Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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When The Tango Dancing Therapist Loved The Nature Obsessed Neighbor-From-Hell

(Note: This is another of my personal musings written so that you might get to know more about me. Enjoy!)

            He was a die-hard camping, hiking, nature-loving Oregon hippie. He parked his truck on his overgrown lawn. Paraphernalia from long gone construction projects was piled along the side of his house and scattered hither and thither just in case he might need them in a year or five. I remember thinking the first time I drove up to his house that he was your typical neighbor-from-hell.  

            What was I doing with the neighbor-from-hell?

            We met online. Even though his photos made him look kind of dorky, I liked what he had to say. He read Annie Dillard. He was going to Idaho to take care of his mom after her hip replacement surgery. He was self-employed in the renewable energy field. Had raised two kids who made it to adulthood. Drove a Prius. In our first email exchanges, he asked smart, complex questions. He told fascinating stories about his adventures in the Arctic. These were all signs the man might be worth meeting.

(photo from Vasilios Muselimis, Unsplash)

            And the first meeting went well. He was much cuter than the photo. Tall. Well-built. Articulate, smart, and sensitive. He did not smell like garlic. On our second date, he watched me dance. I had started taking Argentine tango lessons five years earlier. Craig was impressed, even though it was an unusual second date, with me dancing the tango with handsome men who were not him. He was a good sport about it, appreciating my talent.

            I introduced him to my girlfriends, looking for their assessments.

            Me: I don’t know. He’s kinda hippie dippy. His house is super messy. I don’t know if I’m ready for another relationship and, anyway, he’s probably a serial killer or a codependent pothead with siblings who are in prison for insider trading.

            Girlfriends: He has great social skills and a sense of humor. This could be fun. C’mon, there’s no harm in trying. A serial killer probably wouldn’t have a good relationship with his mother.

            So I decided to give it a try.

            And it was sweet.

            But I was not a die-hard camping, hiking, nature-loving Oregon hippie. I thought I might become one with the right guy. Maybe not die-hard. Maybe not camping where there might be bears, cougars, raccoons, and no internet. But I am an ardent environmentalist so I thought I just needed a safe, kind soul to introduce me to the wonders of a rushing river, the mysteries of hiking in the forest, and the thrills of outdoor plumbing.

            And Craig tried. I remember one weekend in a comfortable yurt by a lake. He brought a solar cell thingy so we could have music. He supplied several flashlights, delicious snacks, and a kayak built for two. I tried to enjoy myself. 

            He did not give up. Months later, he bought a small trailer so we could stay at campgrounds with showers and restrooms. He cooked gourmet-ish meals and was upbeat and generous.

            Sadly, it did not work. I just could not love it like he did. I could not even like it much. I was a failure at nature-loving.

            But there were other strengths I brought to the relationship.

            For example, I was a success at psychotherapy-loving.

            You see, I am a counselor working with people healing from childhood trauma. I love my job. It is such a privilege to guide people on their journeys to self-acceptance and self-actualization. I have also been a client in therapy. It is really one of my core values: introspection and facing one’s fears to heal yourself and create a better world. So, I was able to be bring a good bit of self-awareness and compassion to the relationship. This would make up for my nature-loving deficit.

             And as I got to know Craig, it became clear that he had his own childhood trauma. But psychotherapy was not his thing. When it came to introspection, or as I called it, diving into the abyss, or even just looking under the rug, he would decline. Change the subject. Or play the nature card.

            I would say: “Honey. I’m so sorry your father was so critical. And it sounds like he may have been an alcoholic. Therapy has been so helpful for me. I’m much more confident and self-accepting. I can give you a few names of therapists you can try. OK?  It’s so worth it.”

            He would say: “Nature is my therapist.

            Now, I know there are many ways to self-actualize. Psychotherapy isn’t the answer for everyone. And nature can be such a healing place. Many of my clients find solace and even spirituality when they are connecting with the natural world. But for Craig, it was his solace. And his excuse.

            I would say: “Sweetie. If you don’t want to do traditional therapy, how about meeting with my medical intuitive energy worker? Or my acupuncturist? “

            He would say: “Nature is my therapist.

            He was adamant, in a nice guy passive-aggressive kind of way. But I have to admit, he did try therapy a couple of times. He went to a weekend workshop. Spent a week at a nature-based vision quest program. He even saw my medical intuitive energy worker once. He tried. But he did not love it like I did. Could not even like it much. He was a failure at psychotherapy-loving.

            As time passed, I started to see signs of trouble. Serious anxiety. Problems with his adult children. Unpaid taxes. Toxic friends. Vodka. Rooms in his house filled with old magazines, tools, gadgets, papers, and moth-eaten suits from his days in the tech world.

            But, like any good therapist, I ignored the signs. We bought a house together and planned a small remodel that turned into a big remodel. He was a very capable self-made contractor so wanted to do it all himself. Which took a lot of time. But I stayed in my own house until it was mostly complete, then, let my home, my little sanctuary, go. He didn’t sell his own house and, lucky for me, left most of his clutter there. But not his anxiety, his unpaid taxes, or his vodka.

