Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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Realizing That You Are Gifted — Will It Make a Difference?

photo courtesy of vlad tchompalov, Unsplash

Realizing that you are gifted. That you are of the rainforest-minded clan.

Explains a lot.

It explains why you are so darned sensitive. So darned empathetic.  You see, your feelings and perceptions are as vast as your intellect. You are not only thinking, analyzing, and synthesizing on many levels at once and pretty much all of the time, even when you are sleeping, but you are also deeply emotional and empathetic. Knowing that it is your nature to be this way, stops you from misdiagnosing and pathologizing these traits and behaviors. Reduces your self-doubt. Increases your self-acceptance.

It explains why people label you an overthinker. To them, you are thinking too much. But it comes naturally to you. And, yes, if you are super anxious and ruminating, you need some strategies to soothe your nervous system, to calm yourself. But your “overthinking” is just a whole lot of analysis, observation, wondering, questioning, answering, creating, daydreaming, and evaluating. The nature of your rainforest mind. Better than underthinking, if you ask me.

It explains why you are lonely. There aren’t all that many RFMs roaming the planet yet, as far as I can tell. It can be hard to find others who want to dive as deeply as you do. Who are fascinated by philosophical inquiries. Who want to study yet another language. Who feel driven to manifest their purpose(s). Who are able to grasp any of the complicated connections that you make between multiple seemingly discombobulated phenomena.

It explains why school may not have gone so well. It wasn’t that you were lazy or arrogant. It wasn’t that you were a know-it-all, even though you already knew the material that was being taught at the time. If you weren’t an A student, it may have been because your particular need to learn something new, was not recognized, much less accommodated. If you were an A student, it may have been disconcerting because you had higher standards than some of your teachers.

It even explains why you are stuck. You see, when you have many ideas, paths, and possibilities, plus a sense of huge responsibility for oh, everything, decision making can be daunting. Choosing one direction, one job, one book, one color, one anything, might feel impossible. You choose one, you lose many. So you don’t choose any.

Realizing that you are gifted, then, does make a difference.

But that’s not the end of the story.  What if you do accept that you are gifted? What then?

Accepting that you are gifted, can lead to extraordinary pressure to prove it. To yourself and to others. Pressure to be a super achiever. To be the next Elon Musk. It can link your worthiness as a human to your accomplishments or to your lack of them. It can mean that you have to achieve something “insanely great” or your life has no meaning. This can, then, lead to extreme anxiety, depression, unhealthy perfectionism, and addictions. You may feel that you can never fail because your identity is at stake. You may be unwilling to try anything where you imagine that you might make a mistake.

So, it’s tricky.

But, hey. You rainforest-minders. Do you see? The benefits outweigh the difficulties. Especially, if you learn more about this pressure thing and what you can do about it. You can find out more about it as you read my blog and my, um, books. (Ask your local library to carry them!) Let me be your emotional support animal person. Let me help you realize that you are indeed gifted.

And, yes, realizing this will make a difference for you. For everyone you know. And maybe even people that you don’t know. And, well, perhaps, for the planet itself.

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To my bloggEEs: Are you able to accept your rainforest-mindedness? In what ways might your life change, if you knew for certain that you were gifted? How might this knowing support you in contributing to creating a better world? Thank you for being here. Much love and appreciation to all of you.

(Note: Not all gifted folks are of the rainforest-minded variety. They might be more purely cognitive, for example, so they may have fewer of the sensitivities. They may not have the emotional intelligence/empathy that you have. But, just to clarify one more time, all RFMs are, yes, gifted.)

 


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A Short Guide to the Complicated Life of Gifted Adolescents or Young Adults

photo courtesy of Christian Joudrey, Unsplash

Maybe you wonder how you can be so smart and so dumb at the same time. Perhaps you feel like too much and not enough.  Maybe you are terrified of both failure and success. Perhaps you love learning but are frustrated with schooling. Maybe you live by the highest standards for excellence but can never find your shoes. Well, my darlings, you are not alone. Welcome to your rainforest mind.

Here is your short guide to being a gifted adolescent or a young adult. Click on the link to read the entire post.

