Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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How Can You Tell If You Or Someone You Know Is A Gifted Adult?

photo courtesy of Ava Sol, Unsplash

Gifted kids can be hard to identify. There is a lot of controversy around what giftedness looks like in children. It is even harder to identify giftedness in adults. I’ve worked with gifted adults in my therapy practice for 20+ years. I’ve noticed some common traits.

So. If you’d like to know if you or someone you know is gifted, listen for these types of statements:

“I started writing a blog post about an herb that has now become 80 pages with no end in sight. The writing is about–everything. It’s all connected!”

“…friends and family don’t know what to do with me because I’m always moving onto the next thing. I’ve been told I’m competitive or make people feel bad by my insatiable drive to learn and grow…”

“It’s hard growing up in a family when you experience the world in a radically different way, are criticized for your ‘failures’ that aren’t actually failures and bullied for being ‘too sensitive’ and ‘too serious’…”

“Oh, and the smells, scents, and sounds that other people are not bothered by–me, all the way. I get migraines from those things. I cannot filter them out the way other people seem to.”

“I cannot tell you how often I was scolded for overthinking, and told to ‘stop worrying’ during my various forays into therapy. Oh the self-flagellation!”

“…I have trouble picking one thing, so I currently have a job that allows me the mental space to pursue what I really want to be doing with my mental energies…I’m on career path #4 in less than 20 years and I do part-time paid projects when I have the energy.”

“I was told that my expectations were too high and that I should lower my standards. I shouldn’t be so idealistic. I should ignore human suffering and stop rescuing animals and plants. I’m told I’m over-reacting to the climate crisis.”

“Maybe what I consider small talk isn’t considered small talk by everyone. I don’t want to bore people with ideas they don’t want to engage in but it’s hard to numb myself so often…There is the occasional magic where you realize someone you’ve known for a long time has a really interesting or weird interest, hitherto unknown, which can make for a fascinating hour or so.” 

“Am I crazy or is this a severe case of empathy? Intuition run wild? How do I know what I know?” 

“I crave intellectual stimulation. When I can’t get it, I enjoy amusing myself with translating conversations into one of the several languages that I know. I also love having a song running in my head (from memory, not with headphones) while visualizing the fingering for violin/cello/piano as if I were playing one of the lines. I love replicating the actual fingering in my pocket, just gently tapping, and walking down the street and feeling like I am playing right then and there with the big wave of music flowing through me, while no one around knows.”

“Beauty. Beauty is just so darned overwhelming. I cry at beauty.”

“I never thought I was gifted because I never tested well. I would overthink the questions or come up with too many possibilities within the questions. I never saw the point of certain subjects in school because they were in isolation of the greater world…I’ve been told that I’m gifted but I’m still not sure.”

“I’ve been searching for years for a spiritual community. I find peace, compassion, and guidance in Nature.”

“My whole life, I literally thought something was wrong with me because I’m not like everyone else around me and it’s been a very lonely road.” 

These are the types of statements I hear over and over from my gifted clients. They may be high achievers in an academic field. They may have a long list of accomplishments. They may be rich and famous. Or they may be none of these things.

But if you are writing an 80 page blog post on an herb, if you are on your 4th career path in 20 years, if beauty makes you cry, if you must fight injustice, if you out-think the test questions, if you are driven to learn and grow, if your intuition runs wild, and if you feel deeply connected to the universe and everything, well, then, odds are, it is highly likely, it is totally possible, that you, yes, you, are a gifted adult. That you have a rainforest mind.

(Note: And now that you are almost kind of absolutely sure that you are gifted, my books will tell you what to do next so that you can do what you are here on the planet to do. No pressure. Just sayin.’)

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To my bloggEEs: What have you said that might be a clue that you, too, are gifted? Thank you to the bloggEEs who provided these (edited) examples.

Here is a short recent video of me interviewed by Tina Harlow if you are wondering what I sound like and look like and why you should buy my books! And here is a recent review of my first book from Kirkus Reviews. And, by the way, I’d love a review from YOU, too! (on Amazon) As always, thank you for being here. Big love to you.


