minders. Do you see? The benefits outweigh the difficulties. Especially, if you learn more about this pressure thing and what you can do about it. You can find out more about it as you read my blog and my, um, books. (Ask your local library to carry them!) Let me be your emotional support animal person. Let me help you realize that you are indeed gifted.

And, yes, realizing this will make a difference for you. For everyone you know. And maybe even people that you don’t know. And, well, perhaps, for the planet itself.

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To my bloggEEs: Are you able to accept your rainforest-mindedness? In what ways might your life change, if you knew for certain that you were gifted? How might this knowing support you in contributing to creating a better world? Thank you for being here. Much love and appreciation to all of you.

(Note: Not all gifted folks are of the rainforest-minded variety. They might be more purely cognitive, for example, so they may have fewer of the sensitivities. They may not have the emotional intelligence/empathy that you have. But, just to clarify one more time, all RFMs are, yes, gifted.)

 


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A Short Guide to the Complicated Life of Gifted Adolescents or Young Adults

photo courtesy of Christian Joudrey, Unsplash

Maybe you wonder how you can be so smart and so dumb at the same time. Perhaps you feel like too much and not enough.  Maybe you are terrified of both failure and success. Perhaps you love learning but are frustrated with schooling. Maybe you live by the highest standards for excellence but can never find your shoes. Well, my darlings, you are not alone. Welcome to your rainforest mind.

Here is your short guide to being a gifted adolescent or a young adult. Click on the link to read the entire post.

I Have to Know it Before I Learn It: A Gifted Kids’ Conundrum

“…He came to believe that all learning should come easily. If it didn’t, there was something terribly wrong. Ben never learned how to study. Or that it was normal for some learning to be a struggle. Ironically, even though he felt like a failure and like he wasn’t smart because of his experiences in school, he also believed that he shouldn’t have to study something to understand it. This created confusion, anxiety, paralysis, and avoidance when there was a chance that he might not grasp a concept fast enough or succeed at a task. If it wasn’t easy, he didn’t do it…”

When Perfectionism, Anxiety, and Giftedness Go To College

“…Suddenly, Ellen was on her own. Not only dealing with coursework that was more difficult but also planning her schedule, choosing classes, and managing: study time/homework, new friends, dorm life, exercise, sleep, meals, fun activities, laundry, and all those other daily decisions that you can’t predict. Not to mention, she still wanted to excel in all of her classes. She said that she didn’t know how to do it any other way. If she didn’t give 100%, she felt lazy. Or, she thought, maybe she wasn’t so smart after all. Her identity would teeter on the edge. Anxiety overload. Perfectionism paralysis…”

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

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

What Do Gifted Teens Say About Their Struggles?

“…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?..”

For Gifted Kids and Their Teachers: Strategies for Success

Maybe you are an enthusiastic, hungry learner. You have so many questions and so many answers; your drive to analyze and create is massive and never ending. Your intense curiosity annoys your fellow students and rattles your teachers…”

Social Responsibility and Your Super Smart Sensitive Soul 

“…Get in touch with the activities and skills that bring you joy, meaning, and fulfillment. Then, use your creativity to turn one or more of them into a community building or global-oriented service project that will change minds and hearts. Design a project that will spread more love. That will soften the divide and reduce the fear. It doesn’t have to grow into a global phenomenon. But it can. You may hesitate because you feel that whatever you do won’t be grand enough. Won’t be perfect enough. Don’t let that stop you…”

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To my bloggEEs: I thought it might be helpful to organize a collection of posts for the youngsters among you or for the parents of the youngsters. Or for those of you who were adolescents and young adults long ago. If you’ve been a bloggEE for a while, these posts will be familiar. Let us know what you think. Your comments add so much. And thank you, as always, for being here.