Childhood Trauma, Psychotherapy, Courage, and Your Gifted Self

photo courtesy of Sammie Vasquez, Unsplash

You are in therapy. Grieving for your little child self. The one who thought it was her fault that her father was so angry. That her mother spent hours alone in a dark room. The curious child who was bullied in school because he excitedly answered all the questions and hid in the library during recess. The responsible child who needed to save the family. It has taken a long time to feel compassion for that little one. To make the connections from your traumatic early years to your struggles today. To start to change deeply held beliefs, patterns, and habits. To trust that change is possible. That love is possible.

But what does it mean to heal from the past? Does it mean that you’ll become a happy, boring, mediocre, normal person? That you’ll lose your quirky, creative, angsty complexity?

Heck, no.

Therapy will not make you normal.

Instead, if you give it enough time, if you dive deep enough, it will transform the fear and shame. The self-hatred. It will slowly, tenderly, turn it into love. Self-compassion. You will pick healthier friends and partners. Set better boundaries with toxic people. Be more confident.  Be a better parent. Your future life paths will become clearer. Your intuition stronger. You’ll be rich and famous. Your health will improve. You will feel more peaceful. You will stop the legacy of abuse in your family line. You will find your voice.

And instead of normal, you will be more of your true self. The person you were born to be. Curious. Enthusiastic. Creative. Insightful. Quirky. Empowered. Intuitive. And you will love that self. Less fear and shame. More love and light. You will understand what you are here to do. You will feel safe to expand into your full rainforestness!

I’m serious.

And if you don’t believe me, here’s an interview with the RFM phenomenal singer-performer Pink, talking about the benefits of therapy! (starts at about the last 6 minutes) And, come on, if Pink says it works, well then.

But, it does take courage. It is scary to dive into the abyss. Scary to examine your beliefs and patterns. Scary to drop into your grief. Scary to change.

And, because you have many, many layers, this is likely to be a lifelong journey. Especially if your childhood was particularly traumatic and terrifying. I know that doesn’t sound too appealing. But it doesn’t take years and years before you feel the benefits. And the therapy can take many forms. You will work with different practitioners as you receive what each person has to offer and then move on to the next therapeutic adventure. You will be seen. You will be heard. You will be loved.

And If I can do it, so can you.

With some inspiration. From Pink. Take a listen. (From her album Hurts 2B Human.)

Titled, what else? Courage.


To my bloggEEs: Let us know about your experiences in therapy. Your questions. Successes. Failures. Stories. If you are looking for more articles on psychotherapy, check out these posts and go to The School of Life’s site. 

Thank you to the client who inspired this post and to all of the clients I am so honored to know.

And if you want to know more about your fabulous rainforest mind, my new book is now available. Look for it here. And my first book, a deeper look at your giftedness via case studies of clients in therapy along with many resources, is here. And, if you do read one or both, I’d be most grateful if you’d write an Amazon review!


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.

25 responses to “Childhood Trauma, Psychotherapy, Courage, and Your Gifted Self”

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  1. A Quick Guide To Living With Uncertainty For Super Smart Overthinkers, Perfectionists, And HSPs | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] and the possibilities that no one else is seeing. Feeling out of control is triggering your childhood trauma so you find yourself repeating old self-deprecating phrases that you thought were long gone. […]

  2. Your Rainforest Mind – Calling out all INFPs and Sensitive, Curious People – INFP Muse

    […] coming up in connection with getting out of anxiety, getting through depression, and advocating the importance of therapy.We all can suffer from traumatic events, a hard childhood and upbringing, and being misunderstood. […]

  3. tarenshea Avatar

    The point about finding compassion for the younger you really hits home! Some of us just have to be the parent/loving figure we always longed for to ourselves!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      It can be hard to become our own loving parent but that is indeed what’s needed. Thank you tarenshea.

  4. Themon the Bard Avatar
    Themon the Bard

    Atypical case, I think. I went into therapy due to trauma, and by the time I’d found my feet again, I’d also found a lot more. So I can’t easily separate what RFM-specific things I got from therapy.

    Three things come to mind.

    The first was a reconnection with my own inner child. I was raised in an environment and a mindset where you “buck up and move on.” The problem with childhood is that it shapes you in ways you can’t outgrow, and you simply can’t “buck up and move on.” Metaphorically, you have to recognize that the reason you can’t run well is the leg you broke when you were five. It healed, but you have a handicap, and if you want to run well, you can’t wish away the scars: you have to work with them, and around them. But to do that, you have to face the fact of the broken leg. The psychological injuries are far more varied, and in many ways, far worse in that you’ve made the attempt to “buck up and move on,” and forget about them. Therapy helps bring them back into focus.

    The second was a recognition that people are not only different from one another, there isn’t a one of them that is “normal.” Every last one of them that seems “normal” is faking it. Because the rules for “normal” are not only a poor fit (in our society) for what it means to be human, they are in many respects self-contradictory. You cannot be both considerate and fully self-interested, yet “normal” demands both. But more important than the impossibility of “normal” is that human beings are a hot-air balloon and “normal” is the point of a pin. People are all over the map. It’s one of the big things I took away from the Myers-Briggs test: sixteen radically different kinds of people, and they are (actually) all common. So it took a lot of the sting out of being (RFM) different.

