Resources for Building a Better World and Finding Your Purpose(s)

“…It was so humbling to acknowledge that as humans, we all seem to share the wound of not having felt loved just as we are! …Our deepest wounds call out to be faced, felt, made peace with, tenderly held and integrated so that we can allow our essence to fully penetrate our lives. We are invited into a spirituality that does not seek to transcend our pain but to fully feel, meet, and embrace all of our beautiful, raw, messy humanity…”                                      Science and Nonduality

There’s a whole lot of messy humanity out there these days. A whole lot. I must admit that it has me kinda discouraged, if you must know. It doesn’t help that I’m recovering from a bout with the flu. And when I’m sick, I can leap from anxiety into catastrophizing. It goes like this: Even though I know my body has bounced back from various illnesses, this time will be different. I’ll never recover from this and it’ll only get worse. In fact, I’ll become so disabled, I won’t be able to work. My income will dry up. My friends and family will abandon me and I’ll become a crochety homeless old bag lady with really bad hair. Then, the summer fire season will be upon us and my town will go up in flames and I will not have access to clean water or the internet and I will have to stop blogging. Life will lose all meaning…

It goes like that.

These days, sadly, I don’t have to be sick to feel anxious. I just listen to NPR. You know what I’m talking about. And if you are a highly sensitive, empathetic, smart person, which you know you are, then, you, too, are anxious. Maybe even catastrophizing. And you don’t even have the flu.

I get it.

I’m here to help.

First of all, as you may have noticed, the above quote is referring to each of us looking at our own “beautiful, raw, messy humanity.” And, I agree. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ve heard it many times. It’s an act of courage and a gift to the planet for you to face your fear, shame, and despair, and walk through your dark night of the soul. You can use psychotherapy, spiritual practices, personal growth groups, energy healing, scientific analysis, bodywork, vision quests, shamanism, art-music-writing-dance, 12 Steps, political activism, prayer, tonglen, or, better yet, some combination of these things.

Of course, you’ll also need to recognize that you do, in fact, have a rainforest mind. You are going to need it. So accept it. Love it.

You heard me.

Then, look for people, organizations, books, and resources who are taking action to create a better world. This will remind you that you are not alone and will provide support for your own actions. There are lovely people out there who are making a difference. You can start with Mary DeMocker‘s excellent book The Parent’s Guide to Climate Revolution. And Rebecca Solnit‘s Hope in the Dark. You can also follow Solnit on Facebook. There are organizations that have a larger view of what’s possible like The Institute of Noetic Sciences. There are books helping you find your purpose(s) such as my book (with the new cover coming in a few days!!) and others.

Finally, if you find your purpose(s) and live that larger life, you are doing what you are here on the planet to do. In my humble opinion, I don’t think you can do much more than that.

Unless, of course, I become a crochety old bag lady with really bad hair. Then you can also make sure I have access to a laptop and the internet.


To my bloggEEs: Let’s generate a long list of resources for creating a better world and for finding your purpose(s). What people, books, music, films, therapies, artists, and organizations are out there that you recommend? Please avoid specific political rants. Thank you, as always, for being here. You are not alone.

And here’s link to a kickstarter campaign for a documentary on giftedness that’s in the works for 2020. (I’m on the advisory board.) This documentary surely belongs on our list of resources for creating a better world.



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.

27 responses to “Resources for Building a Better World and Finding Your Purpose(s)”

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  1. You Are Not Broken — A Strategy for Navigating Life With Humans Who Think You Are | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] They need you more than you need them. Right? So, find your other weirdos. Join your fellow freaks. Find your purpose(s). And, if all else fails: Break open. Break through. Break […]

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    […] do you determine your destiny, you may ask. How do you find your purpose? There are ideas in this post and this one. Some great resources for this are here. It is a project for sure. But what could be […]

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    […] if this triggers some of you and you decide to cancel me. But if you stay, I promise to provide more guidance in future posts In the meantime, reading past posts and my first book could be ways to gain more […]

