Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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What Do Political Activism, Giftedness, and Your Dysfunctional Family Have in Common?

photo courtesy of Alice Donovan Rouse, Unsplash

Your rainforest mind is often thinking or overthinking or maybe even obsessing about changing the world. Perhaps you were told that because you’re so smart, you have a responsibility to do something important. Or maybe you’ve just felt responsible on your own. Since you were 5, or thereabouts.

Maybe you’ve become politically active. Joined an organization. Run for office. Or perhaps you’re more introverted and quietly spreading compassion around in your family and community. Or you might be composing a concerto or inventing a more efficient battery.

If you’ve chosen an extraverted, activist approach, I have some ideas that might help:

Being a political activist can be discouraging, disturbing, and discombobulating. For so many reasons. The work is often thankless, exhausting, and endless.

You’ve likely heard of the need for self-care. That you should take time to rest your weary bones and nourish your aching soul. That if you’re depleted and despairing, you will not be the most effective or influential.

Perhaps you understand this and are able to take breaks and find ways to stay energized and hopeful. Good. But even self-care may not be enough.

If you find that you’re constantly angry, frustrated, and fearful, and if your fellow activists are often acting like your dysfunctional family, I have a suggestion for you.

You know what I’m about to say.

Try psychotherapy.

Now I know what you may be thinking: I don’t have the time or the money for years of analysis. Or: I know that my family was full of crazies. Why do I need to rehash old stories? What good will it do? Or: The past is over. Live in the now. Think positive thoughts. People in therapy are too self-absorbed.

I get it. And I know that I’m biased. I’m a psychotherapist, after all. But let me tell you what I’ve seen. In myself and my clients.

Our families shape our perceptions of ourselves. If our parents are fearful, shame-based, angry, or abusive, our vulnerable young selves can’t help but absorb variations of that same fear, shame, and anger. We can’t help but interpret the dysfunction to mean that there’s something wrong with us or that we’re at fault because we are being abused or neglected or misunderstood. The effects can be deep and lasting because our parents are all-powerful to us, we’re in these families for years, and our sense of identity is heavily influenced by the behaviors, beliefs, and emotions of our caretakers.

What often happens when we become adults, is that we relive and re-enact these patterns and beliefs, even when we swear we’ll never be like our parents and we move miles away from them. We may unconsciously pick abusive partners, passive-aggressive friends, or angry bosses. We may live in fear of disappointing our parents, have recurring panic attacks, abuse substances, hate our jobs, or live depressed and desperate lives always seeking but never finding the parental acceptance and love that we were denied.

What can you do? Not only for yourself but for the world that you’re out to change?

Unravel this misunderstanding of who you are. Undo the damage. Heal your broken heart. 

And, in my humble opinion, that includes good psychotherapy. Or Diving into the Wreck as poet Adrienne Rich describes it.

This can be a scary proposition. Diving into your wreck. It can take time. Even if you’re a fast learner. The process is often slow and complicated. You may get impatient and think you’re doing it wrong. You may have times when you’re feeling overwhelming sadness. You may wonder why the hell you thought that hanging out in a wreck was such a good idea.

But, eventually, you’ll find that it’s worth the time, money, and tears. You’ll notice changes in your inner and outer worlds. Healthy relationships. Less anxiety. Good boundaries. Moments of gratitude and joy. Well-adjusted kids. Expanded creativity, intuition, and spirituality.

You’ll discover who you really are. Your authentic, smart, creative self. You will have stopped the legacy of dysfunction that was handed down to you from your parents and their parents before them. You will have interrupted deep-seated unhealthy patterns in your family line.

And trust me. This is a big accomplishment.

And that’s not all.

As a social change-maker, your energy and enthusiasm will return. You’ll be more effective. You will act out of this healthier place rather than from a place of need, rage, fear, or guilt. Your fellow activists will stop acting like your dysfunctional family.

And even if your cohorts still do look a little like your needy mother or your angry father, it’ll be OK. You’ll be OK. Because, while swimming around in your wreck, you will have found the jewels.

