Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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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!

 

 


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Even Though You’ve Been Told You’re Too Bright, Now is the Time to Shine Your Light

photo courtesy of Joshua Hibbert, Unsplash

“When you dim your light, the whole world gets darker.” *

How do you shine your Light if you’ve been told repeatedly that you shine too bright. That your Light will blind others. That your Light isn’t really Light but is actually bipolar disorder and you are arrogant to think otherwise. That it’s only fair that you keep your Light dim because people will feel bad if you outshine them. That your Light will expose the truth in your family and that’s dangerous. That your Light threatens to shake up the world order. 

How do you shine your Light anyway?

How do you expand your Light even further than you ever thought possible?

What do you do if your Light scares the heck out of YOU?

Well, dearest friends. Here’s a theory:

What if there’s so much turmoil in the world right now because there’s so much Light shining? The Light is showing us where the darkness** still lurks. What if we’re more aware of the crazy because there’s more enLightenment, not less? What if our job is to create more Light because it will eventually shine so bright that Light/Love will win?

(** Just for the record, I’m not really fond of the light versus dark analogy. It can indirectly support the whole light is good and dark is bad paradigm, which can then be ignorantly applied to people. In my opinion, “dark” can symbolize beauty, fertility, lush, green, wet, incubation, rest, power, balance, healing, growth, death/rebirth, transformation…and so on. Where would the rainforest be without the dark? But I digress.)

Where was I?

Oh yeah. How can you shine your Light in spite of the bullies, the critics, the misdiagnoses, the chainsaw family members, and your own fears of failure, success, overwhelm, and, oh, annihilation?

It’s complicated.

First, you have to realize that you have Light to shine. It’s time to recognize your strengths. That you indeed do have a rainforest mind. That you’re resonating with this blog because you belong here. So. In your journal, make a list of your strengths and write an ode to your rainforestness. Or draw a huge mindmap of your strengths, interests, and accomplishments. Prepare to be impressed.

Then, accept that your fears make sense, considering your experiences. If you’ve been told to hide your Light multiple times, in various ways, it can be discouraging and demoralizing. It can convince you that you’re crazy, and certainly not gifted. Of course, you have doubts. Your rainforest mind can create millions of doubts.

So here’s another thing to do: Make a list of books, websites, and people who can provide support, insight, and guidance. Then, make time to read, research, and receive the understanding and love. Remind yourself that being in a healing and growth process is important for yourself, your family, your ancestors, and the planet.

Then find small ways and big ways to shine. And imagine that you can shine even brighter. That it’s safe now to get brighter. That you’ve only just begun to know the extent of your reach.

Together. Let’s shake up the world order.

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To my bloggEEs: Please share your resources for personal and planetary support, insight and guidance in the comments. (You can share your Odes, too!) For example, I’m reading two great books right now that are positive and powerful guides to action on climate change. The Parent’s Guide to Climate Revolution by Mary DeMocker and We Rise: The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement that Restores the Planet by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez. What are you reading? And thank you, as always, for your wonderful beingness.

And, hey. I’m thinking about designing an online class for rainforest minds. What do you think? What would you like me to include in the class?

I’ll be at the SENG conference July 19-22, 2018. If you attend, please find me and introduce yourself!

*Christiane Northrup

 

 

 


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So, You’re Gifted. Who Cares and Why Does it Matter?

photo courtesy of Jeremy Thomas, Unsplash

It matters. Even if no one else cares. It matters that you know. And that you care.

Why? you ask with that quizzical oh-so-disarming look of yours. (Yes, I know that look.)

Because, my darling:

You will understand that what you imagined were your poor communication skills, was actually your inability to slow your super-speedy thoughts. Not to mention your assumption that everyone thinks as deeply, as quickly, and as multi-dimensionally as you do. They don’t. (This does not make them terrible people. I know. It just means that they might not comprehend your perturbations.)

You will give yourself permission to be the voracious learner that you are. To let yourself dive into the esoteric, obscure, mysterious, complex topics that other people can’t possibly grok and wouldn’t want to.

You will allow yourself to be obsessed with beauty, balance, harmony, precision, and justice. (Your healthy perfectionism.) Even if it means that you don’t get as much done because you’re crying over the majesty of the night sky.

