Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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

I am an introverted psychotherapy nerd.

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

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

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

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

I used to think I was deficient because I spent most of my time introspecting. I didn’t have much of an outer life. I didn’t join a bowling league. Or get season tickets to the opera. I didn’t follow the Grateful Dead around the country. I didn’t own a blender or a table cloth. I didn’t send my nonexistent kids to college. I almost didn’t have partners.

Okay, I’m exaggerating. A little. I did take breaks from introspection. I was a teacher of gifted children for a number of years. An actress in community theater for about a decade. Learned the Argentine tango and danced in Paris. Built relationships with a bevy of friends and wrote angsty emails to them regularly. Married. Divorced. Watched my most adorable niece and nephew grow up.

I have loved. I have been loved.

See, I’ve done stuff.

But I can’t deny the truth. When it comes down to it, I am excessively, undeniably, inner-focused. And it can appear a little quirky. I get it. But hey, there is a heck of a lot going on in my psyche. It is really lively in there. Very entertaining.

But I digress.

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

So, that’s exactly what I did.

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

And now that I have been a psychotherapist for some time, I have a good reason to continue to be living the introspective lifestyle. I get to put my experience as a client to good use. I get to guide brave souls into their abyss and show them around. So they see what they need to see. Feel what they need to feel. Find out who they really are. Then I guide them out of their abyss to live their authentic life and find their purpose(s).

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

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

What could be better?

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

But why am I writing all of this, you ask? Am I justifying my somewhat unconventional life to you? Am I a teensy weensy defensive because I still don’t have a table cloth?

And what does this have to do with being gifted? Are all rainforest-minded souls introverted, introspective abyss-divers?

No. Some are extraverted, introspective abyss-divers.

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

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

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

We’ll go bowling.

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


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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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Face Your Demons. Slay Your Dragons. Mend Your Broken Heart.

“We all have the dark, ignorant shadow inside us. I have worked endlessly to reveal it and heal it in me.” ~ Anne Lamott

Psychotherapy has been described as the opportunity to explore with a compassionate, experienced guide what is often called the dark night of the soul. It is the journey to face your demons. Slay your dragons. Mend your broken heart.

photo courtesy of Timo Volz, Unsplash

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Well, OK, maybe not fun. But necessary. Courageous. A way to unravel your family legacy of, say, abandonment, loss, abuse, trauma, and/or denial, and to make an actual contribution to world peace (I’m serious.) because you are no longer unconsciously re-enacting patterns set up by your crazy (not a technical term) or neurotic or abusive or delusional ancestors and projecting them onto innocent bystanders, including your children. In fact, you will, instead, be repairing the damage, disrupting the legacy, soothing your worn out nervous system, learning self-compassion, and discovering your particular path(s) to love and to creating a better world.

Granted, I am a psychotherapist, so I see most things through this lens. But I am guessing you will agree, we have a whole lot of unconscious, delusional, re-enactment going on these days. Some might say, we always have; it is just more obvious now. I would have to agree. And I recognize there are a lot of different opinions about how best to address the shadow side of humanity mayhem. In my view, there is no one particular right path or one answer for everyone. And yet. For those of you who see your own demons and dragons running amok, those of you who are brave enough to notice you do, in fact, have a broken heart to mend, this might be a journey you are ready to take.

What I have seen in myself and my clients as we dig ourselves out from under the rubble of our early lives (oh so many therapy metaphors!), is that you build a new foundation. You build a safe home where you can learn to trust and love yourself so you can trust and love others. Gradually, your outer life improves as your inner life is healed. And then, your rainforest mind is free to express itself in its fullest, overexcitable-est, idealistic-est, creative-est ways. I mean it.

Your ancestors will thank you. Your children will thank you. Your demons and dragons will run amok marathons for charitable causes.

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To my dearest bloggEEs: Just so you know, this is not an advertisement for my therapy services! I am only licensed to provide therapy in Oregon. (I do consult worldwide but that is not therapy.) Here is a short list of therapists to start your search. And, if you are not interested in therapy at this time (or if you have lost your job due to COVID), there are other ways to do inner work. Several of those resources are described in my first book. (If you want therapy but can not afford it, find a good person and ask for a sliding scale.)

