Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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

photo courtesy of Semir Ahmed Douibi

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

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

These techniques help. But they aren’t enough.

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

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

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

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

 

What Psychotherapists Need To Know About Gifted Clients 

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

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

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

 

How To Find A Psychotherapist Who Loves Your Rainforest Mind

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Oh, yes they do…”

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Gifted Boys To Men — How To Thrive In A World That Misunderstands Your Sensitivities

photo courtesy of Abhinay Omkar, Flickr

What happens to super smart, sensitive, curious, empathetic, talkative, emotional little boys when they become men? Where does all of that emotion go? All of that empathy? All of that energetic curiosity? How do gifted men thrive in a world that doesn’t understand or appreciate their sensitive natures?

I wrote about this in a post two years ago. I’m going to recycle that post with a few changes because I couldn’t have said it better myself. Oh wait. I did say it myself… Anyway it’s worth sending out again!

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What do you do with all of that emotion? All of that empathy? All of that awareness?

How do you handle your grief? Your love of art or poetry or pink? Your despair over the violence you see in the world? Your tears?

It’s hard for many men to fit into the rigid view of masculinity. But for rainforest-minded men, there are extra tangled vines and more mosquitoes.

I wonder if you were a little tyke who had intense meltdowns. Maybe you expressed your fears and your joys with gusto. You didn’t know about The Boy Code yet. And because you were smart, adults expected you to be more logical and less emotional. Your expressiveness looked like immaturity to them. How can my 7-year-old who plays chess and beats his uncle every time, be so immature? But what if you were born with an unusual capacity to feel deeply? What if your sensitivity was just as large as your intellect? What if you seemed younger than your age peers because you purposely wanted to avoid the weight and hypocrisy of adulthood?

Then there was school. You may have been bullied because you were eager to learn. At recess you preferred examining the grasshoppers to throwing the balls. Maybe you felt more comfortable with girls.

Am I on the right track?

And now, there are the expectations. Oh, yes. If you’re so smart, then, you’re supposed to be able to do anything. Be a high achiever. Make lots of money. Be a good provider. Be tough and man up. But what if the pressure leaves you paralyzed? What if you feel like a failure each time someone close to you is disappointed? What if you’re looking successful but dying inside? What if you were criticized by a father who was full of shame over his own sensitivity? Or what if you feel responsible for living up to some potential that you can’t find and don’t believe you ever had?

What, then, can you do?

1. Redefine masculinity. I mean it. Use that creative brain of yours to design a new model. One where sensitivity, tenderness and wonder are signs of strength and achievement. Because they are.

2. Recognize that because you have a rainforest mind, you’re hardwired to be extra sensitive and soft-hearted. Blame your operating system.

3. Read about giftedness (Jacobsen) and realize that she is describing you. There aren’t many books that I know of on gifted boys/men specifically except by Kerr,  Zeff  and me, but there are some on raising boys that could also be helpful.

4. Write the book on gifted men.

5. Allow yourself to get support, help and guidance. Don’t think that you have to tough it out alone. You hear me? Help comes in many forms: counseling, 12-step groups, spiritual practices, music, acupuncture, yoga, massage, tango, book groups, camping, poetry, hiking, meditation, star-gazing, physical activity, art. It’s a sign of strength to ask for help.

6. With a counselor or in a journal or both, meet with your sweet, enthusiastic, curious little tyke self. Listen to him. Hold him close. Let him cry. Tell him he’s perfect the way he is.

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To my bloggEEs: Many of you are new here since this post was first written. Let us know what you think and feel. Your comments add so much. And thank you, as always.


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When People Find Your Intellect Intimidating — A Guide For Gifted Women

photo courtesy of Sabrina May, Unsplash

You don’t do it on purpose.

Intimidate people.

You’re just being you.

In fact, you’re holding back. Slowing down. Smiling. Being gracious. Stifling your curiosity and your perceptions. Carefully selecting from the scores of effervescent thoughts that continuously swirl around in your brain.

If they only knew how much you’re NOT showing.

Oh, boy.

And yet, you still scare them.

If they only knew that you just love to learn. You just love reading and research. You’re a pacifist, for heaven’s sake. You slept with the dictionary when you were five. (Unless, of course, your dictionary was on your phone. Then, you slept with Charlotte’s Web and Darwin’s Origin of the Species. But I digress.) How is that scary?

You’re not out to humiliate anyone or prove that you’re a superior being.

It’s just your nature to think a lot, to feel a lot, and to know a lot.

It’s not your fault.

So, you want to know how to be less intimidating?

That’s tricky.

It may not be in your control. It may not actually be necessary. But here are some suggestions, just in case. See if any fit for you.