And they are magnificent.

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To my bloggEEs: As you know, I’m not wanting us to get into a specific political discussion. But I do suspect that some of you are experiencing the frustrations of activism and the challenges interacting with other humans who also want to change the world. Let us know how you deal with your particular brand of social responsibility. And if you’d like more thoughts about psychotherapy that are not written by a psychotherapist, go to this Ask Polly column. Thank you, as always, for being here.

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“…Your Fierce and Unbreakable Light…”

If you’ve been raised in a seriously dysfunctional family or your compassionate, smart, sensitive, rainforest mind has experienced other chainsaws over the years, or both, it’ll be important for you to mend your broken heart.

The mending takes time, patience, and care.

You will likely need help on the journey. Let yourself get help. Granted, because you have a rainforest mind, you’ll have to select your helpers carefully. If you try psychotherapy, (which would be a great idea, by the way), you’ll want to find someone who is sensitive and smart, and who is on their own healing path. There will be things your therapist will need to know. Such as:

The rainforest mind is complicated. Like the jungle, it’s breathtaking in its capacity to create: Thoughts, emotions, questions, dreams, equations, mosquitoes,  theories, visions, stories, inventions, worries, beauty, more worries, and poetry. It’s intense, lush, and vast.

The rainforest mind, in counseling, needs deep, empathetic, authentic understanding of its fascinating and convoluted intricacies.

You will be learning to grieve your losses, build self-confidence, appreciate your courage and resilience, set better boundaries, choose appropriate friends and partners, raise healthy kids, take back your power, speak your truth, stop the legacy of abuse in your family line. Trust your intuition. Discover your creativity. Love yourself. Find your path(s) to creating a better world.

There are more ways to mend: Build a spiritual/meditation practice. Design a multi-dimensional approach that could include: coaching, bodywork, acupuncture, energy work, martial arts, functional medicine, binge reading, and support groups. Give yourself permission to try things and leave if they’re not right for you. (except we all know that binge reading is always right…)

There are books that will help with your healing process: Soul Collage by Seena Frost for a creative, visual, and intuitive approach. Self Therapy by Jay Earley for an Internal Family Systems approach. My book for guidance in understanding and appreciating your rainforest mind.

And, there is poetry~ this one by Anne Allanketner, poet and therapist in Portland, Oregon, USA.

The No-Fault Insurance of Love 

photo courtesy of Dawid Soboleski, Unsplash

I am writing you a policy
which covers everything,
no matter what happened to you.
You have all rights and privileges:
to receive help, to rest, to correct damage
to heal loss.

In time, you must re-member yourself
to be One with The Holy

I have experienced
your fierce and unbreakable light
which never leaves you,
even on the worst day

You are not at fault.
That old idea is a red herring
swimming towards you
to distract you
from the cluster of pearls
hidden under and behind
this recent fiasco.

Feeling completely innocent
as you dive towards beauty and truth,
piercing confusion’s thick waters and
calling loudly for help-
That is your sacred work.

In clever self-examination you may find
clues that cannot be seen
without the eyes of kindness and thus
you cannot afford to swim around
in the cloudy murk of shame.

If you did make mistakes, that too
is covered by the policy
for your heart was always true to love
and being loved.
Honor that and know
that you will be protected
from the world’s
dissonant judgments, that have rattled and echoed,
too near your exquisite, tender soul.

This journey is harrowing,
which is always the case in matters of arising
and sacred repair.
Somehow amidst the smoke and brokenness
your soul has hidden pieces of Herself
which she is even now
(and despite all seductive illusions)
retrieving from crevasses and underground caves.

You, beloved, are the sparkling gem
pressed between the rocks
your story began before, Before.
Now, we can begin to see
that what is courageous in you, and what is ever pure,
is only becoming more beautiful, more condensed and potent
under this terrible pressure
where diamonds are made.

