Gifted Shmifted–The Sequel

After thirty+ years hanging around with gifted kids and adults, first as a teacher, now as a counselor and consultant, I still stutter when I try to define g-g-giftedness.There’s so much confusion, complexity and controversy over what giftedness actually is. It’s pretty overwhelming.

People often talk about it in terms of achievement, talent or “paths to greatness.”

I’m not going there.

Instead, I’m talking about it in terms of traits.

I dreamed up this analogy that describes a certain type of giftedness. The Rainforest Mind.IMG_0519

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know what I’m talking about. If not, I’ll explain briefly. (Don’t want to bore the rest of you.) The rainforest mind type is intense, highly sensitive, extremely complex, smart, colorful, deep, lush, empathetic, analytical, creative, intuitive and misunderstood. In the rain forest, there’s so much vibrant life, so much impassioned activity. It can be overwhelming. Does this sound like you?

I thought so.

Granted, not all gifted folks are like this. Some aren’t as sensitive or empathetic. Some aren’t so creative or intuitive. Some don’t have multiple interests and abilities. But I’m not going to worry about them.

I’m just here for you.

Let me give you some examples from my counseling practice. (names changed, privacy respected)

Max, 16, couldn’t handle public school. Didn’t perform well in class due to time pressures, sensitivity, depth and anxiety about quality. Few friends. Massive concern for the well-being of other humans and for all animals and plants. Taught himself coding, guitar, bike building, music theory, blacksmithing, auto mechanics, piano, drawing, electronics, physics–basically anything he was interested in, which was a lot. A. Lot.

Susan, 53, deep appreciation for beauty. Incredibly perceptive about people and their needs. Ability to understand and synthesize complex concepts from anthropology, mythology, art, philosophy, feminism and much more. Great enthusiasm for life. Serious loneliness because her intellectual musings were not understood by peers. Felt urgency to take action to save the planet. In dialogue with redwood trees.

Roberto, 44, struggled in school to memorize multiplication facts, in and out of college for years without graduating. Extreme self-doubt. Emotional. Self-employed self-taught IT guru, soft-open-heart. Told he had too much zeal. Despairing about wasteful use of natural resources.

Maggie, 14, loved debating and chemistry. Wrote lengthy stories about mythological creatures when she was eight. Reading like a maniac at age 4. Thrilled by philosophy but told by teachers “no one likes a know-it-all.” Preferred mathematics to the mall. Lonely. Severely curious. Felt a spiritual connection to the ocean.

Carmen, 24, talked and thought at warp speed. Searched for a mentor but consistently disappointed. Had extremely high standards she never met, although others were in awe. Rejected repeatedly by friends who couldn’t keep up. Misunderstood by parents who wanted her to stay on one career path forever.

These are examples of humans I’ve known with rainforest minds. Humans who are gifted.

If you are one, remember:

Whatever you call it, don’t let the chainsaws cut you down.


This post is part of the blog hop. Click on the image to read other posts on this topic.
This post is part of the blog hop. Click on the link below to read other posts on this topic–

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.

19 responses to “Gifted Shmifted–The Sequel”

