What Might Exceptional Giftedness Look Like in Kids and Adults?

photo courtesy of Graham Hunt, Unsplash

When Carol was three years old, she taught herself to read. At age six, she gave her Barbie a lobotomy. At seven, she picked Rembrandt as the person she respected most, because of his use of light. When she was eight, she refused to say the pledge of allegiance in school because she didn’t agree that all people were united under God. And who was God, anyway? At nine, she was reading Ray Bradbury. At ten, she insisted that she volunteer at a home for the elderly.

Growing up in an abusive environment, Carol worked out elaborate plans to calm her fears, including siding with the “bad guys” to ease their loneliness. In sixth grade, OMNI magazines were her entertainment. Her dreams were often vivid and at age 12, she taught herself to lucid dream. She thought often about the effects and influences of patterns and cycles in life and in nature and philosophized with Sartre and Nietzsche. She explained, “I didn’t want to be another person endlessly repeating cycles of suffering in a world where truth and beauty were so mangled and abused.”

Carol won many contests in school and her work was held up as an example for others. But that didn’t matter to her as much as standing with the children who were bullied or ignored. She was curious about religion and the paranormal and, at a young age, took a bus to church on her own. Her empathy and intuition were finely tuned. She would pick up accurate information about people that they didn’t openly share with her but would confirm later.

In high school, Carol experimented with goth/punk, poetry, art, tarot, photography, philosophy, sexual identity, and LSD. One of her favorite books was Ideas and Opinions by Einstein and her preoccupation was with finding true meaning. She always had a strong sense of spirituality. Recently, she said, “I believe no goal is higher than manifesting ultimate love and compassion. All I have done in my life has been ultimately in the name of opening my heart…It’s important to me to keep pushing the boundary, exploring my connection to the unseen and the energy that connects all things.”

Carol has a rainforest mind. She’s managed to continue to be compassionate, sensitive, intuitive, and productive in spite of growing up with serious abuse and neglect. Carol will tell you that she’s not special; that she’s not particularly unusual.

But she is. Unusual. Gifted. Exceptionally so.

Carol, now in her late 30’s, is beginning to understand that her quirks, her obsessions, and her constant questioning of the status quo, is not pathological. Not something to hide. She’s starting to use her talents to design a unique career path. To fulfill her long-time desire to create a better world.

Shall we join with Carol?  Open our hearts? Manifest ultimate love and compassion? Explore our connection with the unseen and the energy that connects all things?

How could we not.

___________________________________________

To my bloggEEs: Do you resonate with Carol’s profile? How are you like her? How are you different? There is a spectrum when it comes to giftedness. And, of course, great variety and complexity. Where might you be on the spectrum? (You will notice that Carol hasn’t won a Nobel prize or invented the newest electric car. And, yet, she is still exceptionally gifted.) What’s your experience with “the unseen and the energy that connects all things?” Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. Thank you to the client who inspired this post.

(Note: My book publisher may be closing its doors so my plan is to take back my rights and become an Indie Press! This is not absolutely confirmed yet but is most likely. The book won’t be available soon while I figure out the logistics but I’m hoping that won’t take too long. I’m going to redo the cover, which I’ve never been crazy about, but not make many other changes. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll see the updates.)

(Book update: The publisher is trying to stay afloat so nothing is changing right now. This could be a good time to stock up! 🙂 )


Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in counseling gifted adults and consulting with parents of gifted children. The label “gifted” is often controversial and confusing. I use the metaphor of the rainforest to describe this population. Like the rainforest, these individuals are quite complex, highly sensitive, intense, multi-layered, and misunderstood. They’re also curious, idealistic, highly intelligent, creative, perfectionistic, and they love learning. I’ve been an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, and Advanced Development Journal. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, was released in June 2016 by GHF Press and is available on Amazon or at your independent bookstore. 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, was released in June 2019.

46 responses to “What Might Exceptional Giftedness Look Like in Kids and Adults?”

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  1. c00662 Avatar
    c00662

    Hi me again, what does “siding with the “bad guys” to ease their loneliness” mean?
    Is it the bad guys she read about or empathy with the abusers as she knew they were lonely?
    Thanks


    1. ellabirt Avatar
      ellabirt

      Both! 🙂 Seeing the reasons behind why hurt people can end up hurting people, empathizing with them, seeing beyond good and bad and wanting relief for anyone who is suffering.