___________________________

To my bloggEEs: Does this poem speak to you? Can you recognize your “fierce and unbreakable light?” What have you done to heal from your chainsaw experiences? Are there any resources that you recommend? And, dears, if you’re feeling despair about events here on earth, here’s a gathering of poets that will inspire and uplift you, from Maria Popova.

This month marks four years since the birth of my blog. Thank you for sharing the journey with me. I’m sending you all hugs, kisses, and much gratitude! And thank you to Anne Allanketner for her beautiful poetry and radiant soul.


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Gifted and Obsessed

photo courtesy of Kyle Glenn, Unsplash

I’m obsessed.

I admit it.

I spend inordinate amounts of time wondering who I really am and what I’m supposed to do with this little life of mine. To make a difference. To have an impact. To create a better world.

It surprises me that everyone isn’t as obsessed as I am. After all, what could be more important, I ask you?

Isn’t everyone an obsessive, introspective, self-analytical, driven, quirky, over-thinker? Shouldn’t they be? Doesn’t everyone love being in therapy? Diving deep into the abyss of their psyches to wrestle with thorny anxieties, repair ancient wounds, and discover their sparkling Light?

You mean some folks really do just want to watch the Super Bowl?

I remember when I first read this in a John Irving novel: “You’ve got to get obsessed and stay obsessed.” I was so relieved. It wasn’t just me. I fell in love with John Irving then and there.

Of course, I hear you. If I’d decided to procreate, I wouldn’t have the time or energy to question and wonder and analyze and imagine like I do. To dive so deeply into my abyss. I made the conscious choice to be childfree. To support my obsessive, introspective, self-analytical, driven, quirky, over-thinking habit. It’s worked out quite well.

I found a career that would enhance these proclivities. I could be a psychotherapist! Get paid for being with other obsessive, introspective, self-analytical, driven, quirky, over-thinkers. ( You know who  you are. )

Holy moly.

And then blogging was invented.

Oh boy.

The perfect vehicle for more obsessing. And, as it turns out, for a little worldwide influence. For a little impact. A bit of better-world making.

So.

I’ll be your John Irving.

I’m here to tell you that being an obsessive, introspective, self-analytical, driven, quirky, over-thinker is exactly who you are meant to be. And even if you decided to procreate, and you are now raising a quirky little over-thinker just like yourself, you can still find your way to make a difference. To have an impact. To create a better world.

Just remember this: You’ve got to get obsessed and stay obsessed. 

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To my bloggEEs: Thank you so much for being here and for supporting my habit. Let us know how you’re obsessed or how you plan to get obsessed.

(Note: It could be that raising that quirky little over-thinker of yours is exactly how you’re creating a better world…)

(Another note: Just to be clear, this is not to be confused with the serious and disabling obsessive compulsive disorder. I’m not suggesting that you get OCD. OK?)

There are a couple of events I want to tell you about. I’ll be speaking with the amazing Linda Silverman in Denver, CO on June 2 at her Gifted Women Symposium. (Sorry fellas!) And I’m a presenter at the SENG conference in San Diego in July 20-22. (Tom Clynes will be a keynote speaker.) I’d love to meet many of you so please think about going and introducing yourselves to me.

 

 

 

 


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Finding Your *Wild Self* and Living Your Deeper Life

photo courtesy of Caique Silva, Unsplash

“The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.”
Clarissa Pinkola Estés

What is your door to your “wild Self?”

Now would be a good time to find that door and walk through it. Don’t you agree?

But first, you might need to understand who your wild Self is.

Get your journal and your imagination and write/draw. Your wild Self is your Essence, your Authenticity, your Wisdom. Some people call it your higher Self.

I know.

How in heaven’s name are you supposed to describe that? Much less feel it. Or be it.

And if you’re anything like me, there may be fear involved.

Strange as it sounds, I think we can be afraid to be our Big Selves. Even though we know that it’s where our Wisdom lives, there’s something scary about that much expansion. Maybe it’s fear of the unknown. Or: Fear of the loss of our small ego self. Fear of going crazy. Fear of loneliness. Fear of loss of control. Fear of being seen. Fear of being overwhelmed by all of the suffering on the planet. Fear of too much love.