You will have compassion and appreciation for your ridiculously high standards and expectations and your need to ruminate over the exact wording of your email to the plumber.

You will understand why you’ve been lonely all of these years and stop thinking it’s because you don’t smile enough, don’t make small talk, or because you suck at sports.

You’ll find an appropriate career path or two or ten.

You’ll protect your sensitivity and empathy from the assault of perfumes, ragers, leaf blowers, chemicals, clamoring hoards, noisy chewers, creepy humans, nasty Facebook messages, boring lectures, and houses that are painted orange.

You will understand that what looks quirky, eccentric, weird, and geeky to others is what makes you fascinating.

You will stop misdiagnosing yourself with labels such as OCD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, Aspergers, slacker, weird, or just-plain-crazy. (And, sure, you may be twice-exceptional, 2e, and have a particular diagnosis along with your rainforest mind, but there’s a whole lot of misdiagnosing goin’ on, too. So you’re gonna stop that now.)

You will appreciate your curiosity and your questioning of everything. And you’ll continue to search for meaning, purpose(s), and justice. This will result in benefits to your children, neighbors, relatives, friends, animals, plants, ancestors, the planet, and humanity at large.

Let me say that again in a different way.

Knowing that you are gifted, matters. It will explain what might otherwise create confusion, self-doubt, anxiety, depression, angst, or despair. It will allow you to blossom into the best human that you can be.

And this will result in benefits to your children, neighbors, relatives, friends, animals, plants, ancestors, the planet, and humanity at large.

Even if they don’t know that they care.

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To my bloggEEs: This is for those of you who may actually accept that you have a rainforest mind but are still wondering why it’s important that you know it. What’s your reaction to this post? What else do you need to know that will help with your self-acceptance? Thank you, as always, for being here. And, I have a request. If you’ve read my book, can you take a moment and write a review on Amazon? It doesn’t have to be long or perfect. 🙂 (And if you haven’t read it, well, now would be the optimal time, doncha know…)

 

 

 


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Don’t Give Up On Yourself And Your Rainforest Mind

photo courtesy of Nadim Merrikh, Unsplash

Don’t quit. Don’t stop striving. Don’t stop growing. Don’t stop believing.

Don’t give up on yourself.

Even if you grew up in a family of chainsaws. Even if you have been told over and over and over that you’re too sensitive, too dramatic, too smart, too quiet, too noisy, or too weird. Even if you think you’re too old or too young or too whatever. Even if you’re overwhelmed by politics or racism or natural disasters or anxiety or depression or physical disabilities. Even if you procrastinate. Even if you’ve changed jobs multiple times and never learned how to build rocketships and send them to the international space station. Even if your hair is curly and free range. Even if you don’t look like George Clooney or Beyoncé.

Even if you haven’t partnered with the person of your dreams and you don’t have perfect, high achieving children. Even if you feel like too much and not enough at the same time. Even if you’re post-menopausal. Even if you’re grieving for the planet and are anxious about the future. Even if you’re gluten-free. Even if you can’t leave your home. Even if you don’t have a home. Even if you haven’t renovated the school system. Even if you didn’t go to Harvard. Even if you did go to Harvard. Even if your curiosity has been misinterpreted as arrogance and know-it-all-ness. Even if you weren’t popular in high school. Even if you can’t decide what to eat for breakfast. Even if you can’t afford psychotherapy. Even if you’ve been in psychotherapy for years. Even if you don’t speak seven languages fluently. Even if you’re seen as extremely successful in your field and yet you still feel bereft and lonely. Even if you haven’t saved the world. Yet.

Don’t stop believing.

You never know. You could be a late bloomer. You could start tango dancing at 47. You might become a blogger at 62. You might get your first book published at 64. You could discover that people around the world love and admire you. You could be helping smart, sensitive people self-actualize and find their purpose(s). You could finally accept and love your curly free-range hair.

You could finally know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that. you. are. gifted.

