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.


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.


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.


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 For more lovely posts on this topic click on the image below.


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.

45 responses to “The Contradictions Of Giftedness”

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  1. Pam Avatar

    Multitudes also include flat sides. Teachers used to say I was an underachiever because I was smart but not academic!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Gifted kids do not necessarily do well in school. They may LOVE learning but not schooling. Thanks for sharing, Pam. I’m sure you’re not the only “underachiever” here. 🙂

      1. Mark V Avatar
        Mark V

        I can’t remember if I wrote this before (curse you, absent-mindedness!!), but when I started skipping classes in high school, instead of goofing off I usually went to museums, art galleries and libraries to learn!!

  2. Jen Merrill Avatar
    Jen Merrill

    Oh Paula, this is beautiful. I honestly don’t know how my husband has tolerated me for the last 21 years; this is so me. So many everythings.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Jen. It sounds like a wonderful partnership!

  3. Véronique Avatar

    How I think/feel it: it doesn’t matter so much if another person doesn’t grasp all of you. Because you don’t yourself. No one does (completely get/see/feel/understand him- or herself). We are like kaleidoscopes, with dynamic, constantly changing views and reflections (at least, thats how it feels to me). We might feel and think a lot and be complex, multilayerd, and overwhelming to ourselves and others, but that is just how it is, and there are many others like us. We never really know if the person we meet, really isn’t as complex, or just not reflecting his or her complexity. Or just hasn’t had the courage/opportunity/energy/time… to discover it yet. Or maybe she or he really doesn’t feel/think in such a complex way. In the end, we, humans, share one mind, like leaves on a tree: some may have a more finely tuned nerve system, be more complex, but in the end that’s what we are: interconnected, of a kind… this idea brings me great peace of mind. Probably exactly what you mean by finding something larger than myself.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      This is beautiful, Veronique. Thank you. I love the kaleidoscope image. And the oneness of all of us. Yes.

  4. The Contradictions Of Giftedness | Your Rainforest Mind – Adviesbureau Willem de Boer, inspiratiecoach voor hoogbegaafden en mensen met een ASS diagnose

  5. Jessie Avatar

    Oh, what a wonderful post! And trying to keep up with all the multitudes (especially during a ragweed pollen onslaught!) has made me downright irritable this week, so this post was particularly timely in my life. “Today. In your spare time. For Fun.” That made me laugh out loud, because I’ve said that to tease myself before! My partner Max was once told by his best friend that “your idea of fun is other people’s idea of homework.” (And I can’t believe how lucky I am to have found Max, as I never thought I’d find another person like that who could put up with my weirdness!)

    And the empathy thing. Yes! One of the things that is contributing to my overwhelmed irritability this week (besides the pollen!) is that this group of which I’m a member has suddenly changed quite a bit. We’re a political activist group; I won’t go into the political content. it’s enough to say that we have a lot of new members whose politics — and moreso, temperament — have turned out to be different. Frankly, it’s felt at times like they’re like the aliens in that old movie Independence Day who just want to blow up all the “olds” (I’ve seen them call us that) and take over. So lots of negative emotions are going around. It’s especially tough because this used to be the place I’d go to deal with at least one of my multitude of interests, and it was full of wonderful, rainforest-minded kindred spirits who shared my political interest and goals and were actually taking action about it. Now the ire of some of this new crowd has been focused on one member in particular, complete with a Twitter shaming campaign was directed at him because they didn’t agree with some things he’d done in his 30+ years as an organizer. While I understand why they are annoyed with him (seeing all sides is part of the multitudinousness, isn’t it!) the response struck me as out of all proportion — and, frankly, cruel. Can’t they see how destructive they are being? It boggles my mind. Worst of all, from the rainforest minded perspective at least, was when someone said “I see how this is a complex situation, but frankly, there’s no place for complexity in politics” and “Nuance is for bourgeois intelligentsia elites.” I guess I probably don’t need to unpack for this why that’s a devastating comment! I was reminded of that quote: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” And yet, like Maggie in your book who didn’t want to identify as gifted because she didn’t think she was better than anyone else, I don’t think of myself as “smarter” than these other people. Maybe just more concerned about human feelings, which I think also makes me a political enemy in their eyes.

    Sighhhh. Well, surely there will be more such fights in the process of Changing the World. I just didn’t see it coming from within this group, and so suddenly.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Geez, Jessie, that political situation sounds so difficult. It’s so hard to navigate activism these days, yet so important. Hang in there! We need you.

      1. Jessie Avatar

        Thanks, Paula, and I will!

  6. Kathleen Casper Avatar
    Kathleen Casper

    I read this out loud to my husband and he laughed several times and nodded. I’ve told him many times that I need five husbands and maybe a couple wives. You nailed it, Paula. You are incredible. And always super supportive to everyone who you interact with, which makes you an even more special person. Thank you.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh, thanks so much, Kathleen. And this was not one of my funnier posts! 🙂 I should have added that part about needing more husbands and wives! (Just a message for my readers: Look for Kathleen’s wonderful post as part of this blog hop. One World Gifted.)

