Don’t Let the Chainsaws Cut You Down

If you have a rainforest mind, chances are, you’ve met a lot of chainsaws.


Maybe you weren’t invited to birthday parties because the other kids didn’t want to hear about the BBC documentaries that you loved. Maybe you were bullied in school for choosing NASA over Disneyland or Jane Austen over Justin Bieber. Maybe your teacher told you that “no one likes a know-it-all.”


Maybe you had to hide the fact that you knew the answers in class and got A’s on the tests without studying. Maybe you were teased for your intense emotions. Maybe you ate lunch alone in the cafeteria most days.


And now, as an adult, you’re still getting cut down. At work. Your supervisor criticizes you for not being a team player. You’re so tired of waiting for everyone to reach the conclusions you drew. Two days ago. You’re desperate to find a colleague who shares your concerns about the questionable ethics in the organization. You’re told that you’re too meticulous, too serious and too sensitive. Your coworkers are threatened by the speed at which you accomplish tasks. But you don’t understand why they can’t keep up.

With friends, if you can find them, you may be doing most of the listening. They come to you for counsel but don’t reciprocate. When you risk sharing your ideas, you see their eyes glaze over when you start to explain why you’re thrilled that MIT is now sharing free classes online. They don’t share your exuberance for Virginia Woolf or your anxiety over the melting ice caps. They don’t cry with you when you gaze at the night sky.

What’s a rainforest mind to do?

Don’t let the chain saws cut you down.


You have a right to be you. The planet needs you to be you. If you’ve had to hide for years and now you can’t even find yourself, start looking. You’re the one with the tender eyes and the sweet mischievous smile. You’re the one who continues to believe in compassion. You’re the one whose heart knows what to say. Find yourself. No chainsaws.

All rainforest.


photos from Creative Commons at:


Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

42 responses to “Don’t Let the Chainsaws Cut You Down”

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  1. Jade Avatar

    Hi Paula,

    I know this is an old post but I’m getting so much from your blog and thought I’d see if you had written anything about dealing with chainsaw people and found this. I realised a few years ago that my parent’s have strong narcissistic traits as well as some other family members and friends and have been surrounded by people like this till the last year (I’m in my forties) or so where I’ve realised these dynamics. I am becoming more discerning and assertive as I learn more about myself (and also found it necessary because I developed long term chronic pain issues which I feel is associated with this on some level). My question is about how we keep the chainsaws away from us.

    I have realised I often feel like I have to be ‘nice’ to everyone. Partly empathy and partly a trauma response I think. I have managed to set strong boundaries finally with my family but still notice that even if someone is displaying toxic behaviours or being passive aggressive towards me, I find it hard to nip it in the bud or let them know somehow that I am not interested in being around though I am now making progress I think. I have started making it obvious when necessary now and it’s working in terms of keeping those people at a distance, but I feel so mean! Especially as the most recent person is a few offices down and we kind of blank each other now (because she told me a blatent lie about me to my face when I first met her and then argued with me about it when I gently challenged her. Her husband used to be my boss and he was a bully which I think is where the lie came from). I know I need to stay away as much as possible from toxic people especially as I try and heal and I do fundamentally feel like I’m doing the right thing though it feels counterintuitive! I just wanted to see any thoughts from yourself or others. I’m aware the reason it feels so hard is that Ive been groomed to be a people pleaser and not have boundaries which can be like catnip to someone who is being toxic!

    1. pprober Avatar

      If you keep reading, Jade, there are a number of posts on therapy that might be helpful. Also my first book Your Rainforest Mind might be useful. It can feel uncomfortable to set boundaries but is often necessary with people who feel toxic. This is not only an issue for RFMs so there are good resources in general for dealing with narcissistic parents. Thank you for sharing.

      1. Jade Avatar

        Perfect, I’ll check those out Paula. I know I’m doing the right thing, at least in part because I feel like I’m finally finding peace of mind and genuine happiness the past few years.. it just feels like trying to write with my non-domimant hand sometimes lol! I guess I’m finding a lot of validation here so thank you for your reply. Yes, not just an RFM issue though, a difficult thing to handle for a lot of people. Thanks again.

