Super Sensitive? Super Smart? Super Lonely.

photo courtesy of Julian Howard, Unsplash

Here’s what’s confusing: Learning is easy. Solving a complex problem is fun. Researching and reading into the wee hours of the night is one of your favorite things. Compassion for others comes naturally. Perceiving the suffering of all beings everywhere is what you do after coffee. And before coffee. Seeing subtleties, complexities, layers, connections, meanings, energies, vibrations, and visions are your everyday realities.

Isn’t that just normal? you ask.

Um. No.

You’re still a bit rare among humans.

Which is why you feel lonely.

Not to mention the holiday season. Where everyone looks so frantic happy. So stressed out generous. Terrified excited to be with their dysfunctional extended families.

It’s hard to find other beings with rainforest minds. Maybe you get frustrated by your relatives who dismiss your insights and take your kindness for granted. Perhaps you long for deep conversation and exuberant debate but end up with small talk and platitudes. Maybe you think it’s your job to save everyone so you befriend all comers, willy nilly. Maybe you meet someone who looks like a prospect but when they find out that you speak 4 languages, write music, paint, read books obsessively, and adore quantum physics, they remember that they have a dying uncle in Idaho who needs them. Right away. Maybe you’ve never found a soul who has the same capacity for sorrow and joy.

Don’t stop believing.

There are perhaps 3484+ rainforest minds around the world reading this post today. There are about 500 who will read it tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. See? You can find one. Or two. Maybe more.

For some great suggestions, if I do say so myself, read these posts. Start your own Meetup group or find one. They’re all over the world. Attend or start your own Silent Book Club. They’re also all over the world. Do what you love to do and look for other RFMs. Be brave and approach them. Ask them for coffee/tea. If you don’t know what to say, ask questions about their interests and about sports teams books that they love. Build a network of friends over time who will be grateful for your courage and who will bring you soup when you’re sick. Join the #booklovers and #booknerds on social media. (I’m not going to tell you to learn the Argentine tango. Because I’ve told you that multiple times. You already know that.)

Until you find humans (and after you find them), spend time in nature with the spirits of the trees, rivers, and mountains. They will talk to you, if you let them. They’re good company. Deepen your spiritual connection to your inner guidance. Continue to work on yourself: If you need greater understanding of your sensitivities, read Imi Lo’s book. If you’re looking for a great book on trauma and the body, read Judith Blackstone’s latest book. If you want to understand relationships, read Alain de Botton. For inspiration, read Maria Popova’s gorgeous new book A Velocity of Being. (available 12-31-18) It will nourish your soul and sustain you through the lonely nights. (Popova has 883K followers on Twitter. That’s a lot of rainforest minds!)

You are not alone. You are loved. Already. More than you know. But I get it. You want a human or two who truly sees you. Who can match your complexity and intensity. Who is also exhausted by platitudes.

During the holiday season, it can be particularly hard to feel alone. So here’s one last idea: Use that imagination of yours. That colorful and powerful imagination. Play your favorite songs. And on your own. With your own sweet self. Start dancing.

And then, as the saying goes: If you dance it, they will come.


To my bloggEEs:  How do you find friends? Partners? Intellectual stimulation? What are the holidays like for you? What are the songs that you dance to? Remember that when you’re here, you are among friends. And at times, there might be 3484 of you here on the same day. Thank you, as always. I deeply appreciate your friendship. And your love.

Here’s the latest update on my book: For now, it’s still with GHF Press and available on Amazon and from booksellers. It will probably stay there for now. I’ll announce it on Facebook (and here) if/when that changes.


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.

38 responses to “Super Sensitive? Super Smart? Super Lonely.”

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  5. Paula Prober Avatar
    Paula Prober

    And a big heart it is, Celi! <3

  6. Celi Trépanier Avatar
    Celi Trépanier

    Word for word, straight from my heart, soul and mind. How did you know that is how I feel? <3

  7. JJ Avatar

    I read this post a few times. What sprung to my mind was: but if this isn’t “normal” than what do “normal” people experience? To me this is pretty normal, but also hella intense and difficult, along with high sensitivity… I appreciate the term RFM as “giftedness” carries a heavy load of associations that focus on excellence, achievement and intelligence, and less so on the emotional world and inner experiences of a person. To me it’s like, just being a normal human being and getting way too many stimulation and information from the world around me without choosing to, and this extra challenge to learn to navigate the world with myself. I’m really grateful for the increasing literature on the emotional side of giftedness and blogs like yours which are like safe places to feel recognized and learn to understand myself better. Thank you for all your work!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for sharing, JJ. There still is much controversy around definitions of giftedness but I’m happy to contribute to the understanding of the emotional side. Glad to have you here.