So many opportunities for fear.

Here’s an idea: What if you talk to your fear and see what it has to say. Write a conversation in your journal. Ask your fear to tell you about itself and to tell you what it needs so that you can grow bigger and wilder. Bigger and wilder in your particular unique way. Not what everyone says you’re supposed to be. Not who everyone else is. But who you know in your heart is the real you. The real, sensitive, smart, curious, intense, rainforest-y you.

This process may take time. Examining your fear requires patience and courage. Maybe you’ll need a guide: A psychotherapist. A good book. A meditation practice. A hot fudge sundae.

Take your time. This may be some of your most important work. When you expand into Authenticity, you tap into a larger level of awareness. What Dr. Larry Dossey calls One Mind. The place where he says we are more than our human selves, where we are transcendent, where we experience our spiritual intelligence. The place where we open to our life’s purpose.

See what I mean?

Take a breath. And another.

When the timing feels right, come back to your journal and your imagination. Feel into your heart. Do you see a door? Describe the door.

Are you ready to open it?

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To my bloggEEs: You may have noticed that I’m spending some time with these complex questions of spirituality and deep inner work. I feel drawn here because of my own process and because of the tumultuous events on the planet. Let us know what you think and how you understand Self and spirituality. Are you feeling pressure to “use your gifts?” Are you wondering how you might have a larger impact? Do you feel fear about expanding into a more wild Self? Thank you for sharing your feelings, thoughts, and questions. Thank you for being here.

(Note: If the idea of the Self intrigues you, there’s a model of therapy you might want to explore called Internal Family Systems. Find out more about it here. One resource for finding your life’s purpose would be Martha Beck.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Spiritual Intelligence: Creating a Compassionate World

photo courtesy of Arunas Naukokas, Unsplash

Being the super sensitive, emotional, deeply aware human that you are, I suspect that you’re feeling a bit discombobulated these days. OK. Extremely distressed and anxious these days. From where I sit in North America, there’s a lot to be discombobulated (read: extremely distressed and anxious) about. A lot. You may be overwhelmed with grief, rage, or despair. You may feel a responsibility to act but not know your best path. You may feel pressure to be brilliant because, after all, you’re so smart.

I want to send you some extra love and inspiration.

To do that, I need to step into more iffy territory. Some of you may balk. But these times require risk, expansion, and iffy territory.

Are you with me?

OK, then.

Here’s the overall plan:  Believe in your deeply introspective journey. It will heal you and inform your outer action. (If your journey includes psychotherapy, thank you for your courage.) Explore your spirituality. Imagine that you can access guidance from a powerful, loving Energy both inside of you and around you. Tap into this energy in Nature and in what might be called the invisible world or, as I like to call it, the Force. Use the techniques that sing to you such as: meditation, poetry, dancing, gardening, art-making, blogging, praying, journaling, yoga, religion, dreaming, camping/hiking, traveling, studying, drumming, or journeying. In this way, find your version of a spiritual intelligence that will move you closer to your greater purpose. Then, you will know what actions to take.

Got it?

Here’s the inspiration:

From mythologist Martin Shaw:

“…When the lots are counted, when we are gathered in, we will find that it was love that mattered. Love expressed, given, received, fought for. So for those of us fighting right now, I say; keep going. As a culture, as an individual, believe in the full life that is your bequeathed inheritance, not the subterranean half-life that terror and impoverished minded bullies will try and spike your wine with. You are too good for that…Wander your oak valleys, linger in ornate chapels at dusk, get thrown out of the tavern at midnight, be kind, kiss the wounded, fight injustice and protect, protect, protect all the trembling bells of delight that you notice out of the corner of your eye when everyone else is oblivious. Value yourself, know yourself, don’t be naive, but don’t be afraid of love. Carry it.”