  2. Raghav Kapoor Avatar
    Raghav Kapoor

    Thanks for the encouragement,,,i always thought i was a “something abnormal” due to chainsaws,,but you changed my perception

  3. renovatio06 Avatar

    Can’t help but well up when I read this… And yes, friends seeking my company and listening ear has been a given, always – and the “don’t reciprocate” part with that a lot, too. (not on issues that matter to me or which I really need another take on, another angle of viewing it or simply someone to be a sounding board or something). Looks as if “we” – as in RFMs/gifted ones had to do most of the work ourselves when trying to socialize with non-RFMs, no?

  4. pole saw advisor Avatar
    pole saw advisor

    I am almost read your every post , your writing as like as magic. your article”Don’t Let the Chainsaws Cut You Down” just amazing. Thanks paula prober.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      You’re so welcome. Thank you for letting me know!

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  6. sarahshaw09 Avatar

    You know you have a rainforest mind when you’re drawn in by an article like this, one that resonates so deeply in every way, and then you get to the part about free classes at MIT and immediately go in search of their catalog. 😜

    Excellent blog as I research the subject for my newly confirmed rainforest daughter and try to make peace with my own rainforest childhood.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Welcome, Sarah. I’m glad that you found us!

  7. Ninsidhe Avatar

    I have just found you- I am so, SO glad that I have! I used to use the term kaleidoscope mind to describe what it’s like in my head- I love the Rainforest Mind image too. So much I want to say! I’ll just read and absorb for now, you’ll hear from me again. xx

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Welcome, Ninsidhe! Kaleidoscope mind sounds like an apt description as well. I’m glad that you’ve found us. I look forward to hearing more from you.

  8. Sherry Avatar

    What do you do when you are sure the chainsaws have won?

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Oh Sherry. I’m so sorry. I would say that it’s never too late to replant the rain forest. There’s life hiding in the most surprising places. Don’t give up! (and finding a counselor near you can help, too)

  9. Mandy Avatar

    Thank you. Sometimes the most important thing is to know someone else understands, and to feel less alone.

  10. singlemoeder Avatar

    Every post by Paula is ‘about me’, it is absolutely amazing to read and feel the understanding. Very comforting and reassuring. I heard the metaphor of the cheetah surrounded by lions before, but chainsaws and rainforest is very realistic, describing ‘us’ and people around us. Thanks again!

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      And thank you for sharing. It’s always good to hear from you.

  11. paulaprober Avatar

    Oh, yes. So very valuable. So needed.

  12. Glimmering_Girl Avatar

    Dammit Paula, this made me cry. The chainsaw analogy is so true it hurts. Thanks for reminding us we’re valuable and even needed. <3

  13. litebeing Avatar

    This also takes place in mental health agencies. I really relate to what you said about waiting for everyone to reach the conclusions that I drew. I make predictions and no one usually agrees with me and when it turns out I was right all along, no one cares or even remembers what I said! And what if there isn’t much brain power on your team? I don’t want to seem superior at work, but it can be so frustrating when you are alone in a crowded office 🙂 People think you are snobby or arrogant and that doesn’t make you popular, to say the least.It is certainly a catch 22 type of predicament. Intelligence is rarely appreciated at work, but conformity is highly valued.

    So I look for my next job and hope I choose better this time.

    1. singlemoeder Avatar

      Get to be your own boss! Start your own business. The freedom wins even though insecurity and hard work are tough to take at times. Besides you chose who you work with.

      1. paulaprober Avatar

        Great advice.

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  15. Alexander Gosselin Avatar
    Alexander Gosselin

    Thank you for writing this. It was exactly what I needed to read right now.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Thanks for letting me know, Alexander.