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Advice for Gifted Adults Living in a Not-So-Gifted World

photo courtesy of Alfonso Scarpa, Unsplash

Let’s say that you understand that you are gifted. That you are super smart, highly sensitive, emotional, and empathetic. That you have a rainforest mind. That you think deeply, analyze everything, love learning, and seek justice. You are even starting to accept your compassionately quirky ways.

But what you don’t understand is how to communicate with other humans. How to manage in your workplace. Where to find friends. How to find a suitable partner. How to be authentic. How to live at 95 mph when everyone around you is running at 35 mph.

There are some suggestions if you click on the links above. Here are more:

Accept who you are in all of your curious, passionate, deep-diving intensities. Be as introspective as you want to be because your inner knowing will guide your self-acceptance, your choices, and your evolution. To reach this goal, keep reading my blog and, ahem, my books. If your self-criticism and self-doubt is excessive, consider examining your experiences in your family of origin for the source of your distress. Get professional help, if needed. You may be a fast learner when it comes to cognitive capacities but emotional healing from trauma is slow going. Your complexity requires a team of practitioners. Give yourself time to find them. Be selective. My team has consisted of these folks, not necessarily all at the same time: Psychotherapist, acupuncturist, energy intuitive, physical therapist, naturopath, massage therapist, astrologer, and tango dancer.

Give yourself permission to adjust how you communicate with others, depending on the people and the situation. Telling people you are gifted is probably not going to be the best strategy. Sadly, in many instances, you’ll need to consciously slow your speech and simplify your ideas. I realize that this is not the advice that you want to hear. I get it. I’m not saying that you can’t be all of who you are. Except that I am saying that. Truth be told. In certain circumstances. There will be times when slowing down will be the best choice for reaching others and being understood. Active listening skills will be useful in awkward social situations. Recognize that your “too muchness” is not something that is wrong with you, though. It is the others who have not enough-ness that is the problem.

Be on the lookout for a job/career path(s) that is a good fit. Allow yourself to change jobs when you need more stimulation, if you can. Find subtle ways to entertain yourself* when you have to sit in meetings waiting for consensus or waiting for coworkers to draw the conclusions you told them two months ago. Find allies at work and bring them coffee and dark chocolate. Remember that what is obvious to you may be mysterious to someone else, not because they are not smart, or they are lazy (although they might be), but probably because they aren’t gifted. If you have entreprenurial skills, use them. Go to an Everything Conference and meet other multipotentialites. Use Barbara Sher’s books to help you find a path(s).

Keep looking for other RFMs. I swear they are out there. 4298 of them are reading my blog. I realize that even if you find a RFM, they might not get you. But don’t give up.** I mean, just look at all of the booknerd sites there are now. It’s astonishing. I get overwhelmed just looking at the book reviews and recommendations and images of book stacks on Instagram. All of those LitHub people and BookBub folks and Silent Book Club enthusiasts. There are RFMs among them! Surely, the 899.6K followers of Brain Pickings are gifted. So, take the initiative to start and nourish a relationship that has promise. I know you’d like someone right in your hometown to be there when you are dying to start a Foucault study group. But online relationships can be a part of the solution. Try the community at The School of Life. Use that creative overthinking brain of yours to design your own unique Facebook group, podcast, blog, or research project. If you build it, they will come.

And what about your sense of justice? Your concerns over the suffering on the planet? Your grief over the climate crisis? Well, here is where you go full speed ahead. This is where you turn it on. This is where you be all of who you are. Access your intuition and your connection to your spirituality. This will give you the guidance that you need to create or speak out in your particular rainforest-y way. In fact, as you step into your true Self, you will see that you are more powerful than you ever thought possible. Now is the time to go 95mph. Or 150+mph. Start a journaling process if you don’t know where to begin: Free write. What is your destiny? How can you use your strengths to contribute? What makes your heart sing?