From psychologist Kathleen D. Noble, Riding the Windhorse:

“…we are never truly alone. Not only does there exist an immense network of intelligent and loving allies who sustain and support us as we struggle to grow, but also some portion of our larger self always comprehends what we are doing and where we are heading. No matter where we might find ourselves in the vast complexity of the whole, there is always a level of awareness that is old enough and smart enough to understand…each of us, no matter how small or insignificant we might sometimes feel, is vital to the whole, to a depth and degree we are wont to forget.”

From Star Wars:

“May the Force be with you.”

______________________________

To my bloggEEs: Now that I write this, it doesn’t seem all that iffy. Or risky. I’m guessing that many of you are already in touch with a larger spirituality and sense of Love in the universe. Share your path with us and your thoughts and resources. Where do you find your guidance and hope? How does your spirituality inform your introspective process and your action to create a better world? And thank you for continuing to love and to notice the “trembling bells of delight.”

For more research from Kathleen Noble on the study of consciousness, go here.


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(Almost) Everything You Need To Know About Psychotherapy And Giftedness

photo courtesy of Semir Ahmed Douibi

Is this you? You’re articulate, insightful, sensitive, and extremely capable. But your anxiety keeps you awake nights. You feel unmotivated or sad much of the time. You question the purpose of your life and wonder if it’s pointless. You get frequent migraines or weird physical symptoms. Your self-criticism is out of control.

You’re aware that you were raised in a dysfunctional family and you can analyze the chaos with calm accuracy. You’re clear that you don’t want to repeat the patterns of abuse or neglect handed down to you. So, you’ve tried numerous ways to improve your life: exercise, antidepressants, chocolate, support groups, massage, journaling, yoga, art, Argentine tango, more chocolate, hiking, fly fishing, meditation, and hiding under the bed with your cat.

These techniques help. But they aren’t enough.

So, you finally get up the courage to try therapy.

But where do you start? How do you find the right person? What type of therapy will work for you? How are you different from regular clients and how do you share that with your therapist?

Well, my dears, I’ve compiled five of my older posts to answer these burning questions. Click on the links to get to the full articles. And, if you’re already in therapy, share this post with your counselor.

It can be scary and frustrating to start the psychotherapy journey. But I promise you, it’s so worth it. I’ve been in and out of therapies for many years, working with different folks as my needs changed. I started in my 30’s. And, if you must know, I was a mess back then. And I am so much less of a mess now. Ask my sister. She’ll corroborate my story. And, hey. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for the children in your life, in your community, and in your world. Stopping your family’s dysfunctional legacy will heal future and past generations. It just might make the world much less of a mess. You never know. 

 

What Psychotherapists Need To Know About Gifted Clients 

“If you are a counselor or other mental health practitioner or if you’re gifted and want to see a psychotherapist, there are some things that you need to know.

The rainforest mind is complicated. Like the jungle, it’s breathtaking in its capacity to create: Thoughts, emotions, questions, sensitivities, worries, beauty, and iPhones. It’s intense and overwhelming.

The rainforest mind, in counseling, needs deep, empathetic, authentic understanding of its fascinating and convoluted intricacies…”

 

How To Find A Psychotherapist Who Loves Your Rainforest Mind

“How do you find a psychotherapist who isn’t overwhelmed by your fast talking, fast thinking, complex emotions, difficult questions and multiple sensitivities?

How do you find a psychotherapist who isn’t frightened by your uncanny ability to notice when s/he’s distracted or slightly out of whack?

How do you you find a psychotherapist who isn’t fooled by your articulate insight, your wit and your idealism; a psychotherapist who sees beneath the surface to the deep pain and shame that suffocates you?…”

 

If I’m So Smart, Why Do I Need Psychotherapy 

“…The thing is, you probably took on lots of responsibility in your family when you were younger. If things were dysfunctional or traumatic, you may have been the one who picked up the pieces. Or protected your siblings. Made everyone laugh. Or got out as soon as you could. You were likely quite resilient at the time and developed very effective coping strategies.

But now you may notice that you’re anxious or depressed. Maybe you keep picking the wrong partners. Or you’re way too angry at your kids. So, of course, you say you should know better. Smart people don’t fall into painful patterns that are the result of early losses—losses of confidence, identity, safety or trust. 

