Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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Gifted Children and Adults — Why Are They So Misunderstood?

photo courtesy of ketan rajput, Unsplash

A gifted child is:

The four year old who says the car is not red, it’s crimson. The five-year-old who is lonely because the other kids don’t understand the complex worlds and creatures she invents. The six-year-old who explains the difference between a laceration and a contusion. The seven-year-old who chooses Rembrandt as the person she respects most because of his use of light. The eight-year-old who cares for the hurt children on the playground. The nine-year-old who complains when his parent confuses the words precision and accuracy.  The ten-year-old who cries when he reads about injustice in his community and around the world. The eleven-year-old who is an environmental activist. The twelve-year-old who wants brain specimen coasters for her birthday.

These children are not show-offs or arrogant know-it-alls.  They sincerely and enthusiastically love learning, language, analysis, debate, creativity, beauty, exploration, and accuracy. (or is that precision?) They are being themselves. Naturally curious, hungry for new ideas and intellectual exchanges, emotionally intense, and highly sensitive and empathetic.

They don’t necessarily know they are intellectually advanced. Even when parents acknowledge their traits and abilities, they may still just feel out of sync and freakish. Or, when there’s excessive praise for their smartness, they may feel pressure to achieve. Pressure to please those adults. Pressure to live up to their great potential. Pressure to be perfect.

How we respond to them, understand them, educate them, and love them, matters.

But, just as walking into a tropical rainforest is an intense sensory, emotional, and intellectual extravaganza, so is being with a gifted child. A child who is gushing with questions, intellect, sensitivities, empathy, and emotion.

You were one of those kids.

But it may be hard for you to acknowledge that you are, in fact, gifted. You assume that everyone can do what you can do; they just aren’t trying. You don’t realize that the mental, emotional, and intuitive/spiritual capacity you have is larger than average. Maybe even enormous.

But I get it. You can’t really tell that to anyone. It wouldn’t make you popular. You may not even acknowledge it to yourself. And if you grew up in a chainsaw family, well, that would add to your confusion.

But you need to know that you are gifted. For yourself.

Knowing that you have a rainforest mind will explain things. It will explain your craving for new ideas and experiences. Your obsession with philosophical questions. Your disabling perfectionism. Your horrible loneliness. Your highest standards. Your multiple career paths. Your beautiful sensitivity. Your stunning intuition. Your intense emotions.

It will explain why you are constantly misunderstood.

And then, you will start to breathe more deeply. You will find other rainforest minds who will understand you. You will start to give yourself permission to grow into the person you are here to be.

And then you can show us your brain specimen coasters.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you have trouble acknowledging your giftedness? Why? What are some examples of how you’ve been misunderstood and how you misunderstand yourself?

One place you can meet other rainforest minds is at the SENG conference in July. This year it’s in Houston. I’ll be presenting my talk on adults, subtitled: Your Rainforest Mind–The Musical. I have a second talk with New Zealand therapist Maggie Brown titled: Gifted Adults Living in Tumultuous Times.  I’d love to meet you there.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Some of My Best Friends Are Introverted, Sensitive, Introspective, Smart, Empathetic, Overthinking Perfectionists

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Have I told you that I love people who are all of these things? Introverted, highly sensitive, introspective, super smart, and empathetic?

I also love “overthinking” perfectionists who obsess about creating a better world through raising the consciousness of humans, healing the dysfunction in their families and communities, parenting compassionate children, or finding loving-kindness in the chaos.

And let’s face it. If you’re reading this, you are an introverted, sensitive, introspective, smart, empathetic, overthinking, perfectionist. Am I right? (For those of you new to this blog, this means that you have a rainforest mind. (RFM)*)

And, even though you could be one of my best friends, well, you may still be anxious, lonely, overwhelmed, or in despair.

For many reasons.