Your heart singing? It will make the not-so-gifted world a little more gifted.

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To my bloggEEs: Share your thoughts, feelings, questions, hopes, and dreams with us. Your comments add so much, especially sharing the ways you’ve discovered to live well in this not-so-gifted world. Thank you, as always, for being here. I am singing with you.

(* from cmd1122: “…I enjoy amusing myself with translating conversations (live time) into one of the several languages I know. I also love having a song running in my head (from memory, not with headphones) while visualizing the fingering for violin/cello/piano as if I were playing one of the lines. I love replicating the actual fingering in my pocket, just gently tapping, and walking down the street and feeling like I am playing right then and there with the big wave of music flowing through me, while no one around knows.)…”)

(**from Sarah: “…I have friends I talk to about education, friends I discuss cultures or literature with, foodie friends, friends who are parents of my children’s friends, friends I go to movies or plays with, and even friends I enjoy arguing with! These groups do not necessarily intersect. Some are RFM, and some are not…”)

 

 

 


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The Lonely World of the Gifted Adult — Too Smart, Too Sensitive, Too Emotional, Too Curious

photo courtesy of Danny via Unsplash

It is part of the mythology of giftedness that super smart people have it made. That they are successful, rich, and appreciated for their cleverness. That they don’t really need much companionship because they are totally content in their labs studying fruit flies or in the library immersed in piles of books on obscure philosophical theories.

In my experience, this is not the case. These adults are often lonely. Granted, I’m a psychotherapist. Most of the gifted clients I see have lived through some sort of childhood trauma. Nevertheless, I suspect that many of the non-traumatized gifted souls among us would be telling me similar tales.

When you have a rainforest mind, it can be hard to find others who truly, deeply get you.

Some examples:

~ You are at your job, being conscientious, and caring. It is important to you that your coworkers are respected and understood. You feel responsible to both the organization and the humans you  supervise. Meetings are challenging. You problem solve quickly and typically end up waiting for the group to catch up. You grow tired of explaining what is obvious to you. At your evaluation, your boss tells you that coworkers say you are arrogant, condescending, and judgmental. Your boss is intimidated by you. You slow your speech and smile more. You don’t share your innovative ideas or your questions. You leave homemade gluten-free cookies in the staff room. It doesn’t help.

~ You are in graduate school. You were so excited to join what was supposed to be a cohort of deeply intellectual lovers of research and thinkers of complex ideas.  But your advisor no longer cares. He has tenure and has lost interest in academic pursuits and in you. The politics within your department is disturbing. You wonder how there can be peace on earth when your colleagues in academia can’t even agree on the schedule for the next term. You feel bereft. No one shares your curiosity and your enthusiasm for Nietzsche, Virginia Woolf, quarks, Bach, the universe, and everything.

~ You are highly intuitive. You have been an empath since you were quite young. You feel a responsibility to help others. It is hard to know if friends are attracted to you for you or if they just want you to help them heal their emphysema or contact their dead Uncle George. It is hard to have simple relationships because you can sense what others are feeling and they either put you on a pedestal or they avoid you. If you haven’t been able to set healthy boundaries because you have been told that you have a gift and are responsible for sharing it, you may overwork and ignore your body’s distress signals.

~ You have a deep sense of social responsibility. It is hard not to obsess about the level of suffering that you see all around the world. Your friends and relatives tell you to lighten up and stop worrying so much. But every time an extreme weather event happens somewhere or you see another homeless person, your heart breaks.

~ You are the parent of a gifted child. This child is bursting with energy, questions, curiosity, and emotion. You can’t keep up with them and are exhausted at the end of the day. You feel a deep sense of responsibility to raise a compassionate, sensitive human. To give your child what you did not get. Finding an appropriate school has been grueling. Other parents think it is easy to raise such a smart child. It is not.

Can you relate to any of these examples? Many of them?

What can you do about the loneliness you feel?

You can read these other blog posts. I’ve written about this before. There are things that you can do.