    The third was probably the most important, in that therapy allowed me to rid myself of the last of a toxic religious upbringing, and freed me to find a healthy spiritual approach to living. I personally believe that a need for a spiritual connection to life is an essential feature of the RFM experience, though many RFMs might not use that term. Let’s call it more precisely the collection of working hypotheses that come from a boundless intellectual curiosity about the world, and an innate conviction that things are connected. I can’t speak to all religious frameworks, but the one I grew up with was centered around the “straight and narrow,” with a nit-picking God just waiting for you to stray off the path. That left a mark. Therapy helped move past that.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      You always give us so much to think about, Themon the Bard. (no pressure!) I don’t know where to start to respond. Thanks for sharing some of your experiences of therapy.

  5. transformativenourishment Avatar

    So true🙏 So Resonate with your beautiful perspective!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you. So glad to have you here.

  6. treeguy1954 Avatar

    I know it has been said many different times and many different ways, if you or someone you care for is a rainforest mind, the wind makes a tree strong and having no wind while growing will make you tall but weak. Trees in a forest need some stress to make it strong but no tree can be strong enough alone, to make it through a hurricane or tornado. If trees grow too close together, they are weak alone. Stress in life is to be expected (and is needed) but when you experience to much stress, find other trees to be around. I will leaf you with this, I am glad to have found a forest.

    1. treeguy1954 Avatar

      I also enjoy having fun with metaphors!

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        We noticed…:)

    2. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Love this! Thank you treeguy1954!!

  7. Kierstin Avatar

    Like others in a relatively rural area, counselling just hasn’t worked out. I have tried a number of counsellors, but my health plan only covers people in a specific network. In the most recent ‘OK let’s give this another go’, I felt that the counsellor just didn’t believe me, that I really could do those things, have all these resources and skills, and yet still really suffer and need to learn. She was not willing to push the boundaries of her experience to even collaborate in asking effective questions that we could work through. There’s a limit to the value of venting. I’ve pretty much given up on counselling. It takes too much frustrating work to find anyone willing to take on complexity, and too much work to go through everything one.more.time just to find out that they’re useless. Once in frustration of filling out one more intake form I wrote in response to ‘what’s the problem’: “existential dread associated with neoliberal late stage capitalism” figuring that anyone willing to pick that up might have promise. So far, no bites.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh, Kierstin! I love that response! I’m so sorry you’ve had trouble finding someone. Your struggle is not unusual, though. Like I said above, you might try someone who works online. My counseling license restricts me from counseling out of state. But others don’t have the same restrictions. Maggie Brown, in New Zealand, can work online and would love your rainforest mind. The people in the UK at The School of Life also counsel online. You can also go to and try their therapist directory. There you can read profiles to see who might be a good fit in your area. This post has some ideas. Don’t give up!

  8. Gail Post, Ph.D. Avatar
    Gail Post, Ph.D.

    Paula, Such a beautifully written post with a critically important message More people need to understand the benefits of psychotherapy. I love how you emphasize that it is about discovering, uncovering one’s true self.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Gail. Could be a good one to share with your clients? 🙂

  9. Kristel Avatar

    Thank you Paula. This couldn’t come on a better time for me 🙂

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for letting me know, Kristel.

  10. treeguy1954 Avatar

    I can say I am happy with my childhood, it was tough but not to confusing.

    Some times a person feels life would be easier if they were normal. But most of the time I feel sorry for the normal people. I get the feeling normal people almost see the world in black and white and I get to experience it in full color, ultra high definition.

    I am just happy to find a community that I can fit in and someday thrive in. And it is clear that finding friends will be easier, with what I know now. Andrew

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      That’s a great way to describe the rainforest mind, treeguy1954. “full color, ultra high definition” Yes!

      1. treeguy1954 Avatar

        Thank you Paula. I am not sure if you have guessed it yet, I emailed you a few times and I am new to the blog. The RFM list of shared traits for gifted adults could of been taken from my life and life experiences. Thanks for all the work you do.

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          Yes, I did put that together and will be emailing you shortly!! So happy to have you here. 🙂

  11. M. J. Cuthbertson Avatar
    M. J. Cuthbertson

    Living in a rural area with low population density makes finding a fit a little problematic. The resulting need for self-awareness and self healing taught me a huge amount that created a unique set of problems for me. I imagine it has happened for other RFM’s as well.

    When the healthcare professional finds out you have a Holmes-like ability for observation, coupled with understanding complex systems, and buckets of empathy you start getting asked to help them and never get to your own problems.

    1. treeguy1954 Avatar

      I agree. I am in a rural area. I never really doubted myself but I just never could figure out why I was being treated the way I was. I might be one of a kind in my community but in the RFM community, I am common.

    2. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      That is absolutely something to look out for. If the therapist asks for your help or takes the focus away from you, speak up first and see if the person can take responsibility for the mistake. If it continues to happen, you’re probably with the wrong person.

      There’s a list of practitioners with experience with the gifted here and they’re adding to the list often, I think. Some therapists don’t have the restrictions I have. In Oregon, you can only practice where you’re licensed, so I can’t do counseling outside of the state. A therapist in New Zealand, Maggie Brown, can counsel internationally. Also, in the UK, there is They say they do counseling online.

      (Note: I don’t counsel but I do consult online, which means we don’t get into childhood experiences but just focus on the gifted issues that I write about in my books.)