            Once we were living together, I noticed the garlic. He loved it. I have a thing about food smells on breath. Especially garlic. If someone smells like garlic, I immediately despise them. My therapist self knows that this is a bit of an over-reaction. Likely a bad memory from the past. But those olfactory triggers are hard to control. I started to eat garlic myself as a way to reduce the odor and manage my despising. It helped and I tried not to hold it against him.

            And we grew closer, in spite of our failures and our differences. He kept his chaos contained to his office and the garage. I ate more garlic and bought gifts for his grandkids. He was my bodyguard when we’d visit my family. I befriended his mother when she needed a careful listener.

            We were creating a good tango. We’d step on each others’ toes occasionally but our hearts were in sync.

            And then the music stopped.

            One day he told me it was over. He said he needed a partner who loved the outdoors as much as he did. Who could walk the beach for days. Who was intensely curious about the ocean floor and eager to spend weeks lost in the Oregon forest.

            I was in shock. I had thought he was the one. This was going to be my last and best relationship. I thought it was going well. He would take his trailer to the coast for a few days and enjoy nature on his own while I would stay home, see clients, and blog. I had started a blog (this blog!) about three months before the break up. It was surprisingly satisfying, meaningful, and fun. I thought we had worked out a good compromise.

            But apparently, we had not.

            It was not easy for him to break up with me. I cried. He cried. He offered to move back to his old house until I found a place and we sold ours. Move out? Back to your old house? It took me some months to believe it was really over. That I was being left. Not for another woman, but because he loved mother nature more than he loved me. That is just weird, if you ask me. But he was not asking.

            He moved back to his house and I was alone.

            But I had support. Over the years, I had built a reliable family of friends. My friends and my blog (this blog!) would get me through my grief.

            But, for a long time, I felt lost and lonely. No one tracking me anymore. No one asking me annoyingly what my schedule was for the day. No funny stories of polar bears. No bodyguard for family visits.

            And so I did what I had to do. I went to therapy— to continue to examine, process, and release old complex patterns and beliefs that were underneath my choice to be with Craig. I found an excellent book to work through, too. And it occurred to me, Craig and I had very different basic needs. His: Finding peace (and denial) in the beauty of the natural world. Mine: Doing deep inner psycho-spiritual work to heal my past and live a life of meaning and purpose. Interestingly, we were both fairly inept at participating in the other’s greatest priority.

            I began to wonder how we had lasted as long as we had. I began to wonder why I did not run the other way when I first saw his neighbor-from-hell yard. Why he did not run the other way when he heard I was a therapist.  And yet, in spite of it all, I knew our partnering had not been a mistake.

             And as I continue to examine the beautiful layers of my psyche, one thing is clear: I am now certain I want a partner who is willing to look under the rug. Who is not afraid to do the deep dive into his abyss. Who has done the inner psycho-spiritual work to heal the past and live a courageous life of meaning and purpose.

            To keep the music playing, our hearts in sync.

            To tango, fearlessly. With me.

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To my bloggEEs: Let me know your thoughts, feelings, and questions. Thank you, as always for being here. And just remember, relationship “failures” make great material for your blog, memoir, or TED talk!


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Depressed? Anxious? Gifted? Get Yourself Some Intellectual And Creative Stimulation Pronto!

There might be many reasons you are feeling depressed or anxious. So many reasons. From trauma in your childhood to racism, pandemics, losses of loved ones, homophobia, climate change, illness, poverty, corrupt politicians, antisemitism, all of the other isms, and more.

So many reasons. 

I might even include some lesser but occasionally significant depression and anxiety influencers like hormones, food sensitivities, allergies, and bad hair days. (OK. That last one is very lesser.)

(photo courtesy of Drew Graham, Unsplash)

Because you are the sensitive, perceptive human that you are, your awareness of these factors is pretty much somewhere in your brain at all times, unless you have mastered the art of denial, which, in some cases, can come in handy. Denial can be a useful coping strategy in these tumultuous times as long as it is not used excessively. Or when your curious toddler is wandering out into the street. Therapists do not usually recommend denial. And, I don’t either. Most of the time. But I have found it has come in handy recently.

That said, for you, my little chickadees, there is another reason you might feel depressed and anxious. And this one, I am happy to say, is more easily resolvable. 

Having a rainforest mind means you want intellectual and creative stimulation like others want pizza and ice cream. You NEED it. You may not realize it but if you don’t have enough, you might feel depressed or anxious. Regular people might not care so much about learning new stuff or creating cool solutions to problems or composing a new tune on the ukelele or analyzing impact ionization or creating a better world. But you, well, it is your bread and butter. Or your kale and quinoa, as it were.