  16. Julia Avatar

    Thank you! I finally understand myself, my children (all 4 identified as gifted), and my husband. While we are all so wildly different, I am the teachers pet, full of compassion and way too much empathy, and the hubby is the one who only works on a project until he has figured it out and then gets bored! My children are amazing and all over the place. My youngest has anxiety, he is 5. But they are brilliant and I have always felt so alone in my own issues as well as my children’s. Thank you so much. I am now a follower of your blog! I have found a peaceful retreat!

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      So happy to be your peaceful retreat, Julia. Thanks for letting me know.

  17. JS Avatar

    beautiful, thank you

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      You’re most welcome.

  18. C A Avatar
    C A

    Paula when I read this just now it made me cry…how do you know me? That is exactly how I feel or even more when people would be that way…thank you for writing…you are a blessing to be sure… 🙂

    1. paulaprober Avatar


  19. Care Avatar

    Thank you so much. I’ve needed this, for a while now, actually. My own chainsaws have been getting the better of me for almost a month now, and it’s nice to hear a perspective where I don’t “read too much,” or have the “wrong” interests or hobbies, where I am myself, and that’s exactly who I need to be. Thank you.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Sounds like you may be referring to your own internal chainsaws. Yes, we’ve got those, too. Many times, we’re toughest on ourselves. Perhaps I will blog about that! I appreciate hearing from you and am very glad to help.

      1. Care Avatar

        Actually, both! My own internal tell me not to be so weird, so different, don’t make it obvious. My parents are responsible for the reading thing and the ‘your interests are cray-cray’ thing. In either event, this was something I needed to hear. <3

  20. Rebeca Groover Avatar
    Rebeca Groover

    I started reading your blog because I have a 2e son and suspect my husband is gifted as well. But the more I read the more I see myself in your words. I was the one who did well in school, whose friends got upset with me for getting A’s without trying. I was the one who burst into tears and walked out of biology class when my instructor pointed out the blood stains on the skull he showed us, who refused to dissect animals. I’m the one who can’t read the news about the Nigerian girls because I put myself in the place of those mamas and daddies, of those girls, and then I feel helpless and angry and defeated. I’m the one for whom grocery shopping is an anxiety inducing event because I have to read the labels on everything and I won’t buy this one because it was imported from Argentina and those have too much pesticide residue and that one probably has MSG lurking in the natural flavors and why-on-earth-can’t-we-just buy-normal-food-that-isn’t-adulterated! And if you pass me in the toothbrush aisle and I have a glassy, panic stricken look, it’s only because I’m completely overwhelmed by all the choices. I’m the one who has to question everything, who thinks outside the box, who travels so expand my experience and my mind, who feels like if I don’t take my kids to see the world I’m failing to give them a proper education. My husband and I still prefer documentaries or historical period movies to most modern ones.
    Sorry, that was a bit of a rant. I feel like I’m coming to understand myself more through this, and through learning about giftedness in my children. It’s overwhelming at times. I hope I can give them the kind of upbringing and education they deserve. Thanks for your words.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      No problem with the “rant.” Sure sounds like a gifted person to me! 🙂 Rebeca, just know that the more you understand your own giftedness, the better you’ll be able to understand and help your kids. I’m glad I can provide some of that for you. Thanks for letting me know. Thanks for ranting.

      1. Rebeca Groover Avatar
        Rebeca Groover

        Hoping to come to your talk at F2W tomorrow evening.

        1. paulaprober Avatar

          Oh wow, Rebeca. I didn’t know you lived in the Eugene area. I hope to see you there. If you come, be sure to introduce yourself.

  21. paulaprober Avatar

    You’re welcome, Nicole. It helps me to know that what I’m saying is resonating with you. Thanks.

  22. Nicole Avatar

    Paula, every post you write feels as if it’s written just for me. Thank you for your analogies, your poignant words, and for consistently reminding me that myself is a lovely thing to be.

  23. Anna Avatar

    I love you for encouraging us to be true to who we really are. I’m as true to myself as I know how and have few real friends. That’s alright with me. I rather be true to me and those around me than to be fake among fakes.

    Thank you!

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Yes! I believe that good things happen when we live our authentic life. Appreciate hearing your thoughts.