  4. Do Not Stop Caring–Fifteen Reminders For Tender-Hearted Smart People | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] not stop caring. When you are not sure what actions to take to create a better world, ask your Heart what it wants to say and do. Trust your […]

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    […] Find people from all over the planet who are creating a better world. Connect with some of them. Support them. Speak out about injustice. Find your particular way to […]

  6. medleymisty Avatar

    I grew up on a southern edge of Appalachia, so I grew up in a culture that is well-acquainted with tragedy. I’ve found that listening to southern Gothic music helps me. It reminds me that my ancestors saw their world burn too, and the sensitive ones who survived made beautiful art out of it. NOT that I am saying that the art is worth the tragedy and the pain. I’ve been around the internet enough to know that someone will take it that way. It’s just…a way of trying to make some meaning out of it, and a way to realize that this is something that happens to all humans, and that we all have to find our own way through it.

    Also I like to play MMOs, and I’m currently playing Elder Scrolls Online. It’s full of excellent stories, and I’m currently doing the quests in the area where a species of anthropomorphic lizards live. They have been invaded by colonial powers in the past and in some areas of the world their people are still enslaved. The storyline I finished tonight was about a tribe whose village had been invaded many many years ago, and the survivors put their souls in a magical artifact to protect them from the colonial power. You have to recover the artifact from someone who was born in the diaspora and who feels disconnected from her culture and who goes to the bad in her angst and need for connection, and then you choose which of your two companions will die in order to guide the souls from the artifact to the Hist, which is their word for…What Is, as well as the word for the trees that they center their lives around. They are very water-based, and they talk in metaphors about the stream and its currents and its constant change. They say the one you choose to die was born for that purpose, and that they will return to the Hist and then they will take form again in the future, and that everything always changes and we are just waves rising and falling. It’s pretty Buddhist, really, which I’ve always found Buddhism compelling.

    Of course there’s my spousal person and my cats, and being with them and appreciating them. Especially since we lost one of our two oldest cats in February. It hurts. It hurts so much, but also the sixteen years we had with her were worth it, and giving her a good kitty life, and loving her and being loved by her. It’s worth it.

    We got season passes to our local theme park last year, and that’s helped. It’s a place to go out and be with people and have fun and it’s very interesting to learn about the history of theme parks and rollercoasters.

    I don’t know. I have hardcore anxiety and developmental trauma and I’m not going to be joining any activist groups or calling strangers to harangue them with my opinion any time soon. But what I can do with what I have, for now at least, is to try to care for myself and my loved ones, try to find what peace and joy and beauty I can, and try to share it with others through my writing.

    Also on Tumblr I’ve been able to find communities of people who discuss things I’m interested in a somewhat rational manner and who try to be even-handed and open to things, and even some people who I have fundamental disagreements with but who aren’t raging trolls and so it’s easier to listen to them and try to see what they’re saying.

    Next month it’ll be a year since we joined the gym, which going to the gym gets us out of the house and it’s good for us.

    I don’t know. For me right now, it’s just a long slow slog up from the Bad Times. I’m working on healing and on accepting and forgiving myself and on being okay with who I am, and I like to think that maybe I can be a role model of that for whatever young women in the Sims community still read my blogs.

    *hugs all the people*

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for sharing these ideas. And for the hugs. 🙂

  7. Mark V Avatar
    Mark V

    It seems every time I look I find a new label that puts me further outside the norm. Gifted. Twice Exceptional. Multipotentialite. Introvert. Highly Sensitive. High Sensation Seeker.

    Just the other day I came across another form of being an outlier: Delayed Sleep Phase.

    “Most people — around 30 to 50 percent — fall right in the middle of the chronotype bell curve, sleeping between the hours of 11 pm and 7 am.
    People like Sokolis (that prefer…to begin a seven- or eight-hour sleep cycle after 3 am), are even more rare: Only around 0.2 percent — one out of 500 — of adults have a delayed sleep phase.”

    [ If you’re just not a morning person, science says you may never be: ]

    I’m in that 0.2 percent. I’d never heard of this disorder before, though I am not totally surprised to learn of it. I do suspect a link between delayed sleep phase and giftedness but I digress.