  8. Someti Avatar

    Thanks for this beautiful post, Paula. It is always a pleasure to read you and feel that I am understood and loved (at a distance).

    I always feel as if you already knew about my life, my feelings, my fears… and you end up calming me down and making me feel better about myself (and RFMs in general).

    Sometimes, living in that clashing community and family is beautiful, enriching, funny… and sometimes is just desperating; when I feel noone seems to understand me. Yet it seems someone does. Potentially someone else, around here, will do so too 🙂

    Kindest regards from Spain and happy holidays to you, Paula, and to all Rainforest minds around, reading this.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes, Someti. Here you are loved and understood. <3

  9. Robert B. Avatar
    Robert B.

    Yes, thank you, Paula! I appreciate the fact that you always try answering the questions to which you know the answers to. Like many of your readers, I have reservations about the idea that I’m gifted, even though deep down I feel something is in there (which makes me feel different, and truly affects how I interact with the world outside of me even with TBI). And, I don’t think me experiencing what it is like to have a eidetic memory or even something remotely close to it is a mere coincidence. After all, you can’t regain or duplicate something like an eidetic memory through neuroplasticity unless you already have the genetic predisposition for it, isn’t it? Hehe.

  10. Robert B. Avatar
    Robert B.

    Do you think neuroplasticity could work to my advantage in my current situation to help bring back my gifted capacities? I’m really worried! For some strange reason, it’s a huge deal for me! Is it possible that I’m merely following my gifted instinct on an unconscious level?

    Again, I’m sorry, I’m feeling rather anxious and depressed at the moment…

    1. . Avatar

      I’ll answer even though, I imagine, you’d prefer Paula’s counsel (sorry if it seems presumptuous of me).

      Robert, you haven’t lost your giftedness but depression might trample with your thoughts, coordination and energy levels; thus, your mind might be exhausted enough not to want to think too deeply, which will, in turn, make you believe that you’ve lost some of your aptitudes (your mind is either too quiet or too loud to process information right now). Don’t worry, your capabilities are just there, very dormant at the moment, but there.

      What you can do is exercise both mind and body (help yourself out of the blues and practice and practice until you relearn what you think you’ve forgotten).

  11. Robert B. Avatar
    Robert B.

    Thanks for answering my questions, Paula. I truly appreciate it!

    I think you’re probably right in saying that RFMs don’t necessarily have more somatic symptoms as a physiological reaction to one’s emotions. However, would you agree that RFMs and some other sub- groups within the gifted community probably has more complex, intense emotions due to the way they are wired?

    I think I kept reiterating the idea that gifted individuals could be significantly affected by TBI in my statements/ questions due to my personal experience, but also by reading (or learning) about the personal struggles of high I.Q. individuals with TBI. Also, I have the desire to feel validated, that I’m not merely imagining things; that I feel, think, act and experience things differently for some special reason. I was successful in bringing back my photographic memory last December, but it gradually faded away when I got sick…However, it does seem that I am able to sustain the ability to hear sounds that are invisible to the average ear. Do you think it was merely a coincidence that I was able to expressed something quite similar to photographic memory?
    (It does feel hopeless at times, but I’m trying to be more optimistic. However, if giftedness is truly a part of me, then I must somehow strive to regain those things which I have lost if possible!).

    Thanks, Paula! I’m sorry for bothering you with these questions!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes, I’m sure you’ve seen my posts about OEs, intense emotions, and high sensitivities. And, Robert, I don’t know anything about TBIs. Thank you for the link. I’m not a good resource for answering those questions. But, yes, neuroplasticity is real!

  12. Robert B. Avatar
    Robert B.

    (* Unsupported to unsupportive environment)

    But yes, speaking of normal… I forgot to ask you some questions that has been in my mind as of late. And, here they are:

    1. In your experiences working with gifted clients and students, did any of them told you that they frequently and easily manifests somatic symptoms as a result of their emotions? I often feel these cold sensations all over my body, but as well as “stomach butterflies”, when I have these negative or sad thoughts. Also, there were times when my body shakes almost uncontrollably as a response to having intense emotions, like love or fear, or even both at times.