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  1. cmd1122 Avatar

    This blog is the most important thing I have come across in well over a year (thank you, but brace yourself for a rant). No one ever thought I was gifted, just a “motor-mouth”, independent hardworking brainiac, introverted bookworm, PERFECTIONIST who needed to learn to set realistic expectations, and for goodness sake…just DECIDE (Sciences or Arts) ALREADY!! High school was a lonely time, and several of my teachers seemed like better friends than my peers as I could have MEANINGFUL conversations with them. I always looked towards older students or adults and my mother insists I learn to socialize with people my age (25), but usually the priorities of 20-somethings in English-speaking North America are pathetically small-minded and offensively selfish considering the inequalities of the world.
    I was lucky to have elementary teachers who challenged me, then moved to Canada, skipped a grade, and joined all the school clubs I could for some creative outlets. I struggled with course selection because they all sounded so interesting. I earned Top of Class from Grade 6-11 and in Gr.12, coming 2nd was a blow (caused by test-taking anxiety-lack of time), and my parents were disappointed that I had not done my best.
    My Grade 1 teacher described me as conscientious and concerned with the well-being of others, and that never changed. After collecting 300 signatures to protect Thai elephants, I concluded at age 11 that I could help more animals by educating humans to respect them and the natural environment, than if I became a vet. As teachers suggested MANY options for my “bright future”, I struggled with figuring out which would allow me to have the biggest positive impact on society, all without “closing the door” on any given option.
    When downright sick of school, I left university scholarships on hold and headed on exchange to Mexico, where I delighted in picking up Spanish. I decided to study International Relations with French and Spanish minors. A couple uni classes gave me a dose of reality, but was soon taking 6 or 7 classes a semester and playing my violin a lot, and my grades soared again. Is it normal to like to be busy all the time?

    I will soon be a high school language teacher, and while this rewarding career excites me, I picture myself getting bored, and often have “What if I had studied…” tornado thoughts. If I share my distress about the state of the world, I am told not to be so passionate. If I say I am bored, people say I need to learn to have fun, which causes me to reminisce about living fulfilling multi-lingual lives abroad, which makes me want to leave Canada (for teaching, music and NGO work), which upsets my (mono-lingual) family, but makes sense to my creative, foreign friends. I know my parents moved to Canada to give my sister and I a better future, so how do I get my family to understand without seemingly dismissing their sacrifices?

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Rants are welcome, here, cmd1122. If you read other posts, I think you’ll find that you’re right at home. Perhaps you can explain to your parents how much you appreciate what they’ve done for you and then share with them the posts that resonate the most with you that show them that you might need to create a different path(s) for yourself. Thanks for sharing!

      1. cmd1122 Avatar

        Thanks, Paula. So many of the other posts resonate with me. I will be checking back to your blog often.

  2. If You Haven’t Achieved Greatness, Can You Be Gifted? | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] If you have many of these rainforest traits, odds are pretty darned good that you’re gifted. Then: There are many reasons why you may not […]

  3. Donna Avatar

    Thank you for this post.

  4. litebeing Avatar

    I found you through Jay and so glad I did. I am also a therapist and have the rainforest mind. I am eager to get ot know you and how you work. Please visit me and see if my writing speaks to you.


    1. paulaprober Avatar

      I spent a little time on your site and will return. I do like what you have to say. (am following) Let me know how I might help you. You can contact me directly from the About page. Thanks for getting in touch!

      1. litebeing Avatar

        thanks for the follow and will contact you. Am very interested in your work with this specific population, It is a long time interest of mine.

  5. Black Sheep Avatar
    Black Sheep

    Paula once again I read an amazing post and can relate to so very much! I recognize these traits in myself! However I look at my achievements (you did go there but others have and do) and have little if anything that would stand out as “gifted”. So is it possible to be gifted with out great academic achievements? I was not encouraged to attend college and further educate myself when i was young. While I have years of IT experience I haven’t even completed my BA let alone advanced degrees. I remember vividly my mother telling me my brothers IQ results, she was/is so very proud of her smart SON. Now that I have highly gifted daughter I realize his (unmedicated) scores don’t even fall in the gifted range. However I have digressed.

    My true question is this. Those of us dealing with these intensities, young and old alike, what are the best ways to manage them? How do I help a HG child that gets frustrated to the point of tears when she can’t achieve (perfectly) on her first attempt? How do I comfort her when she is overwhelmed with tears over lives lost in the historic battles she is learning in school. Or answer her far too mature questions on life itself. when I myself struggle with these feelings and intensities? Age peer friendships… she craves them on one hand but doesn’t have the patience for them on the other.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Yes, yes, yes. So often people equate giftedness with achievement and they aren’t the same thing. Many gifted people I know aren’t highly academic or they haven’t achieved something society would recognize as significant. One doesn’t need to be super smart to get a college degree. I’ll write more about how to handle the intensities. Thank you for your questions. For now, I’ll say that active listening to your child can really help calm her down. She’ll feel heard and acknowledged. And then once she’s calm you can problem solve together. It will also help to tell her about her rainforest mind and why same age peers may not be the best match for her. A great resource is She writes about gifted kids and will actually be guest posting on my blog very soon!