  7. B. Avatar

    Isn’t it a wonderful quote? Wonderful post Paula, thank you!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yep. Thanks again for sharing the quote with me.

  8. Kamala Quale Avatar
    Kamala Quale

    I like it 😊

  9. maggiebrown2015 Avatar

    Wonderful wonderful wonderful. I’ll share widely….
    thinking of you!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, Maggie. I hope things are lovely in New Zealand!

  10. Emily VR Avatar
    Emily VR

    This is so beautiful! Thank you for your support and wisdom for everyone with a rainforest mind. Wonderful advice and help. Saving to share!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, Emily. Your post, also part of this hop, is recommended to my readers! It’s on The Fissure.

  11. annahjamesart Avatar

    I feel this, Paula. Sometimes there is just SO MUCH….!

  12. Penguin Lady Avatar
    Penguin Lady

    Just as you suggest, Paula, over 50 years ago, starting in college, I learned that having different friends for different purposes enriched my life. It was about me being too intense and too interested in more things than my friends, so slicing the groups by subject/focus let all of us have a shared passion and interest to similar degrees without overwhelming anyone. There are only 3 people in the world now with whom I can be all of myself — my 2 sisters, and a friend for almost 30 years. I am lucky to have them, and worry about senior living situations where that won’t be remotely possible to “be known” in anything other than a very superficial way. I’m 69, and this weighs on me.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I understand your concerns about aging. There’s someone writing about gifted elders. Joy Navan. Her blog is part of this hop. You might want to check it out.

  13. A Allen Avatar
    A Allen


    Love your two suggestions:
    a) Find people who grasp a few of your multitudes because the more you have, the harder it is to find one person with whom you will have everything in common.
    b) Find something larger than oneself.

    Both of these have to do with normalizing the scale of our experience into a healthy perspective. Perhaps that is better phrased as “re-normalizing” our scale.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      You’re welcome! Thank you for sharing.

  14. helenjnoble Avatar

    Reblogged this on helenjnoble.

  15. karendee57 Avatar

    Sometimes calling things contradictory is simply an unintended false accusation. A misunderstanding of what is.

    If there is an up and down to a ladder that is not a contradiction. It is about seeing yourself in location to something. Up and Down can be the same place depending on a reference point. Frankly, I think it is our image and text technology that has, like our machine technology, allowed us to move geographically and LOSE a sense of our own location. The fact that I am aware of my location OUTSIDE of our technologies is an advanced understanding of myself and our society. We have been born and raised in a society in which we talk as if we do not have a location.

    I have read that language was once very local. The words were not movable across large distances for all to use. Words were tied to place. So was our visual understandings. This makes total sense to me. Sometimes people argue with each other and I see it as if someone in kansas is discussing the weather with someone in california but the neglect to see they are in totally different locations. I was doing community education and one of the exercises I did to help people be aware is have 2 people stand at different parts of the room facing different directions and then ask them to describe what they see and then have an pretend argument as if they should see the same thing.

    What makes someone see different points of view is MOVEMENT in locations.

    If one moves around the room then one can describe the ‘larger’ place and see various viewpoints. Social location matters but we’ve been taught not to move in a very real sense to know our own self and place. We learn from the outside of us – sitting in desks for 12 years. We live in a social system that is the remnants of the ideas of manufacturing in which we have been constrained and taught to not live out of our own creative spaces and places in movement to learn about our world and ourselves.

    We must be the SAME and difference is feared and rejected. In this way, people do not ‘move’ but live to be the same.

    I think it just so happens that some people, for various reasons, fit this way of living so well that they think it is real. But it’s not. It’s like a group of people acting parts of a play they learned. They are the ones seen as successful in our social scripts and stories. Like Johnny Depp playing Jack Sparrow so long and so early in life that we no longer see him as Johnny Depp. People believe the part they play they play is real even when they go home and in their alone time, they take off the role.

    Some of us ARE larger than our roles and so we move. We see. We can’t restrict ourselves to one role and we are accused of being contradictory instead of understanding there is more than one thing, one location. When there are 2 or more things that doesn’t mean a contradiction. If I’m in a valley and then on a mountain that is not a contradiction. It is simply 2 different things that are DIFFERENT.

    We also get lost because the proper information is not explained so we find our own ways and own explanations. But like the beliefs that surrounded the idea that the earth was flat, the heavens were a dome, all the relationships were wrongly understood. We have been taught a certain way from a certain group of people that described the center of their world as if that center is the same for all. We each have our own center and our relationships to ourselves, each other and the planet we live on is more like an neverending universe. Our physical bodies and our environment are the basis of facts. NOT BOOKS and IMAGES that are dead products that tell us what is real and living that describe our world while blinding us to it. I advocate more science particularly about the relationships of humans to our technologies. We have learned the macro and the micro and have lost a sense of our true relational size. We see the planet we live on as a blue ball where we are out of view or we see parts of our selves in microscopic pieces. Still we see ourselves as small as ants within colors and dots of light……all this has caused us a huge loss and science has yet to describe humans proper relationship to the planet. These errors cause suffering and harm and everyone is blaming others for the harm.