The remedy is clear. Where can you find intellectual and creative excitement? If it is not readily available, here are some options for starters: You can browse your independent bookstore, take the online class, do that internet search, buy those paints, join the dance troupe, start a podcast or a blog, get another degree, volunteer at a nonprofit that needs your direction, get lost in Wikipedia, learn a new musical instrument, study your next language, start a business, deepen your spiritual practice, initiate a conversation with the magical creatures in your garden, read and research with abandon, get therapy, and/or try that thing that makes you feel weird but you’ve always wanted to do. And, this is important, in all of these activities, look for the other rainforest-minded humans that might be lurking. Sweetly draw them into your web.

Granted, there will still be many daunting challenges in your inner and outer worlds. But, getting your intellectual and creative needs met will not only lift some of your depression and ease some of your anxiety. It might also become the foundation and inspiration for your paths to your greater Self, your stronger voice, more cool solutions, and, perhaps even creating a better world.

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To my bloggEEs: Can you relate to a lack of intellectual and creative stimulation? Tell us about it. Where have you found some? One source for creative inspiration, particularly in the arts, is this podcast/website called Art Church. It is just getting started but promises to become a unique community for spiritually inclined artist-types. And this SoundCloud link is my newest project. (Song Memes for Your Rainforest Mind) It is the weird thing I mention above.


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Gifted Adults Around The World — What Do They Have In Common? Meet Alice In Brazil

The more rainforest-minded souls I meet, the more hope I have for humanity. No matter where in the world they happen to be, I see similar traits. Big-hearted, creative, deep-thinking, sensitive souls. Humans who are so darned smart and who are driven to use their superpowers for good.

In case you missed them, profiles so far come from:

Brazil, Finland, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Malaysia, India, Chile, Canada (via Cameroon) (If you are from a country not yet represented and would like to be profiled, email me!) Of course, most of my experiences are with N. Americans. I feel so grateful to be able to learn and share this expanded view.

Today we are meeting Alice, a 25 year old Brazilian female. She came across my quiz and gifted information after searching for “people who don’t fit at school.” She ordered and quickly read my first book and The Gifted Adult, then she contacted me. Like so many of you, Alice was struggling with intensity, being misunderstood, passions for learning everything, depression, anxiety, and loneliness. The restrictions imposed by COVID-19 and the political tensions in her country, made it even harder for her to find direction for her future and the relief she would normally feel in the natural world.

(photo courtesy of Bruno Dias, Unsplash)

Alice described her experience this way: “I just want to follow my multiple and endless passions. I just want to be FREE to create and to travel the world. It feels like I’ve spent my whole life being a dormant volcano, without knowing what’s been going on inside of me. My anxiety and depression feel like lava. It seems to burn me inside and it hurts. I internalized that being the way that I am is a terrible flaw…When I was identified gifted, all of my traits seem to have erupted. The hidden, real, and even more intense Alice came out. I’ve been dealing with a kind of new me.

“…Oh, how unfair this world is! I hate this world! But, how can I love this world the way I do? I love the Nature SO MUCH that it hurts. I love you Planet Earth! I love Jupiter and its moons. I wanted to be a National Geographic photographer, a solo traveler, a documentarist, a multi-instrumentalist, a singer, an author, a visual artist and paint maker, a polyglot, a dancer, an athlete, I wanted to help people, wild animals and plants, etc. etc…I wanted to learn more about history, geology, archaeology, biology, astronomy…I wanted to do hundreds of things, I also wanted to live in many different places and experience diverse cultures.

Like most (all?) of you, Alice is a multipotentialite but she could not tell anyone for fear of criticism and rejection:

“…I can’t let them know my interests. I can’t let them know that I want to speak 10 languages one day, without being judged, without them thinking I am arrogant, without them telling me to be less, to question less, without them telling me not to share my interests, my vulnerabilities, my sense of justice…’keep that just for you, Alice, otherwise they won’t like you’…They’ve been treating me differently and I can feel it. But I just love learning 8,459,238 things at the same time. And also because I have no time to dedicate specially to one thing, and I always struggle with choices and procrastination, I often think I’m incapable, incompetent, and very unlikely to succeed…”

So many of you can relate to being called arrogant or being told you are too much, too sensitive, too intense. You’ve heard the complaints of others: Why can’t you focus? Why can’t you be happy with one language, one job, one book!?!

Alice was working so hard to understand where she might fit and who she actually is. She wondered where she stood on the gifted spectrum and how she might move forward in her life.

“…I just don’t want to be so afraid of being myself. I just don’t want to feel so much need for others’ approval. I just don’t want to be so afraid of the critics…I don’t want to be so afraid of success, too. I want to find at least a balance between my natural optimism and pessimism. I’ve written a lot about my pains, but I’ve had the opportunity to experience many, many beautiful moments, too…”

Like many of you, in spite of the challenges and pressures that would often overwhelm her, she could see the beauty in life and appreciate the little things, love them so much that it hurt.