For today, though, I want to share the words of the courageous RFM, Charles Eisenstein. You’ll want to read the entire article. He presents a fascinating perspective on living consciously in today’s world. The quote below is particularly uplifting and spiritually sensitive.

You are not alone.

“The beings we have excluded from our reality, the beings we have diminished in our perception into non-beings, they are still there waiting for us. Even with all my inherited disbelief (my inner cynic, educated in science, mathematics, and analytic philosophy, is at least as strident as yours), if I allow myself a few moments of attentive quiet, I can feel those beings gathering. Ever hopeful, they draw close to the attentiveness. Can you feel them too? Amid the doubt, maybe, and without wishful thinking, can you feel them? It is the same feeling as being in a forest and suddenly realizing as if for the first time: the forest is alive. The sun is watching me. And I am not alone.”     Charles Eisenstein

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To my bloggEEs: Of course, I feel less alone because I have you! Thank you so much for being here. Let us know about your experiences of loneliness and what soothes you and how you find people (and spiritual guides? Nature? the Force? higher consciousness? intuitive visions? God? ) who get you. Do you have a spiritual practice/belief where you can feel connected?

My new book is almost here! It will launch near the end of June. Stay tuned! If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, I’ll be announcing it there first. (and here, of course) You will now have your favorite blog posts in a book (a love letter to you) to soothe your lonely soul.

 


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“Beam Me Up, Scotty.” Social Responsibility and Your Super Smart, Sensitive Soul

photo courtesy of Dino Reichmuth, Unsplash

Remember this from Star Trek? “Beam me up, Scotty.” Sometimes don’t you just want to be beamed up?

Me, too.

Why?

Super Sensitivity. Extreme Empathy. Pressure. Expectations. Overthinking. Perfectionism. Intuition. Loneliness. Social responsibility. Bad Hair Days.

Not to mention childhood trauma. Anxiety. Depression. Despair. Climate change. Ignorance. Racism. anti-Semitism. Sexism. Poverty. Narcissistic politicians. And more.

It can be overwhelming. You can feel powerless.

What can one person do? Even one super smart, sensitive, empathetic person?

Here’s an idea. Something you can do.

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. 

Here are some examples. Places to start:

~ Have you heard of the Craftivist Collective? They describe themselves this way: “Our gentle protest approach to craftivism aims to change the world with deliberate, thoughtful actions that provoke reflection and respectful conversation instead of aggression and division.” A similar group is called Badass Herstory. Check them out. I had no idea that craftivism was a thing until a client told me about it. Join them or start a different collective. Maybe a Solar Power Collective or a Gleaners Group. (You just might meet other RFMs there!)

~ I’m guessing that you know about Maria Popova and Brain Pickings. Imagine making a living researching and writing about everything you are curious about with no limits on depth and complexity. She has almost 5 million followers on Facebook. Who says there aren’t any super smart people out there?? Is she influential? You betcha.

~ Start a Silent Book Club in your town. Here’s their description. “We started Silent Book Club because reading with friends is awesome. We love hearing about what people are reading (often in their other book clubs) and we think it’s important to put down our phones and be social. Real, live, breathing-the-same-air social, not hearting-you-on-Instagram social.” Maybe this doesn’t sound like a service project but you never know who you might be saving from despair or desperation. Spreading the love of reading has got to be a good thing.

~ Start a mentorship program in your local middle school. Then let it spread throughout your school district.

~ Get involved with an organization helping refugees around the world.

~ Use art as a way to influence others. Explore organizations that promote the power of art such as this one: … persuade by creating moving experiences that prompt people to question the world as it is, imagine a world as it could be, and join together to make that new world real…”

~ Join with climate activists in your state to find out how to take action that will influence policy and promote real change. Read DeMocker’s book for many suggestions on how to begin.

~ Choose to do some deep psychotherapy around family of origin behaviors, patterns, and beliefs. Stop the cycle of abuse in your family line. Find your strength and your voice so that you can relate to others from your own self-compassionate place.