If you have been particularly distressed by recent events in N. America, here are some encouraging words from Van Jones: “Breakdowns can lead to breakthroughs if you use them right. Maybe, just maybe, this much disunity can open the door for unity.” Here is an uplifting song: The Keep Going Song by the Bengsons. And here is an organization working to heal the divisions.

Let us know in the comments how you are doing (avoiding specific political rants–those are not really helpful here–but I surely understand the need to rant). Have you found a good therapist? What else do you do for self-healing? Have you found a furry friend? Do you wear your emotional support sweater? Do you let yourself cry? I am sending love to all of you to help you mend your broken hearts and to give you courage during these difficult times. Thank you for being here. Your love sustains me.


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Gifted And Lonely In Belgium

photo courtesy of Hector Martinez, Unsplash

Just yesterday, 26 people in Bangladesh and 9 in Qatar were reading my blog. 10 in South Africa, 12 in Turkey, 1 in Kenya, and 6 in Sudan, among many others, around the world. We are not alone, my dearest rainforest-minded darlings. We are not alone.

Of course, you may still feel lonely. Like Elien, in Belgium. An “outsider.” Learning came easily when she was younger but she was bullied by the other students and even by teachers for her enthusiasm. For knowing the answers and wanting to share them. As in many countries, schooling was focused on the slower learners, so she was frustrated, waiting for others to catch up. Waiting to learn something new. Waiting for someone who could understand her musings.

That said, like many of you, she did not believe she was gifted. She never managed to find success in higher education, and so, was underestimated by others, and by herself. She dealt with a disabling fear of failure. She was told she was “too much, too sensitive, too intense, a dreamer, an idealist, naive…” and more. Sound familiar? She wrote, “…The suffering in the world affects me so deeply that I sometimes have to shut myself off completely.”

Elien was looking for purpose. She wanted to trust herself. She tried therapy because, she said, “…I have a lot of trauma attached to the misunderstanding and loneliness I felt as a child and the fact that I got emotionally neglected and never learned to trust in myself and my abilities…”

In therapy, she felt something was missing because her therapist did not recognize her particular complexity and the issues that arose very specifically due to her rainforest mind. The issues you know so well: high sensitivity, emotionality, and intensity, pressure to achieve at high levels, excessive fear of failure, thirst for learning and meaning, schooling disappointments, multiple interests and abilities, painful personal and planetary empathy, and the extreme loneliness of being misunderstood and unseen.

Elien told me finding my blog/books and recognizing herself in them was a very emotional experience. Crying “intensely” and reading “in stages.” Accepting that she might be highly gifted, was a game changer. She wrote, “I believed I was an outsider who would always be lonely, there was this invisible wall and I couldn’t figure out why…Now I know why I have such a problem with structure, with authority, why I have this high sense of justice that many others don’t understand…I need to be and work free and autonomously…why I struggle with communication, although I am outgoing and social, why I rarely truly get along with someone and always had to tone down my energy…my urge for deep conversation and my spirit for intense humor and connection…I gave a deep sigh of relief in discovering this…I cried quite a bit, too, for all the years that I have been deeply frustrated, angry at myself, talked myself down, deeply doubted myself…”

And so, my RFMs in Belgium, Bangladesh, Qatar, and, oh, everywhere, do not despair. As you realize who you really are, as you start to celebrate your magnificent rainforest-ness in all of its deep, lush, colorful, powerful, passionate beauty, you will be found. You Will Be Found.

Thank you to the American musical, Dear Evan Hansen

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To my bloggEEs: I am so grateful for you. I hope you are all safe and healthy. Tell us about your loneliness or about how you have been found. Here is an older post about ways to find friends, although it was written before the pandemic so will need to be adapted. And if you have a therapist who needs help understanding your rainforest-ness, share this post. And my books. Sending you all much love and strength.

