Do You Have a Rainforest Mind? Why Does it Matter?

What is a rainforest mind? Do you have one? Do you want one? Might it be better to have a meadow mind or a corn field mind? Simpler. Quieter. Predictable. Organized. Productive, but not overwhelmingly so. Beautiful, but not a sensory overload extravaganza.

Think about it. The rainforest. Your jungle mind. Overflowing with intense, lush, teeming life. Noisy. Dense. Diverse. Vibrant. Abundant. Sensitive. Resource-full. Majestic. Flamboyant. Rotting. Always in flux. Providing support for all beings on the planet.

I know that you might not feel majestic. Maybe you’re not obviously flamboyant. Perhaps you have days when dense and rotting are the best descriptors. Maybe you’re not supporting all beings on the planet. Yet.

But the way your mind-heart-body-spirit works, you must admit, feels eerily similar to intense, lush, teeming life. And chances are, your questioning, curious, thinking, imagining mind is flamboyant. Or it was. When you were little. Effervescent and noisy.

Now, maybe you’ve learned to tamp it down.

Maybe people told you that they wished that you had a cornfield mind. And perhaps that sounded good to you, too. You weren’t sure there were many benefits to your constant questing. To your deep analysis of, oh, everything. To the howler monkeys who kept swinging from your branches fomenting havoc.

It’s tricky. To manage so much intensity, creativity, thinking, intuition, empathy, and sensitivity in your mind-heart-body-spirit. To not misdiagnose yourself with ADHD or OCD or bipolar disorder. To not get tangled in your own vines.

But it gets trickier. You also need to figure out how to live in a world that finds you overwhelming. Too curious. Too creative. Too smart. That can want to take your valuable resources from you. That can decide to cut you down.

And yet. That world is in desperate need of its rainforests.

So what do you do? What the heck do you do?

Tamp it back up.

You heard me.

What do I mean?

Well. I don’t mean that you should let the monkeys of your psyche loose on innocent bystanders. Or that you ought to make your sensitive soul vulnerable to the judgment and bizarre-ity of humankind. Or that you need to fix everything that’s wrong with the world.


What I mean is: Rediscover who you were before you tamped yourself down. Before you had to hide your light. Before you learned that you were too much.

Find ways to be that person again. You don’t have to do it all at once or to radically redesign your life. And you certainly shouldn’t let go of your healthy boundaries or your needs for quiet spaces.  But decide to take back your voice, your body, your power, and your flamboyant majestic-ness. Either in your parenting, or teaching, or writing, or art forms, or speaking, or thinking, or activism, or spirituality, or loving. Or all of the above.

Find your particular rainforest-y way to support all beings on the planet.

Now more than ever.

It matters.


To my dearest bloggEEs: This post is part of a collection of writings on underachieving. Underachieving is a term usually applied to gifted kids who aren’t doing well in school or living up to what is perceived as their potential. I include this post in the collection because I’m writing about you hiding or tamping down your authentic self. This can be a type of underachieving, just not in the traditional sense. (Click here or see the link below for access to the other posts.)

What are some ways that you’ve rediscovered your authentic self? What holds you back? What are your fears around finding your true self? What gives you the courage to examine yourself and to heal your broken heart? What types of actions are you taking to create a better world?

Two resources that I’ve found helpful for supporting all beings on the planet are Clarissa Pinkola Estes and Van Jones. What resources have you discovered?







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 “Do You Have a Rainforest Mind? Why Does it Matter?”