If you’re interrupting folks with your creative ideas, let them finish before you share your thoughts; imagine designing the next electric car while you’re waiting. If you’re showing how bored you are at meetings when no one can agree on the obvious solution that you shared at the beginning of the meeting, bring your knitting or the New York Times crossword to stay occupied. Let people have their bad grammar and their mixed metaphors; the world will probably not end. Explore various ways to communicate with individuals based on their capacity to receive your insights and view it as a playful intellectual puzzle; there will be some people who won’t be reachable no matter what you do. Exercise your love of debate by running for office. Look for the humor in any situation as a way to entertain yourself and plan your memoir.

If you’ve grown up thinking that you need to be perfect, begin to unravel that belief; your vulnerability will be appealing to others. Feed relatives your terrible cooking. Invite friends to your messy house. Play games that you can’t win. Don’t hide your klutziness. Ask for help from people you trust.

Know that your rainforest-y peeps are out there and they will not be intimidated; they will be thrilled. Keep looking for them.

What I really want to tell you is that as you experience humans finding you scary and intimidating, you may need to accept that not everyone can handle life in the jungle. It’s pretty intense in there with all of those 2,500 different species of vines and 10,000 species of ants. It can be kind of scary, intimidating and overwhelming.

Even to you.

But, remember.

The rainforest also keeps everyone breathing. You are needed and wondrous just as you are. 

(Note: Just in case some of you might be inclined to misinterpret me, I’m not saying that you should change who you are for people who are intimidated. Noooooo. I’m just giving you some suggestions that might help make life easier for you in particular situations where you need them. As you know, I support you in being the fabulous radiant rainforest-y darling that you are. That’s what my blog is all about!!)

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To my dear bloggEEs: Are people intimidated by your intelligence? Have you found any good solutions? How would this post be different if it were the smart man’s guide? How would it be the same? I think gifted men also scare people, but differently. I wonder if the issue for gifted men is more that they can’t show their sensitivity. What do you say, dear readers? Thank you to the bloggEEs who inspired this post. And men, I promise a post just for you, soon.

 

 


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I’m Not Gifted, I’m Just Weird

photo courtesy of Eugenio Mazzone, Unsplash

You’d think that gifted people would know how smart they are. You’d think that gifted individuals would find life to be smooth and easy. You’d think that gifted folks would feel superior and judgmental of all non-gifted humans everywhere.

Nope. No way. Not the ones I know. And I’ve known a lot of them. I’m that old. (My former middle school students are turning 50. Yeah. Old. OK. Old-ish.)

Granted, I work with a particular variety of gifted souls. The rainforest-minded (RFM). Not all gifted folks are the RFM type. Some can be cognitively advanced but not highly sensitive or empathetic. Some can be very academic and scholarly, but not have multipotentiality. So, yes. Maybe some of the non-RFM-gifted know how smart they are, find life to be easy, and are judgmental. Maybe.

But, they weren’t in my classroom when I was a teacher in the mid-’70s and ’80s. They haven’t been in my counseling office for the past 25+ years. The RFMs I’ve known will tell you: I’m not gifted. I’m just weird. And they will struggle. With: Sensitivities. Injustice. Decisions. Choices. Achievement. School. Relationships. Communication. Emotions. Careers. Belonging. Parenting. Anxiety. Depression. Perfectionism. Guilt. Politics. Climate change deniers. Conspicuous consumption. Not enough time to read all of the books ever written.

And that’s if they grew up in a healthy family.

If you throw dysfunctional family into the mix, it gets even more complicated. I’ve written about that here and here. With more to come.

So, if you have a rainforest mind or if you love someone who does or if you work with them or teach them, it’s time to get out of denial.

It matters.

Why?

It matters because everyone will benefit if our rainforest-minded humans understand why they struggle and what to do about it. It matters because RFMs are raising RFM kids. If the parents know who they are, they’ll be better able to support their children. It matters because educators, psychotherapists, doctors and other professionals will stop misdiagnosing their clients and will be more effective practitioners.

It matters because we all need the intelligence, compassion, creativity, and sensitivity that our rainforest-minded beings share with us. Like we all need our tropical rain forests.

We won’t survive without them.

We won’t survive without you.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you recognize your giftedness? How do you struggle? Have you just felt weird much of your life? What would it be like if you accepted yourself as a gifted soul? Thank you, as always, for being here.

 


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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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Sensitivity Is Your Superpower

In times like these, you may wish that you had less sensitivity. Life as an empathetic soul is often overwhelming. It can be easy to fall into despair or anxiety. And because you are capable in multiple ways, relatives, friends, coworkers, neighbors, strangers, plants and animals may be clamoring for your assistance. 

You may be happy to help. It could be your calling to serve others . But you might feel inadequate because you aren’t the one dragging people out of burning buildings. You aren’t the one rushing into war zones to cover the atrocities.