      Viktor Frankl spoke about “tragic optimism.” A short definition would be to create meaning and say “yes” to life even in tragic or destructive situations. The people often seen as bad guys don’t seem to have this capacity, nor can they see and appreciate it in others – but they also don’t have the power to take it away from people who do.

      Siding with the bad guys is acknowledging their pain as valid and wanting the best for them. It’s a way of seeing anyone who is suffering – fictional characters, real people, people who have hurt oneself.

      This way of being and seeing can also be effected by trauma. In modes of protection, when unconscious of patterns are playing out or the nervous system has been hijacked, our higher Self can be more of whisper or a distant place to land than the loving leader behind our eyes. It also requires much support, therapy, reading, and practice to balance boundaries, self-care, and this vast empathy. It is a lifelong effort to let this higher Self be seen and heard and not just felt, to feel safe being vulnerable and to own one’s power.


      1. ellabirt Avatar
        ellabirt

        It’s also important to note that empathizing and excusing are not the same thing. Siding with the bad guys includes seeing their choices and behaviors as a result of their pain or fear, but not excusing it. This would be spiritual bypassing, ignoring, or dismissing the harm caused to oneself or others, which is not empathy. 🙂


        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          Thank you for these explanations, ellabirt. And thank you for the questions, c00662. <3


          1. ellabirt Avatar
            ellabirt

            These were all really great questions!


            1. c00662 Avatar
              c00662

              Sorry I should have thanked you earlier.


              1. ellabirt Avatar
                ellabirt

                Thank you! 🙂 You made my day. I don’t interact with other people much, not even online, and your thoughtful questions were fun to think about and answer. Hearing from you today brightened up my day too. So, thanks again!


                1. c00662 Avatar
                  c00662

                  I am glad I brightened up your day.


  2. c00662 Avatar
    c00662

    Typed out comment but wasn’t logged in and forgot password.
    I marvel at Carol what a beatiful soul.
    I have some questions please. In abusive households children lose the ability to listen to their intuition, how did little Carol manage to retain her ability?
    Also, abusive parents don’t like their children to be smarter than them, and they infantilise them to hold them back and keep them in ignorance, and try to break their will, how did little Carol manage to keep her will intact in the face of all of this abuse?
    I would love to know.
    Thanks


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Great questions. And there are no easy answers or general answers for everyone. But what I’ve seen with my RFM clients is that something in them stays in tact even under horrible abuse. Of course, they need years of healing work, via therapy and other means. They are clearly deeply affected and it shows up in self-hatred and/or troubled relationships, lack of self-confidence, anxiety, depression, physical symptoms, etc. I often see a strong central core of light that isn’t broken. It’s hard to explain and I’m sure does not apply to everyone! This is purely anecdotal. My experience with clients. I hope that helps, c00662.


      1. c00662 Avatar
        c00662

        Hi Paula, thanks for your reply. Sorry for my inquisitiveness, your good answer has raised a lot of questions. I knew a man who had violent behaviour and narcissistic traits, and he knew about breaking spirits, can you tell me what do your clients do under these circumstances to keep this light alive without the narcissist knowing it’s there and trying to break it, especially if it is their father?


        1. ellabirt Avatar
          ellabirt

          There’s an excellent book that answers these questions called Spiritual Intelligence by Marsha Sinetar. There’s even a chapter called Intuitive Authority and each of the chapters talks about the will of the spiritually gifted child. Fascinating stuff! Sinetar often talks about gifted children who come from abusive homes and what makes a difference in their expression and development.

          Carol’s story is very personal to me, and I can tell you that both extraordinary, innate gifts, the mysteries of our Universe, and the typical coping mechanisms of those who are traumatized all played a part in protecting me from my abusive foster parents. While my will is as powerful as my intuition, my nervous system still lives in a traumatized state. The body keeps the score even when the spirit knows the truth.

          I find so much comfort knowing that this is what it means to be human. In this short life, this one incarnation into this specific experience, we all suffer and triumph. We struggle with who we truly are, how to love, how to synthesize all the input and not only withstand the whirlwind of our inner experience but create meaning from it and learn to be one with our own intuition and with the consciousness of all else. These feelings have been present since I was a small child, and they shaped how I viewed those abusive parents to some extent. It helps to see the bigger picture.