~ Start a blog and write a book. Become a psychotherapist and work with rainforest-minded souls.

And, remember.

You’ll need nourishment and nurturing so that you can build your social responsibility plan. Here is some good advice from Maria Popova.

Seek out what magnifies your spirit. Patti Smith, in discussing William Blake and her creative influences, talks about writers and artists who magnified her spirit — it’s a beautiful phrase and a beautiful notion. Who are the people, ideas, and books that magnify your spirit? Find them, hold on to them, and visit them often. Use them not only as a remedy once spiritual malaise has already infected your vitality but as a vaccine administered while you are healthy to protect your radiance.”   Maria Popova

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To my dearest bloggEEs: What people, ideas, and books “magnify your spirit?” Let us know your feelings around social responsibility and if you have project ideas that you want to explore. (Note: I will be deleting any comments that are rants, even though there is a lot to rant about, or that call out specific individuals or political parties. Thank you for understanding.) Sending you all much love and spirit magnification.

 


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Resources for Building a Better World and Finding Your Purpose(s)

“…It was so humbling to acknowledge that as humans, we all seem to share the wound of not having felt loved just as we are! …Our deepest wounds call out to be faced, felt, made peace with, tenderly held and integrated so that we can allow our essence to fully penetrate our lives. We are invited into a spirituality that does not seek to transcend our pain but to fully feel, meet, and embrace all of our beautiful, raw, messy humanity…”                                      Science and Nonduality

There’s a whole lot of messy humanity out there these days. A whole lot. I must admit that it has me kinda discouraged, if you must know. It doesn’t help that I’m recovering from a bout with the flu. And when I’m sick, I can leap from anxiety into catastrophizing. It goes like this: Even though I know my body has bounced back from various illnesses, this time will be different. I’ll never recover from this and it’ll only get worse. In fact, I’ll become so disabled, I won’t be able to work. My income will dry up. My friends and family will abandon me and I’ll become a crochety homeless old bag lady with really bad hair. Then, the summer fire season will be upon us and my town will go up in flames and I will not have access to clean water or the internet and I will have to stop blogging. Life will lose all meaning…

It goes like that.

These days, sadly, I don’t have to be sick to feel anxious. I just listen to NPR. You know what I’m talking about. And if you are a highly sensitive, empathetic, smart person, which you know you are, then, you, too, are anxious. Maybe even catastrophizing. And you don’t even have the flu.

I get it.

I’m here to help.

First of all, as you may have noticed, the above quote is referring to each of us looking at our own “beautiful, raw, messy humanity.” And, I agree. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ve heard it many times. It’s an act of courage and a gift to the planet for you to face your fear, shame, and despair, and walk through your dark night of the soul. You can use psychotherapy, spiritual practices, personal growth groups, energy healing, scientific analysis, bodywork, vision quests, shamanism, art-music-writing-dance, 12 Steps, political activism, prayer, tonglen, or, better yet, some combination of these things.

Of course, you’ll also need to recognize that you do, in fact, have a rainforest mind. You are going to need it. So accept it. Love it.

You heard me.

Then, look for people, organizations, books, and resources who are taking action to create a better world. This will remind you that you are not alone and will provide support for your own actions. There are lovely people out there who are making a difference. You can start with Mary DeMocker‘s excellent book The Parent’s Guide to Climate Revolution. And Rebecca Solnit‘s Hope in the Dark. You can also follow Solnit on Facebook. There are organizations that have a larger view of what’s possible like The Institute of Noetic Sciences. There are books helping you find your purpose(s) such as my book (with the new cover coming in a few days!!) and others.

Finally, if you find your purpose(s) and live that larger life, you are doing what you are here on the planet to do. In my humble opinion, I don’t think you can do much more than that.

Unless, of course, I become a crochety old bag lady with really bad hair. Then you can also make sure I have access to a laptop and the internet.