  6. singlemoeder Avatar

    Paula you are such a gift. It is so incredibly nice to feel and know this supportive energy you share online with so many. It is a warm encouraging embrace.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Thank you.

  7. Diane Hale Avatar
    Diane Hale

    I enjoyed your post. Thank you for understanding both gifted adults and children. Yours is a blog I’ll continue to follow!

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Welcome, Diane!

  8. CA Avatar

    Wow Paula right again,,,The people sound so much like me…especially the awe part when you think it could be much better…but they are in awe 🙂 and the nobody likes a know it all! Well that is because they don’t! They don’t know it all and they are bloody jealous! But they act like it is gospel…when it isn’t…they are the ones behaving badly not you! Thank You God for my wonderous gifted counsellor who is helping me see that…I was just mentioning about how lonely it is and how you constantly have to change or lower yourself just to make a friend and even when you do! Even when you do it isn’t enough! And they get mad at you! They do! But he is helping me with it! And thank goodness because I am ’bout the end of my rope!
    And Z do wanna be friends? Because I know how you feel 🙂 well done Paula 🙂 well done…as per usual 🙂

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Great to hear from you, CA. I’m glad you’re still getting counseling help. It will inspire others to do the same. If you and Z want to get in touch, you can both send me a private email on my About page and I’ll forward your email addresses to you both. ( I don’t know how else you’d connect without publicly sharing your personal information.) Thanks for your support!

  9. Joyce baker Avatar
    Joyce baker

    And sometimes we are gifted with moments of peace and spend an autumn Saturday simply making applesauce. Joyce

  10. Z Avatar

    Thank you Paula. I really needed to read this now. Just this evening I have been discussing with my husband and mother about loneliness and my fruitless search for other friends. My mother told me (as usual) that I need to learn to talk about ‘general things’ with people. My whole life I have heard this. My whole life. Why can I not be who I am, feel authentic and have a friend at the same time? I know I’m extremely lucky to have my husband, but I’d love a woman friend too. This has been something I’ve observed over the years (friendships between girls… and now I’m older, women) and have yearned for myself. Lately I’ve been struggling with misanthropic thoughts, as a general election is coming up and child poverty is out of control in our country… it looks like we are going to continue on with the current government. Members of this government (literally) laugh when confronted with issues of child poverty. We’ve also just lately found out about terrible corruption and sociopathy within their ranks. This has not shifted the polls. It is overwhelming and I have broken down and cried numerous times when talking with my husband about it. Yesterday I became so full of impotent rage that I felt like the top of my head would pop off. My husband recommended we join a political party in order to become more active politically, and to help quell my feelings of helplessness – so I organised it. Feeling this strongly about politics and not being able to separate political-from-personal is also a difficult situation. I feel as though I cannot accept the choices of others that contribute towards the suffering of children. It’s all I ‘see’ when I think of them. They cannot handle their wealth growing slightly less quickly, in order to help children who are going hungry, cold, and without medical attention. It’s hard to live in a world like this. I will keep searching for more of my people and keep up the tiny amount I can do to help others (it never feels like enough).
    For perhaps 6 months I have been engaging on twitter and have found a group of feminist, political, empathetic women. Who have great humour. I love it on there, but wish I could transpose that kind of relationship into ‘3-D life’. Maybe it will happen someday.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Our world would be such a better place if more people had your sensitivity and empathy. I’m so glad you’ve found some of your people on Twitter! It’s a start. Thanks you, as always, for sharing your rainforest mind with us.