As Alice and I talked, she was able to get a better understanding of how her struggles were not based in her own inadequacies but rather connected to her gifted traits. Because I had already written about two Brazilian young women, I suggested she try and reach them and the other Brazilian commenters through my blog, as a way to reduce her isolation.

Because she had experienced traumatic events in addition to the struggles of being gifted, I recommended she look for a therapist where she might get regular support and work through the traumas. Believe it or not, around the time I was speaking with Alice, I was contacted by Giovanna Strobel, a psychotherapist in Brazil who specializes in giftedness! How amazing is that?! (For those of you who speak Portuguese, check her out!.)

So, now, Alice is reaching out to Giovanna and her team. She is starting to understand more about the beauty and power of her rainforest mind. And I hope, one day, loving herself so much that it hurts.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you relate to Alice’s experiences? How are your feelings similar? Different? Remember in the comments not to give advice to others but rather to speak about your own experiences and insights. Thank you so much for being here. Much love to you all. And thank you to Alice for sharing your big-hearted, sensitive, creative, deep-thinking, rainforest mind with us.

(Note: Giovanna and I will be doing a live interview on July 3, 2021, 1pm PT. I’m not sure if it is on Instagram or somewhere else. If you follow her on Instagram or me, you will hear about it. Join us!)

(Another note: I was reviewing my first article on Brazilians and was reminded of another practitioner in Brazil who shared in the comments. Adriana Vazzoler-Mendoca. Sounds like she would be another good resource for Brazilians looking for a mentor or coach!)


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Single, Childfree, And Petless In A Pandemic — Then And Now

(Dear BloggEEs. This is the first of a new addition to my blog. I am going to occasionally add personal essays and journal entries for your reading pleasure. I am a little nervous about this. Please continue to like, comment, and share, as usual. Let me know what you think. Enjoy! And thank you. They will be compiled on my new Musings page.)

Single, Childfree, and Petless in a Pandemic – Part One

(Wearing my emotional support sweater)

March 2020 – The Beginning

            This forced isolation has me rattled. And a little faklempt. Maybe a lot faklempt. 

            I think it is because of all of the unknowns. How long will this last? Is this the beginning of a series of traumatic climate change events? Will I get sick? Will the internet go down and I’ll no longer be able to see my clients online and my income will dry up?  Will I run out of hair gel? Will my computer die so I will have to stop blogging?  Will human beings never become enlightened? Will I fall and break some important bone, not be able to reach the phone, die and not be found for weeks? Will my acupuncturist move to Portland? Will I lose the opportunity to finally find the love of my life because dating sites are forced to shut down and tango dancing is banned forever? 

            Did I mention that I have ruminating tendencies?

            I am single, childfree, and petless. In my 60’s. I have lived pretty contentedly alone for much of my adult life with two breaks for short-ish but significant relationships. I am an introvert through and through. Solitude is my friend. I have always been driven to build a meaningful career path and to create a better world. I am less in need of a traditional family. And so, I have created a fulfilling work life, loving friendships, and a sweet, comfortable nest for myself. 

            But still. I was not prepared for lockdown.

            I am coping by using a combination of approaches. (I am a psychotherapist so I know a lot of them.) I am ramping up my spiritual practice. Reading trusted news sources. Zooming with family members and friends. But, actually, I am mostly using one tactic. 

            Denial. Denial is not something psychotherapists usually recommend to clients but pandemic disorder is not found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual either. So, I use denial and try not to think about all of those ruminated possibilities. (Denial, as in, not thinking about it. Not denial, as in, touching and breathing on people.)

            But, lately, denial is not working so well.  I am worried about the future. Even though solitude is still my friend, and I have acquired an emotional support animal in the form of a cozy chenille sweater that I wear almost every day, I am wondering if it is time to invite someone, a male partner, to join me in my nest. Virtually, of course, for now.     

            Truth is, back in the day when nuclear war was the threat we all prepared for, I would think, “I want a person who thinks of me first, who finds me first, when the bomb drops.”

            I still want that person. And now would be a great time for you to show up. I want a person who thinks of me first, when the pandemic hits. 

            Oh, wait. The pandemic has hit. 

            Text me. 

            I will be at home.

Single, Childfree, and Petless in a Pandemic – Part Two

March 2021 – A Year Later

            It has been a year. I am no longer so rattled, or faklempt. At least no more than I was during the years before the pandemic. Turns out if you are a psychotherapist during a pandemic, you have job security and human (online) contact.  In fact, if you are a highly sensitive introverted therapist like me, working online is kinda fine. I can still reach my clients through the screen. (My empathy, it turns out, is teleportable.) Some of my clients even prefer staying home in their own cozy chairs with their blankets and tea. It seems that, for some, the safety of their own nest allows them to be more vulnerable than they might be sitting across from me, in real life, face to face, bodies in the room, together. So, when it comes to work, income, and continuing to feel connected to a larger purpose, Covid-19 did not get the best of me.

