Gifted and Obsessed

photo courtesy of Kyle Glenn, Unsplash

I’m obsessed.

I admit it.

I spend inordinate amounts of time wondering who I really am and what I’m supposed to do with this little life of mine. To make a difference. To have an impact. To create a better world.

It surprises me that everyone isn’t as obsessed as I am. After all, what could be more important, I ask you?

Isn’t everyone an obsessive, introspective, self-analytical, driven, quirky, over-thinker? Shouldn’t they be? Doesn’t everyone love being in therapy? Diving deep into the abyss of their psyches to wrestle with thorny anxieties, repair ancient wounds, and discover their sparkling Light?

You mean some folks really do just want to watch the Super Bowl?

I remember when I first read this in a John Irving novel: “You’ve got to get obsessed and stay obsessed.” I was so relieved. It wasn’t just me. I fell in love with John Irving then and there.

Of course, I hear you. If I’d decided to procreate, I wouldn’t have the time or energy to question and wonder and analyze and imagine like I do. To dive so deeply into my abyss. I made the conscious choice to be childfree. To support my obsessive, introspective, self-analytical, driven, quirky, over-thinking habit. It’s worked out quite well.

I found a career that would enhance these proclivities. I could be a psychotherapist! Get paid for being with other obsessive, introspective, self-analytical, driven, quirky, over-thinkers. ( You know who  you are. )

Holy moly.

And then blogging was invented.

Oh boy.

The perfect vehicle for more obsessing. And, as it turns out, for a little worldwide influence. For a little impact. A bit of better-world making.


I’ll be your John Irving.

I’m here to tell you that being an obsessive, introspective, self-analytical, driven, quirky, over-thinker is exactly who you are meant to be. And even if you decided to procreate, and you are now raising a quirky little over-thinker just like yourself, you can still find your way to make a difference. To have an impact. To create a better world.

Just remember this: You’ve got to get obsessed and stay obsessed. 


To my bloggEEs: Thank you so much for being here and for supporting my habit. Let us know how you’re obsessed or how you plan to get obsessed.

(Note: It could be that raising that quirky little over-thinker of yours is exactly how you’re creating a better world…)

(Another note: Just to be clear, this is not to be confused with the serious and disabling obsessive compulsive disorder. I’m not suggesting that you get OCD. OK?)

There are a couple of events I want to tell you about. I’ll be speaking with the amazing Linda Silverman in Denver, CO on June 2 at her Gifted Women Symposium. (Sorry fellas!) And I’m a presenter at the SENG conference in San Diego in July 20-22. (Tom Clynes will be a keynote speaker.) I’d love to meet many of you so please think about going and introducing yourselves to me.





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.

36 responses to “Gifted and Obsessed”

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  1. Gail Post, Ph.D. Avatar
    Gail Post, Ph.D.

    Paula, A delightful take on being obsessed. And as you noted, those of us who have kids can ALSO be obsessed. I guess it’s all about where we direct the obsessions and our self-care along the way.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Absolutely, Gail. Obsession, of course, can get out of hand and can be a disability if it’s the OCD variety. But I wanted to present the type of “being obsessed” that is that healthy deep gifted behavior of diving into something you love and gobbling it up, so to speak! And, it’s important that you mention self-care. I knew an artist who would be in her studio hours on end and forget about her body’s needs. This can become a problem…so remembering self-care is essential!

  2. Malandra Avatar

    Your blog is an exciting, stimulating and difficult read. Why difficult? Beacuse “gifted” is a hard and controversial label to claim, but I do recognize so much of myself in these posts. Childhood was though. Nobody identified me as a gifted, though I did meet other, painful labels.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I understand the difficulty claiming the label, Malandra. It’s why I came up with the rainforest metaphor. I’m so glad that you’re here allowing yourself to understand who you really are!

  3. Lisa Davis Avatar
    Lisa Davis

    Thanks for knowing me, Paula. Your writings are always a comfort.

  4. MJC Avatar

    I experience a surprisingly consistent reaction to sharing my understandings of self. When someone asks (I rarely offer without a request) how I’m feeling or why I’ve chosen a particular something, the following often happens:

    Three words in they glaze over with disinterest.

    If they remain interested, they will argue with me insisting what I’ve told them is incorrect, possibly a lie, and go to great lengths to explain why it’s not possible. They insist that no human on Earth has ever felt that way or chosen something with that kind of care and thought.

    If they listen and seem agreeable to what I’ve shared, I often hear later that they have made up an entirely alternate explanation that has no basis in anything I told them.

    I’m considering the possibility of prefacing all answers with: “Would you prefer the the brief version. (2 words or less), the highlight version (1 paragraph, 2 tops – I promise), or the complete version (often starts a couple generations before my birth)?”

    In more common daily small talk I’ve found it a tremendous time saver to inquire, “What have you heard?” when someone asks me how I am. Helps to get us on the same page if I know the consensus version of my current state of mind, since I’m often wrong in my own assessment, apparently. Otherwise, if I answer with detail beyond fine, I get that dog reaction of the slightly turned tilted head of confusion.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      What a great description! I’m sure many readers will relate. Thank you, MJC.