I Have to Know it Before I Learn It: A Gifted Kids’ 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…”

When Perfectionism, Anxiety, and Giftedness Go To 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…”

A Gifted Kid’s Conundrum — Part Two — Anxiety and Perfectionism

“…Understand that your perfectionism and anxiety might exist not because of something that you’ve done wrong but because of the nature of growing up gifted. The complications begin at an early age. You have a right to take the time to focus on your self-understanding and growth…”

What Do Gifted Teens Say About Their Struggles?

“…Then again, I’m scared to death of college. I’m not sure what I’d do if I were put in a class with really smart kids. What if the work is too hard? What if I don’t have all the answers? What’ll I do? Who am I then? How do I study for a test? I haven’t really had to crack a book yet. What if I can’t get the answers fast? And, what will I major in? I have so many interests. They say I can do anything I want like that’s a great thing. But all I feel is pressure and anxiety. How do I choose just one thing? What if I’m really not so smart and I’ve just been able to fake it all this time?..”

For Gifted Kids and Their Teachers: Strategies for Success

Maybe you are an enthusiastic, hungry learner. You have so many questions and so many answers; your drive to analyze and create is massive and never ending. Your intense curiosity annoys your fellow students and rattles your teachers…”

Social Responsibility and Your Super Smart Sensitive Soul 

“…Get in touch with the activities and skills that bring you joy, meaning, and fulfillment. Then, use your creativity to turn one or more of them into a community building or global-oriented service project that will change minds and hearts. Design a project that will spread more love. That will soften the divide and reduce the fear. It doesn’t have to grow into a global phenomenon. But it can. You may hesitate because you feel that whatever you do won’t be grand enough. Won’t be perfect enough. Don’t let that stop you…”

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To my bloggEEs: I thought it might be helpful to organize a collection of posts for the youngsters among you or for the parents of the youngsters. Or for those of you who were adolescents and young adults long ago. If you’ve been a bloggEE for a while, these posts will be familiar. Let us know what you think. Your comments add so much. And thank you, as always, for being here.


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If I’m So Smart, Why Do I Feel So Lost and Alone?

photo courtesy of Morgan Basham

There are times when you just want to scream.

Even though you’re a pacifist. Even though your instinct is to be compassionate and understanding. Even though you have empathy that overwhelms you. There are those days when you just want to say, “Why are there so many f—ed up, insensitive, clueless, exasperating people in the world?”

Am I right?

But this is not something that you can say to your cousin Randy, your neighbor Millie, or your friendly plumber, Rupert. Even if you’ve been unsure of your intelligence. Even if you think you’re also insensitive, clueless, and exasperating. You wonder how your coworkers can take so much time solving a problem when the answer is obvious to you. You don’t understand how your relatives can be satisfied watching mindless TV all afternoon or reading one book every few months. You question why your friends stay in one job for thirty years. You don’t grok why introspection isn’t as important as football.

Some of you may have known all along that you were gifted. You may have been frustrated since you were five with the kids who still couldn’t read Harry Potter or who didn’t know the earth’s distance from the sun. You may have had a hard time not throwing a chair when your teacher told you that you must wait for the others to catch up, again. You may have wondered why teachers didn’t appreciate your corrections of their spelling or why they ignored your raised hand. Perhaps, you felt that it was your duty to explain to the other kids how they weren’t playing the games correctly. You were sure they’d appreciate your direction.

They didn’t.

And now, as an adult, you’re still frustrated and lonely. Because you have high standards for accuracy, justice, and quality, you are enraged irritated by the shoddy workmanship of your contractor, by the irresponsibility of your supervisors, or by the petty arguments among your colleagues and relatives. How could they not know what is so obvious to you? How could they miss all of those details? How could they not care about the environmental impact of their actions? How could they be lacking in empathy, awareness, and sensitivity? How could they not consider the multiple many-faceted implications of life, the universe, and everything instead of their ridiculously simplistic, narrow-minded assumptions?

Perhaps, you have felt lost and alone for a long, long time.

I hear you.

What can you do?

  • Use that vast capacity you have for knowing, thinking, and feeling to expand your connection to sensation in your body-mind-heart. You might find great pleasure just by sinking into yourself and your connection to peace and beauty within and around you. If you need guidance, try a mindfulness app, a spiritual practice, Judith Blackstone’s Realization Process, or hikes in the forest or by the ocean. Feel your connection to Everything. Let your intuitive, empathic abilities expand.
  • Get enough psychotherapy so that you calm the fears of your traumatized inner child. Then, imagine that you have one year to live. What do you just have to do? What do you have to create? What is your purpose here on earth? What do you want to leave for the next generations?

