“…A Vast and Technicoloured Emotional Spectrum…”

Photo by John, Flickr, CC
Photo by John, Flickr, CC

“I have tried being normal. To tone myself down, I have to crush all the things that also give me energy, drive, and inspiration. I’ve tried living there, it’s a sort of death. I frequently wander about with a mute button on, so as to be more bearable.”  Nimue Brown


“The things that matter to me are keenly felt. I live a vast and technicoloured emotional spectrum where the blacks are very black indeed and the bright stuff burns people.”  Nimue Brown


“I’ve tried being numb, and dead and convenient, and it does not agree with me. The best that I am and the worst that I am, the most difficult and the most alive are all the same things. Fire in my head, howling at the moon, giggling with the little whirlwinds, falling in love with landscapes and people and stories and surprised deer. I choose a path that invites ecstasy and agony. I choose to be heartbroken. I choose to feel so much that it threatens to break me apart.”  Nimue Brown


These are the beautiful words of Nimue Brown. I read them on her blog this week and had to share them with you. Nimue gave me permission to quote her. I think that her words stand on their own and I don’t need to say more.

Photo by David & Dorothy Jenkins, Flickr, CC
Photo by David & Dorothy Jenkins, Flickr, CC

Except this: You are a part of this “technicoloured” rainforest-minded tribe. Your brightness will not burn us.  


To my dear blogEEs: Tell us about your broken hearts, your howling and your giggling. We will listen.


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.

28 responses to ““…A Vast and Technicoloured Emotional Spectrum…””

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  1. Ro Avatar

    Such beautiful descriptions Nimue. Thank you for sharing

  2. Old Soul, Lonely Soul Avatar
    Old Soul, Lonely Soul

    I never knew another person that thought and felt like I do until I had my son. Now I’m watching him flourish and enjoying it so. We laugh, we weep, we go down the rabbit hole in search of adventure. We make ourselves dizzy chasing more knowledge. But best of all we understand each other.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Sounds like a beautiful relationship.

  3. hksounds Avatar

    Hi Paula,
    I’ve got family scattered all over Oregon, including Eugene. It would have been interesting to have known you in the years I was living in Portland. You write about the gifted adult who tried to fit in when growing up and it seems it is a tactic that has been used fairly often. I’m someone that didn’t. I really did take that ‘road less traveled’ from earliest childhood till now and yes, it’s pretty darn lonely. When I first started my blog, I talked about living beyond the second standard deviation. I got rid of it as a bit too obnoxious. See, I’m mellowing in my old age. Thanks for thinking of us.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I hope my blog helps you feel a little less lonely. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  4. CA Avatar

    Wow thanks for the details Paula 🙂 can’t wait to read it 🙂

  5. CA Avatar

    Paula you writing a book? Awesome do tell..where and when can we buy it? 🙂 what will it be called? And I’ve just recently begun reading The Gifted Adult is amazing! How could she know so much of my inner soul? It’s like holding fire in my hands!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Well, CA, since you asked…The working title is “Your Rainforest Mind–A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth.” It’s being published by Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Press. (www.giftedhomeschoolers.org) The press publishes detailed and concise books about homeschooling but also just has great information about raising gifted kids. I think my book will be their first that focuses mostly on adults. Their website provides great support for parents (not just homeschooling) and has links to some wonderful blogs about giftedness. I’ve written chapters on sensitivities, perfectionism, multipotentiality, loneliness, schooling, etc. and I use case studies of former clients as examples. At the end of every chapter, I list strategies and resources to help with the particular issue. I enjoyed writing it and can’t wait to see it in print. The publication date will be sometime in the spring of 2016. I’ll certainly write a post or two about it closer to the time it’s available. You’ll be able to get it from GHF Press but also on Amazon. I think it’ll also be made into an e-book. Hopefully, it’ll be carried by independent bookstores, too. I’ll let you know more as I know more! Thanks for asking.