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To my bloggEEs: Let’s generate a long list of resources for creating a better world and for finding your purpose(s). What people, books, music, films, therapies, artists, and organizations are out there that you recommend? Please avoid specific political rants. Thank you, as always, for being here. You are not alone.

And here’s link to a kickstarter campaign for a documentary on giftedness that’s in the works for 2020. (I’m on the advisory board.) This documentary surely belongs on our list of resources for creating a better world.

 

 


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What Might Exceptional Giftedness Look Like in Kids and Adults?

photo courtesy of Graham Hunt, Unsplash

When Carol was three years old, she taught herself to read. At age six, she gave her Barbie a lobotomy. At seven, she picked Rembrandt as the person she respected most, because of his use of light. When she was eight, she refused to say the pledge of allegiance in school because she didn’t agree that all people were united under God. And who was God, anyway? At nine, she was reading Ray Bradbury. At ten, she insisted that she volunteer at a home for the elderly.

Growing up in an abusive environment, Carol worked out elaborate plans to calm her fears, including siding with the “bad guys” to ease their loneliness. In sixth grade, OMNI magazines were her entertainment. Her dreams were often vivid and at age 12, she taught herself to lucid dream. She thought often about the effects and influences of patterns and cycles in life and in nature and philosophized with Sartre and Nietzsche. She explained, “I didn’t want to be another person endlessly repeating cycles of suffering in a world where truth and beauty were so mangled and abused.”

Carol won many contests in school and her work was held up as an example for others. But that didn’t matter to her as much as standing with the children who were bullied or ignored. She was curious about religion and the paranormal and, at a young age, took a bus to church on her own. Her empathy and intuition were finely tuned. She would pick up accurate information about people that they didn’t openly share with her but would confirm later.

In high school, Carol experimented with goth/punk, poetry, art, tarot, photography, philosophy, sexual identity, and LSD. One of her favorite books was Ideas and Opinions by Einstein and her preoccupation was with finding true meaning. She always had a strong sense of spirituality. Recently, she said, “I believe no goal is higher than manifesting ultimate love and compassion. All I have done in my life has been ultimately in the name of opening my heart…It’s important to me to keep pushing the boundary, exploring my connection to the unseen and the energy that connects all things.”

Carol has a rainforest mind. She’s managed to continue to be compassionate, sensitive, intuitive, and productive in spite of growing up with serious abuse and neglect. Carol will tell you that she’s not special; that she’s not particularly unusual.

But she is. Unusual. Gifted. Exceptionally so.

Carol, now in her late 30’s, is beginning to understand that her quirks, her obsessions, and her constant questioning of the status quo, is not pathological. Not something to hide. She’s starting to use her talents to design a unique career path. To fulfill her long-time desire to create a better world.

Shall we join with Carol?  Open our hearts? Manifest ultimate love and compassion? Explore our connection with the unseen and the energy that connects all things?

How could we not.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you resonate with Carol’s profile? How are you like her? How are you different? There is a spectrum when it comes to giftedness. And, of course, great variety and complexity. Where might you be on the spectrum? (You will notice that Carol hasn’t won a Nobel prize or invented the newest electric car. And, yet, she is still exceptionally gifted.) What’s your experience with “the unseen and the energy that connects all things?” Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. Thank you to the client who inspired this post.

(Note: My book publisher may be closing its doors so my plan is to take back my rights and become an Indie Press! This is not absolutely confirmed yet but is most likely. The book won’t be available soon while I figure out the logistics but I’m hoping that won’t take too long. I’m going to redo the cover, which I’ve never been crazy about, but not make many other changes. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll see the updates.)

(Book update: The publisher is trying to stay afloat so nothing is changing right now. This could be a good time to stock up! 🙂 )


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Inspiration, Beauty, Your Dysfunctional Family, and Human Evolution

photo courtesy of Saffu, Unsplash

“…Then consider what it means to be broken. What if you could proclaim yourself sick and hurt and sad and broken and malfunctioning, every single day, and still believe that you deserved love? What if you could sit in the rubble of your shattered castle, and still feel compassion for yourself? Because compassion for the self is the same thing as passion: That’s where inspiration and beauty are waiting for you…”      Heather Havrilesky

I’m a psychotherapist. Every day I sit with beautiful souls who’ve been deeply hurt. Usually by family members. They feel broken. Fearful. Alone.