Are you an Introvert? Chances are that you’re not the life of the party. In fact, you avoid parties. Why do people go to those things anyway? What could they possibly enjoy? Small talk? Puleeze. But you may be pressuring yourself to socialize more because that’s what normal people do. But the pile of 15 half-read books by your bed? Now, that makes you giddy. It’s not that you don’t like people. It’s just that more than one at a time is such a bad idea. On so many levels.

Are you Highly Sensitive? You may be easily overwhelmed by things that other people do not even notice. This can be embarrassing, as in, you have to leave the room because the sound of George chewing drives you bonkers, or the smell of Chanel makes you sick, or you’ve painted your living room 12 times and it’s still not right. You also have deep and wide-ranging emotions so you’re often seen as a drama queen or a sissy. Not only that. You’re deeply moved by a starry sky or by a well-crafted TV commercial for auto insurance.

Are you Introspective? You may be seen as self-indulgent, self-absorbed, or even narcissistic. This is frustrating because, in reality, you’re determined to understand the nature of humanity and, in particular, your own inner demons. All of this courageous inner exploration is the generous gift you give your ancestors and future generations. Your willingness to face the dark night of your soul is the opposite of narcissism. Perhaps you’ve been told to be less serious. Have more fun. Don’t they know that introspection is fun? And, hey, you’re saving them from your demons, for heaven’s sake. Where is their gratitude?

Are you Super Smart? I would have used the word gifted here but then you may have stopped reading. Right? But you are gifted. Your capacity for learning and understanding is vast. There are many thoughts going on in your brain and often several at one time. Even if your schooling experiences didn’t result in high grades or spelling bee championships, even if you aren’t a rocket scientist, your thirst for knowledge is unmistakable. You make connections, see relationships, and adore libraries and bookstores. You’re the intellectual fire hose to everyone else’s garden hose.

Are you Empathetic? This might also be spelled empathic. I’m never quite sure. Either way, you may have intuition and compassion that is extraordinary. You experience others’ emotions and burdens and you want to be of service. You might even have psychic talents. Clairvoyance, for example. Dreams that provide answers to your questions. Connections with the metaphysical or shamanic realms. This particular trait may be the one that you hide from the most. Especially, if there are misdiagnoses, religious zealots, or judgmental relatives in your past lives past.

Are you an Overthinker? I’m sure that you’ve been told that you think too much. What’s really happening is that you’re doing what comes naturally. I might even suggest that everyone else is underthinking. Of course, we need to distinguish this from rumination, which you might also do. You may worry excessively because you have a creative mind that can generate many thoughts. Worries, anxieties, and fears among them. But rumination is not the same as your natural capacity for deep, analytical, creative, fabulous overthinking.

Are you a Perfectionist? You can be persnickety to a fault. You may be terrified of mediocrity and failure. You might be a carefully honed procrastinator. Not ideal. You might need therapy to grapple with all of it. (Lucky for you, you’re introspective.) But, that’s not the whole story. You were born with a healthy perfectionism. You’re passionate about beauty, balance, harmony, precision, and justice. And that is ideal. And needed. Now. In these times. Most definitely.

So, my darlings, if you’re anxious, lonely, overwhelmed, or in despair, and if you’re an introverted, sensitive, introspective, smart, empathetic, overthinking, perfectionist. You have a powerful, effervescent, multidimensional rainforest mind. And you, yes you, are among my best friends.

I mean it.

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(*Note: If you are an extroverted RFM, you have all of these traits, except the obvious. You could also be a combination of both. I shall write about you soon-ish.)

To my bloggEEs: Tell us how you fit or don’t fit with these traits.  What are some of your examples of your introversion, sensitivity, or perfectionism? If you’re an extrovert, how are you different? What are your questions and concerns? Thank you, as always, for being here. I so appreciate hearing from you.

 


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Giftedness, Multipotentiality, and Your Fear of Losing Interest (FOLI)

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You’ve heard of FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out. It’s a thing.

Well, if you have multipotentiality. Which you know you do. You may suffer from FOLI. Fear Of Losing Interest.