Oh, yes they do…”

 

If I’m So Smart, Why Do I Need Psychotherapy, Part Two 

“…What if you start. With yourself. And your family. What if you take some time to examine your very own fears, doubts and despair. What if you take a trip into your past to understand the legacy your dysfunctional family handed to you. Locate your true Self. And pull her/him out from under the rubble. Think about it. If all humans would recover the self-acceptance, compassion and creativity that was smooshed or buried or broken or clobbered during those early years, might we create a path to a better world?…”

 

Giftedness, Therapy, and Your Dysfunctional Family — Diving Into The Abyss 

“…As a child, you were so vulnerable, that you had to believe what your parents told you. It was inevitable that you’d misinterpret their dysfunction to mean that something was wrong with you. Even though you were smart, the intensity of parental shame, fear, rage and who-knows-what got transmitted to you. So this is what needs to be dismantled: Your misunderstanding of who you are. And that requires diving into the abyss. Poet Adrienne Rich calls it Diving into the Wreck…”

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To my blogEEs: Tell us about your experiences with therapy. I know that some of you have had bad experiences or have had trouble finding someone. I hope these posts give you some ideas that help. Those of you who have had positive experiences, let us know how you found the person and what they did that worked for you. If you want more details about therapy, check out my book! Sending you all love and appreciation as we move together into 2018.

(Note: For those of you who are wondering, I’m only licensed in Oregon as a psychotherapist so can’t practice outside of the state. It’s best for you to find someone local for counseling. I do, however, consult internationally. You can find details here.)

 

 


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Meet Your Muse

photo courtesy Simson Petrol, Unsplash

Muse: an elusive divine-inspired spirit guiding a human to produce great work.  Painters, poets, musicians, writers, film makers, scientists, stay-at-home moms. Creatives.

So, I’m wondering. Do I have a Muse? Do psychotherapists have Muses? Do bloggers?

Well, why not?

Maybe we all have Muses. After all, everyone needs inspiration. No matter what we’re doing. An inspiring spirit with creative ideas? What’s not to like?

Granted. Austen. Lennon. DaVinci. Probably had some darned powerful Muses. MegaMuses.

My Muse? A little less powerful. A little less Mega. OK. Maybe a lot less Mega. Muse-lite.

But still.

I’m here to tell you that even a psychotherapist blogger can be aMused.

Ahem.

For example: When I feel a sense of ease and pleasure writing a blog post and then a Yes when it’s finished. A message from my Muse: Send this out now. Sure, it’s not perfect. Send it anyway. And there it goes. Out to you.

Or, in a therapy session. When I feel particularly compassionate and larger than myself. My Muse shows me a winding path where Grace lives. I just need to breathe and love and stay on the path. In those moments, I am the Muse.

aMusement is pretty wonderful.

I have to admit, though, that my Muse doesn’t always appear. Like now, for instance. I’m sitting here with visions of impostor syndrome dancing in my head. My imposter syndrome says things like: Are you kidding? Do you realize that you are blogging about gifted people? Really, doll face? I can’t believe you’re getting away with that.

Yup.

But nevertheless, I’m persisting. Which is what we do much of the time, right? Trusting that a necessary part of the creative process includes doubt, resistance, bewilderment, plowing ahead, dark chocolate and expressions like doll face.

Not necessarily in that order.

And just in case you don’t believe me, I want you to listen to this TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert. She explains her experience of Muse-ity quite well.

And if you want more, I’ve attached this humorous, poignant TED talk by writer Amy Tan.

My impostor syndrome suggested that I needed some back up.

But that’s OK. Because my Muse has arrived just in time.

So, here we go. Sending my love out to you. Yes!

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To my bloggEEs: What’s your experience with creativity and the Muse? How about impostor syndrome? You know that your comments make my blog sing, so we all love hearing from you. And thank you, as always.

This post is part of a blog hop coordinated lovingly by HoagiesGifted. See more posts on creativity by clicking on the image below.