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To my bloggEEs: I am so inspired by all of you and so grateful for our community. Let us know your thoughts, questions, and reactions to this post. Your comments add so much! And thank you for being here. This post is part of a blog hop from the amazing site hoagiesgifted.org. For more posts on the topic: Things I Wish I Knew Back Then, click on the image below. And for those of you who are parents of gifted children, here’s a little treat. My colleague, Tina Harlow, edited this eBook that has lots of great advice from professionals (including me!) in an easy-to-read format. It’s available free to download.


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Who Were You Before You Learned That You Are Supposed To Be Normal?

photo courtesy of Annie Spratt, Unsplash

“I have been trying to run myself on the do-your-best-to-fit-in-with-normal-people operating system. It’s not my original operating system. It’s the one I adopted when I was abused in various ways for being myself. I perfected it in school and at work, forcing myself to do all the boring and pointless things and to make myself take up less space.

What do I remember of the original proto-version? I was dreamy. I wandered in the woods. I read fantasy. I read entries in the encyclopedia. I loved puzzles and make-believe. I wrote stories and poetry. I did math for fun. I felt connected to the wild…”  ~BP

Who were you before you learned that you were too much and not enough? Who were you before you stopped singing, dancing, and asking questions with unself-conscious glee? Who were you before you learned that voracious reading instead of homework was unacceptable? Who were you before you stopped crying?

Might it be time to rejuvenate that person? Bring that person back to life? Time to say the hell with normal?

You betcha.

There is no better time. Normal isn’t looking so good these days.

So where do you begin? It might be a frightening prospect if you had a chainsaw family or if you were told that you were crazy or inadequate. Or if you experienced bullying or abandonment or racism. Or if you were told that your intelligence was hurting others or that you should feel guilty because you’re so smart or if you believed them when they called you a know-it-all and a show-off.

So, let’s start small-ish. Make a list of reminders and steps that you can take today. Here are examples adapted from one rainforest mind’s list.

~ Binge read with abandon.

~ Engage with creativity. Make things. Make music. Dance. Be bad at it.

~ It is not elitist or selfish to make sure that what I do is worthy of my precious time and energy.

~ Allow time for deep dives. It’s OK to be obsessive with my research and learning. It’s how I tick.

~ Spend time in beauty. Let nature hold the complexity; let indoors hold a beautiful simplicity.

~ Minimize boring work. Either ask for help, find better tools, or question whether it needs to be done.

~ Be kinder to myself. Stop putting everyone else first. Set healthy boundaries. Take time to rest. Take some of the pressure off. Stop burning the candle at multiple ends. Feel my gratitude in the present moment.

~ Notice when I feel the compulsion to get online. Am I needing self-soothing? Am I bored? Am I lonely? Is there another choice I could make that would be more expansive, connecting, and real?

~ Find and nourish important friendships. Tend those friendships with people who are truly supportive, are not threatened by me, and who laugh at my jokes.

~ Connect to the wild.

~ Let resentment or rage or terror be a sign that I’m being triggered. It may be an old response, borne of being a helpless rainforest-minded kid in a chainsaw world. Remind myself that I’m no longer powerless. People in authority are not my parents. Soothe and love my child-self. I have great respect for myself for the courage it takes to be in therapy.

~ Follow my weird. I must actualize the beauty and power inside me.

~ Get back to being idealistic, optimistic, funny, and intuitive. It’s time to acknowledge and open more to my strengths. I can find my particular rainforest-y way to make the world a better place.

~ Listen to the original cast albums of Dear Evan Hansen and Hamilton over and over. Sing with You Will Be Found.

~ Be dreamy. Take up plenty of space. Return to my glee. Say a fond farewell to normal.

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To my bloggEEs: Did you make your own list? Can you share some of your list with us? Thank you, as always, for being here. I’m sending love and appreciation from my heart to yours. And thank you to the reader who provided the inspiration and the content of much of this post.

I think there’s still room in the Gifted Women Symposium in Denver, June 2, 2018. I’d love to see some of you there. And July 20-22, 2018, there’s the SENG conference in San Diego. Not only will I be presenting but Tom Clynes of The Boy Who Played With Fusion is a keynoter. Please come find me if you attend!

 


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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.

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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. If you want to hear the poet read this poem along with original music from musician Ron Gordon, click here.