    Not fitting in is extremely hard. Not simply for emotional or psychological reasons but even for physical reasons such is the case with sleep habits. Depression, anxiety, social anxiety…IMO these are symptoms that can be the result of not fitting in rather than the cause of it.

    Right now I feel that society is really trying to put the squeeze on outliers in an attempt to force us to either fit in or perish. It’s a reaction against the potential threat to change that outliers pose. As society gets sicker and sicker, in an attempt to heal itself it is creating more outliers who act as antibodies. But as with many viruses, the sickness is fighting back.

    Gifted, creative kids are given an ADHD or ODD diagnosis and medicated. Gifted, creative, free-thinking adults are misdiagnosed as well. (I spent many years languishing on useless, harmful psychiatric medications that were administered to cure the “symptoms” of my giftedness.) Resistance may result in social isolation, poverty, homelessness, jail or worse.

    These are just a couple ways I have personally felt how the sickness is trying to maintain its grip on the body.

    Right now it’s easy to feel that the sickness is winning. Everywhere we look we see the rapidly worsening symptoms. The patient is in danger of dying. But as with any illness, as long as the body is alive there is hope for a cure. I try to remember that and to remind myself that I might be part of that cure, and that perhaps the only way to is by NOT fitting in. To feel all of the depression and anxiety and pain and not simply shut it out or cover it up and forget it.

    A couple of oldie-but-goody quotes for reminders:
    “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” -Krishnamurti

    “To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.”
    -E.E. Cummings

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Mark. You are surely part of the cure!

      1. Mark V Avatar
        Mark V

        Thanks. To be honest I do not like making such proclamations because the truth is that I don’t know. I could be part of the cure or I could be just another part of the sickness and I am fooling myself.

        Which is a bit of a different topic — maybe one you can write about in the future — but one that has me thinking a lot. Sometimes the deeper I think, the further away from being certain I get. Which in itself is not bad, but the world we live in prefers to avoid facing uncertainty. So uttering the words “I don’t know” has practically become taboo. We fear uncertainty so much that we will buy into almost any BS that comes our way, especially if it is proclaimed with a confident, unshakable certainty…

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          Uncertainty. A great topic. I shall think about it…

        2. medleymisty Avatar

          I’ve never known anything.

          It may partly be the…what Paula calls chainsaws, growing up. At its worst it is anxiety and lack of boundaries and looking to others for knowledge and discounting my own thoughts and feelings and my ability to learn and to know. But after the Bad Times I had to learn and grow and heal, and part of that has been growing some boundaries and learning to trust myself and to not automatically hate myself just because someone on the internet with an opinion I’ve never heard of before/don’t agree with thinks that everyone who doesn’t agree with them is an awful and unintelligent person.

          It is very hard to see past that certainty of other people when you’ve never felt certain yourself. And I’m female and working class and Appalachian along with the rainforest-y brain and the anxiety, so it’s not like I had society always telling me I was right or anything. More the opposite.

          I occasionally go googling for answers to why our species is the way it is. Much less now than I used to. These days I have to avoid an awful lot of things to keep the anxiety manageable. But when I do, I see a common thread. A lot of people say that people don’t want to think that they’re wrong about something, and they want to think that they’re good people, and that they’d rather see their world and everything and everyone in it burn than ever admit that they were wrong or they didn’t know or they did things that hurt others.

          This makes me think that maybe the chainsaws gave me a gift, if I can shape it. I think it may be easier to start out full of self-doubt and uncertainty and to learn boundaries and confidence and acceptance of the limits of human brains than it is to start out unable to admit that you don’t know or that you could be wrong and to learn to be vulnerable and to admit fault.

          1. Paula Prober Avatar
            Paula Prober

            Thank you, medleymisty. Always good to hear from you. I often tell people that gifted folks don’t feel gifted for many reasons, but one being that they’re very much aware of how much they don’t know.

          2. Mark V Avatar
            Mark V

            “…people don’t want to think that they’re wrong about something, and they want to think that they’re good people, and that they’d rather see their world and everything and everyone in it burn than ever admit that they were wrong…”

            A little while ago I became aware of a curious psychological phenomenon that is far more common than I would have imagined until I read about it in a psychology document.