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  1. The Dark Night of the Soul — How Psychotherapy Can Help You Through | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] find someone you can work with face-to-face. You can contact me for a consultation, though, about your rainforest mind and the non-family-of-origin concerns you might have, particularly about being a wizard in a muggle […]

  2. Inspiration, Beauty, Your Dysfunctional Family, and Human Evolution | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] your sensitive, empathetic, rainforest mind, you’re likely painfully aware of the malfunctioning in your own family, in your community, […]

  3. Remembering My Strange Inner Child | Memento Mori

    […] Find ways to be that person again. You don’t have to do it all at once or to radically redesign your life. And you certainly shouldn’t let go of your healthy boundaries or your needs for quiet spaces. But decide to take back your voice, your body, your power, and your flamboyant majestic-ness. Either in your parenting, or teaching, or writing, or art forms, or speaking, or thinking, or activism, or spirituality, or loving. Or all of the above.” Paula Prober […]

  4. Danait Samuel Avatar
    Danait Samuel

    Finding yourself by tampering down is one of the hardest things to do, cause people are constantly telling me what I should be and that my old self was nothing but trouble, but no matter what, I’m back in the jungle. No kidding.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Welcome back, Danait.

  5. Psychotherapy and the Argentine Tango–A Secret to Successful Aging | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] If you’ve grown up with neglect or any type of abuse, then, the understanding of who you are will be distorted and inaccurate. This sets up unhealthy patterns that follow you into adulthood. Anxiety. Depression. Difficult relationships. Lack of self-confidence. Instability. Good therapy will help you understand the impact of these experiences and grieve for your many losses. Then, over time, you can release the negative beliefs and the trauma lodged in your body, find your authenticity and your self-love, and live well. Age well. Be your fully compassionate, powerful, influential rainforest-minded self. […]

  6. Gabriela Montoya-eyerman Avatar
    Gabriela Montoya-eyerman

    Take back the jungle. I’m in.

  7. Aelia Zaidi Avatar
    Aelia Zaidi

    hey, i was thinking can we use the term amoeba to represent emotional over-excitability? just like amoeba does not have a fixed structure, emotionally excitable people do not come with pre-conceived standards of interpersonal reactivity. Like there is no fixed structure when it comes to the intensities, you or perhaps they also don’t know which shape they might be in the next situation?

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Interesting, Aelia. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Barb Avatar

    Hi Paula! I’m enjoying your blog. Trying to find out what’s new in the world of the gifted. I took a few classes in Gifted Ed. in the 70’s and 80’s, but hadn’t given it much more thought until my daughter was having some angst over her youngest and a recent parent-teacher conference. When I made the comment, “Well, that’s not unusual for a gifted kiddo.” She came back,”I don’t know that anyone’s ever said he was gifted. How do you know?”
    So, to make a long story short, I’m just eavesdropping, looking for resources. Thanks for your gentle approach to “giftedness”. Gotta love those Rainforests.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Glad you’re back in gifted world, Barb. Glad you’re here.

  9. holbart Avatar

    So, I’m from corn country, small town Indiana. In fact, my town was so small that it had a stop light, but it didn’t work. Think about the movie, “Hoosiers,”if you’re old enough to remember it, and that gets pretty close to the truth.

    A few years ago, I took a dive into my ancestry, a rainforest-y kind of dive, and learned that several of my ancestors were the first settlers in the Midwest. I found some interesting documents retelling the stories of some of my ancestors by name. One of my ancestors even had his diary published after his death. It’s called, “The Unusual Diary of Plenna Bickel,” and it records the deaths of these early settlers across the span of 42 years. The diary has over 500 names in it.

    That’s actually not my main point, but what a funny name and interesting diary, eh?

    Maybe a little creepy. . .

    Anyways, the archives also tell the story of an untamed, unsettled land. A land full of lush trees and wily, stealthy animals. Buffalo, too!!

    Can you imagine a world like that?

    We are not all rainforesty, either by disposition or aptitude, but all of humanity loses when we lose contact with our original, untamed selves.

    I imagine cornfield minds might feel less threatened, if they could remember who and what they once were.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Lovely, Holbart, Thank you.