(Note: Thank you, Elien, for sharing your story. And dears, if you are outside of the US…sorry N. Americans…and wish to share your experiences in a post, please email me. I would love to write stories from a wide variety of cultures.)

(Another note: I’m using a new version of WordPress so you may see some changes. It’s a little frustrating but I hope to figure it out soon!)


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Gifted In The Netherlands

photo courtesy of Robin Benzrihem, Unsplash

Lieke, 20, lives in the Netherlands. Like many of you, she is not sure she is gifted but she relates to the traits of the rainforest mind. As I read her description of herself, I wondered, once again, why humans are so uncomfortable with the super smart. Or even the very smart. The ones who are deep divers into their hearts, minds, and souls. And into meaning, purpose, and justice.

And speaking of diving, I had a counseling client this week who was pressuring herself to “get over” the trauma of her childhood. Why was it taking so long to unravel her past and heal the mistaken beliefs she’d acquired at an early age?  She was told by friends to let go of the “story” she was telling herself and move on. To stop being so intense and introspective. I told her there are folks who are water skiers, snorkelers, and scuba divers in life. She, and I, and the RFMs I know are the deep divers. They are compelled to examine themselves and their worlds thoroughly because they strive to live authentic, compassionate, meaningful lives — for themselves, their communities, and for the planet. They know that “diving into the wreck,” as Adrienne Rich called it, will lead to the discovery of the hidden treasures that have been buried under the generations of trauma, loss, and fear. And this will change everything.

Lieke is a diver.

“I learned to hide my feelings which were pretty intense. They still are. Deep down I am a perfectionist and idealist. Always thinking about what is happening in the world, always trying to understand what is going on. I like to observe and I discuss everything in my head. My mind is always working. Always. Even when I sleep. I think people around me don’t really know what I know about them and how I understand them, because I am always acting like a typical average person. Maybe I am. I don’t know. But I do know that there is always more going on in my head than other people can imagine. I just adapt very quickly…I love being surrounded by beauty. I enjoy watching the sun set and I thrive when I can have deep conversations about meaningful things. Sometimes when I feel really comfortable, I can show my crazy and intense self, too. These moments are rare, though…”

We love your “crazy and intense self,” Lieke.

The world needs you. And all of its deep divers.

Wherever you may be.

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To my bloggEEs: If you are in the Netherlands, and even if you aren’t, you might want to explore these resources. Femke Hovinga-Tiller runs an organization for the highly/profoundly gifted. Annelie Neuteboom is a therapist for gifted families. And Noks Nauta is a writer and researcher. Do you relate to what Lieke is saying here? Does it help to understand that there is nothing wrong with you if you live your life as a scuba diver? Do you know many water skiers or snorkelers? Share with us what being gifted is like in your country. (here in the comments or in an email to me for a future post) And thank you to Lieke for sharing your experiences. And thank you all for being here.

(Note: Those of you who are fans of Barbara Sher’s work, know that she refers to divers and scanners in her book Refuse to Choose. My reference to diving is not what she is talking about. Using her definition, RFMs are both divers and scanners. The book is a good one for multipotentialites!)

(Another note: If you are feeling particularly overwhelmed right now by the pandemic and general upheaval and uncertainty, here is an older post that might help. And here’s another.)

 


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Now Would Be A Great Time To Start Appreciating Super Smart People

photo courtesy of Dave, Unsplash

Today I am sending love and light to all of the super smart people in the world. We need our visionaries, empaths, scientists, healers, researchers, seekers, philosophers, perfectionists, intuitives, and overthinkers, now more than ever. Don’t you agree? We need the people who stand up for justice, honesty, and integrity. Who can compassionately and intelligently articulate the complex challenges and opportunities of our times. The artists and journalists who seek out and speak the truth. The kind, sensitive souls who strive to create a better world. 

Now would be a great time to start appreciating these humans. 