(still wearing my emotional support sweater)

            And because I had even more time than usual, because I was not going to the gym, socializing at the café, traveling to visit relatives, or tango dancing into the night, my blog was more of a priority and I was more open to expanding my practice into international consulting. In fact, the switch to online conferencing made it possible for me to accept offers to speak I would have otherwise declined. To audiences in the Netherlands and France. To clients in Cyprus and Belgium and beyond. 

            Of course, I would not have survived so well if this had happened in, say, 1985. No Internet. No cell phone. No Instagram. No Skype. No Zoom. No Voxer. No Venmo. I would have been a wreck in a 1985 pandemic. If there had to be a pandemic, well, 2020 was a good year. 

            So, I am grateful. 

            And so far, even my 2020 ruminations have not come to pass. I did not get sick. No one I know died. I did not break any bones and die a slow death until I was found three weeks later. My internet kept working so I could see clients and keep blogging. My acupuncturist did not move to Portland. I did not run out of hair gel. 

            It is kind of a miracle. 

            I do understand that a couple of my ruminations are still alive and well. The ones about climate change and humanity never becoming enlightened. There is still that. When I look beyond my smallish comfortable world, I could easily start rattling or faklempting again. But, instead, I take a breath, and remember my assignment. I am here on planet Earth to help smart, sensitive souls self-actualize and create a better world.

            Oh, and there is one more rumination: Will I lose the opportunity to finally find the love of my life because dating sites are forced to shut down and tango dancing is banned forever? 

            Well. Dating sites are going strong. Tango is just on hold for now. So. The opportunity is not lost. I will be vaccinated next week. The invitation stands. Join me now, love of my life. My hair gel won’t last forever.


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The Loneliness Of The Highly Gifted

Does this remind you of you? At age 4, you made a plan to help the starving children in Mogadishu. At 5, you made a book about deforestation and the poaching of animals. At age 11, you petitioned to save the elephants of Thailand and at age 15, you won a contest with your essay on human trafficking. People told you, you worried too much. They mocked your passion, and told you to go and have fun like the other kids. But you were determined to speak out and you did not understand why your drive was seen as so unusual.

image courtesy of Greg Rakozy, Unsplash

At 29, you are still struggling with being an outspoken outlier and with how to take action in a world that feels so broken. You have long wished there were more than 24 hours in a day. Your family continues to dismiss your striving as unrealistic or unnecessary. These days you avoid talking with them but you have yet to find a place to belong or a clan of like minds.

You may have found one or more career paths that fed some of your intellectual curiosity for a while or provided for your financial security but did not nourish your soul. Or when you mastered a job’s requirements in the first week, you found your coworkers do not respond with appreciation; while you remained frustrated and unfulfilled.

What is often the experience of the highly (exceptionally, profoundly) gifted is that you can be successful and high achieving in a variety of fields.

Dare I say, at everything you try.

Perhaps you learned to play several musical instruments without the usual hours of practice. And you are now fluent in your fifth language. You remodeled your home without any training or schooling. And you diagnosed your own chronic illness when all of the doctors were stymied. You taught yourself quilting, gourmet cooking, fly tying, stock trading, and chess, in your spare time. Not only that. You may have been like Chris who “took up target shooting at the age of 50, took my brand new air pistol out of its box, fired. Had someone ask me if I’d been in the army, I said no, then they asked how long I’d been shooting, and I replied ‘about 5 minutes since I took this out of its box’.”

You are likely really good at pretending you are not so good at things. Or apologizing for your abilities and accomplishments. Or finding a way to build up the other person and minimize your capacities. I wonder if you have memories of teachers telling you to “put your hand down and let others have a turn.” Then, feeling hurt, because your enthusiasm was misinterpreted, you experienced bullying, jealousy, and spiteful comments from peers. You were told to spend your time helping your classmates and you felt guilty because you wanted to be kind but it was torture, day after day after day.

All you ever wanted was to share your fascination with Escher and the latest episode of Planet Earth with someone. Anyone. And have them get it. And love it, too. And love you, too.

“I want to fly. And I want so very much for someone to think that’s really cool when they see me fly…. instead of being angry or jealous or feeling like they’re beneath me. I just want someone some day to love me just for me just the way I am.”

And yet, this is such a tricky topic. Who is going to commiserate with you? Who can you talk with about this struggle? I am not even sure how to write about it without sounding whine-y, complain-y, and ungrateful. Right? Gratitude, of course, is important. And, if you had narcissistic parents, you might be extra cautious about acknowledging your strengths and talents.

But this is a thing. A big thing. You and I know it. And, if nothing else, we can talk about it here. You can be yourself here. You can practice sharing your accomplishments, capacities, and wins here.

You can fly.

And we will all cheer as we watch you soar to greater and greater heights. And even if no one else notices or cares, at first, you will find someone, another rainforest mind, or two or three. I know it. And, as your passion to make a difference still shines, as you still ache for the elephants, know that your flight nourishes us all.

You being you is what this planet needs.

Welcome to your clan.