  10. Pegi Ficken Avatar
    Pegi Ficken

    Oh my! So many notes resonating together. Humor! All kinds of humor. Being one of only two people in the church who laughs out loud when the pastor announces, “The next hymn will be ‘Stand Up, stand up for Jesus.’ The congregation will please be seated.” Always, always seeing something amusing in the most serious discussions. Not everyone appreciates your humor. Coffee and chocolate! Where do they come from? The rainforest! (Well, technically the coffee grows in the mountains arising from the rainforest, but…)
    Being a gardener, living in a temperate climate, and having a large landscape with which to play, the cottage garden analogy comes to mind. Nothing is neatly placed. There are paw paws next to rhubarb and black currants, oh, and here comes a zucchini rampicante slithering through, around, and over. The very vague plan gets modified constantly by new and different plants which MUST be put somewhere. It’s not all food, or flowers or fragrance, or medicinal, but some of each. Some are multi-functional. Somehow, in the end, all of the pieces fit together, and it doesn’t look a bit like anyone else’ garden. Milkweed produces food for butterflies, although the USDA considers it a noxious weed which must be eradicated.
    To carry the analogy even further, sometimes physical limitations cause weeds to take over. Some few plants may be lost, but hard work shows that most are still there and can be recovered. Some plants can only be grown in a temperate climate by protection. But there are always surprises. Sometimes the large tub which was shoved in a corner untended for four months because the plant in it was dead suddenly sprouts ginger.
    Yes, that’s my mind.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Wow, Pegi. Thank you for sharing some of your resonating notes!

  11. Demus Avatar

    The first order of business is to liberate yourself to yourself. It’s a frame of mind where you believe you deserve every ounce of your abilities and are allowed to impose those abilities on the world (be it in a sneaky way). Easier said than done. But I’m in the strangely lucky position of having been in a devastatingly compressed stage for a very long time. When life then gives you a small opening, it’s like an avalanche of liberty because you have seen what compromise is and realise you might have as well been dead. After the right state of mind has been reached, that’s almost all you need, since the operations in the world are more of a strategic, technical matter. My strategy is to kill them with kindness.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m very fond of kindness, too.

  12. Demus Avatar

    Maneuvering your carcass out there is a skill isn’t it. While high sensitivity to surroundings can bring unpleasant feelings you also tend to notice how utterly absurd most situations are, and that is an endless source of humor.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Humor. So important.

      1. Demus Avatar

        I just realised your name is perfect for what you do. Lol

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          Yes. It is. 🙂

  13. Gail Post, Ph.D. Avatar
    Gail Post, Ph.D.

    Such a vivid image of how people suppress who they are. Another great reminder of the importance of accepting/being oneself. Thanks!

  14. j'adore champagne Avatar
    j’adore champagne

    When you say “cornfield mind”, I think straight rows of monoculture which needs to be pesticided, fertilized, and unable to really support itself as it’s also (usually) a hybrid and can’t reproduce itself. And sometimes I have found myself doing that to myself to make myself more marketable, manageable. I need lots of inputs, too, when in that mode. Coffee. Feedback. New clothes. Chocolate.

    When I’m in Rainforest Mode the only thing that resembles me to a cornfield is that simply non-
    Replacatable! I’m a free ranging open-pollinated multi generational sunflower that doesn’t conform to the photo on the packet! And I really do try to encourage that thinking in my friends. ❤️
    Thank you!
    PS. I still like the chocolate lots, but I don’t “need” it. And lots less coffee.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh, heavens, yes. Surely your rainforest mind still wants (but doesn’t need) chocolate! Thank you for sharing.

  15. hksounds Avatar

    “I’m writing about you hiding or tamping down your authentic self” Hi Paula. No doubt those folks need your help. Just wondering when you are going to write about those of us who have never, ever done that.
    No doubt, those tamping down people have problems, but how about people like me who have had plenty of trouble over the years and not a lot of folks writing or talking about/to or for us.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, Joy. Can you say more about where your troubles lie? Either here or in a personal email? Then I will definitely think about it and plan a post addressing your particular rainforest-minded experiences, if I can.

  16. xenmiller Avatar

    Van Jones! Yes.

  17. Jackie Avatar

    Love this <3 Thank you

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