    Yes, for me, contradictions are simply see life in it’s fullness. Linear text, paragraphs, photographs and film….those objects, those products can not give us fullness. They restrict the dimensions and movements of understanding our lives.

    I appreciate having a place to share this….as an artist and writer, it is very important to me and I rarely get to express it. I don’t expect others to see what I see exactly because they would have had to travel through the years as I have, doing what I have, see what I have, and thinking as I have. It doesn’t make me wrong or right. It just makes me aware of my own life and my history and where I’ve been that has been different than everyone else.

    See more here:

    1.  Avatar

      I relate to this. I often think I’m contradictory, but really I just see/feel/sense different things at the same time. I am usually the one who sees things differently than everyone else around me, but it doesn’t mean I’m wrong. We’re just looking at different parts of the same room 🙂 That example makes me feel so much better.

    2. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      This is fascinating, karendee57. Thank you for this explanation. I’ll be checking out your blog.

    3. Jessie Avatar

      Karendee, what wonderful ideas. I lead an education committee tasked with coming up with workshops for my political organizing group, and I’m going to use that “stand in a different area of the room and have an argument about what you see” in one of these workshops. It’s exactly what I need to demonstrate the empathic skills that political organizers need to build a movement that really works for people’s good.

      Your comment about language being local also made me think of the TV in Japan. In a country about the size of California, they still put subtitles on human interest stories on the national news because each region has its own dialect and people in Kyushu might not understand the vernacular used by people interviewed in northern Honshu.

      Your post also brought to mind a book called The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, on the conflict between word and image. I know you said we are neither word nor image, and I agree; and yet, the tug of war between them seems only to further what you’re saying here. Pre-literate societies, argued the author, thought in a fuller way than we do now. I think our digital technologies are only exacerbating this trend. I was a late adopter of the smartphone and I’m thinking of ditching it again, as a first step to improving my quality of life.

      1. karendee57 Avatar

        Thanks, Jessie, for those points. I didn’t know that about Japan. I’d be interested to know more about your work you mentioned.

        1. Jessie Avatar

          Thanks for your interest! My work is with an activist organization for which I’m a local leader, the Democratic Socialists of America. I’ve been trying to develop basic educational workshops for our new members. It hasn’t been so urgent before (though of course it’s always been a need), but especially lately, with the political climate being the way it is, a lot of our new members think that we can throw the empathy aspect out the window — not only with respect to people who disagree with us outside our organization, but even with fellow members who see things differently!

          I don’t have anything specifically about my education yet in my blog (I hope I will before too long), but generally I blog about some of the stuff I’m working on at the link that you’ll find if you click on my avatar. Right now I just blogged about some of the problems we’re having that really speak to our need to develop skills in empathy:

          1. karendee57 Avatar

            Thanks Jesse. I’m checking it out now.

    4. Mark V Avatar
      Mark V

      Thanks for sharing. You put an interesting spin on a topic that both fascinates and concerns me greatly.
      The the unknown, the ambiguous, the unquantifiable, the vague — these are often considered the enemy in a “cold war on mystery” that has claimed many casualties, most tragic of all being the unfettered imaginations of just about all of us.

  16. Maureen Helen Avatar
    Maureen Helen

    A timely post for me, thank you. So wonderful to be given permission to expand when the world says, ‘Contract! You are too big, energetic, loud, insistent ‘ Time to pick myself up and move right along.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes, Maureen, join us in a loving expansion!

  17. singlemoeder Avatar

    Again and again you write in words so many things I feel and think. Thank you!!!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober


  18. FredB Avatar

    Can you imagine a Swiss Army knife where each of the blades is another Swiss Army knife?

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Whoa! Now that’s a metaphor!

  19. Mark V Avatar
    Mark V

    Oh the contradictions.

    I don’t mind so much that who I am or what I do is difficult to understand for some.
    What I DO mind is when someone who doesn’t understand just pulls an explanation out of their, umm…Posterior Imagination-Generator. It stinks.

    I wish I had thicker skin but I don’t, so I often withdraw.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I think that many of us sensitive folks don’t have thick skin.

      1. Mark V Avatar
        Mark V

        I have to admit that even I have a problem understanding my sensitivity sometimes. Especially since it contradicts other aspects of myself.

  20. darleensaunders Avatar

    Yes, I get it. Just tonight I bewildered my dear husband by being so…loquacious about everything. You see we are in a rainforest literally, along the Rivera Maya, and I am fascinated by everything. It’s new, exciting, and different. My eye sees differences, all, of, them. Every new sound the forest makes. All the new flora, fauna and foods. It’s all new and fascinating. And I just want to learn about it all, so I talk about it. Non-stop. I love it all.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      It sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

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