And the clamoring may make you want to stay in bed. On your good days. On your bad days, it may make you want to pulverize the clamorers, if you know what I mean. ( Just because you’re sensitive doesn’t mean that you never feel drawn to pulverizing. I don’t recommend doing it. I’m just saying… )

You need to understand that your sensitivity is your strength. Being perceptive, empathetic, compassionate and intuitive are skills that the world needs. Desperately.

But because you’re a sensitive soul, there are some things that you need to know.

First: Just because you can sense someone’s pain, doesn’t mean that you’re responsible for fixing it.  Just because you can do something faster, better and more easily than other people, doesn’t mean that you have to do that something. Practice saying no. Think of it like this: There are many helpers out there. You’re giving someone else a chance to step up. You’re helping someone else learn. I’m not saying that you should shirk your responsibilities. I’m just suggesting that it’s healthy to set boundaries and limits. You’re very capable in many areas. It’s impossible and inappropriate for you to do everything you could possibly do. Exhausting yourself? Not recommended. Look for the times when you’re drawn to something because it’s energizing. Head in that direction.

Second: Get toxic people out of your life. They’ll get help elsewhere. You may be enabling them by letting them rely on you; and we all know that enabling is a no-no. And, by the way, the toxic people might include family members. In that case, get them out of your life, too. ( If that sounds harsh, it is. Most certainly, try therapy first and blunt discussions, if you’re so inclined. But for the truly toxic, you may need to say bye-bye.*) You’ll feel guilt. Try to let go of the guilt. Tell yourself that you’re healing the legacy of dysfunction in your family line. That your ancestors are benefitting. Because they are. ( Trust me on that one. ) Everyone benefits when you stand up for yourself.

Third: Self-care is your friend. You are not a wimp if you need to rest.

Finally: Appreciate your sensitivity. It makes you powerful. Your awareness and your capacity for compassion and loving is vast. And surely this planet, your relatives, friends, coworkers, neighbors, strangers, plants, animals and even your politicians, need all of the love and compassion they can get.

Sensitivity is your superpower.

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* I know that in some cases you won’t be able to say good-bye to toxic family members. In those cases, do your best to set limits, protect yourself and get support.

To my dear bloggEEs: Tell us about your sensitivities. How do you protect yourself from the clamorers? Describe how you use your superpower. And thank you, as always, for being here.


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The Contradictions Of Giftedness

Photo courtesy NASA, Unsplash

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.”     

It appears that Walt Whitman knew something about rainforest minds.

You are large. You contain multitudes.

But how do you live with your multitudinous-ness when other humans find you overwhelming. And when you find you overwhelming. How do you manage the contradictions of your youness? The anxieties that often come with the complexities? Your desire to create a better world?

Well, my darlings, pondering those questions is what this whole blog is about.

But today, in this post, I wonder about this:

You are large. You contain multitudes. But does anyone really see you?

Do you ache to be seen? To be known deeply? To connect with another human to feel that glorious sense of Known-ity?

I’m guessing that you do.

Here’s the rub.

If your capacity for learning and being is vast, then other humans may only be able to understand parts of you. Not that they aren’t trying. They may be trying. They just don’t have the capacity. They aren’t as large. They have fewer multitudes.

For example: You may hunger to study contemporary art, post-modern philosophy, celestial navigation, leathercraft, multiple languages, permaculture, world religions, Argentine tango and rock climbing. Today. In your spare time. For fun.

Large.

You may have sensitivities and intuitions that take you to deeper dimensions. You may see and feel mysterious energies that open you to other realities. You may have an empathy that allows you to know and feel others’ emotions and needs. You may connect with a spirituality that doesn’t fit within the expected parameters.

Multitudes.

How does a person like you get seen? Met? Understood?

Two thoughts.

Thought number one: Find people who can grasp a few of your multitudes. Maybe you rock climb with Cynthia. Read Dostoevsky with Joshua. Discuss post-modern philosophy with Latisha. Tango with Alessandro. This is not ideal because I know that you want that one person who can be your everything. But the more multitudes you have, the harder that will be.

Thought number two: Find someone or something larger than yourself. You heard me. This might be a human. But it might be Nature; as in viewing the night sky or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro or swimming with dolphins. It might be spiritual guides who speak to you through your writing or in your dreams or via the devas in your garden. It might be energies from an invisible reality or a parallel universe. It might be your very own Higher Self. It might be God.

One more thought.

Stop fighting with your Largess. Relax into your Multiplicity. When you feel like shrinking, don’t. Instead? Expand.

And be sure to contradict yourself. Daily.

Make Walt proud.

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To my bloggEEs:  Have you found ways to be seen and understood? Do you have a spiritual practice that helps you navigate your contradictions and complexities? We would love to hear from you. Many thanks to the clients who inspired this post.

This post is part of a blog hop from hoagiesgifted.org. For more lovely posts on this topic click on the image below.