  6. kca3800 Avatar

    Thank you for writing this description of being gifted. I’ve searched online for hours looking for website or books, or anything about gifted adults, (even though I’m 15), but everything that I find are parenting books, or meant for parents. It’s feels so good to see someone helping gifted adults as well as children, because just because we’re adults doesn’t mean we know how to take care of ourselves.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Have you seen Mary-Elaine Jacobsen’s book The Gifted Adult? It’s very good. And I’ll have a book on gifted adults and youth coming out in the Spring of 2016. I’ll announce details here when the time comes. Thanks for following and commenting.

  7. holbart Avatar

    Paula, I have a question I was wondering if you could help me with. I feel bad for saying this, but sometimes, because I am having to work so hard to contain my own emotional intensity, I sometimes find myself getting overwhelmed when around another emotionally intense rainforest mind. It’s like I’m up to my ears with my own intensity, so it is hard to “take on” the emotional intensity of another unless it is contained or funneled in some way. My sensitivity to the environment means I have to work hard at establishing healthy emotional boundaries, especially since I grew up in such a dysfunctional family system.

    As an example of when containment works, I can handle just about anything that comes my way in my office because my office and my relationship to the student provides containment. As another example, when I took ballet, the room was filled with emotionally sensitive and intense people, but the emotional energy was directed toward interacting with the music through movement. Our common interest provided some containment, a way of directing our energy, even when we were just going out as friends.

    Recently, I started attending a church filled with rainforest minds (which is why I have been especially encouraged lately). They are sensitive and nuanced with regard to spiritual and emotional matters, which is so encouraging. It’s the first time, maybe EVER, where I’m hearing someone from the pulpit follow a train of thought I have consider privately. It’s very validating. The parishioners are just as spiritually mature and nuanced. There is a notable absence of ego-driven agendas and a respect for interpersonal boundaries, which is encouraging and relieving. My giftedness isn’t treated like a commodity there. (I should add as an aside, that through a circuitous set of events, I have known several of the core members for over a decade, just not well. I know them well enough to trust their characters).

    You would think that I would want to jump right in and have wonderfully intense conversations with them about all sorts of things, but I find that, more than anything, I just want to NOT do this, at least not yet. , , I guess I’m feeling pretty vulnerable because this is the first time I might ACTUALLY, in a substantive way, find my real tribe. And they are in my neighborhood! in fact, my husband and I moved to our village with the hopes of getting to know them, but a series of events prevented this from happening until now. (Sorry to be obscure about that; I’ll save the reasons for another time). I will say that my inability to identify as a rainforest mind hindered us from connecting with them sooner.

    I feel overwhelmed by the possibility of having this unmet need realized. I feel overwhelmed by the possibility that I might really screw it up and lose it forever and then there will be no more second chances for me (I know this is catastrophic thinking, but rainforest minds don’t seem to get many chances like this). I feel overwhelmed by the possibility that my dysfunctional upbringing and lack of pedigree will disqualify me from full acceptance and participation. I feel overwhelmed by the possibility that I’m not really legitimate and by the possibility that there won’t be a place for me – ironically, because the giftedness of others will overshadow me (that’s humbling to admit to). I guess there is a lot of insecurity around my ego. LOL It feels good to confess this. I just need to name the crazy thoughts.

    There is also a sturdier part of me that I’ve become more aware of in the last several years. I can give myself permission to move at my pace. I’ve learned to trust my intuition and make self-protective judgments in relationships. I have learned the importance of not “skipping steps” when getting to know someone. I guess I’m trying to slow myself down and not allow this deep desire for connection to override my common sense and good social judgement. Okay, so as I write through this, I’m afraid that the very deep longing we rainforest minds have for connection and being known will sabotage me somehow. I’m naming and calling out that fear. The elephant in the room.