    2. I didn’t confidently acknowledge myself as a gifted person until recently. Now, it is true that I may have already possessed certain traits during my younger years which predisposed me towards certain desires, interests and behavior. However, two TBI between the age of 3 and 6, but as well as a poor environment may have left me “neuro—compromised” that could have made it easier for stress, depression, bad diet, etc.. to affect me. Do you think this is possible? I feel kind of embarrassed for even asking…

    Thanks, Paula!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I don’t know that I can say that RFMs have more somatic symptoms than the average person. But certainly all types of people can have strong body sensations related to emotions. As far as TBIs and trauma, they both could most certainly affect your cognitive abilities, your nervous system, etc.

  13. Robert B. Avatar
    Robert B.

    Wow! I can definitely relate with a lot of the things that you described. Now, it is true that many gifted individuals often share many of the traits which may set them apart from the norm. However, each of us also experienced things that are unique to the individual which may make life a little bit more difficult or unable to fully function as a gifted person (in my case, a TBI and an unsupported environment). By the way, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, Paula.

  14. Ro Avatar

    I don’t know how to find my people – but suspect it’s because I need to build a greater connection to my Self, first. So I’m focusing on that 🙂

    Wishing you a happy holiday time Paula.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Connection to Self is so important! Thank you, Ro. Happy holidays to you.

  15. A good blog post on adult Giftedness! | Gifted Child Mom

  16. shellypruittjohnson Avatar

    Thank you so much, Paula! I needed this tonight.

  17. cathytea Avatar

    Trees have always been my best friends. And birds, and mountains, and rocks. I have a few good online friends (one of whom will likely read this post and comment–hi, Medley!), and a few good online communities in the video game world. I actually have a few people who like me and are exploring if they’re able to accommodate my specific requirements into a friendship. Not being successful in making and keeping friends has been a lifelong theme of mine. Recently, I’ve begun to consider that part of my own rainforest mind includes being an undiagnosed autistic woman, and this is quite a relief for me because it allows me to enjoy my own experience of life more and appreciate the way I do friendship , without dragging myself down through the continuous failure I felt when trying to do friendship in the way society and “experts” recommend for “optimal mental health.” So, I will be friends with everyone and everything, mountains and trees, especially , and the only friends I’ll actually invite into the sanctuary of my home will be my imaginary ones !

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Being on the autism spectrum with giftedness (2e) can be hard to diagnose. And a relief to know. It can make friendships even harder than if you’re just a regular RFM. There’s more and more information available now online about Aspergers in women that might help.

  18. M. J. Cuthbertson Avatar
    M. J. Cuthbertson

    I’ve not met anyone new since finding out I am 2E. I’m curious to see how that might go.

    I’m even more curious about why it seems so difficult for others to connect and understand these uniquely wired brains. Is this a perceptual difference or a structural impediment or something else?

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Good question, M.J. I don’t know. But 2e brains are pretty complex. I suspect that even people who are trying to understand them are confused by how complicated they are.

      1. M. J. Cuthbertson Avatar
        M. J. Cuthbertson

        A fair point.

        I was meaning something a bit more basic. As the mutuality in relationship is inherently reciprocal if there’s an impediment for a non-rainforest mind to understand a rainforest mind, there’s gonna be a problem. It might never be solvable, always a point of conflict. What is this thing that makes it difficult?

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          I think it depends on the individuals involved, whether there’s misunderstanding or not. I don’t think we can assume that it’ll always be a problem. But if, for example, the RFM thinks on many tracks at once, and the nonRFM doesn’t, that may be one reason that communication and understanding is difficult. That said, I’m still not sure I’m answering the question that you’re asking! So, this right here is an example of the challenges of communication among anyone, RFM or no! Maybe someone else reading your question will have a better answer.

        2. Sarah Avatar

          I’m going to take a stab at this, because I’ve been doing a bit of research in trying to understand it myself. I think the issue is that most people think in linear fashion, building upon what they know, in a straight line of information. RFM’s have more of web of understanding and tuck new info into the web. So they see relationships that linear thinkers don’t see until they’re pointed out. When the RFM makes an innocent statement that connects two things the linear thinker hasn’t thought of before, there are several possible outcomes. One, the linear thinker is freaked out and runs and hides (figuratively, of course). Two, the linear thinker says, how the heck did you put that together, the RFM explains, the linear thinker appreciates the new connection and they move on. Three, the RFM tries to explain the connction, and fails. Both parties end up frustrated and annoyed. I’m sure there are more outcomes possible. THere are plenty of linear thinkers out there who are high achievers- they may be experts. But they still process information differently and I think that’s the rub.