          1. c00662 Avatar
            c00662

            Thanks for the book.
            I think I turned my mother into a narcissist.
            I learned to read and write when I was a tiny toddler, I talked within 12 months and was wearing panties.
            I could not walk very well though, poor co-ordination due to Asperger’s.
            Mum used to be empathic, loving, validating and extremely proud of me, and not once did she bully me once she deemed me gifted, she just basked in it.
            The problem is I walked the dark side of sensitivity, instead of continuing to read, I preferred to internalise my Dad’s put-downs, “Baby” infantilisation as he saw me shine, “weirdo” as I was unique which mum loved, “taunts about falling down due to my late walking”
            Mum could not understand why I suddenly put my books and pens down, in favour of hearing my Dad say “only joking, you’re not a baby”
            Eventually the validation, love, encouragement etc from her turned into exasperation as she could not understand why I didn’t want to pursue my obsession with the written word.
            She saw my Dad as ignorant. He was violent, alcoholic, narcissistic, dark.
            I regressed even before I started school, so no wonder poor mum felt invalidated by me. She slowly began to morph into him and turned violent.
            I blame myself, I remember her empathic and loving and nurturing of my uniqueness until I gave up. She was proud of me but Dad wanted me to fail.
            I am now a 54 year old unemployed drug addict.
            Had I of kept reading, my intuition would have developed and I would have perceived my Dad hurting my mother.
            She hesitated to marry him anyway, he was uncouth, she was good mannered.
            Had I of kept reading I could have warned her he was quite frankly dangerous, I would have had the courage, just like in fairytales I look up as an adult, to be brave, he would have injured us and got his karma, and would have been out of our lives.
            Mum wanted me tested for giftedness but he refused.
            She did slowly turn narcissistic herself, she started telling me off for whining about my Dad, and I became fearful of him.
            I could have been carol, mum would have trusted innocent little intuitive me over abusive violent alcoholic Dad and she would have left him and he would have got his just deserts, but instead, she slowly went into denial.
            I clowned around at school, underachieved, wanted to copy peers as I rejected myself and the unique talents my mum was once proud of.
            I feel I let her down, my family down and myself down, plus humanity as I had a lot to offer the world it just took me until late adulthood to realise this.
            I have really messed up.


            1. Paula Prober Avatar
              Paula Prober

              c00662. It sounds like you could benefit from therapy. Lots of trauma in your past. A child can’t turn a parent into a narcissist. There are ways to find therapists if you live in N. America through the site psychologytoday.com. They have a therapist directory. There are also options for low fee therapy if you can’t afford it. Also, drug treatment options. It’s never too late to heal from family trauma. I noticed you wrote another comment that is similar to this one, so I won’t post that one.


            2. ellabirt Avatar
              ellabirt

              c00662 – I agree with Paula, therapy is awesome! I’ve been to therapy a number of times over my life, and each time I deepen my understanding of what is mine and what belongs to others and my sense of who I am. I highly recommend it, and I’ve been accepted on what’s called a sliding scale (according to your budget), which was such a gift at times when I’ve needed support the most.

              To me, you sound very thoughtful, and I’m betting you’re incredibly sweet too. You have a magic all your own to discover. We all have that higher Self inside that is untouched by trauma, it’s just hard to hear it when we’re feeling extra down.

              And I can tell you this, people like Carol struggle with wanting to be more of something or less of something, sometimes anything but themselves. This is human. We are all blind to our innate worthiness at times. But you are amazing – you are a miracle – there’s no one just like you out there.


              1. Paula Prober Avatar
                Paula Prober

                Your words are inspiring, ellabirt. Thank you.


                1. c00662 Avatar
                  c00662

                  I know, I would love you to read my posts as I fear I am beyond help.


                  1. Paula Prober Avatar
                    Paula Prober

                    No one is beyond help, c00662. No one. <3


                    1. c00662 Avatar
                      c00662

                      Thank you.


        2. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          What I have seen is that in many cases, even at a very young age, my clients have realized that the parent is somehow disturbed and so the client does not blame themselves for the problems in the family. I think that realization is protective. So they consciously or unconsciously keep the light alive and keep it safe by hiding it. It’s complicated, as you can imagine. Sometimes it feels to me like the RFM person comes in with a level of spiritual protection. Perhaps they are old souls who are capable of living in trauma but not being devastated in a way that they pass on the trauma to the next generation. Instead, they choose to be aware and heal. The healing is not quick or simple. There is still a lot of work when there’s an abusive/violent parent. There are patterns formed and beliefs that need changing. But the light never goes out.
          Of course you are inquisitive…you have a rainforest mind!