            I like to help people. I try to make people feel comfortable in social situations even when I’m busy trying to calm myself. I introduce newcomers to the group and help them get acquainted. I share my knowledge and experience openly.

            I didn’t understand why it often blew up in my face, why people I helped would go on to try to undermine me or my social standing. I didn’t understand that because these people respected me they also resented me, especially after I had helped them. To save face, they turned me into an enemy.

            So speaking of watching the world burn, when my brother and I were in high school, I once saved him from a very stupid act of accidental self-immolation. Seeing 5 gallons of gas erupt into a 50 foot ball of flame that spread a fire across a swath of land and even on top of lakewater makes an unforgettably scary impression. After we put the fire out, I helped my brother conceal the damage that was done to the beachfront and all other evidence so that our father would never find out. We never spoke about that day again, but my relationship with my brother changed after that incident and we grew apart.

            I never expected eternal thanks or gratitude. Still, I was extremely surprised to hear my brother complain a couple years ago that I was a bully to him during that period (my own recollection is that because I was the eldest child it was my duty to protect him from bullies). This all came up in an email conversation where I was trying to explain why I had estranged myself from him and the rest of the family after suffering poverty and homelessness alone without so much as a text message to remind me that I was in their thoughts.

            I don’t know what is in their heads. But knowing about this common psychological quirk, I can only guess that it became easier for them to believe that I deserved whatever hard times I fell upon rather than the alternative. It is hard enough to come to grips with the idea that this is common in strangers, but much harder when it’s your own family. Still, as painful as it is I think facing that is better than hiding from it.

            Sometimes I wish I was a cheerful optimist. Then again, if we all were, how would we ever illuminate the dark?

            Thanks for replying and sharing your own experiences and perspective.

  8. Themon the Bard Avatar
    Themon the Bard

    Yesterday, someone put up a “memory” on Facebook of a 50th birthday-party celebration back in my hometown: pictures of people whose faces I recognized, and names I had to reach for (often coming up empty), and a wash of memories. The overwhelming tone of the experience was recognition of how much I wanted to fit in, back then, and how completely I did not. I grew up with these folks, but they were never “my people.” Over the years, I’ve only moved further away. My last time in that town was passing through on my way back from my niece’s wedding, and stopping to visit my parents’ graves. I needed to ask the groundskeepers to cut the branch of a bush that was completely hiding their tombstones. Symbolic. They didn’t fit in, either.

    Most people seem to be almost entirely about virtue-signaling, even in adulthood — that’s the new term for it. “I fit in because I oppose marijuana legalization.” Or, “I fit in because I oppose abortion.” Or, “I fit in because I believe white people are superior to black people.” Or any of a thousand other shibboleths and creeds and ideologies.

    I remember how much this annoyed an offended me in graduate school, in physics. Even there, in the ivory towers of Advanced Scientific Inquiry — or as I came to realize, perhaps especially there — it was still all about virtue-signaling. Like any elite class, the virtues are hard to learn, and arcane. For the nobles of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it was about which fork you led with at the dinner table. For the modern physicist, it’s a cogent articulation of blackbody radiation. The secret handshake. The knowing nod.

    I’ve always been the heretic.

    As an older person, it makes it easy for me — well, somewhat easier, anyway — to be a successful chameleon. I don’t think I’d do very well with white supremacists, and I’m finding myself repelled by the extreme Inquisitors who will savage you for not keeping up with their ever-changing language fads. Is it “bisexual,” or “gender-ambivalent?” But still, I never actually fit in.