  5. A discrete reader Avatar
    A discrete reader

    Thanks for this Paula! Time to be obsessed confidently 😉

    I’m curious now: which Jhon Irving book would you recommend for a start?

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh my. I’ve read his earlier books, not his later ones. I’ve loved The World According to Garp, The Cider House Rules, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and The Hotel New Hampshire. Maybe start with Garp but they’re all wonderful!

      1. A discrete reader Avatar
        A discrete reader

        Thanks, will do 🙂

  6. Diane Kennedy Avatar
    Diane Kennedy


    Thank you so much for this! I recently had a huge awakening and understanding of my “gifted” self. Cleaning out a storage unit that contained much of my work life as an author, 2 published books and almost 20 years of researching, speaking . And advocating for those who are definitely part of the rainforest minds. It also contained over 38 years of being married and raising 3 rainforest children.

    At first I knew why I had dreaded cleaning it out because of the enormous volume of papers and boxes, tubs, etc… as I dug into the contents it became so overwhelming clear that WE were indeed members of this precious population that you and I are part of! I teach others to recognize the obsessiveness and constant determination can be so valuable as a positive! With every paper I found I relived the incredible drive, passion and relentlessness I have pursued these answers for myself, my family, and others I advocate for.

    I use to be so embarrassed by my “piles” and endless stacks of books and information thinking “normal people do NOT have these kinds of messes! They live tidy simple lives. But I realized this week – these “messes” are symbolic of my beautiful curious passionate brain that seeks out and soaks up information to a level that many may not understand. And, that’s ok! I have found my tribe! Raised 3 precious children with extrodinary minds too! As evident by the papers and books from their childhood too! Oh my the BOOKS!!! My husband would say… are you sure that is ANOTHER box of books?! LOL

    I did do a lot of weeding out which felt good. Importantly though, I came away with this kind of snapshot of my life and who I am that was crystal clear! I am so thankful for my gifts, my rainforest mind, and all the messy obsessive papers, books, and piles of information that make me who I am! Especially because that has all shaped me into the advocate I am! To continue sharing my knowledge with those like me and my children that I seek to serve! Thank you again Paula for all you do too! I am looking into the retreat, would love to attend! – Diane

    1. Andrea Avatar

      Oh, wow. Thank you so much for this. Speaking of guilt, I have so many piles and boxes and whatnot that overwhelm me daily. I keep wanting to organize them, but then I don’t. I’ve never thought about this being a type of gift recognizing who I am. Plus, I’m also afraid I’ll experience deep grief facing those half-started and abandoned things. Your post is really inspirational, and I really appreciate it! — Andrea

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        It’s OK to feel grief. Then you can move on. Grief can be part of the process, Andrea.

    2. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh my gosh, Diane. It would be so great to have you at the symposium! I’m glad to hear that you’re getting clarity about your giftedness. I know what you mean. Isn’t it true that we teach what we need to learn? Thank you for sharing here and for all of the times your share my posts.

  7. Dorothy Avatar

    As always, thank you for the wisdom that you share. My heartfelt appreciation to you for normalizing yet another familiar and lifelong expression that I had labelled as being something else that was not normal and therefore “wrong” about me. Having this better understanding helps so much to shift the old perspectives and allow myself to embrace that which actually nourishes me. With gratitude and so much appreciation.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Embracing what nourishes you. Oh, so important. Thanks for being here, Dorothy!

  8. Richard Stone Avatar
    Richard Stone

    Paula, than you for the insight. I was a high academic achiever in primary school, but being in a hostel I could do it without self discipline. When I moved to secondary school, I was not in a hostel any longer and my academic achievements disappeared :-/.

    In retrospect it did me a lot of good, being able to mingle with the normal kids, doing normal things, instead of always looking for the deeper meaning of life and reading books when the sun shines outside :-). I also found it strange that I asked questions that my friends have not thought about at all.

    Not performing did also have a negative side – and a much worse one at that. In the mingling with the normal kids I could not bring our my real personality. It did not even help to be diagnosed as gifted in secondary school, I stayed the quite, introverted boy right through secondary school. I only regained my need for academical performance when I started studying Civil Engineering.

    All through my career I could see my extroverted self come to the fore. Now I am more comfortable with myself, being true to the primary school me, always studying further, assisting my 9-year old daughter (also highly gifted) with her strange questions: she would lie in bed and say “why are we here?”, “why do some boys like to wear earrings?”, “Do men have less ribs due to Eve being made out of Adam?” – sometimes the funniest things arise.

    My point is: we need to acknowledge the potential of our gifted young, not only because they are able to solve a lot of our current problems using their intellect, but also for them to stay true to themselves and embrace their own capabilities and “weirdness”……

    Also, I thank you for your book, RFM! My wife and I understand our daughter much better after having read it….


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for the feedback on my book, Richard. I’m so glad you found it helpful. Yes, to the importance of being true to yourself!