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To my dearest bloggEEs: Tell us about your many accomplishments and abilities! Have you experienced frustration and rejection? Do you worry that acknowledging your strengths might be a kind of grandiosity? Please share your stories. They add so much. Thank you to the bloggEEs who shared the above examples. Much love and appreciation to you all.


46 Comments

Holiday Season Confessions From A Tango Dancing Geek Psychotherapist

For the past 6 years, I have spent the holidays alone.* Thanksgiving. Christmas. Hanukkah. Halloween. All of it. Solitude City. Introvert Overkill.

(photo courtesy of Sherise, Unsplash)

I am guessing you are surprised. Here I am. Popular blogger to the gifted. Geek therapist extraordinaire. Surely, there are people clamoring to invite me to their celebrations. Family? Children? Inlaws? Outlaws? Boyfriend? Girlfriends? Acupuncturist?

Well, as many of you already know, I am childfree. And single. Extended family members live in other cities. Girlfriends have their various commitments with children, grandchildren, inlaws, and outlaws. Or they live in Colorado. (That would be Tina.) And my acupuncturist, well, she has good boundaries.

Of course, now that we have a pandemic, more of you may be solitary, too. But there was no Corona in 2014. 2015. 2016. 2017. 2018. 2019.

I am telling you this because I have heard how lonely many of you are. And, if you are alone (even if you are with people, I might add) on days when most everyone in the world says you ought to be HAPPY and FULL OF HOLIDAY CHEER, I am here to say, I get you. I am with you.

And, yet, it could be worse.

You could have to listen to your smelly drunk Uncle Craig while he tells you all about his latest hunting expeditions. You might be expected to explain to your grandmother yet again why you never went to Harvard and why you still haven’t cut or straightened your hair. You might be appalled at all of the wasted gift wrap and plastic that your nieces and nephews carelessly throw hither and yon. You could be forced to eat your cousin Sue’s orange carrot marshmallow jello salad. And let us not even mention the potential political perturbations.

Of course, this year, it will all likely take place with your buddy Zoom. (Cousin Sue sent her jello salad via UPS.) But still.

Seriously, though. This year, you may be struggling with the corona virus or you may have lost someone to the illness. You may have been laid off from your job. You may be teaching your kids at home. If there is trauma in your past, the restrictions and fears that come with the virus may be triggering your PTSD symptoms or you may have had to limit family interactions because of past abuse. Being the rainforest-minded soul that you are, you may be upset about the mythology around Thanksgiving and anxious over the consumer culture of the Christmas season. You may be thinking about the climate crisis and wondering if the world is about to implode.

It is is a tough time to be living in Solitude City. (even harder if you are an extravert)

Which brings me to another confession. Even though I cherish my status as the eccentric yet accomplished single auntie and the blogging tango dancing geek psychotherapist, even though I deeply value and need my alone time, there is a part of me who would not mind a holiday season with a little less introvert overkill. More specifically, since I am not getting any younger, as you may know, I would like a life, a last act you might say, with a (male) partner, a mate, a soul’s companion.

Gulp.

This is hard for me to admit. I want to be your role model for independent, successful, fulfilled, childfree, blogging, single womanhood. I do not want to disappoint you, my lovelies.

But we are all about authenticity here, right? So, this is me. Being me.

And you know, of course, I am not idealizing this so-called partner, mate, soul’s companion. I am a psychotherapist, after all. I know a thing or two about partnerships. I have even had a couple.

I am just confessing.

And, um, accepting applications.

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To my bloggEEs: How are you doing with the holiday season? The pandemic? How do you feel about being single? Partnered? What would you like to confess? Your comments add so much! Thank you for being here. If you didn’t watch this short video yet, it is a beautiful story about the loneliness due to the pandemic and how we are all connected.

*( Full disclosure: I will not usually be totally solitary. I started a tradition where I meet with my therapy clients who are also alone on the holiday. We have therapy with a side of pumpkin pie.)


70 Comments

Finding Meaningful Friendships When You Are (Annoyingly) Perceptive And (Excruciatingly) Sensitive

How do you find deeply satisfying friendships when you are an excruciatingly sensitive, annoyingly perceptive, unendingly persnickety, frighteningly intense, multi-dimensionally intelligent, divergently thinking, quirkily funny, unrealistically idealistic, gently demanding, ravenously researching, mysteriously intuitive human being? (otherwise known as rainforest-minded)

photo courtesy of thought catalog, Unsplash

No wonder friends are hard to find. Right?

But, face it honey. This is a perfect description of you.

And we are all better off because this is who you are.

Now, you just need to believe it. You need to love all of your rainforest-y ways. And, amazingly enough, this is a key to the discovery of other rainforest-minded souls. (But you knew that.)

Of course, they probably will not magically appear even if you are basking in self-compassion. (although they might) You most likely will need to be creative about where you look and you will have to take the initiative and make the first moves. I have specific suggestions here. And, here. (With adjustments for the pandemic. Sorry, no tango dancing.)

