Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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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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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.