    I probably would have shrugged the Facebook pictures off, had I not just been recovering from a week-long — and uncharacteristic — full-on depression. I’m not entirely sure what that was about. Partly let-down — last weekend, we put on our Composers’ Symposium, and I, along with three other composers, had a two-hour concert of new works, and mine were very well-received. Then Monday, and two terrible days at work: I had to throw out a week’s work and start over. Also, … — and while I realize politics are kind of off-limits here, it’s part of a bigger issue of social discord and disintegration that does affect everyone, profoundly.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      So sorry to hear about your depression, Themon. I appreciate your being here and sharing, as I’m sure many readers do. It’s tricky to limit comments to avoid specific political details and names since we are all so effected by them. I get it. My main concern is that people don’t criticize others for their particular opinions and beliefs. And that we stick to personal experiences that connect to having a rainforest mind. There are other places to go into depth around specific political distress. I think I might do a slight edit to your words…

  9. Anna Avatar

    I have found Brené Brown’s books very healing; encouraging us all to be more courageously vulnerable for the greater good of ourselves and society.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, Anna.

  10. renovatio06 Avatar

    I’d like to chime in on the thanks expressed above! And I’d like to share – spoiler alert – a piece of dialog from the absolutely brilliant sitcom “After Life”, which I completed watching in today’s Netflix binge session (with trigger warnings throughout, though; The protagonist sits on a bench next to an elderly lady, both opposite – another spoiler – tombstones of their deceased spouses. I’m not sharing it for reasons of spoiling, but because of the inherent wisdom expressed here, which I found deeply moving, consoling and supporting a sense of finding direction (because I myself have been and still am lost following a divorce in 2003 and have found myself questioning life again almost on a constant basis eversince, resulting in real disability from ever present anxiety). As they’ve run into one another repeatedly, a chat ensues here and there and its eventual apex goes something like this:

    “Happiness is amazing. In fact, it’s so amazing that it doesn’t matter, if it’s yours.” And then a short time later into that (closing) episode: “Good people do good things for other people. That’s all there is. End of story.” (when talking about the meaning of life/purpose). Wow. And then some IMHO. (And another WOW on your always deep and really understanding and capable work here, if I might add).

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for the suggestion, renovatio06. So sorry to hear about your anxiety.

  11. Isabelle Devrecker Avatar
    Isabelle Devrecker

    Nice post, Paula. I too get discouraged from time to time, although not so often lately. There was a time when it was nearly permanent. Now I start to find organisations online (Twitter mainly) whose goals and ideas I share, and whose purpose is to make the world better. I still don’t know exactly what my own purpose is and how to concretely enact it, but making the world a better place is certainly part of it. Still on my self-discovery journey somehow.

    Now I have to say that I am glad I do not live in the US. You guys seem to have an awful lot to get discouraged about. I could keep myself informed of all the political nonsense going on overseas, but I just avoid it. Reading or hearing about each and every new bout of insanity is not going to help, and keeping one’s attention on it is in the end only a distraction that prevents us from seeing the broader picture, from being creative, and effectively finding solutions for the future (just my opinion anyway 🙂).

    Looking forward to reading your next articles.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes, things here are challenging. You provide a good reminder to look at the broader picture, creativity, and solution-finding. Thank you, Isabelle.

    2. renovatio06 Avatar

      With all due respect, Isabelle: Not sure, where exactly you live, but if somewhere here in the EU then I’d have to – annoyingly – say that we do not lag when it comes to things to become discouraged about – or even outright desperate and at least anxious. There are days that I can no longer handle the nature of daily news – for mere self-protection and from needing to avoid becoming suicidal with excess anxiety. So…. I think I get your point. However… the malignant zeitgeist seems to roam globally… unfortunately so. All the more reason to be centered in one’s sane self and caring for it like we would with a sprouting bud, no? 😇

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        It’s probably best for us to stick to expressing our own concerns about our particular experiences in our countries but not make comparisons to what others are saying about theirs. Make sense? I know this is tricky territory. I think it makes sense to stick with providing resources that you’ve found help you “build a better world” here in the comments this time. Thanks.

        1. renovatio06 Avatar

          Of course, Paula. Duly noted. I’ll behave. 😇

  12. Marian Avatar

    Thank you for this post, Paula, and for all the work you do. I’ve found great value in the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast. Harry Potter + literary analysis + humanism = weekly therapy for this anxious HSP.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh, that sounds cool, Marian. I’ll have to look into it! Thank you.