As you may know, there are more and more online groups and communities for just about anything you can imagine. I recently discovered Livingroom Conversations for the pacifist-activists among you and the Evolutionary Collective if you are looking for a spiritually evolving experience. For an intergenerational group involved with social change, there’s Encore. There is your silent book club. And Soul Collage.

Of course, you can always start a blog or write a book. I have found some of my favorite humans through my writing. One of them, Tina, would win the girlfriend of the year contest, if such a thing existed. She lives 1,254.1 miles away from me. Is 18 years younger. (OMG. I could be her mother.) Has two teenage kids and a hubby. But that doesn’t stop her. Or me. You see? You can think outside the box when it comes to friendships. You will need to. Because of the wonders of technology, though, it is possible to experience a deeply satisfying, sweet, loving, even daily connection. The daily part has been important to me. Being single, I have longed for a person who checks in every day. And so, it seems, does Tina. It is a long-distance-but-that-doesn’t-matter girlfriend love fest.

If I can do it, so can you.

Just remember, from the wise words of a bloggEE: “We never stop being who we are. We may run from it, but it won’t stop running behind us. If we’re open, and patient enough, we will notice, and eventually collect, like minds.”

So, notice and collect your like minds. Find your Tina.

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To my bloggEEs: Where and how have you found friends? Do you have a Tina in your life? What has made it hard for you to build friendships? We all appreciate your comments. They add so much. Thank you, as always, for being here.

The holiday season can be a particularly difficult time if you are lonely. And with this pandemic and other events, you may be struggling, frightened, and grieving. Here is a beautiful, uplifting short film just for you: Alone during a pandemic film Sending much love to you all.


25 Comments

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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A Gifted Teen In Malaysia — What Is Normal?

photo courtesy of satria hutama, Unsplash

I am on a quest to see what rainforest-mindedness looks like around the world. So far, we’ve “visited” Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands and Finland. Today, we are in Malaysia.

Meet Mila*, who is Muslim and 18.

“..I was too sensitive, too easy to cry, too easy to fall sick, and an unstoppable chatterbox…I struggled a lot at 14…I couldn’t understand why do we exist, what do we want from this short span of life, why should we work hard to earn money when death is inevitable, and why are my friends putting so much effort to make good grades? It is meaningless…I felt like I was about to lose my mind…They don’t really think about life, about the world, about the society…why don’t they search for something more meaningful…? Why don’t they want to understand the learning materials more deeply? Why don’t they care when war is still happening? …I lost my hope in humanity…Don’t you have the urge to be the best version of yourself, to make changes in this world?…”

Existential questions at an early age can turn into existential depression. Concerns about justice issues beyond your self can leave you anxious, hopeless, and lonely.

“…School was really frustrating….I prefer to study on my own, with my own method. I am not academic smart but my unquenchable thirst for learning is not shallow. None of my classmates understood what I was doing, nor my teacher, and it always ended up with ‘just follow the steps that I teach you’…I was seen as arrogant when I asked ‘unanswerable’ questions…My teacher says I am too abstract, when it is so crystal clear to me…”

Love for learning does not necessarily equal love for schooling.

“…it is exhausting to have feelings. Deep feelings…I cried for an hour after finishing a documentary about a politician who was corrupt..it took me a week to recover, to have hope again, for it to be crushed all over again and again…it’s hard to feel the pain of people, literally painful…It’s tiring…It is tiring to see human beings argue for the smallest matter that can be solved with five minutes discussion…It is more tiring when people don’t understand why I am tired…”

Sensitivity. Compassion. Emotion = Exhaustion.

“…I love humanities, art, and science. I still don’t have any idea what to major in but I want to know how technology works, internet AI, security…Mostly I lean more to maths, physics, chemistry, computer science, psychology, philosophy, drawing, and languages. If I have time, I would like to attend a sewing course…”

Multipotentiality is not flakiness, indecisiveness, arrogance, or ADHD.

” I have one best friend, two close friends, and many dead friends, ranging from dead classical composers, mathematicians, philosophers, and psychologists…”

Finding other RFMs can be difficult. Like Maria Popova said, “…most of my friends are dead people.”

“…I would label myself as a lifelong learner, who wishes to reduce the ignorance in myself, aspire to be the best version of myself, so that I can help other people; to achieve a meaningful life, that is giving positive value to other people no matter how small the number …I need to enrich my knowledge. I need to understand. I need to change something. I need to. I have to.

Is this normal?”

This is normal, Mila. For you. Your rainforest mind. And all of us, with you, around the world. With our very own (very alive!) rainforest-y minds, hearts, souls, and spirits.

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To my bloggEEs: Where are you in the world? Can you relate to what Mila is saying? If you would like to share your story in more detail on my blog, send me an email. paula@rainforestmind.com. I’m particularly looking for countries I have yet to write about. And thank you to Mila for sharing so much of yourself with us.