But I don’t have to convince you. You are aching to find them and experience their brilliance. Because. You are lonely. You are one of these super smart people. We might even say you are gifted, although I know you still feel awkward using that word. So, I am sending love and light to you. Because, at the very least, we need you to start appreciating yourself. To see who you really are. To identify why you struggle. To allow yourself to love your depth, sensitivity, and your extraordinarily active, fascinating mind.

It would be a good place to start.

As you may know, I am a big believer in introspection. It is one of my favorite pastimes. Facing your fears and doubts. Understanding the roots of your despair and anxiety. Gaining clarity about how your gifted mind works so that you stop misdiagnosing and misunderstanding yourself.

Many of the rainforest-minded souls I meet have been ridiculed or rejected because of their layers of complexities. Your passions for learning, books, research, libraries, bookstores, meaning, purpose, justice, and knowledge. For starters. Maybe you were the child who was rejected for their questioning, effervescent curiosity. And now you are the adult who feels guilty and confused because you can master most things you try but have not found a career path that is satisfying or a college curriculum that feeds your soul. 

And then, to make matters even more complicated, many of you grew up in homes that were neglectful or abusive. You were not safe in your own home. And, to cope, you may now minimize the impact or explain how others had it so much worse. Perhaps, you have been told you should just put all of that in the past and move on. After all, aren’t you so smart? Can’t you think your way out of it? 

Ugh. It’s just not that simple.

Of course, I have written a lot about the benefits of psychotherapy. You can find some of the posts here.

And now, now that we are in a pandemic, you may feel like you are back in trauma territory. You may feel those fears, doubts, despair, and anxiety rising up all around you, and in you. An event like this, in itself, is frightening and disturbing for many reasons. But it can also trigger old unconscious memories of being out of control, unsafe, and threatened. 

You may feel extra hypervigilant, overwhelmed, and exhausted.

What, then, can you do?

Well, it depends on your circumstances. You may only have the energy and resources for basic survival strategies right now. If that is the case, I am sending you extra love.

If you can do more, here are some ideas:

Give yourself permission to be introspective. To be deeply curious and to investigate your own patterns and family history. Journal. Do art. Try Soul Collage. Read. Rest. Develop your spirituality. Deepen your connection to Nature and the larger, loving, invisible world. Trust the guidance you find there.

You may have heard about the.holistic.psychologist on Instagram. She does a fine job explaining the way childhood experiences influence your sense of self and she provides tools for her community of #selfhealers. You might also look for a therapist in your town through the Psychology Today therapist directory

And, finally, send love and light and appreciation to all of the super smart people in the world.

One of them looks a lot like you.

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To my bloggEEs: How are you managing during this pandemic? I hope you are staying safe, healthy, and employed. Let us know where you are in the world and what it is like. What are the ways you are coping and finding hope and meaning? Are you noticing old anxieties resurfacing? What ways are you allowing yourself to be introspective? How are you taking care of yourself? How are you getting help? Your comments make my blog so much richer. 

And, by the way, writing to you is surely sustaining me right now. In addition to my chenille emotional support animal sweater, I have you. Thank you so very much for being here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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It Is Time To Stop Denying You Are Gifted — Part Two

photo courtesy of Hannah Grace, Unsplash

I have written about the reasons you may be denying you are gifted. But I missed one.

What if you are denying you are gifted because, if you admit you actually are gifted, then, you have to let the not-gifted humans off the hook. You have to not expect so much of them. You can’t be irritated or angry at their slow pace or their lack of capacity to grasp what you have to offer. You have to be responsible for all of the not-gifted humans forever and ever. And you will be alone for the rest of your days.

I love how dramatic you are.

I get why you think this. And there is a teensy weensy bit of truth in it. But here is what is really going on.

Because you have a rainforest mind, your capacity to learn, see, know, feel, smell, hear, taste, and intuit is larger than average. Maybe a lot larger. You were born that way. It is not your fault. Of course, this does not mean you must be capable in all areas all of the time, or even some areas all of the time, or all areas some of the time. Or that everything should be easy. You have your strengths and weaknesses. Your misinterpretations. Your confusions. Your particular interests and disinterests. Your self-doubt. Your failures. This does not even guarantee you are a high achiever, although you could be. And if you grew up with abuse/trauma or bullying, you have developed coping strategies and/or you may have acquired post-traumatic stress symptoms, like anxiety and depression, that distort your ability to see who you really are and live your fully rainforested life.