  3. The Many Faces Of Giftedness — Beyond Sheldon And Sherlock | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] 29, was a profoundly gifted introvert. She excelled in most everything she tried including academics, art, music, dance, and […]


  4. Sharon Rose Williams Avatar
    Sharon Rose Williams

    I was given the answers to all Carol’s questions from Day One – the King James Bible.


  5. Some of My Best Friends Are Introverted, Sensitive, Introspective, Smart, Empathetic, Overthinking, Perfectionists | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] Are you Super Smart? I would have used the word gifted here but then you may have stopped reading. Right? But you are gifted. Your capacity for learning and understanding is vast. There are many thoughts going on in your brain and often several at one time. Even if your schooling experiences didn’t result in high grades or spelling bee championships, even if you aren’t a rocket scientist, your thirst for knowledge is unmistakable. You make connections, see relationships, and adore libraries and bookstores. You’re the intellectual fire hose to everyone else’s garden hose. […]


  6. What Might Exceptional Giftedness Look Like in Kids and Adults? — Your Rainforest Mind – Goddamn Media

    […] via What Might Exceptional Giftedness Look Like in Kids and Adults? — Your Rainforest Mind […]


  7. Sarah Avatar
    Sarah

    I wasn’t a high achiever in school. So I didn’t believe it when my parents told me I was an underachiever. I thought they were crazy. I thought I was crazy. Sometimes I still think I’m crazy. I’ve structured my life intentionally to be able to stay home with kids as well. They’re getting to the point, and the age, where I think I can wander out and be a little more productive, and also support my husband’s efforts more. But I’m terrified. It’s a big step. So far, my children are high achievers. I like to think that the difference between them and me is that they have had the love and support of someone who understands them. But maybe I’m just flattering myself. Regardless, they don’t have a lot of the hangups that I did/do and I’m grateful for that. I find it difficult to find like minds…I think the problem with Mensa and the like is that having a high IQ in common doesn’t equate to having enough interests in common to forge a relationship. I have friends on Facebook from high school who have a similiar IQ to mine. We don’t necessarily agree on issues or share interests in common. Ditto with the friends IRL. I find friendships very difficult with most (thankfully not all) people.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I bet you are correct about why your kids are doing well. Thanks for sharing. My next post will be on finding like-minded friends. 🙂


  8. Paula Prober Avatar
    Paula Prober

    Just an update on my book. It continues to be available as usual on Amazon and can be ordered through your independent bookstore. The publisher is trying to stay afloat. So, now would be a good time to get your copies! Sorry for the confusion!


  9. M. J. Cuthbertson Avatar
    M. J. Cuthbertson

    The intersection of the multiple spectrums which make up any individual’s giftedness may have converging and diverging looks of commonality when observed. This observation seems an unreliable gauge to discern one’s spectrums and positions on them. The deeper point is in how giftedness feels. Unfortunately, language and artistic expression are often lacking to describe fully the depth of those feelings, so we discuss how it appears.

    I’m sure, most, like me felt and expressed a frustration of sorts. When you say you’re frustrated to someone, like a parent or teacher and they are not gifted or don’t understand giftedness, they often don’t grasp the uniquely nuanced form it takes for us.

    For example, no one that heard me say I was frustrated understood the core of my frustration. They believed it was a rather typical lack of grasp for the materials. They didn’t understand, how I was deeply frustrated that Dad had a few years earlier sold the bulldozer, so I did not have access to a proper tool by which to flatten the high school building. I mean, hasn’t everyone who’s gifted had that experience with feelings of frustration about their Dad selling the bulldozer just before you really needed it?

    Doesn’t, the blend of chemistry, wiring, and experience in the mind of giftedness make you want to taste, hear, smell, and feel the resonant commonality? The look is just one small part.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh, yes. The selling the bulldozer problem… 🙂


  10. artyplantsman Avatar
    artyplantsman

    I like Carol a lot😊.