Spanish speakers! Lovely Miryam in Spain would like to hear from you. She is creating an opportunity for RFMs around the world who speak Spanish to support each other. You can contact her at midorenedo@hotmail.com.

(*Note: Photos on the blog are not of the actual person described and names are changed.)


39 Comments

What Are The Challenges Gifted Adults Have In Common? — A Therapist’s Perspective

photo courtesy of christina wocintechchat, Unsplash

I am a psychotherapist who counsels and consults with highly intelligent, sensitive, empathetic, creative humans. (Yes, I love my job.) Even though they are all complicated in their multiple uniquenesses and differing backgrounds, I often hear recurring themes. 

Here are some of those themes. In their own words (with a few edits): 

On Waiting and More Waiting

“…when I get into difficulties because my mental functioning runs at 95 mph and the people around me are functioning at 35 mph, I get told that I should be content to wait around for them because I shouldn’t vibe in a rush and I should be patient. I get told that if we all operated more slowly the world would be a better place. It seems to me that being ‘too much’ in terms of mental functioning gets lumped together with always being busy and in a hurry…the onus on me is to slow down to their level and to ‘grin and bear it’ or be dismissed as emotional and thus irrational…”

On Creativity, Communication, and Electrical Storms

“My imagination is already so active, my brain is so full of ideas, it feels like an electrical storm sometimes, so many thoughts happening at once. It’s hard to imagine narrowing something down. It takes a lot of energy just to have one thought at a time. There’s so much happening at once; I can think fast, in pictures, and I can get solutions in feelings, it’s stimulating, it’s exciting, it’s frustrating, it’s difficult to explain…” 

“…to function in society and communicate with other people I have to downshift. I have to find some way to slow things down enough and put them in a linear narrative order so that other people can actually understand what the heck is going on with me…I can see the way the dots connect but most people can’t. I sound like a crazy person. I’m always the weird one. It’s exhausting and lonely…”

On Multipotentiality and Impossible Choices

“I don’t know what it’s like for other people, when they’re asked the question ‘if you could do anything what would you do?’ This kind of question feels impossible for me, like the universe is so big and the possibilities so endless, how can I possibly choose one or even four or twelve..?”

On Schooling and Untied Shoes

“I often was just not interested in the things at school. I can still recount how over the top invested I got into the subjects of dinosaurs, animals’ evolutionary traits, the theory of evolution, what it means to be funny, philosophy, religious origins, and theology, to name a few weird topics. The problem was that I would primarily be thinking about those topics while I was supposed to be listening in school…I excelled at all subjects academically. I would get straight A’s on tough assignments then lose interest…I would always do jusssttt enough to accomplish what I wanted. I was oblivious to the point of ridiculous, always had my shoes untied, extremely disorganized…always had a messy room/workstation/life, would constantly lose things…I got a perfect score on the logic section of the LSAT. I ended up getting into William and Mary Law School and passing the bar at age 26.”

On Overthinking, Anxiety, and Over-talking

“All my life I’ve been told I was a worrier, I was smart, I was artistic, and an over-talker according to my first teachers and my mother and sister, the latter of which still claim that today…All my life I’ve never felt that I fit in with anyone anywhere…I’ve been an overthinker to the point of chronic anxiety and at times panic attacks…I’ve eschewed what was popular in favor of alternatives…I’ve never felt adequate because I’ve underachieved financially…yet I’ve overachieved with regard to reading and retaining, observing, loving, meeting new people, taking small risks (or sometimes larger ones), and seeking to please others. Today, I seek balance and to love myself rather than expect others to love me. This is a scary new journey…”

On Social Responsibility, Empathy, and Superheroes

“…There is a guilt that returns again and again, the guilt that I can’t always help the people I know are suffering. Or there’s the guilt that comes from believing I should have solved all the problems of suffering in the world by now.  Totally completely reasonable. I mean, if I could just evolve faster maybe, write the ultimate book, turn into an enlightened superhero, something like that, then all the suffering would vanish. Yep Haha, that’s so ridiculous, but I know in my heart I still actually feel that way a little…” 

On Relationships, Sensitivity, and the Abyss

“…It feels desperately sad sometimes when I show up to deeply connect and I am not even met halfway – even when others have the intention of doing so. I feel as though I’m reaching and full of hope, but my arms aren’t long enough. Frustration sets in, then the feeling of isolation, and I sink into an abyss all the while still reaching. I have this voice saying – you are full of yourself, you are so wrong to assume things, you are crazy. Then I tell that voice – I know YOU are, but what am I?  I am gifted, flawed, beautiful, often suffering (in one way or many) and expanding always. But I feel one thing that is beyond my imagination is how to make sense of these gifts in a fleeting life – from within, another voice tells me I already make sense.”

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us what you have experienced within these themes. What else might you include as an issue that challenges you? What solutions have you found? Your comments add so much. If you click on the links above, you will find other posts that provide some helpful suggestions! Thank you to the readers who shared these experiences either in comments or in emails to me. I am so fortunate to have you all here.