          Also- here’s the thing. There are a lot of linear thinkers who are either unable or unwilling to acknowledge that other people might process information differently. I might even say the majority. They aren’t willing to entertain, for reasons of their own, that their way isn’t the only way. These people will do everything they can to cut RFMs down to size. Some of them are parents, and some of them are teachers. It isn’t always easy to identify them immediately, but eventually this comes out.

          I’m not sure if this is the question you were asking, but it’s something that’s come up in my life often enough that I’ve started searching for why I’m so out of step with certain people in my life.

          1. Paula Prober Avatar
            Paula Prober

            Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences, Sarah, and adding to the conversation.

          2. M. J. Cuthbertson Avatar
            M. J. Cuthbertson

            Sarah, that’s really great! It adds to my understanding and fits with some of my experiences. A couple decades ago I was quietly minding my own business plugging away at a project. When into my head popped the visual that most people begin a project at a starting point working toward an end outcome. Where I’ve always started somewhere at some unrecognizable middle and worked out in multi-dimensional vectors with no outcome considered. You’re idea of webbed connections is very much the same.

            I’ve found the unexpected connections work well when they are funny, but not so well when they show the person the origin of some deep conflict born of trauma. I have had the literal running away, or, more often, the polite “excuse me,” never to be heard from again.

            “Moving on” is that great Conan Doyle example of Holmes detailing his observation in support of his deduction to have the listener say anyone could do that.

            “Explanation failure” in my experience happens when 7 words in they stop listening or they don’t believe anyone could actually think that way.

            Fear is such a powerful driver when the necessity of traversing point a to point b by linear thought is combined with binary thoughts of right or wrong. It leaves no options for the person holding these thoughts and feelings, nor opportunity for an offering of other possibilities. So, sensing the other’s fear and struggle I tend to acquiesce. I accept, as you said, “being cut down to size” rather than add to the other’s obvious fear and pain.

            So, there can sometimes be a conflict between linear thinking and Rainforest Mind thinking. Do you believe there are other conflicts creating impediments and making relationship uniquely difficult?

          3. Barbara Vantine Avatar
            Barbara Vantine

            YES. This makes sense. So many times I’ll be in a conversation and I’ll use an analogy that, to me is exactly right. But people just look at me like I’m weird. As if my analogy doesn’t have anything to do with the topic. Of course, it probably doesn’t help that I get very excited about my perfect analogy, so I tell it with SO MUCH emotion. And then I feel like an outsider, again.

            I don’t really mind that they don’t understand. The thing that bothers me is that look; the look that means I’m weird.

            1. Paula Prober Avatar
              Paula Prober

              Consider that “weird” in RFM terms is a good thing! Thanks, Barbara.

  19. Danielle Avatar


  20. Marina Berts Avatar
    Marina Berts

    Thank you for your post, Paula. Ah, being lonely, feeling a deep deep solitude…. For the last few days I’ve been doing with myself the same that I do with my coachees. I’ve searched my inner feelings about solitude and try to see this problem of mine from a different angle. I like being alone. I need to sit down quietly with at good book instead of standing in the middle of a noisy pub with people I scarcely know. But still, yes, I feel lonely in my rainforest mind, even though my highly sensitive husband is an amazing person that I love dearly and have developed great complicity with. So I’ve been juggling with the idea of creating a ‘NoSolitude’ group over here in Switzerland, for me and other RFMs. And since I’m on holiday between Christmas and New Year, I’ll have plenty of time to plan this new group. Can you imagine – I talked about the Silent Book Group with some RFMs, but they really didn’t fancy the idea, finding lots of faults with it! Amusing, isn’t it?

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes, those analytical RFMs would likely have many opinions! Particularly if they’re extraverts, they probably wouldn’t like the Silent part of the book group! Here in the USA, we might differentiate between solitude and loneliness. Seeing solitude as a positive expression of being alone. Introverts, for example, need solitude. Here it might be called NoLoneliness. But I understand what you’re saying. Let us know what you create!

  21. Boyd Diane Avatar
    Boyd Diane

    Thank you you are a blessing

    Sent from my iPhone


  22. Iowan42 Avatar

    Paula–maybe you will see on Facebook that I shared this post on Facebook. It goes to my many friends who I think would understand, with encouragement to take it seriously.

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