But, what about those not-gifted humans in your family. Your community. Your workplace. Your world. What about them?

(This is so tricky. It is hard not to sound arrogant with this one. But this is not arrogance and we need to talk about it.)

Do you have to lower your expectations? Probably. But do you even know what reasonable expectations are for most people? After all, your own super high standards may feel normal to you.

So, here is an idea. What if, on a case by case basis, you experiment with your expectations. How? Get to know the person. Do they have a rainforest mind? If yes, then relating might be easier. If no, what are their strengths and weaknesses? What can they handle? Where are their limits? What type of relationship and communication makes the most sense? If you do create different expectations, how do you still hold them accountable? You may need to be flexible, strategic, and creative in your approach. You may need to practice setting boundaries. You may need to limit contact.

Give yourself permission to feel irritated and angry. It can be extremely frustrating and lonely to always be the one with the solutions or the supportive response. You do not have to be the compassionate and understanding one every time, even if you are naturally inclined that way. Find healthy ways to release your frustrations and anger. You only have so much energy. Be aware of how much you give and how much you receive so that there is more balance in your life. Deepen your spiritual practice.

Then, make sure you look everywhere for other RFMs. I am living proof that they exist because I talk to them every day. My practice is thriving. They read my blog and books! You can find them, too. You do not have to be alone for the rest of your days.

And, just in case you were worried: You are not responsible for saving, healing, rescuing, and transforming all of the not-gifted humans out there. They are on their own paths, making the right choices for them. Or the wrong choices for them. It is your job to save, heal, rescue, and transform yourself. 

So, stop denying you are gifted.

Do you hear me?

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To my bloggEEs: I understand you may feel a need to contribute to creating a better world. Of course you do. I do, too. I am just saying that you do not need to save everyone. You do not need to sacrifice yourself for others, especially those who will not benefit from your generosity. It is OK to choose carefully how you make a difference here on planet earth. So, what do you think? Are you gifted? How does this post resonate with you? As always, your comments add so much. Thank you!

And here is an upcoming event that you might enjoy. I am participating in a free online conference via The Shift Network called Evolved Empath 2020. Check it out!


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Counseling Gifted Adults — A Quick Guide for Therapists

photo courtesy of Christopher Lemercier, Unsplash

What do you do with the clients you suspect are super smart? Clients who talk fast, think fast, and ask probing questions. Who are so articulate and high functioning, you can’t understand why they say they are depressed and anxious. Who are paralyzed by fears of failure and the pressures of their “great potential.” Who have exceedingly high standards and expectations for themselves and others. Who change jobs frequently and express frustration, impatience, and confusion with slower thinking coworkers. Who feel a deep, unrelenting loneliness even if they have many friends and are in partnerships. Who have been bullied and bored in schooling situations while they clearly have an enormous passion for learning. Who have an unusual number of sensitivities to sounds, textures, visual stimulation, chemicals, and emotions. Who feel a responsibility for making a difference on the planet, have extraordinary empathy, and feel despair and idealism about the future. Who have experienced serious trauma in childhood but appear to be unscathed. Who can sense when your attention is drifting, are afraid of overwhelming you, and who, in fact, do overwhelm you with their intensity, depth, intuition, and levels of awareness.

These are some of the contradictions and confusions that therapists experience with their gifted clients.

Who is gifted?

Defining giftedness is difficult and controversial. Concerns over justice and equality can make this discussion tense and uncomfortable. Here is one way to think about it: All humans ought to be valued and appreciated. All humans are worthy of love and respect. All humans differ in their strengths, weaknesses, learning styles, intellectual capacities, sensitivities, curiosities, preferences, talents, temperaments, experiences, and desires. It can get tricky when we talk about intellectual differences. And yet, intellectual differences exist. Giftedness exists. Awkward, I know. But true. 