I wonder how humans can ever evolve when so many continue to abuse their own children.

With your sensitive, empathetic, rainforest mind, you’re likely painfully aware of the malfunctioning in your own family, in your community, and in the world. Maybe you “sit in the rubble of your shattered castle.” You notice there’s a heck of a lot of rubble. So much rubble. So many shattered castles. Yours. Your parents. Your ancestors. Your neighbors. Your friends. Your politicians. Your ex-partners. Your dog, Fido. OK, maybe not your dog Fido.

I know about rubble. I’ve been digging out from mine for years. It’s a lot of work. The bigger the castle, the more rubble you’ve got. Therapy can take a long time because of all of those gorgeous broken stained glass windows that you need to replace. OK, maybe they didn’t have stained glass windows in castles. Humor me. Maybe you’re more a cathedral than a castle. Don’t you just love metaphors? But I digress.

The point is. Compassion. For yourself. Human evolution.

I know. It’s hard to find self-compassion when the early messages you received, directly or indirectly, were that you were a mistake. Or that you weren’t good enough. Or that the world was unsafe and there was no one you could trust. So, you learned how to cope, how to survive. Usually by blaming yourself and feeling unworthy of love.

And, if you were also a highly sensitive, empathetic being, which you know you were/are, you may have felt responsible for saving your family members. You may have felt pressure to achieve. Or pressure to underachieve. You may have become the caretaker in the family, honing your intuitive capacity, heightening your hypervigilance, closing the door to your heart.

And you wonder why you’re in therapy for, oh, years? Which, by the way, if you go for one hour a week, every week, that’s only 52 hours a year. Out of 8760. That is not much time. After daily 24/7 exposure during your most vulnerable years immersed in the energies, beliefs, behaviors, and pathologies of your malfunctioning family.

Just saying.

So, now that you’ve recognized the rubble, how do you start to rebuild? How do you open your heart back up? How do you find compassion for yourself? How do you help humans evolve?

Here’s one idea. (Besides getting 8760 hours of therapy, which you know I highly recommend.) Have you heard of Pema Chodron and the practice of tonglen? It’s a simple but powerful meditation technique. You’ll want to read about it to get an accurate sense of it but in summary: Notice how you feel. Anxious? Sad? Ashamed? Fearful? Then imagine all of the other people on the planet who are feeling that way in this moment. Welcome them in as you breathe in. Welcome your anxiety, for example, and the anxiety of everyone else everywhere who feels the same. (Sounds kinda overwhelming, I know. Move it through you. Don’t hold onto it.) Then breathe out love. To yourself and everyone else. Continue this way for about 15 minutes or so. Notice how you feel. It’s counter-intuitive but likely that, over time, you’ll feel more peaceful. And more compassion. For yourself. While you’re sending love out to the world.

And then, Inspiration and beauty will be waiting for you.

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To my bloggEEs: What do you think? Are you sitting in the rubble of your castle? What are some ways that you’re rebuilding? Do you know that making the choice to heal from a dysfunctional family is an act of courage and human evolution? Have you tried a tonglen practice? Even if you don’t think you can benefit from meditation, this might be something to explore. Thank you for sharing your comments and your open hearts. I’m so glad you’re here.

Thank you to Heather Havrilesky for her wise words. For more on self-compassion, try: Kristin Neff. 

Note: As with everything I recommend, you’ll need to decide if it’s right for you. For some of you, tonglen may be too overwhelming and not be appropriate. Take care of yourself!

If you’re looking for another way to build your self-compassion through gifts for this holiday season, check out my book! 🙂 And if you’ve already read my book, could you write a review on Amazon? Thank you!