    At the end of the day, I know meaningful relationships are formed one emotional contact at a time, bid by bid, as John Gotten says. I will slow myself down. I will respect my emotional sensitivity and intuition. If it feels too fast, it is probably too fast. I can do this. . .

    I do still have a real question about how rainforest minds can respect each others’ emotional sensitivity. I go to another church on Saturdays where we participate in Contemplative Prayer. All we really do is sit together quietly in front of some candles for twenty minutes to quiet our minds and listen to God, we read a little meditation on meditation, talk about it for a little bit, briefly pray, give each other hugs, and say good-bye. It is such a nourishing time for me, primarily because we AREN’T using a lot of words. I don’t even know most of their names (LOL), but I feel very connected to them.

    I don’t really like TALKING a lot about spiritual things, at least not prematurely, before real trust is established. Even when trust is established, I guess it is still sometimes challenging to take on the intensity of another because I’m so sensitive. I keep my sensitivity more on the inside and am only just now learning to express it through things like writing and art. I’m so conditioned to be afraid of expressing it outwardly, especially face-to-face. I’m also afraid of not being able to handle another’s intensity. I just feel like, “Here is this amazing group of people, and I have to keep my distance just to be able to handle my own intensity.” I would really be happy to just go bowling with them, LOL. Okay, not really bowling. I hate bowling, but you get my point.

    A therapist friend once told me that the more emotionally aware person in a relationship has to be willing to take on the responsibility of managing the pace, intensity and scope of the relationship. Should I just “act as if” that’s the case (even though it might not be) and find ways of getting to know them in a less intense atmosphere? What kinds of problems do rainforest minds have when they come into direct contact with each other? The commonality of a similar approach to faith has a different affect on me than ballet did. It’s more direct and intense and less filtered.

    Also, if this is too much to answer, I completely understand. Writing out my thoughts was half of the “intervention” for me, but I would love any morsels of wisdom you might have.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I think you’ve just written a guest post here, holbart! So much wisdom as you’ve processed “out loud” with us. Naming the not-so-crazy thoughts, the fears, is one way to find your answers, as you show us here. I think that you’re describing the gifted introvert experience. I suspect that the extroverts might be better able to handle the intensity–and might even be looking for it.

      But, as an introvert, give yourself permission to set the boundaries. Contemplative prayer sounds perfect for the introverts among us. The rainforest-y introverts that you meet will appreciate the limits you set on the interactions. They’ll want them, too. Could be that means there are fewer people to choose from, but it sounds like you’ve hit the jackpot! And yes, slow down, trust your intuition and your sensitivity. You only really need to find one or two good ones. Think about things you could do with someone that you find soothing and fun, like bowling, I mean, like hiking or maybe doing art/crafts together, and set a time limit. It’s likely that the other rainforest-y one has been lonely, too, and will be so relieved when you take the risk to initiate contact then share your need for some limits. How does that sound?

      1. holbart Avatar

        Sounds good. 🙂 The perspective shifting is helpful. It’s helpful to think that there might be other introverts in the community needing what I need. It will be interesting to see where my true emotional set point is as I get to know the folks in the community. I’m so used to being a thermometer instead of a thermostat in the communities I have engaged in in the past. I’m used to being the first person to notice shifts in emotional tone and intensity, but I have rarely felt free to act on the environment to adjust the temperature in a way that benefits me. (The whole fear of being manipulative (or fussy or perfectionistic or selfish, etc.- thing). There is a lot of shame, guilt, and powerlessness around assertiveness I’ve had to work on. It doesn’t even occur to me to invite someone along for something I would enjoy. I always try to figure out what the other would like to do. I love the hiking idea (still a bit shy about my art). What I’m hearing you say (and interpreting some), is that it’s okay to lead by being me. Does that represent what your saying? Thanks for your help with this. I’ll let you know how it goes.

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          Yep. Keep me posted.

  8. Nimue Brown Avatar
    Nimue Brown

    Thank you so much for sharing my words, Paula. I’m just stunned by the responses, and a but teary eyed, inevitably, and also smiling.