What is FOLI?

First, you have to understand multipotentiality. Does this describe you?

You have soooo many interests. Since you were a little tyke, you’ve been a ravenous learner.  Reading voraciously. Researching endlessly. Starving for new ideas. Debating with anyone who was available. Captivated by complexity. Thrilled by the thesaurus. Curious about life, the universe, and everything.

You would dive into your latest passion. With your heart and soul. For weeks you would eat and breathe whatever it was. Dinosaurs. The solar system. Butterflies. Jane Austen. Elvis. Then, suddenly, one day it was over. You were satiated. Done. And the next interest would appear and you’d be off again. Until you were done. And onto the next.

Some of you would be into several things at once. You would be exploring complex guitar strumming patterns, studying Latin, designing your dream house, writing a novel, learning computer coding, knitting gifts for friends, watching neuroscience videos in your second language, and so on.

In either form, this is multipotentiality. Misunderstood by relatives, teachers, friends, and you. Especially when it means that you are in college for four extra years because you keep changing your major. Or when you change jobs every three years because you’re no longer interested once you master the skills required. Or when you think that you’re lazy because it looks like you can’t focus or that you never finish anything.

But if this is you, you’re not alone:

From a reader, who says she isn’t gifted: “I write, paint, model figures with clay, and draw. I’m currently teaching myself Chinese (because I’m obsessed with their history and literature). I taught myself English, French and Portuguese. Moreover, I learned the Greek, Russian and Katakana/Hiragana alphabets. And I’m currently learning how to play the Piano (I have composed some simple pieces in the two weeks that I’ve been learning…mathematics, economics…”

From another reader: “…music, drama, literature, art, math, sociology, neuropsychology, architecture, accoustics, geology, geography, history (but only the stories, not all the names and dates!), languages (oh, all the languages! But not the grammar, please, and not all that political stuff, just the languages in use), some psychology (if only to pick apart some really strange theories and practices, but there are some interesting bits, too) and… So many things to learn!”

How, then, does this relate to FOLI? Fear of Losing Interest?

Two possible scenarios: 1. You’re fascinated by so many things. But when you’ve learned all that you want on that topic, you lose interest. You move on. If you, then, interpret this to mean that you’re a lazy ne’er-do-well, it could create on-going anxiety, paralysis, and self-doubt. Why start something if you might abandon it in a year? Future employers might also be wary, when examining your multifaceted resume.

2. This might apply to partnerships. You may be reluctant to commit to an intimate relationship if you fear that there isn’t enough substance, intrigue, or complexity for long term fascination.

Disclaimer 1. If you’re losing motivation due to fears of failure (FOF)or success, (FOS), this is more likely perfectionism. Learn about unhealthy perfectionism. Or, you may not have learned how to struggle with a problem that you can’t solve easily, so you give up too quickly. These are important issues but they are not FOLI.

Disclaimer 2. If you’re avoiding relationships because of fears of intimacy, this is not FOLI. You might want to call your psychotherapist.

What can you do about FOLI?

  • Learn more about multipotentiality. Emilie Wapnick and Barbara Sher are good resources.
  • Some strategies: Understand that intellectual stimulation is like food/water to you. You also need variety and depth. Consider that you lose interest because you’ve learned what you wanted to learn. Now you want to learn something new. And that’s OK!  ~~ Take the time to evaluate the importance of sticking with something even if you’ve lost interest. There might be important longer term benefits or financial reasons.  ~~ Perhaps there are ways to add variety and depth.  ~~ It might be time to change jobs, careers, or majors.  ~~ See your multipotentiality as a strength.
  • Write about your FOLI in your journal. Have a dialogue with your Fear. Let it speak to you. What might be beneath the Fear? Is there something deeper going on? Were you bored in school so any loss of interest triggers memories of being trapped in a classroom? Were you told that you have to finish everything you start no matter what? Was your giftedness not recognized? Ask your Fear to help you. See if it has something to teach you. Ask it to step back so that you can make progress. What’s the worst that can happen if you do lose interest?