We humans can be extraordinarily frustrating, irritating, fearful, narrow-minded, and confusing. You may still want to throw a chair.

I get it.

Let us scream together. Then, take a moment. Breathe. Feel your connection to rainforest minds around the world.

To the Universe.

To Everything.

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To my bloggEEs:  What are some ways that you take care of yourself when you experience exasperating humans and difficult events? In what ways are you developing your intuition? How are you building your self-confidence so that you can take action in the world? Do you have a spiritual practice where you feel a connection to Everything?

Thank you to the reader and client who inspired this.

I’ve started experimenting with recording my posts. If you’d like to listen, click here. But don’t worry. I won’t stop writing. I love it too much. And, I love you too much.

 

 


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Gifted, Sensitive, Curious Children In School — What Can Parents And Teachers Do?

photo courtesy of Les Anderson, Unsplash

You would think that kids who love literature, enjoy mathematical puzzles and scientific enigmas and who are curious beyond measure, would be high achievers in school and a teacher’s dream.

There are times when this is the case: When curriculum is challenging and engaging. When teachers are sensitive, enthusiastic, kind, creative, smart, flexible and organized. When classes are reasonable sizes. When administrators are supportive. When teachers get plenty of massages, dark chocolate, sleep.

And when giftedness is understood and appreciated.

Let me help you with that.

Meet six-year-old Ben. Eager to enter school, he was reading at age 4 and fascinated by the BBC documentaries on Planet Earth. He asked complicated questions about natural disasters, climate change, ancient Egypt and bacteria and told anyone who would listen about his discoveries. Ben cried easily when children or animals were hurt. He was bullied for his sensitivity and empathy. He didn’t understand why he had to practice his addition facts when he was multiplying fractions. Ben dreamed of becoming an astronaut-paleontologist-artist-poet when he grew up. He wanted to be Richard Feynman for Halloween.

Meet Louise. She loved reading and learning but was overwhelmed by middle school. Overcrowded classrooms, buzzing lights, strange odors, disrespectful students who didn’t care about learning, frustrated teachers, mean girls and the pressure to be perfect all triggered her extreme anxiety and her existential depression. She appeared confident and arrogant. She was neither. She refused to go back to school.

Meet Carmen. Even though she was an exceptional writer and former straight-A student, she was failing high school English and math. She’d become discouraged over the years with the repetitive assignments and excessive homework. But she wasn’t turning in her writing for another reason this time. Carmen had very high expectations for herself and spent hours agonizing over particular words and the interconnections within her research. There were so many ideas demanding her attention that a 5 page paper turned into a doctoral thesis. But no one ever knew. She never turned it in.

These are just a few of the gifted children that I’ve known.

What can teachers do?

Get to know all of the faces of giftedness and the ways gifted children might look ungifted. Don’t assume that these kids are lazy or arrogant or immature or ADHD if they’re not achieving. Make the time (I know you don’t have much time. It’ll be worth it.) to talk individually with them. Be curious and listen to what they tell you. Problem solve together. Be flexible with deadlines and curriculum. If you use the multiple intelligences model in your classroom, all students will expect that some assignments might be different for some kids. Reduce the amount of rote learning and repetition for the students who don’t need it. Fight for better funding for schools. Get enough massages, dark chocolate and sleep.

What can parents do?

Get involved at the school and be supportive of staff. Look for the sensitive, flexible teachers and bribe them explain nicely why your child ought to be in their class. Help your older children advocate for themselves by helping them talk directly to teachers about concerns and needs. Access school counselors and former teachers who loved your youngster, so they can be advocates. If you run into lots of roadblocks, there are options. Explore acceleration, charter schools, private schools, micro schools, homeschooling, early graduation, early college, online classes, part-time school, and tutoring. Join an online parent support group. Fight for better funding for schools. Get enough massages, dark chocolate and sleep.

There are more tips for teachers in this post. More suggestions for parents are here.

Gifted children like Ben, Louise and Carmen are extremely curious, eager learners. They can appear to be ungifted when their sensitivities, intensities, divergent thinking and perfectionism are misunderstood. They can appear to be ungifted when they resist certain assignments, suffer from anxiety or depression and stop achieving.