That said, you don’t actually need a clear, concise, undisputed definition to serve clients who fit into this category in one way or another. You just need to understand what they may be dealing with if they have some of these traits. 

And just to add to the confusion, there are also many differences among these humans. I am writing about a particular variety of gifted that I call rainforest-minded. You may run into highly intelligent clients who do not fit my description. But there will be many who do. I promise.

Why do you need to know this?

You may be using all of your very effective methods with these clients and yet something is not working. You know you are missing a very important piece of their puzzle. But, what? Giftedness is a phenomenon that has its own set of complications. These clients desperately need you to see all of who they are and all of who they want to be. They need to be able to feel safe to be vulnerable and to trust that you can handle their exuberance, intense emotions, questions, contradictions, complexities, fears, intuition, sensitivities, and, yes, their brilliance. 

What can you do?

Get familiar with the traits that often accompany giftedness. Learn to differentiate the issues that come with giftedness from the effects of growing up in a dysfunctional family. Look for ways your clients are masking their pain because they are used to practitioners who assume they are just fine and friends and family members who rely on them but don’t reciprocate. They may need to talk a lot without being linear or chronological; take notes if it helps you keep track. Be authentic and sensitive. Get your own therapy. Be careful that you don’t misdiagnosegiftedness can look like ADHD, Aspergers, OCD, and even bipolar disorder. (Note: Some clients can be gifted and also have a mental health diagnosis or learning disability, called twice-exceptional or 2e.) Know your limits and refer if you are frequently overwhelmed.

What resources are available?

These blog posts provide an overview for you and your clients, along with the rest of my blog. Use this quiz with your clients as a light-hearted way to explore the issues. And as luck would have it, my books are the easiest way for you to educate yourself. Your Rainforest Mind is filled with case studies and detailed descriptions of clients, their traits and issues, and the therapy process. Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind is a collection of my most popular blog posts and can be used as a workbook for clients as well as a quick guide for you. And, here are a few more excellent resources. An organization supporting the gifted. A documentaryAnd, a blog on gifted children.

What else?

If you can identify who among your clients has a rainforest mind and grasp their particular challenges, it will make a big difference in the power and effectiveness of the therapy. You will be seeing and understanding them in a way that very few others, if any, have.

And that will change everything.

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To my bloggEEs: Share this post far and wide and anywhere you feel therapists might be lurking. And, of course, share it with your therapist, if you’d like, and let us know how it goes. Let me know what else I ought to have included here. Tell us your therapy experiences and let us know any questions you have. Thank you, as always, for being here.

Oh, and, I am part of a free online event coming up March 9-13, 2020. The Shift Network is an organization promoting personal transformation to “help create a sustainable, peaceful, healthy, and prosperous world for all.” I am one of the speakers! Here is a link for more information. It is called the Evolved Empath Summit. Cool, eh?


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Advice for Gifted Adults Living in a Not-So-Gifted World

photo courtesy of Alfonso Scarpa, Unsplash

Let’s say that you understand that you are gifted. That you are super smart, highly sensitive, emotional, and empathetic. That you have a rainforest mind. That you think deeply, analyze everything, love learning, and seek justice. You are even starting to accept your compassionately quirky ways.

But what you don’t understand is how to communicate with other humans. How to manage in your workplace. Where to find friends. How to find a suitable partner. How to be authentic. How to live at 95 mph when everyone around you is running at 35 mph.

There are some suggestions if you click on the links above. Here are more:

Accept who you are in all of your curious, passionate, deep-diving intensities. Be as introspective as you want to be because your inner knowing will guide your self-acceptance, your choices, and your evolution. To reach this goal, keep reading my blog and, ahem, my books. If your self-criticism and self-doubt is excessive, consider examining your experiences in your family of origin for the source of your distress. Get professional help, if needed. You may be a fast learner when it comes to cognitive capacities but emotional healing from trauma is slow going. Your complexity requires a team of practitioners. Give yourself time to find them. Be selective. My team has consisted of these folks, not necessarily all at the same time: Psychotherapist, acupuncturist, energy intuitive, physical therapist, naturopath, massage therapist, astrologer, and tango dancer.