  11. Kathleen Avatar
    Kathleen

    Yes, that actually resonates a lot. That was me with the Ray Bradbury books, noticing things that weren’t being said. Wow. I know I am more willing to acknowledge it now because I have my two poppies who are following a similar path, with test results to show it’s not all in my head.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I think many gifted adults start to recognize and appreciate their own giftedness when they have children. Thank you for being here, Kathleen.


  12. ellabirt Avatar
    ellabirt

    May we all know ourselves in our truest form and replace what has been laid upon our backs with wings. May we all have guides with generous hearts and rainforest minds who tenderly show us where our greatness lies. <3


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Indeed. <3


  13. River Aaland Avatar
    River Aaland

    Wow. Some of this reads like my journal from childhood/teens…and other parts are definitely more accomplished/inspiring than my own life experiences (we are all of us unique after all). What a beautiful and rich soul she is! Thanks for sharing her story and thanks, Carol, for being a light in the world. More love, more compassion, more openness, YES!


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      And you, River, dear, are also a bright light in the world.


  14. Noks Nauta Avatar
    Noks Nauta

    Dear Paula, Thank you so much for this blog and the attention for extremely gifted people. I think it is important for them to know that giftedness is a range too. I am a member of the Triple Nine Society and members there all were very surprised and happy when they found out and joined TNS and met other people like them. It really makes a difference.
    Our Gifted Adults Foundation also published a leaflet on exceptional and profound giftedness in adults: https://ihbv.nl/international/english/leaflets-eng/


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for the link, Noks. Wonderful to hear from you. It will be good for my readers to learn more about your organization that’s based in the Netherlands.


      1. Noks Nauta Avatar
        Noks Nauta

        This is the link to Triple Nine, which is worldwide: http://www.triplenine.org/Default.aspx


    2. Marina Berts Avatar
      Marina Berts

      Hello Noks, thank you so much for the link. I very recently discovered IHBV and your leaflets, it’s awesome all the work that is being done in the Netherlands. You are onto very interesting topics that I haven’t met with before, for example unemployment among the gifted. I’ve come across that problem myself, and also now in my job coaching gifted people. Looking forward to following you and the IHBV on the web!


    3. Bostonian Avatar
      Bostonian

      Hi Noks. Thanks for the links. Some of the leaflets and presentations of IHBV were interesting. I joined the TNS, but haven’t found it very interesting so far. What I’ve seen of it (Vidya and the Yahoo list) seem to be dominated by a couple of people who are nuts. It’s not easy to have a conversation about anything of substance without someone butting in with bizarre conspiracy theories. Maybe it’s easier to get together in person where you are, and the nuts don’t come.

      You could count me in the category of “gifted and not working,” but I like to think it’s because I was clever enough to structure my life that way on purpose. I prefer taking care of my children over any job I’ve had.


      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        It can be difficult with groups to find the folks you can relate with. People have different experiences with TNS or Mensa, for example. But, they are places to start to find other gifted humans. It still might take time to find the one or two that you resonate with. I have some posts about finding friends and am writing one right now specifically about loneliness that might help. Thanks, Bostonian.


      2. Noks Nauta Avatar
        Noks Nauta

        Hi Bostonian, Sorry that you did not find what you looked for in TNS. I found out that you have to put in some personal effort too. I went to European gatherings and to one annual gathering (this year in Denver). Speaking in person is different from mailing lists. When traveling I look for a TNS member where I will stay and try yo make an appointment for a personal meeting. That turned out very good.


        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          Thanks, Noks. That makes sense. On social media there can be the problem with a few people dominating the conversation. But meeting in person can make all the difference.


  15. Taylor Rose Avatar
    Taylor Rose

    Aspects of Carol’s profile definitely resonate with me, especially the part about energy. As an intuitive energy healer and spiritual guide, energy permeates my life everyday. I am able to literally see energy, as well as transform it. In my experience, energy is everything. It is within all people, places, things, and experiences, and informs how we feel and act. Energy is something many do not consider, yet it holds the key to unlocking change and transformation on every level. We respond to positive energy and negative energy, not always realizing that it is what is behind our inclinations. But, when we understand energy and how it is intertwined in our lives on a physical level, we may better utilize our thoughts, feelings, and actions for our highest good and potential. In the rainforest mind population, much of our complexity is tied to the unseen, making for a rich, and at times, challenging experience- but one that I, for one, would not trade!


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for sharing this, Taylor. I’m guessing that a number of readers here will relate to your description and will feel encouraged by it to explore more from an energetic perspective.

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