Teachers who understand this and appreciate these children? Teachers who are sensitive, enthusiastic, kind, creative, smart, flexible and organized? Well, they will be a gifted kid’s dream. They will be loved beyond measure.

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your experiences with your kids or yourself in school. What challenges did you face? What successes? If you’re a teacher, let us know what it’s like for you. As always, thank you all for being here.


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Your Precocious Kid Was So Adorable. Now, At 15? Not So Adorable.

photo courtesy of Annie Spratt, Unsplash, CC

Your daughter, Jenny, is editor of the school newspaper. She’s a math whiz, a voracious reader, and a star athlete. At 15, she looks destined for a great life.

Why, then, is she freaking out over what looks like nothing? Why is she still having meltdowns? Why is she screeching at you about your fundamentally inadequate parenting?

She was so darned cute when she was three.

But now, school is a struggle. She questions her teachers’ authority and refuses to turn in assignments that aren’t up to her standards. She criticizes the values of her so-called friends. Even though she has great empathy for the suffering multitudes, there’s no empathy for you. None. Nada. Zilch.

Welcome to adolescence. Welcome to GiftedKid 2.0.

I’m exaggerating. A little. In fact, she really does have empathy for you. Believe it or not, she feels guilty for her outbursts and hides a pressing need to please you. She worries that she’s a disappointment and that she’ll never live up to your expectations. (or her own) Her burning need for intellectual stimulation and her loneliness at not being deeply seen, also trigger her emotional reactivity.

Not to mention, um, hormones.

And, of course, your teen may not be like this at all. Gifted kids come in all shapes, sizes and varieties. But if you relate to the above, you’re not alone.

What can you do? Besides escape to a deserted island until she’s 21?

• Remind yourself that overexcitabilities (OEs) are part of the rainforest-minded  package. Gifted kids are naturally more intense emotionally as well as intellectually.

• Notice if you have your own set of OEs and learn how to nourish yourself, soothe your soul and get your own intellectual needs met.

• Try your best not to take the criticism personally. This is not easy. Breathe. Learn to meditate. Get exercise. Try therapy if your childhood pain is being triggered.

• Listen and reflect her feelings during the emotional turmoil. Problem solve later. No advice. No criticism. Listening is key. It’s a simple idea but not easy to do.

• Read Eileen Kennedy-Moore’s book Smart Parenting for Smart Kids and, ahem, my book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth. 

And, when all else fails, take comfort in the words of Andrew Solomon:

“Like parents of children who are severely challenged, parents of exceptionally talented children are custodians of children beyond their comprehension.”

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To my bloggEEs: For those of you who are parents, let us know how you experience your precocious adolescents. If you’re a gifted teen, does this sound like you? Or if you were a gifted teen, does this sound familiar? In a future post, I’ll focus on teen boys. But the suggestions apply if you have boys, as well. Thank you all, as always, for being here. Note: Just to clarify. I’m not saying that it’s not OK to question authority, to have high standards or to examine your friends’ values. Heavens, no. OK? Just clarifying.


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Your Gifted Child And School — Ten Suggestions For Parents

photo courtesy Pixabay, CC

photo courtesy Pixabay, CC

Eight-year-old Bobby wanted to be Richard Feynman for Halloween.

Could he be gifted? Hm?

There were many other signs: Enormous enthusiasm for learning, especially history, science, and language; emotional intensity, difficulty maintaining friendships with children his age, trouble with motivation in school, writing insightful poetry and detailed stories, stacks of books he longed to read, advanced verbal ability, over-thinking tests so that he misunderstood simple problems and scored poorly on exams, great interest in mathematics but not arithmetic, high sensitivity and empathy, frustration with the slowness of handwriting, distressed by the repetition in school, extremely active and curious mind, quirky sense of humor.

I’ve known many gifted children with similar characteristics. Like Bobby, they’re often misunderstood. Their sensitivity and big emotions are mistaken for immaturity. Mediocre test scores are interpreted as average ability or laziness. Loneliness is seen as lack of empathy. Intense curiosity looks like arrogance.

School personnel didn’t recognize Bobby’s rainforest mind. Is this scenario familiar?

If so, here’s what you can do:

— Explain to your child what it means to have a rainforest mind.