Your rainforest mind comes with fears. FOLI, FOF, and FOS. Maybe FOMO. Of course it does. You may feel pressure to always know all of the answers. To be fearless. After all, you’re so smart. But you and I both know that it can be pretty scary in that jungle of yours. So many choices. So many decisions. So much sensitivity. So much awareness. So much curiosity.

So much muchness. Multipotentiality. It’s a thing.

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To my bloggEEs: Thank you to the clients and readers who inspired this post. Your comments continue to enrich my blog. Do you have FOLI? What’s it like for you? How do you deal with it? What other fears does your rainforest mind trigger? Thank you, as always, for being here. Much love to all of you.


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When Perfectionism, Anxiety, and Giftedness Go To College

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Ellen was a fast talking, deep feeling, super insightful 20 year old. She’d been a high achiever throughout her public school years. The work was easy. She could listen to one teacher while she did her homework for another. She was conscientious and energetic. Curious and imaginative.

She was also anxious. Her active rainforest mind came up with so many worries and then worried about her worrying. She was also a perfectionist. She had an innate desire to create beauty, harmony, justice, and precision. What I call intrinsic (healthy) perfectionism. And she also experienced the extrinsic (unhealthy) variety of perfectionism. She questioned her worth as a human being if she didn’t perform at the top of the pack at all times.

Throughout public school, Ellen had managed her anxiety and perfectionism. She had loving parents who didn’t pressure her to achieve and she didn’t run into much that she couldn’t figure out quickly. But she put plenty of pressure on herself. Excelling in school was intricately linked to Ellen’s sense of self. She was not particularly athletic and often had trouble maintaining friendships. She would be frustrated when other kids didn’t respond well to her complicated play. She didn’t have the same interests as her peers.

Because her early schooling was not intellectually challenging, Ellen came to believe that all learning ought to come quickly and easily. She thought that she ought to “know it before I learn it.” She didn’t learn how to struggle with a concept or how to study for an exam. Ellen also didn’t learn how to manage her time. She never had to. Ellen wanted to be the best. Always get A’s. Be as thorough as possible in all things. And she was successful.

Until 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.

What did I suggest to Ellen?

What insights will help the anxious college-attending perfectionists in your life?

~ An extremely active, thinking, analytical, imaginative mind mixed with multiple sensitivities and extraordinary empathy will most assuredly create anxiety. How could it not?

~ Intrinsic perfectionism comes naturally to rainforest minds. High standards and expectations along with an appreciation for beauty, harmony, justice, and precision are inborn. You need to appreciate this about yourself and then find ways to prioritize assignments so that you can manage your workload. What is truly important? Does your chemistry lab report have to be beautiful? Do you need to rewrite your lit paper yet again because you didn’t research every single related subtopic that you thought of? Will your professors still appreciate you if you get an A-?

~ Will giving less than 100% on occasion make you a lazy slacker or is it a realistic way to make time to rest and to feed your soul, which will ultimately allow you to be more productive and kinder to others and yourself?

~ There are some good apps for reducing anxiety: Insight Timer, Calm, and Headspace. There are many other suggestions for calming your worries in this post.

~ Get to know what it means to have a rainforest mind. Read more posts from this blog!

~ Chapter 3 in my book goes into depth about the types of perfectionism and provides guidance and resources. Read it!

~ It’s possible that your anxiety might be affected by particular foods or hormone imbalances. Meet with a doctor or naturopath to explore this. Acupuncture, exercise, or neurofeedback can help. If your anxiety is frequently intense and overwhelming, medication might be an option. It can provide enough temporary relief so that you can put some relaxation techniques in place and feel the results.

After a while, Ellen began to speak more confidently about her rainforest mind. She had a greater understanding of her anxiety and perfectionism and was developing ways to manage them.