Give yourself permission to adjust how you communicate with others, depending on the people and the situation. Telling people you are gifted is probably not going to be the best strategy. Sadly, in many instances, you’ll need to consciously slow your speech and simplify your ideas. I realize that this is not the advice that you want to hear. I get it. I’m not saying that you can’t be all of who you are. Except that I am saying that. Truth be told. In certain circumstances. There will be times when slowing down will be the best choice for reaching others and being understood. Active listening skills will be useful in awkward social situations. Recognize that your “too muchness” is not something that is wrong with you, though. It is the others who have not enough-ness that is the problem.

Be on the lookout for a job/career path(s) that is a good fit. Allow yourself to change jobs when you need more stimulation, if you can. Find subtle ways to entertain yourself* when you have to sit in meetings waiting for consensus or waiting for coworkers to draw the conclusions you told them two months ago. Find allies at work and bring them coffee and dark chocolate. Remember that what is obvious to you may be mysterious to someone else, not because they are not smart, or they are lazy (although they might be), but probably because they aren’t gifted. If you have entreprenurial skills, use them. Go to an Everything Conference and meet other multipotentialites. Use Barbara Sher’s books to help you find a path(s).

Keep looking for other RFMs. I swear they are out there. 4298 of them are reading my blog. I realize that even if you find a RFM, they might not get you. But don’t give up.** I mean, just look at all of the booknerd sites there are now. It’s astonishing. I get overwhelmed just looking at the book reviews and recommendations and images of book stacks on Instagram. All of those LitHub people and BookBub folks and Silent Book Club enthusiasts. There are RFMs among them! Surely, the 899.6K followers of Brain Pickings are gifted. So, take the initiative to start and nourish a relationship that has promise. I know you’d like someone right in your hometown to be there when you are dying to start a Foucault study group. But online relationships can be a part of the solution. Try the community at The School of Life. Use that creative overthinking brain of yours to design your own unique Facebook group, podcast, blog, or research project. If you build it, they will come.

And what about your sense of justice? Your concerns over the suffering on the planet? Your grief over the climate crisis? Well, here is where you go full speed ahead. This is where you turn it on. This is where you be all of who you are. Access your intuition and your connection to your spirituality. This will give you the guidance that you need to create or speak out in your particular rainforest-y way. In fact, as you step into your true Self, you will see that you are more powerful than you ever thought possible. Now is the time to go 95mph. Or 150+mph. Start a journaling process if you don’t know where to begin: Free write. What is your destiny? How can you use your strengths to contribute? What makes your heart sing?

Your heart singing? It will make the not-so-gifted world a little more gifted.

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To my bloggEEs: Share your thoughts, feelings, questions, hopes, and dreams with us. Your comments add so much, especially sharing the ways you’ve discovered to live well in this not-so-gifted world. Thank you, as always, for being here. I am singing with you.

(* from cmd1122: “…I enjoy amusing myself with translating conversations (live time) into one of the several languages 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.)…”)

(**from Sarah: “…I have friends I talk to about education, friends I discuss cultures or literature with, foodie friends, friends who are parents of my children’s friends, friends I go to movies or plays with, and even friends I enjoy arguing with! These groups do not necessarily intersect. Some are RFM, and some are not…”)

 

 

 


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Gifted and Resilient — When You Grow Up With Abuse or Neglect

photo courtesy of Ian Stauffer, Unsplash

As a psychotherapist, I know trauma.

Every day I counsel dear rainforest-minded (RFM) souls who were seriously traumatized by their parents.  What is remarkable is that I have found, consistently, that they have not become abusive as a result. They have clearly been impacted deeply. And yet, they have somehow managed, even with unspeakable pain, to become compassionate, loving, sensitive humans. Working hard to prevent the legacy of abuse from being passed on to the next generation.