— Ask your child to create an imaginary container for his emotions to use when it’s not safe to express them in public. (Bobby used a coconut reinforced with diamonds that was “as big as a truck.”) One resource for helping with anxiety, depression and intensities is Charlotte Reznick‘s work.

— Find a specialist in gifted education who can test your child if the school needs proof of giftedness so that your child’s anxiety and creativity will be taken into consideration as her test results are interpreted.

— Request persistently and repeatedly that your child be matched with the more sensitive, creative and flexible teachers who, ideally, have training in gifted education. Did I mention, be persistent? Convince administrators that this is an easy solution, because it is. Understand the pressures that educators are under and provide support where you can. Bring bribes caffeinated beverages to overworked teachers. Let difficult administrators know that you have superpowers and you’re not afraid to use them. Remind yourself that when you speak out for your child, other gifted kids will benefit.

— Teach your child social skills, if needed, through role playing. Rainforest-y kids can be bossy and impatient because they don’t realize that other children don’t think as fast or don’t have the same interests. (Explain this to them.) Invite children over for play dates and provide guidance, if needed.

— Share this post with educators. It offers simple teaching techniques that work in the classroom along with inexpensive practical resources for teachers.

— Problem solve as a family. Brainstorm ideas. Your children will come up with creative solutions to assorted problems and they’ll appreciate your trust in them. Remember that healthy limits and consistency are important, especially if your child is testing boundaries. Take time to nourish yourself.

— If you have a rainforest mind and had difficulty in school, find ways to process your feelings through journaling, coaching or counseling. This post might help.

— Read about what other parents are doing and, if needed, look into homeschooling. Join a parenting support group in your town or on Facebook. Attend a SENG or NAGC conference.

— Work to change the system. Join innovative educators like Jade Rivera, the educators at NuMinds and organizations like 4pt0.org.

All of our children, in fact, the entire planet, will benefit if our gifted kids are provided with a stimulating, compassionate and meaningful schooling experience.

I’m sure Richard Feynman would agree.

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your schooling experiences or about how your kids are doing in school. What frustrations did you have? Was there a teacher who made a difference for you? How? Thank you for sharing. My blog is so much richer because of your comments. See you in 2017! Let me know if there are topics you’d like me to cover in future posts.


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They Say You’re A Know-It-All. Are You?

photo from Pixabay, CC

photo from Pixabay, CC

What did you do when you were in school and you knew all of the answers to the questions the teacher was asking?

Did you raise your hand expecting that you’d be called on? Did you raise your hand expecting the teacher to ignore you? Did you not raise your hand because the other kids would get mad at you? Did you blurt out the answer out of frustration or anger or a touch of ADHD? Did you read Hamlet for the fifth time? Did you plan the design for a nuclear fusion reactor? Did you stare out the window in despair looking to the crows for consolation?

All you wanted was to learn something new. To be free to be curious and excited. To share big ideas with your peers. You weren’t trying to make anyone else look bad. You weren’t trying to show how smart you were. You weren’t trying to irritate the teacher. All you wanted was to learn something new.

But you were ridiculed and rejected. And maybe your teachers told you, “Nobody likes a know-it-all.”

Ironic, isn’t it? When you’re often feeling like an impostor? When you know how much you don’t know? You’re the last one to think that you know it all.

Maybe you were like Taylor Wilson. Just trying to correct the outdated information his science teacher was presenting to the class. Eager to talk with someone about “the esoteric behaviors of baryons and mesons.” Exploring nuclear fusion on his own while failing science in school.

Granted, we know that, in school, it’s very hard for teachers to manage large groups of energetic kids and meet each child’s particular educational needs. We know this. We need to work to change the system. But for now, and from now on, I don’t want you to be blamed for your ravenous hunger for knowledge. I don’t want you to be mislabeled. I don’t want you to blame yourself.

You’re not a know-it-all.

You’re a want-to-know-it-all.

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To my dear blogEEs: Were your experiences in school like this? Tell us about them. And if you haven’t heard of Taylor Wilson, check out the wonderful book, The Boy Who Played With Fusion, by Tom Clynes. Clynes tells an engaging, true story and is an articulate advocate for gifted kids. (Admittedly, I wish Taylor wasn’t using his extraordinary abilities to develop nukes, but that’s another conversation.)