She explained: “I’m listening more to the calming voice within me. The self-critical voice isn’t quite as loud. I’m learning that I need to be more patient with myself…I can’t do everything. Things take time. Be gentle with myself.”

Be gentle with yourself. Listen to the calming voice within. And be sure to feed your fast talking, deep feeling, super insightful soul.

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Thank you to the clients and readers who inspired this post.

To my bloggEEs: Does this sound familiar? How does your perfectionism show up? What have you done to calm your anxiety? Did this happen to you or your kids in college? By the way, not all perfectionists are high achievers. But that’s the topic for a future post. For more posts on perfectionism from parents of gifted kids and from professionals, click on the link.


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

photo courtesy of Thought Catalog, Unsplash

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

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

Not Ben. Not the gifted kids I know.

Anxiety. Perfectionism. Expectations. Pressure.

To the max.

Does this sound like you or your kids?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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What Does Gifted Look Like in My World?

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The controversy is intense.

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

Nooooooooo. 

I shriek.

Politely.

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

Instead. Here is my explanation.

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

If you want experience, I’m your gal.

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

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

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

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

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

That’s what gifted looks like in my world.

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

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

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

Right?

Sounds just like you.

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

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

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

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

 

 


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I Have to Know it Before I Learn It — A Gifted Kid’s Conundrum

photo courtesy of Talen de St Croix, Unsplash

My 16-year-old client, I’ll call him Ben, was struggling in school. No one thought he was gifted. His grades were average. He didn’t turn in many assignments. He didn’t get high test scores. He was so anxious, he’d miss many days of school. His parents were confused. They knew he was capable of completing the homework. Why didn’t he just do it?

Because I’d seen many kids like this, I could tell that Ben was, indeed, gifted. He asked penetrating questions. Had multiple interests. Spent hours online researching musical genres , computer coding, bike repair, mathematics, psychological theories, and on and on.  He was highly sensitive and empathetic with all plants, animals, and humans.

Ben had difficulty relating to youngsters his age. The friends he did have, he wanted to rescue. They were often the troubled kids. He could feel their hopelessness and their anger and felt a responsibility to intervene. He didn’t understand why they didn’t respond well to his help or why they weren’t interested in his intellectual pursuits.

Ben wanted to learn what he wanted to learn and when he mastered, say, a new guitar playing technique, he’d raise the bar and keep questing for the next big thing. He’d spend many hours worrying about the future of the planet and how he might make an impact.

These are the traits of a gifted human; a person with a rainforest mind.

One day he said to me, I have to know everything before I learn it.

What?

I have to know everything before I learn it.

It took me some time to understand what he meant and why this was his experience.

Like many gifted children, Ben learned how to read at an early age. No one taught him to read. He just started reading. Learning was easy. He’d read and he’d remember. He could watch someone riding a bike and be successful on the first try. He taught himself guitar. When he started school, he already knew the material. He knew it before he learned it.

This was the 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.

With gifted kids who, unlike Ben, have been told repeatedly that they’re so smart, this is still a problem. They also know it before they learn it. And they can feel great pressure to achieve, to please the adults who are praising them, and to prove their worth through their accomplishments. So, for them, if they’re facing a difficult task, their identity is threatened. And they, too, can experience confusion, anxiety, paralysis, and avoidance.

Either way, having to know it before you learn it, is a tricky proposition.

And you wondered why it was so hard to parent these kids?

Or to be one yourself?

Welcome to your rainforest mind.

And to one of its many tangled, multi-layered, sticky, complicated conundrums.

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To my bloggEEs: Was this you? Tell us how you dealt with the pressure to always know it before you learned it. To have the right answer. To prove how smart you were. Do you avoid activities where you might not succeed? Did you learn how to study? We’d love to hear from you. Your experiences make this blog so much richer. And thank you, dearest ones, for being here.

And for more information about gifted kids, here’s a recent podcast interview with me and Kathleen Casper of the Florida Association for the Gifted. We’re talking about the social, emotional, and academic issues gifted children face. Join us!