How is that possible?

Here is my theory.

I think it is the nature of the RFM to be deeply resilient. Perhaps RFMs are old souls. Empaths. Shamans. Priestesses. Healers. I believe there is a powerful central core of Light and Love that remains untouched. That can not be broken. No matter what. A connection to something greater. To the Mystery. To Spirit. Many of my clients say that they were aware at very young ages that their parents were disturbed. They often became the protectors of their siblings and handled household responsibilities early. Taking care of others, being extremely perceptive and highly sensitive, intuitive, and spiritual. Out-thinking  and overthinking to save themselves and their families.

Sound familiar?

But still, my clients are struggling. You, too?

Excessive anxiety/fears, depression, self-hatred, self-doubts, unhealthy/abusive relationships with partners and friends, unstable career paths, physical illnesses, self-criticism, substance abuse, poverty. These are just some of the results of emotional, verbal, physical, sexual abuse and neglect. The effects of childhood trauma.

Not only that. Because you have a rainforest mind, you may be grappling with this : “If you’re so smart, why can’t you get over it, why aren’t you better by now???  You seem to be doing fine so it must not have been that bad.” You may believe that you should have figured this out already. After all, you are a super fast learner when it comes to many things.

But healing from trauma/abuse is a long, winding road. It takes courage and persistence. When you grow up unsafe in your own home, just living can be a scary, even terrifying, proposition. To survive, you developed beliefs, behaviors, and coping strategies. These beliefs, behaviors, and strategies are etched deep within your brain/ body/ psyche. They served you well by protecting you then. But many of them are no longer helpful.

So what do you do now?

Read this collection of posts. They are an overview of how and why therapy works. You will feel less alone and find some good resources, including The School of Life. In other words, find a good therapist!*

If you can’t afford therapy at this time or if you need to take some steps on your own, here are some ideas. You can also do these things even if you do find a therapist!:

~ Read Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving: A Guide and Map for Recovering from Childhood Trauma by Pete Walker for a good description of the effects of abuse and for some self-help tools. As in most books, not everything will apply or will be right for you. Just accept the parts that resonate. 

~ Don’t skimp on self-care. Chances are, you are better at taking care of everyone else. Make a list of nourishing,  self-soothing, and relaxing activities and give yourself permission to do them. Acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments. Look into Kristin Neff’s self-compassion.

~ Practice setting boundaries. Start with easy people and situations, if this is particularly hard, which it may be if it was dangerous in your family to express your needs. Learn to say no. And in some cases, hell no.

~ Look online for self-help resources. Try your.holistic.psychologist on Instagram.

~ Experiment with yoga, meditation, acupuncture, energy medicine, time in nature, journaling, or bodywork. Hug your puppy, your parakeet, or your kitty.

~ Nurture your sense of humor.

~ Listen to inspiring music. Try Defying Gravity.

~ Go to an uplifting film. Here’s one: Blinded by the Light 

~ And, most importantly, visualize, feel, and breathe into your connection to the Mystery. To the Spiritual. To your Intuition. To the Love that is all around you.

To your radiant, powerful, central core of Light and Love.

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To my old souls, empaths, shamans, priestesses, and healers, I mean, my bloggEEs: Sending you much love. Let us know how you are coping with and healing from the challenges in your families of origin. What resources have you found that have been helpful?

Thank you to the clients who shared some of these resources with me. And, of course, to all of you for your courage.

(Note: I’m not saying that there are no gifted folks who become abusers. Surely, we know there are. It’s just that in my experience, the humans who are the RFM variety of gifted, don’t.)

(*Another note: It’s best to find a therapist you can work with in person. This post might help you find someone. That said, there are therapists who work online. I can only see therapy clients in Oregon because of the restrictions on my license. The therapists at The School of Life in the UK work internationally as does Maggie Brown in New Zealand. I do see clients worldwide but just for short term consultations more focused on giftedness topics such as those described on the blog and in my books.)