  9. lauralynnwalsh Avatar

    I am currently obsessed with validation. I need someone – not me and not my friends, who just want me to be happy – to say that what I am doing is good enough to keep doing. It isn’t enough to just want to do it. It isn’t enough to just be happy doing it. I want anonymous people to actually LIKE it. Why can’t I just be happy doing it? Why this obsession with validation?

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I think it’s a pretty normal human need to want validation. If it’s an extreme unending-type need, there might be other factors. Possibly some issues in childhood?

  10. Andrea Avatar

    Thanks for this, as it’s always nice to hear reiterated that I’m not alone. Also part of this gifted package is that what I’m obsessed with can change by the hour. I used to see this as a flaw: ”Oh, look! New shiny thing to pick up and be fascinated with!” I’m trying hard to see it as a positive force to acquire more knowledge and new perspectives. Sometimes, however, it can mingle with the Deep Intense Emotions, though, and be overwhelming. I have stood with a piece of plastic in my hand and nearly burst into tears because I knew this particular kind wouldn’t recycle, and I felt so GUILTY for throwing it in the trash; meanwhile I felt so ANGRY at all the people out there who run through water bottles and pitch them in the trash. Why don’t others feel those things as deeply and DO something about it? (Rhetorical question. I know they simply don’t CARE as much.) So at times, I wish my obsessions would be a bit less intense. But what part of me isn’t intense? At least I’m not alone. We may not be in the majority, but we’re not alone ….. Thank you.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for sharing, Andrea. Gifted and Guilty is probably a whole new blog post!

      1. Andrea Avatar

        YES!! 🙂 That would be fantastic.

  11. lilurazko Avatar

    “What could be more important?” Dare I say, the fate of my soul. However at least in my world, the two are inextricably intertwined. I feel restless at not having found my purpose yet. Am I too afraid to take a chance on myself? Just not ready yet? Too many interests to decide? All of the above? I really don’t know. For the time being, I will just keep praying & researching until I find what feels right, and try not to be jealous of the people who’ve always known what they wanted to be when they grew up. 😉

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Uh, yes, probably “fate of my soul” is right up there in the important zone! If you have multipotentiality, that might be one of the reasons you’re not clear yet. And maybe you have more than one purpose!

      1. lilurazko Avatar

        I’ve been thinking that too. I read somewhere once that some people have multiple shorter careers that serve them for the phase of life that they’re in and that really resonated with me!

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          That’s right. Multipotentialites change careers and career paths many times over a lifetime.

  12.  Avatar

    Have you read The Choice by Dr Edith Eger? Sounds like you might be kindred spirits!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks. Will check it out!

  13. Chelsea W Avatar
    Chelsea W

    I get obsessed as well! I am so glad I am moving away from the shameful definition of it that I was given and accused of when I was younger and moving toward a more encompassing, colorful, compassionate definition! I obsess about my purpose, about my career (and what it should really be), about my art and my writing and my thoughts and my thoughts about my thoughts and my relationships and it’s freaking awesome! I don’t ever want to be any different. Thanks for reminding me I don’t have to 🙂

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Nope. Don’t have to be different, Chelsea. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Carol Avatar

    I definitely fit your description here! I’m obsessed with trying to find out what I am to be doing, obsessed with music (being a musician) and poetry (writing), and connection with Earth, the Universe, everything…..don’t have a “career” yet, since I went off track for a while, but I am working on trying to get that going somehow, and getting myself out of a blah job. Thank you for your post!

    1. agingpotential Avatar

      I can totally relate to what you’re saying, Carol. Me too, a “back to work” job that turned out to be blah, and a real disappointment to my altruistic self. And THIS is why we need to stick together! We won’t feel like we’re on the outside looking in, or wonder if anybody at all gets the fact that one must be obsessed to follow an intuitive lead to fruition, or explore thoroughly until satisfied, or take that nagging feeling that keeps tugging and investigate thoroughly…… or listen to that still quiet voice inside.

      “You’ve got to get obsessed and stay obsessed.” Right? Others aren’t as obsessed as we are? I still don’t know how that can be, and how it is that WE are the the ones that are called “different” and not the other way around. All right then, so if that’s the way it’s going to be I think we’d better stick together.

      And so now, I wonder even though I decided to live the life of a parent, and now that it’s truly winding down to a dull roar, however will I obsess, introspect, and overthink in an entirely different bandwidth? I’m guessing I’ll figure it out, given how consumed I became when I discovered I had two gifted kiddos, and now trying to frame what it means to be a gifted 60 year old who is finding herself obsessed with next life steps that will make a difference, have an impact or just make the world a little better. Yeah, like I said we’d better stick together!!

      Love your new photo, Paula, and thank you for the heads up on these happenings, particularly the Gifted Women Symposium. Maybe I”ll find some other idealistic obsesses with ideas about this radical new phase of life?

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Remember, I’m in my 60s, too, so you’re right on schedule, agingpotential! Thanks for writing. Hope to see you at the symposium!

      2. Carol Avatar

        Yes!! Stick together! And I agree – why are we the “odd” ones? Love your comment!

    2. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Carol. There are probably many things you could be doing…so follow your heart!

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