Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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Just Released! Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens…

It is finally here! The book you have been waiting for! The best of my blog (2014-2018) all organized into a sweet little field guide that you can carry with you in times of stress, despair, and boredom. A book with more ideas to help you dive into your depths and find the jewels. A book that is entertaining and light-hearted enough that even your most reluctant teenager might take a look. A book that will help your therapists, teachers, doctors, and your insufferable Aunt Charlotte understand you.

While my first book is full of in-depth case studies and details that you may be reading more than once, over time, because it is a lot to take in at once, this one is full of explanations, reminders, humor, and suggestions that are easy to ingest and grok and do. Your favorite blog posts will appear like old friends ready to give you big hugs and kisses.

Of course, if you don’t yet have my first book, you will need to get that one, too, while you’re at it. And, you might even want to write a review. (Don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be long or perfect or brilliant. But it can be.)

And speaking of reviews, here is one from the super rainforest-y Dr. Melanie Hayes, the founder and director of the Big Minds Unschool in California. (a great resource for families with twice-exceptional kids)

“For those of you who have had the pleasure (and profound reassurance) of reading Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, this companion book deepens your sojourn into your mental wilderness. Paula Prober’s wisdom and experience is evident on every page. You will find no better guide to help you examine all of the complex nuances of having a mind that is teeming with inexplicable life! Each chapter looks at ways in which gifted persons are uniquely sensitive, creative, and expressive; and gives them multiple signposts and pathways to find appropriate support. Reading this book will leave you feeling validated, accommodated, and celebrated; ready to fully explore what is waiting for you in your own rainforest mind.”

So, my darling bloggEEs, time to “fully explore what is waiting for you.” Go here and get yourself some love, and some hugs and kisses. You will be glad you did. And I will be enormously grateful.

 

 


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New Book Coming Soon! More Guidance for Your Overthinking, Sensitive, Curious, Gifted Self

My next book is almost here!

What? A new book? What’s it about? you might ask.

Well. This one came from you.

You have asked that my blog to be turned into a book. You have wanted my posts to be organized by topic. You have needed more specific suggestions on how to deepen your understanding of your complexities. You have wanted a companion to my first book: A book that is a faster, more light-hearted read. One that your relatives, friends, teachers, and your therapists might be more willing to peruse to gain a greater understanding of your rainforest-mindedness.

Well, my darlings, your book is almost here. I wanted you to be the first to know. It doesn’t replace Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth. That book is my first child. And it is still the in-depth look at giftedness in adults and youth, via case studies and stories of real rainforest-minded humans, with lots of resources for further study. This new book contains my most popular blog posts from 2014-2018 along with journal-writing and other suggestions to take you further into your inner worlds.

I’m going indie with this one, with the help of Luminare Press here in Eugene, Oregon, USA, so it will be available in paper and ebook on Amazon. But you will be able to order it from your favorite independent bookstore, too. I’m hoping to launch before the end of June 2019.

I’ll announce the birth launch here and on social media as soon as it’s available for purchase. And thank you, in advance, for your rave reviews and for buying copies for your parents, teenagers, cousins, teachers, neighbors, and therapists. Of course, if you still don’t have my first book, it is not too late! Both books together make a fine comprehensive, complimentary pair. (and now my first book has that fabulous cover)

And so, my dear bloggEEs, thank you, as always, for your sensitivity, intensity, curiosity, intuition, idealism, creativity, courage, intellect, failures, doubts, fears, hopes, questions, dreams, and awarenesses. Thank you for joining me in this fascinating adventure. Much love to each of you.


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

photo courtesy of Alfred Aloushy, Unsplash

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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Don’t Show How Smart You Are. Other Kids Will Feel Bad.

photo courtesy of Austin Schmid, Unsplash

Who do you think you are? Don’t ask so many questions. Stop showing off. Nobody likes a know-it-all. Don’t steal my thunder. You think you’re so smart. Don’t show how much you know; the other kids will feel bad. 

Sound familiar?

If you have a rainforest mind, you’ve probably heard this a lot. I mean A LOT. And it’s so discouraging. Because you’re just being you. At least you were. When you were younger. Curious. Enthusiastic. Wanting to know-it-all. Assuming that everyone knew what you knew. Could do what you could do.

That’s what was so confusing. Didn’t the other kindergartners love reading Harry Potter or wondering about negative numbers? Couldn’t everyone feel it when the teacher was so sad? Didn’t all kids cry when a spider was crushed?

We don’t often explain these differences to kids. We don’t know what to say. So, we say, “Slow down so the others can catch up.” or “If you keep talking about Richard Feynman, you won’t have any friends.” Or even, “Why can’t you just be normal?”

Not helpful.

So you shrink. Dumb down. Slow down. Take up less space. Hide your love of words. Ask fewer questions. Over-apologize. Become anxious and depressed. Smoke pot.

Maybe you’re like 40-year-old Joan. Fascinated by so many things. Good at anything she tried: photography, writing, graphic design, event planning, floral design, painting, teaching yoga, running meetings, water skiing, fund raising, parenting, winning whipped cream eating contests and 3-legged races. (although she hasn’t run any 3-legged races recently) Tending to stay behind the scenes and hide her successes. Thrust into leadership positions on the one hand and resented for her creative ideas on the other. Careful not to outshine anyone. (She’ll make exceptions when it comes to whipped cream.)

Of course, you’re grateful for your skills and abilities. You appreciate your rainforest mind. But you don’t think you’re so smart. There are all those other people smarter than you. You’re not arrogant or full of yourself.

You’re not full of yourself.

You just want to be fully yourself.

And that’s not easy.

I have good news and bad-ish news.

The bad-ish news: You’ll need to be strategic. There will be people who can’t handle your intense emotions or your desire to discuss Dickens for hours. Some of them will be critical, rejecting, or worse. You will need to find healthy ways to cope or to limit your time with these folks. You might want to share some parts of yourself and protect other parts. You might need to monitor your communication to be better understood. There will be people who want to take advantage of your big heart and your problem solving abilities. You’ll need to learn how to set limits and say “no” when needed. To recognize that just because you’re able to do something, doesn’t mean that you have to do it. You may have to redefine what it means to be authentic.

The good news: Your sensitivity, intelligence, and empathy is an extremely valuable resource. Geeks are becoming more popular, respected, and indispensable. Geeking out is now a thing. It’s possible to find other humans with rainforest minds who will appreciate you. (I wouldn’t have a thriving practice without them!) You can be fully yourself with other humans who have rainforest minds. And surely, the planet needs you to be fully yourself. Now, more than ever.

So don’t waste any more time. Show us how smart you are. In your very own strategically authentic Richard Feynman-obsessed, whipped cream eating, geeking out, rainforest-minded way.

The other kids will be OK.

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To my bloggEEs: What messages have you received that told you that you were too much, or that you should hide your giftedness? What keeps you from being fully yourself now? How are you strategic in protecting yourself when needed? What would being fully yourself look like?

Thank you to the clients who inspired this post. And thank you so much to all of you!

 

 

 


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When Perfectionism, Anxiety, and Giftedness Go To College

photo courtesy jeshoots, unsplash

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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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!