  9. holbart Avatar

    This makes me think of all the ways I sought to manage my intensity by trying to contain it with something more intense. Taking ballet six days/week in my 20’s (not just any dance class, mind you, but possibly the most disciplined and challenging, and certainly the most unnatural), Bikram hot yoga (none of that gentle yoga), Ashtanga yoga, flamenco, Crossfit, competitive running. I have to laugh at myself. I spent most of my teen years and early adult life trying to physically harness my emotional intensity. Literally. It was definitely a strategy for diverting that burning energy away from others so I wouldn’t hurt them or get hurt by others’ responses to me.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Wow. Fascinating to think about it that way. Physically harnessing your emotional intensity. Thanks, holbart.

  10. telperion1214 Avatar

    What lovely poetic writing. Intensity carries deep loving kindness, passion, bliss. Conversely pain, depression, fatigue are also a part of intensity. For me. I speak only for me. How to decrease the pendulum swings of emotion so that I can live with them — this takes practice.
    Sometimes intensity leaks over into obsession or despair. Usually for me this is a physical experience.
    Other times intensity brims over into ecstasy, incredible wonder. Also a physical experience.
    Now that I know it’s just part of living in the rain forest, it’s easier to understand and accept.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes, understanding it makes it easier.

  11. CA Avatar

    Thanks dude 🙂 but to speak about my broken heart is beyond even my ability

  12. KtCallista Avatar

    By the second quote you had me wondering who this Nimue Brown is and why I never heard the name before!

    I relate so much, and the more I am tired, the more my shield/filter slips and the more passion slips out, exceeding the societally allowed. The closer I come to burning others with my joy, the darker I let others see from within me.

    I have found a way to include my passions in so much of what o do each day, but the exhaustion is still real. I have to confess I do so much, even though I feel it is never enough, never all I am capable of.

    Music impacts me so strongly the right song in the radio can set my day. A strong passage or character in a book can change my outlook and ambition, returning to my thoughts time and again like a favorite tree.

    Thank you

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Maybe it’s impossible to do all that you’re capable of. Maybe no one who has rainforest capabilities can ever actually do them all. What do you think? Thanks for sharing.

      1. KtCallsita Avatar

        Please know I am now sitting here in stunned silence. I really…. I just never… I

  13. Amanda G Avatar
    Amanda G

    This post was the answer to a prayer. The sight of a surprised deer in my back woods often moves me to tears with its beauty and grace. Gazing at the stars offers ecstatic wonder and a profound sense of place. I’ve been known to jump up and down and dance around when I find Jupiter in my telescope. And yet lately the news, which I do my best to avoid but headlines are everywhere, has been causing me sleep-disturbing anxiety and making me feel deep despair. And I’ve been worrying as I watch my two young children blossom into rainforest flowers, knowing that they too will have to live with this intensity and all that comes with it. But, this post was a re-frame. If you make the conscious decision to choose this path, it can become your super-power, not just your burden. I’m going to print this out so that when I feel overwhelmed, alone, and begin asking why…I can remind myself of the times I too have tried to “be normal” and that I’ve always ended up happier choosing this way, the technicolored way. Thank you for reminding me that this can be a gift and for allowing me to feel understood.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for commenting, Amanda. I’m glad that you’re finding your super-powers.

  14. Kathleen Avatar

    Yes. I have so many projects, enthusiasms, opinions, ideas that it’s exhausting to me and to others.
    I need several hours alone daily & have finally found my optimal environment on this wooded island in the pacific northwest; finally my immediate surroundings provide true shelter and–as you so brilliantly intuit–mirror the richness and complexity of the Rainforest Mind (and it’s raining at the moment, time to plant some more seeds).

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Ah, yes, exhausting and gorgeous!

  15. litebeing Avatar

    I love these quotes and I do relate. Thanks Paula for sharing them with us.